Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Mountain Woman by Elia W. Peattie

Part 1 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This etext was prepared by Judy Boss, Omaha, NE

Note: I have omitted signature designations and have closed
abbreviations, e.g., "do n't" becoming "don't," etc. In
I have made the following changes to the text:
38 19 seem to seemed to
47 9 beafsteak beefsteak
56 4 divertisement divertissement
91 19 divertisement divertissement
155 17 scarfs. scarves.
169 20 scarfs, scarves,


Mountain Woman

Elia Wilkinson Peattie


My best Friend, and kindest Critic,

My Husband.


MOST of the tales in this little book have
been printed before. "A Mountain Woman"
appeared in Harper's Weekly, as did "The
Three Johns" and "A Resuscitation." "Jim
Lancy's Waterloo" was printed in the Cosmo-
politan, "A Michigan Man" in Lippincott's,
and "Up the Gulch" in Two Tales. The
courtesy of these periodicals in permitting the
stories to be republished is cordially acknowl-

E. W. P.










A Mountain Woman

IF Leroy Brainard had not had such a
respect for literature, he would have
written a book.

As it was, he played at being an architect
-- and succeeded in being a charming fellow.
My sister Jessica never lost an opportunity
of laughing at his endeavors as an architect.

"You can build an enchanting villa, but
what would you do with a cathedral?"

"I shall never have a chance at a cathe-
dral," he would reply. "And, besides, it
always seems to me so material and so im-
pertinent to build a little structure of stone
and wood in which to worship God!"

You see what he was like? He was frivo-
lous, yet one could never tell when he would
become eloquently earnest.

Brainard went off suddenly Westward one
day. I suspected that Jessica was at the
bottom of it, but I asked no questions; and
I did not hear from him for months. Then I
got a letter from Colorado.

"I have married a mountain woman," he
wrote. "None of your puny breed of modern
femininity, but a remnant left over from the
heroic ages, -- a primitive woman, grand and
vast of spirit, capable of true and steadfast
wifehood. No sophistry about her; no
knowledge even that there is sophistry.
Heavens! man, do you remember the ron-
deaux and triolets I used to write to those
pretty creatures back East? It would take
a Saga man of the old Norseland to write
for my mountain woman. If I were an
artist, I would paint her with the north star
in her locks and her feet on purple cloud.
I suppose you are at the Pier. I know you
usually are at this season. At any rate, I
shall direct this letter thither, and will follow
close after it. I want my wife to see some-
thing of life. And I want her to meet your

"Dear me!" cried Jessica, when I read
the letter to her; "I don't know that I care
to meet anything quite so gigantic as that
mountain woman. I'm one of the puny breed
of modern femininity, you know. I don't
think my nerves can stand the encounter."

"Why, Jessica!" I protested. She blushed
a little.

"Don't think bad of me, Victor. But, you
see, I've a little scrap-book of those triolets
upstairs." Then she burst into a peal of
irresistible laughter. "I'm not laughing
because I am piqued," she said frankly.
"Though any one will admit that it is
rather irritating to have a man who left
you in a blasted condition recover with
such extraordinary promptness. As a phi-
lanthropist, one of course rejoices, but as a
woman, Victor, it must be admitted that one
has a right to feel annoyed. But, honestly,
I am not ungenerous, and I am going to do
him a favor. I shall write, and urge him
not to bring his wife here. A primitive
woman, with the north star in her hair,
would look well down there in the Casino
eating a pineapple ice, wouldn't she? It's
all very well to have a soul, you know; but
it won't keep you from looking like a guy
among women who have good dressmakers.
I shudder at the thought of what the poor
thing will suffer if he brings her here."

Jessica wrote, as she said she would; but,
for all that, a fortnight later she was walking
down the wharf with the "mountain woman,"
and I was sauntering beside Leroy. At
dinner Jessica gave me no chance to talk
with our friend's wife, and I only caught
the quiet contralto tones of her voice now
and then contrasting with Jessica's vivacious
soprano. A drizzling rain came up from
the east with nightfall. Little groups of
shivering men and women sat about in the
parlors at the card-tables, and one blond
woman sang love songs. The Brainards
were tired with their journey, and left us
early. When they were gone, Jessica burst
into eulogy.

"That is the first woman," she declared,
"I ever met who would make a fit heroine
for a book."

"Then you will not feel under obligations
to educate her, as you insinuated the other

"Educate her! I only hope she will
help me to unlearn some of the things I
know. I never saw such simplicity. It is

"You're sure it's not mere vacuity?"
"Victor! How can you? But you haven't
talked with her. You must to-morrow.
Good-night." She gathered up her trail-
ing skirts and started down the corridor.
Suddenly she turned back. "For Heaven's
sake!" she whispered, in an awed tone,
"I never even noticed what she had on!"

The next morning early we made up a
riding party, and I rode with Mrs. Brainard.
She was as tall as I, and sat in her saddle
as if quite unconscious of her animal. The
road stretched hard and inviting under our
horses' feet. The wind smelled salt. The
sky was ragged with gray masses of cloud
scudding across the blue. I was beginning
to glow with exhilaration, when suddenly my
companion drew in her horse.

"If you do not mind, we will go back,"
she said.

Her tone was dejected. I thought she
was tired.

"Oh, no!" she protested, when I apolo-
gized for my thoughtlessness in bringing her
so far. "I'm not tired. I can ride all day.
Where I come from, we have to ride if
we want to go anywhere; but here there
seems to be no particular place to -- to

"Are you so utilitarian?" I asked, laugh-
ingly. "Must you always have some reason
for everything you do? I do so many things
just for the mere pleasure of doing them,
I'm afraid you will have a very poor opinion
of me."

"That is not what I mean," she said,
flushing, and turning her large gray eyes on
me. "You must not think I have a reason
for everything I do." She was very earnest,
and it was evident that she was unacquainted
with the art of making conversation. "But
what I mean," she went on, "is that there is
no place -- no end -- to reach." She looked
back over her shoulder toward the west,
where the trees marked the sky line, and an
expression of loss and dissatisfaction came
over her face. "You see," she said, apolo-
getically, "I'm used to different things -- to
the mountains. I have never been where I
could not see them before in my life."

"Ah, I see! I suppose it is odd to look
up and find them not there."

"It's like being lost, this not having any-
thing around you. At least, I mean," she
continued slowly, as if her thought could
not easily put itself in words, -- "I mean
it seems as if a part of the world had been
taken down. It makes you feel lonesome,
as if you were living after the world had
begun to die."

"You'll get used to it in a few days. It
seems very beautiful to me here. And then
you will have so much life to divert you."

"Life? But there is always that every-

"I mean men and women."

