Then she tried to read, but the whisper of savagery was in the loneliness and the night. She sat with the book open in her lap, staring into a shadowy corner where there leaned an Indian lance, surmounted by a war bonnet. Presently she stood up, and stretched her limbs slowly, as a beast of prey does when it shakes off the lethargy of the day and wakens for the darkness. Then she went out to the back of the tents.
That evening they sat talking together long after the late dinner. But a little before midnight Felipa left them upon the porch, smoking and still going over the past. They had so much to say of matters that she in no way understood. The world they spoke of and its language were quite foreign to her. She knew that her husband was where she could never follow him, and she felt the first utter dreariness of jealousy—the[Pg 316] jealousy of the intellectual, so much more unendurable than that of the material. "I don't know what has been said, Major, but something more than just what's in the papers must have gotten about. That sort of mud-slinging is too common to cause comment, even. It must be some spite work. There's no reason to suppose, surely, that after a quarter of a century of gallant service he's been and shown the white feather. He's awfully cut up, really he is. He's noticed it, of course, and it's too deuced bad, kicking a man when he's down sick and can't help himself."
He felt altogether reckless. In just such a mood, he reflected, his grandmother had probably poisoned her first husband. He could almost have poisoned Landor, the big duty-narrowed, conventional, military machine. Why could he not have married some one of his own mental circumspection?—Mrs. Campbell, for instance. He had watched that affair during his enlistment. More the pity it had come to nothing. Landor could have understood Mrs. Campbell. Then he thought of Felipa, as he had seen her first, looking full into the glare of the sunset, and afterward at him, with magnificent impersonality.
And at another window Felipa also stood looking out into the dusk. There had been a shower in the afternoon, and the clouds it had left behind were like a soft moss of fire floating in the sky. A bright golden light struck slantwise from the sunset. They had all gone away to dine and to dress for the hop; Landor had walked down to the post trader's for the mail, and she was left alone. Cairness was surprised almost into showing his surprise. Felipa had said nothing of it to him. And he[Pg 317] knew well enough that she never forgot a face. He felt that he was in a false position, but he answered "Yes?" non-committally.