Brewster nodded. He had seen the same thing himself. The territorial citizen was a known quantity to both of them.
The woman launched off into a torrent of vituperation and vile language that surprised even Cairness, whose ears were well seasoned.
Cairness had gone out to hitch the horses. When he came in he spoke to Mrs. Lawton, as one possessed of authority. He told her to lie down if she wanted to. "With your leave, Mrs. Taylor?" he added. Mrs. Taylor was already beside her, fussing kindly and being met with scant courtesy.
Brewster was in agony. He reached out and caught her hand. "My darling," he cried, "take care!" Then Landor remembered for the first time that there was a back door to Brewster's quarters and to the commissary. He crept over to the commissary and tried the door gently. It was fast locked. Then he went to the window. It was a low one, on a level with his[Pg 191] chest, with wide-apart iron bars. He ran his hand between them now, and, doubling his fist, broke a pane with a sudden blow. As the glass crashed in, he grasped the gray blanket and drew it back. Brewster was standing in front of the open safe, the package of bids in his hands, and the big rancher was beside him holding a candle and shading it with his palm. They had both turned, and were staring, terror-eyed, at the bleeding hand that held back the blanket. "Begging your pardon, it's not all."
But the argument was weak. Forbes paid small heed to it. "You've a great deal besides. Every one in the country knows your mines have made you a[Pg 320] rich man. And you are better than that. You are a talented man, though you've frittered away your abilities too long to amount to anything much, now. You ought to get as far off from this kind of thing as you can."
"Why did you not tell me you had known Forbes, Felipa?" If it had not been that she was commonly and often unaccountably reticent, there might have been some suspicion in the question. But there was only a slight annoyance. Nor was there hesitation in her reply.
But she was not sure that she thought so. She wanted to know why the woman could not be sent to the hotel, and he explained that Cairness wished a very close watch kept on her until she was able to be up. Curiosity got the better of outraged virtue then. "Why?" she asked, and leaned forward eagerly.
"You could take turns riding behind the men."
Cairness lay white and still, looking up at her. He was very weak and dazed, and for the instant he could only remember, absurdly enough, the Andromaque he had seen a French actress play once in his very early youth when he had been taken with all the children of the Lycée, where he was then at school, to the theatre on a Thursday afternoon. The Andromaque had been tall and dark and superb, and all in black, like that woman in the doorway there.
She sat for a moment without answering. It was less astonishment than that she did not understand. She knitted her brow in a puzzled frown.