The Branding Iron (The Two-Bar Brand - Chapter 4 The Sin-Buster, page 1 of 6)


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In the fall, when the whole country had turned to a great cup of gold,
purple-rimmed under the sky, Pierre went out into the hills after his
winter meat. Joan was left alone. She spent her time cleaning and
arranging the two-room cabin, and tidying up outdoors, and in
"grubbing sagebrush," a gigantic task, for the one hundred and fifty
acres of Pierre's homestead were covered for the most part by the
sturdy, spicy growth, and every bush had to be dug out and burnt to
clear the way for ploughing and planting. Joan worked with the
deliberateness and intentness of a man. She enjoyed the wholesome
drudgery. She was proud every sundown of the little clearing she had
made, and stood, tired and content, to watch the piled brush burn,
sending up aromatic smoke and curious, dull flames very high into the
still air.

She was so standing, hands folded on her rake, when, on the other side
of her conflagration, she perceived a man. He was steadily regarding
her, and when her eyes fell upon him, he smiled and stepped forward--a
tall, broad, very fair young man in a shooting coat, khaki
riding-breeches, and puttees. He had a wide brow, clear, blue eyes and
an eager, sensitive, clean-shaven mouth and chin. He held out a big
white hand.

"Mrs. Landis," he said, in a crisp voice of an accent and finish
strange to the girl "I wonder if you and your husband can put me up
for the night. I'm Frank Holliwell. I'm on a round of parish visits,
and, as my parish is about sixty miles square, my poor old pony has
gone lame. I know you are not my parishioners, though, no doubt, you
should be, but I'm going to lay claim to your hospitality, for all
that, if I may?"

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