A JUNE WATER
The train, a special, made up of a private car and a diner, was running on a slow order and crawled between the bluffs at a snail's pace.
Ahead, the sun was sinking into the foothills and wherever the eye could reach to the horizon barren wastes lay riotously green under the golden blaze. The river, swollen everywhere out of its banks, spread in a broad and placid flood of yellow over the bottoms, and a hundred shallow lakes studded with willowed islands marked its wandering course to the south and east. The clear, far air of the mountains, the glory of the gold on the June hills and the illimitable stretch of waters below, spellbound the group on the observation platform.
"It's a pity, too," declared Conductor O'Brien, who was acting as mountain Baedeker, "that we're held back this way when we're covering the prettiest stretch on the road for running. It is right along here where you are riding that the speed records of the world have been made. Fourteen and six-tenths miles were done in nine and a half minutes just west of that curve about six months ago—of course it was down hill."
Several of the party were listening. "Do you use speed recorders out here?" asked Allen Harrison.
"Do you use speed recorders?"
"Only on our slow trains," replied O'Brien. "To put speed recorders on Paddy McGraw or Jimmie the Wind would be like timing a teal duck with an eight-day clock. Sir?" he asked, turning to another questioner while the laugh lingered on his side. "No; those are not really mountains at all. Those are the foothills of the Sleepy Cat range—west of the Spider Water. We get into that range about two hundred miles from here—well, I say they are west of the Spider, but for ten days it's been hard to say exactly where the Spider is. The Spider is making us all the trouble with high water just now—and we're coming out into the valley in about a minute," he added as the car gave an embarrassing lurch. "The track is certainly soft, but if you'll stay right where you are, on this side, ladies, you'll get the view of your lives when we leave the bluffs. The valley is about nine miles broad and it's pretty much all under water."
Beyond the curve they were taking lay a long tangent stretching like a steel wand across a sea of yellow, and as their engine felt its way very gingerly out upon it there rose from the slow-moving trucks of their car the softened resonance that tells of a sounding-board of waters.
Soon they were drawn among wooded knolls between which hurried little rivers tossed out of the Spider flood into dry waterways and brawling with surprised stones and foaming noisily at stubborn root and impassive culvert. Through the trees the travellers caught passing glimpses of shaded eddies and a wilderness of placid pools. "And this," murmured Gertrude Brock to her sister Marie, "this is the Spider!" O'Brien, talking to the men at her elbow, overheard. "Hardly, Miss Brock; not yet. You haven't seen the river yet. This is only the backwater."
They were rising the grade to the bridge approach, and when they emerged a few moments later from the woods the conductor said, "There!"
The panorama of the valley lay before them....