In the end stall the bronco was still squealing and whimpering in an almost human key. He struck it on the flank with his open palm and spoke, "Get over[Pg 210] there." It had been made so much of a pet, and had been so constantly with him, that it was more intelligent than the average of its kind. It got over and stood quiet and still, trembling. He cut the halter close to the knot, turned it out of the stall, and flinging himself across its back dug his heels into its belly.
He handed it over also.
At that moment Felipa herself came up the steps and joined them on the porch. She walked with the gait of a young athlete. Her skirts were short enough to leave her movements unhampered, and she wore on her feet a pair of embroidered moccasins. She seemed to be drawing the very breath of life into her quivering nostrils, and she smiled on them both good-humoredly.
A raiding party of hostiles had passed near the fort, and had killed, with particular atrocity, a family of settlers. The man and his wife had been tortured to death, the baby had had its brains beaten out against the trunk of a tree, a very young child had been hung by the wrist tendons to two meat hooks on the walls of the ranch-house, and left there to die. One big boy had had his eyelids and lips and nose cut off, and had been staked down to the ground with his remains of a face lying over a red-ant hole. Only two had [Pg 196]managed to escape,—a child of ten, who had carried his tiny sister in his arms, twenty miles of ca?ons and hills, to the post.
When the day came he rode out with most of the garrison to meet her. He was anxious. He recalled Anne of Cleves, and had a fellow-feeling for the King. By the time they came in sight of the marching troops, he had worked himself to such an implicit faith in the worst that he decided that the wide figure, heavily blue-veiled, and linen-dustered, on the back seat of the Dougherty was she. It is one of the strongest arguments of the pessimist in favor[Pg 17] of his philosophy, that the advantage of expecting the disagreeable lies in the fact that, if he meets with disappointment, it is necessarily a pleasant one.
"Why don't you ask him?" said Mrs. Lawton, astutely.
"And now," said the Reverend Taylor, fingering the lock of hair over the little Reverend's right ear,[Pg 263] as that wise little owl considered with uncertain approval a whistle rattle Cairness had bought for him, "and now what are you going to do?"
Stone thought not. He had not heard Lawton speak of needing help. But he wrote a very guarded note of recommendation, falling back into the editorial habit, and dashing it off under pressure. Cairness, whose own writing was tiny and clear and black, and who covered whole sheets without apparent labor, but with lightning rapidity, watched and reflected that he spent an amount of time on the flourish of his signature that might have been employed to advantage in the attainment of legibility.
"It was a little spree they had here in '71. Some Tucson citizens and Papago Indians and Greasers undertook to avenge their wrongs and show the troops how it ought to be done. So they went to Aravaypa Ca?on, where a lot of peaceable Indians were cutting hay, and surprised them one day at sunrise, and killed a hundred and twenty-five of them—mostly women and children."
In half an hour he was back, and having produced his scouting togs from the depths of a sky-blue chest, smelling horribly of tobacco and camphor, he fell to dressing.