"And you—what did you say?" asked Landor. He was a little surprised to find how anxiously he[Pg 26] waited, and the extent of his relief when she answered, "I told him to let me be, or I would set them loose on him."
Crook had been recalled too late, and he knew it. Every Apache on the reservation was ready for the war-path. It was not to be averted. One man, even a very firm and deft one, could not straighten out in a few weeks the muddle of ten years of thievery, oppression, and goading. It takes more than just a promise, even though it is one likely to be kept, to soothe the hurt feelings of savages who have seen eleven of their friends jailed for fourteen months without the form of accusation or trial. They feel bitter toward the government whose minions do those things. He hesitated, then blurted it out, in spite of the[Pg 151] inward warning that it would be unwise. "I could let you free yourself."
"I see him, I see him all the same," he protested, with tears and evident conviction.
It was a bitterly cold January morning. There had been a rain in the night, and the clouds yet hung gray over Mt. Graham and the black gap. The wet wind went howling over the valley, so that the little flag at the top of the staff snapped and whipped as though it would be torn from the halyards. Sunday inspection and guard mounting had been chilling ceremonies, performed in overcoats that were hardly more blue than the men's faces. Having finished them, Brewster hurried across the parade to Captain Campbell's quarters.
She came and stood watching, asking no questions, while the woman on the sofa gulped down the raw whiskey and gave back the glass.
"She was a captive among the Chiricahuas up in the Sierra Madre. She's had a hard time of it. That and the return march have been too much for her."
"They will kill me? Who will kill me, and what for?"
"I don't know what has been said, Major, but something more than just what's in the papers must have gotten about. That sort of mud-slinging is too common to cause comment, even. It must be some spite work. There's no reason to suppose, surely, that after a quarter of a century of gallant service he's been and shown the white feather. He's awfully cut up, really he is. He's noticed it, of course, and it's too deuced bad, kicking a man when he's down sick and can't help himself."