I see a fresh snow-drift in a secret green valley between dark mountains. The sun must travel far and be risen high to reach it; but when it does, its rays pour down from near the zenith and are most powerful and warm; then in a little while the whole valley is green again and a white mist, rising from it, muffles the face of the sun.
Oh, Georgiana! Georgiana! Do not fade away from me as I draw you to me.
My last solitary candle flickers in the socket: it is in truth the end of the past.
Last summer I felled a dead oak in the woods and had the heart of him stored away for my winter fuel: a series of burnt-offerings to the worshipful spirit of my hearth-stone. There should have been several of these offerings already, for October is almost ended now, and it is the month during which the first cool nights come on in Kentucky and the first fires are lighted.
A few twilights ago I stood at my yard gate watching the red domes of the forest fade into shadow and listening to the cawing of crows under the low gray of the sky as they hurried home. A chill crept over the earth. It was a fitting hour; I turned in-doors and summoned Georgiana.
“We will light our first fire together,” I said, straining her to my heart.
Kneeling gayly down, we piled the wood in the deep, wide chimney. Each of us then brought a live coal, and together we started the blaze. I had drawn Georgiana’s chair to one side of the fireplace, mine opposite; and with the candles still unlit we now sat silently watching the flame spread. What need was there of speech? We understood.
By-and-by some broken wreaths of smoke floated, outward into the room. My sense caught the fragrance. I sniffed it with a rush of memories. Always that smell of smoke, with other wild, clean, pungent odors of the woods, had been strangely pleasant to me. I remember thinking of them when a boy as incense perpetually and reverently set free by nature towards the temple of the skies. They aroused in me even then the spirit of meditation on the mystery of the world; and later they became in-wrought with the pursuit and enjoyment of things that had been the delight of my life for many years. So that coming now, at the very moment when I was dedicating myself to my hearth-stone and to domestic life, this smell of wood smoke reached me like a message from my past. For an instant ungovernable longings surged over me to return to it. For an instant I did return; and once more I lay drowsing before my old camp-fires in the autumn woods, with the frosted trees draping their crimson curtains around me on the walls of space and the stars flashing thick in the ceiling of my bedchamber. My dog, who had stretched himself at my feet before the young blaze, inhaled the smoke also with a full breath of reminiscence, and lay watching me out of the corner of his eye—I fancied with reproachful constancy. I caught his look with a sense of guilt, and glanced across at Georgiana.