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two with her new-made acquaintance, and so they set out together.

Mrs. Justin and Stratford, having finished their business, were standing together on the piazza, when the former exclaimed:

"Who's that coming over the field with Gay?"

Stratford looked steadfastly, but at first he was unable to answer. Presently, however, he recognized the young lady whom he had seen at the Bullripple farm, and in regard to whom he had made inquiries of Mrs. People.

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That," said he, "is a daughter of J. Weatherby Stull. His family are, at present, at his farm. But it seems rather odd that Miss Armatt should be acquainted with his daughter."

Mrs. Justin had never heard anything of J. Weatherby Stull that she liked. It was during the life-time of her husband that Stull had acquired his present possessions in the neighborhood, and Mr. Justin had been very indignant at the relentless manner in which Mrs. People had been driven from her home. Even if she had not looked upon the opinions of her husband as a guide for her own judgments, Mrs. Justin would have despised the things that Mr. Stull had done, and would have despised the man who did them. He had lived very little on his farm after it had come into his possession, and, while there, it had never entered into the mind of Mrs. Justin that it was possible for her to call upon his family. She had heard that they had again come into the neighborhood, but although much of her old resentment at the man's actions had faded away, she did not consider the Stulls as people with whom she had the least concern; and had almost forgotten that she had been told of their coming.

Mrs. Justin looked gravely at the two young women, who had now stopped and appeared to be talking quite earnestly. "I don't understand it," she said; "Gay never mentioned the Stulls to me, and that does not look like a recent acquaintanceship. They are evidently taking leave of each other, and yet it seems impossible for them to tear themselves apart." This difficult deed was, however, accomplished, and while Miss Matilda turned back and took her way across the fields, Gay came hurrying homeward. She threw herself into a piazza chair and made her report, and it was plain enough to her hearers that she had been very favorably impressed by Miss Stull.

"She's a very nice girl," she said, "and as friendly as she can be. She intended to walk only a little way with me, but we had so much to say that we got almost here before we knew it. I wanted her to come in and rest herself, but this she would not do, for she seems to be very

particular about such things, and said it would not be proper for her to come here before any of this family had called upon her mother and herself. I suppose we ought to call on them as soon as we can," she continued, turning to Mrs. Justin. "I should think they would be very pleasant neighbors. And what I particularly like about Miss Stull is that she seems so much fonder of this country than of the fashionable places she is in the habit of going to."

Mrs. Justin did not immediately answer. She had an instinctive aversion towards anything that bore the name of Stull, but her conscience would not allow her to believe that the sins of a husband and father should be visited upon a wife and daughter, and she could readily understand that it would be a severe punishment to ladies accustomed to society to find themselves in a country place where their few neighbors would not associate with them. But it is possible that even these conscientious and kindly feelings would not have been sufficient to urge her to an early movement in the direction of her social duties to the new-comers had not a fresh motive come to their assistance. It was evident that Gay had conceived a liking for Miss Stull, and it occurred to Mrs. Justin that if her young protégée could form a friendship with one of her own sex and age, it would interfere very much with that friendship for Mr. Stratford about which she found that she still had some fears, notwithstanding the fact that she had persuaded herself that Gay's love for Crisman would be invulnerable against all attacks, whether made under the guise of friendship or any other sentiment.

She was glad to find that Mr. Stull was not expected to join his family very soon, and that his daughter did not suppose that, when he came, he would stay long.

Miss Matilda had heard that there had once been unpleasant feelings between her father and the Justins, and she was a young woman who generally knew what to say and when to say it.

If, therefore, there was but little chance of having anything to do with Mr. Stull, it might be well, so reasoned Mrs. Justin, to call upon his wife and daughter; and if the latter should appear to be the extremely pleasant young lady that Gay thought her to be, a companionship between the two would probably be a desirable thing. Gay's enthusiasm over this new acquaintance was very encouraging to Mrs. Justin. "That seems to be her natural disposition," she thought, "in regard to friendships, and it may not mean as much as I supposed it did."

