Chapter XLVIII. Idlewild

In the morning Nature appeared to have forgotten both her passion and her penitence, and smiled serenely over the havoc she had made, as if it were of no consequence.

Amy said, "Let us take the strong rockaway, call for Miss Hargrove, and visit some of the streams"; and she noted that Burt's assent was too undemonstrative to be natural. Maggie decided to go also, and take the children, while Leonard proposed to devote the day to repairing the damage to the farm, his brothers promising to aid him in the afternoon.

When at last the party left their carriage at one of the entrances of Idlewild, the romantic glen made so famous by the poet Willis, a stranger might have thought that he had never seen a group more in accord with the open, genial sunshine. This would be true of Maggie and the children. They thought of that they saw, and uttered all their thoughts. The solution of one of life's deep problems had come to Maggie, but not to the others, and such is the nature of this problem that its solution can usually be reached only by long and hidden processes. Not one of the four young people was capable of a deliberately unfair policy; all, with the exception of Amy, were conscious whither Nature was leading them, and she had thoughts also of which she would not speak. There was no lack of truth in the party, and yet circumstances had brought about a larger degree of reticence than of frankness. To borrow an illustration from Nature, who, after all, was to blame for what was developing in each heart, a rapid growth of root was taking place, and the flower and fruit would inevitably manifest themselves in time. Miss Hargrove naturally had the best command over herself. She had taken her course, and would abide by it, no matter what she might suffer. Burt had mentally set his teeth, and resolved that he would be not only true to Amy, but also his old gay self. His pride was now in the ascendant. Amy, however, was not to be deceived, and her intuition made it clear that he was no longer her old happy, contented comrade. But she was too proud to show that her pride was wounded, and appeared to be her former self. Webb, as usual, was quiet, observant, and not altogether hopeless. And so this merry party, innocent, notwithstanding all their hidden thoughts about each other, went down into the glen, and saw the torrent flashing where the sunlight struck it through the overhanging foliage. Half-way down the ravine there was a rocky, wooded plateau from which they had a view of the flood for some distance, as it came plunging toward them with a force and volume that appeared to threaten the solid foundations of the place on which they stood. With a roar of baffled fury it sheered off to the left, rushed down another deep descent, and disappeared from view. The scene formed a strange blending of peace and beauty with wild, fierce movement and uproar. From the foliage above and around them came a soft, slumberous sound, evoked by the balmy wind that fanned their cheeks. The ground and the surface of the torrent were flecked with waving, dancing light and shade, as the sunlight filtered through innumerable leaves, on some of which a faint tinge of red and gold was beginning to appear. Beneath and through all thundered a dark, resistless tide, fit emblem of lawless passion that, unchanged, unrestrained by gentle influences, pursues its downward course reckless of consequences. Although the volume of water passing beneath their feet was still immense, it was evident that it had been very much greater. "I stood here yesterday afternoon," said Burt, "and then the sight was truly grand."

"Why, it was raining hard in the afternoon!" exclaimed Miss Hargrove.

"Burt seemed even more perturbed than the weather yesterday," Amy remarked, laughing. "He was out nearly all the time. We were alarmed about him, fearing lest he should be washed away, dissolved, or something."

"Do I seem utterly quenched this morning?" he asked, in a light vein, but flushing deeply.

"Oh, no, not in the least, and yet it's strange, after so much cold water has fallen on you."

"One is not quenched by such trifles," he replied, a little coldly.

They were about to turn away, when a figure sprang out upon a rock, far up the stream, in the least accessible part of the glen. They all recognized Mr. Alvord, as he stood with folded arms and looked down on the flood that rushed by on either side of him. He had not seen them, and no greeting was possible above the sound of the waters. Webb thought as he carried little Ned up the steep path, "Perhaps, in the mad current, he sees the counterpart of some period in his past."

The bridge across the mouth of Idlewild Brook was gone, and they next went to the landing. The main wharf was covered with large stones and gravel, the debris of the flood that had poured over it from the adjacent stream, whose natural outlet had been wholly inadequate. Then they drove to the wild and beautiful Mountainville road, that follows the Moodna Creek for a long distance. They could not proceed very far, however, for they soon came to a place where a tiny brook had passed under a wooden bridge. Now there was a great yawning chasm. Not only the bridge, but tons of earth were gone. The Moodna Creek, that had almost ceased to flow in the drought, had become a tawny river, and rushed by them with a sullen roar, flanging over the tide was an old dead tree, on which was perched a fish-hawk. Even while they were looking at him, and Burt was wishing for his rifle, the bird swooped downward, plunged into the stream with a splash, and rose with a fish in his talons. It was an admirable exhibition of fearlessness and power, and Burt admitted that such a sportsman deserved to live.