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Over the pass


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Title:OverthePass
Author:FrederickPalmer
ReleaseDate:February4,2004[EBook#10932]
Language:English
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OVERTHEPASS
BYFREDERICKPALMER
AUTHOROFTHEVAGABOND,DANBURYRODD,ETC.


1912


CONTENTS
PARTI—ANEASYTRAVELLER
CHAPTER
IYOUTHINSPURS
IIDINOSAURORDESPERADO
IIIJACKRIDESINCOMPANY
IVHECARRIESTHEMAIL
VASMILEANDASQUARECHIN
VIOBLIVIONISNOTEASY
VIIWHATHAPPENEDATLANG'S
VIIIACCORDINGTOCODE
IXTHEDEVILISOUT
XMARYEXPLAINS
XISEÑORDON'TCARERECEIVES
XIIMARYBRINGSTRIBUTE
XIIIAJOURNEYONCRUTCHES
XIV"HOWFASTYOUSEW!"


XVWHENTHEDESERTBLOOMS
XVIACHANGEOFMIND
XVIITHEDOGESNAPSARUBBERBAND
XVIIIANOTHERSTRANGERARRIVES
XIXLOOKINGOVERPRECIPICES
XXAPUZZLEDAMBASSADOR
XXI"GOOD-BY,LITTLERIVERS!"
XXII"LUCK,JACK,LUCK!"

PARTII—HEFINDSHIMSELF
XXIIILABELLEDANDSHIPPED
XXIVINTHECITADELOFTHEMILLIONS
XXV"BUTWITHYOU,YES,SIR!"
XXVIIBYRIGHTOFANCESTRY
XXVIIIJACKGETSARAISE
XXIXAMEETINGONTHEAVENUETRAIL
XXXWITHTHEPHANTOMS
XXXIPRATHERWOULDNOTWAIT


XXXIIACRISISINTHEWINGFIELDLIBRARY
XXXIIIPRATHERSEESTHEPORTRAIT
XXXIV"JOHNWINGFIELD,YOU—"


PARTIII—HEFINDSHISPLACEINLIFE
XXXVBACKTOLITTLERIVERS
XXXVIAROUNDTHEWATER-HOLE
XXXVIITHEENDOFTHEWEAVING
XXXVIIITHEIRSIDEOFTHEPASS


PARTI
ANEASYTRAVELLER


I
YOUTHINSPURS

Heretimewasasnothing;heresunsetandsunrisewereasincidentsofan
uncalendared,everlastingday;herechaoticgrandeurwasthatoftheearth'scrust
whenitcooledafterthelastconvulsivemovementofgenesis.
InalltheregionabouttheGaleriaPassthesilenceofthedryArizonaairseemed
luminousandeternal.WhoeverclimbedtothecrotchofthatV,cutjagged
againsttheskyfordistancesyetunreckonedbytouristfolders,mighthavethe
rewardofpitchingthetentsofhisimaginationatthegatewayoftheclouds.
Earlyonacertainafternoonhewouldhavenotedtotheeastwardaspeckfarout
onavastbasinofsandwhichwasenclosedbyarimoftumblingmountains.
Continuedobservationatlongrangewouldhaveshownthespecktobemoving
almostimperceptibly,withwhatseemedtheimpertinenceofinfinitesimallifein
thatdeadworld;and,eventually,itwouldhavetakentheformofamanastridea
pony.
Themanwasyoung,fantasticallyyoungifyouweretojudgebyhisgarb,a
flamboyantexpressionoftheromanticcowboystylewhichmighthaveservedas
asensationalexhibitinashop-window.Inplaceoftheconventionalbluewool
shirtwasoneofdarkbluesilk.Thechaparejos,or"chaps,"wereofthesoftest
leather,withthefringeattheseamsgenerouslylong;andthesilverspursatthe
boot-heelswerechasedinantiquepatternandridiculouslylarge.Insteadofthe
conventionalhandkerchiefattheneckwasadarkredstringtie;whilethe
straight-brimmedcowpuncherhat,outofkeepingwiththegeneraleffectof
newnessandlaunderedfreshness,hadthattintwhichonlyexposuretomany
dewfallsandmanyblazingmid-dayswillproduceinlight-coloredfelt.
Therewasvagrancyinthesmileofhissingularlysensitivemouthandvagrancy
intherelaxedwaythatherode.Fromthefondnesswithwhichhisgazeswept


