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The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 4 by Charles Dudley Warner

Part 2 out of 4

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Perhaps the boy has been out digging into the maple-trees with his
jack-knife; at any rate, he is pretty sure to announce the discovery
as he comes running into the house in a great state of excitement--as
if he had heard a hen cackle in the barn--with "Sap's runnin'!"

And then, indeed, the stir and excitement begin. The sap-buckets,
which have been stored in the garret over the wood-house, and which
the boy has occasionally climbed up to look at with another boy, for
they are full of sweet suggestions of the annual spring frolic,--the
sap-buckets are brought down and set out on the south side of the
house and scalded. The snow is still a foot or two deep in the
woods, and the ox-sled is got out to make a road to the sugar camp,
and the campaign begins. The boy is everywhere present,
superintending everything, asking questions, and filled with a desire
to help the excitement.

It is a great day when the cart is loaded with the buckets and the
procession starts into the woods. The sun shines almost
unobstructedly into the forest, for there are only naked branches to
bar it; the snow is soft and beginning to sink down, leaving the
young bushes spindling up everywhere; the snowbirds are twittering
about, and the noise of shouting and of the blows of the axe echoes
far and wide. This is spring, and the boy can scarcely contain his
delight that his out-door life is about to begin again.

In the first place, the men go about and tap the trees, drive in the
spouts, and hang the buckets under. The boy watches all these
operations with the greatest interest. He wishes that sometime, when
a hole is bored in a tree, the sap would spout out in a stream as it
does when a cider-barrel is tapped; but it never does, it only drops,
sometimes almost in a stream, but on the whole slowly, and the boy
learns that the sweet things of the world have to be patiently waited
for, and do not usually come otherwise than drop by drop.

Then the camp is to be cleared of snow. The shanty is re-covered
with boughs. In front of it two enormous logs are rolled nearly
together, and a fire is built between them. Forked sticks are set at
each end, and a long pole is laid on them, and on this are hung the
great caldron kettles. The huge hogsheads are turned right side up,
and cleaned out to receive the sap that is gathered. And now, if
there is a good "sap run," the establishment is under full headway.

The great fire that is kindled up is never let out, night or day, as
long as the season lasts. Somebody is always cutting wood to feed
it; somebody is busy most of the time gathering in the sap; somebody
is required to watch the kettles that they do not boil over, and to
fill them. It is not the boy, however; he is too busy with things in
general to be of any use in details. He has his own little sap-yoke
and small pails, with which he gathers the sweet liquid. He has a
little boiling-place of his own, with small logs and a tiny kettle.
In the great kettles the boiling goes on slowly, and the liquid, as
it thickens, is dipped from one to another, until in the end kettle
it is reduced to sirup, and is taken out to cool and settle, until
enough is made to "sugar off." To "sugar off" is to boil the sirup
until it is thick enough to crystallize into sugar. This is the
grand event, and is done only once in two or three days.

But the boy's desire is to "sugar off" perpetually. He boils his
kettle down as rapidly as possible; he is not particular about chips,
scum, or ashes; he is apt to burn his sugar; but if he can get enough
to make a little wax on the snow, or to scrape from the bottom of the
kettle with his wooden paddle, he is happy. A good deal is wasted on
his hands, and the outside of his face, and on his clothes, but he
does not care; he is not stingy.

To watch the operations of the big fire gives him constant pleasure.
Sometimes he is left to watch the boiling kettles, with a piece of
pork tied on the end of a stick, which he dips into the boiling mass
when it threatens to go over. He is constantly tasting of it,
however, to see if it is not almost sirup. He has a long round
stick, whittled smooth at one end, which he uses for this purpose, at
the constant risk of burning his tongue. The smoke blows in his
face; he is grimy with ashes; he is altogether such a mass of dirt,
stickiness, and sweetness, that his own mother would n't know him.

