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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 191 pages of information about The Heart of the Desert.

“As a white man I can no longer pester you.  As an Indian I can steal you and marry you.”

Rhoda struggled to make him and his words seem real to her.

“You aren’t going to be so absurd as to try to steal me, I hope!” she tried to laugh.

“That’s just what I’m going to do!” answered Kut-le.  “If I steal as a white would steal, I would be caught at once.  If I use Apache methods, no white on earth can catch me.”

Rhoda gasped as the Indian’s evident sincerity sank in on her.

“But,” she pleaded, fighting for time, “you can’t want to marry me by force!  Don’t you know that I shall grow to loathe you?”

“No!  No!” answered the Indian earnestly.  “Not after I’ve shown you life as I have seen it.”

“Nonsense!” cried Rhoda.  “Don’t you realize that the whole county will be after you by morning?”

Kut-le laughed, deliberately walked up to the girl and lifted her in his arms as he had on the morning of their meeting.  Rhoda gave one scream and struggled frantically.  He slid a hand over her lips and tightened his hold.  For a moment Rhoda lay motionless in abject fear, then, with a muffled cry of utter helplessness, a cry that would have driven a white man mad with pity, she slipped into unconsciousness.  Kut-le walked on for a short distance to a horse.  He put Rhoda in the saddle and fastened her there with a blanket.  He slipped off the twisted bandana that bound his short black hair, fillet wise, and tied it carefully over Rhoda’s mouth.  Then with one hand steadying the quiet shoulders, he started the horse on through the dusk.

CHAPTER IV

THE INDIAN WAY

It was some time before the call of a coyote close beside her penetrated Rhoda’s senses.  At its third or fourth repetition, she sighed and opened her eyes.  Night had come, the luminous lavender night of the desert.  Her first discovery was that she was seated on a horse, held firmly by a strong arm across her shoulders.  Next she found that her uneasy breathing was due to the cloth tied round her mouth.  With this came realization of her predicament and she tossed her arms in a wild attempt to free herself.

The arm about her tightened, the horse stopped, and the voice went on repeating the coyote call, clearly, mournfully.  Rhoda ceased her struggling for a moment and looked at the face so close to her own.  In the starlight only the eyes and the dim outline of the features were visible, and the eyes were as dark and menacing to her as the desert night that shut her in.

Mad with fear, Rhoda strained at the rigid arm.  Kut-le dropped the reins and held her struggling hands, ceased his calling and waited.  Off to the left came an answering call and Kut-le started the pony rapidly toward the sound.  In a few moments Rhoda saw a pair of horsemen.  Utterly exhausted, she sat in terror awaiting her fate.  Kut-le gave a low-voiced order.  One of the riders immediately rode forward, leading another horse.  Kut-le slipped another blanket from this and finished binding Rhoda to her saddle so securely that she scarcely could move a finger.  Then he mounted his horse, and he and one of the Indians started off, leading Rhoda’s horse between them and leaving the third Indian standing silently behind them.

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