One September dark a household had gathered round their fireplace. and piled it high with the driftwood of mountain watercourses. the dry cones of the pine. and the splintered ruins of great trees that had come crashing down the precipice. Up the chimney roared the fire. and brightened the room with its wide blazing. The faces of the male parent and female parent had a sober gladfulness ; the kids laughed ; the eldest girl was the image of Happiness at 17 ; and the aged grandma. who sat knitting in the warmest topographic point. was the image of Happiness adult old. They had found the “herb. heart’s-ease. ” in the bleakest topographic point of all New England. This household were situated in the Notch of the White Hills. where the air current was crisp throughout the twelvemonth. and mercilessly cold in the winter. –giving their bungalow all its fresh bad weather before it descended on the vale of the Saco. They dwelt in a cold topographic point and a unsafe one ; for a mountain towered above their caputs. so steep. that the rocks would frequently rumble down its sides and galvanize them at midnight.
The girl had merely uttered some simple joke that filled them all with hilarity. when the air current came through the Notch and seemed to hesitate before their cottage–rattling the door. with a sound of howling and plaint. before it passed into the vale. For a minute it saddened them. though there was nil unusual in the tones. But the household were glad once more when they perceived that the latch was lifted by some traveler. whose footfalls had been unheard amid the drab blast which heralded his attack. and wailed as he was come ining. and went groaning off from the door. Though they dwelt in such a purdah. these people held day-to-day converse with the universe. The romantic base on balls of the Notch is a great arteria. through which the life-blood of internal commercialism is continually throbbing between Maine. on one side. and the Green Mountains and the shores of the St. Lawrence. on the other. The stage-coach ever drew up before the door of the bungalow.
The wayfarer. with no comrade but his staff. paused here to interchange a word. that the sense of solitariness might non absolutely overcome him ere he could go through through the cleft of the mountain. or make the first house in the vale. And here the teamster. on his manner to Portland market. would set up for the dark ; and. if a unmarried man. might sit an hr beyond the usual bedtime. and steal a buss from the mountain amah at separating. It was one of those crude tap houses where the traveler pays merely for nutrient and housing. but meets with a homely kindness beyond all monetary value. When the footfalls were heard. hence. between the outer door and the interior one. the whole household rose up. grandma. kids and all. as if about to welcome some one who belonged to them. and whose destiny was linked with theirs. The door was opened by a immature adult male. His face at first wore the melancholic look. about despondence. of one who travels a wild and black route. at nightfall and entirely. but shortly brightened up when he saw the charitable heat of his response. He felt his bosom spring frontward to run into them all. from the old adult female. who wiped a chair with her apron. to the small kid that held out its weaponries to him.
One glimpse and smiling placed the alien on a terms of guiltless acquaintance with the eldest girl. “Ah. this fire is the right thing! ” cried he ; “especially when there is such a pleasant circle unit of ammunition it. I am rather benumbed ; for the Notch is merely like the pipe of a great brace of bellows ; it has blown a awful blast in my face all the manner from Bartlett. ” “Then you are traveling towards Vermont? ” said the maestro of the house. as he helped to take a light backpack off the immature man’s shoulders. “Yes ; to Burlington. and far adequate beyond. ” replied he. “I meant to hold been at Ethan Crawford’s to-night ; but a prosaic lingers along such a route as this. It is no affair ; for. when I saw this good fire. and all your cheerful faces. I felt as if you had kindled it on intent for me. and were waiting my reaching. So I shall sit down among you. and do myself at place. ” The frank-hearted alien had merely drawn his chair to the fire when something like a heavy footfall was heard without. hotfooting down the steep side of the mountain. as with long and rapid paces. and taking such a spring in go throughing the bungalow as to strike the opposite precipice.
