Such Apaches as had not gone back on the war-path returned to the States with the troops; but there were five months more of the outrages of Geronimo and his kind. Then in the summer of the year another man, more fortunate and better fitted to deal with it all, perhaps,—with the tangle of lies and deceptions, cross purposes and trickery,—succeeded where Crook had failed and had been relieved of a task that was beyond him. Geronimo was captured, and was hurried off to a Florida prison with his band, as far as they well could be from the reservation they had refused to accept. And with them were sent other Indians, who had been the friends and helpers of the government for years, and who had run great risks to help or to obtain peace. But the memory and gratitude of governments is become a proverb. The southwest settled down to enjoy its safety. The troops rested upon the laurels they had won, the superseded general went on with his work in another field far away to the north. The new general, the saviour of the land, was heaped[Pg 305] with honor and praise, and the path of civilization was laid clear. "Will you make haste?" cried Felipa, out of patience.
"Well, I didn't kill them, did I?" he whined.
Crook closed up the portfolio and turned to him. "I didn't know you were married, Mr. Cairness, when I sent for you." [Pg 141]
Stone thought not. He had not heard Lawton speak of needing help. But he wrote a very guarded note of recommendation, falling back into the editorial habit, and dashing it off under pressure. Cairness, whose own writing was tiny and clear and black, and who covered whole sheets without apparent labor, but with lightning rapidity, watched and reflected that he spent an amount of time on the flourish of his signature that might have been employed to advantage in the attainment of legibility. "I am not wasting any sympathy on the Apaches, nor on the Indians as a whole. They have got to perish. It is in the law of advancement that they should. But where is the use in making the process painful? Leave them alone, and they'll die out. It isn't three hundred years since one of the biggest continents of the globe was peopled with them, and now there is the merest handful left, less as a result of war and slaughter than of natural causes. Nature would see to it that they died, if we didn't."
And so the hostiles took shelter there from the cavalry that had pursued them hard across the open all night, and gave battle after the manner of their kind. It was a very desultory sort of a skirmish, for the troops did not venture into the traps beyond the very edge, and the Indians were simply on the defensive. It was not only desultory, it promised to be unavailing, a waste of time and of ammunition.
They halted in front of him, and the woman swayed again, so much that he ran to her side. But she righted herself fiercely. Cairness was dismounted and was beside her, too, in an instant. He lifted her from the horse, pulled her down, more or less; she was much too ungainly to handle with any grace.