As for the Kirby affair, there had been no hint of treachery in the published or verbal accounts of it. The ranch hands who had escaped had told a plain enough tale of having fled at the approach of the Indians, vainly imploring the Kirbys to do the same. It[Pg 166] seemed that the most they could be accused of was cowardice. It had all been set forth in the papers with much circumstance and detail. But Cairness doubted. He remembered their dogged ugliness, and that of the raw-boned Texan woman.
A half dozen cow-boys came riding over from the camp of the outfit to relieve those on duty. Cairness was worn out with close on eighteen hours in the saddle, tearing and darting over the hills and ravines, quick as the shadow from some buzzard high in the sky, scrambling over rocks, cutting, wheeling, chasing after fleet-footed, scrawny cattle. He went back to camp, and without so much as washing the caked dust and sweat from his face, rolled himself in a blanket and slept.
"I don't believe you can," Cairness said; "but you might try it, if it will give you any pleasure. Only you must make haste, because you've got to get out in three days." He was accustomed to the gloom by now, but she was not. She could only see that there was some one in the shadow. It flashed through his mind that she[Pg 221] would scream, but the next moment he knew that she would not.
[Pg 141] They halted in front of him, and the woman swayed again, so much that he ran to her side. But she righted herself fiercely. Cairness was dismounted and was beside her, too, in an instant. He lifted her from the horse, pulled her down, more or less; she was much too ungainly to handle with any grace.
He went the next day but one, riding out of the post at daylight. And he saw Felipa once more. She was standing by the creek, drawing an arrow from her quiver and fitting it to her bow. Then she poised the[Pg 32] toe of her left foot lightly upon the ground, bent back, and drew the bow almost to a semicircle. The arrow flew straight up into the shimmering air, straight through the body of a little jay, which came whirling, spinning down among the trees. Felipa gave a quick leap of delight at having made such a shot, then she darted down in search of the bird. And Cairness rode on.
"Hurrah! for the next that dies," thought Landor himself, with a careless cynicism. The barrel of a Winchester gleamed above a point of rock, a little sharp sparkle of sunlight on steel, and a bullet deflected from the big leather hood of his stirrup. He rode on calmly, and his horse's shoes clicked on the lava.
"I ain't put it in yet," he stammered feebly.
Here, toward the eastern part of the territory, the government had portioned off the San Carlos Agency for its Apache wards, and some thirty miles away, not far from the banks of the river, Camp Thomas for its faithful soldiery.