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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Jim Lancy's Waterloo

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Sometimes the mornings were so beautiful that, the men being afield and Annie all alone, she gave herself up to an ecstasy and kneeled by the little wooden bench outside the door, to say, "Father, I thank Thee," and then went about her work with all the poem of nature rhyming itself over and over in her heart.

It was on such a day as this that Mrs. Dundy kept her promise and came over to see if the young housekeeper needed any of the advice she had promised her. She had walked, because none of the horses could be spared. It had got so warm now that the fire in the kitchen heated the whole house sufficiently, and Annie had the rooms clean to exquisiteness. Mrs. Dundy looked about with envious eyes.

"How lovely!" she said.

"Do you think so?" cried Annie, in surprise. "I like it, of course, because it is home, but I don't see how you could call anything here lovely."

"Oh, you don't understand," her visitor went on. "It's lovely because it looks so happy. Some of us have -- well, kind o' lost our grip."

"It's easy to do that if you don't feel well," Annie remarked sympathetically. "I haven't felt as well as usual myself, lately. And I do get lonesome and wonder what good it does to fix up every day when there is no one to see. But that is all nonsense, and I put it out of my head."

She smoothed out the clean lawn apron with delicate touch. Mrs. Dundy followed the movement with her eyes.

"Oh, my dear," she cried, "you don't know nothin' about it yet! But you will know! You will!" and those restless, hot eyes of hers seemed to grow more restless and more hot as they looked with infinite pity at the young woman before her.

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Annie thought of these words often as the summer came on, and the heat grew. Jim was seldom to be seen now. He was up at four each morning, and the last chore was not completed till nine at night. Then he threw himself in bed and lay there log-like till dawn. He was too weary to talk much, and Annie, with her heart aching for his fatigue, forbore to speak to him. She cooked the most strengthening things she could, and tried always to look fresh and pleasant when he came in. But she often thought her pains were in vain, for he hardly rested his sunburned eyes on her. His skin got so brown that his face was strangely changed, especially as he no longer had time to shave, and had let a rough beard straggle over his cheeks and chin. On Sundays Annie would have liked to go to church, but the horses were too tired to be taken out, and she did not feel well enough to walk far; besides, Jim got no particular good out of walking over the hills unless he had a plough in his hand.

Harvest came at length, and the crop was good. There were any way from three to twenty men at the house then, and Annie cooked for all of them. Jim had tried to get some one to help her, but he had not succeeded. Annie strove to be brave, remembering that farm-women all over the country were working in similar fashion. But in spite of all she could do, the days got to seem like nightmares, and sleep between was but a brief pause in which she was always dreaming of water, and thinking that she was stooping to put fevered lips to a running brook. Some of these men were very disgusting to Annie. Their manners were as bad as they could well be, and a coarse word came naturally to their lips.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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