Glimpse of a Summer Sea

When I awoke the next morning the yellow sunlight streamed into my window, as if to be first to make known the presence of a friend. Looking out, the blue sky, contemplative and mild, smiled upon me, and as if some other presence dwelt there of like serenity, but which no vicissitude of season or tempest could overcast. This welcome that the heavens hold out to country people is not imaginary, but real and sensible to the eye and heart, and its comfort and companionship make solitude sweet to them, oftentimes to the exclusion of other and more practical company. To all such it does not lessen the fellowship of the clouds that they are but storehouses of wind and rain. Their movement and change of shape make them attractive and companionable, though their forms take flight while we look. So at night, the moon and stars tell a story of their own, each having its office of friendship. However far off, their brightness and steadfast ways are not mere reflections of some distant object, but present companions, looking down in serenity, brightening when we smile and steadfast when we grieve, awaiting us always in their places, like friends to be found when needed. To city people, who see such things but imperfectly from the angles of buildings and deep-set streets, they lack these romantic attributes, but to him who dwells in the solitude of the country they are as I say.
From the first hour, Mr. and Mrs. Blake made me feel that I shared everything in common with them, and this in so simple a manner that it was but a little while before I was at home and as if I had known them always. In this way the deathly sinking of the heart we all have in early life when first separated from those we love, I found less hard to bear. For however much the young may stray, or however desolate their lives, there will never come a time when they will not feel this sickness of the heart, this pang of parting from those dear to them, as if the breath of life were forever leaving their bodies.
After breakfast the morning following my arrival it was determined to put aside all other things and give over the day to the pleasurable emotions of sight-seeing. All the belongings of the Blakes they were to show me, not grudgingly and little by little, as if of no account, but at once and in order as become the properties of those who grow old in contentment and honest industry. The house came first of all, and this was different, and in most things better than others round about—if others there could be when the nearest dwelling was miles away. Mr. Blake being a carpenter and having some skill as an architect, and being, moreover, of a domestic nature, had been at pains to bring from a distance the lumber and other needed things to make his home attractive. As if to make up for this extravagance, however, the structure was correspondingly small, so that its rooms afforded hardly space in which to move about. Among other things, he had been to some trouble to make the house secure, and this because of Mrs. Blake’s being much alone, so that in some respects it was a veritable fortress. Like the pioneer women of her day, however, she had no thought of fear any more than men have, and lived in her home, more often alone than otherwise, contented and happy, as Dido might have done before the new lover broke in upon the quiet of her life.
When we had viewed the house with great particularity, and more especially its treasures in the way of ornamentation and bits of furniture, we passed on to the garden. Here there were many fruit-trees, all healthful of growth and beginning to show signs of maturity. About these, but irregularly and where the sun could reach them, currant and gooseberry bushes added to the beauty of the place, as well as contributed something to the comforts of the table. These things coming more particularly within the scope of Mrs. Blake’s life, she cultivated them with this double purpose, and so skillfully that they stood out in the autumn air as if in pride at the dual office they thus happily filled. In respect of such things I have always thought, as others perhaps have, that shrubs are to trees what children are to men. Pliant and beautiful, we can do with them as we will. If cared for, they respond with bursting foliage and brilliant hue, but if neglected or improperly placed, their gaunt stems and shriveled leaves cry out against the treatment we accord them.
Going to the stable, we found it a small affair, like the house, but built wholly of logs and brush. Scattered about were other diminutive edifices and places of retreat and refreshment for animals, and of so great a number that they looked at a distance like a Hottentot village, such as we see in early books of travel. About these structures, and in the remote and secluded corners and places of vantage, chickens congregated, singly and in numbers, and amid such a carnival of cackling and desultory talk as I had never heard before. Running in from the yards and edges of the forest, they crowded about Mrs. Blake with such noisy exuberance of spirit that it was impossible to hear one’s voice, much less to think. In her, you could see, they recognized a benefactress and friend who knew and treasured them for all and more than they were worth. In return, it was as if they were every one filled with expectancy of labor, and the prospect it held out to their mistress of pin money such as no one had ever dreamed of before. Overjoyed, I lost no time in making up to these old friends, and in this sought out such offerings of food as I could find that came within the scope of their appetites. For they were dainty things, and accustomed to much refinement of fare, not regarding the coarser kinds of food with any relish whatsoever, so long as the grasses and forest yielded a profusion of delicate morsels in the way of succulent bugs and relishable insects that only needed a little running and craning of the neck to secure.
