Read Nevada (1995) Online

Authors: Zane Grey

Nevada (1995)

Read Nevada (1995) Page 1995 Read Book Online,Top Vampire Books Read Online Free

"Nevada" (1927)

Zane Grey

*

Chapter
one.

As his goaded horse plunged into the road, Nevada looked back ove
r
his shoulder. The lane he had plowed through the crowd let him se
e
back into the circle where the three men lay prostrate. The blu
e
smoke from his gun was rising slowly, floating away. Ben Ide'
s
face shone white and convulsed in the sunlight.

"So long, Pard!" yelled Nevada, hoarsely, and stood in his stirrup
s
to wave his sombrero high. That, he thought, was farewell foreve
r
to this friend who had saved and succored and uplifted him, whom h
e
loved better than a brother.

Then Nevada faced the yellow road down which his horse was racing
,
and the grim and terrible mood returned to smother the heart-
s
welling emotion which had momentarily broken it.

There was something familiar and mocking about this precipitat
e
flight on a swift horse, headed for the sage and the dar
k
mountains. How often had he felt the wind sting his face on a ru
n
for his life! But it was not fear now, nor love of life, that mad
e
him a fugitive.

The last gate of the ranch was open, and Nevada flashed through i
t
to turn off the road into the sage and go flying down the trai
l
along the shore of the lake. The green water blurred on one sid
e
of him and the gray sage on the other. Even the winding trail wa
s
indistinct to eyes that still saw red. There was no need now fo
r
this breakneck ride. To be sure, the officers of the law woul
d
eventually get on his track, as they had been for years; bu
t
thought of them scarcely lingered a moment in his consciousness.

The action of a swift and powerful horse seemed to be necessary t
o
the whirling of his mind. Thoughts, feelings, sensation
s
regurgitated around that familiar cold and horrible sickness o
f
soul which had always followed the spilling of human blood an
d
which this time came back worse than ever.

The fierce running of the horse along the levels, around the bend
s
of the trail, leaping washes, plunging up and down the gullies
,
brought into tense play all Nevada's muscular force. It seeme
d
like a mad race away from himself. Burning and wet all over, h
e
gradually surrendered to physical exertion.

Five miles brought horse and rider far around to the other side o
f
the lake. Here the trail wound down upon the soft sand, where th
e
horse slowed from run to trot, and along the edge of the lake
,
where the midday sun had thawed the ice. Nevada had a break in hi
s
strained mood. He saw the deep hoof tracks of horses along th
e
shore, and the long cuts and scars on the ice, where he and Ben an
d
the freed outlaws had run that grand wild stallion, California Red
,
to his last plunge and fall. Nevada could not help but think, a
s
he passed that place, and thrill as he remembered the strange luck
y
catch of the wild horse Ben Ide loved so well. What a trick fo
r
fortune to play! How mad Ben had been--to bargain with th
e
rustlers they had captured--to trade their freedom for the aid the
y
gave in running down the red stallion! Yet mad as that act ha
d
been, Nevada could only love Ben the more. Ben was the true wild-
h
orse hunter.

Nevada reached the bluff where Forlorn River lost itself in th
e
lake, and climbed the sloping trail to the clump of trees and th
e
cabin where he and Ben had lived in lonely happiness. Ben, th
e
outcast son of a rich rancher of Tule Lake--and he, the wandering
,
fugitive, crippled gunman, whom Ben had taken in with only on
e
question.

"Where you from?" Ben had asked.

"Nevada," had been the reply. And that had been the only name b
y
which Ben had ever known him.

It was all over now. Nevada dismounted from his wet and heavin
g
horse. "Wal, Baldy," he said, throwing the bridle, "heah we are.

Reckon the runnin's aboot over." And he sank heavily upon th
e
porch step, pushed his sombrero back to run a hand through his we
t
hair, smoothing it away from his heated brow. He gazed across th
e
lake toward the dots on the far gray slope--the dots that were th
e
cabins and barns of the Blaine ranch. With the wrench which shoo
k
him then, the last of that icy nausea--that cold grip from bowel
s
to heart--released its cramping hold and yielded to the softenin
g
human element in Nevada. It would have been better for him if tha
t
sinister fixity of mind had not passed away, because with it
s
passing came a slow-growing agony.

"Reckon I cain't set heah mopin' like an owl," soliloquized Nevada
,
getting up. "Shore, the thing's done. An' I wouldn't have i
t
otherwise. . . . Dear old Ben!"

But he could not just yet enter the cabin where he had learned th
e
glory of friendship.

"He was the only pard I ever had, except a hoss or two. . . . Wal
,
Ben's name is cleared now--thank God. Old Amos Ide knows the trut
h
now an' he'll have to beg forgiveness of Ben. Gosh! how goo
d
that'll be! But Ben, he'll never rub it in on the old gent. He'l
l
be soft an' easy. . . . Hart Blaine will know, too, an' he'll hav
e
to come round to the boy. They'll all have to crawl for callin'

Ben a rustler. . . . Ben will marry Ina now--an' he'll be rich.

