Ellton retaliated with more spirit. "Or guarding a water hole on the border for two or three months, and that's quite as likely to be your fate."
About an hour after midnight there came thundering through the quiet of the night the sound of galloping hoofs along the road at the foot of the ravine. Cairness, lying broad awake, was the first to hear it. He sprang up and ran to the opening of the tent. He guessed that it was a courier even before the gallop changed to a trot, and a voice called from the invisible depths below, "Captain Landor?" with a rising intonation of uncertainty. Ellton wondered, but held his peace. And the commandant did go to Landor's quarters within the next few hours. Which was Ellton's doings.
The major consented unwillingly. "It's your lookout. If you come out alive, I shall be surprised, that's all. Take some scouts, too," he added, as he lit a cigar and went on with his walk up and down among his men. It struck him that he was coolly analytical while his wife was reading the love-letter (if that bald statement of fact could be called a love-letter) of another man, and telling him frankly that she returned the man's love. Why could not he have had love, he who had done so much for her? There was always the subconsciousness of that sacrifice. He had magnified it a little, too, and it is difficult to be altogether lovable when one's mental attitude is "see what a good boy am I." But he had never reflected upon that. He went on telling himself what—in all justice to him—he had never thrown up to her, that his life had been one long devotion to her; rather as a principle than as a personality, to be sure, but then— And yet she loved the fellow whom she had not known twenty-four hours in all—a private, a government scout, unnoticeably below her in station. In station, to be sure; but not in birth, after all. It was that again. He was always brought up face to face with her birth. He tried to reason it down, for the hundredth time. It was not her fault, and he had taken her knowingly, chancing that and the consequences of her not loving him. And these were the consequences: that she was sitting rigid before him, staring straight ahead with the pale eyes of suffering, and breathing through trembling lips.
The milk ranch and the stock were unhurt, and there were not even any Indian signs. It was simply another example, on the milkman's part, of the perfection to which the imagination of the frontier settler could be cultivated.
She put down her work and rose slowly to her feet before him. She could be very regal sometimes. Brewster knew it, and Cairness guessed it; but it was the first time it had come within Landor's experience, and he was a little awed.
Landor came sliding and running down. His face was misshapen with the anger that means killing. She saw it, and her powers came back to her all at once. She put both hands against his breast and pushed him back, with all the force of her sinewy arms. His foot slipped on a stone and he fell.
"They will kill me? Who will kill me, and what for?"
"I say, Landor," he began, after having outwardly greeted Felipa and inwardly cursed his luck at being obliged to tear a man away from so fair a bride, "I say, there's been the dickens of a row up at the Agency."