"And so," said Enoch, "the Canyon has been a great experience for you, Milton!"
"Yes, Judge. I became engaged to a girl who is a Catholic. I am a Protestant, one of the easy going kind that never goes to church. Yet, do you know, when she insisted that I turn Catholic, I wouldn't do it? We had a fearful time! I didn't have any idea there was so much creed in me as I discovered I had. In the midst of it the opportunity came for this Canyon work, and this trip has changed the whole outlook of life for me. Judge, creeds don't matter any more than bridges do to a stream. They are just a way of getting across, that's all. Creeds may come and creeds may go, but God goes on forever. Nothing changes true religion. Christ promulgated the greatest system of ethics the world has known. The ethics of God. He put them into practical working form for human beings. Whatever creed helps you to live the teachings of Christ most truly, that's the true creed for you. That's what the Canyon's done for me. And when I get out, I'm going back to Alice and let her make of me whatever will help her most. I'm safe. I've got the creed of the Colorado Canyon!"
Enoch looked at the freckled, ruddy face and smiled. "Thank you, Milton. You've given me something to think about."
"I doubt if you lack subjects," replied Milton drily. "But—well, I have an idea you came out here looking for something. There are lines around your eyes that say that. So I just thought I'd hand on to you what I got."
Enoch nodded and the two smoked for a while in silence. Then Enoch said in a low voice:
"Do you have trouble with Forrester and Harden?"
"Yes, constant friction. They're both fine fellows, but naturally antagonistic to each other."
"A fellow may be ever so fine," said Enoch, "yet lack the sense of team play that is absolutely essential in a job like this."
"Exactly," replied Milton. "The great difficulty is that you can't judge men until they're undergoing the trial. Then it's too late. In Powell's first expedition, soon after the Civil War, there was constant friction between Powell and three of his men. At last, although they had signed a contract to stick by him, they deserted him."
"How was that?" asked Enoch with interest.
"They simply insisted on being put ashore and they climbed out of the Canyon with the idea of getting to some of the Mormon settlements. But the Indians killed them almost at once, poor devils! Powell got the story of it on his second expedition. The history of those two expeditions, I think, are as glorious as any chapter in our American annals."
"Was it so much harder than the work you are doing?"
"There is no comparison! We're simply following the trail that Powell blazed. Think of his superb courage! These terrible waters were enshrouded in mystery and fear. He did not know even what kind of boats could live in them. Hostile Indians marauded on either hand. And as near as I recall the only settlements he could call on, if he succeeded in clambering out of the Canyon, were Ft. Defiance in New Mexico, and Mormon settlements, miles across the desert in Utah."
"Hum!" said Enoch slowly, "it doesn't seem to me that things are so much better now, that we need to boast about them. There are no Indians, to be sure, but the river is about all human endurance and ingenuity can cope with, just as it was in Powell's day."
"She's a bird, all right!" sighed Milton. "Well, Judge, I'm going to turn in. To-morrow's another day! Good night."
"Good night, Captain!" replied Enoch. He threw another stick of driftwood on the fire and after a moment's thought fetched the black diary from his rubber dunnage bag. When the fire was clear and bright, he began to write.
"Diana, you were wrong. No matter how strenuous the work is, you are never out of the background of my thoughts. But at least I am having surcease from grieving for you. I have had no time to dwell on the fact that you cannot belong to me. I am afraid to come out of the Canyon. Afraid that when these wonderful days of adventure are over, the knowledge that I must not ask you to marry me will descend on me like a stifling fog. As for Brown! Diana, why not let me kill him! I'd be willing to stand before any jury in the world with his blood on my hands. What he has done to me is typical of Brown and all his works. He is unclean and clever, a frightful combination. Consider the class of readers he has! The majority of the people who read Brown, read only Brown. His readers are the great commonalty of America, the source, once, of all that was best in our life. Brown tells them nasty stories, not about people alone, but about systems; systems of money, systems of work, systems of government. And because nasty stories are always luscious reading, and because it is easier to believe evil than good about anything, twice every day, as he produces his morning and evening editions, Brown is polluting the head waters of our national existence. I say, why not let me kill him? What more useful and direct thing could I do than rid the nation of him? And O Diana, when I think of the smut to which he coupled your loveliness, I feel that I am less than a man to have hesitated this long."
Enoch closed the book, replaced it in the bag, and sat for a long hour staring into the fire. Then he went to bed.
THE PERFECT ADVENTURE
"Who cares whether or not my hands are clean? Does God? Wouldn't God expect me to punish evil? God is mercilessly just, is He not? Else why disease and grief in the world? If you could only tell me!"—Enoch's Diary.
It was nipping cold in the morning. Ice encrusted the edges of the little brook. But by the time breakfast was finished, the sun had appeared over the distant mountain peaks and the long warm rays soon brought the thermometer up to summer heat. Milton expounded his program at breakfast. Jonas was to keep the camp. Enoch and Milton were to climb to the rim for topographical information. Harden was to look for fossils. Agnew and Forrester were to make a geological report on the strata of the section.
Jonas was extraordinarily well pleased with his assignment.
"I'm going to finish painting the Na-che," he said. "Mr. Milton, have you got anything I can mend the tarpaulins with that go over the decks?"
"Needles and twine in the bag labeled Repairs," replied Milton. "How about giving the Ida the once over, too, Jonas."
"All right! If I get around to it!" Jonas' manner was vague.
"Can't love but one boat at a time, eh, Jonas?" asked Enoch.
"I always wanted to have a boat to fix up," said Jonas. "When I was a kid my folks had an old flat-bottom tub, but I never earned enough for a can of paint. Will you folks be home by twelve for dinner?"
There was a chorus of assent as the crew scattered to its several tasks. Milton and Enoch started at once up the edge of the brook, hoping that the ascent might be made more easily thus. But the crevice, out of which the little stream found its way to the Colorado, narrowed rapidly to the point where it became impossible for the two men to work their way into it. They were obliged, after a half hour's struggle, to return to the camp and start again.
A very steep slope of bright orange sand led from the shore to a scarcely less oblique terrace of sharp broken rock. There were several hundred feet of the sand and, as it was dry and loose, it caused a constant slipping and falling that consumed both time and strength. The rocky terrace was far easier to manage, and they covered that rapidly, although Enoch had a nasty fall, cutting his knee. They were brought to pause, however, when the broken rock gave way to a sheer hard wall, which offered neither crack nor projection for hand or foot hold.
Milton led the way carefully along its foot for a quarter of a mile until they reached a fissure wide enough for them to enter. The walls of this were crossed by transverse cracks. By utilizing these, now pulling, now boosting each other, they finally emerged on a flat, smooth tableland, of which fissures had made a complete island. At the southern end of the island rose an abrupt black peak.
"If we can get to the top of that," said Milton, "it ought to bring us to the general desert level. Is your knee bothering you, Judge?"
"Not enough to stop the parade," replied Enoch. "How high do you think that peak is, Milton?"
"Not less than a thousand feet, I would guess. I bet it's as easy to climb as a greased pole, too."
The pinnacle, when they reached it, appeared very little less difficult than Milton had guessed it would be. The north side offered no hope whatever. It rose smooth and perpendicular toward the heavens. But the south side was rough and though a yawning fissure at its base added five hundred feet to its southern height they determined to try their fortunes here. Ledges and jutting rocks, cracks and depressions finally made the ascent possible. The top, when they achieved it, was not twenty feet in diameter. They dropped on it, panting.
The view which met their eyes was superb. To the south lay the desert, rainbow colored. Rising abruptly from its level were isolated peaks of bright purple, all of them snow capped, many of them with crevices marked by the brilliant white of snow. Miles to the south of the isolated peaks lay a long range of mountains, dull black against the blue sky, but with the white of snow caps showing even at this distance. To the north, the river gorge wound like a snake; the gorge and one huge mountain dominating the entire northern landscape. Satiated by wonders as Milton was, he exclaimed over the beauty of this giant, sleeping in the desert sun.
A sprawling cone in outline, there was nothing extraordinary about it in contour, but its size and color surpassed anything that Enoch had as yet seen. From base to apex it was a perfect rose tint, deepening where its great shoulders bent, to crimson. As if still not satisfied with her work, nature had sent a recent snow storm to embellish the verdureless rock, and the mountain was lightly powdered with white which here was of a gauze-like texture permitting pale rose to glimmer through, there lay in drifts, white defined against crimson.
Enoch sat gazing about him while Milton worked rapidly with his note book and instruments. Finally he slipped his pencil into his pocket with a sigh.
"And that's done! What do you say to a return for lunch, Judge?"
"I'm very much with you," replied Enoch. "Here! Hold up, old man! What's the matter?" For Milton was swaying and would have fallen if Enoch had not caught him.
Milton clung to Enoch's broad shoulder for a moment, then straightened himself with a jerk.
"Sorry, Judge. It's that infernal vertigo again!"
"What's the cause of it?" asked Enoch. "Might be rather serious, might it not, on a trip such as yours?"
"I think the water we have to drink must be affecting my kidneys," replied Milton. "I never had anything of the sort before this trip, but I've been troubled this way a dozen times lately. It only lasts for a minute."
"But in that minute," Enoch's voice was grave, "you might fall down a mountain or out of the boat."
"Oh, I don't get it that bad! And anyhow, I haven't gone off alone since these things began. When we get to El Tovar I'll try to locate a doctor."
Enoch looked admiringly at the grim young freckled face beneath the faded hat. "I see I shall have to appoint myself bodyguard," he said. "I'd suggest Jonas, only he's deserted me for the Na-che, and I doubt if you could win him from her."
Milton laughed. "Nothing on earth can equal the joy of puddling about in boats, to the right kind of a chap, as the Wind in the Willows has it. And Jonas certainly is the right kind of a chap!"
"Jonas is a man, every inch of him," agreed Enoch. "Shall we try the descent now, Milton?"
"I'm ready," replied the young man, and the slow and arduous task was begun.
Jonas was just lifting the frying pan from the fire when they slid down the orange sand bank. The rest of the crew was ready and waiting around the flat rock that served as dining table.
