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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Up the Gulch

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"Bad luck. You never see a place with so many false leads. To-day you'd get a streak that looked big. To-morrow you'd find it a pocket. One night I'd go t' bed with my heart goin' like a race-horse. Next night it would be ploddin' along like a winded burro. Don't know what made me stick t' it. It was hot there, too! And cold! Always roastin' ur freezin'. It'd been different if I'd had any one t' help me stand it. But th' men were always findin' fault. They blamed me fur everythin'. I used t' lie awake at night an' hear 'em talkin' me over. It made me lonesome, I tell you! Thar wasn't no one! Mother used t' write. But I never told her th' truth. She ain't a suspicion of what I've been a-goin' through."

Kate sat and looked at him in silence. His face was seamed, though far from old. His body was awkward, but impressed her with a sense of magnificent strength.

"I couldn't ask no woman t' share my hard times," he resumed after a time. "I always said when I got a woman, it was goin' t' be t' make her happy. It wer'n't t' be t' ask her t' drudge."

There was another silence. This man out of the solitude seemed to be elated past expression at his new companionship. He looked with appreciation at the little pointed toes of Kate's slippers, as they glanced from below the skirt of her dainty organdie. He noted the band of pearls on her finger. His eyes rested long on the daisies at her waist. The wind tossed up little curls of her warm brown hair. Her eyes suffused with interest, her tender mouth seemed ready to lend itself to any emotion, and withal she was so small, so compact, so exquisite. The man wiped his forehead again, in mere exuberance.

"Here's my card," he said, very solemnly, as he drew an engraved bit of pasteboard from its leather case. Kate bowed and took it.

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"Mr. Peter Roeder," she read. "I've no card," she said. "My name is Shelly. I'm here for my health, as I told you." She rose at this point, and held out her hand. "I must thank you once more for your kindness," she said.

His eyes fastened on hers with an appeal for a less formal word. There was something almost terrible in their silent eloquence.

"I hope we may meet again," she said.

Mr. Peter Roeder made a very low and awkward bow, and opened the door into the corridor for her.

That evening the major announced that he was obliged to go to Seattle. The journey was not an inviting one; Kate was well placed where she was, and he decided to leave her.

She was well enough now to take longer drives; and she found strange, lonely canyons, wild and beautiful, where yellow waters burst through rocky barriers with roar and fury, -- tortuous, terrible places, such as she had never dreamed of. Coming back from one of these drives, two days after her conversation on the piazza with Peter Roeder, she met him riding a massive roan. He sat the animal with that air of perfect unconsciousness which is the attribute of the Western man, and his attire, even to his English stock, was faultless, -- faultily faultless.

"I hope you won't object to havin' me ride beside you," he said, wheeling his horse. To tell the truth, Kate did not object. She was a little dull, and had been conscious all the morning of that peculiar physical depression which marks the beginning of a fit of homesickness.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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