“Are you hurt?” he asked, most solicitously, brushing off the dust from her dress.
“Not in the least,” she replied, laughing.
“Well,” he exclaimed, “I don’t believe you or any one else could do that so handsomely again if you tried a thousand times! Don’t try, please. I carried you the other day some little distance, and found that you were no longer a little ghost.”
“You carried me, Graydon? I thought the people from the farmhouse came.”
“Oh, I didn’t wait for them! I was half beside myself.”
“Evidently,” she replied, a little coolly.
Her tone made him falter in his purpose, and when at last they reached Indian Head, she was so resolutely impersonal in her talk, and had so much to say about the history and the legends of the region of which she had read, that he felt that she was in no mood for what he intended to say. As the time passed he grew nervously apprehensive over his project, and at last they started on their return with his plan unfulfilled. They agreed to try a path to their left, which was scarcely distinguishable, and it soon appeared to end at a point that sloped almost perpendicularly to a wild gorge that ran up between the hills.
“That must be what is down on the map as Tamper Clove,” said Madge; “and do you know, some think that it was up that valley Irving made poor Rip carry the heavy keg? Oh, I wish we could get down into it and go back that way!”
“Let me explore;” and he began swinging himself down by the aid of saplings and smaller growth. “Some one has passed here recently,” he called back, “for trees are freshly blazed and branches broken. Yes,” he cried, a moment later; “here is a well-defined path leading up the clove toward the hotel. Do you think you dare attempt it?”
“Certainly,” she answered; and before he could reach her she was half-way down the descent.
“Madge!” he cried, in alarm.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she said; “I was over worse places in the West.”
“Well, what can’t she do!” he exclaimed, as she stood beside him in the path.
“I can’t give up my own way very easily,” she replied. “You have found that out.”
“That don’t trouble me in the least. I don’t wish you to give up your own way. It’s warm down here, and our walk won’t be so breezy as if we had followed the ridge.”
“We will take it leisurely and have a rest by and by.”
The gorge grew narrower and wilder. They passed an immense tree, under which Indians may have bivouacked, and in some storm long past the lightning had plowed its way from the topmost branch to its gnarled roots.
At last the path crossed a little rill that tinkled with a faint murmur among the stones, making a limpid pool here and there. Immense bowlders, draped with varied-hued mosses and lichens, were scattered about, where in ages past the melting glacier had left them. The trees that densely shaded the place seemed primeval in their age, loftiness, and shaggy girth.