The Man of the Desert (Chapter 4, page 2 of 10)


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Chapter 4

Still in the silver and black of the shadowed night he searched on, and not until the rosy light of dawning began to flush and grow in the east did he come to stand at the top of the canyon where he could look down and see the girl, her green riding habit blending darkly with the dark forms of the trees still in shadow, the gold of her hair glinted with the early light, and her white, white face turned upward.

He lost no time in climbing down to her side, dreading what he might find. Was she dead? What had happened to her? It was a perilous spot where she lay, and the dangers that might have harmed her had been many. The sky grew pink, and tinted all the clouds with rose as he knelt beside the still form.

A moment served to convince him that she was still alive; even in the half darkness he could see the drawn, weary look of her face. Poor child! Poor little girl, lost on the desert! He was glad, glad he had come to find her.

He gathered her in his strong arms and bore her upward to the light.

Laying her in a sheltered spot he quickly brought water, bathed her face and forced a stimulant between the white lips. He chafed her cold little hands, blistered with the bridle, gave her more stimulant, and was rewarded by seeing a faint colour steal into the lips and cheeks. Finally the white lids fluttered open for a second and gave him a glimpse of great dark eyes in which was still mirrored the horror and fright of the night.

He gave her another draught, and hastened to prepare a more comfortable resting place, bringing the canvas from Billy's pack, and one or two other little articles that might make for comfort, among them a small hot water bottle. When he had her settled on the canvas with sweet ferns and grass underneath for a pillow and his own blanket spread over her he set about gathering wood for a fire, and soon he had water boiling in his tin cup, enough to fill the rubber bottle. When he put it in her cold hands she opened her eyes again wonderingly. He smiled reassuringly and she nestled down contentedly with the comfort of the warmth. She was too weary to question or know aught save that relief from a terrible horror was come at last.

The next time he came to her it was with a cup of strong beef tea which he held to her lips and coaxed her to swallow. When it was finished she lay back and slept again with a long drawn trembling sigh that was almost like a sob, and the heart of the young man was shaken to its depths over the agony through which she must have passed. Poor child, poor little child!

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