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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

A Mountain Woman

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"And our last man," I went on, "would have to stand there on that swaying wreck till even the sound of the crumbling earth ceased. And he would try to find a voice and would fail, because silence would have come again. And then the light would go out --"

The shudder that crept over her made me stop, ashamed of myself.

"You talk like father," she said, with a long-drawn breath. Then she looked up suddenly at the sun shining through a rift in those reckless gray clouds, and put out one hand as if to get it full of the headlong rollicking breeze. "But the earth is not dying," she cried. "It is well and strong, and it likes to go round and round among all the other worlds. It likes the sun and moon; they are all good friends; and it likes the people who live on it. Maybe it is they instead of the fire within who keep it warm; or maybe it is warm just from always going, as we are when we run. We are young, you and I, Mr. Grant, and Leroy, and your beautiful sister, and the world is young too!" Then she laughed a strong splendid laugh, which had never had the joy taken out of it with drawing-room restrictions; and I laughed too, and felt that we had become very good companions indeed, and found myself warming to the joy of companionship as I had not since I was a boy at school.

That afternoon the four of us sat at a table in the Casino together. The Casino, as every one knows, is a place to amuse yourself. If you have a duty, a mission, or an aspiration, you do not take it there with you, it would be so obviously out of place; if poverty is ahead of you, you forget it; if you have brains, you hasten to conceal them; they would be a serious encumbrance.

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There was a bubbling of conversation, a rustle and flutter such as there always is where there are many women. All the place was gay with flowers and with gowns as bright as the flowers. I remembered the apprehensions of my sister, and studied Leroy's wife to see how she fitted into this highly colored picture. She was the only woman in the room who seemed to wear draperies. The jaunty slash and cut of fashionable attire were missing in the long brown folds of cloth that enveloped her figure. I felt certain that even from Jessica's standpoint she could not be called a guy. Picturesque she might be, past the point of convention, but she was not ridiculous.

"Judith takes all this very seriously," said Leroy, laughingly. "I suppose she would take even Paris seriously."

His wife smiled over at him. "Leroy says I am melancholy," she said, softly; "but I am always telling him that I am happy. He thinks I am melancholy because I do not laugh. I got out of the way of it by being so much alone. You only laugh to let some one else know you are pleased. When you are alone there is no use in laughing. It would be like explaining something to yourself."

"You are a philosopher, Judith. Mr. Max Müller would like to know you."

"Is he a friend of yours, dear?"

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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