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The Heritage of the Desert by Zane Grey

Part 3 out of 5

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bobbing woolly backs. Mescal engaged one point, Hare another, Dave
another, and August Naab's roan thundered up and down the constantly
broken line. All this while as the shepherds fought back the sheep, the
flight continued faster eastward, farther canyonward. Each side gained,
but the flock gained more toward the canyon than the drivers gained
toward the oasis.

By August's hoarse yells, by Dave's stern face and ceaseless swift
action, by the increasing din, Hare knew terrible danger hung over the
flock; what it was he could not tell. He heard the roar of the river
rapids, and it seemed that the sheep heard it with him. They plunged
madly; they had gone wild from the scent and sound of water. Their eyes
gleamed red; their tongues flew out. There was no aim to the rush of the
great body of sheep, but they followed the leaders and the leaders
followed the scent. And the drivers headed them off, rode them down,
ceaselessly, riding forward to check one outbreak, wheeling backward to
check another.

The flight became a rout. Hare was in the thick of dust and din, of the
terror-stricken jumping mob, of the ever-starting, ever-widening streams
of sheep; he rode and yelled and fired his Colt. The dust choked him,
the sun burned him, the flying pebbles cut his cheek. Once he had a
glimpse of Black Bolly in a melee of dust and sheep; Dave's mustang
blurred in his sight; August's roan seemed to be double. Then
Silvermane, of his own accord, was out before them all.

The sheep had almost gained the victory; their keen noses were pointed
toward the water; nothing could stop their flight; but still the drivers
dashed at them, ever fighting, never wearying, never ceasing.

At the last incline, where a gentle slope led down to a dark break in the
desert, the rout became a stampede. Left and right flanks swung round,
the line lengthened, and round the struggling horses, knee-deep in woolly
backs, split the streams to flow together beyond in one resistless river
of sheep. Mescal forced Bolly out of danger; Dave escaped the right
flank, August and Hare swept on with the flood, till the horses, sighting
the dark canyon, halted to stand like rocks.

"Will they run over the rim ?" yelled Hare, horrified. His voice came to
him as a whisper. August Naab, sweat-stained in red dust, haggard, gray
locks streaming in the wind, raised his arms above his head, hopeless.

The long nodding line of woolly forms, lifting like the crest of a yellow
wave, plunged out and down in rounded billow over the canyon rim. With
din of hoofs and bleats the sheep spilled themselves over the precipice,
and an awful deafening roar boomed up from the river, like the spreading
thunderous crash of an avalanche.

How endless seemed that fatal plunge! The last line of sheep, pressing
close to those gone before, and yet impelled by the strange instinct of
life, turned their eyes too late on the brink, carried over by their own

The sliding roar ceased; its echo, muffled and hollow, pealed from the
cliffs, then rumbled down the canyon to merge at length in the sullen,
dull, continuous sound of the rapids.

Hare turned at last from that narrow iron-walled cleft, the depth of
which he had not seen, and now had no wish to see; and his eyes fell upon
a little Navajo lamb limping in the trail of the flock, headed for the
canyon, as sure as its mother in purpose. He dismounted and seized it to
find, to his infinite wonder and gladness, that it wore a string and bell
round its neck. It was Mescal's pet.


THE shepherds were home in the oasis that evening, and next day the
tragedy of the sheep was a thing of the past. No other circumstance of
Hare's four months with the Naabs had so affected him as this swift
inevitable sweeping away of the flock; nothing else had so vividly told
him the nature of this country of abrupt heights and depths. He
remembered August Naab's magnificent gesture of despair; and now the man
was cheerful again; he showed no sign of his great loss. His tasks were
many, and when one was done, he went on to the next. If Hare had not had
many proofs of this Mormon's feeling he would have thought him callous.
August Naab trusted God and men, loved animals, did what he had to do
with all his force, and accepted fate. The tragedy of the sheep had been
only an incident in a tragical life--that Hare divined with awe.

Mescal sorrowed, and Wolf mourned in sympathy with her, for their
occupation was gone, but both brightened when August made known his
intention to cross the river to the Navajo range, to trade with the
Indians for another flock. He began his preparations immediately. The
snow-freshets had long run out of the river, the water was low, and he
wanted to fetch the sheep down before the summer rains. He also wanted
to find out what kept his son Snap so long among the Navajos.

"I'll take Billy and go at once. Dave, you join George and Zeke out on
the Silver Cup range. Take Jack with you. Brand all the cattle you can
before the snow flies. Get out of Dene's way if he rides over, and avoid
Holderness's men. I'll have no fights. But keep your eyes sharp for
their doings."

It was a relief to Hare that Snap Naab had not yet returned to the oasis,
for he felt a sense of freedom which otherwise would have been lacking.
He spent the whole of a long calm summer day in the orchard and the
vineyard. The fruit season was at its height. Grapes, plums, pears,
melons were ripe and luscious. Midsummer was vacationtime for the
children, and they flocked into the trees like birds. The girls were
picking grapes; Mother Ruth enlisted Jack in her service at the
pear-trees; Mescal came, too, and caught the golden pears he threw down,
and smiled up at him; Wolf was there, and Noddle; Black Bolly pushed her
black nose over the fence, and whinnied for apples; the turkeys strutted,
the peafowls preened their beautiful plumage, the guinea-hens ran like
quail. Save for those frowning red cliffs Hare would have forgotten
where he was; the warm sun, the yellow fruit, the merry screams of
children, the joyous laughter of girls, were pleasant reminders of autumn
picnic days long gone. But, in the face of those dominating wind-scarred
walls, he could not forget.

That night Hare endeavored to see Mescal alone for a few moments, to see
her once more with unguarded eyes, to whisper a few words, to say
good-bye; but it was impossible.

On the morrow he rode out of the red cliff gate with Dave and the pack-
horses, a dull ache in his heart; for amid the cheering crowd of children
and women who bade them good-bye he had caught the wave of Mescal's hand
and a look of her eyes that would be with him always. What might happen
before he returned, if he ever did return! For he knew now, as well as he
could feel Silvermane's easy stride, that out there under the white glare
of desert, the white gleam of the slopes of Coconina, was wild life
awaiting him. And he shut his teeth, and narrowed his eyes, and faced it
with an eager joy that was in strange contrast to the pang in his breast.

That morning the wind dipped down off the Vermillion Cliffs and whipped
west; there was no scent of river-water, and Hare thought of the fatality
of the sheep-drive, when, for one day out of the year, a moistened dank
breeze had met the flock on the narrow bench. Soon the bench lay far
behind them, and the strip of treacherous sand, and the maze of
sculptured cliff under the Blue Star, and the hummocky low ridges beyond,
with their dry white washes. Silvermane kept on in front. Already Hare
had learned that the gray would have no horse before him. His pace was
swift, steady, tireless. Dave was astride his Navajo mount, an
Indian-bred horse, half mustang, which had to be held in with a firm
rein. The pack train strung out far behind, trotting faithfully along,
with the white packs, like the humps of camels, nodding up and down.
Jack and Dave slackened their gait at the foot of the stony divide. It
was an ascent of miles, so long that it did not appear steep. Here the
pack-train caught up, and thereafter hung at the heels of the riders.

From the broad bare summit Jack saw the Silver Cup valley - range with
eyes which seemed to magnify the winding trail, the long red wall, the
green slopes, the dots of sage and cattle. Then he made allowance for
months of unobstructed vision; he had learned to see; his eyes had
adjusted themselves to distance and dimensions.

Silver Cup Spring lay in a bright green spot close under a break in the
rocky slope that soon lost its gray cliff in the shaggy cedared side of

The camp of the brothers was situated upon this cliff in a split between
two sections of wall. Well sheltered from the north and west winds was a
grassy plot which afforded a good survey of the valley and the trails.
Dave and Jack received glad greetings from Zeke and George, and
Silvermane was an object of wonder and admiration. Zeke, who had often
seen the gray and chased him too, walked round and round him, stroking
the silver mane, feeling the great chest muscles, slapping his flanks.

"Well, well, Silvermane, to think I'd live to see you wearing a saddle
and bridle! He's even bigger than I thought. There's a horse, Hare!
Never will be another like him in this desert. If Dene ever sees that
horse he'll chase him to the Great Salt Basin. Dene's crazy about fast
horses. He's from Kentucky, somebody said, and knows a horse when he
sees one."

"How are things?" queried Dave.

"We can't complain much," replied Zeke, "though we've wasted some time on
old Whitefoot. He's been chasing our horses. It's been pretty hot and
dry. Most of the cattle are on the slopes; fair browse yet. There's a
bunch of steers gone up on the mountain, and some more round toward the
Saddle or the canyon."

"Been over Seeping Springs way?"

"Yes. No change since your trip. Holderness's cattle are ranging in the
upper valley. George found tracks near the spring. We believe somebody
was watching there and made off when we came up."

"We'll see Holderness's men when we get to riding out," put in George.
"And some of Dene's too. Zeke met Two-Spot Chance and Culver below at the
spring one day, sort of surprised them."

"What day was that?"

"Let's see, this's Friday. It was last Monday."

"What were they doing over here?"

"Said they were tracking a horse that had broken his hobbles. But they
seemed uneasy, and soon rode off."

"Did either of them ride a horse with one shoe shy?"

"Now I think of it, yes. Zeke noticed the track at the spring."

"Well, Chance and Culver had been out our way," declared Dave. "I saw
their tracks, and they filled up the Blue Star waterhole--and cost us
three thousand sheep."

Then he related the story of the drive of the sheep, the finding of the
plugged waterhole, the scent of the Colorado, and the plunge of the sheep
into the canyon.

"We've saved one, Mescal's belled lamb," he concluded.

Neither Zeke nor George had a word in reply. Hare thought their silence
unnatural. Neither did the mask-like stillness of their faces change.
But Hare saw in their eyes a pointed clear flame, vibrating like a
compass-needle, a mere glimmering spark.

"I'd like to know," continued Dave, calmly poking the fire, "who hired
Dene's men to plug the waterhole. Dene couldn't do that. He loves a
horse, and any man who loves a horse couldn't fill a waterhole in this

Hare entered upon his new duties as a range-rider with a zeal that almost
made up for his lack of experience; he bade fair to develop into a
right-hand man for Dave, under whose watchful eye he worked. His natural
qualifications were soon shown; he could ride, though his seat was awk-
ward and clumsy compared to that of the desert rangers, a fault that Dave
said would correct itself as time fitted him close to the saddle and to
the swing of his horse. His sight had become extraordinarily keen for a
new-comer on the ranges, and when experience had taught him the land-
marks, the trails, the distances, the difference between smoke and dust
and haze, when he could distinguish a band of mustangs from cattle, and
range-riders from outlaws or Indians; in a word, when he had learned to
know what it was that he saw, to trust his judgment, he would have
acquired the basic feature of a rider's training. But he showed no gift
for the lasso, that other essential requirement of his new calling.

