A ROMANCE OF THE BORDER
I. Old Friends II. Mercedes Castaneda III. A Flight Into The Desert IV. Forlorn River V. A Desert Rose VI. The Yaqui VII. White Horses VIII. The Running of Blanco Sol IX. An Interrupted Siesta X. Rojas XI. Across Cactus and Lava XII. The Crater of Hell XIII. Changes at Forlorn River XIV. A Lost Son XV. Bound In The Desert XVI. Mountain Sheep XVII. The Whistle of a Horse XVIII. Reality Against Dreams XIX. The Secret of Forlorn River XX. Desert Gold
D E S E R T G O L D
A FACE haunted Cameron--a woman's face. It was there in the whiteheart of the dying campfire; it hung in the shadows that hovered overthe flickering light; it drifted in the darkness beyond.
This hour, when the day had closed and the lonely desert night set inwith its dead silence, was one in which Cameron's mind was throngedwith memories of a time long past--of a home back in Peoria, of a womanhe had wronged and lost, and loved too late. He was a prospector forgold, a hunter of solitude, a lover of the drear, rock-ribbedinfinitude, because he wanted to be alone to remember.
A sound disturbed Cameron's reflections. He bent his head listening. Asoft wind fanned the paling embers, blew sparks and white ashes andthin smoke away into the enshrouding circle of blackness. His burrodid not appear to be moving about. The quiet split to the cry of acoyote. It rose strange, wild, mournful--not the howl of a prowlingupland beast baying the campfire or barking at a lonely prospector, butthe wail of a wolf, full-voiced, crying out the meaning of the desertand the night. Hunger throbbed in it--hunger for a mate, foroffspring, for life. When it ceased, the terrible desert silence smoteCameron, and the cry echoed in his soul. He and that wandering wolfwere brothers.
Then a sharp clink of metal on stone and soft pads of hoofs in sandprompted Cameron to reach for his gun, and to move out of the light ofthe waning campfire. He was somewhere along the wild border linebetween Sonora and Arizona; and the prospector who dared the heat andbarrenness of that region risked other dangers sometimes as menacing.
Figures darker than the gloom approached and took shape, and in thelight turned out to be those of a white man and a heavily packed burro.
"Hello there," the man called, as he came to a halt and gazed abouthim. "I saw your fire. May I make camp here?"
Cameron came forth out of the shadow and greeted his visitor, whom hetook for a prospector like himself. Cameron resented the breaking ofhis lonely campfire vigil, but he respected the law of the desert.
The stranger thanked him, and then slipped the pack from his burro.Then he rolled out his pack and began preparations for a meal. Hismovements were slow and methodical.
Cameron watched him, still with resentment, yet with a curious andgrowing interest. The campfire burst into a bright blaze, and by itslight Cameron saw a man whose gray hair somehow did not seem to makehim old, and whose stooped shoulders did not detract from an impressionof rugged strength.
"Find any mineral?" asked Cameron, presently.
His visitor looked up quickly, as if startled by the sound of a humanvoice. He replied, and then the two men talked a little. But thestranger evidently preferred silence. Cameron understood that. Helaughed grimly and bent a keener gaze upon the furrowed, shadowy face.Another of those strange desert prospectors in whom there was somerelentless driving power besides the lust for gold! Cameron felt thatbetween this man and himself there was a subtle affinity, vague andundefined, perhaps born of the divination that here was a desertwanderer like himself, perhaps born of a deeper, an unintelligiblerelation having its roots back in the past. A long-forgotten sensationstirred in Cameron's breast, one so long forgotten that he could notrecognize it. But it was akin to pain.