The Man of the Desert (Chapter 5, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 5

But the look of horror in the eyes of the girl stopped him.

She gave a quick frightened glance around and then her eyes besought him. All the terror of the night alone in the wideness returned upon her. She heard again the howl of the coyotes, and saw the long dark shadows in the canyon. She was white to the lips with the thought of it.

"Oh, don't leave me alone!" she said trying to speak bravely. "I don't feel as if I could stand it. There are wild beasts around"--she glanced furtively behind her as if even now one was slyly tracking her--"it was awful--awful! Their howls! And it is so alone here!--I never was alone before!"

There was that in her appealing helplessness that gave him a wild desire to stoop and fold her in his arms and tell her he would never leave her while she wanted him. The colour came and went in his fine bronzed face, and his eyes grew tender with feeling.

"I won't leave you," he said gently, "not if you feel that way, though there is really no danger here in daytime. The wild creatures are very shy and only show themselves at night. But if I do not find your horse how are you to get speedily back to your friends? It is a long distance you have come, and you could not ride alone."

Her face grew troubled.

"Couldn't I walk?" she suggested. "I'm a good walker. I've walked five miles at once many a time."

"We are at least forty miles from the railroad," he smiled back at her, "and the road is rough, over a mountain by the nearest way. Your horse must have been determined indeed to take you so far in one day. He is evidently a new purchase of Shag's and bent on returning to his native heath. Horses do that sometimes. It is their instinct. I'll tell you what I'll do. It may be that he has only gone down in the valley to the water-hole. There is one not far away, I think. I'll go to the edge of the mesa and get a view. If he is not far away you can come with me after him. Just sit here and watch me. I'll not go out of your sight or hearing, and I'll not be gone five minutes. You'll not be afraid?"

She sat down obediently where he bade her, her eyes large with fear, for she dreaded the loneliness of the desert more than any fear that had ever visited her before.

"I promise I'll not go beyond your sight and call," he reassured her and with a smile turned towards his own horse, and swinging himself into the saddle galloped rapidly away to the edge of the mesa.

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