They had been doing that for three days. They came down the chimney, made across the floor in a line that never changed direction, nor straggled, nor lessened, up the wall and out a crack in the window. They did no harm, but followed blindly on in the path the first one had taken. And the minister had said they should not be smoked back or thwarted.
It was not very dark. The sky was thick with clouds, but there was a waning moon behind them. The only light in the garrison was in the grated windows of the guard-house.
"How," answered Felipa, as unconcernedly as though she had not recognized him almost at once for the buck she had last seen in the A tent beside the hospital, with the doctor picking pieces of bone and flesh from his shoulder. Then she took the quiver and examined it. There was a bow as tall as herself, and pliable as fine steel, not a thing for children to play with, but a warrior's arm. Also there were a number of thin, smooth, gayly feathered arrows. "Malas," he told her, touching the heads. "Venadas" and she knew that he meant that they were poisoned by the process of [Pg 89]dipping them in putrid liver, into which a rattler had been made to inject its venom. Even then the sort was becoming rare, though the arrow was still in use as a weapon and not merely as an attraction for tourists. "Told him the truth, more idjit he."
"Come in," said her husband. He was pouring out a drink of whiskey.
He had dreaded a scene, but he was not so sure that this was not worse. "You are the wife for a soldier," he said somewhat feebly; "no tears and fuss and—all that kind of thing."
But had they come? he insisted.
Landor said that he had put in a requisition for kippered mackerel and anchovy paste, and that the commissary was running down so that one got nothing fit to eat. He was in an unpleasant frame of mind, and his first lieutenant, who messed with him, pulled apart a broiled quail that lay, brown and juicy, on its couch of toast and cress, and asked wherein lay the use of taking thought of what you should eat. "Every prospect is vile, and man is worse, and the sooner heaven sends release the better. What is there in a life like this? Six weeks from the nearest approach to civilization, malaria in the air by night and fire by day. Even Mrs. Landor is showing it."
He went in through the gate, and was once more upon that reservation he had been commanded by the overbearing tyrant representative of the military to leave, several weeks before. As he trudged along, tattoo went. In the clear silence, beneath the sounding-boards of the low clouds, he heard the voice of one of the sergeants. He shook his fist in the direction. Tattoo being over, some of the lights were put out, but there were still plenty to guide him. He did not want to get there too early, so he walked more slowly, and when he came to the edge of the garrison, he hesitated.
She sat considering deeply. She was rocking the baby, with its little fair head lying in the hollow of her shoulder, and Landor found himself wondering whether Felipa could ever develop motherliness. "It is quite intangible," Mrs. Campbell half crooned, for the baby's lids were drooping heavily. "I can't find that she lacks a good characteristic. I study her all the time. Perhaps the fault is in ourselves, as much as anything, because we insist upon studying her as a problem, instead of simply a very young girl. She is absolutely truthful,—unless she happens to have a grudge against some one, and then she lies without any scruple at all,—and she is generous and unselfish, and very amiable with the children, too."
"It's—" the boy looked around nervously. "If you'd come into the house—" he ventured.