The sun was now high and blazing down into the one street of the mud settlement. The enlisted men[Pg 116] were angry that Landor, fearing they, too, would be led astray into dives, would not dismount them. Sitting still in the full sun, when even in the shade the mercury is many degrees above the hundreds, is not calculated to improve the disposition. But at length the volunteers were herded together. The thirty-five promised had dwindled to eight, and Foster was not of the number. He came lurching up at the last moment to explain that he would be unable to go. His wife was in hysterics, he said.
Mrs. Taylor came to the dining-room door and looked in. "Can I do anything?" she asked. They halted in front of him, and the woman swayed again, so much that he ran to her side. But she righted herself fiercely. Cairness was dismounted and was beside her, too, in an instant. He lifted her from the horse, pulled her down, more or less; she was much too ungainly to handle with any grace.
"I am not wasting any sympathy on the Apaches, nor on the Indians as a whole. They have got to perish. It is in the law of advancement that they should. But where is the use in making the process painful? Leave them alone, and they'll die out. It isn't three hundred years since one of the biggest continents of the globe was peopled with them, and now there is the merest handful left, less as a result of war and slaughter than of natural causes. Nature would see to it that they died, if we didn't." He saw her, and without the hesitation of an instant raised his slouch hat and kept on. A government scout does not stop to pass the time of day with an officer's wife.
He was in a manner forgetting Felipa. He had forced himself to try to do so. But once in a way he remembered her vividly, so that the blood would burn in his heart and head, and he would start up and beat off the[Pg 267] thought, as if it were a visible thing. It was happening less and less often, however. For two years he had not seen her and had heard of her directly only once. An officer who came into the Agency had been with her, but having no reason to suppose that a scout could be interested in the details of the private life of an officer's wife, he had merely said that she had been very ill, but was better now. He had not seen fit to add that it was said in the garrison—which observed all things with a microscopic eye—that she was very unhappy with Landor, and that the sympathy was not all with her.