thenakedpeakstheymighthavebeencitiesenfêtecallinghimtotheir
festivities.Ifso,hewasinnohastetoletrealizationovertakeanticipation.His
reinshungloose.HehummedsnatchesofSpanish,French,andEnglishsongs.
Theircosmopolitanfreedomofvarietywasasoutofkeepingwiththesceneas
theirlilt,whichhadthetripping,self-carryingimpetusofthesheerjoyofliving.
Lapsingintosilence,hisfacewentruminativeandthensad.Withasudden
indrawingofbreathhefreedhimselffromhisreverie,andbendingoverfromhis
saddlepattedabuckskinneckinaffectionatetattoo.Tawnyearsturnedbackward
inappreciativefellowship,butwithoutanybreakinaploddingdog-trot.Though
therider'saspectmightsaywiththedesertthattimewasnothing,thepony's
expressedalogicalpurpose.Thusthespeedoftheirmachine-likeprogresswas
entirelyregulatedbytheprospectofameasureofoatsatthejourney'send.
Whentheycametothefoot-hillsandtheriderdismountedandledtheway,with
afollowingmuzzleattimespokingthesmallofhisback,upthetortuouspath,
roundingpinnaclesandskimmingtheedgeofabysses,hislegmusclesanswered
withthereadinessoffamiliaritywithclimbing.Atthetophesawwhythepass
hadreceiveditsnameofGaleriafromtheSpanish.Agreatisoscelesof
precipitouswallsformedalong,naturalgallery,whichtheheavingoftheearth's
crusthadrentandtimehaderoded.Itlaynearthepresentboundarylineoftwo
civilizations:intheneutralzoneofdesertexpanses,wheretheSaxonpioneer,
withhislipsclosedonEnglishs's,hadpausedinhisprogresssouthward;andthe
conquistadore,withtonguecaressingCastilianvowels,hadpausedinhis
progressnorthward.
Attheothersidethetravellerbeheldabasinwhichwasathousandfeethigher
thantheonebehindhim.Itapproachedthepassatagentlerslope.Itmustbe
coolerthantheother,itsozonealittlerarer.Aseaofquiveringandsinginglight
intheafternoonglow,itwaslostinthehorizon.
Notfarfromthefoot-hillsfloatedapatchoffoliage,checkeredbytheroofsof
thehousesofanirrigationcolony,hangingkitelikeattheendofthesilverthread
ofariverwhosewatershadsetgardensabloominsterileexpanses.There
seemedarefusalofintimacywiththeonevisiblesymbolofitsrelationswiththe
outerworld;fortherailroad,withitslinesofsteelflashingacrossthegraylevels,
passedbeyondtheouteredgeoftheoasis.
"ThisbeatsanyvalleyI'veseenyet,"andthetravellerspokewiththeconfidence


ofonewhoisaconnoisseurofArizonavalleys.
Hepausedforsometimeinhesitancytotakeafarewelloftherapturousvista.A
hundredfeetlowerandtherefractionofthelightwouldpresentitindifferent
coloringandperspective.Withhisspellofvisualintoxicationranthe
consciousnessofbeingutterlyalone.Buttheegoismofhisisolationinthe
toweringinfinitedidnotendure;forthesoundofvoices,aman'sandawoman's,
brokeonhisear.
Theman'swasstrident,disagreeable,persistent.Itstimbrewassuchashehad
heardcomingoutofthedoorsofbordersaloons.Thewoman'swasquietand
resisting,itsqualityofyouthpeculiarlyemphasizedbyitsrestrainedemotion.
Nowtheeasytravellertookstockofhisimmediatesurroundings,whichhad
interestedhimonlyasafootholdandvantage-pointforthepanoramathathehad
beenbreathingin.Here,ofallconceivableplaces,hewasindangerofbecoming
eavesdroppertoaconversationwhichwasevidentlyverypersonal.Roundingthe
escarpmentathiselbowhesaw,onashelfofdecayinggranite,twowaiting
ponies.OnehadaMexicansaddleofthecowboytype.TheotherhadanEastern
side-saddle,whichstruckhimasexoticinalandwherewomenmostlyride
astride.Andwhatwoman,whateverstyleofridingshechose,shouldcareto
cometothispass?
Judgingbythedirectionfromwhichthevoicescame,thespeakerswerehidden
bystillanotherturninthedefile.Afewmorestepsbroughteyeaswellasear
backtothelivingworldwiththesightofagirlseatedonabowlder.Hecouldsee
nothingofherfaceexceptthecheek,whichwasbrown,andthetipofachin,
whichheguessedwasoval,andherhair,whichwasdarkunderherhatbrimand
shimmeringwithgoldwhereitwaskissedbytheraysofthesun.Animpression
asswiftasaflashoflightcouldnotexcludeinevitablecuriosityastothefull
face;acuriosityemphasizedbythepoisederectnessofherslenderfigure.
Themanwasbendingoverherinafamiliarway.Hewasthirty,perhaps,inthe
primeofphysicalvigor,square-jawed,cocksure,asix-shooterslungathiship.
Thoughshewasnotgivingwaybeforehim,herattitude,initssteadiness,
reflecteddistressinabowstrungtremulousness.Suddenly,atsomethinghesaid
whichtheeasytravellercouldnotquiteunderstand,shesprangupaflame,her
handflyingbackagainsttherockwallbehindherforsupport.Thentheman
spokesoloudthathewasdistinctlyaudible.


