The Mauvaise Terre

The second evening after our departure we were far on our way, stopping for the night at the hut of a lonely trapper hid away among the steep inclines that shelter the perverse and tortuous Kickapoo. The next morning, getting an early start, we rode into the little village of Peoria, crossing the placid Illinois as the morning sun tipped the forest on its eastern shore. The fourth night found us, without adventure, a few miles from Little Sandy, and here, worn out with our long ride, we put up at a wayside tavern, half hidden by the overhanging trees. The next morning, impatient to complete our journey, we were in the saddle while the east was as yet scarce tinted with the coming of the summer day. Riding forward into the great plain, the morning mists hung white and trembling on the distant horizon, and this as if to hide the beauties of nature that lay beyond. Above these shadowy curtains, serene and far off, the placid heavens, half disclosed, looked down upon us in gentle salutation. Going on, and the day advancing, the soft murmurings and babble of the prairie filled our ears as with the breath of life. Nothing indeed was lacking to complete nature’s picture; the hum of insects, the chirruping of birds, the drone of wild bees gathering their winter stores. Inimitable throng! We felt its presence as we might that of the Great Creator.
“Surely God dwells here!” Fox exclaimed, half aloud, slowing his horse to a walk.
tumblr_ohohg8vgyi1qm31uro1_1280To this I bowed my head without speaking, feeling, indeed, that we were in His very presence.
“The prairie has its life and mysteries, Gilbert, great and unfathomable as the silent sea, and not less grand,” Fox went on, pulling up his horse.
Stopping to contemplate the tranquil scene, the odor of flowers and fragrant grasses and the smell of the sweet earth came to our grateful senses on the soft air like a welcome and benediction.
“It is nature’s breath, and with the perfume of all the ages,” Fox exclaimed, removing his hat.
Nor was this all, for round about us, and as if in welcome of our coming, the birds of the prairie and troops of meadowlarks in ecstasy of song flitted here and there, or with faces turned toward us perched swaying from some blossoming flower. Along the scarce-beaten path as we went slowly forward the midgets of the plain, emerging from their hiding-places, peered at us curiously from out the dew-laden grass, or sat bolt upright, staring beside their nests. Beyond these, in the quiet lakes, white with the morning mists, wild fowl watched from amid the reeds and round about them muskrats swam back and forth or sat perched on their housetops stroking their beards.
“See that old fellow with the pompadour!” Fox exclaimed, his mood changing; “there! sitting on the roof of his Queen Anne cottage. How much he resembles General Jackson! And I have no doubt will undermine every house in the pond, as the general has done with our finances, if any one dare make a face at him.”
“What foolish talk,” I answered, paying little heed to what he said.
“No; the muskrat is as serious as Mr. Jackson, and knows just as much about finance and good government.”
“Nonsense, Fox! General Jackson is a great man,” I answered, impatiently. NORFLOXACIN
“Yes, in some things; but there never was a man in office who knew less of its duties.”
“Well, he is a fine soldier that you will admit,” I answered, feeling about for some common ground on which we could stand.
“Yes; but all the air in heaven will not be enough to supply those who will sing his praises in the days to come, not as a soldier, but as a Statesman, with a great, big, fat, succulent S. He is to our liking, though—for if by chance freemen find a man with a genius for killing people, they straightway make him President or something of that kind. Fitness to the winds, my boy, tra la! Give me liberty or give me death, but in any event, something to worship, if it is only a seven-months’ calf.”
Not agreeing with Fox in anything he said, and indeed not knowing much about it one way or the other, I made no reply, and so the subject dropped. Stopping farther on to refresh our animals in the sweet waters of the gentle Mauvaise Terre, its dainty fish hurrying from their hiding-places, swam in and out about our horses’ feet, as if in greeting of these new monsters come to visit them in their quiet home. Beyond, on the sloping bank, a robin, old and gray, eyed us critically, and at last, as if seeing enough, gave a croak of warning and hopped briskly away. Farther up the steep incline, as if nature were determined to exhibit all her stores, a covey of quail ran scurrying across the way, but stopping on the other side, looked down on us, and curiously, as if having naught to fear. Abandoning ourselves to the dreamy sweetness of the hour, there came presently from out the topmost branches of a towering cottonwood the blackbirds’ swelling chorus, rising and falling on the morning air like an anthem of praise and thanksgiving, as indeed it was.
“How is that, Gilbert, compared with our Appletop choir?” Fox asked, shaking his head.
Not answering, I looked away; and far off, beneath an overhanging oak, a gentle doe, with her young beside her, stood drinking. Looking in that direction, Fox spoke again, but now soberly enough.
“See, Gilbert, in this Garden of Eden we are still thought to be harmless like the other animals; and to think,” he went on without stopping, “that such a world should be bartered for an apple with a worm in it! But hark!” and as he ceased there came to us, as in farewell and from some far-off place, the soft cooing of the turtle-dove, sweetest and saddest of all country sounds and fittest note of its remote and restful solitudes. Listening, but without speech, we rode on, and regretfully, loath to leave a scene so full of beauty and the fragrant sweetness of life.