\"Yet I feel it is appropriate,\" he insisted. He paused and went on alittle timidly in the face of his new experience in giving expressionto the more subtle feelings. \"I don't know whether I can express it ornot. You are laughing and sunny, as you say, but there is something inyou like the Phoebe bird just the same. It is like those cloudshadows.\" He pointed out over the mountains. Overhead a number ofsummer clouds were winging their way from the west, casting on theearth those huge irregular shadows which sweep across it so swiftly,yet with such dignity; so rushingly, and yet so harmlessly. \"The hillsare sunny and bright enough, and all at once one of the shadows crossesthem, and it is dark. Then in another moment it is bright again.\"
The shadow of Harney had crept out to them, and, even as they looked,it stole on, cat-like, across the lower ridges toward the East. Oneafter another the rounded hills changed hue as it crossed them. For amoment it lingered in the tangle of woods at the outermost edge, andthen without further pause glided out over the prairie. They watched itfascinated. The sparkle was quenched in the Cheyenne; the white gleamof the Bad Lands became a dull gray, scarce distinguishable from thegray of the twilight. Though a single mysterious cleft a long yellowbar pointed down across the plains, paused at the horizon, and slowlylifted into the air. The mountain shadow followed it steadily up intothe sky, growing and growing against the dullness of the east, until atlast over against them in the heavens was the huge phantom of amountain, infinitely greater, infinitely grander than any mountain everseen by mortal eyes, and lifting higher and higher, commanded upward bythat single wand of golden light. Then suddenly the wand was withdrawnand the ghost mountain merged into the yellow afterglow of evening.
\"It was beautiful,\" said he. \"I can't tell you about it. The wordsdon't seem to fit some way. I wish you could see it for yourself. Iknow you'd enjoy it. I always wanted some one with me to enjoy it too.Suppose some way we were placed so we could watch the year go by inthose deep windows. First there is the spring and the birds and theflowers, all of which I've been talking about. Then there is thesummer, when the shades are drawn, when the shadows of the roses waveslowly across the curtains, when the air outside quivers with heat, andthe air inside tastes like a draught of cool water. All the bird songsare stilled except that one little fellow still warbles, swaying inthe breeze on the tiptop of the 'big tree,' his notes sliding down thelong sunbeams like beads on a golden thread. Then we would readtogether, in the half-darkened 'parlour,' something not very deep, butbeautiful, like Hawthorne's stories; or we would together seek forthese perfect lines of poetry which haunt the memory. In the evening wewould go out to hear the crickets and the tree toads, to see the nightbreeze toss the leaves across the calm face of the moon, to be silencedin spirit by the peace of the stars. Then the autumn would come. Wewould taste the 'Concords' and the little red grapes and the big redgrapes. We would take our choice of the yellow sweetings, the hardwhite snow apples, or the little red-cheeked fellows from the westtree. And then, of course, there are the russets! Then there are thepears, and all the hickory nuts which rattle down on us every time thewind blows. The leaves are everywhere. We would rake them up into bigpiles, and jump into them, and 'swish' about in them. How bracing theair is! How silvery the sun! How red your cheeks would get! And thinkof the bonfires!\"
The water had now drained from the hill entirely. It could be seen thatmost of the surface earth had been washed away, leaving the skeleton ofthe mountain bare. Some of the more slightly rooted trees had fallen,or clung precariously to the earth with bony fingers. But the gulchitself was terrible. The mountain laurel, the elders, the sarvisbushes, the wild roses which, a few days before, had been fragrant andbeautiful with blossom and leaf and musical with birds, haddisappeared. In their stead rolled an angry brown flood whirling inalmost unbroken surface from bank to bank. Several oaks, submerged totheir branches, raised their arms helplessly. As Bennington looked,one of these bent slowly and sank from sight. A moment later it shotwith great suddenness half its length into the air, was seized by theeager waters, and whisked away as lightly as though it had been a treeof straw. Dark objects began to come down with the stream. They seemedto be trying to preserve a semblance of dignity in their statelybobbing up and down, but apparently found the attempt difficult. Theroar was almost deafening, but even above it a strangely deliberategrinding noise was audible. Old Mizzou said it was the grating ofboulders as they were rolled along the bed of the stream. The yellowglow had disappeared from the air, and the gloom of rain had taken itsplace.
