Here time was as nothing; here sunset and sunrise were as incidents of an uncalendared, everlasting day; here chaotic grandeur was that of the earth’s crust when it cooled after the last convulsive movement of genesis.
In all the region about the Galeria Pass the silence of the dry Arizona air seemed luminous and eternal. Whoever climbed to the crotch of that V, cut jagged against the sky for distances yet unreckoned by tourist folders, might have the reward of pitching the tents of his imagination at the gateway of the clouds.
Early on a certain afternoon he would have noted to the eastward a speck far out on a vast basin of sand which was enclosed by a rim of tumbling mountains. Continued observation at long range would have shown the speck to be moving almost imperceptibly, with what seemed the impertinence of infinitesimal life in that dead world; and, eventually, it would have taken the form of a man astride a pony.
The man was young, fantastically young if you were to judge by his garb, a flamboyant expression of the romantic cowboy style which might have served as a sensational exhibit in a shop-window. In place of the conventional blue wool shirt was one of dark blue silk. The chaparejos, or “chaps,” were of the softest leather, with the fringe at the seams generously long; and the silver spurs at the boot-heels were chased in antique pattern and ridiculously large. Instead of the conventional handkerchief at the neck was a dark red string tie; while the straight-brimmed cowpuncher hat, out of keeping with the general effect of newness and laundered freshness, had that tint which only exposure to many dewfalls and many blazing mid-days will produce in light-colored felt.
There was vagrancy in the smile of his singularly sensitive mouth and vagrancy in the relaxed way that he rode. From the fondness with which his gaze swept the naked peaks they might have been cities en fete calling him to their festivities. If so, he was in no haste to let realization overtake anticipation. His reins hung loose. He hummed snatches of Spanish, French, and English songs. Their cosmopolitan freedom of variety was as out of keeping with the scene as their lilt, which had the tripping, self-carrying impetus of the sheer joy of living.
Lapsing into silence, his face went ruminative and then sad. With a sudden indrawing of breath he freed himself from his reverie, and bending over from his saddle patted a buckskin neck in affectionate tattoo. Tawny ears turned backward in appreciative fellowship, but without any break in a plodding dog-trot. Though the rider’s aspect might say with the desert that time was nothing, the pony’s expressed a logical purpose. Thus the speed of their machine-like progress was entirely regulated by the prospect of a measure of oats at the journey’s end.