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. But she would die before she would be faithless to him. He was sure of that. Only—why should he exact so much? Why should he not make the last of[Pg 150] a long score of sacrifices? He had been unselfish with her always, from the day he had found the little child, shy as one of the timid fawns in the woods of the reservation, and pretty in a wild way, until now when she sat there in front of him, a woman, and his wife, loving, and beloved of, another man.
The lieutenant himself did neither, but he argued that his mind was never off it. The cow-boy broadened the issue. "You will, and you'll take off that plug, too, or I'll know what for."