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A Mountain Woman and Other Stories

A burst of girlish tears would dissipate whatever lingering pity Zoe felt for him. How
often he said that! With her sensitiveness she would be sure to hate a man who had
mortified her.
So he fell to dreaming of her again as moving among happy and luxurious scenes,
exquisitely clothed, with flowers on her bosom and jewels on her neck; and he saw men
loving her, and was glad, and saw her at last loving the best of them, and told himself in
the silence of the night that it was as he wished.
Yet always, always, from weary week to weary week, he rehearsed the scenes. They were
his theatre, his opera, his library, his lecture hall.
He rehearsed them again there on the cars. He never wearied of them. To be sure, other
thoughts had come to him at night. Much that to most men seems complex and puzzling
had grown to appear simple to him. In a way his brain had quickened and deepened
through the years of solitude. He had thought out a great many things. He had read a few
good books and digested them, and the visions in his heart had kept him from being
bitter.
Yet, suddenly confronted with liberty, turned loose like a pastured colt, without master or
rein, he felt only confusion and dismay. He might be expected to feel exultation. He
experienced only fright. It is precisely the same with the liberated colt.
The train pulled into a bustling station, in which the multitudinous noises were thrown
back again from the arched iron roof. The relentless haste of all the people was
inexpressibly cruel to the man who looked from the window wondering whither he would
go, and if, among all the thousands that made up that vast and throbbing city, he would
ever find a friend.
For a moment David longed even for that unmaternal mother who had forgotten him in
the hour of his distress; but she had been dead for many years.
The train stopped. Every one got out. David forced himself to his feet and followed. He
had been driven back into the world. It would have seemed less terrible to have been
driven into a desert. He walked toward the great iron gates, seeing the people and hearing
the noises confusedly.
As he entered the space beyond the grating some one caught him by the arm. It was a
little middle-aged woman in plain clothes, and with sad gray eyes.
"Is this David?" said she.
He did not speak, but his face answered her.
"I knew you were coming to-day. I've waited all these years, David. You didn't think I
believed what you said in that letter did you? This way, David, -- this is the way home."
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