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.
Presently the nurse came, a big, fat Mexican woman, with all her people's love of children showing on her moon face as she put out her arms. She had been with the Taylors since before the baby's birth, and she had more of its affection than the mother. "You remember that woman," Cairness went on, making and rolling adroitly a straw-paper cigarette, "the one who was cook on the ranch for so long? She could tell us what it is, and I'll bet on it."
"Mr. Ellton was here this morning," Felipa told him, "and he will be in again before retreat." It was impossible to misunderstand, and Brewster was vexed beyond the bounds of all wisdom. "The squaws have their good traits, too, I guess. I hear one had her nose cut off on your account." He should not have said it. He knew it, and he knew that the private knew it, but the man made no reply whatever.
"Oh! wind that whistles, o'er thorns and thistles "Never!" she declared; it was merely because she could not breathe the same air with that creature.
Another grievance was the Ellton baby. Felipa adored it, and for no reason that he could formulate, he did not wish her to. He wanted a child of his own. Altogether he was not so easy to get on with as he had been. She did not see why. Being altogether sweet-humored and cheerful herself, she looked[Pg 182] for sweet humor and cheerfulness in him, and was more and more often disappointed. Not that he was ever once guilty of even a quick burst of ill temper. It would have been a relief.