Old Hagar, in her cottage by the mine, has kept her secret well, whispering it only to the rushing wind and the running brook, which have told no tales to the gay, light-hearted girl, save to murmur in her ear that a life untrammeled by etiquette and form would be a blissful life indeed. And Maggie, listening to the voices which speak to her so oft in the autumn wind, the running brook, the opening flower, and the falling leaf, has learned a lesson different far from those taught her daily by the prim, stiff governess, who, imported from England six years ago, has drilled both Theo and Maggie in all the prescribed rules of high life as practiced in the Old World. She has taught them how to sit and how to stand, how to eat and how to drink, as becomes young ladies of Conway blood and birth. And Madam Conway, through her golden spectacles, looks each day to see some good from all this teaching come to the bold, dashing, untamable Maggie, who, spurning birth and blood alike, laughs at form and etiquette as taught by Mrs. Jeffrey, and, winding her arms around her grandmother’s neck, crumples her rich lace ruffle with a most unladylike hug, and then bounds away to the stables, pretending not to hear the distressed Mrs. Jeffrey calling after her not to run, “it is so Yankeefied and vulgar”; or if she did hear, answering back, “I am a Yankee, native born, and shall run for all Johnny Bull!”
Greatly horrified at this evidence of total depravity, Mrs. Jeffrey brushes down her black silk apron and goes back to Theo, her more tractable pupil; while Maggie, emerging ere long from the stable, clears the fence with one leap of her high-mettled pony, which John, the coachman, had bought at an enormous price, of a traveling circus, on purpose for his young mistress, who complained that grandma’s horses were all too lazy and aristocratic in their movements for her.
In perfect amazement Madam Conway looked out when first Gritty, as the pony was called, was led up to the door, prancing, pawing, chafing at the bit, and impatient to be off. “Margaret shall never mount that animal,” she said; but Margaret had ruled for sixteen years, and now, at a sign from John, she sprang gayly upon the back of the fiery steed, who, feeling instinctively that the rider he carried was a stranger to fear, became under her training perfectly gentle, obeying her slightest command, and following her ere long like a sagacious dog. Not thus easily could Madam Conway manage Maggie, and with a groan she saw her each day fly over the garden gate and out into the woods, which she scoured in all directions.
“She’ll break her neck, I know,” the disturbed old lady would say, as Maggie’s flowing skirt and waving plumes disappeared in the shadow of the trees. “She’ll break her neck some day;” and thinking someone must be in fault, her eyes would turn reprovingly upon Mrs. Jeffrey for having failed in subduing Maggie, whom the old governess pronounced the “veriest madcap” in the world. “There is nothing like her in all England,” she said; “and her low-bred ways must be the result of her having been born on American soil.”