to be legible to the delicate touch of a blind man's fingers,

Published on 2023-12-02 23:09:54 source:Spring Breeze and Summer Rain

We went by a southerly route, on account of starting so early in the season there was snow on the ground the day we left. On the second day, after a moonlight night on Long Island Sound, we were floating down the Delaware, between shores misty-green with buidding willows; then (most of us seasick, though I was not) we were tossed across Chesapeake Bay; then there was a railway ride to the Alleghanies, which gave us glimpses of the Potomac and the Blue Ridge, and of the lovely scenery around Harper's Ferry; then followed a stifling night on the mountains, when we were packed like sardines into a stagecoach, without a breath of air, and the passengers were cross because the baby cried, while I felt inwardly glad that one voice among us could give utterance to the general discomfort, my own part of which I could have borne if I could only have had an occasional peep out at the mountain-side. After that it was all river-voyaging, down the Monongahela into the Ohio, and up the Mississippi.

to be legible to the delicate touch of a blind man's fingers,

As I recall this part of it, I should say that it was the perfection of a Western journey to travel in early spring by an Ohio River steamboat,--such steamboats as they had forty years ago, comfortable, roomy, and well ordered. The company was social, as Western emigrants were wont to be when there were not so very many of them, and the shores of the river, then only thinly populated, were a constantly shifting panorama of wilderness beauty. I have never since seen a combination of spring colors so delicate as those shown by the uplifted forests of the Ohio, where the pure white of the dogwood and the peach- bloom tint of the red-bud (Judas tree) were contrasted with soft shades of green, almost endlessly various, on the unfolding leafage.

to be legible to the delicate touch of a blind man's fingers,

Contrasted with the Ohio, the Mississippi had nothing to show but breadth and muddiness. More than one of us glanced at its level shores, edged with a monotonous growth of cottonwood, and sent back a sigh towards the banks of the Merrimack. But we did not let each other know what the sigh was for, until long after. The breaking-up of our little company when the steamboat landed at Saint Louis was like the ending of a pleasant dream. We had to wake up to the fact that by striking due east thirty or forty miles across that monotonous Greenness, we should reach our destination, and must accept whatever we should find there, with such grace as we could.

to be legible to the delicate touch of a blind man's fingers,

What we did find, and did not find, there is not room fully to relate here. Ours was at first the roughest kind of pioneering experience; such as persons brought up in our well-to-do New England could not be in the least prepared for, though they might imagine they were, as we did. We were dropped down finally upon a vast green expense, extending hundreds of miles north and south through the State of Illinois, then known as Looking-Glass Prairie. The nearest cabin to our own was about a mile away, and so small that at that distance it looked like a shingle set up endwise in the grass. Nothing else was in sight, not even a tree, although we could see miles and miles in every direction. There were only the hollow blue heavens above us and the level green prairie around us,--an immensity of intense loneliness. We seldom saw a cloud in the sky, and never a pebble beneath our feet. If we could have picked up the commonest one, we should have treasured it like a diamond. Nothing in nature now seemed so beautiful to us as rocks. We had never dreamed of a world without them; it seemed like living on a floor without walls or foundations.

After a while we became accustomed to the vast sameness, and even liked it in a lukewarm way. And there were times when it filled us with emotions of grandeur. Boundlessness in itself is impressive; it makes us feel our littleness, and yet releases us from that littleness.

The grass was always astir, blowing one way, like the waves of the sea; for there was a steady, almost an unvarying wind from the south. It was like the sea, and yet even more wonderful, for it was a sea of living and growing things. The Spirit of God was moving upon the face of the earth, and breathing everything into life. We were but specks on the great landscape. But God was above it all, penetrating it and us with his infinite warmth. The distance from human beings made the Invisible One seem so near! Only Nature and ourselves now, face to face with Him!

We could scarcely have found in all the world a more complete contrast to the moving crowds and the whir and dust of the City of Spindles, than this unpeopled, silent prairie.

For myself, I know that I was sent in upon my own thoughts deeper than I had ever been before. I began to question things which I had never before doubted. I must have reality. Nothing but transparent truth would bear the test of this great, solitary stillness. As the prairies lay open to the sunshine, my heart seemed to lie bare beneath the piercing eye of the All-Seeing. I may say with gratitude that only some superficial rubbish of acquired opinion was scorched away by this searching light and heat. The faith of my childhood, in its simplest elements, took firmer root as it found broader room to grow in.

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