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  • 黑龙江福利彩票手机版

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    There was an expression in his eyes Cairness did not understand. It was not like their usual twinkle of welcome. "Wait a moment," he said, and went on with his writing. Cairness dropped down on the ground, and, for want of anything else to do, began to whittle a whistle out of a willow branch.

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    Cairness clasped his hands about one knee and bent back, looking up at the stars,—and far beyond them into the infinity of that Cause of which they and he and all the perplexing problems were but the mere effects. "You mustn't think I haven't thought it over, time and again," he said, after a while. "It's more vital to me than to you; but my way isn't clear. I loved Mrs. Cairness for more than ten years before I could marry her. I should lose her in less than that, I am absolutely certain, if I did as you suggest. She is not so strong a woman as you might suppose. This dry air, this climate, are necessary to her." He hesitated a[Pg 321] little, rather loath to speak of his sentiments, and yet glad of the chance to put his arguments in words, for his own greater satisfaction. "You call it picturesque and poetical and all that," he said, "but you only half mean it after all. It is picturesque. It has been absolutely satisfactory. I'm not given to talking about this kind of thing, you know; but most men who have been married two years couldn't say truthfully that they have nothing to regret; that if they had had to buy that time with eternity of damnation and the lake of fire, it would not have come too dear. And I have had no price to pay—" he stopped short, the ring of conviction cut off, as the sound of a bell is when a hand is laid upon it. The hand was that of a fact, of the fact that had confronted him in the Ca?on de los Embudos, and that very day by the cottonwoods of the spring-house.

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    He helped her out. "I have drifted in a way," he went on to explain. "I left home when I was a mere boy, and the spirit of savagery and unrest laid hold of me. I can't break away. And I'm not even sure that I want to. You, I dare say, can't understand." Yet he felt so sure, for some reason, that she could that he[Pg 71] merely nodded his head when she said briefly, "I can." "Then, too," he went on, "there is something in the Indian character that strikes a responsive chord in me. I come of lawless stock myself. I was born in Sidney." Then he stopped short. What business was it of hers where he had been born? He had never seen fit to speak of it before. Nevertheless he intended that she should understand now. So he made it quite plain. "Sidney was a convict settlement, you know," he said deliberately, "and marriages were promiscuous. My grandfather was an officer who was best away from England. My grandmother poisoned her first husband. That is on my mother's side. On my father's side it was about as mixed." He leaned back, crossing his booted legs and running his fingers into his cartridge belt. His manner asked with a certain defiance, what she was going to do about it, or to think.

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    "You won't, I don't guess, if it was the citizens' own wish," insisted the indomitable one. "You wouldn't be gone more than two days at the outside. And a big party of us will go with you."

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    There was a murmur. They had elected a captain of their own; they were Indian fighters of experience themselves.

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    "Give me the keys—all the keys."

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    But presently she stood up to go away, and her eyes caught the lowering, glazed ones of the Indian. Half involuntarily she made a motion of striking with a knife. Neither the doctor nor the steward caught it, but he did, and showed by a sudden start that he understood.

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    "They have expressed the desire that I should convey to you, Colonel—"

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    "I know that. But they don't like it, all the same. And I'll bet them cutaways riles them, too."

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    He caught her by the arm, exasperated past all civility, and shook her. "Do you hear me, Felipa Cabot? I tell you that I love you."

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    It struck even through Landor's pain-blurred brain that it was odd. But the few faculties he could command still were all engaged in keeping himself in the saddle until he could reach his own house, where Ellton and Felipa were waiting to get him to his room.

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    When the sun was at midheaven, and the shadows of the pines beyond the clearing fell straight, the [Pg 35]clanging of a triangle startled the mountain stillness. The Mexicans dropped their tools, and the white teamster left a mule with its galled back half washed.

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    "Trouble is," he went on evenly, "trouble is, that, like most women, you've been brought up to take copy-book sentiments about touchin' pitch, and all that, literal. You don't stop to remember that to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. If she can't do you any harm spiritually, she certainly ain't got the strength to do it physically. I can't say as I'd like to have her about the place all the time unless she was going to reform,—and I don't take much stock in change of heart, with her sort,—because she wouldn't be a pleasant companion, and it ain't well to countenance vice. But while she's sick, and it will oblige Cairness, she can have the shelter of my manta. You think so too, now, don't you?" he soothed.

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    Chapter 16

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