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A Mountain Woman and Other Stories

Later there came strong boxes, marked with many marks of foreign transportation lines,
and the neighbor-gossips, seeing them, imagined wealth of curious furniture; but the man
who carted them told his wife, who told her friend, who told her friend, that every box to
the last one was placed in the dry cemented cellar, and left there in the dark.
"An' a mighty ridic'lous expense a cellar like that is, t' put under a house of that char'cter,"
said the man to his wife -- who repeated it to her friend.
"But that ain't all," the carpenter's wife had said when she heard about it all, "Hank says
there is one little room, not fit for buttery nor yet fur closit, with a window high up --
well, you ken see yourself -an' a strong door. Jus' in passin' th' other day, when he was
there, hangin' some shelves, he tried it, an' it was locked!"
"Well!" said the women who listened.
However, they were not unfriendly, these brisk gossips. Two of them, plucking up tardy
courage, did call one afternoon. Their hostess was out among her bees, crooning to them,
as it seemed, while they lighted all about her, lit on the flower in her dark hair, buzzed
vivaciously about her snow-white linen gown, lighted on her long, dark hands. She came
in brightly when she saw her guests, and placed chairs for them, courteously, steeped
them a cup of pale and fragrant tea, and served them with little cakes. Though her manner
was so quiet and so kind, the women were shy before her. She, turning to one and then
the other, asked questions in her quaint way.
"You have children, have you not?"
Both of them had.
"Ah," she cried, clasping those slender hands, "but you are very fortunate! Your little
ones, -- what are their ages?"
They told her, she listening smilingly.
"And you nurse your little babes -- you nurse them at the breast?"
The modest women blushed. They were not used to speaking with such freedom. But
they confessed they did, not liking artificial means.
"No," said the lady, looking at them with a soft light in her eyes, "as you say, there is
nothing like the good mother Nature. The little ones God sends should lie at the breast.
'Tis not the milk alone that they imbibe; it is the breath of life, -it is the human
magnetism, the power, -how shall I say? Happy the mother who has a little babe to hold!"
They wanted to ask a question, but they dared not -- wanted to ask a hundred questions.
But back of the gentleness was a hauteur, and they were still.
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