The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 8, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 8

For a few days after the capture of Silvermane, a time full to the brim of excitement for Hare, he had no word with Mescal, save for morning and evening greetings. When he did come to seek her, with a purpose which had grown more impelling since August Naab's arrival, he learned to his bewilderment that she avoided him. She gave him no chance to speak with her alone; her accustomed resting-place on the rim at sunset knew her no more; early after supper she retired to her tent.

Hare nursed a grievance for forty-eight hours, and then, taking advantage of Piute's absence on an errand down to the farm, and of the Naabs' strenuous day with four vicious wild horses in the corral at one time, he walked out to the pasture where Mescal shepherded the flock.

"Mescal, why are you avoiding me?" he asked. "What has happened?"

She looked tired and unhappy, and her gaze, instead of meeting his, wandered to the crags.

"Nothing," she replied.

"But there must be something. You have given me no chance to talk to you, and I wanted to know if you'd let me speak to Father Naab."

"To Father Naab? Why--what about?"

"About you, of course--and me--that I love you and want to marry you."

She turned white. "No--no!"

Hare paused blankly, not so much at her refusal as at the unmistakable fear in her face.

"Why--not?" he asked presently, with an odd sense of trouble. There was more here than Mescal's habitual shyness.

"Because he'll be terribly angry."

"Angry--I don't understand. Why angry?"

The girl did not answer, and looked so forlorn that Hare attempted to take her in his arms. She resisted and broke from him.

"You must never--never do that again."

Hare drew back sharply.

"Why not? What's wrong? You must tell me, Mescal."

"I remembered." She hung her head.

"Remembered--what?"

"I am pledged to marry Father Naab's eldest son."

For a moment Hare did not understand. He stared at her unbelievingly.

"What did you say?" he asked, slowly.

Mescal repeated her words in a whisper.

"But--but Mescal--I love you. You let me kiss you," said Hare stupidly, as if he did not grasp her meaning. "You let me kiss you," he repeated.

"Oh, Jack, I forgot," she wailed. "It was so new, so strange, to have you up here. It was like a kind of dream. And after--after you kissed me I--I found out--"

"What, Mescal?"

Her silence answered him.

"But, Mescal, if you really love me you can't marry any one else," said Hare. It was the simple persistence of a simple swain.

"Oh, you don't know, you don't know. It's impossible!"

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