Landor interrupted by taking the slipper from Felipa's foot and killing with it a centipede that crawled up the wall of the abode. "That's the second," he said, as he put the shoe on again. "I killed one yesterday; the third will come to-morrow." Then he went back to his chair and to the discussion, and before long he was called to the adjutant's office.
"Well?" repeated Landor. "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.
"Well?" she said peremptorily.
Kirby suggested, with a hesitation that was born not of insincerity but of delicacy, that they would be awfully glad to have him stop with them and help run the Circle K Ranch. But Cairness shook his head. "Thanks. I'll stop long enough to recall the old times, though I dare say it would be better to forget them, wouldn't it? Ranching isn't in my line. Not that I am at all sure what is in my line, for that matter." Landor tried another way then, and leaned from his saddle in his earnestness. He put it in the light of a favor to himself. But Cabot's refusal was unanswerable. It was better one than two, he said, and no horse in the command could carry double.
"They have their good points," she answered, exactly as he himself had answered Brewster's baiting long ago. Then she fastened her gaze on the roof of the ramada.
She thought for a moment before she answered. Then she spoke deliberately, and there was a purring snarl under her voice. "It is none of your business that I can see. But I will tell you this much, he is a man I respect; and that is more than I have said of you when I have been asked the same question."
"Luncheon!" said Cairness, as he smoothed his hair in front of a speckled and wavy mirror, which reflected all of life that came before it, in sickly green, "cabalistic word, bringing before me memories of my wasted youth. There was a chap from home in my troop, until he deserted, and when we were alone we would say luncheon below our breaths. But I haven't eaten anything except dinner for five years."