"Whenyougetmadlikethatyou'reprettier'never,"hesaid.
Itwasapeculiarsituation.Itseemedincredible,melodramatic,unreal,insightof
thecrawlingfreighttrainfaroutonthelevels.
"Aren'tyouoverplayingyourpart,sir?"theeasytravellerasked.
Theman'shandflewtohissix-shooter,whilethegirllookedaroundinswiftand
eagerimpulsetotheinterruptingvoice.Itsowner,thecolorschemeofhisattire
emphasizedbytheglareofthelowsun,expressedinhisposeandtheinquiring
flickerofasmilepurelytheelementofthecasual.Farfrommakingany
movementtowardhisownsix-shooter,heseemedobliviousofanysuch
necessity.Withthefirstglimpseofherface,whenhesawthevioletflameofher
angergoruddywithsurpriseandrelief,thenfluidandsparklingasaculminating
changeofemotion,hefeltcheapforhavingaskedhimselfthequestion—which
nowseemedsosuperficial—whethersheweregood-lookingornot.Shewas,
undoubtedly,yes,undoubtedlygood-lookinginawayofherown.
"Whatbusinessisitofyours?"demandedtheman,evidentlyunderthe
impressionthathewasduetosaysomething,whilehisfingersstillrestedonhis
holster.
"Noneatall,unlessshesaysso,"thedelivereranswered."Isit?"heaskedher.
Afterherfirstglanceathimshehadloweredherlashes.Nowsheraisedthem,
sendingadirectmessagebesidewhichherfirstglancehadbeendumb
indifference.Hewasseeingintothedepthsofhereyesintheconsciousnessofa
privilegerarelybestowed.Theygavewingtoathousandinquiries.Hehadthe
thrillofanexplorerwhoisabouttoenteronavoyageofdiscovery.Thentheveil
wasdrawnbeforehisshiphadevenputoutfromport.Itwasaveilwovenwith
finethreadsofappreciativeandconventionalgratitude.
"Itis!"shesaiddecisively.
"I'llbegoing,"saidthepersecutor,withagrimacethatseemedmixedpartlyof
inherentbravadoandpartlyofshame,ashispulsesloweddowntonormal.
"Asyouplease,"answeredthateasytraveller."Ihadnomindtoexertany
positivedirectionsoveryourmovements."


Hispoliteness,hisdisinterestedness,andhisevidentdisinclinationtoanykindof
vehemencecarriedanimplicationmoreexasperatingthananopenchallenge.
Theychangedmelodramaintocomedy.Theymadehisprotagonistappeara
negligiblequantity.
"There'ssomethingsIdon'tdowhenwomenarearound,"thepersecutor
returned,grudgingly,andwentforhishorse;whileoppressivesilenceprevailed.
Theeasytravellerwasnotlookingatthegirlorsheathim.Hewasregardingthe
othermanidly,curiously,thoughnotcontemptuouslyashemountedandstarted
downthetrailtowardthevalley,onlytodrawreinashelookedbackoverhis
shoulderwithaglarewhichtooktheeasytravellerinfromheadtofoot.
"Huh!Younear-silkdude!"hesaidchokingly,inhisrancorwhichhadgrown
withthefewminuteshehadhadforself-communion.
"Ifyoumeanmyshirt,itwassoldtomeforpuresilk,"theeasytraveller
returned,inhalf-diffidentcorrectionofthestatement.
"We'llmeetagain!"camethemoredefiniteandarticulatedefiance.
"Perhaps.Whocantell?Arizona,thoughalargeplace,hassofewpeoplethatit
ishumanlyverysmall."
Nowtheothermanroseinhisstirrups,restingtheweightofhisbodyonthe
palmofthehandwhichwasonthebackofhissaddle.Hewasrigid,hisvoice
wasshakingwithverygenuinethoughdramaticragedrawntoafinepointof
determination.
"Whenwedomeet,youbetterdraw!Igiveyouwarning!"hecalled.
Therewasnosignthatthisthreathadmadetheeasytravellertightenasingle
muscle.Butatraceofscepticismhadcreptintohissmile.
"Whew!"Hedrewtheexclamationoutintoawhistle.
"Whistle—whistlewhileyoucan!Youwon'thavemanymorechances!Draw,
youtenderfoot!Butitwon'tdoanygood—I'llgetyou!"
Withthischallengetheothersettledbackintothesaddleandproceededonhis
way.


