With one accord they strode forward to the support of their somewhat browbeaten brother. What they would do was exactly as they pleased, they told the tyrant. They shook their fists in his face. It was all in the brutal speech of the frontier, mingled with the liquid ripple of argot Spanish, and its vicious, musical oaths. The deep voice of the woman carried above everything, less decent than the men. It was a storm of injury.
In the '70's the frontier was a fact and not a memory, and a woman in the Far West was a blessing sent direct from heaven, or from the East, which was much the same thing. Lieutenants besought the wives of their brother officers to bring out their sisters and cousins and even aunts, and very weird specimens of the sex sometimes resulted. But even these could reign as queens, dance, ride, flirt to their hearts' content—also marry, which is not always the corollary in these days. The outbreak of a reservation full of Indians was a small thing in comparison with the excitement occasioned by the expectation of a girl in the post.
Ellton stood by the door, with his hands in his pockets, and a countenance that tried hard to maintain the severity of discipline. But he was plainly enjoying it.
He turned about and stood still, with his head uncovered, looking straight into her face. Another man might have wished it a little less open and earnest, a little more downcast and modest, but he liked it so. Yet he waited, erect and immovable, and she saw that he meant that every advance should come from her. He was determined to force her to remember that he was a chief of scouts. She was drowsy, however, for it was still very early, and she was almost dropping off to sleep when the Chinaman brought the coffee and set it down upon a table near her, with a deference of manner not common to the Celestial when serving the Occidental woman, who, he believes, has lost the right to it directly she shows the inclination to do work herself. But Felipa was a mistress to his taste. As he bowed himself abjectly from her presence, Cairness came in. He had taken off his rubber coat and big hat, and was full of the vigor of life which makes the strong and [Pg 308]healthy-minded so good to look upon at the beginning of a day. Brewster reached the post some eighteen hours ahead of him. He reported, and saw Miss McLane; then he made himself again as other men and went down to the post trader's, with a definite aim in view, that was hardly to be guessed from his loitering walk. There were several already in the officers' room, and they talked, as a matter of course, of the campaign.
"How do you know this?"