They reached the foothills and left behind the desert shimmering in the dancing heat. In a deep gorge, where the hill creases gave them shade, the punchers threw off the trail, unsaddled, hobbled their horses, and stole a few hours’ sleep.
In the late afternoon they rode back to the trail through a draw, the ponies wading fetlock deep in yellow, red, blue, and purple flowers. The mountains across the valley looked in the dry heat as though made of papier-mache. Closer at hand the undulations of sand hills stretched toward the pass for which they were making.
A mule deer started out of a dry wash and fled into the sunset light. The long, stratified faces of rock escarpments caught the glow of the sliding sun and became battlemented towers of ancient story.
The riders climbed steadily now, no longer engulfed in the ground swell of land waves. They breathed an air like wine, strong, pure, bracing. Presently their way led them into a hill pocket, which ran into a gorge of pinons stretching toward Gunsight Pass.
The stars were out again when they looked down from the other side of the pass upon the lights of Malapi.
SUPPER AT DELMONICO’S INTERRUPTED
The two D Bar Lazy R punchers ate supper at Delmonico’s. The restaurant was owned by Wong Chung. A Cantonese celestial did the cooking and another waited on table. The price of a meal was twenty-five cents, regardless of what one ordered.
Hop Lee, the waiter, grinned at the frolicsome youths with the serenity of a world-old wisdom.
“Bleef steak, plork chop, lamb chop, hlam’neggs, clorn bleef hash, Splanish stew,” he chanted, reciting the bill of fare.
“Yes,” murmured Bob.
The waiter said his piece again.
“Listens good to me,” agreed Dave. “Lead it to us.”
“You takee two—bleef steak and hlam’neggs, mebbe,” suggested Hop helpfully.
“Tha’s right. Two orders of everything on the me-an-you, Charlie.”
Hop did not argue with them. He never argued with a customer. If they stormed at him he took refuge in a suddenly acquired lack of understanding of English. If they called him Charlie or John or One Lung, he accepted the name cheerfully and laid it to a racial mental deficiency of the ’melicans. Now he decided to make a selection himself.
“Vely well. Bleef steak and hlam’neggs.”
“Fried potatoes done brown, John.”
“Flied plotatoes. Tea or cloffee?”
“Coffee,” decided Dave for both of them. “Warm mine.”
“And custard pie,” added Bob. “Made from this year’s crop.”
“Aigs sunny side up,” directed his friend.
“Fry mine one on one side and one on the other,” Hart continued facetiously.
“Vely well.” Hop Lee’s impassive face betrayed no perplexity as he departed. In the course of a season he waited on hundreds of wild men from the hills, drunk and sober.