中央战“疫”日志【10】

Felipa had taken charge of the two, being the only woman in the place not already provided with children of her own, and had roused herself to an amount of capability her husband had never suspected her of. She belonged to the tribe of unoccupied women, as a rule, not that she was indolent so much as that she appeared to have no sense of time nor of the value of it. Landor, who had always one absorbing interest or another to expend his whole energy upon, even if it were nothing larger than running the troop kitchen, thought her quite aimless, though he never addressed that or any other reproach to her. He was contented at the advent of the hapless orphans for one thing, that they superseded the Ellton baby, which he secretly detested with a kind of unreasonable jealousy.

He recalled the dark, unbecoming flush that had deepened the color of her skin just enough to show the squaw, beyond mistaking, at least to one who knew. It was all very well now. But later, later she would look like that frequently, if not all the time. With youth she would lose her excuse for being. He knew that very well. But it was the youth, the majestic, powerful youth, that he loved. He had seen too many old hags of squaws, disfigurers of the dead and wounded, drudges of the rancheria, squatting on hides before their tepees, not to know what Felipa's decline would be in spite of the Anglo-Saxon strain that seemed to show only in her white skin.

Stone held that the affair had been grossly exaggerated, and that the proof thereof lay in the acquittal of all accused of the crime, by a jury of their peers; and Landor said that the sooner that highly discreditable travesty on justice was forgotten, the better for the good fame of the territory. The press representative waxed eloquent once more, until his neck grew violet with suppressed wrath, which sputtered out now and then in profanity. The officer met his finest flights with cold ridicule, and the Agency man improved the opportunity by pouring himself a drink from the flask on the cot. In little it was the reproduction of the whole situation on the frontier—and the politician profited. "For the fun of it, and 'found.' Can you give me a recommendation?"

"That's all right," Landor said; "are you hunting?" The boy grinned again. "How Mees Landor?" he repeated. His savage perception had noted that those words had some "medicine" or other that paralyzed[Pg 234] the Ojo-blanco temporarily. Cairness swore at him in good English, and went off abruptly.

Cairness himself had speculated upon that subject a good deal, and had noticed with a slight uneasiness the ugly looks of some of the ranch hands. "They are more likely to have trouble in that quarter than with the Indians," he said to himself. For he had seen much, in the ranks, of the ways of the disgruntled, free-born American.

"Felipa!" he cried, "Felipa!"

He was a simple, sullen Apache, and his untutored mind could only grasp effects. Causes were beyond it. He did not, therefore, understand that coal had been discovered on his reservation, also silver, and that the agent and the agent's friends were trying to possess[Pg 175] themselves of the land in order to dispose of it to the Eastern capitalist.

"Do you care for it so much that you would not be happy in any other?"