"Never mind all that. I'm here to question, not to be questioned. Now listen to me." And he went on to point out how she could not possibly get away from him and the troops until they were across the border, and that once there, it lay with him to turn her over to the authorities or to set her free. "You can take your choice, of course. I give you my word—and I think you are quite clever enough to believe me—that if you do not tell me what I want to know about Stone, I will land you where I've landed your husband; and that if you do, you shall go free after I've done with you. Now I can wait until you decide to answer," and he rolled over on his back, put his arms under his head, and gazed up at the jewel-blue patch of sky.
"I'll be hanged," opined Landor, as his own horse bit at the croup of a citizen's horse, eliciting a kick and a squeal, "I'll be hanged if you shall demoralize my column like this. You'll keep ahead if I have to halt here all night to make you. I've given you the post of honor. If I put my men in the van, I'd choose the best ones, and they'd be flattered, too. You wouldn't catch them skulking back on the command."
But it was full two hours, in the end, before they did start. Flasks had to be replenished, farewell drinks taken, wives and families parted from, the last behests made, of those going upon an errand of death. Citizens burning with ardor to protect their hearths and stock were routed out of saloons and dance halls, only to slip away again upon one pretext or another. Then Landor remembered for the first time that there was a back door to Brewster's quarters and to the commissary. He crept over to the commissary and tried the door gently. It was fast locked. Then he went to the window. It was a low one, on a level with his[Pg 191] chest, with wide-apart iron bars. He ran his hand between them now, and, doubling his fist, broke a pane with a sudden blow. As the glass crashed in, he grasped the gray blanket and drew it back. Brewster was standing in front of the open safe, the package of bids in his hands, and the big rancher was beside him holding a candle and shading it with his palm. They had both turned, and were staring, terror-eyed, at the bleeding hand that held back the blanket.
In his growing uneasiness he blundered on rashly. "You didn't know it? But it is true. Ask your guardian. Do you think he would have you for a wife?" He gave a short laugh. "He hates an Apache as he does a Gila monster. Very few men would be willing to risk it."