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King Henry.
—“Let me embrace these sour adversities,
For wise men say it is the wisest course.”

King Henry VI.

It is a full mile, and up hill too! to John Sterling's
house, from where we started; and I have yet time,
before we enter the doors of our host-in-spite-of-himself,
to button-hole these 24,999 people and tell them
how it came about that John Sterling found this soft
valley far off there among the hills and, as it had been
a violet, plucked it for his own long delight.

John Sterling's essays, at college, were broad and open
and genial, like a breeze that blows with equal beneficence
upon the hot foreheads of the virtuous and the
sinful; and his speeches, hung with sparkling fancies
and mellow with calm sunlight, made his hearers feel as
if they were a-field early, in one of those charming old
sedge-fields that one finds in quiet corners of the plantations,
where the silver dew-drops and the golden
broom-sedge strive together to see whether the early
sunlight shall be mellow or sparkling. Now, because
all healthy men love sunlight and fresh breezes and
dew, all the college loved John Sterling, and he
them. Of course, John Sterling studied law — what
young man in our part of the country did not? —
and one day came to John Sterling, senior, with


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news that he had been admitted to the bar, with
credit. The old gentleman, in his bluff way, drew
a check and pushed it to John's side of the table,
remarking, “Well, my boy, I have foreseen it and prepared
for it. Here's a thousand or two that 'll open
your office for you, and so forth. Go to work and
make your fortune. When I tell you that your success
depends entirely upon yourself, I do not say anything
that ought to frighten a Sterling!”

John Sterling junior went forth and committed what
may be most properly called a chronological error. He
took a wife before he took any fees; surely a grand
mistake in point of time, where the fees are essentially
necessary to get bread for the wife! Nor was it
long before this mistake made itself apparent. Two
extra mouths, of little Philip and Felix Sterling, with
that horrid propensity to be filled which mouths will
exhibit spite of education and the spiritual in man,
appeared in his household; outgo began to exceed income;
clouds came to obscure the financial sky.

Even to those of us who are born to labor and know
it, it is yet a pathetic sight to see a man like John
Sterling going to his office every morning to sit there
all day face to face with the “horny-eyed phantom” of
unceasing drudgery, that has no visible end; to know
that every hour this man will have some fine yearning
beat back in his face by the Heenan-fists in this big
prize-ring we call the world, wherein it would seem
that toughness of nose-muscle, and active dodging do
most frequently come out with the purse and the

And how shall I speak of that first bill that John


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Sterling could not pay? The poor men in this crowd
will believe that when, a few minutes afterward, John
met his creditor on the street and did not look him in
the eye as they passed, he stopped suddenly short, gazed
for one hesitating moment at the pistols in the gunsmith's
shop-window there, then thought of wife, and
little Phil, and Felie at home yonder, and so walked on
to his business, with a final glance of piteous appeal up
towards the blue skies which smiled and smiled away
in infinite unconcern and did not send down the sun to
see about it!

Happy is he who, like John Sterling, has courage
under such circumstances to say broadly and without
subterfuge, “I cannot pay you, sir!” and so saves his
manhood's truth, wherewith to draw to himself a little
solace in the bitter hours.

But, one summer, the weather in the city grew diabolically
warm. Wife looked pale and the children languished.
John Sterling sware his great oath.

“Wife,” said he, “let the world end in the fall! but
we 'll go and spend this summer in the mountains!”

The world did not end in the fall; and John Sterling
brought back with him a new idea that helped to stave
off many a bitterness. In his explorations among the
mountains, of whose scenery he was passionately fond,
he had discovered the little valley, or cove, which has
been described. Many a night he would sit round the
fire in midst of wife and children and amuse himself by
building ideal houses on sites he had selected there, by
planning grounds and gardens and fountains, and the
like; into all of which wife entered, heart and soul, and
when the interest in the topic waned, would draw him


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back to it in her sweet artful way, by all manner of cunning
devices, because she saw that it served to chase
away the wintry look that in these days was beginning
to dwell in his face. “If we only had about three hundred
thousand, wife!” he would say, and a genial smile
as of old would overspread his face.

24,999, you will be glad to hear, in a general way, that
troubles and stories have their end; and, in a special
way, that one day when John Sterling came home to
dinner, his wife met him at the door, and with that extremely
reasonable procedure which women adopt when
they have important information to communicate, fell asobbing,
with her arms round his neck, insomuch that
she could not speak for a little while.

