At the end of a dry, uphill ride over barren country Jean Isbel
unpacked to camp at the edge of the cedars where a little rocky
canyon green with willow and cottonwood, promised water and
His animals were tired, especially the pack mule that had
carried a heavy load; and with slow heave of relief they knelt and
rolled in the dust. Jean experienced something of relief himself as
he threw off his chaps. He had not been used to hot, dusty, glaring
days on the barren lands. Stretching his long length beside a tiny
rill of clear water that tinkled over the red stones, he drank
thirstily. The water was cool, but it had an acrid taste—an alkali
bite that he did not like. Not since he had left Oregon had he
tasted clear, sweet, cold water; and he missed it just as he longed
for the stately shady forests he had loved. This wild, endless
Arizona land bade fair to earn his hatred.
By the time he had leisurely completed his tasks twilight had
fallen and coyotes had begun their barking. Jean listened to the
yelps and to the moan of the cool wind in the cedars with a sense
of satisfaction that these lonely sounds were familiar. This cedar
wood burned into a pretty fire and the smell of its smoke was newly
"Reckon maybe I'll learn to like Arizona," he mused, half aloud.
"But I've a hankerin' for waterfalls an' dark-green forests. Must
be the Indian in me… . Anyway, dad needs me bad, an' I reckon I'm
here for keeps."
Jean threw some cedar branches on the fire, in the light of
which he opened his father's letter, hoping by repeated reading to
grasp more of its strange portent. It had been two months in
reaching him, coming by traveler, by stage and train, and then by
boat, and finally by stage again. Written in lead pencil on a leaf
torn from an old ledger, it would have been hard to read even if
the writing had been more legible.
"Dad's writin' was always bad, but I never saw it so shaky,"
said Jean, thinking aloud.
GRASS VALLY, ARIZONA. Son Jean,—Come home. Here is your home and
here your needed. When we left Oregon we all reckoned you would not
be long behind. But its years now. I am growing old, son, and you
was always my steadiest boy. Not that you ever was so dam steady.
Only your wildness seemed more for the woods. You take after
mother, and your brothers Bill and Guy take after me. That is the
red and white of it. Your part Indian, Jean, and that Indian I
reckon I am going to need bad. I am rich in cattle and horses. And
my range here is the best I ever seen. Lately we have been losing
stock. But that is not all nor so bad. Sheepmen have moved into the
Tonto and are grazing down on Grass Vally. Cattlemen and sheepmen
can never bide in this country. We have bad times ahead. Reckon I
have more reasons to worry and need you, but you must wait to hear
that by word of mouth. Whatever your doing, chuck it and rustle for
Grass Vally so to make here by spring. I am asking you to take
pains to pack in some guns and a lot of shells. And hide them in
your outfit. If you meet anyone when your coming down into the
Tonto, listen more than you talk. And last, son, dont let anything
keep you in Oregon. Reckon you have a sweetheart, and if so fetch
her along. With love from your dad, GASTON ISBEL.
Jean pondered over this letter. judged by memory of his father,
who had always been self-sufficient, it had been a surprise and
somewhat of a shock. Weeks of travel and reflection had not helped
him to grasp the meaning between the lines.
"Yes, dad's growin' old," mused Jean, feeling a warmth and a
sadness stir in him. "He must be 'way over sixty. But he never
looked old… . So he's rich now an' losin' stock, an' goin' to be
sheeped off his range. Dad could stand a lot of rustlin', but not
much from sheepmen."
The softness that stirred in Jean merged into a cold, thoughtful
earnestness which had followed every perusal of his father's
letter. A dark, full current seemed flowing in his veins, and at
times he felt it swell and heat. It troubled him, making him
conscious of a deeper, stronger self, opposed to his careless,
free, and dreamy nature. No ties had bound him in Oregon, except
love for the great, still forests and the thundering rivers; and
this love came from his softer side. It had cost him a wrench to
leave. And all the way by ship down the coast to San Diego and
across the Sierra Madres by stage, and so on to this last overland
travel by horseback, he had felt a retreating of the self that was
tranquil and happy and a dominating of this unknown somber self,
with its menacing possibilities. Yet despite a nameless regret and
a loyalty to Oregon, when he lay in his blankets he had to confess
a keen interest in his adventurous future, a keen enjoyment of this
stark, wild Arizona. It appeared to be a different sky stretching
in dark, star-spangled dome over him—closer, vaster, bluer. The
strong fragrance of sage and cedar floated over him with the
camp-fire smoke, and all seemed drowsily to subdue his
At dawn he rolled out of his blankets and, pulling on his boots,
began the day with a zest for the work that must bring closer his
calling future. White, crackling frost and cold, nipping air were
the same keen spurs to action that he had known in the uplands of
Oregon, yet they were not wholly the same. He sensed an
exhilaration similar to the effect of a strong, sweet wine. His
horse and mule had fared well during the night, having been much
refreshed by the grass and water of the little canyon. Jean mounted
and rode into the cedars with gladness that at last he had put the
endless leagues of barren land behind him.
