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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

A Lady of Yesterday

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Then came a twilight when the sweet rain fell, and on the heavy air the perfumes of the fields floated. The woman stood by the window of the cot, looking out. Tall, graceful, full of that subtle power which drew his soul; clothed in white linen, fragrant from her fields, with breath freighted with fresh milk, with eyes of flame, she was there to be adored. And he, being man of manliest type, forgot all that might have checked the words, and poured his soul out at her feet. She drew herself up like a queen, but only that she might look queenlier for his sake, and, bending, kissed his brow, and whispered back his vows.

And they were married.

The villagers pitied Hartington.

"She's more than a match for him in years -- an' in some other ways, as like as not," they said. "Besides, she ain't much inclined to mention anything about her past. 'Twon't bear the tellin' probably."

As for the lovers, they laughed as they went about their honest tasks, or sat together arms encircling each at evening, now under the stars, and now before their fire of wood. They talked together of their farm, added a field for winter wheat, bought other cattle, and some horses, which they rode out over the rolling prairies side by side. He never stopped to chat about the town; she never ventured on the street without him by her side. Truth to tell, their neighbors envied them, marvelling how one could extract a heaven out of earth, and what such perfect joy could mean.

Yet, for all their prosperity, not one addition did they make to that most simple home. It stood there, with its bare necessities, made beautiful only with their love. But when the winter was most gone, he made a little cradle of hard wood, in which she placed pillows of down, and over which she hung linen curtains embroidered by her hand.

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In the long evenings, by the flicker of the fire, they sat together, cheek to cheek, and looked at this little bed, singing low songs together.

"This happiness is terrible, my John," she said to him one night, -- a wondrous night, when the eastern wind had flung the tassels out on all the budding trees of spring, and the air was throbbing with awakening life, and balmy puffs of breeze, and odors of the earth. "And we are growing young. Do you not think that we are very young and strong?"

He kissed her on the lips. "I know that you are beautiful," he said.

"Oh, we have lived at Nature's heart, you see, my love. The cattle and the fowls, the honey and the wheat, the cot -- the cradle, John, and you and me! These things make happiness. They are nature. But then, you cannot understand. You have never known the artificial --"

"And you, Elizabeth?"

"John, if you wish, you shall hear all I have to tell. 'Tis a long, long, weary tale. Will you hear it now? Believe me, it will make us sad."

She grasped his arm till he shrank with pain.

"Tell what you will and when you will, Elizabeth. Perhaps, some day -- when --" he pointed to the little crib.

"As you say." And so it dropped.

There came a day when Hartington, sitting upon the portico, where perfumes of the budding clover came to him, hated the humming of the happy bees, hated the rustling of the trees, hated the sight of earth.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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