One morning, shortly before dinner call, she sat under the ramada, the deer at her feet, asleep, the little Apache squatted beside her, amusing himself with a collection of gorgeous pictorial labels, soaked from commissary fruit and vegetable cans. The camp was absolutely silent, even the drowsy scraping of the brooms of the police party having stopped some time before. Landor was asleep in his tent, and presently she herself began to doze. She was awakened by the sound of footsteps on the gravel in front of the[Pg 65] ramada, and in another moment a tall figure stood in the opening, dark against the glare. Instantly she knew it was the man with whom she had come face to face long before on the parade ground at Grant, though from then until now she had not thought of him once, nor remembered his existence.
"I've thought of bringing her on here. But how can I? In a bachelor establishment? My sister won't have her at any terms. She suggested an orphan asylum from the first, and she hasn't changed her mind."
So one night when they were sitting upon the Campbells' steps, he took the plunge. She had been talking earnestly, discussing the advisability of filing off the hammer of the pistol he had given her, to prevent its catching on the holster when she wanted to draw it quickly. One of her long, brown hands was laid on his knee, with the most admirable lack of self-consciousness. He put his own hand upon it, and she looked up questioningly. She was unused to caresses from any but the two Campbell children, and her frank surprise held a reproach that softened his voice almost to tenderness. It was short and to the point upon Cairness's part, and having finished he stood up. Cairness nodded. He knew that the Interior Department had sent an agent out to investigate that complaint, and that the agent had gone his way rejoicing and reporting that all was well with the Indian and honest with the contractor. It was not true. Every[Pg 270] one who knew anything about it knew that. Cairness supposed that also was the work of the politicians. But there are things one cannot make plain to a savage having no notions of government.
"Let go your stirrup!" cried Cairness, in her ear; and as she kicked her foot loose, he leaned far from the saddle and threw his arm around her, swinging her up in front of him across the McLellan pommel, and driving the spurs into his horse's belly. It had the advantage of her horse in that it was an Indian animal, sure of foot as a burro, and much quicker. With one dash it was up the hillside, while the other rolled over and over, down into the torrent of the cloud burst.
Landor paid very little attention just then, but that same night he had occasion to think of it again.
It is a valley of death now, parched and desolate, a waste of white sand—the dry bone dust of the cycles. But then, when the lava came surging and boiling and flaming across the plain, not a thin stream, but a wide, irresistible current, there was life; there was a city—one city at least. It is there now, under the mass of sharp, gray, porous rock; how much of it no one knows. But it is there, and it has given up its unavailing hints of a life which may have been older than that of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and is as much more safely hidden from the research of the inquiring day as its walls are more hopelessly buried beneath the ironlike stone than are those of the cisalpine cities beneath their ashen drift.
It was all a most charming commentary upon the symbol and practice of Christianity, in a Christian land, and the results thereof as regarded the heathen of that land—if one happened to see it in that way.
The Indians, being wicked, ungrateful, suspicious characters, doubted the promises of the White-eyes. But it is only just to be charitable toward their ignorance. They were children of the wilderness and of the desert places, walking in darkness. Had the lights of the benefits of civilization ever shone in upon them, they would have realized that the government[Pg 226] of these United States, down to its very least official representative, never lies, never even evades.
The mere sight of Felipa on the buffalo robe before the fire, poring over the old history, exasperated Brewster. "That book again?" he said crossly, as he drew up a chair and held out his hands to the flames; "you must know it by heart."