"They put him in a tent beside the hospital, and the next morning I went over with the doctor to see him. He was all cut up on the arms and neck and shoulders. I must have been very strong." She stopped, and he still sat with the puzzled look on his face, but a light of understanding beginning to show through.
"You came quick all right enough," said Landor, looking at the lathered broncos. But Major McLane was inquiring, and the result of his inquiries was that two troops were hurried in hot pursuit.
Landor paid very little attention just then, but that same night he had occasion to think of it again. He stroked its head with his finger as it lay still, opening and shutting its bright little eyes. "It won't live," he told her, and then the thought occurred to him to put her to the test. He held the bird out to her. "Wring its neck," he said, "and end its misery." "Do you like his kind?" the Englishman asked curiously.
So much for his past. As for his present. His only friends were treacherous savages and some few settlers and cow-boys. They would none of them miss him if he were to be laid under a pile of stones with a board cross at his head anywhere by the roadside, in the plains or among the hills. Some of them were honest men, some were desperadoes; none were his equals, not one understood the things that meant life to him. He had no abode, not so much as the coyote over there on the top of the little swell. He made his living in divers and uncertain ways. Sometimes he sent pictures to the East, studies of the things about him.[Pg 165] They sold well. Sometimes he was a scout or a guide. Sometimes he prospected and located claims with more or less good luck. Sometimes he hired himself out as a cow-boy at round-ups, as he was doing now. On the whole, he was, from the financial standpoint, more of a success than from any other.
"Yes," she said, "I am very much attached to it. I was born to it." "Her father was dead. He left her to him."
The ill-smelling room filled, and various games, chiefly faro and monte, began. At one table two men were playing out a poker game that was already of a week's duration. The reek of bad liquor mingled with the smell of worse tobacco and of Mexican-cured leather—like which there is no odor known to the senses, so pungent and permeating and all-pervading it[Pg 42] is. Several of the bracket lamps were sending up thin streams of smoke.