"Whew!"Thesecondwhistlewasanythingbuttruculentandanythingbut
apologetic.Ithadtheunconsciousandspontaneousqualityofthedelightofthe
collectorwhofindsanewspecimeninwildplaces.
Fromunderherlashesthegirlhadbeenwatchingtheeasytravellerratherthan
herpersecutor;first,studiously;then,intheconfusionofembarrassmentthatleft
herspeechless.
"Well,well,"heconcluded,"youmusttakenotonlyyourzoology,butyour
anthropologyasyoufindit!"
Hisdrollness,hisdrycontemplationofthespecimen,andhisabsurdlygayand
unpracticalattire,formedacombinationofelementssuddenlygroupedintoan
effectthattouchedherreflexnervesafterthestrainwiththemagicofhumor.She
couldnothelpherself:sheburstoutlaughing.Atthis,helookedawayfromthe
specimen;lookedaroundpuzzled,quizzically,and,insympatheticimpulse,
beganlaughinghimself.Thusawhollyunmodernincidenttookawhimsicalturn
outofahorrorwhich,iffarcicalintheabstract,wasnolesspotentinthe
concrete.
"QuiteliketheMiddleAges,isn'tit?"hesaid.
"ButWalterScottceasedwritinginthethirties!"shereturned,quicktofallin
withhiscue.
"Theswooningageoutlastedhim—lasted,indeed,intotheeraofhoop-skirts;
butthat,too,isgone."
"Theydogivemedals,"sheadded.
"Forrescuingthedrowningonly;andtheyareagreatnuisancetocarryaroundin
one'sbaggage.Pleasedon'trecommendme!"
Bothlaughedagainsoftly,lookingfairlyateachotherinunderstanding,
twentieth-centuryfashion.Shewasnottoplaytheclassicdamselorhethe
classicrescuer.Yetthefactofayoungmanfindingayoungwomanbrutally
annoyedontheroofoftheworld,fiveorsixmilesfromasettlement—well,it
wasafact.Overthebumpoftheirself-introduction,freeoftheserious
impressionofherexperience,shecouldthinkforhimaswellasforherself.This
struckherwithsuddenalarm.


"IfearIhavemadeyouadangerousenemy,"shesaid."PeteLeddyistheprize
ruffianofourcommunityofLittleRivers."
"Ithoughtthatthiswouldbeaninterestingvalley,"hereturned,inbland
appreciationofhercontributionofinformationaboutthehabitsofthespecimen.


II
DINOSAURORDESPERADO

Shefacedasituationirritatingandvitalizing,andinevitably,underitsgrowing
perplexity,herobservationofhisappearanceandcharacteristicshadbeenacute
withfeminineintuition,whichissofrequentlyright,thatweforgetthatitmay
notalwaysbe.Sheimaginedhimwithacertainamiableaimlessnessturninghis
ponytoonesidesoasnottoknockdownadangersign,whileherodestraight
overaprecipice.
WhatwouldhavehappenedifLeddyhadreallydrawn?sheaskedherself.
ProbablyherdelivererwouldhaveregardedthemuzzleofLeddy'sgunin
studiousvacancybeforeabulletsenthimtokingdomcome.Allspeculation
aside,herproblemwashowtorescueherrescuer.Shefeltalmostmotherlyon
hisaccount,hewassoblissfullyoblivioustorealities.Andshefelt,too,that
underthecircumstances,sheoughttobeformal.
"Now,Mister—"shebegan;andtheMistersoundedoddandstiltedinherearsin
relationtohim.
"Jackismyname,"hesaidsimply.
"MineisMary,"shevolunteered,givinghimasmuchashehadgivenandno
more."Now,sir,"shewenton,inperemptoryearnestness,"thisisserious."
"Itwas,"heanswered."Atleast,unpleasant."
"Itis,now.PeteLeddymeantwhathesaidwhenhesaidthathewoulddraw."
"Heoughtto,fromhisrepeatedemphasis,"answeredJack,inagreeable
affirmation.


"Hehassixnotchesonhisgun-handle—sixmenthathehaskilled!"
Marywenton.
"Whew!"saidJack."Andheisn'tmorethanthirty!Heseemsahardworkerwho
keepsrightonthejob."
Shepressedherlipstogethertocontrolheramusement,beforesheasked
categorically,withtheprecisionofaschool-mistress:
"Doyouknowhowtoshoot?"
Hewassurprised.Heseemedtobewonderingifshewerenotmakingsportof
him.
"WhyshouldIcarryasix-shooterifIdidnot?"heasked.
Thisconvincedherthathisrevolverwasapartofhisplaycowboycostume.He
hadcomeoutoftheEastthinkingthatdesperadoetiquetteoftheBadLandswas
opérabouffe.
"Leddyisadeadshot.Hewillgiveyounochance!"sheinsisted.
"Ishouldthinknot,"Jackmused."No,naturallynot;otherwisetheremighthave
beennosixthnotch.Thethirdorthefourth,eventhesecondobjectofhisfavor
mighthaveblastedhisfairyoungcareerasawood-carver.Hashesetanylimit
tohisambition?Ishegoingtomakeitanevenhundredandthenretire?"
"Idon'tknow!"shegasped.
"Imustask,"headded,thoughtfully.
Washeoutofhishead?Certainlyhiseyewasnotinsane.Itsbluish-graywas
twinklingenjoyablyintohers.
"Youexasperatedhimwiththatwhistle.Itwasadeadlyinsulttohisdesperado
pride.Youaremarked—don'tyousee,marked?"shepersisted."AndIbroughtit
on!Iamresponsible!"
Heshookhisheadinadenialsounmovedbyherappealthatshewassurehe
wouldsendJobintoanapoplecticfrenzy.


