Deep Canyons


MARTHA RIDGELY, at the bottom of a vivid canyon in northern Arizona, lay on the ground with her head propped against the cantle of a saddle. Orange and crimson and purple, blue and molten violet — all the colors that the eyes of man can see, and probably all that his eyes cannot see, coated the tortured rocks and gorgeously streamed across the sky. And Martha wondered if the earth were burnishing the clouds with the fieriness of its boulders, or if the sky were spraying the land with pigments from the setting sun.

‘One must certainly be the reflection of the other,’ she thought. ‘It is n’t possible for there to be so much free color in the universe!’

Even though she was just come from the less gaudy defiles of an Eastern city, she need not have felt so incredulous a wonder at nature’s lavishness. For nature had been lavish with Mrs. Ridgely’s own person, staining the irises of her large eyes with a blue that borrowed no color from the indigo shadows in her black hair, tingeing her cheeks and lips with shades of pink. But Martha, looking in her mirror, had never exclaimed, ‘It is n’t possible for so much beauty to be!’ In fact she had rarely thought at all of her own loveliness; and now, a widow at twenty-seven, she never thought of it save, unwillingly, as one of the reasons why she need be dubious when threatened by any man with solace.

This afternoon, looking up at the brilliant heavens, she asked of them the question that in rebellious anguish she had not been able to cease from asking since, nearly two years before, her husband had been cruelly, uselessly, killed in a motor accident. ‘Why? Why ? ’ she whispered. ‘ Why, if there is a God, did He let it happen?’ Then, noticing, between the hued splendor of earth and sky, a thing that had no color, — a small black ellipse hanging motionless as though it were strung from beneath a flamingo-pink cloud, — she sat up. ‘Ed!’ she cried. ‘An eagle! I see an eagle! ’

Ed Griffith, the stout, red-faced young man, Mrs. Ridgely’s guide, was tying a halter-hobble on his dun pony. ‘That’s a buzzard, ma’am,’ he said, politely, without looking. ‘I seen him a while back.’

The buzzard had seen Ed Griffith and Mrs. Ridgely even a further ‘while back.’ Indeed he had seen them at dawn when, on the pine-studded rim of the canyon, they had separated from a group of other oblong shapes. And without needing to turn his unfeathered head the buzzard had watched these others, too. There were eight of them, and, had one lagged, the buzzard — and other buzzards — would have known. He lifted his splayed wings and flapped them slowly, twice; then, banking, he was motionless again: he would wait until the larger company also halted to make camp.

And so, as the sunset lustre faded, one of this group of travelers, looking up, was able to mention his discovery of the great bird.

‘Look, Edith,’ he cried, turning in his saddle and addressing the trigly habited young woman who rode behind him. ‘There’s an eagle. See him?’

‘It is? Oh, George, is it an eagle?’ she exclaimed, dropping the reins on her pony’s withers.

George raised his voice and spoke to the guide who rode behind Edith Granger. ‘Hey, Jim, that’s an eagle, all right?’

‘You seen it,’ Jim answered; and Spud, the guide riding before George Martin, turned his head and smiled contentedly.

Edith Granger laughed with excitement. ‘An eagle! An eagle!’she called to her husband and Estelle Smith, who were farther ahead on the trail; and her voice, striking against the canyon walls, echoed satirically: ‘Neagel — neagel.’ Mrs. Granger laughed again. ‘Oh, I hope Martha sees it. She’s wanted to so!’ She turned in her saddle. ‘Jim, do you think Mrs. Ridgely can see the eagle from where she is?’

Jim’s natural moroseness deepened. ‘No dam-fool Easterner knows how to turn his head — always has to turn his whole fool body. S’nough to give any horse a saddle sore,’he thought; and then, drawling, he said, ’I expect Mrs. Ridgely won’t see no eagle, ma’am. Ed Griffith’s kind of a lazy cuss. He won’t take no extra trouble. He ain’t like me an’ the rest o’ the boys you got, ma’am. Spud,’ —he did not lift his voice, — ‘take your face off your shoulder. Mrs. Granger here don’t want to look at no weasel faces.'


When the night came, the rocks of Arizona might as well have been the gray boulders of Maine: there was no color in all that land of colossal ridges and gullies save two dabs of garnet made by camp fires that were but a few hundred feet apart as the buzzards fly — each deep within canyons that were two days’ journey distant as a man on a horse can travel. And, no more than she could look into one of her eyes with the other, could Martha Ridgely, sitting by her camp fire with her hands clasped about her trousered knees, see her friends who were clustered about their camp fire on the other side of the canyon wall. And she felt relieved and secure because this was so.

‘I should never have been with them,’ she thought. ‘I might have known —’ She stared into the flames. ‘Well, I am alone now; and perhaps — perhaps I can find —’

Martha Ridgely had departed from her friends, not only because she wanted to be alone in Arizona, but because George Martin had too evidently begun to fancy himself in love with her, and she feared he would soon fancy he needed to tell her that he was. When she joined the party she had not expected to be molested — that was her word for it — in that way. Estelle had been invited for George, the only bachelor on the trip; and Martha felt annoyed with him on Estelle’s account as well as on her own. But she had left the party on her own account. She had come to Arizona hoping that there, out of doors, far from all the things that people interpose between themselves and the sky, she might find an answer to the unhappy questioning that her husband’s death had left stinging in her heart and mind. Perhaps no one ever found an answer. No one could prove that God lived, that the universe was friendly; but men had found answers to the pain of such questioning. In the wilderness many men had found peace, or at least they had found their own peace; and perhaps, Martha felt, in the wilderness she might find hers.

