彭怀月的专栏作者中国国家地理网

The next day he left for the Circle K Ranch. Lawton did not appear to need help. But he fired a Greaser, nevertheless, and took Cairness on. He seemed to stand in as abject awe of Stone's note as an Arab might have stood of a bit of the black covering of the Kaabah stone. As for the Kirby affair, there had been no hint of treachery in the published or verbal accounts of it. The ranch hands who had escaped had told a plain enough tale of having fled at the approach of the Indians, vainly imploring the Kirbys to do the same. It[Pg 166] seemed that the most they could be accused of was cowardice. It had all been set forth in the papers with much circumstance and detail. But Cairness doubted. He remembered their dogged ugliness, and that of the raw-boned Texan woman.

Then he went off to inspect the stock and the pickets, and to double the sentries. "You had better sleep on your arms," he told the soldiers, and returned to his cot to lie down upon it, dressed, but feigning sleep,[Pg 98] that Felipa might not be uneasy. He need not have resorted to deception. Felipa had not so much as pretended to close her eyes that night. Brewster told him. "It is Mr. Lawton, of the Circle K Ranch."

It was more for her than for himself that the rebuke hurt him. For it was a rebuke, though as yet it was unsaid. And he thought for a moment that he would defend her to the general. He had never done so yet, not even to the little parson in Tombstone whose obvious disapproval he had never tried to combat, though it had ended the friendship of years.

"Apaches ride badly, don't they?" she said, with calm matter of fact. "If you mean that I am hard on my horse, though, you are right." Her voice was exquisitely sweet, without modulation.

And then his thoughts shot back to the present with quick pain. She should not have come here, not so soon. He had taken a long, hard trip that had nearly ended in his death, to avoid this very thing, this [Pg 293]meeting, which, just because it made him so terribly happy, seemed a treachery, a sacrilege. Had she less delicacy of feeling than himself? Or had she more love? It was that, he saw it in her beautiful eyes which were growing wide and frightened at his silence. He took his hand from under the sheets and stretched it out to her. She went to him and dropped on her knees beside the bed, and threw her arms about him. He moved his weak head closer to her shoulder, and pressing her fingers to his face gave a choking sob. He was happy, so very happy. And nothing mattered but just this.

The face on the pillow lighted quickly, and she put out her hand to him impulsively. "Could we go back, Jack, even before the detail is up?" she said. And yet her life of late had surely been one that women would have thought enviable—most women.

The blaze of glory had gone suddenly from the clouds, leaving them lifeless gray, when she turned her eyes back to them; and the outlook across the parade ground was very bare. She went and stood by the fire, leaning her arm on the mantel-shelf and setting her determined lips.

The one man at bay whirled round twice, with a bullet in his heart and an arrow through his neck. "Now!" he made one fierce effort to cry, as he staggered again and dropped on his face, to be trampled under forty feet.

Who feels too reckless to help himself?"

[Pg 25]