Instinctively as she progressed she searched the soft mud in the shadowed places of the road, the soft sand wherever it appeared, for signs that those great foot-marks which she had thought she could identify as Lorey’s in the morning, had returned while she was at the store. Nowhere was there any trace that this had happened, and again she thrilled with apprehension. Almost she made a detour by the road which led to Layson’s camp to make quite sure that all was right with the young “foreigner,” but this idea she abandoned as much because she felt that such a visit would necessitate an explanation which she would dislike to make, as because her many burdens would have made the way a long and difficult one to tread. How could she tell Layson that Joe Lorey might resent his helping her to study, might resent the other hours which they had spent so pleasantly among the mountain rocks and forest trees together, might, in short, be jealous of him?
Her shy, maiden soul revolted at the thought and perforce she gave investigation up, her thoughts, finally, turning from the really remote chance of a difficulty between the men to the pleasanter task of carrying on her planning for new gowns and small accessories of finery.
The homeward way was longer than the journey down had been, because of her new burdens and the frequently steep mountain slopes which she must climb, but she travelled it without much thought of this.
Never in her life had come excitement equal to that which possessed her as she thought about the visitors, longed to make a good impression and not shame her friend, wondered how the bluegrass ladies would be dressed, would talk, would act, and what they all would think of her. She had decided, in advance, that she would like Miss Alathea, aunt of her woodland instructor; she knew positively that she would like the doughty colonel, lover of god horses, barred from racing by his love for Frank’s inexorable aunt.
But the other members of the party he had told about—the Holtons—she was not so sure that she would care for them. Frank, himself, when he had told her of them, had spoken of the father without much enthusiasm, and she felt quite sure that she could never like the daughter. She had noticed, she believed, that when it came to talk of her her friend had hesitated with embarrassment. Could it be possible that this young lady who had had the chances she, herself, had been denied, for education and for everything desirable, would seem to him, when she appeared upon the scene, less lovely, less desirable, than a simple little mountain maid like poor Madge Brierly? The thought seemed quite incredible and the worry of it quite absorbed her for a time and drove away forebodings about the possible hatred of Joe Lorey for Layson and his possible expression of resentment. She even ceased her wonderings about the footsteps which had gone down the road, that morning, and which, so far as she could see, had not come back again.