The entire range of hills was covered with a dense and tangled timber-growth, save where the wood-cutters had cleared out a steep, rectangular space, and dotted it with pale-yellow lumber-piles, that looked as if nothing less than a miracle kept them from rolling over and over down to the bottom of the valley, or where the gray, irregular face of a precipice denied all foothold to the boldest roots. There was nothing smooth, swelling, or graceful, in the aspect of the range. They seemed, hills though they were, to be inspired with the souls of mountains, which were ever seeking to burst the narrow bounds that confined them. And, for his part, the professor liked them much better than if they had been mountains indeed. They gave an impression of greater energy and vitality, and were all the more comprehensible and lovable, because not too sublime and vast.
In another way, his garden afforded as much pleasure to the professor as his hills. From having planned and, in a great measure, made it himself, he took in it a peculiar pride and interest. He knew just the position of every plant and shrub, tree and flower, and in what sort of condition they were as regarded luxuriance and vigor. Sitting quietly in his chair, his fancy could wander in and out along the winding paths, mindful of each new opening vista or backward scene—of where the shadow fell, and where the sunshine slept hottest; could inhale the fragrance of the tea-rose bush, and pause beneath the branches of the elm-tree; the material man remaining all the while motionless, with closed eyelids, or, now and then, half opening them to verify, by a glance, some questionable recollection. This utilization, by the mental faculties alone, of knowledge acquired by physical experience, always produces an agreeable sub-consciousness of power—the ability to be, at the same time, active and indolent.
In about the centre of the garden, flopped and tinkled a weak-minded little fountain. The shrubbery partly hid it from view of the balcony, but the small, irregular sound of its continuous fall was audible in the quiet of the summer afternoons. Weak-minded though it was, Professor Valeyon loved to listen to it. It suited him better than the full-toned rush and splash of a heavier water-power; there was about it a human uncertainty and imperfection which brought it nearer to his heart. Moreover, weak and unambitious though it was, the fountain must have been possessed of considerable tenacity of purpose, to say the least, otherwise, doing so little, it would not have been persistent enough to keep on doing it at all. It was really wonderful, on each recurring year, to behold this poor little water-spout effecting neither more nor less than the year before, and with no signs of any further aspirations for the future.