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would, as they drew near the conclusion of their narrative, with bated breath intimate that something mysterious hung around the lakes; and several pronounced the place haunted — the ghost, unlike all others known to the spiritual world, being that of a fish. This strange and unearthly visitor, of immense size, had been often seen swimming in death-like silence along the shores of the middle lake, surrounded by shoal upon shoal of other fishes of inferior size. Its fins hardly seemed to move ; its tail motionless. Its progress at times was so slow that every scale upon its back might be counted ; and again it darted along with such inconceivable rapidity that a single Aash of light like a luminous speck lit up the whole lake, and in a moment subsided. There were few, if any, who returned who had seen the fish, but all had seen those who had caught a glimpse of it as it slowly swam along; and when once seen, and the eye of the fish had caught that of Indian or white man, woman or child, they began to feel a chill creep over the frame, soon the brain became involved, the imagination began to feel the cold waters engulf the whole body; the patient, struggling, like a person drowning in vast waters, grasped after a stick or a straw that floated by, and the wave of death settled upon the frame. There was nothing in the appearance of this fish to warrant such an effect. All described it as beautiful beyond description. Its face bore some resemblance to a woman's, and its eye was so wondrously beautiful, beaming out from the liquid blue with a deeper blue, so mildly and gently, with an almost human, imploring, beseeching expression, that it touched with sympathy the hearts of those who gazed. But one look at that lovely eye, more fatal than Circe's, and all was over. The Indians avoided, and still avoid that lake, though it abounds with fish, and fish is the principal part of the Lake Indian's food, and these are easily captured; they will not approach within miles of it. This statement, and the legends which romancers threw around the lake, instantly began to attract attention. Men are always attracted by the wonderful, and will endure more privations, hardships, and even suffering to know or see something they dread seeing, than for aught else. Soon the Blue Lakes began to become quite a place of resort, even of fashionable resort. Enterprise was not long in finding out that a road constructed thither would pay; and it was constructed. With a little perseverance it may be easily reached in a day and a half's travel from San Francisco. I have often wondered what fascination there could be to man in an unknown danger; or why it is the moment many persons are told of anything connected with the spiritworld, they eagerly seek to know all about it by ocular demonstration, even though it exposes them to hardships and evils they otherwise shrink from. Yet there are always those found who will rush after anything that promises to gratify their longing for the supernatural, however ridiculous the stories may be, with an intensity of zeal and earnestness not natural to them in other things. Is it not the deep feeling of the need we have of something beyond ourselves ? Is it not the stretching out of our God-given desires for a nobler world a something beyond this mere material sphere?
Among the rest a party once started from San Francisco to visit this wonderful spot. I will not say they believed any of the stories they had heard either of material or spiritual fish; in fact, they were disposed to place them in the category of “fish-stories.” One of them had travelled almost all over California, from Rogue River, in Oregon, to San Diego, and had gathered many of the legends of the former children of its mountains and plains. He felt desirous of tracing this one, if possible, to its source, as he had never visited this spot or any part of Lake county. Most of the Indian legends are entirely local — only to be gathered in the immediate vicinity of the places to which they refer. He was naturally anxious to see this place. The others were recent arrivals, fond of hunting and fishing, and were ready to go to any place where they might indulge in their favorite amusements. The time at which this trip was taken was in 1870, before the Northern Pacific Railroad had been completed to Cloverdale, and this party decided to make Healdsburg, a town in the centre of Sonoma county, the point of departure. To the lover of the beautiful in scenery, no place in the State of California presents a finer opportunity of gratifying the taste than Healdsburg. Situated in a fertile valley, approached on all sides by crossing the Russian River, which runs around it with the tortuous windings of a snake, and along whose banks vegetation grows in rank luxuriance — with a climate that vies with any in the world - it is the most varied and picturesque in its surroundings of any place we have visited in the State. Other places might present scenes superior in some one feature, but none combine so many that are attractive to the seeker of health or of pleasure. In two days' drive in the vicinity, every taste may drink in intoxicating draughts of rural beauty and grandeur. One drive to Skagg's Springs - noted for their healing virtues runs along Dry Creek, charming the eye with its green meadows and fruit-bearing orchards; then by the side of a gushing, gurgling brook, leaping and dancing and rushing and foaming along, full of fine trout. The drive to the Geysers, especially on the return trip by Foss Station, where Russian River and Sonoma valleys, with their wondrous wealth of vegetation, are seen far as the eye can reach, is world-wide in reputation. Another, up what is called Mill Creek road, shaded with giant old red-woods and alive with game and fish, affords fine sport for the gun and rod; and scattered along each of