"Oh! Still, I am not used to them. I
think I might be not -- not very happy with
them. They might think me queer. I
think I would like to show your sister the

"She has seen them often."

"Oh, she told me. But I don't mean
those pretty green hills such as we saw com-
ing here. They are not like my mountains.
I like mountains that go beyond the clouds,
with terrible shadows in the hollows, and
belts of snow lying in the gorges where the
sun cannot reach, and the snow is blue in
the sunshine, or shining till you think it is
silver, and the mist so wonderful all about
it, changing each moment and drifting up
and down, that you cannot tell what name
to give the colors. These mountains of
yours here in the East are so quiet; mine
are shouting all the time, with the pines and
the rivers. The echoes are so loud in the
valley that sometimes, when the wind is
rising, we can hardly hear a man talk unless
he raises his voice. There are four cataracts
near where I live, and they all have different
voices, just as people do; and one of them
is happy -- a little white cataract -- and it falls
where the sun shines earliest, and till night
it is shining. But the others only get the
sun now and then, and they are more noisy
and cruel. One of them is always in the
shadow, and the water looks black. That
is partly because the rocks all underneath
it are black. It falls down twenty great
ledges in a gorge with black sides, and a
white mist dances all over it at every leap.
I tell father the mist is the ghost of the
waters. No man ever goes there; it is too
cold. The chill strikes through one, and
makes your heart feel as if you were dying.
But all down the side of the mountain,
toward the south and the west, the sun shines
on the granite and draws long points of
light out of it. Father tells me soldiers
marching look that way when the sun strikes
on their bayonets. Those are the kind of
mountains I mean, Mr. Grant."

She was looking at me with her face trans-
figured, as if it, like the mountains she told
me of, had been lying in shadow, and wait-
ing for the dazzling dawn.

"I had a terrible dream once," she went
on; "the most terrible dream ever I had.
I dreamt that the mountains had all been
taken down, and that I stood on a plain to
which there was no end. The sky was burn-
ing up, and the grass scorched brown from
the heat, and it was twisting as if it were in
pain. And animals, but no other person
save myself, only wild things, were crouch-
ing and looking up at that sky. They could
not run because there was no place to which
to go."

"You were having a vision of the last
man," I said. "I wonder myself sometimes
whether this old globe of ours is going to
collapse suddenly and take us with her, or
whether we will disappear through slow
disastrous ages of fighting and crushing,
with hunger and blight to help us to the
end. And then, at the last, perhaps, some
luckless fellow, stronger than the rest, will
stand amid the ribs of the rotting earth and
go mad."

The woman's eyes were fixed on me,
large and luminous. "Yes," she said; "he
would go mad from the lonesomeness of it.
He would be afraid to be left alone like that
with God. No one would want to be taken
into God's secrets."

"And our last man," I went on, "would
have to stand there on that swaying wreck
till even the sound of the crumbling earth
ceased. And he would try to find a voice
and would fail, because silence would have
come again. And then the light would go
out --"

The shudder that crept over her made
me stop, ashamed of myself.

"You talk like father," she said, with a
long-drawn breath. Then she looked up
suddenly at the sun shining through a rift
in those reckless gray clouds, and put out
one hand as if to get it full of the headlong
rollicking breeze. "But the earth is not
dying," she cried. "It is well and strong,
and it likes to go round and round among
all the other worlds. It likes the sun and
moon; they are all good friends; and it
likes the people who live on it. Maybe it
is they instead of the fire within who keep
it warm; or maybe it is warm just from
always going, as we are when we run. We
are young, you and I, Mr. Grant, and Leroy,
and your beautiful sister, and the world is
young too!" Then she laughed a strong
splendid laugh, which had never had the
joy taken out of it with drawing-room re-
strictions; and I laughed too, and felt that
we had become very good companions
indeed, and found myself warming to the
joy of companionship as I had not since I
was a boy at school.

That afternoon the four of us sat at a
table in the Casino together. The Casino,
as every one knows, is a place to amuse
yourself. If you have a duty, a mission, or
an aspiration, you do not take it there with
you, it would be so obviously out of place;
if poverty is ahead of you, you forget it; if
you have brains, you hasten to conceal them;
they would be a serious encumbrance.

There was a bubbling of conversation, a
rustle and flutter such as there always is
where there are many women. All the
place was gay with flowers and with gowns
as bright as the flowers. I remembered the
apprehensions of my sister, and studied
Leroy's wife to see how she fitted into this
highly colored picture. She was the only
woman in the room who seemed to wear
draperies. The jaunty slash and cut of
fashionable attire were missing in the long
brown folds of cloth that enveloped her
figure. I felt certain that even from Jessica's
standpoint she could not be called a guy.
Picturesque she might be, past the point of
convention, but she was not ridiculous.

"Judith takes all this very seriously," said
Leroy, laughingly. "I suppose she would
take even Paris seriously."

His wife smiled over at him. "Leroy
says I am melancholy," she said, softly;
"but I am always telling him that I am
happy. He thinks I am melancholy be-
cause I do not laugh. I got out of the way
of it by being so much alone. You only
laugh to let some one else know you are
pleased. When you are alone there is no
use in laughing. It would be like explain-
ing something to yourself."

"You are a philosopher, Judith. Mr.
Max Müller would like to know you."

"Is he a friend of yours, dear?"

Leroy blushed, and I saw Jessica curl
her lip as she noticed the blush. She laid
her hand on Mrs. Brainard's arm.

"Have you always been very much
alone?" she inquired.

"I was born on the ranch, you know;
and father was not fond of leaving it. In-
deed, now he says he will never again go
out of sight of it. But you can go a long
journey without doing that; for it lies on a
plateau in the valley, and it can be seen
from three different mountain passes.
Mother died there, and for that reason and
others -- father has had a strange life -- he
never wanted to go away. He brought a
lady from Pennsylvania to teach me. She
had wonderful learning, but she didn't
make very much use of it. I thought if I
had learning I would not waste it reading
books. I would use it to -- to live with.
Father had a library, but I never cared for
it. He was forever at books too. Of
course," she hastened to add, noticing the
look of mortification deepen on her hus-
band's face, "I like books very well if there
is nothing better at hand. But I always
said to Mrs. Windsor -- it was she who
taught me -- why read what other folk have
been thinking when you can go out and
think yourself? Of course one prefers one's
own thoughts, just as one prefers one's own
ranch, or one's own father."

"Then you are sure to like New York
when you go there to live," cried Jessica;
"for there you will find something to make
life entertaining all the time. No one need
fall back on books there."

"I'm not sure. I'm afraid there must be
such dreadful crowds of people. Of course
I should try to feel that they were all like
me, with just the same sort of fears, and
that it was ridiculous for us to be afraid of
each other, when at heart we all meant to
be kind."