She therefore determined that she would call on the Stulls. But when this decision

was announced to Mr. Stratford he gave it a cold approval. It was well enough, he remarked, to be courteous to new-comers, but he had always had a great dislike for Stull himself, and from the little he had seen of his daughter he did not believe that her companionship was needed by Miss Armatt. But Mrs. Justin laughed - was he such a judge of the nature of girls that he could tell their capabilities and qualities by a glance or two?

XIX.

A FEW days after the entrance of Miss Matilda Stull into the Justin field of view, Mr. Horace Stratford was driving slowly along one of the by-roads in the neighborhood of Cherry Bridge. It was about the middle of the afternoon, and he was starting out on one of those mountain drives with which he varied his fishing and walking experiences. He had allowed his horse to fall into a small jog-trot; for a sensible man will not drive fast over the ordinary by-road of mountainous neighborhoods when his mind is fixed upon a subject entirely unrelated to roads and driving.

Mr. Stratford's mind was intently fixed upon the subject of his plans and purposes regarding the future welfare of Miss Gay Armatt. His desire to promote this welfare was as strong as ever, and his belief in the justice of his purposes was unshaken, but his hopes of their success were not quite so bright as they had been. He could not but admit to himself that while he had made upon the mind of this young lady quite as forcible an impression of the value of worthy male companionship as he had expected to make, that impression had not produced the result which he had hoped from it. Miss Gay, indeed, appeared capable of entertaining, at the same time, a true and earnest friendship for one man and a true and earnest love for another man. Thus, while he had gained for himself a most charming and sympathetic friend, Mr. Crisman still retained a loyal lady-love. Now while Stratford had no objection whatever to make for himself a charming friend, that was not the ultimate object of his carefully considered conduct towards Gay Armatt. If Mr. Crisman's hold upon the girl were not loosened, it mattered little to her future what hold any one else retained upon her.

"Perhaps," said Stratford to himself, "Mrs. Justin may be right, and the girl,having plighted her word, will stand to her promise through good or evil." Now this blind constancy was a quality of the soul of which Stratford did not approve. Adherence to the wrong under any circumstances was, in his opinion, unworthy of a true man or woman. If, by any

means, by comparison with other men, or by direct study of his character, Gay should discover that her lover was not the man she would have chosen had she deferred her decision until a little more age and a little more experience had given her better powers of judgment in regard to what a husband should be, then Gay was false to herself, and, in a manner, to Crisman also, if she married him. If Mr. Stratford had been consulted on the subject of the young lady's action after she had arrived at this conviction, he would have advised a clear and frank statement of her change of views, coupled with a proposition that the engagement be set aside by mutual consent. He truly believed that if women were to do this when they found they had made a mistake in the plighting of their affections, not only would they avert a great deal of future unhappiness, but they would find the matter much easier than they had supposed. The lover might flout and rebel at first, but there were ten chances to one that, if the engagement had existed for any considerable length of time, he would have discovered for himself that the cog-wheels of the attachment did not run smoothly together, and that he would be willing to separate them before they had become worn or injured. It often happens that it is easier for an inferior man to sever his attachment to a superior woman than it is for her to disengage her affections from him. The material of the attachment in the first instance is of poorer quality.

But as Stratford was a sensible man, as has before been said, he did not expect any such severe moral action on the part of Gay Armatt. He had hoped no more than that she might gradually grow away from Crisman, and Crisman, consequently, dropping away from her, the engagement would come to an end without any particular effort on either side. But so far as he could now see, nothing of this kind seemed likely to happen.

"I have not understood," reflected Stratford, "the varied powers of sympathetic action which exist in the soul of this young girl. I came to her as a friend, and she has received me as a friend, whereas with Crisman she connects no idea but that of love. Consequently she has never made any comparison between us. If I wish to make an impression which shall be of the slightest use I must get her to compare me with her lover. At first I thought I was about to succeed in this, but now I have my doubts. She takes him for what he is, and me for what I am, and is perfectly satisfied with us both.”