The household held their breath. because they knew the sound. and their guest held his by inherent aptitude. “The old mountain has thrown a rock at us. for fright we should bury him. ” said the landlord. retrieving himself. “He sometimes nods his caput and threatens to come down ; but we are old neighbours. and agree together reasonably good upon the whole. Besides we have a certain topographic point of safety hard by if he should be coming in good earnest. ” Let us now suppose the alien to hold finished his supper of bear’s meat ; and. by his natural felicitousness of mode. to hold placed himself on a terms of kindness with the whole household. so that they talked as freely together as if he belonged to their mountain brood. He was of a proud. yet soft spirit–haughty and reserved among the rich and great ; but of all time ready to crouch his caput to the humble bungalow door. and be like a brother or a boy at the hapless man’s hearth. In the family of the Notch he found heat and simpleness of feeling. the permeating intelligence of New England. and a poesy of native growing. which they had gathered when they little idea of it from the mountain extremums and chasms. and at the really threshold of their romantic and unsafe residence. He had travelled far and entirely ; his whole life. so. had been a lone way ; for. with the exalted cautiousness of his nature. he had kept himself apart from those who might otherwise hold been his comrades.
The household. excessively. though so sort and hospitable. had that consciousness of integrity among themselves. and separation from the universe at big. which. in every domestic circle. should still maintain a holy topographic point where no alien may irrupt. But this flushing a prophetic understanding impelled the refined and educated young person to pour out his bosom before the simple mountain climbers. and constrained them to reply him with the same free assurance. And therefore it should hold been. Is non the kindred of a common destiny a closer tie than that of birth? The secret of the immature man’s character was a high and absent aspiration. He could hold borne to populate an insignificant life. but non to be forgotten in the grave. Hankering desire had been transformed to trust ; and trust. long precious. had become like certainty. that. obscurely as he journeyed now. a glorification was to beam on all his tract. –though non. possibly. while he was steping it. But when descendants should stare back into the somberness of what was now the present. they would follow the brightness of his footfalls. brightening as meaner glorifications faded. and confess that a talented one had passed from his cradle to his grave with none to acknowledge him. “As yet. ” cried the stranger–his cheek radiance and his oculus blinking with enthusiasm–“as yet. I have done nil. Were I to disappear from the Earth to-morrow. none would cognize so much of me as you: that a unidentified young person came up at twilight from the vale of the Saco. and opened his bosom to you in the eventide. and passed through the Notch by dawn. and was seen no more. Not a psyche would inquire. ‘Who was he? Whither did the roamer travel? ’ But I can non decease boulder clay I have achieved my fate.
Then. allow Death come! I shall hold built my memorial! ” There was a continual flow of natural emotion. spurting Forth amid absent revery. which enabled the household to understand this immature man’s sentiments. though so foreign from their ain. With speedy esthesia of the farcical. he blushed at the ardour into which he had been betrayed. “You laugh at me. ” said he. taking the eldest daughter’s manus. and express joying himself. “You think my aspiration every bit absurd as if I were to stop dead myself to decease on the top of Mount Washington. merely that people might descry at me from the state unit of ammunition about. And. genuinely. that would be a baronial base for a man’s statue! ” “It is better to sit here by this fire. ” answered the miss. blushing. “and be comfy and contented. though nobody thinks about us. ” “I suppose. ” said her male parent. after a tantrum of chew overing. “there is something natural in what the immature adult male says ; and if my head had been turned that manner. I might hold felt merely the same. It is unusual. married woman. how his talk has set my caput running on things that are reasonably certain ne’er to come to go through. ” “Perhaps they may. ” observed the married woman. “Is the adult male believing what he will make when he is a widowman? ” “No. no! ” cried he. driving the thought with admonitory kindness. “When I think of your decease. Esther. I think of mine. excessively.
