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   Chapter 16 No.16

The Emigrant Trail By Geraldine Bonner Characters: 31836

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


For some days their route followed the river, then they would leave it and strike due west, making marches from spring to spring. The country was as arid as the face of a dead planet, save where the water's course was marked by a line of green. Here and there the sage was broken by bare spaces where the alkali cropped out in a white encrusting. Low mountains edged up about the horizon, thrusting out pointed scarps like capes protruding into slumbrous, gray-green seas. These capes were objects upon which they could fix their eyes, goals to reach and pass. In the blank monotony they offered an interest, something to strive for, something that marked an advance. The mountains never seemed to retreat or come nearer. They encircled the plain in a crumpled wall, the same day after day, a low girdle of volcanic shapes, cleft with moving shadows.

The sun was the sun of August. It reeled across a sky paled by its ardor, at midday seeming to pause and hang vindictive over the little caravan. Under its fury all color left the blanched earth, all shadows shrunk away to nothing. The train alone, as if in desperate defiance, showed a black blot beneath the wagon, an inky snake sliding over the ground under each horse's sweating belly. The air was like a stretched tissue, strained to the limit of its elasticity, in places parting in delicate, glassy tremblings. Sometimes in the distance the mirage hung brilliant, a blue lake with waves crisping on a yellow shore. They watched it with hungry eyes, a piece of illusion framed by the bleached and bitter reality.

When evening came the great transformation began. With the first deepening of color the desert's silent heart began to beat in expectation of its hour of beauty. Its bleak detail was lost in shrouding veils and fiery reflection. The earth floor became a golden sea from which the capes reared themselves in shapes of bronze and copper. The ring of mountains in the east flushed to the pink of the topaz, then bending westward shaded from rosy lilac to mauve, and where the sunset backed them, darkened to black. As the hour progressed the stillness grew more profound, the naked levels swept out in wilder glory, inundated by pools of light, lines of fire eating a glowing way through sinks where twilight gathered. With each moment it became a more tremendous spectacle. The solemnity attendant on the passage of a miracle held it. From the sun's mouth the voice of God seemed calling the dead land to life.

Each night the travelers gazed upon it, ragged forms gilded by its radiance, awed and dumb. Its splendors crushed them, filling them with nostalgic longings. They bore on with eyes that were sick for a sight of some homely, familiar thing that would tell them they were still human, still denizens of a world they knew. The life into which they fitted and had uses was as though perished from the face of the earth. The weak man sunk beneath the burden of its strangeness. Its beauty made no appeal to him. He felt lost and dazed in its iron-ringed ruthlessness, dry as a skeleton by daylight, at night transformed by witchfires of enchantment. The man and woman, in whom vitality was strong, combatted its blighting force, refused to be broken by its power. They desired with vehemence to assert themselves, to rebel, not to submit to the sense of their nothingness. They turned to one another hungry for the life that now was only within themselves. They had passed beyond the limits of the accustomed, were like detached particles gone outside the law of gravity, floating undirected through spaces where they were nothing and had nothing but their bodies, their passions, themselves.

To a surface observation they would have appeared as stolid as savages, but their nerves were taut as drawn violin strings. Strange self-assertions, violences of temper, were under the skin ready to break out at a jar in the methodical routine. Had the train been larger, its solidarity less complete, furious quarrels would have taken place. With an acknowledged leader whom they believed in and obeyed, the chances of friction were lessened. Three of them could meet the physical demands of the struggle. It was David's fate that, unable to do this, he should fall to a position of feeble uselessness, endurable in a woman, but difficult to put up with in a man.

One morning Susan was waked by angry voices. An oath shook sleep from her, and thrusting her head out of the wagon where she now slept, she saw the three men standing in a group, rage on Courant's face, disgust on Daddy John's, and on David's an abstraction of aghast dismay that was not unlike despair. To her question Daddy John gave a short answer. David's horses, insecurely picketed, had pulled up their stakes in the night and gone. A memory of the young man's exhaustion the evening before, told the girl the story; David had forgotten to picket them and immediately after supper had fallen asleep. He had evidently been afraid to tell and invented the explanation of dragged picket pins. She did not know whether the men believed it, but she saw by their faces they were in no mood to admit extenuating circumstances. The oath had been Courant's. When he heard her voice he shut his lips on others, but they welled up in his eyes, glowering furiously on the culprit from the jut of drawn brows.

