Before long she heard a horse coming at a gallop up the road, to the front of the house. She put out her hand and pushed aside the vines, but could see little until the rider, dismounting and dropping his reins to hang on the ground, ran up the steps. It was the mail carrier, the young hero of the Indian massacre. Felipa saw in a moment that he was excited. She thought of her husband at once, and sat up in the hammock.
Landor had almost decided that he had made an ungenerous mistake, when Ellton came over with one light spring and, touching him on the shoulder, pointed to the window of the commissary office. A thick, dark blanket had evidently been hung within, but the faintest red flicker showed through a tiny hole. The captain's lips set.
They went at once for supper to the most popular resort of the town, the Great Western Saloon and Restaurant. It was a long adobe room, the whitewash of which was discolored by lamp smoke and fly specks and stains. There were also bullet holes and marks of other missiles. At one end was a bar, with a tin top[Pg 41] for the testing of silver coins. Several pine tables were set out with cracked sugar bowls, inch-thick glasses, bottles of pickles and condiments, still in their paper wrappings, and made filthy by flies, dust, and greasy hands. Already there were half a dozen cow-boys and Mexicans, armed to the teeth, standing about.
"Like as not she does up them boiled shirts and dresses herself, don't you think?" was the minister's awed comment to Cairness, as they went to bed that night in the bare little room.
"True, too," Brewster admitted perforce.
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.
Cairness jumped forward, and his arm went around her, steadying her. For a short moment she leaned against his shoulder. Then she drew away, and her voice was quite steady as she greeted him. He could never have guessed that in that moment she had[Pg 95] learned the meaning of her life, that there had flashed burningly through her brain a wild, unreasoning desire to stand forever backed against that rock of strength, to defy the world and all its restrictions.