The Border Legion (Chapter 5, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 5

Kells strode there, a black, silent shadow, plodding with bent head,
as if all about and above him were demons and furies.

Joan's perceptions of him, of the night, of the inanimate and
imponderable black walls, and of herself, were exquisitely and
abnormally keen. She saw him there, bowed under his burden, gloomy
and wroth and sick with himself because the man in him despised the
coward. Men of his stamp were seldom or never cowards. Their lives
did not breed cowardice or baseness. Joan knew the burning in her
breast--that thing which inflamed and swept through her like a wind
of fire--was hate. Yet her heart held a grain of pity for him. She
measured his forbearance, his struggle, against the monstrous
cruelty and passion engendered by a wild life among wild men at a
wild time. And, considering his opportunities of the long hours and
lonely miles, she was grateful, and did not in the least
underestimate what it cost him, how different from Bill or Halloway
he had been. But all this was nothing, and her thinking of it
useless, unless he conquered himself. She only waited, holding on to
that steel-like control of her nerves, motionless and silent.

She leaned back against her saddle, a blanket covering her, with
wide-open eyes, and despite the presence of that stalking figure and
the fact of her mind being locked round one terrible and inevitable
thought, she saw the changing beautiful glow of the fire-logs and
the cold, pitiless stars and the mustering shadows under the walls.
She heard, too, the low rising sigh of the wind in the balsam and
the silvery tinkle of the brook, and sounds only imagined or
nameless. Yet a stern and insupportable silence weighed her down.
This dark canon seemed at the ends of the earth. She felt
encompassed by illimitable and stupendous upflung mountains,
insulated in a vast, dark, silent tomb.

Kells suddenly came to her, treading noiselessly, and he leaned over
her. His visage was a dark blur, but the posture of him was that of
a wolf about to spring. Lower he leaned--slowly--and yet lower. Joan
saw the heavy gun swing away from his leg; she saw it black and
clear against the blaze; a cold, blue light glinted from its handle.
And then Kells was near enough for her to see his face and his eyes
that were but shadows of flames. She gazed up at him steadily, open-
eyed, with no fear or shrinking. His breathing was quick and loud.
He looked down at her for an endless moment, then, straightening his
bent form, he resumed his walk to and fro.

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