The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 1, page 2 of 12)


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Chapter 1

"August Naab, I am a Mormon too," returned Cole, "but my hands are stained with blood. Soon yours will be if you keep your water-holes and your cattle. Yes, I know. You're strong, stronger than any of us, far off in your desert oasis, hemmed in by walls, cut off by canyons, guarded by your Navajo friends. But Holderness is creeping slowly on you. He'll ignore your water rights and drive your stock. Soon Dene will steal cattle under your very eyes. Don't make them enemies."

"I can't pass by this helpless man," rolled out August Naab's sonorous voice.

Suddenly, with livid face and shaking hand, Cole pointed westward. "There! Dene and his band! See, under the red wall; see the dust, not ten miles away. See them?"

The desert, gray in the foreground, purple in the distance, sloped to the west. Eyes keen as those of hawks searched the waste, and followed the red mountain rampart, which, sheer in bold height and processional in its craggy sweep, shut out the north. Far away little puffs of dust rose above the white sage, and creeping specks moved at a snail's pace.

"See them? Ah! then look, August Naab, look in the heavens above for my prophecy," cried Cole, fanatically. "The red sunset--the sign of the times--blood!"

A broad bar of dense black shut out the April sky, except in the extreme west, where a strip of pale blue formed background for several clouds of striking color and shape. They alone, in all that expanse, were dyed in the desert's sunset crimson. The largest projected from behind the dark cloud-bank in the shape of a huge fist, and the others, small and round, floated below. To Cole it seemed a giant hand, clutching, with inexorable strength, a bleeding heart. His terror spread to his companions as they stared.

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