White Sage





THE night was as a blank to Hare; the morning like a drifting of hazy

clouds before his eyes. He felt himself moving; and when he awakened

clearly to consciousness he lay upon a couch on the vine-covered porch

of a cottage. He saw August Naab open a garden gate to admit Martin

Cole. They met as friends; no trace of scorn marred August's greeting,

and Martin was not the same man who had shown fear on the desert. His

welcome was one of respectful regard for his superior.



"Elder, I heard you were safe in," he said, fervently. "We feared--I

know not what. I was distressed till I got the news of your arrival.

How's the young man?"



"He's very ill. But while there's life there's hope."



"Will the Bishop administer to him?"



"Gladly, if the young man's willing. Come, let's go in."



"Wait, August," said Cole. "Did you know your son Snap was in the

village?"



"My son here!" August Naab betrayed anxiety. "I left him home with work.

He shouldn't have come. Is--is he--"



"He's drinking and in an ugly mood. It seems he traded horses with

Jeff Larsen, and got the worst of the deal. There's pretty sure to be a

fight."



"He always hated Larsen."



"Small wonder. Larsen is mean; he's as bad as we've got and that's

saying a good deal. Snap has done worse things than fight with Larsen.

He's doing a worse thing now, August--he's too friendly with Dene."



"I've heard--I've heard it before. But, Martin, what can I do?"



"Do? God knows. What can any of us do? Times have changed, August.

Dene is here in White Sage, free, welcome in many homes. Some of our

neighbors, perhaps men we trust, are secret members of this rustler's

band."



"You're right, Cole. There are Mormons who are cattle-thieves. To my

eternal shame I confess it. Under cover of night they ride with Dene,

and here in our midst they meet him in easy tolerance. Driven from

Montana he comes here to corrupt our young men. God's mercy!"



"August, some of our young men need no one to corrupt them. Dene had no

great task to win them. He rode in here with a few outlaws and now he

has a strong band. We've got to face it. We haven't any law, but he

can be killed. Some one must kill him. Yet bad as Dene is, he doesn't

threaten our living as Holderness does. Dene steals a few cattle, kills

a man here and there. Holderness reaches out and takes our springs.

Because we've no law to stop him, he steals the blood of our

life--water--water--God's gift to the desert! Some one must kill

Holderness, too!"



"Martin, this lust to kill is a fearful thing. Come in, you must pray

with the Bishop."



"No, it's not prayer I need, Elder," replied Cole, stubbornly. "I'm

still a good Mormon. What I want is the stock I've lost, and my fields

green again."



August Naab had no answer for his friend. A very old man with snow-white

hair and beard came out on the porch.



"Bishop, brother Martin is railing again," said Naab, as Cole bared his

head.



"Martin, my son, unbosom thyself," rejoined the Bishop.



"Black doubt and no light," said Cole, despondently. "I'm of the younger

generation of Mormons, and faith is harder for me. I see signs you can't

see. I've had trials hard to bear. I was rich in cattle, sheep, and

water. These Gentiles, this rancher Holderness and this outlaw Dene,

have driven my cattle, killed my sheep, piped my water off my fields. I

don't like the present. We are no longer in the old days. Our young men

are drifting away, and the few who return come with ideas opposed to

Mormonism. Our girls and boys are growing up influenced by the Gentiles

among us. They intermarry, and that's a death-blow to our creed."



"Martin, cast out this poison from your heart. Return to your faith. The

millennium will come. Christ will reign on earth again. The ten tribes

of Israel will be restored. The Book of Mormon is the Word of God. The

creed will live. We may suffer here and die, but our spirits will go

marching on; and the City of Zion will be builded over our graves."



Cole held up his hands in a meekness that signified hope if not faith.



August Naab bent over Hare. "I would like to have the Bishop administer

to you," he said.



"What's that?" asked Hare.



"A Mormon custom, 'the laying on of hands.' We know its efficacy in

trouble and illness. A Bishop of the Mormon Church has the gift of

tongues, of prophecy, of revelation, of healing. Let him administer to

you. It entails no obligation. Accept it as a prayer."



"I'm willing." replied the young man.



Thereupon Naab spoke a few low words to some one through the open

door. Voices ceased; soft footsteps sounded without; women crossed

the threshold, followed by tall young men and rosy-checked girls and

round-eyed children. A white-haired old woman came forward with solemn

dignity. She carried a silver bowl which she held for the Bishop as he

stood close by Hare's couch. The Bishop put his hands into the bowl,

anointing them with fragrant oil; then he placed them on the young man's

head, and offered up a brief prayer, beautiful in its simplicity and

tremulous utterance.



