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Deserted 1898   By: (1850-1898)

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By Edward Bellamy


"What a glorious, all satisfying country this Nevada desert would be, if one were only all eyes, and had no need of food, drink, and shelter! Would n't it, Miss Dwyer? Do you know, I 've no doubt that this is the true location of heaven. You see, the lack of water and vegetation would be no inconvenience to spirits, while the magnificent scenery and the cloudless sky would be just the thing to make them thrive."

"But what I can't get over," responded the young lady addressed, "is that these alkali plains, which have been described as so dreary and uninteresting, should prove to be in reality one of the most wonderfully impressive and beautiful regions in the world. What awful fibbers, or what awfully dull people, they must have been whose descriptions have so misled the public! It is perfectly unaccountable. Here I expected to doze all the way across the desert, while in fact I 've grudged my eyes time enough to wink ever since I left my berth this morning."

"The trouble is," replied her companion, "that persons in search of the picturesque, or with much eye for it, are rare travelers along this route. The people responsible for the descriptions you complain of are thrifty businessmen, with no idea that there can be any possible attraction in a country where crops can't be raised, timber cut, or ore dug up. For my part, I thank the Lord for the beautiful barrenness that has consecrated this great region to loneliness. Here there will always be a chance to get out of sight and sound of the swarming millions who have already left scarcely standing room for a man in the East. I wouldn't give much for a country where there are no wildernesses left."

"But I really think it is rather hard to say in just what the beauty of the desert consists," said Miss Dwyer. "It is so simple. I scribbled two pages of description in my note book this morning, but when I read them over, and then looked out of the window, I tore them up. I think the wonderfully fine, clear, brilliant air transfigures the landscape and makes it something that must be seen and can't be told. After seeing how this air makes the ugly sagebrush and the patches of alkali and brown earth a feast to the eye, one can understand how the light of heaven may make the ugliest faces beautiful."

The pretty talker is sitting next the window of palace car No. 30 of the Central Pacific line, which has already been her flying home for two days. The gentleman who sits beside her professes to be sharing the view, but it is only fair I should tell the reader that under this pretense he is nefariously delighting in the rounded contour of his companion's half averted face, as she, in unfeigned engrossment, scans the panorama unrolled before them by the swift motion of the car. How sweet and fresh is the bright tint of her cheek against the ghastly white background of the alkali patches as they flit by! Still, it can't be said that he is n't enjoying the scenery too, for surely there is no such Claude Lorraine glass to reflect and enhance the beauty of a landscape as the face of a spirituelle girl.

With a profound sigh, summing up both her admiration and that despair of attaining the perfect insight and sympathy imagined and longed for which is always a part of intense appreciation of natural beauty, Miss Dwyer threw herself back in her seat, and fixed her eyes on the car ceiling with an expression as if she were looking at something at least as far away as the moon.

"I 'm going to make a statue when I get home," she said, "a statue which will personify Nevada, and represent the tameless, desolate, changeless, magnificent beauty and the self sufficient loneliness of the desert. I can see it in my mind's eye now. It will probably be the finest statue in the world."

"If you 'd as lief put your ideal into a painting, I will give you a suggestion that will be original if nothing else," he observed... Continue reading book >>

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