Jessica fairly wrung her hands. "Hea-
vens!" she cried. "I said you would like
New York. I am afraid, my dear, that it
will break your heart!"

"Oh," said Mrs. Brainard, with what was
meant to be a gentle jest, "no one can
break my heart except Leroy. I should
not care enough about any one else, you

The compliment was an exquisite one.
I felt the blood creep to my own brain in
a sort of vicarious rapture, and I avoided
looking at Leroy lest he should dislike to
have me see the happiness he must feel.
The simplicity of the woman seemed to
invigorate me as the cool air of her moun-
tains might if it blew to me on some bright
dawn, when I had come, fevered and sick
of soul, from the city.

When we were alone, Jessica said to me:
"That man has too much vanity, and he
thinks it is sensitiveness. He is going to
imagine that his wife makes him suffer.
There's no one so brutally selfish as your
sensitive man. He wants every one to live
according to his ideas, or he immediately
begins suffering. That friend of yours
hasn't the courage of his convictions. He
is going to be ashamed of the very qualities
that made him love his wife."

There was a hop that night at the hotel,
quite an unusual affair as to elegance, given
in honor of a woman from New York, who
wrote a novel a month.

Mrs. Brainard looked so happy that night
when she came in the parlor, after the
music had begun, that I felt a moisture
gather in my eyes just because of the beauty
of her joy, and the forced vivacity of the
women about me seemed suddenly coarse
and insincere. Some wonderful red stones,
brilliant as rubies, glittered in among the
diaphanous black driftings of her dress.
She asked me if the stones were not very
pretty, and said she gathered them in one
of her mountain river-beds.

"But the gown?" I said. "Surely, you
do not gather gowns like that in river-beds,
or pick them off mountain-pines?"

"But you can get them in Denver. Father
always sent to Denver for my finery. He
was very particular about how I looked.
You see, I was all he had --" She broke
off, her voice faltering.

"Come over by the window," I said, to
change her thought. "I have something to
repeat to you. It is a song of Sydney
Lanier's. I think he was the greatest poet
that ever lived in America, though not
many agree with me. But he is my dear
friend anyway, though he is dead, and I
never saw him; and I want you to hear
some of his words."

I led her across to an open window. The
dancers were whirling by us. The waltz
was one of those melancholy ones which
speak the spirit of the dance more elo-
quently than any merry melody can. The
sound of the sea booming beyond in the
darkness came to us, and long paths of
light, now red, now green, stretched toward
the distant light-house. These were the
lines I repeated: --

"What heartache -- ne'er a hill!
Inexorable, vapid, vague, and chill
The drear sand levels drain my spirit low.
With one poor word they tell me all they know;
Whereat their stupid tongues, to tease my pain,
Do drawl it o'er and o'er again.
They hurt my heart with griefs I cannot name;
Always the same -- the same."

But I got no further. I felt myself moved
with a sort of passion which did not seem to
come from within, but to be communicated
to me from her. A certain unfamiliar hap-
piness pricked through with pain thrilled
me, and I heard her whispering, --

"Do not go on, do not go on! I cannot
stand it to-night!"

"Hush," I whispered back; "come out
for a moment!" We stole into the dusk
without, and stood there trembling. I
swayed with her emotion. There was a
long silence. Then she said: "Father may
be walking alone now by the black cataract.
That is where he goes when he is sad. I
can see how lonely he looks among those
little twisted pines that grow from the rock.
And he will be remembering all the evenings
we walked there together, and all the things
we said." I did not answer. Her eyes
were still on the sea.

"What was the name of the man who
wrote that verse you just said to me?"

I told her.

"And he is dead? Did they bury him
in the mountains? No? I wish I could
have put him where he could have heard
those four voices calling down the canyon."

"Come back in the house," I said; "you
must come, indeed," I said, as she shrank
from re-entering.

Jessica was dancing like a fairy with Le-
roy. They both saw us and smiled as we
came in, and a moment later they joined us.
I made my excuses and left my friends to
Jessica's care. She was a sort of social
tyrant wherever she was, and I knew one
word from her would insure the popularity
of our friends -- not that they needed the
intervention of any one. Leroy had been
a sort of drawing-room pet since before he
stopped wearing knickerbockers.

"He is at his best in a drawing-room,"
said Jessica, "because there he deals with
theory and not with action. And he has
such beautiful theories that the women, who
are all idealists, adore him."

The next morning I awoke with a con-
viction that I had been idling too long. I
went back to the city and brushed the dust
from my desk. Then each morning, I, as
Jessica put it, "formed public opinion"
to the extent of one column a day in the
columns of a certain enterprising morning

Brainard said I had treated him shabbily
to leave upon the heels of his coming. But
a man who works for his bread and butter
must put a limit to his holiday. It is dif-
ferent when you only work to add to your
general picturesqueness. That is what I
wrote Leroy, and it was the unkindest thing
I ever said to him; and why I did it I do
not know to this day. I was glad, though,
when he failed to answer the letter. It gave
me a more reasonable excuse for feeling
out of patience with him.

The days that followed were very dull.
It was hard to get back into the way of
working. I was glad when Jessica came
home to set up our little establishment and
to join in the autumn gayeties. Brainard
brought his wife to the city soon after, and
went to housekeeping in an odd sort of a

"I couldn't see anything in the place save
curios," Jessica reported, after her first call
on them. "I suppose there is a cooking-
stove somewhere, and maybe even a pantry
with pots in it. But all I saw was Alaska
totems and Navajo blankets. They have
as many skins around on the floor and
couches as would have satisfied an ancient
Briton. And everybody was calling there.
You know Mr. Brainard runs to curios in
selecting his friends as well as his furniture.
The parlors were full this afternoon of ab-
normal people, that is to say, with folks one
reads about. I was the only one there who
hadn't done something. I guess it's be-
cause I am too healthy."

"How did Mrs. Brainard like such a
motley crew?"

"She was wonderful -- perfectly wonder-
ful! Those insulting creatures were all
studying her, and she knew it. But her
dignity was perfect, and she looked as proud
as a Sioux chief. She listened to every one,
and they all thought her so bright."

"Brainard must have been tremendously
proud of her."

"Oh, he was -- of her and his Chilcat

Jessica was there often, but -- well, I was
busy. At length, however, I was forced to
go. Jessica refused to make any further
excuses for me. The rooms were filled with
small celebrities.

"We are the only nonentities," whispered
Jessica, as she looked around; "it will make
us quite distinguished."

