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In A Lady's Chamber








From: The Fighting Edge

The drama of the hold-up and of the retribution that had fallen upon the
bandits had moved as swiftly as though it had been rehearsed. There had
been no wasted words, no delay in the action. But in life the curtain
does not always drop at the right moment. There was anticlimax in Bear
Cat after the guns had ceased to boom. In the reaction after the strain
the tongues of men and women were loosened. Relief expressed itself in
chatter. Everybody had some contributing incident to tell.

Into the clatter Dud Hollister's voice cut sharply. "Some one get Doc
Tuckerman, quick."

He was bending over the wounded man on the platform, trying to stop the
flow of blood from a little hole in the side.

Mollie stepped toward him. "Carry Art into the hotel. I'll have a bed
ready for him time you get there. Anybody else hurt?"

"Some one said Ferril was shot."

"No. He's all right. There he is over there by the wagons. See? Lookin'
after the gold in the sack."

Blister came to the door of the bank in time to hear Mollie's question.
"McCray's been s-shot--here in the bank."

"Bring him in too," ordered Mollie.

The wounded men were given first aid and carried into the hotel. There
their wounds were dressed by the doctor.

In the corridor outside Bob and his partner met June coming out of one of
the rooms where the invalids had been taken. She was carrying a towel and
some bandages.

"Got to get a move on me," Dud said. "I got in after the fireworks were
over. Want to join Blister's posse now. You comin', Bob?"

"Not now," Dillon answered.

He was white to the lips. There was a fear in his mind that he might be
going to disgrace himself by getting sick. The nausea had not attacked
him until the shooting was over. He was much annoyed at himself, but the
picture of the lusty outlaws lying in the dust with the life stricken out
of them had been too much.

"All right. I'll be hustlin' along," Dud said, and went.

Bob leaned against the wall.

June looked at him with wise, understanding mother-eyes. "It was kinda
awful, wasn't it? Gave me a turn when I saw them lying there. Must have
been worse for you. Did you--hit ..?"

"No." He was humiliated at the confession. "I didn't fire a shot.
Couldn't, somehow. Everybody was blazin' away at 'em. That's the kind of
nerve I've got," he told her bitterly.

In her eyes the starlight flashed. "An' that's the kind I love. Oh, Bob,
I wouldn't want to think you'd killed either of those poor men, an' one
of them just a boy."

"Some one had to do it."

"Yes, but not you. And they didn't have to brag afterward about it, did
they? That's horrible. Everybody going around telling how they shot them.
As if it was something to be proud of. I'm so glad you're not in it. Let
the others have the glory if they want it."

He tried to be honest about it. "That's all very well, but they were a
bad lot. They didn't hesitate to kill. The town had to defend itself. No,
it was just that I'm such a--baby."

"You're not!" she protested indignantly. "I won't have you say it,
either."

His hungry eyes could not leave her, so slim and ardent, all fire and
flame. The sweetness of her energy, the grace of the delicate lifted
throat curve, the warmth and color of life in her, expressed a spirit
generous and fine. His heart sang within him. Out of a world of women she
was the one he wanted, the lance-straight mate his soul leaped out to
meet.

"There's no one like you in the world, June," he cried. "Nobody in all
the world."

She flashed at him eyes of alarm. A faint pink, such as flushes the sea
at dawn, waved into her cheeks and throat.

"I've got to go," she said hurriedly. "Mollie'll be expectin' me."

She was off, light-footed as Daphne, the rhythm of morning in her step.

All day she carried with her the treasure of his words and the look that
had gone with them. Did he think it? Did he really and truly believe it?
Her exaltation stayed with her while she waited on table, while she
nursed the wounded men, while she helped Chung wash the dishes. It went
singing with her into her little bedroom when she retired for the night.

June sat down before the small glass and looked at the image she saw
there. What was it he liked about her? She studied the black crisp hair,
the dark eager eyes with the dusky shadows under them in the slight
hollows beneath, the glow of red that stained the cheeks below the
pigment of the complexion. She tried looking at the reflection from
different angles to get various effects. It was impossible for her not to
know that she was good to look at, but she had very little vanity about
it. None the less it pleased her because it pleased others.

She let down her long thick hair and combed it. The tresses still had the
old tendency of her childhood to snarl unless she took good care of them.
From being on her feet all day the shoes she was wearing were
uncomfortable. She slipped them off and returned to the brushing of the
hair.

While craning her neck for a side view June saw in the glass that which
drained the blood from her heart. Under the bed the fingers of a hand
projected into view. It was like her that in spite of the shock she
neither screamed nor ran to the door and cried for help. She went on
looking at her counterfeit in the glass, thoughts racing furiously. The
hand belonged to a man. She could see that now plainly, could even make
out a section of the gauntlet on his wrist. Who was he? What was he doing
here in her room?

She turned in the chair, deliberately, steadying her voice.

"Better come out from there. I see you," she said quietly.

From under the bed Jake Houck crawled.





Next: A Walk In The Park

Previous: Big-game Hunters At Work



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