But I was wishing we had a good farm in Bartlett. or Bethlehem. or Littleton. or some other township round the White Mountains ; but non where they could topple on our caputs. I should desire to stand good with my neighbours and be called Squire. and sent to General Court for a term or two ; for a field. honest adult male may make every bit much good at that place as a attorney. And when I should be grown rather an old adult male. and you an old adult female. so as non to be long apart. I might decease happy plenty in my bed. and go forth you all shouting around me. A slate headstone would accommodate me every bit good as a marble one–with merely my name and age. and a poetry of a anthem. and something to allow people cognize that I lived an honest adult male and died a Christian. ” “There now! ” exclaimed the alien ; “it is our nature to want a memorial. be it slate or marble. or a pillar of granite. or a glorious memory in the cosmopolitan bosom of adult male. ” “We’re in a unusual manner. to-night. ” said the married woman. with cryings in her eyes. “They say it’s a mark of something. when folks’ heads go a roving so. Hark to the kids! ” They listened consequently. The younger kids had been put to bed in another room. but with an unfastened door between. so that they could be heard speaking busily among themselves.
One and all seemed to hold caught the infection from the fireside circle. and were outvying each other in wild wants. and infantile undertakings of what they would make when they came to be work forces and adult females. At length a small male child. alternatively of turn toing his brothers and sisters. called out to his female parent. “I’ll Tell you what I wish. female parent. ” cried he. “I want you and father and grandma’m. and all of us. and the alien excessively. to get down right off. and travel and take a drink out of the basin of the Flume! ” Cipher could assist express joying at the child’s impression of go forthing a warm bed. and dragging them from a cheerful fire. to see the basin of the Flume. –a creek. which tumbles over the precipice. deep within the Notch. The male child had barely spoken when a waggon rattled along the route. and stopped a minute before the door. It appeared to incorporate two or three work forces. who were heartening their Black Marias with the unsmooth chorus of a vocal. which resounded. in broken notes. between the drops. while the vocalists hesitated whether to go on their journey or set up here for the dark. “Father. ” said the miss. “they are naming you by name. ”
But the good adult male doubted whether they had truly called him. and was unwilling to demo himself excessively solicitous of addition by ask foring people to sponsor his house. He hence did non travel rapidly to the door ; and the cilium being shortly applied. the travelers plunged into the Notch. still singing and express joying. though their music and hilarity came back dismally from the bosom of the mountain. “There. female parent! ” cried the male child. once more. “They’d have given us a drive to the Flume. ” Again they laughed at the child’s dogged illusion for a dark meander. But it happened that a light cloud passed over the daughter’s spirit ; she looked soberly into the fire. and drew a breath that was about a suspiration. It forced its manner. in malice of a small battle to quash it. Then get downing and crimsoning. she looked rapidly round the circle. as if they had caught a glance into her bosom. The alien asked what she had been believing of. “Nothing. ” answered she. with a downcast smiling. “Only I felt lonesome merely so. ” “Oh. I have ever had a gift of experiencing what is in other people’s Black Marias. ” said he. half earnestly. “Shall I tell the secrets of yours?
For I know what to believe when a immature miss trembles by a warm fireplace. and complains of aloneness at her mother’s side. Shall I put these feelings into words? ” “They would non be a girl’s feelings any longer if they could be put into words. ” replied the mountain nymph. express joying. but avoiding his oculus. All this was said apart. Possibly a source of love was jumping in their Black Marias. so pure that it might bloom in Paradise. since it could non be matured on Earth ; for adult females worship such soft self-respect as his ; and the proud. contemplative. yet charitable psyche is oftenest captivated by simpleness like hers. But while they spoke quietly. and he was watching the happy unhappiness. the tripping shadows. the diffident longings of a maiden’s nature. the air current through the Notch took a deeper and drearier sound. It seemed. as the notional alien said. like the choral strain of the liquors of the blast. who in old Indian times had their home among these mountains. and made their highs and recesses a sacred part. There was a lament along the route. as if a funeral were go throughing.
