The Border Legion (Chapter 9, page 1 of 20)


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Chapter 9

Joan turned away from the door in a cold clamp of relief. The shadow
of death hovered over these men. She must fortify herself to live
under that shadow, to be prepared for any sudden violence, to stand
a succession of shocks that inevitably would come. She listened. The
men were talking and laughing now; there came a click of chips, the
spat of a thrown card, the thump of a little sack of gold. Ahead of
her lay the long hours of night in which these men would hold revel.
Only a faint ray of light penetrated her cabin, but it was
sufficient for her to distinguish objects. She set about putting the
poles in place to barricade the opening. When she had finished she
knew she was safe at least from intrusion. Who had constructed that
rude door and for what purpose? Then she yielded to the temptation
to peep once more under the edge of the curtain.

The room was cloudy and blue with smoke. She saw Jim Cleve at a
table gambling with several ruffians. His back was turned, yet Joan
felt the contrast of his attitude toward the game, compared with
that of the others. They were tense, fierce, and intent upon every
throw of a card. Cleve's very poise of head and movement of arm
betrayed his indifference. One of the gamblers howled his disgust,
slammed down his cards, and got up.

"He's cleaned out," said one, in devilish glee.

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