"It's funny," said Dave, patiently, "you can't get the hang of it. Maybe
it's born in a fellow. Now handling a gun seems to come natural for some
fellows, and you're one of them. If only you could get the rope away as
quick as you can throw your gun!"

Jack kept faithfully at it, unmindful of defeats, often chagrined when he
missed some easy opportunity. Not improbably he might have failed
altogether if he had been riding an ordinary horse, or if he had to try
roping from a fiery mustang. But Silvermane was as intelligent as he was
beautiful and fleet. The horse learned rapidly the agile turns and
sudden stops necessary, and as for free running he never got enough. Out
on the range Silvermane always had his head up and watched; his life had
been spent in watching; he saw cattle, riders, mustangs, deer, coyotes,
every moving thing. So that Hare, in the chasing of a cow, had but to
start Silvermane, and then he could devote himself to the handling of his
rope. It took him ten times longer to lasso the cow than it took
Silvermane to head the animal. Dave laughed at some of Jack's exploits,
encouraged him often, praised his intent if not his deed; and always
after a run nodded at Silvermane in mute admiration.

Branding the cows and yearlings and tame steers which watered at Silver
Cup, and never wandered far away, was play according to Dave's version.
"Wait till we get after the wild steers up on the mountain and in the
canyons," he would say when Jack dropped like a log at supper. Work it
certainly was for him. At night he was so tired that he could scarcely
crawl into bed; his back felt as if it were broken; his legs were raw,
and his bones ached. Many mornings he thought it impossible to arise,
but always he crawled out, grim and haggard, and hobbled round the
camp-fire to warm his sore and bruised muscles. Then when Zeke and
George rode in with the horses the day's work began. During these weeks
of his "hardening up," as Dave called it, Hare bore much pain, but he
continued well and never missed a day. At the most trying time when for
a few days he had to be helped on and off Silvermane--for he insisted
that he would not stay in camp--the brothers made his work as light as
possible. They gave him the branding outfit to carry, a running-iron and
a little pot with charcoal and bellows; and with these he followed the
riders at a convenient distance and leisurely pace.

Some days they branded one hundred cattle. By October they had August
Naab's crudely fashioned cross on thousands of cows and steers. Still
the stock kept coming down from the mountain, driven to the valley by
cold weather and snow-covered grass. It was well into November before
the riders finished at Silver Cup, and then arose a question as to
whether it would be advisable to go to Seeping Springs or to the canyons
farther west along the slope of Coconina. George favored the former, but
Dave overruled him.

"Father's orders," he said. "He wants us to ride Seeping Springs last
because he'll be with us then, and Snap too. We're going to have trouble
over there."

"How's this branding stock going to help the matter any, I'd like to
know?" inquired George. "We Mormons never needed it."

"Father says we'll all have to come to it. Holderness's stock is
branded. Perhaps he's marked a good many steers of ours. We can't tell.
But if we have our own branded we'll know what's ours. If he drives our
stock we'll know it; if Dene steals, it can be proved that he steals."

"Well, what then? Do you think he'll care for that, or Holderness

"No, only it makes this difference: both things will then be barefaced
robbery. We've never been able to prove anything, though we boys know;
we don't need any proof. Father gives these men the benefit of a doubt.
We've got to stand by him. I know, George, your hand's begun to itch for
your gun. So does mine. But we've orders to obey."

Many gullies and canyons headed up on the slope of Coconina west of
Silver Cup, and ran down to open wide on the flat desert. They contained
plots of white sage and bunches of rich grass and cold springs. The
steers that ranged these ravines were wild as wolves, and in the tangled
thickets of juniper and manzanita and jumbles of weathered cliff they
were exceedingly difficult to catch.

Well it was that Hare had received his initiation and had become inured
to rough, incessant work, for now he came to know the real stuff of which
these Mormons were made. No obstacle barred them. They penetrated the
gullies to the last step; they rode weathered slopes that were difficult
for deer to stick upon; they thrashed the bayonet-guarded manzanita
copses; they climbed into labyrinthine fastnesses, penetrating to every
nook where a steer could hide. Miles of sliding slope and
marble-bottomed streambeds were ascended on foot, for cattle could climb
where a horse could not. Climbing was arduous enough, yet the hardest
and most perilous toil began when a wild steer was cornered. They roped
the animals on moving slopes of weathered stone, and branded them on the
edges of precipices.

The days and weeks passed, how many no one counted or cared. The circle
of the sun daily lowered over the south end of Coconina; and the black
snow-clouds crept down the slopes. Frost whitened the ground at dawn,
and held half the day in the shade. Winter was close at the heels of the
long autumn.

As for Hare, true to August Naab's assertion, he had lost flesh and
suffered, and though the process was heartbreaking in its severity, he
hung on till he hardened into a leather lunged, wire-muscled man, capable
of keeping pace with his companions.

He began his day with the dawn when he threw off the frost-coated
tarpaulin; the icy water brought him a glow of exhilaration; he drank in
the spiced cold air, and there was the spring of the deer-hunter in his
step as he went down the slope for his horse. He no longer feared that
Silvermane would run away. The gray's bell could always be heard near
camp in the mornings, and when Hare whistled there came always the
answering thump of hobbled feet. When Silvermane saw him striding
through the cedars or across the grassy belt of the valley he would neigh
his gladness. Hare had come to love Silvermane and talked to him and
treated him as if he were human.

When the mustangs were brought into camp the day's work began, the same
work as that of yesterday, and yet with endless variety, with
ever-changing situations that called for quick wits, steel arms, stout
hearts, and unflagging energies. The darkening blue sky and the
sun-tipped crags of Vermillion Cliffs were signals to start for camp.
They ate like wolves, sat for a while around the camp-fire, a ragged,
weary, silent group; and soon lay down, their dark faces in the shadow of
the cedars.

In the beginning of this toil-filled time Hare had resolutely set himself
to forget Mescal, and he had succeeded at least for a time, when he was
so sore and weary that he scarcely thought at all. But she came back to
him, and then there was seldom an hour that was not hers. The long
months which seemed years since he had seen her, the change in him
wrought by labor and peril, the deepening friendship between him and
Dave, even the love he bore Silvermane--these, instead of making dim the
memory of the dark-eyed girl, only made him tenderer in his thought of

Snow drove the riders from the canyon-camp down to Silver Cup, where they
found August Naab and Snap, who had ridden in the day before.

"Now you couldn't guess how many cattle are back there in the canyons,"
said Dave to his father.

"I haven't any idea," answered August, dubiously.

"Five thousand head."

"Dave!" His father's tone was incredulous.

"Yes. You know we haven't been back in there for years. The stock has
multiplied rapidly in spite of the lions and wolves. Not only that, but
they're safe from the winter, and are not likely to be found by Dene or
anybody else."

"How do you make that out?"

"The first cattle we drove in used to come back here to Silver Cup to
winter. Then they stopped coming, and we almost forgot them. Well,
they've got a trail round under the Saddle, and they go down and winter
in the canyon. In summer they head up those rocky gullies, but they
can't get up on the mountain. So it isn't likely any one will ever
discover them. They are wild as deer and fatter than any stock on the

"Good! That's the best news I've had in many a day. Now, boys, we'll
ride the mountain slope toward Seeping Springs, drive the cattle down,
and finish up this branding. Somebody ought to go to White Sage. I'd
like to know what's going on, what Holderness is up to, what Dene is
doing, if there's any stock being driven to Lund."

"I told you I'd go," said Snap Naab.

"I don't want you to," replied his father. "I guess it can wait till
spring, then we'll all go in. I might have thought to bring you boys out
some clothes and boots. You're pretty ragged. Jack there, especially,
looks like a scarecrow. Has he worked as hard as he looks?"

"Father, he never lost a day," replied Dave, warmly, "and you know what
riding is in these canyons."

August Naab looked at Hare and laughed. "It'd be funny, wouldn't it, if
Holderness tried to slap you now? I always knew you'd do, Jack, and now
you're one of us, and you'll have a share with my sons in the cattle."

But the generous promise failed to offset the feeling aroused by the
presence of Snap Naab. With the first sight of Snap's sharp face and
strange eyes Hare became conscious of an inward heat, which he had felt
before, but never as now, when there seemed to be an actual flame within
his breast. Yet Snap seemed greatly changed; the red flush, the swollen
lines no longer showed in his face; evidently in his absence on the
Navajo desert he had had no liquor; he was good-natured, lively, much
inclined to joking, and he seemed to have entirely forgotten his ani-
mosity toward Hare. It was easy for Hare to see that the man's evil
nature was in the ascendancy only when he was under the dominance of
drink. But he could not forgive; he could not forget. Mescal's dark,
beautiful eyes haunted him. Even now she might be married to this man.
Perhaps that was why Snap appeared to be in such cheerful spirits.
Suspense added its burdensome insistent question, but he could not bring
himself to ask August if the marriage had taken place. For a day he
fought to resign himself to the inevitability of the Mormon custom, to
forget Mescal, and then he gave up trying. This surrender he felt to be
something crucial in his life, though he could not wholly understand it.
It was the darkening of his spirit; the death of boyish gentleness; the
concluding step from youth into a forced manhood. The desert
regeneration had not stopped at turning weak lungs, vitiated blood, and
flaccid muscles into a powerful man; it was at work on his mind, his
heart, his soul. They answered more and more to the call of some
outside, ever-present, fiercely subtle thing.

Thenceforth he no longer vexed himself by trying to forget Mescal; if she
came to mind he told himself the truth, that the weeks and months had
only added to his love. And though it was bitter-sweet there was relief
in speaking the truth to himself. He no longer blinded himself by
hoping, striving to have generous feelings toward Snap Naab; he called
the inward fire by its real name--jealousy--and knew that in the end it
would become hatred.

On the third morning after leaving Silver Cup the riders were working
slowly along the slope of Coconina; and Hare having driven down a bunch
of cattle, found himself on an open ridge near the temporary camp.
Happening to glance up the valley he saw what appeared to be smoke
hanging over Seeping Springs.

"That can't be dust," he soliloquized. "Looks blue to me."

He studied the hazy bluish cloud for some time, but it was so many miles
away that he could not be certain whether it was smoke or not, so he
decided to ride over and make sure. None of the Naabs was in camp, and
there was no telling when they would return, so he set off alone. He
expected to get back before dark, but it was of little consequence
whether he did or not, for he had his blanket under the saddle, and grain
for Silvermane and food for himself in the saddle-bags.

