The Border Legion (Chapter 10, page 2 of 12)


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Chapter 10

She walked up and down for a while, absorbed with this new idea.
Then an unusual commotion among the loungers drew her attention to a
group of men on foot surrounding and evidently escorting several
horsemen. Joan recognized Red Pearce and Frenchy, and then, with a
start, Jim Cleve. They were riding up the trail. Joan's heart began
to pound. She could not meet Jim; she dared not trust this disguise;
all her plans were as if they had never been. She forgot Kells. She
even forgot her fear of what Cleve might do. The meeting--the
inevitable recognition--the pain Jim Cleve must suffer when the fact
and apparent significance of her presence there burst upon him,
these drove all else from Joan's mind. Mask or no mask, she could
not face his piercing eyes, and like a little coward she turned to
enter the cabin.

Before she got in, however, it was forced upon her that something
unusual had roused the loungers. They had arisen and were interested
in the approaching group. Loud talk dinned in Joan's ears. Then she
went in the door as Kells stalked by, eyes agleam, without even
noticing her. Once inside her cabin, with the curtain drawn, Joan's
fear gave place to anxiety and curiosity.

There was no one in the large cabin. Through the outer door she
caught sight of a part of the crowd, close together, heads up, all
noisy. Then she heard Kells's authoritative voice, but she could
understand nothing. The babel of hoarse voices grew louder. Kells
appeared, entering the door with Pearce. Jim Cleve came next, and,
once the three were inside, the crowd spilled itself after them like
angry bees. Kells was talking, Pearce was talking, but their voices
were lost. Suddenly Kells vented his temper.

"Shut up--the lot of you!" he yelled, and his power and position
might have been measured by the menace he showed.

The gang became suddenly quiet.

"Now--what's up?" demanded Kells.

"Keep your shirt on, boss," replied Pearce, with good humor. "There
ain't much wrong. ... Cleve, here, throwed a gun on Gulden, that's
all."

Kells gave a slight start, barely perceptible, but the intensity of
it, and a fleeting tigerish gleam across his face, impressed Joan
with the idea that he felt a fiendish joy. Her own heart clamped in
a cold amaze.

"Gulden!" Kells's exclamation was likewise a passionate query.

"No, he ain't cashed," replied Pearce. "You can't kill that bull so
easy. But he's shot up some. He's layin' over at Beard's. Reckon
you'd better go over an' dress them shots."

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