CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THROUGH MASSACHUSETTS
There are several roads out of Pittsfield to Springfield, and if one asks a half-dozen citizens, who pretend to know, which is the best, a half-dozen violently conflicting opinions will be forthcoming.
The truth seems to be that all the roads are pretty good, - that is, they are all very hilly and rather soft. One expects the hills, and must put up with the sand. It is impossible to get to Springfield, which is far on the other side of the mountains, without making some stiff grades, - few grades so bad as Nelson's Hill out of Peekskill, or worse than Pride's Hill near Fonda; in fact, the grades through the Berkshires are no worse than many short stiff grades that are to be found in any rolling country, but there are more of them, and occasionally the road is rough or soft, making it hard going.
The road commonly recommended as the more direct is by way of Dalton and Hinsdale, following as closely as possible the line of the Boston and Albany; this winds about in the valleys and is said to be very good.
We preferred a more picturesque though less travelled route. We wished to go through Lenox, some six or seven miles to the south, and if anything a little to the west, and therefore out of our direct course.
The road from Pittsfield to Lenox is a famous drive, one of the wonders of that little world. It is not bad, neither is it good. Compared with the superb State road over the mountain, it is a trail over a prairie. As a matter of fact, it is just a broad, graded, and somewhat improved highway, too rough for fast speed and comfort, and on the Saturday morning in question dust was inches deep.
The day was fine, the country beautiful; hills everywhere, hills so high they were almost mountains. The dust of summer was on the foliage, a few late blossoms lingered by the roadside, but for the most part flowers had turned to seeds, and seeds were ready to fall. The fields were in stubble, hay in the mow and straw in the stack. The green of the hills was deeper in hue, the valleys were ripe for autumn.
People were flocking to the Berkshires from seashore and mountains; the "season" was about to begin in earnest; hotels were filled or rapidly filling, and Lenox - dear, peaceful little village in one of nature's fairest hollows - was most enticing as we passed slowly through, stopping once or twice to make sure of our very uncertain way.
The slowest automobile is too fast for so delightful a spot as Lenox. One should amble through on a palfrey, or walk, or, better still, pass not through at all, but tarry and dream the days away until the last leaves are off the trees. But the habit of the automobile is infectious, one goes on and on in spite of all attractions, the appeals of nature, the protests of friends. Ulysses should have whizzed by the Sirens in an auto. The Wandering Jew, if still on his rounds, should buy a machine; it will fit his case to a nicety; his punishment will become a habit; he will join an automobile club, go on an endurance contest, and, in the brief moments allowed him for rest and oiling up, will swap stories with the boys.
With a sigh of relief, one finishes a long day's run, thinking it will suffice for many a day to come; the evening is scarce over before elfin suggestions of possible rides for the morrow are floating about in the air, and when morning comes the automobile is taken out, - very much as the toper who has sworn off the night before takes his morning dram, - it just can't be helped.
Our way lay over October Mountain by a road not much frequented. In the morning's ride we did not meet a trap of any kind or a rider, - something quite unusual in that country of riders and drivers. The road seemed to cling to the highest hills, and we climbed up and up for hours. Only once was the grade so steep that we were obliged to dismount. We passed through no village until we reached the other side, but every now and then we would come to a little clearing with two or three houses, possibly a forlorn store and a silent blacksmith shop; these spots seemed even more lonely and deserted than the woods themselves. Man is so essentially a gregarious animal that to come upon a lone house in a wilderness is more depressing than the forests. Nature is never alone; it knows no solitude; it is a mighty whole, each part of which is in constant communication with every other part. Nature needs no telephone; from time immemorial it has used wireless telegraphy in a condition of perfection unknown to man. Every morning Mount Blanc sends a message to Pike's Peak, and it sends it on over the waters to Fujisan. The bosom of the earth thrills with nervous energy; the air is charged with electric force; the blue ether of the universe throbs with motion. Nature knows no environment; but man is fettered, a spirit in a cage, a mournful soul that seeks companionship in misery. Solitude is a word unknown to nature's vocabulary. The deepest recesses of the forest teem with life and joyousness until man appears, then they are filled with solitude. The wind-swept desert is one of nature's play-grounds until man appears, then it is barren with solitude. The darkest mountain cavern echoes with nature's laughter until man appears, then it is hollow with solitude. The shadow of man is solitude.
Instead of coming out at Becket as we expected, we found ourselves way down near Otis and West Otis, and passed through North Blandford and Blandford to Fairfield, where we struck the main road.