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The Heritage of the Desert by Zane Grey

Part 5 out of 5

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The long level of wind-carved rocks under the cliffs, the ridges of the
desert, the miles of slow ascent up to the rough divide, the gradual
descent to the cedars--these stretches of his journey took the night
hours and ended with the brightening gray in the east. Within a mile of
Silver Cup Spring Hare dismounted, to tie folded pads of buckskin on
Bolly's hoofs. When her feet were muffled, he cautiously advanced on the
trail for the matter of a hundred rods or more; then sheered off to the
right into the cedars. He led Bolly slowly, without rattling a stone or
snapping a twig, and stopped every few paces to listen. There was no
sound other than the wind in the cedars. Presently, with a gasp, he
caught the dull gleam of a burned-out camp-fire. Then his movements
became as guarded, as noiseless as those of a scouting Indian. The dawn
broke over the red wall as he gained the trail beyond the spring.

He skirted the curve of the valley and led Bolly a little way up the
wooded slope to a dense thicket of aspens in a hollow. This thicket
encircled a patch of grass. Hare pressed the lithe aspens aside to admit
Bolly and left her there free. He drew his rifle from its sheath and,
after assuring himself that the mustang could not be seen or heard from
below, he bent his steps diagonally up the slope.

Every foot of this ground he knew, and he climbed swiftly until he struck
the mountain trail. Then, descending, he entered the cedars. At last he
reached a point directly above the cliff-camp where he had spent so many
days, and this he knew overhung the cabin built by Holderness. He stole
down from tree to tree and slipped from thicket to thicket. The sun, red
as blood, raised a bright crescent over the red wall; the soft mists of
the valley began to glow and move; cattle were working in toward the
spring. Never brushing a branch, never dislodging a stone, Hare
descended the slope, his eyes keener, his ears sharper with every step.
Soon the edge of the gray stone cliff below shut out the lower level of
cedars. While resting he listened. Then he marked his course down the
last bit of slanting ground to the cliff bench which faced the valley.
This space was open, rough with crumbling rock and dead cedar brush--a
difficult place to cross without sound. Deliberate in his choice of
steps, very slow in moving, Hare went on with a stealth which satisfied
even his intent ear. When the wide gray strip of stone drew slowly into
the circle of his downcast gaze he sank to the ground with a slight
trembling in all his limbs. There was a thick bush on the edge of the
cliff; in three steps he could reach it and, unseen himself, look down
upon the camp.

A little cloud or smoke rose lazily and capped a slender column of blue.
Sounds were wafted softly upward, the low voices of men in conversation,
a merry whistle, and then the humming of a tune. Hare's mouth was dry
and his temples throbbed as he asked himself what it was best to do. The
answer came instantaneously as though it had lain just below the level of
his conscious thought. "I'll watch till Holderness walks out into sight,
jump up with a yell when he comes, give him time to see me, to draw his
gun--then kill him!"

Hare slipped to the bush, drew in a deep long breath that stilled his
agitation, and peered over the cliff. The crude shingles of the cabin
first rose into sight; then beyond he saw the corral with a number of
shaggy mustangs and a great gray horse. Hare stared blankly. As in a
dream he saw the proud arch of a splendid neck, the graceful wave of a
white-crested mane.

"Silvermane! . . . My God!" he gasped, suddenly. "They caught him--after

He fell backward upon the cliff and lay there with hands clinching his
rifle, shudderingly conscious of a blow, trying to comprehend its

"Silvermane! . . . they caught him--after all!" he kept repeating; then in
a flash of agonized understanding he whispered: "Mescal . . . Mescal!"

He rolled upon his face, shutting our the blue sky; his body stretched
stiff as a bent spring released from its compress, and his nails dented
the stock of his rifle. Then this rigidity softened to sobs that shook
him from head to foot. He sat up, haggard and wild-eyed.

Silvermane had been captured, probably by rustlers waiting at the western
edge of the sand-strip. Mescal had fallen into the hands of Snap Naab.
But Mescal was surely alive and Snap was there to be killed; his long
career of unrestrained cruelty was in its last day--something told Hare
that this thing must and should be. The stern deliberation of his intent
to kill Holderness, the passion of his purpose to pay his debt to August
Naab, were as nothing compared to the gathering might of this new
resolve; suddenly he felt free and strong as an untamed lion broken free
from his captors.

From the cover of the bush he peered again over the cliff. The cabin
with its closed door facing him was scarcely two hundred feet down from
his hiding-place. One of the rustlers sang as he bent over the
camp-fire and raked the coals around the pots; others lounged on a bench
waiting for breakfast; some rolled out of their blankets; they stretched
and yawned, and pulling on their boots made for the spring. The last man
to rise was Snap Naab, and he had slept with his head on the threshold of
the door. Evidently Snap had made Mescal a prisoner in the cabin, and no
one could go in or out without stepping upon him. The rustler-foreman of
Holderness's company had slept with his belt containing two Colts, nor
had he removed his boots. Hare noted these details with grim humor. Now
the tall Holderness, face shining, gold-red beard agleam, rounded the
cabin whistling. Hare watched the rustlers sit down to breakfast, and
here and there caught a loud-spoken word, and marked their leisurely
care-free manner. Snap Naab took up a pan of food and a cup of coffee,
carried them into the cabin, and came out, shutting the door.

After breakfast most of the rustlers set themselves to their various
tasks. Hare watched them with the eyes of a lynx watching deer. Several
men were arranging articles for packing, and their actions were slow to
the point of laziness; others trooped down toward the corral. Holderness
rolled a cigarette and stooped over the campfire to reach a burning
stick. Snap Naab stalked to and fro before the door of the cabin. He
alone of the rustler's band showed restlessness, and more than once he
glanced up the trail that led over the divide toward his father's oasis.
Holderness sent expectant glances in the other direction toward Seeping
Springs. Once his clear voice rang out:

"I tell you, Naab, there's no hurry. We'll ride in tomorrow."