"What am I to do?" said the unfortunate young man, sending a despairing glance over the prospect. Under his weak misery, rebellious ill humor was visible.

"Go after them and bring them back."

Susan saw the leader had difficulty in confining himself to such brief phrases. Dragging a blanket round her shoulders she leaned over the seat. She felt like a woman who enters a quarrel to protect a child.

"Couldn't we let them go?" she cried. "We've still my father's horse. David can ride it and we can put his things in the wagon."

"Not another ounce in the wagon," said Daddy John. "The mules are doing their limit now." The wagon was his kingdom over which he ruled an absolute monarch.

Courant looked at her and spoke curtly, ignoring David. "We can't lose a horse now. We need every one of them. It's not here. It's beyond in the mountains. We've got to get over by the first of September, and we want every animal we have to do it. He's not able to walk."

He shot a contemptuous glance at David that in less bitter times would have made the young man's blood boil. But David was too far from his normal self to care. He was not able to walk and was glad that Courant understood it.

"I've got to go after them, I suppose," he said sullenly and turned to where the animals looked on with expectant eyes. "But it's the last time I'll do it. If they go again they'll stay gone."

There was a mutter from the other men. Susan, full of alarm, scrambled into the back of the wagon and pulled on her clothes. When she emerged David had the doctor's horse saddled and was about to mount. His face, heavy-eyed and unwashed, bore an expression of morose anger, but fatigue spoke pathetically in his slow, lifeless movements, the droop of his thin, high shoulders.

"David," she called, jumping out over the wheel, "wait."

He did not look at her or answer, but climbed into the saddle and gathered his rein. She ran toward him crying, "Wait and have some breakfast. I'll get it for you."

He continued to pay no attention to her, glancing down at his foot as it felt for the stirrup. She stopped short, repulsed by his manner, watching him as he sent a forward look over the tracks of the lost horses. They wound into the distance fading amid the sweep of motionless sage. It would be a long search and the day was already hot. Pity rose above all other feelings, and she said:

"Have they told you what they're going to do? Whether we'll wait here or go on and have you catch us up?"

"I don't know what they're going to do and don't care," he answered, and touching the horse with his spur rode away between the brushing bushes.

She turned to Daddy John, her eyes full of alarmed question.

"He knows all about it," said the old man with slow phlegm, "I told him myself. There's food and water for him packed on behind the saddle, I done that too. He'd have gone without it just to spite himself. We'll rest here this morning, and if he ain't back by noon move on slow till he catches us up. Don't you worry. He done the wrong thing and he's got to learn."

No more was said about David, and after breakfast they waited doing the odd tasks that accumulated for their few periods of rest. Susan sat sewing where the wagon cast a cooling slant of shade. Daddy John was beyond her in the sun, his sere old body, from which time had stripped the flesh, leaving only a tenuous bark of muscle, was impervious to the heat. In the growing glare he worked over a broken saddle, the whitening reaches stretching out beyond him to where the mountains waved in a clear blue line as if laid on with one wash of a saturated paint brush. Courant was near him in the shadow of his horse, cleaning a gun, sharp clicks of metal now and then breaking into the stillness.

As the hours passed the shadow of the wagon shrunk and the girl moved with it till her back was pressed against the wheel. She was making a calico jacket, and as she moved it the crisp material emitted low cracklings. Each rustle was subdued and stealthy, dying quickly away as if it were in conspiracy with the silence and did not want to disturb it. Courant's back was toward her. He had purposely set his face away, but he could hear the furtive whisperings of the stirred calico. He was full of the consciousness of her, and this sound, which carried a picture of her drooped head and moving hands, came with a stealing unquiet, urgently intrusive and persistent. He tried to hold his mind on his work, but his movements slackened, grew intermittent, his ear attentive for the low rustling that crept toward him at intervals like the effervescent approach of waves. Each time he heard it the waves washed deeper to his inner senses and stole something from his restraining will. For days the desert had been stealing from it too. He knew it and was guarded and fearful of it, but this morning he forgot to watch, forgot to care. His reason was drugged by the sound, the stifled, whispering sound that her hands made moving the material from which she fashioned a covering for her body.

