Desert Gold (Chapter 7, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 7

"A crippled Yaqui! Why the hell did you saddle yourself with him?"
roared Belding, as he laid Gale upon the bed.

Belding had grown hard these late, violent weeks.

"Because I chose," whispered Gale, in reply. "Go after him--he dropped
in the trail--across the river--near the first big saguaro."

Belding began to swear as he fumbled with matches and the lamp; but as
the light flared up he stopped short in the middle of a word.

"You said you weren't hurt?" he demanded, in sharp anxiety, as he bent
over Gale.

"I'm only--all in.... Will you go--or send some one--for the Yaqui?"

"Sure, Dick, sure," Belding replied, in softer tones. Then he stalked
out; his heels rang on the flagstones; he opened a door and called:
"Mother--girls, here's Dick back. He's done up.... Now--no, no, he's
not hurt or in bad shape. You women!... Do what you can to make him
comfortable. I've got a little job on hand."

There were quick replies that Gale's dulling ears did not distinguish.
Then it seemed Mrs. Belding was beside his bed, her presence so cool
and soothing and helpful, and Mercedes and Nell, wide-eyed and
white-faced, were fluttering around him. He drank thirstily, but
refused food. He wanted rest. And with their faces drifting away in a
kind of haze, with the feeling of gentle hands about him, he lost
consciousness.

He slept twenty hours. Then he arose, thirsty, hungry, lame, overworn,
and presently went in search of Belding and the business of the day.

"Your Yaqui was near dead, but guess we'll pull him through," said
Belding. "Dick, the other day that Indian came here by rail and foot
and Lord only knows how else, all the way from New Orleans! He spoke
English better than most Indians, and I know a little Yaqui. I got
some of his story and guessed the rest. The Mexican government is
trying to root out the Yaquis. A year ago his tribe was taken in
chains to a Mexican port on the Gulf. The fathers, mothers, children,
were separated and put in ships bound for Yucatan. There they were
made slaves on the great henequen plantations. They were driven,
beaten, starved. Each slave had for a day's rations a hunk of sour
dough, no more. Yucatan is low, marshy, damp, hot. The Yaquis were
bred on the high, dry Sonoran plateau, where the air is like a knife.
They dropped dead in the henequen fields, and their places were taken
by more. You see, the Mexicans won't kill outright in their war of
extermination of the Yaquis. They get use out of them. It's a
horrible thing.... Well, this Yaqui you brought in escaped from his
captors, got aboard ship, and eventually reached New Orleans. Somehow
he traveled way out here. I gave him a bag of food, and he went off
with a Papago Indian. He was a sick man then. And he must have fallen
foul of some Greasers."

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