We went to speak to our hostess. She
stood beside her husband, looking taller
than ever; and her face was white. Her
long red gown of clinging silk was so pe-
culiar as to give one the impression that she
was dressed in character. It was easy to
tell that it was one of Leroy's fancies. I
hardly heard what she said, but I know she
reproached me gently for not having been
to see them. I had no further word with
her till some one led her to the piano, and
she paused to say, --

"That poet you spoke of to me -- the one
you said was a friend of yours -- he is my
friend now too, and I have learned to sing
some of his songs. I am going to sing one
now." She seemed to have no timidity at
all, but stood quietly, with a half smile,
while a young man with a Russian name
played a strange minor prelude. Then she
sang, her voice a wonderful contralto, cold at
times, and again lit up with gleams of pas-
sion. The music itself was fitful, now full
of joy, now tender, and now sad:

"Look off, dear love, across the sallow sands,
And mark yon meeting of the sun and sea,
How long they kiss in sight of all the lands,
Ah! longer, longer we."

"She has a genius for feeling, hasn't
she?" Leroy whispered to me.

"A genius for feeling!" I repeated,
angrily. "Man, she has a heart and a soul
and a brain, if that is what you mean! I
shouldn't think you would be able to look
at her from the standpoint of a critic."

Leroy shrugged his shoulders and went
off. For a moment I almost hated him for
not feeling more resentful. I felt as if he
owed it to his wife to take offence at my
foolish speech.

It was evident that the "mountain woman"
had become the fashion. I read reports in
the papers about her unique receptions. I
saw her name printed conspicuously among
the list of those who attended all sorts of
dinners and musicales and evenings among
the set that affected intellectual pursuits.
She joined a number of women's clubs of
an exclusive kind.

"She is doing whatever her husband tells
her to," said Jessica. "Why, the other day
I heard her ruining her voice on 'Siegfried'!"

But from day to day I noticed a difference
in her. She developed a terrible activity.
She took personal charge of the affairs of
her house; she united with Leroy in keep-
ing the house filled with guests; she got
on the board of a hospital for little children,
and spent a part of every day among the
cots where the sufferers lay. Now and then
when we spent a quiet evening alone with
her and Leroy, she sewed continually on
little white night-gowns for these poor babies.
She used her carriage to take the most ex-
traordinary persons riding.

"In the cause of health," Leroy used to
say, "I ought to have the carriage fumi-
gated after every ride Judith takes, for she
is always accompanied by some one who looks
as if he or she should go into quarantine."

One night, when he was chaffing her in
this way, she flung her sewing suddenly
from her and sprang to her feet, as if she
were going to give way to a burst of girlish
temper. Instead of that, a stream of tears
poured from her eyes, and she held out her
trembling hands toward Jessica.

"He does not know," she sobbed. "He
cannot understand."

One memorable day Leroy hastened over
to us while we were still at breakfast to say
that Judith was ill, -- strangely ill. All night
long she had been muttering to herself as if
in a delirium. Yet she answered lucidly all
questions that were put to her.

"She begs for Miss Grant. She says
over and over that she 'knows,' whatever
that may mean."

When Jessica came home she told me she
did not know. She only felt that a tumult
of impatience was stirring in her friend.

"There is something majestic about her, --
something epic. I feel as if she were mak-
ing me live a part in some great drama, the
end of which I cannot tell. She is suffering,
but I cannot tell why she suffers."

Weeks went on without an abatement in
this strange illness. She did not keep her
bed. Indeed, she neglected few of her usual
occupations. But her hands were burning,
and her eyes grew bright with that wild
sort of lustre one sees in the eyes of those
who give themselves up to strange drugs or
manias. She grew whimsical, and formed
capricious friendships, only to drop them.

And then one day she closed her house
to all acquaintances, and sat alone continu-
ally in her room, with her hands clasped
in her lap, and her eyes swimming with the
emotions that never found their way to her

Brainard came to the office to talk with
me about her one day. "I am a very miser-
able man, Grant," he said. "I am afraid I
have lost my wife's regard. Oh, don't tell me
it is partly my fault. I know it well enough.
And I know you haven't had a very good
opinion of me lately. But I am remorseful
enough now, God knows. And I would give
my life to see her as she was when I found
her first among the mountains. Why, she
used to climb them like a strong man, and
she was forever shouting and singing. And
she had peopled every spot with strange
modern mythological creatures. Her father
is an old dreamer, and she got the trick from
him. They had a little telescope on a great
knoll in the centre of the valley, just where
it commanded a long path of stars, and they
used to spend nights out there when the
frost literally fell in flakes. When I think
how hardy and gay she was, how full of
courage and life, and look at her now, so
feverish and broken, I feel as if I should go
mad. You know I never meant to do her
any harm. Tell me that much, Grant."

"I think you were very egotistical for a
while, Brainard, and that is a fact. And
you didn't appreciate how much her nature
demanded. But I do not think you are re-
sponsible for your wife's present condition.
If there is any comfort in that statement,
you are welcome to it."

"But you don't mean --" he got no

"I mean that your wife may have her
reservations, just as we all have, and I am
paying her high praise when I say it. You
are not so narrow, Leroy, as to suppose for
a moment that the only sort of passion a
woman is capable of is that which she enter-
tains for a man. How do I know what
is going on in your wife's soul? But it is
nothing which even an idealist of women,
such as I am, old fellow, need regret."

How glad I was afterward that I spoke
those words. They exercised a little re-
straint, perhaps, on Leroy when the day
of his terrible trial came. They made him
wrestle with the demon of suspicion that
strove to possess him. I was sitting in my
office, lagging dispiritedly over my work
one day, when the door burst open and
Brainard stood beside me. Brainard, I say,
and yet in no sense the man I had known,
-- not a hint in this pale creature, whose
breath struggled through chattering teeth,
and whose hands worked in uncontrollable
spasms, of the nonchalant elegant I had
known. Not a glimpse to be seen in those
angry and determined eyes of the gayly
selfish spirit of my holiday friend.

"She's gone!" he gasped. "Since yes-
terday. And I'm here to ask you what
you think now? And what you know."

A panorama of all shameful possibilities
for one black moment floated before me.
I remember this gave place to a wave, cold
as death, that swept from head to foot;
then Brainard's hands fell heavily on my

"Thank God at least for this much," he
said, hoarsely; "I didn't know at first but
I had lost both friend and wife. But I see
you know nothing. And indeed in my
heart I knew all the time that you did not.
Yet I had to come to you with my anger.
And I remembered how you defended her.
What explanation can you offer now?"

I got him to sit down after a while and
tell me what little there was to tell. He
had been away for a day's shooting, and
when he returned he found only the per-
plexed servants at home. A note was left
for him. He showed it to me.

