He did not answer at once, but sat watching the trumpeter come out of the adjutant's office to sound recall. "Yes, she will marry," he agreed; "if no one else marries her, I will. I am as old as her father would have been but it would save telling some fellow about her birth." The Elltons' pretty child was like its mother, [Pg 288]gentler and more caressing. It lay placidly in her arms and patted her lips when she tried to talk, with the tips of its rosy fingers. She caught them between her teeth and mumbled them, and the child chuckled gleefully. But by and by it was taken away to bed, and then Felipa was alone with its father and mother. Through the tiresome evening she felt oppressed and angrily nervous. The Elltons had always affected her so.
"I have kept near you for a week, to warn you, or to help you if necessary." In the end stall the bronco was still squealing and whimpering in an almost human key. He struck it on the flank with his open palm and spoke, "Get over[Pg 210] there." It had been made so much of a pet, and had been so constantly with him, that it was more intelligent than the average of its kind. It got over and stood quiet and still, trembling. He cut the halter close to the knot, turned it out of the stall, and flinging himself across its back dug his heels into its belly.
"And your knife."
It was only some one standing at the mouth of the hole, however, a shadow against the shimmering sunlight. And it was a woman—it was Felipa.
Back of her, a score or more of miles away, were the iron-gray mountains; beyond those, others of blue; and still beyond, others of yet fainter blue, melting into the sky and the massed white clouds upon the horizon edge. But in front of her the flat stretched away and away, a waste of white-patched soil and glaring sand flecked with scrubs. The pungency of greasewood and sage[Pg 313] was thick in the air, which seemed to reverberate with heat. A crow was flying above in the blue; its shadow darted over the ground, now here, now far off.
"Neither have I," Cairness consoled him, from the depths of a rehearsal of the unwisdom of Isma?l Pasha.