He thrilled even in his misery. Scooping up the muddy and sand-laden water, which was cold and held a taste of snow, he quenched his thirst and bathed his hot face. Then opening his pack, he took out food he had been careful to bring. Then he endeavoured to get his bearings.
Adam could see by the stain on the arrow-weeds that the flood had subsided a foot during the night. A reasonable calculation was that he had drifted a good many miles. Pushing away from the reeds, he set the oars and rowed out to meet the current. As soon as that caught him the motion became exhilarating. By and bye, what with the exercise and the cool breeze of morning on his face and the sweet, dank smell of river lowlands, he began to wear off the effects of the liquor and with it the disgust and sense of unfitness with which it had left him.
Then at length gloom faded from his mind, though a pang abided in his breast. It was not an unfamiliar sensation. Resolutely he faced that wide travelling river, grateful for something nameless that seemed borne on its bosom, conscious of a strange expansion of his soul, ready to see, to hear, to smell, to feel, to taste the wildness and wonder of freedom as he had dreamed it. The sun rose, and Adam's face and hands felt as if some hot material thing had touched them. He began to sweat, which was all that was needed to restore his usual healthy feeling of body.
From time to time he saw herons, and other long-legged waterfowl, and snipe flitting over the sand bars, and sombre, grey-hued birds that he could not name. The spell of river or desert hovered over these birds. The fact brought to Adam the strange nature of this silence. Like an invisible blanket it covered all, water and brush and land. When he raised the oars and rested them there seemed absolutely no sound. And this fact struck him overpoweringly with its meaning and with a sudden unfamiliar joy.
On the gentle wind came a fragrant hot breath that mingled with the rank odour of flooded bottom lands. The sun, hot as it was, felt good upon his face and back. He loved the sun, as he hated the cold. At length he espied a sloping bank where it appeared safe to risk landing. This was a cove comparatively free of brush, and the bank sloped gradually to the water. The summit of the bank was about forty or fifty feet high, and before Adam had wholly ascended it he began to see the bronze tips of mountains on all sides.
Some distance from the river bank stood a high knoll.
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Adam climbed to the top of it, and what he saw here made him yearn for the mountain peaks. He had never stood at any great elevation. Southward the Colorado appeared to enter a mountain gateway and to turn and disappear. When he had refreshed himself with food and drink he settled himself into a comfortable position to rest and sleep a little while. He had plucked at the roots of love, but not yet had he torn it from his heart. The old boyhood days flashed up. Adam found the pang deep in his heart and ineradicable. The old beautiful bond, the something warm and intimate between him and Guerd, was gone for ever.
For its loss there could be no recompense. He knew every hour would sever him the farther from this brother who had proved false. Adam hid his face in the dry grass, and there in the loneliness of that desert he began to see into the gulf of his soul. Then he set his mind to the problem of his immediate future. Where would he go? There were two points below on the river Picacho, a mining camp, and Yuma, a frontier town--about both of which he had heard strange, exciting tales.
And at that moment Adam felt a reckless eagerness for adventure, and a sadness for the retreating of his old dream of successful and useful life. At length he fell asleep. When he awoke he felt hot and wet with sweat. A luminous gold light shone through the willows and there was vivid colour in the west. He had slept hours. When he moved to sit up he heard rustlings in the willows. These unseen creatures roused interest and caution in Adam. In his travels across Arizona he had passed through wild places and incidents. And remembering tales of bad Indians, bad Mexicans, bad white men, and the fierce beasts and reptiles of the desert, Adam fortified himself to encounters that must come.
When he stepped out of the shady covert it was to see river and valley as if encompassed by an immense loneliness, different, somehow, for the few hours of his thought and slumber. The river seemed redder and the mountains veiled in ruby haze.
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Earth and sky were bathed in the hue of sunset light. He descended to the river. Shoving the boat off, he applied himself to the oars. His strong strokes, aided by the current, sent the boat along swiftly, perhaps ten miles an hour. The rose faded out of the sky, the clouds turned drab, the blue deepened, and a pale star shone.
With the cooling of the air Adam lay back more powerfully upon the oars. Night fell, and one by one, and then many by many, the stars came out. This night ride began to be thrilling. There must have been danger ahead. By night the river seemed vast, hurrying, shadowy, and silent as the grave. Its silence wore upon Adam until it seemed unnatural. As the stars multiplied and brightened, the deep cut where the river wound changed its character, becoming dark and clear where it had been gloomily impenetrable. The dim, high outlines of the banks showed, and above them loomed the black domes of mountains.
From time to time he turned the boat, and resting upon his oars, he drifted with the current, straining his eyes and ears. These moments of inaction brought the cold, tingling prickle of skin up and down his back. It was impossible not to be afraid, yet he thrilled even in his fear. In the clear obscurity of the night he could see several rods ahead of him over the gleaming river. But the peril that haunted Adam seemed more in the distant shadows, round the bends.
What a soundless, nameless, unintelligible river! To be alone on a river like that, so vast, so strange, with the grand and solemn arch of heaven blazed and clouded white by stars, taught a lesson incalculable in its effects. The hour came when an invisible something, like a blight, passed across the heavens, paling the blue, dimming the starlight. The intense purity of the sky sustained a dull change, then darkened. Adam welcomed the first faint gleam of light over the eastern horizon.
The wan stars faded. The mountains heightened their clearness of silhouette, and along the bold, dark outlines appeared a faint rose colour, herald of the sun. It deepened, it spread as the grey light turned pink and yellow. The shadows lifted from the river valley and it was day again. He drifted round a bend in the river while once more eating sparingly of his food; and suddenly he espied a high column of smoke rising to the southwest.
