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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter4,part2)

2006-08-28 23:26

    PART 2

    From a great distance there seemed to come to Jeff vaguely the sound of young rippling laughter and eager girlish voices. Drawn from heavy sleep, he was not yet fully awake. This merriment might be the music of fairy bells, such stuff as dreams are made of. He lay incurious, drowsiness still heavy on his eyelids.

    "Oh, Virgie, here's another bunch! Oh, girls, fields of them!"

    There was a little rush to the place, and with it a rustle of skirts that sounded authentic. Jeff began to believe that his nymphs were not born of fancy. He opened his eyes languidly to examine a strange world upon which he had not yet focused his mind.

    Out of the ferns a dryad was coming toward him, lance straight, slender, buoyantly youthful in the light tread and in the poise of the golden head.

    At sight of him she paused, held in her tracks, eyes grown big with solicitude.

    "You are ill."

    Before he could answer she had dropped the anemones she carried,

    was on her knees beside him, and had his head cushioned against her arm.

    "Tell me! What can I do for you? What is the matter?"

    Jeff groaned. His head was aching as if it would blow up, but that was not the cause of the wave of pain which had swept over him. A realization had come to him of what was the matter with him. His eyes fell from hers. He made as if to get up, but her hand restrained him with a gentle firmness.

    "Don't! You mustn't." Then aloud, she cried: "Girls——girls—— there's a sick man here. Run and get help. Quick."

    "No——no! I——I'm not sick."

    A flood of shame and embarrassment drenched him. He could not escape her tender hands without actual force and his poignant shyness made that impossible. She was like a fairy tale, a creature of dreams. He dared not meet her frank pitiful eyes, though he was intensely aware of them. The odor of violets brings to him even to this day a vision of girlish charm and daintiness, together with a memory of the abased reverence that filled him.

    They came running, her companions, eager with question and suggestion. And hard upon their heels a teamster from the road broke through the thicket, summoned by their calls for help. He stooped to pick up something that his foot had struck. It was a bottle. He looked at it and then at Jeff.

    "Nothing the matter with him, Miss, but just plain drunk," the man said with a grin. "He's been sleeping it off."

    Jeff felt the quiver run through her. She rose, trembling, and with one frightened sidelong look at him walked quickly away. He had seen a wound in her eyes he would not soon forget. It was as if he had struck her down while she was holding out hands to help him.

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