Desert Gold (Chapter 9, page 2 of 7)

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Chapter 9

Gale pondered over an idea he had long revolved in mind, and which now
suddenly gave place to a decision that made his heart swell and his
cheek burn. He peeped again through the green branches to see Nell
laughing at the fiery Mercedes.

"Qui'en sabe," he called, mockingly, and was delighted with Nell's
quick, amazed start.

Then he went in search of Mrs. Belding, and found her busy in the
kitchen. The relation between Gale and Mrs. Belding had subtly and
incomprehensively changed. He understood her less than when at first
he divined an antagonism in her. If such a thing were possible she had
retained the antagonism while seeming to yield to some influence that
must have been fondness for him. Gale was in no wise sure of her
affection, and he had long imagined she was afraid of him, or of
something that he represented. He had gone on, openly and fairly,
though discreetly, with his rather one-sided love affair; and as time
passed he had grown less conscious of what had seemed her unspoken
opposition. Gale had come to care greatly for Nell's mother. Not only
was she the comfort and strength of her home, but also of the
inhabitants of Forlorn River. Indian, Mexican, American were all the
same to her in trouble or illness; and then she was nurse, doctor,
peacemaker, helper. She was good and noble, and there was not a child
or grownup in Forlorn River who did not love and bless her. But Mrs.
Belding did not seem happy. She was brooding, intense, deep, strong,
eager for the happiness and welfare of others; and she was dominated by
a worship of her daughter that was as strange as it was pathetic. Mrs.
Belding seldom smiled, and never laughed. There was always a soft, sad,
hurt look in her eyes. Gale often wondered if there had been other
tragedy in her life than the supposed loss of her father in the desert.
Perhaps it was the very unsolved nature of that loss which made it

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