THE RAINBOW TRAIL, a Romance
by ZANE GREY.
In the original text the words "canyon" and "pinyon" are spelled in the
Spanish form, "canon" and "pinon", with tildes above the center "n"s.
Since the plain text format precludes the use of tildes, I've changed
these words to the more familiar spelling
to make them easier to
I. RED LAKE.
II. THE SAGI.
IV. NEW FRIENDS.
V. ON THE TRAIL.
VI. IN THE HIDDEN VALLEY.
VIII. THE HOGAN OF NAS TA BEGA.
IX. IN THE DESERT CRUCIBLE.
XI. AFTER THE TRIAL.
XII. THE REVELATION.
XIII. THE STORY OF SURPRISE VALLEY.
XIV. THE NAVAJO.
XV. WILD JUSTICE.
XVI. SURPRISE VALLEY.
XVII. THE TRAIL TO NONNEZOSHE.
XVIII. AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.
XIX. THE GRAND CANYON OF THE COLORADO.
XX. WILLOW SPRINGS.
The spell of the desert comes back to me, as it always will come. I see
the veils, like purple
smoke, in the canyon, and I feel the silence. And
it seems that again I must try to pierce
both and to get at the strange
wild life of the last American wilderness--wild still, almost, as it
While this romance
is an independent story, yet readers of "Riders of
the Purple Sage" will find in it an answer to a question often asked.
I wish to say also this story has appeared serially in a different
form in one of the monthly
magazines under the title of "The Desert
Crucible." ZANE GREY.
THE RAINBOW TRAIL
I. RED LAKE
Shefford halted his tired horse and gazed with slowly realizing eyes.
A league-long slope of sage rolled and billowed down to Red Lake, a dry
red basin, denuded and glistening, a hollow in the desert, a lonely
desolate door to the vast, wild, and broken upland
All day Shefford had plodded onward
with the clear horizon-line a thing
unattainable; and for days before that he had ridden
the wild bare flats
and climbed the rocky desert benches. The great colored reaches and
steps had led endlessly onward
through dim and deceiving
A hundred miles of desert travel, with its mistakes and lessons and
intimations, had not prepared him for what he now saw. He beheld
seemed a world that knew only magnitude. Wonder and awe fixed his gaze,
and thought remained aloof. Then that dark and unknown northland flung
at him. An irresistible
call had drawn him to this seamed and
peaked border of Arizona, this broken battlemented wilderness
upland; and at first sight they frowned upon him, as if to warn him not
to search for what lay hidden
beyond the ranges. But Shefford thrilled
with both fear and exultation. That was the country which had been
described to him. Far across the red valley, far beyond the ragged
of black mesa and yellow range, lay the wild canyon
with its haunting
Red Lake must be his Rubicon. Either he must enter the unknown to seek,
to strive, to find, or turn back and fail and never know and be always
haunted. A friend's strange story had prompted his singular
with its mystery
and promise had decided
him. Once in
his life he had answered a wild call to the kingdom of adventure
within him, and once in his life he had been happy. But here in the
horizon-wide face of that up-flung and cloven desert he grew cold; he
faltered even while he felt more fatally drawn.
As if impelled Shefford started his horse down the sandy trail, but he
checked his former far-reaching
gaze. It was the month of April, and the
waning sun lost heat and brightness. Long shadows crept down the slope
ahead of him and the scant sage deepened its gray. He watched the
lizards shoot like brown streaks across the sand, leaving their slender
tracks; he heard the rustle
of pack-rats as they darted into their
brushy homes; the whir of a low-sailing hawk startled his horse.
Like ocean waves the slope rose and fell, its hollows choked with sand,
its ridge-tops showing scantier growth of sage and grass and weed. The
last ridge was a sand-dune, beautifullyribbed
and scalloped and lined
by the wind, and from its knife-sharp crest a thin wavering sheet of
sand blew, almost like smoke. Shefford wondered why the sand looked red
at a distance, for here it seemed almost white. It rippled everywhere,
clean and glistening, always leading down.
