In the Dwellings of the Wilderness by Charlotte Bryson Taylor

In the Dwellings of the Wilderness

byCharlotte Bryson Taylor

Kobo ebook | March 24, 2016

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DEANE came out of his tent, lighting a particularly unclean briar, and strolled over to where Merritt lay flat on his back, his hands behind his head, staring out over the desert into the painted sunset sky. Off to the right were the excavations, gaping like raw wounds in the monotone of brown desert sand; huge mounds of out-flung earth, monstrous and grotesque, deep pits and chasms with sloping ridges and embankments; in the great mound called by the Arabs the Mound of the Lost City, which overtopped and dominated all the rest, wide trenches, long and deep, cutting far into the hidden heart of it, by which men had ascended from and descended to what lay below. To the left were the small army of labourers, camped behind one of the smaller untapped mounds, intent upon their meagre supper of parched corn. The bluish smoke of a fire rose from behind a jutting breastwork of earth where Ibraheem, the overseer, was making the thick, fragrant coffee of his land. Already the loneliness of coming night was upon the earth; already the sun had dipped below the desert's rim, and the fierce colour of the sky was fading. Away to the east, behind the camps, far to the edge of the world, the shadow of darkness was racing with swift, silent strides.

Deane sat down beside Merritt's prostrate figure. He was tall, and deep-chested, and thin-flanked, with a certain gravity about him which made him appear older than his years. His eyes were brown and quiet, his hair a brownish red, remarkably stiff and wiry; about his mouth were faint lines of humour. Merritt, short and thin and tough as whit-leather, grey of hair and keen of face, moved a hand from beneath his head, tilted back the hat that hid his face, and looked up at Deane.

"Where's Holloway?" he inquired.

"He took his camera early this afternoon and said he was going to get some views of what we've uncovered of the North Temple," Deane replied. "Seems to me we ought to find more tablets in there somewhere—well-preserved ones. This place is modern compared with some of the sites of other cities we've come across."

He eyed the excavations with interest, eager to probe the depths of their ancient mystery. Also he wished that Holloway would return. Holloway was young and ardently imaginative, and one could talk to him about the spell of fascination which this mighty grave held for one, the thoughts of greatness risen and passed away and lost which it conjured up. One could not easily talk to Merritt thus, be cause Merritt was an old hand at the business, eminently practical and hard as rocks, and matter-of-fact to his finger-ends, apt to confuse sentiment with sentimentality and consequently despise it.

The sun sank below the horizon and swiftly the world grew dark. From the men's camp came a mournful chant, subdued, and heard as from far away, and the measured thump of a drum. At intervals a donkey raised his voice, after the manner of a saw-shrieking its way through wood. With the darkness came the stars, leaping into the black arch of heaven, great and of a number beyond all counting; the night-wind turned the heat of the day to sudden coolness, sweeping softly among the ruins. The mounds of earth, softened in outline by the darkness, loomed vast and shadowlike, melting into the sombre mystery of the night. Mingled with the chant of the natives and the occasional hee-haw of the donkeys was the fretful bleating of goats, destined for the masters' food. Around the jutting earthwork a faint gleam of light shone from the overseer's fire. Over all the night brooded, swallowing sound and motion in its immensity.

"Those brutes would work like cattle all day and sing like bullfrogs all night," Merritt said suddenly. He heaved himself on an elbow and shouted for Ibraheem. Soon this one came stalking from his fire, a blot against the night.

"Why are the men so noisy to-night?" Merritt wished to know.

Title:In the Dwellings of the WildernessFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:March 24, 2016Publisher:CPLanguage:English

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