A Mountain Woman and Other Stories HTML version

grow darker and darker till it became black. It was the embodiment of sorrow. Was it not
shaking giant arms at him? Did it not cry out in angry challenge? Luther did not try to
laugh at his fears; he had never seen any humor in life. A gust of wind had someway
crept through the dense barricade of foliage that flanked the clearing, and struck him with
an icy chill. He looked at the sky; the day was advancing rapidly. He went at his work
with an energy as determined as despair. The axe in his practised hand made clean
straight cuts in the trunk, now on this side, now on that. His task was not an easy one, but
he finished it with wonderful expedition. After the chopping was finished, the tree stood
firm a moment; then, as the tensely-strained fibres began a weird moaning, he sprang
aside, and stood waiting. In the distance he saw two men hewing a log. The axe-man sent
them a shout and threw up his arms for them to look. The tree stood out clear and
beautiful against the gray sky; the men ceased their work and watched it. The vibrations
became more violent, and the sounds they produced grew louder and louder till they
reached a shrill wild cry. There came a pause, then a deep shuddering groan. The topmost
branches began to move slowly, the whole stately bulk swayed, and then shot towards the
ground. The gigantic trunk bounded from the stump, recoiled like a cannon, crashed
down, and lay conquered, with a roar as of an earthquake, in a cloud of flying twigs and
When the dust had cleared away, the men at the log on the outside of the clearing could
not see Luther. They ran to the spot, and found him lying on the ground with his chest
crushed in. His fearful eyes had not rightly calculated the distance from the stump to the
top of the pine, nor rightly weighed the power of the massed branches, and so, standing
spell-bound, watching the descending trunk as one might watch his Nemesis, the rebound
came and left him lying worse than dead.
Three months later, when the logs, lopped of their branches, drifted down the streams, the
woodman, a human log lopped of his strength, drifted to a great city. A change, the
doctor said, might prolong his life. The lumbermen made up a purse, and he started out,
not very definitely knowing his destination. He had a sister, much younger than himself,
who at the age of sixteen had married and gone, he believed, to Chicago. That was years
ago, but he had an idea that he might find her. He was not troubled by his lack of
resources; he did not believe that any man would want for a meal unless he were
"shiftless." He had always been able to turn his hand to something.
He felt too ill from the jostling of the cars to notice much of anything on the journey. The
dizzy scenes whirling past made him faint, and he was glad to lie with closed eyes. He
imagined that his little sister in her pink calico frock and bare feet (as he remembered
her) would be at the station to meet him. "Oh, Lu!" she would call from some hiding-
place, and he would go and find her.
The conductor stopped by Luther's seat and said that they were in the city at last; but it
seemed to the sick man as if they went miles after that, with a multitude of twinkling
lights on one side and a blank darkness, that they told him was the lake, on the other. The
conductor again stopped by his seat.