His sleepless eyes roved up and down the adjoining canon. Far to the south, near the desert floor, he saw a fluttering bit of white. Now a fluttering bit of white, far from human byways, means something! Tenderfoot though he was, DeWitt realized this and sleep left his eyes. He sat erect. For a moment he was tempted to call the others but he restrained himself. He would let them rest while he kept watch over the little white beacon, for so, unaccountably, it seemed to him. He eyed it hungrily, and then a vague comfort and hopefulness came to him and he fell asleep.
Jack’s lusty call to coffee woke him. DeWitt jumped to his feet and with a new light in his eyes he pointed out his discovery. The meal was disposed of very hurriedly and, leaving Jack to watch the camp, John and Billy crossed the canon southward. After heavy scrambling they reached the foot of the canon wall. Twenty feet above them dangled a white cloth. Catching any sort of hand and foot hold, John clambered upward. Then he gave a great shout of joy. Rhoda’s neck scarf with the pebble pinned in one end was in his hands! DeWitt slid to the ground and he and Billy examined the scarf tenderly, eagerly.
“I told you! I told you!” exulted Billy hoarsely. “See that weight fastened to it? Wasn’t that smart of her? Bless her heart! Now we got to get above, somehow, and find where she dropped it from!”
ENTERING THE DESERT KINDERGARTEN
“We’ll start now,” said Kut-le.
Alchise led out the horses. The squaws each threw an emancipated, sinewy leg across a pony’s back and followed Alchise’s fluttering shirt up the mountain. Kut-le stood holding the bridle of a sedate little horse on which he had fastened a comfortable high-backed saddle.
“Come, Rhoda,” he said. “I’ll shorten the stirrups after you are mounted.”
Rhoda stood with her back to the wall, her blue-veined hands clutching the rough out-croppings on either side, horror and fear in her eyes.
“I can’t ride cross-saddle!” she exclaimed. “I used to be a good horsewoman in the side-saddle. But I’m so weak that even keeping in the side-saddle is out of the question.”
“Anything except cross-saddle is utterly out of the question,” replied the Indian, “on the sort of trails we have to take. You might as well begin to control your nerves now as later. I’m going to have an expert rider in you by the time you have regained your strength. Come, Rhoda.”
The girl turned her face to the afterglow. Remote and pitiless lay the distant crimson ranges. She shuddered and turned back to the young Indian who stood watching her. For the moment all the agony of her situation was concentrated in horror of another night in the saddle.
“Kut-le, I can’t!”
“Shall I pick you up and carry you over here?” asked Kut-le patiently.