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EVERY State, and almost every county, of New England, has its Roaring Brook, -a mountain streamlet, overhung by woods, impeded by a mill, incumbered by fallen trees, but ever racing, rushing, roaring down through gurgling gullies, and filling the forest with its delicious sound and freshness; the drinking-place of home-returning herds; the mysterious haunt of squirrels and blue-jays; the sylvan retreat of school-girls, who frequent it on summer holidays, and mingle their restless thoughts, their overflowing fancies, their fair imaginings, with its restless, exuberant, and rejoicing stream.
Fairmeadow had no Roaring Brook. As its name indicates, it was too level a land for that. But the neighboring town of Westwood, lying more inland, and among the hills, had one of the fairest and fullest of all the brooks that
It was the boast of the neighborhood. Not to have seen it was to have seen no brook, no waterfall, no mountain ravine.
And, consequently, to behold it and admire, was Kavanagh taken by Mr. Churchill as soon as the summer vacation gave leisure and opportunity. The party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, and Alfred, in a one-horse chaise; and Cecilia, Alice, and Kavanagh, in a carryall, — the fourth seat in which was occupied by a large basket, containing what the Squire of the Grove, in Don Quixote, called his fiambreras,” – that magniloquent Castilian word for cold collation. Over warm uplands, smelling of clover and mint ; through cool glades, still wet with the rain of yesterday; along the river ; across the rattling and tilting planks of wooden bridges; by orchards; by the gates of fields, with the tall mullein growing at the bars ; by stone walls overrun with privet and barberries; in sun and heat, in shadow and coolness, -forward drove the happy party on that pleasant summer morning.
At length they reached the Roaring Brook. From a gorge in the mountains, through a long, winding gallery of birch, and beech, and pine, leaped the bright, brown waters of the jubilant streamlet; out of the woods, across the plain,
under the rude bridge of logs, into the woods again, — a day between two nights. With it went a song that made the heart sing likewise ; a song of joy, and exultation, and freedom ; a continuous and unbroken song of life, and pleasure, and perpetual youth. Like the old Icelandic Scald, the streamlet seemed to say: “I am possessed of songs such as neither the spouse of a king, or any son of man, can repeat; one of them is called the Helper; it will help thee at thy need, in sickness, grief, and all adversity."
The little party left their carriages at a farmhouse by the bridge, and followed the rough road on foot along the brook; now close upon it, now shut out by intervening trees. Mr. Churchill, bearing the basket on his arm, walked in front with his wife and Alfred. Kavanagh came behind with Cecilia and Alice. The music of the brook silenced all conversation ; only occasional exclamations of delight were uttered, — the irrepressible applause of fresh and sensitive natures, in a scene so lovely. Presently, turning off from the road, which led directly to the mill, and was rough with the tracks of heavy wheels, they went down to the margin of the brook.
“How indescribably beautiful this brown water is !” exclaimed Kavanagh. “It is like wine, or the nectar of the gods of Olympus ; as if the falling Hebe had poured it from her goblet.”
“More like the mead or metheglin of the northern gods,” said Mr. Churchill, “spilled from the drinking-horns of Valhalla."
But all the ladies thought Kavanagh’s comparison the better of the two, and in fact the best that could be made; and Mr. Churchill was obliged to retract and apologize for his allusion to the celestial ale-house of Odin.
Erelong they were forced to cross the brook, stepping from stone to stone, over the little rapids and cascades. All crossed lightly, easily, safely ; even “the sumpter mule,” as Mr. Churchill called himself on account of the pannier. Only Cecilia lingered behind, as if afraid
to cross. Cecilia, who had crossed at that same place a hundred times before, — Cecilia, who had the surest foot, and the firmest nerves, of all the village maidens, — she now stood irresolute, seized with a sudden tremor ; blushing, and laughing at her own timidity, and yet unable to advance. Kavanagh saw her embarrassment and hastened back to help her. Her hand trembled in his ; she thanked him with a gentle look and word. His whole soul was softened within him. His attitude, his countenance, his voice, were alike submissive and subdued. He was as one penetrated with tenderest emotions.
It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun. A thousand heralds proclaim it to the listening air ; a thousand ministers and messengers betray it to the eye. Tone, act, attitude, and look, — the signals upon the countenance,
the electric telegraph of touch ; all these betray the yielding citadel before the word itself is uttered, which, like the key surrendered, opens every avenue and gate of entrance, and makes retreat impossible! The day passed delightfully with all. They
forth, and a cold pastry, as large as that of the Squire of the Grove. During the repast, Mr. Churchill slipped into the brook, while in the act of handing a sandwich to his wife, which caused unbounded mirth ; and Kavanagh sat down on a mossy trunk, that gave way beneath him, and crumbled into powder. This, also, was received with great merriment.
