Felipa was not there. At the earliest, she could not return for a couple of days, and by then Landor's body[Pg 283] would be laid in the dreary little graveyard, with its wooden headboards and crosses, and its neglected graves among the coyote and snake holes. The life of the service would be going on just as usual, after the little passing excitement was at an end. For it was an excitement. No one in the garrison would have had it end like this, but since what will be will be, and the right theory of life is to make the most of what offers and to hasten—as the philosopher has said—to laugh at all things for fear we may have cause to weep, there was a certain expectation, decently kept down, in the air.
"And your wife?" "Thank you," said Cabot, and drew his hand from the girths. He cut Landor short when he tried to change him again. "You are losing time," he told him, "and if you stay here from now to next week it won't do any good. I'll foot it to the water hole, if I can. Otherwise—" the feeble laugh once more as his eyes shifted to where a big, gray prairie wolf was going[Pg 6] across the flat, stopping now and then to watch them, then swinging on again. It was characteristic of Felipa that she forgot him altogether and reread the letter, her breath coming in audible gasps.
It was not very dark. The sky was thick with clouds, but there was a waning moon behind them. The only light in the garrison was in the grated windows of the guard-house. "Helping you to do what?"
It came to pass in the working out of things that the commandant elected to spend the night before the opening of the bids, in the small town some miles away, where one of the first families was giving a dinner. This left Landor, as next in rank, in temporary command. It had happened often enough before, in one way[Pg 189] or another, but this time the duties of the position seemed to weigh upon him. He was restless and did not care to sleep. He sent Felipa off to bed, and sat watching where her lithe young figure had gone out of the door for some minutes. Then he ran his hand across his mouth contemplatively, stroked his mustache, and finally went out of the house and down to Ellton's quarters. She drew herself up and grasped her loaded quirt more firmly. There are some natures to which flight from a thing feared is physically impossible. They must not only face danger, they must go up to it. It is a trait, like any other. Felipa took two steps toward him.
"Of course," said the officer, "I understand that the hostiles are not in the immediate vicinity?"
His horse started. He had dug it with the rowels. Then he reined it in with a jerk that made it champ its curb. "Don't dwell on that all the time," he said angrily; "forget it." And then it flashed across him, the irreparable wrong he would be doing her if he taught her to consider the Apache blood a taint.
Cairness took the Reverend Taylor to the door. "You know that is Bill Lawton's wife?" he said.