It may be said here that if Mr. Stratford's ability to read the mind of a young girl had been as great as his belief in the obviousness of his

superiority to Crisman, he might not have come to this conclusion. He was in the not unusual position of a person who doubts his ultimate success at the very moment he begins to succeed. Gay had already compared her lover, and that not favorably, with her friend.

Mr. Stratford was so absorbed in his important cogitations that his horse now fell into a contemplative walk, and the two proceeded very slowly.

"But," Stratford continued in his converse with himself, "I do not wish her to look upon me as a lover. In the first place I am not her lover in the least degree. And, again, I should consider it dishonorable, and entirely opposed to the spirit of my plan, even to appear to be her lover. I would like her to look upon me as a man who might be somebody's lover, and, in that regard, to compare me with Crisman. I would like her to say to herself, 'If some one may have the love of a man like Mr. Stratford, who will appreciate her tastes and her aspirations as he will appreciate them, who will sympathize with and help her as he will sympathize with and help her, and who will, in every way, offer her that sufficient companionship which he will offer her, why may not my lover be such a man?' If I can induce her to ask herself this question, and then seriously to consider whether or not Crisman is that sort of man, I shall be perfectly satisfied." Easier were the tasks of tangled skeins and wind-driven feathers set by wicked step-mothers to forlorn princesses in the olden tales than was the task which this man now proposed to himself. And yet, without the slightest hope of the assistance of a fairy godmother, he steadfastly set his mind upon it.

"Upon my word," exclaimed Stratford, speaking out in very decided tones, and drawing up his horse to a full stop, "this is exactly like a story in a book! Only it is too improbable."

"What do you mean?" asked Gay, who had just emerged upon the road from a broad pathway through the woods.

"I mean," said Stratford, "that I was busily thinking of you, when you suddenly appear in the most unexpected manner, and in the most unexpected place."

"The place and the manner are simple enough," she said. "Mrs. Justin has gone to call on the doctor's wife, and after that she will drive over to the railroad station to pick up Mr. Crisman, and I thought I would kill the time until they came back by going out to look for rhododendrons, but it must be rather early for them, for I have only found this one little sprig."

And she held up a small cluster of the deli

cately tinted pink and white blossoms for which she had been searching.

"It is not too early for them," said Stratford, "but you would be likely to find only straggling bushes along that pathway. It would be difficult for you to go where they are abundant. But why didn't you visit the doctor's wife?"

He would have been glad to extend the question, but saw no appropriate way of doing so.

"I don't care about going to see strangers," said Gay, "and as we called upon the Stulls two days ago, I thought that was enough ceremony for me in one week."

"If you will allow me," said Stratford, "I will say that, however much you may desire to escape from social boredom, it is not right for you to be wandering by yourself in these woods."

Gay laughed. "There is nothing in the world to hurt me except snakes; and, do you know, I have tried hard to see a snake, but never could. And now tell me how you came to be thinking about me."

"It may have been," said Stratford disingenuously, "that I had some premonition of your appearance, but I don't believe it. I could not even have imagined that you would be wandering in these woods by yourself, and, really, Miss Armatt, you ought not to do it. But I am delighted to see you, for now I shall ask you to take a drive with me. You will come, will you not?" And as he spoke he stepped down from the buggy.

Gay looked at him with a little smile upon her lips. "May I drive?" she said.

Her expression as she smiled and spoke, with her head a little on one side as she looked at him, was very youthful and very charming, for Gay when she slid down the straw-stack had not, as she supposed, left all her girlishness behind her. But Stratford was not altogether pleased. He did not wish to teach her to drive; he did not want to appear in the character of a tutor of any kind. But he answered promptly, "Certainly, you shall do as you choose; drive or be driven. All that I ask is the pleasure of your company."

"How easily pleased!" said Gay. And almost before he could touch her arm to assist her, she had stepped into the buggy.

"No," said Stratford, "you must not sit there. You must sit on the right side. If you drive you must do it properly."

"That will be delightful," said Gay, quickly changing her seat. "I do so like to do things in a regular way."

It did not altogether satisfy Stratford that Gay's pleasure in the mere act of driving seemed to exclude every other motive for

wishing to accompany him. But he put the reins into her hands, adjusting them with much care, and made her also hold the whip. "In difficult driving," he said, "you should have the whip in your hand, in order that you may touch your horse if he hesitates."