"What's the matter with your knee, boss?" cried Jonas, standing with the coffee pot in his hand.
Enoch laughed as he glanced down at his torn and blood-stained overalls. "Of course, if you were giving me half the care you give your boat, Jonas, these things wouldn't happen to me!"
"You better let me fix you up, before you eat, boss," said Jonas.
"Not on your life, old man! Food will do this knee more good than a bandage."
"It's a wonder you wouldn't offer to help the rest of us out once in a while, Jonas!" Harden looked up from his plate of fish. "Look at this scratch on my cheek! I might get blood poisoning, but lots you care if my fatal beauty was destroyed! As it is, I look as much like an inmate of a menagerie as old goat Forrester here."
"Too bad the scratch didn't injure your tongue, Harden," returned Forrester, sarcastically.
"Nothing seems able to stop your chin, though, Forr! Why do you have to get sore every time I speak to you?"
"Because you're always going out of your way to say something insulting to me."
"Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill, Forr," said Milton. "If you fellows aren't careful you'll have a real quarrel, and that's the last thing I'm going to stand for, I warn you."
"Very well, Milt," replied Forrester, "if you don't want trouble make Harden keep his tongue off me."
"The fault is primarily yours, Hard," Milton went on. "You know Forrester is foolishly sensitive and you can't control your love of teasing. Now, once for all, I ask you not to speak to Forrester except on the business of the survey."
Harden shrugged his shoulders and Forrester scowled a little sheepishly. Agnew, a serene, kindly fellow, began one of his endless Irish stories, and the incident appeared to be closed. The work assigned for the day was accomplished in shorter order than Milton had anticipated. By two o'clock all hands were back in camp and Milton decided to embark and move on as far as possible before nightfall. But scarcely had they finished loading the boats and tied on the tarpaulins when a heavy rain began to fall, accompanied by lightning and tremendous peals of thunder that echoed through the Canyon deafeningly.
Milton, in his anxiety to get on with his task, would have continued in spite of the rain, but the others protested so vigorously that he gave in and the whole party crawled under a sheltering ledge beside the brook. For an hour the storm raged. A few flakes of snow mingled with the descending rain drops. Then with a superb flash of lightning and crash of thunder the storm passed as suddenly as it had come, though for hours after they heard it reverberate among the distant peaks.
At last they embarked and proceeded along a smooth, swift-flowing river for a short time. Then, however, the familiar roar of falls was heard, the current increased rapidly in velocity and Milton made a landing for observation.
They were at the head of the wildest falls that Enoch had yet seen. The Canyon walls were smooth and perpendicular. There was no possibility of a portage. The river was full of rocks against which dashed waves ten to twelve feet high.
"We'll have to run it!" shouted Milton above the din of the waters. "Powell did it and so can we. Give the Ida five minutes' start, Hard. Then profit by the mistakes you see us make. All ready, Judge and Forr!"
Under Milton's directions, they rowed back upstream far enough to gain complete control of the boat before entering the falls. Then they shot forward. Instantly the oars became useless. They were carried upward on the crest of a wave that seemed about to drop them down an unbelievable depth to a jagged rock. But at this point, another wave seized them and hurled them sidewise, half rolled them over, then uptilted them until the Ida's nose was deep in the water.
They bailed like mad but to little avail for the waves broke over the sides constantly. They could see little for the air was full of blinding spray. Suddenly, after what had seemed an eternity but was really five minutes of time, there was a rending crash and the Ida slid into quieter water, turning completely over as she did so.
Enoch, as the sucking current seized him, was convinced that his hour had come, and a quick relief was his first sensation. Then Diana's wistful eyes flashed before him and he began to fight the Colorado. As his head emerged from the water, he saw the Na-che land on all fours from the top of a wave upon the overturned Ida, then whirl away. He began to swim with all his strength. The mud forever suspended in the Colorado weighed down his clothing. But little by little he drew near the Ida, to which he could see two dark bodies clinging. The Na-che, struggling to cross a whirlpool toward him, made slow progress. He had, indeed, dizzily grasped the Ida, before the other boat came up.
"We can hang on, Hard!" gasped Milton. "Give us a tow to that sand spit yonder."
They reached the sand spit and staggered to land, while Harden and his crew turned the Ida over and beached her. She had a six-inch gap in her side.
"Well," panted Enoch, "I'm glad we managed to keep dry during the rainstorm!"
"My Lord, Judge!" exclaimed Milton, "your own mother wouldn't own you now! I don't see how one human being could carry so much mud on his face!"
"I'll bet it's not as bad as yours at that," returned Enoch. "Jonas, as long as it's not the Na-che that's hurt—"
"Coming, boss, coming!" cried Jonas. "Here's your moccasins and here's your suit. Sure you aren't hurt any?"
"Jonas," replied Enoch in a low voice that the others might not hear, "Jonas, I'm having the greatest time of my life!"
"So am I, Mr. Secretary! Honest, I'm so paralyzed afraid that I enjoy it!" And Jonas hurried away to inspect the Ida.
It was so biting cold, now that the afternoon was late, that all the wrecked crew changed clothing before attempting to make camp or unload the Ida.
"How many miles have we made by this venture, Milton?" called Enoch, as he pulled on his moccasins.
"One and a half!"
Enoch grinned, then he began to laugh. The others looked at him, then joined him, and Homeric laughter echoed for a long minute above the snarl of the water. Fortunately the hole in the Ida did not open into one of the compartments, so there was no damage done to the baggage. It was too dark by the time this had been ascertained to attempt repairs that night, so Milton agreed to call it a day, and after supper was over every one but Enoch and Milton went to bed. These two sat long in silence before the fire, smoking and enjoying the sense of companionship that was developing between them. Finally Enoch spoke in a low voice:
"You're going to have trouble between Forrester and Harden."
"It certainly looks like it, I've tried every sort of appeal to each of them, but trouble keeps on smoldering." Milton shook his head. "That's one of the trivial things that can wreck an expedition like this; just incompatibility among the men. What would you do about it, Judge?"
"I'd put it to them that they could either keep the peace or draw lots to see which of them should leave the expedition at the Ferry. In fact, I don't believe I'd temporize even that much. I'd certainly set one of them ashore. My experience with men leads me to believe that with a certain type of men, there is no appeal. As you say, they're both nice chaps but they have a childish streak in them. The majority of men have. A leader must not be too patient."
"You're right," agreed Milton. "Judge, couldn't you complete the trip with us?"
"How long will you be out?" asked Enoch.
"Another six months!"
Enoch laughed, then said slowly: "There's nothing I'd like to do better, but I must go home, from the Ferry."
Milton gazed at Enoch for a time without speaking. Then he said, a little wistfully, "I suppose that while this is the most important experience so far in my life, to you it is the merest episode, that you'll forget the moment you get into the Pullman for the East."
"Why should you think that?" asked Enoch.
"I can't quite tell you why. But there's something about you that makes me believe that in your own section of the country, you're a power. Perhaps it's merely your facial expression. I don't know—you look like some one whom I can't recall. Perhaps that some one has the power and I confuse the two of you, but—I beg your pardon, Judge!" as Enoch's eyebrows went up.
"You have nothing to beg it for, Milton. But you're wrong when you think this trip is merely an episode to me. All my life I have longed for just such an experience in the Canyon. It's like enchantment to really find myself here."
Milton smiled. "Well, we all have our Carcasonnes."
"What's yours?" demanded Enoch.
The younger man hesitated. "It's so absurd—but—well, I've always wanted to be Chief of the Geological Survey."
"Why did you dream of a wild trip down the Colorado as the realization of your greatest desire?" asked Milton.
"I couldn't put it into words," answered Enoch. "But I suppose it's the pioneer in me or something elemental that never quite dies in any of us, of Anglo-Saxon blood."
Milton nodded. "The Chief of the Geological Survey's job is to administer nature in the raw. I'd like to have a chance at it."
"I believe you'd get away with it, too, Milton," Enoch replied thoughtfully.
Milton laughed. "Too bad you aren't Secretary of the Interior! Well, I'm all in! Let's go to bed."
"You go ahead. I'll sit here with my pipe a bit longer."
But, after all, Enoch did not write in his diary that night. Before Milton had established himself in his blankets, Harden rose and went to a canteen for a drink of water. On his return he stumbled over Forrester's feet. Instantly Forrester sat erect.
"What're you doing, you clumsy dub foot?" he shouted.
"Oh, dry up, Forr; I didn't mean to hurt you, you great boob!"
"We'll settle this right now!" Forrester was on his feet and his fist had landed on Harden's cheek before Enoch could cross the camp. And before he or Milton could separate the combatants, Harden had returned the blow with interest, and with a muttered:
"Take that, you sore-headed dog, you!"
Forrester tried to twist away from Enoch, but could not do so. Harden freed himself from Milton's grasp, but did not attempt to go on with the fight.
"One or the other of you," said Milton briefly, "leaves the expedition at the Ferry. I'll tell you later which it will be. I'm ashamed of both of you."
"I'd like to know what's made a tin god of you, Jim Milton!" shouted Forrester. "You don't own us, body and soul. I've been in the Survey longer than you! I joined this expedition before you did. And I'll leave it when I get ready!"
"You'll leave it at the Ferry, Forrester!" Milton's voice was quiet, but his nostrils dilated.
"And I'm telling you, I'll leave it when I please, which will be at Needles! If any one goes, it'll be that skunk of a Harden."
Harden laughed, turned on his heel and deliberately rolled himself in his blankets. Forrester stood for a moment, muttering to himself, then he took his blankets off to an obscure corner of the sand. And Enoch forgot his diary and went to bed, to ponder until shortly sleep overtook him, on the perversity of the male animal.
In the morning Jonas constituted himself ship's carpenter and mended the Ida very creditably. Forrester was surly and avoided every one. Harden was cheerful, as usual, but did not speak to his adversary. The sun was just entering the Canyon when the two boats were launched and once more faced the hazards of the river.