Mr. Blake’s likings tended altogether to horses and cattle, and of the former he owned a great number, though only the two he used were broken. The others, all fine animals, I volunteered to take hold of and fit for the saddle and harness; and this offer he hailed with pleasure when I told him I had been accustomed to such things at Wild Plum. In this way he would be able, he said, to market the animals, whereas now he could hardly give them away, men being too busy to properly break them. The appetites of these idle creatures, I soon discovered, were keen beyond all measure of reason, as if, like idle men, they needed more than those who worked or otherwise contributed to the common good. Of cows, the Blakes had many and of fine form, but save the two set apart for use, all ran wild with their calves, only the more sturdy surviving the neglect. For it was apparent they got no attention whatever, save grudgingly from the hired man, except as Mrs. Blake or her husband saw their needs, and this only occasionally. My small ideas of thrift were yet enough for me to see how little was being done to make the farm productive. For Mr. Blake’s earnings as a carpenter, it was apparent, were used to make up his losses as a farmer, and so he was making little or no headway, except in the rise of his land, which at best could not be much.
tumblr_of9u3jhkuo1qz6ekko1_1280However, not regarding this at all, he sought every occasion to add to his unproductive plant. Thus, the third day after my arrival we drove across the country to make inquiries in regard to an ass of gentle disposition, so it was advertised, that the owner desired to sell. Delighted with the animal, Mr. Blake bought him at sight, and everything being arranged, we tied our purchase to the tailboard of the wagon, and mounting to our seats, set out for home. Looking back after we had gone some distance, great was our astonishment to see the little animal braced on his legs and plowing the soft road with his sharp hoofs, refusing to lift even so much as a foot. Seeing how things were, Mr. Blake got down, and going to the animal, sought to encourage him in every way; and being satisfied at last, mounted to his seat, when we started forward as before. Without any better result, however; whereupon Mr. Blake got down again and fondled the animal as if he were a petted child. Then motioning me to go on, he followed, endeavoring, upon further show of stubbornness, to push the brute forward, but without any kind of success. Upon this we rested, striving meanwhile to coax the animal with such choice bits of food as our lunch-basket and the feed-box afforded. These bribes the ass devoured, and acceptably we thought; but when we sought to start, Mr. Blake walking alongside, clucking and making other demonstrations of encouragement such as should have mollified any reasonable creature, the animal refused to budge a foot. This I thought highly exasperating, for the day was cloudy and raw and such as quickly chills one perched high up, as I was, and not too warmly clad. At last, every device being without avail, Mr. Blake motioned me to go ahead, he following on behind, much disheartened, it was apparent, at the brute’s behavior. We had, however, gone but a little way when the donkey, striking an obstruction and refusing to bend his legs, toppled over and fell on his side; and as he made no effort to rise, I brought the wagon to a standstill, though reluctantly, I must confess. After some effort we succeeded in getting him to his feet, but going on a few yards, he fell over as before. Upon this, Mr. Blake motioned me to go ahead, which I did somewhat briskly, out of all patience with the brute. Soon the donkey’s skin showing evidence of wear, Mr. Blake tipped him over on the other side, I meantime driving on without appearing to notice what he was doing. In this way both sides of the brute were after a while worn free of hair, the hide, too, in many places showing signs of giving way. At sight of this, Mr. Blake called to me to halt, and together we lifted the brute to his feet, wrapping them about with straw and pieces of cloth. In this way, and going ahead with care, so as to avoid obstructions as much as possible, alternately pulling and dragging the animal, we finally reached home, much worn in body and spirit; to the very last, however, be it said, without any outbreak of temper on Mr. Blake’s part, so calm and unruffled was his nature. The ass, not a bit the worse for his hard usage, albeit his sides were wholly divested of skin, raised his voice in protestation once he was in the paddock, as if Beelzebub were come again. Nor did he cease his complaining with the going down of the sun, so that we scarce got a wink of sleep all that night. In a week’s time, however, he slept in the warm sun beside the barn as if born upon the place; but of value he had none whatever. This Mr. Blake did not much regard; he had the animal, and it presented a fine appearance in the paddock, and so he was content. Thus this obstinate animal lived on for many years, awakening the echoes of the forest with his mighty voice, dying finally at a ripe old age, much to his master’s regret.
