"Are you joking," he asked, "or what?" It was so with Cairness. He was sinking down, and ever down, to the level of his surroundings; he was even ceasing to realize that it was so. He had begun by studying the life of the savages, but he was so entirely grasping their point of view that he was losing all other. He was not so dirty as they—not yet. His stone cabin was clean enough, and their villages were squalid. A morning plunge in the river was still a necessity, while with them it was an event. But where he had once spent his leisure in reading in several tongues—in keeping in touch with the world—and in painting, he would now sit for hours looking before him into space, thinking unprofitable thoughts. He lived from hand to mouth. Eventually he would without doubt marry a squaw. The thing was more than common upon the frontier.
"I put them in this here book," he said, "betwixt the leaves, and then I put the book under my saddle and set on it. I don't weigh so much, but it works all right," he added, looking up with a na?ve smile that reached from one big ear to the other. "To-morrow," he told him later, "I'm going to ride over here to Tucson again. What way might you be takin'?"
"Not until there is no hope," he impressed, as he put the barrel of his rifle through a knot hole and fired at random. But Crook was not dashing, only quiet and steady, and sure as death. Upon parade and occasions of ceremony he wore the gold lace and the stars. To do his life's work he put on an old flannel shirt, tied a kerchief around his neck, and set a pith helmet over those farseeing, keen little eyes. He might have been a [Pg 228]prospector, or a cow-boy, for all the outward seeming of it. His charger was oftenest a little government mule, and he walked, leading it over many and many a trail that even its sure feet could not trust. When she was able to be up, Cairness went in to see her. She was sitting on a chair, and looking sulkily out of the window. "You got me jailed all right," she sneered, "ain't you?" and she motioned to the grating of iron.
So much for his past. As for his present. His only friends were treacherous savages and some few settlers and cow-boys. They would none of them miss him if he were to be laid under a pile of stones with a board cross at his head anywhere by the roadside, in the plains or among the hills. Some of them were honest men, some were desperadoes; none were his equals, not one understood the things that meant life to him. He had no abode, not so much as the coyote over there on the top of the little swell. He made his living in divers and uncertain ways. Sometimes he sent pictures to the East, studies of the things about him.[Pg 165] They sold well. Sometimes he was a scout or a guide. Sometimes he prospected and located claims with more or less good luck. Sometimes he hired himself out as a cow-boy at round-ups, as he was doing now. On the whole, he was, from the financial standpoint, more of a success than from any other.
"I told you to go," she repeated, raising her brows.
In the weeks that followed, Landor spent days and some nights—those when he sat up to visit the guard, as a rule—attempting to decide why his ward repelled him. She seemed to be quite like any other contented and natural young girl. She danced, and courted admiration, within the bounds of propriety; she was fond of dress, and rather above the average in intelligence. Usually she was excellent company, whimsical and sweet-humored. She rode well enough, and learned—to his intense annoyance—to shoot with a bow and arrow quite remarkably, so much so that they nicknamed her Diana. He had remonstrated at first, but there was no reason to urge, after all. Archery was quite a feminine sport.
When the sergeant reported it to the major afterward, he said that the captain, in stooping over to raise the chief of scouts, had been struck full in the temple by a bullet, and had pitched forward with his arms stretched out. One private had been wounded. They carried the two men back to the little cabin of stones, and that was the casualty list. But the dash had failed.
It was the first scene of the closing act of the tragic comedy of the Geronimo campaign. That wily old devil, weary temporarily of the bloodshed he had continued with more or less regularity for many years, had[Pg 297] sent word to the officers that he would meet them without their commands, in the Ca?on de los Embudos, across the border line, to discuss the terms of surrender. The officers had forthwith come, Crook yet hopeful that something might be accomplished by honesty and plain dealing; the others, for the most part, doubting.
She was happier than she had been in Washington. Landor saw that, but he refused to see that she was[Pg 181] also better. However much a man may admire, in the abstract, woman as a fine natural animal, unspoiled by social pettiness, he does not fancy the thing in his wife. From the artistic standpoint, a regal barbarian, unconfined, with her virtue and her vices on a big scale, is very well; from the domestic, it is different. She is more suitable in the garb of fashion, with homemade character of parlor-ornament proportions.
"Like as not she does up them boiled shirts and dresses herself, don't you think?" was the minister's awed comment to Cairness, as they went to bed that night in the bare little room.