Mrs. Jeffrey knew perfectly well that Maggie in reality was mistress of the house, that whatever she did Madam Conway would ultimately sanction; and as a rest was by no means disagreeable, she yielded with a good grace, dividing her time between sleeping, snuffing, and dressing, while Theo lounged upon the sofa and devoured some musty old novels which Maggie, in her rummaging, had discovered.
Meanwhile Maggie kept her promise of visiting the neighbors, and almost every family had something to say in praise of the merry, light-hearted girl of whom they had heretofore known but little. Her favorite recreation, however, was riding on horseback, and almost every day she galloped through the woods and over the fields, usually terminating her ride with a call upon old Hagar, whom she still continued to tease unmercifully for the secret, and who was glad when at last an incident occurred which for a time drove all thoughts of the secret from Maggie’s mind.
The junior partner.
One afternoon towards the middle of April, when Maggie as usual was flying through the woods, she paused for a moment beneath the shadow of a sycamore while Gritty drank from a small running brook. The pony having quenched his thirst, she gathered up her reins for a fresh gallop, when her ear caught the sound of another horse’s hoofs; and, looking back, she saw approaching her at a rapid rate a gentleman whom she knew to be a stranger. Not caring to be overtaken, she chirruped to the spirited Gritty, who, bounding over the velvety turf, left the unknown rider far in the rear.
“Who can she be?” thought the young man, admiring the utter fearlessness with which she rode; then, feeling a little piqued, as he saw how the distance between them was increasing, he exclaimed, “Be she woman, or be she witch, I’ll overtake her”; and, whistling to his own fleet animal, he too dashed on at a furious rate.
“Trying to catch me, are you?” thought Maggie. “I’d laugh to see you do it.” And entering at once into the spirit of the race, she rode on for a time with headlong speed—then, by way of tantalizing her pursuer, she paused for a moment until he had almost reached her, when at a peculiar whistle Gritty sprang forward, while Maggie’s mocking laugh was borne back to the discomfited young man, whose interest in the daring girl increased each moment. It was a long, long chase she led him, over hills, across plains, and through the grassy valley, until she stopped at last within a hundred yards of the deep, narrow gorge through which the mill-stream ran.
“I have you now,” thought the stranger, who knew by the dull, roaring sound of the water that a chasm lay between him and the opposite bank.