He's got California Red, too, an' he'll be happy."

From the lake Nevada gazed away across Forlorn River, over the gra
y
sage hills, so expressive of solitude, over the black ranges towar
d
the back country, the wilderness whence he had come and to which h
e
must return. To the hard life, the scant fare, the sordid intimac
y
of crooked men and women, to the border of Nevada, where he had
a
bad name, where he could never sleep in safety, or wear a glove o
n
his gun-hand! But at that moment Nevada had not one regret. H
e
was sustained and exalted by the splendid consciousness that he ha
d
paid his debt to his friend. He had saved Ben from prison, cleare
d
his name of infamy, given him back to Ina Blaine, and killed hi
s
enemies. Whatever had been the evil of Nevada's life before he me
t
Ben, whatever might be the loneliness and bitterness of the future
,
neither could change or mitigate the sweetness and glory of th
e
service he had rendered.

Nevada went into the cabin. He had expected to find it as always
,
clean and neat and comfortable. The room, however, was in rud
e
disorder. It had been ransacked by violent hands. The pseudo-
s
heriffs, who had come at the beck of Less Setter to arrest Ben
,
had not hesitated to stoop to thievery. They had evidentl
y
searched the cabin for money, or anything of value.

Nevada gazed ponderingly around on this disorder.

"Wal," he muttered, grimly, "I reckon Less Setter won't be rammin'
a
round heah any more--or any other place short of hell!"

With that remark Nevada strode out and down the path to th
e
corrals. There were horses in at the watering trough. He caugh
t
one, and securing packsaddle and packs, he returned to the cabin.

Here he hurriedly gathered his belongings and food, blankets
,
ammunition. Then mounting his horse he drove the pack animal ahea
d
of him, and rode down to the shallow ford across Forlorn River.

"Shore, Ben will always keep this ranch as we had it," he mused.

"An' he'll come heah often."

Hot tears fell from Nevada's eyes, the first he had shed since hi
s
orphaned boyhood, so dim and far away. It was no use to turn hi
s
eyes again to the little gray cabin half hidden among the trees
,
for he could not see. But as he rode up the river his tears dried
,
and he saw the pasture where the horses he had owned with Be
n
raised their heads to look and to neigh. From a ridge top a mil
e
or more up the lonely river, Nevada gazed back at the cabin for th
e
last time. Something surer than his intelligence told him that h
e
would never see it again. The moment was poignant. It opened
a
door into his mind, which let in the fact he had so stubbornl
y
resisted--that when he bade good-by to the little cabin it was no
t
only good-by to it and to his friend, but to the most precious o
f
all that had ever entered his life--Hettie Ide.

Nevada made that farewell, and then rode on, locked in though
t
which took no notice of the miles and the hours. Sunset brough
t
him to an awareness of the proximity of night and the need o
f
suitable camp for himself and his animals. While crossing th
e
river, now a shallow rod-wide stream, he let the horses drink. O
n
the other side he dismounted to fill his waterbag and canteen.

Then he rode away from the river and trail in search of a seclude
d
spot. He knew the country, and before long reached a valley u
p
which he traveled some distance. There was no water and therefor
e
an absence of trails. Riding through a thicket of slender oaks
,
which crossed the narrowing valley, he halted in a grassy dell t
o
make his camp.

His well-trained horses would not stray beyond the grass plot, an
d
there was little chance of the eyes of riders seeing his camp fire.

How strange to be alone again! Yet such loneliness had been
a
greater part of his life before he chanced upon Ben Ide. From tim
e
to time Nevada's hands fell idle and he stood or knelt motionles
s
while thought of the past held him. In spite of this restlessnes
s
of spirit he was hungry and ate heartily. By the time his few cam
p
chores were done, night had fallen, pitch black, without any stars.

Then came the hour he dreaded--that hour at the camp fire when th
e
silence and solitude fell oppressively upon him. Always in hi
s
lonely travels this had been so, but now they were vastly greate
r
and stranger. Something incomprehensible had changed him
,
sharpened his intelligence, augmented his emotions. Somethin
g
tremendous had entered his life. He felt it now.

The night was cold and still. A few lonesome insects that had s
o
far escaped the frost hummed sadly. He heard the melancholy wai
l
of coyotes. There were no other sounds. The wind had not risen.

Nevada sat cross-legged, like an Indian, before his camp fire. I
t
was small, but warm. The short pieces of dead hard oak burned red
,
like coal. Nevada spread his palms to the heat, an old habit o
f
comfort and pleasure. He dreaded to go to the bed he had made, fo
r
he would fall asleep at once, then awake during the night, to li
e
in the loneliness and stillness. The longer he stayed awake th
e
shorter that vigil in the after hours of the night. Besides, th
e
camp fire was a companion. It glowed and sparkled. It wa
s
something alive that wanted to cheer him.

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