Chapter XXXI. Barbara's Waitin' Breakfast for You.
 

Alone on the desert, Abe Lee waited through the long, long hours of the night for the morning and relief.

At times the wounded surveyor sank into half unconsciousness when he would again be riding--riding--riding, toward San Felipe that seemed almost so far away that he could never hope to reach the end of his journey. Again he would be at the hotel surrounded by a crowd of people, who stared at him curiously as the clerk explained that Jefferson Worth had never been there--that there was no money--no money--no money. At other times he would be fighting desperately with James Greenfield for the possession of a black leather bill- book secured with rubber bands, or--with the Company engineer--would face a crowd of Mexicans in Devil's Canyon in such numbers that he could not count them, but could only fight, and fight, and fight. Often Barbara came to plead with him to save her from some terrible danger, and when he would struggle to go a great weight held him down and he could not--and the brown eyes looked at him full of pleading reproach. Then he would curse and cry aloud as Willard Holmes came to take her away and he would watch the two riding into the distance through the green fields and orchards of a beautiful land, in their happiness forgetting him alone in the desert.

At other times, fully conscious, he lay with aching body and that sharp pain in his leg, looking up at the stars, calculating the time and the distance Holmes had ridden since he left him--how long it would be until the engineer would reach Republic--wondering if Tex and Pat could hold the strikers or if already it was too late.

Then again, when his mind would be losing its grip and slipping away into the land of half-dreams, the sounds made by some animal at the water hole or the fancied approach of the Mexicans would cause him to start into keen readiness, to listen and watch with straining sense and ready weapon. At last all knowledge of time left him. His exhausted nerves and muscles no longer responded to suggestions of danger, his brain refused to act. A soft, thick cloud of darkness that was not the darkness of the night settled down upon him, enveloped him, wrapped him as in a sable blanket of many folds-- thicker and thicker, blacker and blacker. Feebly he struggled against it for a little, then with a sigh yielded and lay still.

He did not see the stars pale and the thin streak of light above the eastern rim of the Basin widen into the morning. He did not see the hills, all rose and purple, develop magically against the sky. He did not see the sun burst into view from the world below the line of the dun plain and roll its flood of light over the wide desert. He knew nothing more until someone was forcing something between his lips and a grateful, stimulating warmth crept through his veins. A familiar voice drawled: "He ain't a-goin' out this time, boys. Hit takes more than one greaser bullet and a little ride to San Felipe an' back to send his kind over the line."

And a rich Irish brogue responded: "Ut's thim black hathen that'll be goin' over the line in a bunch av I can git widin rache av thim wid me two hands."

Abe opened his eyes with a smile. "Mornin' boys! Did Holmes make it in time?"

An articulate yell of delight from Pat greeted his speech. The grizzled plainsman, with a smile of understanding, answered his question.

"Sure he made it. Everything's as peaceful as the parson's blessin' after his discourse on the eternal fires of torment. Barbara's waitin' breakfast for you, son. Wake up, an' come along."

The surveyor did not need to ask why Texas Joe had brought so large a party of mounted and armed friends. He gave Texas and his companions all the information he could that would help them in their search for the Mexicans.

When they had made him as comfortable as possible on a cot in the spring wagon, with Pat beside him and Pablo on the driver's seat, the horsemen mounted and Texas riding alongside the wagon drawled: "There ain't no tellin' when we'll get back, Abe; but I don't reckon we'll be long an' there ain't no use me tellin' you to take things easy. So adios!"

"Adios," came the answer, "and good luck!"

Pablo spoke to his team and they moved ahead. For a moment the horsemen watched, then Tex spoke.

"All set, boys?"

"All set," came the answer.

Wheeling about, the five men rode rapidly in the opposite direction towards Devil's Canyon.