The ceremony ended, the onlookers came forward with pleasant words on

their lips, pleasant smiles on their faces. The children filed by

his couch, bashful yet sympathetic; the women murmured, the young men

grasped his hand. Mescal flitted by with downcast eye, with shy smile,

but no word.



"Your fever is gone," said August Naab, with his hand on Hare's cheek.



"It comes and goes suddenly," replied Hare. "I feel better now, only I'm

oppressed. I can't breathe freely. I want air, and I'm hungry."



"Mother Mary, the lad's hungry. Judith, Esther, where are your wits?

Help your mother. Mescal, wait on him, see to his comfort."



Mescal brought a little table and a pillow, and the other girls soon

followed with food and drink; then they hovered about, absorbed in

caring for him.



"They said I fell among thieves," mused Hare, when he was once more

alone. "I've fallen among saints as well." He felt that he could never

repay this August Naab. "If only I might live!" he ejaculated. How

restful was this cottage garden! The green sward was a balm to his eyes.

Flowers new to him, though of familiar springtime hue, lifted fresh

faces everywhere; fruit-trees, with branches intermingling, blended the

white and pink of blossoms. There was the soft laughter of children in

the garden. Strange birds darted among the trees. Their notes were new,

but their song was the old delicious monotone--the joy of living and

love of spring. A green-bowered irrigation ditch led by the porch and

unseen water flowed gently, with gurgle and tinkle, with music in its

hurry. Innumerable bees murmured amid the blossoms.



Hare fell asleep. Upon returning drowsily to consciousness he caught

through half-open eyes the gleam of level shafts of gold sunlight low

down in the trees; then he felt himself being carried into the house to

be laid upon a bed. Some one gently unbuttoned his shirt at the neck,

removed his shoes, and covered him with a blanket. Before he had

fully awakened he was left alone, and quiet settled over the house. A

languorous sense of ease and rest lulled him to sleep again. In another

moment, it seemed to him, he was awake; bright daylight streamed through

the window, and a morning breeze stirred the faded curtain.



The drag in his breathing which was always a forerunner of a

coughing-spell warned him now; he put on coat and shoes and went

outside, where his cough attacked him, had its sway, and left him.



"Good-morning," sang out August Naab's cheery voice. "Sixteen hours of

sleep, my lad!"



"I did sleep, didn't I? No wonder I feel well this morning. A

peculiarity of my illness is that one day I'm down, the next day up."



"With the goodness of God, my lad, we'll gradually increase the days up.

Go in to breakfast. Afterward I want to talk to you. This'll be a busy

day for me, shoeing the horses and packing supplies. I want to start for

home to-morrow."



Hare pondered over Naab's words while he ate. The suggestion in them,

implying a relation to his future, made him wonder if the good Mormon

intended to take him to his desert home. He hoped so, and warmed anew

to this friend. But he had no enthusiasm for himself; his future seemed

hopeless.



Naab was waiting for him on the porch, and drew him away from the

cottage down the path toward the gate.



"I want you to go home with me."



"You're kind--I'm only a sort of beggar--I've no strength left to work

my way. I'll go--though it's only to die."



"I haven't the gift of revelation--yet somehow I see that you won't die

of this illness. You will come home with me. It's a beautiful place, my

Navajo oasis. The Indians call it the Garden of Eschtah. If you can get

well anywhere it'll be there."



"I'll go but I ought not. What can I do for you?



"No man can ever tell what he may do for another. The time may

come--well, John, is it settled?" He offered his huge broad hand.



"It's settled--I--" Hare faltered as he put his hand in Naab's. The

Mormon's grip straightened his frame and braced him. Strength and

simplicity flowed from the giant's toil-hardened palm. Hare swallowed

his thanks along with his emotion, and for what he had intended to say

he substituted: "No one ever called me John. I don't know the name. Call

me Jack."



"Very well, Jack, and now let's see. You'll need some things from the

store. Can you come with me? It's not far."



"Surely. And now what I need most is a razor to scrape the alkali and

stubble off my face."



