[Pg 239] And since that gray dawn when he had picked his way through the ashes and charred logs, and had bent over the bodies of his friend and the dead mother and the two children, he had been possessed by a loathing that was almost physical repulsion for all Indians. That was why he had left the stone cabin he had built for himself in the White Mountains, forsaking it and the Apaches who had been, in a way, his friends. But he had done it, too, with the feeling that now he had nowhere to lay his head; that he was driven from pillar to post, buffeted and chased; that he was cursed with the curse of the wanderer. If it had not been that he had an indefinite theory of his own concerning the Kirby massacre, as it was known throughout the country, and that he meant to, some day, in some way, avenge it upon the whites who had abandoned them to their fate, he would have killed himself. He had been very near it once, and had sat on the edge of his bunk in the cabin with a revolver in his hand, thinking it all out for an entire evening, before deciding dispassionately against it. He was not desperate, merely utterly careless of life, which is much worse. Desperation is at the most the keen agony of torture at the stake; but [Pg 163]indifference toward all that is held by this world, or the next, is dying in a gradual vacuum. The commandant's wife took Mrs. Landor in, and would have put her to bed with hot drinks and blankets, but that Felipa would have nothing more than some dry clothes and a wrapper in place of her wet habit. The clothes were her own, brought by one of the men, safe in a rubber poncho, but the wrapper belonged to her hostess, who was portly, whereas Felipa was slender. But to Cairness, who had stopped for luncheon, she seemed, in the voluminous dull red draperies, more splendid than ever before.
"You must get Mrs. Landor into the post to-morrow," Cairness said abruptly; "Victorio's band is about." His horse started. He had dug it with the rowels. Then he reined it in with a jerk that made it champ its curb. "Don't dwell on that all the time," he said angrily; "forget it." And then it flashed across him, the irreparable wrong he would be doing her if he taught her to consider the Apache blood a taint.
Felipa felt something of this, and it lessened the vague burden of self-reproach she had been carrying. She was almost cheerful when she got back to the post. Through the last breakfast, which the Elltons took for granted must be a sad one, and conscientiously did their best to make so, she had some difficulty in keeping down to their depression.
He sat quite still, clinching his teeth and clawing his fingers tensely. In the great crises of life, training and upbringing and education fall away, and a man is governed by two forces, his instincts and his surroundings. And Cairness's instincts were in entire accord with his surroundings; they were of the Stone Age, when men fought with the beasts of the wilderness in their cave homes, and had only the law of sheer strength. He leaned forward, holding his breath, and watched her. Had she seen his horse tied up above, and come here to find him—because he was here?
"Eh?" the parson was not sure he had heard.
"You're right, I don't. You're as thick-headed as all the rest of them."
He changed it to a laugh. "A scout married is a scout marred. I am a rancher now. It behooves me to accept myself as such. I have outlived my usefulness in the other field."