The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 8, page 3 of 8)

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Chapter 8

"Love me? No. Not in the way you mean--perhaps as a daughter. But Mormons teach duty to church first, and say such love comes--to the wives--afterward. But it doesn't--not in the women I've seen. There's Mother Ruth--her heart is broken. She loves me, and I can tell."

"When was this--this marriage to be?"

"I don't know. Father Naab promised me to his son when he came home from the Navajo range. It would be soon if they found out that you and I--Jack, Snap Naab would kill you!"

The sudden thought startled the girl. Her eyes betrayed her terror.

"I mightn't be so easy to kill," said Hare, darkly. The words came unbidden, his first answer to the wild influences about him. "Mescal, I'm sorry--maybe I've brought you unhappiness.

"No. No. To be with you has been like sitting there on the rim watching the desert, the greatest happiness I have ever known. I used to love to be with the children, but Mother Mary forbade. When I am down there, which is seldom, I'm not allowed to play with the children any more."

"What can I do?" asked Hare, passionately.

"Don't speak to Father Naab. Don't let him guess. Don't leave me here alone," she answered low. It was not the Navajo speaking in her now. Love had sounded depths hitherto unplumbed; a quick, soft impulsiveness made the contrast sharp and vivid.

"How can I help but leave you if he wants me on the cattle ranges?"

"I don't know. You must think. He has been so pleased with what you've done. He's had Mormons up here, and two men not of his Church, and they did nothing. You've been ill, besides you're different. He will keep me with the sheep as long as he can, for two reasons--because I drive them best, he says, and because Snap Naab's wife must be persuaded to welcome me in her home."

"I'll stay, if I have to get a relapse and go down on my back again," declared Jack. "I hate to deceive him, but Mescal, pledged or not--I love you, and I won't give up hope."

Her hands flew to her face again and tried to hide the dark blush.

"Mescal, there's one question I wish you'd answer. Does August Naab think he'll make a Mormon of me? Is that the secret of his wonderful kindness?"

"Of course he believes he'll make a Mormon of you. That's his religion. He's felt that way over all the strangers who ever came out here. But he'd be the same to them without his hopes. I don't know the secret of his kindness, but I think he loves everybody and everything. And Jack, he's so good. I owe him all my life. He would not let the Navajos take me; he raised me, kept me, taught me. I can't break my promise to him. He's been a father to me, and I love him."

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