The trail he followed appeared to be seldom traveled. It led,
according to the meager information obtainable at the last
settlement, directly to what was called the Rim, and from there
Grass Valley could be seen down in the Basin. The ascent of the
ground was so gradual that only in long, open stretches could it be
seen. But the nature of the vegetation showed Jean how he was
climbing. Scant, low, scraggy cedars gave place to more numerous,
darker, greener, bushier ones, and these to high, full-foliaged,
green-berried trees. Sage and grass in the open flats grew more
luxuriously. Then came the pinyons, and presently among them the
checker-barked junipers. Jean hailed the first pine tree with a
hearty slap on the brown, rugged bark. It was a small dwarf pine
struggling to live. The next one was larger, and after that came
several, and beyond them pines stood up everywhere above the lower
trees. Odor of pine needles mingled with the other dry smells that
made the wind pleasant to Jean. In an hour from the first line of
pines he had ridden beyond the cedars and pinyons into a slowly
thickening and deepening forest. Underbrush appeared scarce except
in ravines, and the ground in open patches held a bleached grass.
Jean's eye roved for sight of squirrels, birds, deer, or any moving
creature. It appeared to be a dry, uninhabited forest. About midday
Jean halted at a pond of surface water, evidently melted snow, and
gave his animals a drink. He saw a few old deer tracks in the mud
and several huge bird tracks new to him which he concluded must
have been made by wild turkeys.
The trail divided at this pond. Jean had no idea which branch he
ought to take. "Reckon it doesn't matter," he muttered, as he was
about to remount. His horse was standing with ears up, looking back
along the trail. Then Jean heard a clip-clop of trotting hoofs, and
presently espied a horseman.
Jean made a pretense of tightening his saddle girths while he
peered over his horse at the approaching rider. All men in this
country were going to be of exceeding interest to Jean Isbel. This
man at a distance rode and looked like all the Arizonians Jean had
seen, he had a superb seat in the saddle, and he was long and lean.
He wore a huge black sombrero and a soiled red scarf. His vest was
open and he was without a coat.
The rider came trotting up and halted several paces from
"Hullo, stranger! " he said, gruffly.
"Howdy yourself!" replied Jean. He felt an instinctive
importance in the meeting with the man. Never had sharper eyes
flashed over Jean and his outfit. He had a dust-colored, sun-burned
face, long, lean, and hard, a huge sandy mustache that hid his
mouth, and eyes of piercing light intensity. Not very much hard
Western experience had passed by this man, yet he was not old,
measured by years. When he dismounted Jean saw he was tall, even
for an Arizonian.
"Seen your tracks back a ways," he said, as he slipped the bit
to let his horse drink. "Where bound?"
"Reckon I'm lost, all right," replied Jean. "New country for
"Shore. I seen thet from your tracks an' your last camp. Wal,
where was you headin' for before you got lost?"
The query was deliberately cool, with a dry, crisp ring. Jean
felt the lack of friendliness or kindliness in it.
"Grass Valley. My name's Isbel," he replied, shortly.
The rider attended to his drinking horse and presently rebridled
him; then with long swing of leg he appeared to step into the
"Shore I knowed you was Jean Isbel," he said. "Everybody in the
Tonto has heerd old Gass Isbel sent fer his boy."
"Well then, why did you ask?" inquired Jean, bluntly.
"Reckon I wanted to see what you'd say."
"So? All right. But I'm not carin' very much for what YOU
Their glances locked steadily then and each measured the other
by the intangible conflict of spirit.
"Shore thet's natural," replied the rider. His speech was slow,
and the motions of his long, brown hands, as he took a cigarette
from his vest, kept time with his words. "But seein' you're one of
the Isbels, I'll hev my say whether you want it or not. My name's
Colter an' I'm one of the sheepmen Gass Isbel's riled with."
