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A Mountain Woman

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IF Leroy Brainard had not had such a respect for literature, he would have written a book.

As it was, he played at being an architect -- and succeeded in being a charming fellow. My sister Jessica never lost an opportunity of laughing at his endeavors as an architect.

"You can build an enchanting villa, but what would you do with a cathedral?"

"I shall never have a chance at a cathedral," he would reply. "And, besides, it always seems to me so material and so impertinent to build a little structure of stone and wood in which to worship God!"

You see what he was like? He was frivolous, yet one could never tell when he would become eloquently earnest.

Brainard went off suddenly Westward one day. I suspected that Jessica was at the bottom of it, but I asked no questions; and I did not hear from him for months. Then I got a letter from Colorado.

"I have married a mountain woman," he wrote. "None of your puny breed of modern femininity, but a remnant left over from the heroic ages, -- a primitive woman, grand and vast of spirit, capable of true and steadfast wifehood. No sophistry about her; no knowledge even that there is sophistry. Heavens! man, do you remember the rondeaux and triolets I used to write to those pretty creatures back East? It would take a Saga man of the old Norseland to write for my mountain woman. If I were an artist, I would paint her with the north star in her locks and her feet on purple cloud. I suppose you are at the Pier. I know you usually are at this season. At any rate, I shall direct this letter thither, and will follow close after it. I want my wife to see something of life. And I want her to meet your sister."

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"Dear me!" cried Jessica, when I read the letter to her; "I don't know that I care to meet anything quite so gigantic as that mountain woman. I'm one of the puny breed of modern femininity, you know. I don't think my nerves can stand the encounter."

"Why, Jessica!" I protested. She blushed a little.

"Don't think bad of me, Victor. But, you see, I've a little scrap-book of those triolets upstairs." Then she burst into a peal of irresistible laughter. "I'm not laughing because I am piqued," she said frankly. "Though any one will admit that it is rather irritating to have a man who left you in a blasted condition recover with such extraordinary promptness. As a philanthropist, one of course rejoices, but as a woman, Victor, it must be admitted that one has a right to feel annoyed. But, honestly, I am not ungenerous, and I am going to do him a favor. I shall write, and urge him not to bring his wife here. A primitive woman, with the north star in her hair, would look well down there in the Casino eating a pineapple ice, wouldn't she? It's all very well to have a soul, you know; but it won't keep you from looking like a guy among women who have good dressmakers. I shudder at the thought of what the poor thing will suffer if he brings her here."

Jessica wrote, as she said she would; but, for all that, a fortnight later she was walking down the wharf with the "mountain woman," and I was sauntering beside Leroy. At dinner Jessica gave me no chance to talk with our friend's wife, and I only caught the quiet contralto tones of her voice now and then contrasting with Jessica's vivacious soprano. A drizzling rain came up from the east with nightfall. Little groups of shivering men and women sat about in the parlors at the card-tables, and one blond woman sang love songs. The Brainards were tired with their journey, and left us early. When they were gone, Jessica burst into eulogy.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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