‘I’m here,’ she sighed, allowing her hands to unclasp. ‘I’m here, alone!’ Then slowly she lay back, pulling her blanket over her, and gazed up into a spangled sky, cleared of all the cloud wisps that had gathered in the afternoon, apparently only that the sun might go in radiance. ‘Here,’ she thought, ‘if anywhere, I can find some meaning — if there is any meaning. This country is so beautiful — so beautiful! The stars are beautiful. The lives of so many human beings are beautiful. But if there is no meaning — if there is nothing anywhere that cares — if deat h and life are alike haphazard, or, worse, just parts of a design that has no designer — no destination — Oh, what is there, what is there to cling to — to believe in?’

‘Horse comin’! Hear it?’ The guide, on the other side of the fire, got to his feet, interrupting her tormented musing.

‘Is n’t it one of our horses?’ Martha asked, sitting up.

‘Ours are shod in front. This one’s barefoot all round.’ He stepped out of the circle of flickering light and Martha, almost with amusement, heard him unfasten the flap of the holster that hung behind his hip. ‘Surely,’ she thought, ‘even Arizona is too civilized for that!’ Then she listened to the regular tap of hoofs on rock and, occasionally, the flutter of small pebbles dislodged; and the silence of the night seemed to be made even more profound — and empty — by those faint sounds.

‘Peace be to this house!’ a high voice called.

Ed Griffith laughed, as inappropriate a noise as though someone had laughed aloud in church. ‘Come on in, Joe!’ he shouted, stepping back into the firelight. ‘The house is yours!’

A moment later the furry head and fringed ears of a burro popped into view as though they came through a hole in a black sheet; and then a long, gaunt man appeared. He was smiling; Martha thought she had never seen so kind a smile, and, interested, she looked at him more closely. His face was thin and long, like his body, and his cheek bones, thrown into high relief by the shifting orange light from the fire, had the sheen of polished copper. It was the face of a man who had been out in many changing weathers: Martha would have thought a hard-bitten man, had it not been for the gentleness and candor of his smile. He was clad in a blue shirt and blue trousers, the latter belted around him with a piece of new golden rope. His feet were bare and his head was uncovered, save by thick yellow hair of jagged lengths, as though he had shorn it off lock by lock with a sharp stone; and a short fair beard glinted along his jaws.

‘ Where’d you get the low-life, Joe?’ Ed inquired, the tone of his voice indignant.

The visitor put one hand beneath the little burro’s white muzzle. ‘Take care, Ed, lest the last shall be first one day!' He laughed pleasantly. I found my low-life early last season, just after she was foaled. I raised her on cow’s milk. How ’bout it, Ruth?' He tweaked one of the burro’s solemn ears.

‘Well, I ain’t supprised,’ Ed said gloomily. ‘A low-life was the on’y thing left for you to take up with. You were bound to do it, I expect. But, Joe, don’t you have the gall to tell me you’d ride a low-life!’

The stranger gazed up at the sky for a moment, and Martha, with astonishment, saw his face become rapt. ‘And straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her,’he murmured. Then he patted the burro’s broad cheek and smiled at Ed. ‘ You don’t need to hold anything against Ruth yet,’ he said. ‘She’s young, I won’t ride her for another season, and not then if she don’t want me to.’

Ed snorted, and, turning, he picked up a frying pan. ‘I expect you ate sometime way last month,’ he grumbled. ‘How about some beans — or have you figured it out by now that beans is your little brothers and sisters, too?’

‘Ed, Ed, you kick against the pricks,’ the man said. ‘It’s no use.’ He shook his head. ‘We saw things alike once — you and me, Ed — on the Rio Grande. It was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth with us then — and a life laid down for a friend. Well, I see no different now. I only see more friends. Every last thing that lives is a friend if you look close. That’s all. And I ’d like a mess of your beans fine.’

Ed Griffith waved the empty frying pan across the fire. ‘Mrs. Ridgely, ma’am,’ he said. ’I been so took aback with Joe an’ his low-life I clean forgot to make him known to you. Joe, ma’am, before he got religion, use’ to ride a horse.’

‘Good evening,’ Martha said. ‘We are glad to have you in our camp.’ Rising, she stepped round the fire. ’Will you introduce me to Ruth? I used to have a burro when I was a child. I adored him — his name was Hurry, because he did n’t.’

The stranger looked at her intently, and without surprise, although he had not seen her through the fire until Ed spoke to her; then his blue eyes became compassionate. ‘Peace be unto you, ma’am,’ he said gravely.

Martha halted before him, and to her amazement she felt a smarting beneath her eyelids — she, who did not cry easily.

‘God’s hand has been heavy upon you, ma’am. His peace be unto you.’

