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The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 8978

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The trio from Meadow Brook, on their way to Sunset Rock galloped up to the Hollis Creek porch, and, finding Miss Stevens there, gaily demanded that she accompany them.

"I'm sorry," said Miss Stevens, who was already in driving costume, "but I have an engagement at ten o'clock," and she looked back through the window into the office, where the clock then stood at two minutes of the appointed time; then she looked rather impatiently down the driveway, as she had been doing for the past five minutes.

"Well, at least you'll come back to the bar with us and have an ice-cream cocktail," insisted Princeman, reining up close to the porch and putting his hand upon the rail in front of her.

"I don't see how I can refuse that," said Miss Stevens with a smile and another glance down at the driveway, "although it's really a little early in the day to begin drinking," and she waited for them to dismount, going back with them into the little ice-cream parlor and "soft drink" and confectionery dispensary which had been facetiously dubbed "the bar." Here she was careful to secure a seat where she could look out of the window down toward the road, and also see the clock.

After a weary while, during which Miss Josephine had undergone a variety of emotions which she was very careful not to mention, the party rose from the discussion of their ice-cream soda and the bowling tournament and all the various other social interests of the two resorts, and made ready to depart, Miss Westlake twining her arm about the waist of her friend Miss Stevens as they emerged on the porch.

"Well, anyway, we've made you forget your engagement," Miss Westlake gaily boasted, "for you said it was to be at ten, and now it's ten-thirty."

"Yes, I noticed the time," admitted Miss Stevens, rather grudgingly.

"I'm sorry we dragged you away," commiserated Miss Westlake with a swift change of tone. "Probably the party of the second part didn't know where to find you."

"No, it couldn't be anything like that," decided Miss Josephine after a thoughtful pause. "Did you see anything of Mr. Turner this morning?" she asked with sudden resolve.

"Mr. Turner," repeated Miss Westlake in well-feigned surprise. "Why, yes, I know papa said early this morning that he was going to have a business talk with Mr. Turner, and as we left Meadow Brook papa was just going after his hat to take a drive with him."

"I wonder if it would be an imposition to ask you to wait about five minutes longer," inquired Miss Stevens with a languidness which did not deceive. "I think I can change to my riding-habit almost within that time."

"We'll be delighted to wait," asserted Miss Westlake eagerly, herself looking apprehensively down the driveway; "won't we, boys?"

"Sure; what is it?" returned Princeman.

"Josephine says that if we'll wait five minutes longer she'll go with us."

"We'll wait an hour if need be," declared Princeman gallantly.

"It won't need be," said Miss Stevens lightly, and hurrying into the office she ordered the clerk to send for her saddle-horse.

For ten interminable minutes Miss Westlake never took her eyes from the road, at the end of which time Miss Stevens returned, hatted and habited and booted and whipped.

The Hollis Creek young lady was rather grim as she rode down the graveled approach beside Miss Westlake, and both the girls cast furtive glances behind them as they turned away from the Meadow Brook road. When they were safely out of sight around the next bend, Miss Westlake laughed.

"Mr. Turner is such a funny person," said she. "He's liable at any moment to forget all about everything and everybody if somebody mentions business to him. If he ever takes time to get married he'll make it a luncheon hour appointment."

Even Miss Josephine laughed.

"And even then," she added, by way of elaboration, "the bride is likely to be left waiting at the church." There was a certain snap and crackle to whatever Miss Stevens said just now, however, which indicated a perturbed and even an angry state of mind.

Ten minutes later, Sam Turner, hatless, and carrying a buggy whip and wearing a torn coat, trudged up the Hollis Creek Inn drive, afoot, and walked rapidly into the office.

"Is Miss Stevens about?" he wanted to know.

"Not at present," the clerk informed him. "She ordered out her horse a few minutes ago, and started over to Sunset Rock with a party of young people from Meadow Brook."

"Which way is Sunset


The clerk handed him a folder which contained a map of the roadways thereabouts, and pointed out the way.

"Could you get me a saddle-horse right away?"

The clerk pounded a bell and ordered up a saddle-horse for Mr. Turner, who immediately thereupon turned to the telephone, and, calling up Meadow Brook, instructed the clerk at that resort to send a carriage for Mr. Westlake, who was sitting in the trap, entirely unharmed but disinclined to walk, at the foot of Laurel Hill; then he explained that the grays had run away down this steep declivity, that the yoke bar had slipped, the tongue had fallen to the ground, had broken, and had run back up through the body of the carriage. The horses had jerked the doubletree loose, and the last he had seen of their marks they had turned up the Bald Hill road and were probably going yet. By the time he had repeated and amplified this explanation enough to beat it all through the head of the man at the other end of the wire, his horse was ready for him, and very much to the wonderment of the clerk he started off at a rattling gait, without taking the trouble either to have himself dusted or to pin up his badly torn pocket.

He only lost his way once among the devious turns which led to Sunset Rock, and arrived there just as the party, quite satisfied with the inspection of a view they had seen a score of times before, were ready to depart, his appearance upon the scene with the telltale pocket being greatly to the discomfiture of everybody concerned except Miss Stevens, who found herself unaccountably pleased that Sam's delay had been due to an accident, and able to believe his briefly told explanation at once. Miss Westlake was in despair. She had really hoped, and believed, that Sam had forgotten his engagement in business talk, and she had felt quite triumphant about it. Tilloughby, satisfied to be with Miss Westlake, and Princeman, more than content to ride by the side of Miss Stevens, were neither of them overjoyed at the appearance of the fifth rider, who made fully as much a crowd as any "third party" has ever done; and he disarranged matters considerably, for, though at first lagging behind alone, a narrow place in the road shifted the party so that when they emerged upon the other side of it Miss Westlake was riding by the side of Sam, and Tilloughby was left to ride alone in the center. Thereupon Miss Westlake's horse developed a sudden inclination to go very slowly.

"Papa says I'm becoming a very keen business woman," she remarked, by and by.

"Well, you've the proper blood in you for it," said Sam.

"That doesn't seem to count," she laughed; "look at Billy. But I think I did a remarkably clever stroke this morning. I induced papa to say he'd double his stock in your company and give it to me. He tells me I've enough to 'swing' control. Isn't that jolly?"

"It's hilariously jolly," admitted Sam, but with an inward wince. Control and Westlake were two words which did not make, for him, a cheerful juxtaposition.

"So now you'll have to be very nice indeed to me," went on Miss Westlake banteringly, "or I'm likely to vote with the other crowd."

"I'll be just as nice to you as I know how," offered Sam. "Just state what you want me to do and I'll do it."

Miss Westlake did not state what she wanted him to do. In place of that she whipped up her horse rather smartly, after a thoughtful silence, and joined Tilloughby, the three of them riding abreast. The next shifting, around a deep mud hole which only left room for an Indian file procession, brought Sam alongside Miss Josephine, and here he stuck for the balance of the ride, leaving Princeman to ride part of the time alone between the two couples, and part of the time to be the third rider with each couple in alternation. Miss Josephine was very much concerned about Mr. Turner's accident, very happy to know how lucky he had been to come off without a scratch, except for the tear in his coat, and very solicitous indeed about any further handling of the obstreperous gray team; and, forgiving him readily under the circumstances, she renewed her engagement to drive with him the next morning!

Sam rode on home at the side of Miss Westlake, after leaving Miss Stevens at Hollis Creek, in a strange and nebulous state of elation, which continued until bedtime. As he was about to retire he was handed a wire from his brother:

"Just received patent papers meet me at Restview morning train."

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