"How do I know you're done with me yet?" she snapped.
The exceedingly small respectable element of Tombstone hailed their departure with unmixed joy. They had but one wish,—that the Toughs might meet the Apaches, and that each might rid the face of the desert of the other. But the only Apaches left to meet were the old and feeble, and the squaws and papooses left at San Carlos. The able-bodied bucks were all in the field, as scouts or hostiles. He knew while he was yet afar off which was the American. She stood, big and gaunt, with her feet planted wide and her fists on her hips, looking over toward the general's tent. And when Cairness came nearer, strolling along with his hands in his pockets, observing the beauties of Nature and the entire vileness of man, she turned her head and gave him a defiant stare. He took his hands from his pockets and went forward, raising his disreputable campaign hat. "Good morning, Mrs. Lawton," he said, not that he quite lived up to the excellent standard of Miss Winstanley, but that he understood the compelling force of civility, not to say the bewilderment. If you turn its bright light full in the face of one whose eyes are accustomed to the obscurity wherein walk the underbred, your chances for dazzling him until he shall fall into any pit you may have dug in his pathway are excellent.
The woman launched off into a torrent of vituperation and vile language that surprised even Cairness, whose ears were well seasoned.
He had dreaded a scene, but he was not so sure that this was not worse. "You are the wife for a soldier," he said somewhat feebly; "no tears and fuss and—all that kind of thing."
"What do you want to know for?" asked the woman, at length.
"To take them over to my quarters and keep them safe."
"I don't," Cairness differed; "it's unreasonable. There is too much sympathy expended on races that are undergoing the process of extinction. They have outgrown their usefulness, if they ever had any. It might do to keep a few in a park in the interests of science, and of that class of people which enjoys seeing animals in cages. But as for making citizens of the Indians, raising them to our level—it can't be done. Even when they mix races, the red strain corrupts the white."
Landor sent for a squad of the guard and went to put them out. It was just one of the small emergencies that go to make up the chances of peace. He might or he might not come back alive; the probabilities in favor of the former, to be sure. But the risks are[Pg 186] about equal whether one fights Indians or citizens drunk with liquor and gaming.
He struck his pony with the fringed end of the horse-hair lariat that hung around his pommel, and cantered on in the direction of the post. The pony had been found among the foot-hills, without any[Pg 218] trouble. That, at any rate, had been a stroke of luck. He had led it into the fort just at the end of guard-mounting, and had met a party of riders going out.
Had it been all arranged, planned, and rehearsed for months beforehand, the action could not have been more united. They crowded past him out of the door and ran for the corrals, and each dragged a horse or a mule from the stalls, flinging on a halter or rope or bridle, whatever came to hand, from the walls of the harness room.