‘What?’ she said falteringly. She touched the burro’s soft nostrils with fingers that, almost as though they were not her own, she knew were trembling. ‘How — how did you—?’

‘He that hath eyes to see, let him see,’the man answered. ‘Seek, and ye shall find, ma’am. You are not left comfortless. God’s peace is round about you like the air you breathe. Ruth never suffered any hand but mine to touch her before, ma’am. She knows.’

Martha smiled tremulously. ‘I’m glad,’ she said. ‘I’m glad she trusts me.’

Then, afraid that she was indeed about to weep, she turned and hurriedly, almost stumbling in her haste, went back to her blanket and, wrapping herself in it, lay down. She knew that hers was not a sorrowful face. The man could not have divined her sorrow from anything that was to be seen there. Had he also divined the questioning that was within her, the grievous questioning that would not let her be? It was absurd to be impressed by such a man — a poor, emaciated creature with Scriptural phrases upon his lips. Probably he was possessed by a mild sort of religious mania. And yet he had surmised the trouble in her heart; he had even made her feel, for an instant, that there could be, somewhere, a balm for it. Almost he had made her feel that a sufficing answer to her questioning could be found. But who was he? A friend of Ed, the guide! A converted cowboy!

While the two men on the other side of the high, blazing fire were talking in low voices, Martha, her tears unshed, wondered; and then she slept.

She slept soundly, and without consciously dreaming, and in the morning, after she had awakened, she lay still for a space of time and did not open her eyes. She was comfortable, and it was pleasant, to listen to the crackling of the fire and, farther away, the liquid tumbling of a brook. ‘The sounds made by fire and by water,’ she thought, ‘are always restful; and that is odd, because they themselves are the most restless things in the world. Perhaps if I could hear the sound the whole of life is making— ’ She did not conclude this reflection, and, aware of how frequently her reflections were impossible of conclusion, she sighed. I don’t believe I’ve had a thought in my mind that I could finish since — since he died. I can’t do anything but conjecture, vainly; and I can’t not conjecture.’ Then, opening her eyes, she raised herself on one elbow.

Ed was leaning over the fire, cooking; but of the blue-clad visitor and his burro there was no sign.

‘Has Mr. Joe left us?’ she asked.

‘No’m,’ Ed replied. ‘He’s down crick a piece, usin’ my razor. He don’t believe in packin’ any supplies. He even depen’s on findin’ people soft enough to give him the loan o’ their razors.’

Martha felt a curious shock of disappointment; and she realized that she had been impressed by the man Joe. He had seemed to her a kind of John the Baptist crying in a new wilderness; and now he was shaving. Because there was a woman in camp? She had heard the guides joke about shaving, as though invariably it were done, however grumblingly, as a tribute to the presence of woman. ‘Is he a preacher?’ she asked.

‘Joe? No’m, he ain’t anythin’ reg’Iar. The Indians hereabouts call him a “shaman” — that’s a medicine man; and there’s quite a power of white folks think he’s got the true religion. I don’t hold with no religion myself. It makes me oneasy. There was a woman once had a notion for me. She was one of them that believe the world’s goin’ to end every Sunday or so, and she figured I better leave off smokin’. It made me oneasy. I expect I’d ’a* married her if it had n’t been for religion. Poor Joe, he ain’t the same man count o’ religion. But,’ he added judicially, ‘I don’t hold with them that call him “Crazy Joe,” neither. I knew Joe when he was the best man on a horse in the whole Southwest, not speakin’ of old Mexico.’

‘Crazy Joe?’

‘There’s folks call him that. He’s done some things — I seen him myself do one thing — I could n’t figure it out, an’ so I let it be. No use gettin’ yourself in a stir. I just let it be. But Joe’s all right . He ain’t crazy, himself.’

‘Crazy Joe,’ Martha murmured thoughtfully. Then, rising, she walked slowly up the bank of the noisy creek.

When she came back, tingling from her bath under an icy waterfall, the burro, Ruth, and the tall man were by the camp fire. ‘It ’s a beautiful morning, ma’am,’ he said; and Martha, in spite of herself, scanned him for a trace of masculine coxcombry. But he seemed unconscious of his smoothly shaven jaws. ‘I saw a doe and a fawn down crick,’ he went on. ‘I think they’d ’a’ let me talk with ’em if Ruth hadn’t acted up. Ruth’s young yet and there’s vanity in her.’

‘What do you mean — talk with deer?’

‘All living things speak with tongues, ma’am, as you might say,’ he answered. ‘Each gives praise unto God in his own way. Spirit and flesh are one in the animals. Only men believe they must sacrifice the one to the other. “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,” it says in the Book.’

Martha felt uncomfortable. ‘He is sincere,’ she thought, ‘and it’s too bad if he’s going to be — tiresome.’ Then, politely, ‘You carry a Bible with you?’ she asked.

‘Yes’m, the New Testament,’ Joe replied. ‘I read some in the Old one and then I figured that for me it came under the head of worldly goods, and, if I was to leave all, I’d better not pack it.'