During the morning the going was easy. The river was swift and led through a long series of broken buttes, between which one caught wild views of a tortured country; twisted strata, strange distorted cedar and cactus, uncanny shapes of rock pinnacles, in colors somber and strange. They stopped at noon in the shadow of a weathered overhanging rock, with the profile of a witch. The atmosphere of dissension had by this time permeated the crew and this meal, usually so jovial, was eaten with no general conversation and all were glad to take to the boats as soon as the dishes were washed.
The character of the river now changed again. It grew broader and once more smooth canyon walls closed it in. As the river broadened, however, it became more shallow and rocks began to appear above the surface at more and more frequent intervals. At last the Na-che went aground amid-stream on a sharp rock. The Ida turned back to her assistance but Enoch and Milton had to go overboard, along with the crew of the Na-che, in order to drag and lift her into clear water. Then for nearly two hours, all thought of rowing must be given up. Both crews remained in the water, pushing the boats over the rough bottom.
It was heartbreaking work. For a few moments the boats would float, plunging the men beyond their depths. They would swim and flounder perhaps a boat's length, clinging to the gunwale, before the boat would once more run aground. Again they would drag their clumsy burden a hundred yards over sand that sucked hungrily at their sodden boots. This passed, came many yards of smooth rock a few inches below the surface of the water, which was so muddy that it was impossible to see the pot holes into which some one of the crew plunged constantly.
Jonas suffered agonies during this period; not for himself, though he took his full share of falls. His agony was for the Na-che, whose freshly painted bottom was abraded, scraped, gorged and otherwise defaced almost beyond Jonas's power of endurance.
"Look out! Don't drag her! Lift her! Lift her!" he would shout. "Oh, my Lord, see that sharp rock you drag her onto, Mr. Hard! Ain't you got any heart?"
Once, when all three of the Na-che's crew had taken a bad plunge, and Jonas had come up with an audible crack of his black head against the gunwale, he began to scold while the others were still fighting for breath.
"You shouldn't ship her full of water like that! All that good paint I put on her insides is gone! Hey, Mr. Agnew, don't drip that blood off your hand on her!"
"Shut up, Jonas," coughed Agnew good-naturedly.
"Let him alone, Ag!" exclaimed Harden, between a strangling cough and a sneeze. "What do you want to divulge your cold-heartedness for? Go to it, Jonas! You're some lover, all right!"
The shallows ended in a rapid which they shot without more than the usual difficulties. They then had an hour of quiet rowing through gorges that grew more narrow and more dusky as they proceeded. About four o'clock snow began to fall. It was a light enough powder, at first, but shortly it thickened until it was impossible to guide the boats. They edged in shore where a ledge overhanging a heap of broken rock offered a meager shelter. Here they planned to spend the night. The shore was too precipitous to beach the boats. Much to Jonas' sorrow, they could only anchor them before the ledge. There was plenty of driftwood, and a brisk fire dispelled some of the discomfort of the snow, while a change to dry clothing did the rest.
To Enoch it was a strange evening. The foolish quarrel between Harden and Forrester was sufficient to upset the equanimity of the whole group which before had seemed so harmonious. The situation was keenly irritating to Enoch. He wanted nothing to intrude on the wild beauty of the trip, save his own inward struggle. The snow continued to fall long after the others had gone to sleep. Enoch, with his diary on his knees, wrote slowly, pausing long between sentences to watch the snow and to listen to the solemn rush of waters so close to his feet.
"I've been sitting before the fire, Diana, thinking of our various conversations. How few they have been, after all! And I've concluded that in your heart you must look on me as presumptuous and stupid. You never have given me the slightest indication that you cared for me. You have been, even in the short time we have known each other, a gallant and tender friend. A wonderful friend! And you are as unconscious of my passion for you, of the rending agony of my giving you up as the Canyon is of the travail of Milton and his little group. And I'm glad that this is so. If I can go on through life feeling that you are serene and happy it will help me to keep my secret. Strange that with every natural inclination within me to be otherwise, I should be the custodian of ugly secrets; secrets that are only the uglier because they are my own. It seems a sacrilegious thing to add my beautiful love for you to the sinister collection. But it must be so.
"I am so glad that I am going to see you so soon after I emerge from the Canyon. There will be much to tell you. I thought I knew men. But I am learning them anew. And I thought I had a fair conception of the wonders of the Colorado. Diana, it is beyond human imagination to conceive or human tongue to describe."
Enoch had looked forward with eager pleasure to seeing the Canyon snowbound. But he was doomed to disappointment. During the night the snow turned to rain. The rain, in turn, ceased before dawn and the camp woke to winding mists that whirled with the wind up and out of the Canyon top. The going, during the morning, offered no great difficulties. But toward noon, as the boats rounded a curve, a reef presented itself with the water of the river boiling threateningly on either side. As the Canyon walls offered no landing it was necessary to make one here and Forrester volunteered to jump with a rope to a flat rock which projected from the near end of the reef.
"Leap just before we are opposite the rock, Forr," directed Milton. "When that rough water catches us, we're going to rip through at top speed."
Forrester nodded and, after shipping his oars, he clambered up onto the forward compartment.
"Now," shouted Milton.
Forrester leaped, jumped a little short, and splashed into the boiling river. The Ida, in spite of Enoch madly backing water, shot forward, dragging Forrester, who had not let go the rope, with her. Milton relinquished the steering oar, dropped on his stomach on the compartment deck, his arms over the stern, and began to haul with might and main on the rope. Now and again Forrester, red and fighting for breath, showed a distorted face above the waves. The Na-che shot by at uncontrollable speed, her crew shouting directions as she passed. Milton at last, just as the Ida entered a roaring fall, brought Forrester to the gunwale, but having achieved this, the end of the rope dropped from his fingers and he lay inert, his eyes closed. Forrester clung to the edge of the boat and roared to Enoch:
But Enoch, fighting to guide the Ida, dared not stop rowing. The falls were short, with a vicious whirlpool at the foot. One glance showed the Na-che broken and inverted, dancing in this. Enoch bent to his right oar and by a miracle of luck this, with a wave from a pot hole, threw them clear of the sucking whirlpool, but dashed them so violently against the rocky shore that the Ida's stern was stove in and Milton rolled off into the water. Enoch dropped his oars, seized the stern rope, jumped for the rocks and sprawled upon one. He made a quick turn of the rope, then leaped back for Milton, whose head showed a boat's length downstream.
Forrester staggered ashore, then with a life preserver on the end of a rope, he started along the river's edge. Half a dozen strokes brought Enoch to Milton. He lifted the unconscious man's mouth out of water and caught the life preserver that Forrester threw him. It seemed for a moment as if poor Forrester had reached the limit of his strength, but Enoch, after a violent effort, brought Milton into a quiet eddy and here Forrester was able to give help and Milton was dragged up on the rocks.
At this moment, Jonas, his eyes rolling, clothes torn and dripping, clambered round a rocky projection, just beyond where they were placing Milton.
"Got 'em ashore!" he panted, "but they can't walk yet."
"Anybody hurt?" asked Enoch.
"Nobody but the Na-che. I gotta take the Ida out after her."
"She's beyond help, Jonas," said Enoch. "Go up to the Ida and bring me the medicine chest."
He was unbuttoning Milton's shirt as he spoke, and feeling for his heart.
"He's alive!" exclaimed Forrester, who was holding Milton's wrist.
"Yes, thank God! But I don't like that!" pointing to Milton's left leg.
"It's broken!" cried Forrester. "Poor old Milt!"
Poor old Milt, indeed! When he finally opened his eyes, he was lying on his blankets on a flat rock, and Jonas and Harden, still dripping, were finishing the fastenings of a rude splint around his left leg. Enoch was kindling a fire. Forrester and Agnew were unloading the Ida. He tried to sit up.
"What the deuce happened?" he demanded.
"That's what we want to know!" exclaimed Harden cheerfully.
"You had a dizzy attack after you pulled Forr in," said Enoch, "and rolled off the boat. Just how you broke your leg, we don't know."
"Broke my leg!" Dismay and disbelief struggled in Milton's face. "Broke my leg! Why, but I can't break my leg!"
"That's good news," said Agnew unsmilingly, "and it would be important if it were only true."
"But I can't!" insisted Milton. "What becomes of the work?"
"The work stops till you get well." Harden stood up to survey his and Jonas's surgical job with considerable satisfaction. "We'll hurry on down to the Ferry and get you to a doctor."
Milton sank back with a groan, then hoisted himself to his elbow to say:
"You fellows change your clothes quick, now."
The men looked at each other, half guilty.
"What is it!" cried Milton. "What are you keeping from me."
"The Na-che's gone!" Jonas spoke huskily.
"How'd she go?" demanded Milton.
"A sucking whirlpool up there took her, after we struck a rock at the bottom of the falls," answered Harden. "We struck at such speed that it stove in her bottom and threw us clear of the whirlpool. But she's gone and everything in her."
"How about the Ida?" Milton's face was white and his lips were compressed.
"She'll do, with some patching," replied Enoch.
"Some leader, I am, eh?" Milton lay back on his blanket.
"I think I've heard of a number of other leaders losing boats on this trip," said Enoch. "Now, you fellows can dry off piecemeal. This fire would dry anything. We've got to shift Milton's clothes somehow. Lucky for you your clothes were in the Ida, Milt. Mine were in the Na-che."
"And two thirds of the grub in the Na-che, too!" exclaimed Agnew.
Jonas had rooted out Milton's change of clothing and very tenderly, if awkwardly, Agnew and Harden helping, he was made dry and propped up where he could direct proceedings.
"Forrester, I wish you'd bring the whole grub supply here," Milton said, when his nurses had finished.
It was a pitifully small collection that was placed on the edge of the blanket.
"I wonder how many times," said Milton, "I've told you chaps to load the grub half and half between the boats? Somebody blundered. I'm not going to ask who because I'm the chief blunderer myself, for neglecting to check you over, at every loading. With care, we've about two days' very scanty rations here, and only beans and coffee, at that. With the best of luck and no stops for Survey work we're five days from the Ferry."
"Guess I'd better get busy with my fishing tackle!" exclaimed Forrester.
"Ain't any fishing tackle," said Jonas succinctly. "She must 'a' washed out of the hole in the Ida. I was just looking for it myself."
