It was quite in keeping with everything that had gone before that, the day after a passing Franciscan priest had married them, Landor should have been ordered off upon a scout, and Felipa should have taken it as a matter of course, shedding no tears, and showing no especial emotion beyond a decent regret.
Felipa was not there. At the earliest, she could not return for a couple of days, and by then Landor's body[Pg 283] would be laid in the dreary little graveyard, with its wooden headboards and crosses, and its neglected graves among the coyote and snake holes. The life of the service would be going on just as usual, after the little passing excitement was at an end. For it was an excitement. No one in the garrison would have had it end like this, but since what will be will be, and the right theory of life is to make the most of what offers and to hasten—as the philosopher has said—to laugh at all things for fear we may have cause to weep, there was a certain expectation, decently kept down, in the air.
"Such as—" Just at the edge of the rock stream there was an abandoned cabin built of small stones. Whatever sort of roof it had had in the beginning was now gone altogether, and the cabin itself was tumbling down. Through the doorway where there was no door, there showed a blackened fireplace. Once when a party from the post had been taking the two days' drive to the railroad, they had stopped here, and had lunched in the cabin. Landor remembered it now, and glanced at the place where Felipa had reclined in the shade of the walls, upon the leather cushion of the ambulance seat. She very rarely could be moved to sing, though she had a sweet, plaintive voice of small volume; but this time she had raised her tin mug of beer and, looking up to the blue sky, had launched into the "Last Carouse," in a spirit of light mockery that fitted with it well, changing the words a little to the scene.[Pg 279]
Landor expressed pleasure, without loss of words. The next two days he kept to himself and talked only to his Apache scouts, in a defiant return to his admiration for the savage character. A Chiricahua asked no questions and made no conventional reproaches at any rate. He was not penitent, he was not even ashamed, and he would not play at being either. But he was hurt, this last time most of all, and it made him ugly. He had always felt as if he were of the army, although not in it, not by reason of his one enlistment, but by reason of the footing upon which the officers had always received him up to the present time. But now he was an outcast. He faced[Pg 302] the fact, and it was a very unpleasant one. It was almost as though he had been court-martialled and cashiered. He had thoughts of throwing up the whole thing and going back to Felipa, but he hated to seem to run away. It would be better to stop there and face it out, and accept the position that was allowed him, the same, after all, as that of the majority of chiefs of scouts.
She set about cleaning the little revolver, self-cocking, with the thumb-piece of the hammer filed away, that her husband had given her before they were married. To-night she wanted no dinner. She was given to eating irregularly; a good deal at a time, and again nothing for a long stretch. That, too, was in the blood. So she sent the soldier cook away, and he went over to the deserted barracks. After a while Kirby went back to his work, directing several Mexicans, in hopelessly bad Spanish, and laboring with his own hands at about the proportion of three to one. "I dunno. I didn't."
Then there came a chuckling scream of baby laughter and a soft reproach, spoken in Spanish, from across the hall. She stood up and poured the coffee, but before she took her own she went out of the room and came back in a moment, carrying her small son high upon her shoulder.
Cairness tied his cow-pony to a post in front of a low calcimined adobe, and going across the patch of trodden earth knocked at the door. The little parson's own high voice called to him, and he went in.
He took up his cap from the table, and went.
"I am going back to my ranch on the reservation," he said measuredly.
"I didn't. None of your business," she defied him.
"You will still keep her then?" Cairness wished to know.
Forbes shrugged his shoulders. "You'll pardon me if I say that here she is a luxurious semi-barbarian." It was on his tongue's tip to add, "and this afternoon, by the spring-house, she was nearly an Apache," but he checked it. "It's very picturesque and poetical and all that,—from the romantic point of view it's perfect,—but it isn't feasible. You can't live on honeycomb for more than a month or twain. I can't imagine a greater misfortune than for you two to grow contented here, and that's what you'll do. It will be a criminal waste of good material."