Nevada - Zane Grey - ebook

Nevada ebook

Zane Grey



First published in 1926 and 1927, „Nevada”, the suspenseful sequel to „Forlorn River”, continues to be one of Zane Grey’s most beloved novels. Four years after Nevada had killed three men to clear his friend’s name, Ben and Nevada are reunited, but fate again plays a mean trick, and Nevada becomes Jim Lacy again – killer, thief, rustler, and notorious gunman – in order to save Ben from financial ruin. In Nevada, another romantic couple comes along, Marvie Blaine, and the daughter of backwoods rustlers, Rose Hatt. The primary action of this novel is in Arizona, where the forces of good and evil clash as honest ranchers are threatened by pernicious rustlers. All conflicts are resolved, and loving-kindness breaks out at the end of the novel – after the gunfight.

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Liczba stron: 442

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As his goaded horse plunged into the road, Nevada looked back over his shoulder. The lane he had plowed through the crowd let him see back into the circle where the three men lay prostrate. The blue smoke from his gun was rising slowly, floating away. Ben Ide’s face shone white and convulsed in the sunlight.

“So long, Pard!” yelled Nevada, hoarsely, and stood in his stirrups to wave his sombrero high. That, he thought, was farewell forever to this friend who had saved and succored and uplifted him, whom he loved better than a brother.

Then Nevada faced the yellow road down which his horse was racing, and the grim and terrible mood returned to smother the heart-swelling emotion which had momentarily broken it.

There was something familiar and mocking about this precipitate flight on a swift horse, headed for the sage and the dark mountains. How often had he felt the wind sting his face on a run for his life! But it was not fear now, nor love of life, that made him a fugitive.

The last gate of the ranch was open, and Nevada flashed through it to turn off the road into the sage and go flying down the trail along the shore of the lake. The green water blurred on one side of him and the gray sage on the other. Even the winding trail was indistinct to eyes that still saw red. There was no need now for this breakneck ride. To be sure, the officers of the law would eventually get on his track, as they had been for years; but thought of them scarcely lingered a moment in his consciousness.

The action of a swift and powerful horse seemed to be necessary to the whirling of his mind. Thoughts, feelings, sensations regurgitated around that familiar cold and horrible sickness of soul which had always followed the spilling of human blood and which this time came back worse than ever.

The fierce running of the horse along the levels, around the bends of the trail, leaping washes, plunging up and down the gullies, brought into tense play all Nevada’s muscular force. It seemed like a mad race away from himself. Burning and wet all over, he gradually surrendered to physical exertion.

Five miles brought horse and rider far around to the other side of the lake. Here the trail wound down upon the soft sand, where the horse slowed from run to trot, and along the edge of the lake, where the midday sun had thawed the ice. Nevada had a break in his strained mood. He saw the deep hoof tracks of horses along the shore, and the long cuts and scars on the ice, where he and Ben and the freed outlaws had run that grand wild stallion, California Red, to his last plunge and fall. Nevada could not help but think, as he passed that place, and thrill as he remembered the strange lucky catch of the wild horse Ben Ide loved so well. What a trick for fortune to play! How mad Ben had been–to bargain with the rustlers they had captured –to trade their freedom for the aid they gave in running down the red stallion! Yet mad as that act had been, Nevada could only love Ben the more. Ben was the true wild- horse hunter.

Nevada reached the bluff where Forlorn River lost itself in the lake, and climbed the sloping trail to the clump of trees and the cabin where he and Ben had lived in lonely happiness. Ben, the outcast son of a rich rancher of Tule Lake–and he, the wandering, fugitive, crippled gunman, whom Ben had taken in with only one question.

“Where you from?” Ben had asked.

“Nevada,” had been the reply. And that had been the only name by which Ben had ever known him.

It was all over now. Nevada dismounted from his wet and heaving horse. “Wal, Baldy,” he said, throwing the bridle, “heah we are. Reckon the runnin’s aboot over.” And he sank heavily upon the porch step, pushed his sombrero back to run a hand through his wet hair, smoothing it away from his heated brow. He gazed across the lake toward the dots on the far gray slope– the dots that were the cabins and barns of the Blaine ranch. With the wrench which shook him then, the last of that icy nausea–that cold grip from bowels to heart–released its cramping hold and yielded to the softening human element in Nevada. It would have been better for him if that sinister fixity of mind had not passed away, because with its passing came a slow-growing agony.

“Reckon I cain’t set heah mopin’ like an owl,” soliloquized Nevada, getting up. “Shore, the thing’s done. An’ I wouldn’t have it otherwise… Dear old Ben!”

But he could not just yet enter the cabin where he had learned the glory of friendship.

