“After a lovely drive through a wild valley we came to a little gray farmhouse, innocent of paint since the memory of man. The mountain rose steeply behind it with overhanging rocks, cropping out through the forest here and there. An orchard shaded the dwelling, and beyond the narrow roadway in front brawled a trout-stream. To the eastward were rough, stony fields, that sloped up, at what seemed an angle of forty-five degrees, to other wooded mountains. It was the roughest, wildest-looking place I ever saw. How strange and lonely it must look now in the moonlight, with not another dwelling in sight!”
“Too lonely for Madge to be there,” exclaimed Graydon. “I don’t like it, and I should not have expected such imprudence from you, Mary.”
“Oh, Madge is safe enough! Wait till you know all. Well, the farmer and his wife were at their early supper when we arrived. I went in with Madge and the doctor, for I wanted to see how such people lived, and also thought I could do something for them. I hadn’t been in the room five minutes, however, before I gave up all thought of offering assistance. The people were plainly and even poorly dressed. The man was in his shirt-sleeves, but he put on his coat immediately. He had a kind of natural, quiet dignity and a subdued manner—the result of his trouble, no doubt. We were in their little sitting-room or parlor, but the door into the kitchen, where they had been taking their meal, was open. The room we were in was very plainly furnished, but perfectly neat, and I was at once struck by the number of books that it contained. Would you believe it? one of the leading magazines lay on the table. The mother, a pale, gaunt woman, who looked utterly worn out, went with the doctor to the adjoining sick-room, and the husband’s eyes followed them anxiously.
“‘Your place seems rather lonely,’ I said to him, ’but you evidently know how to find society in books.’
“‘Yes,’ he answered, ’I s’pose this region seems lonesome to you, but not to us who were brought up here. It all depends on what you’re used to, especially when you’re a-growin’ up. I’m not much of a reader myself, but Tilly was’; and he heaved a great sigh. ’She took to readin’ almost as soon as to walkin’,’ he continued, ’and used to read aloud to us. I s’pose I soon dozed off, but her mother took it all in, and durin’ the long winter evenin’s they kinder roamed all over the world together. I suspicion Tilly had more books than was good for her, but she was our only child, and I couldn’t say no to her. She edicated herself to be a teacher, and stood high, and we was proud of her, sure enough, but I’m afeared all that study and readin’ wasn’t good for her;’ and then came another of his deep sighs.
“Madge’s great eyes meanwhile were more and more full of trouble, and there was a deal of pathos suggested by the man’s simple story. Indeed, I felt my own throat swelling at the poor man’s last sigh, it was so deep and natural, and seemed to express a great sorrow, for which there were no words in his homely vernacular.”