« PreviousContinue »
tired waitin'-seein' its been thirty year." for thirty years. He warned me not to
“Yes,” said Farley, his heart full of let the Desert learn we are building a sympathy for the poor, old, crazed vaga- dam. Said she'd get me sure if I did." bond. "If I see them I'll certainly tell A troubled look showed on McGuire's them to hurry along."
strong face. “Heh!” he snorted. “I The old man waved good-bye and don't know as he's so blamed crazy, after started down the cliff. Then suddenly all.” Turning, he looked out over the and so silently that the engineer was silent, motionless face of the Desert. “Go startled, he came back and leaning far on out there four or five mile,” he said, over, whispered shrilly : “Say, you want "and look at the bones piled up alongside to look out.”
the trail. She got thim all right! And “Why?"
she gits most ivrybody that stays out here “Buildin' a dam down there, ain't ye? long enough.” Goin' to turn the water onto that sand?" Farley laughed and turned to the
Farley nodded. “Keep it dark," the plans. Half an hour later McGuire was graybeard whispered, mysteriously. bossing a big gang of pickmen who were “Don't let it get out. She won't stand cutting a channel and pit for a small turfor it.”
bine along the edge of the river bed. "She? Who?"
Farley was going to force the Spotted "The old voice sank into a harsh, Snake to furnish power for the grinders frightened whisper. “The Desert. She and cement mixers—to make the river won't stand for no interferin' with her practically dam itself. He was standing plans.”
on the broad top of one of the founda"All right,” the young man answered, tion blocks, when an Italian, stepping out humoring his strange guest's madness. into the stream to get a better swing for “I'll keep it a secret.”
his pick, threw up both arms and, with "Sometimes I think she's got them a scream, disappeared beneath the surfolks of mine," the old man went on. face of the water. McGuire heard the “Sometimes I most know she has. She's scream and came running across from got everybody that ever come around the opposite side, throwing off his coat here tryin' to change things she's got as he came. An instant later he dived fixed the way she wants 'em. You be into the river at the point where the man careful."
had gone down. Nothing but bubbles “Yes," said Farley.
rose to the surface and Farley, glancing "Keep yere eye peeled continual. The from the river to the bank, saw the 200 Desert, she's slow, but once she hears Italians gathered together into a frightwhat yere doin' she'll lay fer ye. Re- ened crowd, crossing themselves and member, she ain't in no hurry. She's got whispering excitedly. He knew their temall the time they is.”
per and was certain that with the fore“Yes. Good night. Thank you.” man, as well as one of their own number
"Poor old devil!” said Farley to him gone, it would be impossible to keep them self, as he rolled himself in his blanket at the work. Meanwhile something must and lay down to sleep. He was very be done for McGuire. Calling to the men, young and very full of his great oppor- he fastened a rope about his own body tunity Next morning he showed Om and was about to spring into the stream stead's letter to McGuire and he and the when there came a strangled hail from big foreman had a long talk about the the big foreman, who was clinging to a work.
splintered rock at the edge of the water, “We'll do the thrick, Mister Farley," fifty feet below. the Irishman pledged himself. “It's fer Farley hurried to the rescue. “It's a you to furnish th' papers an' do th' fig. quicksand," he gasped. "A week ago it urin' an' me an' me bold buckos av da- was solid bottom. The dago's gone. I goes'll see that the stuff's laid right. never even got my hands on him. Look !" Who was the auld gint callin' on ye lasht Farley turned to see the Italians
throwing down their picks and starting “A poor old loony, who's been waiting to climb up the side of the gorge to the for his people to come across the plains camp...
“If they quit now we'll never git 'em sharply—“you didn't see my family goback," said McGuire, staggering to his ing by here this morning, did you?" feet. He roared out a fierce command. The question soothed Farley's rising The men stopped, hesitatingly, and Mc- irritation by recalling the fact of the old Guire ran to the foot of the cliff, order- man's utter irresponsibility. “No, I'm ing them to come down.
sorry to say I haven't seen them. Good “Giovanni could not swim. The cur- night,” he said and went into the tent. rent carried him away," he explained. Everything went finely for the next “Come back to work.”
fortnight. McGuire and his men caught Still they stood still and one of the some of Farley's enthusiasm and worked men began to talk to them in shrill, excited long hours uncomplainingly to the end Italian. McGuire did not wait. Rushing that the dam might be made against any up the steep path he seized the spokes- emergency. Then one morning, an Italian man by the shoulder and half threw hini workman, stepping up to the surface of down to the ledge below.