"Colter. Glad to meet you," replied Jean. "An' I reckon who
riled my father is goin' to rile me."
"Shore. If thet wasn't so you'd not be an Isbel," returned
Colter, with a grim little laugh. "It's easy to see you ain't run
into any Tonto Basin fellers yet. Wal, I'm goin' to tell you thet
your old man gabbed like a woman down at Greaves's store. Bragged
aboot you an' how you could fight an' how you could shoot an' how
you could track a hoss or a man! Bragged how you'd chase every
sheep herder back up on the Rim… . I'm tellin' you because we want
you to git our stand right. We're goin' to run sheep down in Grass
"Ahuh! Well, who's we?" queried Jean, curtly.
"What-at? … We—I mean the sheepmen rangin' this Rim from
Black Butte to the Apache country."
"Colter, I'm a stranger in Arizona," said Jean, slowly. I know
little about ranchers or sheepmen. It's true my father sent for me.
It's true, I dare say, that he bragged, for he was given to bluster
an' blow. An' he's old now. I can't help it if he bragged about me.
But if he has, an' if he's justified in his stand against you
sheepmen, Im goin' to do my best to live up to his brag. "
"I get your hunch. Shore we understand each other, an' thet's a
powerful help. You take my hunch to your old man," replied Colter,
as he turned his horse away toward the left. "Thet trail leadin'
south is yours. When you come to the Rim you'll see a bare spot
down in the Basin. Thet 'll be Grass Valley."
He rode away out of sight into the woods. Jean leaned against
his horse and pondered. It seemed difficult to be just to this
Colter, not because of his claims, but because of a subtle
hostility that emanated from him. Colter had the hard face, the
masked intent, the turn of speech that Jean had come to associate
with dishonest men. Even if Jean had not been prejudiced, if he had
known nothing of his father's trouble with these sheepmen, and if
Colter had met him only to exchange glances and greetings, still
Jean would never have had a favorable impression. Colter grated
upon him, roused an antagonism seldom felt.
"Heigho!" sighed the young man, "Good-by to huntin' an'
fishing'! Dad's given me a man's job."
With that he mounted his horse and started the pack mule into
the right-hand trail. Walking and trotting, he traveled all
afternoon, toward sunset getting into heavy forest of pine. More
than one snow bank showed white through the green, sheltered on the
north slopes of shady ravines. And it was upon entering this zone
of richer, deeper forestland that Jean sloughed off his gloomy
forebodings. These stately pines were not the giant firs of Oregon,
but any lover of the woods could be happy under them. Higher still
he climbed until the forest spread before and around him like a
level park, with thicketed ravines here and there on each side. And
presently that deceitful level led to a higher bench upon which the
pines towered, and were matched by beautiful trees he took for
spruce. Heavily barked, with regular spreading branches, these
conifers rose in symmetrical shape to spear the sky with silver
plumes. A graceful gray-green moss, waved like veils from the
branches. The air was not so dry and it was colder, with a scent
and touch of snow. Jean made camp at the first likely site, taking
the precaution to unroll his bed some little distance from his
fire. Under the softly moaning pines he felt comfortable, having
lost the sense of an immeasurable open space falling away from all
The gobbling of wild turkeys awakened Jean, "Chuga-lug,
chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug-chug." There was not a great difference
between the gobble of a wild turkey and that of a tame one. Jean
got up, and taking his rifle went out into the gray obscurity of
dawn to try to locate the turkeys. But it was too dark, and finally
when daylight came they appeared to be gone. The mule had strayed,
and, what with finding it and cooking breakfast and packing, Jean
did not make a very early start. On this last lap of his long
journey he had slowed down. He was weary of hurrying; the change
from weeks in the glaring sun and dust-laden wind to this sweet
coot darkly green and brown forest was very welcome; he wanted to
linger along the shaded trail. This day he made sure would see him
reach the Rim. By and by he lost the trail. It had just worn out
from lack of use. Every now and then Jean would cross an old trail,
and as he penetrated deeper into the forest every damp or dusty
spot showed tracks of turkey, deer, and bear. The amount of bear
sign surprised him. Presently his keen nostrils were assailed by a
smell of sheep, and soon he rode into a broad sheep, trail. From
the tracks Jean calculated that the sheep had passed there the day
An unreasonable antipathy seemed born in him. To be sure he had
been prepared to dislike sheep, and that was why he was
unreasonable. But on the other hand this band of sheep had left a
broad bare swath, weedless, grassless, flowerless, in their wake.
