The Man of the Desert (Chapter 6, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 6

It came indeed before he was quite ready for it, but he managed to throw the canvas over horse and lady, bidding her hold it on one side while he, standing close under the extemporized tent, held the other side, leaving an opening in front for air, and so they managed to keep tolerably dry, while two storms met overhead and poured down a torrent upon them.

The girl laughed out merrily as the first great splashes struck her face, then retreated into the shelter as she was bidden and sat quietly watching, and wondering over it all.

Here was she, a carefully nurtured daughter of society, until now never daring to step one inch beyond the line of conventionality, sitting afar from all her friends and kindred on a wide desert plain, under a bit of canvas with a strange missionary's arm about her, and sitting as securely and contentedly, nay happily, as if she had been in her own cushioned chair in her New York boudoir. It is true the arm was about her for the purpose of holding down the canvas and keeping out the rain, but there was a wonderful security and sense of strength in it that filled her with a strange new joy and made her wish that the elements of the universe might continue to rage in brilliant display about her head a little longer, if thereby she might continue to feel the strength of that fine presence near her and about her. A great weariness was upon her and this was rest and content, so she put all other thoughts out of her mind for the time and rested back against the strong arm in full realization of her safety amidst the disturbance of the elements.

The missionary wore his upward look. No word passed between them as the panorama of the storm swept by. Only God knew what was passing in his soul, and how out of that dear nearness of the beautiful girl a great longing was born to have her always near him, his right to ever protect her from the storms of life.

But he was a man of marked self-control. He held even his thoughts in obedience to a higher power, and while the wild wish of his heart swept exquisitely over him he stood calmly, and handed it back to heaven as though he knew it were a wandering wish, a testing of his true self.

At the first instant of relief from necessity he took his arm away. He did not presume a single second to hold the canvas after the wind had subsided, and she liked him the better for it, and felt her trust in him grow deeper as he gently shook the raindrops from their temporary shelter.

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