The wide street, bordered by cottages peeping out of green and white

orchards, stretched in a straight line to the base of the ascent which

led up to the Pink Cliffs. A green square enclosed a gray church, a

school-house and public hall. Farther down the main thoroughfare were

several weather-boarded whitewashed stores. Two dusty men were riding

along, one on each side of the wildest, most vicious little horse Hare

had ever seen. It reared and bucked and kicked, trying to escape from

two lassoes. In front of the largest store were a number of mustangs all

standing free, with bridles thrown over their heads and trailing on the

ground. The loungers leaning against the railing and about the doors

were lank brown men very like Naab's sons. Some wore sheepskin "chaps,"

some blue overalls; all wore boots and spurs, wide soft hats, and in

their belts, far to the back, hung large Colt's revolvers.



"We'll buy what you need, just as if you expected to ride the ranges for

me to-morrow," said Naab. "The first thing we ask a new man is, can he

ride? Next, can he shoot?"



"I could ride before I got so weak. I've never handled a revolver, but I

can shoot a rifle. Never shot at anything except targets, and it seemed

to come natural for me to hit them."



"Good. We'll show you some targets--lions, bears, deer, cats, wolves.

There's a fine forty-four Winchester here that my friend Abe has been

trying to sell. It has a long barrel and weighs eight pounds. Our desert

riders like the light carbines that go easy on a saddle. Most of the

mustangs aren't weight-carriers. This rifle has a great range; I've shot

it, and it's just the gun for you to use on wolves and coyotes. You'll

need a Colt and a saddle, too."



"By-the-way," he went on, as they mounted the store steps, "here's the

kind of money we use in this country." He handed Hare a slip of blue

paper, a written check for a sum of money, signed, but without register

of bank or name of firm. "We don't use real money," he added. "There's

very little coin or currency in southern Utah. Most of the Gentiles

lately come in have money, and some of us Mormons have a bag or two of

gold, but scarcely any of it gets into circulation. We use these checks,

which go from man to man sometimes for six months. The roundup of a

check means sheep, cattle, horses, grain, merchandise or labor. Every

man gets his real money's value without paying out an actual cent."



"Such a system at least means honest men," said Hare, laughing his

surprise.



They went into a wide door to tread a maze of narrow aisles between

boxes and barrels, stacks of canned vegetables, and piles of harness

and dry goods; they entered an open space where several men leaned on a

counter.



"Hello, Abe," said Naab; "seen anything of Snap?"



"Hello, August. Yes, Snap's inside. So's Holderness. Says he rode in off

the range on purpose to see you." Abe designated an open doorway from

which issued loud voices. Hare glanced into a long narrow room full of

smoke and the fumes of rum. Through the haze he made out a crowd of men

at a rude bar. Abe went to the door and called out: "Hey, Snap, your dad

wants you. Holderness, here's August Naab."



A man staggered up the few steps leading to the store and swayed in. His

long face had a hawkish cast, and it was gray, not with age, but with

the sage-gray of the desert. His eyes were of the same hue, cold yet

burning with little fiery flecks in their depths. He appeared short

of stature because of a curvature of the spine, but straightened up he

would have been tall. He wore a blue flannel shirt, and blue overalls;

round his lean hips was a belt holding two Colt's revolvers, their

heavy, dark butts projecting outward, and he had on high boots with

long, cruel spurs.



"Howdy, father?" he said.



"I'm packing to-day," returned August Naab. "We ride out to-morrow. I

need your help."



"All-l right. When I get my pinto from Larsen."



"Never mind Larsen. If he got the better of you let the matter drop."



"Jeff got my pinto for a mustang with three legs. If I hadn't been drunk

I'd never have traded. So I'm looking for Jeff."



He bit out the last words with a peculiar snap of his long teeth,

a circumstance which caused Hare instantly to associate the savage

clicking with the name he had heard given this man. August Naab looked

at him with gloomy eyes and stern shut mouth, an expression of righteous

anger, helplessness and grief combined, the look of a man to whom

obstacles had been nothing, at last confronted with crowning defeat.

Hare realized that this son was Naab's first-born, best-loved, a thorn

in his side, a black sheep.



"Say, father, is that the spy you found on the trail?" Snap's pale eyes

gleamed on Hare and the little flames seemed to darken and leap.



"This is John Hare, the young man I found. But he's not a spy."



"You can't make any one believe that. He's down as a spy. Dene's spy!

His name's gone over the ranges as a counter of unbranded stock. Dene

has named him and Dene has marked him. Don't take him home, as you've

taken so many sick and hunted men before. What's the good of it? You

never made a Mormon of one of them yet. Don't take him--unless you want

another grave for your cemetery. Ha! Ha!"



