"He told him the truth, I tell you: that when we heard the Apaches were coming, we lit out and drove out the stock from the corrals. I don't recollect his words."
He stood quite still and erect, looking after them, a dead light of renunciation of life and hope in his eyes. They came in search of him two days later and scoured the valley and the hills. But the last they ever saw of him was then, following them, a tiny speck upon the desert, making southwest in the direction of the water hole. The big wolf had stopped again, and turned about, coming slowly after him, and two buzzards circled above him, casting down on his path the flitting shadows of their wings. "Or the nurse?"
But his left hand hung misshapen, and Cairness saw that it did not bend at the wrist as he motioned to an empty soda-pop bottle and a glass on the table beside a saucer of fly-paper and water. "That's what I still take, you see," he said, "but I'll serve you better;" and he opened a drawer and brought out a big flask. "I reckon you've got a thirst on you this hot weather." He treated himself to a second bottle of the pop, and[Pg 168] grew loquacious, as another man might have under the influence of stronger drink; and he talked so much about himself and so little about his guest that Cairness wondered. Presently the reason made itself manifest. It was the egotism of the lover. The Reverend Taylor was going to be married. He told Cairness so with an expression of beatitude that answered to a blush, and pointed to a photograph on his mantel-shelf. "She ain't so pretty to look at," he confided, which was undoubtedly true, "nor yet so young. But I ain't neither, 'sfar as that goes. She's amiable. That's the great thing after all, for a wife. She's amiable." His contentment was not to last for long, however. The quartermaster broke in upon it rudely as he sat on the porch one morning after guard-mounting, "Have you seen the man who came up with the scouts from Grant?" Felipa was not there. At the earliest, she could not return for a couple of days, and by then Landor's body[Pg 283] would be laid in the dreary little graveyard, with its wooden headboards and crosses, and its neglected graves among the coyote and snake holes. The life of the service would be going on just as usual, after the little passing excitement was at an end. For it was an excitement. No one in the garrison would have had it end like this, but since what will be will be, and the right theory of life is to make the most of what offers and to hasten—as the philosopher has said—to laugh at all things for fear we may have cause to weep, there was a certain expectation, decently kept down, in the air.