Martha smiled appreciatively. He had spoken her own feeling about the Bible and she was relieved to learn that he was no common, literally minded fanatic. But Joe, misunderstanding her amused expression, moved his hand deprecatingly. ‘I wasn’t greatly educated when I was a boy, you see,’ he said. ‘And so there’s a lot of such things I have to set to one side. Folks brought up to book knowledge can pack a might of it and still not be kept from cleaving to the spirit.’

‘D’ you-all figure on eatin’ any this mornin’?’ Ed inquired.

The interruption disappointed Martha; and, as obediently she ate the meal that Ed had prepared, when Joe glanced up at a buttress of magenta rock and murmured that there was a hole near its top that might be a cliff dwelling she immediately insisted that they attempt to get to it. She wished to see a cliff dwelling; but, with the vague feeling that Joe had something to say that she needed to hear, she wished even more to postpone his departure. He would be leaving, she was sure, when breakfast was finished.

Ed thought they could reach the dark spot that Joe had seen, for a conical heap of jost led st ones was piled almost to its edge. So after breakfast they left the ponies tethered, and on foot they began to climb. The way was steep and difficult, so much so that at times they had to crawl over bulging rocks that seemed to Martha alarmingly loose in their sockets of orange clay.

Joe’s burro halted beneath one of these knobs of crimson stone and the rest of the way the climbers could hear her melancholy braying and the echo of it ricocheting down the canyon like blasts from a broken trumpet. And they could still, though faintly, hear her raucous pleadings when finally they reached a narrow ledge just below what was not a cliff dwelling but evidently a storehouse that had been cut, ages past, into the solid rock. Martha, panting from her climb and the satisfaction of achieving it, felt a strange, excited emotion as she stared at that small, oblong hole. Beams of ancient wood were sunk into the red stone, a frame for a door that had perished, and over the opening, drawn on the stone in darker red, was a sickle-shaped line crossed by a slanting dash — the owner’s symbol.

‘ How long — how long ago do you suppose that mark was made?’ she asked.

‘Time enough for the crick to sink just a bit,’ Ed chuckled. ‘Some folks gets pretty worked up over cliff dwellings. For me what goes on now is trouble sufficient.’

But Martha looked at Joe.

‘A while ago my heart would be heavy when I’d see one of these old houses,’ he said to her. ‘I’d think of the great numbers of poor humans who’d gone into dust without having heard tell of what we know; and in the pride of my ignorance I’d doubt God’s justice. How He works is for man to know only in part; but He is there for whosoever seeks, no matter what name they cry, seeking. I know that, now.’

‘You know?’ Martha said. ‘Can anyone know that?’

Joe glanced at her, and then he continued: ‘I believe, ma’am, there’s never been a living man in such darkness that he could n’t know that. I figure the people who built this house for their grain were n’t so far different from the Indians, and I’m acquainted with Indians. Did you ever hear an Indian prayer song, ma’am?'

‘No.’ Suddenly afraid, Martha whispered the word. For she had turned from the hole in the cliff and was looking down — down into the gorge where the ponies, as small as mantel ornaments, stood by a crooked silver wire that she knew was the brook. And as she stared, feeling as though the ledge of rock beneath her feet tottered and was about to avalanche down the slope studded with scarlet boulders, Joe in a harsh tone, like the golden eagle’s screech, began to sing.

His voice seemed to pulsate rhythmically on the same strange note that, to Martha listening, was pain made vocal, pain monotonously prolonged into infinity. He ended the unmelodic chant with a wild and shouted ‘Ya! Ya!’ — a sound that reeled through the whole vast series of canyons within the canyon; and, when this echo had diminished until only the burro’s faint braying stirred the silence, unexpectedly he spoke, softly. “There’s not much variety either in the tune or in the meaning. “Am I living? Is this real?” it goes.’

“‘Is this real?”’ Martha whispered. ‘ Does it ask that ? ’

“‘Am I living? Is this real?” it goes over and over,’ Joe answered. ‘It ’s a child’s cry, but it’s not a cry to nothing. Even a savage knows he’s got something to cry to. That’s in the end of the song.’

‘Does it end? I felt as though you’d stopped because you had to. But the song — the song seemed without end.’

‘It ends,’ Joe said solemnly. ‘“O You who are everywhere, I trust You — You!” What other end to the cries of men can there be?’


When they were once more on the floor of the canyon, and Martha and Ed were mounted on their ponies ready to ride on down the bank of the stream, ‘I’ll go with you a ways,’ Joe said. And all day he walked beside Martha, his hand resting on her pony’s mane, and he talked to her of the high wonders that had been revealed to him since, to the best of his humble strength, he had followed wheresoever his spirit led him. He showed her, too, many of the small creatures that had their lives among the red and purple boulders and by the bright water: big-eared mice, and badgers, and ouzels, the swift little birds that fly under water and scatter glittering drops from their wings.

And all day while Joe, in his clothes of blue denim faded to a gentle color by frequent washings, stepped noiselessly over the garish rocks, never injuring his bare feet, Ruth, like a devoted dog, pattered close behind him. For since she had been left braying below the cliff dwelling she seemed unwilling to be separated from him by more than an inch of intervening space. And that evening, having declined to graze with the horses, she doubled her stout little legs under her and, lying down by the fire, rested her shaggy head against Joe’s shoulder. He fed her with pieces of bread, and this feeding renewed Ed’s indignation of the night before.

