Enter The Woman
From: The Virginian
"We are taking steps," said Mr. Taylor. "Bear Creek ain't going to be
hasty about a schoolmarm."
"Sure," assented the Virginian. "The children wouldn't want yu' to
But Mr. Taylor was, as I have indicated, a serious family man. The
problem of educating his children could appear to him in no light except
a sober one. "Bear Creek," he said, "don't want the experience they had
over at Calef. We must not hire an ignoramus."
"Sure!" assented the Virginian again.
"Nor we don't want no gad-a-way flirt," said Mr. Taylor.
"She must keep her eyes on the blackboa'd," said the Virginian, gently.
"Well, we can wait till we get a guaranteed article," said Mr. Taylor.
"And that's what we're going to do. It can't be this year, and it
needn't to be. None of the kids is very old, and the schoolhouse has got
to be built." He now drew a letter from his pocket, and looked at me.
"Are you acquainted with Miss Mary Stark Wood of Bennington, Vermont?"
I was not acquainted with her at this time.
"She's one we are thinking of. She's a correspondent with Mrs. Balaam."
Taylor handed me the letter. "She wrote that to Mrs. Balaam, and Mrs.
Balaam said the best thing was for to let me see it and judge for
myself. I'm taking it back to Mrs. Balaam. Maybe you can give me your
opinion how it sizes up with the letters they write back East?"
The communication was mainly of a business kind, but also personal,
and freely written. I do not think that its writer expected it to be
exhibited as a document. The writer wished very much that she could see
the West. But she could not gratify this desire merely for pleasure,
or she would long ago have accepted the kind invitation to visit Mrs.
Balaam's ranch. Teaching school was something she would like to do, if
she were fitted for it. "Since the mills failed" (the writer said) "we
have all gone to work and done a lot of things so that mother might keep
on living in the old house. Yes, the salary would be a temptation. But,
my dear, isn't Wyoming bad for the complexion? And could I sue them if
mine got damaged? It is still admired. I could bring one male witness AT
LEAST to prove that!" Then the writer became businesslike again. Even if
she came to feel that she could leave home, she did not at all know that
she could teach school. Nor did she think it right to accept a
position in which one had had no experience. "I do love children, boys
especially," she went on. "My small nephew and I get on famously. But
imagine if a whole benchful of boys began asking me questions that I
couldn't answer! What should I do? For one could not spank them all,
you know! And mother says that I ought not to teach anybody spelling,
because I leave the U out of HONOR."
Altogether it was a letter which I could assure Mr. Taylor "sized up"
very well with the letters written in my part of the United States. And
it was signed, "Your very sincere spinster, Molly Stark Wood."
"I never seen HONOR spelled with a U," said Mr. Taylor, over whose not
highly civilized head certain portions of the letter had lightly passed.
I told him that some old-fashioned people still wrote the word so.
"Either way would satisfy Bear Creek," said Mr. Taylor, "if she's
otherwise up to requirements."
The Virginian was now looking over the letter musingly, and with
"'Your very sincere spinster,'" he read aloud slowly.
"I guess that means she's forty," said Taylor.
"I reckon she is about twenty," said the Virginian. And again he fell to
musing over the paper that he held.
"Her handwriting ain't like any I've saw," pursued Mr. Taylor. "But Bear
Creek would not object to that, provided she knows 'rithmetic and George
Washington, and them kind of things."
"I expect she is not an awful sincere spinster," surmised the Virginian,
still looking at the letter, still holding it as if it were some token.
Has any botanist set down what the seed of love is? Has it anywhere been
set down in how many ways this seed may be sown? In what various vessels
of gossamer it can float across wide spaces? Or upon what different
soils it can fall, and live unknown, and bide its time for blooming?
The Virginian handed back to Taylor the sheet of note paper where a girl
had talked as the women he had known did not talk. If his eyes had
ever seen such maidens, there had been no meeting of eyes; and if such
maidens had ever spoken to him, the speech was from an established
distance. But here was a free language, altogether new to him. It
proved, however, not alien to his understanding, as it was alien to Mr.
We drove onward, a mile perhaps, and then two. He had lately been full
of words, but now he barely answered me, so that a silence fell upon
both of us. It must have been all of ten miles that we had driven when
he spoke of his own accord.
"Your real spinster don't speak of her lot that easy," he remarked. And
presently he quoted a phrase about the complexion, "Could I sue them
if mine got damaged?"' and he smiled over this to himself, shaking
his head. "What would she be doing on Bear Creek?" he next said. And
finally: "I reckon that witness will detain her in Vermont. And her
mother'll keep livin' at the old house."
Thus did the cow-puncher deliver himself, not knowing at all that the
seed had floated across wide spaces, and was biding its time in his
On the morrow we reached Sunk Creek. Judge Henry's welcome and his
wife's would have obliterated any hardships that I had endured, and I
had endured none at all.
For a while I saw little of the Virginian. He lapsed into his native way
of addressing me occasionally as "seh"--a habit entirely repudiated by
this land of equality. I was sorry. Our common peril during the runaway
of Buck and Muggins had brought us to a familiarity that I hoped was
destined to last. But I think that it would not have gone farther,
save for a certain personage--I must call her a personage. And as I am
indebted to her for gaining me a friend whose prejudice against me might
never have been otherwise overcome, I shall tell you her little story,
and how her misadventures and her fate came to bring the Virginian and
me to an appreciation of one another. Without her, it is likely I should
also not have heard so much of the story of the schoolmarm, and how that
lady at last came to Bear Creek.
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