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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Up the Gulch

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"Oh, we're West, now," Kate said, exultantly. "I've seen a thousand types. But yet -- not quite THE type -- not the impersonation of simplicity and daring that I was looking for."

The major didn't know quite what she was talking about. But he acquiesced. All he cared about was to see her grow stronger; and that she was doing every day. She was growing amazingly lovely, too, -- at least the major thought so. Every one looked at her; but that was, perhaps, because she was such a sylph of a woman. Beside the stalwart major, she looked like a fairy princess.

One day she suddenly realized the fact that she had had a companion on the veranda for several mornings. Of course, there were a great many persons -- invalids, largely -- sitting about, but one of them had been obtruding himself persistently into her consciousness. It was not that he was rude; it was only that he was thinking about her. A person with a temperament like Kate's could not long be oblivious to a thing like that; and she furtively observed the offender with that genius for psychological perception which was at once her greatest danger and her charm.

The man was dressed with a childish attempt at display. His shirt-front was decorated with a diamond, and his cuff-buttons were of onyx with diamond settings. His clothes were expensive and perceptibly new, and he often changed his costumes, but with a noticeable disregard for propriety. He was very conscious of his silk hat, and frequently wiped it with a handkerchief on which his monogram was worked in blue.

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When the 'busses brought up their loads, he was always on hand to watch the newcomers. He took a long time at his dinners, and appeared to order a great deal and eat very little. There were card-rooms and a billiard-hall, not to mention a bowling-alley and a tennis-court, where the other guests of the hotel spent much time. But this man never visited them. He sat often with one of the late reviews in his hand, looking as if he intended giving his attention to it at any moment. But after he had scrupulously cut the leaves with a little carved ivory paper-cutter, he sat staring straight before him with the book open, but unread, in his hand.

Kate took more interest in this melancholy, middle-aged man than she would have done if she had not been on the outlook for her Western type, -- the man who was to combine all the qualities of chivalry, daring, bombast, and generosity, seasoned with piquant grammar, which she firmly believed to be the real thing. But notwithstanding this kindly and somewhat curious interest, she might never have made his acquaintance if it had not been for a rather unpleasant adventure.

The major was "closing up a deal" and had hurried away after breakfast, and Kate, in the luxury of convalescence, half-reclined in a great chair on the veranda and watched the dusky blue mist twining itself around the brown hills. She was not thinking of the babies; she was not worrying about home; she was not longing for anything, or even indulging in a dream. That vacuous content which engrosses the body after long indisposition, held her imperatively. Suddenly she was aroused from this happy condition of nothingness by the spectacle of an enormous bull-dog approaching her with threatening teeth. She had noticed the monster often in his kennel near the stables, and it was well understood that he was never to be permitted his freedom. Now he walked toward her with a solid step and an alarming deliberateness. Kate sat still and tried to assure herself that he meant no mischief, but by the time the great body had made itself felt on the skirt of her gown she could restrain her fear no longer, and gave a nervous cry of alarm. The brute answered with a growl. If he had lacked provocation before, he considered that he had it now. He showed his teeth and flung his detestable body upon her; and Kate felt herself growing dizzy with fear. But just then an arm was interposed and the dog was flung back. There was a momentary struggle. Some gentlemen came hurrying out of the office; and as they beat the dog back to its retreat, Kate summoned words from her parched throat to thank her benefactor.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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