― 98 ―

A Woman and A Fly.

SHE was a sort of experimentalist in emotions, and she was lonely. Teaching in the backblocks sharpens the flirtation-palate of a pretty girl, and does not decrease her possibilities.

As regarded this particular victim, she had not meant to go further than an experiment. He saw things differently.

He was only a “cocky,” with little brain beyond sheep; and she was rather a clever girl, with no desire for settling in life at twenty. What tempted her into mischief was his size—he was one of those tall, strong, hot-tempered male animals who always seem to appeal to small women.

They were returning from a ride one afternoon at sunset, when the plains were tenderly tipped with violet and gold. He was thinking of her; she was thinking of the other man—in Sydney.

“I am not going to fall in love with you.” The suddenness of the remark aroused her; its piquancy startled her.

“No?” she queried tentatively. He was silent.

The girl laughed softly as she hummed, “Nobody asked you, sir, she said”; at the same time steadying her horse to a walk. The experiment was promising, she reflected, and she wanted the full measure of its sensations. When you have a fly on a pin you should watch it wriggle, and enjoy yourself.

He looked at her suspiciously, with an uncomfortable idea that she was laughing at him. Very likely she was: she never took these impressionable men seriously.

“Pretend you didn't try?” he suggested. She shook her little head with sudden gravity. “You do not understand me—dear!” She said the last word softly, daringly.

When they reached home, and he was lifting her from the saddle, he suddenly kissed her. What came over her that she did not protest? She could not understand: she was generally particular in these matters. Besides, she was curiously cold-blooded, and so never attempted to lose her self-respect. The man was trembling—things were getting beyond a joke for him.

  ― 99 ―

A few days after, he called again. She was very subdued, and more puzzling than ever. She was lying in a camp-chair on the verandah, dreamily watching the shadows chasing each other in and out of the straggling belt of timber in the distance.

“Is there any hope for me?”

She looked up at him quickly, half-frightened at the expression on his face.

“For what?” she said, shrinkingly.

“Well, you let me kiss you; you know what that means!” His voice sounded like a threat.

She looked up at him thoughtfully; the tall, well-knit figure pleased her—one part of her; but the narrow forehead and general unpolished look about him offended the other part of her. “I don't see how I could prevent you,” she ventured audaciously.

He literally gasped: “Why, you never tried!”

“I was too hurt,” said the girl, with a pretty air of dignity.

His face grew absolutely miserable; and she became afraid that compassion (a frequent and unsuspected foe to some women) would master her wisdom. She took a mental leap into the possible future. She saw herself his wife and him the father of her children.

That thought saved her. It had been an interesting experiment, and the fly had wriggled beautifully; but 't was time to kill it.

“Good-bye,” she said.