‘Playin’ nurse to a low-life!’ he exclaimed bitterly. ‘The man that owned Black Eagle playin’ nurse to a low-life! ’

Joe’s face lit up. ‘He’s all right, Ed!’ he said eagerly. ‘He’s as fat as butter!’

‘You’ve seen him?’

‘Last month,’ Joe replied. ‘Back of Thunder Mountain. I could ’a’ had him. It’s all right to tell you, Ed. He’s safe where he is, and he knows it. He has a nice herd— forty or fifty head, counting foals and yearlings.’

Martha leaned forward. ‘Black Eagle? He’s a horse?’

‘He’s more than a horse, ma’am,’ Ed answered her. ‘Why, there was a man from the East would ’a’ give a thousan’ for that horse! I could ’a’ made it out if Joe had n’t wanted to let Black Eagle go East — if that’d been it; but, oh my—’ Further expression beyond him, he threw his brown cigarette into the fire and reached two long fingers into t he pocket of his shirt for the paper to roll another.

Martha smiled contentedly at Joe. ‘You let Black Eagle go free!’

‘Well,’ Joe said, ‘he’d been wild, you see. I knew he could take care of himself.’

Martha appreciated this, for, like many a dweller in cities, she readily felt romance in a story of wild horses; and as she fell asleep that night she visualized, for the pleasure of her mind’s eye, a great black stallion, his mane and tail streaming on the wind and his running hoofs jubilantly beating: free, free, free!

They had camped in the bowl of an ancient lake, a hollow of naked crimson stone, and in the morning, when they rode over the lip of this gaudy basin, it was to enter a defile narrower and deeper than any they had yet been in. Ed, leading the pack pony, rode ahead, walking his horses in the hurrying stream, and Martha, following him, rejoiced like a child in the bubbling fury of the water that pushed about her pony’s legs and tossed drops upon her covered stirrups. She looked over her shoulder at Joe as he strode, leaning back to withstand the rush of water that made white frills above the knees of his trousers; and then, almost ecstatically, for such was her present mood, she gazed up to where the sky, like a flat blue lid, was fitted into the space between the high walls of pink rock — wonderful walls moulded into superb undulations by the creek’s burrowing.

Suddenly, before she could cry out or gather up the slack reins, her unguided pony stumbled and fell; and, gushed under by the swift water, it lay on its side, kicking and struggling. Joe pulled Martha out of her submerged saddle; then expertly he got the pony to its feet and led it up on a shelving ledge of violet rock. And Martha, knee-deep in the swirling stream, gave the cry she had not uttered, for there was a jet of scarlet blood spouting from the inside of the pony’s leg, well above its hock. ‘Oh!’ she cried. ‘He’s bleeding! He’s bleeding! ’

Ed jumped from his horse into the water. ‘That does for him,’ he said, after one glance at the wound. ‘It’s an art’ry — too high up to tie. Mrs. Ridgely, just you get on my pony an’ ride on a piece. We’ll catch you up. Ain’t hurt, are you?’ he asked, for Martha’s face had become white, and almost strickenly she was staring at Joe, where he leaned against the side of the canyon. His body was limp, a slack line of blue upon the rose-colored stone; and such desolate sorrow was in his face that Martha felt, with a pang almost of terror, that he mourned for all the suffering ever undergone — and ever to be undergone — by living flesh. And when, stiffening, he looked up high into the air, her eyes did not leave his face.

Ed, however, looked up, too. ‘God, but you come quick,’ he muttered. For spanning the narrow slit of sky overhead was the dark shape of a buzzard. The great vulture’s wing tips seemed to brush each rim of the gorge.

But Martha only looked at Joe.

Then, as she watched, he stooped abruptly, and with a sure touch he closed the wound under the pony’s quivering haunch. When he took his fingers away, the blood had ceased to flow.

‘He’ll have to rest up for a couple of days, but he’ll be all right,’ he said quietly. ‘God is good.'

After a moment Ed, his face flushing, spoke gruffly. ‘ ’T wunt a big art’ry. But you pinched it shut, all right. I expect we’d better stop right here if we don’t want it to open on us. Likely ’t wunt an art’ry,’ he ended, almost to himself.

Joe was silent. He helped Ed to unsaddle the horses and tether them to the saddles; and not until Ed had gone off to search for firewood was any further word spoken. Then Martha, left alone with Joe, turned to him, ‘What manner of man are you?’

‘I’m no manner of man,’ Joe said, almost crossly; then he smiled apologetically. ‘I did n’t mean to speak sharp; but you don’t understand. I expect, it riles me a little when folks don’t understand, but then I recollect myself as I was some years ago. I would n’t ’a’ understood then. It’s this way, ma’am: there’s a power comes into you if you let it. If you seek the spirit first, it comes — it must come. It’s there, the power that can move the mountains, and, if you have the faith to let it, that power works through you.’

‘It depends on seeking the spirit first ? '

‘How shall it. be otherwise?’ Joe murmured. ‘Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth.’

