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A Mountain Woman and Other Stories
Elia W. Peattie
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I read the letter over and over. I do not know that I believe that the spirit of inanimate
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 consciousness 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 midsummer luxuriance. The leisurely thudding of my horse's feet
sounded in my ears. Beside me was a tall, black-robed figure. I saw her look back with
that expression of deprivation at the sky line. "It's like living after the world has begun to
die," said the pensive minor voice. "It seems as if part of the world had been taken
"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 mountains. She has gone to
worship her own gods!"
Two weeks later I got a letter from Brainard, 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 granite wall, and there she was, standing, where I had seen her so
often, beside the little waterfall 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, unsophisticated, 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 different 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 contempt 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 something
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 woman, 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,