Where sheep grazed they destroyed. That was what Jean had against
An hour later he rode to the crest of a long parklike slope,
where new green grass was sprouting and flowers peeped everywhere.
The pines appeared far apart; gnarled oak trees showed rugged and
gray against the green wall of woods. A white strip of snow gleamed
like a moving stream away down in the woods.
Jean heard the musical tinkle of bells and the baa-baa of sheep
and the faint, sweet bleating of lambs. As he road toward these
sounds a dog ran out from an oak thicket and barked at him. Next
Jean smelled a camp fire and soon he caught sight of a curling blue
column of smoke, and then a small peaked tent. Beyond the clump of
oaks Jean encountered a Mexican lad carrying a carbine. The boy had
a swarthy, pleasant face, and to Jean's greeting he replied,
"BUENAS DIAS." Jean understood little Spanish, and about all he
gathered by his simple queries was that the lad was not alone—and
that it was "lambing time."
This latter circumstance grew noisily manifest. The forest
seemed shrilly full of incessant baas and plaintive bleats. All
about the camp, on the slope, in the glades, and everywhere, were
sheep. A few were grazing; many were lying down; most of them were
ewes suckling white fleecy little lambs that staggered on their
feet. Everywhere Jean saw tiny lambs just born. Their pin-pointed
bleats pierced the heavier baa-baa of their mothers.
Jean dismounted and led his horse down toward the camp, where he
rather expected to see another and older Mexican, from whom he
might get information. The lad walked with him. Down this way the
plaintive uproar made by the sheep was not so loud.
"Hello there!" called Jean, cheerfully, as he approached the
tent. No answer was forthcoming. Dropping his bridle, he went on,
rather slowly, looking for some one to appear. Then a voice from
one side startled him.
A girl stepped out from beside a pine. She carried a rifle. Her
face flashed richly brown, but she was not Mexican. This fact, and
the sudden conviction that she had been watching him, somewhat
"Beg pardon—miss," he floundered. "Didn't expect, to see a—girl…
. I'm sort of lost—lookin' for the Rim—an' thought I'd find a sheep
herder who'd show me. I can't savvy this boy's lingo."
While he spoke it seemed to him an intentness of expression, a
strain relaxed from her face. A faint suggestion of hostility
likewise disappeared. Jean was not even sure that he had caught it,
but there had been something that now was gone.
"Shore I'll be glad to show y'u," she said.
"Thanks, miss. Reckon I can breathe easy now," he replied,
"It's a long ride from San Diego. Hot an' dusty! I'm pretty
tired. An' maybe this woods isn't good medicine to achin'
"San Diego! Y'u're from the coast?"
Jean had doffed his sombrero at sight of her and he still held
it, rather deferentially, perhaps. It seemed to attract her
"Put on y'ur hat, stranger… . Shore I can't recollect when any
man bared his haid to me. "She uttered a little laugh in which
surprise and frankness mingled with a tint of bitterness.
Jean sat down with his back to a pine, and, laying the sombrero
by his side, he looked full at her, conscious of a singular
eagerness, as if he wanted to verify by close scrutiny a first
hasty impression. If there had been an instinct in his meeting with
Colter, there was more in this. The girl half sat, half leaned
against a log, with the shiny little carbine across her knees. She
had a level, curious gaze upon him, and Jean had never met one just
like it. Her eyes were rather a wide oval in shape, clear and
steady, with shadows of thought in their amber-brown depths. They
seemed to look through Jean, and his gaze dropped first. Then it
was he saw her ragged homespun skirt and a few inches of brown,
bare ankles, strong and round, and crude worn-out moccasins that
failed to hide the shapeliness, of her feet. Suddenly she drew back
her stockingless ankles and ill-shod little feet. When Jean lifted
his gaze again he found her face half averted and a stain of red in
the gold tan of her cheek. That touch of embarrassment somehow
removed her from this strong, raw, wild woodland setting. It
changed her poise. It detracted from the curious, unabashed, almost
bold, look that he had encountered in her eyes.
"Reckon you're from Texas," said Jean, presently.