Before her eyes, Martha felt, a miracle had happened. She had read of ‘blood healers,’ Irish peasants with the uncanny power to stop the flow of blood. ‘But this man,’ she thought confusedly, ‘this man is an American! He could n’t have closed that artery by any — by any strange psychical emanation from — from himself.’

But he was known to people as ‘Crazy Joe.’ What she had seen him do was the same whether he were sane or not; and yet, stirred by a sharp instinct, she knew that her emotion would be less if, to her mind also, he were ‘Crazy Joe.’ She could be calmly amazed by the miracle; but, nervously, she dreaded being amazed by the man as well. That she could not be — calmly.

‘I feel sorry, ma’am,’ Joe said. He appeared to be embarrassed. ‘I feel sorry to’ve fixed up that pony before you. I yearned over him: he was a good animal and carried you faithful, and I had to do what I could. But it was n’t for you to see, ma’am. I would n’t want you to think I thought so — so little of you as that, ma’am.’

‘What?’ Martha cried. ‘What? I don’t understand.’

‘I would n’t want you to think, ma’am, that I don’t know you are not one of them who seeketh after a sign. You are of them who be of the spirit. Only grief has kept your eyes from seeing. Oh, let your eyes be opened, ma’am!’

‘You wish my eyes to be opened — but not through having seen you do — do that to the pony?’

‘That is the least part, ma’am,’ Joe answered earnestly. ‘I am an ignorant man, not able to find words fit for you,’ he went on. ’But mine eyes have seen — what they have seen. I know — it was clear to me from the beginning that death had robbed you and that you, loving the light, were in darkness, sore distressed and seeking peace. Now I tell you, and it is true: there is no death. All things change, ma’am, and move. Nothing dies; but only the spirit liveth ever changeless.’ He put his hand upon a tilted slab of orange rock. ‘There is no rest in the earth. These rocks have moved and will move again. There is no rest save in the truth of the spirit! Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. You are not of the world, ma’am. I knew that when first I looked upon you; and so did Ruth. She knew that you are of the pure in heart.’

Martha was silent.

‘I am not worthy, ma’am, to untie the latchet of your shoes — but I have spoken.’ His voice dropped. ‘I know where there’s likely to be some herbs growing that’ll be good in a mash for the pony,’ he said. ‘Before more time goes I’ll get them.’

Martha watched his tall blue figure move away, with Ruth, strange devotee, at his heels. She watched until they disappeared in a cleft between two high purple rocks, shaped by the canyon-funneled winds into twin minarets; and then she stepped to the brink of the stream and, almost as though she were timid about looking up, gazed down at the bouncing white water.

‘A wandering evangelist! A faith healer!’ Once more she tried to repudiate the feeling that Joe’s words seemed to be forcing into her heart. ‘Why do I feel he knows truth? Why? Why? And need it matter why — if he does ?’

In the mountains all acquired things can be forgotten, and in the shadow of cliffs so tremendous that from their base it is possible to see the pale stars in the daytime the human mind can be humbled and yet entertain vast fancies. ‘God lives!’ Martha whispered. ‘God lives! I believe it!’


A week later, riding along a surly river that had gulped the clear waters of the canyon brook into its brown maw, Martha gazed regretfully after the turreted cliffs that were receding as the river valley widened into desert land.

Her inner turbulence stilled, she was happy. She had found what she had sought. She had found it among the painted canyons; and she felt that, could she ride on forever with Ed and Joe, beneath lonely precipices, she would remain surely possessed of her peace. But; all things, it seemed, came somehow to an end: this night she would rejoin the party of her friends. ‘Life,’ she thought wistfully, ‘is so brief, and yet we spend it in carrying out plans merely because we have agreed upon them. In body we cannot, I suppose, be free — ever; nor can we, altogether, in mind.’ She glanced at Joe, who trod the caked clay beside her pony. ‘But through you,’ she concluded her thought, ‘I know that in spirit we are free!’ Then she sighed. ‘ If only I can keep that knowledge — if only it will not recede from me with the cliffs!’

Joe answered the thought she had not spoken. ‘Your peace will abide with you, ma’am.’

‘I won’t be afraid, Joe,’ Martha said. ‘I won’t lose the peace which passeth all understanding. I have found it. I truly believe I have. I wish — ’

Joe caught a thick strand of her pony’s mane and held it. ’I have my reward,’ he said. ’Before even I met with you I had it ; but now — now I have seen you happy.’

‘Ah, Joe!’ The distant pinnacles glimmered through the tears that were in Martha’s eyes. She wanted to put her hand on Joe’s shoulder and tell him to return to his beautiful canyons.

‘Dust movin’ ahead, ma’am,’ Ed called. ‘Likely it’s the crowd ridin’ out to meet you.’

She pulled her pony to a standstill. ‘Oh, do you think it’s they?'

‘No one in these parts ’ud be makin’ such a dust,’ Ed shouted crossly. ‘Think they’re playin’ White Men an’ Injins, I expect.’

Joe took his hand from the pony s long mane. ‘Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,’ he murmured. Then he stepped back. ‘I '11 be going, he said. ‘God bless you, ma ’am, and keep you.’

‘God bless you 1 ’ Martha cried.

