The Call of the Canyon (Chapter 2, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 2

Carley, clutching her support, with abated breath and prickling skin,
gazed in fascinated suspense over the rim of the gorge. Sometimes the
wheels on that side of the vehicle passed within a few inches of the
edge. The brakes squeaked, the wheels slid; and she could hear the
scrape of the iron-shod hoofs of the horses as they held back stiff
legged, obedient to the wary call of the driver.

The first hundred yards of that steep road cut out of the cliff appeared
to be the worst. It began to widen, with descents less precipitous. Tips
of trees rose level with her gaze, obstructing sight of the blue depths.
Then brush appeared on each side of the road. Gradually Carley's strain
relaxed, and also the muscular contraction by which she had braced
herself in the seat. The horses began to trot again. The wheels rattled.
The road wound around abrupt corners, and soon the green and red wall of
the opposite side of the canyon loomed close. Low roar of running water
rose to Carley's ears. When at length she looked out instead of down she
could see nothing but a mass of green foliage crossed by tree trunks
and branches of brown and gray. Then the vehicle bowled under dark
cool shade, into a tunnel with mossy wet cliff on one side, and
close-standing trees on the other.

"Reckon we're all right now, onless we meet somebody comin' up,"
declared the driver.

Carley relaxed. She drew a deep breath of relief. She had her first
faint intimation that perhaps her extensive experience of motor cars,
express trains, transatlantic liners, and even a little of airplanes,
did not range over the whole of adventurous life. She was likely to meet
something, entirely new and striking out here in the West.

The murmur of falling water sounded closer. Presently Carley saw that
the road turned at the notch in the canyon, and crossed a clear swift
stream. Here were huge mossy boulders, and red walls covered by lichens,
and the air appeared dim and moist, and full of mellow, hollow roar.
Beyond this crossing the road descended the west side of the canyon,
drawing away and higher from the creek. Huge trees, the like of which
Carley had never seen, began to stand majestically up out of the gorge,
dwarfing the maples and white-spotted sycamores. The driver called these
great trees yellow pines.

At last the road led down from the steep slope to the floor of the
canyon. What from far above had appeared only a green timber-choked
cleft proved from close relation to be a wide winding valley, tip and
down, densely forested for the most part, yet having open glades and
bisected from wall to wall by the creek. Every quarter of a mile or so
the road crossed the stream; and at these fords Carley again held on
desperately and gazed out dubiously, for the creek was deep, swift, and
full of bowlders. Neither driver nor horses appeared to mind obstacles.
Carley was splashed and jolted not inconsiderably. They passed through
groves of oak trees, from which the creek manifestly derived its name;
and under gleaming walls, cold, wet, gloomy, and silent; and between
lines of solemn wide-spreading pines. Carley saw deep, still green
pools eddying under huge massed jumble of cliffs, and stretches of white
water, and then, high above the treetops, a wild line of canyon rim,
cold against the sky. She felt shut in from the world, lost in an
unscalable rut of the earth. Again the sunlight had failed, and the gray
gloom of the canyon oppressed her. It struck Carley as singular that she
could not help being affected by mere weather, mere heights and depths,
mere rock walls and pine trees, and rushing water. For really, what
had these to do with her? These were only physical things that she was
passing. Nevertheless, although she resisted sensation, she was more and
more shot through and through with the wildness and savageness of this
canyon.

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