"Shore am," she drawled. She had a lazy Southern voice, pleasant
to hear. "How'd y'u-all guess that?"
"Anybody can tell a Texan. Where I came from there were a good
many pioneers an' ranchers from the old Lone Star state. I've
worked for several. An', come to think of it, I'd rather hear a
Texas girl talk than anybody."
"Did y'u know many Texas girls?" she inquired, turning again to
"Reckon I did—quite a good many."
"Did y'u go with them?"
"Go with them? Reckon you mean keep company. Why, yes, I guess I
did—a little," laughed Jean. "Sometimes on a Sunday or a dance once
in a blue moon, an' occasionally a ride. "
"Shore that accounts," said the girl, wistfully.
"For what? " asked Jean.
"Y'ur bein' a gentleman," she replied, with force. Oh, I've not
forgotten. I had friends when we lived in Texas… . Three years ago.
Shore it seems longer. Three miserable years in this damned
Then she bit her lip, evidently to keep back further unwitting
utterance to a total stranger. And it was that biting of her lip
that drew Jean's attention to her mouth. It held beauty of curve
and fullness and color that could not hide a certain sadness and
bitterness. Then the whole flashing brown face changed for Jean. He
saw that it was young, full of passion and restraint, possessing a
power which grew on him. This, with her shame and pathos and the
fact that she craved respect, gave a leap to Jean's interest.
"Well, I reckon you flatter me," he said, hoping to put her at
her ease again. "I'm only a rough hunter an' fisherman-woodchopper
an' horse tracker. Never had all the school I needed—nor near
enough company of nice girls like you."
"Am I nice?" she asked, quickly.
"You sure are," he replied, smiling.
"In these rags," she demanded, with a sudden flash of passion
that thrilled him. "Look at the holes." She showed rips and
worn-out places in the sleeves of her buckskin blouse, through
which gleamed a round, brown arm. "I sew when I have anythin' to
sew with… . Look at my skirt—a dirty rag. An' I have only one other
to my name… . Look!" Again a color tinged her cheeks, most
becoming, and giving the lie to her action. But shame could not
check her violence now. A dammed-up resentment seemed to have
broken out in flood. She lifted the ragged skirt almost to her
knees. "No stockings! No Shoes! … How can a girl be nice when
she has no clean, decent woman's clothes to wear?"
"How—how can a girl… " began Jean. "See here, miss, I'm beggin'
your pardon for—sort of stirrin' you to forget yourself a little.
Reckon I understand. You don't meet many strangers an' I sort of
hit you wrong—makin' you feel too much—an' talk too much. Who an'
what you are is none of my business. But we met… . An' I reckon
somethin' has happened—perhaps more to me than to you… . Now let me
put you straight about clothes an' women. Reckon I know most women
love nice things to wear an' think because clothes make them look
pretty that they're nicer or better. But they're wrong. You're
wrong. Maybe it 'd be too much for a girl like you to be happy
without clothes. But you can be—you axe just as nice, an'—an'
fine—an', for all you know, a good deal more appealin' to some
"Stranger, y'u shore must excuse my temper an' the show I made
of myself," replied the girl, with composure. "That, to say the
least, was not nice. An' I don't want anyone thinkin' better of me
than I deserve. My mother died in Texas, an' I've lived out heah in
this wild country—a girl alone among rough men. Meetin' y'u to-day
makes me see what a hard lot they are—an' what it's done to
Jean smothered his curiosity and tried to put out of his mind a
growing sense that he pitied her, liked her.
"Are you a sheep herder?" he asked.
" Shore I am now an' then. My father lives back heah in a
canyon. He's a sheepman. Lately there's been herders shot at. Just
now we're short an' I have to fill in. But I like shepherdin' an' I
love the woods, and the Rim Rock an' all the Tonto. If they were
all, I'd shore be happy."
"Herders shot at!" exclaimed Jean, thoughtfully. "By whom? An'
"Trouble brewin' between the cattlemen down in the Basin an' the
sheepmen up on the Rim. Dad says there'll shore be hell to pay. I
tell him I hope the cattlemen chase him back to Texas."
"Then— Are you on the ranchers' side? " queried Jean, trying to
pretend casual interest.
"No. I'll always be on my father's side," she replied, with
spirit. "But I'm bound to admit I think the cattlemen have the fair
side of the argument."