“He was the only pard I ever had, except a hoss or two… Wal, Ben’s name is cleared now–thank God. Old Amos Ide knows the truth now an’ he’ll have to beg forgiveness of Ben. Gosh! how good that’ll be! But Ben, he’ll never rub it in on the old gent. He’ll be soft an’ easy… Hart Blaine will know, too, an’ he’ll have to come round to the boy. They’ll all have to crawl for callin’ Ben a rustler… Ben will marry Ina now–an’ he’ll be rich. He’s got California Red, too, an’ he’ll be happy.”

From the lake Nevada gazed away across Forlorn River, over the gray sage hills, so expressive of solitude, over the black ranges toward the back country, the wilderness whence he had come and to which he must return. To the hard life, the scant fare, the sordid intimacy of crooked men and women, to the border of Nevada, where he had a bad name, where he could never sleep in safety, or wear a glove on his gun-hand! But at that moment Nevada had not one regret. He was sustained and exalted by the splendid consciousness that he had paid his debt to his friend. He had saved Ben from prison, cleared his name of infamy, given him back to Ina Blaine, and killed his enemies. Whatever had been the evil of Nevada’s life before he met Ben, whatever might be the loneliness and bitterness of the future, neither could change or mitigate the sweetness and glory of the service he had rendered.

Nevada went into the cabin. He had expected to find it as always, clean and neat and comfortable. The room, however, was in rude disorder. It had been ransacked by violent hands. The pseudo- sheriffs, who had come at the beck of Less Setter to arrest Ben, had not hesitated to stoop to thievery. They had evidently searched the cabin for money, or anything of value.

Nevada gazed ponderingly around on this disorder.

“Wal,” he muttered, grimly, “I reckon Less Setter won’t be rammin’ around heah any more–or any other place short of hell!”

With that remark Nevada strode out and down the path to the corrals. There were horses in at the watering trough. He caught one, and securing packsaddle and packs, he returned to the cabin. Here he hurriedly gathered his belongings and food, blankets, ammunition. Then mounting his horse he drove the pack animal ahead of him, and rode down to the shallow ford across Forlorn River.

“Shore, Ben will always keep this ranch as we had it,” he mused. “An’ he’ll come heah often.”

Hot tears fell from Nevada’s eyes, the first he had shed since his orphaned boyhood, so dim and far away. It was no use to turn his eyes again to the little gray cabin half hidden among the trees, for he could not see. But as he rode up the river his tears dried, and he saw the pasture where the horses he had owned with Ben raised their heads to look and to neigh. From a ridge top a mile or more up the lonely river, Nevada gazed back at the cabin for the last time. Something surer than his intelligence told him that he would never see it again. The moment was poignant. It opened a door into his mind, which let in the fact he had so stubbornly resisted–that when he bade good-by to the little cabin it was not only good-by to it and to his friend, but to the most precious of all that had ever entered his life –Hettie Ide.

Nevada made that farewell, and then rode on, locked in thought which took no notice of the miles and the hours. Sunset brought him to an awareness of the proximity of night and the need of suitable camp for himself and his animals. While crossing the river, now a shallow rod-wide stream, he let the horses drink. On the other side he dismounted to fill his waterbag and canteen. Then he rode away from the river and trail in search of a secluded spot. He knew the country, and before long reached a valley up which he traveled some distance. There was no water and therefore an absence of trails. Riding through a thicket of slender oaks, which crossed the narrowing valley, he halted in a grassy dell to make his camp.

His well-trained horses would not stray beyond the grass plot, and there was little chance of the eyes of riders seeing his camp fire. How strange to be alone again! Yet such loneliness had been a greater part of his life before he chanced upon Ben Ide. From time to time Nevada’s hands fell idle and he stood or knelt motionless while thought of the past held him. In spite of this restlessness of spirit he was hungry and ate heartily. By the time his few camp chores were done, night had fallen, pitch black, without any stars.

Then came the hour he dreaded–that hour at the camp fire when the silence and solitude fell oppressively upon him. Always in his lonely travels this had been so, but now they were vastly greater and stranger. Something incomprehensible had changed him, sharpened his intelligence, augmented his emotions. Something tremendous had entered his life. He felt it now.

The night was cold and still. A few lonesome insects that had so far escaped the frost hummed sadly. He heard the melancholy wail of coyotes. There were no other sounds. The wind had not risen.

