A score of voices answered "Yes." They were all aroused now. Landor went down to meet the man, who had dismounted and was climbing up toward him, leading his horse. It was a courier, sent out from Apache, as Cairness had supposed.
In the corral where the fire had started and was best under way, and in the stall farthest from the gate, a little pinto mustang was jerking at its halter and squealing with fear. It was Cairness's horse. He had been allowed to stable it there, and he himself was not down with his scouts in the ill-smelling camp across the creek, but had a room at the sutler's store, a good three-quarters of a mile from the corrals. As soon as the bugle call awoke him, he started at a run; but the fire was beyond fighting when he got there. She looked down at the curled toe of her moccasin with a certain air of repentance, and answered his question as to what she meant to do with it by explaining that she meant to keep it for a pet. But it is because of just this that no scion of ultra-civilization degenerates so thoroughly as does he. Retrogression is easy to him. He can hardly go higher, because he is on the height already; but he can slip back. Set him in a lower civilization, he sinks one degree[Pg 266] lower than that. Put him among savages, and he is nearer the beasts than they. It does not come to pass in a day, nor yet at all if he be part of a community, which keeps in mind its traditions and its church, and which forms its own public opinion. Then he is the leaven of all the measures of meal about him, the surest, steadiest, most irresistible civilizing force. But he cannot advance alone. He goes back, and, being cursed with the wisdom which shows him his debasement, in loathing and disgust with himself, he grows sullen and falls back yet more.
She took it and looked from it to him, questioningly. "What is this?" she asked.
"Well?" repeated Landor.
"Turn the rest loose," cried the woman, and set the example herself.
She laughed at him—the first false laugh that had ever come from her lips. "You had better go now," she said, rising and standing with her arms at her side, and her head very erect.
Landor tried another way then, and leaned from his saddle in his earnestness. He put it in the light of a favor to himself. But Cabot's refusal was unanswerable. It was better one than two, he said, and no horse in the command could carry double.
He knew that the stores which should have gone to him were loaded upon wagon-trains and hurried off the reservation in the dead of night; but he did not know why the Apache who was sent to humbly ask the agent about it was put in the guard-house for six months without trial. He knew that his corn patches were trampled down, but not that it was to force him to purchase supplies from the agent and his friends, or else get out. He knew that his reservation—none too large, as it was, for three thousand adults more or less—had been cut down without his consent five different times, and that Mormon settlers were elbowing him out of what space remained. But, being only a savage, it were foolish to expect that he should have seen the reason for these things. He has not yet learned to take kindly to financial dishonesty. Does he owe you two bits, he will travel two hundred miles to pay it. He has still much to absorb concerning civilization.