Suddenly Shefford became aware of a house looming out of the bareness
of the slope. It dominated that long white incline. Grim, lonely,
forbidding, how strangely
it harmonized with the surroundings! The
structure was octagon-shaped, built of uncut stone, and resembled a
fort. There was no door on the sides exposed to Shefford's gaze, but
small apertures two-thirds the way up probably served as windows and
port-holes. The roof appeared to be made of poles covered with red
Like a huge cold rock on a wide plain this house stood there on the
windy slope. It was an outpost of the trader
Presbrey, of whom Shefford
had heard at Flagstaff and Tuba. No living thing appeared in the
limit of Shefford's vision. He gazed shudderingly at the unwelcoming
habitation, at the dark eyelike windows, at the sweep of barren
merging into the vast red valley, at the bold, bleak bluffs. Could any
one live here? The nature of that sinistervalleyforbade
a home there,
and the spirit of the place hovered in the silence and space. Shefford
thought irresistibly of how his enemies would have consigned him to
just such a hell. He thought bitterly
and mockingly of the narrow
congregation that had proved him a failure
in the ministry, that had
repudiated his ideas of religion and immortality
and God, that had
driven him, at the age of twenty-four, from the calling
forced upon him
by his people. As a boy he had yearned to make himself an artist; his
family had made him a clergyman; fate had made him a failure. A failure
only so far in his life, something urged him to add--for in the lonely
days and silent nights of the desert he had experienced
a strange birth
of hope. Adventure had called him, but it was a vague and spiritual
hope, a dream of promise, a namelessattainment
that fortified his
As he rode around a corner of the stone house his horse snorted and
stopped. A lean, shaggy
pony jumped at sight of him, almost displacing
a red long-haired blanket that covered an Indian saddle. Quick thuds
of hoofs in sand drew Shefford's attention to a corral made of peeled
poles, and here he saw another pony.
Shefford heard subdued voices. He dismounted and walked to an open door.
In the dark interior
he dimly descried a high counter, a stairway, a
pile of bags of flour, blankets, and silver-ornamented objects, but the
persons he had heard were not in that part of the house. Around another
corner of the octagon-shaped wall he found another open door, and
through it saw goat-skins and a mound of dirty sheep-wool, black and
brown and white. It was light in this part of the building. When he
crossed the threshold
he was astounded to see a man struggling with
a girl--an Indian girl. She was straining back from him, panting, and
uttering low guttural sounds. The man's face was corded and dark with
passion. This scene affected
Shefford strangely. Primitive emotions were
new to him.
Before Shefford could speak the girl broke loose and turned to flee. She
was an Indian and this place was the uncivilized desert, but Shefford
when he saw it. Like a dog the man rushed after her. It was
instinct that made Shefford strike, and his blow laid the man flat. He
lay stunned a moment, then raised himself to a sitting posture, his
hand to his face, and the gaze he fixed upon Shefford seemed to combine
astonishment and rage.
"I hope you're not Presbrey," said Shefford, slowly. He felt awkward,
not sure of himself.
The man appeared about to burst into speech, but repressed it. There
was blood on his mouth and his hand. Hastily he scrambled to his feet.
Shefford saw this man's amaze and rage change to shame. He was tall and
rather stout; he had a smooth tanned face, soft of outline, with a weak
chin; his eyes were dark. The look of him and his corduroys and his soft
shoes gave Shefford an impression
that he was not a man who worked hard.
with the few other worn and rugged
desert men Shefford had
met this stranger stood out strikingly. He stooped to pick up a soft
felt hat and, jamming it on his head, he hurried
out. Shefford followed
him and watched him from the door. He went directly to the corral,
mounted the pony, and rode out, to turn down the slope toward the south.
When he reached the level of the basin, where evidently
the sand was
hard, he put the pony to a lope and gradually drew away.
"Well!" ejaculated Shefford. He did not know what to make of this
adventure. Presently he became aware that the Indian girl was sitting on
a roll of blankets near the wall. With curious interest Shefford studied
her appearance. She had long, raven-black hair, tangled and disheveled,
and she wore a soiled white band of cord above her brow. The color of
her face struck him; it was dark, but not red nor bronzed; it almost
had a tinge of gold. Her profile
was clear-cut, bold, almost stern. Long
black eyelashes hid her eyes. She wore a tight-fitting waist garment
material resembling velveteen. It was ripped along her side, exposing
a skin still more richly
gold than that of her face. A string of silver
ornaments and turquoise-and-white beads encircled her neck, and it moved
gently up and down with the heaving of her full bosom. Her skirt was
some gaudy print goods, torn and stained and dusty. She had little feet,
incased in brown moccasins, fitting
like gloves and buttoning over the
ankles with silver coins.
