Riders of the Purple Sage
Solitude And Storm
In his hidden valley Venters awakened from sleep, and his ears rang with
innumerable melodies from full-throated mockingbirds, and his eyes opened wide
upon the glorious golden shaft of sunlight shining through the great stone bridge.
The circle of cliffs surrounding Surprise Valley lay shrouded in morning mist, a
dim blue low down along the terraces, a creamy, moving cloud along the
ramparts. The oak forest in the center was a plumed and tufted oval of gold.
He saw Bess under the spruces. Upon her complete recovery of strength she
always rose with the dawn. At the moment she was feeding the quail she had
tamed. And she had begun to tame the mocking-birds. They fluttered among the
branches overhead and some left off their songs to flit down and shyly hop near
the twittering quail. Little gray and white rabbits crouched in the grass, now
nibbling, now laying long ears flat and watching the dogs.
Venters's swift glance took in the brightening valley, and Bess and her pets, and
Ring and Whitie. It swept over all to return again and rest upon the girl. She had
changed. To the dark trousers and blouse she had added moccasins of her own
make, but she no longer resembled a boy. No eye could have failed to mark the
rounded contours of a woman. The change had been to grace and beauty. A glint
of warm gold gleamed from her hair, and a tint of red shone in the clear dark
brown of cheeks. The haunting sweetness of her lips and eyes, that earlier had
been illusive, a promise, had become a living fact. She fitted harmoniously into
that wonderful setting; she was like Surprise Valley--wild and beautiful.
Venters leaped out of his cave to begin the day.
He had postponed his journey to Cottonwoods until after the passing of the
summer rains. The rains were due soon. But until their arrival and the necessity
for his trip to the village he sequestered in a far corner of mind all thought of peril,
of his past life, and almost that of the present. It was enough to live. He did not
want to know what lay hidden in the dim and distant future. Surprise Valley had
enchanted him. In this home of the cliff-dwellers there were peace and quiet and
solitude, and another thing, wondrous as the golden morning shaft of sunlight,
that he dared not ponder over long enough to understand.
The solitude he had hated when alone he had now come to love. He was
assimilating something from this valley of gleams and shadows. From this
strange girl he was assimilating more.
The day at hand resembled many days gone before. As Venters had no tools
with which to build, or to till the terraces, he remained idle. Beyond the cooking of
the simple fare there were no tasks. And as there were no tasks, there was no
system. He and Bess began one thing, to leave it; to begin another, to leave that;
and then do nothing but lie under the spruces and watch the great cloud-sails
majestically move along the ramparts, and dream and dream. The valley was a
golden, sunlit world. It was silent. The sighing wind and the twittering quail and
the singing birds, even the rare and seldom-occurring hollow crack of a sliding
weathered stone, only thickened and deepened that insulated silence.
Venters and Bess had vagrant minds.