Nevada sat cross-legged, like an Indian, before his camp fire. It was small, but warm. The short pieces of dead hard oak burned red, like coal. Nevada spread his palms to the heat, an old habit of comfort and pleasure. He dreaded to go to the bed he had made, for he would fall asleep at once, then awake during the night, to lie in the loneliness and stillness. The longer he stayed awake the shorter that vigil in the after hours of the night. Besides, the camp fire was a companion. It glowed and sparkled. It was something alive that wanted to cheer him.

The moment came when Hettie Ide’s face appeared clearly in the gold and red embers. It shone there, her youthful face crowned by fair hair, with its earnest gray eyes and firm sweet lips. It looked more mature than the face of a sixteen-year-old girl–brave and strong and enduring.

Strange and terrible to recall–Nevada had kissed those sweet lips and had been kissed by them! That face had lain upon his breast and the fair hair had caressed his cheek. They would haunt him now, always, down the trails of the future, shining from every camp fire.

“Hettie–Hettie,” he whispered, brokenly, “you’re only a kid an’ shore you’ll forget. I’m glad Ben never knew aboot us. It’ll all come out now after my gunplay of to-day. An’ you an’ Ben will know I am Jim Lacy!… Oh, if only I could have kept it secret, so you’d never have known I was bad! An’, oh–there’ll never be any one to tell you I cain’t be bad no more!”

Thus Nevada mourned to himself while the shadow face in the fire softened and glowed with sweetness and understanding. It was an hour when Nevada’s love mounted to the greatness of sacrifice, when he cast forever from him any hope of possession, when he realized all that remained was the glory and the dream, and the changed soul which must be true to the girl who had loved him and believed in him.

Beside that first camp fire Nevada’s courage failed. He had never, until now, realized the significance of that moment when Hettie and he, without knowing how it had come to pass, found themselves in each other’s arms. What might have been! But that, too, had only been a dream. Still, Nevada knew he had dreamed it, believed in it, surrendered to it. And some day he might have buried the past, even his name, and grasped the happiness Hettie’s arms had promised. Ben would have joyfully accepted him as a brother. But in hiding his real name, in living this character Nevada, could he have been true to the soul Ben and Hettie had uplifted in him? Nevada realized that he could no longer have lived a lie. And though he would not have cared so much about Ben, he had not wanted Hettie to learn that he had been Jim Lacy, notorious from Lineville across the desert wastes of Nevada clear to Tombstone.

“Reckon it’s better so,” muttered Nevada to the listening camp fire. “If only Hettie never learns aboot the real me!”

The loss of Hettie was insupportable. He had been happy without realizing it. On the steps of friendship and love and faith he had climbed out of hell. He had been transformed. Never could he go back, never minimize the bloody act through which he had saved his friend from the treachery of a ruthless and evil man. That act, as well, had saved the Blaines and the Ides from ruin, and no doubt Ina and Hettie from worse. For that crafty devil, Setter, had laid his plans well.

Nevada bowed his bare head over his camp fire, and a hard sob racked him.

“Shore–it’s losin’ her–that kills me!” he ground out between his teeth. “I cain’t–bear it.”

When he crawled into his blankets at midnight it was only because the conflict within him had exhausted his strength. Sleep mercifully brought him oblivion. But with the cold dawn his ordeal returned, and the knowledge that it would always abide with him. The agony was that he could not be happy without Hettie Ide’s love–without sight of her, without her smile, her touch. He wanted to seek some hidden covert, like a crippled animal, and die. He wanted to plunge into the old raw life of the border, dealing death and meeting death among those lawless men who had ruined him.

But he could not make an end to it all, in any way. The infernal paradox was that in thought of Ben’s happiness, which he had made, there was an ecstasy as great as the agony of his own loss. Furthermore, Hettie’s love, her embraces, her faith had lifted him to some incredible height and fettered him there, forever to fight for the something she had created in himself. He owed himself a debt greater than that which he had owed Ben. Not a debt to love, but to faith! Hettie had made him believe in himself–in that newborn self which seemed now so all-compelling and so inscrutable.

“Baldy, I’ve shore got a fight on my hands,” he said to his horse, as he threw on the saddle. “We’ve got to hit the back trails. We’ve got to eat an’ sleep an’ find some place where it’s safe to hide. Maybe, after a long while, we can cross over the desert to Arizona an’ find honest work. But, by Heaven! if I have to hide all my life, an’ be Jim Lacy to the bloody end, I’ll be true to this thing in my heart–to the name Ben Ide gave me– Nevada–the name an’ the man Hettie Ide believed in!”

Nevada traveled far that day, winding along the cattle trails up the valleys and over the passes. He began to get into high country, into the cedars and piñons. Far above him the black timber belted the mountains, and above that gleamed the snow line. He avoided the few cattle ranches which nestled in the larger grass valleys. Well-trodden trails did not know the imprint of his tracks that day; and dusk found him camped in a lonely gulch, with high walls and grassy floor, where a murmuring stream made music.

