Part 2 out of 5
beautiful mustang led the train; there were sounds of rattling stones,
and click of hoofs, and scrape of pack. On one side towered the
iron-stained cliff, not smooth or glistening at close range, but of dull,
dead, rotting rock. The trail changed to a zigzag along a seamed and
cracked buttress where ledges leaned outward waiting to fall. Then a
steeper incline, where the burros crept upward warily, led to a level
ledge heading to the left.
Mescal halted on a promontory. She, with her windblown hair, the gleam
of white band about her head, and a dash of red along the fringed
leggings, gave inexpressible life and beauty to that wild, jagged point
of rock, sharp against the glaring sky.
"This is Lookout Point," said Naab. "I keep an Indian here all the time
during daylight. He's a peon, a Navajo slave. He can't talk, as he was
born without a tongue, or it was cut out, but he has the best eyes of any
Indian I know. You see this point commands the farm, the crossing, the
Navajo Trail over the river, the Echo Cliffs opposite, where the Navajos
signal to me, and also the White Sage Trail."
The oasis shone under the triangular promontory; the river with its
rising roar wound in bold curve from the split in the cliffs. To the
right white-sloped Coconina breasted the horizon. Forward across the
Canyon line opened the many-hued desert.
"With this peon watching here I'm not likely to be surprised," said Naab.
"That strip of sand protects me at night from approach, and I've never
had anything to fear from across the river."
Naab's peon came from a little cave in the wall; and grinned the greeting
he could not speak. To Hare's uneducated eye all Indians resembled each
other. Yet this one stood apart from the others, not differing in
blanketed leanness, or straggling black hair, or bronze skin, but in the
bird-of-prey cast of his features and the wildness of his glittering
eyes. Naab gave him a bag from one of the packs, spoke a few words in
Navajo, and then slapped the burros into the trail.
The climb thenceforth was more rapid because less steep, and the trail
now led among broken fragments of cliff. The color of the stones had
changed from red to yellow, and small cedars grew in protected places.
Hare's judgment of height had such frequent cause for correction that he
gave up trying to estimate the altitude. The ride had begun to tell on
his strength, and toward the end he thought he could not manage to stay
longer upon Noddle. The air had grown thin and cold, and though the sun
was yet an hour high, his fingers were numb.
"Hang on, Jack," cheered August. "We're almost up."
At last Black Bolly disappeared, likewise the bobbing burros, one by one,
then Noddle, wagging his ears, reached a level. Then Hare saw a
gray-green cedar forest, with yellow crags rising in the background, and
a rush of cold wind smote his face. For a moment he choked; he could not
get his breath. The air was thin and rare, and he inhaled deeply trying
to overcome the suffocation. Presently he realized that the trouble was
not with the rarity of the atmosphere, but with the bitter-sweet
penetrating odor it carried. He was almost stifled. It was not like the
smell of pine, though it made him think of pine-trees.
"Ha! that's good!" said Naab, expanding his great chest. "That's air for
you, my lad. Can you taste it? Well, here's camp, your home for many a
day, Jack. There's Piute--how do? how're the sheep?"
A short, squat Indian, good-humored of face, shook his black head till
the silver rings danced in his ears, and replied: "Bad--damn coyotee!"
"Piute--shake with Jack. Him shoot coyote--got big gun," said Naab.
"How-do-Jack?" replied Piute, extending his hand, and then straightway
began examining the new rifle. "Damn--heap big gun!"
"Jack, you'll find this Indian one you can trust, for all he's a Piute
outcast," went on August. "I've had him with me ever since Mescal found
him on the Coconina Trail five years ago. What Piute doesn't know about
this side of Coconina isn't worth learning."
In a depression sheltered from the wind lay the camp. A fire burned in
the centre; a conical tent, like a tepee in shape, hung suspended from a
cedar branch and was staked at its four points; a leaning slab of rock
furnished shelter for camp supplies and for the Indian, and at one end a
spring gushed out. A gray-sheathed cedar-tree marked the entrance to
this hollow glade, and under it August began preparing Hare's bed.
"Here's the place you're to sleep, rain or shine or snow," he said. "Now
I've spent my life sleeping on the ground, and mother earth makes the
best bed. I'll dig out a little pit in this soft mat of needles; that's
for your hips. Then the tarpaulin so; a blanket so. Now the other
blankets. Your feet must be a little higher than your head; you really
sleep down hill, which breaks the wind. So you never catch cold. All
you need do is to change your position according to the direction of the
wind. Pull up the blankets, and then the long end of the tarpaulin. If
it rains or snows cover your head, and sleep, my lad, sleep to the song
of the wind!"
From where Hare lay, resting a weary body, he could see down into the
depression which his position guarded. Naab built up the fire; Piute
peeled potatoes with deliberate care; Mescal, on her knees, her brown
arms bare, kneaded dough in a basin; Wolf crouched on the ground, and
watched his mistress; Black Bolly tossed her head, elevating the bag on
her nose so as to get all the grain.
Naab called him to supper, and when Hare set to with a will on the bacon
and eggs, and hot biscuits, he nodded approvingly. "That's what I want to
see," he said approvingly. "You must eat. Piute will get deer, or you
may shoot them yourself; eat all the venison you can. Remember what
Scarbreast said. Then rest. That's the secret. If you eat and rest you
will gain strength."
The edge of the wall was not a hundred paces from the camp; and when Hare
strolled out to it after supper, the sun had dipped the under side of its
red disc behind the desert. He watched it sink, while the golden-red
flood of light grew darker and darker. Thought seemed remote from him
then; he watched, and watched, until he saw the last spark of fire die
from the snow-slopes of Coconina. The desert became dimmer and dimmer;
the oasis lost its outline in a bottomless purple pit, except for a faint
light, like a star.
The bleating of sheep aroused him and he returned to camp. The fire was
still bright. Wolf slept close to Mescal's tent; Piute was not in sight;
and Naab had rolled himself in blankets. Crawling into his bed, Hare
stretched aching legs and lay still, as if he would never move again.
Tired as he was, the bleating of the sheep, the clear ring of the bell on
Black Bolly, and the faint tinkle of lighter bells on some of the rams,
drove away sleep for a while. Accompanied by the sough of the wind
through the cedars the music of the bells was sweet, and he listened till
he heard no more.
A thin coating of frost crackled on his bed when he awakened; and out
from under the shelter of the cedar all the ground was hoar-white. As he
slipped from his blankets the same strong smell of black sage and juniper
smote him, almost like a blow. His nostrils seemed glued together by
some rich piny pitch; and when he opened his lips to breathe a sudden
pain, as of a knife-thrust, pierced his lungs. The thought following was
as sharp as the pain. Pneumonia! What he had long expected! He sank
against the cedar, overcome by the shock. But he rallied presently, for
with the reestablishment of the old settled bitterness, which had been
forgotten in the interest of his situation, he remembered that he had
given up hope. Still, he could not get back at once to his former
resignation. He hated to acknowledge that the wildness of this desert
canyon country, and the spirit it sought to instil in him, had wakened a
desire to live. For it meant only more to give up. And after one short
instant of battle he was himself again. He put his hand under his
flannel shirt and felt of the soreness of his lungs. He found it not at
the apex of the right lung, always the one sensitive spot, but all
through his breast. Little panting breaths did not hurt; but the deep
inhalation, which alone satisfied him filled his whole chest with
thousands of pricking needles. In the depth of his breast was a hollow
When he had pulled on his boots and coat, and had washed himself in the
runway of the spring, his hands were so numb with cold they refused to
hold his comb and brush; and he presented himself at the roaring fire
half-frozen, dishevelled, trembling, but cheerful. He would not tell
Naab. If he had to die to-day, to-morrow or next week, he would lie down
under a cedar and die; he could not whine about it to this man.
"Up with the sun!" was Naab's greeting. His cheerfulness was as
impelling as his splendid virility. Following the wave of his hand Hare
saw the sun, a pale-pink globe through a misty blue, rising between the
golden crags of the eastern wall.
Mescal had a shy "good-morning" for him, and Piute a broad smile, and
familiar "how-do"; the peon slave, who had finished breakfast and was
about to depart, moved his lips in friendly greeting that had no sound.
"Did you hear the coyotes last night?" inquired August "No! Well, of all
the choruses I ever heard. There must be a thousand on the bench. Jack,
I wish I could spare the time to stay up here with you and shoot some.
You'll have practice with the rifle, but don't neglect the Colt.
Practice particularly the draw I taught you. Piute has a carbine, and he
shoots at the coyotes, but who ever saw an Indian that could hit
"Damn--gun no good!" growled Piute, who evidently understood English
pretty well. Naab laughed, and while Hare ate breakfast he talked of the
sheep. The flock he had numbered three thousand. They were a goodly
part of them Navajo stock: small, hardy sheep that could live on anything
but cactus, and needed little water. This flock had grown from a small
number to its present size in a few years. Being remarkably free from
the diseases and pests which retard increase in low countries, the sheep
had multiplied almost one for one for every year. But for the ravages of
wild beasts Naab believed he could raise a flock of many thousands and in
a brief time be rich in sheep alone. In the winter he drove them down
into the oasis; the other seasons he herded them on the high ranges where
the cattle could not climb. There was grass enough on this plateau for a
million sheep. After the spring thaw in early March, occasional snows
fell till the end of May, and frost hung on until early summer; then the
July rains made the plateau a garden.
"Get the forty-four," concluded Naab, "and we'll go out and break it in."
With the long rifle in the hollow of his arm Jack forgot that he was a
sick man. When he came within gunshot of the flock the smell of sheep
effectually smothered the keen, tasty odor of black sage and juniper.
Sheep ranged everywhere under the low cedars. They browsed with noses in
the frost, and from all around came the tinkle of tiny bells on the
curly-horned rams, and an endless variety of bleats.
"They're spread now," said August. "Mescal drives them on every little
while and Piute goes ahead to pick out the best browse. Watch the dog,
Jack; he's all but human. His mother was a big shepherd dog that I got
in Lund. She must have had a strain of wild blood. Once while I was
hunting deer on Coconina she ran off with timber wolves and we thought
she was killed. But she came back, and had a litter of three puppies.
Two were white, the other black. I think she killed the black one. And
she neglected the others. One died, and Mescal raised the other. We
called him Wolf. He loves Mescal, and loves the sheep, and hates a wolf.
Mescal puts a bell on him when she is driving, and the sheep know the
bell. I think it would be a good plan for her to tie something red round
his neck--a scarf, so as to keep you from shooting him for a wolf."
