The fault of this last, crowning breach of faith was not all with the Red-men by any means. But the difficulty would be to have that believed. The world at large,—or such part of it as was deigning to take heed of this struggle against heavy odds, this contest between the prehistoric and the makers of history,—the world at large would not go into the details, if indeed it were ever to hear them. It would know just this, that a band of Indians, terrible in the very smallness of their numbers, were meeting the oncoming line of civilization from the East with that of the savagery of the West, as a prairie fire is met and checked in its advance by another fire kindled and set on to stop it. It would know that the blood of the masters of the land was being spilled upon the thirsty, unreclaimed ground by those who were, in right and justice, for the welfare of humanity, masters no more. It would know that the voice which should have been that of authority and command was often turned to helpless complaint or shrieks for mercy. And it[Pg 304] would not stop for the causes of these things; it could not be expected to. It would know that a man had come who had promised peace, confidently promised it in the event of certain other promises being fulfilled, and that he had failed of his purpose. The world would say that Crook had held in his grasp the Apaches and the future peace of an empire as large as that of Great Britain and Ireland, France and Germany in one, and that he had let it slip through nerveless fingers. It was signal failure. [Pg 197]
When his analysis of her failed, he went to Mrs. Campbell again. "Do you grow fond of Felipa?" he asked point blank.
As for the Kirby affair, there had been no hint of treachery in the published or verbal accounts of it. The ranch hands who had escaped had told a plain enough tale of having fled at the approach of the Indians, vainly imploring the Kirbys to do the same. It[Pg 166] seemed that the most they could be accused of was cowardice. It had all been set forth in the papers with much circumstance and detail. But Cairness doubted. He remembered their dogged ugliness, and that of the raw-boned Texan woman.
The box was laid in the buckboard, and covered with the flag once more. Then the mules started, with a rattle of traces and of the wheels, and the tramp of feet began again. The drums thrummed regularly and slowly, the heart beats of the service, and the fifes took up the dead march in a weird, shrill Banshee wail. They went down the line, the commandant with the surgeon and the officers first, and after them the buckboard, with its bright-draped burden. Then Landor's horse, covered with black cloths, the empty[Pg 284] saddle upon its back. It nosed at the pockets of the man who led it. It had been taught to find sugar in pockets. And then the troops, the cavalry with the yellow plumes of their helmets drooping, and the infantry with the spikes glinting, marching with eyes cast down and muskets reversed. A gap, then the soldiers' urchins from the laundress row, in for anything that might be doing.
"I used to know Mrs. Cairness in Washington," Forbes went on, undisturbed; "she has probably told you so."
Landor turned away from the window and looked at her. It was in human nature that she had never seemed so beautiful before. Perhaps it was, too, because there[Pg 149] was warmth in her face, the stress of life that was more than physical, at last.
It is one thing to be sacrificed to a cause, even if it is only by filling up the ditch that others may cross to victory; it is quite another to be sacrificed in a cause, to die unavailingly without profit or glory of any kind, to be even an obstacle thrown across the way. And that was the end which looked Cabot in the face. He stood and considered his horse where it lay in the white dust, with its bloodshot eyes turned up to a sky that burned like a great blue flame. Its tongue, all black and swollen, hung out upon the sand, its flanks were sunken, and its forelegs limp.
Now it is a hazardous undertaking to question an Englishman who does not care to be questioned. A person of good judgment would about as lief try to[Pg 30] poke up a cross lion to play. But Brewster persisted, and asked if Cairness would be willing to live among the Apaches.