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|In The Carquinez Woods||Bret Harte|
|Page 4 of 8||
On their way back Teresa ran ahead of her companion, and plucking a few tiny leaves from a hidden oasis in the bark-strewn trail brought them to him.
"That's the kind you're looking for, isn't it?" she said, half timidly.
"It is," responded Low, in gratified surprise; "but how did you know it? You're not a botanist, are you?"
"I reckon not," said Teresa; "but you picked some when we came, and I noticed what they were."
Here was indeed another revelation. Low stopped and gazed at her with such frank, open, utterly unabashed curiosity that her black eyes fell before him.
"And do you think," he asked with logical deliberation, "that you could find any plant from another I should give you?"
"Or from a drawing of it"
"Yes; perhaps even if you described it to me."
A half-confidential, half-fraternal silence followed.
"I tell you what. I've got a book--"
"I know it," interrupted Teresa; "full of these things."
"Yes. Do you think you could--"
"Of course I could," broke in Teresa, again.
"But you don't know what I mean," said the imperturbable Low.
"Certainly I do. Why, find 'em, and preserve all the different ones for you to write under--that's it, isn't it?"
Low nodded his head, gratified but not entirely convinced that she had fully estimated the magnitude of the endeavor.
"I suppose," said Teresa, in the feminine postscriptum voice which it would seem entered even the philosophical calm of the aisles they were treading--"I suppose that SHE places great value on them?"
Low had indeed heard Science personified before, nor was it at all impossible that the singular woman walking by his side had also. He said "Yes;" but added, in mental reference to the Linnean Society of San Francisco, that "THEY were rather particular about the rarer kinds."
Content as Teresa had been to believe in Low's tender relations with some favored ONE of her sex, this frank confession of a plural devotion staggered her.
"They?" she repeated.
"Yes," he continued calmly. "The Botanical Society I correspond with are more particular than the Government Survey."
"Then you are doing this for a society?" demanded Teresa, with a stare.
"Certainly. I'm making a collection and classification of specimens. I intend--but what are you looking at?"
Teresa had suddenly turned away. Putting his hand lightly on her shoulder, the young man brought her face to face him again.
She was laughing.
"I thought all the while it was for a girl," she said; "and--" But here the mere effort of speech sent her off into an audible and genuine outburst of laughter. It was the first time he had seen her even smile other than bitterly. Characteristically unconscious of any humor in her error, he remained unembarrassed. But he could not help noticing a change in the expression of her face, her voice, and even her intonation. It seemed as if that fit of laughter had loosed the last ties that bound her to a self-imposed character, had swept away the last barrier between her and her healthier nature, had dispossessed a painful unreality, and relieved the morbid tension of a purely nervous attitude. The change in her utterance and the resumption of her softer Spanish accent seemed to have come with her confidences, and Low took leave of her before their sylvan cabin with a comrade's heartiness, and a complete forgetfulness that her voice had ever irritated him.
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|In The Carquinez Woods
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