Nimble, alert, the big white dog was not still a moment. His duty was to
keep the flock compact, to head the stragglers and turn them back; and he
knew his part perfectly. There was dash and fire in his work. He never
barked. As he circled the flock the small Navajo sheep, edging ever
toward forbidden ground, bleated their way back to the fold, the larger
ones wheeled reluctantly, and the old belled rams squared themselves,
lowering their massive horns as if to butt him. Never, however, did they
stand their ground when he reached them, for there was a decision about
Wolf which brooked no opposition. At times when he was working on one
side a crafty sheep on the other would steal out into the thicket. Then
Mescal called and Wolf flashed back to her, lifting his proud head,
eager, spirited, ready to take his order. A word, a wave of her whip
sufficed for the dog to rout out the recalcitrant sheep and send him
bleating to his fellows.
"He manages them easily now," said Naab, "but when the lambs come they
can't be kept in. The coyotes and wolves hang out in the thickets and
pick up the stragglers. The worst enemy of sheep, though, is the old
grizzly bear. Usually he is grouchy, and dangerous to hunt. He comes
into the herd, kills the mother sheep, and eats the milk-bag--no more!
He will kill forty sheep in a night. Piute saw the tracks of one up on
the high range, and believes this bear is following the flock. Let's get
off into the woods some little way, into the edge of the thickets--for
Piute always keeps to the glades--and see if we can pick off a few
August cautioned Jack to step stealthily, and slip from cedar to cedar,
to use every bunch of sage and juniper to hide his advance.
"Watch sharp, Jack. I've seen two already. Look for moving things.
Don't try to see one quiet, for you can't till after your eye catches him
moving. They are gray, gray as the cedars, the grass, the ground. Good!
Yes, I see him, but don't shoot. That's too far. Wait. They sneak
away, but they return. You can afford to make sure. Here now, by that
stone--aim low and be quick."
In the course of a mile, without keeping the sheep near at hand, they saw
upward of twenty coyotes, five of which Jack killed in as many shots.
"You've got the hang of it," said Naab, rubbing his hands. "You'll kill
the varmints. Piute will skin and salt the pelts. Now I'm going up on
the high range to look for bear sign. Go ahead, on your own hook."
Hare was regardless of time while he stole under the cedars and through
the thickets, spying out the cunning coyotes. Then Naab's yell pealing
out claimed his attention; he answered and returned. When they met he
recounted his adventures in mingled excitement and disappointment.
"Are you tired?" asked Naab.
"Tired? No," replied Jack.
"Well, you mustn't overdo the very first day. I've news for you. There
are some wild horses on the high range. I didn't see them, but found
tracks everywhere. If they come down here you send Piute to close the
trail at the upper end of the bench, and you close the one where we came
up. There are only two trails where even a deer can get off this
plateau, and both are narrow splits in the wall, which can be barred by
the gates. We made the gates to keep the sheep in, and they'll serve a
turn. If you get the wild horses on the bench send Piute for me at
They passed the Indian herding the sheep into a corral built against an
uprising ridge of stone. Naab dispatched him to look for the dead
coyotes. The three burros were in camp, two wearing empty pack-saddles,
and Noddle, for once not asleep, was eating from Mescal's hand.
"Mescal, hadn't I better take Black Bolly home?" asked August.
"Mayn't I keep her?"
"She's yours. But you run a risk. There are wild horses on the range.
Will you keep her hobbled?"
"Yes," replied Mescal, reluctantly. "Though I don't believe Bolly would
run off from me."
"Look out she doesn't go, hobbles and all. Jack, here's the other bit of
news I have for you. There's a big grizzly camping on the trail of our
sheep. Now what I want to know is--shall I leave him to you, or put off
work and come up here to wait for him myself?"
"Why--" said Jack, slowly, "whatever you say. If you think you can
safely leave him to me--I'm willing."
"A grizzly won't be pleasant to face. I never knew one of those
sheep-killers that wouldn't run at a man, if wounded."
"Tell me what to do."
"If he comes down it's more than likely to be after dark. Don't risk
hunting him then. Wait till morning, and put Wolf on his trail. He'll
be up in the rocks, and by holding in the dog you may find him asleep in
a cave. However, if you happen to meet him by day do this. Don't waste
any shots. Climb a ledge or tree if one be handy. If not, stand your
ground. Get down on your knee and shoot and let him come. Mind you,
he'll grunt when he's hit, and start for you, and keep coming till he's
dead. Have confidence in yourself and your gun, for you can kill him.
Aim low, and shoot steady. If he keeps on coming there's always a fatal
shot, and that is when he rises. You'll see a bare spot on his breast.
Put a forty-four into that, and he'll go down."
August had spoken so easily, quite as if he were explaining how to shear
a yearling sheep, that Jack's feelings fluctuated between amazement and
laughter. Verily this desert man was stripped of all the false fears of
"Now, Jack, I'm off. Good-bye and good luck. Mescal, look out for
him. . . . So-ho! Noddle! Getup! Biscuit!" And with many a cheery word and
slap he urged the burros into the forest, where they and his tall form
soon disappeared among the trees.
Piute came stooping toward camp so burdened with coyotes that he could
scarcely be seen under the gray pile. With a fervent "damn" he tumbled
them under a cedar, and trotted back into the forest for another load.
Jack insisted on assuming his share of the duties about camp; and Mescal
assigned him to the task of gathering firewood, breaking red-hot sticks
of wood into small pieces, and raking them into piles of live coals.
Then they ate, these two alone. Jack did not do justice to the supper;
excitement had robbed him of appetite. He told Mescal how he had crept
upon the coyotes, how so many had eluded him, how he had missed a gray
wolf. He plied her with questions about the sheep, and wanted to know if
there would be more wolves, and if she thought the "silvertip" would
come. He was quite carried away by the events of the day.
The sunset drew him to the rim. Dark clouds were mantling the desert
like rolling smoke from a prairie-fire. He almost stumbled over Mescal,
who sat with her back to a stone. Wolf lay with his head in her lap, and
"There's a storm on the desert," she said. "Those smoky streaks are
flying sand. We may have snow to-night. It's colder, and the wind is
north. See, I've a blanket. You had better get one."
He thanked her and went for it. Piute was eating his supper, and the
peon had just come in. The bright campfire was agreeable, yet Hare did
not feel cold. But he wrapped himself in a blanket and returned to
Mescal and sat beside her. The desert lay indistinct in the foreground,
inscrutable beyond; the canyon lost its line in gloom. The solemnity of
the scene stilled his unrest, the strange freedom of longings unleashed
that day. What had come over him? He shook his head; but with the
consciousness of self returned a feeling of fatigue, the burning pain in
his chest, the bitter-sweet smell of black sage and juniper.
"You love this outlook?" he asked.
"Do you sit here often?"
"Is it the sunset that you care for, the roar of the river, just being
here high above it all?"
"It's that last, perhaps; I don't know."
"Haven't you been lonely?"
"You'd rather be here with the sheep than be in Lund, or Salt Lake City,
as Esther and Judith want to be?"
Any other reply from her would not have been consistent with the
impression she was making on him. As yet he had hardly regarded her as a
young girl; she had been part of this beautiful desert-land. But he
began to see in her a responsive being, influenced by his presence. If
the situation was wonderful to him what must it be for her? Like a shy,
illusive creature, unused to men, she was troubled by questions, fearful
of the sound of her own voice. Yet in repose, as she watched the lights
and shadows, she was serene, unconscious; her dark, quiet glance was
dreamy and sad, and in it was the sombre, brooding strength of the
Twilight and falling dew sent them back to the camp. Piute and Peon were
skinning coyotes by the blaze of the fire. The night wind had not yet
risen; the sheep were quiet; there was no sound save the crackle of
burning cedar sticks. Jack began to talk; he had to talk, so, addressing
Piute and the dumb peon, he struck at random into speech, and words
flowed with a rush. Piute approved, for he said "damn" whenever his
intelligence grasped a meaning, and the peon twisted his lips and fixed
his diamond eyes upon Hare in rapt gaze. The sound of a voice was
welcome to the sentinels of that lonely sheep-range. Jack talked of
cities, of ships, of people, of simple things in the life he had left,
and he discovered that Mescal listened. Not only did she listen; she
became absorbed; it was romance to her, fulfilment of her vague dreams.
Nor did she seek her tent till he ceased; then with a startled
"good-night" she was gone.
From under the snugness of his warm blankets Jack watched out the last
wakeful moments of that day of days. A star peeped through the fringe of
cedar foliage. The wind sighed, and rose steadily, to sweep over him
with breath of ice, with the fragrance of juniper and black sage and a
tang of cedar.
But that day was only the beginning of eventful days, of increasing
charm, of forgetfulness of self, of time that passed unnoted. Every
succeeding day was like its predecessor, only richer. Every day the
hoar-frost silvered the dawn; the sheep browsed; the coyotes skulked in
the thickets; the rifle spoke truer and truer. Every sunset Mescal's
changing eyes mirrored the desert. Every twilight Jack sat beside her in
the silence; every night, in the camp-fire flare, he talked to Piute and
The Indians were appreciative listeners, whether they understood Jack or
not, but his talk with them was only a presence. He wished to reveal the
outside world to Mescal, and he saw with pleasure that every day she grew
One evening he was telling of New York City, of the monster buildings
where men worked, and of the elevated railways, for the time was the late
seventies and they were still a novelty. Then something unprecedented
occurred, inasmuch as Piute earnestly and vigorously interrupted Jack,
demanding to have this last strange story made more clear. Jack did his
best in gesture and speech, but he had to appeal to Mescal to translate
his meaning to the Indian. This Mescal did with surprising fluency. The
result, however, was that Piute took exception to the story of trains
carrying people through the air. He lost his grin and regarded Jack with
much disfavor. Evidently he was experiencing the bitterness of misplaced
"Heap damn lie!" he exclaimed with a growl, and stalked off into the
Piute's expressive doubt discomfited Hare, but only momentarily, for
Mescal's silvery peal of laughter told him that the incident had brought
them closer together. He laughed with her and discovered a well of
joyousness behind her reserve. Thereafter he talked directly to Mescal.
The ice being broken she began to ask questions, shyly at first, yet more
and more eagerly, until she forgot herself in the desire to learn of
cities and people; of women especially, what they wore and how they
lived, and all that life meant to them.
The sweetest thing which had ever come to Hare was the teaching of this
desert girl. How naive in her questions and how quick to grasp she was!
The reaching out of her mind was like the unfolding of a rose. Evidently
the Mormon restrictions had limited her opportunities to learn.
But her thought had striven to escape its narrow confines, and now,
liberated by sympathy and intelligence, it leaped forth.
