It was failure, flat failure. The officers knew it, and the general knew it. It was the indefinite prolongation of the troubles. It was the ignominious refutation of all his boasts—boasts based not so much upon trust in himself, as on belief in the nature of the Apache, whose stanch champion he had always been. Cairness bowed, with no realization of the humor of it. "You are equally fortunate," he said easily, and motioned with his hand to the opening above, where Felipa was going. He might have been under his own roof, and that the door.
While Kirby went through the oppressive rite of afternoon tea within the slant-roofed log cabin, and tried to hide from his wife the fear which grew as the shadows lengthened across the clearing out in the corral, the men had reached open mutiny. The smouldering sullenness[Pg 126] had at last burst into flaming defiance, blown by the gale of the woman's wrath.
"Say!" she apostrophized. They laid Landor upon the ground, in the same patch of shade he had glanced at in coming by not five [Pg 281]minutes before. His glazed eyes stared back at the sky. There was nothing to be done for him. But Cairness was alive. They washed the blood from his face with water out of the canteens, and bound his head with a wet handkerchief. And presently he came back to consciousness and saw Landor stretched there, with the bluing hole in his brow, and the quiet there is no mistaking on his sternly weary face. And he turned back his head and lay as ashy and almost as still as the dead man, with a look on his own face more terrible than that of any death.
It was tea time at the Circle K Ranch. But no one was enjoying the hour of rest. Kirby sat on the couch and abstractedly ate slice after slice of thin bread and butter, without speaking. Mrs. Kirby made shift to darn the bunch of stockings beside her, but her whole attention was strained to listening. The children did not understand, though they felt the general uneasiness, and whispered together as they looked at the pictures in the illustrated paper, months old.