She glared at him, but she stopped short nevertheless, and, flinging down the stone she had been holding, stood up also. "All right, then. You've done with me, I reckon. Now suppose you let me go back to the camp."
Then Landor remembered for the first time that there was a back door to Brewster's quarters and to the commissary. He crept over to the commissary and tried the door gently. It was fast locked. Then he went to the window. It was a low one, on a level with his[Pg 191] chest, with wide-apart iron bars. He ran his hand between them now, and, doubling his fist, broke a pane with a sudden blow. As the glass crashed in, he grasped the gray blanket and drew it back. Brewster was standing in front of the open safe, the package of bids in his hands, and the big rancher was beside him holding a candle and shading it with his palm. They had both turned, and were staring, terror-eyed, at the bleeding hand that held back the blanket.
"You know that I love you?" he said unevenly. Landor tried to interpose a suggestion that though the whole effect was undoubtedly good and calculated to melt a heart of iron, the rhetoric was muddled; but the reporter swept on; so he clasped his hands behind his head and leaning back against a tent pole, yawned openly. Stone came to an end at length, and had to mop his head with a very much bordered handkerchief. The temperature was a little high for so much effort. He met Landor's glance challengingly.
The Indians, being wicked, ungrateful, suspicious characters, doubted the promises of the White-eyes. But it is only just to be charitable toward their ignorance. They were children of the wilderness and of the desert places, walking in darkness. Had the lights of the benefits of civilization ever shone in upon them, they would have realized that the government[Pg 226] of these United States, down to its very least official representative, never lies, never even evades. The man beside her was an attaché of the British legation, who had been one of her greatest admirers to that time, but thereafter he sought her out no more. He had driven the boys off, and taking the kitten, which mewed piteously all the way, had gone with her to her destination and left her.
"And your wife?"
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.
Cairness started for the salt lick, then changed his mind and his destination, and merely rode with Forbes around the parts of the ranch which were under more or less cultivation, and to one of the water troughs beneath a knot of live oaks in the direction of the foot-hills. So they returned to the home place earlier than they otherwise would have done, and that, too, by way of the spring-house.
"You know he's the man Landor lost his life saving upon the malpais in New Mexico?"
And the great river of rock is there, too, frozen upon the land like some devouring monster changed by a Gorgon head into lifeless stone. It is a formidable barrier across the hardly less formidable bad lands. It can be crossed in places where it is narrowest, not quite a mile in width, that is. But horses slip and clamber, and men cut through the leather of their heaviest shoes.