Lambing-time came late in May, and Mescal, Wolf, Piute and Jack knew no
rest. Night-time was safer for the sheep than the day, though the
howling of a thousand coyotes made it hideous for the shepherds. All in
a day, seemingly, the little fleecy lambs came, as if by magic, and
filled the forest with piping bleats. Then they were tottering after
their mothers, gamboling at a day's growth, wilful as youth--and the
carnage began. Boldly the coyotes darted out of thicket and bush, and
many lambs never returned to their mothers. Gaunt shadows hovered always
near; the great timber-wolves waited in covert for prey. Piute slept not
at all, and the dog's jaws were flecked with blood morning and night.
Jack hung up fifty-four coyotes the second day; the third he let them
lie, seventy in number. Many times the rifle-barrel burned his hands.
His aim grew unerring, so that running brutes in range dropped in their
tracks. Many a gray coyote fell with a lamb in his teeth.
One night when sheep and lambs were in the corral, and the shepherds
rested round the camp-fire, the dog rose quivering, sniffed the cold
wind, and suddenly bristled with every hair standing erect.
"Wolf!" called Mescal.
The sheep began to bleat. A rippling crash, a splintering of wood, told
of an irresistible onslaught on the corral fence.
"Chus--chus!" exclaimed Piute.
Wolf, not heeding Mescal's cry, flashed like lightning under the cedars.
The rush of the sheep, pattering across the corral was succeeded by an
"Bear! Bear!" cried Mescal, with dark eyes on Jack. He seized his rifle.
"Don't go," she implored, her hand on his arm. "Not at night--remember
Father Naab said not."
"Listen! I won't stand that. I'll go. Here, get in the tree--quick!"
"Do as I say!" It was a command. The girl wavered. He dropped the
rifle, and swung her up. "Climb!"
With Piute at his heels he ran out into the darkness.
THE WIND IN THE CEDARS
PIUTE'S Indian sense of the advantage of position in attack stood Jack in
good stead; he led him up the ledge which overhung one end of the corral.
In the pale starlight the sheep could be seen running in bands, massing
together, crowding the fence; their cries made a deafening din.
The Indian shouted, but Jack could not understand him. A large black
object was visible in the shade of the ledge. Piute fired his carbine.
Before Jack could bring his rifle up the black thing moved into
startlingly rapid flight. Then spouts of red flame illumined the corral.
As he shot, Jack got fleeting glimpses of the bear moving like a dark
streak against a blur of white. For all he could tell no bullet took
When certain that the visitor had departed Jack descended into the
corral. He and Piute searched for dead sheep, but, much to their
surprise, found none. If the grizzly had killed one he must have taken
it with him; and estimating his strength from the gap he had broken in
the fence, he could easily have carried off a sheep. They repaired the
break and returned to camp.
"He's gone, Mescal. Come down," called Jack into the cedar. "Let me
help you--there! Wasn't it lucky? He wasn't so brave. Either the
flashes from the guns or the dog scared him. I was amazed to see how
fast he could run."
Piute found woolly brown fur hanging from Wolf's jaws.
"He nipped the brute, that's sure," said Jack. "Good dog! Maybe he kept
the bear from-- Why Mescal! you're white--you're shaking. There's no
danger. Piute and I'll take turns watching with Wolf."
Mescal went silently into her tent.
The sheep quieted down and made no further disturbance that night. The
dawn broke gray, with a cold north wind. Dun-colored clouds rolled up,
hiding the tips of the crags on the upper range, and a flurry of snow
whitened the cedars. After breakfast Jack tried to get Wolf to take the
track of the grizzly, but the scent had cooled.
Next day Mescal drove the sheep eastward toward the crags, and about the
middle of the afternoon reached the edge of the slope. Grass grew
luxuriantly and it was easy to keep the sheep in. Moreover, that part of
the forest had fewer trees, and scarcely any sage or thickets, so that
the lambs were safer, barring danger which might lurk in the seamed and
cracked cliffs overshadowing the open grassy plots. Piute's task at the
moment was to drag dead coyotes to the rim, near at hand, and throw them
over. Mescal rested on a stone, and Wolf reclined at her feet.
Jack presently found a fresh deer track, and trailed it into the cedars,
then up the slope to where the huge rocks massed.
Suddenly a cry from Mescal halted him; another, a piercing scream of
mortal fright, sent him flying down the slope. He bounded out of the
cedars into the open.
The white, well-bunched flock had spread, and streams of jumping sheep
fled frantically from an enormous silver-backed bear.
As the bear struck right and left, a brute-engine of destruction, Jack
sent a bullet into him at long range. Stung, the grizzly whirled, bit at
his side, and then reared with a roar of fury.
But he did not see Jack. He dropped down and launched his huge bulk for
Mescal. The blood rushed back to Jack's heart, and his empty veins
seemed to freeze.
The grizzly hurdled the streams of sheep. Terror for Mescal dominated
Jack; if he had possessed wings he could not have flown quickly enough to
head the bear. Checking himself with a suddenness that fetched him to
his knees, he levelled the rifle. It waved as if it were a stick of
willow. The bead-sight described a blurred curve round the bear. Yet he
shot--in vain--again--in vain.
Above the bleat of sheep and trample of many hoofs rang out Mescal's cry,
She had turned, her hands over her breast. Wolf spread his legs before
her and crouched to spring, mane erect, jaws wide.
By some lightning flash of memory, August Naab's words steadied Jack's
shaken nerves. He aimed low and ahead of the running bear. Down the
beast went in a sliding sprawl with a muffled roar of rage. Up he
sprang, dangling a useless leg, yet leaping swiftly forward. One blow
sent the attacking dog aside. Jack fired again. The bear became a
wrestling, fiery demon, death-stricken, but full of savage fury. Jack
aimed low and shot again.
Slowly now the grizzly reared, his frosted coat blood-flecked, his great
head swaying. Another shot. There was one wide sweep of the huge paw,
and then the bear sank forward, drooping slowly, and stretched all his
length as if to rest.
Mescal, recalled to life, staggered backward. Between her and the
outstretched paw was the distance of one short stride.
Jack, bounding up, made sure the bear was dead before he looked at
Mescal. She was faint. Wolf whined about her. Piute came running from
the cedars. Her eyes were still fixed in a look of fear.
"I couldn't run--I couldn't move," she said, shuddering. A blush drove
the white from her cheeks as she raised her face to Jack. "He'd soon
have reached me."
Piute added his encomium: "Damn--heap big bear-- Jack kill um--big
Hare laughed away his own fear and turned their attention to the
stampeded sheep. It was dark before they got the flock together again,
and they never knew whether they had found them all. Supper-time was
unusually quiet that night. Piute was jovial, but no one appeared
willing to talk save the peon, and he could only grimace. The reaction
of feeling following Mescal's escape had robbed Jack of strength of
voice; he could scarcely whisper. Mescal spoke no word; her black lashes
hid her eyes; she was silent, but there was that in her silence which was
eloquent. Wolf, always indifferent save to Mescal, reacted to the subtle
change, and as if to make amends laid his head on Jack's knees. The
quiet hour round the camp-fire passed, and sleep claimed them. Another
day dawned, awakening them fresh, faithful to their duties, regardless of
what had gone before.
So the days slipped by. June came, with more leisure for the shepherds,
better grazing for the sheep, heavier dews, lighter frosts, snow-squalls
half rain, and bursting blossoms on the prickly thorns, wild-primrose
patches in every shady spot, and bluebells lifting wan azure faces to the
The last snow-storm of June threatened all one morning; hung menacing
over the yellow crags, in dull lead clouds waiting for the wind. Then
like ships heaving anchor to a single command they sailed down off the
heights; and the cedar forest became the centre of a blinding, eddying
storm. The flakes were as large as feathers, moist, almost warm. The
low cedars changed to mounds of white; the sheep became drooping curves
of snow; the little lambs were lost in the color of their own pure
fleece. Though the storm had been long in coming it was brief in
passing. Wind-driven toward the desert, it moaned its last in the
cedars, and swept away, a sheeted pall. Out over the Canyon it floated,
trailing long veils of white that thinned out, darkened, and failed far
above the golden desert. The winding columns of snow merged into
straight lines of leaden rain; the rain flowed into vapory mist, and the
mist cleared in the gold-red glare of endless level and slope. No
moisture reached the parched desert.
Jack marched into camp with a snowy burden over his shoulder. He flung
it down, disclosing a small deer; then he shook the white mantle from his
coat, and whistling, kicked the fire-logs, and looked abroad at the
silver cedars, now dripping under the sun, at the rainbows in the
settling mists, at the rapidly melting snow on the ground.
"Got lost in that squall. Fine! Fine!" he exclaimed, and threw wide his
"Jack!" said Mescal. "Jack!" Memory had revived some forgotten thing.
The dark olive of her skin crimsoned; her eyes dilated and shadowed with
a rare change of emotion.
"Jack," she repeated.
"Well?" he replied, in surprise.
"To look at you!--I never dreamed--I'd forgotten--"
"What's the matter with me?" demanded Jack.
Wonderingly, her mind on the past, she replied: "You were dying when we
found you at White Sage."
He drew himself up with a sharp catch in his breath, and stared at her as
if he saw a ghost.
"Oh--Jack! You're going to get well!"
Her lips curved in a smile.
For an instant Jack Hare spent his soul in searching her face for truth.
While waiting for death he had utterly forgotten it; he remembered now,
when life gleamed in the girl's dark eyes. Passionate joy flooded his
"Mescal--Mescal!" he cried, brokenly. The eyes were true that shed this
sudden light on him; glad and sweet were the lips that bade him hope and
live again. Blindly, instinctively he kissed them--a kiss unutterably
grateful; then he fled into the forest, running without aim.
That flight ended in sheer exhaustion on the far rim of the plateau. The
spreading cedars seemed to have eyes; and he shunned eyes in this hour.
"God! to think I cared so much," he whispered. "What has happened?" With
time relief came to limbs, to labored breast and lungs, but not to mind.
In doubt that would not die, he looked at himself. The leanness of arms,
the flat chest, the hollows were gone. He did not recognize his own
body. He breathed to the depths of his lungs. No pain--only ex-
hilaration! He pounded his chest--no pain! He dug his trembling fingers
into the firm flesh over the apex of his right lung--the place of his
"I wanted to live!" he cried. He buried his face in the fragrant
juniper; he rolled on the soft brown mat of earth and hugged it close; he
cooled his hot cheeks in the primrose clusters. He opened his eyes to
new bright green of cedar, to sky of a richer blue, to a desert, strange,
beckoning, enthralling as life itself. He counted backward a month, two
months, and marvelled at the swiftness of time. He counted time forward,
he looked into the future, and all was beautiful--long days, long hunts,
long rides, service to his friend, freedom on the wild steppes,
blue-white dawns upon the eastern crags, red-gold sunsets over the lilac
mountains of the desert. He saw himself in triumphant health and
strength, earning day by day the spirit of this wilderness, coming to
fight for it, to live for it, and in far-off time, when he had won his
victory, to die for it.