Long before Silvermane's easy trot had covered half the distance Hare
recognized the cloud that had made him curious. It was smoke. He
thought that range-riders were camping at the springs, and he meant to
see what they were about. After three hours of brisk travel he reached
the top of a low rolling knoll that hid Seeping Springs. He remembered
the springs were up under the red wall, and that the pool where the
cattle drank was lower down in a clump of cedars. He saw smoke rising in
a column from the cedars, and he heard the lowing of cattle.

"Something wrong here," he muttered. Following the trail, he rode
through the cedars to come upon the dry hole where the pool had once
been. There was no water in the flume. The bellowing cattle came from
beyond the cedars, down the other side of the ridge. He was not long in
reaching the open, and then one glance made all clear.

A new pool, large as a little lake, shone in the sunlight, and round it a
jostling horned mass of cattle were pressing against a high corral. The
flume that fed water to the pool was fenced all the way up to the

Jack slowly rode down the ridge with eyes roving under the cedars and up
to the wall. Not a man was in sight.

When he got to the fire he saw that it was not many hours old and was
surrounded by fresh boot and horse tracks in the dust. Piles of slender
pine logs, trimmed flat on one side, were proof of somebody's intention
to erect a cabin. In a rage he flung himself from the saddle. It was
not many moments' work for him to push part of the fire under the fence,
and part of it against the pile of logs. The pitch-pines went off like
rockets, driving the thirsty cattle back.

"I'm going to trail those horse-tracks," said Hare.

He tore down a portion of the fence enclosing the flume, and gave
Silvermane a drink, then put him to a fast trot on the white trail. The
tracks he had resolved to follow were clean-cut. A few inches of snow
had fallen in the valley, and melting, had softened the hard ground.
Silvermane kept to his gait with the tirelessness of a desert horse.
August Naab had once said fifty miles a day would be play for the
stallion. All the afternoon Hare watched the trail speed toward him and
the end of Coconina rise above him. Long before sunset he had reached
the slope of the mountain and had begun the ascent. Half way up he came
to the snow and counted the tracks of three horses. At twilight he rode
into the glade where August Naab had waited for his Navajo friends.
There, in a sheltered nook among the rocks, he unsaddled Silvermane,
covered and fed him, built a fire, ate sparingly of his meat and bread,
and rolling up in his blanket, was soon asleep.

He was up and off before sunrise, and he came out on the western slope of
Coconina just as the shadowy valley awakened from its misty sleep into
daylight. Soon the Pink Cliffs leaned out, glimmering and vast, to
change from gloomy gray to rosy glow, and then to brighten and to redden
in the morning sun.

The snow thinned and failed, but the iron-cut horsetracks showed plainly
in the trail. At the foot of the mountain the tracks left the White Sage
trail and led off to the north toward the cliffs. Hare searched the red
sagespotted waste for Holderness's ranch. He located it, a black patch
on the rising edge of the valley under the wall, and turned Silvermane
into the tracks that pointed straight toward it.

The sun cleared Coconina and shone warm on his back; the Pink Cliffs
lifted higher and higher before him. From the ridge-tops he saw the
black patch grow into cabins and corrals. As he neared the ranch he came
into rolling pasture-land where the bleached grass shone white and the
cattle were ranging in the thousands. This range had once belonged to
Martin Cole, and Hare thought of the bitter Mormon as he noted the snug
cabins for the riders, the rambling, picturesque ranch-house, the large
corrals, and the long flume that ran down from the cliff. There was a
corral full of shaggy horses, and another full of steers, and two lines
of cattle, one going into a pond-corral, and one coming out. The air was
gray with dust. A bunch of yearlings were licking at huge lumps of brown
rock-salt. A wagonful of cowhides stood before the ranch-house.

Hare reined in at the door and helloed.

A red-faced ranger with sandy hair and twinkling eyes appeared.

"Hello, stranger, get down an' come in," he said.

"Is Holderness here?" asked Hare.

"No. He's been to Lund with a bunch of steers. I reckon he'll be in
White Sage by now. I'm Snood, the foreman. Is it a job ridin' you


"Say! thet hoss--" he exclaimed. His gaze of friendly curiosity had
moved from Hare to Silvermane. "You can corral me if it ain't thet
Sevier range stallion!"

"Yes," said Hare.

Snood's whoop brought three riders to the door, and when he pointed to
the horse, they stepped out with good-natured grins and admiring eyes.

"I never seen him but onc't," said one.

"Lordy, what a hoss!" Snood walked round Silvermane. "If I owned this
ranch I'd trade it for that stallion. I know Silvermane. He an' I hed
some chases over in Nevada. An', stranger, who might you be?"

"I'm one of August Naab's riders."

"Dene's spy!" Snood looked Hare over carefully, with much interest, and
without any show of ill-will. "I've heerd of you. An' what might one of
Naab's riders want of Holderness?"

"I rode in to Seeping Springs yesterday," said Hare, eying the foreman.
"There was a new pond, fenced in. Our cattle couldn't drink. There were
a lot of trimmed logs. Somebody was going to build a cabin. I burned
the corrals and logs--and I trailed fresh tracks from Seeping Springs to
this ranch."

"The h--l you did!" shouted Snood, and his face flamed. "See here,
stranger, you're the second man to accuse some of my riders of such dirty
tricks. That's enough for me. I was foreman of this ranch till this
minute. I was foreman, but there were things gain' on thet I didn't
know of. I kicked on thet deal with Martin Cole. I quit. I steal no
man's water. Is thet good with you?"

Snood's query was as much a challenge as a question. He bit savagely at
his pipe. Hare offered his hand.

"Your word goes. Dave Naab said you might be Holderness's foreman, but
you weren't a liar or a thief. I'd believe it even if Dave hadn't told

"Them fellers you tracked rode in here yesterday. They're gone now.
I've no more to say, except I never hired them."

"I'm glad to hear it. Good-day, Snood, I'm in something of a hurry."

With that Hare faced about in the direction of White Sage. Once clear of
the corrals he saw the village closer than he had expected to find it.
He walked Silvermane most of the way, and jogged along the rest, so that
he reached the village in the twilight. Memory served him well. He rode
in as August Naab had ridden out, and arrived at the Bishop's barn-yard,
where he put up his horse. Then he went to the house. It was necessary
to introduce himself for none of the Bishop's family recognized in him
the young man they had once befriended. The old Bishop prayed and
reminded him of the laying on of hands. The women served him with food,
the young men brought him new boots and garments to replace those that
had been worn to tatters. Then they plied him with questions about the
Naabs, whom they had not seen for nearly a year. They rejoiced at his
recovered health; they welcomed him with warm words.

Later Hare sought an interview alone with the Bishop's sons, and he told
them of the loss of the sheep, of the burning of the new corrals, of the
tracks leading to Holderness's ranch. In turn they warned him of his
danger, and gave him information desired by August Naab. Holderness's
grasp on the outlying ranges and water-rights had slowly and surely
tightened; every month he acquired new territory; he drove cattle
regularly to Lund, and it was no secret that much of the stock came from
the eastern slope of Coconina. He could not hire enough riders to do his
work. A suspicion that he was not a cattle-man but a rustler had slowly
gained ground; it was scarcely hinted, but it was believed. His
friendship with Dene had become offensive to the Mormons, who had
formerly been on good footing with him. Dene's killing of Martin Cole
was believed to have been at Holderness's instigation. Cole had
threatened Holderness. Then Dene and Cole had met in the main street of
White Sage. Cole's death ushered in the bloody time that he had
prophesied. Dene's band had grown; no man could say how many men he had
or who they were. Chance and Culver were openly his lieutenants, and
whenever they came into the village there was shooting. There were ugly
rumors afloat in regard to their treatment of Mormon women. The wives
and daughters of once peaceful White Sage dared no longer venture
out-of-doors after nightfall. There was more money in coin and more
whiskey than ever before in the village. Lund and the few villages
northward were terrorized as well as White Sage. It was a bitter story.

The Bishop and his sons tried to persuade Hare next morning to leave the
village without seeing Holderness, urging the futility of such a meeting.

"I will see him," said Hare. He spent the morning at the cottage, and
when it came time to take his leave he smiled into the anxious faces. "If
I weren't able to take care of myself August Naab would never have said

Had Hare asked himself what he intended to do when he faced Holderness he
could not have told. His feelings were pent-in, bound, but at the bottom
something rankled. His mind seemed steeped in still thunderous

How well he remembered the quaint wide street, the gray church! As he
rode many persons stopped to gaze at Silvermane. He turned the corner
into the main thoroughfare A new building had been added to the several
stores. Mustangs stood, bridles down, before the doors; men lounged
along the railings.

As he dismounted he heard the loungers speak of his horse, and he saw
their leisurely manner quicken. He stepped into the store to meet more
men, among them August Naab's friend Abe. Hare might never have been in
White Sage for all the recognition he found, but he excited something
keener than curiosity. He asked for spurs, a clasp-knife and some other
necessaries, and he contrived, when momentarily out of sight behind a
pile of boxes, to whisper his identity to Abe. The Mormon was
dumbfounded. When he came out of his trance he showed his gladness, and
at a question of Hare's he silently pointed toward the saloon.

Hare faced the open door. The room had been enlarged; it was now on a
level with the store floor, and was blue with smoke, foul with the fumes
of rum, and noisy with the voices of dark, rugged men.

A man in the middle of the room was dancing a jig.

"Hello, who's this?" he said, straightening up.

It might have been the stopping of the dance or the quick spark in Hare's
eyes that suddenly quieted the room. Hare had once vowed to himself that
he would never forget the scarred face; it belonged to the outlaw Chance.

The sight of it flashed into the gulf of Hare's mind like a meteor into
black night. A sudden madness raced through his veins.

"Hello, Don't you know me?" he said, with a long step that brought him
close to Chance.

The outlaw stood irresolute. Was this an old friend or an enemy? His
beady eyes scintillated and twitched as if they sought to look him over,
yet dared not because it was only in the face that intention could be

The stillness of the room broke to a hoarse whisper from some one.

"Look how he packs his gun."

Another man answering whispered: "There's not six men in Utah who pack a
gun thet way."

Chance heard these whispers, for his eye shifted downward the merest
fraction of a second. The brick color of his face turned a dirty white.

"Do you know me?" demanded Hare.

Chance's answer was a spasmodic jerking of his hand toward his hip.
Hare's arm moved quicker, and Chance's Colt went spinning to the floor.

"Too slow," said Hare. Then he flung Chance backward and struck him
blows that sent his head with sodden thuds against the log wall. Chance
sank to the floor in a heap.

