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taking her afternoon walk. Observing an unusually fine cluster of blossoms on the azalea bush opposite, she crossed the road to pluck it, picking her way through the red dust, not without certain fierce little shivers of disgust and some feline circumlocution. And then she came suddenly upon Sandy!
Of course she uttered the little staccato cry of her sex.
But when she had paid that tribute to her physical weakness she became overbold, and halted for a moment, - at least six feet from this prostrate monster, — with her white skirts gathered in her hand, ready for flight. But neither sound nor motion came from the bush. With one little foot she then overturned the satirical headboard, and muttered “Beasts!" -- an epithet which probably, at that moment, conveniently classified in her mind the entire male population of Red Gulch. For Miss Mary, being possessed of certain rigid notions of her own, had not, perhaps, properly appreciated the demonstrative gallantry for which the Californian has been so justly celebrated by his brother Californians, and had, as a new-comer, perhaps fairly earned the reputation of being " stuck up.'
As she stood there she noticed, also, that
the slant sunbeams were heating Sandy's head to what she judged to be an unhealthy temperature, and that his hat was lying uselessly at his side. To pick it up and to place it over his face was a work requiring some courage, particularly as his eyes were open. Yet she did it and made good her retreat. But she was somewhat concerned, on looking back, to see that the hat was removed, and that Sandy was sitting up and saying something
The truth was, that in the calm depths of Sandy's mind he was satisfied that the rays of the sun were beneficial and healthful; that from childhood he had objected to lying down in a hat; that no people but condemned fools, past redemption, ever wore hats; and that his right to dispense with them when he pleased was inalienable. This was the statement of his inner consciousness. Unfortunately, its outward expression was vague, being limited to a repetition of the following formula: “Su'shine all ri'! Wasser maär, eh? Wass up, su’shine ?”
Miss Mary stopped, and, taking fresh courage from her vantage of distance, asked him if there was anything that he wanted.
“Wass up? Wasser maär?” continued Sandy, in a very high key.
“Get up, you horrid man!” said Miss Mary, now thoroughly incensed ; “get up, and go home.”
Sandy staggered to his feet. He was six feet high, and Miss Mary trembled. He started forward a few paces, and then stopped.
“Wass I go home for ?” he suddenly asked, with great gravity.
“Go and take a bath,” replied Miss Mary, eying his grimy person with great disfavor.
To her infinite dismay, Sandy suddenly pulled off his coat and vest, threw them on the ground, kicked off his boots, and, plunging wildly forward, darted headlong over the hill, in the direction of the river.
“Goodness Heavens ! the man will be drowned !” said Miss Mary; and then, with feminine inconsistency, she ran back to the schoolhouse, and locked herself in.
That night, while seated at supper with her hostess, the blacksmith's wife, it came to Miss Mary to ask, demurely, if her husband ever got drunk. Abner,” responded Mrs. Stidger, reflectively, "let's see! Abner has n't been tight since last 'lection.” Miss Mary would have liked to ask if he pre
ferred lying in the sun on these occasions, and if a cold bath would have hurt him; but this would have involved an explanation, which she did not then care to give. So she contented herself with opening her gray eyes widely at the red-cheeked Mrs. Stidger, - a fine specimen of Southwestern efflorescence, and then dismissed the subject altogether. The next day she wrote to her dearest friend, in Boston: “I think I find the intoxicated portion of this community the least objectionable.
I refer, my dear, to the men, of course. I do not know anything that could make the women tolerable."
In less than a week Miss Mary had forgotten this episode, except that her afternoon walks took thereafter, almost unconsciously, another direction.
She noticed, however, that every morning a fresh cluster of azalea blossoms appeared among the flowers on her desk. This was not strange, as her little flock were aware of her fondness for flowers, and invariably kept her desk bright with anemones, syringas, and lupines; but on questioning them they one and all professed ignorance of the azaleas. A few days later, Master Johnny Stidger,
whose desk was nearest to the window, was suddenly taken with spasms of apparently gratuitous laughter, that threatened the discipline of the school. All that Miss Mary could get from him was that some one had been “ looking in the winder.” Irate and indignant, she sallied from her hive to do battle with the intruder. As she turned the corner of the schoolhouse she came plump upon the quondam drunkard, now perfectly sober, and inexpressibly sheepish and guiltylooking
These facts Miss Mary was not slow to take a feminine advantage of, in her present humor. But it was somewhat confusing to observe, also, that the beast, despite some faint signs of past dissipation, was amiablelooking, - in fact, a kind of blonde Samson, whose corn-colored silken beard apparently had never yet known the touch of barber's razor or Delilah's shears. So that the cutting speech which quivered on her ready tongue died upon her lips, and she contented herself with receiving his stammering apology with supercilious eyelids and the gathered skirts of uncontamination. When she reëntered the schoolroom, her eyes fell upon the azaleas with a new sense of revelation.