"And your wife?"
He stood up. "I'll see you off inside of three days then, Stone," he said amicably.
Stone thought not. He had not heard Lawton speak of needing help. But he wrote a very guarded note of recommendation, falling back into the editorial habit, and dashing it off under pressure. Cairness, whose own writing was tiny and clear and black, and who covered whole sheets without apparent labor, but with lightning rapidity, watched and reflected that he spent an amount of time on the flourish of his signature that might have been employed to advantage in the attainment of legibility. Had it been all arranged, planned, and rehearsed for months beforehand, the action could not have been more united. They crowded past him out of the door and ran for the corrals, and each dragged a horse or a mule from the stalls, flinging on a halter or rope or bridle, whatever came to hand, from the walls of the harness room.
When he was well within, he began to investigate, and he recalled now that he had heard a great deal of this cave. It was very large, supposedly, but almost unexplored. Tradition ran that the Spaniards, in the long-past days of their occupation, had had a big silver mine in there, worked by padres who had taught the timid Indians to believe that it was haunted, that they might not take it for themselves, nor yet guide others to it. And, too, it had been the refuge and hiding-place of Billy the Kid for years. It was said that since then a corporal and three men had gone in once, and that a search party had found their gnawed skeletons by the edge of the river that flowed there underground. Oddly enough, and thanks to the missionary fathers, it had never served as an Indian stronghold, though its advantages for such a use were manifest. Her lips parted, and quivered, and closed again. The winds from the wide heavens above the gap whined through the pines, the river roared steadily down below, and the great, irresistible hand of Nature crushed without heeding it the thin, hollow shell of convention. The child of a savage and a black sheep looked straight and long into the face of the child of rovers and criminals. They were man and woman, and in the freemasonry of outlawry made no pretence.
"And after that?" It was the first scene of the closing act of the tragic comedy of the Geronimo campaign. That wily old devil, weary temporarily of the bloodshed he had continued with more or less regularity for many years, had[Pg 297] sent word to the officers that he would meet them without their commands, in the Ca?on de los Embudos, across the border line, to discuss the terms of surrender. The officers had forthwith come, Crook yet hopeful that something might be accomplished by honesty and plain dealing; the others, for the most part, doubting. Cairness gave a grunt that was startlingly savage—so much so that he realized it, and shook himself slightly as a man does who is trying to shake himself free from a lethargy that is stealing over him.
"Here's how," said the parson, and raised his glass. A bullet shattered it in his grasp.