All eyes on Peter in the punt

You know, it's probably time just to put this out there. It is, as they say, the very apex of romance—at its core both realization and longing—and all the moreso for being both well earned and hard won, and for nobody actually touching. Or even coming close. Years and years and hundreds of pages went into the building of this scene, and you can see it in every word, not only in the frank sensuality of Harriet's gaze but in how, even now, she won't stop pushing it away. Peter is a physical presence to her finally—there's something primal and urgent and electric simply in the way he sits still (or the way Sayers describes him sitting still, if you want to be particular)—yet all she's doing is staring at his brain! Meanwhile he says nothing, asks nothing, demands nothing, and in the end she blames him for that, too (oh, prickly, contrary, pig-headed Harriet! This is exactly the sort of thing that happens when you dance with a man while wearing a claret-colored frock that he recommended you purchase, then refuses to admire! This is also why you're my favorite fictional character: more ornery heroines for everybody!). And in the end she still can't come out and call it "love," even to herself.

Accepting rebuke, he relapsed into silence, while she studied his half-averted face. Considered generally, as a façade, it was by this time tolerably familiar to her, but now she saw details, magnified as it were by some glass in her own mind. The flat setting and fine scroll-work of the ear, and the height of the skull above it. The glitter of close-cropped hair where the neck-muscles lifted to meet the head. A minute sickle-shaped scar on the left temple. The faint laughter-lines at the corner of the eye and the droop of the lid at its outer end. The gleam of gold down on the cheekbone. The wide spring of the nostril. An almost imperceptible beading of sweat on the upper lip and a tiny muscle that twitched the sensitive corner of the mouth. The slight sun-reddening of the fair skin and its sudden whiteness below the base of the throat. The little hollow above the points of the collarbone.

He looked up; and she was instantly scarlet, as though she had been dipped in boiling water. Through the confusion of her darkened eyes and drumming ears some enormous bulk seemed to stoop over her. Then the mist cleared. His eyes were riveted upon the manuscript again, but he breathed as though he had been running.

So, thought Harriet, it has happened. But it happened long ago. The only new thing that has happened is that now I have got to admit it to myself. I have known it for some time. But does he know it? He has very little excuse, after this, for not knowing it. Apparently he refuses to see it, and that may be new. If so, it ought to be easier to do what I meant to do.

She stared out resolutely across the dimpling water. But she was conscious of his every movement, of every page he turned, of every breath he drew. She seemed to be separately conscious of every bone in his body. At length he spoke, and she wondered how she could ever have taken another man's voice for his.

— Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night, Chapter XV