To trail away the somberness. the household threw pine subdivisions on their fire. till the dry foliages crackled and the fire arose. detecting one time once more a scene of peace and low felicity. The light hovered about them lovingly. and caressed them all. There were the small faces of the kids. peeping from their bed apart and here the father’s frame of strength. the mother’s subdued and careful bearing. the high-browed young person. the budding miss. and the good old grandam. still knitting in the warmest topographic point. The elderly adult female looked up from her undertaking. and. with fingers of all time busy. was the following to talk. “Old folks have their impressions. ” said she. “as good as immature 1s. You’ve been wishing and planning ; and allowing your caputs run on one thing and another. boulder clay you’ve set my head a rolling excessively. Now what should an old adult female want for. when she can travel but a measure or two before she comes to her grave? Children. it will stalk me dark and twenty-four hours till I tell you. ” “What is it. mother? ” cried the hubby and married woman at one time.
Then the old adult female. with an air of enigma which drew the circle closer round the fire. informed them that she had provided her graveclothes some old ages before. –a nice linen shroud. a cap with a muslin frill. and everything of a finer kind than she had worn since her nuptials twenty-four hours. But this flushing an old superstitious notion had queerly recurred to her. It used to be said. in her younger yearss. that if anything were awry with a cadaver. if merely the frill were non smooth. or the cap did non put right. the cadaver in the casket and beneath the balls would endeavor to set up its cold custodies and arrange it. The bare idea made her nervous. “Don’t talk so. grandma! ” said the miss. shuddering.
“Now. ”–continued the old adult female. with remarkable seriousness. yet smiling queerly at her ain folly. –“I want one of you. my children–when your female parent is dressed and in the coffin–I want one of you to keep a looking-glass over my face. Who knows but I may take a glance at myself. and see whether all’s right? ” “Old and immature. we dream of Gravess and memorials. ” murmured the alien young person. “I inquire how seamans feel when the ship is droping. and they. unknown and insignificant. are to be buried together in the ocean–that broad and unidentified burial chamber? ” For a minute. the old woman’s ghastly construct so engrossed the heads of her listeners that a sound abroad in the dark. lifting like the boom of a blast. had grown wide. deep. and awful. before the fated group were witting of it. The house and all within it trembled ; the foundations of the Earth seemed to be shaken. as if this atrocious sound were the roll of the last trump. Young and old exchanged one wild glimpse. and remained an blink of an eye. picket. affrighted. without vocalization. or power to travel. Then the same scream explosion at the same time from all their lips. “The Slide! The Slide! ”
The simplest words must adumbrate. but non portray. the ineffable horror of the calamity. The victims rushed from their bungalow. and sought safety in what they deemed a safer spot–where. in contemplation of such an exigency. a kind of barrier had been reared. Alas! they had quitted their security. and fled right into the tract of devastation. Down came the whole side of the mountain. in a cataract of ruin. Merely before it reached the house. the watercourse broke into two branches–shivered non a window at that place. but overwhelmed the whole locality. blocked up the route. and annihilated everything in its awful class. Long ere the boom of the great Slide had ceased to howl among the mountains. the mortal torment had been endured. and the victims were at peace. Their organic structures were ne’er found. The following forenoon. the light fume was seen stealing from the bungalow chimney up the mountain side. Within. the fire was yet smoldering on the fireplace. and the chairs in a circle unit of ammunition it. as if the dwellers had but gone forth to see the desolation of the Slide. and would shortly return. to thank Heaven for their marvelous flight.
All had left separate items. by which those who had known the household were made to cast a tear for each. Who has non heard their name? The narrative has been told far and broad. and will everlastingly be a fable of these mountains. Poets have sung their destiny. There were fortunes which led some to say that a alien had been received into the bungalow on this atrocious dark. and had shared the calamity of all its inmates. Others denied that there were sufficient evidences for such a speculation. Woe for the high-souled young person. with his dream of Earthly Immortality! His name and individual absolutely unknown ; his history. his manner of life. his programs. a enigma ne’er to be solved. his decease and his being every bit a uncertainty! Whose was the torment of that decease minute?