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In any case, he had no intention of being caught asleep, so he carried his revolver in its holster on his hip and he took his Winchester with him and leaned it against the fence.
He stopped every few minutes and leaned on his shovel as he studied the horizon, but nothing happened, each day dragging out with monotonous calm.
When, in late afternoon on the last day in June, he saw two people top the ridge to the south and walk toward the house, he quit work immediately and strode to his rifle.
Now he saw that both the man and woman were moving slowly and irregularly, staggering, as if they found it a struggle to remain on their feet.
They crawled through the north fence and came on toward him, and now he saw that both were young, not more than nineteen or twenty.
She lay there, making no effort to get back on her feet.
The boy came on to the porch and sat down, his gaze on Morgan as if half expecting him to shoot and not really caring.
He put her down on the couch, and going into the kitchen, saw that the boy had dropped into a chair beside the table.
Morgan filled the dipper from the water bucket on the shelf, went back into the front room, lifted the girl's head, and held the edge of the dipper to her mouth.
He had seen a few nester wagons go through the country, the families almost starving to death, but he had never seen any of them on foot and as bad off as these two.
Morgan returned to the kitchen, built a fire, and carried in several buckets of water from the spring which he poured into the copper boiler that he had placed on the stove.
He'd be an idiot to let them stay he thought, but he couldn't send them on, either.
I guess you'd better go on in the morning ''.
`` I've been mucking in a mine in the San Juan, but I used to work on a ranch.
When he saw the expression in her eyes, he knew he couldn't send them on.
`` My dress needs some work on it ''.
He said: `` If it's all right with you, Mr. Morgan, I'll sleep out here on the couch.
I just can't take any chances on getting her pregnant, and if we were sleeping together ''
He was thinking of Rittenhouse and how he had left him there, to rock to death on the porch of the Splendide.
Gavin stood on the porch, a thin figure.
He had taken a carbine down from the wall and it trailed from his hand, the stock bumping on the wood floor.
He approached the horse and laid a hand on the stallion's quivering neck.
It looked as Gavin had first seen it years ago, on those nights when he slept alone by his campfire and waked suddenly to the hoot of an owl or the rustle of a blade of grass in the moon's wind -- a savage land, untenanted and brooding, too strong to be broken by the will of men.
When they turned in the saddle they could see the men behind them, strung out on the prairie in a flat black line.

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