The sentry was of the opinion that it was an unseemly hour to arouse a man who had marched all day, but it was not for him to argue. He walked deliberately, very deliberately indeed, that the citizens might be impressed, over to Landor's tent and awoke him. "There's two citizens here, sir, asking to see you,[Pg 111] sir." His tone plainly disclaimed any part in the affair. "I didn't see the telegram, but it was in effect that he had no knowledge of anything of the sort, and put no faith in it."
There was an expression in his eyes Cairness did not understand. It was not like their usual twinkle of welcome. "Wait a moment," he said, and went on with his writing. Cairness dropped down on the ground, and, for want of anything else to do, began to whittle a whistle out of a willow branch.
It was the beginning of a self-imposed Coventry. He sent in a demand for a court of inquiry, and Brewster, with much show of reluctance and leniency, preferred charges. "After that, as I said before, you may go." Cairness dropped him and went into the corrals to see for himself. The fire roared and hissed, flung charred wood into the air, and let it fall back again. He remembered, in an inconsequent flash, how one night in the South Pacific he had taken a very pretty girl below to see the engines. They had stood in the stoke-hole on a heap of coal, hand in hand, down beneath the motion of the decks where the only movement seemed to be the jar of the screw working against the thrust block and the reverberation of the connecting-rod and engines. A luckless, dust-caked wretch of a stoker had thrown open the door of a furnace in front of them, and they had seen the roaring, sputtering, seething whirl of fire within. They had given a simultaneous cry, hiding their scorched faces in their arms, and stumbled blindly over the coal beds back to the clattering of the engine rooms.
She reloaded for him, and fired from time to time herself, and he moved from the little round hole in the wall to one in the window blind, in the feeble, the faithless hope that the Indians might perhaps be deceived, might fancy that there was more than the one forsaken man fighting with unavailing courage for the quiet woman who stayed close by his side, and for the two children, huddled whimpering in one corner, their little trembling arms clasped round each other's necks. Felipa rose from the table, and going over to her husband laid her hand on his shoulder. She asked when he must go. "To-night, my dear lady, I am afraid," soothed the commandant. But she appeared to be in no need of humoring, as she turned to Landor and offered to do what she might to help him.
"That is a promise," the Indian insisted, "to pay me dos reales a day if I would cut hay for him." He demanded that he be told the reasons, but she refused very sweetly and very decidedly. And he was forced to accept the footing upon which she placed him, for all time.