"Suppose you put us on half rations," suggested Enoch, "and one of us will try to get to the top, with the gun."
Milton nodded. "Judge, are you any good with a gun?"
"Yes, I've hunted a good deal," replied Enoch.
"Very well, we'll make you the camp hunter. The rest understand the river work better than you. Forrester, you and Agnew and Jonas, patch up the Ida; and Harden, you stay with me and let's see what the maps say about the chances of our getting out before we reach the Ferry. When the rest have finished the patch, you and Agnew row downstream and see if you can pick up any wreckage from the Na-che."
Jonas made some coffee and Enoch, after resting for a half hour, took the gun and started slowly along the river's edge.
His course was necessarily downstream for, above the heap of stones where he had tied the Ida, the river washed against a wall on which a fly could scarcely have found foothold. There was a depression in the wall, where the camp was set. Enoch worked out of this depression and found a foothold on the bottom-most of the deep weathered, narrow strata that here formed a fifty-foot terrace. These terraced strata gave back for half a mile in uneven and brittle striations that were not unlike rude steps. Above them rose a sheer orange wall, straight to the sky. Far below a great shale bank sloped from the river's edge up to a gigantic black butte, whose terraced front seemed to Enoch to offer some hope of his reaching the top.
He slung the gun across his back and began gingerly to clamber along the stratified terrace. He found the rock extremely brittle and he was a long hour reaching the green shale. He was panting and weary and his hands were bleeding when he finally flung himself down to rest at the foot of the black butte.
A near view of this massive structure was not encouraging; terraces, turrets, fortifications, castles and above Enoch's head a deep cavern, out of which the wind rushed with a mighty blast of sound that drowned the sullen roar of the falls. Beyond a glance in at the black void, Enoch did not attempt to investigate the cave. He crept past the opening on a narrow shelf of rock, into a crevice up which he climbed to the top of the terrace above the cavern. Here a stratum of dull purple projected horizontally from the black face of the butte. With his face inward, his breast hard pressed against the rock, hands and feet feeling carefully for each shift forward, Enoch passed on this slowly around the sharp western edge of the butte.
Here he nearly lost his balance, for there was a rush of wings close to the back of his head. He started, then looked up carefully. Far above him an eagle's nest clung to the lonely rock. The purple stratum continued its way to a depression wide enough to give Enoch sitting room. Here he rested for a short moment. The back of the depression offered an easy assent for two or three hundred feet, to the top of another terrace along whose broad top Enoch walked comfortably for a quarter of a mile to the point where the butte projected from the main canyon wall. The slope here was not too steep to climb and Enoch made fair speed to the top.
The view here was superb but Enoch gave small heed to this. To his deep disappointment, there was no sign of life, either animal or vegetable, as far as his eye could reach. He stood, gun in hand, the wind tossing his ruddy hair, his great shoulders drooping with weariness, his keen eyes sweeping the landscape until he became conscious that the sun was low in the west. With a start, he realized that dusk must already be peering into the bottom of the Canyon.
Then he bethought himself of the eagle's nest. It was a terrible climb, before he lay on a ledge peering ever into the guano-stained structure of sticks from which the eagle soared again at his approach. As he looked, he laughed. The forequarters of a mountain goat lay in the nest. Hanging perilously by one hand, Enoch grasped the long, bloody hair and then, rolling back on to the ledge, he stuffed his loot into his game bag and started campward.
The way back was swifter but more nerve wracking than the upward climb had been. By the time he reached the green shale, Enoch was trembling from muscle and nerve strain. It was purple dusk now, by the river, with the castellated tops of butte and mountain molten gold in the evening sun. When he reached the brittle strata, the water reflected firelight from the still unseen camp blaze. Enoch, clinging perilously to the breaking rock, half faint with hunger, his fingers numb with the cold, laughed again, to himself, and said aloud:
"'. . . . . . . . . . . . . And yet Dauntless the slug horn to my lips I set And blew, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.'"
THE END OF THE CRUISE
"Christ could forgive the unforgivable, but the Colorado in the Canyon is like the voice of God, inevitable, inexorable."—Enoch's Diary.
Jonas stood on a projecting rock peering anxiously down the river. Enoch, staggering wearily into the firelight, called to him cheerfully:
"Ship ahoy, Jonas!"
"My Gawd, boss!" exclaimed Jonas, running up to take the gunny sack and the gun. "Don't you never go off like that alone again. How come you stayed so late?"
"Now the Na-che's gone I suppose I'll have a few attentions again!" said Enoch. "How are you, Milton?"
He turned toward the stalwart figure that lay on the shadowy rock beyond the fire.
"Better than I deserve, Judge," replied Milton.
"What luck, Judge?" cried Harden, who had been watching a game of poker between Agnew and Forrester.
"My Lawdy Lawd!" shouted Jonas, emptying the gunny sack on the rock which served as table.
There was a chorus of surprise.
"What happened, Judge! Did you eat the rest raw?"
"A goat, by Jove! Where on earth did it come from?"
"What difference does that make? Get it into the pot, Jonas, for the love of heaven!"
"As a family provider, Judge, you are to be highly recommended."
Enoch squatted against Milton's rock and complacently lighted his pipe, then told his story.
"There are goats still here, then! I wish we'd see some," said Milton, when Enoch had finished.
"But what would they live on?" asked Enoch.
"That's easy," replied Milton. "There are hidden canyons and gulches in this Colorado country that are veritable little paradises, with all the verdure any one could ask for."
"Wish we could locate one," sighed Forrester.
"That wouldn't help me much," grunted Milton.
"What luck with the Ida?" Enoch turned to Agnew who, next to Jonas, took the greatest interest in ship repair and building.
"The forward compartment was pretty well smashed, but another hour's work in the morning will make the old girl as good as ever."
"She'll never be the boat the Na-che was," groaned Jonas mournfully from his fire. "What are we all going to do now, with just one boat?"
For a moment no one spoke, then Enoch said drily, "Well, Jonas, seeing that you and I don't really belong to the expedition anyhow and that we invited ourselves, I think it's up to us to walk."
There was a chorus of protests at this. But Enoch silenced the others by saying with great earnestness:
"Milton, you know I'm right, don't you?"
Milton, who had been saying nothing, now raised himself on his elbow.
"Two of you fellows will have to walk it; which two we'd better decide by lot. We're up against a rotten situation. It would be bad, even if I weren't hurt. But with a cripple on your hands, well—it's awful for you chaps! Simply awful!"
"With good luck, and no Survey work, how many days are we from the Ferry?" asked Enoch.
"Between four and five, is what Milton and I calculated this afternoon," replied Harden.
"What's the nearest help by way of land?"
"There's a ranch, about eighty miles south of here. I guess the traveling would be about as bad as anybody would hope for. The fellows that go out have got to be used to desert work, like me." Harden scratched a match and by its unsteady light scrutinized the detail map spread open on his knee.
"Isn't Miss Allen working nearer than eighty miles from here?" asked Agnew.
"She's in the Hopi country, whatever distance that may be," replied Enoch. "I should suppose it would be rather risky trying to catch some one who is moving about, as she is."
"I guess maybe she's on her way to the Ferry now." Jonas straightened up from his stew pot. "Leastways, Na-che kind of promised to kind of see if maybe they couldn't reach there about the time we did."
The other men laughed. "I guess we won't gamble too heavily on the women folks," exclaimed Forrester.
"I guess Miss Allen's the kind you don't connect gambling with," retorted Agnew.
Enoch cut in hastily. "Then two of us are to go out. What about those who stay?"
"Well, you have to get my helpless carcass aboard the Ida and we'll make our way to the Ferry, as rapidly as we can. The food problem is serious, but we won't starve in four days. We won't attempt any more hunting expeditions but we may pot something as we go along. It's the fellows who go out who'll have the worst of it."
Enoch had been eying Milton closely. "Look here, Milton, I believe you're running a good deal of temperature. Why don't you lie down and rest both mind and body until supper's ready? After you've eaten, we'll make the final decisions."
"I don't want any food," replied Milton, dropping back on his blankets, nevertheless.
"The beans is done but you only get a handful of them in the stew, to-night," said Jonas, firmly. "I'm cooking all the meat, 'cause it won't keep, but you only get half of that now."
Agnew groaned. "Well, there doesn't seem much to look forward to. Let's finish that game of poker, Forr. Take a hand, Judge and Hard?"
"No, thanks," replied Enoch. "I'll just rest my old bones right here."
"I'll help you out, if Forr won't pick on me." Harden glanced at Milton, but the freckled face gave no sign that Harden's remark had been heeded.
Enoch quietly took the injured man's pulse. It was rapid and weak. Enoch shook his head, laid the sturdy hand down and gave his attention to his pipe and the card game. It was not long before an altercation between Forrester and Harden began. Several times Agnew interfered but finally Forrester sprang to his feet with an oath.
"No man on earth can call me that!" shouted Harden, "Take it back and apologize, you rotter!"
"A rotter, am I?" sneered Forrester. "And what are you? You come of a family of rotters. I know your sister's history! I know—"
Enoch laid a hand on Agnew's arm. "Don't interfere! Nothing but blood will wipe that out."
But Milton roared suddenly, "Stop that fight! Stop it! Judge! Agnew! I'm still head of this expedition!"
Reluctantly the two moved toward the swaying figures. It was not an easy matter to stop the battle. Forrester and Harden were clinched but Enoch and Agnew were larger than either of the combatants and at a word from Enoch, Jonas seized Forrester, with Agnew. After a scuffle, Harden stood silent and scowling beside Enoch, while Forrester panted between Agnew and Jonas.
"I'm ashamed of you fellows," shouted Milton. "Ashamed! You know the chief's due in the morning." He stopped abruptly. "I'm ashamed of you. You know what I mean. The chief—God, fellows, I'm a sick man!" He fell back heavily on his blankets.
Enoch and Harden hurried to his side. "Quit your fighting, Judge! Quit your fighting!" muttered Milton. "Here! I'll make you stop!" He tried to rise and Jonas rushed to hold the injured leg while Harden and Enoch pressed the broad shoulders back against the flinty bed. It was several moments before he ceased to struggle and dropped into a dull state of coma.
