But she was, it appeared, a maiden lady, straight from Virginia. The Reverend Taylor was the first man she had ever loved. "It was right funny how it come about," he confided, self absorbed still. "Her mother keeps the res'rant acrost the street where I take my meals (I used to have a Greaser woman, but I got sick of frijoles and gorditas and chili and all that stuff), and after dinner every afternoon, she and me would put two saucers of fly-paper on a table and we would set and bet on which would catch the most flies before four o'clock. You ain't no idea how interestin' it got to be. The way we watched them flies was certainly intense. Sometimes, I tell you, she'd get that excited she'd scream when they couldn't make up their minds to[Pg 169] light. Once her mother come runnin' in, thinkin' I was tryin' to kiss her." He beamed upon Cairness, and accepted congratulations charmingly, sipping his soda-pop with quite a rakish little air. "What brought you here?" he remembered to ask, at length. As an attempt at consolation, it failed. Landor fairly sprang into a sitting posture, with a degree of impulsiveness that was most unusual with him. His eyes glistened from the greenish circles around them. "Blow over! Good Lord! do you suppose I'll let it blow over? It's got to be sifted to the bottom. And you know that as well as I do." He lay weakly back again, and Felipa came to the edge of the bed and, sitting upon it, stroked his head with her cool hand.
There was a big moon, already on the wane, floating very high in the heavens, and the plain was a silvery sheen.
"I'll be hanged," opined Landor, as his own horse bit at the croup of a citizen's horse, eliciting a kick and a squeal, "I'll be hanged if you shall demoralize my column like this. You'll keep ahead if I have to halt here all night to make you. I've given you the post of honor. If I put my men in the van, I'd choose the best ones, and they'd be flattered, too. You wouldn't catch them skulking back on the command."
He made no pretence of not understanding. "You have no need to be, dear," he said simply. "Been hamstrung," the officer bawled back hoarsely.
When, in the darkness of a cloudy night, he said good-by to her on the road before his quarters, bending to kiss the warm mouth he could not see, he knew that it would have been possible for him to have loved her, had she been nearly all that she was not.