"You are mistaken, my good fellow, because I won't." There was not the shadow of hesitation in his voice, nor did he lower his mild blue eyes.
He knew while he was yet afar off which was the American. She stood, big and gaunt, with her feet planted wide and her fists on her hips, looking over toward the general's tent. And when Cairness came nearer, strolling along with his hands in his pockets, observing the beauties of Nature and the entire vileness of man, she turned her head and gave him a defiant stare. He took his hands from his pockets and went forward, raising his disreputable campaign hat. "Good morning, Mrs. Lawton," he said, not that he quite lived up to the excellent standard of Miss Winstanley, but that he understood the compelling force of civility, not to say the bewilderment. If you turn its bright light full in the face of one whose eyes are accustomed to the obscurity wherein walk the underbred, your chances for dazzling him until he shall fall into any pit you may have dug in his pathway are excellent.
This was not what Cairness wanted either. He persisted in the silence. A prolonged silence will sometimes have much the same effect as solitary confinement. It will force speech against the speaker's own will. She gave a dry little sob of unutterable glad relief and tried to raise her voice and call to him, the call they used for one another when they rode about the ranch. But the sound was only a weak, low wail.
Felipa stood leaning listlessly against the post of the ramada, watching them. After a time she went into the adobe and came out with a pair of field-glasses, following the course of the command as it wound along among the foot-hills. The day dragged dully along. She was uneasy about her husband, her nerves were shaken with the coffee and quinine, and she was filled,[Pg 76] moreover, with a vague restlessness. She would have sent for her horse and gone out even in the clouds of dust and the wind like a hot oven, but Landor had forbidden her to leave the post. Death in the tip of a poisoned arrow, at the point of a yucca lance, or from a more merciful bullet of lead, might lurk behind any mesquite bush or gray rock.
"He was helping me." He hesitated still. "I don't doubt you," he told her.
"What do you want to know for?" asked the woman, at length.