The Clarion HTML version

3. Esmé
Hal saw her first, vivid against the lifeless gray of the cement wall, as he turned away
from the Pierce car. A little apart from the human current she stood, still and expectant.
As if to point her out as the chosen of gods and men, the questing sun, bursting in
triumph through a cloud-rift, sent a long shaft of gold to encompass and irradiate her. To
the end, whether with aching heart or glad, Hal was to see her thus, in flashing, recurrent
visions; a slight, poised figure, all gracious curves and tender consonances, with a cluster
of the trailing arbutus, that first-love of the springtide, clinging at her breast. The breeze
bore to him the faint, wild, appealing fragrance which is the very breath and soul of the
blossom's fairy-pink.
Half-turning, she had leaned a little, as a flower leans, to the warmth of the sunlight,
uplifting her face for its kiss. She was not beautiful in any sense of regularity of outline or
perfection of feature, so much as lovely, with the lustrous loveliness which defiantly
overrides the lapse of line and proportion, and imperiously demands the homage of every
man born of woman. Chill analysis might have judged the mouth, with its delicate,
humorous quirk at the corners, too large; the chin too broad, for all its adorable baby
dimple; the line of the nose too abrupt, the wider contours lacking something of classic
exactitude. But the chillest analysis must have warmed to enthusiasm at the eyes; wide-
set, level, and of a tawny hazel, with strange, wine-brown lights in their depths, to match
the brownish-golden sheen of the hair, where the sun glinted from it. As it were a higher
power of her physical splendor, there emanated from the girl an intensity and radiance of
joy in being alive and lovely.
Involuntarily Hal Surtaine paused as he approached her. Her glance fell upon him, not
with the impersonal regard bestowed upon a casual passer-by, but with an intent and
brightening interest,—the thrill of the chase, had he but known it,—and passed beyond
him again. But in that brief moment, the conviction was borne in upon him that
sometime, somewhere, he had looked into those eyes before. Puzzled and eager he still
stared, until, with a slight flush, she moved forward and passed him. At the head of the
stairs he saw her greet a strongly built, grizzled man; and then became aware of his father
beckoning to him from the automobile.
"Bewitched, Hal?" said Dr. Surtaine as his son came to him.
"Was I staring very outrageously, sir?"
"Why, you certainly looked interested," returned the older man, laughing. "But I don't
think you need apologize to the young lady. She's used to attention. Rather lives on it, I
The tone jarred on Hal. "I had a queer, momentary feeling that I'd seen her before," he