"Pardonme,butyou'recontradictingyourownstatement.Youjustsaiditwas
thewhistle,"hecorrectedher."It'sthewhistlethatgivesmeCheckNumber
Seven.Youhaven'ttheleastbitofresponsibility.Thewhistlegetsitall,justas
yousaid."
Thiswastoomuch.Confutingherwithherownwords!Quibblingwithhisown
dangerinordertomakeheranaccompliceofmurder!Shelosthertemper
completely.Thatfactalonecouldaccountfortheaudacityofhernextremark.
"Iwonderifyoureallyknowenoughtocomeinoutoftherain!"shestormed.
"That'stheblessingoflivinginArizona,"hereturned."Itissuchadryclimate."
Shecaughtherselflaughing;andthisonlymadeherthemoreintenseasecond
later,onadifferenttack.Nowshewouldplead.
"Please—pleasepromisemethatyouwillnotgotoLittleRiversto-night.
Promisethatyouwillturnbackoverthepass!"
"Youputmebetweenthedevilandthedragon.Whatyouaskisimpossible.I'll
tellyouwhy,"hewenton,confidentially."Youknowthisisthelandoffossil
dinosaurs."
"Ihadabruteonmyhands,"shethought;"nowIhavetheMadHatterandthe
MarchHareincollaboration!"
"Thereisabigdinosaurcometolifeontheotherside,"heproceeded."Ijustgot
throughthepassintime.Icouldfeelhisbreathonmyback—ahot,gunpowderybreath!Itwasawful,simplyawfulandhorrible,too.AndjustasIhad
resignedmyselftobehisentrée,bygreatluckhisbigmiddlegotwedgedinthe
bottomoftheV,andhisscalesscrapedliketheplatesofashipagainstastone
pier!"
Toherdisgustshewaslaughingagain.
"IfIwentbacknowoutoffearofPeteLeddy,"hecontinued,"thatdinosaur
wouldknowthatIwassuchinsignificantpreyhewouldnoteventakethe
troubletoknockmedownwithaforepaw.Hewouldswallowmealiveand
running!Thinkofthatslimyslidedowntheredupholsteryofhisgullet,notto
mentionthemiseryofatotallossofmydignityandself-respect!"


Hehadspokenitallasifhebelievedittrue.Hemadeitseemalmosttrue.
"Ilikenonsenseasmuchasanybody,"shebegan,"andIdonotforgetthatyou
didmeagreatkindness."
"Whichanystranger,anythirdpersoncomingattherightmomentmighthave
done,"heinterrupted."SirWalter'sagehaspassed."
"Yes,butPeteLeddybelongsstillfartherback.Wemaylaughathisruffianly
bravado,butnoonemaylaughataforty-fourcalibrebullet!Thinkwhatyouare
goingtomakemepayforyourkindness!Imustpaywithmemoryofthesound
ofashotandthefallofabodythereinthestreetsofLittleRivers—anightmare
forlife!Oh,Ibegofyou,thoughitisfunforyoutobekilled,considerme!
Don'tgodownintothatvalley!Ibegofyou,gobackoverthepass!"
Therewasnoacting,nosuspicionofagesture.Shestoodquitestill,whileallthe
powerofhereyesreflectedthemiserywhichshepicturedforherself.Thelow
pitchofhervoicesoundeditsdepthswiththatrestraintwhichmakesforthe
mostpoignantintensity.Asshereachedherclimaxhehadcomeoutofhis
languidpose.Hewaserectandrigid.Shesawhimassomepersonotherthanthe
onetowhomshehadbegunherappeal.Hewasstillsmiling,buthissmilewas
ofadifferentsort.Insteadofbeingthesignificantthingabouthiminexpression
ofhiscasualness,itseemedthesofteningcompensationforhisstubbornness.
"I'dliketo,butitishardlyinhumannatureformetodothat.Ican't!"Andhe
askedifhemightbringupherpony.
"Yes,"sheconsented.
Shethoughtthatthefaintbowofcourtesywithwhichhehadaccompaniedthe
announcementofhisdecisionhewouldhavegiven,incommonpoliteness,to
anyonewhopointedatthedangersignbeforeherodeovertheprecipice.
"MayIridedownwithyou,orshallIgoahead?"heinquired,afterhehad
assistedhertomount.
"Withme!"sheanswered,quickly."Youaresafewhileyouarewithme."
Thedecisiveturntohermobilelipsandthefaintwrinklesofafrown,coming
andgoinginvariousheraldry,formedavividlysentientandversatileexpression


