He got up and went to the window, which was iron-barred, after the Mexican fashion, and stood, with his hands run into his belt, looking down at a row of struggling, scraggly geraniums in tin cans. They were the most disheartening part of the whole disheartening prospect, within or without.
If the sentry outside heard, he paid no attention. It was common enough for the horses to take a simultaneous fit of restlessness in the night, startled by some bat flapping through the beams or by a rat scurrying in the grain. In ten minutes more a flame had reached the roof. In another ten minutes the sentry had discharged his carbine three times, fire call had been sounded in quick, alarming notes, and men and officers, half dressed, had come running from the barracks and the line.
"Is that the very handsome Mrs. Landor who was at Grant a year or so ago?" The general seemed to have difficulty in grasping and believing it.
The Reverend Taylor and Cairness had managed, with a good deal of adroitness, to keep the identity of their patient a secret. Stone was consequently not at all prepared to have her stride in upon him. But he was not a man to be caught exhibiting emotions. The surprise which he showed and expressed was of a perfectly frank and civil, even of a somewhat pleased, sort. He called her "my dear madam," and placed a chair for her. She sat in it under protest. He kept up the social aspect of it all for quite five minutes, but sociability implies conversation, and Cairness and the minister were silent. So was the woman—rigidly.
"Always supposing you have," interposed Stone, hooking his thumbs in his sleeve holes and tipping back his chair, "always supposing you have, what could you do with the facts?" Not far from where those flames were licking up into the heavens, Cairness thought as he watched them, had[Pg 162] been the Circle K Ranch. In among the herd, even now, were Circle K cattle that had not yet been cut out. Those six people of his own race had been all that was left to him of his youth. To be sure, he had seen little of them, but he had known that they were there, ready to receive him in the name of the home they had all left behind.