The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 6, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 6

And of a Fateful Lace Handkerchief Let it be understood that Barnabas was not looking at her as she lay
all warm and yielding in his embrace, on the contrary, he walked
with his gaze fixed pertinaciously upon the leafy path he followed,
nevertheless he was possessed, more than once, of a sudden feeling
that her eyes had opened and were watching him, therefore, after a
while be it noted, needs must he steal a downward glance at her
beauty, only to behold the shadowy lashes curling upon her cheeks,
as was but natural, of course. And now he began to discover that
these were, indeed, no ordinary lashes (though to be sure his
experience in such had been passing small), yet the longer he gazed
upon them the more certain he became that these were, altogether and
in all respects, the most demurely tantalizing lashes in the world.
Then, again, there was her mouth--warmly red, full-lipped and
sensitive like the delicate nostrils above; a mouth all sweet curves;
a mouth, he thought, that might grow firm and proud, or wonderfully
tender as the case might be, a mouth of scarlet bewitchment; a mouth
that for some happy mortal might be--here our Barnabas came near
blundering into a tree, and thenceforth he kept his gaze upon the
path again. So, strong armed and sure of foot, he bore her through
the magic twilight of the wood until he reached the brook. And coming
to where the bending willows made a leafy bower he laid her there,
then, turning, went down to the brook and drawing off his
neckerchief began to moisten it in the clear, cool water.

And lo! in the same minute, the curling lashes were lifted suddenly,
and beneath their shadow two eyes looked out--deep and soft and
darkly blue, the eyes of a maid--now frank and ingenuous, now shyly
troubled, but brimful of witchery ever and always. And pray what
could there be in all the fair world more proper for a maid's eyes
to rest upon than young Alcides, bare of throat, and with the sun in
his curls, as he knelt to moisten the neckerchief in the brook?

Therefore, as she lay, she gazed upon him in her turn, even as he
had first looked upon her, pleased to find his face so young and
handsome, to note the breadth of his shoulders, the graceful
carriage of his limbs, his air of virile strength and latent power,
yet doubting too, because of her sex, because of the loneliness, and
because he was a man; thus she lay blushing a little, sighing a
little, fearing a little, waiting for him to turn. True, he had been
almost reverent so far, but then the place was so very lonely. And
yet-Barnabas turned and came striding up the bank. And how was he to
know anything of all this, as he stood above her with his dripping
neckerchief in his hand, looking down at her lying so very still,
and pitying her mightily because her lashes showed so dark against
the pallor of her cheek? How was he to know how her heart leapt in
her white bosom as he sank upon his knees beside her? Therefore he
leaned above her closer and raised the dripping neckerchief. But in
that moment she (not minded to be wet) sighed, her white lids
fluttered, and, sitting up, she stared at him for all the world as
though she had never beheld him until that very moment.

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