The Man of the Desert (Chapter 6, page 2 of 7)

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Chapter 6

The rain had lasted but a few minutes, and as the clouds cleared the earth grew lighter for a space. Gently melting into the silver and amethyst and emerald of the sky the rainbow faded and now they hurried on, for Brownleigh wished to reach a certain spot where he hoped to find dry shelter for the night. He saw that the excitement of travel and the storm had sorely spent the strength of the girl, and that she needed rest, so he urged the horse forward, and hurried along by his side.

But suddenly he halted the horse and looked keenly into the face of his companion in the dying light.

"You are very tired," he said. "You can hardly sit up any longer."

She smiled faintly.

Her whole body was drooping with weariness and a strange sick faintness had come upon her.

"We must stop here," he said and cast about him for a suitable spot. "Well, this will do. Here is a dry place, the shelter of that big rock. The rain was from the other direction, and the ground around here did not even get sprinkled. That group of trees will do for a private room for you. We'll soon have a fire and some supper and then you'll feel better."

With that he stripped off his coat and, spreading it upon the ground in the dry shelter of a great rock, lifted the drooping girl from the saddle and laid her gently on the coat.

She closed her eyes wearily and sank back. In truth she was nearer to fainting than she had ever been in her life, and the young man hastened to administer a restorative which brought the colour back to her pale cheeks.

"It is nothing," she murmured, opening her eyes and trying to smile. "I was just tired, and my back ached with so much riding."

"Don't talk!" he said gently. "I'll give you something to hearten you up in a minute."

He quickly gathered sticks and soon had a blazing fire not far from where she lay, and the glow of it played over her face and her golden hair, while he prepared a second cup of beef extract, and blessed the fortune that had made him fill his canteen with water at the spring in the canyon, for water might not be very near, and he felt that to have to move the girl further along that night would be a disaster. He could see that she was about used up. But while he was making preparations for supper, Billy, who was hobbled but entirely able to edge about slowly, had discovered a water-hole for himself, and settled that difficulty. Brownleigh drew a sigh of relief, and smiled happily as he saw his patient revive under the influence of the hot drink and a few minutes' rest.

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