After dinner, they ascended the brook still farther, — indeed, quite to the mill, which was not going. It had been stopped in the midst of its work. The saw still held its hungry teeth fixed in the heart of a pine. Mr. Churchill took occasion to make known to the company his long cherished purpose of writing a poem called " The Song of the Saw-Mill,” and enlarged on the beautiful associations of flood and forest connected with the theme. He delighted himself and his audience with the fine fancies he meant to weave into his poem, and wondered nobody had thought of the subject before. Kavanagh said it had been thought of before; and cited Kerner's little poem, so charmingly translated by Bryant. Mr. Churchill had not seen it. Kavanagh looked into his pocketbook for it, but it was not to be found; still he was sure that there was such a poem. Mr. Churchill abandoned his design. He had spoken, — and the treasure, just as he had touched it with his hand, was gone forever.
The party returned home as it came, all tired and happy, excepting little Alfred, who was tired and cross, and sat sleepy and sagging on his father's knee, with his hat cocked rather fiercely over his eyes.
the stones and the roots of trees. Cecilia read, from a volume she had brought with her, poems that rhymed with the running water. The other's listened and commented. Little Alfred waded in the stream, with his bare white feet, and launched boats over the falls. Noon had been fixed upon for dining ; but they anticipated it by at least an hour. The great basket was opened ; endless sandwiches were drawn
THE brown autumn came. Out of doors, it brought to the fields the prodigality of the golden harvest, — to the forest, revelations of light, - and to the sky, the sharp air, the morning mist, the red clouds at evening. Within doors, the sense of seclusion, the stillness of closed and curtained windows, musings by the fireside, books, friends, conversation, and the long meditative evenings. To the farmer, it brought surcease of toil, — to the scholar, that sweet delirium of the brain which changes toil to pleasure. It brought the wild duck back to the reedy marshes of the south; it brought the wild song back to the fervid brain of the poet. Without, the village street was paved with gold; the river ran red with the reflection of the leaves. Within, the faces of friends brightened the gloomy walls ; the returning footsteps of the long absent gladdened the threshold ; and all the sweet amenities of social life again resumed their interrupted reign.
Kavanagh preached a sermon on the coming of autumn. He chose his text from Isaiah, — " Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah ? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength ? Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat?”
To Mr. Churchill, this beloved season — this
Joseph with his coat of many colors, as he was fond of calling it - brought an unexpected guest, the forlorn, forsaken Lucy. The surmises of the family were too true.
She had wandered away with the Briareus of boots. She returned alone in destitution and despair; and often, in the grief of a broken heart, and a bewildered brain, was heard to say, —
"Oh, how I wish I were a Christian ! If I were only a Christian, I would not live any longer ; I would kill myself! I am too wretched!"
A few days afterwards, a gloomy-looking man rode through the town on horseback, stopping at every corner, and crying into every street, with a loud and solemn voice,
“ Prepare! prepare ! prepare to meet the living God!”
It was one of that fanatical sect, who believed the end of the world was imminent, and had prepared their ascension robes to be lifted up in clouds of glory, while the worn-out, weary world was to burn with fire beneath them, and a newer and fairer earth to be prepared for their inheritance. The appearance of this forerunner of the end of the world was followed by numerous camp-meetings, held in the woods near the village, to whose white tents and leafy chapels many went for consolation and found despair.
AGAIN the two crumbly old women sat and talked together in the little parlor of the gloomy house under the poplars, and the two girls sat above, holding each other by the hand, thoughtful, and speaking only at intervals.
Alice was unusually sad and silent. The mists were already gathering over her vision, -- those mists that were to deepen and darken as the season advanced, until the external world should be shrouded and finally shut from her view. Already the landscape began to wear a pale and sickly hue, as if the sun were withdrawing farther and farther, and were soon wholly to disappear, as in a northern winter. But to brighten this northern winter, there now arose within her a soft, auroral light. Yes, the auroral light of love, blushing through the whole heaven of her thoughts. She had not breathed that word to herself, nor did she recognize any thrill of passion in the new emotion she experienced. But love it was ; and it lifted her soul into a region, which she at once felt was native to it, -into a subtler ether, which seemed its natural element.
This feeling, however, was not all exhilaration. It brought with it its own peculiar languor and sadness, its fluctuations and swift vicissitudes of excitement and depression. To this the trivial circumstances of life contributed. Kavanagh had met her in the street, and had passed her without recognition ; and in the bitterness of the moment she forgot that she wore a thick veil, which entirely concealed her face. At an evening party at Mr. Churchill's, by a kind of fatality, Kavanagh had stood very near her for a long time, but with his back turned, conversing with Miss Hawkins, from whose toils, he was, in fact, though vainly, struggling to extricate himself; and, in the irritation of supposed neglect, Alice had said to herself:
6. This is the kind of woman which most fascinates men !”
But these cruel moments of pain were few and short, while those of delight were many and lasting. In a life so lonely, and with so little to enliven and embellish it as hers, the guest in
disguise was welcomed with ardor, and entertained without fear or suspicion. Had he been feared or suspected, he would have been no longer dangerous. He came as friendship, where friendship was most needed; he came as devotion, where her holy ministrations were always welcome.