Such things as these may seem apart and not of much interest, and very likely that is true enough; but to me they were everything, making up as they did my life when young, as they do, in fact, the lives of most country-bred youths. Looking back to it now, from under a fast-fading sun, its quiet and beauty, peaceful beyond measure, cause a sigh of regret as at some far-off vision that can never return, nor anything like unto it. When I had been in my new home some weeks, Mr. Blake fell into a habit of gazing upon me in a fixed, heavy way for hours at a time, and as if grieved at something beyond expression. Anxious as to the cause, I lost no time in speaking to Mrs. Blake about it, and what she said I thought remarkable; nor could I by any means understand it, or any part of it, so little do the young know the springs of human sympathy or liking. For it seemed that at the time of Constance’s and my first visit great patches of freckles covered my face, and in these Mr. Blake saw a dear resemblance to his dead son, who, it appeared, was similarly marked. Now, with return of strength, the freckles one by one fading out of my face, he watched their going with surprise at first and then with grief, until in the end, all being gone, it seemed to him as if he had lost his son anew. Encouraged by his wife, however, he after a while overcame his despondency, treating me with gentle kindness, as before, but never, I thought, with the warmth I had noticed in him at first. Mrs. Blake, happily, having no such cause of disappointment, grew in her liking for me, so she would often say, with each passing day. The reason of this was, I think, that matronly women, such as she, when deprived of children, ever thus regard with increasing interest the thing, whatever it may be, which they set apart to fill the void in their lives. Thus she regarded me, and each day redoubled her efforts to win my love, and in this was so completely successful that as long as she lived I never ceased to regard her with the tender affection her great heart merited. NORFLOXACIN HCL
One fair day soon after my coming, Constance rode out to make us a visit, emerging from the shadows of the trees like an angel of light, which indeed she was; for straightway the place seemed as if enchanted. Giving her scarce a minute to greet Mrs. Blake, I hurried her away to show her the farm, but more that I might have her to myself during the short time she was to stay. Forgetful of all else except the happiness of being together, we wandered hand in hand in the edge of the forest, till at last, tired out, we sat down beneath an oak to watch the sky and sleeping clouds—except, indeed, when we were looking into each other’s faces, which I know was the case most of the time. This until long after the hour when she should have started for home. Then, hastening, I brought her horse, and mounting one myself, rode beside her to the door of the Dragon, which we reached soon after dark. Returning as in a trance, I could not believe it night or that I was alone, for the sky was ablaze with stars, every one of which seemed to reflect back her image or to be the brighter for her having seen it.
The beauty of the Blakes’ surroundings was such as one does not often meet with at this time, though it was common enough before the forests that lined the great river were disturbed by the hand of man. On every side the farm was bordered about by tangled shrubbery and overhanging trees, and now, it being autumn, they were tinged with a thousand shades of color, not one remaining steadfast, but shifting with the varying light, revealing some new beauty with each changing reflection of the sun. On one side, upon a ridge of sand, oaks with gnarled and rugged sides lifted their giant forms, and about the other borders boxwood and ash, mingled with maple and elm, grew in picturesque confusion. Near by, on the very edges of the farm, elders and a thousand vagrant bushes struggled to outdo each other in growth and show of beauty. Farther out, in the stubble of the field, fat weeds, green as in midsummer, uplifted their heads defiantly, as if shouting to the passer-by, “See! after all, nothing comes of thrift.” In the meadow, and in homely confusion, wild sunflowers and rosin-weeds projected their stems high in the air, and upon these meadowlarks and bobolinks sat and sang the day through.
To one side of the farm, and along an old and abandoned highway, grasses and flowers spread quite across the sunken road, and on both its sides bushes crowded forward in confusion and such precipitancy of haste that in many places one could scarce make headway. Above this scramble of green the trees spread their limbs, and the sky peering down between their slender branches looked like a glimpse of some far-off summer sea.