The Flirt

Clark Ashton Smith

Someone introduced him to her as she stepped from the surf at the bathing beach. She was blonde as a daffodil, and her one-piece suit of vivid green clung to her closely as a folded leaf to the flower-bud. She smiled upon him, with an air of tender and subtle sadness; and her slow, voluptuous eyelids fell before his gaze with the pensive languor of closing petals. There was a diffidence and seduction in the [virginal] curve of her cheek; she was modest and demure, with an under note of elusive provocation; and her voice was a plaintive soprano.

Twenty minutes later, they sat among the dunes at the end of the beach, where a white wall of sand concealed them from the crowd. Her bathing suit, only half-dry, still clung and glistened; but their flirtation had already ripened and flourished with an ease that surprised him.

"Surely I knew you in ancient Greece," he was saying. "Your hair retains the sunlight of the Golden Age, your eyes the blue of perished heavens that shone on the vale of Tempe. Tell me, what queen or goddess were you? In what fane of chalcedony, or palace of ebony and gold, did I, a long-forgotten poet, sing before you the hymns or lyrics of my adoration?... Do you not remember me?"

"Oh, yes, I remember you," she said, in her plaintive soprano. "But I was not a queen or a goddess: I was only a yellow lily ^growing in a forest glade by the banks of some forgotten stream; and you were the faun who passed by and trampled me [in pursuit of a fleeing nymph]^[in the garden of Lais; and you were the prince who passed by and trampled me on your way to her chamber door]."

"Poor little flower!" he cried, with a compassion he did not need to feign: It was impossible to resist the dove-like mournful cadence in her voice, the submissive sorrow and affection of her gaze . She said nothing, but her head drooped nearer to his shoulder, and her lips took on a more sorrowful and seductive curve. Even if she were not half so lovely and desirable, he felt that it would be impardonably brutal not to kiss her .... Her lips were cool as flowers after an April rain, and they clung softly to his, as if in gratitude for his tenderness and pity ....

The next day, he looked for her in vain among the bathers at the beach. She had promised to be there—had promised with many lingering kisses and murmurs. Disconsolate, remembering with a pang the gentle pressure of her mouth, the light burden of her body so loath to part from his arms, he strolled towards the dune in whose shelter they had sat. He paused, hearing voices from behind it, and listened involuntarily, for one of the voices was hers. The other, low and indistinct, with a note of passion, was a man's voice …With the dove-like soprano

whose tones were so fresh and vibrant in his memory, he heard her say: "I was only a yellow lily growing in a forest glade by the banks of some forgotten stream; and you were the faun who passed by and trampled me."

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.
{December 22, 1921}

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