A thousand thoughts flitted through Hare's mind--a steady stream of
questions and answers. Why did Snap look anxiously along the oasis
trail? It was not that he feared his father or his brothers alone, but
there was always the menace of the Navajos. Why was Holderness in no
hurry to leave Silver Cup? Why did he lag at the spring when, if he
expected riders from his ranch, he could have gone on to meet them,
obviously saving time and putting greater distance between him and the
men he had wronged? Was it utter fearlessness or only a deep-played
game? Holderness and his rustlers, all except the gloomy Naab, were
blind to the peril that lay beyond the divide. How soon would August
Naab strike out on the White Sage trail? Would he come alone? Whether
he came alone or at the head of his hard-riding Navajos he would arrive
too late. Holderness's life was not worth a pinch of the ashes he
flecked so carelessly from his cigarette. Snap Naab's gloom, his long
stride, his nervous hand always on or near the butt of his Colt, spoke
the keenness of his desert instinct. For him the sun had arisen red over
the red wall. Had he harmed Mescal? Why did he keep the cabin door shut
and guard it so closely?

While Hare watched and thought the hours sped by. Holderness lounged
about and Snap kept silent guard. The rustlers smoked, slept, and moved
about; the day waned, and the shadow of the cliff crept over the cabin.
To Hare the time had been as a moment; he was amazed to find the sun had
gone down behind Coconina. If August Naab had left the oasis at dawn he
must now be near the divide, unless he had been delayed by a wind-storm
at the strip of sand. Hare longed to see the roan charger come up over
the crest; he longed to see a file of Navajos, plumes waving, dark
mustangs gleaming in the red light, sweep down the stony ridge toward the
cedars. "If they come," he whispered, "I'll kill Holderness and Snap and
any man who tries to open that cabin door."

So he waited in tense watchfulness, his gaze alternating between the wavy
line of the divide and the camp glade. Out in the valley it was still
daylight, but under the cliff twilight had fallen. All day Hare had
strained his ears to hear the talk of the rustlers, and it now occurred
to him that if he climbed down through the split in the cliff to the
bench where Dave and George had always hidden to watch the spring he
would be just above the camp. This descent involved risk, but since it
would enable him to see the cabin door when darkness set in, he decided
to venture. The moment was propitious, for the rustlers were bustling
around, cooking dinner, unrolling blankets, and moving to and fro from
spring and corral. Hare crawled back a few yards and along the cliff
until he reached the split. It was a narrow steep crack which he well
remembered. Going down was attended with two dangers--losing his hold,
and the possible rattling of stones. Face foremost he slipped downward
with the gliding, sinuous movement of a snake, and reaching the grassy
bench he lay quiet. Jesting voices and loud laughter from below
reassured him. He had not been heard. His new position afforded every
chance to see and hear, and also gave means of rapid, noiseless retreat
along the bench to the cedars. Lying flat he crawled stealthily to the
bushy fringe of the bench.

A bright fire blazed under the cliff. Men were moving and laughing. The
cabin door was open. Mescal stood leaning back from Snap Naab,
struggling to release her hands.

"Let me untie them, I say," growled Snap.

Mescal tore loose from him and stepped back. Her hands were bound before
her, and twisting them outward, she warded him off. Her dishevelled hair
almost hid her dark eyes. They burned in a level glance of hate and
defiance. She was a little lioness, quivering with fiery life, fight in
every line of her form.

"All right, don't eat then--starve!" said Snap.

"I'll starve before I eat what you give me."

The rustlers laughed. Holderness blew out a puff of smoke and smiled.
Snap glowered upon Mescal and then upon his amiable companions. One of
them, a ruddyfaced fellow, walked toward Mescal.

"Cool down, Snap, cool down," he said. "We're not goin' to stand for a
girl starvin'. She ain't eat a bite yet. Here, Miss, let me untie your
hands--there. . . . Say! Naab, d--n you, her wrists are black an'

"Look out! Your gun!" yelled Snap.

With a swift movement Mescal snatched the man's Colt from its holster and
was raising it when he grasped her arm. She winced and dropped the

"You little Indian devil!" exclaimed the rustler, in a rapt admiration.
"Sorry to hurt you, an' more'n sorry to spoil your aim. Thet wasn't kind
to throw my own gun on me, jest after I'd played the gentleman, now, was

"I didn't--intend--to shoot--you," panted Mescal.

"Naab, if this's your Mormon kind of wife--excuse me! Though I ain't
denyin' she's the sassiest an' sweetest little cat I ever seen!"

"We Mormons don't talk about our women or hear any talk," returned Snap,
a dancing fury in his pale eyes. "You're from Nebraska?"

"Yep, jest a plain Nebraska rustler, cattle-thief, an' all round no-good
customer, though I ain't taken to houndin' women yet."

For answer Snap Naab's right hand slowly curved upward before him and
stopped taut and inflexible, while his strange eyes seemed to shoot

"See here, Naab, why do you want to throw a gun on me?" asked the
rustler, coolly. "Haven't you shot enough of your friends yet? I reckon
I've no right to interfere in your affairs. I was only protestin'
friendly like, for the little lady. She's game, an' she's called your
hand. An' it's not a straight hand. Thet's all, an' d--n if I care
whether you are a Mormon or not. I'll bet a hoss Holderness will back me

"Snap, he's right," put in Holderness, smoothly. "You needn't be so
touchy about Mescal. She's showed what little use she's got for you. If
you must rope her around like you do a mustang, be easy about it. Let's
have supper. Now, Mescal, you sit here on the bench and behave yourself.
I don't want you shooting up my camp."

Snap turned sullenly aside while Holderness seated Mescal near the door
and fetched her food and drink. The rustlers squatted round the
camp-fire, and conversation ceased in the business of the meal.

To Hare the scene had brought a storm of emotions. Joy at the sight of
Mescal, blessed relief to see her unscathed, pride in her fighting
spirit--these came side by side with gratitude to the kind Nebraska
rustler, strange deepening insight into Holderness's game,
unextinguishable white-hot hatred of Snap Naab. And binding all was the
ever-mounting will to rescue Mescal, which was held in check by an
inexorable judgment; he must continue to wait. And he did wait with
blind faith in the something to be, keeping ever in mind the last resort-
-the rifle he clutched with eager hands. Meanwhile the darkness
descended, the fire sent forth a brighter blaze, and the rustlers
finished their supper. Mescal arose and stepped across the threshold of
the cabin door.

