She hesitated, somewhat disconcerted at Oak's old-fashioned earnest conclusion to a dialogue lightly carried on. `Very well,' she said, and gave him her hand, compressing her lips to a demure impassivity. He held it but an instant, and in his fear of being too demonstrative, swerved to the opposite extreme, touching her fingers with the lightness of a small-hearted person.

`I am sorry,' he said the instant after.

`What for?'

`Letting your hand go so quick.'

`You may have it again if you like; there it is.' She gave him her hand again.

Oak held it longer this time - indeed, curiously long. `How soft it is - being winter time, too - not chapped or rough, or anything!' he said.

`There - that's long enough,' said she, though without pulling it away. `But I suppose you are thinking you would like to kiss it? You may if you want to.

`I wasn't thinking of any such thing,' said Gabriel simply; `but I will--'

`That you won't!' She snatched back her hand.

Gabriel felt himself guilty of another want of tact.

`Now find out my name,' she said teasingly; and withdrew.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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