"To Captain Landor's widow, I am told."
"And you hamstrung those horses." "Well?" repeated Landor.
So much for his past. As for his present. His only friends were treacherous savages and some few settlers and cow-boys. They would none of them miss him if he were to be laid under a pile of stones with a board cross at his head anywhere by the roadside, in the plains or among the hills. Some of them were honest men, some were desperadoes; none were his equals, not one understood the things that meant life to him. He had no abode, not so much as the coyote over there on the top of the little swell. He made his living in divers and uncertain ways. Sometimes he sent pictures to the East, studies of the things about him.[Pg 165] They sold well. Sometimes he was a scout or a guide. Sometimes he prospected and located claims with more or less good luck. Sometimes he hired himself out as a cow-boy at round-ups, as he was doing now. On the whole, he was, from the financial standpoint, more of a success than from any other. Felipa stood leaning against the gate post, her bare head outlined in bold black and white against the white parasol that hung over her shoulders. She was watching one of the troop herds coming up from water,—the fine, big horses, trotting, bucking, rearing, kicking, biting at each other with squeals and whinnyings, tossing their manes and whisking their tails. Some of them had rolled in the creek bed, and then in the dust, and were caked with mud from neck to croup. They frisked over to their own picket line, and got into rows for the grooming.
When, in the darkness of a cloudy night, he said good-by to her on the road before his quarters, bending to kiss the warm mouth he could not see, he knew that it would have been possible for him to have loved her, had she been nearly all that she was not.
Some of them did think so. Some of them thought on the contrary, that it would be surer to make a detour, leaving the trail. They knew the spot, the bed of an ancient mountain lake, where the hostiles were sure to camp.
"He was helping me."
"They have expressed the desire that I should convey to you, Colonel—"
He suggested that the sooner she felt that she could go the better, as she had been a good deal of a burden to the Taylors.