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The Choir Invisible   By: (1849-1925)

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by James Lane Allen

"O may I join the choir invisible Of those immortal dead who live again In minds made better by their presence. . . . . . feed pure love, Beget the smiles that have no cruelty, Be the sweet presence of a good diffused And in diffusion evermore intense. So shall I join the choir invisible Whose music is the gladness of the world."


THE middle of a fragrant afternoon of May in the green wilderness of Kentucky: the year 1795.

High overhead ridges of many peaked cloud the gleaming, wandering Alps of the blue ether; outstretched far below, the warming bosom of the earth, throbbing with the hope of maternity. Two spirits abroad in the air, encountering each other and passing into one: the spirit of scentless spring left by melting snows and the spirit of scented summer born with the earliest buds. The road through the forest one of those wagon tracks that were being opened from the clearings of the settlers, and that wound along beneath trees of which those now seen in Kentucky are the unworthy survivors oaks and walnuts, maples and elms, centuries old, gnarled, massive, drooping, majestic, through whose arches the sun hurled down only some solitary spear of gold, and over whose gray mossed roots some cold brook crept in silence; with here and there billowy open spaces of wild rye, buffalo grass, and clover on which the light fell in sheets of radiance; with other spots so dim that for ages no shoot had sprung from the deep black mould; blown to and fro across this wagon road, odours of ivy, pennyroyal and mint, mingled with the fragrance of the wild grape; flitting to and fro across it, as low as the violet beds, as high as the sycamores, unnumbered kinds of birds, some of which like the paroquet are long since vanished.

Down it now there came in a drowsy amble an old white bob tail horse, his polished coat shining like silver when he crossed an expanse of sunlight, fading into spectral paleness when he passed under the rayless trees; his foretop floating like a snowy plume in the light wind, his unshod feet, half covered by the fetlocks, stepping noiselessly over the loamy earth; the rims of his nostrils expanding like flexible ebony; and in his eyes that look of peace which is never seen but in those of petted animals.

He had on an old bridle with knots of blue violets hanging, down at his ears; over his broad back was spread a blanket of buffalo skin; on this rested a worn black side saddle, and sitting in the saddle was a girl, whom every young man of the town not far away knew to be Amy Falconer, and whom many an old pioneer dreamed of when he fell asleep beside his rifle and his hunting knife in his lonely cabin of the wilderness. She was perhaps the first beautiful girl of aristocratic birth ever seen in Kentucky, and the first of the famous train of those who for a hundred years since have wrecked or saved the lives of the men.

Her pink calico dress, newly starched and ironed, had looked so pretty to her when she had started from home, that she had not been able to bear the thought of wearing over it this lovely afternoon her faded, mud stained riding skirt; and it was so short that it showed, resting against the saddle skirt, her little feet loosely fitted into new bronze morocco shoes. On her hands she had drawn white half hand mittens of home knit; and on her head she wore an enormous white scoop bonnet, lined with pink and tied under her chin in a huge muslin bow. Her face, hidden away under the pink and white shadow, showed such hints of pearl and rose that it seemed carved from the inner surface of a sea shell. Her eyes were gray, almond shaped, rather wide apart, with an expression changeful and playful, but withal rather shrewd and hard; her light brown hair, as fine as unspun silk, was parted over her brow and drawn simply back behind her ears; and the lips of her little mouth curved against each other, fresh, velvet like, smiling... Continue reading book >>

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