"Hold on!" ordered Snap, as he approached with swift strides. "Stick out
your hands!"

Some of the rustlers grumbled; and one blurted out: "Aw no, Snap, don't
tie her up--no!"

"Who says no?" hissed the Mormon, with snapping teeth. As he wheeled
upon them his Colt seemed to leap forward, and suddenly quivered at
arm's-length, gleaming in the ruddy fire-rays.

Holderness laughed in the muzzle of the weapon. "Go ahead, Snap, tie up
your lady love. What a tame little wife she's going to make you! Tie her
up, but do it without hurting her."

The rustlers growled or laughed at their leader's order. Snap turned to
his task. Mescal stood in the doorway and shrinkingly extended her
clasped hands. Holderness whirled to the fire with a look which betrayed
his game. Snap bound Mescal's hands securely, thrust her inside the
cabin, and after hesitating for a long moment, finally shut the door.

"It's funny about a woman, now, ain't it?" said Nebraska, confidentially,
to a companion. "One minnit she'll snatch you bald-headed; the next,
she'll melt in your mouth like sugar. An' I'll be darned if the
changeablest one ain't the kind to hold a feller longest. But it's h--1.
I was married onct. Not any more for mine! A pal I had used to say thet
whiskey riled him, thet rattlesnake pisen het up his blood some, but it
took a woman to make him plumb bad. D__n if it ain't so. When there's a
woman around there's somethin' allus comin' off."

But the strain, instead of relaxing, became portentous. Holderness
suddenly showed he was ill at ease; he appeared to be expecting arrivals
from the direction of Seeping Springs. Snap Naab leaned against the side
of the door, his narrow gaze cunningly studying the rustlers before him.
More than any other he had caught a foreshadowing. Like the desert-hawk
he could see afar. Suddenly he pressed back against the door, half
opening it while he faced the men.

"Stop!" commanded Holderness. The change in his voice was as if it had
come from another man. "You don't go in there!"

"I'm going to take the girl and ride to White Sage," replied Naab, in
slow deliberation.

"Bah! You say that only for the excuse to get into the cabin with her.
You tried it last night and I blocked you. Shut the door, Naab, or
something'll happen."

"There's more going to happen than ever you think of, Holderness. Don't
interfere now, I'm going."

"Well, go ahead--but you won't take the girl!"

Snap Naab swung off the step, slamming the door behind him.

"So-ho!" he exclaimed, sneeringly. "That's why you've made me foreman,
eh?" His claw-like hand moved almost imperceptibly upward while his pale
eyes strove to pierce the strength behind Holderness's effrontery. The
rustler chief had a trump card to play; one that showed in his sardonic

"Naab, you don't get the girl."

"Maybe you'll get her?" hissed Snap.

"I always intended to."

Surely never before had passion driven Snap's hand to such speed. His
Colt gleamed in the camp-fire light. Click! Click! Click! The hammer
fell upon empty chambers.

"H--l!" he shrieked.

Holderness laughed sarcastically.

"That's where you're going!" he cried. "Here's to Naab's trick with a
gun-- Bah!" And he shot his foreman through the heart.

Snap plunged upon his face. His hands beat the ground like the shuffling
wings of a wounded partridge. His fingers gripped the dust, spread
convulsively, straightened, and sank limp.

Holderness called through the door of the cabin. "Mescal, I've rid you
of your would-be husband. Cheer-up!" Then, pointing to the fallen man,
he said to the nearest bystanders: "Some of you drag that out for the

The first fellow who bent over Snap happened to be the Nebraska rustler,
and he curiously opened the breech of the six-shooter he picked up. "No
shells!" he said. He pulled Snap's second Colt from his belt, and
unbreeched that. "No shells! Well, d--n me!" He surveyed the group of
grim men, not one of whom had any reply.

Holderness again laughed harshly, and turning to the cabin, he fastened
the door with a lasso.

It was a long time before Hare recovered from the starting revelation of
the plot which had put Mescal into Holderness's power. Bad as Snap Naab
had been he would have married her, and such a fate was infinitely
preferable to the one that now menaced her. Hare changed his position
and settled himself to watch and wait out the night. Every hour
Holderness and his men tarried at Silver Cup hastened their approaching
doom. Hare's strange prescience of the fatality that overshadowed these
men had received its first verification in the sudden taking off of Snap
Naab. The deep-scheming Holderness, confident that his strong band meant
sure protection, sat and smoked and smiled beside the camp-fire. He had
not caught even a hint of Snap Naab's suggested warning. Yet somewhere
out on the oasis trail rode a man who, once turned from the saving of
life to the lust to kill, would be as immutable as death itself. Behind
him waited a troop of Navajos, swift as eagles, merciless as wolves,
desert warriors with the sunheated blood of generations in their veins.
As Hare waited and watched with all his inner being cold, he could almost
feel pity for Holderness. His doom was close. Twice, when the rustler
chief had sauntered nearer to the cabin door, as if to enter, Hare had
covered him with the rifle, waiting, waiting for the step upon the
threshold. But Holderness always checked himself in time, and Hare's
finger eased its pressure upon the trigger.

The night closed in black; the clouded sky gave forth no starlight; the
wind rose and moaned through the cedars. One by one the rustlers rolled
in their blankets and all dropped into slumber while the camp-fire slowly
burned down. The night hours wore on to the soft wail of the breeze and
the wild notes of far-off trailing coyotes.

Hare, watching sleeplessly, saw one of the prone figures stir. The man
raised himself very cautiously; he glanced at his companions, and looked
long at Holderness, who lay squarely in the dimming light. Then he
softly lowered himself. Hare wondered what the rustler meant to do.
Presently he again lifted his head and turned it as if listening
intently. His companions were motionless in deep-breathing sleep.
Gently he slipped aside his blankets and began to rise. He was slow and
guarded of movement; it took him long to stand erect. He stepped between
the rustlers with stockinged feet which were as noiseless as an Indian's,
and he went toward the cabin door.

