The girl shrugged herself together haughtily upon her stump. He had seen lowlands girls use almost the same gesture when, in drawing-rooms, some topic had come up which they did not wish to talk about.
“Huh! Her!” said Madge and would have changed the subject had he let her.
“Really?” he asked, wickedly. “Didn’t you like her?”
“I ain’t sayin’ much,” said Madge, “because she’s different from me, has had more chance, is better dressed, knows more from books an’ so on, an’ it might seem like I was plumb jealous of her. Maybe I am, too. But, dellaw! Her with her pollysol! When she opened it that way at me I thought it war a gun an’ she war goin’ to fire! Maybe I ain’t had no learnin’ in politeness, but it seems to me I would a been a little more so, just the same, if I’d been in her place. She don’t like me, she don’t, an’ I—why, I just hates her! Her with her ombril up, an’ not a cloud in sight!”
Layson looked at her and laughed. The letter in his pocket made it seem probable that she would not need, in future, to submit to such humiliations as the bluegrass girl had put upon her, so his merriment could not be counted cruel.
“Jealous of her?” he inquired, quizzically.
She sat in deep thought for a moment and then frankly said: “I reckon so; a leetle, teeny mite. Maybe it has made me mean in thinkin’ of her, ever since.”
“You’re honest, anyway,” said he, “and I shall tell you something that will comfort you. She was as jealous of you as you were of her.”
“She was!” the girl exclaimed, incredulous, surprised. “Of me?” You’re crazy, ain’t you?”
“Not a bit.”
“What have I got to make her jealous?”
“A lot of things. You’ve beauty such as hers will never be—”
“Dellaw!” said Madge, incredulously. She had no knowledge of her own attractiveness. “Don’t you start in makin’ fun o’ me.”
“I’m not making fun of you. You’re very beautiful—my aunt said so, the Colonel said so, and I’ve known it, all along.”
No one had ever said a thing like this to her, before. She looked keenly at him, weighing his sincerity. When she finally decided that he really meant what he had said, she breathed a long sigh of delight.
“They said that I—was beautiful!”
“They did, and, little girl, you are; and you have more than beauty. You have health and strength such as a bluegrass girl has never had in all the history of women.”
“Oh, yes,” said she, “I’m strong an’ well—but—but—”
“But what?” she quoted bitterly. “But I ain’t got no eddication. What does strength and what does what you tell me is my beauty count, when I ain’t got no eddication? Why—why—I looked plumb foolish by the side of her! You think I don’t know that my talk sounds rough as rocks alongside hers, ripplin’ from her lips as smooth as water? You think I don’t know that I looked like a scare-crow in all them clo’es I had fixed up so careful, when she come on with her gowns made up for her by dressmakers? Why—why—I never see a dressmaker in all my life! I never even see one!”