He likes to boil eggs in the hot sap with the hired man; he likes to
roast potatoes in the ashes, and he would live in the camp day and
night if he were permitted. Some of the hired men sleep in the bough
shanty and keep the fire blazing all night. To sleep there with
them, and awake in the night and hear the wind in the trees, and see
the sparks fly up to the sky, is a perfect realization of all the
stories of adventures he has ever read. He tells the other boys
afterwards that he heard something in the night that sounded very
much like a bear. The hired man says that he was very much scared by
the hooting of an owl.

The great occasions for the boy, though, are the times of "sugaring-
off." Sometimes this used to be done in the evening, and it was made
the excuse for a frolic in the camp. The neighbors were invited;
sometimes even the pretty girls from the village, who filled all the
woods with their sweet voices and merry laughter and little
affectations of fright. The white snow still lies on all the ground
except the warm spot about the camp. The tree branches all show
distinctly in the light of the fire, which sends its ruddy glare far
into the darkness, and lights up the bough shanty, the hogsheads, the
buckets on the trees, and the group about the boiling kettles, until
the scene is like something taken out of a fairy play. If Rembrandt
could have seen a sugar party in a New England wood, he would have
made out of its strong contrasts of light and shade one of the finest
pictures in the world. But Rembrandt was not born in Massachusetts;
people hardly ever do know where to be born until it is too late.
Being born in the right place is a thing that has been very much

At these sugar parties every one was expected to eat as much sugar as
possible; and those who are practiced in it can eat a great deal. It
is a peculiarity about eating warm maple sugar, that though you may
eat so much of it one day as to be sick and loathe the thought of it,
you will want it the next day more than ever. At the "sugaring-off "
they used to pour the hot sugar upon the snow, where it congealed,
without crystallizing, into a sort of wax, which I do suppose is the
most delicious substance that was ever invented. And it takes a
great while to eat it. If one should close his teeth firmly on a
ball of it, he would be unable to open his mouth until it dissolved.
The sensation while it is melting is very pleasant, but one cannot

The boy used to make a big lump of it and give it to the dog, who
seized it with great avidity, and closed his jaws on it, as dogs will
on anything. It was funny the next moment to see the expression of
perfect surprise on the dog's face when he found that he could not
open his jaws. He shook his head; he sat down in despair; he ran
round in a circle; he dashed into the woods and back again. He did
everything except climb a tree, and howl. It would have been such a
relief to him if he could have howled. But that was the one thing he
could not do.



It is a wonder that every New England boy does not turn out a poet,
or a missionary, or a peddler. Most of them used to. There is
everything in the heart of the New England hills to feed the
imagination of the boy, and excite his longing for strange countries.
I scarcely know what the subtle influence is that forms him and
attracts him in the most fascinating and aromatic of all lands, and
yet urges him away from all the sweet delights of his home to become
a roamer in literature and in the world, a poet and a wanderer.
There is something in the soil and the pure air, I suspect, that
promises more romance than is forthcoming, that excites the
imagination without satisfying it, and begets the desire of
adventure. And the prosaic life of the sweet home does not at all
correspond to the boy's dreams of the world. In the good old days, I
am told, the boys on the coast ran away and became sailors; the
countryboys waited till they grew big enough to be missionaries, and
then they sailed away, and met the coast boys in foreign ports.
John used to spend hours in the top of a slender hickory-tree that a
little detached itself from the forest which crowned the brow of the
steep and lofty pasture behind his house. He was sent to make war on
the bushes that constantly encroached upon the pastureland; but John
had no hostility to any growing thing, and a very little bushwhacking
satisfied him. When he had grubbed up a few laurels and young tree-
sprouts, he was wont to retire into his favorite post of observation
and meditation. Perhaps he fancied that the wide-swaying stem to
which he clung was the mast of a ship; that the tossing forest behind
him was the heaving waves of the sea; and that the wind which moaned
over the woods and murmured in the leaves, and now and then sent him
a wide circuit in the air, as if he had been a blackbird on the tip-
top of a spruce, was an ocean gale. What life, and action, and
heroism there was to him in the multitudinous roar of the forest, and
what an eternity of existence in the monologue of the river, which
brawled far, far below him over its wide stony bed! How the river
sparkled and danced and went on, now in a smooth amber current, now
fretted by the pebbles, but always with that continuous busy song!
John never knew that noise to cease, and he doubted not, if he stayed
here a thousand years, that same loud murmur would fill the air.

