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

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Chapter 7

The girl had stood rooted to the spot unable to move as the low voice went on with its revelation, but when the plea for a blessing upon her came with all the mighty longing of a soul who loved absorbingly, it was as if she were unable to bear it, and she turned and fled silently back to her couch, creeping under the canvas, thrilled, frightened, shamed and glad all in one. She closed her eyes and the swift tears of joy came. He loved her! He loved her! How the thought thrilled her. How her own heart leaped up to meet his love. The fact of it was all she could contain for the time and it filled her with an ecstasy such as she had never known before. She opened her eyes to the stars and they shone back a great radiance of joy to her. The quiet darkness of the vast earth all about her seemed suddenly to have become the sweetest spot she had known. She had never thought there could be joy like this.

Gradually she quieted the wild throbbing of her heart and tried to set her thoughts in order. Perhaps she was taking too much for granted. Perhaps he was talking of another girl, some one he had met the day before. But yet it seemed as if there could be no doubt. There would not be two girls lost out in that desert. There could not--and her heart told her that he loved her. Could she trust her heart? Oh, the dearness of it if it were true!

Her face was burning too, with the sweet shame of having heard what was not meant for her ears.

Then came the flash of pain in the joy. He did not intend to tell her. He meant to hide his love--and for her sake! And he was great enough to do so. The man who could sacrifice the things that other men hold dear to come out to the wilderness for the sake of a forgotten, half-savage people, could sacrifice anything for what he considered right. This fact loomed like a wall of adamant across the lovely way that joy had revealed to her. Her heart fell with the thought that he was not to speak of this to her,--and she knew that more than for anything else in life, more than anything she had ever known, she longed to hear him speak those words to her. A half resentment filled her that he had told his secret to Another--what concerned her--and would not let her know.

The heart searching went on, and now she came to the thorn-fact of the whole revelation. There had been another reason besides care for herself why he could not tell her of his love,--why he could not ask her to share his life. She had not been accounted worthy. He had put it in pleasant words and said she was unfitted, but he might as well have made it plain and said how useless she would be in his life.

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