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Caught On the Ebb-tide
by [?]

The August morning was bright and fair, but Herbert Scofield’s brow was clouded. He had wandered off to a remote part of the grounds of a summer hotel on the Hudson, and seated in the shade of a tree, had lapsed into such deep thought that his cigar had gone out and the birds were becoming bold in the vicinity of his motionless figure.

It was his vacation time and he had come to the country ostensibly for rest. As the result, he found himself in the worst state of unrest that he had ever known. Minnie Madison, a young lady he had long admired, was the magnet that had drawn him hither. Her arrival had preceded his by several weeks; and she had smiled a little consciously when in looking at the hotel register late one afternoon his bold chirography met her eye.

“There are so many other places to which he might have gone,” she murmured.

Her smile, however, was a doubtful one, not expressive of gladness and entire satisfaction. In mirthful, saucy fashion her thoughts ran on: “The time has come when he might have a respite from business. Does he still mean business by coming here? I’m not sure that I do, although the popular idea seems to be that a girl should have no vacation in the daily effort to find a husband. I continually disappoint the good people by insisting that the husband must find me. I have a presentiment that Mr. Scofield is looking for me; but there are some kinds of property which cannot be picked up and carried off, nolens volens, when found.”

Scofield had been animated by no such clearly defined purpose as he was credited with when he sought the summer resort graced by Miss Madison. His action seemed to him tentative, his motive ill- defined even in his own consciousness, yet it had been strong enough to prevent any hesitancy. He knew he was weary from a long year’s work. He purposed to rest and take life very leisurely, and he had mentally congratulated himself that he was doing a wise thing in securing proximity to Miss Madison. She had evoked his admiration in New York, excited more than a passing interest, but he felt that he did not know her very well. In the unconventional life now in prospect he could see her daily and permit his interest to be dissipated or deepened, as the case might be, while he remained, in the strictest sense of the world, uncommitted. It was a very prudent scheme and not a bad one. He reasoned justly: “This selecting a wife is no bagatelle. A man wishes to know something more about a woman than he can learn in a drawing-room or at a theatre party.”

But now he was in trouble. He had been unable to maintain this judicial aspect. He had been made to understand at the outset that Miss Madison did not regard herself as a proper subject for deliberate investigation, and that she was not inclined to aid in his researches. So far from meeting him with engaging frankness and revealing her innermost soul for his inspection, he found her as elusive as only a woman of tact can be when so minded, even at a place where people meet daily. It was plain to him from the first that he was not the only man who favored her with admiring glances; and he soon discovered that young Merriweather and his friend Hackley had passed beyond the neutral ground of non- committal. He set himself the task of learning how far these suitors had progressed in her good graces; he would not be guilty of the folly of giving chase to a prize already virtually captured. This too had proved a failure. Clearly, would he know what Mr. Merriweather and Mr. Hackley were to Miss Madison he must acquire the power of mind reading. Each certainly appeared to be a very good friend of hers–a much better friend than he could claim to be, for in his case she maintained a certain unapproachableness which perplexed and nettled him.