On it went, under the wide spans of the old wooden, covered bridge,
swirling around the great rocks on which the piers stood, spreading
away below in shallows, and taking the shadows of a row of maples
that lined the green shore. Save this roar, no sound reached him,
except now and then the rumble of a wagon on the bridge, or the
muffled far-off voices of some chance passers on the road. Seen from
this high perch, the familiar village, sending its brown roofs and
white spires up through the green foliage, had a strange aspect, and
was like some town in a book, say a village nestled in the Swiss
mountains, or something in Bohemia. And there, beyond the purple
hills of Bozrah, and not so far as the stony pastures of Zoah,
whither John had helped drive the colts and young stock in the
spring, might be, perhaps, Jerusalem itself. John had himself once
been to the land of Canaan with his grandfather, when he was a very
small boy; and he had once seen an actual, no-mistake Jew, a
mysterious person, with uncut beard and long hair, who sold scythe-
snaths in that region, and about whom there was a rumor that he was
once caught and shaved by the indignant farmers, who apprehended in
his long locks a contempt of the Christian religion. Oh, the world
had vast possibilities for John. Away to the south, up a vast basin
of forest, there was a notch in the horizon and an opening in the
line of woods, where the road ran. Through this opening John
imagined an army might appear, perhaps British, perhaps Turks, and
banners of red and of yellow advance, and a cannon wheel about and
point its long nose, and open on the valley. He fancied the army,
after this salute, winding down the mountain road, deploying in the
meadows, and giving the valley to pillage and to flame. In which
event his position would be an excellent one for observation and for
safety. While he was in the height of this engagement, perhaps the
horn would be blown from the back porch, reminding him that it was
time to quit cutting brush and go for the cows. As if there were no
better use for a warrior and a poet in New England than to send him
for the cows!

John knew a boy--a bad enough boy I daresay--who afterwards became a
general in the war, and went to Congress, and got to be a real
governor, who also used to be sent to cut brush in the back pastures,
and hated it in his very soul; and by his wrong conduct forecast what
kind of a man he would be. This boy, as soon as he had cut about one
brush, would seek for one of several holes in the ground (and he was
familiar with several), in which lived a white-and-black animal that
must always be nameless in a book, but an animal quite capable of the
most pungent defense of himself. This young aspirant to Congress
would cut a long stick, with a little crotch in the end of it, and
run it into the hole; and when the crotch was punched into the fur
and skin of the animal, he would twist the stick round till it got a
good grip on the skin., and then he would pull the beast out; and
when he got the white-and-black just out of the hole so that his dog
could seize him, the boy would take to his heels, and leave the two
to fight it out, content to scent the battle afar off. And this boy,
who was in training for public life, would do this sort of thing all
the afternoon, and when the sun told him that he had spent long
enough time cutting brush, he would industriously go home as innocent
as anybody. There are few such boys as this nowadays; and that is
the reason why the New England pastures are so much overgrown with

