The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 6, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 6

Piute's Indian sense of the advantage of position in attack stood Jack in good stead; he led him up the ledge which overhung one end of the corral. In the pale starlight the sheep could be seen running in bands, massing together, crowding the fence; their cries made a deafening din.

The Indian shouted, but Jack could not understand him. A large black object was visible in the shade of the ledge. Piute fired his carbine. Before Jack could bring his rifle up the black thing moved into startlingly rapid flight. Then spouts of red flame illumined the corral. As he shot, Jack got fleeting glimpses of the bear moving like a dark streak against a blur of white. For all he could tell no bullet took effect.

When certain that the visitor had departed Jack descended into the corral. He and Piute searched for dead sheep, but, much to their surprise, found none. If the grizzly had killed one he must have taken it with him; and estimating his strength from the gap he had broken in the fence, he could easily have carried off a sheep. They repaired the break and returned to camp.

"He's gone, Mescal. Come down," called Jack into the cedar. "Let me help you--there! Wasn't it lucky? He wasn't so brave. Either the flashes from the guns or the dog scared him. I was amazed to see how fast he could run."

Piute found woolly brown fur hanging from Wolf's jaws.

"He nipped the brute, that's sure," said Jack. "Good dog! Maybe he kept the bear from-- Why Mescal! you're white--you're shaking. There's no danger. Piute and I'll take turns watching with Wolf."

Mescal went silently into her tent.

The sheep quieted down and made no further disturbance that night. The dawn broke gray, with a cold north wind. Dun-colored clouds rolled up, hiding the tips of the crags on the upper range, and a flurry of snow whitened the cedars. After breakfast Jack tried to get Wolf to take the track of the grizzly, but the scent had cooled.

Next day Mescal drove the sheep eastward toward the crags, and about the middle of the afternoon reached the edge of the slope. Grass grew luxuriantly and it was easy to keep the sheep in. Moreover, that part of the forest had fewer trees, and scarcely any sage or thickets, so that the lambs were safer, barring danger which might lurk in the seamed and cracked cliffs overshadowing the open grassy plots. Piute's task at the moment was to drag dead coyotes to the rim, near at hand, and throw them over. Mescal rested on a stone, and Wolf reclined at her feet.

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