"Is this to be difficult driving?" asked Gay.

"Yes," he said. "These rough country roads demand constant care and prudence, or you might find yourself in trouble."

"Oh, I like that!" said Gay, settling herself squarely in her seat," and I am going to be awfully particular. Will you jump in ?"

"Before I do so," said Stratford, "I must ask you to turn your horse to the right, and separate the wheels on this side. As you are the driver, that is part of your duty to your companion."

Gay laughed as she turned the horse rather more than was necessary on one side. "This is just perfect!" she exclaimed. "I feel as if I were managing everything. Are you quite comfortable, sir?" she added when Stratford had taken his seat.

"Go on," he said, laughing, but quickly exclaimed, "Not so fast! You will dash us to pieces against some stone or stump."

Gay drew in the horse, and then Stratford, in spite of his dislike of appearing on this occasion in the rôle of a teacher, proceeded to instruct his companion in the art of eluding the rocks, ruts, stumps, and fallen branches with which this seldom-used road was frequently obstructed. She applied herself with much earnestness to the difficulties of her task, but Stratford, desiring to put an end to this soul-absorbing occupation, which did not suit his purposes, and must, eventually, tire his companion, soon directed her to turn into a road in the woods which would shortly lead into the highway.

"You should have told me to beware of these branches," he said, as he pushed aside a protruding bough. "To be sure I saw them myself, but it is the driver's place to give warning of such things."

"I don't take much care of you, do I?" said Gay, turning around and looking up into his face with a glance of laughing kindliness. "I ought to manage things so that you would never have the least bit of a brush or a bounce. There now!" she cried, as a sweeping branch took off her hat, "I was thinking so much of you that I forgot myself. Whoa, sir!"

Stratford jumped out and picked up the hat, and when he resumed his seat Gay requested him to put it on for her as her hands were so full.

"And I am going to ask you," she said, as Stratford placed the hat on her head, and ad

justed, not very awkwardly, an elastic band beneath the thick coil of hair, "if you won't hold this whip until we get out of the woods. It is really too much for me to have to attend to the reins, the whip, the stumps, the bushes, and you."

When they turned into the broad open road Gay had the pleasure of a mile or two of good rapid driving. During this period of delight they met an open carriage, drawn by two horses, driven by a coachman, and containing a lady. Gay was so much occupied in keeping her horse exactly midway between the right-hand side of the road and the left-hand wheels of the other vehicle that she could do no more than give a little nod as she swiftly passed the carriage.

Stratford took off his hat, and then remarked to Gay that it was a pity Miss Stull had to drive about the country by herself.

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"Yes," said Gay. "Her mother doesn't care to be out-of-doors, and she doesn't like to have her younger sisters with her. She said she would come to take me to drive, and perhaps she is now on her way to our house."

"Do you wish to turn back?" said Stratford. "No, indeed," she answered. "That was the merest supposition of mine. And besides, even if she does want me, why should I slight your invitation for one from her?" And she gave the horse a little touch of the whip of which she had again taken possession.

Gay's prompt decision was a very gratifying one, but Stratford could not help asking himself if her preference for his company was not due, in some degree, to the fact that she was driving.

Presently he made a proposition. "How would you like," said he, "for me to take you on a mountain drive? It will be a novel experience for you."

"I shall like it ever so much," said Gay, "and if you want my seat I am quite ready to give it up, for this tight-rein driving has begun to tire my wrists."

"In the work we have before us," said Stratford, "I shall certainly want the driver's seat."

They now stopped at a gate by the side of the road, and Stratford having opened it, Gay drove through, and then he took the reins. They passed at a good trot along a cart road which wound through a field of young corn, and leaving this by another gate they emerged upon a wide stretch of grassy hillside, interspersed with bushes, rocks, and trees. They skirted the base of the hill, following a track that gave some indications of being a road, and which, by a series of gentle ascents, brought them to a forest on the side of a line of low mountains. Here Stratford turned into a wood-road which for some time led them

steadily upward. At a point with which he seemed very well acquainted he turned boldly into the woods, and wound in and out among the trees, which here being principally pines were little encumbered with underbrush, until he emerged upon the open mountain-side, where could be seen no track of wheel or hoof. "You did that splendidly," said Gay. "I can't imagine how you dared to drive right in among the trees."

