Rhoda stared with increasing wonder. She was very weak and spent but her head was clear. She lifted her arms and looked at them. She was wearing a loose-fitting gray garment of a strange weave. She fingered it, more and more puzzled.
“You wake now?” asked a low voice.
Coming softly down the room was an Indian woman of comely face and strange garb. Over a soft shirt of cut and weave such as Rhoda had on, she wore a dark overdress caught at one shoulder and reaching only to the knees. A many-colored girdle confined the dress at the waist. Her legs and feet were covered with high, loose moccasins. Her black hair hung free on her shoulders.
“You been much sick,” the woman went on, “much sick,” stooping to straighten Rhoda’s blanket.
“Where am I?” asked Rhoda.
“At Chira. You eat breakfast?”
Rhoda caught the woman’s hand.
“Who are you?” she asked. “You have been very good to me.”
“Me Marie,” replied the woman.
“Where are Kut-le and the others?”
“Kut-le here. Others in mountain. You much sick, three days.”
Rhoda sighed. Would this kaleidoscope of misery never end!
“I am very tired of it all,” she said. “I think it would have been kinder if you had let me die. Will you help me to get back to my white friends?”
Marie shook her head.
“Kut-le friend. We take care Kut-le’s squaw.”
Rhoda turned wearily on her side.
“Go away and let me sleep,” she said.
THE CROSSING TRAILS
As Kut-le, with Rhoda in his arms, disappeared into the mesa fissure, John DeWitt threw himself from his horse and was at the opening before the others had more than brought their horses to their haunches.
He was met by Alchise’s rifle, with Alchise entirely hidden from view. For a moment the four men stood panting and speechless. The encounter had been so sudden, so swift that they could not believe their senses. Then Billy Porter uttered an oath that reverberated from the rocky wall.
“They will get to the top!” he cried. “Jack, you and DeWitt get up there! Carlos and I will hold this!”
The two men mounted immediately and galloped along the mesa wall, looking for an ascent. Neither of them spoke but both were breathing hard, and through his blistered skin DeWitt’s cheeks glowed feverishly. For a mile up and down from the fissure the wall was a blank, except for a single wide split which did not come within fifty feet of the ground. After over half an hour of frantic search, DeWitt found, nearly three miles from the fissure, a rough spot where the wall gave back in a few narrow crumbling ledges.
“We’ll have to leave the horses,” he said, “and try that.”
Jack nodded tensely. They dismounted, pulled the reins over the horses’ heads and started up the wall, John leading, carefully. One bitter lesson the desert was teaching him: haste in the hot country spells ruin! So, though Rhoda’s voice still rang in his ears, though the sight of the slender boyish figure struggling in Kut-le’s arms still ravished his eyes, he worked carefully.