ofemotionswhileshewatchedhissilhouetteagainsttheskyasheturnedtoget
hisownpony.
"Come,P.D.—comealong!"hecalled.
Inanswertohisvoiceanequineface,peculiarlyreflectiveoftrailwisdom,bony
andlarge,particularlyovertheeyes,slowlyturnedtowarditsmaster.P.D.was
considering.
"Comealong!Thetrail,P.D.!"AndP.D.came,butwithdemocratic
independence,takinghistimetogetintomotion."Heisneverfast,"
Jackexplained,"butoncehehasthemotorgoing,hekeepsatitallday.
SoIcallhimP.D.withouttheQ.,asheisneverquick."
"PrettyDamn,youmean!"sheexclaimed,withacertainspontaneousprideof
understanding.Thensheflushedinconfusion.
"Oh,thankyou!Itwassohumanofyoutotranslateitoutloud!Itisn'tprofane.
Lookathimnow.Don'tyouthinkitisagoodnameforhim?"Jackasked,
seriously.
"Ido!"
Shewaslaughingagain,obliviousoftheimpendingtragedy.


III
JACKRIDESINCOMPANY

LetnottheGrundywomanraiseaneyebrowofdeprecationattheinformal
introductionofJackandMary,orweshallrefuteherwithherownprecepts,
whichmakethestepstoathronethestepsofthesocialpyramid.Ifshewishesa
sponsor,wenameanimpeccablemajestyoftheveryoldestdynastyofall,which
isentirelywithoutscandal.Weremindheroftheancientrulethatpeoplewho
meetatcourt,vouchedforbyroyalfavor,neednointroduction.
ThesetwohadmetundertheroofoftheEternalPainter.Hispaletteis
somewhereintheupperetherandhisheadintheinterplanetaryspaces.His
heavyeyebrowstwinklewithstar-dust.Dodgingoccasionalflyingmeteors,
whichharasshimasfliesharassalandscapistoutofdoorsonahotday,heis
everactive,thismightyartistofthechangingdesertsky.Soficklehismoods,so
versatilehisgenius,soquicktocreationhisfancy,thatheneverknowswhathis
nextcompositionwillbetillthesecondthatitisbegun.
Noearthlyrivalneedbejealousofhim.Hewillneverclogthegalleries.He
alwayspaintsonthesamecanvas,scrapingoffonepicturetomakeroomfor
another.Andyoudonotmindthelossoftheold.Youliveforthenew.
HisMajestyhasnoartisticmemory.Heisasyoungashewasthedaythathe
flungouthisfirsttentativelunetteafterchaos.Heisthepatronsaintofall
pilgrimsfromthecity'sstruggle,wheretheyfoundnooasesofrest.Hemelts
"pasts"andfamilyskeletonsandhiddenstoriesofanykindwhatsoeverintothe
blueasabackgroundwiththeabandonedpreoccupationofhisownbrushwork.
Hislieges,whoseekoblivioninthedesert,neednotworryaboutthewaterthat
willneverrunoverthemillwheelagain,ordwellinprophecyonfloodstocome.
Theomnipotenceofthemomenttransportsandsoothesthem.


"Timeisnothing!"saystheEternalPainter."Ifyoufeelimportant,remember
thatman'shecticbustlingmakesbutworm-workontheplanet.Liveandbreathe
joyfullyandmagnificently!Donotstrainyoureyesoverembroidery!Cometo
myopengallery!AndhowdoyoulikethewayIsetthosesilvercloudsatumbling?Doyouknowanythingbetterunderthedomeofanychurchor
capitol?ShallIbankthem?Linethemwithpurple?Itisdone!Butno!Letus
wipeitallout,changethetintofourbackground,andstartafresh!"
Withhiselevenhundredmillionbillionthsunset,orthereabouts,HisMajesty
heldamanandawomanwhohadmetontheroofoftheworldinthrall.Hewas
luridattheoutset,dippinghiscamel'shairinattheroundfurnacedoorsinking
towardthehills,whoseredvortexshottonguesofflameintocanyonsand
crevassesanddroveouttheirlurkingshadowswiththefireofitsinquisition.The
foliageofLittleRiversbecameagroveofquiveringleavesofgold,setonavast
beatenplatterofgold.Andthemanandthewoman,likeallthingselseinthe
landscape,weresuffusedinthisstill,Parnassian,penetratingbrilliancy,which
oughttomakeevenamiserfeelthathishoardedeaglesandsovereignsare
ephemeraldross.
"Iloveitall—allthedesert!"saidMaryEwold.
"AndI,too!"
"Ihaveforsixyears."
"Iforfive."
Thesentenceshadstruckclearlyasansweringchimes,impersonally,intheir
preoccupiedgazing.
"Itgavemelife!"headded.
"Anditgavemelife!"
Thentheylookedateachotherinmutualsurpriseandunderstanding;eachin
wonderthattheotherhadeverbeenanythingbutradiantofout-of-doorshealth.
Thatfleckonthelungswhichbroughtadoctor'sordershadlongagobeenhealed
bythephysicianoftheozonetheywerebreathing.
"Andyouremained,"hesaid.


