Texas Another World Texas Tales Heart of the Sunset

Heart of the Sunset

Heart of the Sunset
Catalog # SKU3720
Publisher Texas National Press
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Rex Beach
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Heart of the Sunset

A Texas Tale

Rex Beach

Away to her left lay the yellow flood of the Rio Grande, but the woman, though tempted to swing in that direction, knew better than to yield. At least twenty miles of barrens lay between, and she told herself that she could never cover such a distance. No, the water-hole was nearer; it must be close at hand.

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If she could only think a little more clearly, she could locate it. Once more she tried, as she had tried many times before, to recall the exact point where she had shot her horse, and to map in her mind's eye the foot-weary course she had traveled from that point onward.

Desert travel was nothing new to her, thirst and fatigue were old acquaintances, yet she could not help wondering if, in spite of her training, in spite of that inborn sense of direction which she had prided herself upon sharing with the wild creatures, she were fated to become a victim of the chaparral. The possibility was remote; death at this moment seemed as far off as ever-if anything it was too far off. No, she would find the water-hole somehow; or the unexpected would happen, as it always did when one was in dire straits. She was too young and too strong to die yet. Death was not so easily won as this.

Rising, she readjusted the strap of the empty water-bag over her shoulder and the loose cartridge-belt at her hip, then set her dusty feet down the slope.

Day died lingeringly. The sun gradually lost its cruelty, but a partial relief from the heat merely emphasized the traveler's thirst and muscular distress. Onward she plodded, using her eyes as carefully as she knew how. She watched the evening flight of the doves, thinking to guide herself by their course, but she was not shrewd enough to read the signs correctly. The tracks she found were old, for the most part, and they led in no particular direction, nowhere uniting into anything like a trail. She wondered, if she could bring herself to drink the blood of a jack-rabbit, and if it would quench her thirst. But the thought was repellent, and, besides, she was not a good shot with a revolver. Nor did the cactus offer any relief, since it was only just coming into bloom, and as yet bore no fruit.

The sun had grown red and huge when at last in the hard-baked dirt she discovered fresh hoof-prints. These seemed to lead along the line in which she was traveling, and she followed them gladly, encouraged when they were joined by others, for, although they meandered aimlessly, they formed something more like a trail than anything she had as yet seen. Guessing at their general direction, she hurried on, coming finally into a region where the soil was shallow and scarcely served to cover the rocky substratum. A low bluff rose on her left, and along its crest scattered Spanish daggers were raggedly silhouetted against the sky.

She was in a well-defined path now; she tried to run, but her legs were heavy; she stumbled a great deal, and her breath made strange, distressing sounds as it issued from her open lips. Hounding the steep shoulder of the ridge, she hastened down a declivity into a knot of scrub-oaks and ebony-trees, then halted, staring ahead of her.

The nakedness of the stony arroyo, the gnarled and stunted thickets, were softened by the magic of twilight; the air had suddenly cooled; overhead the empty, flawless sky was deepening swiftly from blue to purple; the chaparral had awakened and echoed now to the sounds of life. Nestling in a shallow, flinty bowl was a pool of water, and on its brink a little fire was burning.

It was a tiny fire, overhung with a blackened pot; the odor of greasewood and mesquite smoke was sharp. A man, rising swiftly to his feet at the first sound, was staring at the new-comer; he was as alert as any wild thing. But the woman scarcely heeded him. She staggered directly toward the pond, seeing nothing after the first glance except the water. She would have flung herself full length upon the edge, but the man stepped forward and stayed her, then placed a tin cup in her hand. She mumbled something in answer to his greeting and the hoarse, raven-like croak in her voice startled her; then she drank, with trembling eagerness, drenching the front of her dress. The water was warm, but it was clean and delicious.

"Easy now. Take your time," said the man, as he refilled the cup. "It won't give out."

She knelt and wet her face and neck; the sensation was so grateful that she was tempted to fling herself bodily into the pool. The man was still talking, but she took no heed of what he said. Then at last she sank back, her feet curled under her, her body sagging, her head drooping. She felt the stranger's hands beneath her arms, felt herself lifted to a more comfortable position. Without asking permission, the stranger unlaced first one, then the other of her dusty boots, seeming not to notice her weak attempt at resistance. Once he had placed her bare feet in the water, she forgot her resentment in the intense relief.

The man left her seated in a collapsed, semi-conscious state, and went back to his fire. For the time she was too tired to do more than refill the drinking-cup occasionally, or to wet her face and arms, but as her pores drank greedily her exhaustion lessened and her vitality returned.

320 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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