"There are times," it ran, "when we must
do as we must, not as we would. I am go-
ing to do something I have been driven to
do since I left my home. I do not leave
any message of love for you, because you
would not care for it from a woman so weak
as I. But it is so easy for you to be happy
that I hope in a little while you will forget
the wife who yielded to an influence past
resisting. It may be madness, but I am
not great enough to give it up. I tried to
make the sacrifice, but I could not. I tried
to be as gay as you, and to live your sort of
life; but I could not do it. Do not make
the effort to forgive me. You will be hap-
pier if you simply hold me in the contempt
I deserve."

I read the letter over and over. I do not
know that I believe that the spirit of inani-
mate things can permeate to the intelligence
of man. I am sure I always laughed at
such ideas. Yet holding that note with its
shameful seeming words, I felt a conscious-
ness that it was written in purity and love.
And then before my eyes there came a scene
so vivid that for a moment the office with its
familiar furniture was obliterated. What I
saw was a long firm road, green with mid-
summer luxuriance. The leisurely thudding
of my horse's feet sounded in my ears. Be-
side me was a tall, black-robed figure. I
saw her look back with that expression of
deprivation at the sky line. "It's like liv-
ing after the world has begun to die," said
the pensive minor voice. "It seems as if
part of the world had been taken down."

"Brainard," I yelled, "come here! I
have it. Here's your explanation. I can
show you a new meaning for every line of
this letter. Man, she has gone to the moun-
tains. She has gone to worship her own

Two weeks later I got a letter from Brain-
ard, dated from Colorado.

"Old man," it said, "you're right. She
is here. I found my mountain woman here
where the four voices of her cataracts had
been calling to her. I saw her the moment
our mules rounded the road that commands
the valley. We had been riding all night
and were drenched with cold dew, hungry
to desperation, and my spirits were of lead.
Suddenly we got out from behind the gran-
ite wall, and there she was, standing, where I
had seen her so often, beside the little water-
fall that she calls the happy one. She was
looking straight up at the billowing mist
that dipped down the mountain, mammoth
saffron rolls of it, plunging so madly from
the impetus of the wind that one marvelled
how it could be noiseless. Ah, you do not
know Judith! That strange, unsophisti-
cated, sometimes awkward woman you saw
bore no more resemblance to my mountain
woman than I to Hercules. How strong and
beautiful she looked standing there wrapped
in an ecstasy! It was my primitive woman
back in her primeval world. How the blood
leaped in me! All my old romance, so dif-
ferent from the common love-histories of
most men, was there again within my reach!
All the mystery, the poignant happiness
were mine again. Do not hold me in con-
tempt because I show you my heart. You
saw my misery. Why should I grudge you
a glimpse of my happiness? She saw me
when I touched her hand, not before, so
wrapped was she. But she did not seem
surprised. Only in her splendid eyes there
came a large content. She pointed to the
dancing little white fall. 'I thought some-
thing wonderful was going to happen,' she
whispered, 'for it has been laughing so.'

"I shall not return to New York. I am
going to stay here with my mountain wo-
man, and I think perhaps I shall find out
what life means here sooner than I would
back there with you. I shall learn to see
large things large and small things small.
Judith says to tell you and Miss Grant that
the four voices are calling for you every
day in the valley.

"Yours in fullest friendship,


Jim Lancy's Waterloo

"WE must get married before time to put
in crops," he wrote. "We must make
a success of the farm the first year, for luck.
Could you manage to be ready to come out
West by the last of February? After March
opens there will be no let-up, and I do not
see how I could get away. Make it Febru-
ary, Annie dear. A few weeks more or less
can make no difference to you, but they
make a good deal of difference to me."

The woman to whom this was written read
it with something like anger. "I don't be-
lieve he's so impatient for me!" she said
to herself. "What he wants is to get the
crops in on time." But she changed the date
of their wedding, and made it February.

Their wedding journey was only from
the Illinois village where she lived to their
Nebraska farm. They had never been much
together, and they had much to say to each

"Farming won't come hard to you," Jim
assured her. "All one needs to farm with
is brains."

"What a success you'll make of it!" she
cried saucily.

"I wish I had my farm clear," Jim went
on; "but that's more than any one has
around me. I'm no worse off than the rest.
We've got to pay off the mortgage, Annie."

"Of course we must. We'll just do with-
out till we get the mortgage lifted. Hard
work will do anything, I guess. And I'm
not afraid to work, Jim, though I've never
had much experience."

Jim looked out of the window a long time,
at the gentle undulations of the brown Iowa
prairie. His eyes seemed to pierce beneath
the sod, to the swelling buds of the yet
invisible grass. He noticed how disdain-
fully the rains of the new year beat down
the grasses of the year that was gone. It
opened to his mind a vision of the season's
possibilities. For a moment, even amid
the smoke of the car, he seemed to scent
clover, and hear the stiff swishing of the
corn and the dull burring of the bees.

"I wish sometimes," he said, leaning for-
ward to look at his bride, "that I had been
born something else than a farmer. But I
can no more help farming, Annie, than a
bird can help singing, or a bee making
honey. I didn't take to farming. I was
simply born with a hoe in my hand."

"I don't know a blessed thing about it,"
Annie confessed. "But I made up my
mind that a farm with you was better than
a town without you. That's all there is to
it, as far as I am concerned."

Jim Lancy slid his arm softly about her
waist, unseen by the other passengers.
Annie looked up apprehensively, to see if
any one was noticing. But they were
eating their lunches. It was a common
coach on which they were riding. There
was a Pullman attached to the train, and
Annie had secretly thought that, as it was
their wedding journey, it might be more
becoming to take it. But Jim had made
no suggestion about it. What he said later
explained the reason.

"I would have liked to have brought you
a fine present," he said. "It seemed shabby
to come with nothing but that little ring.
But I put everything I had on our home,
you know. And yet, I'm sure you'll think
it poor enough after what you've been used
to. You'll forgive me for only bringing the
ring, my dear?"

"But you brought me something better,"
Annie whispered. She was a foolish little
girl. "You brought me love, you know."
Then they rode in silence for a long time.
Both of them were new to the phraseology
of love. Their simple compliments to each
other were almost ludicrous. But any one
who might have chanced to overhear them
would have been charmed, for they betrayed
an innocence as beautiful as an unclouded

Annie tried hard not to be depressed
by the treeless stretches of the Nebraska

"This is different from Illinois," she
ventured once, gently; "it is even different
from Iowa."

"Yes, yes," cried Jim, enthusiastically, "it
is different! It is the finest country in the
world! You never feel shut in. You can
always see off. I feel at home after I get
in Nebraska. I'd choke back where you
live, with all those little gullies and the trees
everywhere. It's a mystery to me how
farmers have patience to work there."

