The Man of the Desert (Chapter 8, page 1 of 8)

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Chapter 8

They had entered a strip of silvery sand, about two miles wide, and rode almost in silence, for a singular shyness had settled upon them.

The girl was conscious of his eyes upon her with a kind of tender yearning as if he would impress the image on his mind for the time when she would be with him no more. Each had a curious sense of understanding the other's thoughts, and needing no words. But as they neared a great rustling stretch of corn he looked at her keenly again and spoke: "You are very tired, I'm sure." It was not a question but she lifted her eyes to deny it, and a flood-tide of sweet colour swept over the cheeks. "I knew it," he said, searching her raised eyes. "We must stop and rest after we have passed through this corn. There is a spot under some trees where you will be sheltered from the sun. This corn lasts only a mile or so more, and after you have rested we will have only a short distance to go"--he caught his breath as though the words hurt him--"our journey is almost over!" They rode in silence through the corn, but when it was passed and they were seated beneath the trees the girl lifted her eyes to him filled with unspeakable things.

"I haven't known how to thank you," she said earnestly, the tears almost in evidence.

"Don't, please!" he said gently. "It has been good to me to be with you. How good you never can know." He paused and then looked keenly at her.

"Did you rest well last night, your first night under the stars? Did you hear the coyotes, or feel at all afraid?"

Her colour fled, and she dropped her glance to Billy's neck, while her heart throbbed painfully.

He saw how disturbed she was.

"You were afraid," he charged gently. "Why didn't you call? I was close at hand all the time. What frightened you?"

"Oh, it was nothing!" she said evasively. "It was only for a minute."

"Tell me, please!" his voice compelled her.

"It was just for a minute," she said again, speaking rapidly and trying to hide her embarrassment. "I woke and thought I heard talking and you were not in sight; but it was not long before you came back with an armful of wood, and I saw it was almost morning."

Her cheeks were rosy, as she lifted her clear eyes to meet his searching gaze and tried to face him steadily, but he looked into the very depths of her soul and saw the truth. She felt her courage going from her, and tried to turn her gaze carelessly away, but could not.

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