"I don't mind, and neither does Captain Landor." Her guardian had recently gotten his captaincy.
Cairness, his hand on the butt of his own pistol, wondered, a little angrily, if Taylor were never going to be roused.
"You remember that woman," Cairness went on, making and rolling adroitly a straw-paper cigarette, "the one who was cook on the ranch for so long? She could tell us what it is, and I'll bet on it." Twenty, yes ten, of those who, as the sound of the firing reached their ears, were making off at a run down the south road for the settlement in the valley, could have saved the fair-haired children and the young mother, who helped in the fruitless fight without a plaint of fear. Ten men could have done it, could have done it easily; but not one man. And Kirby knew it now, as the light of flames began to show through the chinks of the logs, and the weight of heavy bodies thudded against the door.
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." He did not answer, and she knew that he was annoyed. She had come to see that he was always annoyed by such references, and she made them more frequent for that very reason, half in perversity, half in a fixed determination not to be ashamed of her origin, for she felt, without quite realizing it, that to come to have shame and contempt for herself would be to lose every hold upon life.
"I guess not," said Landor, tolerantly, as he turned[Pg 106] his horse over to his orderly; "but, anyway," he added to Ellton, "we had a picnic—of a sort."
She put down her work and rose slowly to her feet before him. She could be very regal sometimes. Brewster knew it, and Cairness guessed it; but it was the first time it had come within Landor's experience, and he was a little awed.
Kirby's assistants, the two young Englishmen, had not come back when they were due. One had gone to the mail station in the valley, three days before, and he should have returned at noon, at the furthest limit. By three o'clock, the other had jumped on a horse and gone out to look for him. And now, one was lying in the road five miles from the ranch, with an arrow through his eye. The other, a mile nearer home, was propped against a pine trunk, so that the ragged hole beneath his shoulder blade, where a barb had been torn out, did not show. His wide eyes, upon the lid of one of which the blood from a head wound had clotted, looked up sightless through the branches, at a patch of blue sky. Their end had been a common[Pg 123] enough one, and had come to them both without a moment of warning.
Some of them did think so. Some of them thought on the contrary, that it would be surer to make a detour, leaving the trail. They knew the spot, the bed of an ancient mountain lake, where the hostiles were sure to camp.
"Felipa!" shouted Cairness. He was angry—almost as angry as Forbes had been when he had come upon Mrs. Landor watching the boys and the kitten in the alleyway.
"I fail to see why not. You can wound it."