The Man of the Desert (Chapter 2, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 2

About noon of the same day the missionary halted his horse on the edge of a great flat-topped mesa and looked away to the clear blue mountains in the distance.

John Brownleigh had been in Arizona for nearly three years, yet the wonder of the desert had not ceased to charm him, and now as he stopped his horse to rest, his eyes sought the vast distances stretched in every direction, and revelled in the splendour of the scene.

Those mountains at which he was gazing were more than a hundred miles from him, and yet they stood out clear and distinct in the wonderful air, and seemed but a short journey away.

Below him were ledges of rock in marvellous colours, yellow and gray, crimson and green piled one upon another, with the strange light of the noonday sun playing over them and turning their colours into a blaze of glory. Beyond was a stretch of sand, broken here and there by sage-brush, greasewood, or cactus rearing its prickly spines grotesquely.

Off to the left were pink tinted cliffs and a little farther dark cone-like buttes. On the other hand low brown and white hills stretched away to the wonderful petrified forest, where great tracts of fallen tree trunks and chips lay locked in glistening stone.

To the south he could see the familiar water-hole, and farther the entrance to the canyon, fringed with cedars and pines. The grandeur of the scene impressed him anew.

"Beautiful, beautiful!" he murmured, "and a grand God to have it so!" Then a shadow of sadness passed over his face, and he spoke again aloud as had come to be his habit in this vast loneliness.

"I guess it is worth it," he said, "worth all the lonely days and discouraging months and disappointments, just to be alone with a wonderful Father like mine!"

He had just come from a three days' trip in company with another missionary whose station was a two days' journey by horseback from his own, and whose cheery little home was presided over by a sweet-faced woman, come recently from the East to share his fortunes. The delicious dinner prepared for her husband and his guests, the air of comfort in the three-roomed shack, the dainty touches that showed a woman's hand, had filled Brownleigh with a noble envy. Not until this visit had he realized how very much alone his life was.

He was busy of course from morning till night, and his enthusiasm for his work was even greater than when nearly three years before he had been sent out by the Board to minister to the needs of the Indians. Friends he had by the score. Wherever a white man or trader lived in the region he was always welcome; and the Indians knew and loved his coming. He had come around this way now to visit an Indian hogan where the shadow of death was hovering over a little Indian maiden beloved of her father. It had been a long way around and the missionary was weary with many days in the saddle, but he was glad he had come. The little maid had smiled to see him, and felt that the dark valley of death seemed more to her now like one of her own flower-lit canyons that led out to a brighter, wider day, since she had heard the message of life he brought her.

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