She replied, with still more violent relapse into foul-tongued abuse, that he had gone off with a woman[Pg 244] of his own people. "Got me down into this hell of a country and took every quartillo I had and then skedaddled."

It gave cause for reflection; but an officer was obviously at liberty to talk to whomsoever he might choose around his own premises, at any hour of the day or night. So the officer of the day went on, treading quietly. But he had something to think about now that kept off drowsiness for the rest of the rounds. Brewster's fondness for the society of dubious civilians was certainly unfortunate. And the conjunction of the aspiring beef contractor and the commissary officer was also unfortunate, not to say curious. Because of this. The beef contract was about to expire, and the commandant had advertised for bids. A number of ranchers had already turned their papers in. Furnishing the government's soldiers with meat is never an empty honor.

"You are so good to me," she said penitently, "and I was so disobedient." Moreover, Landor was very ill. In the Mogollons he had gathered and pressed specimens of the gorgeous[Pg 134] wild flowers that turn the plateaux into a million-hued Eden, and one day there had lurked among the blossoms a sprig of poison weed, with results which were threatening to be serious. He rode at the head of his column, however, as it made for home by way of the Aravaypa Ca?on.

"Handsome fellow," went on the quartermaster, "and looks like a gentleman. Glories in the Ouida-esque name of Charles Morely Cairness, and signs it in full." "Helping you to do what?"

Cairness himself had speculated upon that subject a good deal, and had noticed with a slight uneasiness the ugly looks of some of the ranch hands. "They are more likely to have trouble in that quarter than with the Indians," he said to himself. For he had seen much, in the ranks, of the ways of the disgruntled, free-born American.