A harder breeze puffed into Bostil’s face. It brought a tremendous thunder, as if all the colossal walls were falling in avalanche. Bostil knew the crest of the flood had turned the corner above and would soon reach him. He watched. He listened, but sound had ceased. His ears seemed ringing and they hurt. All his body felt cold, and he backed up and up, with dead feet.
The shadows of the canyon lightened. A river-wide froth, like a curtain, moved down, spreading mushroom-wise before it, a rolling, heaving maelstrom. Bostil ran to escape the great wave that surged into the amphitheater, up and up the rocky trail. When he turned again he seemed to look down into hell. Murky depths, streaked by pale gleams, and black, sinister, changing forms yawned beneath them. He watched with fixed eyes until once more the feeling of filled ears left him and an awful thundering boom assured him of actualities. It was only the Colorado in flood.
Bostil slept that night, but his sleep was troubled, and a strange, dreadful roar seemed to run through it, like a mournful wind over a dark desert. He was awakened early by a voice at his window. He listened. There came a rap on the wood.
“Bostil! . . . Bostil!” It was Holley’s voice.
Bostil rolled off the bed. He had slept without removing any apparel except his boots.
“Wal, Hawk, what d’ye mean wakin’ a man at this unholy hour?” growled Bostil.
Holley’s face appeared above the rude sill. It was pale and grave, with the hawk eyes like glass. “It ain’t so awful early,” he said. “Listen, boss.”
Bostil halted in the act of pulling on a boot. He looked at his man while he listened. The still air outside seemed filled with low boom, like thunder at a distance. Bostil tried to look astounded.
“Hell! . . . It’s the Colorado! She’s boomin’!”
“Reckon it’s hell all right—for Creech,” replied Holley. “Boss, why didn’t you fetch them hosses over?”
Bostil’s face darkened. He was a bad man to oppose—to question at times. “Holley, you’re sure powerful anxious about Creech. Are you his friend?”
“Naw! I’ve little use fer Creech,” replied Holley. “An’ you know thet. But I hold for his hosses as I would any man’s.”
“A-huh! An’ what’s your kick?”
“Nothin’—except you could have fetched them over before the flood come down. That’s all.”
The old horse-trader and his right-hand rider looked at each other for a moment in silence. They understood each other. Then Bostil returned to the task of pulling on wet boots and Holley went away.
Bostil opened his door and stepped outside. The eastern ramparts of the desert were bright red with the rising sun. With the night behind him and the morning cool and bright and beautiful, Bostil did not suffer a pang nor feel a regret. He walked around under the cottonwoods where the mocking-birds were singing. The shrill, screeching bray of a burro split the morning stillness, and with that the sounds of the awakening village drowned that sullen, dreadful boom of the river. Bostil went in to breakfast.