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Stories in Light and Shadow

Salomy Jane's Kiss
Only one shot had been fired. It had gone wide of its mark,—the ringleader of the
Vigilantes,—and had left Red Pete, who had fired it, covered by their rifles and at
their mercy. For his hand had been cramped by hard riding, and his eye
distracted by their sudden onset, and so the inevitable end had come. He
submitted sullenly to his captors; his companion fugitive and horse-thief gave up
the protracted struggle with a feeling not unlike relief. Even the hot and
revengeful victors were content. They had taken their men alive. At any time
during the long chase they could have brought them down by a rifle shot, but it
would have been unsportsmanlike, and have ended in a free fight, instead of an
example. And, for the matter of that, their doom was already sealed. Their end,
by a rope and a tree, although not sanctified by law, would have at least the
deliberation of justice. It was the tribute paid by the Vigilantes to that order which
they had themselves disregarded in the pursuit and capture. Yet this strange
logic of the frontier sufficed them, and gave a certain dignity to the climax.
"Ef you've got anything to say to your folks, say it NOW, and say it quick," said
the ringleader.
Red Pete glanced around him. He had been run to earth at his own cabin in the
clearing, whence a few relations and friends, mostly women and children, non-
combatants, had outflowed, gazing vacantly at the twenty Vigilantes who
surrounded them. All were accustomed to scenes of violence, blood-feud, chase,
and hardship; it was only the suddenness of the onset and its quick result that
had surprised them. They looked on with dazed curiosity and some
disappointment; there had been no fight to speak of—no spectacle! A boy,
nephew of Red Pete, got upon the rain-barrel to view the proceedings more
comfortably; a tall, handsome, lazy Kentucky girl, a visiting neighbor, leaned
against the doorpost, chewing gum. Only a yellow hound was actively perplexed.
He could not make out if a hunt were just over or beginning, and ran eagerly
backwards and forwards, leaping alternately upon the captives and the captors.
The ringleader repeated his challenge. Red Pete gave a reckless laugh and
looked at his wife.
At which Mrs. Red Pete came forward. It seemed that she had much to say,
incoherently, furiously, vindictively, to the ringleader. His soul would roast in hell
for that day's work! He called himself a man, skunkin' in the open and afraid to
show himself except with a crowd of other "Kiyi's" around a house of women and
children. Heaping insult upon insult, inveighing against his low blood, his
ancestors, his dubious origin, she at last flung out a wild taunt of his invalid wife,
the insult of a woman to a woman, until his white face grew rigid, and only that
Western-American fetich of the sanctity of sex kept his twitching fingers from the
lock of his rifle. Even her husband noticed it, and with a half-authoritative "Let up
 
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