Suddenly his mind was illumined. The lofty plateau with its healing
breath of sage and juniper had given back strength to him; the silence
and solitude and strife of his surroundings had called to something deep
within him; but it was Mescal who made this wild life sweet and
significant. It was Mescal, the embodiment of the desert spirit. Like a
man facing a great light Hare divined his love. Through all the days on
the plateau, living with her the natural free life of Indians, close to
the earth, his unconscious love had ripened. He understood now her charm
for him; he knew now the lure of her wonderful eyes, flashing fire,
desert-trained, like the falcon eyes of her Indian grandfather. The
knowledge of what she had become to him dawned with a mounting desire
that thrilled all his blood.
Twilight had enfolded the plateau when Hare traced his way back to camp.
Mescal was not there. His supper awaited him; Piute hummed a song; the
peon sat grimacing at the fire. Hare told them to eat, and moved away
toward the rim.
Mescal was at her favorite seat, with the white dog beside her; and she
watched the desert where the last glow of sunset gilded the mesas. How
cold and calm was her face! How strange to him in this new character!
"Mescal, I didn't know I loved you--then--but I know it now."
Her face dropped quickly from its level poise, hiding the brooding eyes;
her hand trembled on Wolf's head.
"You spoke the truth. I'll get well. I'd rather have had it from your
lips than from any in the world. I mean to live my life here where these
wonderful things have come to me. The friendship of the good man who
saved me, this wild, free desert, the glory of new hope, strength, life--
He took her hand in his and whispered, "For I love you. Do you care for
me? Mescal! It must be complete. Do you care--a little?"
The wind blew her dusky hair; he could not see her face; he tried gently
to turn her to him. The hand he had taken lay warm and trembling in his,
but it was not withdrawn. As he waited, in fear, in hope, it became
still. Her slender form, rigid within his arm, gradually relaxed, and
yielded to him; her face sank on his breast, and her dark hair loosened
from its band, covered her, and blew across his lips. That was his
The wind sang in the cedars. No longer a sigh, sad as thoughts of a past
forever flown, but a song of what had come to him, of hope, of life, of
Mescal's love, of the things to be!
LITTLE dew fell on the night of July first; the dawn brightened without
mists; a hot sun rose; the short summer of the plateau had begun.
As Hare rose, refreshed and happy from his breakfast, his whistle was cut
short by the Indian.
"Ugh!" exclaimed Piute, lifting a dark finger. Black Bolly had thrown
her nose-bag and slipped her halter, and she moved toward the opening in
the cedars, her head high, her black ears straight up.
"Bolly!" called Mescal. The mare did not stop.
"What the deuce?" Hare ran forward to catch her.
"I never knew Bolly to act that way," said Mescal. "See--she didn't eat
half the oats. Well, Bolly--Jack! look at Wolfl"
The white dog had risen and stood warily shifting his nose. He sniffed
the wind, turned round and round, and slowly stiffened with his head
pointed toward the eastern rise of the plateau.
"Hold, Wolf, hold!" called Mescal, as the dog appeared to be about to
"Ugh!" grunted Piute.
"Listen, Jack; did you hear?" whispered the girl.
The warm breeze came down in puffs from the crags; it rustled in the
cedars and blew fragrant whiffs of camp-fire smoke into his face; and
presently it bore a low, prolonged whistle. He had never before heard
its like. The sound broke the silence again, clearer, a keen, sharp
"What is it?" he queried, reaching for his rifle.
"Wild mustangs," said Mescal.
"No," corrected Piute, vehemently shaking his head. "Clea, Clea."
"Jack, he says 'horse, horse.' It's a wild horse."
A third time the whistle rang down from the ridge, splitting the air,
strong and trenchant, the fiery, shrill challenge of a stallion.
Black Bolly reared straight up.
Jack ran to the rise of ground above the camp, and looked over the
cedars. "Oh!" he cried, and beckoned for Mescal. She ran to him, and
Piute, tying Black Bolly, hurried after. "Look! look!" cried Jack. He
pointed to a ridge rising to the left of the yellow crags. On the bare
summit stood a splendid stallion clearly silhouetted against the ruddy
morning sky. He was an iron-gray, wild and proud, with long silver-white
mane waving in the wind.
"Silvermane! Silvermane!" exclaimed Mescal.
"What a magnificent animal!" Jack stared at the splendid picture for the
moment before the horse moved back along the ridge and disappeared.
Other horses, blacks and bays, showed above the sage for a moment, and
they, too, passed out of sight.
"He's got some of his band with him," said Jack, thrilled with
excitement. "Mescal, they're down off the upper range, and grazing along
easy. The wind favors us. That whistle was just plain fight, judging
from what Naab told me of wild stallions. He came to the hilltop, and
whistled down defiance to any horse, wild or tame, that might be below.
I'll slip round through the cedars, and block the trail leading up to the
other range, and you and Piute close the gate of our trail at this end.
Then send Piute down to tell Naab we've got Silvermane."
Jack chose the lowest edge of the plateau rim where the cedars were
thickest for his detour to get behind the wild band; he ran from tree to
tree, avoiding the open places, taking advantage of the thickets, keeping
away from the ridge. He had never gone so far as the gate, but, knowing
where the trail led into a split in the crags, he climbed the slope, and
threaded a way over masses of fallen cliff, until he reached the base of
the wall. The tracks of the wildhorse band were very fresh and plain in
the yellow trail. Four stout posts guarded the opening, and a number of
bars lay ready to be pushed into place. He put them up, making a gate
ten feet high, an impregnable barrier. This done, he hurried back to
"Jack, Bolly will need more watching to-day than the sheep, unless I let
her loose. Why, she pulls and strains so she'll break that halter."
"She wants to go with the band; isn't that it?"
"I don't like to think so. But Father Naab doesn't trust Bolly, though
she's the best mustang he ever broke."
"Better keep her in," replied Jack, remembering Naab's warning. "I'll
hobble her, so if she does break loose she can't go far."
When Mescal and Jack drove in the sheep that afternoon, rather earlier
than usual, Piute had returned with August Naab, Dave, and Billy, a
string of mustangs and a pack-train of burros.
"Hello, Mescal," cheerily called August, as they came into camp. "Well
Jack--bless me! Why, my lad, how fine and brown--and yes, how you've
filled out!" He crushed Jack's hand in his broad palm, and his gray eyes
beamed. "I've not the gift of revelation--but, Jack, you're going to get
"Yes, I--" He had difficulty with his enunciation, but he thumped his
breast significantly and smiled.
"Black sage and juniper!" exclaimed August. "In this air if a man
doesn't go off quickly with pneumonia, he'll get well. I never had a
doubt for you, Jack--and thank God!"
He questioned Piute and Mescal about the sheep, and was greatly pleased
with their report. He shook his head when Jack spread out the
grizzly-pelt, and asked for the story of the killing. Jack made a poor
showing with the tale and slighted his share in it, but Mescal told it as
it actually happened. And Naab's great hand resounded from Jack's
shoulder. Then, catching sight of the pile of coyote skins under the
stone shelf, he gave vent to his surprise and delight. Then he came back
to the object of his trip upon the plateau.
"So you've corralled Silvermane? Well, Jack, if he doesn't jump over the
cliff he's ours. He can't get off any other way. How many horses with
"We had no chance to count. I saw at least twelve."
"Good! He's out with his picked band. Weren't they all blacks and
"Jack, the history of that stallion wouldn't make you proud of him.
We've corralled him by a lucky chance. If I don't miss my guess he's
after Bolly. He has been a lot of trouble to ranchers all the way from
the Nevada line across Utah. The stallions he's killed, the mares he's
led off! Well, Dave, shall we thirst him out, or line up a long corral?"
"Better have a look around to-morrow," replied Dave. "It'll take a lot
of chasing to run him down, but there's not a spring on the bench where
we can throw up a trap-corral. We'll have to chase him."
"Mescal, has Bolly been good since Silvermane came down?"
"No, she hasn't," declared Mescal, and told of the circumstance.
"Bolly's all right," said Billy Naab. "Any mustang will do that. Keep
her belled and hobbled."
"Silvermane would care a lot about that, if he wanted Bolly, wouldn't
he?" queried Dave in quiet scorn. "Keep her roped and haltered, I say."
"Dave's right," said August. "You can't trust a wild mustang any more
than a wild horse."
August was right. Black Bolly broke her halter about midnight and
escaped into the forest, hobbled as she was. The Indian heard her first,
and he awoke August, who aroused the others.
"Don't make any noise," he said, as Jack came up, throwing on his coat.
"There's likely to be some fun here presently. Bolly's loose, broke her
rope, and I think Silvermane is close. Listen sharp now."
The slight breeze favored them, the camp-fire was dead, and the night was
clear and starlit. They had not been quiet many moments when the shrill
neigh of a mustang rang out. The Naabs raised themselves and looked at
one another in the starlight.
"Now what do you think of that?" whispered Billy.
"No more than I expected. It was Bolly," replied Dave.
"Bolly it was, confound her black hide!" added August. "Now, boys, did
she whistle for Silvermane, or to warn him, which?"
"No telling," answered Billy. "Let's lie low, and take a chance on him
coming close. It proves one thing--you can't break a wild mare. That
spirit may sleep in her blood, maybe for years, but some time it'll
"Shut up--listen," interrupted Dave.
Jack strained his hearing, yet caught no sound, except the distant yelp
of a coyote. Moments went by.
"There!" whispered Dave.
From the direction of the ridge came the faint rattling of stones.
"They're coming," put in Billy.
Presently sharp clicks preceded the rattles, and the sounds began to
merge into a regular rhythmic tramp. It softened at intervals, probably
when the horses were under the cedars, and strengthened as they came out
on the harder ground of the open.
"I see them," whispered Dave.
A black, undulating line wound out of the cedars, a line of horses
approaching with drooping heads, hurrying a little as they neared the
"Twenty-odd, all blacks and bays," said August, "and some of them are
mustangs. But where's Silvermane?-- hark!"