Hare recoiled with a shock. Snap Naab swayed to the door, and stepped

down, all the time with his face over his shoulder, his baleful glance

on Hare; then the blue haze swallowed him.



The several loungers went out; August engaged the storekeeper in

conversation, introducing Hare and explaining their wants. They

inspected the various needs of a range-rider, selecting, in the end,

not the few suggested by Hare, but the many chosen by Naab. The last

purchase was the rifle Naab had talked about. It was a beautiful weapon,

finely polished and carved, entirely out of place among the plain

coarse-sighted and coarse-stocked guns in the rack.



"Never had a chance to sell it," said Abe. "Too long and heavy for the

riders. I'll let it go cheap, half price, and the cartridges also, two

thousand."



"Taken," replied Naab, quickly, with a satisfaction which showed he

liked a bargain.



"August, you must be going to shoot some?" queried Abe. "Something

bigger than rabbits and coyotes. Its about time--even if you are an

Elder. We Mormons must--" he broke off, continuing in a low tone:

"Here's Holderness now."



Hare wheeled with the interest that had gathered with the reiteration of

this man's name. A new-comer stooped to get in the door. He out-topped

even Naab in height, and was a superb blond-bearded man, striding with

the spring of a mountaineer.



"Good-day to you, Naab," he said. "Is this the young fellow you picked

up?"



"Yes. Jack Hare," rejoined Naab.



"Well, Hare, I'm Holderness. You'll recall my name. You were sent to

Lund by men interested in my ranges. I expected to see you in Lund, but

couldn't get over."



Hare met the proffered hand with his own, and as he had recoiled

from Snap Naab so now he received another shock, different indeed but

impelling in its power, instinctive of some great portent. Hare was

impressed by an indefinable subtlety, a nameless distrust, as colorless

as the clear penetrating amber lightness of the eyes that bent upon him.



"Holderness, will you right the story about Hare?" inquired Naab.



"You mean about his being a spy? Well, Naab, the truth is that was his

job. I advised against sending a man down here for that sort of work. It

won't do. These Mormons will steal each other's cattle, and they've got

to get rid of them; so they won't have a man taking account of stock,

brands, and all that. If the Mormons would stand for it the rustlers

wouldn't. I'll take Hare out to the ranch and give him work, if he

wants. But he'd do best to leave Utah."



"Thank you, no," replied Hare, decidedly.



"He's going with me," said August Naab.



Holderness accepted this with an almost imperceptible nod, and he swept

Hare with eyes that searched and probed for latent possibilities. It was

the keen intelligence of a man who knew what development meant on the

desert; not in any sense an interest in the young man at present. Then

he turned his back.



Hare, feeling that Holderness wished to talk with Naab, walked to

the counter, and began assorting his purchases, but he could not help

hearing what was said.



"Lungs bad?" queried Holderness.



"One of them," replied Naab.



"He's all in. Better send him out of the country. He's got the name of

Dene's spy and he'll never get another on this desert. Dene will kill

him. This isn't good judgment, Naab, to take him with you. Even your

friends don't like it, and it means trouble for you."



"We've settled it," said Naab, coldly.



"Well, remember, I've warned you. I've tried to be friendly with you,

Naab, but you won't have it. Anyway, I've wanted to see you lately to

find out how we stand."



"What do you mean?"



"How we stand on several things--to begin with, there Mescal."



"You asked me several times for Mescal, and I said no."



"But I never said I'd marry her. Now I want her, and I will marry her."



"No," rejoined Naab, adding brevity to his coldness.



"Why not?" demanded Holderness. "Oh, well, I can't take that as an

insult. I know there's not enough money in Utah to get a girl away from

a Mormon.... About the offer for the water-rights--how do we stand?

I'll give you ten thousand dollars for the rights to Seeping Springs and

Silver Cup."



"Ten thousand!" ejaculated Naab. "Holderness, I wouldn't take a hundred

thousand. You might as well ask to buy my home, my stock, my range,

twenty years of toil, for ten thousand dollars!"



"You refuse? All right. I think I've made you a fair proposition,"

said Holderness, in a smooth, quick tone. "The land is owned by the

Government, and though your ranges are across the Arizona line they

really figure as Utah land. My company's spending big money, and the

Government won't let you have a monopoly. No one man can control the

water-supply of a hundred miles of range. Times are changing. You want

to see that. You ought to protect yourself before it's too late."



"Holderness, this is a desert. No men save Mormons could ever have made

it habitable. The Government scarcely knows of its existence. It'll be

fifty years before man can come in here to take our water."