Whereupon he took the oars again and, having become rested and encouraged, he rowed with a stroke that would make short work of the few miles to the camp. I'll work at anything. Adam was not long in reaching the landing, which appeared to be only a muddy bank. A small, dilapidated stern-wheel steamer, such as Adam had seen on the Ohio River, lay resting upon the mud.
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On the bow sat a gaunt weather-beaten man with a grizzled beard. He held a long crooked fishing pole out over the water, and evidently was fishing. The bank sloped up to fine white sand and a dense growth of green, in the middle of which there appeared to be a narrow lane. Here in a flowing serape stood a Mexican girl, slender and small, with a single touch of red in all her darkness of dress. Adam ran the boat ashore. Lifting his pack, he climbed a narrow bench of the bank and walked down to a point opposite the fisherman.
Adam greeted him and inquired if this place was Picacho.
No Westerner would tackle the Colorado when she was in flood. I opine you hit the river at Ehrenberg. Goin' to prospect for gold? But a husky lad like you, if he stayed sober, could strike it rich in the diggin's. It's a few miles up the canyon. But say, I'm forgettin' about the feller who stayed here with the Mexicans. They jest buried him. You could get his place. It's the 'dobe house--first one. Thus directed, Adam saw the Mexican girl standing above him. Climbing the path to the top of the bank, he threw down his pack.
Adam's Spanish was not that of the Mexicans, but it enabled him to talk fairly well. He replied to the girl's greeting, yet hesitated with the query he had on his lips. He felt a slight shrinking as these dark eyes reminded him of others of like allurement which he had willed to forget. Yet he experienced a warmth and thrill of pleasure in a pretty face. Women invariably smiled upon Adam. This one, a girl in her teens, smiled with half-lowered eyes, the more provocative for that; and she turned partly away with a lithe, quick grace. Adam's hesitation had been a sudden chill at the proximity of something feminine and attractive--of something that had hurt him.
He had done more than boldly step across the threshold of a new and freer life. For Adam's questions Margarita had a shy, "Si, senor," and the same subtle smile that had attracted him. Whereupon he took up his pack and followed her. Back from the river the sand was thick and heavy, clean and white. The girl led down a path bordered by willows and mesquites which opened into a clearing where stood several squat adobe houses. Margarita stopped at the first house.
The girl's mother appeared to be an indolent person, rather careless of her attire. She greeted Adam in English, but when he exercised some of his laborsome Spanish her dark face beamed with smiles that made it pleasant to behold. The little room indoors, to which she led Adam, was dark, poorly ventilated, and altogether unsatisfactory. The senora waxed eloquent. Margarita managed to convey her great disappointment by one swift look. Then they led him outdoors and round under the low-branching mesquites, where he had to stoop, to a small structure.
The walls were made of two rows of long slender poles, nailed upon heavier uprights at the corners, and between these rows had been poured wet adobe mud. The hut contained two rooms, the closed one full of wood and rubbish, and the other, which had an open front, like a porch, faced the river. It was empty, with a floor of white sand. This appeared very much to Adam's liking, and he agreed upon a price for it, to the senora's satisfaction and Margarita's shy rapture. Adam saw the latter with some misgiving, yet he was pleased, and in spite of himself he warmed toward this pretty senorita who had apparently taken a sudden fancy to him.
He was a stranger in a strange land, with a sore and yearning heart. While Adam untied his pack and spread out its contents the women fetched a low bench, a bucket of water, and a basin. These simple articles constituted the furniture of his new lodgings. He was to get his meals at the house, where, it was assured, he would be well cared for.
In moving away, Margarita, who was looking back, caught her hair in a thorny branch of the mesquite. Adam was quick to spring to her assistance. Then she ran off after her mother. Suddenly at that moment he thought of his brother Guerd. Guerd was a handsome devil, irresistible to women. Adam went back to his unpacking, conscious of a sobered enthusiasm. He hung his few clothes and belongings upon the walls, made his bed of blankets on the sand, and then surveyed the homely habitation with pleasure.
Adam saw that he was about fifty years old, lean and dried, with a wrinkled tanned face and scant beard. Young man, you're an obligin' feller. Adam told him, and that he hailed from the East and had been a tenderfoot for several memorable weeks. Reckon you're about twenty. I've made an' lost more than one fortune. Drink an' faro an' bad women!
And now I'm a broken-down night watchman at Picacho. Won't you tell me about them? You see, I'm footloose now and sort of wild. He studied Adam with eyes that were shrewd and penetrating, for all their kindliness. Wherefore Adam talked frankly about himself and his travels West. Merryvale listened with a nod now and then. But this gold diggin's is a hell of a place for a tough old timer, let alone a boy runnin' wild. And then he began to talk like a man whose memory was a vast treasure store of history and adventure and life.
Gold had been discovered at Picacho in In the mill was erected near the river, and the ore was mined five miles up the canyon and hauled down on a narrow-gauge railroad. The machinery and construction for this great enterprise, together with all supplies, were brought by San Francisco steamers round into the Gulf of California, loaded on smaller steamers, and carried up the Colorado River to Picacho. These steamers also hauled supplies to Yuma and Ehrenberg, where they were freighted by wagon trains into the interior.
At the present time, , the mine was paying well and there were between five and six hundred men employed. The camp was always full of adventurers and gamblers, together with a few bad women whose capacity for making trouble magnified their number. An' the gamblin' hells are all up at the camp, where, in fact, everybody goes of an evenin'.
Lord knows I've bucked the tiger in every gold camp in California. There's a fever grips a man. I never seen the good of gold to the man thet dug it So, son, if you're askin' me for a hunch, let me tell you, drink little an' gamble light an' fight shy of the females! I can't stand liquor. Adam's face lost its brightness and his eyes shadowed, though they held frankly to Merryvale's curious gaze. Wal, for thet matter, all the trouble anywheres is made by them.