these roads, in little openings in the hills, are fairy-like vistas, little gleams of farm beauty, such as we see in painting, and almost wonder if the painter's brain has not conceived, not his eye seen, the loveliness he portrays. These farms are owned and occupied, too, by almost every variety of the genus homo found in that cosmopolitan State — the sturdy English yeoman and the whilom “tenant” from the Emerald Isle, the Italian vegetable-raiser and the shepherd from the Tyrol. There, too, is sometimes found the citizen of the “oldest agricultural country, and the best instructed in fertilising, of the world,” with his almond eye and long queue. At some farms we found them rough and uncouth, and in others most refined and cultivated, but in all frank and generous hospitality reigned supreme. The mountain or country air seems to inspire those who habitually breathe it with noble and generous dispositions, though they may be narrow in their views. The writer is a believer in the modifying influences of circumstances on the whole man, spiritual as well as mental and physical. No man can resist his surroundings entirely; they lay a hand on us almost as resistless as fate ; and our life, our actions and opinions result to a great extent from them. The ancients saw this and began to dream of fate, the Parcae, children of the night, daughters of necessity, to talk of destiny, weave legend upon legend of the influences the invisibles exert upon humanity. The moderns, no wiser, see the same, and begin to make statistics show that all evil is the result of natural laws, which they say cannot be stayed or prevented. And when theologians, wrapped up in their dogmas, refuse to see it, and looking out from their too often narrow code of ethics, condemn men who deviate from a groove of conformity to certain opinions and practices, they will always find the minds of thinkers, in whatever sphere of life they may be, revolt and turn to other extremes. The most fruitful cause of skepticism in the world is the Christian himself: first, his inconsistency, and secondly, his narrowness. Let the Christian overcome these, and infidelity will be a shadow. The free, the inspiring life of the country, bringing men into contact with the great book of nature as God made it, it has often been observed, softens and modifies their whole lives. We call them rough: it is generally the external that is so. We call them uncouth, but there is a well-spring of good feeling and honest sympathy, unknown to many who pride themselves on their external culture and attention to the minute details of social etiquette. They are all religious; we have never met a country-bred person who was not religious in feeling. One of our number was a clergyman, and in travelling over the hills on this tramp we often had the privilege of witnessing how a slight allusion to a loving Father and a dear Redeemer would call up the gleam of a religious light over the features of those who to all appearance never thought of church or churches as a matter of denominational warfare. Often did we see the tear glistening in the eyes of these people as he would put his hand on the heads of their children with a fervent ejaculation, “God bless thee, my child, and make thee His."
A few days were spent at Healdsburg. One night we were looking out of our window, which fronted toward Geyser or Sulphur Peak one of the loftiest peaks around the valley, and looks immediately down on the far-famed geysers of Sonoma county. As we watched the grand old giant almost hidden by the curtain of the night, yet lifting his grim head to the stars, so far above the others that his outline was discernible against the sky, we saw a light shoot up from its summit and then spread along its brow with great rapidity. The mountain was on fire. In a short time it was a grand sight; vast sheets of flame shot up to the very heavens, broke and fell back in golden showers. We could not but think of the beauty which a few monihs before adorned that mountain as we rode over it on a visit to the geysers. It was spring then, and green swards and bright green oaks bursting forth in vernal beauty, had welcomed us on our first visit. The sides, around which now swept this sea of flame, were then bright with thousands of variegated Howers. Wild lilacs, varying in color from a brilliant white to a subdued purple, grew in great abundance and wasted sweet odors to us. The morning after the imposing sight we started for Lake county. Furnishing ourselves with the material for camping and travel elsewhere enumerated, we hired a light but strong and compact wagon, drawn by two strong horses. Our provisions, our blankets, our guns, our cooking utensils filled it. “Not much room to move, but there is some hunting to be done, and that will take the kinks out of our legs,” says our Jehu. By-the-bye, a fine Jehu we have, full of fun, and regardless on whom he plays his pranks. Jehu is a philosopher in his way, that is, he “will not believe anything he can't see"; but like many other philosophers of the same stamp, only with a little more learning, he is exceedingly credulous about other things. Sometimes he rufiles our dignity - for his
. reverence is not great ; sometimes he rouses our indignation — for his dogmatism is a very positive one. If he knew who Comte was, he would be a willing disciple. As our Parson appears in blue overalls, short shooting-jacket, slouch hat, and jolly look, Jehu begs him “not to carry any sermons; they might break down the team, they were so heavy.” The Doctor is entreated to take a few pills along, “to work the team"; and “Sour Kraut," a German gentleman who accompanies us, and who is very fidgety at times, is appealed to “not to fly around like a pea on a hot griddle ;” at which the Teuton is anxious to know “vot for they puts peas on griddles for?” and when he learns it is a joke, scowls most magnificently at Jehu.