Hare kicked the outlaw's gun out of the way, and wheeled to the crowd.
Holderness stood foremost, his tall form leaning against the bar, his
clear eyes shining like light on ice.

"Do you know me?" asked Hare, curtly.

HolderDess started slightly. "I certainly don't," he replied.

"You slapped my face once." Hare leaned close to the rancher. "Slap it
now--you rustler!"

In the slow, guarded instant when Hare's gaze held Holderness and the
other men, a low murmuring ran through the room.

"Dene's spy!" suddenly burst out Holderness.

Hare slapped his face. Then he backed a few paces with his right arm
held before him almost as high as his shoulder, the wrist rigid, the
fingers quivering.

"Don't try to draw, Holderness. Thet's August Naab's trick with a gun,"
whispered a man, hurriedly.

"Holderness, I made a bonfire over at Seeping Springs," said Hare. "I
burned the new corrals your men built, and I tracked them to your ranch.
Snood threw up his job when he heard it. He's an honest man, and no
honest man will work for a water-thief, a cattle-rustler, a sheep-killer.
You're shown up, Holderness. Leave the country before some one kills
you--understand, before some one kills you!"

Holderness stood motionless against the bar, his eyes fierce with
passionate hate.

Hare backed step by step to the outside door, his right hand still high,
his look holding the crowd bound to the last instant. Then he slipped
out, scattered the group round Silvermane, and struck hard with the

The gray, never before spurred, broke down the road into his old wild

Men were crossing from the corner of the green square. One, a compact
little fellow, swarthy, his dark hair long and flowing, with jaunty and
alert air, was Dene, the outlaw leader. He stopped, with his companions,
to let the horse cross.

Hare guided the thundering stallion slightly to the left. Silvermane
swerved and in two mighty leaps bore down on the outlaw. Dene saved
himself by quickly leaping aside, but even as he moved Silvermane struck
him with his left fore-leg, sending him into the dust.

At the street corner Hare glanced back. Yelling men were rushing from
the saloon and some of them fired after him. The bullets whistled
harmlessly behind Hare. Then the corner house shut off his view.

Silvermane lengthened out and stretched lower with his white mane flying
and his nose pointed level for the desert.


TOWARD the close of the next day Jack Hare arrived at Seeping Springs. A
pile of gray ashes marked the spot where the trimmed logs had lain.
Round the pool ran a black circle hard packed into the ground by many
hoofs. Even the board flume had been burned to a level with the glancing
sheet of water. Hare was slipping Silvermane's bit to let him drink when
he heard a halloo. Dave Naab galloped out of the cedars, and presently
August Naab and his other sons appeared with a pack-train.

"Now you've played bob!" exclaimed Dave. He swung out of his saddle and
gripped Hare with both hands. "I know what you've done; I know where
you've been. Father will be furious, but don't you care."

The other Naabs trotted down the slope and lined their horses before the
pool. The sons stared in blank astonishment; the father surveyed the
scene slowly, and then fixed wrathful eyes on Hare.

"What does this mean?" he demanded, with the sonorous roll of his angry

Hare told all that had happened.

August Naab's gloomy face worked, and his eagle-gaze had in it a strange
far-seeing light; his mind was dwelling upon his mystic power of

"I see--I see," he said haltingly.

"Ki--yi-i-i!" yelled Dave Naab with all the power of his lungs. His head
was back, his mouth wide open, his face red, his neck corded and swollen
with the intensity of his passion.

"Be still--boy!" ordered his father. "Hare, this was madness--but tell me
what you learned."

Briefly Hare repeated all that he had been told at the Bishop's, and
concluded with the killing of Martin Cole by Dene.

August Naab bowed his head and his giant frame shook under the force of
his emotion. Martin Cole was the last of his life-long friends.

"This--this outlaw--you say you ran him down?" asked Naab, rising haggard
and shaken out of his grief.

"Yes. He didn't recognize me or know what was coming till Silvermane was
on him. But he was quick, and fell sidewise. Silvermane's knee sent him

"What will it all lead to?" asked August Naab, and in his extremity he
appealed to his eldest son.

"The bars are down," said Snap Naab, with a click of his long teeth.

"Father," began Dave Naab earnestly, "Jack has done a splendid thing.
The news will fly over Utah like wildfire. Mormons are slow. They need
a leader. But they can follow and they will. We can't cure these evils
by hoping and praying. We've got to fight!"

"Dave's right, dad, it means fight," cried George, with his fist clinched

"You've been wrong, father, in holding back," said Zeke Naab, his lean
jaw bulging. "This Holderness will steal the water and meat out of our
children's mouths. We've got to fight!"

"Let's ride to White Sage," put in Snap Naab, and the little flecks in
his eyes were dancing. "I'll throw a gun on Dene. I can get to him.
We've been tolerable friends. He's wanted me to join his band. I'll
kill him."

He laughed as he raised his right hand and swept it down to his left
side; the blue Colt lay on his outstretched palm. Dene's life and
Holderness's, too, hung in the balance between two deadly snaps of this
desert-wolf's teeth. He was one of the Naabs, and yet apart from them,
for neither religion, nor friendship, nor life itself mattered to him.

August Naab's huge bulk shook again, not this time with grief, but in
wrestling effort to withstand the fiery influence of this unholy fighting
spirit among his sons.

"I am forbidden."

His answer was gentle, but its very gentleness breathed of his battle
over himself, of allegiance to something beyond earthly duty. "We'll
drive the cattle to Silver Cup," he decided, "and then go home. I give
up Seeping Springs. Perhaps this valley and water will content

When they reached the oasis Hare was surprised to find that it was the
day before Christmas. The welcome given the long-absent riders was like
a celebration. Much to Hare's disappointment Mescal did not appear; the
homecoming was not joyful to him because it lacked her welcoming smile.

Christmas Day ushered in the short desert winter; ice formed in the
ditches and snow fell, but neither long resisted the reflection of the
sun from the walls. The early morning hours were devoted to religious
services. At midday dinner was served in the big room of August Naab's
cabin. At one end was a stone fireplace where logs blazed and crackled.

In all his days Hare had never seen such a bountiful board. Yet he was
unable to appreciate it, to share in the general thanksgiving.
Dominating all other feeling was the fear that Mescal would come in and
take a seat by Snap Naab's side. When Snap seated himself opposite with
his pale little wife Hare found himself waiting for Mescal with an
intensity that made him dead to all else. The girls, Judith, Esther,
Rebecca, came running gayly in, clad in their best dresses, with bright
ribbons to honor the occasion. Rebecca took the seat beside Snap, and
Hare gulped with a hard contraction of his throat. Mescal was not yet a
Mormon's wife! He seemed to be lifted upward, to grow light-headed with
the blessed assurance. Then Mescal entered and took the seat next to
him. She smiled and spoke, and the blood beat thick in his ears.

That moment was happy, but it was as nothing to its successor. Under the
table-cover Mescal's hand found his, and pressed it daringly and gladly.
Her hand lingered in his all the time August Naab spent in carving the
turkey--lingered there even though Snap Naab's hawk eyes were never far
away. In the warm touch of her hand, in some subtle thing that radiated
from her Hare felt a change in the girl he loved. A few months had
wrought in her some indefinable difference, even as they had increased
his love to its full volume and depth. Had his absence brought her to
the realization of her woman's heart?

In the afternoon Hare left the house and spent a little while with
Silvermane; then he wandered along the wall to the head of the oasis, and
found a seat on the fence. The next few weeks presented to him a
situation that would be difficult to endure. He would be near Mescal,
but only to have the truth forced cruelly home to him every sane moment--
that she was not for him. Out on the ranges he had abandoned himself to
dreams of her; they had been beautiful; they had made the long hours seem
like minutes; but they had forged chains that could not be broken, and
now he was hopelessly fettered.

The clatter of hoofs roused him from a reverie which was half sad, half
sweet. Mescal came tearing down the level on Black Bolly. She pulled in
the mustang and halted beside Hare to hold out shyly a red scarf
embroidered with Navajo symbols in white and red beads.

"I've wanted a chance to give you this," she said, "a little Christmas

For a few seconds Hare could find no words.

"Did you make it for me, Mescal?" he finally asked. "How good of you!
I'll keep it always."

"Put it on now--let me tie it--there!"

"But, child. Suppose he--they saw it?"

"I don't care who sees it."

She met him with clear, level eyes. Her curt, crisp speech was full of
meaning. He looked long at her, with a yearning denied for many a day.
Her face was the same, yet wonderfully changed; the same in line and
color, but different in soul and spirit. The old sombre shadow lay deep
in the eyes, but to it had been added gleam of will and reflection of
thought. The whole face had been refined and transformed.

"Mescal! What's happened? You're not the same. You seem almost happy.
Have you--has he--given you up?"

"Don't you know Mormons better than that? The thing is the same--so far
as they're concerned."

"But Mescal--are you going to marry him? For God's sake, tell me."

"Never." It was a woman's word, instant, inflexible, desperate. With a
deep breath Hare realized where the girl had changed.

"Still you're promised, pledged to him! How'll you get out of it?"

"I don't know how. But I'll cut out my tongue, and be dumb as my poor
peon before I'll speak the word that'll make me Snap Naab's wife."

There was a long silence. Mescal smoothed out Bolly's mane, and Hare
gazed up at the walls with eyes that did not see them.

Presently he spoke. "I'm afraid for you. Snap watched us to-day at

"He's jealous."

"Suppose he sees this scarf?"

Mescal laughed defiantly. It was bewildering for Hare to hear her.

"He'll--Mescal, I may yet come to this." Hare's laugh echoed Mescal's as
he pointed to the enclosure under the wall, where the graves showed bare
and rough.

Her warm color fled, but it flooded back, rich, mantling brow and cheek
and neck.

"Snap Naab will never kill you," she said impulsively.


She swiftly turned her face away as his hand closed on hers.

"Mescal, do you love me?"

The trembling of her fingers and the heaving of her bosom lent his hope
conviction. "Mescal," he went on, "these past months have been years,
years of toiling, thinking, changing, but always loving. I'm not the man
you knew. I'm wild-- I'm starved for a sight of you. I love you! Mescal,
my desert flower!"

She raised her free hand to his shoulder and swayed toward him. He held
her a moment, clasped tight, and then released her.

"I'm quite mad!" he exclaimed, in a passion of self-reproach. "What a
risk I'm putting on you! But I couldn't help it. Look at me-- Just
once--please-- Mescal, just one look. . . . Now go."

