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January 14 , 2008

The Golden Woman: A Story of the Montana Hills


AUNT MERCY An elderly woman looked up from the crystal globe before her. The sound of horse’s hoofs, clattering up to the veranda, had caught her attention. But the hard, gray eyes had not yet recovered their normal frigidity of expression. There were still traces in them of the groping mind, searching on, amidst the chaos of a world unseen. Nor was Mercy Lascelles posing at the trade which yielded her something more than her daily bread. She had no reason for pose. She was an ardent and proficient student of that remote science which has for its field of research the border-land between earthly life and the ultimate. For some moments she gazed half-vacantly through the window. Then alertness and interest came back to her eyes, and her look resumed its normal hardness. It was an unlovely face, but its unloveliness lay in its expression. There was something so unyielding in the keen, aquiline nose and pointed chin. The gray eyes were so cold. The pronounced brows were almost threatening in their marking and depression. There was not a feature in her face that was not handsome, and yet, collectively, they gave her a look at once forbidding, and even cruel. There was no softening, there never was any softening in Mercy Lascelles’ attitude toward the world now. Years ago she may have given signs of the gentler emotions of her woman’s heart. It is only reasonable to suppose that at some time or other she possessed them. But now no one was ever permitted beyond the harsh exterior. Perhaps she owed the world a grudge. Perhaps she hoped, by closing the doors of her soul, her attitude would be accepted as the rebuff she intended to convey. “Is that you, Joan?” she demanded in a sharp, masterful tone
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