John himself preferred to hunt the pugnacious woodchuck. He bore a
special grudge against this clover-eater, beyond the usual hostility
that boys feel for any wild animal. One day on his way to school a
woodchuck crossed the road before him, and John gave chase. The
woodchuck scrambled into an orchard and climbed a small apple-tree.
John thought this a most cowardly and unfair retreat, and stood under
the tree and taunted the animal and stoned it. Thereupon the
woodchuck dropped down on John and seized him by the leg of his
trousers. John was both enraged and scared by this dastardly attack;
the teeth of the enemy went through the cloth and met; and there he
hung. John then made a pivot of one leg and whirled himself around,
swinging the woodchuck in the air, until he shook him off; but in his
departure the woodchuck carried away a large piece of John's summer
trousers-leg. The boy never forgot it. And whenever he had a
holiday, he used to expend an amount of labor and ingenuity in the
pursuit of woodchucks that would have made his for tune in any useful
pursuit. There was a hill pasture, down on one side of which ran a
small brook, and this pasture was full of woodchuck-holes. It
required the assistance of several boys to capture a woodchuck. It
was first necessary by patient watching to ascertain that the
woodchuck was at home. When one was seen to enter his burrow, then
all the entries to it except one--there are usually three--were
plugged up with stones. A boy and a dog were then left to watch the
open hole, while John and his comrades went to the brook and began to
dig a canal, to turn the water into the residence of the woodchuck.
This was often a difficult feat of engineering, and a long job.
Often it took more than half a day of hard labor with shovel and hoe
to dig the canal. But when the canal was finished and the water
began to pour into the hole, the excitement began. How long would it
take to fill the hole and drown out the woodchuck? Sometimes it
seemed as if the hole was a bottomless 1pit. But sooner or later the
water would rise in it, and then there was sure to be seen the nose
of the woodchuck, keeping itself on a level with the rising flood.
It was piteous to see the anxious look of the hunted, half-drowned
creature as--it came to the surface and caught sight of the dog.
There the dog stood, at the mouth of the hole, quivering with
excitement from his nose to the tip of his tail, and behind him were
the cruel boys dancing with joy and setting the dog on. The poor
creature would disappear in the water in terror; but he must breathe,
and out would come his nose again, nearer the dog each time. At last
the water ran out of the hole as well as in, and the soaked beast
came with it, and made a desperate rush. But in a trice the dog had
him, and the boys stood off in a circle, with stones in their hands,
to see what they called "fair play." They maintained perfect
"neutrality" so long as the dog was getting the best of the
woodchuck; but if the latter was likely to escape, they "interfered "
in the interest of peace and the "balance of power," and killed the
woodchuck. This is a boy's notion of justice; of course, he'd no
business to be a woodchuck,--an--unspeakable woodchuck."

I used the word "aromatic " in relation to the New England soil.
John knew very well all its sweet, aromatic, pungent, and medicinal
products, and liked to search for the scented herbs and the wild
fruits and exquisite flowers; but he did not then know, and few do
know, that there is no part of the globe where the subtle chemistry
of the earth produces more that is agreeable to the senses than a New
England hill-pasture and the green meadow at its foot. The poets
have succeeded in turning our attention from it to the comparatively
barren Orient as the land of sweet-smelling spices and odorous gums.
And it is indeed a constant surprise that this poor and stony soil
elaborates and grows so many delicate and aromatic products.

John, it is true, did not care much for anything that did not appeal
to his taste and smell and delight in brilliant color; and he trod
down the exquisite ferns and the wonderful mosses--without
compunction. But he gathered from the crevices of the rocks the
columbine and the eglantine and the blue harebell; he picked the
high-flavored alpine strawberry, the blueberry, the boxberry, wild
currants and gooseberries, and fox-grapes; he brought home armfuls of
the pink-and-white laurel and the wild honeysuckle; he dug the roots
of the fragrant sassafras and of the sweet-flag; he ate the tender
leaves of the wintergreen and its red berries; he gathered the
peppermint and the spearmint; he gnawed the twigs of the black birch;
there was a stout fern which he called "brake," which he pulled up,
and found that the soft end "tasted good;" he dug the amber gum from
the spruce-tree, and liked to smell, though he could not chew, the
gum of the wild cherry; it was his melancholy duty to bring home such
medicinal herbs for the garret as the gold-thread, the tansy, and the
loathsome "boneset; " and he laid in for the winter, like a squirrel,
stores of beechnuts, hazel-nuts, hickory-nuts, chestnuts, and
butternuts. But that which lives most vividly in his memory and most
strongly draws him back to the New England hills is the aromatic
sweet-fern; he likes to eat its spicy seeds, and to crush in his
hands its fragrant leaves; their odor is the unique essence of New



The New England country-boy of the last generation never heard of
Christmas. There was no such day in his calendar. If John ever came
across it in his reading, he attached no meaning to the word.