But it came out presently that one uncle Ralph of
hers had been sick years ago, and that she had tended
him and laid cool girlish hands upon his hot forehead
and so on, and that whereas he was rich, now he was
dead, and she was legatee!

Therefore, John Sterling built his house in Valley

And there it stands!

The Arabs say, the best description is that by which
the ear is converted into an eye: for saying which I am
infinitely obliged to the Arabs, because it gives me color
of title to beg these 24,999 that they shut their eyes and
listen; since I am bent on having a word or so on John
Sterling's house.

To-wit: Nature surely intended that a house should
be built here! For the mountain, half-way up whose
side the house lies, sends out a “bench,” or level shelf,
which then begins to slope and so gradually falls away


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down to the river's edge. Yonder, to the eastward, the
hills and ridges lean kindly to right and left, opening
so a vista through which one can see old Smoky and
the Bald and the other kingly peaks, each with his
group of smaller peaks and mountainlets around him,
like chieftains standing in midst of their clansmen when
Montrose caused the pibroch sound war through Scotland.
And here, below, lies the valley with its lake-like
river: shut in, far away yonder to the westward, by
ridges upon whose heads, every sunset, the sun lays his
last wavering beams of light, that are like the tremulous
thin fingers of an old man, dying and blessing his children.

This house acknowledges the majesty of the mountains,
and, feeling itself in the presence, scorns to display
any architectural flippancies or fripperies. Standing
severe in simple dignity, it somehow makes me think of
old Samuel Johnson, who took a chair and sat when the
king bade him, although the king stood up, and who,
when afterwards questioned about it, replied, “Yes, sir,
it was not my place to bandy civilities with my king!”
This house does not bandy civilities with the mountains,
but presents to them a simple reverential front, while
on the other side it turns to the valley a broad façade,
smiling with many windows and long Doric-pillared
colonnade. Small unadorned balconies present themselves
everywhere: whether one wish to admire the
chieftains over yonder marshalling their clans, or to
pity the foolish frightened river fleeing through the
upper end of the valley, or to amen the sun's blessing
upon the hills at the lower end, or to get a plenteous
smile from the rich meadows just beneath there, one


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will always find some balustraded niche or stand-point,
from which to look and be filled. One battlemented
tower rises up, as if the architect just wished to record
that he remembered the feudal castles among the
mountains. Parks are here in which are no tame deer,
but many a wild one; and over the hill, on the south
slope, the vineyards cling. Somehow the stables and outer
offices, though well-built, are cunningly hid; and rightly,
for here in the high presence of the primary intrinsically-beautiful,
no mere secondary economically-beautiful
should obtrude itself. In the rear rises up the
mountain, a benignant, overshadowing genius loci.


I am done with description; but I wish ye were all
in the music-room, for in this house Music is a house-hold-gold.
I think ye would say with me that even the
dumb walls were eloquent with the harmonies of fair
colors; and with John Keats, —

“Heard notes are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore ye soft pipes, play on,
Not to the sensual ear, but more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone!”

As John Sterling, his son and his two guests,
walked up the steps of his house, they turned and stood
still a moment, and saw the river below lying in the
arms of the brawny mountains and smiling up like a
blue-eyed child to those from whose loins it sprung. It
was a sight John Sterling could never brook without
saying some pretty thing.

“Look, gentlemen!” cried he, “It is like a Raphael's
Madonna in a gallery of dark Salvator Rosas!”

“It is like sweet Joan of Arc smiling in midst of the
grim knights of France!” said Cranston.


Page 25

“It is as if Liszt, in the rush of that storm-galop on
the piano, should suddenly glide away into a peaceful
Lied of Mendelssohn!” said Rübetsahl.

“Or like a sudden lull in a battle, during which one
hears a Sister of Mercy praying over a man just
killed!” said Philip.

“Aye, it is like a sunshiny Sabbath coming between
twelve stormy week-days. It is my Valley Beautiful.
Come, enter, Mr. Cranston. Mr. Rübetsahl, I had a
fancy to call my house Thalberg, because it belongs
equally to the mountain and the valley; and I bid
you welcome to it very heartily,” said princely John