The Phantom Tracker: The Prisoner of the Hill Cave The Phantom Tracker: The Prisoner of the Hill Cave

The Phantom Tracker: The Prisoner of the Hill Cave

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It was a sultry, scorching day, on the banks of the river Gila—very sultry and silent. The sun in the zenith looked whitely down, and the yellow banks reflected its rays fiercely on the sluggishly-creeping, warm river. Away over the flat, glistening plain reigned the utmost silence. As far as the eye could reach it saw nothing—only dead level, dead heat, and dead silence. Here, mile upon mile from civilization, hundreds of miles away from any habitation, this vast wilderness stretched away—always level, always hazy, always silent—a spectral land.

A large catfish lazily rolled and tumbled on the surface of the river, too hot to swim, and too stupid to move—lying there, he only, at times, waved his fins and tumbled gently. A vulture sat on a sand-crag just above him—a water-vulture, or, rather, a brown, dirty fish-hawk. He was lazily watching his chance to swoop suddenly down upon the fish, and carry him off in his talons. But it was too hot to undergo any useless exertion, so he watched and waited for a sure chance, pluming himself moodily.

A panting coyote sat on his house at a little distance, watching the pair, and vaguely conscious that he was very hungry; a mule-rabbit under an adjacent tiny shrub tremblingly watched the coyote, starting violently at the slightest movement of the latter; and a huge yellow serpent, long and supple, dragged his scaly body up the bluff toward the rabbit.

The sun shone redly down now, leaving its white appearance for a sanguinary and blood-red hue; a haze was brewing.

Suddenly the quiet was disturbed. The coyote sneaked away, with his bristly chin upon his lank shoulder; this alarmed the rabbit, and he, too, fled, making the most gigantic leaps; in ten seconds he had disappeared. The snake’s eyes flashed in enraged disappointment, and hissing spitefully, he raised his head to discover the cause of the hasty flight.

He soon saw it. On the barren banks he could have seen a mouse at a long distance. The object he saw was the exact reverse of that diminutive quadruped, being a large, stalwart, swarthy man, on a large black horse.

He appeared suddenly, riding over the crest of an adjacent hillock. He stopped on the summit, glared keenly around, then rode down into the river. He stopped in the river where the thirsty horse drank greedily. Then, after dismounting and drinking deeply himself, he boldly rode up the opposite bank.

He appeared well acquainted with the locality, for this was the only fordable place for miles—either the river was too deep or the bottom too soft—“quicksandy.”

Riding up the bank, he halted and sat for a moment buried in profound thought. He was a Mexican, a giant in proportions. His visage was that of a crafty, wily man, and his keen black eye was one that never quailed. His dress was simple, being in the American manner, of well dressed buck-skin. He however still clung to his sombrero, which, instead of being cocked jauntily on the side of his head, was drawn down over his eyes to shield them from the hot sun. His whole equipment was that of a mounted ranger, and this style of dress has so often been described as to be familiar to all.

Instead of the short carbine which a Mexican habitually carries, he sported a long, elegant rifle—a very witch to charm a hunter’s eye. Then he had a brace of silver-mounted revolvers, each firing five times without reloading. Like the rifle, they were costly, and fatally precise and true, models of expensive and beautiful workmanship.

Narrativa e letteratura
14 giugno
Library of Alexandria