The Lighted Match (Chapter 1, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 1

"When a feller an' a gal washes their hands in the same basin at the
same time, it's a tol'able good sign they won't git married this year."

The oracle spoke through the bearded lips of a farmer perched on the top
step of his cabin porch. The while he construed omens, a setter pup
industriously gnawed at his boot-heels.

The girl was bending forward, her fingers spread in a tin basin, as the
man at her elbow poured water slowly from a gourd-dipper. Heaped, in
disorder against the cabin wall, lay their red hunting-coats, crops, and
riding gauntlets.

The oracle tumbled the puppy down the steps and watched its return to
the attack. Then with something of melancholy retrospect in his pale
eyes he pursued his reflections. "Now there was Sissy Belmire an' Bud
Thomas, been keeping company for two years, then washed hands in common
at the Christian Endeavor picnic an'--" He broke off to shake his head
in sorrowing memory.

The young man, holding his muddied digits over the water, paused to
consider the matter.

Suddenly his hands went down into the basin with a splash.

"It is now the end of October," he enlightened; "next year comes in nine

The sun was dipping into a cloud-bank already purpled and gold-rimmed.
Shortly it would drop behind the bristling summit-line of the hills.

The girl looked down at tell-tale streaks of red clay on the skirt of
her riding habit, and shook her head. "'Twill never, never do to go back
like this," she sighed. "They'll know I've come a cropper, and they
fancy I'm as breakable as Sévres. There will be no end of questions."

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