Chapter VI. A Sight That Thrilled
 

"We'll make camp here for a time, I reckon," announced Dad about two o'clock in the morning.

"I thought we were going on to the Canyon," said Tad.

"We shall see it in the morning," answered the guide somewhat evasively. "You boys turn in now, and get some sleep, for you will want to have your eyes wide open in the morning. But let me give you a tip: Don't you go roaming around in the dark here."

"Why---why not?" demanded Stacy Brown.

"Oh, nothing much, only we're likely to lose your valuable company if you try it. You have a habit of falling in, I am told. You'll fall in for keeps if you go moseying about in this vicinity."

"Where are we?" asked Butler.

"'Bout half a mile from the El Tovar," answered Nance. "Now you fellows turn in. Stake down the pintos. Isn't safe to let them roam around on two legs."

Tad understood. He knew from the words of Nance that they were somewhere in the vicinity of the great gash in the earth that they had come so far to see. But he was content to wait until the morrow for the great sight that was before them.

The sun was an hour high before they felt the heavy hand of Jim Nance on their shoulders shaking them awake. The odor of steaming coffee and frying bacon was in the air.

"What---sunrise?" cried Tad, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

"And breakfast?" added Ned.

"Real food?" piped Stacy Brown.

"Where do we wash?" questioned Walter.

"You will have to take a sun bath," answered the guide with a twinkle. "There isn't any water near this place. We will find water for the stock later in the morning."

"But where is the Canyon?" wondered Tad.

"You're at it."

"I don't see anything that looks like a canyon," scoffed Ned.

"No, this is a level plateau," returned Tad. "However, I guess Dad knows what he is talking about. I for one am more interested in what I smell just now than anything else."

Chunky sniffed the air.

"Well, it will take more than a smell to satisfy me this morning," declared Chunky, wrinkling his nose.

"This is my day to cook," called Tad. "Why didn't you let me get the breakfast, Mr. Nance?"

"I'm doing the cooking this morning. I've had a long walk and feel fine, so I decided to be the cook, the wrangler and the whole outfit this morning. How do you feel, boys?"

"Fine!" chorused the Pony Riders. "But we thought we should see the Canyon when we woke up this morning."

A quizzical smile twitched the corners of Dad's mouth. Tad saw that the guide had something of a surprise for them. The lad asked no further questions.

Breakfast finished, the boys cleared away the dishes, packing everything as if for a continuation of their journey, which they fully expected to make.

A slight rise of ground lay a few rods ahead of them. Tad started to stroll that way. He halted as a party of men and women were seen approaching from the direction of El Tovar, where the hotel was located.

"Now, gentlemen, you may walk along," nodded the guide, smiling broadly.

"Which way?" asked the Professor.

"Follow the crowd you see there."

They saw the party step up to the rise, then a woman's scream smote their ears. Tad, thinking something had occurred, dashed forward.

He reached the level plateau on the rise, where his companions saw him halt suddenly, throwing both arms above his head.

The boys started on a run, followed by the professor, who by this time was a little excited.

Then all at once the glorious panorama burst upon them. There at their very feet lay the Grand Canyon. Below them lay the wonder of the world, and more than five thousand feet down, like a slender silver thread, rippled the Colorado.

The first sight of the Canyon affects different persons differently. It overwhelmed the Pony Rider Boys, leaving them speechless. They shrank back as they gazed into the awful chasm at their feet and into which they might have plunged had the hour been earlier, for it had burst upon them almost with the suddenness of the crack of a rifle.

They had thought to see mountains. There were none. What they saw was really a break in the level plateau. From where they stood they looked almost straight down into the abyss for something more than a mile. Gazing straight ahead they saw to the other side of the chasm twelve miles away. To the right and to the left their gaze reached more than twenty miles in each direction.

This great space was filled with gigantic architectural constructions, with amphitheaters, gorges, precipices, walls of masonry, fortresses, terraced up to the level of the eyes, temples, mountain high, all brilliant with horizontal lines of color---streaks of hues from a few feet to a thousand feet in width, mottled here and there with all the colors of the rainbow.

Such coloring, such harmony of tints the Pony Rider Boys never had gazed on before. It seemed to them as if they themselves were standing in midair looking down upon a new and wonderful world. There was neither laughter nor jest upon the lips of these brown-faced, hardy boys now.

Professor Zepplin slowly took off his hat in homage to what was there at his feet. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead. A glance at Tad Butler showed tear drops glistening on his cheeks. He was trembling. Never before had a more profound emotion taken hold of him. Ned Rector and Walter Perkins's faces wore expressions of fear. No other moment in the lives of the four boys had been like this.

Dad's face shone as with a reflected light from the Canyon that he loved so well, and that had been his almost constant companion for more than thirty years; whose moods he knew almost as well as his own, and whose every smile or frown had its meaning for him.

The travelers each forgot that there was any other human being than himself present. They were drawn sharply to the fact that there were others present, when one of the little party of sight-seers that had come over from the hotel picked up a rock, the weight of which was almost too much for him.

The lads watched him with fascinated eyes. The man swung the rock back and forth a few times, then hurled it over the edge. The Pony Rider Boys waited, actually holding their breath, to catch the report when the rock should strike the bottom.

No report came. It requires some little time for a rock to fall a mile, and when it does land it is doubtful if those at the other end of the mile would hear the report.

The faces of the Pony Riders actually paled. This was indeed the next thing to a bottomless pit. Walter Perkins recalled afterwards that his head had spun dizzily, Ned that he was too frightened to move a muscle.

Suddenly the silence was broken by a shout that was really an agonized yell. The voice was Stacy Brown's.

"Hold me! Somebody hold me!" he screamed

The others glanced at him with disapproving eyes. Could nothing impress Chunky? The fat boy had begun to move forward toward the edge, both hands extended in front of him as to ward off something.

"Hold me! I'm going to jump! Oh, won't somebody hold me?"

Even then only one in that little party appeared to understand. They were paralyzed with amazement and unable to move a muscle. The one who did see and understand was Tad Butler. Chunky was giving way to an irresistible impulse. He was at that instant being drawn toward the terrible abyss.