When Cairness got him to the post and turned him over to the officer-of-the-day, the fire had burned itself out and quiet was settling down again. Big warm drops were beginning to splash from the clouds.
"Is that Captain Landor's camp?" Felipa sat up in bed, and leaning over to the window beside it drew up the shade and looked out. The cold, gray world of breaking day was battling furiously with a storm of rain. The huddling flowers in the garden bent to the ground before the rush of wind from the mountains across the prairie. The windmill sent out raucous cries as it flew madly around, the great dense clouds, black with rain, dawn-edged, charged through the sky, and the shining-leaved cottonwoods bent their branches almost to the earth. The figures of Cairness and a couple of cow-boys, wrapped in rubber coats, passed, fighting their way through the blur,—vague, dark shadows in the vague, dark mist.
"What is he doing here?" He gathered his courage for what he was going to say next, with a feeling almost of guilt. "Forbes says that I am doing you an injustice, keeping you here; that it is no life for you."
Forbes shrugged his shoulders. "You'll pardon me if I say that here she is a luxurious semi-barbarian." It was on his tongue's tip to add, "and this afternoon, by the spring-house, she was nearly an Apache," but he checked it. "It's very picturesque and poetical and all that,—from the romantic point of view it's perfect,—but it isn't feasible. You can't live on honeycomb for more than a month or twain. I can't imagine a greater misfortune than for you two to grow contented here, and that's what you'll do. It will be a criminal waste of good material." The words of a woman in a community where women are few carry almost the weight of inspiration. Be she never so hideous or so vile, she is in some measure a Deborah, and the more yet, if she be moved to the lust and love of revenge of the prophetess who sang[Pg 125] in the frenzy of blood drunkenness, "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber, the Kenite, be. Blessed shall she be above women in the tent."
Landor sat speechless for a moment. Then he jumped up, knocking over a pile of registers. He seized a bone ruler, much stained with official inks, red and blue, and slapped it on the palm of his hand for emphasis. "I'll demand a court of inquiry into my conduct. This shan't drop, not until the strongest possible light has been turned on it. Why doesn't Brewster prefer charges? Either my conduct was such that he can defend it openly, or else it was such as to call for a court-martial, and to justify him in preferring charges. Certainly nothing can justify him in smirching me with damning silence. That is the part neither of an officer nor of a man." He kicked one of the registers out of the way, and it flapped across the floor and lay with its leaves crumpled under the fair leather covers.
"You won't, I don't guess, if it was the citizens' own wish," insisted the indomitable one. "You wouldn't be gone more than two days at the outside. And a big party of us will go with you."
One cup to the dead already.