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by [?]

“I’ll show thee the best springs.”

A MAN who came back to the place of his birth in the East, after an absence of a quarter of a century in the West, said the one thing he most desired to see about the old homestead was the spring. This, at least, he would find unchanged. Here his lost youth would come back to him. The faces of his father and mother he might not look upon; but the face of the spring, that had mirrored theirs and his own so oft, he fondly imagined would beam on him as of old. I can well believe that, in that all but springless country in which he had cast his lot, the vision, the remembrance, of the fountain that flowed by his father’s doorway, so prodigal of its precious gifts, had awakened in him the keenest longings and regrets.

Did he not remember the path, also? for next to the spring itself is the path that leads to it. Indeed, of all foot-paths, the spring-path is the most suggestive.

This is a path with something at the end of it, and the best of good fortune awaits him who walks therein. It is a well-worn path, and, though generally up or down a hill, it is the easiest of all paths to travel: we forget our fatigue when going to the spring, and we have lost it when we turn to come away. See with what alacrity the laborer hastens along it, all sweaty from the fields; see the boy or girl running with pitcher or pail; see the welcome shade of the spreading tree that presides over its marvelous birth!

In the woods or on the mountain-side, follow the path and you are pretty sure to find a spring; all creatures are going that way night and day, and they make a path.

A spring is always a vital point in the landscape; it is indeed the eye of the fields, and how often, too, it has a noble eyebrow in the shape of an overhanging bank or ledge! Or else its site is marked by some tree which the pioneer has wisely left standing, and which sheds a coolness and freshness that make the water more sweet. In the shade of this tree the harvesters sit and eat their lunch, and look out upon the quivering air of the fields. Here the Sunday saunterer stops and lounges with his book, and bathes his hands and face in the cool fountain. Hither the strawberry-girl comes with her basket and pauses a moment in the green shade. The plowman leaves his plow, and in long strides approaches the life- renewing spot, while his team, that cannot follow, look wistfully after him. Here the cattle love to pass the heat of the day, and hither come the birds to wash themselves and make their toilets.

Indeed, a spring is always an oasis in the desert of the fields. It is a creative and generative centre. It attracts all things to itself,–the grasses, the mosses, the flowers, the wild plants, the great trees. The walker finds it out, the camping party seek it, the pioneer builds his hut or his house near it. When the settler or squatter has found a good spring, he has found a good place to begin life; he has found the fountain-head of much that he is seeking in this world. The chances are that he has found a southern and eastern exposure, for it is a fact that water does not readily flow north; the valleys mostly open the other way; and it is quite certain he has found a measure of salubrity, for where water flows fever abideth not. The spring, too, keeps him to the right belt, out of the low valley, and off the top of the hill.