He lay thinking for a while, then had her send the striker for Ellton, who promptly, and awkwardly, replied to the anxious question as to what might be the trouble, that he was not quite sure, but perhaps it had to do with these—"these" being a small roll of newspaper clippings he took from his portfolio.
"Why shouldn't it be? What the deuce has a fellow got to do but drink and gamble? You have to, to keep your mind off it." Yet there came a rap at his door directly. It was the McLane's striker, bearing a note from Miss McLane. Brewster knew what was in it before he opened it. But he went back to the window and read it by the fading light. When he looked up it was to see Miss McLane and Ellton going up the walk together, returning from Landor's house.
"They have their good points," she answered, exactly as he himself had answered Brewster's baiting long ago. Then she fastened her gaze on the roof of the ramada.
There was a stronger blow at the door, as of a log used by way of a ram. It gave, swayed, and fell crashing in, and the big room swarmed with screaming fiends, their eyes gleaming wildly in the light of the burning hay and the branches piled against the cabin, as they waved their arms over their feathered heads. "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.
"Will you make haste?" cried Felipa, out of patience.
It had not occurred to her for some hours after Mrs. Campbell had told her of Landor's death that she was free now to give herself to Cairness. She had gasped, indeed, when she did remember it, and had put the thought away, angrily and self-reproachfully. But it returned now, and she felt that she might cling to it. She had been grateful, and she had been faithful, too.[Pg 286] She remembered only that Landor had been kind to her, and forgot that for the last two years she had borne with much harsh coldness, and with a sort of contempt which she felt in her unanalyzing mind to have been entirely unmerited. Gradually she raised herself until she sat quite erect by the side of the mound, the old exultation of her half-wild girlhood shining in her face as she planned the future, which only a few minutes before had seemed so hopeless.
At one moment it appeared that Landor had given his command into the hands of the citizens, at another that he had flatly refused to follow them into danger, that he had threatened and hung back by turns, and had, in short, made himself the laughing-stock of civilians and enlisted men, by what Brewster called "his timid subterfuges."
"Then he lied," said the buck, and tucked the scrap back under his head band. "They all lie. I worked for him two weeks. I worked hard. And each night when I asked him for money he would say to me that to-morrow he would pay me. When all his hay was cut he laughed in my face. He would pay me nothing." He seemed resigned enough about it.
It was quite in keeping with everything that had gone before that, the day after a passing Franciscan priest had married them, Landor should have been ordered off upon a scout, and Felipa should have taken it as a matter of course, shedding no tears, and showing no especial emotion beyond a decent regret.
The man, still running, dodged from the road and started across country. Cairness wheeled and followed him. It was open ground, with not so much as a scrub oak or a rock in sight. The thick darkness offered the only chance of escape. But Cairness had chased yearlings in nights as black, and had brought them back to the herd. Down by the creek where the trees were thick, there would have been a good chance for escape, almost a certainty indeed, but there was little here. The man dodged again. It was just to that very thing that the pony had been trained. Habit got the better of stampede with it. It, too, dodged sharply.