THE BORDER LEGION
THE BORDER LEGION
Joan Randle reined in her horse on the crest of the cedar ridge and
with remorse and dread beginning to knock at her heart she gazed
before her at the wild and looming mountain range.
"Jim wasn't fooling me" she said. "He meant it. He's going straight
for the border ... Oh why did I taunt him!"
It was indeed a wild place that southern border of Idaho and that
year was to see the ushering in of the wildest time probably ever
known in the West. The rush for gold had peopled California with a
horde of lawless men of every kind and class. And the vigilantes and
then the rich strikes in Idaho had caused a reflux of that dark tide
of humanity. Strange tales of blood and gold drifted into the camps
and prospectors and hunters met with many unknown men.
Joan had quarreled with Jim Cleve and she was bitterly regretting
it. Joan was twenty years old tall strong dark. She had been born
in Missouri where her father had been well-to-do and prominent
until like many another man of his day he had impeded the passage
of a bullet. Then Joan had become the protegee of an uncle who had
responded to the call of gold; and the latter part of her life had
been spent in the wilds.
She had followed Jim's trail for miles out toward the range. And now
she dismounted to see if his tracks were as fresh as she had
believed. He had left the little village camp about sunrise. Someone
had seen him riding away and had told Joan. Then he had tarried on
the way for it was now midday. Joan pondered. She had become used
to his idle threats and disgusted with his vacillations. That had
been the trouble--Jim was amiable lovable but since meeting Joan
he had not exhibited any strength of character. Joan stood beside
her horse and looked away toward the dark mountains. She was daring
resourceful used to horses and trails and taking care of herself;
and she did not need anyone to tell her that she had gone far
enough. It had been her hope to come up with Jim. Always he had been
repentant. But this time was different. She recalled his lean pale
face--so pale that freckles she did not know he had showed through--
and his eyes usually so soft and mild had glinted like steel. Yes
it had been a bitter reckless face. What had she said to him? She
tried to recall it.
The night before at twilight Joan had waited for him. She had given
him precedence over the few other young men of the village a fact
she resentfully believed he did not appreciate. Jim was
unsatisfactory in every way except in the way he cared for her. And
that also--for he cared too much.
When Joan thought how Jim loved her all the details of that night
became vivid. She sat alone under the spruce-trees near the cabin.
The shadows thickened and then lightened under a rising moon. She
heard the low hum of insects a distant laugh of some woman of the
village and the murmur of the brook. Jim was later than usual. Very
likely as her uncle had hinted Jim had tarried at the saloon that
had lately disrupted the peace of the village. The village was
growing and Joan did not like the change. There were too many
strangers rough loud-voiced drinking men. Once it had been a
pleasure to go to the village store; now it was an ordeal. Somehow
Jim had seemed to be unfavorably influenced by these new conditions.
Still he had never amounted to much. Her resentment or some
feeling she had was reaching a climax. She got up from her seat.
She would not wait any longer for him and when she did see him it
would be to tell him a few blunt facts.
Just then there was a slight rustle behind her. Before she could
turn someone seized her in powerful arms. She was bent backward in a
bearish embrace so that she could neither struggle nor cry out. A
dark face loomed over hers--came closer. Swift kisses closed her
eyes burned her cheeks and ended passionately on her lips. They
had some strange power over her. Then she was released.
Joan staggered back frightened outraged. She was so dazed she did
not recognize the man if indeed she knew him. But a laugh betrayed
him. It was Jim.
"You thought I had no nerve" he said. "What do you think of that?"
Suddenly Joan was blindly furious. She could have killed him. She
had never given him any right never made him any promise never let
him believe she cared. And he had dared--! The hot blood boiled in
her cheeks. She was furious with him but intolerably so with
herself because somehow those kisses she had resented gave her
unknown pain and shame. They had sent a shock through all her being.
She thought she hated him.
"You--you--" she broke out. "Jim Cleve that ends you with me!"
"Reckon I never had a beginning with you" he replied bitterly. "It
was worth a good deal ... I'm not sorry ... By Heaven--I've--kissed
He breathed heavily. She could see how pale he had grown in the
shadowy moonlight. She sensed a difference in him--a cool reckless
"You'll be sorry" she said. "I'll have nothing to do with you any
"All right. But I'm not and I won't be sorry."
She wondered whether he had fallen under the influence of drink. Jim
had never cared for liquor which virtue was about the only one he
possessed. Remembering his kisses she knew he had not been
drinking. There was a strangeness about him though that she could
not fathom. Had he guessed his kisses would have that power? If he
dared again--! She trembled and it was not only rage. But she would
teach him a lesson.
"Joan I kissed you because I can't be a hangdog any longer" he
said. "I love you and I'm no good without you. You must care a
little for me. Let's marry ... I'll--"
"Never!" she replied like flint. "You're no good at all."
"But I am" he protested with passion. "I used to do things. But
since--since I've met you I've lost my nerve. I'm crazy for you. You
let the other men run after you. Some of them aren't fit to--to--Oh
I'm sick all the time! Now it's longing and then it's jealousy. Give
me a chance Joan."
"Why?" she queried coldly. "Why should I? You're shiftless. You
won't work. When you do find a little gold you squander it. You have
nothing but a gun. You can't do anything but shoot."
"Maybe that'll come in handy" he said lightly.
"Jim Cleve you haven't it in you even to be BAD" she went on
At that he made a violent gesture. Then he loomed over her. "Joan
Handle do you mean that?" he asked.