许正中:一流大学呼唤一流校长

And on another morning there lounged into the space in front of the tents, with the indolent swing of a mountain lion, a big Sierra Blanca buck. He was wrapped from neck to moccasins in a red blanket, and carried an elaborate calf's-hide quiver. He stopped in front of Felipa, who was sitting on the ground with her back against the trunk of a fallen tree reading, and held out the quiver to her.

He recalled the dark, unbecoming flush that had deepened the color of her skin just enough to show the squaw, beyond mistaking, at least to one who knew. It was all very well now. But later, later she would look like that frequently, if not all the time. With youth she would lose her excuse for being. He knew that very well. But it was the youth, the majestic, powerful youth, that he loved. He had seen too many old hags of squaws, disfigurers of the dead and wounded, drudges of the rancheria, squatting on hides before their tepees, not to know what Felipa's decline would be in spite of the Anglo-Saxon strain that seemed to show only in her white skin.

In the opinion of Landor, who knew the impracticable country foot for foot, they were well-intentioned lunatics. But they were agreeable guests, who exchanged the topics of the happy East for the wild turkey and commissary supplies of the Far West, and in departing took with them a picturesque, if inexact, notion of army life on the frontier, and left behind a large number of books for Felipa, who had dazzled their imaginations. Being shaved of the thick iron-gray beard, and once again in seemly uniform, and having reported to the commandant, he sat down to talk with his wife.

But this the civilians were very plainly not minded to do. They dropped back, now to cinch up, now to take a drink from the flasks, now to argue, once for one of their number to recover from an attack of heart disease.

And on another morning there lounged into the space in front of the tents, with the indolent swing of a mountain lion, a big Sierra Blanca buck. He was wrapped from neck to moccasins in a red blanket, and carried an elaborate calf's-hide quiver. He stopped in front of Felipa, who was sitting on the ground with her back against the trunk of a fallen tree reading, and held out the quiver to her.

She warned them off with a careless "ukishee." But they did not go. Some ten pairs of eyes, full of unmistakable menace, followed her every movement. She let down the tent flaps and tied them together, taking her time about it. She was angry, and growing angrier. It was unendurable to her to be disobeyed, to have her authority put at naught on the few occasions when she chose to exercise it. She could keep her temper over[Pg 91] anything but that. And her temper was of the silent sort, rolling on and on, like a great cold swell at sea, to break finally against the first obstacle with an uncontrollable force. She had never been really angry but twice in her life. Once when she was in school, and when a teacher she liked, judging her by her frequent and unblushing lies to a teacher she disliked, doubted her word upon an occasion when she was really speaking the truth. It was after that that she had written to her guardian that she would run away. The second time had been when Brewster had tried to bully her. She knew that it would soon be a third time, if the Indians went on annoying her. And she was far more afraid of what she might do than of what they might do. But she took off the waist of her gown and began to brush her hair, not being in the least squeamish about letting the Apaches see her fine white arms and neck, if they were to open the flaps again.

[Pg 141]

Then he stopped, with every muscle drawn, for he had seen in her answering, unflinching gaze that he was losing her, surely, irrevocably losing her. He let her go, almost throwing her away, and she caught hold of a ledge of rock to steady herself. He picked up the heavy quirt and held it out to her, with a shaking hand, shame-faced, and defiant, too.

He flushed angrily, then thought better of it, because after all the question was not impertinent. So he only answered with short severity that he most certainly had not.

"That will do," said Landor. "See there is no delay," and he wheeled about and went back to his tent with Brewster.

[Pg 309]

But she was not sure that she thought so. She wanted to know why the woman could not be sent to the hotel, and he explained that Cairness wished a very close watch kept on her until she was able to be up. Curiosity got the better of outraged virtue then. "Why?" she asked, and leaned forward eagerly.

Landor shrugged his shoulder, but Felipa would not have it so. "You know he is not, Jack," she said a little petulantly, which was noticeably unwonted on her part.

Landor stood considering and pulling at his mustache, as his way was. Then he turned on his heel and went back to the tent for Brewster. He explained the matter to him. "I tell Mr. Foster," he said, "just what risk I would take if I acted contrary to orders, but the force of my argument doesn't seem to strike him. If any harm were to come to the citizens around here, I'd be responsible."