Landor came trotting over from his quarters, followed by his orderly, and the troops moved off across the flat, toward the river.
It dawned upon Cairness that this was rather more than a military machine after all, that he had underestimated it.
It is only a feeble love in need of stimulants and spicing that craves secrecy. A strong one seeks the open and a chance to fight to the end, whatever that may be, before the judges of earth and heaven. They stood facing each other, challenging across the woman with the look in their eyes that men have worn since long ere ever the warriors of old disputed the captive before the walls of Troy. "Turn the rest loose," cried the woman, and set the example herself.
Cairness told him that he had been in the 3 C round-up, and then went on to his point. "Taylor, see here. I want to find out more about the Kirby massacre. There is more to that than has appeared in print."
But presently she stood up to go away, and her eyes caught the lowering, glazed ones of the Indian. Half involuntarily she made a motion of striking with a knife. Neither the doctor nor the steward caught it, but he did, and showed by a sudden start that he understood. Landor still rode at the head of his column, but his chin was sunk down on his red silk neckerchief, his face was swollen and distorted under its thick beard, and his eyes were glazed. They stared straight ahead into the sand whirl and the sulphurous glare. He had sent Brewster on ahead some hours before. "You[Pg 138] will want to see Miss McLane as soon as possible," he had said, "and there is no need of both of us here."
There was an expression in his eyes Cairness did not understand. It was not like their usual twinkle of welcome. "Wait a moment," he said, and went on with his writing. Cairness dropped down on the ground, and, for want of anything else to do, began to whittle a whistle out of a willow branch.
The general smiled. He treated Cairness as nearly like an equal as possible always, and got his advice and comment whenever he could.
Cairness looked over at her in some surprise, but her face was in the shadow. He wondered that she had picked up the phrase. It was a common one with him, a sort of catchword he had the habit of using. But she was not given to philosophy. It was oddly in line with his own previous train of thought.
Cairness gave a grunt that was startlingly savage—so much so that he realized it, and shook himself slightly as a man does who is trying to shake himself free from a lethargy that is stealing over him.
Cairness drew up his pinto pony in front of a group of log cabins, and, turning in his saddle, rested his hands upon the white and bay flanks. "Hullo-o-o!" he repeated.
Kirby's assistants, the two young Englishmen, had not come back when they were due. One had gone to the mail station in the valley, three days before, and he should have returned at noon, at the furthest limit. By three o'clock, the other had jumped on a horse and gone out to look for him. And now, one was lying in the road five miles from the ranch, with an arrow through his eye. The other, a mile nearer home, was propped against a pine trunk, so that the ragged hole beneath his shoulder blade, where a barb had been torn out, did not show. His wide eyes, upon the lid of one of which the blood from a head wound had clotted, looked up sightless through the branches, at a patch of blue sky. Their end had been a common[Pg 123] enough one, and had come to them both without a moment of warning.
"Well?" she said peremptorily.