Out among the cedars rose the peculiar halting thump of a hobbled horse
trying to cover ground, followed by snorts and crashings of brush and the
pound of plunging hoofs. The long black line stopped short and began to
stamp. Then into the starlit glade below moved two shadows, the first a
great gray horse with snowy mane; the second, a small, shiny, black
"Silvermane and Bolly!" exclaimed August, "and now she's broken her
The stallion, in the fulfilment of a conquest such as had made him king
of the wild ranges, was magnificent in action. Wheeling about her,
neighing, and plunging, he arched his splendid neck and pushed his head
against her. His action was that of a master. Suddenly Black Bolly
snorted and whirled down the glade. Silvermane whistled one blast of
anger or terror and thundered after her. They vanished in the gloom of
the cedars, and the band of frightened horses and mustangs clattered
"It's one on me," remarked Billy. "That little mare played us at the
finish. Caught when she was a yearling, broken better than any mustang
we ever had, she has helped us run down many a stallion, and now she runs
off with that big white-maned brute!"
"They'll make a team, and if they get out of here we'll have to chase
them to the Great Salt Basin," replied Dave.
"Mescal, that's a well-behaved mustang of yours," said August; "not only
did she break loose, but she whistled an alarm to Silvermane and his
band. Well, roll in now, everybody, and sleep."
At breakfast the following day the Naabs fell into a discussion upon the
possibility of there being other means of exit from the plateau than the
two trails already closed. They had never run any mustangs on the
plateau, and in the case of a wild horse like Silvermane, who would take
desperate chances, it was advisable to know the ground exactly. Billy
and Dave taking their mounts from the sheep-corral, where they had put
them up for the night, rode in opposite directions around the rim of the
plateau. It was triangular in shape, and some six or seven miles in
circumference; and the brothers rode around it in less than an hour.
"Corralled," said Dave, laconically.
"Good! Did you see him? What kind of a bunch has he with him?" asked his
"If we get the pick of the lot it will be worth two weeks' work," replied
Dave. "I saw him, and Bolly, too. I believe we can catch her easily.
She was off from the bunch, and it looks as though the mares were
jealous. I think we can run her into a cove under the wall, and get her.
Then Mescal can help us run down the stallion. And you can look out on
this end for the best level stretch to drop the line of cedars and make
The brothers, at their father's nod, rode off into the forest. Naab had
detained the peon, and now gave him orders and sent him off.
"To-night you can stand on the rim here, and watch him signal across to
the top of Echo Cliffs to the Navajos," explained August to Jack. "I've
sent for the best breaker of wild mustangs on the desert. Dave can break
mustangs, and Piute is very good; but I want the best man in the country,
because this is a grand horse, and I intend to give him to you."
"To me!" exclaimed Hare.
"Yes, and if he's broken right at the start, he'll serve you faithfully,
and not try to bite your arm off every day, or kick your brains out. No
white man can break a wild mustang to the best advantage."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know. To be truthful, I have an idea it's bad temper and lack
of patience. Just wait till you see this Navajo go at Silvermane!"
After Mescal and Piute drove down the sheep, Jack accompanied Naab to the
"I've brought up your saddle," said Naab, "and you can put it on any
What a pleasure it was to be in the saddle again, and to feel strength to
remain there! He rode with August all over the western end of the
plateau. They came at length to a strip of ground, higher than the
bordering forest, which was comparatively free of cedars and brush; and
when August had surveyed it once he slapped his knee with satisfaction.
"Fine, better than I hoped for! This stretch is about a mile long, and
narrow at this end. Now, Jack, you see the other side faces the rim,
this side the forest, and at the end here is a wall of rock; luckily it
curves in a half circle, which will save us work. We'll cut cedars, drag
them in line, and make a big corral against the rock. From the opening
in the corral we'll build two fences of trees; then we'll chase
Silvermane till he's done, run him down into this level, and turn him
inside the fence. No horse can break through a close line of cedars.
He'll run till he's in the corral, and then we'll rope him."
"Great!" said Jack, all enthusiasm. "But isn't it going to take a lot of
"Rather," said August, dryly. "It'll take a week to cut and drag the
cedars, let alone to tire out that wild stallion. When the finish comes
you want to be on that ledge where we'll have the corral."
They returned to camp and prepared supper. Mescal and Piute soon
arrived, and, later, Dave and Billy on jaded mustangs. Black Bolly
limped behind, stretching a long halter, an unhappy mustang with dusty,
foam-stained coat and hanging head.
"Not bad," said August, examining the lame leg. "She'll be fit in a few
days, long before we need her to help run down Silvermane. Bring the
liniment and a cloth, one of you, and put her in the sheep-corral
Mescal's love for the mustang shone in her eyes while she smoothed out
the crumpled mane, and petted the slender neck.
"Bolly, to think you'd do it!" And Bolly dropped her head as though
When darkness fell they gathered on the rim to watch the signals. A fire
blazed out of the black void below, and as they waited it brightened and
"Ugh!" said Piute, pointing across to the dark line of cliffs.
"Of course he'd see it first," laughed Naab. "Dave, have you caught it
yet? Jack, see if you can make out a fire over on Echo Cliffs."
"No, I don't see any light, except that white star. Have you seen it?"
"Long ago," replied Naab. "Here, sight along my finger, and narrow your
"I believe I see it--yes, I'm sure."
"Good. How about you, Mescal?"
"Yes," she replied.
Jack was amused, for Dave insisted that he had been next to the Indian,
and Billy claimed priority to all of them. To these men bred on the
desert keen sight was preeminently the chief of gifts.
"Jack, look sharp!" said August. "Peon is blanketing his fire. See the
flicker? One, two--one, two--one. Now for the answer."
Jack peered out into the shadowy space, star-studded above, ebony below.
Far across the depths shone a pinpoint of steady light. The Indian
grunted again, August vented his "ha!" and then Jack saw the light blink
like a star, go out for a second, and blink again.
"That's what I like to see," said August. "We're answered. Now all's
over but the work."
Work it certainly was, as Jack discovered next day. He helped the
brothers cut down cedars while August hauled them into line with his
roan. What with this labor and the necessary camp duties nearly a week
passed, and in the mean time Black Bolly recovered from her lameness.
Twice the workers saw Silvermane standing on open high ridges, restive
and suspicious, with his silver mane flying, and his head turned over his
shoulder, watching, always watching.
"It'd be worth something to find out how long that stallion could go
without water," commented Dave. "But we'll make his tongue hang out
to-morrow. It'd serve him right to break him with Black Bolly."
Daylight came warm and misty; veils unrolled from the desert; a purple
curtain lifted from the eastern crags; then the red sun burned.
Dave and Billy Naab mounted their mustangs, and each led another mount by
"We'll go to the ridge, cut Silvermane out of his band and warm him up;
then we'll drive him down to this end."
Hare, in his eagerness, found the time very tedious while August delayed
about camp, punching new holes in his saddle-girth, shortening his
stirrups, and smoothing kinks out of his lasso. At last he saddled the
roan, and also Black Bolly. Mescal came out of her tent ready for the
chase; she wore a short skirt of buckskin, and leggings of the same
material. Her hair, braided, and fastened at the back, was bound by a
double band closely fitting her black head. Hare walked, leading two
mustangs by the halters, and Naab and Mescal rode, each of them followed
by two other spare mounts. August tied three mustangs at one point along
the level stretch, and three at another. Then he led Mescal and Jack to
the top of the stone wall above the corral, where they had good view of a
considerable part of the plateau.
The eastern rise of ground, a sage and juniper slope, was in plain sight.
Hare saw a white flash; then Silvermane broke out of the cedars into the
sage. One of the brothers raced him half the length of the slope, and
then the other coming out headed him off down toward the forest. Soon
the pounding of hoofs sounded through the trees nearer and nearer.
Silvermane came out straight ahead on the open level. He was running
"He hasn't opened up yet," said August.
Hare watched the stallion with sheer fascination; He ran seemingly
without effort. What a stride he had. how beautifully his silver mane
waved in the wind! He veered off to the left, out of sight in the brush,
while Dave and Billy galloped up to the spot where August had tied the
first three mustangs. Here they dismounted, changed saddles to fresh
horses, and were off again.
The chase now was close and all down-hill for the watchers. Silvermane
twinkled in and out among the cedars, and suddenly stopped short on the
rim. He wheeled and coursed away toward the crags, and vanished. But
soon he reappeared, for Billy had cut across and faced him about. Again
he struck the level stretch. Dave was there in front of him. He shot
away to the left, and flashed through the glades beyond. The brothers
saved their steeds, content to keep him cornered in that end of the
plateau. Then August spurred his roan into the scene of action.
Silvermane came out on the one piece of rising ground beyond the level,
and stood looking backward toward the brothers. When the great roan
crashed through the thickets into his sight he leaped as if he had been
stung, and plunged away.
The Naabs had hemmed him in a triangle, Dave and Billy at the broad end,
August at the apex, and now the real race began. August chased him up
and down, along the rim, across to the long line of cedars, always in the
end heading him for the open stretch. Down this he fled with flying
mane, only to be checked by the relentless brothers. To cover this broad
end of the open required riding the like of which Hare had never dreamed
of. The brothers, taking advantage of the brief periods when the
stallion was going toward August, changed their tired mustangs for fresh
"Ho! Mescal!" rolled out August's voice. That was the call for Mescal to
put Black Bolly after Silvermane. Her fleetness made the other mustangs
seem slow. All in a flash she was round the corral, with Silvermane
between her and the long fence of cedars. Uttering a piercing snort of
terror the gray stallion lunged out, for the first time panic-stricken,
and lengthened his stride in a wonderful way. He raced down the stretch
with his head over his shoulder watching the little black. Seeing her
gaining, he burst into desperate headlong flight. He saved nothing; he
had found his match; he won that first race down the level but it had
cost him his best. If he had been fresh he might have left Black Bolly
far behind, but now he could not elude her.
August Naab let him run this time, and Silvermane, keeping close to the
fence, passed the gate, ran down to the rim, and wheeled. The black
mustang was on him again, holding him in close to the fence, driving him
back down the stretch.
The brothers remorselessly turned him, and now Mescal, forcing the
running, caught him, lashed his haunches with her whip, and drove him
into the gate of the corral.
August and his two sons were close behind, and blocked the gate.
Silvermane's race was nearly run.
"Hold here, boys," said August. "I'll go in and drive him round and
round till he's done, then, when I yell, you stand aside and rope him as
he comes out."
Silvermane ran round the corral, tore at the steep scaly walls, fell back
and began his weary round again and yet again. Then as sense and courage
yielded gradually to unreasoning terror, he ran blindly; every time he
passed the guarded gateway his eyes were wilder, and his stride more
"Now!" yelled August Naab.
Mescal drew out of the opening, and Dave and Billy pulled away, one on
each side, their lassoes swinging loosely.
Silvermane sprang for the opening with something of his old speed. As he
went through, yellow loops flashed in the sun, circling, narrowing, and
he seemed to run straight into them. One loop whipped close round his
glossy neck; the other caught his head. Dave's mustang staggered under
the violent shock, went to his knees, struggled up and held firmly.
