The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 7, page 2 of 9)


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Chapter 7

Jack chose the lowest edge of the plateau rim where the cedars were thickest for his detour to get behind the wild band; he ran from tree to tree, avoiding the open places, taking advantage of the thickets, keeping away from the ridge. He had never gone so far as the gate, but, knowing where the trail led into a split in the crags, he climbed the slope, and threaded a way over masses of fallen cliff, until he reached the base of the wall. The tracks of the wildhorse band were very fresh and plain in the yellow trail. Four stout posts guarded the opening, and a number of bars lay ready to be pushed into place. He put them up, making a gate ten feet high, an impregnable barrier. This done, he hurried back to camp.

"Jack, Bolly will need more watching to-day than the sheep, unless I let her loose. Why, she pulls and strains so she'll break that halter."

"She wants to go with the band; isn't that it?"

"I don't like to think so. But Father Naab doesn't trust Bolly, though she's the best mustang he ever broke."

"Better keep her in," replied Jack, remembering Naab's warning. "I'll hobble her, so if she does break loose she can't go far."

When Mescal and Jack drove in the sheep that afternoon, rather earlier than usual, Piute had returned with August Naab, Dave, and Billy, a string of mustangs and a pack-train of burros.

"Hello, Mescal," cheerily called August, as they came into camp. "Well Jack--bless me! Why, my lad, how fine and brown--and yes, how you've filled out!" He crushed Jack's hand in his broad palm, and his gray eyes beamed. "I've not the gift of revelation--but, Jack, you're going to get well."

"Yes, I--" He had difficulty with his enunciation, but he thumped his breast significantly and smiled.

"Black sage and juniper!" exclaimed August. "In this air if a man doesn't go off quickly with pneumonia, he'll get well. I never had a doubt for you, Jack--and thank God!"

He questioned Piute and Mescal about the sheep, and was greatly pleased with their report. He shook his head when Jack spread out the grizzly-pelt, and asked for the story of the killing. Jack made a poor showing with the tale and slighted his share in it, but Mescal told it as it actually happened. And Naab's great hand resounded from Jack's shoulder. Then, catching sight of the pile of coyote skins under the stone shelf, he gave vent to his surprise and delight. Then he came back to the object of his trip upon the plateau.

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