It was unfortunate for Landor, as most things seemed to be just then, that the Department Commander happened to have an old score to settle. It resulted in the charges preferred by Brewster being given precedence over the request for a court of inquiry. The Department Commander was a man of military knowledge, and he foresaw that the stigma of having been court-martialled for cowardice would cling to Landor through all his future career, whatever the findings of the court might be. An officer is in the position of the wife of C?sar, and it is better for him, much better, that the charge of "unsoldierly and unofficer-like conduct, in violation of the sixty-first article of war," should never come up against him, however unfounded it may be. Barnwell had told Brewster about him also. "His name is Cairness,—Charles Cairness,—and he's got a lot of fool theories too," he explained. "He goes in for art, makes some pretty good paintings of the Indians, and has picked up some of their lingo. Made himself agreeable to the squaws, I guess. The interpreter says there's one got her nose cut off by her buck, on his account."
Felipa expressed decided approval, and set to work making herself comfortable at once. Within ten minutes she had changed her travelling things for a white wrapper, had brushed the dust from her hair, and left it hanging straight and coarse and dead black, below her waist,—she was given to loosing it whenever the smallest excuse offered,—and had settled herself to rest in a canvas lounging chair.
"Nothing," she answered; "I can't see why it should make any difference to you, when it hasn't with me." She had altogether regained the self-possession she had been surprised out of, with an added note of reserve.
Did she show the squaw? he asked. "Not unless you knew it was there," the officer said tolerantly. Then he went to bed and slept with that peace of mind which comes of a proud consciousness of holding the handle of the whip. In the morning he got the[Pg 28] man's name and address before he went on up to the Agency.
"I am," announced the soldier.
Cairness himself had speculated upon that subject a good deal, and had noticed with a slight uneasiness the ugly looks of some of the ranch hands. "They are more likely to have trouble in that quarter than with the Indians," he said to himself. For he had seen much, in the ranks, of the ways of the disgruntled, free-born American.
"Is it because you think you ought to, or because you really want me?" She was looking at him steadily now, and he could not have lied to her. But the slender hand was warm and clinging, the voice low and sweet, the whole scene so cosey and domestic, and she[Pg 52] herself seemed so much more beautiful than ever, that he answered that it was because he wanted her—and for the moment it was quite true. Had so much as a blush come to her cheek, had she lowered her earnest gaze, had her voice trembled ever so little, it might have been true for all time. But she threw him back upon himself rudely, with an unfeminine lack of tact that was common with her. "Then I will marry you whenever you wish," she said.
"Oh!" said Taylor, and sat looking into the fire.
He tried to see if the soldiers were safe, but though they were not a hundred feet away, the trunks and the mist of water hid them. The rain still pounded down, but the rush of the wind was lessening sensibly.
The soldier understood. "Trying to save you, sir," he said a little resentfully.
Two aimless citizens lounged on their horses, rapt in argument and the heavy labor of chewing—so much so that they barely took notice of the troops.