"It doesn't seem as if a broken leg ought to do all that to a man as husky as Milt!" said Agnew, who had joined them with a proffer of water.
"I'm afraid he was sickening with something before the accident," Enoch shook his head. "Those dizzy spells were all wrong, you know."
"We'd better get this boy to a doctor as soon as we can," said Agnew. "Poor old Milton! I swear it's a shame! His whole heart was set on putting this trip through."
"He'll do it yet," Enoch patted the sick man's arm.
"Yes, but he'll be laid up for months and his whole idea was to put it through without a break. The Department never condones accidents, you know."
"I guess I can give you all some supper now," said Jonas. "Better get it while he's laying quiet."
"Where's Forrester?" asked Enoch as they gathered round the stew pot.
"He mumbled something about going outside to cool down," replied Agnew. "Better let him alone for a while."
"Too bad you couldn't have kept the peace, under the circumstances, Harden," said Enoch.
"You heard what he said to me?" demanded Harden fiercely.
"Yes, I did and I heard you deliberately tease him into a fury. Of course, after what he finally said there was nothing left to do but to smash him," said Enoch.
"I don't see why," Agnew spoke in his calm way. "I never could understand why a bloody nose wiped out an insult. A thing that's said is said. Shooting a man even doesn't unsay a dirty speech. It's not common sense. Why ruin your own life in the effort to punish a man for something that's better forgotten?"
"So you would swallow an insult and smile?" sneered Harden.
"Not at all! I wouldn't hear the alleged insult, in most cases. But if the thing was so raw that the man had to be punished, I'd really hurt him."
"How?" asked Enoch.
"I'd do him a favor."
"Slush!" grunted Harden.
Agnew shrugged his shoulders and the scanty meal was finished in silence. When Jonas had collected the pie tins and cups, Enoch said,
"While you're outside with those, Jonas, you'd better persuade Forrester to come in to supper. Tell him no one will bother him. Boys, I think we ought to sit up with Milton for a while. I'll take the first watch, if you'll take the second, Harden."
Harden nodded. "I'll get to bed at once. Call me when you want me."
He rolled himself in his blanket, Agnew following his example. A moment or so later Jonas could be heard calling,
"Mr. Forrester! Ohee! Mr. Forrester!" The Canyon echoed the call, but there was no answer, Enoch strolled down to the river's edge where Jonas was standing with his arms full of dishes. "What's up, Jonas?" he asked.
"Boss, I think he's lit out!"
"Lit out? Where, Jonas?"
"Well, there's only one way, like you went this afternoon. But his canteen's gone. And he had his shoes drying by the fire. He must have sneaked 'em while we was working over Mr. Milton, because they're gone, and so's his coat that was lying by the Ida, with the rest of the clothes."
Enoch lifted his great voice. "Forrester! Forrester!"
A thousand echoes replied while Agnew joined them and in a moment, Harden. Jonas repeated his story.
"No use yelling!" exclaimed Enoch. "Let's build a fire out here."
"Do you suppose he's had an accident?" Enoch's voice was apprehensive.
"No, I don't," replied Agnew, stoutly. "He's told me two or three times that if he had any real trouble with Hard, he'd get out. What a fool to start off, this way!"
"You fellows go to bed," Harden spoke abruptly.
"I'll keep a fire going and if Milt needs more than me, I'll call. The Judge had a heavy afternoon and I was resting. And this row is mine anyhow."
Enoch, who was dropping with fatigue needed no urging. He rolled himself in his blanket and instantly was deep in the marvelous slumber that had blessed him since the voyage began.
It was dawn when he woke. He started to his feet, contritely, wondering who of the others had sacrificed sleep for him. But Enoch was the only one awake. Milton was tossing and muttering but his eyes were closed. Jonas lay with his feet in last night's ashes. Agnew was curled up at Milton's feet. Harden was not to be seen. Enoch hurried to the river's edge. A sheet of paper fluttered from the split end of a stake that had been stuck in a conspicuous spot. It was unaddressed and Enoch opened it.
"I have gone to find Forrester, and help him out. I took one-third of the grub and one of the guns and a third of the shells. If we have good luck, you'll hear of us at the Ferry. I have the detail map of this section.
"C. L. HARDEN."
Enoch looked from the note up to the golden pink of the sky. Far above the butte an eagle soared. The dawn wind ruffled his hair. He drew a deep breath and turned to wake Jonas and Agnew, and show them the note.
"Did you folks go to sleep when I did?" asked Enoch when they had read the note in silence.
Jonas and Agnew nodded.
"Then he must have left at once. No fire has been built out in front."
"Well, it's solved the problem of who walks," remarked Agnew, drily.
"How come Mr. Harden to think he could find him?" demanded Jonas, excitedly.
"Well, they both will have had to start where I did, yesterday. And neither could have gone very far in the dark." Enoch spoke thoughtfully. "If they don't kill each other!"
"They won't," interrupted Agnew comfortingly. "Neither of them is the killing kind."
"Then I suggest," said Enoch, "that with all the dispatch possible we get on our way. You two tackle the Ida and I'll take care of Milton and the breakfast."
"Aye! Aye, sir!" Agnew turned quickly toward the boat, followed eagerly by Jonas.
Milton opened his eyes when Enoch bent over him. "Let me give you a sip of this hot broth, old man," said Enoch. "Come! just to please me!" as Milton shook his head. "You've got to keep your strength and a clear head in order to direct the voyage."
Milton sipped at the warm decoction, and in a moment his eyes brightened.
"Tastes pretty good. Too bad we haven't several gallons of it. Tell the bunch to draw lots for who goes out."
Enoch shook his head. "That's all settled!" and he gave Milton the details of the trouble of the night before.
"Well, can you beat that?" demanded Milton. "The two fools! Why, there were a hundred things I had to tell the pair who went out. Judge, they'll never make it!"
"They've got as good a fighting chance as we have," insisted Enoch, stoutly. "Quit worrying about them, Milton. You've got your hands full keeping the rest of us from being too foolish."
But try as he would, Milton could do little in the way of directing his depleted crew. His leg and his back pained him excruciatingly, and the vertigo was with him constantly. Enoch after trying several times to get coherent commands from the sufferer finally gave up. As soon as the scanty breakfast of coffee and a tiny portion of boiled beans was over, Enoch divided the rations into four portions and stowed away all but that day's share, in the Ida. Then he discussed with Agnew and Jonas the best method of placing Milton on the boat.
They finally built a rough but strong framework on the forward compartment against which Milton could recline while seated on the deck, the broken leg supported within the rower's space. They padded this crude couch with blankets. This finished, they made a stretcher of the blanket on which Milton lay, by nailing the sides to two small cedar trunks which they routed out of the drift wood. When they had lifted him carefully and had placed him in the Ida, stretcher and all, he was far more comfortable, he said, than he had been on his rigid bed of stone.
By eight o'clock, all was ready and they pushed slowly out into the stream. Agnew took the steering oar, Enoch, his usual place, with Jonas behind him.
The river was wild and swift here, but, after they had worked carefully and painfully out of the aftermath of the falls, the current was unobstructed for several hours. All the morning, Jonas watched eagerly for traces of the Na-che but up to noon, none appeared. The sky was cloudy, threatening rain. The walls, now smooth, now broken by pinnacles and shoulders, were sad and gray in color. Milton sometimes slept uneasily, but for the most part he lay with lips compressed, eyes on the gliding cliffs.
About an hour before noon, the familiar warning roar of rapids reached their ears. Rounding a curve, carefully, they snubbed the Ida to a rock while Agnew clambered ashore for an observation. Just below them a black wall appeared to cut at right angles across the river bed. The river sweeping round the curve which the Ida had just compassed, rushed like the waters of a mill race against the unexpected obstacle and waves ten to twenty feet high told of the force of the meeting. Agnew with great difficulty crawled along the shore until he could look down on this turmoil of waters. Then, with infinite pains, he returned.
"It's impossible to portage," he reported, "but the waves simply fill the gorge for two hundred feet."
"Tie me in the boat," said Milton. "The rest of you get out on the rocks and let the boat down with ropes."
Agnew looked questioningly at Enoch, who shook his head.
"Agnew," he said, "can you and Jonas manage to let the Ida down, with both Milton and me aboard?"
"No, sir, we can't!" exclaimed Jonas. "That ain't to be thought of!"
"Right you are, Jonas!" agreed Agnew, while Milton nodded in agreement.
"Then," said Enoch, "let's land Milton and the loose dunnage on this rock, let the boat down, come back and carry Milton round."
"It's the only way," agreed Agnew, "but I think we can take a hundred feet off the portage, if you fellows are willing to risk rowing down to a bench of rock below here. You take the steering oar, Judge. I'll stay ashore and catch a rope from you at the bench."
Cautiously, Jonas backing water and Enoch keeping the Ida almost scraping the shore, they made their way to the spot where Agnew caught the rope, throwing the whole weight of his body back against the pull of the boat, even then being almost dragged from the ledge. Milton was lifted out as carefully as possible, the loose dunnage was piled beside him, then the three men, each with a rope attached to the Ida, began their difficult climb.
There was nothing that could be called a trail. They made their way by clinging to projecting rocks, or stepping perilously from crack to crevice, from shelf to hollow. The pull of the helpless Ida was tremendous, and they snubbed her wherever projecting rocks made this possible. She danced dizzily from crest to crest of waves. She slid helplessly into whirlpools, she twisted over and under and fought like a wild thing against the straining ropes. But at the end of a half hour, she was moored in safe water, on a spit of sand on which a cotton wood grew.
"Agnew," said Enoch, "I think we were fools not to have broken a rough trail before we attempted this. It's obviously impossible to carry Milton over that wall as it is."
"I thought the three of us might make it, taking turns carrying Milt on our backs. It wastes a lot of time making trail and time is a worse enemy to us now than the Colorado."
"That's true," agreed Enoch, "but I'm not willing to risk Milton's vertigo on our backs."