Endless had been the hours and miles of the long day’s ride. Camp was welcome to weary man and horses. The mourn of a wolf, terrible in its haunting prolonged sadness and wildness, greeted Nevada by his camp fire. A lone gray wolf hungering for a mate! The cry found an echo in the cry of Nevada’s heart. He too was a lone wolf, one to whom nature had been even more cruel.

And once again a sweet face with gray questioning eyes gleamed and glowed and changed in the white-red heart of the camp fire.

On the following day Nevada climbed the divide that separated the sage and forest country from the desert beyond. It was a low wide pass through the range, easily surmountable on horseback, though the trail was winding and rough. The absence of cattle tracks brought a grim smile to Nevada’s face. He knew why there were none here, and where, to the south through the rocky fastness of another and very rough pass, there were many. But few ranchers who bought or traded cattle ever crossed that divide.

From a grassy saddle, where autumn wild flowers still bloomed brightly, he gazed down the long uneven slope of the range, to the canyoned and cedared strip of California, and on to the border of Nevada, bleak, wild, and magnificent. The gray-and-yellow desert stretched away illimitably, with vast expanse of hazy levels and endless barren ranges. The prospect in some sense resembled Nevada’s future, as he imagined it.

As he gazed mournfully out over this tremendous and monotonous wasteland a powerful antagonism to its nature and meaning swept over him. How he had learned to love the fragrant sage country behind him! But this desert was hard, bitter, cruel, like the men it developed. He hated to go back to it. Could he not find a refuge somewhere else–surely in far-off sunny Arizona? Yet strange to tell, this wild Nevada called to something deep in him, something raw and deadly and defiant.

“Reckon I’ll hide out a while in some canyon,” he reflected.

Then he began the descent from the divide, and soon the great hollow and the upheaval of land beyond were lost to his sight. The trail zigzagged down and up, under the brushy banks, through defiles of weathered rock, over cedar ridges, on and on down out of the heights.

Before Nevada reached the end of that long mountain slope he heard the dreamy hum of a tumbling stream, and turning off the trail he picked his way over the roughest of ground to the rim of a shallow canyon, whence had come the sound of falling water. He walked, leading his horses for a mile or more before he found a break in the canyon wall where he could get down.

Here indeed was a lonely retreat. Grass and wood were abundant, and tracks of deer and other game assured him he could kill meat. A narrow sheltered reach of the canyon, where the cottonwood trees still were green and gold and the grass grew rich along the stream, appeared a most desirable place to camp.

So he unpacked his horses, leisurely and ponderingly, as if time were naught, and set about making a habitation in the wilds. From earliest boyhood this kind of work had possessed infinite charm. No time in his life had he needed solitude as now.

Nevada did not count the days or nights. These passed as in a dream. He roamed up and down the canyon with his rifle, though he used it only when he needed meat. He spent hours sitting in sunny spots, absorbed in memory. His horses grew fat and lazy. Days passed into weeks. The cottonwoods shed their leaves to spread a golden carpet underneath. The nights grew cold and the wind moaned in the trees.

The time came when solitude seemed no longer endurable. Nevada knew that if he lingered there he would go mad. For there encroached upon his dream of Hettie Ide and Ben, and that one short beautiful and ennobling period of his life, a strange dark mood in which the men he had killed came back to him. Nevada had experienced this before. The only cure was drink, work, action, a mingling with humankind, the sound of voices. Even a community of the most evil of men and women could save him from that haunting shadow in his mind.

Somberly he thought it all out. Though he had deemed he was self- sufficient, he found his limitations. He could no longer dwell alone in this utter solitude, starving his body, falling day by day deeper into melancholy and mental aberration. There seemed to be relief even in the thought of old associations. Yet Nevada shuddered in his soul at the inevitable which would force him back into the old life.

“Reckon now it’s aboot time for me to declare myself,” he muttered. “I cain’t lie to myself, any more than I could to Hettie. I’ve changed. I change every day. Shore I don’t know myself. An’ this damned life I face staggers me. What am I goin’ to do? I say find honest work somewhere far off. Arizona, perhaps, where I’d be least known. That’s what Hettie would expect of me. She’d have faith I’d do it… An’, by Gawd! I WILL do it!… But for her sake an’ Ben’s, never mindin’ my own, I’ve got to hole up till that last gun-throwin’ of mine is forgotten. If I were found an’ recognized as Jim Lacy it’d be bad. An’ if anyone did, it’d throw the light on some things I’d rather die than have Hettie Ide know.”

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