The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 7, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 7

Little dew fell on the night of July first; the dawn brightened without mists; a hot sun rose; the short summer of the plateau had begun.

As Hare rose, refreshed and happy from his breakfast, his whistle was cut short by the Indian.

"Ugh!" exclaimed Piute, lifting a dark finger. Black Bolly had thrown her nose-bag and slipped her halter, and she moved toward the opening in the cedars, her head high, her black ears straight up.

"Bolly!" called Mescal. The mare did not stop.

"What the deuce?" Hare ran forward to catch her.

"I never knew Bolly to act that way," said Mescal. "See--she didn't eat half the oats. Well, Bolly--Jack! look at Wolf!"

The white dog had risen and stood warily shifting his nose. He sniffed the wind, turned round and round, and slowly stiffened with his head pointed toward the eastern rise of the plateau.

"Hold, Wolf, hold!" called Mescal, as the dog appeared to be about to dash away.

"Ugh!" grunted Piute.

"Listen, Jack; did you hear?" whispered the girl.

"Hear what?"

"Listen."

The warm breeze came down in puffs from the crags; it rustled in the cedars and blew fragrant whiffs of camp-fire smoke into his face; and presently it bore a low, prolonged whistle. He had never before heard its like. The sound broke the silence again, clearer, a keen, sharp whistle.

"What is it?" he queried, reaching for his rifle.

"Wild mustangs," said Mescal.

"No," corrected Piute, vehemently shaking his head. "Clea, Clea."

"Jack, he says 'horse, horse.' It's a wild horse."

A third time the whistle rang down from the ridge, splitting the air, strong and trenchant, the fiery, shrill challenge of a stallion.

Black Bolly reared straight up.

Jack ran to the rise of ground above the camp, and looked over the cedars. "Oh!" he cried, and beckoned for Mescal. She ran to him, and Piute, tying Black Bolly, hurried after. "Look! look!" cried Jack. He pointed to a ridge rising to the left of the yellow crags. On the bare summit stood a splendid stallion clearly silhouetted against the ruddy morning sky. He was an iron-gray, wild and proud, with long silver-white mane waving in the wind.

"Silvermane! Silvermane!" exclaimed Mescal.

"What a magnificent animal!" Jack stared at the splendid picture for the moment before the horse moved back along the ridge and disappeared. Other horses, blacks and bays, showed above the sage for a moment, and they, too, passed out of sight.

"He's got some of his band with him," said Jack, thrilled with excitement. "Mescal, they're down off the upper range, and grazing along easy. The wind favors us. That whistle was just plain fight, judging from what Naab told me of wild stallions. He came to the hilltop, and whistled down defiance to any horse, wild or tame, that might be below. I'll slip round through the cedars, and block the trail leading up to the other range, and you and Piute close the gate of our trail at this end. Then send Piute down to tell Naab we've got Silvermane."

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