The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 5, page 2 of 3)


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Chapter 5

"Sir!" said he between snapping teeth.

Then, very slowly and unwillingly, the gentleman raised his eyes and
stared across at him.

"And pray," said he carelessly, "pray who might you be?"

At his tone Barnabas grew more angry and therefore more polite.

"Sir, that--permit me to say--does not concern you."

"Not in the least," the other retorted, "and I bid you good day; you
can go, my man, I am acquainted with this lady; she is quite safe in
my care."

"That, sir, I humbly beg leave to doubt," said Barnabas, his
politeness growing.

"Why--you impudent scoundrel!"

Barnabas smiled.

"Come, take yourself off!" said the gentleman, frowning, "I'll take
care of this lady."

"Pardon me! but I think not."

The gentleman stared at Barnabas through suddenly narrow lids, and
laughed softly, and Barnabas thought his laugh worse than his frown.

"Ha! d' you mean to say you--won't go?"

"With all the humility in the world, I do, sir."

"Why, you cursed, interfering yokel! must I thrash you?"

Now "yokel" stung, for Barnabas remembered his blunt-toed boots,
therefore he smiled with lips suddenly grim, and his politeness grew
almost aggressive.

"Thrash me, sir!" he repeated, "indeed I almost venture to fear that
you must." But the gentleman's gaze had wandered to the fallen girl
once more, and the glow was back in his roving eyes.

"Pah!" said he, still intent, "if it is her purse you are after--here,
take mine and leave us in peace." As he spoke, he flung his purse
towards Barnabas, and took a long step nearer the girl. But in that
same instant Barnabas strode forward also and, being nearer, reached
her first, and, stepping over her, it thus befell that they came
face to face within a foot of one another. For a moment they stood
thus, staring into each other's eyes, then without a word swift and
sudden they closed and grappled.

The gentleman was very quick, and more than ordinarily strong, so
also was Barnabas, but the gentleman's handsome face was contorted
with black rage, whereas Barnabas was smiling, and therein seemed
the only difference between them as they strove together breast to
breast, now in sunlight, now in shadow, but always grimly silent.

So, within the glory of the morning, they reeled and staggered to
and fro, back and forth, trampling down the young grass, straining,
panting, swaying--the one frowning and determined, the other smiling
and grim.

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