The Branding Iron (The Two-Bar Brand - Chapter 8 Delirium, page 1 of 3)


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It is not the people that have led still and uneventful lives who are
best prepared for emergencies. They are not trained to face crises, to
make prompt and just decisions. Joan had made but two such resolutions
in her life; the first when she had followed Pierre, the second when
she had kept Holliwell's books in defiance of her husband's jealousy.
The leaving her father had been the result of long and painful
thought. Now, in a few hours, events had crashed about her so that her
whole life, outer and inner, had been shattered. Beyond the pain and
fever of her wound there was an utter confusion of her faculties.
Before she fainted she had, indeed, made a distinct resolve to leave
Pierre. It was this purpose, working subconsciously on her will, as
much as the urgent pressure of the stranger, that took her past
Pierre's body out into the dawn and sent her on that rash journey of
hers in the footsteps of an unknown man. This being seemed to her then
hardly human. Mysteriously he had stepped in out of the night,
mysteriously he had condemned Pierre, and in self-defense, for Joan
had seen Pierre draw his gun and fire, he had killed her husband. Now,
just as mysteriously, as inevitably it seemed to her, he took command
of her life. She was a passive, shipwrecked thing--a derelict. She had
little thought and no care for her life.

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