He reflected that it is a trait of the semi-civilized and of children that they like their tales often retold. But he did not say so. He was holding that in reserve. Instead, he changed the subject, with an abrupt inquiry as to whether she meant to ride to-day. "I suppose not?" he added. Landor and the adjutant came by, and she called to them. The adjutant backed the vinagrone with a bag of sutler's candy, and Felipa took the tarantula. It was mainly legless trunk, but still furious. Landor studied her. She was quiet, but her eyes had grown narrow, and they gleamed curiously at the sight of the torn legs and feelers scattering around the bottle, wriggling and writhing. She was at her very worst.
She did not show the enthusiasm he had rather expected. "I dare say it is my bad conscience," she answered with some indifference. "I have a sin to confess." [Pg 94]
The black eyes snapped with pain as he fell, but when Cairness, with a breathless oath at the spoiler of sport, whoever he might be, pounced down upon him, the snap turned to a twinkle. The little buck raised himself on his elbow. "How! Cairness," he grinned. "How Mees Landor?" Cairness stopped short, speechless, with his mouth open. He did not even dodge after a bullet had hummed past his head. "Who the devil—!" he began. Then it dawned upon him. It was Felipa's protégé of the old Camp Thomas days.
"It might for me," he said, "but not for her, and I[Pg 15] told Cabot I'd do my best for her." It had seemed to him his plain duty, and he had done it, and he asked no approbation.
"Why?" she asked, with a quick suspicion of the dreariness she caught in his tone.
She laughed scornfully. "It ain't me that asked them to take me in," she said; "I'm as glad to go as they are to have me." She wore a calico wrapper that Cairness had bought for her, and other garments that had been gathered together in the town. Now she put a battered sombrero on her head, and told him she was ready.
"I am going back to my ranch on the reservation," he said measuredly.
He looked about now for a sign of either party. Across the creek was some one riding slowly along the crest of a hill, seeming so small and creeping that only a very trained eye could have made it out. It was probably a hound. The hares lay low, in ca?ons and gullies and brush, as a rule. As he scanned the rest of the valley, his horse stopped short, with its fore legs planted stiffly. He looked down and saw that he was at the brink of a sheer fall of twenty feet or more, like a hole scooped in the side of the little rise he was riding over. He remembered, then, that there was a cave somewhere about. He had often heard of it, and probably it was this. He dismounted, and, tying the pony in a clump of bushes, walked down and around to investigate.
"You might have killed the Indian," he said, in a strained voice. It did not occur to either of them, just then, that it was not the danger she had been in that appalled him.