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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

A Mountain Woman

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Leroy blushed, and I saw Jessica curl her lip as she noticed the blush. She laid her hand on Mrs. Brainard's arm.

"Have you always been very much alone?" she inquired.

"I was born on the ranch, you know; and father was not fond of leaving it. Indeed, now he says he will never again go out of sight of it. But you can go a long journey without doing that; for it lies on a plateau in the valley, and it can be seen from three different mountain passes. Mother died there, and for that reason and others -- father has had a strange life -- he never wanted to go away. He brought a lady from Pennsylvania to teach me. She had wonderful learning, but she didn't make very much use of it. I thought if I had learning I would not waste it reading books. I would use it to -- to live with. Father had a library, but I never cared for it. He was forever at books too. Of course," she hastened to add, noticing the look of mortification deepen on her husband's face, "I like books very well if there is nothing better at hand. But I always said to Mrs. Windsor -- it was she who taught me -- why read what other folk have been thinking when you can go out and think yourself? Of course one prefers one's own thoughts, just as one prefers one's own ranch, or one's own father."

"Then you are sure to like New York when you go there to live," cried Jessica; "for there you will find something to make life entertaining all the time. No one need fall back on books there."

"I'm not sure. I'm afraid there must be such dreadful crowds of people. Of course I should try to feel that they were all like me, with just the same sort of fears, and that it was ridiculous for us to be afraid of each other, when at heart we all meant to be kind."

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Jessica fairly wrung her hands. "Heavens!" she cried. "I said you would like New York. I am afraid, my dear, that it will break your heart!"

"Oh," said Mrs. Brainard, with what was meant to be a gentle jest, "no one can break my heart except Leroy. I should not care enough about any one else, you know."

The compliment was an exquisite one. I felt the blood creep to my own brain in a sort of vicarious rapture, and I avoided looking at Leroy lest he should dislike to have me see the happiness he must feel. The simplicity of the woman seemed to invigorate me as the cool air of her mountains might if it blew to me on some bright dawn, when I had come, fevered and sick of soul, from the city.

When we were alone, Jessica said to me: "That man has too much vanity, and he thinks it is sensitiveness. He is going to imagine that his wife makes him suffer. There's no one so brutally selfish as your sensitive man. He wants every one to live according to his ideas, or he immediately begins suffering. That friend of yours hasn't the courage of his convictions. He is going to be ashamed of the very qualities that made him love his wife."

There was a hop that night at the hotel, quite an unusual affair as to elegance, given in honor of a woman from New York, who wrote a novel a month.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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