The drama of the succeeding days was of absorbing interest. Hare had
liberty; there was little work for him to do save to care for Silvermane.
He tried to hunt foxes in the caves and clefts; he rode up and down the
broad space under the walls; he sought the open desert only to be driven
in by the bitter, biting winds. Then he would return to the big
living-room of the Naabs and sit before the burning logs. This spacious
room was warm, light, pleasant, and was used by every one in leisure
hours. Mescal spent most of her time there. She was engaged upon a new
frock of buckskin, and over this she bent with her needle and beads.
When there was a chance Hare talked with her, speaking one language with
his tongue, a far different one with his eyes. When she was not present
he looked into the glowing red fire and dreamed of her.

In the evenings when Snap came in to his wooing and drew Mescal into a
corner, Hare watched with covert glance and smouldering jealousy.
Somehow he had come to see all things and all people in the desert glass,
and his symbol for Snap Garb was the desert-hawk. Snap's eyes were as
wild and piercing as those of a hawk; his nose and mouth were as the beak
of a hawk; his hands resembled the claws of a hawk; and the spurs he
wore, always bloody, were still more significant of his ruthless nature.
Then Snap's courting of the girl, the cool assurance, the unhastening
ease, were like the slow rise, the sail, and the poise of a desert-hawk
before the downward lightning-swift swoop on his quarry.

It was intolerable for Hare to sit there in the evenings, to try to play
with the children who loved him, to talk to August Naab when his eye
seemed ever drawn to the quiet couple in the corner, and his ear was
unconsciously strained to catch a passing word. That hour was a
miserable one for him, yet he could not bring himself to leave the room.
He never saw Snap touch her; he never heard Mescal's voice; he believed
that she spoke very little. When the hour was over and Mescal rose to
pass to her room, then his doubt, his fear, his misery, were as though
they had never been, for as Mescal said good-night she would give him one
look, swift as a flash, and in it were womanliness and purity, and some-
thing beyond his comprehension. Her Indian serenity and mysticism veiled
yet suggested some secret, some power by which she might yet escape the
iron band of this Mormon rule. Hare could not fathom it. In that
good-night glance was a meaning for him alone, if meaning ever shone in
woman's eyes, and it said: "I will be true to you and to myself!"

Once the idea struck him that as soon as spring returned it would be an
easy matter, and probably wise, for him to leave the oasis and go up into
Utah, far from the desert-canyon country. But the thought refused to
stay before his consciousness a moment. New life had flushed his veins
here. He loved the dreamy, sleepy oasis with its mellow sunshine always
at rest on the glistening walls; he loved the cedar-scented plateau where
hope had dawned, and the wind-swept sand-strips, where hard out-of-door
life and work had renewed his wasting youth; he loved the canyon winding
away toward Coconina, opening into wide abyss; and always, more than all,
he loved the Painted Desert, with its ever-changing pictures, printed in
sweeping dust and bare peaks and purple haze. He loved the beauty of
these places, and the wildness in them had an affinity with something
strange and untamed in him. He would never leave them. When his blood
had cooled, when this tumultuous thrill and swell had worn themselves
out, happiness would come again.

Early in the winter Snap Naab had forced his wife to visit his father's
house with him; and she had remained in the room, white-faced,
passionately jealous, while he wooed Mescal. Then had come a scene.
Hare had not been present, but he knew its results. Snap had been
furious, his father grave, Mescal tearful and ashamed. The wife found
many ways to interrupt her husband's lovemaking. She sent the children
for him; she was taken suddenly ill; she discovered that the corral gate
was open and his cream-colored pinto, dearest to his heart, was running
loose; she even set her cottage on fire.

One Sunday evening just before twilight Hare was sitting on the porch
with August Naab and Dave, when their talk was interrupted by Snap's loud
calling for his wife. At first the sounds came from inside his cabin.
Then he put his head out of a window and yelled. Plainly he was both
impatient and angry. It was nearly time for him to make his Sunday call
upon Mescal.

"Something's wrong," muttered Dave.

"Hester! Hester!" yelled Snap.

Mother Ruth came out and said that Hester was not there.

"Where is she?" Snap banged on the window-sill with his fists. "Find
her, somebody--Hester!"

"Son, this is the Sabbath," called Father Naab, gravely. "Lower your
voice. Now what's the matter?"

"Matter!" bawled Snap, giving way to rage. "When I was asleep Hester
stole all my clothes. She's hid them--she's run off--there's not a
d--n thing for me to put on! I'll--"

The roar of laughter from August and Dave drowned the rest of the speech.
Hare managed to stifle his own mirth. Snap pulled in his head and
slammed the window shut.

"Jack," said August, "even among Mormons the course of true love never
runs smooth."

Hare finally forgot his bitter humor in pity for the wife. Snap came to
care not at all for her messages and tricks, and he let nothing interfere
with his evening beside Mescal. It was plain that he had gone far on the
road of love. Whatever he had been in the beginning of the betrothal, he
was now a lover, eager, importunate. His hawk's eyes were softer than
Hare had ever seen them; he was obliging, kind, gay, an altogether
different Snap Naab. He groomed himself often, and wore clean scarfs,
and left off his bloody spurs. For eight months he had not touched the
bottle. When spring approached he was madly in love with Mescal. And
the marriage was delayed because his wife would not have another woman in
her home.

Once Hare heard Snap remonstrating with his father.

"If she don't come to time soon I'll keep the kids and send her back to
her father."

"Don't be hasty, son. Let her have time," replied August. "Women must
be humored. I'll wager she'll give in before the cottonwood blows, and
that's not long."

It was Hare's habit, as the days grew warmer, to walk a good deal, and
one evening, as twilight shadowed the oasis and grew black under the
towering walls, he strolled out toward the fields. While passing Snap's
cottage Hare heard a woman's voice in passionate protest and a man's in
strident anger. Later as he stood with his arm on Silvermane, a woman's
scream, at first high-pitched, then suddenly faint and smothered, caused
him to grow rigid, and his hand clinched tight. When he went back by the
cottage a low moaning confirmed his suspicion.

That evening Snap appeared unusually bright and happy; and he asked his
father to name the day for the wedding. August did so in a loud voice
and with evident relief. Then the quaint Mormon congratulations were
offered to Mescal. To Hare, watching the strange girl with the
distressingly keen intuition of an unfortunate lover, she appeared as
pleased as any of them that the marriage was settled. But there was no
shyness, no blushing confusion. When Snap bent to kiss her--his first
kiss--she slightly turned her face, so that his lips brushed her cheek,
yet even then her self-command did not break for an instant. It was a
task for Hare to pretend to congratulate her; nevertheless he mumbled
something. She lifted her long lashes, and there, deep beneath the
shadows, was unutterable anguish. It gave him a shock. He went to his
room, convinced that she had yielded; and though he could not blame her,
and he knew she was helpless, he cried out in reproach and resentment.
She had failed him, as he had known she must fail. He tossed on his bed
and thought; he lay quiet, wide-open eyes staring into the darkness, and
his mind burned and seethed. Through the hours of that long night he
learned what love had cost him.

With the morning light came some degree of resignation. Several days
went slowly by, bringing the first of April, which was to be the
wedding-day. August Naab had said it would come before the cottonwoods
shed their white floss; and their buds had just commenced to open. The
day was not a holiday, and George and Zeke and Dave began to pack for the
ranges, yet there was an air of jollity and festivity. Snap Naab had a
springy step and jaunty mien. Once he regarded Hare with a slow smile.

Piute prepared to drive his new flock up on the plateau. The women of
the household were busy and excited; the children romped.

The afternoon waned into twilight, and Hare sought the quiet shadows
under the wall near the river trail. He meant to stay there until August
Naab had pronounced his son and Mescal man and wife. The dull roar of
the rapids borne on a faint puff of westerly breeze was lulled into a
soothing murmur. A radiant white star peeped over the black rim of the
wall. The solitude and silence were speaking to Hare's heart, easing his
pain, when a soft patter of moccasined feet brought him bolt upright.

A slender form rounded the corner wall. It was Mescal. The white dog
Wolf hung close by her side. Swiftly she reached Hare.

"Mescal!" he exclaimed.

"Hush! Speak softly," she whispered fearfully. Her hands were clinging
to his.

"Jack, do you love me still?"

More than woman's sweetness was in the whisper; the portent of
indefinable motive made Hare tremble like a shaking leaf.

"Good heavens! You are to be married in a few minutes--What do you mean?
Where are you going? this buckskin suit--and Wolf with you-- Mescal!"

"There's no time--only a word--hurry--do you love me still?" she panted,
with great shining eyes close to his.

"Love you? With all my soul!"

"Listen," she whispered, and leaned against him. A fresh breeze bore the
boom of the river. She caught her breath quickly: "I love you!--I love

She kissed him and broke from his clasp. Then silently, like a shadow,
with the white dog close beside her, she disappeared in the darkness of
the river trail.

She was gone before he came out of his bewilderment. He rushed down the
trail; he called her name. The gloom had swallowed her, and only the
echo of his voice made answer.


WHEN thought came clearly to him he halted irresolute. For Mescal's sake
he must not appear to have had any part in her headlong flight, or any
knowledge of it.

With stealthy footsteps he reached the cottonwoods, stole under the
gloomy shade, and felt his way to a point beyond the twinkling lights.
Then, peering through the gloom until assured he was safe from
observation, and taking the dark side of the house, he gained the hall,
and his room. He threw himself on his bed, and endeavored to compose
himself, to quiet his vibrating nerves, to still the triumphant bell-beat
of his heart. For a while all his being swung to the palpitating
consciousness of joy--Mescal had taken her freedom. She had escaped the
swoop of the hawk.

While Hare lay there, trying to gather his shattered senses, the merry
sound of voices and the music of an accordion hummed from the big
living-room next to his. Presently heavy boots thumped on the floor of
the hall; then a hand rapped on his door.

"Jack, are you there?" called August Naab.


"Come along then."

Hare rose, opened the door and followed August. The room was bright with
lights; the table was set, and the Naabs, large and small, were standing
expectantly. As Hare found a place behind them Snap Naab entered with
his wife. She was as pale as if she were in her shroud. Hare caught
Mother Ruth's pitying subdued glance as she drew the frail little woman
to her side. When August Naab began fingering his Bible the whispering

"Why don't they fetch her?" he questioned.

"Judith, Esther, bring her in," said Mother Mary, calling into the

Quick footsteps, and the girls burst in impetuously, exclaiming:
"Mescal's not there!"

"Where is she, then?" demanded August Naab, going to the door. "Mescal!"
he called.

Succeeding his authoritative summons only the cheery sputter of the
wood-fire broke the silence.

"She hadn't put on her white frock," went on Judith.

"Her buckskins aren't hanging where they always are," continued Esther.

