Landor was without impulses; the very reverse from boyhood of the man on the ground beside him, which was why, perhaps, it had come to be as it was now. He considered before he replied. But having considered, he answered that he would, and that he would do his best for the child always. Once he had said it, he might be trusted beyond the shadow of a doubt. "Let go your stirrup!" cried Cairness, in her ear; and as she kicked her foot loose, he leaned far from the saddle and threw his arm around her, swinging her up in front of him across the McLellan pommel, and driving the spurs into his horse's belly. It had the advantage of her horse in that it was an Indian animal, sure of foot as a burro, and much quicker. With one dash it was up the hillside, while the other rolled over and over, down into the torrent of the cloud burst.
She did not return to the ramada, but before long her husband came in search of her.
She sat considering deeply. She was rocking the baby, with its little fair head lying in the hollow of her shoulder, and Landor found himself wondering whether Felipa could ever develop motherliness. "It is quite intangible," Mrs. Campbell half crooned, for the baby's lids were drooping heavily. "I can't find that she lacks a good characteristic. I study her all the time. Perhaps the fault is in ourselves, as much as anything, because we insist upon studying her as a problem, instead of simply a very young girl. She is absolutely truthful,—unless she happens to have a grudge against some one, and then she lies without any scruple at all,—and she is generous and unselfish, and very amiable with the children, too." She explained. "He says he will tell it broadcast," she ended, "but he won't. It wouldn't be safe, and he knows it." Her cool self-possession had its effect on him. He studied her curiously and began to calm down. For some days Felipa had noticed a change, indefinable and slight, yet still to be felt, in the manner of the Indians all about. Not that they were ever especially gracious, but now the mothers discouraged the children from playing hide-and-seek with her, and although there were quite as many squaws, fewer bucks came around than before. But Alchesay could always be relied upon to stalk in, at regular intervals, and seat himself near the fire, or the hot ashes thereof.
No need to tell her that her courage must not falter at that last moment, which would soon come. He knew it, as he looked straight into those steadfast, loving[Pg 131] eyes. She clung to his hand and stooped and kissed it, too; then she went to the children and took them, quivering and crying, into the other room, and closed the dividing door.
It occurred to Cairness then that with no breath in your lungs and with twelve stone on your chest, speech is difficult. He slid off and knelt beside the rancher, still with the revolver levelled. "Now, why did you do it, eh?" He enforced the "eh" with a shake.
She explained. "He says he will tell it broadcast," she ended, "but he won't. It wouldn't be safe, and he knows it." Her cool self-possession had its effect on him. He studied her curiously and began to calm down.
He nodded forcibly. "Where all them mesquites is to one side, and the arroyo to the other. They'll be behind the mesquite. But you ain't goin' to head him off," he added, "there ain't even a short cut. The road's the shortest."
"You don't love her, for that matter, either," Mrs. Campbell reminded him. But she advised the inevitable,—to wait and let it work itself out.