"Well?" said the officer.
It was more than a mere impertinent question, and she did not pretend to ignore it any longer. She clasped her hands slowly about her knees and looked straight at him.
There were two bodies lying across the trail in front of him. He dismounted, and throwing his reins to the[Pg 136] trumpeter went forward to investigate. It was not a pleasant task. The men had been dead some time and their clothing was beginning to fall away in shreds. Some of their outfit was scattered about, and he could guess from it that they had been prospectors. A few feet away was the claim they had been working. Only their arms had been stolen, otherwise nothing appeared to be missing. There was even in the pockets considerable coin, in gold and silver, which Landor found, when he took a long knife from his saddle bags, and standing as far off as might be, slit the cloth open.
[Pg 94] "Yes, sir. But they ain't likely to travel fast. They'll think themselves safe enough up there in the mountains. We could easy overtake them, being as we wouldn't be hampered with drove stock. They stole about fifty head, an' we could most likely get it back if we started at once. It is the wish of the citizens of San Tomaso, ain't it?" He turned to the man who had remained mounted, and who had not opened his mouth. The man nodded.
He turned and walked beside her. "Don't you believe I know all that I want to. I've only just begun. So that scoundrel knew the whole murderous story, and went on writing lies in his papers and covering you, when you ought to have been hung to the nearest tree, did he?—and for the excellent reason that he wanted to make use of your husband! I worked on the Circle K Ranch and on that other one over in New Mexico, which is supposed to be Lawton's, and it didn't take me long to find out that Stone was the real boss." "Shut up," said Brewster, with malicious glee. "They also serve who only stand and wait, you know," he chuckled. "You can serve your admiring and grateful country quite as well in the adjutant's office as summering on the verdant heights of the Mogollons."
Felipa stood up and told the truth shortly. "It[Pg 224] was my fault, if it was any one's," she ended. "You may kill me, if you like. But if you hurt him, I will kill myself." It was she who was threatening now, and she never said more than she meant. She turned almost disdainfully from them, and went up and out of the cave.
She looked down at the curled toe of her moccasin with a certain air of repentance, and answered his question as to what she meant to do with it by explaining that she meant to keep it for a pet.
There were two rooms to the cabin where they were, the big sitting room and the small bedchamber beyond. Kirby went into the bedroom and came out with two rifles and a revolver. He put the revolver into his wife's hands. "I'll do my best, you know, dear. But if I'm done for, if there is no hope for you and the children, use it," he said. And added, "You understand?"
Felipa thought it was not quite so bad as that, and she poured herself another cup of the Rio, strong as lye, with which she saturated her system, to keep off the fever.
She was sitting in her room, sewing. Of late she had become domesticated, and she was fading under it. He had seen it already, and he saw it more plainly than ever just now. She looked up and smiled. Her smile had always been one of her greatest charms, because it was rare and very sweet. "Jack," she greeted him, "what have you done with the bread knife you took with you, dear? I have been lost without it."