"Because there's grass everywhere. I see no sense in a sheepman
goin' out of his way to surround a cattleman an' sheep off his
range. That started the row. Lord knows how it'll end. For most all
of them heah are from Texas."
"So I was told," replied Jean. "An' I heard' most all these
Texans got run out of Texas. Any truth in that?"
"Shore I reckon there is," she replied, seriously. "But,
stranger, it might not be healthy for y'u to, say that anywhere. My
dad, for one, was not run out of Texas. Shore I never can see why
he came heah. He's accumulated stock, but he's not rich nor so well
off as he was back home."
"Are you goin' to stay here always?" queried Jean, suddenly.
"If I do so it 'll be in my grave, " she answered, darkly. "But
what's the use of thinkin'? People stay places until they drift
away. Y'u can never tell… . Well, stranger, this talk is keepin'
She seemed moody now, and a note of detachment crept into her
voice. Jean rose at once and went for his horse. If this girl did
not desire to talk further he certainly had no wish to annoy her.
His mule had strayed off among the bleating sheep. Jean drove it
back and then led his horse up to where the girl stood. She
appeared taller and, though not of robust build, she was vigorous
and lithe, with something about her that fitted the place. Jean was
loath to bid her good-by.
"Which way is the Rim? " he asked, turning to his saddle
"South," she replied, pointing. "It's only a mile or so. I'll
walk down with y'u… . Suppose y'u're on the way to Grass
"Yes; I've relatives there," he returned. He dreaded her next
question, which he suspected would concern his name. But she did
not ask. Taking up her rifle she turned away. Jean strode ahead to
her side. "Reckon if you walk I won't ride."
So he found himself beside a girl with the free step of a
Mountaineer. Her bare, brown head came up nearly to his shoulder.
It was a small, pretty head, graceful, well held, and the thick
hair on it was a shiny, soft brown. She wore it in a braid, rather
untidily and tangled, he thought, and it was tied with a string of
buckskin. Altogether her apparel proclaimed poverty.
Jean let the conversation languish for a little. He wanted to
think what to say presently, and then he felt a rather vague
pleasure in stalking beside her. Her profile was straight cut and
exquisite in line. From this side view the soft curve of lips could
not be seen.
She made several attempts to start conversation, all of which
Jean ignored, manifestly to her growing constraint. Presently Jean,
having decided what he wanted to say, suddenly began: "I like this
adventure. Do you?"
"Adventure! Meetin' me in the woods?" And she laughed the laugh
of youth. "Shore you must be hard up for adventure, stranger."
"Do you like it?" he persisted, and his eyes searched the
"I might like it," she answered, frankly, "if—if my temper had
not made a fool of me. I never meet anyone I care to talk to. Why
should it not be pleasant to run across some one new—some one
strange in this heah wild country? "
"We are as we are," said Jean, simply. "I didn't think you made
a fool of yourself. If I thought so, would I want to see you
"Do y'u?" The brown face flashed on him with surprise, with a
light he took for gladness. And because he wanted to appear calm
and friendly, not too eager, he had to deny himself the thrill of
meeting those changing eyes.
"Sure I do. Reckon I'm overbold on such short acquaintance. But
I might not have another chance to tell you, so please don't hold
it against me."
This declaration over, Jean felt relief and something of
exultation. He had been afraid he might not have the courage to
make it. She walked on as before, only with her head bowed a little
and her eyes downcast. No color but the gold-brown tan and the blue
tracery of veins showed in her cheeks. He noticed then a slight
swelling quiver of her throat; and he became alive to its graceful
contour, and to how full and pulsating it was, how nobly it set
into the curve of her shoulder. Here in her quivering throat was
the weakness of her, the evidence of her sex, the womanliness that
belied the mountaineer stride and the grasp of strong brown hands
on a rifle. It had an effect on Jean totally inexplicable to him,
both in the strange warmth that stole over him and in the utterance
he could not hold back.
"Girl, we're strangers, but what of that? We've met, an' I tell
you it means somethin' to me. I've known girls for months an' never
felt this way. I don't know who you are an' I don't care. You
betrayed a good deal to me. You're not happy. You're lonely. An' if
I didn't want to see you again for my own sake I would for yours.
Some things you said I'll not forget soon. I've got a sister, an' I
know you have no brother. An' I reckon … "
At this juncture Jean in his earnestness and quite without
thought grasped her hand. The contact checked the flow of his
speech and suddenly made him aghast at his temerity. But the girl
did not make any effort to withdraw it. So Jean, inhaling a deep
breath and trying to see through his bewilderment, held on bravely.
