But Maggie had not yet half displayed her daring feats of horsemanship, and when he came so near that his waving brown locks and handsome dark eyes were plainly discernible, she said to herself: “He rides tolerably well. I’ll see how good he is at a leap,” and, setting herself more firmly in the saddle, she patted Gritty upon the neck. The well-trained animal understood the signal, and, rearing high in the air, was fast nearing the bank, when the young man, suspecting her design, shrieked out: “Stop, lady, stop! It’s madness to attempt it.”
“Follow me if you can,” was Maggie’s defiant answer, and the next moment she hung in mid-air over the dark abyss.
Involuntarily the young man closed his eyes, while his ear listened anxiously for the cry which would come next. But Maggie knew full well what she was doing. She had leaped that narrow gorge often, and now when the stranger’s eyes unclosed she stood upon the opposite bank, caressing the noble animal which had borne her safely there.
“It shall never be said that Henry Warner was beaten by a schoolgirl,” muttered the stranger. “If she can clear that, I can, bad rider as I am!” and burying his spurs deep in the sides of his horse, he pressed on while Maggie held her breath in fear, for she knew that without practice no one could do what she had done.
There was a partially downward plunge—a fierce struggle on the shelving bank, where the animal had struck a few feet from the top—then the steed stood panting on terra firma, while a piercing shriek broke the deep silence of the wood, and Maggie’s cheeks blanched to a marble hue. The rider, either from dizziness or fear, had fallen at the moment the horse first struck the bank, and from the ravine below there came no sound to tell if yet he lived.
“He’s dead; he’s dead!” cried Maggie. “’Twas my own foolishness which killed him,” and springing from Gritty’s back she gathered up her long riding skirt and glided swiftly down the bank, until she came to a wide, projecting rock, where the stranger lay, motionless and still, his white face upturned to the sunlight, which came stealing down through the overhanging boughs. In an instant she was at his side, and his head was resting on her lap, while her trembling fingers parted back from his pale brow the damp mass of curling hair.
“The fall alone would not kill him,” she said, as her eye measured the distance, and then she looked anxiously round for water with which to bathe his face.
But water there was none, save in the stream below, whose murmuring flow fell mockingly on her ears, for it seemed to say she could not reach it. But Maggie Miller was equal to any emergency, and venturing out to the very edge of the rock she poised herself on one foot, and looked down the dizzy height to see if it were possible to descend.
“I can try at least,” she said, and glancing at the pale face of the stranger unhesitatingly resolved to attempt it.