"Cairness," said the parson, fixing his eyes upon the back of the bent head, as if they were trying to see through into the impenetrable brain beneath, "are you going to spend the rest of your life at this sort of thing?" He called the first sergeant to his aid. Brewster was in the rear of the command, and, as had occurred with increasing frequency in the last two months, showed no desire to be of any more use than necessary. As for Cairness, who had been more of a lieutenant to Landor than the officer himself, he had left the command two days before and gone back to the San Carlos reservation.
"I am far from being sure that that is entirely to be desired, very far," said Cairness, with conviction. He had never ceased to feel a certain annoyance at[Pg 319] the memory of that year and a half of Felipa's life in which he had had no part.
There was another silence, and this time he broke it. The men went away, however, without much trouble beyond tipsy protests and mutterings, and the sutler rewarded the guard with beer, and explained to Landor that several of the disturbers were fellows who were hanging round the post for the beef contract; the biggest and most belligerent—he of the fierce, drooping mustachios—was the owner of the ranch where the Kirby massacre had taken place, as well as of another one in New Mexico.
Another officer came up, and Cairness dropped from the twisted bow and walked away.
And so he had to accept it. He rose, with a slight sigh, and returned to the examination of his spoils.
"And you—what did you say?" asked Landor. He was a little surprised to find how anxiously he[Pg 26] waited, and the extent of his relief when she answered, "I told him to let me be, or I would set them loose on him."
She looked up and tried hard to smile again.
The men followed, sitting erect, toes in. They might have been on mounted inspection except for the field clothes, stained and dusty. They were to go down a narrow path for close on a mile, between two rows of rifle barrels, and that not at a run or a gallop, but at a trot, at the most, for the lava was slippery as glass in spots. They were willing enough to do it, even anxious—not that there was any principle involved, or glory to be gained, but because their blood was up and it was part of the chances of the game.