The Border Legion (Chapter 6, page 3 of 10)


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Chapter 6

Sunset, twilight, and night fell upon the canon. And she began to
feel solitude as something tangible. Bringing saddle and blankets
into the cabin, she made a bed just inside, and, facing the opening
and the stars, she lay down to rest, if not to sleep. The darkness
did not keep her from seeing the prostrate figure of Kells. He lay
there as silent as if he were already dead. She was exhausted, weary
for sleep, and unstrung. In the night her courage fled and she was
frightened at shadows. The murmuring of insects seemed augmented
into a roar; the mourn of wolf and scream of cougar made her start;
the rising wind moaned like a lost spirit. Dark fancies beset her.
Troop on troop of specters moved out of the black night, assembling
there, waiting for Kells to join them. She thought she was riding
homeward over the back trail, sure of her way, remembering every rod
of that rough travel, until she got out of the mountains, only to be
turned back by dead men. Then fancy and dream, and all the haunted
gloom of canon and cabin, seemed slowly to merge into one immense
blackness.

The sun, rimming the east wall, shining into Joan's face, awakened
her. She had slept hours. She felt rested, stronger. Like the night,
something dark had passed away from her. It did not seem strange to
her that she should feel that Kells still lived. She knew it. And
examination proved her right. In him there had been no change except
that he had ceased to bleed. There was just a flickering of life in
him, manifest only in his slow, faint heart-beats.

Joan spent most of that day in sitting beside Kells. The whole day
seemed only an hour. Sometimes she would look down the canon trail,
half expecting to see horsemen riding up. If any of Kells's comrades
happened to come, what could she tell them? They would be as bad as
he, without that one trait which had kept him human for a day. Joan
pondered upon this. It would never do to let them suspect she had
shot Kells. So, carefully cleaning the gun, she reloaded it. If any
men came, she would tell them that Bill had done the shooting.

Kells lingered. Joan began to feel that he would live, though
everything indicated the contrary. Her intelligence told her he
would die, and her feeling said he would not. At times she lifted
his head and got water into his mouth with a spoon. When she did
this he would moan. That night, during the hours she lay awake, she
gathered courage out of the very solitude and loneliness. She had
nothing to fear, unless someone came to the canon. The next day in
no wise differed from the preceding. And then there came the third
day, with no change in Kells till near evening, when she thought he
was returning to consciousness. But she must have been mistaken. For
hours she watched patiently. He might return to consciousness just
before the end, and want to speak, to send a message, to ask a
prayer, to feel a human hand at the last.

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