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Love vs. Health
by [?]

ABOUT a mile from one of the Berkshire villages, and separated from it by the Housatonic, is one of the loveliest sites in all our old county. It is on an exhausted farm of rocky, irregular, grazing ground, with a meadow of rich alluvial soil. The river, which so nearly surrounds it as to make it a peninsula “in little,” doubles around a narrow tongue of land, called the “ox-bow”–a bit of the meadow so smooth, so fantastic in its shape, so secluded, so adorned by its fringe of willows, clematises, grape-vines, and all our water-loving shrubs, that it suggests to every one, who ever read a fairy tale, a scene for the revels of elves and fairies. Yet no Oberon–no Titania dwelt there; but long ago, where there are now some ruinous remains of old houses, and an uncouth new one, stood the first frame house of the lower valley of the Housatonic. It was inhabited by the last Indian who maintained the dignity of a Chief, and from him passed to the first missionary to the tribe. There Kirkland, the late honoured President of Harvard College, was born, and there his genial and generous nature received its first and ineffaceable impressions. Tenants, unknown to fame, succeeded the missionary.

The Indian dwelling fell to decay; and the property has now passed into the bands of a poet, who, rumour says, purposes transforming it to a villa, and whose occupancy will give to it a new consecration.

Just before its final high destiny was revealed, there dwelt there a rustic pair, who found out, rather late in life, that Heaven had decreed they should wear together the conjugal yoke. That Heaven had decreed it no one could doubt who saw how well it fitted, and how well they drew together.

They had one child–a late blossom, and cherished as such. Little Mary Marvel would have been spoiled, but there was nothing to spoil her. Love is the element of life, and in an atmosphere of love she lived. Her parents were people of good sense–upright and simple in their habits, with no theories, nor prejudices, ambitions, or corruptions, to turn the child from the inspirations of Heaven, with which she began her innocent life.

When little Mary Marvel came to be seven years old, it was a matter of serious consideration how she was to be got to the district school on “the plain” (the common designation of the broad village street), full a mile from the Marvels secluded residence. Mrs. Marvel was far better qualified than the teachers of the said school, to direct the literary training of her child. She was a strong-minded woman, and a reader of all the books she could compass. But she had the in-door farm-work to do–cheese to make, butter to churn, etc. and after little Mary had learned to read and spell, she must be sent to school for the more elaborate processes of learning–arithmetic, geography, etc.

“Now, Julius Hasen,” said Marvel to his only neighbour’s son, “don’t you want to call, as you go by, days, with your little sister, and take our Mary to school? I guess she won’t be a trouble. She could go alone; but, somehow, mother and I shall feel easier–as the river is to pass, &c.–if; you are willing.”

A kind boy was Julius; and, without hesitation, he promised to take Marvel’s treasure under his convoy. And, for the two years following, whenever the district school was in operation, Julius might be seen conducting the two little girls down the hill that leads to the bridge. At the bridge they loitered. Its charm was felt, but indefinable. It was a spell upon their senses; they would look up and down the sparkling stream till it winded far away from sight, and at their own pretty faces, that smiled again to them, and at Julius skittering the stones along the water, (a magical rustic art!) That old bridge was a point of sight for pictures, lovelier than Claude painted. For many a year, the old lingered there, to recall the poetry of their earlier days; lovers, to watch the rising and setting of many a star, and children to play out their “noon-times” and twilights. Heaven forgive those who replaced it with a, dark, dirty, covered, barn-like thing of bad odour in every sense! The worst kind of barbarians, those, who make war–not upon life, but upon the life of life–its innocent pleasures!