When she left him at the foot of the rough path which wound up to the cabin where she lived alone, she had quite recovered confidence in him. She eagerly assented to his suggestion that they meet again, the following day, for the continuation of her studies.
Their next lesson was in a new school-room. The clearing where they had had their first, was, now, charred and blackened, not attractive, after the small fire; so, after going to it, the following day to look it over with that interest with which the man who has escaped from peril seeks again, the scene of it in curiosity, they found another glade wherein to carry on their delving after knowledge of the ABC’s.
There, beneath a canopy of arching branches and the sky, between rustling walls of greenery pillared by the mighty boles of forest trees, they had the second lesson of the course which was to open up to Madge the magic realm of books and of the learning hidden in them.
Nor did her investigations now, confine themselves, entirely to the things the small book taught. She questioned Layson about a thousand things less dry and matter-of-fact than shape of printed symbols and the manner of their combination in the printed word. Life, life—that was to her, as it has ever been to all of us, the most fascinating thing. Here was one who had come from far, mysterious realms which she had vaguely heard about in winter-evening gossip at the mountain-cabin firesides; realms where men were courteous to women, careful in their speech; where women did not work, but sat on silken chairs with black menials ready to their call to serve their slightest wish; where maidens were not clad as she was clad, and every woman she had ever known was clad, in calico or linsey-woolsey homespun, but richly, wondrously, in silks and satins, laces, beaded gew-gaws. In her imagination’s picture, the maids and matrons of the bluegrass were as marvellous, as fascinating, as are the fairies and the sprites of Anderson and Grimm to girls more fortunately placed. No tale of elf born from a cleft rock, touched by magic wand, ever more completely fascinated any big-eyed city child, than did the tales which Layson told her—commonplace and ordinary to his mind: mere casual account of routine life—about his family and friends down in the bluegrass, the enchanted region separated from them where they sat by a hundred miles or so of rugged hills and billowing forests. Her eager questions especially drew from him with a greed insatiable account of all the gayeties of that mysterious existence.
“And that aunt of yours—Muss Aluth—Aluth—”
“Miss Alathea Layson?” he inquired, and smiled.
“Yes; what queer names the women have, down there! Is she pretty? Does she dress in silks and satins, too, like the girls that go to them big dances?”