Annie opened her eyes. There was evi-
dently more than one way of looking at a
question. The farm-houses seemed very
low and mean to her, as she looked at them
from the window. There were no fences,
excepting now and then the inhospitable
barbed wire. The door-yards were bleak to
her eyes, without the ornamental shrubbery
which every farmer in her part of the country
was used to tending. The cattle stood un-
shedded in their corrals. The reapers and
binders stood rusting in the dull drizzle.

"How shiftless!" cried Annie, indignantly.
"What do these men mean by letting their
machinery lie out that way? I should think
one winter of lying out would hurt it more
than three summers of using."

"It does. But sheds are not easily had.
Lumber is dear."

"But I should think it would be economy
even then."

"Yes," he said, "perhaps. But we all do
that way out here. It takes some money for
a man to be economical with. Some of us
haven't even that much."

There was a six-mile ride from the station.
The horses were waiting, hitched up to a
serviceable light wagon, and driven by the
"help." He was a thin young man, with
red hair, and he blushed vicariously for Jim
and Annie, who were really too entertained
with each other, and at the idea of the new
life opening up before them, to think any-
thing about blushing. At the station, a
number of men insisted on shaking hands
with Jim, and being introduced to his wife.
They were all bearded, as if shaving were
an unnecessary labor, and their trousers were
tucked in dusty top-boots, none of which
had ever seen blacking. Annie had a sense
of these men seeming unwashed, or as if
they had slept in their clothes. But they
had kind voices, and their eyes were very
friendly. So she shook hands with them all
with heartiness, and asked them to drive out
and bring their womenkind.

"I am going to make up my mind not
to be lonesome," she declared; "but, all the
same, I shall want to see some women."

Annie had got safe on the high seat of
the wagon, and was balancing her little feet
on the inclined foot-rest, when a woman
came running across the street, calling
aloud, --

"Mr. Lancy! Mr. Lancy! You're not
going to drive away without introducing
me to your wife!"

She was a thin little woman, with move-
ments as nervous and as graceless as those of
a grasshopper. Her dun-colored garments
seemed to have all the hue bleached out of
them with wind and weather. Her face was
brown and wrinkled, and her bright eyes
flashed restlessly, deep in their sockets. Two
front teeth were conspicuously missing; and
her faded hair was blown in wisps about
her face. Jim performed the introduction,
and Annie held out her hand. It was a
pretty hand, delicately gloved in dove color.
The woman took it in her own, and after
she had shaken it, held it for a silent mo-
ment, looking at it. Then she almost threw
it from her. The eyes which she lifted
to scan the bright young face above her
had something like agony in them. Annie
blushed under this fierce scrutiny, and the
woman, suddenly conscious of her demeanor,
forced a smile to her lips.

"I'll come out an' see yeh," she said, in
cordial tones. "May be, as a new house-
keeper, you'll like a little advice. You've a
nice place, an' I wish yeh luck."

"Thank you. I'm sure I'll need advice,"
cried Annie, as they drove off. Then she
said to Jim, "Who is that old woman?"

"Old woman? Why, she ain't a day over
thirty, Mis' Dundy ain't."

Annie looked at her husband blankly.
But he was already talking of something
else, and she asked no more about the
woman, though all the way along the road
the face seemed to follow her. It might
have been this that caused the tightening
about her heart. For some way her vivacity
had gone; and the rest of the ride she asked
no questions, but sat looking straight before
her at the northward stretching road, with
eyes that felt rather than saw the brown,
bare undulations, rising every now and then
clean to the sky; at the side, little famished-
looking houses, unacquainted with paint,
disorderly yards, and endless reaches of
furrowed ground, where in summer the corn
had waved.

The horses needed no indication of the
line to make them turn up a smooth bit of
road that curved away neatly 'mid the ragged
grasses. At the end of it, in a clump of
puny scrub oaks, stood a square little house,
in uncorniced simplicity, with blank, uncur-
tained windows staring out at Annie, and for
a moment her eyes, blurred with the cold,
seemed to see in one of them the despairing
face of the woman with the wisps of faded
hair blowing about her face.

"Well, what do you think of it?" Jim
cried, heartily, swinging her down from her
high seat, and kissing her as he did so.
"This is your home, my girl, and you are as
welcome to it as you would be to a palace,
if I could give it to you."

Annie put up her hands to hide the trem-
bling of her lips; and she let Jim see there
were tears in her eyes as an apology for not
replying. The young man with the red hair
took away the horses, and Jim, with his arm
around his wife's waist, ran toward the house
and threw open the door for her to enter.
The intense heat of two great stoves struck
in their faces; and Annie saw the big burner,
erected in all its black hideousness in the
middle of the front room, like a sort of
household hoodoo, to be constantly propi-
tiated, like the gods of Greece; and in the
kitchen, the new range, with a distracted
tea-kettle leaping on it, as if it would like
to loose its fetters and race away over the
prairie after its cousin, the locomotive.

It was a house of four rooms, and a
glance revealed the fact that it had been
provided with the necessaries.

"I think we can be very comfortable
here," said Jim, rather doubtfully.

Annie saw she must make some response.
"I am sure we can be more than comfort-
able, Jim," she replied. "We can be happy.
Show me, if you please, where my room
is. I must hang my cloak up in the right
place so that I shall feel as if I were getting

It was enough. Jim had no longer any
doubts. He felt sure they were going to be
happy ever afterward.

It was Annie who got the first meal; she
insisted on it, though both the men wanted
her to rest. And Jim hadn't the heart to
tell her that, as a general thing, it would
not do to put two eggs in the corn-cake,
and that the beefsteak was a great luxury.
When he saw her about to break an egg for
the coffee, however, he interfered.

"The shells of the ones you used for the
cake will settle the coffee just as well," he
said. "You see we have to be very careful
of eggs out here at this season."

"Oh! Will the shells really settle it?
This is what you must call prairie lore.
I suppose out here we find out what the
real relations of invention and necessity
are -- eh?"

Jim laughed disproportionately. He
thought her wonderfully witty. And he
and the help ate so much that Annie
opened her eyes. She had thought there
would be enough left for supper. But
there was nothing left.

For the next two weeks Jim was able to be
much with her; and they amused themselves
by decorating the house with the bright
curtainings that Annie had brought, and
putting up shelves for a few pieces of china.
She had two or three pictures, also, which
had come from her room in her old home,
and some of those useless dainty things with
which some women like to litter the room.

"Most folks," Jim explained, "have to be
content with one fire, and sit in the kitchen;
but I thought, as this was our honeymoon,
we would put on some lugs."

