"She is ill, you see?"
"Yes," he said, emptying the soap-caked water from the Indian basket wash basin upon the earth floor;[Pg 27] "why?"—"I used to know him in '61. He came up to the Mescalero Agency then, not long before the Texans overran the place. I recollect there was a sort of blizzard and it was seventeen below. He came after a kid me and another feller'd been looking after. Pretty little cuss, about four years old. I gave her her first bow'n arrow."
"Can't stay," said the adjutant, all breathless. "The line's down between here and the Agency; but a runner has just come in, and there's trouble. The bucks are restless. Want to join Victorio in New Mexico. You've both got to get right over there." The man on the ground twisted his body around on his crushed leg, pinned under the pony, aimed deliberately at the white figure, and fired. Felipa's firm hold upon her revolver turned to a clutch, and her mouth fell open in a sharp gasp. But very deliberately she put the revolver into its holster, and then she laid her hand against her side. At once the palm was warm with blood.
She laughed scornfully. "It ain't me that asked them to take me in," she said; "I'm as glad to go as they are to have me." She wore a calico wrapper that Cairness had bought for her, and other garments that had been gathered together in the town. Now she put a battered sombrero on her head, and told him she was ready.
Felipa did not answer. Then he mounted the horse the orderly held for him, and trotted off. The general smiled. He treated Cairness as nearly like an equal as possible always, and got his advice and comment whenever he could.
"You heard what Mrs. Cairness said this afternoon. She was very ill in school when she was a young girl, and still more so in Washington afterward." He shook his head. "No, Forbes, you may think you know something about the Apache, but you don't know him as I do, who have been with him for years. I've seen too much of the melting away of half and quarter breeds. They die without the shadow of an excuse, in civilization."
"I ain't put it in yet," he stammered feebly.
She looked at him in perplexity and surprise. "How could I be? There is no use talking about it."
Under the midnight sky, misty pale and dusted with glittering stars, the little shelter tents of Landor's command shone in white rows. The campfires were dying; the herd, under guard, was turned out half a mile or more away on a low mesa, where there was scant grazing; and the men, come that afternoon into camp, were sleeping heavily, after a march of some forty miles,—all save the sentry, who marched up and down, glancing from time to time at the moving shadows of the herd, or taking a sight along his carbine at some lank coyote scudding across the open.
"I dare say not," said Landor, his face growing black again; "they'll cover fifty or seventy-five miles a day. We can't do that, by a good deal. We couldn't even if those damned civilians would keep their distance ahead."