Landor came trotting over from his quarters, followed by his orderly, and the troops moved off across the flat, toward the river.
It was a very poor case, indeed, that Brewster made out, despite a formidable array of specifications. As it progressed, the situation took on a certain ludicrousness. The tale of woe was so very trivial; it seemed hardly worth the trouble of convening twelve officers from the four corners of the Department to hear it. And there was about Brewster, as he progressed, a suggestion of dragging one foot after the other, leaving out a word here, overlooking an occurrence there, [Pg 155]cutting off a mile in one place, and tacking on an hour in another. 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.
The general smiled. He treated Cairness as nearly like an equal as possible always, and got his advice and comment whenever he could. In half an hour he was back, and having produced his scouting togs from the depths of a sky-blue chest, smelling horribly of tobacco and camphor, he fell to dressing.
It was the post-trader, he told Felipa when he came back, and he was asking for help from the officer-of-the-day. Some citizens down at the store were gambling and drinking high, and were becoming uproarious.
But he kept a close watch upon her then and during all the hard, tedious march back to the States, when the troops and the scouts had to drag their steps to meet the strength of the women and children; when the rations gave out because there were some four hundred Indians to be provided for, when the command ate mescal root, digging it up from the ground and baking it; and when the presence of a horde of filthy savages made the White-man suffer many things not to be put in print.
"It's her nature," he told his wife. "Underneath she is an Apache, and they burn the wigwams and all the traps of their dead; sometimes even the whole [Pg 287]village he lived in." Mrs. Ellton said that poor Captain Landor had had a good deal to endure.
The boy explained that it was not that, and she let him go, in relief.
"True, too," Brewster admitted perforce.