The Branding Iron (The Two-Bar Brand Chapter 10 Prosper Comes to a Decision, page 1 of 5)


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Perhaps, in spite of his gruesome boast as to dead men, it was as much
to satisfy his own spirit as to comfort Joan's that Prosper actually
did undertake a journey to the cabin that had belonged to Pierre. It
was true that Prosper had never been able to stop thinking, not so
much of the tall, slim youth lying so still across the floor, all his
beauty and strength turned to an ashen slackness, as of a brown hand
that stirred. The motion of those fingers groping for life had
continually disturbed him. The man, to Prosper's mind, was an
insensate brute, deserving of death, even of torment, most deserving
of Joan's desertion, nevertheless, it was not easy to harden his
nerves against the picture of a man left, wounded and helpless, to die
slowly alone. Prosper went back expecting to find a dead man, went
back as a murderer visits the scene of his crime. He dubbed himself
more judge than murderer, but there was a restless misery of the
imagination not to be quieted by names. He went back stealthily at
dusk, choosing a dusk of wind-driven snow so that his tracks vanished
as soon as made. It was very desolate--the blank surface of the world
with its flying scud, the blank yellow-gray sky, the range, all iron
and white, the blue-black scars of leafless trees, the green-black
etchings of firs. The wind cut across like a scythe, sharp, but making
no stir above the drift. It was all dead and dark--an underground
world which, Prosper felt, never could have seen the sun, had no
memory of sun nor moon nor stars. The roof of Pierre's cabin made a
dark ridge above the snow, veiled in cloudy drift. He reached it with
a cold heart and slid down to its window, cautiously bending his face
near to the pane. He expected an interior already dark from the snow
piled round the window, so he cupped his hands about his eyes. At once
he let himself drop out of sight below the sill. There was a living
presence in the house. Prosper had seen a bright fire, the smoke of
which had been hidden by the snow-spray, a cot was drawn up before the
fire, and a big, fair young man in tweeds whose face, rosy, sensitive,
and quiet, was bent over the figure on the cot. A pair of large, white
hands were carefully busy.

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