He would lose her utterly, and would stand quite motionless, listening,for a long time. Suddenly, without warning, an exaggerated leaf crownwould fall about his neck, and he would be overwhelmed with ridicule atthe outrageous figure he presented. Then for a time she seemedeverywhere at once. The mottled sunlight under the trees danced andquivered after her, smiling and darkening as she dimpled or was grave.The little whirlwinds of the gulches seized the leaves and danced withher too, the birches and aspens tossed their hands, and rising everhigher and wilder and more elf-like came the mocking cadences of herlaughter.
\"Now, when the wicked Manitou came along he tried to enter the cañontoo, but he had to stop, because down in the depths of the mountainwere veins of gold and silver which he could not cross. For many dayshe raged back and forth, but in vain. At last he got tired and wentaway.
\"Some four years ago, the Survey sent me on a trip which included themapping of a portion of the foothills of the Mt. St. Elias Range. It isa rugged and barren part of the country, but although rough in theextreme, no obstacles had been encountered that hard labor and longhours could not overcome. It was a packing trip and everything hadprogressed favorably, there was plenty of forage, the streams had beenfairly passable, and we feasted twice a day on moose or mountain sheep.For days and weeks together we had hardly been out of sight of caribou.They had a curious way of approaching, either one at a time or else inquite large bands, coming close to the pack-train, then breaking awaysuddenly at full gallop and returning in large circles. Even the crackof a rifle could not scare them out of their curiosity, and we nevershot any except when we needed meat.
This time, however, the luck which seemed to have deserted him so long,returned, for he found himself, in the course of a few steps, just atthe place where the brushwood had been cut recently for the making of asight, and the boy knew that he could not now be very far from the restof the party. He followed the blazed trail as rapidly as his somewhatcrippled condition would permit, shouting occasionally as he did so,when suddenly he heard voices. Stopping to make sure, and hearing speechquite distinctly, he hurried on, coming at last to a dense dark piece ofthe wood[Pg 56] through which a path had been hewn with some difficulty.Another two minutes, he was assured, would bring him among his comrades,when he heard the voices again, and what they said made him pause.
It was perhaps fortunate for the lad that he was not too well-informedin the customary ways of the burro, and was entirely unaware of theanimal's intense objection to running water. Had he known this, in allprobability he would have left the burro behind, which would haveresulted grievously. But this old burro, as it fortunately chanced, musthave belonged to some prospector working in a mountain country, for heevinced no fear of or dislike to the stream. One hundred and seven timesdid Roger and the burro cross Bright Angel Creek, each crossing growingswifter and deeper than the last. Dusk was falling as they reached thebank of the Colorado River at the base of the Canyon.
Gathered to the hasty and scanty supper, the cook found himself in aposition of extreme discomfort, though no blame was attached to him. Hehad acted for the best and this result could not have been foreseen.Perhaps it was because his nerves were unusually upon the strain that hewas the first to hear a sound along the chasm. He held up his hand toenjoin silence, and in a moment or two horses' hoofs and voices wereheard. Then, looming unnaturally large in the last flush of twilightbefore the darkness fell,[Pg 145] came two figures, one on a tall iron-grayhorse, one on a mule, with a burro plodding along patiently behind.
But, just as he worked himself over the edge of the boulder, what washis amazement to see a mountain goat, evidently descending from thecliff above, land with a clatter of hoofs on the rock not ten feet awayfrom him. Rivers promptly scrambled to his feet, and the goat,apparently thinking himself cornered and facing boldly an unknowndanger, rushed at him with lowered horns. A quick sideways jump was allthat saved the geologist, and the goat nearly went headlong over theedge with his rush.
Roger speedily realized the wisdom shown by Rivers in forcing the marchthrough the entire first part of the trip, for whereas the weather hadbeen favorable, two days after the argument with the mountain goat, thesky, which had been dark and gray for days, suddenly seemed to drop towithin a few hundred feet of the heads of the travelers, and a tinge ofslaty blue came into the over-hanging masses. A hollow booming soundfilled the air, and the Alaskan old-timers hastened to make everythingfast, laying provision close to hand and insuring all the outfit againstthe coming storm.
\"There you are, Doughty; there are your caribou. You've worked prettyhard and ought to have some fun out of it. We can get along all right,and you go after them. You can't very well get lost, but don't try totrack them after dark.\" 153554b96e