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Riders of the Purple Sage

23.
The Fall Of Balancing Rock
Through tear-blurred sight Jane Withersteen watched Venters and Elizabeth
Erne and the black racers disappear over the ridge of sage.
"They're gone!" said Lassiter. "An' they're safe now. An' there'll never be a day of
their comin' happy lives but what they'll remember Jane Withersteen an'--an'
Uncle Jim!...I reckon, Jane, we'd better be on our way."
The burros obediently wheeled and started down the break with little cautious
steps, but Lassiter had to leash the whining dogs and lead them. Jane felt herself
bound in a feeling that was neither listlessness nor indifference, yet which
rendered her incapable of interest. She was still strong in body, but emotionally
tired. That hour at the entrance to Deception Pass had been the climax of her
suffering--the flood of her wrath--the last of her sacrifice--the supremity of her
love--and the attainment of peace. She thought that if she had little Fay she
would not ask any more of life.
Like an automaton she followed Lassiter down the steep trail of dust and bits of
weathered stone; and when the little slides moved with her or piled around her
knees she experienced no alarm. Vague relief came to her in the sense of being
enclosed between dark stone walls, deep hidden from the glare of sun, from the
glistening sage. Lassiter lengthened the stirrup straps on one of the burros and
bade her mount and ride close to him. She was to keep the burro from cracking
his little hard hoofs on stones. Then she was riding on between dark, gleaming
walls. There were quiet and rest and coolness in this canyon. She noted
indifferently that they passed close under shady, bulging shelves of cliff, through
patches of grass and sage and thicket and groves of slender trees, and over
white, pebbly washes, and around masses of broken rock. The burros trotted
tirelessly; the dogs, once more free, pattered tirelessly; and Lassiter led on with
never a stop, and at every open place he looked back. The shade under the
walls gave place to sunlight. And presently they came to a dense thicket of
slender trees, through which they passed to rich, green grass and water. Here
Lassiter rested the burros for a little while, but he was restless, uneasy, silent,
always listening, peering under the trees. She dully reflected that enemies were
behind them--before them; still the thought awakened no dread or concern or
interest.
At his bidding she mounted and rode on close to the heels of his burro. The
canyon narrowed; the walls lifted their rugged rims higher; and the sun shone
down hot from the center of the blue stream of sky above. Lassiter traveled
slower, with more exceeding care as to the ground he chose, and he kept
speaking low to the dogs. They were now hunting-dogs--keen, alert, suspicious,
sniffing the warm breeze. The monotony of the yellow walls broke in change of
color and smooth surface, and the rugged outline of rims grew craggy. Splits
appeared in deep breaks, and gorges running at right angles, and then the Pass
opened wide at a junction of intersecting canyons.
Lassiter dismounted, led his burro, called the dogs close, and proceeded at snail
pace through dark masses of rock and dense thickets under the left wall. Long he
 
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