Bill's mount slid on his haunches and spilled his rider from the saddle.
Silvermane seemed to be climbing into the air. Then August Naab, darting
through the gate in a cloud of dust, shot his lasso, catching the right
foreleg. Silvermane landed hard, his hoofs striking fire from the
stones; and for an instant strained in convulsive struggle; then fell
heaving and groaning. In a twinkling Billy loosened his lasso over a
knot, making of it a halter, and tied the end to a cedar stump.
The Naabs stood back and gazed at their prize.
Silvermane was badly spent; he was wet with foam, but no fleck of blood
marred his mane; his superb coat showed scratches, but none cut into the
flesh. After a while he rose, panting heavily, and trembling in every
muscle. He was a beaten horse; the noble head was bowed; yet he showed
no viciousness, only the fear of a trapped animal. He eyed Black Bolly
and then the halter, as though he had divined the fatal connection
THE BREAKER OF WILD MUSTANGS
FOR a few days after the capture of Silvermane, a time full to the brim
of excitement for Hare, he had no word with Mescal, save for morning and
evening greetings. When he did come to seek her, with a purpose which
had grown more impelling since August Naab's arrival, he learned to his
bewilderment that she avoided him. She gave him no chance to speak with
her alone; her accustomed resting-place on the rim at sunset knew her no
more; early after supper she retired to her tent.
Hare nursed a grievance for forty-eight hours, and then, taking advantage
of Piute's absence on an errand down to the farm, and of the Naabs'
strenuous day with four vicious wild horses in the corral at one time, he
walked out to the pasture where Mescal shepherded the flock.
"Mescal, why are you avoiding me?" he asked. "What has happened?"
She looked tired and unhappy, and her gaze, instead of meeting his,
wandered to the crags.
"Nothing," she replied.
"But there must be something. You have given me no chance to talk to
you, and I wanted to know if you'd let me speak to Father Naab."
"To Father Naab? Why--what about?"
"About you, of course--and me--that I love you and want to marry you."
She turned white. "No--no!"
Hare paused blankly, not so much at her refusal as at the unmistakable
fear in her face.
"Why--not?" he asked presently, with an odd sense of trouble. There was
more here than Mescal's habitual shyness.
"Because he'll be terribly angry."
"Angry--I don't understand. Why angry?"
The girl did not answer, and looked so forlorn that Hare attempted to
take her in his arms. She resisted and broke from him.
"You must never--never do that again."
Hare drew back sharply.
"Why not? What's wrong? You must tell me, Mescal."
"I remembered." She hung her head.
"I am pledged to marry Father Naab's eldest son."
For a moment Hare did not understand. He stared at her unbelievingly.
"What did you say?" he asked, slowly.
Mescal repeated her words in a whisper.
"But--but Mescal--I love you. You let me kiss you," said Hare stupidly,
as if he did not grasp her meaning. "You let me kiss you," he repeated.
"Oh, Jack, I forgot," she wailed. "It was so new, so strange, to have
you up here. It was like a kind of dream. And after--after you kissed
me I--I found out--"
Her silence answered him.
"But, Mescal, if you really love me you can't marry any one else," said
Hare. It was the simple persistence of a simple swain.
"Oh, you don't know, you don't know. It's impossible!"
"Impossible!" Hare's anger flared up. "You let me believe I had won you.
What kind of a girl are you? You were not true. Your actions were
"Not lies," she faltered, and turned her face from him.
With no gentle hand he grasped her arm and forced her to look at him.
But the misery in her eyes overcame him, and he roughly threw his arms
around her and held her close.
"It can't be a lie. You do care for me--love me. Look at me." He drew
her head back from his breast. Her face was pale and drawn; her eyes
closed tight, with tears forcing a way out under the long lashes; her
lips were parted. He bowed to their sweet nearness; he kissed them again
and again, while the shade of the cedars seemed to whirl about him. "I
love you, Mescal. You are mine--I will have you--I will keep you--I will
not let him have you!"
She vibrated to that like a keen strung wire under a strong touch. All
in a flash the trembling, shame-stricken girl was transformed. She
leaned back in his arms, supple, pliant with quivering life, and for the
first time gave him wide-open level eyes, in which there were now no
tears, no shyness, no fear, but a dark smouldering fire.
"You do love me, Mescal?"
"I--I couldn't help it."
There was a pause, tense with feeling.
"Mescal, tell me--about your being pledged," he said, at last.
"I gave him my promise because there was nothing else to do. I was
pledged to--to him in the church at White Sage. It can't be changed.
I've got to marry--Father Naab's eldest son."
"Eldest son?" echoed Jack, suddenly mindful of the implication. "Why!
that's Snap Naab. Ah! I begin to see light. That--Mescal--"
"I hate him."
"You hate him and you're pledged to marry him! . . . God! Mescal, I'd
utterly forgotten Snap Naab already has a wife."
"You've also forgotten that we're Mormons."
"Are you a Mormon?" he queried bluntly.
"I've been raised as one."
"That's not an answer. Are you one? Do you believe any man under God's
sky ought to have more than one wife at a time?"
"No. But I've been taught that it gave woman greater glory in heaven.
There have been men here before you, men who talked to me, and I doubted
before I ever saw you. And afterward--I knew."
"Would not Father Naab release you?"
"Release me? Why, he would have taken me as a wife for himself but for
Mother Mary. She hates me. So he pledged me to Snap."
"Does August Naab love you?"
"Love me? No. Not in the way you mean--perhaps as a daughter. But
Mormons teach duty to church first, and say such love comes--to the
wives--afterward. But it doesn't--not in the women I've seen. There's
Mother Ruth--her heart is broken. She loves me, and I can tell."
"When was this--this marriage to be?"
"I don't know. Father Naab promised me to his son when he came home from
the Navajo range. It would be soon if they found out that you and I--
Jack, Snap Naab would kill you!"
The sudden thought startled the girl. Her eyes betrayed her terror.
"I mightn't be so easy to kill," said Hare, darkly. The words came
unbidden, his first answer to the wild influences about him. "Mescal,
I'm sorry--maybe I've brought you unhappiness.
"No. No. To be with you has been like sitting there on the rim watching
the desert, the greatest happiness I have ever known. I used to love to
be with the children, but Mother Mary forbade. When I am down there,
which is seldom, I'm not allowed to play with the children any more."
"What can I do?" asked Hare, passionately.
"Don't speak to Father Naab. Don't let him guess. Don't leave me here
alone," she answered low. It was not the Navajo speaking in her now.
Love had sounded depths hitherto unplumbed; a quick, soft impulsiveness
made the contrast sharp and vivid.
"How can I help but leave you if he wants me on the cattle ranges?"
"I don't know. You must think. He has been so pleased with what you've
done. He's had Mormons up here, and two men not of his Church, and they
did nothing. You've been ill, besides you're different. He will keep me
with the sheep as long as he can, for two reasons--because I drive them
best, he says, and because Snap Naab's wife must be persuaded to welcome
me in her home."
"I'll stay, if I have to get a relapse and go down on my back again,"
declared Jack. "I hate to deceive him, but Mescal, pledged or not--I
love you, and I won't give up hope."
Her hands flew to her face again and tried to hide the dark blush.
"Mescal, there's one question I wish you'd answer. Does August Naab
think he'll make a Mormon of me? Is that the secret of his wonderful
"Of course he believes he'll make a Mormon of you. That's his religion.
He's felt that way over all the strangers who ever came out here. But
he'd be the same to them without his hopes. I don't know the secret of
his kindness, but I think he loves everybody and everything. And Jack,
he's so good. I owe him all my life. He would not let the Navajos take
me; he raised me, kept me, taught me. I can't break my promise to him.
He's been a father to me, and I love him."
"I think I love him, too," replied Hare, simply.
With an effort he left her at last and mounted the grassy slope and
climbed high up among the tottering yellow crags; and there he battled
with himself. Whatever the charm of Mescal's surrender, and the
insistence of his love, stern hammer-strokes of fairness, duty, honor,
beat into his brain his debt to the man who had saved him. It was a
long-drawn-out battle not to be won merely by saying right was right. He
loved Mescal, she loved him; and something born in him with his new
health, with the breath of this sage and juniper forest, with the sight
of purple canyons and silent beckoning desert, made him fiercely tena-
cious of all that life had come to mean for him. He could not give her
Twilight forced Hare from his lofty retreat, and he trod his way
campward, weary and jaded, but victorious over himself. He thought he
had renounced his hope of Mescal; he returned with a resolve to be true
to August, and to himself; bitterness he would not allow himself to feel.
And yet he feared the rising in him of a new spirit akin to that of the
desert itself, intractable and free.
"Well, Jack, we rode down the last of Silvermane's band," said August, at
supper. "The Navajos came up and helped us out. To-morrow you'll see
some fun, when we start to break Silvermane. As soon as that's done I'll
go, leaving the Indians to bring the horses down when they're broken."
"Are you going to leave Silvermane with me?" asked Jack.
"Surely. Why, in three days, if I don't lose my guess, he'll be like a
lamb. Those desert stallions can be made into the finest kind of
saddle-horses. I've seen one or two. I want you to stay up here with
the sheep. You're getting well, you'll soon be a strapping big fellow.
Then when we drive the sheep down in the fall you can begin life on the
cattle ranges, driving wild steers. There's where you'll grow lean and
hard, like an iron bar. You'll need that horse, too, my lad."
"Why--because he's fast?" queried Jack, quickly answering to the implied
August nodded gloomily. "I haven't the gift of revelation, but I've come
to believe Martin Cole. Holderness is building an outpost for his riders
close to Seeping Springs. He has no water. If he tries to pipe my
water--" The pause was not a threat; it implied the Mormon's doubt of
himself. "Then Dene is on the march this way. He's driven some of
Marshall's cattle from the range next to mine. Dene got away with about
a hundred head. The barefaced robber sold them in Lund to a buying
company from Salt Lake."
"Is he openly an outlaw, a rustler?" inquired Hare.
"Everybody knows it, and he's finding White Sage and vicinity warmer than
it was. Every time he comes in he and his band shoot up things pretty
lively. Now the Mormons are slow to wrath. But they are awakening. All
the way from Salt Lake to the border outlaws have come in. They'll never
get the power on this desert that they had in the places from which
they've been driven. Men of the Holderness type are more to be dreaded.
He's a rancher, greedy, unscrupulous, but hard to corner in dishonesty.
Dene is only a bad man, a gun-fighter. He and all his ilk will get run
out of Utah. Did you ever hear of Plummer, John Slade, Boone Helm, any
of those bad men?"