He softly edged round the sleeping Holderness, showing a glinting
six-shooter in his hand. Hare's resolve to kill him before he reached
the door was checked. What did it mean, this rustler's stealthy
movements, his passing by Holderness with his drawn weapon! Again doom
hovered over the rustler chief. If he stirred!--Hare knew instantly that
this softly stepping man was a Mormon; he was true to Snap Naab, to the
woman pledged in his creed. He meant to free Mescal.

If ever Hare breathed a prayer it was then. What if one of the band
awakened! As the rustler turned at the door his dark face gleamed in the
flickering light. He unwound the lasso and opened the door without a

Hare whispered: "Heavens! if he goes in she'll scream! that will wake
Holderness--then I must shoot--I must!"

But the Mormon rustler added wisdom to his cunning and stealth.

"Hist!" he whispered into the cabin. "Hist!"

Mescal must have been awake; she must have guessed instantly the meaning
of that low whisper, for silently she appeared in the doorway, silently
she held forth her bound hands. The man untied the bonds and pointed
into the cedars toward the corral. Swift and soundless as a flitting
shadow Mescal vanished in the gloom. The Mormon stole with wary,
unhurried steps back to his bed and rolled in his blankets.

Hare rose unsteadily, wavering in the hot grip of a moment that seemed to
have but one issue--the killing of Holderness. Mescal would soon be upon
Silvermane, far out on the White Sage trail, and this time there would be
no sand-strip to trap her. But Hare could not kill the rustler while he
was sleeping; and he could not awaken him without revealing to his men
the escape of the girl. Hare stood there on the bench, gazing down on
the blanketed Holderness. Why not kill him now, ending forever his
power, and trust to chance for the rest? No, no! Hare flung the
temptation from him. To ward off pursuit as long as possible, to aid
Mescal in every way to some safe hiding-place, and then to seek
Holderness--that was the forethought of a man who had learned to wait.

Under the dark projection of the upper cliff Hare felt his way to the
cedar slope, and the trail, and then he went swiftly down into the little
hollow where he had left Bolly. The darkness of the forest hindered him,
but he came at length to the edge of the aspen thicket; he penetrated it,
and guided toward Bolly by a suspicious stamp and neigh, he found her and
quieted her with a word. He rode down the hollow, out upon the level

The clouds had broken somewhat, letting pale light down through rifts.
All about him cattle were lying in a thick gloom. It was penetrable for
only a few rods. The ground was like a cushion under Bolly's hoofs,
giving forth no sound. The mustang threw up her head, causing Hare to
peer into the night-fog. Rapid hoof-beats broke the silence, a vague
gray shadow moved into sight. He saw Silvermane and called as loudly as
he dared. The stallion melted into the misty curtain, the beating of
hoofs softened and ceased. Hare spurred Bolly to her fleetest. He had a
long, silent chase, but it was futile, and unnecessarily hard on the
mustang; so he pulled her in to a trot.

Hare kept Bolly to this gait the remainder of the night, and when the
eastern sky lightened he found the trail and reached Seeping Springs at
dawn. Silvermane's tracks were deep in the clay at the drinking-trough.
He rested a few moments, gave Bolly sparingly of grain and water, and
once more took to the trail.

From the ridge below the spring he saw Silvermane beyond the valley,
miles ahead of him. This day seemed shorter than the foregoing one; it
passed while he watched Silvermane grow smaller and smaller and disappear
on the looming slope of Coconina. Hare's fear that Mescal would run into
the riders Holderness expected from his ranch grew less and less after
she had reached the cover of the cedars. That she would rest the
stallion at the Navajo pool on the mountain he made certain. Late in the
night he came to the camping spot and found no trace to prove that she
had halted there even to let Silvermane drink. So he tied the tired
mustang and slept until daylight.

He crossed the plateau and began the descent. Before he was half-way
down the warm bright sun had cleared the valley of vapor and shadow.
Far along the winding white trail shone a speck. It was Silvermane
almost out of sight.

"Ten miles--fifteen, more maybe," said Hare. "Mescal will soon be in the

Again hours of travel flew by like winged moments. Thoughts of time,
distance, monotony, fatigue, purpose, were shut out from his mind. A
rushing kaleidoscopic dance of images filled his consciousness, but they
were all of Mescal. Safety for her had unsealed the fountain of

It was near sundown when he rode Black Bolly into White Sage, and took
the back road, and the pasture lane to Bishop Caldwell's cottage. John,
one of the Bishop's sons, was in the barn-yard and ran to open the gate.

"Mescal!" cried Hare.

"Safe," replied the Mormon.

"Have you hidden her?"

"She's in a secret cave, a Mormon hiding-place for women. Only a few men
know of its existence. Rest easy, for she's absolutely safe."

"Thank God! . . . then that's settled." Hare drew a long, deep breath.

"Mescal told us what happened, how she got caught at the sand-strip and
escaped from Holderness at Silver Cup. Was Dene hurt?"

"Silvermane killed him."

"Good God! How things come about! I saw you run Dene down that time here
in White Sage. It must have been written. Did Holderness shoot Snap


"What of old Naab? Won't he come down here now to lead us Mormons
against the rustlers?"

"He called the Navajos across the river. He meant to take the trail
alone and kill Holderness, keeping the Indians back a few days. If he
failed to return then they were to ride out on the rustlers. But his
plan must be changed, for I came ahead of him."

"For what? Mescal?"

"No. For Holderness."

"You'll kill him!"


"He'll be coming soon?--When?"

"To-morrow, possibly by daylight. He wants Mescal. There's a chance
Naab may have reached Silver Cup before Holderness left, but I doubt it."

"May I know your plan?" The Mormon hesitated while his strong brown face
flashed with daring inspiration. "I--I've a good reason."

"Plan?-- Yes. Hide Bolly and Silvermane in the little arbor down in the
orchard. I'll stay outside to-night, sleep a little--for I'm dead tired-
-and watch in the morning. Holderness will come here with his men,
perhaps not openly at first, to drag Mescal away. He'll mean to use
strategy. I'll meet him when he comes--that's all."