August Naab laid his Bible on the table. "I always feared it," he said

"She's gone!" cried Snap Naab. He ran into the hall, into Mescal's room,
and returned trailing the white wedding-dress. "The time we thought she
spent to put this on she's been--"

He choked over the words, and sank into a chair, face convulsed, hands
shaking, weak in the grip of a grief that he had never before known.
Suddenly he flung the dress into the fire. His wife fell to the floor in
a dead faint. Then the desert-hawk showed his claws. His hands tore at
the close scarf round his throat as if to liberate a fury that was
stifling him; his face lost all semblance to anything human. He began to
howl, to rave, to curse; and his father circled him with iron arm and
dragged him from the room.

The children were whimpering, the wives lamenting. The quiet men
searched the house and yard and corrals and fields. But they found no
sign of Mescal. After long hours the excitement subsided and all sought
their beds.

Morning disclosed the facts of Mescal's flight. She had dressed for the
trail; a knapsack was missing and food enough to fill it; Wolf was gone;
Noddle was not in his corral; the peon slave had not slept in his shack;
there were moccasin-tracks and burro-tracks and dog-tracks in the sand at
the river crossing, and one of the boats was gone. This boat was not
moored to the opposite shore. Questions arose. Had the boat sunk? Had
the fugitives crossed safely or had they drifted into the canyon? Dave
Naab rode out along the river and saw the boat, a mile below the rapids,
bottom side up and lodged on a sand-bar.

"She got across, and then set the boat loose," said August. "That's the
Indian of her. If she went up on the cliffs to the Navajos maybe we'll
find her. If she went into the Painted Desert--" a grave shake of his
shaggy head completed his sentence.

Morning also disclosed Snap Naab once more in the clutch of his demon,
drunk and unconscious, lying like a log on the porch of his cottage.

"This means ruin to him," said his father. "He had one chance; he was
mad over Mescal, and if he had got her, he might have conquered his
thirst for rum."

He gave orders for the sheep to be driven up on the plateau, and for his
sons to ride out to the cattle ranges. He bade Hare pack and get in
readiness to accompany him to the Navajo cliffs, there to search for

The river was low, as the spring thaws had not yet set in, and the
crossing promised none of the hazard so menacing at a later period.
Billy Naab rowed across with the saddle and packs. Then August had to
crowd the lazy burros into the water. Silvermane went in with a rush,
and Charger took to the river like an old duck. August and Jack sat in
the stern of the boat, while Billy handled the oars. They crossed
swiftly and safely. The three burros were then loaded, two with packs,
the other with a heavy water-bag.

"See there," said August, pointing to tracks in the sand. The imprints
of little moccasins reassured Hare, for he had feared the possibility
suggested by the upturned boat. "Perhaps it'll be better if I never find
her," continued Naab. "If I bring her back Snap's as likely to kill her
as to marry her. But I must try to find her. Only what to do with her--"

"Give her to me," interrupted Jack.


"I love her!"

Naab's stern face relaxed. "Well, I'm beat! Though I don't see why you
should be different from all the others. It was that time you spent with
her on the plateau. I thought you too sick to think of a woman!"

"Mescal cares for me," said Hare.

"Ah! That accounts. Hare, did you play me fair?"

"We tried to, though we couldn't help loving."

"She would have married Snap but for you."

"Yes. But I couldn't help that. You brought me out here, and saved my
life. I know what I owe you. Mescal meant to marry your son when I left
for the range last fall. But she's a true woman and couldn't. August
Naab, if we ever find her will you marry her to him--now?"

"That depends. Did you know she intended to run?"

"I never dreamed of it. I learned it only at the last moment. I met her
on the river trail."

"You should have stopped her."

Hare maintained silence.

"You should have told me," went on Naab.

"I couldn't. I'm only human."

"Well, well, I'm not blaming you, Hare. I had hot blood once. But I'm
afraid the desert will not be large enough for you and Snap. She's
pledged to him. You can't change the Mormon Church. For the sake of
peace I'd give you Mescal, if I could. Snap will either have her or kill
her. I'm going to hunt this desert in advance of him, because he'll
trail her like a hound. It would be better to marry her to him than to
see her dead."

"I'm not so sure of that."

"Hare, your nose is on a blood scent, like a wolf's. I can see--I've
always seen--well, remember, it's man to man between you now."

During this talk they were winding under Echo Cliffs, gradually climbing,
and working up to a level with the desert, which they presently attained
at a point near the head of the canyon. The trail swerved to the left
following the base of the cliffs. The tracks of Noddle and Wolf were
plainly visible in the dust. Hare felt that if they ever led out into
the immense airy space of the desert all hope of finding Mescal must be

They trailed the tracks of the dog and burro to Bitter Seeps, a shallow
spring of alkali, and there lost all track of them. The path up the
cliffs to the Navajo ranges was bare, time-worn in solid rock, and showed
only the imprint of age. Desertward the ridges of shale, the washes of
copper earth, baked in the sun, gave no sign of the fugitives' course.
August Naab shrugged his broad shoulders and pointed his horse to the
cliff. It was dusk when they surmounted it.

They camped in the lee of an uplifting crag. When the wind died down the
night was no longer unpleasantly cool; and Hare, finding August Naab
uncommunicative and sleepy, strolled along the rim of the cliff, as he
had been wont to do in the sheep-herding days. He could scarcely
dissociate them from the present, for the bitter-sweet smell of tree and
bush, the almost inaudible sigh of breeze, the opening and shutting of
the great white stars in the blue dome, the silence, the sense of the
invisible void beneath him--all were thought-provoking parts of that past
of which nothing could ever be forgotten. And it was a silence which
brought much to the ear that could hear. It was a silence penetrated by
faint and distant sounds, by mourning wolf, or moan of wind in a
splintered crag. Weird and low, an inarticulate voice, it wailed up from
the desert, winding along the hollow trail, freeing itself in the wide
air, and dying away. He had often heard the scream of lion and cry of
wildcat, but this was the strange sound of which August Naab had told
him, the mysterious call of canyon and desert night.

Daylight showed Echo Cliffs to be of vastly greater range than the sister
plateau across the river. The roll of cedar level, the heave of craggy
ridge, the dip of white-sage valley gave this side a diversity widely
differing from the two steps of the Vermillion tableland. August Naab
followed a trail leading back toward the river. For the most part thick
cedars hid the surroundings from Hare's view; occasionally, however, he
had a backward glimpse from a high point, or a wide prospect below, where
the trail overlooked an oval hemmed-in valley.

About midday August Naab brushed through a thicket, and came abruptly on
a declivity. He turned to his companion with a wave of his hand.

"The Navajo camp," he said. "Eschtah has lived there for many years.
It's the only permanent Navajo camp I know. These Indians are nomads.
Most of them live wherever the sheep lead them. This plateau ranges for
a hundred miles, farther than any white man knows, and everywhere, in the
valleys and green nooks, will be found Navajo hogans. That's why we may
never find Mescal."

Hare's gaze travelled down over the tips of cedar and crag to a pleasant
vale, dotted with round mound-like white-streaked hogans, from which lazy
floating columns of blue smoke curled upward. Mustangs and burros and
sheep browsed on the white patches of grass. Bright-red blankets blazed
on the cedar branches. There was slow colorful movement of Indians,
passing in and out of their homes. The scene brought irresistibly to
Hare the thought of summer, of long warm afternoons, of leisure that took
no stock of time.

On the way down the trail they encountered a flock of sheep driven by a
little Navajo boy on a brown burro. It was difficult to tell which was
the more surprised, the long-eared burro, which stood stock-still, or the
boy, who first kicked and pounded his shaggy steed, and then jumped off
and ran with black locks flying. Farther down Indian girls started up
from their tasks, and darted silently into the shade of the cedars.
August Naab whooped when he reached the valley, and Indian braves
appeared, to cluster round him, shake his hand and Hare's, and lead them
toward the centre of the encampment.

The hogans where these desert savages dwelt were all alike; only the
chief's was larger. From without it resembled a mound of clay with a few
white logs, half imbedded, shining against the brick red. August Naab
drew aside a blanket hanging over a door, and entered, beckoning his
companion to follow. Inured as Hare had become to the smell and smart of
wood-smoke, for a moment he could not see, or scarcely breathe, so thick
was the atmosphere. A fire, the size of which attested the desert
Indian's love of warmth, blazed in the middle of the hogan, and sent part
of its smoke upward through a round hole in the roof. Eschtah, with
blanket over his shoulders, his lean black head bent, sat near the fire.
He noted the entrance of his visitors, but immediately resumed his
meditative posture, and appeared to be unaware of their presence.

Hare followed August's example, sitting down and speaking no word. His
eyes, however, roved discreetly to and fro. Eschtah's three wives
presented great differences in age and appearance. The eldest was a
wrinkled, parchment-skinned old hag who sat sightless before the fire;
the next was a solid square squaw, employed in the task of combing a
naked boy's hair with a comb made of stiff thin roots tied tightly in a
round bunch. Judging from the youngster's actions and grimaces, this
combing process was not a pleasant one. The third wife, much younger,
had a comely face, and long braids of black hair, of which, evidently,
she was proud. She leaned on her knees over a flat slab of rock, and
holding in her hands a long oval stone, she rolled and mashed corn into
meal. There were young braves, handsome in their bronze-skinned way,
with bands binding their straight thick hair, silver rings in their ears,
silver bracelets on their wrists, silver buttons on their moccasins.
There were girls who looked up from their blanket-weaving with shy
curiosity, and then turned to their frames strung with long threads.
Under their nimble fingers the wool-carrying needles slipped in and out,
and the colored stripes grew apace. Then there were younger boys and
girls, all bright-eyed and curious; and babies sleeping on blankets.
Where the walls and ceiling were not covered with buckskin garments,
weapons and blankets, Hare saw the white wood-ribs of the hogan
structure. It was a work of art, this circular house of forked logs and
branches, interwoven into a dome, arched and strong, and all covered and
cemented with clay.

At a touch of August's hand Hare turned to the old chief; and awaited his
speech. It came with the uplifting of Eschtah's head, and the offering
of his hand in the white man's salute. August's replies were slow and
labored; he could not speak the Navajo language fluently, but he
understood it.

"The White Prophet is welcome," was the chief's greeting. "Does he come
for sheep or braves or to honor the Navajo in his home?"

"Eschtah, he seeks the Flower of the Desert," replied August Naab.
"Mescal has left him. Her trail leads to the bitter waters under the
cliff, and then is as a bird's."

"Eschtah has waited, yet Mescal has not come to him."

"She has not been here?"

