"I am going to ask the quartermaster to store my things for the present, and of course the first sergeant's wife will look out for the children," she said.
"It is the only one I can live," she said indifferently[Pg 323] enough, stating it as an accepted, incontrovertible fact, "and it's the one you like best."
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. In the '70's the frontier was a fact and not a memory, and a woman in the Far West was a blessing sent direct from heaven, or from the East, which was much the same thing. Lieutenants besought the wives of their brother officers to bring out their sisters and cousins and even aunts, and very weird specimens of the sex sometimes resulted. But even these could reign as queens, dance, ride, flirt to their hearts' content—also marry, which is not always the corollary in these days. The outbreak of a reservation full of Indians was a small thing in comparison with the excitement occasioned by the expectation of a girl in the post.
The entire command volunteered, as a matter of course, and Landor had his pick. He took thirty men and a dozen scouts. Cairness rode up and offered himself. They looked each other full in the face for a moment. "Very well," said Landor, and turned on his heel. Cairness was properly appreciative, despite the incivility. He knew that Landor could have refused as well as not, and that would have annoyed and mortified him. He was a generous enemy, at any rate. The volunteers mounted and trotted off in a cloud of dust that hung above them and back along their trail, to where the road, as Landor had said, entered the malpais.
He looked about now for a sign of either party. Across the creek was some one riding slowly along the crest of a hill, seeming so small and creeping that only a very trained eye could have made it out. It was probably a hound. The hares lay low, in ca?ons and gullies and brush, as a rule. As he scanned the rest of the valley, his horse stopped short, with its fore legs planted stiffly. He looked down and saw that he was at the brink of a sheer fall of twenty feet or more, like a hole scooped in the side of the little rise he was riding over. He remembered, then, that there was a cave somewhere about. He had often heard of it, and probably it was this. He dismounted, and, tying the pony in a clump of bushes, walked down and around to investigate.
When the barkeeper had served the others, he turned to him. "What'll you take?" he demanded, not too courteously.
When she lay, one day, with her face, too white and sharp, looking out from the tangle of hair upon the pillow, he asked her almost abruptly if she had rather go back to the West. He could not bring himself to ask if she were longing to be near Cairness. He shrank too much from her frank, unhesitating assent.
Cairness drew up his pinto pony in front of a group of log cabins, and, turning in his saddle, rested his hands upon the white and bay flanks. "Hullo-o-o!" he repeated.
"Seen the way Landor's been catching it?" they asked.