"It's well. I ask you not to mention this to my father. Come in, now.
You need food and rest. Later I'll hide Bolly and Silvermane in the

Hare met the Bishop and his family with composure, but his arrival
following so closely upon Mescal's, increased their alarm. They seemed
repelled yet fascinated by his face. Hare ate in silence. John Caldwell
did not come in to supper; his brothers mysteriously left the table
before finishing the meal. A subdued murmur of voices floated in at the
open window.

Darkness found Hare wrapped in a blanket under the trees. He needed
sleep that would loose the strange deadlock of his thoughts, clear the
blur from his eyes, ease the pain in his head and weariness of limbs--all
these weaknesses of which he had suddenly become conscious. Time and
again he had almost wooed slumber to him when soft footsteps on the
gravel paths, low voices, the gentle closing of the gate, brought him
back to the unreal listening wakefulness. The sounds continued late into
the night, and when he did fall asleep he dreamed of them. He awoke to a
dawn clearer than the light from the noonday sun. In his ears was the
ringing of a bell. He could not stand still, and his movements were
subtle and swift. His hands took a peculiar, tenacious, hold of
everything he chanced to touch. He paced his hidden walk behind the
arbor, at every turn glancing sharply up and down the road. Thoughts
came to him clearly, yet one was dominant. The morning was curiously
quiet, the sons of the Bishop had strangely disappeared--a sense of
imminent catastrophe was in the air.

A band of horsemen closely grouped turned into the road and trotted
forward. Some of the men wore black masks. Holderness rode at the
front, his red-gold beard shining in the sunlight. The steady clip-crop
of hoofs and clinking of iron stirrups broke the morning quiet.
Holderness, with two of his men, dismounted before the Bishop's gate; the
others of the band trotted on down the road. The ring of Holderness's
laugh preceded the snap of the gate-latch.

Hare stood calm and cold behind his green covert watching the three men
stroll up the garden path. Holderness took a cigarette from his lips as
he neared the porch and blew out circles of white smoke. Bishop Caldwell
tottered from the cottage rapping the porch-floor with his cane.

"Good-morning, Bishop," greeted Holderness, blandly, baring his head.

"To you, sir," quavered the old man, with his wavering blue eyes fixed on
the spurred and belted rustler. Holderness stepped out in front of his
companions, a superb man, courteous, smiling, entirely at his ease.

"I rode in to--"

Hare leaped from his hiding-place.


The rustler pivoted on whirling heels.

"Dene's spy!" he exclaimed, aghast. Swift changes swept his mobile
features. Fear flickered in his eyes as he faced his foe; then came
wonder, a glint of amusement, dark anger, and the terrible instinct of
death impending.

"Naab's trick!" hissed Hare, with his hand held high. The suggestion in
his words, the meaning in his look, held the three rustlers transfixed.
The surprise was his strength.

In Holderness's amber eyes shone his desperate calculation of chances.
Hare's fateful glance, impossible to elude, his strung form slightly
crouched, his cold deliberate mention of Naab's trick, and more than all
the poise of that quivering hand, filled the rustler with a terror that
he could not hide.

He had been bidden to draw and he could not summon the force.

"Naab's trick!" repeated Hare, mockingly.

Suddenly Holderness reached for his gun.

Hare's hand leapt like a lightning stroke. Gleam of blue--spurt of red--

Holderness swayed with blond head swinging backward; the amber of his
eyes suddenly darkened; the life in them glazed; like a log he fell
clutching the weapon he had half drawn.


"TAKE Holderness away--quick!" ordered Hare. A thin curl of blue smoke
floated from the muzzle of his raised weapon.

The rustlers started out of their statue-like immobility, and lifting
their dead leader dragged him down the garden path with his spurs
clinking on the gravel and ploughing little furrows.

"Bishop, go in now. They may return," said Hare. He hurried up the
steps to place his arm round the tottering old man.

"Was that Holderness?"

"Yes," replied Hare.

"The deeds of the wicked return unto them! God's will!"

Hare led the Bishop indoors. The sitting-room was full Or wailing women
and crying children. None of the young men were present. Again Hare
made note of their inexplicable absence. He spoke soothingly to the
frightened family. The little boys and girls yielded readily to his
persuasion, but the women took no heed of him.

"Where are your sons?" asked Hare.

"I don't know," replied the Bishop. "They should be here to stand by
you. It's strange. I don't understand. Last night my sons were visited
by many men, coming and going in twos and threes till late. They didn't
sleep in their beds. I know not what to think."

Hare remembered John Caldwell's enigmatic face.

"Have the rustlers really come?" asked a young woman, whose eyes were red
and cheeks tear-stained

"They have. Nineteen in all. I counted them," answered Hare.

The young woman burst out weeping afresh, and the wailing of the others
answered her. Hare left the cottage He picked up his rifle and went down
through the orchard to the hiding-place of the horses. Silvermane
pranced and snorted his gladness at sight of his master. The desert king
was fit for a grueling race. Black Bolly quietly cropped the long grass.
Hare saddled the stallion to have him in instant readiness, and then
returned to the front of the yard.

He heard the sound of a gun down the road, then another, and several
shots following in quick succession. A distant angry murmuring and
trampling of many feet drew Hare to the gate. Riderless mustangs were
galloping down the road; several frightened boys were fleeing across the
square; not a man was in sight. Three more shots cracked, and the low
murmur and trampling swelled into a hoarse uproar. Hare had heard that
sound before; it was the tumult of mob-violence. A black dense throng of
men appeared crowding into the main street, and crossing toward the
square. The procession had some order; it was led and flanked by mounted
men. But the upflinging of many arms, the craning of necks, and the
leaping of men on the outskirts of the mass, the pressure inward and the
hideous roar, proclaimed its real character.

"By Heaven!" exclaimed Hare. "The Mormons have risen against the
rustlers. I understand now. John Caldwell spent last night in secretly
rousing his neighbors. They have surprised the rustlers. Now what?"

Hare vaulted the fence and ran down the road. A compact mob of men, a
hundred or more, had halted in the village under the wide-spreading
cottonwoods. Hare suddenly grasped the terrible significance of those
outstretched branches, and out of the thought grew another which made him
run at bursting break-neck speed.