But in the desert, where it's wild an' hot an' there's few females of any species, the fightin' gets bloody. This country is no place for a nice clean boy, more's the shame and pity. Every man who gets on in the West, let alone in the desert where the West is magnified, has got to live up to the standard. He must work, he must endure, he must fight men, he must measure up to women.
I ain't sayin' it's a fine standard, but it's the one by which men have survived in a hard country at a hard time. Thet law makes the livin' things of this desert, whether man or otherwise. You can never tell what's in a man till he's tried. Son, I've known desert men whose lives were beyond all understandin'. But not one man in a thousand can live on the desert. Thet has to do with his mind first; then his endurance. But to come back to this here Picacho. I'd not be afraid to back you against it if you meet it right.
I'm here for better or worse. Back home I had my hopes, my dreams.
I've no near relatives except a brother who--who is not my kind. I didn't want to come West. But I seem to have been freed from a cage. This grand wild desert! It will do something wonderful--or terrible with me. But now I'm old, an' as I go down the years I remember more my youth an' I love it more.
You can trust me. Don't shirk work or play or fight. Eat an' drink an' be merry, but don't live jest for thet. Lend a helpin' hand--be generous with your gold. Put aside a third of your earnin's for gamblin' an' look to lose it. Don't ever get drunk. You can't steer clear of women, good or bad. An' the only way is to be game an' kind an' square. While passing the adobe house where Adam had engaged board and lodging he asked his companion the name of the people.
He's a foreman of the Mexicans employed at the mill. His wife is nice, too. But thet black-eyed hussy Margarita". Merryvale shook his grizzled head, but did not complete his dubious beginning. The suggestion piqued Adam's curiosity. Presently Merryvale pointed out a cluster of huts and cabins and one rather pretentious stone house, low and square, with windows. Both white- and dark-skinned children were playing on the sand in the shady places. Idle men lounged in front of the stone house, which Merryvale said was the store.
Upon entering, Adam saw a complete general store of groceries, merchandise, hardware, and supplies; and he felt amazed until he remembered how the river steamers made transportation easy as far as the border of the desert. Then Merryvale led on to the huge structure of stone and iron and wood that Adam had espied from far up the river. As Adam drew near he heard the escape of steam, the roar of heavy machinery, and a sound that must have been a movement and crushing of ore, with a rush of flowing water.
Merryvale evidently found the manager, who was a man of medium height, powerfully built, with an unshaven broad face, strong and ruddy. He wore a red-flannel shirt, wet with sweat, a gun at his belt, overalls thrust into cowhide boots; and altogether he looked a rough and practical miner. Also he was aware of one quick all-embracing glance. You can help me in the office where I'm stuck. An' I'll give you outside work, besides.
Adam had to laugh at the incident. Here he had been recommended by a stranger, engaged to work for a man whose name he had not heard and who had not asked his, and no mention made of wages. Adam liked this simplicity. Merryvale went on his way then, leaving Adam alone. It seemed to Adam, as he pondered there, that his impressions of that gold mill did not auger well for a satisfaction with his job. He had no distaste for hard labour, though to bend over a desk did not appeal to him.
Then he turned his gaze to the river and valley. What a splendid scene! The green borderland offered soft and relieving contrast to the bare and grisly ridges upon which stood. At that distance the river shone red gold, sweeping through its rugged iron gateway and winding majestically down the valley to lose itself round a bold bluff. Adam drew a long breath. A scene like this world of mountain wilderness, of untrodden ways, was going to take hold of him. And then, singularly, there flashed into memory an image of the girl, Margarita.
Just then Adam resented thought of her. It was not because she had made eyes at him--for he had to confess this was pleasing but because he did not like the idea of a deep and vague emotion running parallel in his mind with thought of a roguish and coquettish little girl, of doubtful yet engaging possibilities. It was action he needed. Work, play, hunting, exploring, even gold digging--anything with change of scene and movement of muscle--these things that he had instinctively felt to be the need of his body, now seemed equally the need of his soul.
Arallanes, the foreman, did not strike Adam as being typical of the Mexicans among whom he lived. He was not a little runt of a swarthy-skinned man, but well built, of a clean olive complexion and regular features. After supper Arallanes invited Adam to ride up to the camp. Whereupon Margarita asked to be taken. Arallanes laughed, and then talked so fast that Adam could not understand. He gathered, however, that the empty ore train travelled up the canyon to the camp, there to remain until morning.
Also Adam perceived that Margarita did not get along well with this man, who was her stepfather. They appeared on the verge of a quarrel. But the senora spoke a few soft words that worked magic upon Arallanes, though they did not change the passion of the girl. How swiftly she had paled!
Her black eyes burned with a dusky fire. When she turned them upon Adam it was certain that he had a new sensation. That was how Adam translated her swift, eloquent words. Embarrassed and hesitating, he felt that he cut a rather sorry figure before her. Then he realised the singular beauty of her big eyes, sloe black and brilliant, neither half veiled nor shy now, but bold and wide and burning, as if the issue at stake was not trivial. The girl's red lips curled in pouting scorn, and with a wonderful dusky flash of eyes she whirled away.
She damn leetle wild cat--mucha Indian--on fire all time. If ever Adam had felt the certainty of his youthful years, it had been during those last few moments. His collar was hot and tight. A sense of shock remained with him. He had not fortified himself at all, nor had he surrendered himself to recklessness.
But to think of going to a dance this very night, in a mining camp, with a dusky-eyed little Spanish girl who appeared exactly what Arallanes had called her--the very idea took Adam's breath with the surprise of it, the wildness of it, the strange appeal to him. He mos dam' sure have tough feet soon on Picacho! They climbed to the track where the ore train stood, already with labourers in almost every car.
