A LANDSCAPE—SAD HOUSES AND SMILING HOUSES—POLITENESS IN CHINA—EIGHT SOUPS AT DESSERT—WIND MERCHANTS—ANOTHER IDEA OF THE PILOT’S—SUSAN, VICE SOPHIA.
Towards five o’clock next morning everything about Rockhouse was beginning to assume life and motion—within, all its inhabitants were already astir—without, little remained of the recent storm and inundation except that refreshing coolness, which, conjointly with the purified air, infuses fresh vigor, not only into men, but also into every living thing. The citrous, the aloes, and the Spanish jasmines perfumed the landscape. The flexible palms, the tall bananas, with their unbrageous canopy, the broad, pendant-leaved mangoes, and all the rank but luxuriant vegetation that clothed the land to the water’s edge, waved majestically under the gentle breeze that blew from the sea. The Jackal River unfolded its silvery band through the roses, bamboos, and cactii that lined its banks. The sun—for that luminary plays an important part in all Nature’s festivals—darted its rays on the soil still charged with vapor. Diamond drops sparkled in the cups of the flowers and on the points of the leaves. In the distance, pines, cedars, and richly-laden cocoa-nut trees filled up the background with their dark foliage. The swans displayed their brilliant plumage on the lake, the boughs of the trees were alive with parroquets and other winged creatures of the tropics. Add to the charms of this scene, Mrs. Becker returning from the prairie with a jar of warm, frothy milk—Mrs. Wolston and Mary busied in a multiplicity of household occupations, to which their white hands and ringing voices gave elegance and grace—Sophia tying a rose to the neck of a blue antelope which she had adopted as a companion—Frank distributing food to the ostriches and large animals, and admit, if there is a paradise on earth, it was this spot.
Compare this scene with that presented by any of our large cities at the same hour in the morning. In London or Paris, our dominion rarely extends over two or three dreary-looking rooms—a geranium, perhaps, at one of the windows to represent the fields and green lanes of the country; above, a forest of smoking chimneys vary the monotony of the zig-zag roofs; below, a thousand confused noises of waggons, cabs, and the hoarse voices of the street criers; probably the lamps are just being extinguished, and the dust heaps carted away, filling our rooms, and perhaps our eyes, with ashes; the chalk-milk, the air, and the odors are scarcely required to fill up the picture.
Breakfast was spread a few paces from Mr. Wolston’s bed, whom the two young girls were tending with anxious solicitude, and whose sickness was almost enviable, so many were the cares lavished upon him.
“You are wrong, Mrs. Becker,” said Mrs. Wolston, “to make yourself uneasy, the sea has become as smooth as a mirror since their departure.”