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|Snow-Bound at Eagle's||Bret Harte|
|Page 6 of 9||
"Shall I loosen them? Perhaps they are too tight. There is nothing so irritating to one as the sensation of being tightly bound."
The light touch of her hand upon the rug that covered his knees, the thoughtful tenderness of the blue-veined lids, and the delicate atmosphere that seemed to surround her like a perfume cleared his face of its shadow and brought back the reckless fire into his blue eyes.
"I suppose I'm intolerant of all bonds," he said, looking at her intently, "in others as well as myself!"
Whether or not she detected any double meaning in his words, she was obliged to accept the challenge of his direct gaze, and, raising her eyes to his, drew back a little from him with a slight increase of color. "I was afraid you had heard bad news just now."
"What would you call bad news?" asked Lee, clasping his hands behind his head, and leaning back on the sofa, but without withdrawing his eyes from her face.
"Oh, any news that would interrupt your convalescence, or break up our little family party," said Mrs. Hale. "You have been getting on so well that really it would seem cruel to have anything interfere with our life of forgetting and being forgotten. But," she added with apprehensive quickness, "has anything happened? Is there really any news from--from, the trails? Yesterday Mr. Falkner said the snow had recommenced in the pass. Has he seen anything, noticed anything different?"
She looked so very pretty, with the rare, genuine, and youthful excitement that transfigured her wearied and wearying regularity of feature, that Lee contented himself with drinking in her prettiness as he would have inhaled the perfume of some flower.
"Why do you look at me so, Mr. Lee?" she asked, with a slight smile. "I believe something HAS happened. Mr. Falkner HAS brought you some intelligence."
"He has certainly found out something I did not foresee."
"And that troubles you?"
"Is it a secret?"
"Then I suppose you will tell it to me at dinner," she said, with a little tone of relief.
"I am afraid, if I tell it at all, I must tell it now," he said, glancing at the door.
"You must do as you think best," she said coldly, "as it seems to be a secret, after all." She hesitated. "Kate is dressing, and will not be down for some time."
"So much the better. For I'm afraid that Ned has made a poor return to your hospitality by falling in love with her."
"Impossible! He has known her for scarcely a week."
"I am afraid we won't agree as to the length of time necessary to appreciate and love a woman. I think it can be done in seven days and four hours, the exact time we have been here."
"Yes; but as Kate was not in when you arrived, and did not come until later, you must take off at least one hour," said Mrs. Hale gayly.
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