a dry block which lay hot in the sun, “Go down wid ye!” he bellowed so gave a shrill yell of terror and started to fiercely that the men sullenly gave way run, clambering on hands and knees up and climbed back to the bottom. “Tell the steep path to the sleeping-tents. The 'em we'll git th’ body," the foreman add- engineer stopped just long enough to ed to the interpreter, "and don't let anny kill, with a single shot from his revolver, av thim put his foot into th' wather.” the big sluggish copper-head which had
“ 'Twas a close call fer me an' fer th' bitten the man. Already McGuire was Spotted Snake Dam,” he explained to hot in pursuit of the terrified workman. Farley a moment later. “An' 'twas th' Farley followed as quickly as he could. dam saved me. Th' sand had me gripped On the top of the gorge they caught the tight an' but fer me foot hitting th' solid man, hysterical with fright, threw him cement,'twould have me yit."
down and cut away his trousers. Two There was little work done that day. little pin-points of blood showed where The men spent more than half their time the fangs of the snake had sunk home. in talking together and shaking their fists Without hesitation McGuire joined them at the angry water that lapped the blocks. with a quick cut of his clasp-knife, while
“ 'Tis no use dragging fer the body," the Italian cried out in pain and new terMcGuire said in the evening as he and ror. His cries summoned his countrythe engineer lay before the tents at the men from the dam and they clustered top of the gorge. “We must wait until about, watching the spurt of blood from the dam gits high enough to shut off all the open cut and talking again excitedly. th' wather and we kin git at the sand “Get the whiskey, McGuire," Farley there below where the canal runs in. An' ordered, handing the foreman his keys. 'twill be hard holdin' th' min in line until “We must fill him up.” that's done."
“Pietro'll be all right in a few minFarley had bidden the men good night utes," Farley explained to the interpreter. and was about to turn in, when, looking “Tell the men he was bitten by a snake, up, he was startled to see sitting at the but there's no danger.” fire close by, his gray, old visitor of the Half a pint of raw whiskey slipped previous evening.
down the throat of the wounded man "What did I tell you?" the old man before Farley called a halt. “Get the men asked, an uncanny smile on his bearded, to work, Mac," he told the foreman. “I'll wrinkled face.
stay here with him.” Farley frowned at him, angrily. “She's For an hour Pietro lay stupid and sibegun, hasn't she?" the old man went on. lent from the effects of the liquor. Then “Got one of you this morning."
he suddenly roused and began to toss "What do you know about it?" Far about, writhing as if in agony. Farley ley asked sharply.
ran to the head of the path. “Mac!” he "She told me!" He nodded his head at called down into the pit. There was no the Desert. "I knowed all about it before answer. The workmen were sitting and noon. And you ain't never going to find standing about in groups. Plainly there the body. Say”—the old man broke off was no work being done.
"O McGuire !” he called again. It was swarm of angry, buzzing bees about the the interpreter who' answered. “A tink-a interpreter. Farley turned to speak with Mista MicGoire not feelin's vara well,” Nelson. he said, with a leer.
“The dagoes are plum locoed,” the old Close to the bottom of the path he saw prospector urged. “I've seen men that the tall figure of the foreman stretched way before. They ain't no stoppin' 'em.” out, his head resting on a cement block. Even as he spoke the mob broke and its In an instant he knew what had hap- members ran down the gorge and on into pened. The whiskey! McGuire's one the desert like a herd of stampeded catfault had proved too much for him. tle. “Tell Nelson to come up,” he called “God!" Farley cried. “They'll die out Nelson was an old mining prospector who was working as sub-foreman under “Joe Rocco knows the way to the railMcGuire.
road," Nelson answered. “Anyway we Farley dared stay no longer from the can't do anything. They're like crazy side of the stricken Pietro in the tent. men. We ought to go down and look Hurrying back he found the man's body after Mac." stiff and rigid. He was rubbing the Farley looked on, half way between tightly taut arms when Nelson put his anger and disgust, while Nelson threw head through the tent-door.
a bucket of cold water over the prostrate “God! He's dead!" Nelson burst out figure of the big foreman. McGuire at a glance. “And Mac's drunk down sprang unsteadily to his feet and stared there in the ditch. We'll never be able to about him. “Where's the men ?" he falhold the dagoes. They're coming up here tered. now."
“They're gone,” Farley answered bitFarley, a revolver in his hand, stepped terly. "Come up to the tents and go to out to meet them. “Tell the men that sleep." Pietro has died from the poison of the Supported on either side, McGuire snake and that they must all be careful," clambered up the path and threw himself he ordered the interpreter.
down in the nearest tent, again overcome An instant later a hundred black fists by the drunken stupor. Farley sat beside were brandished towards him and in Nelson outside and looked down at the some of them he saw the glint of steel. desert, from the face of which strange “They-a all so scair-red !" the interpreter mists and vapors were rising. He was explained. “They-a work here not any discouraged, utterly disheartened. There more-go right-a away. It is—what-a seemed nothing to say; nothirg to do. you say—too much dangerous here.” “Go to bed, Nelson," he said, finally.