‘He has,’ Joe said quietly. Without taking her outstretched hand, he turned, and with Ruth trotting beside him, nuzzling at his swinging arm, he walked away — toward the serrated lavender hills; and he did not look back.

While Martha still gazed after him, the two horsewomen who led the procession of galloping ponies began, as they approached, to make treble ululations in the manner of children who have been informed that the Indians war-whoop by clapping the palms of their hands against their shrieking mouths. And, when they yanked their ponies to so abrupt a halt that the soil was furrowed, they assailed Martha with greetings and eager questions.

‘When you did n’t get in yesterday we were all sure you’d vamoosed!’ Estelle cried. ‘George was so gloomy it would have wrung your heart, Martha!’ She laughed a little shrilly.

Mart ha smiled perfunctorily. ‘ Well,’ she thought, ‘I’m beyond being bothered by the idiotic passions of people now. I can be nicer, I think, too, because I am. Poor Estelle—’

‘What did delay you?' Edith Granger asked.

‘One of the ponies hurt his leg,’ Martha explained. ’We had to rest him a while.'

Then the men, Frank Granger and George, came up; and with laughter and shouted gayeties they all rode on together, following the dingy river.

‘There are no colors here,’ Martha thought. ‘They’ve all been left in the canyons.’

Later, about the camp fire, she made another such comparison. ‘There,’ she thought, ‘it was quiet in the evenings. No one spoke unless he felt like it. But here we must incessantly keep babbling; Ed must be with the other guides, transformed by some impalpable, hostile ruling into a kind of open-air servant; and Joe is gone. Ah, but I am glad he is gone!’ She held out her hands to the warmth of the embers. ‘He is something wholly clear and unsullied to remember.’ And she wondered if he were camped that night in the open valley, or if he had gone up into a canyon. Then, glancing across an isthmus of darkness at the other camp fire where the guides were, she saw a gleam of blue when a figure crossed behind its flames.

But it could n’t have been Joe’s figure, she was sure; and all the next day she imagined him wandering alone with Ruth through magnificent passages in the chiseled hills, or perhaps joining a party of Indians, and, wherever he was, moving always at the behest of his spirit. As she thought of him, he seemed increasingly to partake of the remote sublimity of the canyons. But in the evening when she sat by the fire again, listening to her friends discuss the day’s fishing, she realized with a start that Joe was, at all events, not remote. For just beyond the rim of light she saw a long streak of blue. ‘That was he — last night!’ she thought. ‘He never went back to the canyons at all!'

There, his blue clothes daubed with moving shadows, he stood.

She jumped to her feet. ‘Joe! It’s you! ’

‘Peace be to this house,’ Joe said loudly. Then, stepping fairly into the light, he faced Martha. ‘I came back, ma’am, because a voice cried that my work was not yet done. “Go back to her,” it cried, “lest these people of the world spoil — spoil her of the treasure laid up for her.” ’

‘Joe!’ Martha looked at. him as she made this exclamation; but all too clearly she seemed to see the ring of incredulous faces behind her, and, really in terror, she felt that, their incredulity was to be replaced by amusement.

‘ I was not going to speak, ma’am — only to see if all was well. But I have seen; and I must speak!’ Joe’s voice trembled harshly and he addressed the others. ‘I speak not to rebuke, but only that ye be warned lest in ignorance ye bring the world between a soul and that soul’s peace.’

‘No, no,’ Martha began hurriedly; but she could not go on. She gave a protesting moan, and then she heard Frank Granger. ‘You intend to remove this ignorance of ours, I trust,’ he said, with apparent deference. ‘None of us, I feel quite sure, wish to destroy the peace of this — of this soul you mention. If you’ll tell us what to do —’

Joe swallowed visibly, and his tall figure seemed to tilt forward. He raised one shaking arm.

‘Evidently,’ Frank went on, ‘a soul has recently been saved. We did n’t know about it. But now that you’ve told us, of course, we don’t want it to —is backslide the word? A small revival meeting would be helpful to us all, I’m sure; and if you’ll be so kind —’

Joe looked up into the black sky. ‘Ye know not what ye do,’ he muttered.

‘No, we really don’t,’ Frank said, encouraged by faint sounds of suppressed laughter. ‘But you do —’

Martha whirled about. ‘Stop it!' she cried furiously. ‘Stop it, all of you! This man is— This man has been good to me, and you — you shan’t be rude to him!’ She turned to Joe, her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright. ‘You’re troubled, Joe,’ she said. ‘There’s no reason for you to be. But — come.’

She stepped into the thick darkness that hung about the fire like a circular canopy; he followed her.

At a distance, she stopped and spoke gently. ‘Joe, don’t mind. Those people are n’t really unkind. I understand them. They did n’t mean to hurt you — to hurt us,’ she amended. ‘They were just surprised. They —’

Abruptly she was silent.

There was a change in Joe that, by the fire, she had not seen. The serenity was gone from his thin face, leaving it haggard; and in the starlight his eyes were black —black with pain, she thought. And it seemed to her that he was suffering — terribly. ' Oh, don’t — you must n’t!’ she whispered. ’You need n’t be troubled,’ she went on. ‘You need n’t fear for me, Joe — truly you need n’t! ’

‘It isn’t that!’ Joe said. ‘I didn’t know what it was until that man made me out a fool. I was a fool. I did n’t know why I’d come. I thought it was to save you from — from those people’s vanities. But it wasn’t! It wasn’t!’

