Sunlight Patch

Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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He appeared an odd figure, sitting loosely on an old white mare which held her nose to the ground and cautiously single-footed over the uneven road. Unconcerned, perhaps unconscious that he bestrode a horse, his head was thrown back and his gaze penetrated the lace-work of branches to a sky exquisite blue where a few white, puffy clouds were aimlessly suspended. And, like these clouds, his thoughts hovered between unrealized hopes and the realistic mountains he was leaving; thoughts interwoven with ambitions which had obsessed his waking hours and glorified his dreams—dreams, desires, ambitions, always before his eyes but out of reach. His hair fell to the opened collar of a homespun shirt, and homespun were his trousers, tucked into a pair of homemade boots. His saddle bore an obscure brand of the United States army, for it had carried one of his people through the War of the States fifty years before, and across its pummel balanced a long, ungainly rifle of an earlier period.

It was an afternoon of that month when the spirit of Kentucky arises from the loamy soil after a recreating sleep of winter. The fragrance of the earth was everywhere. Overhead the trees met in great, silent arches—Nature's Gothic, re-frescoed now in the delicate tints of spring by the brush of Nature's Master—beneath which all life seemed breathlessly poised as though in this dim-lit, sun-dappled cathedral of the forest a mute service were in progress. But the man—he did not seem to see, or feel, or be. Thus, without a sound except for the muffled shuffle of the old mare's unshod hoofs, he rode.

They were coming down the mountain, he and the old white mare; coming down into the valley, into the "settlements"; and to-day marked the last stage of his journey from the center of those wild giants which had bounded the territory of his twenty-two years' existence. To-day he would emerge from the foothills into the open country; into the smiling country of his imagination, from somewhere in whose expanding fields now came the call of a toiling plowboy. It was this which finally brought him from his reverie in the sky, from his lofty dreams to the smell of earth.

Drawing down his gaze, he saw that here, indeed, was the open threshold of a new world, and his eyes distended with a veritable glory of sight. They had seen distance, but not like this. They had ranged from mountain peak to mountain peak, or across the scarred tops of intervening peaks to a skyline untamed even by the coaxing tints of rose and purple sunsets; but before him now lay distance of another kind: hills upon hills, 'twas true, yet low; and whose once rough lines were mellowed by the patient surgery of a hundred years of plowshares. Gentle slopes, and shallow valleys, and slopes again—not standing like his graven monsters of the Cumberlands, but lolling in peace and lazy unconcern, melting into the azure west so artfully that he could not be definitely sure where earth left off and sky began. And between these softly molded forms was no towering harshness at whose contemplation his eyes would intuitively have narrowed, but a subdued carpet of many fields, with here and there a nestling home. A grand, sweeping canvas, it might have been, whose browns of new-turned soil, whose light green tints of reborn orchards and sprouting wheat, were gracefully interrupted by the deeper tones of clustered trees—those remnants of primeval forest which the unintentional landscape gardeners of pioneer days had chanced to leave standing in this picturesque Kentucky valley.

A welcome seemed to rise from it like soothing fingers laid upon his brow and his frame drooped in extreme contentment; for it portrayed the country he had come to seek from his home back in that wilderness where bridle-paths are boulevards and primitive log cabins the mansions of his people. So he continued to sit spellbound, held between the satisfaction of lingering and the impulse to ride down into it, and to rest there as everything seemed to be resting in a soft growth of plenty....