"Andyou,also,"sheanswered.
Theirownsilenceseemedtobecomeathingapartfromthesilenceofthe
infinite.ItwasasifbothrecognizedacommonthoughtthateventheEternal
Paintercouldnotcompeloblivionofthepasttowhichtheydidnotreturn;ofthe
faithofcitiestowhichtheyhadbeenbred.ButitisoneoftheEternalPainter's
rulesthatnooneofhissubjectsshouldaskanotherofhissubjectswhyhestays
onthedesert.Jackwasthefirsttospeak,andhisvoicereturnedtothecasual
key.
"UsuallyIwatchthesunsetwhilewemakecamp,"hesaid."Iamverylatetonight—latebeyondallhabit;andsunsetandsunrisedomakeoneacreatureof
habitouthere.Firioandmylittletrainwillgrowimpatientwaitingforme."
"YoumeantheIndianandtheburrowiththesilverbellsthatcameoverthepass
sometimebeforeyou?"
Ofcoursetheybelongedtohim,shewasthinking,evenasshemadetheinquiry.
Thisplaycowboy,withhisabsurdlyenormoussilverspurs,wouldnaturallyput
bellsonhisburro.
"Yes,IsentFiriowithWrathofGodandJagEaronaheadandtoldhimtowait
atthefootofthedescent.WrathofGodwillworry—heisofaworryingnature.I
mustbegoing."
Inviewofthedinosaurnonsenseshewasalreadypreparedforavarietyof
inventionaltalkfromhim.Astheystarteddownfromthepassinsinglefile,she
leading,thesunsankbehindthehills,leavingtheEternalPainter,unhinderedby
afurnaceglareinthecentreofthecanvas,topaintwithathousandbrushesin
theradianttintsoftheafterglow.
"Youdon'tlikethatone,Oartcritics!"wehearhimsaying."Well,hereis
anotherbeforeyouhaveadjustedyourpince-nez,andIwillbrushitawaybefore
youhaveemittedyourfirstAh!Idonotcriticise.Ipaint—Ipaintfortheloveof
it.Ipaintwiththepigmentsofthefirmamentandtheimaginationofthe
universe."
Thetwodidnottalkofthatskywhichheldtheiravertedglances,whileknowing
hoofsthatboretheirweightkeptthepath.Forhowcanyoutalkofthedesertsky
exceptinthebanalityofexclamations?ItislèsemajestétotheEternalPainterto


attemptdescription.
Attimesshelookedbackandtheireyesmetinunderstanding,astruesubjectsof
HisMajesty,andthentheylookedskywardtoseewhatchangestheMaster's
witcheryhadwrought.Insupremeintoxicationofthesenses,breathingthatdry
airwhichwaslikecoolwinecominginlongsipstothepalate,theyrodedown
thewindingtrail,till,afterasurpassingoutburst,theEternalPainterdroppedhis
brushforthenight.
Itwasdusk.Shadowsreturnedtothecrevasses.Freeofthemagicofthesky,
withthecurtainsofnightdrawingin,themightysavageryofthebaremountains
intheirdisdainofmanandimaginationreasserteditself.ItdroppedMaryEwold
fromtheazuretotherealityofPeteLeddy.Shewasseeing,thesmokingendofa
revolverandabodylyinginapoolofblood;andthere,behindher,rodethis
smilingstranger,proceedingsogeniallyandcarelesslytothefatewhichshehad
providedforhim.
Withthelastturn,whichbroughtthemlevelwiththeplain,theycameuponan
Indian,abaggageburro,andariding-pony.TheIndiansprangup,grinning:his
welcomeanddoffingaMexicansteeple-hat.
"Imustintroduceyouallaround,"JacktoldMary.
Sheobservedinhismannersomethingnew!—apositiveenthusiasmforhisthree
retainers,whichincludedacertainwell-relishedvanityintheirloyaltyand
character.
"FiriohasSanchoPanzabeatentoafrazzle,"Jacksaid."Sanchowasfat
andunresourceful;evenstupid.Fancyhimbroilingaquailonaspit!
FancywhatalotoftroubleFiriocouldhavesavedDonQuixotedela
Mancha!Why,confoundit,hewouldhavespoiledthestory!"
Firiowasasolidgrain,totakeJack'sview,winnowedoutofbushelsof
aboriginalchaff;anIndian,allIndian,withoutanystrainofSpanishbloodinthe
primitivesouthernstrain.
"AndFirioridesWrathofGod,"Jackcontinued,noddingtoaponywithalowhungheadandpendantlip,whoselugubriousexpressionwasexaggeratedbya
scar."Helooksit,don'tyouthink?—alwaysmiserable,whetherhisnoseisinthe
oatsorwerunoutofwater.Heisoursadphilosopher,whohasjustas