As we jog along, the Dominie impresses the fact on our minds that he has not fired off a gun for several years. Our countenances fall, for we depend on him for game. We see he is timid of his first attempt to supply our larder, and wishes to prepare us for disappointment. We are soon convinced that any dependence on Teuton would be useless; we did not travel far nor hunt long before we were all more in dread of his gun than hopeful of his game. He would insist on cocking both barrels of his gun every time a bird or bare was seen ; he would then catch the right-hand hammer and pull the left-hand trigger, when bang would go the gun, and our German friend would be seen standing the picture of dismay, with open mouth and grasping the hammer of his exploded barrel with death-like tenacity. . No amount of talking would make him careful; we could only take our chances for escape.
Our road led through a very beautiful undulating country: the Russian River bottom on the right, farms and vineyards lining the road. The purple fruit of the latter gleamed very invitingly through the green foliage of the vines, and arriving at the vineyard of a friend we supplied ourselves liberally with the delicious fruit. We passed Cloverdale, a town beautifully situated at the point where the Russian River debouches from the mountains and flows through the valley. The wagon-road diverges here; that to the left goes onward past Sanel and Ukiah to the extreme north. Leaving this road and Cloverdale to the left, we crossed the dry bed of the river, then over a mile of level road; and passing Sulphur creek, in the pellucid waters of which were a number of Indians bathing, and which we knew by experience were famous for trout, we pushed on up the mountain road, which we
were told was twelve miles long. Our intended encampment for the night was half way up this tedious road, at a ranch which had been occupied some time before, and the only one on the hill. Evening was coming on fast, our team was showing weariness, and it became doubtful whether we could reach a place where water was handy and food for our animals could be obtained before dark.
It was just dark when we reached our station. The Doctor recalled his experiences in the early days of California, and began preparations for supper. Jehu attended the horses, and to our German friend was awarded the privilege of being dish-washer. He was evidently not pleased with the situation — I have never seen a man that.
- but he could not cook, get wood and water, nor feed the horses. He filled his position creditably. The night came on rapidly. It was too dark to do justice to the cooking ; but hungry men are not severe critics, and we soon prepared for bed, and with a blanket spread upon the ground, sought “ tired nature's sweet restorer.'
The stars shone very brightly above us, the pleasant murmut of a brook a short distance from us soothed with its liquid music. The camp-fire gleamed out beneath the grand old oaks which were around us, and casting a fitful glare on their foliage above, they looked like vast arches deepening away until lost in the shadow of distance. Any one
who has slept under the trees in a clear atmosphere must have · noticed how near the sky seemed, when lying on the back looking
with upturned face. The heavens seem to “bow and come down,' and embrace us on every side; they appeared as if just above the tops of the trees, and the twinkling stars, like faint jets of light, throwing a dim radiance over our great chamber. The scene in all its quiet solemn beauty had so impressed us that none were sleepy but our knight of the dish-rag.
The conversation, at first general, .soon became confined to the parson and doctor, and naturally glided into the science of the stars : the gorgeous tracery of the heavens, mapped out in the far-off ages, perhaps under the clear skies of Chaldea, and afterwards transformed by the beautiful imaginings of the poetic Greek into many legends; and then we came to the achievements of modern astronomy. Rising on one arm, the Dominie called attention to the bright star Alpha, in the constellation Lyra, the dimensions of which are so vast. “ Well has Herschel declared,” said he, “the undevout astronomer is mad! Place its centre on the centre of our sun, and its circumference would overlap our earth half a million of miles."
A long shrill whistle, ending with something like “Whew, what a whopper!” broke from Jehu.
“Yei,” said the Doctor, “vast and grand as that is, it is but one sun, around which no doubt revolve orbs as much greater than this earth as is that sun greater than ours. And it is one only of thousands, ay, millions ; yet we puny men, the little inbabitants of one of the smallest spheres even of our own system, arrogate to ourselves so much of the Great Eternal's attention that we think He disrobed Himself of His glory and came and dwelt on this earth, to do what He has never yet done: keep us poor mortals from exhibiting our supreme selfishness. Can you as a sane being believe of so great