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Augusta stood gazing on in mute astonishment; then, suddenly remembering her hasty toilet, she started to run; but, as chance would have it, a dry branch, which hung rather low, caught at her hood, and her hair fell in a black wavy stream down over her shoulders. She gave a little cry, the tree shook violently, and Strand was at her side. She blushed crimson over neck and face, and, in her utter bewilderment, stood like a culprit before him, unable to move, unable to speak, and only returning with a silent bow his cordial greeting. It seemed to her that she had ungenerously intruded upon his privacy, watching him, while he thought himself unobserved. And Augusta was quite unskilled in those social accomplishments which enable young ladies to hide their inward emotions under a show of polite indifference, for, however hard she strove, she could not suppress a slight quivering of her lips, and her intense self-reproach made Strand's words fall dimly on her ears, and prevented her from gathering the meaning of what he was saying. He held in his hands a young bird with a yellow line along the edge of its bill (and there was something beautifully soft and tender in the way those large palms of his handled any living thing), and he looked pityingly at it while he spoke.
"The mother of this little linnet," he said, smiling, "did what many foolish young mothers are apt to do. She took upon her the responsibility of raising offspring without having acquired the necessary knowledge of housekeeping. So she lined her nest with hemp, and the consequence was, that her first-born got his legs entangled, and was obliged to remain in the nest long after his wings had reached their full development. I saw her feeding him about a week ago, and, as my curiosity prompted me to look into the case, I released the little cripple, cleansed the deep wound which the threads had cut in his flesh, and have since been watching him during his convalescence. Now he is quite in a fair way, but I had to apply some salve, and to cut off the feathers about the wound, and the little fool squirmed under the pain, and grew rebellious. Only notice this scar, if you please, Miss Oddson, and you may imagine what the poor thing must have suffered."
Augusta gave a start; she timidly raised her eyes, and saw Strand's grave gaze fixed upon her. She felt as if some intolerable spell had come over her, and, as her agitation increased, her power of speech seemed utterly to desert her.
"Ah, you have not been listening to me?" said Strand, in a tone of wondering inquiry. "Pardon me for presuming to believe that my little invalid could be as interesting to you as he is to me."
"Mr. Strand," stammered the girl, while the invisible tears came near choking her voice. "Mr. Strand--I didn't mean--really--"
She knew that if she said another word she should burst into tears. With a violent effort, she gathered up her wrapper, which somehow had got unbuttoned at the neck, and, with heedlessly hurrying steps, darted away toward the house.
Strand stood looking after her, quite unmindful of his feathered patient, which flew chirping about him in the grass. Two hours later Arnfinn found him sitting under the birches with his hands clasped over the top of his head, and his surgical instruments scattered on the ground around him.
"Corpo di Baccho," exclaimed the student, stooping to pick up the precious tools; "have you been amputating your own head, or is it I who am dreaming?"
"Ah," murmured Strand, lifting a large, strange gaze upon his friend, "is it you?"
"Who else should it be? I come to call you to breakfast."
"I wonder what is up between Strand and Augusta?" said Arnfinn to his cousin Inga. The questioner was lying in the grass at her feet, resting his chin on his palms, and gazing with roguishly tender eyes up into her fresh, blooming face; but Inga, who was reading aloud from "David Copperfield," and was deep in the matrimonial tribulations of that noble hero, only said "hush," and continued reading. Arnfinn, after a minute's silence, repeated his remark, whereupon his fair cousin wrenched his cane out of his hand, and held it threateningly over his head.
"Will you be a good boy and listen?" she exclaimed, playfully emphasizing each word with a light rap on his curly pate.
"Ouch! that hurts," cried Arnfinn, and dodged.
"It was meant to hurt," replied Inga, with mock severity, and returned to "Copperfield."
Presently the seed of a corn-flower struck the tip of her nose, and again the cane was lifted; but Dora's housekeeping experiences were too absorbingly interesting, and the blue eyes could not resist their fascination.
"Cousin Inga," said Arnfinn, and this time with as near an approach to earnestness as he was capable of at that moment, "I do believe that Strand is in love with Augusta."
Inga dropped the book, and sent him what was meant to be a glance of severe rebuke, and then said, in her own amusingly emphatic way:
"I do wish you wouldn't joke with such things, Arnfinn."
"Joke! Indeed I am not joking. I wish to heaven that I were. What a pity it is that she has taken such a dislike to him!"
"Dislike! Oh, you are a profound philosopher, you are! You think that because she avoids--"
Here Inga abruptly clapped her hand over her mouth, and, with sudden change of voice and expression, said:
"I am as silent as the grave."
"Yes, you are wonderfully discreet," cried Arnfinn, laughing, while the girl bit her under lip with an air of penitence and mortification which, in any other bosom than a cousin's would have aroused compassion.
"Aha! So steht's!" he broke forth, with another burst of merriment; then, softened by the sight of a tear that was slowly gathering beneath her eyelashes, he checked his laughter, crept up to her side, and in a half childishly coaxing, half caressing tone, he whispered:
"Dear little cousin, indeed I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You are not angry with me, are you? And if you will only promise me not to tell, I have something here which I should like to show you."
He well knew that there was nothing which would sooner soothe Inga's wrath than confiding a secret to her; and while he was a boy, he had, in cases of sore need, invented secrets lest his life should be made miserable by the sense that she was displeased with him. In this instance her anger was not strong enough to resist the anticipation of a secret, probably relating to that little drama which had, during the last weeks, been in progress under her very eyes. With a resolute movement, she brushed her tears away, bent eagerly forward, and, in the next moment, her face was all expectancy and animation.
Arnfinn pulled a thick black note-book from his breast pocket, opened it in his lap, and read:
"August 3, 5 A. M.--My little invalid is doing finely; he seemed to relish much a few dozen flies which I brought him in my hand. His pulse is to-day, for the first time, normal. He is beginning to step on the injured leg without apparent pain.
"10 A. M.--Miss Augusta's eyes have a strange, lustrous brilliancy whenever she speaks of subjects which seem to agitate the depths of her being. How and why is it that an excessive amount of feeling always finds its first expression in the eye? One kind of emotion seems to widen the pupil, another kind to contract it. TO be noticed in future, how particular emotions affect the eye.
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Tales From Two Hemispheres -by- Hjalmar Hjorth BoysenBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.