Somewhat differently had the same passion come to the heart of Cecilia ; for as the heart is, so is love to the heart. It partakes of its strength or weakness, its health or disease. In Cecilia it but heightened the keen sensation of life. To all eyes, she became more beautiful, more radiant, more lovely, though they knew not why. When she and Kavanagh first met, it was hardly as strangers meet, but rather as friends long separated. When they first spoke to each other, it seemed but as the renewal of some previous interrupted conversation. Their souls flowed together at once, without turbulence or agitation, like waters on the same level. As they found each other without seeking, so their intercourse was without affectation and without embarrassment.
Thus, while Alice, unconsciously to herself, desired the love of Kavanagh, Cecilia as unconsciously assumed it as already her own. Alice keenly felt her own unworthiness; Cecilia made no comparison of merit. When Kavanagh was present, Alice was happy, but embarrassed ; Cecilia, joyous and natural. The former feared she might displease ; the latter divined from the first that she already pleased. In both this was the intuition of the heart.
So sat the friends together, as they had done so many times before. But now, for the first time, each cherished a secret, which she did not confide to the other. Daily, for many weeks, the feathered courier had come and gone from window to window, but this secret had never been intrusted to his keeping. Almost daily the friends had met and talked together, but this secret had not been told. That could not be confided to another, which had not been confided to themselves; that could not be fashioned into words, which was not yet fashioned into thoughts, but was still floating, vague and formless, through the mind. Nay, had it been stated in words, each, perhaps, would have denied it. The distinct
apparition of this fair spirit, in a visible form, would have startled them ; though while it haunted all the chambers of their souls as an invisible presence, it gave them only solace and delight.
“How very feverish your hand is, dearest!” said Cecilia. “What is the matter? Are
you unwell ?”
“ Those are the very words my mother said to me this morning, " replied Alice. "I feel rather languid and tired, that is all. I could not sleep last night; I never can, when it rains.”
“ Did it rain last night? I did not hear it.”
“ Yes; about midnight, quite hard. I listened to it for hours. I love to lie awake, and hear the drops fall on the roof, and on the leaves. It throws me into a delicious, dreamy state, which I like much better than sleep."
Cecilia looked tenderly at her pale face. Her eyes were very bright, and on each cheek was a crimson signal, the sight of which would have given her mother so much anguish, that, perhaps, it was better for her to be blind than to see.
“When you enter the land of dreams, Alice, you come into my peculiar realm. I am the queen of that country, you know. But, of late, I have thought of resigning my throne. These endless reveries are really a great waste of time and strength."
think so ?” “Yes; and Mr. Kavanagh thinks so, too. We talked about it the other evening; and afterwards, upon reflection, I thought he was right."
And the friends resolved, half in jest and half in earnest, that, from that day forth, the gate of their day-dreams should be closed. And closed it was, erelong; - for one, by the Angel of Life; for the other, by the Angel of Death!
The project of the new Magazine being heard of no more, and Mr. Churchill being consequently deprived of his one hundred and fifty thousand readers, he laid aside the few notes he had made for his papers on the Obscure Martyrs, and turned his thoughts again to the great Romance. A whole leisure Saturday afternoon was before him, — pure gold, without alloy. Ere beginning his task, he stepped forth into his garden to inhale the sunny air, and let his thoughts recede a little, in order to leap farther. When he returned, glowing and radiant with poetic fancies, he found, to his unspeakable dismay, an unknown damsel sitting in his arm-chair. She was rather gayly yet elegantly dressed, and wore a veil, which she raised as Mr. Churchill entered, fixing upon him the full, liquid orbs of her large eyes.
“ Mr. Churchill, I suppose ?” said she, rising, and stepping forward.
“ The same,” replied the schoolmaster, with dignified courtesy.
“And will you permit me,” she continued,
not without a certain serene self-possession, “ to introduce myself, for want of a better person to do it for me? My name is Cartwright, - Clarissa Cartwright.”
This announcement did not produce that powerful and instantaneous effect on Mr. Churchill which the speaker seemed to anticipate, or at least to hope. His eye did not brighten with any quick recognition, nor did he suddenly exclaim,
What! Are you Miss Cartwright, the poetess, whose delightful effusions I have seen in all the magazines ? ”
On the contrary, he looked rather blank and expectant, and only said,
“ I am very glad to see you ; pray sit down.”
So that the young lady herself was obliged to communicate the literary intelligence above alluded to, which she did very gracefully, and then added,
“I have come to ask a great favor of you, Churchill, which I hope you will not deny me. By the advice of some friends, I have collected