"Well, they were men to fear. Plummer was a sheriff in Idaho, a man high
in the estimation of his townspeople, but he was the leader of the most
desperate band of criminals ever known in the West; and he instigated the
murder of, or killed outright, more than one hundred men. Slade was a
bad man, fatal on the draw. Helm was a killing machine. These men all
tried Utah, and had to get out. So will Dene have to get out. But I'm
afraid there'll be warm times before that happens. When you get in the
thick of it you'll appreciate Silvermane."
"I surely will. But I can't see that wild stallion with a saddle and a
bridle, eating oats like any common horse, and being led to water."
"Well, he'll come to your whistle, presently, if I'm not greatly
mistaken. You must make him love you, Jack. It can be done with any
wild creature. Be gentle, but firm. Teach him to obey the slightest
touch of rein, to stand when you throw your bridle on the ground, to come
at your whistle. Always remember this. He's a desert-bred horse; he can
live on scant browse and little water. Never break him of those best
virtues in a horse. Never feed him grain if you can find a little patch
of browse; never give him a drink till he needs it. That's one-tenth as
often as a tame horse. Some day you'll be caught in the desert, and with
these qualities of endurance Silvermane will carry you out."
Silvermane snorted defiance from the cedar corral next morning when the
Naabs, and Indians, and Hare appeared. A half-naked sinewy Navajo with a
face as changeless as a bronze mask sat astride August's blindfolded
roan, Charger. He rode bareback except for a blanket strapped upon the
horse; he carried only a long, thick halter, with a loop and a knot.
When August opened the improvised gate, with its sharp bayonet-like
branches of cedar, the Indian rode into the corral. The watchers climbed
to the knoll. Silvermane snorted a blast of fear and anger. August's
huge roan showed uneasiness; he stamped, and shook his head, as if to rid
himself of the blinders.
Into the farthest corner of densely packed cedar boughs Silvermane
pressed himself and watched. The Indian rode around the corral, circling
closer and closer, yet appearing not to see the stallion. Many rounds he
made; closer he got, and always with the same steady gait. Silvermane
left his corner and tried another. The old unwearying round brought
Charger and the Navajo close by him. Silvermane pranced out of his
thicket of boughs; he whistled; he wheeled with his shiny hoofs lifting.
In an hour the Indian was edging the outer circle of the corral, with the
stallion pivoting in the centre, ears laid back, eyes shooting sparks,
fight in every line of him. And the circle narrowed inward.
Suddenly the Navajo sent the roan at Silvermane and threw his halter. It
spread out like a lasso, and the loop went over the head of the stallion,
slipped to the knot and held fast, while the rope tightened. Silvermane
leaped up, forehoofs pawing the air, and his long shrill cry was neither
whistle, snort, nor screech, but all combined. He came down, missing
Charger with his hoofs, sliding off his haunches. The Indian, his bronze
muscles rippling, close-hauled on the rope, making half hitches round his
In a whirl of dust the roan drew closer to the gray, and Silvermane began
a mad race around the corral. The roan ran with him nose to nose. When
Silvermane saw he could not shake him, he opened his jaws, rolled back
his lip in an ugly snarl, his white teeth glistening, and tried to bite.
But the Indian's moccasined foot shot up under the stallion's ear and
pressed him back. Then the roan hugged Silvermane so close that half the
time the Navajo virtually rode two horses. But for the rigidity of his
arms, and the play and sudden tension of his leg-muscles, the Indian's
work would have appeared commonplace, so dexterous was he, so perfectly
at home in his dangerous seat. Suddenly he whooped and August Naab
hauled back the gate, and the two horses, neck and neck, thundered out
upon the level stretch.
"Good!" cried August. "Let him rip now, Navvy. All over but the work,
Jack. I feared Silvermane would spear himself on some of those dead
cedar spikes in the corral. He's safe now."
Jack watched the horses plunge at breakneck speed down the stretch,
circle at the forest edge, and come tearing back. Silvermane was pulling
the roan faster than he had ever gone in his life, but the dark Indian
kept his graceful seat. The speed slackened on the second turn, and de-
creased as, mile after mile, the imperturbable Indian held roan and gray
side to side and let them run.
The time passed, but Hare's interest in the breaking of the stallion
never flagged. He began to understand the Indian, and to feel what the
restraint and drag must be to the horse. Never for a moment could
Silvermane elude the huge roan, the tight halter, the relentless Navajo.
Gallop fell to trot, and trot to jog, and jog to walk; and hour by hour,
without whip or spur or word, the breaker of desert mustangs drove the
wild stallion. If there were cruelty it was in his implacable slow
patience, his farsighted purpose. Silvermane would have killed himself
in an hour; he would have cut himself to pieces in one headlong dash, but
that steel arm suffered him only to wear himself out. Late that
afternoon the Navajo led a dripping, drooping, foam-lashed stallion into
the corral, tied him with the halter, and left him.
Later Silvermane drank of the water poured into the corral trough, and
had not the strength or spirit to resent the Navajo's caressing hand on
Next morning the Indian rode again into the corral on blindfolded
Charger. Again he dragged Silvermane out on the level and drove him up
and down with remorseless, machine-like persistence. At noon he took him
back, tied him up, and roped him fast. Silvermane tried to rear and
kick, but the saddle went on, strapped with a flash of the dark-skinned
hands. Then again Silvermane ran the level stretch beside the giant
roan, only he carried a saddle now. At the first, he broke out with free
wild stride as if to run forever from under the hateful thing. But as
the afternoon waned he crept weariedly back to the corral.
On the morning of the third day the Navajo went into the corral without
Charger, and roped the gray, tied him fast, and saddled him. Then he
loosed the lassoes except the one around Silvermane's neck, which he
whipped under his foreleg to draw him down. Silvermane heaved a groan
which plainly said he never wanted to rise again. Swiftly the Indian
knelt on the stallion's head; his hands flashed; there was a scream, a
click of steel on bone; and proud Silvermane jumped to his feet with a
bit between his teeth.
The Navajo, firmly in the saddle, rose with him, and Silvermane leaped
through the corral gate, and out upon the stretch, lengthening out with
every stride, and settling into a wild, despairing burst of speed. The
white mane waved in the wind; the half-naked Navajo swayed to the motion.
Horse and rider disappeared in the cedars.
They were gone all day. Toward night they appeared on the stretch. The
Indian rode into camp and, dismounting, handed the bridle-rein to Naab.
He spoke no word; his dark impassiveness invited no comment. Silvermane
was dust-covered and sweat-stained. His silver crest had the same proud
beauty, his neck still the splendid arch, his head the noble outline, but
his was a broken spirit.
"Here, my lad," said August Naab, throwing the bridle-rein over Hare's
arm. "What did I say once about seeing you on a great gray horse? Ah!
Well, take him and know this: you've the swiftest horse in this desert
THE SCENT OF DESERT-WATER
SOON the shepherds were left to a quiet unbroken by the whistle of wild
mustangs, the whoop of hunters, the ring of iron-shod hoofs on the
stones. The scream of an eagle, the bleating of sheep, the bark of a
coyote were once more the only familiar sounds accentuating the silence
of the plateau. For Hare, time seemed to stand still. He thought but
little; his whole life was a matter of feeling from without. He rose at
dawn, never failing to see the red sun tip the eastern crags; he glowed
with the touch of cold spring-water and the morning air; he trailed
Silvermane under the cedars and thrilled when the stallion, answering his
call, thumped the ground with hobbled feet and came his way, learning day
by day to be glad at sight of his master. He rode with Mescal behind the
flock; he hunted hour by hour, crawling over the fragrant brown mats of
cedar, through the sage and juniper, up the grassy slopes. He rode back
to camp beside Mescal, drove the sheep, and put Silvermane to his
fleetest to beat Black Bolly down the level stretch where once the gray,
even with freedom at stake, had lost to the black. Then back to camp and
fire and curling blue smoke, a supper that testified to busy Piute's
farmward trips, sunset on the rim, endless changing desert, the wind in
the cedars, bright stars in the blue, and sleep--so time stood still.
Mescal and Hare were together, or never far apart, from dawn to night.
Until the sheep were in the corral, every moment had its duty, from
camp-work and care of horses to the many problems of the flock, so that
they earned the rest on the rim-wall at sundown. Only a touch of hands
bridged the chasm between them. They never spoke of their love, of
Mescal's future, of Jack's return to hearth; a glance and a smile,
scarcely sad yet not altogether happy, was the substance of their dream.
Where Jack had once talked about the canyon and desert, he now seldom
spoke at all. From watching Mescal he had learned that to see was
enough. But there were moments when some association recalled the past
and the strangeness of the present faced him. Then he was wont to
"What are you thinking of?" he asked, curiously, interrupting their
silence. She leaned against the rocks and kept a changeless, tranquil,
unseeing gaze on the desert. The level eyes were full of thought, of
sadness, of mystery; they seemed to look afar.
Then she turned to him with puzzled questioning look and enigmatical
reply. "Thinking?" asked her eyes. "I wasn't thinking," were her words.
"I fancied--I don't know exactly what," he went on. "You looked so
earnest. Do you ever think of going to the Navajos?"
"Or across that Painted Desert to find some place you seem to know, or
"I don't know why, but, Mescal, sometimes I have the queerest ideas when
I catch your eyes watching, watching. You look at once happy and sad.
You see something out there that I can't see. Your eyes are haunted.
I've a feeling that if I'd look into them I'd see the sun setting, the
clouds coloring, the twilight shadows changing; and then back of that the
secret of it all--of you--Oh! I can't explain, but it seems so."
"I never had a secret, except the one you know," she answered. "You ask
me so often what I think about, and you always ask me when we're here."
She was silent for a pause. "I don't think at all till you make me.
It's beautiful out there. But that's not what it is to me. I can't tell
you. When I sit down here all within me is--is somehow stilled. I
watch--and it's different from what it is now, since you've made me
think. Then I watch, and I see, that's all."
It came to Hare afterward with a little start of surprise that Mescal's
purposeless, yet all-satisfying, watchful gaze had come to be part of his
own experience. It was inscrutable to him, but he got from it a fancy,
which he tried in vain to dispel, that something would happen to them out
there on the desert.
And then he realized that when they returned to the camp-fire they
seemed freed from this spell of the desert. The blaze-lit circle was
shut in by the darkness; and the immensity of their wild environment,
because for the hour it could not be seen, lost its paralyzing effect.
Hare fell naturally into a talkative mood. Mescal had developed a
vivacity, an ambition which contrasted strongly with her silent moods;
she became alive and curious, human like the girls he had known in the
East, and she fascinated him the more for this complexity.