After a little wait that seemed long to the impatient Adam the train started. The track was built a few feet above the sand, but showed signs of having been submerged, and in fact washed out in places. The canyon was tortuous, and grew more so as it narrowed. Adam descried tunnels dug in the red walls and holes dug in gravel benches, which places Arallanes explained had been made by prospectors hunting for gold. It developed, however, that there was a considerable upgrade. That seemed a long five miles to Adam.
The train halted and the labourers yelled merrily. Arallanes led Adam up a long winding path, quite steep, and the other men followed in single file. When Adam reached a level once more, Arallanes called out, "Picacho! But he certainly could not have meant the wide gravelly plateau with its squalid huts, its adobe shacks, its rambling square of low flat buildings, like a stockade fort roofed with poles and dirt.
Arallanes meant the mountain that dominated the place--Picacho, the Peak. Adam faced the west as the sun was setting. The mountain, standing magnificently above the bold knobs and ridges around it, was a dark purple mass framed in sunset gold; and from its frowning summit, notched and edged, streamed a long ruddy golden ray of sunlight that shone down through a wind-worn hole. With the sun blocked and hidden except for that small aperture there was yet a wonderful effect of sunset. A ruddy haze, shading the blue, filled the canyons and the spaces. Picacho seemed grand there, towering to the sky, crowned in gold, aloof, unscalable, a massive rock sculptured by the ages.
Arallanes laughed at Adam, then sauntered on. Mexicans jabbered as they passed, and some of the white men made jocular comment at the boy standing there so wide-eyed and still. A little Irishman gaped at Adam and said to a comrade:. What-th'-hell now, me young fri'nd? Come hev a drink. Adam had not been prepared for such a spectacle of grandeur and desolation. He seemed to feel himself a mite flung there, encompassed by colossal and immeasurable fragments of upheaved rock, jagged and jutted, with never a softening curve, and all steeped in vivid and intense light. The plateau was a ridged and scarred waste, lying under the half circle of range behind, and sloping down toward where the river lay hidden.
The range to the left bore a crimson crest, and it lost itself in a region of a thousand peaks. The range to the right was cold pure purple and it ended in a dim infinity. Between these ranges, far flung across the Colorado, loomed now with exquisite clearness in Adam's sight the mountain world he had gotten a glimpse of from below. But now he perceived its marvellous all-embracing immensity, magnified by the transparent light, its limitless horizon line an illusion, its thin purple distances unbelievable. The lilac-veiled canyons lay clear in his sight; the naked bones of the mountains showed hungrily the nature of the desert earth; and over all the vast area revealed by the setting sun lay the awful barrenness of a dead world, beautiful and terrible, with its changing rose and topaz hues only mockeries to the lover of life.
Then he led Adam into a big, poorly lighted, low-ceiled place, as crudely constructed as a shed, and full of noise and smoke. The attraction seemed to be a rude bar, various gambling games, and some hawk-faced, ghastly spectacles of women drinking with men at the tables. From an adjoining apartment came discordant music. This scene was intensely interesting to Adam, yet disappointing.
His first sight of a wild frontier gambling hell did not thrill him. It developed that Arallanes liked to drink and talk loud and laugh, and to take a bold chance at a gambling game. But Adam refused, and meant to avoid drinking as long as he could. He wandered around by himself, to find that everybody was merry and friendly. Adam tried not to look at any of the women while they looked at him. The apartment from which came the music was merely a bare canvas-covered room with a board floor.
Dancing was going on. Adam's aimless steps finally led him back to the sand-floored hall, where he became absorbed in watching a game of poker that a bystander said had no limit. Then Adam sauntered on, and presently was attracted by a quarrel among some Mexicans.
To his surprise, it apparently concerned Arallanes. All of them showed the effects of liquor, and, after the manner of their kind, they were gesticulating and talking excitedly. Suddenly one of them drew a knife and lunged toward Arallanes. Adam saw the movement, and then the long shining blade, before he saw what the man looked like. That action silenced the little group. The outstretched hand, quivering with the skewer-like dagger, paused in its sweep as it reached a point opposite Adam.
Instinctively he leaped, and quick as a flash he caught the wrist in a grip so hard that the fellow yelled. Adam, now that he possessed the menacing hand, did not know what to do with it. With a powerful jerk he pulled the Mexican off his feet, and then, exerting his strength to his utmost, he swung him round, knocking over men and tables, until his hold loosened. The knife flew one way and the Mexican the other. He lay where he fell.
Arallanes and his comrades made much of Adam. Adam's next change of emotion was from fright to a sense of foolishness at his standing there. Then he had another drink, and after his feelings changed again, and for that matter the whole complexion of everything changed. He never could have found the narrow path leading down into the canyon. Arallanes was his guide. Walking on the sandy floor was hard work and made him sweat.
The loose sand and gravel dragged at his feet. Not long was it before he had walked off the effects of the strong liquor. He became curious as to why the Mexican had threatened Arallanes, and was told that during the day the foreman had discharged this fellow. Have a care of Margarita. She has as many loves and lives as a spotted cat. For the most part, however, the two men were silent on this laborious walk. By and bye the canyon widened out so that Adam could view the great expanse of sky, fretted with fire, and the mountain spurs, rising on all sides, cold and dark against the blue.
At last Arallanes announced that they were home. Adam had not seen a single house in the grey shadows. A few more steps, however, brought tangible substance of walls to Adam's touch. Then he drew a long deep breath and realised how tired he was. The darkness gradually changed from pitch black to a pale obscurity. He could see dim, spectral outlines of mesquites, and a star shining through.
At first the night appeared to be absolutely silent, but after a while, by straining his ears, he heard a rustling of mice or ground squirrels in the adobe walls. The sound comforted him, however, and when one of them, or at least some little animal, ran softly, over his bed the feeling of utter loneliness was broken. The silence, the darkness, the loneliness seemed to give him deeper thought.
