The troops settled down to wait, and Cairness, having further sounded some of the Chiricahua squaws, went again in search of Crook. He was seated under an ash tree with his back against the trunk and a portfolio[Pg 300] upon his knee, writing. When Cairness stopped in front of him, he glanced up.
"Begging your pardon, it's not all." At that moment Felipa herself came up the steps and joined them on the porch. She walked with the gait of a young athlete. Her skirts were short enough to leave her movements unhampered, and she wore on her feet a pair of embroidered moccasins. She seemed to be drawing the very breath of life into her quivering nostrils, and she smiled on them both good-humoredly.
He watched her as she went out of the tent, and the surgeon and steward worked with the shining little instruments.
She had done very well, up to then, but she was at the end of her strength. It had been strained to the snapping for a long while, and now it snapped. Slowly, painfully, a hot, dark flush spread over her face to the black line of her hair. The squaw was manifested in the changed color. It altered her whole face, while it lasted, then it dropped back and left a dead gray pallor. Her lips were quivering and yellow, and her eyes paled oddly, as those of a frightened wild beast do. But still they were not lowered. Cairness also thought that they should not, chiefly because they had a tendency to frighten the timid Apaches. But he went on quietly eating his breakfast, and said nothing. He knew that only silence can obtain loquacity from silent natures. He was holding his meat in his fingers, too, and biting it, though he did not drag it like a wild beast yet; and, moreover, he had it upon a piece of bread of his own baking. She did not show the enthusiasm he had rather expected. "I dare say it is my bad conscience," she answered with some indifference. "I have a sin to confess."
"And how, may I ask, would you suggest cutting off their retreat?" the major inquired a little sharply. His temper was not improved by the heat and by twelve hours in the saddle.
"I will write to you where you are to send my mail," she told him, when the train was about to pull out. He bowed stiffly, and raising his hat was gone. She looked after him as he went across the cinder bed to the ambulance which was to take him back, and wondered what would have been the look upon his nice, open face, if she had told him her plans, after all. But she was the only one who knew them.
Was he quite certain that the trail was of hostiles, and not of cow-boys or of other troops?
It did not in the least matter to Brewster, but he was one of those trying people whom Nature has deprived of the instinct for knowing when to stop. A very perceptible sneer twitched his lips. "You seem to be English," he said.