The Border Legion (Chapter 6, page 2 of 10)

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Chapter 6

"He's alive," she whispered. "But--he's dying. ... What shall I do?"

Many thoughts flashed across her mind. She could not help him now;
he would be dead soon; she did not need to wait there beside him;
there was a risk of some of his comrades riding into that
rendezvous. Suppose his back was not broken after all! Suppose she
stopped the flow of blood, tended him, nursed him, saved his life?
For if there were one chance of his living, which she doubted, it
must be through her. Would he not be the same savage the hour he was
well and strong again? What difference could she make in such a
nature? The man was evil. He could not conquer evil. She had been
witness to that. He had driven Roberts to draw and had killed him.
No doubt he had deliberately and coldly murdered the two ruffians,
Bill and Halloway, just so he could be free of their glances at her
and be alone with her. He deserved to die there like a dog.

What Joan Randle did was surely a woman's choice. Carefully she
rolled Kells over. The back of his vest and shirt was wet with
blood. She got up to find a knife, towel, and water. As she returned
to the cabin he moaned again.

Joan had dressed many a wound. She was not afraid of blood. The
difference was that she had shed it. She felt sick, but her hands
were firm as she cut open the vest and shirt, rolled them aside, and
bathed his back. The big bullet had made a gaping wound, having
apparently gone through the small of his back. The blood still
flowed. She could not tell whether or not Kell's spine was broken,
but she believed that the bullet had gone between bone and muscle,
or had glanced. There was a blue welt just over his spine, in line
with the course of the wound. She tore her scarf into strips and
used it for compresses and bandages. Then she laid him back upon a
saddle-blanket. She had done all that was possible for the present,
and it gave her a strange sense of comfort. She even prayed for his
life, and, if that must go, for his soul. Then she got up. He was
unconscious, white, death-like. It seemed that his torture, his near
approach to death, had robbed his face of ferocity, of ruthlessness,
and of that strange amiable expression. But then, his eyes, those
furnace-windows, were closed.

Joan waited for the end to come. The afternoon passed and she did
not leave the cabin. It was possible that he might come to and want
water. She had once administered to a miner who had been fatally
crushed in an avalanche; and never could forget his husky call for
water and the gratitude in his eyes.

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