The Lighted Match (Chapter 1, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 1

The young man dropped to his knees and began industriously plying a
brush on the damaged skirt. The farmer took his eyes from the puppy for
an upward glance. His face was solicitous.

"When I saw that horse of yours fall down, it looked to me like he was
trying to jam you through to China. You sure lit hard!"

"It didn't hurt me," she laughed as she thrust her arms into the sleeves
of her pink coat. "You see, we thought we knew the run better than the
whips, and we chose the short cut across your meadow. My horse took off
too wide at that stone fence. That's why he went down, and why we turned
your house into a port of repairs. You have been very kind."

The trio started down the grass-grown pathway to the gate where the
hunters stood hitched. The young man dropped back a few paces to satisfy
himself that she was not concealing some hurt. He knew her
half-masculine contempt for acknowledging the fragility of her sex.

Reassurance came as he watched her walking ahead with the unconscious
grace that belonged to her pliant litheness and expressed itself in her
superb, almost boyish carriage.

When they had mounted and he had reined his bay down to the side of her
roan, he sat studying her through half-closed, satisfied eyes though he
already knew her as the Moslem priest knows the Koran. While they rode
in silence he conned the inventory. Slim uprightness like the strength
of a young poplar; eyes that played the whole color-gamut between violet
and slate-gray, as does the Mediterranean under sun and cloud-bank; lips
that in repose hinted at melancholy and that broke into magic with a
smile. Then there was the suggestion of a thought-furrow between the
brows and a chin delicately chiseled, but resolute and fascinatingly
uptilted.

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