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


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Chapter 3

"Glad you slept some," was Naab's greeting. "No sign of Dene yet. If we can get over the divide we're safe. That's Coconina there, Fire Mountain in Navajo meaning. It's a plateau low and narrow at this end, but it runs far to the east and rises nine thousand feet. It forms a hundred miles of the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We're across the Arizona line now."

Hare followed the sweep of the ridge that rose to the eastward, but to his inexperienced eyes its appearance carried no sense of its noble proportions.

"Don't form any ideas of distance and size yet a while," said Naab, reading Hare's expression. "They'd only have to be made over as soon as you learn what light and air are in this country. It looks only half a mile to the top of the divide; well, if we make it by midday we're lucky. There, see a black spot over this way, far under the red wall? Look sharp. Good! That's Holderness's ranch. It's thirty miles from here. Nine Mile Valley heads in there. Once it belonged to Martin Cole. Holderness stole it. And he's begun to range over the divide."

The sun rose and warmed the chill air. Hare began to notice the increased height and abundance of the sagebrush, which was darker in color. The first cedar-tree, stunted in growth, dead at the top, was the half-way mark up the ascent, so Naab said; it was also the forerunner of other cedars which increased in number toward the summit. At length Hare, tired of looking upward at the creeping white wagons, closed his eyes. The wheels crunched on the stones; the horses heaved and labored; Naab's "Getup" was the only spoken sound; the sun beamed down warm, then hot; and the hours passed. Some unusual noise roused Hare out of his lethargy. The wagon was at a standstill. Naab stood on the seat with outstretched arm. George and Dave were close by their mustangs, and Snap Naab, mounted on a cream-colored pinto, reined him under August's arm, and faced the valley below.

"Maybe you'll make them out," said August. "I can't, and I've watched those dust-clouds for hours. George can't decide, either."

Hare, looking at Snap, was attracted by the eyes from which his father and brothers expected so much. If ever a human being had the eyes of a hawk Snap Naab had them. The little brown flecks danced in clear pale yellow. Evidently Snap had not located the perplexing dust-clouds, for his glance drifted. Suddenly the remarkable vibration of his pupils ceased, and his glance grew fixed, steely, certain.

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