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The Early Bird A Business Man's Love Story

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The youngish-looking man who so vigorously swung off the train at Restview, wore a pair of intensely dark blue eyes which immediately photographed everything within their range of vision—flat green country, shaded farm-houses, encircling wooded hills and all—weighed it and sorted it and filed it away for future reference; and his clothes clung on him with almost that enviable fit found only in advertisements. Immediately he threw his luggage into the tonneau of the dingy automobile drawn up at the side of the lonely platform, and promptly climbed in after it. Spurred into purely mechanical action by this silent decisiveness, the driver, a grizzled graduate from a hay wagon, and a born grump, as promptly and as silently started his machine. The crisp and perfect start, however, was given check by a peremptory voice from the platform.

"Hey, you!" rasped the voice. "Come back here!"

As there were positively no other "Hey yous" in the landscape, the driver and the alert young man each acknowledged to the name, and turned to see an elderly gentleman, with a most aggressive beard and solid corpulency, gesticulating at them with much vigor and earnestness. Standing beside him was a slender sort of girl in a green outfit, with very large brown eyes and a smile of amusement which was just a shade mischievous. The driver turned upon his passenger a long and solemn accusation.

"Hollis Creek Inn?" he asked sternly.

"Meadow Brook," returned the passenger, not at all abashed, and he smiled with all the cheeriness imaginable.

"Oh," said the driver, and there was a world of disapprobation in his tone, as well as a subtle intonation of contempt. "You are not Mr. Stevens of Boston."

"No," confessed the passenger; "Mr. Turner of New York. I judge that to be Mr. Stevens on the platform," and he grinned.

The driver, still declining to see any humor whatsoever in the situation, sourly ran back to the platform. Jumping from his seat he opened the door of the tonneau, and waited with entirely artificial deference for Mr. Turner of New York to alight. Mr. Turner, however, did nothing of the sort. He merely stood up in the tonneau and bowed gravely.

"I seem to be a usurper," he said pleasantly to Mr. Stevens of Boston. "I was expected at Meadow Brook, and they were to send a conveyance for me. As this was the only conveyance in sight I naturally supposed it to be mine. I very much regret having discommoded you."

He was looking straight at Mr. Stevens of Boston as he spoke, but, nevertheless, he was perfectly aware of the presence of the girl; also of her eyes and of her smile of amusement with its trace of mischievousness. Becoming conscious of his consciousness of her, he cast her deliberately out of his mind and concentrated upon Mr. Stevens. The two men gazed quite steadily at each other, not to the point of impertinence at all, but nevertheless rather absorbedly. Really it was only for a fleeting moment, but in that moment they had each penetrated the husk of the other, had cleaved straight down to the soul, had estimated and judged for ever and ever, after the ways of men....