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Portrait of a Rebel


The tall young man is standing at the back of the throng of people, hands shoved deep into his pockets, leaning against the wall. At first glance he appears uninterested in what is going on around him; his hat is pulled down low over his forehead, the brim shadowing his face, and he seems lost in reverie. On closer inspection however, it is evident that he is listening intently to what is being said, his eyes roaming over the crowd, taking in each speaker in turn. Furtive glances are directed his way and he responds to the odd greeting with a curt nod of his head. Judging by his appearance - neatly cut fair hair, a respectable suit with a button-down waistcoat over a clean white shirt, and polished boots - one could easily take him for a wealthy landowner’s son, come to amuse himself with the doings of ordinary folk. But there is not even the slightest hint of a smile on his lips as he tilts his head and listens to the speakers air their grievances to the meeting one by one. Every now and then something that is being said elicits a flash of anger in his eyes and causes him to mutter oaths under his breath.

     When a young woman walks past his whole demeanour changes; he tips his hat and smiles, and it is as if her presence has taken him to another place entirely. His blue eyes crinkle at the corners, shining with delight at the unexpected encounter. He lightly rests his hand on her shoulder, bends to whisper something into her ear and then winks at her. She blushes and swats at his hand, but it is obvious she is pleased. She walks away, smiling to herself, and his eyes follow her while he busies himself with lighting a cigarette. When she has disappeared into the throng, he settles himself once again against the wall, a lingering smile pulling up the corners of his mouth. The cigarette clenched between his teeth, eyes narrowed against the smoke, he pulls out of his pocket a folded piece of paper and a pencil and starts writing. When he has finished, he reads over what he has written, folds the paper and returns it to his pocket with the pencil. He takes one last deep drag off his cigarette, drops it and grinds it into the ground with the heel of his boot, straightening up and letting his eyes sweep over the crowd once more. Seemingly satisfied that he has seen and heard enough, he turns and strides unhurriedly toward a group of trees where a horse is tied up, waiting for him. Speaking softly to the animal he gathers the reins in one hand, puts his foot in the stirrup and gracefully swings himself up into the saddle. A click of his tongue and the gentlest pressure of his thighs is enough to guide the horse as he rides off into the darkness of the bush.


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