- 39,00 kr
By and by the raft was carried around a wide bend, and the whitewashed buildings of Fort Cheever stole into view down the river. Jack's eyes gleamed, and he put away the banjo. It was many a day since he had hobnobbed with his own kind, and what is the use of gold if there is no chance to squander it?
Sitting up, he applied himself to his paddle. Edging the raft toward the left-hand bank, he left the main current at the head of an island, and, shooting over a bar, paddled through the sluggish backwater on the shore of which the little settlement lay. As he came close the buildings were hidden from him by the high bank; only the top of the "company's" flagpole showed. The first human sound that struck on his ears was the vociferous, angry crying of a boy-child.
Rounding a little point of the bank, the cause of the commotion was revealed. Jack grinned, and held his paddle. The sluggish current carried him toward the actors in the scene, and they were too intent to observe him. A half-submerged, flat-bottomed barge was moored to the shore. On the decked end of it a young girl in a blue print dress was seated on a box, vigorously soaping an infant of four. Two other ivory-skinned cupids, one older, one younger, were playing in the warm water that partly filled the barge. Their clothes lay in a heap behind the girl.
She was a very pretty girl; the mere sight of her caused Jack's breast to lift and his heart to set up a slightly increased beating. It was so long since he had seen one! Her soft lips were determinedly pressed together; in one hand she gripped the thin arm of her captive, while with the other she applied the soap until his writhing little body flashed in the sun as if burnished. Struggles and yells were in vain. The other two children played in the water, callously indifferent to the sufferings of their brother. It was clear they had been through their ordeal.
The girl, warned of an approaching presence, raised a pair of startled eyes. Her captive, feeling the vise relax, plunged into the water of the barge with incredible swiftness, and, rapturously splashing off the hated soap, joined his brothers at the other end, safely out of her reach. The girl blushed for their nakedness. They themselves stared open-mouthed at the stranger without any embarrassment at all. The fat baby was sitting in the water, turned into stone with astonishment, like a statue of Buddha in a flood.
Something in the young man's frank laugh reassured the girl, and she laughed a little too, though blushing still. She glowed with youth and health, deep-bosomed as Ceres, and all ivory and old rose. Her delicious, soft, roundness was a tantalizing sight to a hungry youth. But there was something more than mere provoking loveliness—her large brown eyes conveyed it, a disquieting wistfulness even while she laughed.