"And after that?" He shook his head. "It is not a whim. It is the same with every one. Of course Brewster has lost his head, but that argues nothing. The endearing quality seems to be lacking in her."
The major resumed his walk and did not answer.
His methods were explained to Cairness by an old buck who slouched up to the cabin and sat himself down cross-legged in front of the door. He meant to share in the venison breakfast Cairness was getting himself. But his left hand hung misshapen, and Cairness saw that it did not bend at the wrist as he motioned to an empty soda-pop bottle and a glass on the table beside a saucer of fly-paper and water. "That's what I still take, you see," he said, "but I'll serve you better;" and he opened a drawer and brought out a big flask. "I reckon you've got a thirst on you this hot weather." He treated himself to a second bottle of the pop, and[Pg 168] grew loquacious, as another man might have under the influence of stronger drink; and he talked so much about himself and so little about his guest that Cairness wondered. Presently the reason made itself manifest. It was the egotism of the lover. The Reverend Taylor was going to be married. He told Cairness so with an expression of beatitude that answered to a blush, and pointed to a photograph on his mantel-shelf. "She ain't so pretty to look at," he confided, which was undoubtedly true, "nor yet so young. But I ain't neither, 'sfar as that goes. She's amiable. That's the great thing after all, for a wife. She's amiable."
While Kirby went through the oppressive rite of afternoon tea within the slant-roofed log cabin, and tried to hide from his wife the fear which grew as the shadows lengthened across the clearing out in the corral, the men had reached open mutiny. The smouldering sullenness[Pg 126] had at last burst into flaming defiance, blown by the gale of the woman's wrath.
"Where?" the commandant asked.
The fall had knocked the breath from his body. The under dog did not answer.
But only a coyote barked from a knoll near by.