The silence of the garrison was absolute. Over in[Pg 190] the company clerk's office of one of the infantry barracks there was a light for a time. Then, at about midnight, it too was put out. A cat came creeping from under the board walk and minced across the road. He watched it absently. Chapter 3
"Who was her father?" Brewster wanted to know.
He had been in hiding three weeks. Part of the time he had stayed in the town near the post, small, but as frontier towns went, eminently respectable and law-abiding. For the rest he had lain low in a house of very bad name at the exact edge of the military reservation. The poison of the vile liquor he had drunk without ceasing had gotten itself into his brain. He had reached the criminal point, not bold,—he was never that,—but considerably more dangerous, upon the whole. He drank more deeply for two days longer, after he received Stone's letter, and then, when he was quite mad, when his eyes were bleared and fiery and his head was dry and hot and his heart terrible within him, he went out into the black night.
The Texan woman went back to the kitchen and finished cooking the supper for the hands—a charred sort of Saturnalian feast. "She can git her own dinner if she wants to," she proclaimed, and was answered by a chorus of approval.
The woman shrugged her round brown shoulders from which the rebozo had fallen quite away, and dropped her long lashes. "No se," she murmured.
Which happened upon the following day. And he was there to see it all, so that the question he had not cared to ask was answered forever beyond the possibility[Pg 198] of a misunderstanding. It was stable time, and she walked down to the corrals with him. He left her for a moment by the gate of the quartermaster's corral while he went over to the picket line. The bright clear air of a mountain afternoon hummed with the swish click-clock, swish click-clock of the curry-combs and brushes, and the busy scraping of the stable brooms in the stalls.
"Eh?" the parson was not sure he had heard.
The parson expressed pity—and felt it, which is more.
"I give this to a friend," it ran, "to be delivered into your own hands, because I must tell you that, though I should never see you again—for the life I lead is hazardous, and chance may at any time take you away forever—I shall love you always. You will not be angry with me, I know. You were not that night by the campfire, and it is not the unwaveringly good woman who resents being told she is loved, in the spirit I have said it to you. I do not ask for so much as your friendship in return, but only that you remember that my life and devotion are yours, and that, should the time ever come that you need me, you send for me. I will come. I will never say this to you again, even should I see you; but it is true, now and for all time."
The contract went to a needy and honest contractor when the bids were opened. And by night the whole garrison was in excitement over Brewster's inexplicable resignation. It was inexplicable, but not unexplained. He went around to all the officers with the exception only of Landor and Ellton, and told that he had some time since decided to give up the service and to read and practise law in Tucson. No one was inclined to believe it. But no one knew what to believe, for Ellton and his captain held their tongues. They left the commandant himself in ignorance.