He sat with his back turned to her, his hands loose on the gun, his eyes fixed in an unseeing stare. He did not know what he looked at or that the shadow of the horse had slipped beyond him. When he heard her move his quietness increased to a trancelike suspension of movement, the inner concentration holding every muscle in spellbound rigidness. Suddenly she tore the calico with a keen, rending noise, and it was as if her hands had seized upon and so torn the tension that held him. His fists clinched on the gun barrel, and for a moment the mountain line undulated to his gaze. Had they been alone, speech would have burst from him, but the presence of the old man kept him silent. He bowed his head over the gun, making a pretense of giving it a last inspection, then, surer of himself, leaped to his feet and said gruffly:

"Let's move on. There's no good waiting here."

The other two demurred. Susan rose and walked into the glare sweeping the way David had gone. Against the pale background she stood out a vital figure, made up of glowing tints that reached their brightest note in the heated rose of her cheeks and lips. Her dark head with its curly crest of hair was defined as if painted on the opaque blue of the sky. She stood motionless, only her eyes moving as they searched the distance. All of life that remained in the famished land seemed to have flowed into her and found a beautified expression in the rich vitality of her upright form, the flushed bloom of her face. Daddy John bent to pick up the saddle, and the mountain man, safe from espial, looked at her with burning eyes.

"David's not in sight," she said. "Do you think we'd better go on?"

"Whether we'd better or not we will," he answered roughly. "Catch up, Daddy John."

They were accustomed to obeying him like children their master. So without more parley they pulled up stakes, loaded the wagon, and started. As Susan fell back to her place at the rear, she called to Courant:

"We'll go as slowly as we can. We mustn't get too far ahead. David can't ride hard the way he is now."

The man growled an answer that she did not hear, and without looking at her took the road.

They made their evening halt by the river. It had dwindled to a fragile stream which, wandering away into the dryness, would creep feebly to its sink and there disappear, sucked into secret subways that no man knew. To-morrow they would start across the desert, where they could see the road leading straight in a white seam to the west. David had not come. The mules stood stripped of their harness, the wagon rested with dropped tongue, the mess chest was open and pans shone in mingled fire and sunset gleams, but the mysteries of the distance, over which twilight veils were thickening, gave no sign of him. Daddy John built up the desert fire as a beacon-a pile of sage that burned like tinder. It shot high, tossed exultant flames toward the dimmed stars and sent long jets of light into the encircling darkness. Its wavering radiance, red and dancing, touched the scattered objects of the camp, revealing and then losing them as new flame ran along the leaves or charred branches dropped. Outside the night hung, deep and silent. Susan hovered on the outskirts of the glow. Darkness was thickening, creeping from the hills that lay inky-edged against the scarlet of the sky. Once she sent up a high cry of David's name. Courant, busy with his horses, lifted his head and looked at her, scowling over his shoulder.

"Why are you calling?" he said. "He can see the fire."

She came back and stood near him, her eyes on him in uneasy scrutiny: "We shouldn't have gone on. We should have waited for him."

There was questioning and also a suggestion of condemnation in her voice. She was anxious and her tone and manner showed she thought it his fault.

He bent to loosen a girth.

"Are you afraid he's lost?" he said, his face against the horse.

"No. But if he was?"

"Well! And if he was?"

The girth was uncinched and he swept saddle and blanket to the ground.

"We'd have to go back for him, and you say we must lose no time."

He kicked the things aside and made no answer. Then as he groped for the picket pins he was conscious that she turned again with the nervous movement of worry and swept the plain.

"He was sick. We oughtn't to have gone on," she repeated, and the note of blame was stronger. "Oh, I wish he'd come!"

Their conversation had been carried on in a low key. Suddenly Courant, wheeling round on her, spoke in the raised tone of anger.

"And am I to stop the train because that fool don't know enough or care enough to picket his horses? Is it always to be him? Excuses made and things done for him as if he was a sick girl or a baby. Let him be lost, and stay lost, and be damned to him."

Daddy John looked up from the sheaf of newly gathered sage with the alertness of a scared monkey. Susan stepped back, feeling suddenly breathless. Courant made a movement as if to follow her, then stopped, his face rived with lines and red with rage. He was shaken by what to her was entirely inexplicable anger, and in her amazement she stared vacantly at him.

"What's that, what's that?" chirped Daddy John, scrambling to his feet and coming toward them with chin thrust belligerently forward and blinking eyes full of fight.

Neither spoke to him and he added sharply:

"Didn't I hear swearing? Who's swearing now?" as if he had his doubts that i

t might be Susan.

