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||Devil's Ford||Bret Harte|
|Page 5 of 5||
He did not reply.
"Will you say good-by, Miss Carr?"
He held out his hand.
"One moment, Mr. Kearney. If I have said anything which you think justifies this very abrupt leave-taking, I beg you will forgive and forget it--or, at least, let it have no more weight with you than the idle words of any woman. I only spoke generally. You know--I-- I might be mistaken."
His eyes, which had dilated when she began to speak, darkened; his color, which had quickly come, as quickly sank when she had ended.
"Don't say that, Miss Carr. It is not like you, and--it is useless. You know what I meant a moment ago. I read it in your reply. You meant that I, like others, had deceived myself. Did you not?"
She could not meet those honest eyes with less than equal honesty. She knew that Jessie did not love him--would not marry him-- whatever coquetry she might have shown.
"I did not mean to offend you," she said hesitatingly; "I only half suspected it when I spoke."
"And you wish to spare me the avowal?" he said bitterly.
"To me, perhaps, yes, by anticipating it. I could not tell what ideas you might have gathered from some indiscreet frankness of Jessie--or my father," she added, with almost equal bitterness.
"I have never spoken to either," he replied quickly. He stopped, and added, after a moment's mortifying reflection, "I've been brought up in the woods, Miss Carr, and I suppose I have followed my feelings, instead of the etiquette of society."
Christie was too relieved at the rehabilitation of Jessie's truthfulness to notice the full significance of his speech.
"Good-by," he said again, holding out his hand.
She extended her own, ungloved, with a frank smile. He held it for a moment, with his eyes fixed upon hers. Then suddenly, as if obeying an uncontrollable impulse, he crushed it like a flower again and again against his burning lips, and darted away.
Christie sank back in her saddle with a little cry, half of pain and half of frightened surprise. Had the poor boy suddenly gone mad, or was this vicarious farewell a part of the courtship of Devil's Ford? She looked at her little hand, which had reddened under the pressure, and suddenly felt the flush extending to her cheeks and the roots of her hair. This was intolerable.
It was her sister emerging from the wood to seek her. In another moment she was at her side.
"We thought you were following," said Jessie. "Good heavens! how you look! What has happened?"
"Nothing. I met Mr. Kearney a moment ago on the trail. He is going away, and--and--" She stopped, furious and flushing.
"And," said Jessie, with a burst of merriment, "he told you at last he loved you. Oh, Christie!"
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