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The Calm








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

The day seemed to endure for an age. Rosalind did not leave the car; she
did not go near her father, shut up alone in his apartment; she ate
nothing, ignoring the negro attendant when he told her that lunch was
served, huddled in a chair beside an open window she decided a battle. She
saw the forces of reason and justice rout the hosts of hatred and crime,
and she got up finally, her face pallid, but resolute, secure in the
knowledge that she had decided wisely. She pitied Corrigan. Had it been
within her power she would have prevented the tragedy. And yet she could
not blame these people. They were playing the game honestly, and their
patience had been sadly strained by one player who had persisted in
breaking the rules. He had been swept away by his peers, which was as fair
a way as any law--any human law--could deal with him. In her own East he
would have paid the same penalty. The method would have been more refined,
to be sure; there would have been a long legal squabble, with its tedious
delays, but in the end Corrigan would have paid. There was a retributive
justice for all those who infracted the rules of the game. It had found
Corrigan.

At three o'clock in the afternoon she washed her face. The cool water
refreshed her, and with reviving spirits she combed her hair, brushed the
dust from her clothing, and looked into a mirror. There were dark hollows
under her eyes, a haunting, dreading expression in them. For she could not
help thinking about what had happened there--down the street where the
Vigilantes had gone.

She dropped listlessly into another chair beside a window, this time
facing the station. She saw her horse, hitched to the rail at the station
platform, where she had left it that morning. That seemed to have been
days ago! A period of aching calm had succeeded the tumult of the morning.
The street was soundless, deserted. Those men who had played leading parts
in the tragedy were not now visible. She would have deserted the town too,
had it not been for her father. The tragedy had unnerved him, and she must
stay with him until he recovered. She had asked the porter about him, and
the latter had reported that he seemed to be asleep.

A breeze carried a whisper to her as she sat at the window:

"Where's 'Firebrand' now?" said a voice.

"Sleepin'. The clerk in the Castle says he's makin' up for lost time."

She did not bother to try to see the owners of the voices; her gaze was on
the plains, far and vast; and the sky, clear, with a pearly shimmer that
dazzled her. She closed her eyes. She could not have told how long she
slept. She awoke to the light touch of the porter, and she saw Trevison
standing in the open doorway of the car.

The dust of the battle had been removed. An admiring barber had worked
carefully over him; a doctor had mended his arm. Except for a noticeable
thinness of the face, and a certain drawn expression of the eyes, he was
the same Trevison who had spoken so frankly to her one day out on the
plains when he had taken her into his confidence. In the look that he gave
her now was the same frankness, clouded a little, she thought, by some
emotion--which she could not fathom.

"I have come to apologize," he said; "for various unjust thoughts with
which I have been obsessed." Before she could reply he had taken two or
three swift steps and was standing over her, and was speaking again, his
voice vibrant and regretful: "I ought to have known better than to
think--what I did--of you. I have no excuses to make, except that I was
insane with a fear that my ten years of labor and lonesomeness were to be
wasted. I have just had a talk with Hester Harvey, and she has shown me
what a fool I have been. She--"

Rosalind got up, laughing lowly, tremulously. "I talked with Hester this
morning. And I think--"

"She told you--" he began, his voice leaping.

"Many things." She looked straight at him, her eyes glowing, but they
drooped under the heat of his. "You don't need to feel elated over
it--there were two of us." She felt that the surge of joy that ran over
her would have shown in her face had it not been for a sudden recollection
of what the Vigilantes had done that morning. That recollection paled her
cheeks and froze the smile on her lips.

He was watching her closely and saw her face harden. A shadow passed over
his own. He thought he could see the hopelessness of staying longer. "A
woman's love," he said, gloomily, "is a wonderful thing. It clings through
trouble and tragedy--never faltering." She looked at him, startled, trying
to solve the enigma of this speech. He laughed, bitterly. "That's what
makes a woman superior to mere man. Love exalts her. It makes a savage of
a man. I suppose it is 'good-bye.'" He held out a hand to her and she took
it, holding it limply, looking at him in wonderment, her heart heavy with
regret. "I wish you luck and happiness," he said. "Corrigan is a man in
spite of--of many faults. You can redeem him; you--"

"Is a man!" Her hand tightened on his; he could feel her tremble.
"Why--why--I thought--Didn't they--"

"Didn't they tell you? The fools!" He laughed derisively. "They let him
go. They knew I wouldn't want it. They did it for me. He went East on the
noon train--quite alive, I assure you. I am glad of it--for your sake."

"For my sake!" Her voice lifted in mingled joy and derision, and both her
hands were squeezing his with a pressure that made his blood leap with a
longing to possess her. "For my sake!" she repeated, and the emphasis
made him gasp and stiffen. "For your sake--for both of us, Trevison! Oh,
what fools we were! What fools all people are, not to trust and believe!"

"What do you mean?" He drew her toward him, roughly, and held her hands in
a grip that made her wince. But she looked straight at him in spite of the
pain, her eyes brimming with a promise that he could not mistake.

"Can't you see?" she said to him, her voice quavering; "must I tell
you?"





Next: At Calamity Crossing

Previous: The Dregs



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