“This other Eden,
demi-paradise, this fortress built by nature.”
Hidden away in this worn and care-encumbered world, scarred with its frequent traces of a primeval curse, are spots so quiet and beautiful as to make the fall of man seem incredible, and awaken in the breast of the weary traveler who comes suddenly upon them, a vague and dear delusion that he has stumbled into Paradise.
Such an Eden existed in the extreme western part of Ohio in the spring of eighteen hundred and forty-nine. It was a valley surrounded by wooded hills and threaded by a noisy brook which hastily made its way, as if upon some errand of immense importance, down to the big Miami not many miles distant. A road cut through a vast and solemn forest led into the valley, and entering as if by a corridor and through the open portal of a temple, the traveler saw a white farm-house nestling beneath a mighty hackberry tree whose wide-reaching arms sheltered it from summer sun and winter wind. A deep, wide lawn of bluegrass lay in front, and a garden of flowers, fragrant and brilliant, on its southern side. Stretching away into the background was the farm newly carved out of the wilderness, but already in a high state of cultivation. All those influences which stir the deepest emotion of the heart were silently operating here—quiet, order, beauty, power, life. It affected one to enter it unprepared in much the same way, only with a greater variety and richness of emotion, as to push through dense brush and suddenly behold a mountain lake upon whose bosom there is not so much as a ripple, and in whose silver mirror surrounding forests, flying water-fowl and the bright disk of the sun are perfectly reflected.
In this lovely valley, at the close of a long, odorous, sun-drenched day in early May, the sacred silence was broken by a raucous blast from that most unmusical of instruments, a tin dinner horn. It was blown by a bare-legged country boy who seemed to take delight in this profanation. By his side, in the vine-clad porch of the white farm-house stood a woman who shaded her eyes with her hand as she looked toward a vague object in a distant meadow. She was no longer young, but had exchanged the exquisite beauty of youth for the finer and more impressive beauty of maturity. As the light of the setting sun fell full upon her face it seemed almost transparent, and even the unobserving must have perceived that some deep experience of the sadness of life had added to her character an indescribable charm.
“Thee will have to go and call him, Stephen, for I think he has fallen into another trance,” the woman said, in a low voice in which there was not a trace of impatience, although the evening meal was waiting and the pressing work of the household had been long delayed.