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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

A Resuscitation

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The broken man in the shadow remembered how the lad stopped, astonished at his boldness and his fluency, overcome suddenly at the thought of what he was saying. The music stopped with a discord. The girl arose, trembling and scarlet.

"I would not have believed it of you," she cries, "to take advantage of me like this, when I am alone -- and -- everything. You know very well that nothing but trouble could come to either of us from your telling me a thing like that."

He puts his hands up to his face to keep off her anger. He is trembling with confusion.

Then she broke in penitently, trying to pull his hands away from his hot face: "Never mind! I know you didn't mean anything. Be good, do, and don't spoil the lovely times we have together. You know very well father and mother wouldn't let us see each other at all if they -- if they thought you were saying anything such as you said just now."

"Oh, but I can't help it!" cries the boy, despairingly. "I have never loved anybody at all till now. I don't mean not another girl, you know. But you are the first being I ever cared for. I sometimes think mother cares for me because I pay the rent. And the office -- you can't imagine what that is like. The men in it are moving corpses. They're proud to be that way, and so was I till I knew you and learned what life was like. All the happy moments I have had have been here. Now, if you tell me that we are not to care for each other --"

There was some one coming down the hall. The curtain lifted. A middle-aged man stood there looking at him.

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"Culross," said he, "I'm disappointed in you. I didn't mean to listen, but I couldn't help hearing what you said just now. I don't blame you particularly. Young men will be fools. And I do not in any way mean to insult you when I tell you to stop your coming here. I don't want to see you inside this door again, and after a while you will thank me for it. You have taken a very unfair advantage of my invitation. I make allowances for your youth."

He held back the curtain for the lad to pass out. David threw a miserable glance at the girl. She was standing looking at her father with an expression that David could not fathom. He went into the hall, picked up his hat, and walked out in silence.

David wondered that night, walking the chilly streets after he quitted the house, and often, often afterward, if that comfortable and prosperous gentleman, safe beyond the perturbations of youth, had any idea of what he had done. How COULD he know anything of the black monotony of the life of the man he turned from his door? The "desk's dead wood" and all its hateful slavery, the dull darkened rooms where his mother prosed through endless evenings, the bookless, joyless, hopeless existence that had cramped him all his days rose up before him, as a stretch of unbroken plain may rise before a lost man till it maddens him.

The bowed man in the car-seat remembered with a flush of reminiscent misery how the lad turned suddenly in his walk and entered the door of a drinking-room that stood open. It was very comfortable within. The screens kept out the chill of the autumn night, the sawdust-sprinkled floor was clean, the tables placed near together, the bar glittering, the attendants white-aproned and brisk.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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