"I cannot precisely agree with you," said Clifford, courteously bowing

to the old gentleman, and at once taking up the clew of conversation

which the latter had proffered. "It had just occurred to me, on the

contrary, that this admirable invention of the railroad--with the vast

and inevitable improvements to be looked for, both as to speed and

convenience--is destined to do away with those stale ideas of home and

fireside, and substitute something better."

"In the name of common-sense," asked the old gentleman rather testily,

"what can be better for a man than his own parlor and chimney-corner?"

"These things have not the merit which many good people attribute to

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them," replied Clifford. "They may be said, in few and pithy words, to

have ill served a poor purpose. My impression is, that our wonderfully

increased and still increasing facilities of locomotion are destined to

bring us around again to the nomadic state. You are aware, my dear

sir,--you must have observed it in your own experience,--that all human

progress is in a circle; or, to use a more accurate and beautiful

figure, in an ascending spiral curve. While we fancy ourselves going

straight forward, and attaining, at every step, an entirely new

position of affairs, we do actually return to something long ago tried

and abandoned, but which we now find etherealized, refined, and

perfected to its ideal. The past is but a coarse and sensual prophecy

of the present and the future. To apply this truth to the topic now

under discussion. In the early epochs of our race, men dwelt in

temporary huts, of bowers of branches, as easily constructed as a

bird's-nest, and which they built,--if it should be called building,

when such sweet homes of a summer solstice rather grew than were made

with hands,--which Nature, we will say, assisted them to rear where

fruit abounded, where fish and game were plentiful, or, most

especially, where the sense of beauty was to be gratified by a lovelier

shade than elsewhere, and a more exquisite arrangement of lake, wood,

and hill. This life possessed a charm which, ever since man quitted

it, has vanished from existence. And it typified something better than

itself. It had its drawbacks; such as hunger and thirst, inclement

weather, hot sunshine, and weary and foot-blistering marches over

barren and ugly tracts, that lay between the sites desirable for their

fertility and beauty. But in our ascending spiral, we escape all this.

These railroads--could but the whistle be made musical, and the rumble

and the jar got rid of--are positively the greatest blessing that the

ages have wrought out for us. They give us wings; they annihilate the

toil and dust of pilgrimage; they spiritualize travel! Transition being

so facile, what can be any man's inducement to tarry in one spot? Why,

therefore, should he build a more cumbrous habitation than can readily

be carried off with him? Why should he make himself a prisoner for life

in brick, and stone, and old worm-eaten timber, when he may just as

easily dwell, in one sense, nowhere,--in a better sense, wherever the

fit and beautiful shall offer him a home?"