"Open up! Let me in!" he yelled to the thickly thronged circle. Right
and left he flung men. "Make way!" His piercing voice stilled the angry
murmur. Fierce men with weapons held aloft fell back from his face.

"Dene's spy!" they cried.

The circle opened and closed upon him. He saw bound rustlers under armed
guard. Four still forms were on the ground. Holderness lay
outstretched, a dark-red blot staining his gray shirt. Flinty-faced
Mormons, ruthless now as they had once been mild, surrounded the
rustlers. John Caldwell stood foremost, with ashen lips breaking
bitterly into speech:

"Mormons, this is Dene's spy, the man who killed Holderness!"

The listeners burst into the short stern shout of men proclaiming a
leader in war.

"What's the game?" demanded Hare.

"A fair trial for the rustlers, then a rope," replied John Caldwell. The
low ominous murmur swelled through the crowd again.

"There are two men here who have befriended me. I won't see them

"Pick them out!" A strange ripple of emotion made a fleeting break in
John Caldwell's hard face.

Hare eyed the prisoners.

"Nebraska, step out here," said he.

"I reckon you're mistaken," replied the rustler, his blue eyes intently
on Hare. "I never seen you before. An' I ain't the kind of a feller to
cheat the man you mean."

"I saw you untie the girl's hands."

"You did? Well, d--n me!"

"Nebraska, if I save your life will you quit rustling cattle? You
weren't cut out for a thief."

"Will I? D--n me! I'll be straight an' decent. I'll take a job ridin'
for you, stranger, an' prove it."

"Cut him loose from the others," said Hare. He scrutinized the line of
rustlers. Several were masked in black. "Take off those masks!"

"No! Those men go to their graves masked." Again the strange twinge of
pain crossed John Caldwell's face.

"Ah, I see," exclaimed Hare. Then quickly: "I couldn't recognize the
other man anyhow; I don't know him. But Mescal can tell. He saved her
and I'll save him. But how?"

Every rustler, except the masked ones standing stern and silent, clamored
that he was the one to be saved.

"Hurry back home," said Caldwell in Hare's ear "Tell them to fetch
Mescal. Find out and hurry back. Time presses. The Mormons are
wavering. You've got only a few minutes."

Hare slipped out of the crowd, sped up the road, jumped the fence on the
run, and burst in upon the Bishop and his family.

"No danger--don't be alarmed--all's well," he panted. "The rustlers are
captured. I want Mescal. Quick! Where is she? Fetch her, somebody."

One of the women glided from the room. Hare caught the clicking of a
latch, the closing of a door, hollow footfalls descending on stone, and
dying away under the cottage. They rose again, ending in swiftly
pattering footsteps. Like a whirlwind Mescal came through the hall,
black hair flying, dark eyes beaming.

"My darling!" Oblivious of the Mormons he swung her up and held her in
his arms. "Mescal! Mescal!"

When he raised his face from the tumbling mass of her black hair, the
Bishop and his family had left the room.

"Listen, Mescal. Be calm. I'm safe. The rustlers are prisoners. One
of them released you from Holderness. Tell me which one?"

"I don't know," replied Mescal. "I've tried to think. I didn't see his
face; I can't remember his voice."

"Think! Think! He'll be hanged if you don't recall something to identify
him. He deserves a chance. Holderness's crowd are thieves, murderers.
But two were not all bad. That showed the night you were at Silver Cup.
I saved Nebraska--"

"Were you at Silver Cup? Jack!"

"Hush! don't interrupt me. We must save this man who saved you. Think!
Mescal! Think!"

"Oh! I can't. What--how shall I remember?"

"Something about him. Think of his coat, his sleeve. You must remember
something. Did you see his hands?"

"Yes, I did--when he was loosing the cords," said Mescal, eagerly.
"Long, strong fingers. I felt them too. He has a sharp rough wart on
one hand, I don't know which. He wears a leather wristband."

"That's enough!" Hare bounded out upon the garden walk and raced back to
the crowded square. The uneasy circle stirred and opened for him to
enter. He stumbled over a pile of lassoes which had not been there when
he left. The stony Mormons waited; the rustlers coughed and shifted
their feet. John Caldwell turned a gray face. Hare bent over the three
dead rustlers lying with Holderness, and after a moment of anxious
scrutiny he rose to confront the line of prisoners.

"Hold out your hands."

One by one they complied. The sixth rustler in the line, a tall fellow,
completely masked, refused to do as he was bidden. Twice Hare spoke.
The rustler twisted his bound hands under his coat.

"Let's see them," said Hare, quickly. He grasped the fellow's arm and
received a violent push that almost knocked him over. Grappling with the
rustler, he pulled up the bound hands, in spite of fierce resistance, and
there were the long fingers, the sharp wart, the laced wristband.
"Here's my man!" he said.

"No," hoarsely mumbled the rustler. The perspiration ran down his corded
neck; his breast heaved convulsively.

"You fool!" cried Hare, dumfounded and resentful. "I recognized you.
Would you rather hang than live? What's your secret?"

He snatched off the black mask. The Bishop's eldest son stood revealed.

"Good God!" cried Hare, recoiling from that convulsed face.

"Brother! Oh! I feared this," groaned John Caldwell.

The rustlers broke out into curses and harsh laughter.

"--- --- you Mormons! See him! Paul Caldwell! Son of a Bishop! Thought he
was shepherdin' sheep?"

"D--n you, Hare!" shouted the guilty Mormon, in passionate fury and shame.
"Why didn't you hang me? Why didn't you bury me unknown?"

"Caldwell! I can't believe it," cried Hare, slowly coming to himself."
But you don't hang. Here, come out of the crowd. Make way, men!"

The silent crowd of Mormons with lowered and averted eyes made passage
for Hare and Caldwell. Then cold, stern voices in sharp questions and
orders went on with the grim trial. Leading the bowed and stricken
Mormon, Hare drew off to the side of the town-hall and turned his back
upon the crowd. The constant trampling of many feet, the harsh medley of
many voices swelled into one dreadful sound. It passed away, and a long
hush followed. But this in turn was suddenly broken by an outcry:

"The Navajos! The Navajos!"

