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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Jim Lancy's Waterloo

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Life grew to take on tragic aspects. Annie used to find herself wondering if anywhere in the world there were people with light hearts. For her there was no longer anticipation of joy, or present companionship, or any divertissement in the whole world. Jim read books which she did not understand, and with a few of his friends, who dropped in now and then evenings or Sundays, talked about these books in an excited manner.

She would go to her room to rest, and lying there in the darkness on the bed, would hear them speaking together, sometimes all at once, in those sternly vindictive tones men use when there is revolt in their souls.

"It is the government which is helping to impoverish us," she would hear Jim saying. "Work is money. That is to say, it is the active form of money. The wealth of a country is estimated by its power of production. And its power of production means work. It means there are so many men with so much capacity. Now the government owes it to these men to have money enough to pay them for their work; and if there is not enough money in circulation to pay to each man for his honest and necessary work, then I say that government is in league with crime. It is trying to make defaulters of us. It has a hundred ways of cheating us. When I bought this farm and put the mortgage on it, a day's work would bring twice the results it will now. That is to say, the total at the end of the year showed my profits to be twice what they would be now, even if the railway did not stand in the way to rob us of more than we earn. So that it will take just twice as many days' work now to pay off this mortgage as it would have done at the time it was contracted. It's a conspiracy, I tell you! Those Eastern capitalists make a science of ruining us."

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He got more eloquent as time went on, and Annie, who had known him first as rather a careless talker, was astonished at the boldness of his language. But conversation was a lost art with him. He no longer talked. He harangued.

In the early spring Annie's baby was born, -- a little girl with a nervous cry, who never slept long at a time, and who seemed to wail merely from distaste at living. It was Mrs. Dundy who came over to look after the house till Annie got able to do so. Her eyes had that fever in them, as ever. She talked but little, but her touch on Annie's head was more eloquent than words. One day Annie asked for the glass, and Mrs. Dundy gave it to her. She looked in it a long time. The color was gone from her cheeks, and about her mouth there was an ugly tightening. But her eyes flashed and shone with that same -- no, no, it could not be that in her face also was coming the look of half-madness! She motioned Mrs. Dundy to come to her.

"You knew it was coming," she said, brokenly, pointing to the reflection in the glass. "That first day, you knew how it would be."

Mrs. Dundy took the glass away with a gentle hand.

"How could I help knowing?" she said simply. She went into the next room, and when she returned Annie noticed that the handkerchief stuck in her belt was wet, as if it had been wept on.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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