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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Up the Gulch

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"Makin' my pile," he replied. "I've been in these parts twenty years. When I come here, I thought I was goin' to make a fortune right off. I had all th' money that mother could give me, and I lost everything I had in three months. I went up th' gulch." He paused, and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

There was something in his remark and the intonation which made Kate say softly:

"I suppose you've had a hard time of it."

"Thar you were!" he cried. "Thar was th' rock -- risin', risin', black! At th' bottom wus th' creek, howlin' day an' night! Lonesome! Gee! No one t' talk to. Of course, th' men. Had some with me always. They didn't talk. It's too -- too quiet t' talk much. They played cards. Curious, but I never played cards. Don't think I'd find it amusin'. No, I worked. Came down here once in six months or three months. Had t' come -- grub-staked th' men, you know. Did you ever eat salt pork?" He turned to Kate suddenly with this question.

"Why, yes; a few times. Did you have it?"

"Nothin' else, much. I used t' think of th' things mother cooked. Mother understood cookin', if ever a woman did. I'll never forget th' dinner she gave me th' day I came away. A woman ought t' cook. I hear American women don't go in much for cookin'."

"Oh, I think that's a mistake," Kate hastened to interrupt. "All that I know understand how to serve excellent dinners. Of course, they may not cook them themselves, but I think they could if it were necessary."

"Hum!" He picked up a long glove that had fallen from Kate's lap and fingered it before returning it.

"I s'pose you cook?"

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"I make a specialty of salads and sorbets," smiled Kate. "I guess I could roast meat and make bread; but circumstances have not yet compelled me to do it. But I've a theory that an American woman can do anything she puts her mind to."

The man laughed out loud, -- a laugh quite out of proportion to the mild good humor of the remark; but it was evident that he could no longer conceal his delight at this companionship.

"How about raisin' flowers?" he asked. "Are you strong on that?"

"I've only to look at a plant to make it grow," Kate cried, with enthusiasm. "When my friends are in despair over a plant, they bring it to me, and I just pet it a little, and it brightens up. I've the most wonderful fernery you ever saw. It's green, summer and winter. Hundreds of people stop and look up at it, it is so green and enticing, there above the city streets."

"What city?"


"Mother's jest that way. She has a garden of roses. And the mignonette --"

But he broke off suddenly, and sat once more staring before him.

"But not a damned thing," he added, with poetic pensiveness, "would grow in that gulch."

"Why did you stay there so long?" asked Kate, after a little pause in which she managed to regain her waning courage.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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