The thing that puzzled him and alarmed him was what seemed to be swift changes going on in him. If he changed his mind every hour, now cast down because of memories he could not wholly shake, or lifted to strange exaltation by the beauty of a desert sunset, or again swayed by the appeal of a girl's dusky eyes, and then instinctively leaping into a fight with a Mexican--if he were going to be as vacillating and wild as these impulses led him to suppose he might be, it was certain that he faced a hopeless future.
But could he help himself? Then it seemed his fine instincts, his fine principles, and the hopes and dreams that would not die, began to contend with a new up-rising force in him, a wilder something he had never known, a strange stirring and live emotion. Glad to be alone! Glad to come into this wild desert!
Glad that girl made eyes at me! I'll not lie to myself. I wanted to hug her--to kiss her--and I'll do it if she'll let me That gambling hell disgusted me, and sight of the greaser's knife scared me cold. Yet when I got hold of him--felt my strength--how helpless he was--that I could have cracked his bones--why, scared as I was, I felt a strange wild something that is not gone yet It's a different life. And I've got to meet things as they come, and be game.
Next morning Adam went to work and it developed that this was to copy MacKay's lead-pencil scrawls, and after that was done to keep accurate account of ore mined and operated. Several days passed before Adam caught up with his work to the hour. Then MacKay, true to his word, said he would set him on a man's job part of the time. The job upon which MacKay put Adam was no less than keeping up the fire under the huge boilers.
As wood had to be used for fuel and as it was consumed rapidly, the task of stoking was not easy. Besides, hot as the furnace was, it seemed the sun was hotter. Adam sweat till he could wring water out of his shirt. That night he made certain MacKay was playing a joke on him. Arallanes confided this intelligence, and even Margarita had been let into the secret.
MacKay had many labourers for the hard work, and he wanted to cure the tenderfoot of his desire for a man's job, such as he had asked for. It was all good-natured, and amused Adam. He imagined he knew what he needed, and while he was trying to find it he could have just as much fun as MacKay. Much to MacKay's surprise, Adam presented himself next afternoon, in boots, overalls, and undershirt, to go on with his job of firing the engine.
Then it pleased Adam to see a considerable evidence of respect, in the rough mill operator's expression. For a week Adam kept up with his office work and laboured each afternoon at the stoking job. No one suspected that he suffered, though it was plain enough that he lost flesh and was exceedingly fatigued.
Then Margarita's reception of him, when he trudged home in the waning sunset hour, was sweet despite the fact that he tried to repudiate its sweetness. Once she put a little brown hand on his blistered arm, and her touch held the tenderness of woman.
Wanderer of the Wasteland
All women must be akin. They liked a man who could do things, and the greater his feats of labour or fight the better they liked him. The following week MacKay took a Herculean labourer off a strenuous job with the ore and put Adam in his place. MacKay maintained his good humour, but he had acquired a little grimness. This long-limbed tenderfoot was a hard nut to crack.
Adam's father had been a man of huge stature and tremendous strength; and many a time had Adam heard it said that he might grow to be like his father. Far indeed was he from that now; but he took the brawny and seasoned labourer's place and kept it. If the other job had been toil for Adam, this new one was pain. He learned there what labour meant. Also he learned how there was only one thing that common men understood and respected in a labourer, and it was the grit and muscle to stand the grind.
Adam was eighteen years old and far from having reached his growth. This fact might have been manifest to his fellow workers, but it was not that which counted. He realised that those long hours of toil at which he stubbornly stuck had set his spirit in some immeasurable and unquenchable relation to the strange life that he divined was to be his. Two weeks and more went by. MacKay, in proportion to the growth of his admiration and friendship for Adam, gradually weakened on his joke.
And one day, when banteringly he dared Adam to tip a car of ore that two Mexicans were labouring at, and Adam in a single heave sent the tons of ore roaring into the shaft, then MacKay gave up and in true Western fashion swore his defeat and shook hands with the boy. So in those few days Adam made friends who changed the colour and direction of his life.
From Merryvale he learned the legend and history of the frontier. MacKay opened his eyes to the great health for mind and body in sheer toil. Arallanes represented a warmth of friendship that came unsought, showing what might be hidden in any man. Margarita was still an unknown quantity in Adam's development. Their acquaintance had gone on mostly under the eyes of the senora or Arallanes.
Sometimes at sunset Adam had sat with her on the sand of the river bank. Then the unexpected happened. A break occurred in the machinery and a small but invaluable part could not be repaired. It had to come from San Francisco. Adam seemed to be thrown back upon his own resources.
He did not know what to do with himself. Arallanes advised him not to go panning for gold, and to be cautious if he went up to Picacho, for the Mexican, Adam had so roughly handled was the ringleader in a bad gang that it would be well to avoid. All things conspired, it seemed, to throw Adam into the company of Margarita, who always waited around the corner of every hour watching with her dusky eyes.
So as the slow, solemn days drifted onward, like the wonderful river which dominated the desert valley, it came to pass that the dreaming, pondering Adam suddenly awakened to the danger in this dusky-eyed maiden. The realisation came to Adam at the still sunset hour when he and Margarita were watching the river slide like a gleam of gold out of the west. They were walking among the scattered mesquites along the sandy bank, a place lonesome and hidden from the village behind, yet open to the wide space of river and valley beyond. The air seemed full of marvelous tints of gold and rose and purple.
The majestic scene, beautiful and sad, needed life to make it perfect. Adam, more than usually drawn by Margarita's sympathy, was trying to tell her something of the burden on his mind, that he was alone in the world, with only a hard grey future before him, with no one to care whether he lived or died. Then had come his awakening. It did not speak well for Margarita's conceptions of behavior, but it proved her a creature of heart and blood.