He took a pick-ax out of the rear compartment of the boat, as he spoke and began to break trail. The others followed suit. The rock proved unexpectedly easy to work and in another hour, Enoch announced himself willing to risk Milton and the stretcher on the rude path they had hacked out.
Milton did not speak during his passage. His fortitude and endurance were very touching to Enoch whose admiration for the young leader increased from hour to hour. Jonas boiled the coffee and heated the noon portions of beans and goat. It was entirely inadequate for the appetites of the hard working crew. Enoch wondered if the others felt as hollow and uncertain-kneed, as he did, but he said nothing nor did they.
There was considerable drift wood lodged against the spit of sand and from it, Jonas, with a shout that was half a sob, dragged a broken board on which appeared in red letters, "-a-che."
"All that's left of the prettiest, spunkiest little boat that ever fought a dirty river!" he mourned. "I'm going to put this in my dunnage bag and if we ever do get home, I'll have it framed."
The others smiled in sympathy. "I wonder if Hard has found Forr, yet?" said Milton, uneasily. "I can't keep them off my mind."
"I wouldn't be surprised if they both had run on Curly and Mack's outfit by this time," Agnew answered cheerfully. "It's funny we didn't think of them instead of Diana Allen, last night."
"Not so very funny, either," returned Milton with an attempt at a smile. "I'll bet most of us have thought of Miss Allen forty times to once of the men, ever since we met her."
"She's the most beautiful woman I ever saw," said Agnew, dreamily.
"Lawdy!" groaned Jonas, suddenly, "if I only had something to fish with! When we make camp to-night, I'm a-going to try to rig up some kind of a line."
"I'm glad the tobacco supply was in the Ida." Enoch rose with a yawn and knocked the ashes from his pipe. "Well, boys, shall we move?"
Again they embarked. The river behaved in a most friendly manner until afternoon, when she offered by way of variety a series of sand bars, across which they were obliged to drag the Ida by main strength. These continued at intervals for several miles. In the midst of them, the rain that had been threatening all day began to fall while the wind that never left the Canyon, rose to drive the icy waters more vehemently through their sodden clothing. Milton, snugly covered with blankets, begged them feverishly to go into camp. "I'll have you all sick, to-night!" he insisted. "You can't take the risk of pneumonia on starvation rations that you did on plenty of grub."
"I'm willing," said Agnew, finally, as he staggered to his feet after a ducking under the Ida's side.
"Oh, let's keep going, as long as there's any light to see by," begged Enoch.
As if to reward his persistence, just as dusk settled fully upon them, a little canyon opened from the main wall at the right, a small stream, tumbling eagerly from it into the Colorado. They turned the Ida quickly into this and managed to push upward on it for several minutes. Then they put ashore under some dim cottonwoods, where grass was ankle deep. The mere feeling of vegetation about them was cheering, and the trees, with a blanket stretched between made a partial shelter from the rain.
"I'll sure cook grass for you all for breakfast!" said Jonas. "How come folks not to bile grass for greens, I don't see. Maybe birds here, too. Whoever's the fancy shot, put the gun close to his hand."
"I've done some fair shooting in my day," said Agnew, "but I never potted a goat in an eagle's nest. You'd better give the gun to the Judge." He polished off his pie tin, scraped the last grain of sugar from his tin cup and lighted a cigarette.
"I'm trying to bear my blushing honors modestly," grinned Enoch, crowding closer to the great fire. "Milton, I've a bone to pick with you."
"Where'd you get it?" demanded Agnew.
Enoch smiled but went on. "I accuse you of deliberately starving yourself for the rest of us. It won't do, sir. I'm going to set your share aside and by Jove, if you refuse it, I'll throw it in the river!"
Milton rose indignantly on one elbow. "Judge, I forbid you to do anything of the kind! You fellows have got to have food to work on. All I need is plenty of water."
"Especially as you think the water is making you sick," returned Enoch drily. "You can't get away with it, Milton. Am I not right, Agnew and Jonas?"
"Absolutely!" Agnew exclaimed, while Jonas nodded, vigorously.
"So, beginning to-morrow morning, you're to do your share of eating," Enoch concluded, cheerfully.
But in spite of all efforts to keep a stiff upper lip, the night was wretched. The rain fell in torrents. The only way to keep the fire alight was by keeping it under the blanket shelter, and Milton was half smothered with smoke. He insisted on the others going to sleep, but in spite of their utter weariness, the men would not do this. Hunger made them restless and the rain crept through their blankets. Enoch finally gave up the attempt to sleep. He crouched by Milton, feeding the fire and trying as best he could to ease the patient's misery of mind and body.
It was long after midnight when Milton said, "Judge, I've been thinking it over and I've come to a conclusion. I want you folks to go on for help and leave me here."
"I don't like to hear you talk suicide, Milton." Enoch shook his head. "As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't consider such a suggestion for a minute."
"But don't you see," insisted Milton, "I'm imperilling all your lives. Without me, you could have made twice the distance you did to-day."
"That's probably true," agreed Enoch. "What of it? Would you leave me in your fix, thinking you might bring help back?"
"That's different! You're a tenderfoot and I'm not. Moreover, greater care on my part would probably have prevented this whole series of accidents."
"Now you are talking nonsense!" Enoch threw another log on the fire. "Your illness is undermining your common sense, Milton. We've got a tough few days ahead of us but we'll tackle it together. If we fail we fail together. But I can see no reason why if we run as few risks as we did to-day, we should get into serious trouble. We're going to lose strength for lack of food, so we've got to move more and more slowly and carefully, and we'll be feeling weak and done up when we reach the Ferry. But I anticipate nothing worse than that."
Milton sighed and was silent, for a time. Then he said, "I could have managed Forr and Harden better, if I'd been willing to believe they were the pair of kids they proved to be. As it is—"
"As it is," interrupted Enoch, firmly, "both chaps are learning a lesson that will probably cure them for all time of their foolishness."
Milton looked long at Enoch's tired face; then he lifted himself on one elbow.
"All right, Judge, I'm through belly-aching! We'll put it through somehow and if I have decent luck, early Spring will see me right here, beginning where I left off. After all, Powell had to take two trials at it."
"That's more like you, Milton! Is that dawn breaking yonder?"
"Yes," replied Milton. "Keep your ear and eye out for any sort of critters in this little spot, Judge."
But, though Enoch, and the others, when he had roused them, beat the tiny blind alley thoroughly, not so much as a cottontail reward their efforts.
"Curious!" grumbled Enoch, "up at Mack's camp where we really needed nothing, I found all the game in the world. The perversity of nature is incomprehensible. Even the fish have left this part of the river," as Jonas with a sigh of discouragement tossed his improvised fishing tackle into the fire.
Agnew pulled his belt a notch tighter. His brown face was beginning to look sagged and lined. "Well," cheerfully, "there are some advantages in being fat. I've still several days to go before I reach your's and Jonas' state of slats, Judge."
"Don't get sot up about it, Ag," returned Enoch. "You look a good deal like a collapsed balloon, you know! Shall we launch the good ship Ida, fellows?"
"She ain't anything to what the Na-che was," sighed Jonas, "but she's pretty good at that. If I ain't too tired, to-night, I may clean her up a little."
Even Milton joined in the laughter at this and the day's journey was begun with great good humor.
It was the easiest day's course that had been experienced since Enoch had joined the expedition. There were three rapids during the day but they rode these with no difficulties. Enoch and Jonas rowed fairly steadily in the morning, but in the afternoon, they spelled each other. The light rations were making themselves felt. The going was so smooth that dusk was upon them before they made camp. Milton had been wretchedly sick, all day, but he made no complaint and forced down the handful of boiled beans and the tin cup of pale coffee that was his share of each meal.
They made camp languidly. Enoch found the task of piling fire wood arduous and as the camp was in dry sand and the blankets had dried out during the day, they did not attempt the usual great blaze. Jonas insisted on acting as night nurse for Milton, and Enoch was asleep before he had more then swallowed his supper. He had bad dreams and woke with a dull headache, and wondered if Jonas and Agnew felt as weak and light-headed as he did. But although both the men moved about slowly and Jonas made no attempt to clean up the Ida, they uttered no complaints. Milton was feeling a little better. Before the day's journey was begun, he and Agnew plotted their position on the map.
"Well, does to-morrow see us at the Ferry?" asked Enoch, cheerfully, when Agnew put up his pencil with an abstracted air.
"No, Judge," sighed Milton, "that rotten first day after the wreck, cost us a good many miles. I thought we'd make up for it, yesterday. But we're a full day behind."
"That is," exclaimed Enoch, "we must take that grub pile and redivide it, stretching it over three days instead of two!"
"Yes," replied Milton, grimly.
"Jove, Agnew, you're going to be positively fairy like, before we're through with this," said Enoch. "Jonas, get out the grub supply, will you?"
Jonas, standing on a rock that projected over the water, did not respond. He was watching eagerly as his new fishline of ravelled rope pulled taut in the stream. Suddenly he gave a roar and jerked the line so violently that the fish landed on Milton's blanket.
"Must weigh two pounds!" cried Agnew.
"You start her broiling, Mr. Agnew!" shouted Jonas, "while I keep on a-fishing."
"What changed your luck, Jonas?" asked Enoch. "You're using beans and bent wire, just as you did yesterday."
"Aha! not just as I did yesterday, boss! This time I tied Na-che's charm just above the hook. No fish could stand that, once they got an eye on it."
But evidently no second fish cast an eye on the irresistible charm, and Enoch was unwilling to wait for further luck longer than was necessary to cook the fish and eat it. But during the day Jonas trolled whenever the water made trolling possible, hopefully spitting on the hook each time he cast it over, casting always from the right hand and muttering Fish! Fish! Fish! three times for each venture. Yet no other fish responded to Na-che's charm that day.
But the river treated them kindly. If their strength had been equal to hard and steady rowing they might have made up for the lost miles. As it was they knocked off at night with just the number of miles for the day that Milton had planned on in the beginning, and were still a day behind their schedule. Milton grew no worse, though he was weaker and obviously a very sick man. A light snow fell during the night but the next morning was clear and invigorating.