Hare thrilled at that cry and his glance turned to the eastern end of the
village road where a column of mounted Indians, four abreast, was riding
toward the square.

"Naab and his Indians," shouted Hare. "Naab and his Indians! No fear!"
His call was timely, for the aroused Mormons, ignorant of Naab's pursuit,
fearful of hostile Navajos, were handling their guns ominously.

But there came a cry of recognition--"August Naab!"

Onward came the band, Naab in the lead on his spotted roan. The mustangs
were spent and lashed with foam. Naab reined in his charger and the
keen-eyed Navajos closed in behind him. The old Mormon's eagle glance
passed over the dark forms dangling from the cottonwoods to the files of
waiting men.

"Where is he?"

"There!" answered John Caldwell, pointing to the body of Holderness.

"Who robbed me of my vengeance? Who killed the rustler?" Naab's
stentorian voice rolled over the listening multitude. In it was a hunger
of thwarted hate that held men mute. He bent a downward gaze at the dead
Holderness as if to make sure of the ghastly reality. Then he seemed to
rise in his saddle, and his broad chest to expand. "I know--I saw it
all--blind I was not to believe my own eyes! Where is he? Where is

Some one pointed Hare out. Naab swung from his saddle and scattered the
men before him as if they had been sheep. His shaggy gray head and
massive shoulders towered above the tallest there.

Hare felt again a cold sense of fear. He grew weak in all his being. He
reeled when the gray shaggy giant laid a huge hand on his shoulder and
with one pull dragged him close. Was this his kind Mormon benefactor,
this man with the awful eyes?

"You killed Holderness?" roared Naab.

"Yes," whispered Hare.

"You heard me say I'd go alone? You forestalled me? You took upon
yourself my work? . . . Speak."


"By what right?"

"My debt--duty--your family--Dave!"

"Boy! Boy! You've robbed me." Naab waved his arm from the gaping crowd to
the swinging rustlers. "You've led these white-livered Mormons to do my
work. How can I avenge my sons--seven sons?"

His was the rage of the old desert-lion. He loosed Hare and strode in
magnificent wrath over Holderness and raised his brawny fists.

"Eighteen years I prayed for wicked men," he rolled out. "One by one I
buried my sons. I gave my springs and my cattle. Then I yielded to the
lust for blood. I renounced my religion. I paid my soul to everlasting
hell for the life of my foe. But he's dead! Killed by a wild boy! I sold
myself to the devil for nothing!"

August Naab raved out his unnatural rage amid awed silence. His revolt
was the flood of years undammed at the last. The ferocity of the desert
spirit spoke silently in the hanging rustlers, in the ruthlessness of the
vigilantes who had destroyed them, but it spoke truest in the sonorous
roll of the old Mormon's wrath.

"August, young Hare saved two of the rustlers," spoke up an old friend,
hoping to divert the angry flood. "Paul Caldwell there, he was one of
them. The other's gone."

Naab loomed over him. "What!" he roared. His friend edged away,
repeating his words and jerking his thumb backward toward the Bishop's

"Judas Iscariot!" thundered Naab. "False to thyself, thy kin, and thy
God! Thrice traitor! . . . Why didn't you get yourself killed? . . . Why
are you left? Ah-h! for me--a rustler for me to kill--with my own
hands!--A rope there--a rope!"

"I wanted them to hang me," hoarsely cried Caldwell, writhing in Naab's

Hare threw all his weight and strength upon the Mormon's iron arm. "Naab!
Naab! For God's sake, hear! He saved Mescal. This man, thief, traitor,
false Mormon--whatever he is--he saved Mescal."

August Naab's eyes were bloodshot. One shake of his great body flung
Hare off. He dragged Paul Caldwell across the grass toward the
cottonwood as easily as if he were handling an empty grain-sack.

Hare suddenly darted after him. "August! August!--look! look!" he
cried. He pointed a shaking finger down the square. The old Bishop came
tottering over the grass, leaning on his cane, shading his eyes with his
hand. "August. See, the Bishop's coming. Paul's father! Do you hear?"

Hare's appeal pierced Naab's frenzied brain. The Mormon Elder saw his
old Bishop pause and stare at the dark shapes suspended from the
cottonwoods and hold up his hands in horror.

Naab loosed his hold. His frame seemed wrenched as though by the passing
of an evil spirit, and the reaction left his face transfigured.

"Paul, it's your father, the Bishop," he said, brokenly. "Be a man. He
must never know." Naab spread wide his arms to the crowd. "Men,
listen," he said. "Of all of us Mormons I have lost most, suffered most.
Then hear me. Bishop Caldwell must never know of his son's guilt. He
would sink under it. Keep the secret. Paul will be a man again. I
know. I see. For, Mormons, August Naab has the gift of revelation!"


SUMMER gleams of golden sunshine swam under the glistening red walls of
the oasis. Shadows from white clouds, like sails on a deep-blue sea,
darkened the broad fields of alfalfa. Circling columns of smoke were
wafted far above the cottonwoods and floated in the still air. The
desert-red color of Navajo blankets brightened the grove.

Half-naked bronze Indians lolled in the shade, lounged on the cabin
porches and stood about the sunny glade in idle groups. They wore the
dress of peace. A single black-tipped white eagle feather waved above
the band binding each black head. They watched the merry children tumble
round the playground. Silvermane browsed where he listed under the shady
trees, and many a sinewy red hand caressed his flowing mane. Black Bolly
neighed her jealous displeasure from the corral, and the other mustangs
trampled and kicked and whistled defiance across the bars. The peacocks
preened their gorgeous plumage and uttered their clarion calls. The
belligerent turkey-gobblers sidled about ruffling their feathers. The
blackbirds and swallows sang and twittered their happiness to find old
nests in the branches and under the eaves. Over all boomed the dull roar
of the Colorado in flood.

It was the morning of Mescal's wedding-day.

August Naab, for once without a task, sat astride a peeled log of
driftwood in the lane, and Hare stood beside him.

