Now Barbara spoke haughtily. “Good afternoon, Miss Madge. You have entertained us wonderfully, wonderfully.”
It was late on an afternoon several days after the party from the bluegrass had gone down from the mountains when Layson, with a letter of great import in his pocket sought Madge Brierly.
He was very happy, as, a short time before he reached her isolated cabin, he stepped out to the edge of that same ledge where Horace Holton had found the view too full of memories for comfort, to look off across the lovely valley spread before, below him. There were no memories of struggle and bloodshed to arise between him and that view and for a time he gloried in it with that bounding, pulsating appreciation which can come to us in youth alone, as his eyes swept the fair prospect of wooded slope and rugged headland, stream-ribbon, mountain-meadow, billowy forest. Then, with a deep breath of the wondrous air of the old Cumberlands, which added a physical exhileration almost intoxicating to the pleasure of the thoughts which filled his mind, he went slowly up the rugged twisting path to Madge’s cabin. There, standing by the bridge he called, and, presently, the girl appeared.
He smiled at her. He did not wish to tell her, too quickly, of the news the letter held.
The girl was still full of the visit and the visitors. They had seemed to her, reared as she had been in the rough seclusion of the mountains, like denizens of another, wondrously fine world, come to glimpse her in her crude one, for a few hours, and then gone back to their own glorious abiding place.
She did not admit it to herself, but they had left behind them discontent with the life she knew, her lack of education, almost everything with which, in days gone by, she had been so satisfied.
Layson, watching her as she approached, was tempted to enjoy her as she was, for a few minutes, before telling her the news which, young and inexperienced as he was, he yet knew, instinctively, would change her for all time.
“Well,” he said, “how did you like them, Madge?”
The girl sat upon a stump and looked off across the valley. Her hands were clasped upon one knee, as she reflected, the fading sunlight touched her hair with sheening brilliance, her eyes, at first, were dreamy, happy.
“Oh, I loved your aunt!” said she. “She made me think of my own mammy.... She made me think of my own mammy.”
“And she was quite as much in love with you.”
“Was she?... And Cunnel Doolittle! Ain’t he splendid? And how he do know hosses! Wouldn’t I love to see some of them races that he told about? Wouldn’t I love to have a chance to learn how to become a lady like your aunt? She’s just the sweetest thing that ever lived.”
“And ... and ... Miss Barbara?” said Layson, with a little mischief in his wrinkling eyelids.