Putting sentiment out of the question, we had to leave unexplained why the American farmer should thus allow so much good building material to go to waste. Besides, as we also noted much farm machinery rusting unhoused in the grass, we wondered why he did not make use of these old buildings for storage purposes. But the American farmer has puzzled wiser heads than ours, so we gave it up and turned our attention once more to our own fanciful business, one highly useful branch of which was the observation of the names on the tin letter-boxes thrusting themselves out at intervals along the road.
The history of American settlement could, I suppose, be read in those wayside letter-boxes, in such names, for instance, as “Theo. Leveque” and “Paul Fugle,” which, like wind-blown exotics from other lands, we found within a few yards of each other. One name, that of “Silvernail,” we decided could only lawfully belong to a princess in a fairy tale. Such childishness as this, I may say, is of the essence of a walking trip, in which, from moment to moment, you take quite infantile interest in all manner of idle observation and quite useless lore. That is a part of the game you are playing, and the main thing is that you are out in the open air, on the open road, with a simple heart and a romantic appetite.
Here is a little picture of a wayfaring day which I made while Colin was sketching one of those ruined farms:
Apples along the highway strewn,
And morning opening all her doors;
The cawing rook, the distant train,
The valley with its misty floors;
The hillside hung with woods and dreams,
Soft gleams of gossamer and dew;
From cockcrow to the rising moon
The rainbowed road for me and you.
Along the highroad all the day
The wagons filled with apples go,
And golden pumpkins and ripe corn,
And all the ruddy overflow
From Autumn’s apron, as she goes
About her orchards and her fields,
And gathers into stack and barn
The treasure that the Summer yield.
A singing heart, a laughing road,
With salutations all the way,—
The gossip dog, the hidden bird,
The pig that grunts a gruff good-day;
The apple-ladder in the trees,
A friendly voice amid the boughs,
The farmer driving home his team,
The ducks, the geese, the uddered cows;
The silver babble of the creek,
The willow-whisper—the day’s end,
With murmur of the village street,
A called good-night, an unseen friend_.
ORCHARDS AND A LINE FROM VIRGIL
Orchards! We were walking to New York—through orchards. And we might have gone by train! A country of orchards and gold-dust sunshine falling through the quaint tapestry trees, falling dreamily on heaped-up gold, and the grave backs of little pigs joyously at large in the apple twilight. A drowsy, murmuring spell was on the land, the spell of fabled orchards, and of old enchanted gardens—