"Mescal's shadow has not gladdened the Navajo's door."

"She has climbed the crags or wandered into the canyons. The white
father loves her; he must find her."

"Eschtah's braves and mustangs are for his friend's use. The Navajo will
find her if she is not as the grain of drifting sand. But is the White
Prophet wise in his years? Let the Flower of the Desert take root in the
soil of her forefathers."

"Eschtah's wisdom is great, but he thinks only of Indian blood. Mescal
is half white, and her ways have been the ways of the white man. Nor
does Eschtah think of the white man's love."

"The desert has called. Where is the White Prophet's vision? White
blood and red blood will not mix. The Indian's blood pales in the white
man's stream; or it burns red for the sun and the waste and the wild.
Eschtah's forefathers, sleeping here in the silence, have called the
Desert Flower."

"It is true. But the white man is bound; he cannot be as the Indian; he
does not content himself with life as it is; he hopes and prays for
change; he believes in the progress of his race on earth. Therefore
Eschtah's white friend smelts Mescal; he has brought her up as his own;
he wants to take her home, to love her better, to trust to the future."

"The white man's ways are white man's ways. Eschtah understands. He
remembers his daughter lying here. He closed her dead eyes and sent word
to his white friend. He named this child for the flower that blows in
the wind of silent places. Eschtah gave his granddaughter to his friend.
She has been the bond between them. Now she is flown and the White
Father seeks the Navajo. Let him command. Eschtah has spoken."

Eschtah pressed into Naab's service a band of young braves, under the
guidance of several warriors who knew every trail of the range, every
waterhole, every cranny where even a wolf might hide. They swept the
river-end of the plateau, and working westward, scoured the levels,
ridges, valleys, climbed to the peaks, and sent their Indian dogs into
the thickets and caves. From Eschtah's encampment westward the hogans
diminished in number till only one here and there was discovered, hidden
under a yellow wall, or amid a clump of cedars. All the Indians met with
were sternly questioned by the chiefs, their dwellings were searched, and
the ground about their waterholes was closely examined. Mile after mile
the plateau was covered by these Indians, who beat the brush and
penetrated the fastnesses with a hunting instinct that left scarcely a
rabbit-burrow unrevealed. The days sped by; the circle of the sun arched
higher; the patches of snow in high places disappeared; and the search
proceeded westward. They camped where the night overtook them, sometimes
near water and grass, sometimes in bare dry places. To the westward the
plateau widened. Rugged ridges rose here and there, and seared crags
split the sky like sharp sawteeth. And after many miles of wild
up-ranging they reached a divide which marked the line of Eschtah's

Naab's dogged persistence and the Navajos' faithfulness carried them into
the country of the Moki Indians, a tribe classed as slaves by the proud
race of Eschtah. Here they searched the villages and ancient tombs and
ruins, but of Mescal there was never a trace.

Hare rode as diligently and searched as indefatigably as August, but he
never had any real hope of finding the girl. To hunt for her, however,
despite its hopelessness, was a melancholy satisfaction, for never was
she out of his mind.

Nor was the month's hard riding with the Navajos without profit. He made
friends with the Indians, and learned to speak many of their words. Then
a whole host of desert tricks became part of his accumulating knowledge.
In climbing the crags, in looking for water and grass, in loosing
Silvermane at night and searching for him at dawn, in marking tracks on
hard ground, in all the sight and feeling and smell of desert things he
learned much from the Navajos. The whole outward life of the Indian was
concerned with the material aspect of Nature--dust, rock, air, wind,
smoke, the cedars, the beasts of the desert. These things made up the
Indians' day. The Navajos were worshippers of the physical; the sun was
their supreme god. In the mornings when the gray of dawn flushed to rosy
red they began their chant to the sun. At sunset the Navajos were
watchful and silent with faces westward. The Moki Indians also, Hare
observed, had their morning service to the great giver of light. In the
gloom of early dawn, before the pink appeared in the east, and all was
whitening gray, the Mokis emerged from their little mud and stone huts
and sat upon the roofs with blanketed and drooping heads.

One day August Naab showed in few words how significant a factor the sun
was in the lives of desert men.

"We've got to turn back," he said to Hare. "The sun's getting hot and
the snow will melt in the mountains. If the Colorado rises too high we
can't cross."

They were two days in riding back to the encampment. Eschtah received
them in dignified silence, expressive of his regret. When their time of
departure arrived he accompanied them to the head of the nearest trail,
which started down from Saweep Peak, the highest point of Echo Cliffs.
It was the Navajos' outlook over the Painted Desert.

"Mescal is there," said August Naab. "She's there with the slave Eschtah
gave her. He leads Mescal. Who can follow him there?"

The old chieftain reined in his horse, beside the time-hollowed trail,
and the same hand that waved his white friend downward swept up in slow
stately gesture toward the illimitable expanse. It was a warrior's
salute to an unconquered world. Hare saw in his falcon eyes the still
gleam, the brooding fire, the mystical passion that haunted the eyes of

"The slave without a tongue is a wolf. He scents the trails and the
waters. Eschtah's eyes have grown old watching here, but he has seen no
Indian who could follow Mescal's slave. Eschtah will lie there, but no
Indian will know the path to the place of his sleep. Mescal's trail is
lost in the sand. No man may find it. Eschtah's words are wisdom.

To search for any living creatures in that borderless domain of colored
dune, of shifting cloud of sand, of purple curtain shrouding mesa and
dome, appeared the vainest of all human endeavors. It seemed a
veritable rainbow realm of the sun. At first only the beauty stirred
Hare--he saw the copper belt close under the cliffs, the white beds of
alkali and washes of silt farther out, the wind-ploughed canyons and
dust-encumbered ridges ranging west and east, the scalloped slopes of the
flat tableland rising low, the tips of volcanic peaks leading the eye
beyond to veils and vapors hovering over blue clefts and dim line of
level lanes, and so on, and on, out to the vast unknown. Then Hare
grasped a little of its meaning. It was a sun-painted, sun-governed
world. Here was deep and majestic Nature eternal and unchangeable. But
it was only through Eschtah's eyes that he saw its parched slopes, its
terrifying desolateness, its sleeping death.

When the old chieftain's lips opened Hare anticipated the austere speech,
the import that meant only pain to him, and his whole inner being seemed
to shrink.

"The White Prophet's child of red blood is lost to him," said Eschtah.
"The Flower of the Desert is as a grain of drifting sand."


AUGUST NAAB hoped that Mescal might have returned in his absence; but to
Hare such hope was vain. The women of the oasis met them with gloomy
faces presaging bad news, and they were reluctant to tell it. Mescal's
flight had been forgotten in the sterner and sadder misfortune that had

Snap Naab's wife lay dangerously ill, the victim of his drunken frenzy.
For days after the departure of August and Jack the man had kept himself
in a stupor; then his store of drink failing, he had come out of his
almost senseless state into an insane frenzy. He had tried to kill his
wife and wreck his cottage, being prevented in the nick of time by Dave
Naab, the only one of his brothers who dared approach him. Then he had
ridden off on the White Sage trail and had not been heard from since.

The Mormon put forth all his skill in surgery and medicine to save the
life of his son's wife, but he admitted that he had grave misgivings as
to her recovery. But these in no manner affected his patience,
gentleness, and cheer. While there was life there was hope, said August
Naab. He bade Hare, after he had rested awhile, to pack and ride out to
the range, and tell his sons that he would come later.

It was a relief to leave the oasis, and Hare started the same day, and
made Silver Cup that night. As he rode under the low-branching cedars
toward the bright camp-fire he looked about him sharply. But not one of
the four faces ruddy in the glow belonged to Snap Naab.

"Hello, Jack," called Dave Naab, into the dark. "I knew that was you.
Silvermane sure rings bells when he hoofs it down the stones. How're you
and dad? and did you find Mescal? I'll bet that desert child led you
clear to the Little Colorado."

Hare told the story of the fruitless search.

"It's no more than we expected," said Dave. "The man doesn't live who
can trail the peon. Mescal's like a captured wild mustang that's slipped
her halter and gone free. She'll die out there on the desert or turn
into a stalk of the Indian cactus for which she's named. It's a pity,
for she's a good girl, too good for Snap."

"What's your news?" inquired Hare.

"Oh, nothing much," replied Dave, with a short laugh. "The cattle
wintered well. We've had little to do but hang round and watch. Zeke
and I chased old Whitefoot one day, and got pretty close to Seeping
Springs. We met Joe Stube, a rider who was once a friend of Zeke's.
He's with Holderness now, and he said that Holderness had rebuilt the
corrals at the spring; also he has put up a big cabin, and he has a dozen
riders there. Stube told us Snap had been shooting up White Sage. He
finished up by killing Snood. They got into an argument about you."

"About me!"

"Yes, it seems that Snood took your part, and Snap wouldn't stand for it.
Too bad! Snood was a good fellow. There's no use talking, Snap's going
too far--he is--" Dave did not conclude his remark, and the silence was
more significant than any utterance.

"What will the Mormons in White Sage say about Snap's killing Snood?"

"They've said a lot. This even-break business goes all right among
gun-fighters, but the Mormons call killing murder. They've outlawed
Culver, and Snap will be outlawed next."

"Your father hinted that Snap would find the desert too small for him and

"Jack, you can't be too careful. I've wanted to speak to you about it.
Snap will ride in here some day and then--" Dave's pause was not

And it was only on the third day after Dave's remark that Hare, riding
down the mountain with a deer he had shot, looked out from the trail and
saw Snap's cream pinto trotting toward Silver Cup. Beside Snap rode a
tall man on a big bay. When Hare reached camp he reported to George and
Zeke what he had seen, and learned in reply that Dave had already caught
sight of the horsemen, and had gone down to the edge of the cedars.
While they were speaking Dave hurriedly ran up the trail.

"It's Snap and Holderness," he called out, sharply "What's Snap doing
with Holderness? What's he bringing him here for?"

"I don't like the looks of it," replied Zeke, deliberately.

"Jack, what what'll you do?" asked Dave, suddenly

"Do? What can I do? I'm not going to run out of camp because of a visit
from men who don't like me."

"It might be wisest."

"Do you ask me to run to avoid a meeting with your brother?"

"No." The dull red came to Dave's cheek. "But will you draw on him?"

"Certainly not. He's August Naab's son and your brother."

"Yes, and you're my friend, which Snap won't think of. Will you draw on
Holderness, then?"

"For the life of me, Dave, I can't tell you," replied Hare, pacing the
trail. "Something must break loose in me before I can kill a man. I'd
draw, I suppose, in self-defence. But what good would it do me to pull
too late? Dave, this thing is what I've feared. I'm not afraid of Snap
or Holderness, not that way. I mean I'm not ready. Look here, would
either of them shoot an unarmed man?"

