Brewster avoided it, and became absorbed in making the tips of his fingers meet as he pressed his hands together. "Neither have I," Cairness consoled him, from the depths of a rehearsal of the unwisdom of Isma?l Pasha.
Cairness put the sketch back in the case and stood[Pg 72] up. "Will you tell Captain Landor that I found that I could not wait, after all?" he said, and bowing went out from the ramada.
Felipa felt something of this, and it lessened the vague burden of self-reproach she had been carrying. She was almost cheerful when she got back to the post. Through the last breakfast, which the Elltons took for granted must be a sad one, and conscientiously did their best to make so, she had some difficulty in keeping down to their depression. It made it none the better that only Landor had the right to give her the strength of his arm, and that only Cairness had the right to the desperate, imploring look she threw him. It was a swift glance of a moment, and then she reached out a steady enough hand for the parasol, and smiled. It had been much too tragic to last—and in those surroundings. It was a flash of the naked swords of pain, and then they were sheathed. But each had left a sharp gash. No one had seen it. Perhaps to many there would have been nothing to see. "I have seen you before, Mrs. Landor," he said after a while.
In the '70's the frontier was a fact and not a memory, and a woman in the Far West was a blessing sent direct from heaven, or from the East, which was much the same thing. Lieutenants besought the wives of their brother officers to bring out their sisters and cousins and even aunts, and very weird specimens of the sex sometimes resulted. But even these could reign as queens, dance, ride, flirt to their hearts' content—also marry, which is not always the corollary in these days. The outbreak of a reservation full of Indians was a small thing in comparison with the excitement occasioned by the expectation of a girl in the post.
He considered. "Let me see. For instance, when did Lawton tell him, and why, and exactly what?"
"You don't say!" she mocked. "You want the earth and some sun and moon and stars, don't you, though? Well, then, Bill told him about a week afterward. And he told him because Stone had another hold on him (it ain't any of your business what that was, I reckon), and bullied it out of him (Bill ain't got any more backbone than a rattler), and promised to lend him money to set up for hisself on the Circle K Ranch. Want to know anything else?" she sneered.
"And you care for him?"
Forbes and her husband having gone away, Felipa lay in the hammock upon the porch and looked up into the vines. She thought hard, and remembered many things as she swayed to and fro. She remembered that one return to Nature long ago of which Landor had not known.
She looked up and tried hard to smile again.
"Cairness!" called Crook, and Cairness, turning aside, came over to where the general sat upon a big stone eating a sandwich two inches thick.
"You give me what no one else could give—the best things in life."
And Brewster said he had not.