A panorama of all shameful possibilities for one black moment floated before me. I remember this gave place to a wave, cold as death, that swept from head to foot; then Brainard's hands fell heavily on my shoulders.
"Thank God at least for this much," he said, hoarsely; "I didn't know at first but I had lost both friend and wife. But I see you know nothing. And indeed in my heart I knew all the time that you did not. Yet I had to come to you with my anger. And I remembered how you defended her. What explanation can you offer now?"
I got him to sit down after a while and tell me what little there was to tell. He had been away for a day's shooting, and when he returned he found only the per- plexed servants at home. A note was left for him. He showed it to me.
"There are times," it ran, "when we must do as we must, not as we would. I am go- ing to do something I have been driven to do since I left my home. I do not leave any message of love for you, because you would not care for it from a woman so weak as I. But it is so easy for you to be happy that I hope in a little while you will forget the wife who yielded to an influence past resisting. It may be madness, but I am not great enough to give it up. I tried to make the sacrifice, but I could not. I tried to be as gay as you, and to live your sort of life; but I could not do it. Do not make the effort to forgive me. You will be hap- pier if you simply hold me in the contempt I deserve."
I read the letter over and over. I do not know that I believe that the spirit of inani- mate things can permeate to the intelligence of man. I am sure I always laughed at such ideas. Yet holding that note with its shameful seeming words, I felt a conscious- ness that it was written in purity and love. And then before my eyes there came a scene so vivid that for a moment the office with its familiar furniture was obliterated. What I saw was a long firm road, green with mid- summer luxuriance. The leisurely thudding of my horse's feet sounded in my ears. Be- side me was a tall, black-robed figure. I saw her look back with that expression of deprivation at the sky line. "It's like liv- ing after the world has begun to die," said the pensive minor voice. "It seems as if part of the world had been taken down."
"Brainard," I yelled, "come here! I have it. Here's your explanation. I can show you a new meaning for every line of this letter. Man, she has gone to the moun- tains. She has gone to worship her own gods!"
Two weeks later I got a letter from Brain- ard, dated from Colorado.
"Old man," it said, "you're right. She is here. I found my mountain woman here where the four voices of her cataracts had been calling to her. I saw her the moment our mules rounded the road that commands the valley. We had been riding all night and were drenched with cold dew, hungry to desperation, and my spirits were of lead. Suddenly we got out from behind the gran- ite wall, and there she was, standing, where I had seen her so often, beside the little water- fall that she calls the happy one. She was looking straight up at the billowing mist that dipped down the mountain, mammoth saffron rolls of it, plunging so madly from the impetus of the wind that one marvelled how it could be noiseless. Ah, you do not know Judith! That strange, unsophisti- cated, sometimes awkward woman you saw bore no more resemblance to my mountain woman than I to Hercules. How strong and beautiful she looked standing there wrapped in an ecstasy! It was my primitive woman back in her primeval world. How the blood leaped in me! All my old romance, so dif- ferent from the common love-histories of most men, was there again within my reach! All the mystery, the poignant happiness were mine again. Do not hold me in con- tempt because I show you my heart. You saw my misery. Why should I grudge you a glimpse of my happiness? She saw me when I touched her hand, not before, so wrapped was she. But she did not seem surprised. Only in her splendid eyes there came a large content. She pointed to the dancing little white fall. 'I thought some- thing wonderful was going to happen,' she whispered, 'for it has been laughing so.'