"Five thousand steers, lad! Why do you refuse them? They're worth ten
dollars a head to-day in Salt Lake City. A good start for a young man."

"No, I'm still in your debt."

"Then share alike with my sons in work and profit?"

"Yes, I can accept that."

"Good! Jack, I see happiness and prosperity for you. Do you remember
that night on the White Sage trail? Ah! Well, the worst is over. We
can look forward to better times. It's not likely the rustlers will ride
into Utah again. But this desert will never be free from strife."

"Tell me of Mescal," said Hare.

"Ah! Yes, I'm coming to that." Naab bent his head over the log and
chipped off little pieces with his knife." Jack, will you come into the
Mormon Church?"

Long had Hare shrunk from this question which he felt must inevitably
come, and now he met it as bravely as he could, knowing he would pain his

"No, August, I can't," he replied. "I feel--differently from Mormons
about--about women. If it wasn't for that! I look upon you as a father.
I'll do anything for you, except that. No one could pray to be a better
man than you. Your work, your religion, your life-- Why! I've no words
to say what I feel. Teach me what little you can of them, August, but
don't ask me--that."

"Well, well," sighed Naab. The gray clearness of his eagle eyes grew
shadowed and his worn face was sad. It was the look of a strong wise man
who seemed to hear doubt and failure knocking at the gate of his creed.
But he loved life too well to be unhappy; he saw it too clearly not to
know there was nothing wholly good, wholly perfect, wholly without error.
The shade passed from his face like the cloud-shadow from the sunlit

"You ask about Mescal," he mused. "There's little more to tell."

"But her father--can you tell me more of him?"

"Little more than I've already told. He was evidently a man of some
rank. I suspected that he ruined his life and became an adventurer. His
health was shattered when I brought him here, but he got well after a
year or so. He was a splendid, handsome fellow. He spoke very seldom
and I don't remember ever seeing him smile. His favorite walk was the
river trail. I came upon him there one day, and found him dying. He
asked me to have a care of Mescal. And he died muttering a Spanish word,
a woman's name, I think."

"I'll cherish Mescal the more," said Hare.

"Cherish her, yes. My Bible will this day give her a name. We know she
has the blood of a great chief. Beautiful she is and good. I raised her
for the Mormon Church, but God disposes after all, and I--"

A shrill screeching sound split the warm stillness, the long-drawn-out
bray of a burro.

"Jack, look down the lane. If it isn't Noddle!"

Under the shady line of the red wall a little gray burro came trotting
leisurely along with one long brown ear standing straight up, the other
hanging down over his nose.

"By George! it's Noddle!" exclaimed Hare. "He's climbed out of the
canyon. Won't this please Mescal?"

"Hey, Mother Mary," called Naab toward the cabin. "Send Mescal out.
Here's a wedding-present."

With laughing wonder the women-folk flocked out into the yard. Mescal
hung back shy-eyed, roses dyeing the brown of her cheeks.

"Mescal's wedding-present from Thunder River. Just arrived!" called Naab
cheerily, yet deep-voiced with the happiness he knew the tidings would
give. "A dusty, dirty, shaggy, starved, lop-eared, lazy burro--Noddle!"

Mescal flew out into the lane, and with a strange broken cry of joy that
was half a sob she fell upon her knees and clasped the little burro's
neck. Noddle wearily flapped his long brown ears, wearily nodded his
white nose; then evidently considering the incident closed, he went
lazily to sleep.

"Noddle! dear old Noddle!" murmured Mescal, with far-seeing,
thought-mirroring eyes. "For you to come back to-day from our canyon!
. . . Oh! The long dark nights with the thunder of the river and the lonely
voices! . . . they come back to me. . . . Wolf, Wolf, here's Noddle, the same
faithful old Noddle!"

August Naab married Mescal and Hare at noon under the shade of the
cottonwoods. Eschtah, magnificent in robes of state, stood up with them.
The many members of Naab's family and the grave Navajos formed an
attentive circle around them. The ceremony was brief. At its close the
Mormon lifted his face and arms in characteristic invocation.

"Almighty God, we entreat Thy blessing upon this marriage. Many and
inscrutable are Thy ways; strange are the workings of Thy will; wondrous
the purpose with which Thou hast brought this man and this woman
together. Watch over them in the new path they are to tread, help them
in the trials to come; and in Thy good time, when they have reached the
fulness of days, when they have known the joy of life and rendered their
service, gather them to Thy bosom in that eternal home where we all pray
to meet Thy chosen ones of good; yea, and the evil ones purified in Thy
mercy. Amen."

Happy congratulations of the Mormon family, a merry romp of children
flinging flowers, marriage-dance of singing Navajos--these, with the
feast spread under the cottonwoods, filled the warm noon-hours of the

Then the chief Eschtah raised his lofty form, and turned his eyes upon
the bride and groom.

"Eschtah's hundred summers smile in the face of youth. The arm of the
White Chief is strong; the kiss of the Flower of the Desert is sweet.
Let Mescal and Jack rest their heads on one pillow, and sleep under the
trees, and chant when the dawn brightens in the east. Out of his wise
years the Navajo bids them love while they may. Daughter of my race,
take the blessing of the Navajo."

Jack lifted Mescal upon Black Bolly and mounted Silvermane. Piute
grinned till he shook his earrings and started the pack burros toward the
plateau trail. Wolf pattered on before, turning his white head,
impatient of delay. Amid tears and waving of hands and cheers they began
the zigzag ascent.

When they reached the old camp on the plateau the sun was setting behind
the Painted Desert. With hands closely interwoven they watched the color
fade and the mustering of purple shadows.

Twilight fell. Piute raked the red coals from the glowing centre of the
camp-fire. Wolf crouched all his long white length, his sharp nose on
his paws, watching Mescal. Hare watched her, too. The night shone in
her eyes, the light of the fire, the old brooding mystic desert-spirit,
and something more. The thump of Silvermane's hobbled hoofs was heard in
the darkness; Bolly's bell jangled musically. The sheep were bleating.
A lonesome coyote barked. The white stars blinked out of the blue and
the night breeze whispered softly among the cedars.

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