Mile after mile they drifted through the silent gloom between those vast and magnificent walls. After the speed, the turmoil, the whirling, shrieking, thundering, the never-ceasing sound and change and motion of the rapids above, this slow, quiet drifting, this utter, absolute silence, these eddying stretches of still water below, worked strangely upon Shefford’s mind and he feared he was going mad.
There was no change to the silence, no help for the slow drift, no lessening of the strain. And the hours of the day passed as moments, the sun crossed the blue gap above, the golden lights hung on the upper walls, the gloom returned, and still there was only the dead, vast, insupportable silence.
There came bends where the current quickened, ripples widened, long lanes of little waves roughened the surface, but they made no sound.
And then the fugitives turned through a V-shaped vent in the canyon. The ponderous walls sheered away from the river. There was space and sunshine, and far beyond this league-wide open rose vermilion-colored cliffs. A mile below the river disappeared in a dark, boxlike passage from which came a rumble that made Shefford’s flesh creep.
The Mormon flung high his arms and let out the stentorian yell that had rolled down to the fugitives as they waited at the mouth of Nonnezoshe Boco. But now it had a wilder, more exultant note. Strange how he shifted his gaze to Fay Larkin!
“Girl! Get up and look!” he called. “The Ferry! The Ferry!”
Then he bent his brawny back over the steering-oar, and the clumsy craft slowly turned toward the left-hand shore, where a long, low bank of green willows and cottonwoods gave welcome relief to the eyes. Upon the opposite side of the river Shefford saw a boat, similar to the one he was in, moored to the bank.
“Shore, if I ain’t losin’ my eyes, I seen an Injun with a red blanket,” said Lassiter.
“Yes, Lassiter,” cried Shefford. “Look, Fay! Look, Jane! See! Indians—hogans—mustangs—there above the green bank!”
The boat glided slowly shoreward. And the deep, hungry, terrible rumble of the remorseless river became something no more to dread.
XX. WILLOW SPRINGS
Two days’ travel from the river, along the saw-toothed range of Echo Cliffs, stood Presbrey’s trading-post, a little red-stone square house in a green and pretty valley called Willow Springs.
It was nearing the time of sunset—that gorgeous hour of color in the Painted Desert—when Shefford and his party rode down upon the post.
The scene lacked the wildness characteristic of Kayenta or Red Lake. There were wagons and teams, white men and Indians, burros, sheep, lambs, mustangs saddled and unsaddled, dogs, and chickens. A young, sweet-faced woman stood in the door of the post and she it was who first sighted the fugitives. Presbrey was weighing bags of wool on a scale, and when she called he lazily turned, as if to wonder at her eagerness.