Martha took a frightened step in the direction of the sparkling fires. ‘ You’d better go, I think. Everything’s all right. Joe, you’d better go.’

‘ You spoke for me against that man — against those people! You came to my side. You bade me come with you! Oh, I know now! I know all. I do come with you. I can never leave you now. I feel — you must know, ma’am, how I feel! That ’s why I came back. That’s why! That’s why!’ His whisper was triumphant.

‘That’s why! ’ A hideous and desperate wish to laugh began to stir within Martha. ‘That’s why!’

‘And you,’ Joe’s rejoicing whisper went on, ‘you were angry for me! You were so beautiful! Your face — oh, I will cherish you. We will do God’s bidding together! Your soul is one with mine. It is revealed. You see it, too! Yrou —’ He stopped suddenly, as a deer, running, falls from the bullet already well lodged in its heart. ‘ Martha! ’ he whispered faintly, a sound as though a thin fragment of paper were torn across. Then, for the last time, he divined her: ‘“Crazy Joe”! You’ve heard that name for me! You call me that! You — Martha!’

He had divined her rightly. ‘Crazy Joe’! The title crackled in her ears, and through it she could hear the horses, picketed near by, munching and swishing their tails, the dreary lap of the river, and, far off in the canyons, the multiple crescendo of a coyote yelping. Joe stood before her. He was there — standing before her. She could speak to him. She could deny — she could tell him — but she could not. He had, indeed, finally divined her. Numb and mute, she stood. ‘Crazy Joe’! ‘Crazy Joe’!

And then — he was gone. This time, she knew, really gone.

For a while she continued to stand there alone — transfixed. ‘That’s all,’ she thought wretchedly. ‘Poor man, poor man, all he could do in the end was to fall in love with a woman; and all I can ever hear — ever, ever, is that a man is in love with me. What else is there? We think there’s something else and all the time it’s only that! No wonder God cannot bear to live!’


‘Nothin’ int’restin’ this mornin’. Mos’ly bills.’ With this remark the Irishwoman whose gaunt frame was clad in a maid’s black dress and frilled white apron — it should have been swathed in a cloth shawl — slapped a pile of letters down on the table beside Martha’s coffee cup. ‘You ain’t et a thing!’ she added truculently.

Yes, Nora, I have,’ Martha answered. ‘I’ve eaten plenty.’

Nora had lived with Martha always: she had been her nurse; and Martha was inured to her ways. It was difficult for her, however, not to wince when Nora commented on the character of the day’s mail. For that was a custom to which Martha’s husband had most objected. And he had objected to it with emphasis on the morning of the day he had been killed — two years ago exactly. His widow felt that the mail might have been brought in silence on this particular morning, a morning that Nora quite well knew was — an anniversary.

‘You might as well clear the table, Nora,’ she said with a sigh. Then she rose and, with the disparaged letters in her hand, walked into her compact little sitting room. She went to the window and knelt on the seat there for a moment, while she gazed across acres of sooty roofs to where sections of an agate-colored river were visible. Then with another sigh she sat down and listlessly began to examine her mail. Among the bills that Nora had mentioned she found a soiled envelope addressed in pencil and postmarked Arizona.

‘Arizona!' she thought. ‘That, to come on this day, too! It’s from Ed, I suppose.’ She opened it, and, unfolding the lined tablet paper, she read:—

I was pleased to get the pictures you sent. The ones of the horses come out good some of them. I will tell you of a sad ocurence. You recalect Joe that was with us in the canyon. He lias met with a misshap and this is the way it was. We had a heavy fall of snow a couple of weeks after you all was gone. It was erly for snow. You know when snow comes here it chokes up on the rims so you cant get out that way. If your unlucky to be in a canyon when the snow has got on the top you wont get out without you go all the way back and thats long sometimes. We was all in town when the snow come and we got uneasy about Joe. We figgird may be he was stuck: and thats the way it was. The boys got together and hired a man in an airplane to look for Joe. He found him by the buzirds and I expect

you know what that means. They wasent much use riskin life after that. We will get him out in the spring. He was starved I expect. The man knew it was Joe. He flew low to see the rags on him was blue. I know you thought some of Joe and I figgird you would like to know he was dead. Joe was a good man. You will come West again some day I expect.

The man I forgot said he saw a lowlife. That fixes it was Joe. That lowlife might live till spring if the grass holds. Jim that was with us says he is bound to shoot some of them buzirds but I told him Joe diden even shoot snakes.

‘Starved!' Martha lay face down on the window seat. Ed’s letter crumpled in her hand, she lay still, while, welded by distance into a single note, the dissonances made by the traffic on the street far below came faintly up to her.

She lifted her head. ‘Tell him, Joe,’she whispered. ‘Tell my husband I love him. I know, oh, I know now that your loving me was n’t — “only that”! Love is part of everything — part of eternity, part of God. Joe, Joe, I understand your loving me, and it was beautiful of you. Tell him, Joe! Tell him I love him and that I believe — that I believe —'