The Indians and the cow-boys used the insulators to try their marksmanship upon, and occasionally—in much the same spirit that the college man takes gates from their hinges and pulls down street signs—the young bucks cut the wires and tied the ends with rubber bands. Also trees blown down by storms fell crashing across the line, and some scheme for making it a little less tempting and a little more secure was much needed. Landor had long nursed such an one. So a week later he and Felipa, with a detail of twenty men and a six-mule wagon, started across the Gila Valley to the White Mountains.
It occurred to her now for the first time that there was danger for herself, so far in front, so entirely alone. The chances for passing the mesquites were not very good. If the men were already there, and that might be counted upon, they would not let her pass if they could help it. It occasioned her but one fear—that she[Pg 328] could not stop her husband. If she were to turn from the road out into the open, she would lose time, even if the horse did not fall, and time was not to be lost. Two days later Stone left the town. He took the train for California, and his wife and children went with him. He was a rich man by many an evil means, and it was no real hardship that had been worked him, as Cairness well knew.
"Still," said Felipa, too quietly, "I would rather be the daughter of a drunken private and a Mescalero squaw than the wife of a coward and sneak."
He raised his eyes now, and they were appealing. "It's an awful lot to ask of you, Jack, even for old sake's sake. I know that. But the little thing is almost white, and I cared for her mother—in a way. I can't let her go back to the tribe." His lips quivered and he bit at them nervously. "I kept meaning to get her away somehow." There was a sort of pity on Landor's face, pity and half contempt. He had heard that from Cabot so often for so many years, "I kept meaning to do this thing or the other, somehow, some day." "But it looks as though you might have to do it now. Will you, lieutenant?" He tugged at the cinchings while he waited.
Others of the troops were ordered in, and among them was Landor's. It had gone out for a twenty days' scout, and had been in the field two months. It was ragged and all but barefoot, and its pack-train was in a pitiable way. Weeks of storm in the Mogollons and days of quivering heat on the plains had brought its clothing and blankets to the last stages.
"Don't put it in, then. Leave the reservation to-night. You understand me, do you? Now go!"
"Now, Mr. Brewster," said Landor, going to the safe and resting his elbow upon it, and leaning forward in his earnestness, "I am going to tell you what you are to do. It would be better for the service and for all concerned if you do it quietly. I think you will agree with me, that any scandal is to be avoided. Come to the opening of the bids to-morrow, at noon, quite as though nothing of this disgraceful sort had happened. I will keep the keys until then. But by retreat to-morrow evening I want your resignation from the service in the hands of the adjutant. If it is not, I shall prefer charges against you the next morning. But I hardly think you will deem it advisable to stand a court-martial." He stopped and stood erect again.
Cairness and Landor and a detachment of troops that had ridden hard all through the night, following an[Pg 132] appalling trail, but coming too late after all, found them so in the early dawn.
He gave another grunt. "Go away to-morrow. Go to the Fort." He pointed with the hand that held the bit of cigarette in the direction of Apache. "Tell your man."
She kept her sullen glance on the ground, but she was shaking violently.