The Man of the Desert (Chapter 9, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 9

Hazel turned her troubled eyes to the face of the man pleadingly. "My father does not understand," she said apologetically. "He is very grateful and he is used to thinking that money can always show gratitude."

Brownleigh was off his horse beside her, his hat off, before she had finished speaking.

"Don't, I beg of you, think of it again," he pleaded, his eyes devouring her face. "It is all right. I quite understand. And you understand too, I am sure."

"Yes, I understand," she said, lifting her eyes full of the love she had not dared to let him see. She was fidgetting with her rings as she spoke and looked back anxiously at the onrushing train. Her brother, hurrying down the platform to their car, called to her to hasten as he passed her, and she knew she would be allowed but a moment more. She caught her breath and looked at the tall missionary wistfully.

"You will let me leave something of my own with you, just for remembrance?" she asked eagerly.

His eyes grew tender and misty.

"Of course," he said, his voice suddenly husky, "though I shall need nothing to remember you by. I can never forget you." The memory of that look of his eyes was meat and drink to her soul during many days that followed, but she met it now steadily, not even flushing at her open recognition of his love.

"This is mine," she said. "My father bought it for me when I was sixteen. I have worn it ever since. He will never care." She slipped a ring from her finger and dropped it in his palm.

"Hurry up there, sister!" called young Radcliffe once more from the car window, and looking up, Brownleigh saw the evil face of Hamar peering from another window.

Hazel turned, struggling to keep back the rising tears. "I must go," she gasped.

Brownleigh flung the reins of the pony to a young Indian who stood near and turning walked beside her, conscious the while of the frowning faces watching them from the car windows.

"And I have nothing to give you," he said to her in a low tone, deeply moved at what she had done.

"Will you let me have the little book?" she asked shyly.

His eyes lit with a kind of glory as he felt in his pocket for his Bible.

"It is the best thing I own," he said. "May it bring you the same joy and comfort it has often brought to me." And he put the little book in her hand.

The train backed crashing up and jarred into the private car with a snarling, grating sound. Brownleigh put Hazel on the steps and helped her up. Her father was hurrying towards them and some train hands were making a great fuss shouting directions. There was just an instant for a hand-clasp, and then he stepped back to the platform, and her father swung himself on, as the train moved off. She stood on the top step of the car, her eyes upon his face, and his upon hers, his hat lifted in homage, and renunciation upon his brow as though it were a crown.

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