To be suddenly enveloped by a wind of flame, in the slender twining form of this girl of Spanish nature, was for Adam at once a revelation and a catastrophe. But if he was staggered, he was also responsive, as in a former moment of poignancy he had vowed he would be. A strong and shuddering power took hold of his heart and he felt the leap, the beat, the burn of his blood.
When he lifted Margarita and gathered her in a close embrace it was more than a hot upflashing of boyish passion that flushed his face and started tears from under his tight-shut eyelids. It was a sore hunger for he knew not what, a gratefulness that he could express only by violence, a yielding to something deeper and more far-reaching than was true of the moment.
Adam loosened Margarita's hold upon his neck and held her back from him so he could see her face. It was sweet, rosy. Her eyes were shining, black and fathomless as night, soft with a light that had never shone upon Adam from any other woman's. Then he bent to her lips, and from these first real kisses that had ever been spent upon him by a woman he realised in one flash his danger.
He released Margarita in a consideration she did not comprehend; and in her pouting reproach, her soft-eyed appeal, her little brown hands that would not let go of him, there was further menace to his principles. Her reply seemed to rebuke Adam, for he sensed in it what might be true of life, rather than just of this one little girl, swayed by unknown and uncontrollable forces. She appeared to him then subtly and strongly, as if there was infinitely more than willful love in her.
But it did not seem to be the peril of her proffered love that restrained Adam so much as the strange consciousness of the willingness of his spirit to meet hers halfway. Suddenly Margarita's mood changed. She became like a cat that had been purring under a soft, agreeable hand and then had been stroked the wrong way.
Adam might have resented this insulting hint but for his uncertainty of himself, his consequent embarrassment, and his thrilling sense of the nearness of her blazing eyes. What a little devil she looked! This did not antagonize Adam, but it gave him proof of his impudence, of his dreaming carelessness. Margarita might not be a girl to whom he should have made love, but it was too late. Besides, he did not regret that. Only he was upset; he wanted to think. This swift speech, inflexible and wonderful with a passion that revealed to Adam the half-savage nature of a woman whose race was alien to his, astounded and horrified him, and yet made his blood tingle wildly.
How have I offended you? What is it you want? Adam answered to that with the wildness that truly seemed flashing more and more from him; and the laughter and boldness on his lips hid the gravity that had settled there. He was no clod. Under the softness of him hid a flint that struck fire.
As Margarita had been alluring and provocative, then as furious as a barbarian queen, so she now changed again to another personality in which it pleased her to be proud, cold, aloof, an outraged woman to be wooed back to tenderness. If, at the last moment of the walk home, Margarita evinced signs of another sudden transformation, Adam appeared not to note them. Leaving her in the dusk at the door where the senora sat, he strode away to the bank of the river.
When he felt himself free and safe once more, he let out a great breath of relief. Now I've done it! So, she'd cut my heart out? And I had to swear I loved her! But she's amazing--and she's adorable, with all her cat claws. Wouldn't Guerd rave over a girl like Margarita?
And here I am, standing on my two feet, in possession of all my faculties, Adam Larey, a boy who thought he had principles--yet now I'm a ranting lover of a dark-skinned, black-eyed slip of a greaser girl! It can't be true! With that outburst came sobering thought. Adam's resolve not to ponder and brood about himself was as if it had never been.
He knew he would never make such a resolve again. For hours he strolled up and down the sandy bank, deep in thought, yet aware of the night and the stars, the encompassing mountains, and the silent, gleaming river winding away in the gloom. As he had become used to being alone out in the solitude and darkness, there had come to him a vague awakening sense of their affinity with his nature. Success and people might fail and betray him, but the silent, lonely starlit nights were going to be teachers, even as they had been to the Wise Men of the Arabian waste.
Adam at length gave up in despair and went to bed, hoping in slumber to forget a complexity of circumstance and emotion that seemed to him an epitome of his callow helplessness. The desert began to loom to Adam as a region inimical to comfort and culture. He had almost decided that the physical nature of the desert was going to be good for him. But what of its spirit, mood, passion as typified by Margarita Arallanes? Adam could ask himself that far-reaching query, and yet, all the answer he got was a rush of hot blood at memory of the sweet fire of her kisses.
He saw her to be a simple child of the desert, like an Indian, answering to savage impulses, wholly unconscious of what had been a breach of womanly reserve and restraint. Was she good or bad? How could she be bad if she did not know any better? Thus Adam pondered and conjectured, and cursed his ignorance, and lamented his failings, all the time honest to acknowledge that he was fond of Margarita and drawn to her. About the only conclusion he formed from his perplexity was the one that he owed it to Margarita to live up to his principles. At this juncture he recollected Merryvale's significant remarks about the qualities needed by men who were to survive in the desert, and his nobler sentiments suffered a rout.
The suddenness, harshness, fierceness of the desert grafted different and combating qualities upon a man or else it snuffed him out, like a candle blown by a gusty wind. Next morning, as every morning, the awakening was sweet, fresh, new, hopeful. And the wonderful dry keenness of the air, the colours that made the earth seem a land of enchantment, were enough in themselves to make life worth living.
In the morning he always felt like a boy. Margarita's repentance for her moods of yesterday took a material turn in the preparation of an unusually good breakfast for Adam. He was always hungry and good meals were rare. Adam liked her attentions, and he encouraged them; though not before the senora or Arallanes, for the former approved too obviously and the latter disapproved too mysteriously. He encountered MacKay coming ashore in the company of a man and two women, one of whom was young. The manager showed a beaming face for the first time in many days. Repairs for the mill engine had come.
