THE SHOULDER OF SHASTA by Bram Stoker
WHEN Mrs. Elstree was told that a suitable summer home had been found for her, a certain weight was lifted from her mind. The Doctor whom she had consulted in San Francisco as to her daughter’s health was emphatic in his direction that Esse should spend the coming summer high up on some mountain side, and that she should have iron and other natural tonics suitable to her anaemic condition. Dr. De Young suggested that on some of the spurs of Shasta, a spot might be found where the air was sufficiently bracing, and where the waters which lower down made the valleys green and bright with their crystal purity had the requisite volcanic qualities. Mrs. Elstree had passed by Shasta Mountain once, on her way from British Columbia, and had fallen somewhat under its spell.
It is certainly a wonderful mountain, and has a personality which is rare amongst mountains. The Matterhorn has such a quality, and so have Ranier and Mount Hood; but mountains generally have as little individuality as the items of a dish of peas.
An energetic friend volunteered to make search on Shasta, and after a fortnight’s absence telegraphed:
“Have found very spot for you and agreed purchase subject your approval–made deposit; price all told two thousand dollars; strongly advise purchase.” She immediately wired:
“Purchase. Cheque sent payable to you.” The friend was a wise, astute and businesslike agent, and when he returned to San Francisco just after an even month’s absence he brought with him the deeds of the estate. As to its beauties he would say nothing except an energetic “Wait. I may be wrong!” When further pressed he added:
“I went there to purchase for you, not myself; but if you don’t care about the buy, wire me and I’ll take the whole outfit at ten premium!”
The journey from San Francisco seemed to gain new beauty from experience. As the train, after leaving Sacramento, wound its way by the brawling river, its windows brushed by the branches of hazel and mountain-ash, the whole wilderness seemed like the natural pleasaunce of an old-world garden. The road took its serpentine course up and above its own track, over and over again, and the bracing air made the spirits of all the party more eager for a sight of the new summer home. The only exception was Miss Gimp, a good-hearted lady who had been governess of Esse up to the previous year, when she had arrived at her sixteenth birthday, and was now her mother’s secretary and companion. Miss Gimp was not altogether satisfied with the whole affair. She had not been consulted about the purchase, she had not even been asked, as an accessory after the fact, if she approved; and worst of all, she had not been there to see that everything was in good order. Mr. Le Maistre, who was Mrs. Elstree’s male factotum, steward, butler, agent, handy-man, engineer and courier, had gone on a week before with the furniture and household effects of all kinds and supplies wherewith to stock the pantry and wine-cellar. He was to meet them at Edgewood, with horses and ponies, and a suitable guide to bring them to the new house. As he had taken the Saratoga trunks, the present party went flying light as to baggage, and had only to look after their travelling bags and wraps. The live stock was in the special care of Miss Gimp and consisted of a terrier, three Persian cats, and a parrot.
It was but a little after mid-day when the train, winding up through the clearings, drew near the station at Edgewood. The scene was not altogether a promising one. There were too many old meat and vegetable tins scattered about; too many rugged tree-stumps sticking out of the weedy ground, already bare in patches under the heats of the coming summer; insufficient attention to pleasant detail everywhere, and an absolute lack of picturesqueness in the inclined plane formed of rough timber beside the track, and used for purposes of firing and watering the engines. In fact, the whole of the little clearing was in that stage of development when beauty stands equally apart from nature and utility. But there was one sufficient compensation for all the immediate squalor. Beyond, in the distance, rose the mighty splendour of Shasta Mountain, its snow-covered head standing clear and stark into the sapphire sky, with its foothills a mass of billowy green, and its giant shoulders seemingly close at hand when looked at alone, but of infinite distance when compared with the foreground, or the snowy summit.
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The Shoulder of Shasta at bramstoker.org