Two Pictures In The Fire





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.





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