Annie said nothing then; but a day or
two after she ventured, --

"Perhaps it would be as well now, dear,
if we kept in the kitchen. I'll keep it as
bright and pleasant as I can. And, any-
way, you can be more about with me when
I'm working then. We'll lay a fire in the
front-room stove, so that we can light it if
anybody comes. We can just as well save
that much."

Jim looked up brightly. "All right," he
said. "You're a sensible little woman.
You see, every cent makes a difference.
And I want to be able to pay off five
hundred dollars of that mortgage this

So, after that, they sat in the kitchen; and
the fire was laid in the front room, against
the coming of company. But no one came,
and it remained unlighted.

Then the season began to show signs of
opening, -- bleak signs, hardly recognizable
to Annie; and after that Jim was not much
in the house. The weeks wore on, and
spring came at last, dancing over the hills.
The ground-birds began building, and at
four each morning awoke Annie with their
sylvan opera. The creek that ran just at
the north of the house worked itself into a
fury and blustered along with much noise
toward the great Platte which, miles away,
wallowed in its vast sandy bed. The hills
flushed from brown to yellow, and from
mottled green to intensest emerald, and in
the superb air all the winds of heaven
seemed to meet and frolic with laughter
and song.

Sometimes the mornings were so beauti-
ful 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 sur-
prise. "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.

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, re-
membering 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 be-
tween 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.

"To be master of the soil, that is one
thing," said she to herself in sickness of
spirit; "but to be the slave of it is another.
These men seem to have got their souls all
covered with muck." She noticed that
they had no idea of amusement. They had
never played anything. They did not even
care for base-ball. Their idea of happiness
appeared to be to do nothing; and there was
a good part of the year in which they were
happy, -- for these were not for the most
part men owning farms; they were men
who hired out to help the farmer. A good
many of them had been farmers at one time
and another, but they had failed. They all
talked politics a great deal, -- politics and rail-
roads. Annie had not much patience with
it all. She had great confidence in the
course of things. She believed that in this
country all men have a fair chance. So
when it came about that the corn and the
wheat, which had been raised with such
incessant toil, brought them no money, but
only a loss, Annie stood aghast.

"I said the rates were ruinous," Jim said
to her one night, after it was all over, and
he had found out that the year's slavish
work had brought him a loss of three
hundred dollars; "it's been a conspiracy
from the first. The price of corn is all
right. But by the time we set it down in
Chicago we are out eighteen cents a bushel.
It means ruin. What are we going to do?
Here we had the best crop we've had for
years -- but what's the use of talking!
They have us in their grip."

"I don't see how it is," Annie protested.
"I should think it would be for the inter-
est of the roads to help the people to be as
prosperous as possible."

"Oh, we can't get out! And we're
bound to stay and raise grain. And they're
bound to cart it. And that's all there is to
it. They force us to stand every loss, even
to the shortage that is made in transportation.
The railroad companies own the elevators,
and they have the cinch on us. Our grain
is at their mercy. God knows how I'm
going to raise that interest. As for the five
hundred we were going to pay on the mort-
gage this year, Annie, we're not in it."

Autumn was well set in by this time, and
the brilliant cold sky hung over the prairies
as young and fresh as if the world were not
old and tired. Annie no longer could look
as trim as when she first came to the little
house. Her pretty wedding garments were
beginning to be worn and there was no
money for more. Jim would not play chess
now of evenings. He was forever writing
articles for the weekly paper in the adjoin-
ing town. They talked of running him for
the state legislature, and he was anxious
for the nomination.

"I think I might be able to stand it if I
could fight 'em!" he declared; "but to sit
here idle, knowing that I have been cheated
out of my year's work, just as much as if I
had been knocked down on the road and
the money taken from me, is enough to
send me to the asylum with a strait-jacket

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 antici-
pation 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, some-
times all at once, in those sternly vindictive
tones men use when there is revolt in their

"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."

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 conver-
sation 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.

A woman cannot stay long away from
her home on a farm at planting time, even
if it is a case of life and death. Mrs. Dundy
had to go home, and Annie crept about
her work with the wailing baby in her arms.
The house was often disorderly now; but
it could not be helped. The baby had to
be cared for. It fretted so much that Jim
slept apart in the mow of the barn, that his
sleep might not be disturbed. It was a
pleasant, dim place, full of sweet scents, and
he liked to be there alone. Though he had
always been an unusual worker, he worked
now more like a man who was fighting off
fate, than a mere toiler for bread.

The corn came up beautifully, and far as
the eye could reach around their home it
tossed its broad green leaves with an ocean-
like swelling of sibilant sound. Jim loved
it with a sort of passion. Annie loved it,
too. Sometimes, at night, when her fatigue
was unbearable, and her irritation wearing
out both body and soul, she took her little
one in her arms and walked among the
corn, letting its rustling soothe the baby to

The heat of the summer was terrible.
The sun came up in that blue sky like a
curse, and hung there till night came to
comfort the blistering earth. And one
morning a terrible thing happened. Annie
was standing out of doors in the shade of
those miserable little oaks, ironing, when
suddenly a blast of air struck her in the
face, which made her look up startled. For
a moment she thought, perhaps, there was
a fire near in the grass. But there was none.
Another blast came, hotter this time, and
fifteen minutes later that wind was sweep-
ing straight across the plain, burning and
blasting. Annie went in the house to finish
her ironing, and was working there, when
she heard Jim's footstep on the door-sill.
He could not pale because of the tan, but
there was a look of agony and of anger --
almost brutish anger -- in his eyes. Then
he looked, for a moment, at Annie standing
there working patiently, and rocking the
little crib with one foot, and he sat down on
the door-step and buried his face in his
brown arms.

The wind blew for three days. At the
end of that time every ear was withered in
the stalk. The corn crop was ruined.

But there were the other crops which
must be attended to, and Jim watched those
with the alertness of a despairing man; and
so harvest came again, and again the house
was filled with men who talked their careless
talk, and who were not ashamed to gorge
while this one woman cooked for them.
The baby lay on a quilt on the floor in the
coolest part of the kitchen. Annie fed it
irregularly. Sometimes she almost forgot
it. As for its wailing, she had grown so
used to it that she hardly heard it, any
more than she did the ticking of the clock.
And yet, tighter than anything else in life,
was the hold that little thing had on her
heart-strings. At night, after the intermin-
able work had been finished -- though in
slovenly fashion -- she would take it up and
caress it with fierceness, and worn as she
was, would bathe it and soothe it, and give
it warm milk from the big tin pail.

"Lay the child down," Jim would say
impatiently, while the men would tell how
their wives always put the babies on the
bed and let them cry if they wanted to.
Annie said nothing, but she hushed the
little one with tender songs.

