She did not. He had merely told her that her father was his friend and had died on the plains. "She thinks her mother died at Stanton. It is so near the Mescalero Agency that I let it go at that."
Was it possible that twenty minutes before he had risen to the histrionic pitch of self-sacrifice of offering her her freedom to marry another man? Life went on very much the same at the post when there was only the infantry left in possession. As there was nothing to do at any time, there was nothing the less for that. On the principle that loneliness is greatest in a crowd, Stanton was more isolated now[Pg 183] than Grant had been in the days when there had been no railroad west of Kansas. The railroad was through the southwest now, but it was a hundred miles away. It was unsafe to ride outside the reservation, there was no one for hops, the only excitement was the daily addition to the list of slaughtered settlers. Felipa spent most of her time with the Ellton baby. Miss McLane had been married to Landor's second lieutenant for a year and a half, and they were very happy. But Felipa in the knowledge of the strength of her own love, which gained new might each time that she wrestled with it and threw it back upon the solid ground of duty, found their affection decidedly insipid. Like the majority of marital attachments, it had no especial dignity. It was neither the steadfast friendship she felt for her husband, nor the absolute devotion she would have given Cairness. As they walked back to the post, Landor did not speak to Felipa. There was nothing he could say unless he were to storm unavailingly, and that was by no means his way. And there was nothing for which he could, with reason, blame her. All things considered, she had acted very well. She moved beside him serenely, not in the least cowed.
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. Then she came forward, holding out her hand in the most matter-of-fact way, if, indeed, any action of a very beautiful woman can be matter of fact.
Cairness reddened to the roots of his hair, and the scar on his forehead grew purple. He understood that look now. And it hurt him more than any of the slights and rebuffs he had received since he had married Felipa. He had, like most of those who served under the general, a sort of hero-worship for him, and set great store by his opinion. It was only because of that that he had left Felipa alone upon the ranch. It had been their first separation and almost absurdly hard for two who had lived their roving lives.
The new general was hailed by the territories as deliverer until he found the truth and told it, after which they called him all manner of hard names, for that is the sure reward of the seeker after fact. He prepared for war, seeing how things were, but he tried for peace the while. He sent to the bucks who lurked in the fastnesses and strongholds, and said that he was going out alone to see them. He left his troops and pack-train, and with two interpreters and two officers repaired to the ca?on of the Black River, where he scrambled and slid, leading his scrambling,[Pg 178] sliding mule down the precipices of basalt and lava among the pines and junipers.