Richmond, June, 1856.
“If we shadows have offended, Think but this, (and all is mended,) That you have but slumbered here While these visions did appear; And this weak and idle theme No more yielding than a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend.”
THE LAST OF THE FORESTERS,
At apple orchard.
On a bright October morning, when the last century was rapidly going down hill, and all old things began to give way to the new, the sun was shining in upon the breakfast room at Apple Orchard with a joyous splendor, which, perhaps, he had never before displayed in tarrying at that domain, or any other.
But, about Apple Orchard, which we have introduced to the reader in a manner somewhat abrupt and unceremonious. It was one of those old wooden houses, which dot our valleys in Virginia almost at every turn—contented with their absence from the gay flashing world of cities, and raising proudly their moss-covered roofs between the branches of wide spreading oaks, and haughty pines, and locusts, burdening the air with perfume. Apple Orchard had about it an indefinable air of moral happiness and domestic comfort. It seemed full of memories, too; and you would have said that innumerable weddings and christenings had taken place there, time out of mind, leaving their influence on the old homestead, on its very dormer-windows, and porch trellis-work, and clambering vines, and even on the flags before the door, worn by the feet of children and slow grandfathers.
Within, everything was quite as old-fashioned; over the mantel-piece a portrait, ruffled and powdered, hung; in the corner a huge clock ticked; by the window stood a japanned cabinet; and more than one china ornament, in deplorably grotesque taste, spoke of the olden time.
This is all we can say of the abode of Mr. Adam Summers, better known as Squire Summers, except that we may add, that Apple Orchard was situated not very far from Winchester, and thus looked upon the beauty of that lovely valley which poor Virginia exiles sigh for, often, far away from it in other lands.
The sun shines for some time upon the well-ordered room, wherein the breakfast-table is set forth, and in whose wide country fire-place a handful of twigs dispel with the flame which wraps them the cool bracing air of morning; then the door opens, and a lady of some thirty autumns, with long raven curls and severe aspect, enters, sailing in awful state, and heralded by music, from the rattling keys which agitate themselves in the basket on her arm, drowning the rustle of her dress. This is Miss Lavinia, the Squire’s cousin, who has continued to live with him since the death of his wife, some years since.