[Pg 276] The civilian protested. "But there is a big company of us, sir, thirty or thirty-five, who can put you on the trail of a large band."
A raiding party of hostiles had passed near the fort, and had killed, with particular atrocity, a family of settlers. The man and his wife had been tortured to death, the baby had had its brains beaten out against the trunk of a tree, a very young child had been hung by the wrist tendons to two meat hooks on the walls of the ranch-house, and left there to die. One big boy had had his eyelids and lips and nose cut off, and had been staked down to the ground with his remains of a face lying over a red-ant hole. Only two had [Pg 196]managed to escape,—a child of ten, who had carried his tiny sister in his arms, twenty miles of ca?ons and hills, to the post.
Cairness nodded. He knew that the Interior Department had sent an agent out to investigate that complaint, and that the agent had gone his way rejoicing and reporting that all was well with the Indian and honest with the contractor. It was not true. Every[Pg 270] one who knew anything about it knew that. Cairness supposed that also was the work of the politicians. But there are things one cannot make plain to a savage having no notions of government. The log cabin was tidy. There were chintz curtains at the windows, much of the furniture, of ranch manufacture, was chintz covered, the manta of the ceiling was unstained, there were pictures from London Christmas papers on the walls, and photographs of the fair women at "home."
"Some Sierra Blanca, sir," said the soldier. It was respectful enough, and yet there was somewhere in the man's whole manner an air of equality, even superiority, that exasperated the lieutenant. It was contrary to good order and military discipline that a private should speak without hesitation, or without offence to the English tongue. "Hire to him!" exclaimed Taylor, "what for?"
The chief Alchise and a half hundred of his kind—one so deaf that he held to his savage old ear a civilized speaking-trumpet—squatted about on the ground, and explained to Crook the nature of their wrongs. He went in through the gate, and was once more upon that reservation he had been commanded by the overbearing tyrant representative of the military to leave, several weeks before. As he trudged along, tattoo went. In the clear silence, beneath the sounding-boards of the low clouds, he heard the voice of one of the sergeants. He shook his fist in the direction. Tattoo being over, some of the lights were put out, but there were still plenty to guide him. He did not want to get there too early, so he walked more slowly, and when he came to the edge of the garrison, he hesitated. "You are so good to me," she said penitently, "and I was so disobedient."