MacKay at once introduced Adam to the party; and it so turned out that presently the manager, who was extremely busy, left his friends for Adam to entertain. They were people whom Adam liked immediately, and as the girl was pretty, of a blonde type seldom seen in the south-west, it seemed to Adam that his task was more than agreeable, He showed them around the little village and then explained how interesting it would be for them to see the gold mill.
How long a time it seemed since he had been in the company of a girl like those he had known at home! She was merry, intelligent, a little shy. He was invited aboard the boat to have lunch with the mother and daughter. Everything tended to make this a red-letter day for Adam. The hours passed all too swiftly and time came for the boat to depart. When the boat swung free from the shore Adam read in the girl's eyes the thought keen in his own mind--that they would never meet again.
The round of circumstances might never again bring a girl like that into Adam's life, if it were to be lived in these untrodden ways. He waved his hand with all the eloquence which it would express. Then the obtruding foliage on the bank hid the boat and the girl was gone. His last thought was a selfish one--that his brother Guerd would not see her at Ehrenberg. Some of MacKay's labourers were working with unloaded freight on the dock. One of these was Regan, the little Irishman who had been keen to mark Adam on several occasions.
He winked at MacKay and pointed at Adam. MacKay roared with laughter and looked significantly past Adam as if this mirth was not wholly due to his presence alone. Someone else seemed implicated. Margarita stood there, with face and mien of a tragedy queen, and it seemed to Adam that her burning black eyes did not see anything in the world but him. Then, with one of her swift actions, graceful and lithe, yet violent, she wheeled and fled.
He had absolutely forgotten Margarita's existence. Most assuredly she had seen every move of his with her big eyes, and read his mind, too. He could not see the humour of his situation at the moment, but as he took a short cut through the shady mesquites toward his hut, he presently espied Margarita in ambush.
What fiendish glee this predicament of his would have aroused in his brother Guerd! Adam, the lofty, the supercilious, had come a cropper at last--such would have been Guerd's scorn and rapture! Margarita came rushing from the side, right upon him even as he turned. So swiftly she came that he could not get a good look at her, but she appeared a writhing, supple little thing, instinct with fury. Hissing Spanish maledictions, she flung herself upward, and before he could ward her off she had slapped and scratched his face and beat wildly at him with flying brown fists.
He thrust her away, but she sprang back. Then, suddenly hot with anger, he grasped her and, jerking her off her feet, he shook her with far from gentle force, and did not desist till he saw that he was hurting her. Letting her down and holding her at arm's length, he gazed hard at the white face framed by dishevelled black hair and lighted by eyes so magnificently expressive of supreme passion that his anger was shocked into wonder and admiration.
Right there a conception dawned in his mind--he was seeing a spirit through eyes developed by the desert. The expulsion of her breath, the bursting swell of her breast, the quiver of her whole lissom body, all were exceedingly potent of an intensity that utterly amazed Adam. Such a little girl, such a frail strength, such a deficient brain to hold all that passion! What would she do if she had real cause for wrath? She repeated her passionate utterance, and Adam saw that he could no more change her then than he could hope to move the mountain.
Resentment stirred in him. Then he released his hold on her arms and, turning away without another glance in her direction, he strode from the glade. He took the gun he had repaired and set off down the river trail. When he got into the bottom lands of willow and cottonwood he glided noiselessly along, watching and listening for game of some kind.
In the wide mouth of a wash not more than a mile from the village, Adam halted to admire some exceedingly beautiful trees. The dialogue gets a little long-winded and expository at times but it is pretty rare. The chemistry between Knile and Ursie is a pretty interesting dynamic but at times I thought a little contrived. I liked both of them a lot but sometimes their interaction would take a leap or shift in a direction that felt unnatural.
All of it realigned towards the end, which partially explained the unusual dynamic between them. There were some truly great scenes, and lots of action. I did start to wear down at about the three quarters mark but everything pulled together at the end. As far as indie sci-fi goes, this is definitely up there.
The sometimes awkward, sappy dialogue and the length took a little away but it still very much deserves 5 stars. This was an exciting and thrilling ride! Mark has a great capability of keeping the reader engaged and entertained with character insights and fantastic attention to details of their surroundings and thoughts. Can't wait to read book 2 and continue reading of Knile's journey! I had to read it in spurts as my wintertime job has me pretty occupied with lots of snow this year, but was very easy to pick up and get into the thick of things when the times to read come about!
Awesome action and intrigue Absolutely loved every turn this book took me through! Spellbinding is another word I could use to describe the story! Knile is a wonderful character I felt easy to relate to. The "Happy Ending" was unexpected. Looking forward to next book in this series.. I received this in exchange for an honest review. I did read it in spurts and do feel some content could be cut down, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Healy introduced some diverse characters as well as scenery. The world has gone into the crapper. Humans have depleted Earth's natural resources, the air is toxic, and food is scarce. Money still wins the game. The Reach is a massive structure which provides commerce and shelter, but also holds the pathway to an elevator that reaches into space. On the other side - the potential for a new life and escape from a dying land. The price of admission varies, but it takes an off-world sponsor to secure travel accommodations. An anonymous sponsor provides a ticket for Knile Oberend, whom has been surviving off the grid in an environment that is worse than the slums and crumbling city.
He has a past in the civilized arena, but is a wanted man and keeps a low profile. Of course, the lure of a ride up brings him back into the fold and into his adversary's reach. A cop is after him for crimes and a powerful criminal wants the ticket for himself. The three converge in a cat and mouse game where the maze is a vertical megalith - a race for life, death, retribution, and escape. There are plenty of action scenes as well as fun characters. This is book one of a series or trilogy - that I don't know or haven't' looked up. The pace is pretty fluid and some of the different scenes and characters are, I believe, needed to set the stage for future adventure.