Courant with a stifled phrase turned from them, picked up his hammer and began driving in the stakes.

"What was it?" whispered the old man. "What's the matter with him? Is he mad at David?"

She shook her head, putting a finger on her lip in sign of silence, and moving away to the other side of the fire. She felt the strain in the men and knew it was her place to try and keep the peace. But a sense of forlorn helplessness amid these warring spirits lay heavily on her and she beckoned to the old servant, wanting him near her as one who, no matter how dire the circumstances, would never fail her.

"Yes, he's angry," she said when they were out of earshot. "I suppose it's about David. But what can we do? We can't make David over into another man, and we can't leave him behind just because he's not as strong as the rest of us. I feel as if we were getting to be savages."

The old man gave a grunt that had a note of cynical acquiescence, then held up his hand in a signal for quiet. The thud of a horse's hoofs came from the outside night. With a quick word to get the supper ready, she ran forward and stood in the farthest rim of the light waiting for her betrothed.

David was a pitiable spectacle. The dust lay thick on his face, save round his eyes, whence he had rubbed it, leaving the sockets looking unnaturally sunken and black. His collar was open and his neck rose bare and roped with sinews. There was but one horse at the end of the trail rope. As he slid out of the saddle, he dropped the rope on the ground, saying that the other animal was sick, he had left it dying he thought. He had found them miles off, miles and miles-with a weak wave of his hand toward the south-near an alkaline spring where he supposed they had been drinking. The other couldn't move, this one he had dragged along with him. The men turned their attention to the horse, which, with swollen body and drooping head, looked as if it might soon follow its mate. They touched it, and spoke together, brows knit over the trouble, not paying any attention to David, who, back in the flesh, was sufficiently accounted for.

Susan was horrified by his appearance. She had never seen him look so much a haggard stranger to himself. He was prostrate with fatigue, and throughout the day he had nursed a sense of bitter injury. Now back among them, seeing the outspread signs of their rest, and with the good smell of their food in his nostrils, this rose to the pitch of hysterical rage, ready to vent itself at the first excuse. The sight of the girl, fresh-skinned from a wash in the river, instead of soothing, further inflamed him. Her glowing well-being seemed bought at his expense. Her words of concern spoke to his sick ear with a note of smug, unfeeling complacence.

"David, you're half dead. Every thing'll be ready in a minute. Sit down and rest. Here, take my blanket."

She spread her blanket for him, but he stood still, not answering, staring at her with dull, accusing eyes. Then, with a dazed movement, he pushed his hand over the crown of his head throwing off his hat. The hand was unsteady, and it fell, the hooked forefinger catching in the opening of his shirt, dragging it down and showing his bony breast. If he had been nothing to her she would have pitied him. Sense of wrongs done him made the pity passionate. She went to him, the consoling woman in her eyes, and laid her hand on the one that rested on his chest.

"David, sit down and rest. Don't move again. I'll get you everything. I never saw you look as you do to-night."

With an angry movement he threw her hand off.

"You don't care," he said. "What does it matter to you when you've been comfortable all day? So long as you and the others are all right I don't matter."

It was so unlike him, his face was so changed and charged with a childish wretchedness, that she felt no check upon her sympathy. She knew it was not David that spoke, but a usurping spirit born of evil days. The other men pricked their ears and listened, but she was indifferent to their watch, and tried again to take his hand, saying, pleadingly:

"Sit down. When I get your supper you'll be better. I'll have it ready in a few minutes."

This time he threw her hand off with violence. His face, under its dust mask, flamed with the anger that had been accumulating through the day.

"Let me alone," he cried, his voice strangled like a wrathful child's. "I don't want anything to do with you. Eat your supper. When I'm ready I'll get mine without any help from you. Let me be."

He turned from her, and moving over the blanket, stumbled on its folds. The jar was the breaking touch to his overwrought nerves. He staggered, caught his breath with a hiccoughing gasp, and dropping his face into his hands burst into hysterical tears. Then in a sudden abandonment of misery he threw himself on the blanket, buried his head in his folded arms and rending sobs broke from him. For a moment they were absolutely still, staring at him in stupefied surprise. Daddy John, his neck craned round the blaze, surveyed him with bright, sharp eyes of unemotional query, then flopped the bacon pan on the embers, and said:

"He's all done."

