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"I am your cousin Paul," he said smilingly, "though I am afraid I
am introducing myself almost as briefly as your father just now
excused himself to me. He told me I would find you here, but he
himself was hastening on a Samaritan mission."

"With a box in his hand?" said the girls simultaneously, exchanging
glances with each other again.

"With a box containing some restorative, I think," responded Paul,
a little wonderingly.

"Restorative! So THAT'S what he calls it now, is it?" said one of
the girls saucily. "Well, no one knows what's in the box, though
he always carries it with him. Thee never sees him without it"--

"And a roll of paper," suggested the other girl.

"Yes, a roll of paper--but one never knows what it is!" said the
first speaker. "It's very strange. But no matter now, Paul.
Welcome to Hawthorn Hall. I am Jane Bunker, and this is Dorcas."
She stopped, and then, looking down demurely, added, "Thee may kiss
us both, cousin Paul."

The young man did not wait for a second invitation, but gently
touched his lips to their soft young cheeks.

"Thee does not speak like an American, Paul. Is thee really and
truly one?" continued Jane.

Paul remembered that he had forgotten his dialect, but it was too
late now.

"I am really and truly one, and your own cousin, and I hope you
will find me a very dear"--

"Oh!" said Dorcas, starting up primly. "You must really allow me
to withdraw." To the young man's astonishment, she seized her
parasol, and, with a youthful affectation of dignity, glided from
the summer-house and was lost among the trees.

"Thy declaration to me was rather sudden," said Jane quietly, in
answer to his look of surprise, "and Dorcas is peculiarly sensitive
and less like the 'world's people' than I am. And it was just a
little cruel, considering that she has loved thee secretly all
these years, followed thy fortunes in America with breathless
eagerness, thrilled at thy narrow escapes, and wept at thy
privations."

"But she has never seen me before!" said the astounded Paul.

"And thee had never seen me before, and yet thee has dared to
propose to me five minutes after thee arrived, and in her
presence."

"But, my dear girl!" expostulated Paul.

"Stand off!" she said, rapidly opening her parasol and interposing
it between them. "Another step nearer--ay, even another word of
endearment--and I shall be compelled--nay, forced," she added in a
lower voice, "to remove this parasol, lest it should be crushed and
ruined!"

"I see," he said gloomily, "you have been reading novels; but so
have I, and the same ones! Nevertheless, I intended only to tell
you that I hoped you would always find me a kind friend."

She shut her parasol up with a snap. "And I only intended to tell
thee that my heart was given to another."

"You INTENDED--and now?"

"Is it the 'kind friend' who asks?"

"If it were not?"

"Really?"

"Yes."

"Ah!"

"Oh!"

"But thee loves another?" she said, toying with her cup.

He attempted to toy with his, but broke it. A man lacks delicacy
in this kind of persiflage. "You mean I am loved by another," he
said bluntly.

"You dare to say that!" she said, flashing, in spite of her prim
demeanor.

"No, but YOU did just now! You said your sister loved me!"

"Did I?" she said dreamily. "Dear! dear! That's the trouble of
trying to talk like Mr. Blank's delightful dialogues. One gets so
mixed!"

"Yet you will be a sister to me?" he said. "'Tis an old American
joke, but 'twill serve."

There was a long silence.

"Had thee not better go to sister Dorcas? She is playing with the
cows," said Jane plaintively.

"You forget," he returned gravely, "that, on page 27 of the novel
we have both read, at this point he is supposed to kiss her."

She had forgotten, but they both remembered in time. At this
moment a scream came faintly from the distance. They both started,
and rose.

"It is sister Dorcas," said Jane, sitting down again and pouring
out another cup of tea. "I have always told her that one of those
Swiss cows would hook her."

Paul stared at her with a strange revulsion of feeling. "I could
save Dorcas," he muttered to himself, "in less time than it takes
to describe." He paused, however, as he reflected that this would
depend entirely upon the methods of the writer of this description.
"I could rescue her! I have only to take the first clothes-line
that I find, and with that knowledge and skill with the lasso which
I learned in the wilds of America, I could stop the charge of the
most furious ruminant. I will!" and without another word he turned
and rushed off in the direction of the sound.




Under the Redwoods by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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