The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 8, page 2 of 8)

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Chapter 8

"Impossible!" Hare's anger flared up. "You let me believe I had won you. What kind of a girl are you? You were not true. Your actions were lies."

"Not lies," she faltered, and turned her face from him.

With no gentle hand he grasped her arm and forced her to look at him. But the misery in her eyes overcame him, and he roughly threw his arms around her and held her close.

"It can't be a lie. You do care for me--love me. Look at me." He drew her head back from his breast. Her face was pale and drawn; her eyes closed tight, with tears forcing a way out under the long lashes; her lips were parted. He bowed to their sweet nearness; he kissed them again and again, while the shade of the cedars seemed to whirl about him. "I love you, Mescal. You are mine--I will have you--I will keep you--I will not let him have you!"

She vibrated to that like a keen strung wire under a strong touch. All in a flash the trembling, shame-stricken girl was transformed. She leaned back in his arms, supple, pliant with quivering life, and for the first time gave him wide-open level eyes, in which there were now no tears, no shyness, no fear, but a dark smouldering fire.

"You do love me, Mescal?"

"I--I couldn't help it."

There was a pause, tense with feeling.

"Mescal, tell me--about your being pledged," he said, at last.

"I gave him my promise because there was nothing else to do. I was pledged to--to him in the church at White Sage. It can't be changed. I've got to marry--Father Naab's eldest son."

"Eldest son?" echoed Jack, suddenly mindful of the implication. "Why! that's Snap Naab. Ah! I begin to see light. That--Mescal--"

"I hate him."

"You hate him and you're pledged to marry him!... God! Mescal, I'd utterly forgotten Snap Naab already has a wife."

"You've also forgotten that we're Mormons."

"Are you a Mormon?" he queried bluntly.

"I've been raised as one."

"That's not an answer. Are you one? Do you believe any man under God's sky ought to have more than one wife at a time?"

"No. But I've been taught that it gave woman greater glory in heaven. There have been men here before you, men who talked to me, and I doubted before I ever saw you. And afterward--I knew."

"Would not Father Naab release you?"

"Release me? Why, he would have taken me as a wife for himself but for Mother Mary. She hates me. So he pledged me to Snap."

"Does August Naab love you?"

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