"You give your horse a sore back whenever you go far, and you always bring him back in a lather."
They caught sight of Felipa, and both drew rein simultaneously. She was leaning against a post of the wire fence. The baby was carried on her hip, tucked under her arm, the sunbonnet was hanging by the strings around her neck, and her head, with its straight loose hair, was uncovered. The little girl stood beside her, clutching the white wrapper which had trailed in[Pg 314] the spring-house acequia, and from under which a muddy red slipper showed. That she was imposing still, said much for the quality of her beauty. She did not hear the tramp of the two horses, sharp as her ears were, for she was too intent upon watching a fight between two steers.
"You might have killed the Indian," he said, in a strained voice. It did not occur to either of them, just then, that it was not the danger she had been in that appalled him.
"I have it," he said shortly, standing beside her and holding out the letter.
She told him that she did, quite as calmly. Her[Pg 148] manner and her tone said it was very unfortunate, that the whole episode was unfortunate, but that it was not her fault.
"To get out the bids." His courage was waxing a little.
"I don't know what has been said, Major, but something more than just what's in the papers must have gotten about. That sort of mud-slinging is too common to cause comment, even. It must be some spite work. There's no reason to suppose, surely, that after a quarter of a century of gallant service he's been and shown the white feather. He's awfully cut up, really he is. He's noticed it, of course, and it's too deuced bad, kicking a man when he's down sick and can't help himself."