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Sketch


  Parting was over at last, and all the good-bys had been spoken.
  Up the long hillside road the white-tented wagon moved slowly,
  Bearing the mother and children, while onward before them the
        father
  Trudged with his gun on his arm, and the faithful house-dog beside
        him,
  Grave and sedate, as if knowing the sorrowful thoughts of his
        master.


    April was in her prime, and the day in its dewy awaking:
  Like a great flower, afar on the crest of the eastern woodland,
  Goldenly bloomed the sun, and over the beautiful valley,
  Dim with its dew and shadow, and bright with its dream of a river,
  Looked to the western hills, and shone on the humble procession,
  Paining with splendor the children's eyes, and the heart of the
        mother.


    Beauty, and fragrance, and song filled the air like a palpable
        presence.
  Sweet was the smell of the dewy leaves and the flowers in the
        wild-wood,
  Fair the long reaches of sun and shade in the aisles of the forest.
  Glad of the spring, and of love, and of morning, the wild birds were
        singing:
  Jays to each other called harshly, then mellowly fluted together;
  Sang the oriole songs as golden and gay as his plumage;
  Pensively piped the querulous quails their greetings unfrequent,
  While, on the meadow elm, the meadow lark gushed forth in music,
  Rapt, exultant, and shaken with the great joy of his singing;
  Over the river, loud-chattering, aloft in the air, the kingfisher
  Hung, ere he dropped, like a bolt, in the water beneath him;
  Gossiping, out of the bank flew myriad twittering swallows;
  And in the boughs of the sycamores quarrelled and clamored the
        blackbirds.


    Never for these things a moment halted the Movers, but onward,
  Up the long hillside road the white-tented wagon moved slowly.
  Till, on the summit, that overlooked all the beautiful valley,
  Trembling and spent, the horses came to a standstill unbidden;
  Then from the wagon the mother in silence got down with her
        children,
  Came, and stood by the father, and rested her hand on his shoulder.


    Long together they gazed on the beautiful valley before them;
  Looked on the well-known fields that stretched away to the
        woodlands,
  Where, in the dark lines of green, showed the milk-white crest of
        the dogwood,
  Snow of wild-plums in bloom, and crimson tints of the red-bud;
  Looked on the pasture-fields where the cattle were lazily
        grazing,--
  Soft, and sweet, and thin came the faint, far notes of the
        cow-bells,--
  Looked on the oft-trodden lanes, with their elder and blackberry
        borders,
  Looked on the orchard, a bloomy sea, with its billows of blossoms.
  Fair was the scene, yet suddenly strange and all unfamiliar,
  As are the faces of friends, when the word of farewell has been
        spoken.
  Long together they gazed; then at last on the little log-cabin--
  Home for so many years, now home no longer forever--
  Rested their tearless eyes in the silent rapture of anguish.
  Up on the morning air no column of smoke from the chimney
  Wavering, silver and azure, rose, fading and brightening ever;
  Shut was the door where yesterday morning the children were
        playing;
  Lit with a gleam of the sun the window stared up at them blindly.
  Cold was the hearthstone now, and the place was forsaken and empty.
  Empty? Ah no! but haunted by thronging and tenderest fancies,
  Sad recollections of all that had been, of sorrow or gladness.


    Still they sat there in the glow of the wide red fire in the
        winter,
  Still they sat there by the door in the cool of the still summer
        evening,
  Still the mother seemed to be singing her babe there to slumber,
  Still the father beheld her weep o'er the child that was dying,
  Still the place was haunted by all the Past's sorrow and gladness!


    Neither of them might speak for the thoughts that came crowding
        their hearts so,
  Till, in their ignorant trouble aloud the children lamented;
  Then was the spell of silence dissolved, and the father and mother
  Burst into tears and embraced, and turned their dim eyes to the
        Westward.


Ohio, 1859.

William Dean Howells