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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 2. The Maid On The Mountain-Side
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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 2. The Maid On The Mountain-Side Post by :p00kie Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :737

Click below to download : The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 2. The Maid On The Mountain-Side (Format : PDF)

The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 1 - Chapter 2. The Maid On The Mountain-Side


One day in July a fair young girl, with beautiful gray eyes, sat musingly beside one of these southern trails gazing upon the inverted pyramid of red sky which glowed between the sloping shoulders of the westward warding peaks. Her exquisite lips, scarlet as strawberry stains, were drawn into an expression of bitter constraint, and her brows were unnaturally knit. Her hat lay beside her on the ground, her brown hair was blowing free, and in her eyes was the look of one longing for the world beyond the hills. She appeared both lonely and desolate.

It was a pity to see one so young and so comely confronting with sad and sullen brow such aerial majesty as the evening presented. It was, indeed, a sort of impiety, and the girl seemed at last to feel this. Her frowning brow smoothed out, her lips grew more girlish of line, and at length, rapt with wonder, she fixed her eyes on a single purple cloud which was dissolving, becoming each moment smaller, more remote, like a fleeing eagle, yet burning each instant with even more dazzling flame of color than before--hasting as if to overtake the failing day. A dream of still fairer lands, of conquest, and of love, swept over her--became mirrored in her face. She had at this moment the wistful gaze which comes to the eyes of the young when desire of the future is strong.

Upon her musings a small sound broke, so faint, so far, she could not tell from whence it came nor what its cause might be. It might have been the rattle of a pebble under the feet of a near-by squirrel or the scrambling rush of a distant bear. A few moments later the voice of a man--very diminished and yet unmistakable--came pulsing down the mountain-side.

The girl rose as lightly, as gracefully as a fawn who, roused but not affrighted, stands on her imprint in the grass and waits and listens.

The man or men--for another voice could now be heard in answer--came rapidly on, and soon a couple of men and a small pack-train came out of a clump of thick trees at the head of a gulch, and, doubling backward and forward, descended swiftly upon the girl, who stood, with some natural curiosity, to let the travellers, whoever they might be, pass and precede her down to the valley. She resented them, for the reason that they cut short her reverie, her moment of spiritual peace.

The man who first appeared was a familiar type of the West, a small, lean, sharp-featured, foxy-eyed mountaineer, riding gracefully yet wearily--the natural horseman and trailer. Behind him two tired horses, heaped with a camp outfit, stumbled, with low-hanging heads, while at the rear, sitting his saddle sturdily rather than with grace, rode a young man bareheaded, but otherwise in the rough-and-ready dress of a plainsman. His eyes were on the sunset also, and something in the manner of his beard, as well as in the poise of his head, proclaimed him to be the master of the little train, a man of culture and an alien.

At sight of the girl he smiled and bowed with a look of frank and most respectful admiration, quite removed from the impudent stare of his guide. His hands were gloved, he wore a neat shirt, and his tie was in order--so much the girl saw as he faced her--and as he passed she apprehended something strong and manly in the lines of his back and shoulders. Plainly he was not to the saddle born, like the man ahead, and yet he was quite as bronzed and travel-worn.

A turn in the trail brought them both close under her feet, and again the man in the rear glanced up at the figure poised on the bowlder above him, and his eyes glowed once more with pleasure. There was in his look an expression of acknowledged kinship, as of one refined soul to another, a kind of subtle flattery which pleased while it puzzled the girl. Men with eyes of that appeal were not common in her world.

The bitter look vanished out of her face. She gazed after the trailer with the unabashed interest of a child, wondering who he might be. In that instant her soul, impressionable and eager, received and retained, like a sensitive plate, every line of his figure, every minute modelling of his face--even his fashion of saddle and the leather of his gun-case remained with her as food for reflection, and as she loitered down the trail a wish to know more about him rose in her heart. There was a kind of smiling ecstasy on his face before he saw her--as if he, too, were transported by the scene, and this expression came at last to be the chief revelation of his character.


The red went out of the sky. The golden eagle of cloud flew home over the illimitable seas of saffron, the purple shadows rose in the valleys, the lights of the town began to sparkle. Engine-bells clanged to and fro, and the strains of a saloon band rose to vex the girl's poetic soul with repugnant remembrances of the dance-hall. "I suppose he is only camping through," she thought, a little wistfully, referring back to the stranger. "I wish I knew who he is."

As she came down to the level of the stream its friendly roar cut off the ribald music and the clamor of the engines precisely as the bank shut away the visible town, leaving the little row of pretty cottages in the ward of the mountains and the martial, ranked, and towering firs.

At the foot of the trail a gray-haired woman met her. It was her mother, disturbed, indignant. "Viola Lambert, what do you mean by staying up there after dark? I'm all a-tremble over you."

"It isn't dark, mother," answered the girl; "and if it were, it isn't the first time I've been out alone."

Mrs. Lambert's voice softened. "Child, I can hardly see your face! You must not do such things. I don't mind your being out on horseback, but you must not go up there afoot. It is dangerous with all these tramp miners coming and going."

"Well, don't scold--I'm here safe and sound."

"I haven't had such a turn for years, Viola," the mother explained, as they waited side by side along the narrow walk. "I had an _impression_--so vivid--that I dropped my work and ran to find you. It was just as if you called me, asking for help. It seemed to me that some dreadful thing had happened to you."

"But nothing did. I went up to see the sunset. I didn't meet a soul." She ended abruptly, for she did not wish to retrace her sad reverie.

"Who were the two men who came down just now? They must have passed you."

"Yes, they passed me--I didn't know them. The one behind looked like an 'expert.' Perhaps he has come to examine the San Luis mine. Some one said they were expecting a man from England."

"He looked more like a Frenchman to me."

"It may be he is," answered Viola, restrainedly.

They turned in at a rustic gateway opening into the yard of a small and very pretty log-cabin which seemed a toy house, so minute was it in contrast to the mighty, fir-decked wall of gray and yellow rock behind it. Flowers had been planted along the path, and through the open door a red-shaded lamp shone like a poppy. Plainly it was the home of refined and tasteful women, a place where tall, rude men entered timidly and with apologies.

"Was there any mail?" asked the girl, as she put aside her hat.

"Not a thing."

The shadow deepened on her small, sensitive face. "Oh, why _don't the girls write? they should know how horribly lonely it is here. I'm tired of everything to-day, mother--perfectly stone-blue. I don't like what I am; I'm tired of church-work and the people here. I want to go back East; I want to change my life completely."

The mother, a handsome woman, with fresh, unlined face, made no reply to this outburst. "Gusta won't be back until late; we will have to get our own supper."

The girl seemed rather pleased at this opportunity to do something, and went to her work cheerfully, moving with such grace and lightness that the mother stood in doting admiration to watch her; she was so tall and lithe and full-bosomed--her one treasure.

As she worked, the shadow again lifted from the girl's face, a smile came back to her scarlet lips, and she sang underbreath as only a young maiden can sing to whom love is a wonder and marriage a far-off dream.

She recalled the look which lay on the face of the man who was riding with bared head in ecstasy of the scene above and below him; but, most of all, she dwelt upon the gracious and candid glance of admiration with which he greeted her and which he repeated as he disappeared below her to be seen no more.

This look went with her to her room, and as she sat at her window, which opened upon the river, she wondered whether he had gone into camp in the pine groves just below the bridge, or whether he had taken lodgings at the hotel.

She had lovers--no girl of her charm could move without meeting the admiring glances of men; but this stranger's regard was so much more subtly exalting--it held an impersonal quality--it went beyond her entire understanding, adding an element of mystery to herself, to him, and to the sunset.

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