(原创首发) 石犟子顺命 (小说) 颂明

"Luncheon!" said Cairness, as he smoothed his hair in front of a speckled and wavy mirror, which reflected all of life that came before it, in sickly green, "cabalistic word, bringing before me memories of my wasted youth. There was a chap from home in my troop, until he deserted, and when we were alone we would say luncheon below our breaths. But I haven't eaten anything except dinner for five years."

He raised himself from the pillows too abruptly for a very weak man. "What is the matter, Felipa?" he demanded. "I am certainly not good enough for anything else." He began to whistle, but it was not a success, and he stopped. It was a little pocket, a natural fortress, high up on a commanding peak. Cairness crept forward flat along the rocks, raised his head cautiously and looked down. There in the sunrise light,—the gorgeous sunrise of the southern mountain peaks where the wind is fresh out of the universe and glitters and quivers with sparks of new life,—there was the encampment of the hostiles. It was a small Eden of green grass and water and trees high up in the Sierra—that strange mountain chain that seems as though it might have been the giant model of the Aztec builders, and that holds the mystery of a[Pg 229] mysterious people locked in its stone and metal breasts, as securely as it does that of the rich, lost mines whose fabled wonders no man can prove to-day.

Half a mile beyond, within the same barbed-wire enclosure as the home buildings and corrals, was a spring-house surrounded by cottonwoods, just then the only patch of vivid green on the clay-colored waste. There were benches under the cottonwoods, and the ground was cool, and thither Felipa took her way, in no wise oppressed by the heat. Her step was as firm and as quick as it had been the day she had come so noiselessly along the parade, across the path of the private who was going to the barracks. It was as quiet, too, for she had on a pair of old red satin slippers, badly run down at the heel. He was a simple, sullen Apache, and his untutored mind could only grasp effects. Causes were beyond it. He did not, therefore, understand that coal had been discovered on his reservation, also silver, and that the agent and the agent's friends were trying to possess[Pg 175] themselves of the land in order to dispose of it to the Eastern capitalist.