So the captain and the first sergeant took up the money and the loose papers, together with a couple of rings from the hands, and wrapping them in a poncho, carried them off to serve as possible means of identification, for it had got beyond all question of features. Then two men moved the bodies from the[Pg 137] trail, with long sticks, and covered them with a pile of stones. Landor found a piece of board by the mouth of the claim and drew on it, with an end of charred stick, a skull and cross bones with a bow and arrow, and stood it up among the stones, in sign to all who might chance to pass thereby that since men had here died at the hands of the Apaches, other men might yet meet a like fate.
Cairness reddened to the roots of his hair, and the scar on his forehead grew purple. He understood that look now. And it hurt him more than any of the slights and rebuffs he had received since he had married Felipa. He had, like most of those who served under the general, a sort of hero-worship for him, and set great store by his opinion. It was only because of that that he had left Felipa alone upon the ranch. It had been their first separation and almost absurdly hard for two who had lived their roving lives.
As they walked back to the post, Landor did not speak to Felipa. There was nothing he could say unless he were to storm unavailingly, and that was by no means his way. And there was nothing for which he could, with reason, blame her. All things considered, she had acted very well. She moved beside him serenely, not in the least cowed.
Ellton retaliated with more spirit. "Or guarding a water hole on the border for two or three months, and that's quite as likely to be your fate."
Not a week before—and then the Agency had been officially at peace—a Mexican packer had been shot down by an arrow from some unseen bow, within a thousand yards of the post, in broad daylight. The Indians, caking their bodies with clay, and binding sage or grass upon their heads, could writhe unseen almost within arm's reach. But Felipa was not afraid. Straight for the river bottom she made, passing amid the [Pg 78]dump-heaps, where a fire of brush was still smouldering, filling the air with pungent smoke, where old cans and bottles shone in the starlight, and two polecats, pretty white and black little creatures, their bushy tails erect, sniffed with their sharp noses as they walked stupidly along. Their bite meant hydrophobia, but though one came blindly toward her, she barely moved aside. Her skirt brushed it, and it made a low, whining, mean sound.
"She's mighty nice looking, ain't she?"
A half dozen cow-boys came riding over from the camp of the outfit to relieve those on duty. Cairness was worn out with close on eighteen hours in the saddle, tearing and darting over the hills and ravines, quick as the shadow from some buzzard high in the sky, scrambling over rocks, cutting, wheeling, chasing after fleet-footed, scrawny cattle. He went back to camp, and without so much as washing the caked dust and sweat from his face, rolled himself in a blanket and slept.
"Is he hurt?" she shook him sharply.