dependableagaitasP.D.Ihavemanytheoriesaboutthepsychologyofhisego.
SometimesIexplainitbyadesirebothtoescapeandtopursueunhappiness,
whichamountstoasolemnkindofperpetualmotion.Buthehasapositively
sweetnature.Thereisnomoremaliceinhisprofessionalmournfulnessthanin
thecheerfulhumorofJagEar."
"ItisplaintoseewhichisJagEar,"sheobserved,"andhowheearnedhis
name."
Everytimeaburrogetsintothecorn,anIndianmastercutsoffabitoflong,
furryearasalesson.BeforeJagEarpassedintokindlierhandshehadbeen
clippedcloserthanaBostonterrier.Onlyasingleupstandingfragmentremained
intokenofagradededucationwhichhadavailedhimnothing.
"There'snocurtailingJagEar'scuriosity,"saidJack."Tohim,everythingis
worthtrying.Thatiswhyheisaborntraveller.Hehasbeenwithmefrom
ColoradotoChihuahua,onallmywanderingsbackandforth."
Whilehespoke,FiriomountedWrathofGodand,withJagEar'sbellsjingling,
thesupplydivisionsetoutontheroad.JackandMaryfollowed,thistimeriding
sidebyside,ponynosetoponynose,inanintimacyofassociationimpossiblein
thenarrowmountaintrail.Itwasanintimacysignalizedbysilence.Therewasan
endtothemightytransportsoftheheights;thewellsofwhimsicalityhaddried
up.Theweightofthesilenceseemedbalancingonabrittlethread.Allthe
afternoon'seventsalignedthemselvesinacolossalsatire.InthehalflightJack
becameagauntandlonelyfigurethatoughttobeconfinedinsomeUtopian
kindergarten.
Marycouldfeelhertemplesbeatingwiththefearofwhatwaswaitingforhimin
LittleRivers,nowadarkmassonthelevels,justdark,withoutcolororany
attractionexceptthemysterythatgoeswiththeshroudofnight.Sheknewhow
hewouldlaughatherfears;forsheguessedthathewasunafraidofanythingin
theworldwhich,however,wasnoprotectionfromPeteLeddy'ssix-shooter.
"I—Ihavearighttoknow—won'tyoutellmehowyouaregoingtodefend
yourselfagainstPeteLeddy?"shedemanded,inasuddenoutburst.
"Ihadn'tthoughtofthat.Certainly,IshallleaveittoPetehimselftoopen
hostilities.Ihadn'tthoughtofitbecauseIhavebeentoobusythinkingouthowI
wasgoingtobreakapieceofnewstoFirio.Ihavebeenanawfulcowardabout


it,puttingitoffandputtingitoff.Ihadplannedtodoitonmybirthdaytwo
weeksago,andthenhegavemethesebigsilverspurs—spentawholemonth's
wagesonthem,thinkofthat!Iboughtthiscowboyregaliatogowiththem.You
can'timaginehowthatpleasedhim.Itcertainlywasgreatfun."
Marycouldonlyshakeherheadhopelessly.
"FirioandJagEarandWrathofGodandoldP.D.here—we'vesortofgrown
usedtooneanother'sfoolishness.NowIcan'tputitoffanylonger,andI'dabout
assoonbemurderedastellhimthatIamgoingEastinthemorning."
"Youmeanyouaregoingtoleavehereforgood?"Shemistrustedherown
hearing.Shewasdazzledbythissuddenburstoflightthroughtheclouds.
"Yes,bythefirsttrain.Thisismylastdesertride."
Whyhadhenotsaidsoatfirst?Itwouldnotonlyhavesavedherfromworry,
butfromthehumiliationofpleadingwithastranger.Doubtlesshehadenjoyed
teasingher.Butnomatter.Theaffairneednotlastmuchlonger,now.Shetold
herselfthat,ifnecessary,shewouldmountguardoverhimfortheremaining
twelvehoursofhisstay.OncehewasaboardthePullmanhewouldbeoutof
danger;herresponsibilitywouldbeoverandthewholeaffairwouldbecomea
bizarrememory;anincidentclosed.
"BacktoNewYork,"hesaid,asonewhoentersafogwithoutacompass."Back
tofightpleosaurs,dinosaurs,andallkindsofmonsters,"headded,witha
cheerinesswhichrangwiththefirstfalsenoteshehadheardfromhim."Idon't
care,"heconcluded,andbrokeintoaSpanishair,whosebeatranwiththe
tricklinghoof-beatsoftheponiesinthesand.
"Thatisit!"shethought."Thatexplains.Hejustdoesnotcareaboutanything."
Ahead,thelampswerebeginningtotwinkleinthelittlesettlementwhichhad
sentsuchacontrastincitizenshipasMaryEwoldandPeteLeddyouttothepass.
Theywereapproachingasingle,isolatedbuilding,fromthedoorofwhichcame
asprayoflightandthesoundofmen'svoices.
"ThatisBillLang'splace,"Maryexplained."Hekeepsastore,withabarinthe
rear.Healsohasthepost-office,thankstohispoliticalinfluence,andthisis
whereIhavetostopforthemailwhenIreturnfromthepass."


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