The Border Legion (Chapter 1, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 1

When Joan thought how Jim loved her, all the details of that night
became vivid. She sat alone under the spruce-trees near the cabin.
The shadows thickened, and then lightened under a rising moon. She
heard the low hum of insects, a distant laugh of some woman of the
village, and the murmur of the brook. Jim was later than usual. Very
likely, as her uncle had hinted, Jim had tarried at the saloon that
had lately disrupted the peace of the village. The village was
growing, and Joan did not like the change. There were too many
strangers, rough, loud-voiced, drinking men. Once it had been a
pleasure to go to the village store; now it was an ordeal. Somehow
Jim had seemed to be unfavorably influenced by these new conditions.
Still, he had never amounted to much. Her resentment, or some
feeling she had, was reaching a climax. She got up from her seat.
She would not wait any longer for him, and when she did see him it
would be to tell him a few blunt facts.

Just then there was a slight rustle behind her. Before she could
turn someone seized her in powerful arms. She was bent backward in a
bearish embrace, so that she could neither struggle nor cry out. A
dark face loomed over hers--came closer. Swift kisses closed her
eyes, burned her cheeks, and ended passionately on her lips. They
had some strange power over her. Then she was released.

Joan staggered back, frightened, outraged. She was so dazed she did
not recognize the man, if indeed she knew him. But a laugh betrayed
him. It was Jim.

"You thought I had no nerve," he said. "What do you think of that?"

Suddenly Joan was blindly furious. She could have killed him. She
had never given him any right, never made him any promise, never let
him believe she cared. And he had dared--! The hot blood boiled in
her cheeks. She was furious with him, but intolerably so with
herself, because somehow those kisses she had resented gave her
unknown pain and shame. They had sent a shock through all her being.
She thought she hated him.

"You--you--" she broke out. "Jim Cleve, that ends you with me!"

"Reckon I never had a beginning with you," he replied, bitterly. "It
was worth a good deal ... I'm not sorry ... By Heaven--I've--kissed
you!"

He breathed heavily. She could see how pale he had grown in the
shadowy moonlight. She sensed a difference in him--a cool, reckless
defiance.

"You'll be sorry," she said. "I'll have nothing to do with you any
more."

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