Courant advanced a step, looked down on him and threw a sidelong glance at Susan, bold with meaning. After her first moment of amazement, she moved to David's side, drew the edge of the blanket over him, touched his head with a light caress, and turned back to the fire. The plates and cups were lying there and she quietly set them out, her eye now and then straying for a needed object, her hand hanging in suspended search then dropping upon it, and noiselessly putting it in its place. Unconsciously they maintained an awed silence, as if they were sitting by the dead. Daddy John turned the bacon with stealthy care, the scrape of his knife on the pan sounding a rude and unseemly intrusion. Upon this scrupulously maintained quietude the man's weeping broke insistent, the stifled regular beat of sobs hammering on it as if determined to drive their complacency away and reduce them to the low ebb of misery in which he lay.

They had almost finished their meal when the sounds lessened, dwindling to spasmodic, staggering gasps with lengthening pauses that broke suddenly in a quivering intake of breath and a vibration of the recumbent frame. The hysterical paroxysm was over. He lay limp and turned his head on his arms, too exhausted to feel shame for the shine of tears on his cheek. Susan took a plate of food and a coffee cup and stole toward him, the two men watching her under their eyelids. She knelt beside him and spoke very gently, "Will you take this, David? You'll feel stronger after you've eaten."

"Put it down," he said hoarsely, without moving.

"Shall I give you the coffee?" She hung over him looking into his face. "I can hold the cup and you can drink it."

"By and by," he muttered.

She bent lower and laid her hand on his hair.

"David, I'm so sorry," she breathed.

Courant leaped to his feet and walked to where his horses stood. He struck one of them a blow on the flank that after the silence and the low tones of the girl's crooning voice sounded as violent as a pistol shot. They all started, even David lifted his head.

"What's the matter now?" said Daddy John, alert for any outbreak of man or beast.

But Courant made no answer, and moved away into the plain. It was some time before he came back, emerging from the darkness as noiselessly as he had gone. David had eaten his supper and was asleep, the girl sitting beyond him withdrawn from the fire glow. Daddy John was examining the sick horse, and Courant joined him, walking round the beast and listening to the old man's opinions as to its condition. They were not encouraging. It seemed likely that David's carelessness would cost the train two valuable animals.

To the outward eye peace had again settled on the camp. The low conferrings of the two men, the dying snaps of the charred twigs, were the only sounds. The night brooded serene about the bivouac, the large stars showing clear now that the central glare had sunk to a red heap of ruin. Far away, on the hills, the sparks of Indian fires gleamed. They had followed the train for days, watching it like the eyes of hungry animals, too timid to come nearer. But there was no cause for alarm, for the desert Indians were a feeble race, averse to bloodshed, thieves at their worst, descending upon the deserted camping grounds to carry away what the emigrants left.

Nevertheless, when the sound of hoof beats came from the trail both men made a quick snatch for their rifles, and Susan jumped to her feet with a cry of "Some one's coming." They could see nothing, the darkness hanging like a curtain across their vision. Courant, with his rifle in the hollow of his arm, moved toward the sounds, his hail reaching clear and deep into the night. An answer came in a man's voice, the hoof beats grew louder, and the reaching light defined approaching shapes. Daddy John threw a bunch of sage on the fire, and in the rush of flame that flew along its branches, two mounted men were visible.

They dropped to the ground and came forward. "From California to the States," the foremost said to Susan, seeing a woman with fears to be allayed. He was tall and angular with a frank, copper-tanned face, overtopped by a wide spread of hat, and bearded to the eyes. He wore a loose hickory shirt and buckskin breeches tucked into long boots, already broken from the soles. The other was a small and comical figure with an upstanding crest of sunburned blond hair, tight curled and thick as a sheep's fleece. When he saw Susan he delayed his advance to put on a ragged army overcoat that hung to his heels, and evidently hid discrepancies in his costume not meet for a lady's eye. Both men were powdered with dust, and announced themselves as hungry enough to eat their horses.

Out came pans and supplies, and the snapping of bacon fat and smell of coffee rose pungent. Though, by their own account, they had ridden hard and far, there was a feverish energy of life in each of them that roused the drooping spirits of the others like an electrifying current. They ate ravenously, pausing between mouthfuls to put quick questions on the condition of the eastward trail, its grazing grounds, what supplies could be had at the Forts. It was evident they were new to journeying on the great bare highways of the wilderness, but that fact seemed to have no blighting effect on their zeal. What and who they were came out in the talk that gushed in the intervals of feeding. The fair-haired man was a sailor, shipped from Boston round the Horn for California eight months before. The fact that he was a deserter dropped out with others. He was safe here-with a side-long laugh at Susan-no more of the sea for him.

