“But—women can’t be polygamists. Their husbands are the ones wanted.”
“Sure. But the prosecutors have got to find the sealed wives—the second wives—to find the law-breaking husbands. That’ll be a job, or I don’t know Mormons. . . . Are you going to ride over to Stonebridge with me?”
Shefford shrank at the idea. Months of toil and pain and travail had not been enough to make him forget the strange girl he had loved. But he had remembered only at poignant intervals, and the lapse of time had made thought of her a dream like that sad dream which had lured him into the desert. With the query of the trader came a bitter-sweet regret.
“Better come with me,” said Withers. “Have you forgotten the Sago Lily? She’ll be put on trial. . . . That girl—that child! . . . Shefford, you know she hasn’t any friends. And now no Mormon man are protect her, for fear of prosecution.”
“I’ll go,” replied Shefford, shortly.
The Indian brought up the horses. Nack-yal was thin from his long travel during the hot summer, but he was as hard as iron, and the way he pointed his keen nose toward the Sagi showed how he wanted to make for the upland country, with its clear springs and valleys of grass. Withers mounted his bay and with a hurried farewell to his wife spurred the mustang into the trail. Shefford took time to get his weapons and the light pack he always carried, and then rode out after the trader.
The pace Withers set was the long, steady lope to which these Indian mustangs had been trained all their lives. In an hour they reached the mouth of the Sagi, and at sight of it it seemed to Shefford that the hard half-year of suffering since he had been there had disappeared. Withers, to Shefford’s regret, did not enter the Sagi. He turned off to the north and took a wild trail into a split of the red wall, and wound in and out, and climbed a crack so narrow that the light was obscured and the cliffs could be reached from both sides of a horse.
Once up on the wild plateau, Shefford felt again in a different world from the barren desert he had lately known. The desert had crucified him and had left him to die or survive, according to his spirit and his strength. If he had loved the glare, the endless level, the deceiving distance, the shifting sand, it had certainly not been as he loved this softer, wilder, more intimate upland. With the red peaks shining up into the blue, and the fragrance of cedar and pinyon, and the purple sage and flowers and grass and splash of clear water over stones—with these there came back to him something that he had lost and which had haunted him.
It seemed he had returned to this wild upland of color and canyon and lofty crags and green valleys and silent places with a spirit gained from victory over himself in the harsher and sterner desert below. And, strange to him, he found his old self, the dreamer, the artist, the lover of beauty, the searcher for he knew not what, come to meet him on the fragrant wind.