The Heart of the Desert (Chapter 8, page 1 of 14)

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Chapter 8

Rhoda lay stiffly, her heart beating wildly. Kut-le and the squaws, each a muffled, blanketed figure, lay sleeping some distance away. Old Alchise stood on solitary guard at the edge of the camp with his back to her.

"Make as if you wanted to shift your blankets toward the cat's-claw bush behind you!" went on the whispered voice.

Obediently, Rhoda sat erect. Alchise turned slowly to light a cigarette out of the wind. Rhoda yawned, rose sleepily, looked under her blanket and shook her, head irritably, then dragged her blankets toward the neighboring cat's-claw. Again she settled herself to sleep. Alchise turned back to his view of the desert.

"I'm behind the bush here," whispered the voice. "I'm a prospector. Saw you make camp. I don't know where any of the search parties are but if you can crawl round to me I'll guarantee to get you to 'em somehow. Slip out of your blankets and leave 'em, rounded up as if you was still under 'em. Quick now and careful!"

Rhoda, her eyes never leaving Alchise's impassive back, drew herself silently and swiftly from her blankets and with a clever touch or two rounded them. Then she crept around the cat's-claw, where a man squatted, his eyes blazing with excitement. He put up a sinewy, hand to pull her from sight when, without warning, Rhoda sneezed.

Instantly there was the click of a rifle and Alchise shouted: "Stop!"

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