He imagined he felt a faint, warm, returning pressure. She was
young, she was friendless, she was human. By this hand in his Jean
felt more than ever the loneliness of her. Then, just as he was
about to speak again, she pulled her hand free.
"Heah's the Rim," she said, in her quaint Southern drawl. "An'
there's Y'ur Tonto Basin."
Jean had been intent only upon the girl. He had kept step beside
her without taking note of what was ahead of him. At her words he
looked up expectantly, to be struck mute.
He felt a sheer force, a downward drawing of an immense abyss
beneath him. As he looked afar he saw a black basin of timbered
country, the darkest and wildest he had ever gazed upon, a hundred
miles of blue distance across to an unflung mountain range, hazy
purple against the sky. It seemed to be a stupendous gulf
surrounded on three sides by bold, undulating lines of peaks, and
on his side by a wall so high that he felt lifted aloft on the run
of the sky.
Southeast y'u see the Sierra Anchas," said the girl pointing.
"That notch in the range is the pass where sheep are driven to
Phoenix an' Maricopa. Those big rough mountains to the south are
the Mazatzals. Round to the west is the Four Peaks Range. An'
y'u're standin' on the Rim."
Jean could not see at first just what the Rim was, but by
shifting his gaze westward he grasped this remarkable phenomenon of
nature. For leagues and leagues a colossal red and yellow wall, a
rampart, a mountain-faced cliff, seemed to zigzag westward. Grand
and bold were the promontories reaching out over the void. They ran
toward the westering sun. Sweeping and impressive were the long
lines slanting away from them, sloping darkly spotted down to merge
into the black timber. Jean had never seen such a wild and rugged
manifestation of nature's depths and upheavals. He was held
"Stranger, look down," said the girl.
Jean's sight was educated to judge heights and depths and
distances. This wall upon which he stood sheered precipitously
down, so far that it made him dizzy to look, and then the craggy
broken cliffs merged into red-slided, cedar-greened slopes running
down and down into gorges choked with forests, and from which
soared up a roar of rushing waters. Slope after slope, ridge beyond
ridge, canyon merging into canyon—so the tremendous bowl sunk away
to its black, deceiving depths, a wilderness across which travel
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Jean.
"Indeed it is!" murmured the girl. "Shore that is Arizona. I
reckon I love THIS. The heights an' depths—the awfulness of its
"An' you want to leave it?"
"Yes an' no. I don't deny the peace that comes to me heah. But
not often do I see the Basin, an' for that matter, one doesn't live
on grand scenery."
"Child, even once in a while—this sight would cure any misery,
if you only see. I'm glad I came. I'm glad you showed it to me
She too seemed under the spell of a vastness and loneliness and
beauty and grandeur that could not but strike the heart.
Jean took her hand again. "Girl, say you will meet me here," he
said, his voice ringing deep in his ears.
"Shore I will," she replied, softly, and turned to him. It
seemed then that Jean saw her face for the first time. She was
beautiful as he had never known beauty. Limned against that scene,
she gave it life—wild, sweet, young life—the poignant meaning of
which haunted yet eluded him. But she belonged there. Her eyes were
again searching his, as if. for some lost part of herself,
unrealized, never known before. Wondering, wistful, hopeful,
glad-they were eyes that seemed surprised, to reveal part of her
Then her red lips parted. Their tremulous movement was a magnet
to Jean. An invisible and mighty force pulled him down to kiss
them. Whatever the spell had been, that rude, unconscious action
He jerked away, as if he expected to be struck. "Girl—I—I"—he
gasped in amaze and sudden-dawning contrition—" I kissed you—but I
swear it wasn't intentional—I never thought… ."
The anger that Jean anticipated failed to materialize. He stood,
breathing hard, with a hand held out in unconscious appeal. By the
same magic, perhaps, that had transfigured her a moment past, she
was now invested again by the older character.
"Shore I reckon my callin' y'u a gentleman was a little
previous," she said, with a rather dry bitterness. "But, stranger,
"You're not insulted?" asked Jean, hurriedly.
"Oh, I've been kissed before. Shore men are all alike."