"Who was that man? Did he hurt you?" inquired Shefford, turning to gaze
down the valley
where a moving black object showed on the bare sand.
"No savvy," replied the Indian girl.
"Where's the trader
Presbrey?" asked Shefford.
straight down into the red valley.
"Toh," she said.
In the center of the basin lay a small pool of water shining brightly
glow. Small objects moved around it, so small that Shefford
thought he saw several dogs led by a child. But it was the distance
that deceived him. There was a man down there watering his horses. That
reminded Shefford of the duty owing to his own tired and thirsty beast.
Whereupon he untied his pack, took off the saddle, and was about ready
to start down when the Indian girl grasped the bridle
from his hand.
"Me go," she said.
He saw her eyes then, and they made her look different. They were as
black as her hair. He was puzzled to decide whether or not he thought
"Thanks, but I'll go," he replied, and, taking
started down the slope. At every step he sank into the deep, soft sand.
Down a little way he came upon a pile of tin cans; they were everywhere,
buried, half buried, and lying loose; and these gave evidence of how
lived. Presently Shefford discovered that the Indian girl
was following him with her own pony. Looking upward
at her against the
light, he thought her slender, lithe, picturesque. At a distance he
He plodded on, at length glad to get out of the drifts of sand to the
hard level floor of the valley. This, too, was sand, but dried and baked
hard, and red in color. At some season of the year this immense
must be covered with water. How wide it was, and empty! Shefford
experienced again a feeling that had been novel to him--and it was that
he was loose, free, unanchored, ready to veer with the wind. From the
foot of the slope the water hole had appeared to be a few hundred rods
out in the valley. But the small size of the figures made Shefford
doubt; and he had to travel many times a few hundred rods before those
figures began to grow. Then Shefford made out that they were approaching
Thereafter they rapidly increased to normal
proportions of man and
beast. When Shefford met them he saw a powerful, heavily built young man
leading two ponies.
"You're Mr. Presbrey, the trader?" inquired Shefford.
"Yes, I'm Presbrey, without the Mister," he replied.
"My name's Shefford. I'm knocking about on the desert. Rode from beyond
"Glad to see you," said Presbrey. He offered his hand. He was a stalwart
man, clad in gray shirt, overalls, and boots. A shock of tumbled light
hair covered his massive
head; he was tanned, but not darkly, and there
was red in his cheeks; under his shaggy
eyebrows were deep, keen eyes;
his lips were hard and set, as if occasion for smiles or words was rare;
and his big, strong jaw seemed locked.
"Wish more travelers came knocking around Red Lake," he added. "Reckon
here's the jumping-off place."
"It's pretty--lonesome," said Shefford, hesitating as if at a loss for
Then the Indian girl came up. Presbrey addressed her in her own
language, which Shefford did not understand. She seemed shy and would
not answer; she stood with downcast
face and eyes. Presbrey spoke again,
at which she pointed
down the valley, and then moved on with her pony
toward the water-hole.
Presbrey's keen eyes fixed on the receding black dot far down that oval
"That fellow left--rather abruptly," said Shefford, constrainedly. "Who
"His name's Willetts. He's a missionary. He rode in to-day with this
Navajo girl. He was taking
her to Blue Canyon, where he lives and
teaches the Indians. I've met him only a few times. You see, not many
white men ride in here. He's the first white man I've seen in six
months, and you're the second. Both the same day!... Red Lake's getting
popular! It's queer, though, his leaving. He expected to stay all night.
There's no other place to stay. Blue Canyon is fifty miles away."
"I'm sorry to say--no, I'm not sorry, either--but I must tell you I was
the cause of Mr. Willetts leaving," replied Shefford.
"How so?" inquired the other.
Then Shefford related
following his arrival.
"Perhaps my action was hasty," he concluded, apologetically. "I didn't
think. Indeed, I'm surprised at myself."
Presbrey made no comment
and his face was as hard to read as one of the
"But what did the man mean?" asked Shefford, conscious
of a little