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The Desert Valley   By: (1882-1943)

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E text prepared by Al Haines

THE DESERT VALLEY

by

JACKSON GREGORY

Author of The Bells of San Juan , Man to Man

Hodder and Stoughton Limited London Charles Scribner's Sons

1921

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

THE DESERT I A BLUEBIRD'S FEATHER II SUPERSTITION POOL III PAYMENT IN RAW GOLD IV IN DESERT VALLEY V THE GOOD OLD SPORT VI THE YOUTHFUL HEART VII WAITING FOR MOONRISE VIII POKER AND THE SCIENTIFIC MIND IX HELEN KNEW X A WARNING AND A SIGN XI SEEKING XII THE DESERT SUPREME XIII A SON OF THE SOLITUDES XIV THE HATE OF THE HIDDEN PEOPLE XV THE GOLDEN SECRET XVI SANCHIA SCHEMES XVII HOWARD HOLDS THE GULCH XVIII A TOWN IS BORN XIX SANCHIA PERSISTENT XX TWO FRIENDS AND A GIRL XXI ALMOST XXII THE PROFESSOR DICTATES XXIII THE WILL O' THE WISP XXIV THE SHADOW XXV IN THE OPEN XXVI WHEN DAY DAWNED

The Desert

Over many wide regions of the south western desert country of Arizona and New Mexico lies an eternal spell of silence and mystery. Across the sand ridges come many foreign things, both animate and inanimate, which are engulfed in its immensity, which frequently disappear for all time from the sight of men, blotted out like a bird which flies free from a lighted room into the outside darkness. As though in compensation for that which it has taken, the desert from time to time allows new marvels, riven from its vitals, to emerge.

Though death still, it has a voice which calls ceaselessly to those human hearts tuned to its messages: hostile and harsh, it draws and urges; repellent, it profligately awards health and wealth; inviting, it kills. And always it keeps its own counsel; it is without peer in its lonesomeness, and without confidants; it heaps its sand over its secrets to hide them from its flashing stars.

You see the bobbing ears of a pack animal and the dusty hat and stoop shoulders of a man. They are symbols of mystery. They rise briefly against the skyline, they are gone into the grey distance. Something beckons or something drives. They are lost to human sight, perhaps to human memory, like a couple of chips drifting out into the ocean. Patient time may witness their return; it is still likely that soon another incarnation will have closed for man and beast, that they will have left to mark their passing a few glisteningly white bones, polished untiringly by tiny sand chisels in the grip of the desert winds. They may find gold, but they may not come in time to water. The desert is equally conversant with the actions of men mad with gold and mad with thirst.

To push out along into this immensity is to evince the heart of a brave man or the brain of a fool. The endeavour to traverse the forbidden garden of silence implies on the part of the agent an adventurous nature. Hence it would seem no great task to catalogue those human beings who set their backs to the gentler world and press forward into the naked embrace of this merciless land. Yet as many sorts and conditions come here each year as are to be found outside.

Silence, ruthlessness, mystery these are the attributes of the desert. True, it has its softer phases veiled dawns and dusks, rainbow hues, moon and stars. But these are but tender blossoms from a spiked, poisonous stalk, like the flowers of the cactus. They are brief and evanescent; the iron parent is everlasting.

Chapter I

A Bluebird's Feather

In the dusk a pack horse crested a low lying sand ridge, put up its head and sniffed, pushed forward eagerly, its nostrils twitching as it turned a little more toward the north, going straight toward the water hole. The pack was slipping as far to one side as it had listed to the other half an hour ago; in the restraining rope there were a dozen intricate knots where one would have amply sufficed. The horse broke into a trot, blazing its own trail through the mesquite; a parcel slipped; the slack rope grew slacker because of the subsequent readjustment; half a dozen bundles dropped after the first... Continue reading book >>




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