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Two Pictures In The Fire







Part of: THE TWO-BAR BRAND
From: The Branding Iron

The period which followed had a quality of breathless, almost
unearthly happiness. They were young, savage, simple, and their love,
unanalyzed, was as joyous as the loves of animals: joyous with that
clear gravity characteristic of the boy and girl. Pierre had been
terribly alone before Joan came, and the building-up of his ranch had
occupied his mind day and night except, now and again, for dreams. Yet
he was of a passionate nature. Joan felt in him sometimes a savage
possibility of violence. Two incidents of this time blazed themselves
especially on her memory: the one, her father's visit, the other, an
irrelevant enough picture until after events threw back a glare upon
it.

They had been at Pierre's ranch for a fortnight before John Carver
found them. Then, one morning, as Pierre opened the door to go out to
work, Joan saw a thin, red pony tied to the fence and a small figure
walking toward the cabin.

"Pierre, it's Father!" she said. And Pierre stopped in his tracks,
drew himself up and waited, hands on his cartridge belt.

How mean and old and furtive her father looked in contrast to this
beautiful young husband! Joan was entirely unafraid. She leaned
against the side of the door and watched, as silent and unconsulted as
any squaw, while the two men settled their property rights in her.

"So you've took my gel," said John Carver, stopping a foot or two in
front of Pierre, his eyes shifting up and down, one long hand
fingering his lips.

Pierre answered courteously. "Some man was bound to hev her, Mr.
Carver, soon or late. You can't set your face ag'in' the laws of
natur'. Will you be steppin' in? Joan will give you some breakfast."

Carver paid no heed to the invitation. "Hev you married her?" said he.

The blood rose to Pierre's brown face. "Sure I hev."

"Well, sir, you hev married the darter of a ----" Carver used a
brutal word. "Look out fer her. If you see her eyes lookin' an'
lookin' at another man, you kin know what's to come." Pierre was
white. "I've done with her. She kin never come to me fer bite or bed.
Shoot her if you hev to, Pierre Landis, but when she's kotched at her
mother's game, don't send her back to me. That's all I come to say."

He turned with limber agility and went back to his horse. He was on it
and off, galloping madly across the sagebrush flat. Pierre turned and
walked into the house past Joan without a word.

She still leaned against the door, but her head was bent.

Presently she went about her housework. Every now and then she shot a
wistful look at Pierre. All morning long, he sat there, his hands
hanging between his knees, his eyes full of a brooding trouble. At
noon he shook his head, got up, and, still without word or caress, he
strode out and did not come back till dark. Joan suffered heartache
and terror. When he came, she ran into his arms. He kissed her, seemed
quite himself again, and the strange interview was never mentioned by
either of them. They were silent people, given to feelings and to
action rather than to thoughts and words.

The other memory was of a certain sunset hour when she came at
Pierre's call out to the shed he had built at one side of their cabin.
Its open side faced the west, and, as Joan came, her shadow went
before her and fell across Pierre at work. The flame of the west gave
a weird pallor to the flames over which he bent. He was whistling, and
hammering at a long piece of iron. Joan came and stood beside him.

Suddenly he straightened up and held in the air a bar of metal, the
shaped end white hot. Joan blinked.

"That's our brand, gel," said Pierre. "Don't you fergit it. When I've
made my fortune there'll be stock all over the country marked with
them two bars. That'll be famous--the Two-Bar Brand. Don't you fergit
it, Joan."

And he brought the white iron close so that she felt its heat on her
face and drew back, flinching. He laughed, let it fall, and kissed
her. Joan was very glad and proud.





Next: The Sin-buster

Previous: Pierre Lays His Hand On A Heart



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