When the moon rose, Barnwell and Stone went away and left Landor again with the peeping squaws and the wailing papooses, the mosquitoes and the legacy of their enduring enmity,—an enmity not to be lightly despised, for it could be as annoying and far more serious than the stings of the river-bottom mosquitoes. As they walked across the gleaming dust, their bodies throwing long black shadows, two naked Indian boys followed them, creeping forward unperceived, dropping on the ground now and then, and wriggling along like snakes. They were practising for the future.
"I know it," she whispered, but she took her shaking hand from the dog's head, and, without another word, pointed to the shadow of Landor's figure, thrown distorted by the candle light against the side of the tent.
Then they walked up to the corral together. Kirby introduced him to his two partners, Englishmen also, and finished nailing up the boards of a box stall which a stallion had kicked down in the night. After that he threw down his hammer, took two big nails from his mouth, and sat upon the tongue of a wagon to talk long and earnestly, after the manner of men who have shared a regretted past. But the star of the politician was once more in the ascendant. For two years there had been not one depredation, not one outrage from the Indians, for whose good conduct the general had given his personal word. They were self-supporting, and from the products of their farms they not only kept themselves, but supplied the neighboring towns. It was a state of affairs entirely unsatisfactory to the politician. So he set about correcting it.
The Chiricahuas might stay there and fire at intervals as long as they listed, killing a few men perhaps. And then they might retreat quite safely, putting the barrier[Pg 277] between themselves and the pursuers. Obviously there were only two courses wherein lay any wisdom,—to retreat, or to cut off their retreat. Landor said so to the major in command. It was a long way to the salt lick, and the chances were that the two men would be gone the whole afternoon. The day was very hot, and she had put on a long, white wrapper, letting her heavy hair fall down over her shoulders, as she did upon every excuse now, and always when her husband was out of the way. There was a sunbonnet hanging across the porch railing. She put it on her head and went down the steps, carrying the child.
"They have expressed the desire that I should convey to you, Colonel—"