He was going back for money, money and men. It was too late to get through to the States now? Well he'd wait and winter at Fort Laramie if he had to, but he guessed he'd make a pretty vigorous effort to get to St. Louis. His companion was from Philadelphia, and was going back for his wife and children, also money. He'd bring them out next spring, collect a big train, stock it well, and carry them across with him.

"And start early, not waste any time dawdling round and talking. Start with the first of 'em and get to California before the rush begins."

"Rush?" said Courant. "Are you looking for a rush next year?"

The man leaned forward with upraised, arresting hand, "The biggest rush in the history of this country. Friends, there's gold in California."

Gold! The word came in different keys, their flaccid bodies stiffened into upright eagerness- Gold in the Promised Land!

Then came the great story, the discovery of California's treasure told by wanderers to wanderers under the desert stars. Six months before gold had been found in the race of Sutter's mill in the foothills. The streams that sucked their life from the snow crests of the Sierras were yellow with it. It lay, a dusty sediment, in the prospector's pan. It spread through the rock cracks in sparkling seams.

The strangers capped story with story, chanted the tales of fantastic exaggeration that had already gone forth, and up and down California were calling men from ranch and seaboard. They were coming down from Oregon along the wild spine of the coast ranges and up from the Mission towns strung on highways beaten out by Spanish soldier and padre. The news was now en route to the outer world carried by ships. It would fly from port to port, run like fire up the eastern coast and leap to the inland cities and the frontier villages. And next spring, when the roads were open, would come the men, the regiments of men, on foot, mounted, in long caravans, hastening to California for the gold that was there for anyone who had the strength and hardihood to go.

The bearded man got up, went to his horse and brought back his pack. He opened it, pulled off the outer blanketing, and from a piece of dirty calico drew a black sock, bulging and heavy. From this in turn he shook a small buckskin sack. He smoothed the calico, untied a shoestring from the sack's mouth, and let a stream of dun-colored dust run out. It shone in the firelight in a slow sifting rivulet, here and there a bright flake like a spangle sending out a yellow spark. Several times a solid particle obstructed the lazy flow, which broke upon it like water on a rock, dividing and sinking in two heavy streams. It poured with unctious deliberation till the sack was empty, and the man held it up to show the powdered dust of dust clinging to the inside.

"That's three weeks' washing on the river across the valley beyond Sacramento," he said, "and it's worth four thousand dollars in the United States mint."

The pile shone yellow in the fire's even glow, and they stared at it, wonderstruck, each face showing a sudden kindling of greed, the longing to possess, to know the power and peace of wealth. It came with added sharpness in the midst of their bare distress. Even the girl felt it, leaning forward to gloat with brightened eyes on the little pyramid. David forgot his injuries and craned his neck to listen, dreams once more astir. California became suddenly a radiant vision. No longer a faint line of color, vaguely lovely, but a place where fortune waited them, gold to fill their coffers, to bring them ease, to give their aspirations definite shape, to repay them for their bitter pilgrimage. They were seized with the lust of it, and their attentive faces sharpened with the strain of the growing desire. They felt the onward urge to be up and moving, to get there and lay their hands on the waiting treasure.

The night grew old and still they talked, their fatigue forgotten. They heard the tale of Marshall's discovery and how it flew right and left through the spacious, idle land. There were few to answer the call, ranches scattered wide over the unpeopled valleys, small traders in the little towns along the coast. In the settlement of Yerba Buena, fringing the edge of San Francisco Bay, men were leaving their goods at their shop doors and going inland. Ships were lying idle in the tide water, every sailor gone to find the golden river. The fair-haired man laughed and told how he'd swam naked in the darkness, his money in his mouth, and crawled up the long, shoal shore, waist high in mud.

The small hours had come when one by one they dropped to sleep as they lay. A twist of the blanket, a squirming into deeper comfort, and rest was on them. They sprawled in the caked dust like dead men fallen in battle and left as they had dropped. Even the girl forgot the habits of a life-long observance and sunk to sleep among them, her head on a saddle, the old servant curled at her feet.

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