One day, as usual, it lay on its quilt
while Annie worked. It was a terribly busy
morning. She had risen at four to get the
washing out of the way before the men got
on hand, and there were a dozen loaves of
bread to bake, and the meals to get, and
the milk to attend to, and the chickens and
pigs to feed. So occupied was she that she
never was able to tell how long she was
gone from the baby. She only knew that
the heat of her own body was so great that
the blood seemed to be pounding at her
ears, and she staggered as she crossed the
yard. But when she went at last with a
cup of milk to feed the little one, it lay with
clenched fists and fixed eyes, and as she
lifted it, a last convulsion laid it back breath-
less, and its heart had ceased to beat.

Annie ran with it to her room, and tried
such remedies as she had. But nothing
could keep the chill from creeping over the
wasted little form, -- not even the heat of
the day, not even the mother's agonized
embrace. Then, suddenly, Annie looked
at the clock. It was time to get the dinner.
She laid the piteous tiny shape straight on
the bed, threw a sheet over it, and went
back to the weltering kitchen to cook for
those men, who came at noon and who must
be fed -- who must be fed.

When they were all seated at the table,
Jim among them, and she had served them,
she said, standing at the head of the table,
with her hands on her hips: --

"I don't suppose any of you have time
to do anything about it; but I thought you
might like to know that the baby is dead.
I wouldn't think of asking you to spare the
horses, for I know they have to rest. But
I thought, if you could make out on a cold
supper, that I would go to the town for a

There was satire in the voice that stung
even through the dull perceptions of these
men, and Jim arose with a cry and went to
the room where his dead baby lay.

About two months after this Annie in-
sisted that she must go home to Illinois.
Jim protested in a way.

"You know, I'd like to send you," he
said; "but I don't see where the money is
to come from. And since I've got this
nomination, I want to run as well as I can.
My friends expect me to do my best for
them. It's a duty, you know, and nothing
less, for a few men, like me, to get in the
legislature. We're going to get a railroad
bill through this session that will straighten
out a good many things. Be patient a little
longer, Annie."

"I want to go home," was the only reply
he got. "You must get the money, some
way, for me to go home with."

"I haven't paid a cent of interest yet,"
he cried angrily. "I don't see what you
mean by being so unreasonable!"

"You must get the money, some way,"
she reiterated.

He did not speak to her for a week, ex-
cept when he was obliged to. But she did
not seem to mind; and he gave her the
money. He took her to the train in the
little wagon that had met her when she first
came. At the station, some women were
gossiping excitedly, and Annie asked what
they were saying.

"It's Mis' Dundy," they said. "She's
been sent to th' insane asylum at Lincoln.
She's gone stark mad. All she said on the
way out was, 'Th' butter won't come! Th'
butter won't come!'" Then they laughed a
little -- a strange laugh; and Annie thought
of a drinking-song she had once heard,
"Here's to the next who dies."

Ten days after this Jim got a letter from
her. "I am never coming back, Jim," it
said. "It is hopeless. I don't think I
would mind standing still to be shot down
if there was any good in it. But I'm not
going back there to work harder than any
slave for those money-loaners and the rail-
roads. I guess they can all get along with-
out me. And I am sure I can get along
without them. I do not think this will make
you feel very bad. You haven't seemed
to notice me very much lately when I've
been around, and I do not think you will
notice very much when I am gone. I know
what this means. I know I am breaking
my word when I leave you. But remember,
it is not you I leave, but the soil, Jim! I
will not be its slave any longer. If you
care to come for me here, and live another
life -- but no, there would be no use. Our
love, like our toil, has been eaten up by
those rapacious acres. Let us say good-

Jim sat all night with this letter in his
hand. Sometimes he dozed heavily in his
chair. But he did not go to bed; and the
next morning he hitched up his horses and
rode to town. He went to the bank which
held his notes.

"I'll confess judgment as soon as you
like," he said. "It's all up with me."

It was done as quickly as the law would
allow. And the things in the house were
sold by auction. All the farmers were there
with their wives. It made quite an outing
for them. Jim moved around impassively,
and chatted, now and then, with some of
the men about what the horses ought to

The auctioneer was a clever fellow. Be-
tween the putting up of the articles, he sang
comic songs, and the funnier the song, the
livelier the bidding that followed. The
horses brought a decent price, and the ma-
chinery a disappointing one; and then, after
a delicious snatch about Nell who rode the
sway-backed mare at the county fair, he
got down to the furniture, -- the furniture
which Jim had bought when he was expect-
ing Annie.

Jim was walking around with his hands
in his pockets, looking unconcerned, and,
as the furniture began to go off, he came
and sat down in the midst of it. Every
one noticed his indifference. Some of them
said that after all he couldn't have been
very ambitious. He didn't seem to take
his failure much to heart. Every one was
concentrating attention on the cooking-
stove, when Jim leaned forward, quickly,
over a little wicker work-stand.

There was a bit of unfinished sewing there,
and it fell out as he lifted the cover. It was
a baby's linen shirt. Jim let it lie, and then
lifted from its receptacle a silver thimble.
He put it in his vest-pocket.

The campaign came on shortly after this,
and Jim Lancy was defeated. "I'm going
to Omaha," said he to the station-master,
"and I've got just enough to buy a ticket
with. There's a kind of satisfaction in giv-
ing the last cent I have to the railroads."

Two months later, a "plain drunk" was
registered at the station in Nebraska's me-
tropolis. When they searched him they
found nothing in his pockets but a silver
thimble, and Joe Benson, the policeman
who had brought in the "drunk," gave it
to the matron, with his compliments. But
she, when no one noticed, went softly to
where the man was sleeping, and slipped
it back into his pocket, with a sigh. For
she knew somehow -- as women do know
things -- that he had not stolen that thimble.

THE equinoctial line itself is not more
imaginary than the line which divided
the estates of the three Johns. The herds
of the three Johns roamed at will, and
nibbled the short grass far and near without
let or hindrance; and the three Johns them-
selves were utterly indifferent as to boun-
dary lines. Each of them had filed his
application at the office of the government
land-agent; each was engaged in the tedious
task of "proving up;" and each owned
one-third of the L-shaped cabin which stood
at the point where the three ranches touched.
The hundred and sixty acres which would
have completed this quadrangle had not
yet been "taken up."

The three Johns were not anxious to have
a neighbor. Indeed, they had made up
their minds that if one appeared on that
adjoining "hun'erd an' sixty," it would go
hard with him. For they did not deal in
justice very much -- the three Johns. They
considered it effete. It belonged in the
East along with other outgrown supersti-
tions. And they had given it out widely
that it would be healthier for land applicants
to give them elbow-room. It took a good
many miles of sunburnt prairie to afford

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest