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Riders of the Purple Sage

16.
Gold
As Lassiter had reported to Jane, Venters "went through" safely, and after a
toilsome journey reached the peaceful shelter of Surprise Valley. When finally he
lay wearily down under the silver spruces, resting from the strain of dragging
packs and burros up the slope and through the entrance to Surprise Valley, he
had leisure to think, and a great deal of the time went in regretting that he had
not been frank with his loyal friend, Jane Withersteen.
But, he kept continually recalling, when he had stood once more face to face with
her and had been shocked at the change in her and had heard the details of her
adversity, he had not had the heart to tell her of the closer interest which had
entered his life. He had not lied; yet he had kept silence.
Bess was in transports over the stores of supplies and the outfit he had packed
from Cottonwoods. He had certainly brought a hundred times more than he had
gone for; enough, surely, for years, perhaps to make permanent home in the
valley. He saw no reason why he need ever leave there again.
After a day of rest he recovered his strength and shared Bess's pleasure in
rummaging over the endless packs, and began to plan for the future. And in this
planning, his trip to Cottonwoods, with its revived hate of Tull and consequent
unleashing of fierce passions, soon faded out of mind. By slower degrees his
friendship for Jane Withersteen and his contrition drifted from the active
preoccupation of his present thought to a place in memory, with more and more
infrequent recalls.
And as far as the state of his mind was concerned, upon the second day after his
return, the valley, with its golden hues and purple shades, the speaking west
wind and the cool, silent night, and Bess's watching eyes with their wonderful
light, so wrought upon Venters that he might never have left them at all.
That very afternoon he set to work. Only one thing hindered him upon beginning,
though it in no wise checked his delight, and that in the multiplicity of tasks
planned to make a paradise out of the valley he could not choose the one with
which to begin. He had to grow into the habit of passing from one dreamy
pleasure to another, like a bee going from flower to flower in the valley, and he
found this wandering habit likely to extend to his labors. Nevertheless, he made a
start.
At the outset he discovered Bess to be both a considerable help in some ways
and a very great hindrance in others. Her excitement and joy were spurs,
inspirations; but she was utterly impracticable in her ideas, and she flitted from
one plan to another with bewildering vacillation. Moreover, he fancied that she
grew more eager, youthful, and sweet; and he marked that it was far easier to
watch her and listen to her than it was to work. Therefore he gave her tasks that
necessitated her going often to the cave where he had stored his packs.
Upon the last of these trips, when he was some distance down the terrace and
out of sight of camp, he heard a scream, and then the sharp barking of the dogs.
For an instant he straightened up, amazed. Danger for her had been absolutely
out of his mind. She had seen a rattlesnake--or a wildcat. Still she would not
 
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