The Border Legion (Chapter 3, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 3

Joan ran on, stumbling over rocks and brush, with a darkness before
her eyes, the terror in her soul. She was out in the cedars when
someone grasped her from behind. She felt the hands as the coils of
a snake. Then she was ready to faint, but she must not faint. She
struggled away, stood free. It was the man Bill who had caught her.
He said something that was unintelligible. She reached for the snag
of a dead cedar and, leaning there, fought her weakness, that cold
black horror which seemed a physical thing in her mind, her blood,
her muscles.

When she recovered enough for the thickness to leave her sight she
saw Kells coming, leading her horse and his own. At sight of him a
strange, swift heat shot through her. Then she was confounded with
the thought of Roberts.

"Ro--Roberts?" she faltered.

Kells gave her a piercing glance. "Miss Randle, I had to take the
fight out of your friend," he said.

"You--you--Is he--dead?"

"I just crippled his gun arm. If I hadn't he would have hurt
somebody. He'll ride back to Hoadley and tell your folks about it.
So they'll know you're safe."

"Safe!" she whispered.

"That's what I said, Miss Randle. If you're going to ride out into
the border--if it's possible to be safe out there you'll be so with

"But I want to go home. Oh, please let me go!"

"I couldn't think of it."

"Then--what will you--do with me?"

Again that gray glance pierced her. His eyes were clear, flawless,
like crystal, without coldness, warmth, expression. "I'll get a
barrel of gold out of you."

"How?" she asked, wonderingly.

"I'll hold you for ransom. Sooner or later those prospectors over
there are going to strike gold. Strike it rich! I know that. I've
got to make a living some way."

Kells was tightening the cinch on her saddle while he spoke. His
voice, his manner, the amiable smile on his intelligent face, they
all appeared to come from sincerity. But for those strange eyes Joan
would have wholly believed him. As it was, a half doubt troubled
her. She remembered the character Roberts had given this man. Still,
she was recovering her nerve. It had been the certainty of disaster
to Roberts that had made her weaken. As he was only slightly wounded
and free to ride home safely, she had not the horror of his death
upon her. Indeed, she was now so immensely uplifted that she faced
the situation unflinchingly.

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