稳住“三保障” 脱贫有质量(决战脱贫攻坚·一线故事)

Crook closed up the portfolio and turned to him. "I didn't know you were married, Mr. Cairness, when I sent for you."

He hesitated, opening his mouth to speak and shutting it again irresolutely. He tried to see if the soldiers were safe, but though they were not a hundred feet away, the trunks and the mist of water hid them. The rain still pounded down, but the rush of the wind was lessening sensibly.

"What do you want to know for?" asked the woman, at length. He made as if to kick the bottle away, but quick as a flash she was on her feet and facing him.

If the sea, whipping in huge waves against the fury of a typhoon, were to become on the instant rocks, it would be as this. There are heights and crevasses, hills and gulches, crests and hollows, little caves and crannies, where quail and snakes and cotton-tails and jack-rabbits, lizards and coyotes, creatures of desolation and the barrens, hide and scamper in and out. It is an impregnable stronghold, not for armies, because they could not find shelter, but for savages that can scatter like the quail themselves, and writhe on their bellies into the coyotes' own holes. "Landor again," she yawned, ignoring his meaning-fraught tone. But she watched his face from under her long lashes.

"I can see, sir," the lieutenant answered.

When Cairness got him to the post and turned him over to the officer-of-the-day, the fire had burned itself out and quiet was settling down again. Big warm drops were beginning to splash from the clouds.

He knew while he was yet afar off which was the American. She stood, big and gaunt, with her feet planted wide and her fists on her hips, looking over toward the general's tent. And when Cairness came nearer, strolling along with his hands in his pockets, observing the beauties of Nature and the entire vileness of man, she turned her head and gave him a defiant stare. He took his hands from his pockets and went forward, raising his disreputable campaign hat. "Good morning, Mrs. Lawton," he said, not that he quite lived up to the excellent standard of Miss Winstanley, but that he understood the compelling force of civility, not to say the bewilderment. If you turn its bright light full in the face of one whose eyes are accustomed to the obscurity wherein walk the underbred, your chances for dazzling him until he shall fall into any pit you may have dug in his pathway are excellent.

In those days some strange things happened at agencies. Toilet sets were furnished to the Apache, who has about as much use for toilet sets as the Greenlander has for cotton prints, and who would probably have used them for targets if he had ever gotten them—which he did not. Upon the table of a certain agent (and he was an honest man, let it be noted, for the thing was rare) there lay for some time a large rock, which he had labelled with delicate humor "sample of sugar furnished to this agency under—" but the name doesn't matter now. It was close on a[Pg 12] quarter of a century ago, and no doubt it is all changed since then. By the same working out, a schoolhouse built of sun-baked mud, to serve as a temple of learning for the Red-man, cost the government forty thousand dollars. The Apache children who sat within it could have acquired another of the valuable lessons of Ojo-blanco from the contractors.

"Thank you," said Cabot, and drew his hand from the girths. He cut Landor short when he tried to change him again. "You are losing time," he told him, "and if you stay here from now to next week it won't do any good. I'll foot it to the water hole, if I can. Otherwise—" the feeble laugh once more as his eyes shifted to where a big, gray prairie wolf was going[Pg 6] across the flat, stopping now and then to watch them, then swinging on again.

The buck sat down upon the ground in front of Felipa and considered her. By the etiquette of the tribe she could not ask him his name, but the boy, her protégé, told her that it was Alchesay. All the afternoon he hung around the camp, taciturn, apparently aimless, while she went about her usual amusements and slept in the tent. Once in a way he spoke to her in Spanish. And for days thereafter, as they moved up along the rough and dangerous road,—where the wagon upset with monotonous regularity, big and heavy though it was,—he appeared from time to time.

There was a mutter of thunder and a far-off roar, a flame of lightning through the trees, and the hills and mountains shook. Just where they rode the ca?on narrowed to hardly more than a deep gulch, and the river ran close beside the road.

It was a splendid spring morning. There had been a shower overnight, and the whole mountain world was aglitter. The dancing, rustling leaves of the cottonwoods gleamed, the sparse grass of the parade ground was shining like tiny bayonets, the flag threw out its bright stripes to the breeze, and when the sun rays struck the visor of some forage cap, they glinted off as though it had been a mirror. All the post chickens were cackling and singing their droning monotonous song of contentment, the tiny ones cheeped and twittered, and in among the vines of the porch Felipa's mocking-bird whistled exultantly.