Farley threw his revolver into sight, “I'm not sleepy." and started to speak, but Nelson, speak- For an hour he sat alone, brooding ing from the tent door, interrupted him. over the ruin of all his hopes. The des
"Let 'em go, boss," he pleaded. “Even ert mists seemed to take the form of gray if Mac was sober he couldn't hold 'em monsters, mocking at his helplessness. now. And they'd be no good, anyhow." Suddenly he sprang to his feet and woke
As Farley faced the angry, gesticulat- the sleeping Nelson. ing mob, the blood sang in his ears. He "I'll be back within forty-eight hours," must protect the dam. He must justify he said, explaining his plan. “It's our Omstead's confidence in him.
only hope.” “The men must go back to work,” he T he prospector pleaded with him not told the interpreter. “They are under to undertake it, but the young man was contract. They cannot leave now. They firm. At 10 o'clock he started away across could never get safely across the desert, the sand to the West, leading a loaded anyhow."
burro. “I know the way,” he insisted, “Let 'em go, boss,” Nelson whispered “and it's only twenty-five miles.” from the tent. “The Desert has 'em At the foot of the bluff he was startled bluffed. Some of 'em's got guns. Don't by the sound of a shrill, mirthless laugh. you take no chances.”
To the right rose up the tall figure of the The Italians were gathered like a old man with the long white beard.
"Heh-he!” he chuckled. “What did I reasoning anger against the old man. "I tell you? So she's got you, too, heh?” told you not to come snooping around
Instinctively Farley drew his revolver. here any more," he snapped. His instinct was to put this prophet of "Yes, I know," the old fellow quavill omen out of the way forever. But ered, “but I jest wanted to know if you shame that he should feel anger at the seen my folks while you was away.” ravings of an insane man caught him in “No, I'm sorry to say I didn't,” Farley time. “You keep out of my way after answered, ashamed, as he always was, this,” he almost shouted, hurrying on. of his foolish heat. “If you'd tell me
"All right!" the chuckle came back to your name," he went on, “I'd make some him. “All right! The Desert's got him, inquiries.” too.”
“Gray's my name — Josiah Gray. All the next day McGuire lay in the Wife's name is Nellie. You know the tent cursing his own weakness. Nelson song a feller made up about her, heh?” had explained Farley's plan to him and His shrill, quavering voice rose in the the foreman laughed bitterly as he heard wailing chorus of the old ballad: it. “We'll never see him again, either,” “O my darlin' Nellie Gray, they have he said.
taken her away! But the foreman was mistaken. On A n' I'll never see my darlin' any the second morning he and Nelson, star
more!" ing off into the West, made out a big "O quit it!" Farley broke in. There party moving against the horizon. was something about the pathetic old Watching closely they saw presently that figure, wailing that song in its cracked Farley was in front, riding a pinto pony voice, which made the awful loneliness and behind and around him rode and and emptiness of the Desert shut down walked all the members of an Indian vil- on him like a trap. “I'm going to turn lage.
in," he added, inore gently. "You'd bet“I got permission of the agent for the ter stay here all night." men to leave the reservation," Farley ex- "No," the old man answered. “I don't plained presently, "and there's 250 of the never stay away from home all night. braves here ready to work for $1 a day. She might come along and miss me. They wouldn't come without their fami- Good bye.” He started down the slope, lies. So we'll have 600 people to feed then turned and waved a warning finger from now till the dam's finished. I at the engineer. “You want to look out,” wired from the agency to have our sup- he whispered, shrilly. plies doubled. I don't suppose they know When Farley awoke the next morning much about cement working,” he added he could not lift his head from the roll with a laugh.
of blankets. His body was full of dull "They can wheel barrows and do the pains and thousand pound weights tamping, Mr. Farley,” McGuire said seemed fastened to his feet. “A touch earnestly, "and, by — we'll get the of fever,” McGuire said. “You must dam done now if I have to do it with my stay out of the sun. I'll get the Indiaus own hands."
to work. Don't you worry.” That evening the old hermit of the That evening McGuire reported that Spotted Snake came slipping up again his new helpers had taken hold well and to the camp and Farley was in such good that the work was progressing finely. humor with himself that he received the “Good, I'll be up tomorrow," Farley croaker with a smile.
answered. But the next morning the "I guess I've got the Desert beat now,” fever still held him and McGuire absohe said. “She'll have a hard time scar- lutely refused to let him leave the shade ing these Apaches."
of the tent. “I know this fever well," the "Don't you be too sure," the old man foreman said. “It's nothing to be scared answered, wagging his head sagely. at if you stay out of the sun. Maybe it'll "She's got plenty of time. Nobody ever hang on for two or three weeks. But got the best of her yet. You want to quinine'll cure it if you don't try to get look out.”
up.” Farley felt a sudden return of his un- Farley fought against confinement, but