The July rains did not come; the mists failed; the dews no longer
freshened the grass, and the hot sun began to tell on shepherds and
sheep. Both sought the shade. The flowers withered first--all the
blue-bells and lavender patches of primrose, and pale-yellow lilies, and
white thistle-blossoms. Only the deep magenta of cactus and vermilion of
Indian paint-brush, flowers of the sun, survived the heat. Day by day
the shepherds scanned the sky for storm-clouds that did not appear. The
spring ran lower and lower. At last the ditch that carried water to the
corral went dry, and the margin of the pool began to retreat. Then
Mescal sent Piute down for August Naab.
He arrived at the plateau the next day with Dave and at once ordered the
breaking up of camp.
"It will rain some time," he said, "but we can't wait any longer. Dave,
when did you last see the Blue Star waterhole?"
"On the trip in from Silver Cup, ten days ago. The waterhole was full
"Will there be water enough now?"
"We've got to chance it. There's no water here, and no springs on the
upper range where we can drive sheep; we've got to go round under the
"That's so," replied August. His fears needed confirmation, because his
hopes always influenced his judgment till no hope was left. "I wish I had
brought Zeke and George. It'll be a hard drive, though we've got Jack
and Mescal to help."
Hot as it was August Naab lost no time in the start. Piute led the train
on foot, and the flock, used to following him, got under way readily.
Dave and Mescal rode along the sides, and August with Jack came behind,
with the pack-burros bringing up the rear. Wolf circled them all,
keeping the flanks close in, heading the lambs that strayed, and, ever
vigilant, made the drive orderly and rapid.
The trail to the upper range was wide and easy of ascent, the first of it
winding under crags, the latter part climbing long slopes. It forked
before the summit, where dark pine trees showed against the sky, one fork
ascending, the other, which Piute took, beginning to go down. It
admitted of no extended view, being shut in for the most part on the
left, but there were times when Hare could see a curving stream of sheep
on half a mile of descending trail. Once started down the flock could
not be stopped, that was as plain as Piute's hard task. There were times
when Hare could have tossed a pebble on the Indian just below him, yet
there were more than three thousand sheep, strung out in line between
them. Clouds of dust rolled up, sheets of gravel and shale rattled down
the inclines, the clatter, clatter, clatter of little hoofs, the steady
baa-baa-baa filled the air. Save for the crowding of lambs off the
trail, and a jamming of sheep in the corners, the drive went on without
mishap. Hare was glad to see the lambs scramble back bleating for their
mothers, and to note that, though peril threatened at every steep turn,
the steady down-flow always made space for the sheep behind. He was
glad, too, when through a wide break ahead his eye followed the face of a
vast cliff down to the red ground below, and he knew the flock would soon
be safe on the level.
A blast as from a furnace smote Hare from this open break in the wall.
The air was dust-laden, and carried besides the smell of dust and the
warm breath of desert growths, a dank odor that was unpleasant.
The sheep massed in a flock on the level, and the drivers spread to their
places. The route lay under projecting red cliffs, between the base and
enormous sections of wall that had broken off and fallen far out. There
was no weathering slope; the wind had carried away the smaller stones and
particles, and had cut the huge pieces of pinnacle and tower into
hollowed forms. This zone of rim merged into another of strange
contrast, the sloping red stream of sand which flowed from the wall of
Piute swung the flock up to the left into an amphitheatre, and there
halted. The sheep formed a densely packed mass in the curve of the wall.
Dave Naab galloped back toward August and Hare, and before he reached
them shouted out: "The waterhole's plugged!"
"What?" yelled his father.
"Plugged, filled with stone and sand."
"Was it a cave-in?"
"I reckon not. There's been no rain."
August spurred his roan after Dave, and Hare kept close behind them, till
they reined in on a muddy bank. What had once been a waterhole was a red
and yellow heap of shale, fragments of stones, gravel, and sand. There
was no water, and the sheep were bleating. August dismounted and climbed
high above the hole to examine the slope; soon he strode down with giant
steps, his huge fists clinched, shaking his gray mane like a lion.
"I've found the tracks! Somebody climbed up and rolled the stones,
started the cave-in. Who?"
"Holderness's men. They did the same for Martin Cole's waterhole at
Rocky Point. How old are the tracks?"
"Two days, perhaps. We can't follow them. What can be done?"
"Some of Holderness's men are Mormons, and others are square fellows.
They wouldn't stand for such work as this, and somebody ought to ride in
there and tell them."
"And get shot up by the men paid to do the dirty work. No. I won't hear
of it. This amounts to nothing; we seldom use this hole, only twice a
year when driving the flock. But it makes me fear for Silver Cup and
"It makes me fear for the sheep, if this wind doesn't change."
"Ah! I had forgotten the river scent. It's not strong to-night. We
might venture if it wasn't for the strip of sand. We'll camp here and
start the drive at dawn."
The sun went down under a crimson veil; a dull glow spread, fan-shaped,
upward; twilight faded to darkness with the going down of the wind.
August Naab paced to and fro before his tired and thirsty flock.
"I'd like to know," said Hare to Dave, "why those men filled up this
"Holderness wants to cut us off from Silver Cup Spring, and this was a
half-way waterhole. Probably he didn't know we had the sheep upland, but
he wouldn't have cared. He's set himself to get our cattle range and
he'll stop at nothing. Prospects look black for us. Father never gives
up. He doesn't believe yet that we can lose our water. He prays and
hopes, and sees good and mercy in his worst enemies."
"If Holderness works as far as Silver Cup, how will he go to work to
steal another man's range and water?"
"He'll throw up a cabin, send in his men, drive in ten thousand steers."
"Well, will his men try to keep you away from your own water, or your
"Not openly. They'll pretend to welcome us, and drive our cattle away in
our absence. You see there are only five of us to ride the ranges, and
we'd need five times five to watch all the stock."
"Then you can't stop this outrage?"
"There's only one way," said Dave, significantly tapping the black handle
of his Colt. "Holderness thinks he pulls the wool over our eyes by
talking of the cattle company that employs him. He's the company
himself, and he's hand and glove with Dene."
"And I suppose, if your father and you boys were to ride over to
Holderness's newest stand, and tell him to get off there would be a
"We'd never reach him now, that is, if we went together. One of us alone
might get to see him, especially in White Sage. If we all rode over to
his ranch we'd have to fight his men before we reached the corrals. You
yourself will find it pretty warm when you go out with us on the ranges,
and if you make White Sage you'll find it hot. You're called 'Dene's
spy' there, and the rustlers are still looking for you. I wouldn't worry
about it, though."
"Why not, I'd like to know?" inquired Hare, with a short laugh.
"Well, if you're like the other Gentiles who have come into Utah you
won't have scruples about drawing on a man. Father says the draw comes
natural to you, and you're as quick as he is. Then he says you can beat
any rifle shot he ever saw, and that long-barrelled gun you've got will
shoot a mile. So if it comes to shooting--why, you can shoot. If you
want to run--who's going to catch you on that white-maned stallion? We
talked about you, George and I; we're mighty glad you're well and can
ride with us."
Long into the night Jack Hare thought over this talk. It opened up a
vista of the range-life into which he was soon to enter. He tried to
silence the voice within that cried out, eager and reckless, for the long
rides on the windy open. The years of his illness returned in fancy, the
narrow room with the lamp and the book, and the tears over stories and
dreams of adventure never to be for such as he. And now how wonderful
was life! It was, after all, to be full for him. It was already full.
Already he slept on the ground, open to the sky. He looked up at a wild
black cliff, mountain-high, with its windworn star of blue; he felt
himself on the threshold of the desert, with that subtle mystery waiting;
he knew himself to be close to strenuous action on the ranges, companion
of these sombre Mormons, exposed to their peril, making their cause his
cause, their life his life. What of their friendship, their confidence?
Was he worthy? Would he fail at the pinch? What a man he must become to
approach their simple estimate of him! Because he had found health and
strength, because he could shoot, because he had the fleetest horse on
the desert, were these reasons for their friendship? No, these were only
reasons for their trust. August Naab loved him. Mescal loved him; Dave
and George made of him a brother. "They shall have my life," he muttered.
The bleating of the sheep heralded another day. With the brightening
light began the drive over the sand. Under the cliff the shade was cool
and fresh; there was no wind; the sheep made good progress. But the
broken line of shade crept inward toward the flock, and passed it. The
sun beat down, and the wind arose. A red haze of fine sand eddied about
the toiling sheep and shepherds. Piute trudged ahead leading the
king-ram, old Socker, the leader of the flock; Mescal and Hare rode at
the right, turning their faces from the sand-filled puffs of wind; August
and Dave drove behind; Wolf, as always, took care of the stragglers. An
hour went by without signs of distress; and with half the five-mile trip
at his back August Naab's voice gathered cheer. The sun beat hotter.
Another hour told a different story--the sheep labored; they had to be
forced by urge of whip, by knees of horses, by Wolf's threatening bark.
They stopped altogether during the frequent hot sand-blasts, and could
not be driven. So time dragged. The flock straggled out to a long
irregular line; rams refused to budge till they were ready; sheep lay
down to rest; lambs fell. But there was an end to the belt of sand, and
August Naab at last drove the lagging trailers out upon the stony bench.
The sun was about two hours past the meridian; the red walls of the
desert were closing in; the V-shaped split where the Colorado cut through
was in sight. The trail now was wide and unobstructed and the distance
short, yet August Naab ever and anon turned to face the canyon and shook
his head in anxious foreboding.
It quickly dawned upon Hare that the sheep were behaving in a way new and
singular to him. They packed densely now, crowding forward, many raising
their heads over the haunches of others and bleating. They were not in
their usual calm pattering hurry, but nervous, excited, and continually
facing west toward the canyon, noses up.
On the top of the next little ridge Hare heard Silvermane snort as he did
when led to drink. There was a scent of water on the wind. Hare caught
it, a damp, muggy smell. The sheep had noticed it long before, and now
under its nearer, stronger influence began to bleat wildly, to run
faster, to crowd without aim.
"There's work ahead. Keep them packed and going. Turn the wheelers,"
What had been a drive became a flight. And it was well so long as the
sheep headed straight up the trail. Piute had to go to the right to
avoid being run down. Mescal rode up to fill his place. Hare took his
cue from Dave, and rode along the flank, crowding the sheep inward.
August cracked his whip behind. For half a mile the flock kept to the
trail, then, as if by common consent, they sheered off to the right.
With this move August and Dave were transformed from quiet almost to
frenzy. They galloped to the fore, and into the very faces of the
turning sheep, and drove them back. Then the rear-guard of the flock
"Drive them in!" roared August.
Hare sent Silvermane at the deflecting sheep and frightened them into
Wolf no longer had power to chase the stragglers; they had to be turned
by a horse. All along the flank noses pointed outward; here and there
sheep wilder than the others leaped forward to lead a widening wave of