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The Inferno
by [?]

These things should have been as signs to our jaded spirits that we were nearly at the end of our penance, but discipline had seared over our souls, and we rode on unknowing.

Then we came on a real indication. It did not amount to much. Merely a dry river-bed; but the farther bank, instead of being flat, cut into a low swell of land. We skirted it. Another swell of land, like the sullen after-heave of a storm, lay in our way. Then we crossed a ravine. It was not much of a ravine; in fact it was more like a slight gouge in the flatness of the country. After that we began to see oak-trees, scattered at rare intervals. So interested were we in them that we did not notice rocks beginning to outcrop through the soil until they had become numerous enough to be a feature of the landscape. The hills, gently, quietly, without abrupt transition, almost as though they feared to awaken our alarm by too abrupt movement of growth, glided from little swells to bigger swells. The oaks gathered closer together. The ravine’s brother could almost be called a canon. The character of the country had entirely changed.

And yet, so gradually had this change come about that we did not awaken to a full realization of our escape. To us it was still the plain, a trifle modified by local peculiarity, but presently to resume its wonted aspect. We plodded on dully, anodyned with the desert patience.

But at a little before noon, as we rounded the cheek of a slope, we encountered an errant current of air. It came up to us curiously, touched us each in turn, and went on. The warm furnace heat drew in on us again. But it had been a cool little current of air, with something of the sweetness of pines and water and snow-banks in it. The Tenderfoot suddenly reined in his horse and looked about him.

“Boys!” he cried, a new ring of joy in his voice, “we’re in the foot-hills!”

Wes calculated rapidly. “It’s the eighth day to-day: I guessed right on the time.”

We stretched our arms and looked about us. They were dry brown hills enough; but they were hills, and they had trees on them, and canons in them, so to our eyes, wearied with flatness, they seemed wonderful.