"They're not," he replied, hotly, with a subtle rush of
disillusion, a dulling of enchantment. "Don't you class me with
other men who've kissed you. I wasn't myself when I did it an' I'd
have gone on my knees to ask your forgiveness… . But now I
wouldn't—an' I wouldn't kiss you again, either—even if you—you
Jean read in her strange gaze what seemed to him a vague doubt,
as if she was questioning him.
"Miss, I take that back," added Jean, shortly. "I'm sorry. I
didn't mean to be rude. It was a mean trick for me to kiss you. A
girl alone in the woods who's gone out of her way to be kind to me!
I don't know why I forgot my manners. An' I ask your pardon."
She looked away then, and presently pointed far out and down
into the Basin.
"There's Grass Valley. That long gray spot in the black. It's
about fifteen miles. Ride along the Rim that way till y'u cross a
trail. Shore y'u can't miss it. Then go down."
"I'm much obliged to you," replied Jean, reluctantly accepting
what he regarded as his dismissal. Turning his horse, he put his
foot in the stirrup, then, hesitating, he looked across the saddle
at the girl. Her abstraction, as she gazed away over the purple
depths suggested loneliness and wistfulness. She was not thinking
of that scene spread so wondrously before her. It struck Jean she
might be pondering a subtle change in his feeling and attitude,
something he was conscious of, yet could not define.
"Reckon this is good-by," he said, with hesitation.
"ADIOS, SENOR," she replied, facing him again. She lifted the
little carbine to the hollow of her elbow and, half turning,
appeared ready to depart.
"Adios means good-by? " he queried.
"Yes, good-by till to-morrow or good-by forever. Take it as y'u
"Then you'll meet me here day after to-morrow?" How eagerly he
spoke, on impulse, without a consideration of the intangible thing
that had changed him!
"Did I say I wouldn't? "
"No. But I reckoned you'd not care to after—" he replied,
breaking off in some confusion.
"Shore I'll be glad to meet y'u. Day after to-morrow about
mid-afternoon. Right heah. Fetch all the news from Grass
"All right. Thanks. That'll be—fine," replied Jean, and as he
spoke he experienced a buoyant thrill, a pleasant lightness of
enthusiasm, such as always stirred boyishly in him at a prospect of
adventure. Before it passed he wondered at it and felt unsure of
himself. He needed to think.
"Stranger shore I'm not recollectin' that y'u told me who y'u
are," she said.
"No, reckon I didn't tell," he returned. "What difference does
that make? I said I didn't care who or what you are. Can't you feel
the same about me? "
"Shore—I felt that way," she replied, somewhat non-plussed, with
the level brown gaze steadily on his face. But now y'u make me
"Let's meet without knowin' any more about each other than we do
"Shore. I'd like that. In this big wild Arizona a girl—an' I
reckon a man—feels so insignificant. What's a name, anyhow? Still,
people an' things have to be distinguished. I'll call y'u
'Stranger' an' be satisfied—if y'u say it's fair for y'u not to
tell who y'u are."
"Fair! No, it's not," declared Jean, forced to confession. "My
name's Jean—Jean Isbel."
"ISBEL!" she exclaimed, with a violent start. "Shore y'u can't
be son of old Gass Isbel… . I've seen both his sons."
"He has three," replied Jean, with relief, now the secret was
out. "I'm the youngest. I'm twenty-four. Never been out of Oregon
till now. On my way—"
The brown color slowly faded out of her face, leaving her quite
pale, with eyes that began to blaze. The suppleness of her seemed
"My name's Ellen Jorth," she burst out, passionately. Does it
mean anythin' to y'u?"
"Never heard it in my life," protested Jean. "Sure I reckoned
you belonged to the sheep raisers who 're on the outs with my
father. That's why I had to tell you I'm Jean Isbel… . Ellen Jorth.
It's strange an' pretty… . Reckon I can be just as good a—a friend
"No Isbel, can ever be a friend to me," she said, with bitter
coldness. Stripped of her ease and her soft wistfulness, she stood
before him one instant, entirely another girl, a hostile enemy.
Then she wheeled and strode off into the woods.
Jean, in amaze, in consternation, watched her swiftly draw away
with her lithe, free step, wanting to follow her, wanting to call
to her; but the resentment roused by her suddenly avowed hostility
held him mute in his tracks. He watched her disappear, and when the
brown-and -green wall of forest swallowed the slender gray form he
fought against the insistent desire to follow her, and fought in