The Gentleman from Indiana (Chapter 6, page 3 of 9)


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Chapter 6

"What is it?" he asked; and he spoke in a whisper he might have used at
the bedside of a dying friend. He would not have laughed if he had known
he did so. She twisted the spear of grass into a little ball and threw it
at a stone in the water before she answered.

"Do you know, Mr. Harkless, you and I haven't 'met,' have we? Didn't we
forget to be presented to each other?"

"I beg your pardon. Miss Sherwood. In the perturbation of comedy I
forgot."

"It was melodrama, wasn't it?" she said. He laughed, but she shook her
head.

"Comedy," he answered, "except your part of it, which you shouldn't have
done. It was not arranged in honor of 'visiting ladies.' But you mustn't
think me a comedian. Truly, I didn't plan it. My friend from Six-Cross-
Roads must be given the credit of devising the scene-though you divined
it!"

"It was a little too picturesque, I think. I know about Six-Cross-Roads.
Please tell me what you mean to do."

"Nothing. What should I?"

"You mean that you will keep on letting them shoot at you, until they--
until you--" She struck the bench angrily with her hand.

"There's no summer theatre in Six-Cross-Roads; there's not even a church.
Why shouldn't they?" he asked gravely. "During the long and tedious
evenings it cheers the poor Cross-Reader's soul to drop over here and take
a shot at me. It whiles away dull care for him, and he has the additional
exercise of running all the way home."

"Ah!" she cried indignantly, "they told me you always answered like this!"

"Well, you see the Cross-Roads efforts have proved so purely hygienic for
me. As a patriot I have sometimes felt extreme mortification that such bad
marksmanship should exist in the county, but I console myself with the
thought that their best shots are unhappily in the penitentiary."

"There are many left. Can't you understand that they will organize again
and come in a body, as they did before you broke them up? And then, if
they come on a night when they know you are wandering out of town----"

"You have not the advantage of an intimate study of the most exclusive
people of the Cross-Roads, Miss Sherwood. There are about twenty gentlemen
who remain in that neighborhood while their relatives sojourn under
discipline. If you had the entree over there, you would understand that
these twenty could not gather themselves into a company and march the
seven miles without physical debate in the ranks. They are not precisely
amiable people, even amongst themselves. They would quarrel and shoot
each other to pieces long before they got here."

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