"You know he's the man Landor lost his life saving upon the malpais in New Mexico?"
Landor knew that they were come to hear what he might have to say about it, and he had decided to say, for once, just what he thought, which is almost invariably unwise, and in this particular case proved exceedingly so, as any one could have foretold. On the principle that a properly conducted fist fight is opened by civilities, however, he mixed three toddies in as many tin coffee cups.
She had never been cruel intentionally before, and afterward she regretted it. But she raised her eyebrows and turned her back on him without answering. The two children whom Felipa had taken in charge two years before had been left in the care of the sergeant of Landor's troop and his wife, and they manifested no particular pleasure at seeing her again. They were half afraid of her, so severely black and tall and quiet. They had been playing with the soldier's children, and were anxious to be away again. The young of the human race are short of memory, and their gratefulness does not endure for long. There is no caress so sweet, so hard to win, as the touch of a child's soft hand, and none that has behind it less of nearly all that we prize in affection. It is sincere while it lasts, and no longer, and it must be bought either with a price or with a wealth of love. You may lavish the best that is within you to obtain a kiss from baby lips, and if they rest warm and moist upon your cheek for a moment, the next they are more eager for a sweetmeat than for all your adoration.
"But it is doing Mrs. Cairness an injustice, if you don't mind my saying so." He believed that he had no ties now, that friendships, the love of woman, and the kiss of children all had missed him, and that his, thenceforth, must be but vain regret. So far as he knew, Felipa had gone away without ever having received his letter. The man he had intrusted it to had been killed in the Aravaypa Ca?on: that he was certain of; and it never entered his head that his papers might have fallen into other hands, and the note have finally been delivered to her. She was leading the sort of life that would most quickly put him entirely out of her mind. He was taking the Washington papers, and he knew. She had gone away, not even sure that he had given her a thought since the night in the Sierra Blanca when Black River had roared through the stillness, and they had been alone in all the wild world. What a weird, mysterious, unearthly scene it had been, quite outside the probabilities of anything he had imagined or contemplated for a single minute. He had never regretted it, though. He believed in impulses, particularly his own.
They went on to tell him that it was all in the Tucson papers, which Brewster knew, however, quite as well as they did themselves. He had made friends among the citizen volunteers of San Tomaso on the night they had camped by the old lake bed, and they had seen that he was kept supplied with cuttings.
The officer-of-the-day agreed. And Cairness, not having a hat to raise, forgot himself and saluted. Then he went back to the sutler's through the already pelting rain. He was glad he had caught Lawton, mainly because of what he hoped to get out of him yet, about the Kirby affair. But he was sorry for the big clumsy fool, too. He had been an easy-going, well-intentioned boss in the days when Cairness had been his hand. And, too, he was sorry, very sorry, about the pony. If it were to fall into the hands of Mexicans or even of some of the Mescalero Indians, his chances of seeing it again would be slight. And he was fond of it, mainly because it had helped him to save Mrs. Landor's life.
The next day he left for the Circle K Ranch. Lawton did not appear to need help. But he fired a Greaser, nevertheless, and took Cairness on. He seemed to stand in as abject awe of Stone's note as an Arab might have stood of a bit of the black covering of the Kaabah stone.
But the minister still refused to see it. He looked him very squarely in the eyes now, however. "See here, I am going to take lemon pop, my friend," he said.
Brewster answered that she would, of course. He was rather annoyingly proprietary and sure of her.
"Seen the way Landor's been catching it?" they asked.