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Roads of Destiny

The Enchanted Kiss
But a clerk in the Cut-rate Drug Store was Samuel Tansey, yet his slender frame was a
pad that enfolded the passion of Romeo, the gloom of Laura, the romance of D'Artagnan,
and the desperate inspiration of Melnotte. Pity, then, that he had been denied expression,
that he was doomed to the burden of utter timidity and diffidence, that Fate had set him
tongue-tied and scarlet before the muslin-clad angels whom he adored and vainly longed
to rescue, clasp, comfort, and subdue.
The clock's hands were pointing close upon the hour of ten while Tansey was playing
billiards with a number of his friends. On alternate evenings he was released from duty at
the store after seven o'clock. Even among his fellow-men Tansey was timorous and
constrained. In his imagination he had done valiant deeds and performed acts of
distinguished gallantry; but in fact he was a sallow youth of twenty-three, with an over-
modest demeanour and scant vocabulary.
When the clock struck ten, Tansey hastily laid down his cue and struck sharply upon the
show-case with a coin for the attendant to come and receive the pay for his score.
"What's your hurry, Tansey?" called one. "Got another engagement?"
"Tansey got an engagement!" echoed another. "Not on your life. Tansey's got to get home
at Motten by her Peek's orders."
"It's no such thing," chimed in a pale youth, taking a large cigar from his mouth;
"Tansey's afraid to be late because Miss Katie might come down stairs to unlock the
door, and kiss him in the hall."
This delicate piece of raillery sent a fiery tingle into Tansey's blood, for the indictment
was true—barring the kiss. That was a thing to dream of; to wildly hope for; but too
remote and sacred a thing to think of lightly.
Casting a cold and contemptuous look at the speaker—a punishment commensurate with
his own diffident spirit—Tansey left the room, descending the stairs into the street.
For two years he had silently adored Miss Peek, worshipping her from a spiritual distance
through which her attractions took on stellar brightness and mystery. Mrs. Peek kept a
few choice boarders, among whom was Tansey. The other young men romped with
Katie, chased her with crickets in their fingers, and "jollied" her with an irreverent
freedom that turned Tansey's heart into cold lead in his bosom. The signs of his adoration
were few—a tremulous "Good morning," stealthy glances at her during meals, and
occasionally (Oh, rapture!) a blushing, delirious game of cribbage with her in the parlour
on some rare evening when a miraculous lack of engagement kept her at home. Kiss him
in the hall! Aye, he feared it, but it was an ecstatic fear such as Elijah must have felt
when the chariot lifted him into the unknown.
 
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