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

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Chapter 7

The moon was gone, and the luminous silver atmosphere was turned into a clear dark blue, with shadows of the blackness of velvet; but the stars burned redder now, and nearer to the earth.

The fire still flickered brightly, with a glow the moon had paled before she went to sleep, but there was no protecting figure on the other side of the flames, and the angels seemed all to have forgotten.

Off at a little distance, where a group of sage-brush made dense darkness, she heard the talking. One speaking in low tones, now pleading, now explaining, deeply earnest, with a mingling of anxiety and trouble. She could not hear any words. She seemed to know the voice was low that she might not hear; yet it filled her with a great fear. What had happened? Had some one come to harm them, and was he pleading for her life? Strange to say it never entered her head to doubt his loyalty, stranger though he was. Her only feeling was that he might have been overpowered in his sleep, and be even now in need of help himself. What could she do?

After the first instant of frozen horror she was on the alert. He had saved her, she must help him. She could not hear any other voice than his. Probably the enemy spoke in whispers, but she knew that she must go at once and find out what was the matter. The distance from her pleasant couch beside the fire was but a few steps, yet it seemed to her frightened heart and trembling limbs, as she crept softly over towards the sage-brush, that it was miles.

At last she was close to the bush, could part it with her cold hand and look into the little shelter.

There was a faint light in the east beyond the mountains that showed the coming dawn, and silhouetted against this she saw the figure of her rescuer, dropped upon one knee, his elbow on the other and his face bowed in his hand. She could hear his words distinctly now, but there was no man else present, though she searched the darkness carefully.

"I found her lost out here in the wilderness," he was saying in low, earnest tones, "so beautiful, so dear! But I know she cannot be for me. Her life has been all luxury and I would not be a man to ask her to share the desert! I know too that she is not fitted for the work. I know it would be all wrong, and I must not wish it, but I love her, though I may not tell her so! I must be resolute and strong, and not show her what I feel. I must face my Gethsemane, for this girl is as dear to me as my own soul! God bless and guard her, for I may not."

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