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Page 125

21. XXI.

Every state, and almost every county, of
New England, has its Roaring Brook,—a mountain
streamlet, overhung by woods, impeded by
a mill, encumbered 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 schoolgirls,
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 neighbouring town of Westwood, lying
more inland, and among the hills, had one of the


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fairest and fullest of all the brooks that roar.
It was the boast of the neighbourhood. 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
mullen 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,


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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, nor 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 farm-house
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,


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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 the 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.

Ere long 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.


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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
sat upon 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 others 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


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it by at least an hour. The great basket
was opened; endless sandwiches were drawn
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


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into his pocket-book 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
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.