"Lord, I hope not; I don't think so. But you're packing your gun."

Hare unbuckled his cartridge-belt, which held his Colt, and hung it over
the pommel of his saddle; then he sat down on one of the stone seats near
the camp-fire.

"There they come," whispered Zeke, and he rose to his feet, followed by

"Steady, you fellows," said Dave, with a warning glance. "I'll do the

Holderness and Snap appeared among the cedars, and trotting out into the
glade reined in their mounts a few paces from the fire. Dave Naab stood
directly before Hare, and George and Zeke stepped aside.

"Howdy, boys?" called out Holderness, with a smile, which was like a
gleam of light playing on a frozen lake. His amber eyes were steady,
their gaze contracted into piercing yellow points. Dave studied the
cattle-man with cool scorn, but refusing to speak to him, addressed his

"Snap, what do you mean by riding in here with this fellow?"

"I'm Holderness's new foreman. We're just looking round," replied Snap.
The hard lines, the sullen shade the hawk-beak cruelty had returned
tenfold to his face and his glance was like a living, leaping flame.

"New foreman!" exclaimed Dave. His jaw dropped and he stared in
amazement. "No--you can't mean that--you're drunk!"

"That's what I said," growled Snap.

"You're a liar!" shouted Dave, a crimson blot blurring with the brown on
his cheeks. He jumped off the ground m his fury.

"It's true, Naab; he's my new foreman," put in Holderness, suavely. "A
hundred a month--in gold--and I've got as good a place for you."

"Well, by G--d!" Dave's arms came down and his face blanched to his lips.

"I know what you'd say," interrupted the ranchman.

"But stop it. I know you're game. And what's the use of fighting? I'm
talking business. I'll--"

"You can't talk business or anything else to me," said Dave Naab, and he
veered sharply toward his brother. "Say it again, Snap Naab. You've
hired out to ride for this man?"

"That's it."

"You're going against your father, your brothers, your own flesh and

"I can't see it that way."

"Then you're a drunken, easily-led fool. This man's no rancher. He's a
rustler. He ruined Martin Cole, the father of your first wife. He's
stolen our cattle; he's jumped our water-rights. He's trying to break
us. For God's sake, ain't you a man?"

"Things have gone bad for me," replied Snap, sullenly, shifting in his
saddle. "I reckon I'll do better to cut out alone for myself."

"You crooked cur! But you're only my half-brother, after all. I always
knew you'd come to something bad, but I never thought you'd disgrace the
Naabs and break your father's heart. Now then, what do you want here?
Be quick. This's our range and you and your boss can't ride here. You
can't even water your horses. Out with it!"

At this, Hare, who had been so absorbed as to forget himself, suddenly
felt a cold tightening of the skin of his face, and a hard swell of his
breast. The dance of Snap's eyes, the downward flit of his hand seemed
instantaneous with a red flash and loud report. Instinctively Hare
dodged, but the light impact of something like a puff of air gave place
to a tearing hot agony. Then he slipped down, back to the stone, with a
bloody hand fumbling at his breast.

Dave leaped with tigerish agility, and knocking up the levelled Colt,
held Snap as in a vise. George Naab gave Holderness's horse a sharp kick
which made the mettlesome beast jump so suddenly that his rider was
nearly unseated. Zeke ran to Hare and laid him back against the stone.

"Cool down, there!" ordered Zeke. "He's done for."

"My God--my God!" cried Dave, in a broken voice. "Not--not dead?"

"Shot through the heart!"

Dave Naab flung Snap backward, almost off his horse. "D--n you! run, or
I'll kill you. And you, Holderness! Remember! If we ever meet again--you
draw!" He tore a branch from a cedar and slashed both horses. They
plunged out of the glade, and clattering over the stones, brushing the
cedars, disappeared. Dave groped blindly back toward his brothers.

"Zeke, this's awful. Another murder by Snap! And my friend! . . .
Who's to tell father?"

Then Hare sat up, leaning against the stone, his shirt open and his bare
shoulder bloody; his face was pale, but his eyes were smiling. "Cheer
up, Dave. I'm not dead yet."

"Sure he's not," said Zeke. "He ducked none too soon, or too late, and
caught the bullet high up in the shoulder."

Dave sat down very quietly without a word, and the hand he laid on Hare's
knee shook a little.

"When I saw George go for his gun," went on Zeke, "I knew there'd be a
lively time in a minute if it wasn't stopped, so I just said Jack was

"Do you think they came over to get me?" asked Hare.

"No doubt," replied Dave, lifting his face and wiping the sweat from his
brow. "I knew that from the first, but I was so dazed by Snap's going
over to Holderness that I couldn't keep my wits, and I didn't mark Snap
edging over till too late."

"Listen, I hear horses," said Zeke, looking up from his task over Hare's

"It's Billy, up on the home trail," added George "Yes, and there's father
with him. Good Lord, must we tell him about Snap?"

"Some one must tell him," answered Dave.

"That'll be you, then. You always do the talking."

August Naab galloped into the glade, and swung himself out of the saddle.
"I heard a shot. What's this? Who's hurt?--Hare! Why--lad--how is it
with you?"

"Not bad," rejoined Hare.

"Let me see," August thrust Zeke aside. "A bullet-hole--just missed the
bone--not serious. Tie it up tight. I'll take him home to-morrow. . . .
Hare, who's been here?"

"Snap rode in and left his respects."

"Snap! Already? Yet I knew it--I saw it. You had Providence with you,
lad, for this wound is not bad. Snap surprised you, then?"

"No. I knew it was coming."

"Jack hung his belt and gun on Silvermane's saddle," said Dave. "He
didn't feel as if he could draw on either Snap or Holderness--"


"Yes. Snap rode in with Holderness. Hare thought if he was unarmed they
wouldn't draw. But Snap did."

"Was he drunk?"

"No. They came over to kill Hare." Dave went on to recount the incident
in full. "And--and see here, dad--that's not all. Snap's gone to the

Dave Naab hid his face while he told of his brother's treachery; the
others turned away, and Hare closes his eyes.

For long moments there was silence broken only by the tramp of the old
man as he strode heavily to and fro. At last the footsteps ceased, and
Hare opened his eyes to see Naab's tall form erect, his arms uplifted,
his shaggy head rigid.

"Hare," began August, presently. "I'm responsible for this cowardly
attack on you. I brought you out here. This is the second one. Beware
of the third! I see--but tell me, do you remember that I said you must
meet Snap as man to man?"


"Don't you want to live?"

"Of course."

"You hold to no Mormon creed?"

"Why, no," Hare replied, wonderingly.

"What was the reason I taught you my trick with a gun?"

"I suppose it was to help me to defend myself."

"Then why do you let yourself be shot down in cold blood? Why did you
hang up your gun? Why didn't you draw on Snap? Was it because of his
father, his brothers, his family?"

"Partly, but not altogether," replied Hare, slowly. "I didn't know
before what I know now. My flesh sickened at the thought of killing a
man, even to save my own life; and to kill--your son--"

"No son of mine!" thundered Naab. "Remember that when next you meet. I
don't want your blood on my hands. Don't stand to be killed like a
sheep! If you have felt duty to me, I release you."

Zeke finished bandaging the wound. Making a bed of blankets he lifted
Hare into it, and covered him, cautioning him to lie still. Hare had a
sensation of extreme lassitude, a deep drowsiness which permeated even to
his bones. There were intervals of oblivion, then a time when the stars
blinked in his eyes; he heard the wind, Silvermane's bell, the murmur of
voices, yet all seemed remote from him, intangible as things in a dream.

He rode home next day, drooping in the saddle and fainting at the end of
the trail, with the strong arm of August Naab upholding him. His wound
was dressed and he was put to bed, where he lay sleeping most of the
time, brooding the rest.

In three weeks he was in the saddle again, riding out over the red strip
of desert toward the range. During his convalescence he had learned that
he had come to the sombre line of choice. Either he must deliberately
back away, and show his unfitness to survive in the desert, or he must
step across into its dark wilds. The stern question haunted him. Yet he
knew a swift decision waited on the crucial moment.

He sought lonely rides more than ever, and, like Silvermane, he was
always watching and listening. His duties carried him half way to
Seeping Springs, across the valley to the red wall, up the slope of
Coconina far into the forest of stately pines. What with Silvermane's
wonderful scent and sight, and his own constant watchfulness, there were
never range-riders or wild horses nor even deer near him without his

The days flew by; spring had long since given place to summer; the blaze
of sun and blast of flying sand were succeeded by the cooling breezes
from the mountain; October brought the flurries of snow and November the
dark storm-clouds.

Hare was the last of the riders to be driven off the mountain. The
brothers were waiting for him at Silver Cup, and they at once packed and
started for home.

August Naab listened to the details of the range-riding since his
absence, with silent surprise. Holderness and Snap had kept away from
Silver Cup after the supposed killing of Hare. Occasionally a group of
horsemen rode across the valley or up a trail within sight of Dave and
his followers, but there was never a meeting. Not a steer had been
driven off the range that summer and fall; and except for the menace
always hanging in the blue smoke over Seeping Springs the range-riding
had passed without unusual incident.

So for Hare the months had gone by swiftly; though when he looked back
afterward they seemed years. The winter at the oasis he filled as best
he could, with the children playing in the yard, with Silvermane under
the sunny lee of the great red wall, with any work that offered itself.
It was during the long evenings, when he could not be active, that time
oppressed him, and the memories of the past hurt him. A glimpse of the
red sunset through the cliff-gate toward the west would start the train
of thought; he both loved and hated the Painted Desert. Mescal was there
in the purple shadows. He dreamed of her in the glowing embers of the
log-fire. He saw her on Black Bolly with hair flying free to the wind.
And he could not shut out the picture of her sitting in the corner of the
room, silent, with bowed head, while the man to whom she was pledged hung
close over her. That memory had a sting. It was like a spark of fire
dropped on the wound in his breast where the desert-hawk had struck him.
It was like a light gleaming on the sombre line he was waiting to cross.


ON the anniversary of the night Mescal disappeared the mysterious voice
which had called to Hare so often and so strangely again pierced his
slumber, and brought him bolt upright in his bed shuddering and
listening. The dark room was as quiet as a tomb. He fell back into his
blankets trembling with emotion. Sleep did not close his eyes again that
night; he lay in a fever waiting for the dawn, and when the gray gloom
lightened he knew what he must do.

After breakfast he sought August Naab. "May I go across the river?" he

The old man looked up from his carpenter's task and fastened his glance
on Hare. "Mescal?"

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