The heat of midsummer came, when the blistering sun shone, and a hot blast blew across the sand, and the furious storms made floods in the washes. Day and night Shefford was always in the open, and any one who had ever known him in the past would have failed to recognize him now.
In the early fall, with Nas Ta Bega as companion, he set out to the south of Kayenta upon long-neglected business of the trader. They visited Red Lake, Blue Canyon, Keams Canyon, Oribi, the Moki villages, Tuba, Moencopie, and Moen Ave. This trip took many weeks and gave Shefford all the opportunity he wanted to study the Indians, and the conditions nearer to the border of civilization. He learned the truth about the Indians and the missionaries.
Upon the return trip he rode over the trail he had followed alone to Red Lake and thence on to the Sagi, and it seemed that years had passed since he first entered this wild region which had come to be home, years that had molded him in the stern and fiery crucible of the desert.
In October Shefford arranged for a hunt in the Cresaw Mountains with Joe Lake and Nas Ta Bega. The Indian had gone home for a short visit, and upon his return the party expected to start. But Nas Ta Bega did not come back. Then the arrival of a Piute with news that excited Withers and greatly perturbed Lake convinced Shefford that something was wrong.
The little trading-post seldom saw such disorder; certainly Shefford had never known the trader to neglect work. Joe Lake threw a saddle on a mustang he would have scorned to notice in an ordinary moment, and without a word of explanation or farewell rode hard to the north on the Stonebridge trail.
Shefford had long since acquired patience. He was curious, but he did not care particularly what was in the wind. However, when Withers came out and sent an Indian to drive up the horses Shefford could not refrain from a query.
“I hate to tell you,” replied the trader.
“Go on,” added Shefford, quickly.
“Did I tell you about the government sending a Supreme Court judge out to Utah to prosecute the polygamists?”
“No,” replied Shefford.
“I forgot to, I reckon. You’ve been away a lot. Well, there’s been hell up in Utah for six months. Lately this judge and his men have worked down into southern Utah. He visited Bluff and Monticello a few weeks ago. . . . Now what do you think?”
“Withers! Is he coming to Stonebridge?”
“He’s there now. Some one betrayed the whereabouts of the hidden village over in the canyon. All the women have been arrested and taken to Stonebridge. The trial begins to-day.”
“Arrested!” echoed Shefford, blankly. “Those poor, lonely, good women? What on earth for?”
“Sealed wives!” exclaimed Withers, tersely. “This judge is after the polygamists. They say he’s absolutely relentless.”