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In the Whirl of the Rising   By: (1855-1914)

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In the Whirl of the Rising, by Bertram Mitford.



"You coward!"

The word cut crisply and sharp through the clear frosty air, lashing and keen as the wind that stirred the crystal spangled pines, and the musical ring of skate blades upon the ice bound surface of the mere. She who uttered it stood, her flower like face and deep blue eyes all a quiver with contemptuous disgust. He to whom it was addressed, started, blenched ever so slightly, his countenance immediately resuming its mask of bronze impassibility. Those who heard it echoed it, secretly or in deep and angry mutter, the while proceeding with their task to wit, the restoring of animation to a very nearly drowned human being, rescued, at infinite risk, from the treacherous spring hole which had let him through the surface of the ice.

"Say it again," was the answer. "It is such a kind and pleasant thing to hear, coming from you. So just, too. Do say it again."

"I will say it again," went on the first speaker; and, exasperated by the bitter sneering tone of the other, her voice rang out high and clear, "You coward!"

Piers Lamont's dark face took on a change, but it expressed a sneer as certain retrospective pictures rose before his mental gaze. Such indeed, in his case, drew the sting of about the most stinging epithet that lips can frame; yet, remembering that the lips then framing it were those of the girl with whom he was passionately in love, and to whom he had recently become engaged, it seemed to hurt.

"Say something. Oh, do say something!" she went on, speaking quickly. "The boy might have been drowned, and very nearly was, while you stood, with your hands in your pockets, looking on."

"If your people see fit to throw open the mere to the rabble, the rabble must take care of itself," he answered. "I daresay I can risk my life, with an adequate motive. That isn't one."

The words, audible to many of the bystanders, the contemptuous tone, and nod of the head in the direction of the ever increasing group on the bank, deepened the prevailing indignation. Angry murmurs arose, and some "booing." Perhaps the presence of the Squire's daughter alone restrained this demonstration from taking a more active form of hostility; or it may even have been a something in the hard, bronzed face and firm build of the man who had just been publicly dubbed "coward."

"For shame!" hotly retorted the girl. "I have no wish to talk to you any more, or ever again. Please go."

He made no reply. Lifting his hat ceremoniously he turned away. A few yards' glide brought him to the bank. He sat down, deliberately removed his skates, lit a cigar, then started upon his way; the no longer restrained jeers which followed him falling upon his ears with no other effect than to cause him to congratulate himself upon having given others the opportunity of performing the feat from which he had refrained.

The subject of all this disturbance was showing signs of restoration to life and consciousness. Seen in the midst of the gaping and for the most part useless crowd which hemmed him in, he was an urchin of about thirteen or fourteen, with a debased type of countenance wherein the characteristics of the worst phase of guttersnipe low cunning, predatoriness, boundless impudence, and aggressive brutality showed more than incipient. Such a countenance was it, indeed, as to suggest that the rescue of its owner from a watery death went far to prove the truth of a certain homely proverb relating to hanging and drowning. And now, gazing upon it, Violet Courtland was conscious of an unpleasant truth in those last words spoken by her fiance . She was forced to own to herself that the saving of this life assuredly was not worth the risking of his. Yet she had implored him to do something towards the rescue, and he had done nothing... Continue reading book >>

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