So at five o'clock Cairness, coming again into that part of the cabin which his hostess persistently named the drawing-room, found the three Englishmen taking their tea, and a little man in clerical garb observing the rite with considerable uncertainty. He would have no tea himself, and his tone expressed a deep distrust[Pg 37] of the beverage. By the side of his chair stood a tall silk hat. It was in all probability the only one in the territories, or west of the Missouri, for that matter, and it caught Cairness's eye at once, the more especially as it was pierced by two round holes. As he stirred his tea and ate the thin slices of buttered bread, his glance wandered frequently to the hat.
Felipa smiled again. "I might be happy," she went on, "but I probably should not live very long. I have Indian blood in my veins; and we die easily in a too much civilization." "That is a promise," the Indian insisted, "to pay me dos reales a day if I would cut hay for him." "They put him in a tent beside the hospital, and the next morning I went over with the doctor to see him. He was all cut up on the arms and neck and shoulders. I must have been very strong." She stopped, and he still sat with the puzzled look on his face, but a light of understanding beginning to show through.
She wished to hear as much as he had confided.
Felipa had discarded, long since, the short skirt and moccasins of her girlhood, and had displayed no inconsiderable aptitude in the matter of fashions; but she was given to looseness of draperies and a carelessness of attire in her own home that the picturesqueness of her beauty alone only saved from slatternliness. There was one manifestation of ill taste which she did not give, however, one common enough with the wives of most of the officers. She was never to be found running about the post, or sitting upon the porches, with her husband's cape around her shoulders and his forage-cap over her eyes. Her instinct for the becoming was unfailing. This was a satisfaction to Landor. But it was a secret grievance that she was most contented when in her riding habit, tearing foolhardily over the country.