Molly McDonald (Chapter 7, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 7

Desperate as he certainly felt their situation to be, for a moment or two Hamlin was unable to cast aside the influence of the girl, or concentrate his thoughts on some plan for escape. It may have been the gentle pressure of her hand upon his sleeve, but her voice continued to ring in his ears. He had never been a woman's man, nor was he specially interested in this woman beside him. He had seen her fairly, with his first appreciative glance, when he had climbed into the stage on the preceding day. He had realized there fully the charm of her face, the dark roguish eyes, the clear skin, the wealth of dark hair. Yet all this was impersonal; however pretty she might be, the fact was nothing to him and never could be. Knowing who she was, he comprehended instantly the social gulf stretching unbridged between them. An educated man himself, with family connections he had long ago ceased to discuss, he realized his present position more keenly than he otherwise might. He had enlisted in the army with no misunderstanding as to what a private's uniform meant. He had never heretofore supposed he regretted any loss in this respect, his nature apparently satisfied with the excitement of active frontier service, yet he vaguely knew there had been times when he longed for companionship with women of the class to which he had once belonged. Fortunately his border stations offered little temptation in this respect, and he had grown to believe that he had actually forgotten. That afternoon even--sweetly fair as Miss McDonald undoubtedly appeared--he had looked upon her without the throb of a pulse, as he might upon a picture. She was not for him even to admire--she was Major McDonald's daughter, whom he had been sent to guard. That was all then.

Yet he knew that somehow it was different now--the personal element had entered unwelcomed, into the equation. Sitting there in the dark, Gonzales' body crumpled on the floor at his feet, and Moylan lying stiff and cold along the back seat, with this girl grasping his sleeve in trust, she remained no longer merely the Major's daughter--she had become herself. And she did not seem to care and did not seem to realize that there were barriers of rank, which under other circumstances must so utterly separate them. She liked him, and frankly told him so, not as she would dismiss an inferior with kindness, but as though he was an equal, as though he was a gentleman. Somehow the very tone of her voice, the clinging touch of her hand, sent the blood pumping through his veins. Something besides duty inspired him; he was no longer merely a soldier, but had suddenly become transformed into a man. Years of repression, of iron discipline, were blotted out, and he became even as his birthright made him. "Molly McDonald," "Molly McDonald," he whispered the name unconsciously to himself. Then his eyes caught the distant flicker of Indian fire, and his teeth locked savagely.

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