Farther up the gorge the sea’s voice fainted and ceased. We heard a new noise far away ahead of us, vague and metallic, it might have been some unpleasant bird’s voice Bedded in a matrix of long silences. At length we came to a little cabin lost in the redwoods, An old man sat on a bench before the doorway filing a cross-cut saw; sometimes he slept, Sometimes he filed. Two or three horses in the corral by the streamside lifted their heads To watch us pass, but the old man did not.
In the afternoon we returned the same way, And had the picture in our minds of magnificent regions of space and mountain not seen before. (This was The first time that we visited Pigeon Gap, whence you look down behind the great shouldering pyramid- Edges of Pico Blanco through eagle-gulfs of air to a forest basin Where two-hundred-foot redwoods look like the pile on a Turkish carpet.) With such extensions of the idol- Worshipping mind we came down the streamside. The old man was still at his post by the cabin doorway, but now Stood up and stared, said angrily “Where are you camping?” I said “We’re not camping, we’re going home.” He said From his flushed heavy face, “That’s the way fires get started. Did you come at night?” “We passed you this morning. You were half asleep, filing a saw.” “I’ll kill anybody that starts a fire here ...” his voice quavered Into bewilderment ... “I didn’t see you. Kind of feeble I guess. My temperature’s a hundred and two every afternoon.” “Why, what’s the matter?” He removed his hat And rather proudly showed us a deep healed trench in the bald skull. “My horse fell at the ford, I must ’a’ cracked my head on a rock. Well sir I can’t remember anything till next morning. I woke in bed the pillow was soaked with blood, the horse was in the corral and had had his hay,”— Singing the words as if he had told the story a hundred times. To whom? To himself, probably,— “The saddle was on the rack and the bridle on the right nail. What do you think of that now?” He passed His hand on his bewildered forehead and said, “Unless an angel or something came down and did it. A basin of blood and water by the crick, I must ’a’ washed myself.” My wife said sharply, “Have you been to a doctor?” “Oh yes,” he said, “my boy happened down.” She said “You oughtn’t to be alone here: are you all alone here?” “No;” he answered, “horses. I’ve been all over the world: right here is the most beautiful place in the world. I played the piccolo in ships’ orchestras.” We looked at the immense redwoods and dark Fern-taken slip of land by the creek, where the horses were, and the yuccaed hillsides high in the sun Flaring like torches; I said “Darkness comes early here.” He answered with pride and joy, “Two hundred and eighty- Five days in the year the sun never gets in here. Like living under the sea, green all summer, beautiful.” My wife said, “How do you know your temperature’s A hundred and two?” “Eh? The doctor. He said the bone Presses my brain, he’s got to cut out a piece. I said All right you’ve got to wait till it rains, I’ve got to guard my place through the fire-season. By God” he said joyously, “The quail on my roof wake me up every morning, then I look out the window and a dozen deer Drift up the canyon with the mist on their shoulders. Look in the dust at your feet, all the little hoof-prints.”