They encountered two difficult rapids on the fourth day. The first one they portaged. The trail was not difficult but in their weakened condition the boat and poor Milton were heavy burdens and it took them three times as long to accomplish the portage as it would have taken had they been in normal condition. The second rapids, they shot easily in the afternoon. The waves were high and every one was saturated with the icy water. Enoch dared not risk Milton's remaining wet and as soon as they found a likely place for the camp they went ashore. The huge pile of drift wood had helped them to decide on this rather unhospitable ledge for what they hoped would be their last night out.
They kindled a big fire and sat about it, steaming and silent, but with the feeling that the worst was behind them.
They rose in a cold driving rain the next morning, ate the last of the beans, drank the last of the coffee, covered Milton as well as could be with blankets and launched the boat. It was a day of unspeakable misery. They made one portage, and one let down, and dragged the boat with almost impossible labor over a long series of shallows. By mid-afternoon they had made up their minds to another night of wretchedness and Agnew was beginning to watch for a camping place, when suddenly he exclaimed,
"Fellows, there's the Ferry!"
"How do you know?" demanded Enoch.
"I've been here before, Judge. Yes, by Jove, there's old Grant's cabin. I wonder if any one's reached here yet!"
"Well, Milton, old man, here's thanks and congratulations," cried Enoch.
"You'd better thank the Almighty," returned Milton. "I certainly had very little to do with our getting here."
The rain had prevented Agnew's recognizing their haven until they were fairly upon it. Even now all that Enoch could see was a wide lateral canyon with a rough unpainted shack above the waterline. A group of cottonwoods loomed dimly through the mist beside a fence that surrounded the house.
Jonas, who had seemed overcome with joy at Agnew's announcement, recovered his power of speech by the time the boat was headed shoreward and he raised a shout that echoed from wall to wall.
"Na-che! Ohee, Na-che! Here we are, Na-che!"
Agnew opened his lips to comment, but before he uttered the first syllable there rose a shrill, clear call from the mists.
"Jonas! Ohee, Jonas!"
Enoch's pulse leaped. With sudden strength, he bent to his oars, and the Ida slid softly upon the sandy shore. As she did so, two figures came running through the rain.
"Diana!" cried Enoch, making no attempt for a moment to step from the boat.
"Oh, what has happened!" exclaimed Diana, putting a hand under Milton's head as he struggled to raise it.
"Just a broken leg, Miss Allen," he said, his parched lips parting in a smile. "Have Forr and Hard turned up?"
"No! And Curly and Mack aren't here, either! O you poor things! Here, let me help! Na-che, take hold of this stretcher, there, on the other side with the Judge and Jonas. Finished short of grub, didn't you! Let's bring Mr. Milton right up to the cabin."
The cabin consisted of but one room with an adobe fireplace at one end and bunks on two sides. There was a warm glow of fire and the smell of meat cooking. They laid Milton tenderly on a bunk and as they did so Jonas gave a great sob:
"Welcome home, I say, boss, welcome home!"
"Perfect memories! They are more precious than hope, more priceless than dreams of the future."—Enoch's Diary.
"Now, every one of you get into dry clothes as quickly as you can," said Diana. "No! Don't one of you try to stir from the cabin! Come, Na-che, we'll bring the men's bags up and go out to our tent while they shift."
The two women were gone before the men could protest. They were back with the bags in a few moments and in almost less time than it takes to tell, the crew of the Ida was reclothed, Enoch in the riding suit that Jonas had left with some of his own clothes in Na-che's care. When this was done, Na-che put on the coffee pot, while Diana served each of them with a plate of hot rabbit stew.
"Don't try to talk," she said, "until you get this down. You'd better help Mr. Milton, Na-che. Here, it will take two of us. Oh, you poor dear! You're burning with fever."
"Don't you worry about me," protested Milton, weakly, as, with his head resting on Diana's arm, he sipped the teaspoonsful of stew Na-che fed him. "This is as near heaven as I want to get."
"I should hope so!" grunted Agnew. "Jonas, don't ever try to put up a stew in competition with Na-che again."
"Not me, sir!" chuckled Jonas. "That gal can sure cook!"
"And make charms," added Enoch. "Don't fail to realize that you're still alive, Jonas."
"I'm going to bathe Mr. Milton's face for him," said Na-che, with a fine air of indifference. "I can set a broken leg, too."
"It's set," said Agnew and Enoch together, "but," added Enoch, "that isn't saying that Milton mustn't be gotten to a doctor with all speed."
Diana nodded. "Where are Mr. Forrester and Mr. Harden?" she asked.
"We lost the Na-che—" said Agnew.
"The what?" demanded Diana.
"Jonas rechristened the Mary, the Na-che," Agnew replied. "We lost her in a whirlpool six days back. Most of the food was in her. Two of us had to go out and Harden and Forrester volunteered. We are very much worried about them."
"And when did Mr. Milton break his leg?"
"On that same black day! The water's been disagreeing with him, making him dizzy, and he took a header from the Ida, after rescuing Forrester from some rapids," said Enoch.
"Doesn't sound much, when you tell it, does it!" Agnew smiled as he sighed. "But it really has been quite a busy five days."
"One can look at your faces and read much between the lines," said Diana, quietly. "Now, while Na-che works with Mr. Milton, I'm going to give you each some coffee."
"Diana, how far are we from the nearest doctor?" asked Enoch.
"There's one over on the Navajo reservation," replied Diana.
"Wouldn't it be better to keep Milton right here and one of us go for the doctor?"
"Much better," agreed Diana and Agnew.
"Lord," sighed Milton, "what bliss!"
"Then," said Enoch, "I'm going to start for the doctor, now."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Diana, "that's my job. We've been here two days and we and our outfit are as fresh as daisies."
"I'm going, myself," Agnew rose as firmly as his weak and weary legs would permit.
It was Na-che who settled the matter. "That's an Indian's job," she said. "You take care of Mr. Milton, Diana, while I go."
"That's sensible," agreed Diana. "Start now, Na-che. You should reach Wilson's by to-morrow night and telephone to the Agent's house. That'll save you forty miles."
Jonas' face which had fallen greatly suddenly brightened. "Somebody's coming!" he cried. "I hope it's our folks!"
The door opened abruptly and in walked Curly and Mack.
"Here's the whole family!" exclaimed Curly. "Well, if you folks don't look like Siberian convicts, whiskers and all! Some trip, eh?"
Mack, shaking hands all round, stopped beside Milton's bunk. "What went wrong, bud? and where's the rest of the bunch?"
Enoch told the story, this time. Mack shook his head as the final plans were outlined.
"Na-che had better stay and nurse Milton. I'm feeling fine. We just loafed along down here. I'll start out right away. I should reach Wilson's to-morrow night, as you say, and telephone the doctor. Then I'll load up with grub at Wilson's and turn back. Do you find much game round here?"
Diana nodded. "Plenty of rabbit and quail, and we have some bacon and coffee."
"I guess I'd better go out and look for the two foot-passengers," suggested Curly. "I'll stay out to-night and report to-morrow evening."
"We'll be in shape by morning to start on the search," said Enoch.
Curly turned to his former cook with a grin. "Well, Judge, is your little vacation giving you the rest you wanted?"
Enoch, gaunt, unshaven, exhausted, his blue eyes blood-shot, nodded contentedly. "I'm having the time of my life, Curly."
"I had a bull dog once," said Curly. "If I'd take a barrel stave and pound him with it, saying all the time, 'Nice doggie, isn't this fun! Isn't this a nice little stick! Don't you like these little love pats?' he'd wag his tail and slobber and tell me how much he enjoyed it and beg for more. But, if I took a straw and tapped him with it, telling him he was a poor dog, that nobody loved him, that I was breaking his ribs which he richly deserved, why that bull pup nearly died of suffering of body and anguish of mind."
Enoch shook his head sadly. "A great evangelist was lost when you took to placer mining, Curly."
Mack had been talking quietly to Milton. "I don't believe it was the river water, that upset you. I think you have drunk from some poison spring. I did that once, up in this country, and it took me six months to get over it, because I couldn't get to a doctor. But I believe a doctor could fix you right up. Do you recall drinking water the other men didn't?"
"Any number of times, on exploring trips to the river!" Milton looked immensely cheered. "I think you may be right, Mack."
"I'll bet you two bits that's all that ails you, son!" Mack rose from the edge of the bunk. "Well, folks, I'm off! Look for me when you see me!"
"I'll mooch along too," Curly rose and stretched himself.
"I'm not going to try to thank all you folks!" Milton's weak voice was husky.
"That's what us Arizonians always wait for before we do the decent thing," said Mack, with a smile. "Come along, Curly, you lazy chuckawalla you!" And the door slammed behind them.
"They're stem winders, both of them!" exclaimed Agnew.
"Diana," said Enoch, "I wish you'd sit down. You've done enough for us."
Diana smiled and shook her head. "I struck the camp first, so I'm boss. Na-che and I are going out to see that everything's all right for the night and that Mack and Curly get a good start. While we're out, you're all going to bed. Then Na-che is coming in to make Mr. Milton as comfortable as she can. Our tent is under the cottonwoods and if you want anything during the night, Mr. Milton, all you have to do is to call through the window. Neither of us will undress so we can be on duty, instantly. There is plenty of stew still simmering in the pot, and cold biscuit on the table. Good night, all of you."
"Na-che, she don't need to bother. I'll look out for Mr. Milton," said Jonas, suddenly rousing from his chair where he had been dozing.
"You go to bed and to sleep, Jonas," ordered Diana. "Good night, Judge."
"Good night, Diana!"
The door closed softly and Diana was seen no more that night. The rain ceased at midnight and the stars shone forth clear and cold, but Milton was the only person in the camp to be conscious of the fact. Just as the dawn wind was rising, though, and the cottonwoods were outlining themselves against the eastern sky, stumbling footsteps near the tent wakened both Diana and Na-che, and they opened the tent flap, hastily.
Forrester was clinging to a cottonwood tree. At least it was a worn, bleached, ragged counterfeit of Forrester.
"Hard's back on the trail apiece. I came on for help," he said huskily.
"Is he sick or hurt?" cried Diana.
"No, just all in."
