A Mountain Woman and Other Stories
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
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
"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 antique!"
"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 trailing 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 apologized 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 reach."
"Are you so utilitarian?" I asked, laughingly. "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."