The author provided a copy for review. I read it over eight or nine days and it is about pages This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Earthbound is Mark R. Healy's 4th novel and the first in a new trilogy of books following in from The Silent Earth series. Earth is not the paradise it once was and those unfortunate to still be living on it are dying from airborne toxins, starvation and crime.
The only way off the planet is by space elevator and everyone but everyone wants a ticket. The story revolves around a young world weary man named Knile Oberand who out of the blue is given a passkey to get off the planet and start over Earthbound is Mark R. The story revolves around a young world weary man named Knile Oberand who out of the blue is given a passkey to get off the planet and start over. The only problem is that he is wanted by a cop on a mission and is being hunted by an organised crime lord who wants his passkey.
Mark has weaved a thrilling roller coaster ride of a sci-fi thriller. I could almost feel myself casting the movie as I was going along. It's a relentless journey and the pace never stops with the whole novel being set over just a couple of days. In all his novels Mark has a great ability to hold your attention and make you care for his characters. I am very much looking forward to book 2 where I look forward to seeing some of the supporting characters from this novel again That's what Mark does May 11, Kathryn Barnett rated it it was amazing.
Healy The earth is almost dead. The food, water and the air are all polluted and the natural resources are gone. Most of the people have been evacuated years ago now live in habitats established on other planets, stars etc. The people left either don't want to go or have no way of leaving.
To leave, your travel must be paid for and you must be sponsored by someone in a habitat. Needless to say, the desire to leave is far greater than the ability. Knile has lived on the streets most of his life and therefore very surprised when he finds out he has been sponsored and has a pass to leave. He must reach the departure area at the Reach within 48 hours and oh yeah, he also has promised to take a young girl who needs to drop off a package with the buyer.
No problem, it also seems that a gangster wants his pass, and a police inspector wants him for his past deeds. No problem soon turns into a big problem. Can he make it alive? I would recommend this book to all. Oct 07, Bob rated it liked it. Earth is nearing its end as far as life is concerned, the air is toxic, the resources are depleted and life for humans is desperate except for the few who live in the upper reaches of the tower that is the connection to travel to colonies on the moon and beyond.
At this point only a few can make the jump if they have a pass provided by an off earth sponsor. Knile Oberend a schemer, sometime thief and survivor has almost managed to reach the top of the tower but a miscalculation in hacking the ga Earth is nearing its end as far as life is concerned, the air is toxic, the resources are depleted and life for humans is desperate except for the few who live in the upper reaches of the tower that is the connection to travel to colonies on the moon and beyond.
Knile Oberend a schemer, sometime thief and survivor has almost managed to reach the top of the tower but a miscalculation in hacking the gate to the departure level to space ruins his chance. He has now learned that he has been given a pass key if he can reach the jump off point in time for the next departure. As he makes his way to the tower base he is convinced to to take a street waif who has a briefcase she says has a buyer waiting her at the jump off point. Working their way up through the levels of the tower, dodging the security forces and a wealthy crime boss who is after Knile's pass they have many close calls.
Do they make it? What happens if they do? You have to read it to discover for yourself. Jun 04, Philippe rated it it was amazing. It took me a bit of time to get into it but in the end I really like the story. The caracters are likable well some at least! I started reading the second book in the series and am glad that they are still in the stories. In the near future after we finally completely destroyed the ecosystem on Earth some have managed to get off the planet while the rest have to survive. Very tight writing, professional. The story was good and unique as were the characters.
A couple of instances where tense, confrontational dialogue felt a bit stilted but very good as a whole. I did feel like the story started to bog down a bit as he continued to climb the tower, but I never lost interest. Jun 08, Nicolas Bousquet rated it liked it. I read the whole serie a few months ago. This isn't a best in class or some book that'll you remember for you whole life like Dune as an example was at least for me , but it is ok.
There several books in the serie but the same idea present in the first book is reused with a different story. The place and the story mechanics keep rougly the same. Jun 01, Charl rated it did not like it Shelves: It's dull, it's boring, the characters are shallow and uninteresting, the plot is uninteresting, and I've stuck with it hoping it would show a glimmer of something to make it worth reading.
Liked it I liked this story, it was fairly well written and contained good action. The story line was believable and not to outlandish to be fun. Earth is dying, and the only way out is up The Reach-the last heavily guarded space elevator-and off planet. Knile Oberend is the protagonist who mysteriously receives a rare and required ticket. Knile reluctantly takes Ursie Meyer and her mysterious package with him as he bluffs, sneaks and battles his way to the top of The Reach. Knile has to make it past Alton Wilt, the main villain. Alton is a criminal kingpin who hires a team of thugs to take Knile's ticket.
Another villain in Knile's path Earth is dying, and the only way out is up The Reach-the last heavily guarded space elevator-and off planet. Another villain in Knile's path is Detective Alec Duran, who is trying to piece his career back together. His description of the "haves" and "have-nots" was intriguing, and I enjoyed how his characters weaved through this dichotomy.
Mark has some surprises up his sleeve as Knile, Ursie and Alton fight their way up the Reach. I look forward to reading more of Mark Healy's The Reach series. Thanks, Mark, for the free copy of Earthbound in exchange for a review. Jun 10, Masamojo rated it really liked it. I think his writing is getting even better with each series.
Charlene Underhill rated it it was amazing Jul 08, Judy Dooley rated it liked it Jul 14, Brian rated it it was amazing Jul 21, Anna Swedenmom rated it liked it Dec 28, Skacbo rated it liked it Apr 28, Scott Foutz rated it really liked it Jan 06, Chris Pansing rated it it was amazing Nov 25, CB Newman rated it really liked it Dec 18, Chris Barnes rated it it was amazing May 02, John Simms rated it really liked it Apr 22, Rene Young rated it it was amazing Jun 23,