"I'll take a horse for him, right off," said Na-che. "You help Mr. Forrester into the house, Diana."
"Call Jonas!" said Diana, supporting Forrester against the tree. "One of the men had better go for Mr. Harden."
"Then they got here!" exclaimed Forrester. "Thank God! How's Milton? Any other accident?"
"Everything's all right! Here they all come!" For Jonas, then Agnew and Enoch were rushing from the door and amid the hubbub of exclamations, Forrester was landed in a bunk while Agnew started up the trail indicated by Forrester. But he hardly had set out before he met Curly, leading his horse with Harden clinging to the saddle. Both the wanderers were fed and put to bed and told to sleep, before they tried to tell their story. The day was warm and clear and Na-che and Jonas prepared breakfast outside, serving it on the rough table, under the cottonwoods. Enoch and Agnew, washed and shaved, were new men, though still weak, Enoch, particularly, being muscle sore and weary. Harden and Forrester woke for more food, at noon, then slept again. Milton dozed and woke, drank feverishly of the water brought from the spring near the cabin, and gazed with a look of complete satisfaction on the unshaved dirty faces in the bunks across the room.
Agnew and Curly played poker all day long. Jonas and Na-che found endless small tasks around the camp that required long consultations between them and much laughter. When Enoch returned after breakfast from a languid inspection of the Ida, Diana was not to be seen. She had gone out to get some quail, Na-che said. She returned in an hour or so, with a good bag of rabbit and birds.
"To-morrow, that will be my job," said Enoch.
"If she wouldn't let me go, she mustn't let you!" called Curly, from his poker game, under the trees.
"Yes, I'll let any of you take it over, to-morrow," replied Diana, giving Na-che gun and bag. "To-morrow, Na-che and I turn the rescue mission over to you men and start for Bright Angel."
"Oh, where's your heart, Miss Allen!" cried Agnew. "Aren't you going to wait to learn what the doctor says about Milton?"
"And Diana," urged Enoch, "Jonas and I want to go up to Bright Angel with you and Na-che. Won't you wait a day longer, just till we're a little more fit?"
Diana, in her worn corduroy habit, her soft hat pulled well over her great eyes, looked from Agnew to Enoch, smiled and did not reply. Enoch waited impatiently without the door while she made a call on Milton.
"Diana!" he exclaimed, when she came out, "aren't you going to talk to me even? Do come down by the Ida and see if we can't be rid of this horde of people for a while."
"I've been wanting to see just how badly you'd treated the poor old boat," said Diana, following Enoch toward the shore.
But Enoch had not the slightest intention of holding an inquest on the Ida. In the shade of a gnarled cedar to which the boat was tied as a precaution against high water, he had placed a box. Thither he led Diana.
"Do sit down, Diana, and let me sit here at your feet. I'll admit it should be unexpected joy enough just to find you here. But I'm greedy. I want you to myself, and I want to tell you a thousand things."
"All right, Judge, begin," returned Diana amiably, as she clasped her knee with both hands and smiled at him. But Enoch could not begin, immediately. Sitting in the sand with his back against the cedar he looked out at the Colorado flowing so placidly, at the pale gray green of the far canyon walls and a sense of all that the river signified to him, all that it had brought to him, all that it would mean to him to leave it and with it Diana,—Diana who had been his other self since he was a lad of eighteen,—made him speechless for a time.
Diana waited, patiently. At last, Enoch turned to her, "All the things I want to say most, can't be said, Diana!"
"Are you glad you took the trip down the river, Judge?"
"Glad! Was Roland glad he made his adventure in search of the Dark Tower?"
"Yes, he was, only, Judge—"
Enoch interrupted. "Has our friendship grown less since we camped at the placer mine?"
Diana flushed slightly and went on, "Only, Enoch, surely the end of your adventure is not a Dark Tower ending!"
"Yes, it is, Diana! It can never be any other." Enoch's fingers trembled a little as he toyed with his pipe bowl. Diana slowly looked away from him, her eyes fastening themselves on a buzzard that circled over the peaks across the river. After a moment, she said, "Then you are going to shoot Brown?"
Enoch started a little. "I'm not thinking of Brown just now. I'm thinking of you and me."
He paused again and again Diana waited until she felt the silence becoming too painful. Then she said,
"Aren't you going to tell me some of the details of your trip?"
"I want to, Diana, but hang it, words fail me! It was as you warned me, an hourly struggle with death. And we fought, I think, not because life was so unutterably sweet to any of us, but because there was such wonderful zest to the fighting. The beauty of the Canyon, the awfulness of it, the unbelievable rapidity with which event piled on event. Why, Diana, I feel as if I'd lived a lifetime since I first put foot on the Ida! And the glory of the battle! Diana, we were so puny, so insignificant, so stupid, and the Canyon was so colossal and so diabolically quick and clever! What a fight!"
Enoch laughed joyfully.
"You're a new man!" said Diana, softly.
Enoch nodded. "And now I'm to have the ride back to El Tovar with you and the trip down Bright Angel with you and your father! For once Diana, Fate is minding her own business and letting me mind mine."
Jonas approached hesitatingly. "Na-che said I had to tell you, boss, though I didn't want to disturb you, she said I had to though she wouldn't do it herself. Dinner is on the table. And you know, boss, you ain't like you was when a bowl of cereal would do you."
"I shouldn't have tempted fate, Diana!" Enoch sighed, as he rose and followed her to the cottonwood.
Try as he would, during the afternoon, he could not bring about another tete-a-tete with Diana. Finally as dusk drew near, he threw himself down, under the cedar tree, his eyes sadly watching the evening mists rise over the river. His dark figure merged with the shadow of the cedar and Na-che and Jonas, establishing themselves on the gunwale of the Ida for one of their confidential chats did not perceive him. He himself gave them no heed until he heard Jonas say vehemently:
"You're crazy, Na-che! I'm telling you the boss won't never marry."
"How do you know what's in your boss's mind?" demanded Na-che.
"I know all right. And I know he thinks a lot of Miss Diana, too, but I know he won't marry her. He won't marry anybody."
"But why?" urged the Indian woman, sadly, "Why should things be so wrong? When he loves her and she loves him and they were made for each other!"
"How come you to think she loves him?" demanded Jonas.
"Don't I know the mind of my Diana? Isn't she my little child, even if her mother did bear her. Don't I see her kiss that little picture she has of him in her locket every night when she says her prayers?"
"Well—" began Jonas, but he was interrupted by a call from Curly.
"Whoever's minding the stew might be interested in knowing that it's boiling over!"
"Coming! Coming!" cried Jonas and Na-che.
Darkness had now settled on the river. Enoch lay motionless until they called him in to supper. When he entered the cabin where the table was set, Curly cried, "Hello, Judge! Where've you been? I swear you look as if you'd been walking with a ghost."
"Perhaps I have," Enoch replied, grimly, as he took his seat.
Harden and Forrester, none too energetic, but shaven and in order, were at the table, where their story was eagerly picked from them.
Forrester had slept the first night in the cavern Enoch had noted. Harden never even saw the cavern but had spent the night crawling steadily toward the rim. At dawn, Forrester had made his way to the top of the butte by the same route Enoch had followed, and had seen Harden, a black speck moving laboriously on the southern horizon. He had not recognized him, and set out to overtake him. It was not until noon that he had done so. Even after he realized whom he was pursuing, he had not given up, for by that time he was rueing bitterly his hasty and ill-equipped departure.
None of the auditors of the two men needed detailed description either of the ardors of that trip nor of the embarrassment of the meeting. Nor did Forrester or Harden attempt any. After they had met they tried to keep a course that moved southwest. There were no trails. For endless miles, fissures and buttes, precipices to be scaled, mountains to be climbed, canyons to be crossed. For one day they were without water, but the morning following they found a pot hole, full of water. Weakness from lack of food added much to the peril of the trip, one cottontail being the sole contribution of the gun to their larder. They did not strike the trail until the day previous to their arrival in the camp.
"Have you had enough desert to last you the rest of your life?" asked Curly as Harden ended the tale.
"Not I!" said Forrester, "nor Canyon either! I'm going to find some method of getting Milt to let me finish the trip with him."
"Me too," added Harden.
"How much quarreling did you do?" asked Milton, abruptly, from the bunk.
Neither man answered for a moment, then Forrester, flushing deeply, said, "All we ask of you, Milt, is to give us a trial. Set us ashore if you aren't satisfied with us."
Milton grunted and Diana said, quickly, "What are you people going to do until Mr. Milton gets well?"
All of the crew looked toward the leader's bunk. "Wait till we get the doctor's report," said Milton. "Hard, you were going to show Curly a placer claim around here, weren't you?"
"Yes, if I can be spared for a couple of days. We can undertake that, day after to-morrow."
"You're on!" exclaimed Curly. "Judge, don't forget you and I are due to have a little conversation before we separate."
"I haven't forgotten it," replied Enoch.
"Sometime to-morrow then. To-night I've got to get my revenge on Agnew. He's a wild cat, that's what he is. Must have been born in a gambling den. Sit in with us, Judge or anybody!"
"Not I," said Enoch, shortly.
"Still disapprove, don't you, Judge!" gibed Curly. "How about the rest of you? Diana, can you play poker?"
"Thanks, Curly! My early education in that line was neglected." Diana smiled and turned to Enoch. "Judge, do you think you'll feel up to starting to-morrow afternoon? There's a spring five miles west that we could make if we leave here at two o'clock and I'd like to feel that I'd at least made a start, to-morrow. My father is going to be very much worried about me. I'm nearly a week overdue, now."
"I'll be ready whenever you are, Diana. How about you, Jonas?"
"I'm always on hand, boss. Mr. Milton, can I have the broken oar blade we kept to patch the Ida with?"
"What do you want it for, Jonas?" asked Milton.
"I'm going to have it framed. And Mr. Harden and Mr. Agnew, don't forget those fillums!"
"Lucky for you the films were stored in the Ida, Jonas!" exclaimed Agnew. "I'll develop some of those in the morning, and see what sort of a show you put up."
Diana rose. "Well, good night to you all! Mr. Milton, is there anything Na-che or I can do for you?"