As Harlan emerged from the woods, where he had searched all afternoon for a black bear that might have existed only in his dreams, he paused in the high pasture and gazed into the airy gulf of the Mad River Valley. In all that expanse of drifting clouds, blowing grasses, grazing sheep, circling hawks, and green mountains receding away ridge beyond ridge, his eye caught on a moving speck down between the farmhouse and barn, a speck he recognized, even from this distance, as the Swedish girl rising from the pond in a long white shirt. He watched her intently, wishing he possessed the hawk’s acute vision. The girl bent over to wring out the tail of her shirt, shook out her tumble of damp hair, and then crossed the lawn toward the farmhouse with the languid, upright gait that reminded him of a browsing deer. Only when she disappeared into the house did he realize that he had been holding his breath.
Her name was Katarina, and Harlan thought of her as a girl in the same way he still thought of himself as a boy, even though both of them were nineteen, old enough to vote or fight in a war. With the sun dipping toward Black Bear Mountain, she would be going inside to heat water on the woodstove for soaking the widow’s feet. Mrs. Winfield, the widow, complained that she never could get warm here in Vermont, not even now in the dog days of August.
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