The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 5, page 3 of 11)


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Chapter 5

"Ha! that's good!" said Naab, expanding his great chest. "That's air for you, my lad. Can you taste it? Well, here's camp, your home for many a day, Jack. There's Piute--how do? how're the sheep?"

A short, squat Indian, good-humored of face, shook his black head till the silver rings danced in his ears, and replied: "Bad--damn coyotee!"

"Piute--shake with Jack. Him shoot coyote--got big gun," said Naab.

"How-do-Jack?" replied Piute, extending his hand, and then straightway began examining the new rifle. "Damn--heap big gun!"

"Jack, you'll find this Indian one you can trust, for all he's a Piute outcast," went on August. "I've had him with me ever since Mescal found him on the Coconina Trail five years ago. What Piute doesn't know about this side of Coconina isn't worth learning."

In a depression sheltered from the wind lay the camp. A fire burned in the centre; a conical tent, like a tepee in shape, hung suspended from a cedar branch and was staked at its four points; a leaning slab of rock furnished shelter for camp supplies and for the Indian, and at one end a spring gushed out. A gray-sheathed cedar-tree marked the entrance to this hollow glade, and under it August began preparing Hare's bed.

"Here's the place you're to sleep, rain or shine or snow," he said. "Now I've spent my life sleeping on the ground, and mother earth makes the best bed. I'll dig out a little pit in this soft mat of needles; that's for your hips. Then the tarpaulin so; a blanket so. Now the other blankets. Your feet must be a little higher than your head; you really sleep down hill, which breaks the wind. So you never catch cold. All you need do is to change your position according to the direction of the wind. Pull up the blankets, and then the long end of the tarpaulin. If it rains or snows cover your head, and sleep, my lad, sleep to the song of the wind!"

From where Hare lay, resting a weary body, he could see down into the depression which his position guarded. Naab built up the fire; Piute peeled potatoes with deliberate care; Mescal, on her knees, her brown arms bare, kneaded dough in a basin; Wolf crouched on the ground, and watched his mistress; Black Bolly tossed her head, elevating the bag on her nose so as to get all the grain.

Naab called him to supper, and when Hare set to with a will on the bacon and eggs, and hot biscuits, he nodded approvingly. "That's what I want to see," he said approvingly. "You must eat. Piute will get deer, or you may shoot them yourself; eat all the venison you can. Remember what Scarbreast said. Then rest. That's the secret. If you eat and rest you will gain strength."

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