The Man of the Desert (Chapter 8, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 8

At last he said in a low voice full of feeling: "You heard me?"

Her eyes, which he had held with his look, wavered, faltered, and drooped. "I was afraid," he said as her silence confirmed his conviction. "I heard some one stirring. I looked and thought I saw you going back to your couch." There was grave self-reproach in his tone, but no reproach for her. Nevertheless her heart burned with shame and her eyes filled with tears. She hid her glowing face in her hands and cried out: "I am so sorry. I did not mean to be listening. I thought from the tone of your voice you were in trouble. I was afraid some one had attacked you, and perhaps I could do something to help----"

"You poor child!" he said deeply moved. "How unpardonable of me to frighten you. It is my habit of talking aloud when I am alone. The great loneliness out here has cultivated it. I did not realize that I might disturb you. What must you think of me? What can you think?"

"Think!" she burst forth softly. "I think you are all wrong to try to keep a thing like that to yourself!"

And then the full meaning of what she had said broke upon her, and her face crimsoned with embarrassment.

But he was looking at her with an eager light in his eyes.

"What do you mean?" he asked. "Won't you please explain?"

Hazel was sitting now with her face entirely turned away, and the soft hair blowing concealingly about her burning cheeks. She felt as if she must get up and run away into the desert and end this terrible conversation. She was getting in deeper and deeper every minute.

"Please!" said the gentle, firm voice.

"Why, I--think--a--a--woman--has a right--to know--a thing like that!" she faltered desperately.

"Why?" asked the voice again after a pause.

"Because--she--she--might not ever--she might not ever know there was such a love for a woman in the world!" she stammered, still with her head turned quite away from him. She felt that she could never turn around and face this wonderful man of the desert again. She wished the ground would open and show her some comfortable way of escape.

The pause this time was long, so long that it frightened her, but she dared not turn and look at him. If she had done so she would have seen that he was sitting with bowed head for some time, in deep meditation, and that at last he lifted his glance to the sky again as if to ask a swift permission. Then he spoke.

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