Felipa sat up in bed, and leaning over to the window beside it drew up the shade and looked out. The cold, gray world of breaking day was battling furiously with a storm of rain. The huddling flowers in the garden bent to the ground before the rush of wind from the mountains across the prairie. The windmill sent out raucous cries as it flew madly around, the great dense clouds, black with rain, dawn-edged, charged through the sky, and the shining-leaved cottonwoods bent their branches almost to the earth. The figures of Cairness and a couple of cow-boys, wrapped in rubber coats, passed, fighting their way through the blur,—vague, dark shadows in the vague, dark mist.
"Such as—" The Reverend Taylor and Cairness had managed, with a good deal of adroitness, to keep the identity of their patient a secret. Stone was consequently not at all prepared to have her stride in upon him. But he was not a man to be caught exhibiting emotions. The surprise which he showed and expressed was of a perfectly frank and civil, even of a somewhat pleased, sort. He called her "my dear madam," and placed a chair for her. She sat in it under protest. He kept up the social aspect of it all for quite five minutes, but sociability implies conversation, and Cairness and the minister were silent. So was the woman—rigidly.
Mrs. Landor was with them. She had a little battered, brass trumpet hanging from her horn, and he knew that they were going to play at hare and hounds. She and the three with her were evidently the hares. They would take a ten minutes' start; then, at the sound of the trumpet, the hounds would follow. The riding was sometimes reckless. A day or two before he had seen Felipa leap an arroyo, the edges of which were crumbling in, and take a fallen tree on very dangerous ground.
"I didn't. None of your business," she defied him.
She glared at him, but she stopped short nevertheless, and, flinging down the stone she had been holding, stood up also. "All right, then. You've done with me, I reckon. Now suppose you let me go back to the camp."
Some thirty miles to the southeast was the Mescalero Indian Agency. Landor had consented with the worst possible grace to take her there sometime when the[Pg 184] road should be passable and safe. She had openly resented his disinclination, though she usually appeared not to notice it. "It is very natural I should want to see the place where I was born," she had said, "and I think we should both be more comfortable if you would not persist in being so ashamed of it."
"Truly," said the little thing, and nodded vehemently.
"You didn't stay to see the operation?" His voice was ominously quiet.
"Trouble is," he went on evenly, "trouble is, that, like most women, you've been brought up to take copy-book sentiments about touchin' pitch, and all that, literal. You don't stop to remember that to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. If she can't do you any harm spiritually, she certainly ain't got the strength to do it physically. I can't say as I'd like to have her about the place all the time unless she was going to reform,—and I don't take much stock in change of heart, with her sort,—because she wouldn't be a pleasant companion, and it ain't well to countenance vice. But while she's sick, and it will oblige Cairness, she can have the shelter of my manta. You think so too, now, don't you?" he soothed.