"And after that?" The Reverend Taylor nodded again. "Reckon she could. But—" he grabbed at a fly with one hand, and caught and crushed it in his palm with much dexterity, "but—she's lit out."
It did not seem to strike the representative of the citizens of San Tomaso that that was much of an argument. He continued to urge. The citizens rode off. 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.
"Is it closed?"
In those days some strange things happened at agencies. Toilet sets were furnished to the Apache, who has about as much use for toilet sets as the Greenlander has for cotton prints, and who would probably have used them for targets if he had ever gotten them—which he did not. Upon the table of a certain agent (and he was an honest man, let it be noted, for the thing was rare) there lay for some time a large rock, which he had labelled with delicate humor "sample of sugar furnished to this agency under—" but the name doesn't matter now. It was close on a[Pg 12] quarter of a century ago, and no doubt it is all changed since then. By the same working out, a schoolhouse built of sun-baked mud, to serve as a temple of learning for the Red-man, cost the government forty thousand dollars. The Apache children who sat within it could have acquired another of the valuable lessons of Ojo-blanco from the contractors.
The man told him. "He'd been a private up to Stanton, and had been killed by some of Cochise's people that summer. Her mother was a half-breed by the name of Felipa. Good-looking squaw, but dead, too—killed by Mexicans. Do you happen to know whatever became of the kid?"
She asked for the full particulars of her husband's death, and when Ellton had told her, sat looking straight before her at the wall. "It was very like Jack," she said finally, in a low voice, "his whole life was like that." And then she turned squarely to the lieutenant. "Where is Mr. Cairness? Where did they take him?" She was surprised at herself that she had not thought of that before.
Cairness said "yes" rather half heartedly. That fresh, sweet type was insipid to him now, when there was still so fresh in his memory the beauty of a [Pg 40]black-haired girl, with eagle eyes that did not flinch before the sun's rays at evening or at dawn.
So the captain and the first sergeant took up the money and the loose papers, together with a couple of rings from the hands, and wrapping them in a poncho, carried them off to serve as possible means of identification, for it had got beyond all question of features. Then two men moved the bodies from the[Pg 137] trail, with long sticks, and covered them with a pile of stones. Landor found a piece of board by the mouth of the claim and drew on it, with an end of charred stick, a skull and cross bones with a bow and arrow, and stood it up among the stones, in sign to all who might chance to pass thereby that since men had here died at the hands of the Apaches, other men might yet meet a like fate.
Of course there were complications following, a long and involved list of them. Of course the Indians only sought the excuse, and very probably would have made it if it had not been made for them. And of course the Interior Department bungled under the guidance of politicians, of whom the best that possibly can be said is that they were stupid tools of corrupt men in the territories, who were willing to turn the blood of innocent settlers into gold for their own pockets.
There was human plunder, too—women from the villages, all Mexicans but one, and that one was American. Cairness, having gone off with some scouts to reconnoitre, did not see them that night. When he came back it was already dark, and he took his supper; and rolling himself in his blanket slept, as he had always for the past fortnight, with only the faintly radiant night sky above him.