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the wind will take us—to idle away the day. You, Sir, (addressing me) are to have the honour of my society and special protection as commander of the boat, till I set you on this bank again at sunset— promising, however, before these gentlemen, that you will ask us no personal questions whatever during the voyage, and make no in'quiries of our name and whereabout after you have left us. This sacrifice of curiosity I consider necessary to my maidenly delicacy— otherwise compromised perhaps by this whimsical assault upon a stranger."
I had been left at the hotel that morning by a large party, who, after coming down the lake in the steam-boat—thirty miles through the rain, and all the time passed in the cabin—were content to rise at daylight and take coach for the Springs, without waiting even an hour or two to see the most beautiful sheet of water in the world by sunshine. I had been hurried from Niagara, 'and dragged past the Thousand Isles, and deprived of all but a mere glimpse of Montmorenci—but to leave Lake George in such a grocer's hurry—without touching one of its green islands, or looking once into its strangely transparent depths by a clear sky— it was the drop too much! I was missing when the coach drove up, and they went without me. ;There was no other visitor at the lonely hotel, and when the wheels were out of hearing, I felt for the first time in a month, the luxury of solitude.
• The sails filled and away we shot from the shore, the beautiful shallop stealing through the water as if, like the boat of the Witch of Atlas, some fairy influence
"had lit A living spirit within all its frame, Breathing the soul of swiftness into it.*'
'• I sat between the fair skipper and her father, in a dream of bewilderment. Their manner put me perfectly at ease, and the conversation went on as swimmingly as the keel, every topic heightened and freshened inexpressibly by the mystery of the acquaintance. There was no danger of a betrayal even of name, for they called each other by the familiar appellation, and " Constance," and " Arthur," and " Papa" soon became as used to my ears as if I had known them intimately from my boyhood.
I think I am "in" for a description. I don't very well see how T can let you off without it. If I were to report the gay conversation around the tiller, it would not be at all the same thing as the sweet toned bagatelle of a voice like a disguised enchanter's, and as I forget everything I said myself, and only remember here and there an observation of Mr Arthur and his venerable father, there would be a precious probability that two-thirds of the dialogue would be clear fancy—a quality I wish particularly to avoid in this narration. A description of the lake will both eke out the story and save me from the dilemma. You shall have it.
Imprimis—it is the most beautiful lake in America—and, seqvitur, the most beautiful spot in the world. Its thirty miles of length are more like a river than a lake—a river with mountain banks, its bosom studded with small green islands covered with the most lavish verdure and foliage, and its waters as clear and transparent almost as the atmosphere. You may see the long heavy pickerel moving drowsily about on the bottom at the depth of thirty feet, and the shoals of smaller fish scudding across your bow, and count the rocks and white crystals with which the lake abounds, as distinctly as if the element were not water, but air. Then the wooded shores are so near and so bold, and the islands are so many and so buried in leaves, that as your boat runs through the narrow channels, it seems to you as if you were floating among clouds, the shadows in the water of rock and tree and outline are such faultless resemblances. Like Wordsworth's swan, every gem of an island
Floats double, isle and shadow;and as you put out from the little pier at Caldwell (the place of the hotel at the south end of the lake) and pull away with a couple of smart oars for the north, islet after islet, not much larger than a parlour ottoman, steals out to your view, and so you may voyage on, hours and hours, spattering at every dip almost, some fairy shore, till your mind absolutely become surfeited with beauty. And with these general features I leave the rest to your imagination.
The breeze died away in the middle of the forenoon, and left us with our sails flapping against the mast, opposite a small island, fringed with beeches, and carpeted with short rich grass and moss— the prettiest flower for fairy feet in the world. At the bidding of our fair helmsman, I took an oar with Arthur, and three or four fair pulls brought us alongside, and covered the boat with the overhanging branches. The shade was deep and cool, and wespread the contents of a certain ambiguous looking hamper upon the cloth, and setting bottles of claret and champagne down by a rock in the water, prepared to pic-nic in the most rural insouciance. Oh those three or four or five hours—I don't know how long—they flew like hours in paradise! I was happier than I could expect to be again. And that superb creature—perfectly frank, and half gay half thoughtful —now running to the shore-edge for a flower, now noting some exquisite effect of light or shadow—laughing, moralizing, quoting poetry and glancing at sentiment—every thing unstudied and everything in taste— she was enough to ruin a whole Academy of cynics. We dined at the primitive hour of twelve, and spent the afternoon in reading and lounging, and at eight, just as the moon was rising, we embarked, and on a perfectly glassy surface, rowed slowly back to Caldwell, our lovely skipper grown a little penseroso, and mingling passages of songs with low-toned, beautiful conversation, more interesting and bewitching with every change of her humour.
We touched the pier. They looked at me with a smile. I was about breaking my promise, but she put her finger on her lip, and with a heart almost sick with regret, I shook hands hastily with them all, and sprang on shore.
"Push off," said she, in a tone of gayety. I looked at her as the gay word sounded harshly in my ear, and with something in her eye which I have the vanity to believe would have been a tear in a moment, she met my look, and smiled half sadly, and with a kiss of her white hand, turned away to the sway of the shallop.
I have never heard of them since. The landlord remarked that they were boarding privately at a farm house a mile back in the country, and that is all I know of them. They were people of the first cultivation, and the highest tone of breeding and courtesy I have ever met. I hope some day to see them. But after travelling through all the northern and middle cities since, and going much into society, but seeing no trace of them, I almost despair. I have recorded our delightful rencontre in the hope it may reach their eye. If it should, and they will send but a card to me, through the editor of this polite periodical, it will be the happiest hour I have known since I saw them, in which I back my valise for a journey.
It is my lot in life.—every thing comes to me fragmented and imperfect. I have encountered hundreds of these mere inklings of romance. Every stage coach, steam-boat, canal,—every hotel in a strange city gives me some beginning to an adventure. There is no denouement. I am a sort of travelling Tantalus. I shall die some day of sheer wonder! American Monthly Mag
Mv noon of life is fled at last,
I've stepp'd from out youth's magic ring.
My wonder-working wand away,
And face the cold reality
Which future years must bring.
It seem'd a very paradise
This melancholy world of ours,
O then what clouds, what skies! each stream
One never thought of friendship feign'd—
Or evil tongues, or silent ire—
Turn'd common-place to fairy tales—
On dead stoue.walls saw hills and dales,
And giants in the fire.
Yes! my noon-tide of life is past—
I've stepp'd from out youth's magic ring, And like the island lord have cast
My wonder-working wand away—
And face the cold reality
Which future years must bring.
Dahk is the sky with thunder-clouds,
While breathes that aged one
Amid the mountains lone,
And for the mercies shown
Hk little grandson calmly views
When the richest feasts are spread,
As o'er the peasant's bread,
Rests a toil-wearied head,
When mortal life is fled.