"Why can't he? The water doesn't belong to any one. Why can't he?"



"Because of the unwritten law of the desert. No Mormon would refuse you

or your horse a drink, or even a reasonable supply for your stock. But

you can't come in here and take our water for your own use, to supplant

us, to parch our stock. Why, even an Indian respects desert law!"



"Bah! I'm not a Mormon or an Indian. I'm a cattleman. It's plain

business with me. Once more I make you the offer."



Naab scorned to reply. The men faced each other for a silent moment,

their glances scintillating. Then Holderness whirled on his heel,

jostling into Hare.



"Get out of my way," said the rancher, in the disgust of intense

irritation. He swung his arm, and his open hand sent Hare reeling

against the counter.



"Jack," said Naab, breathing hard, "Holderness showed his real self

to-day. I always knew it, yet I gave him the benefit of the doubt....

For him to strike you! I've not the gift of revelation, but I see--let

us go."



On the return to the Bishop's cottage Naab did not speak once; the

transformation which had begun with the appearance of his drunken son

had reached a climax of gloomy silence after the clash with Holderness.

Naab went directly to the Bishop, and presently the quavering voice of

the old minister rose in prayer.



Hare dropped wearily into the chair on the porch; and presently fell

into a doze, from which he awakened with a start. Naab's sons, with

Martin Cole and several other men, were standing in the yard. Naab

himself was gently crowding the women into the house. When he got them

all inside he closed the door and turned to Cole.



"Was it a fair fight?"



"Yes, an even break. They met in front of Abe's. I saw the meeting.

Neither was surprised. They stood for a moment watching each other. Then

they drew--only Snap was quicker. Larsen's gun went off as he fell. That

trick you taught Snap saved his life again. Larsen was no slouch on the

draw."



"Where's Snap now?"



"Gone after his pinto. He was sober. Said he'd pack at once. Larsen's

friends are ugly. Snap said to tell you to hurry out of the village

with young Hare, if you want to take him at all. Dene has ridden in; he

swears you won't take Hare away."



"We're all packed and ready to hitch up," returned Naab. "We could start

at once, only until dark I'd rather take chances here than out on the

trail."



"Snap said Dene would ride right into the Bishop's after Hare."



"No. He wouldn't dare."



"Father!" Dave Naab spoke sharply from where he stood high on a grassy

bank. "Here's Dene now, riding up with Culver, and some man I don't

know. They're coming in. Dene's jumped the fence! Look out!"



A clatter of hoofs and rattling of gravel preceded the appearance of a

black horse in the garden path. His rider bent low to dodge the vines of

the arbor, and reined in before the porch to slip out of the saddle with

the agility of an Indian. It was Dene, dark, smiling, nonchalant.



"What do you seek in the house of a Bishop?" challenged August Naab,

planting his broad bulk square before Hare.



"Dene's spy!"



"What do you seek in the house of a Bishop?" repeated Naab.



"I shore want to see the young feller you lied to me about," returned

Dene, his smile slowly fading.



"No speech could be a lie to an outlaw."



"I want him, you Mormon preacher!"



"You can't have him."



"I'll shore get him."



In one great stride Naab confronted and towered over Dene.



The rustler's gaze shifted warily from Naab to the quiet Mormons and

back again. Then his right hand quivered and shot downward. Naab's

act was even quicker. A Colt gleamed and whirled to the grass, and the

outlaw cried as his arm cracked in the Mormon's grasp.



Dave Naab leaped off the bank directly in front of Dene's approaching

companions, and faced them, alert and silent, his hand on his hip.



August Naab swung the outlaw against the porch-post and held him there

with brawny arm.



"Whelp of an evil breed!" he thundered, shaking his gray head. "Do you

think we fear you and your gunsharp tricks? Look! See this!" He released

Dene and stepped back with his hand before him. Suddenly it moved,

quicker than sight, and a Colt revolver lay in his outstretched palm. He

dropped it back into the holster. "Let that teach you never to draw on

me again." He doubled his huge fist and shoved it before Dene's eyes.

"One blow would crack your skull like an egg-shell. Why don't I deal

it? Because, you mindless hell-hound, because there's a higher law than

man's--God's law--Thou shalt not kill! Understand that if you can. Leave

me and mine alone from this day. Now go!"



He pushed Dene down the path into the arms of his companions.



"Out with you!" said Dave Naab. "Hurry! Get your horse. Hurry! I'm not

so particular about God as Dad is!"





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