"I have been through that way before, and knew I could find a free passage. And now, my lady, I want to warn you that we are going to leave everything which resembles. civilized driving. Do you think you shall be frightened?"

"I am sure you will not take me into any dangerous places," she said.

"There will be no danger whatever," he answered. "I shall go nowhere where I have not driven before; and although we shall pass over a great deal of shelving ground, I assure you that we shall not upset.'

"If you say it is safe, I am perfectly satisfied," said Gay. "Please go on."

Stratford now proceeded at a steady walk along a slight terrace upon the mountain-side which afforded a very good roadway. To the left the vast forest stretched upward, while to the right lay a long green valley closed on three sides, and utterly wild and uninhabited. Very soon they rounded a turn in the mountain-side, and here the terrace disappeared. The surface of the ground, however, was diversified by rounded knobs and horizontal shelves of projecting rock, and the general incline, even in the smoother places, was not great.

Around and over the inequalities of the ground Stratford steadily made his way, taking advantage of every favoring surface; but, in spite of his carefulness, the buggy sometimes tipped very much to one side.

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"You are sure we can't upset?" asked Gay. Quite sure," Stratford replied. "It would be extremely difficult to overturn a low-hanging vehicle like this, and everything about the buggy and harness is strong and intended for rough work."

"It is delightfully exciting," said Gay, "and I don't intend to be afraid. The view is getting better all the time."

"When we round that next point, just beyond us," said Stratford, "we shall have the view I brought you here to see. It is different from anything else in the neighborhood."

Having reached the point indicated, Stratford stopped, and they looked out on a scene of solemn grandeur. Below them was a deep and vast ravine, through which a dark river of tree-tops seemed to run into the valley they had first seen. Beyond this ravine rose a

heavily wooded mountain, and to the right of that, and back of it, stood other mountain peaks, purpled by the distance. Still farther towering high on the left, its eastern side now dark in shadow, stood the loftiest mountain of them all, looking down upon its lower brethren with a certain stern solemnity, while between it and the nearest peak Gay could see, far, far away, a line of light-blue mountain waves against the sky. For a few moments she sat without a word, and then she exclaimed: "What magnificence! I never knew we had such mountains near us!"

"They are the same mountains we always have in view," said Stratford, "only we are on a point where we can see between their broken lines, and not merely look up against them as we generally do."

The spot where they had stopped was the most available one in the vicinity for a mountain view, but the ground was very sloping, and even if they had had plenty of time before them, Stratford would not have taxed the patience of his horse by requiring him to keep a stationary position there very long. After devoting some minutes to Gay's intense enjoyment of the scene, he told her they must now turn round, and go back; and as this turning round on the mountain-side might excite nervousness in the mind of a lady he proposed to Gay that she should get out while he performed this feat.

"Are you going to stay in ?" she asked.
"Of course," he answered.
"Then so am I," said Gay.

Stratford made no further remark, but driving upon a projecting knoll, he backed the buggy up on a shelf of rock behind it, and turning the horse, drove down again to the spot where they had been standing. He knew what he was about, and his horse was perfectly trustworthy; but the knoll was very small, and the downward view from the outer border of it was likely to give one a good idea of the precipitous.

Stratford drove a short distance along the mountain-side, and then he drew up his horse. "Now," said he, "I am going to give you your choice. We can either go back the way we came, which you know is a long road, or I can drive down the mountain-side, which is not very steep just here, and when we reach the valley we shall find a wood-road which will lead us to that low hill, over there. Having crossed that, we shall soon find ourselves upon one of Mrs. Justin's farm-roads which will take us directly to the house."

"Oh, let us go that way, by all means!" said Gay. "It must be ever so much nearer, and after what we have done I am ready for anything."

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