“And so I am.”
“One in particular, maybe,” Holton answered, with a crude attempt at badinage. He glanced archly from the young man to his daughter.
“Father!” she exclaimed, a bit annoyed, and yet not too unwilling that the fact that she and Layson were acknowledged sweethearts should be at once established.
“Oh, I ain’t been blind,” said Holton, gaily, going much farther than she wished him to. “I’ve cut my eye-teeth!”
Then he turned to Layson with an awkward lightness. “Barbara told me what passed between you two young folks afore you come up to the mountings,” he explained. And then, with further elephantine airyness: “I say, jest excuse me—reckon I’m in the way.” He made a move as if to hurry off.
Layson was not pleased. The old man was annoying, always, and now, after the long revery of the night before about Madge Brierly, this attitude was doubly disconcerting. “Not at all, Mr. Holton,” he said, somewhat hastily. “I’m sure we’d rather you’d remain. Are you sure the others are all right?”
“Close behind us.”
“I’ll go and make sure that they do not lose their way.”
Holton looked at his daughter in a blank dismay after the youth had started down the hill. “I say, gal,” said he, “there’s somethin’ wrong here!”
She was inclined to blame him for the deep discomforture she felt. “Why couldn’t you let us alone?” she answered angrily. “You’ve spoiled everything!”
The old man looked at her, with worry on his face. “Didn’t you tell me ’t was as good as settled? You said you were dead sure he meant to make you his wife.”
She was still petulant, blaming him for Layson’s unexpected lack of warmth. “Yes, but you needn’t have interfered!”
Holton was intensely puzzled, worried, almost frightened. He was as anxious to have this young man for a son-in-law as his daughter was to have him for a husband. Her marriage into such a celebrated bluegrass family as the Laysons were, would firmly fix her social status, no matter how precarious it might be now, and the match would be of great advantage to him in a business way, as well. He stood there, thinking deeply, very much displeased.
“There’s somethin’ more nor me has come between you,” he said finally, his face flushing with a deep resentment. “I tell you, gal, what I believed at first, deep in my heart, air true. He was only triflin’ with you. Them aristocrats down in the bluegrass don’t hold us no better than the dust beneath their feet, even if we have got money. It’s family that counts with them. Didn’t he lay his whip acrost my face, once, as if I was a nigger?” His wrath was rising. “And now he shows that he was only triflin’ with you with no real intentions of doin’ as we thought he would!” The man was tremulous with wrath. “Oh, I’ll be even with him!”