"This is all very beautiful," said Forbes, after a silence.
When all his phrases were quite used up, Stone changed the key. What could be done for Mr. Taylor? Mr. Taylor motioned with his usual urbanity that the burden of speech lay with Cairness. What could he do for Mr. Cairness, then? 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.
Landor paid very little attention just then, but that same night he had occasion to think of it again. Undoubtedly, as she said, the American was ugly and unattractive; but the Mexican was pretty and decidedly engaging. Cairness had been too nearly trapped once before to be lured now. He met the piece of brown femininity upon her own ground. "You are quite right, querida mia. She is ugly and old, and you are beautiful and young, and I will take you with me to the States and buy a pink dress with lovely green ribbons, if you will tell me where the old woman is."
Stone was something of a power in Tucson politics, and altogether a great man upon the territorial stump. He was proud of his oratory, and launched into a display of it now, painting luridly the wrongs of the citizen, who, it appeared, was a defenceless, honest, [Pg 10]law-abiding child of peace, yet passed his days in seeing his children slaughtered, his wife tortured, his ranches laid waste, and himself shot down and scalped.
"Good Lord! no," Cairness's smile was rueful. "I've lost all ambition of that sort years since. I'm too old. I've knocked about too long, and I dare say I may as well knock about to the end."
"Why did you do it?"
It was the eternal old story of the White-man's whiskey. A rancher living some four hundred yards from the boundary line upon the Mexican side had sold it to the Indians. Many of them were dead or fighting drunk. The two sober Indians asked for a squad of soldiers to help them guard the ranchman, and stop him from selling any more mescal. They were right-minded themselves and really desired peace, and their despair was very great.
It made it none the better that only Landor had the right to give her the strength of his arm, and that only Cairness had the right to the desperate, imploring look she threw him. It was a swift glance of a moment, and then she reached out a steady enough hand for the parasol, and smiled. It had been much too tragic to last—and in those surroundings. It was a flash of the naked swords of pain, and then they were sheathed. But each had left a sharp gash. No one had seen it. Perhaps to many there would have been nothing to see.
"Thanks. But you started out to tell me what Lawton told Stone."