[Pg 50] Cairness stood up and walked down to the water to wash his hands. Then he went into the cabin and brought out a small mirror, and all the shaving apparatus he had not used for months, and proceeded to take off his thick brown beard, while the Indian sat stolidly watching him with that deep interest in trifles of the primitive brain, which sees and marks, and fails to learn or to profit correspondingly.
[Pg 51] "Yes?" she answered, and stroked the head of the fawn. The child brushed at her cheek and struggled away. "Come, Billy," she called to the brother who had saved her life; and that small, freckle-faced hero, whose nose was badly skinned from a fall, flung his arms around his benefactress's neck perfunctorily and escaped, rejoicing.
The major resumed his walk and did not answer.
He went in through the gate, and was once more upon that reservation he had been commanded by the overbearing tyrant representative of the military to leave, several weeks before. As he trudged along, tattoo went. In the clear silence, beneath the sounding-boards of the low clouds, he heard the voice of one of the sergeants. He shook his fist in the direction. Tattoo being over, some of the lights were put out, but there were still plenty to guide him. He did not want to get there too early, so he walked more slowly, and when he came to the edge of the garrison, he hesitated.
Presently she began again, "Well, he wasn't in it at all. Stone wasn't."
Landor rode over to Bob's place, and giving his horse to the trumpeter, strode in. There were eight men around the bar, all in campaign outfit, and all in various stages of intoxication. Foster was effusive. He was glad to see the general. General Landor, these were the gentlemen who had volunteered to assist Uncle Sam. He presented them singly, and invited Landor to drink. The refusal was both curt and ungracious. "If we are to overtake the hostiles, we have got to start at once," he suggested.
He hesitated with a momentary compunction. She must have suffered pretty well for her sins already; her work-cut, knotty hands and her haggard face and the bend of her erstwhile too straight shoulders—all showed that plainly enough. It were not gallant; it might even be said to be cruel to worry her. But he remembered the dead Englishwoman, with her babies, stiff and dead, too, beside her on the floor of the charred cabin up among the mountains, and his heart was hardened.
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.
Landor paid very little attention just then, but that same night he had occasion to think of it again.