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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

A Resuscitation

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It is the nights that are to be dreaded in a penitentiary. Speech eases the brain of free men; but the man condemned to eternal silence is bound to endure torments. Thought, which might be a diversion, becomes a curse; it is a painful disease which becomes chronic. It does not take long to forget the days of the week and the months of the year when time brings no variance. David drugged himself on dreams. He knew it was weakness, but it was the wine of forgetfulness, and he indulged in it. He went over and over, in endless repetition, every scene in which Zoe Le Baron had figured.

He learned by a paper that she had gone to Europe. He was glad of that. For there were hours in which he imagined that his fate might have caused her distress -- not much, of course, but perhaps an occasional hour of sympathetic regret. But it was pleasanter not to think of that. He preferred to remember the hours they had spent together while she was teaching him the joy of life.

How lovely her gray eyes were! Deep, yet bright, and full of silent little speeches. The rooms in which he imagined her as moving were always splendid; the gowns she wore were of rustling silk. He never in any dream, waking or sleeping, associated her with poverty or sorrow or pain. Gay and beautiful, she moved from city to city, in these visions of David's, looking always at wonderful things, and finding laughter in every happening.

It was six months after his entrance into his silent abode that a letter came for him.

"By rights, Culross," said the warden, "I should not give this letter to you. It isn't the sort we approve of. But you're in for a good spell, and if there is anything that can make life seem more tolerable, I don't know but you're entitled to it. At least, I'm not the man to deny it to you."

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This was the letter: --

"MY DEAR FRIEND, -- I hope you do not think that all these months, when you have been suffering so terribly, I have been thinking of other things! But I am sure you know the truth. You know that I could not send you word or come to see you, or I would have done it. When I first heard of what you had done, I saw it all as it happened, -- that dreadful scene, I mean, in the saloon. I am sure I have imagined everything just as it was. I begged papa to help you, but he was very angry. You see, papa was so peculiar. He thought more of the appearances of things, perhaps, than of facts. It infuriated him to think of me as being concerned about you or with you. I did not know he could be so angry, and his anger did not die, but for days it cast such a shadow over me that I used to wish I was dead. Only I would not disobey him, and now I am glad of that. We were in France three months, and then, coming home, papa died. It was on the voyage. I wish he had asked me to forgive him, for then I think I could have remembered him with more tenderness. But he did nothing of the kind. He did not seem to think he had done wrong in any way, though I feel that some way we might have saved you. I am back here in Chicago in the old home. But I shall not stay in this house. It is so large and lonesome, and I always see you and father facing each other angrily there in the parlor when I enter it. So I am going to get me some cosey rooms in another part of the city, and take my aunt, who is a sweet old lady, to live with me; and I am going to devote my time -- all of it -- and all of my brains to getting you out of that terrible place. What is the use of telling me that you are a murderer? Do I not know you could not be brought to hurt anything? I suppose you must have killed that poor man, but then it was not you, it was that dreadful drink -- it was Me! That is what continually haunts me. If I had been a braver girl, and spoken the words that were in my heart, you would not have gone into that place. You would be innocent to-day. It was I who was responsible for it all. I let father kill your heart right there before me, and never said a word. Yet I knew how it was with you, and -- this is what I ought to have said then, and what I must say now -- and all the time I felt just as you did. I thought I should die when I saw you go away, and knew you would never come back again. Only I was so selfish, I was so wicked, I would say nothing.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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