If his curiosity had been aroused, and he had asked his elders about
it, he might have got the dim impression that it was a kind of Popish
holiday, the celebration of which was about as wicked as "card-
playing," or being a "Democrat." John knew a couple of desperately
bad boys who were reported to play "seven-up" in a barn, on the
haymow, and the enormity of this practice made him shudder. He had.
once seen a pack of greasy "playing-cards," and it seemed to him to
contain the quintessence of sin. If he had desired to defy all
Divine law and outrage all human society, he felt that he could do it
by shuffling them. And he was quite right. The two bad boys enjoyed
in stealth their scandalous pastime, because they knew it was the
most wicked thing they could do. If it had been as sinless as
playing marbles, they would n't have cared for it. John sometimes
drove past a brown, tumble-down farmhouse, whose shiftless
inhabitants, it was said, were card-playing people; and it is
impossible to describe how wicked that house appeared to John. He
almost expected to see its shingles stand on end. In the old New
England one could not in any other way so express his contempt of all
holy and orderly life as by playing cards for amusement.

There was no element of Christmas in John's life, any more than there
was of Easter; and probably nobody about him could have explained
Easter; and he escaped all the demoralization attending Christmas
gifts. Indeed, he never had any presents of any kind, either on his
birthday or any other day. He expected nothing that he did not earn,
or make in the way of "trade" with another boy. He was taught to
work for what he received. He even earned, as I said, the extra
holidays of the day after the Fourth and the day after Thanksgiving.
Of the free grace and gifts of Christmas he had no conception. The
single and melancholy association he had with it was the quaking hymn
which his grandfather used to sing in a cracked and quavering voice:

"While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground."

The "glory" that "shone around" at the end of it--the doleful voice
always repeating, "and glory shone around "--made John as miserable
as "Hark! from the tombs." It was all one dreary expectation of
something uncomfortable. It was, in short, "religion." You'd got to
have it some time; that John believed. But it lay in his unthinking
mind to put off the "Hark! from the tombs" enjoyment as long as
possible. He experienced a kind of delightful wickedness in
indulging his dislike of hymns and of Sunday.

John was not a model boy, but I cannot exactly define in what his
wickedness consisted. He had no inclination to steal, nor much to
lie; and he despised "meanness" and stinginess, and had a chivalrous
feeling toward little girls. Probably it never occurred to him that
there was any virtue in not stealing and lying, for honesty and
veracity were in the atmosphere about him. He hated work, and he
"got mad" easily; but he did work, and he was always ashamed when he
was over his fit of passion. In short, you couldn't find a much
better wicked boy than John.

When the "revival" came, therefore, one summer, John was in a
quandary. Sunday meeting and Sunday-school he did n't mind; they
were a part of regular life, and only temporarily interrupted a boy's
pleasures. But when there began to be evening meetings at the
different houses, a new element came into affairs. There was a kind
of solemnity over the community, and a seriousness in all faces. At
first these twilight assemblies offered a little relief to the
monotony of farm life; and John liked to meet the boys and girls, and
to watch the older people coming in, dressed in their second best. I
think John's imagination was worked upon by the sweet and mournful
hymns that were discordantly sung in the stiff old parlors. There
was a suggestion of Sunday, and sanctity too, in the odor of caraway-
seed that pervaded the room. The windows were wide open also, and
the scent of June roses came in, with all the languishing sounds of a
summer night. All the little boys had a scared look, but the little
girls were never so pretty and demure as in this their susceptible
seriousness. If John saw a boy who did not come to the evening
meeting, but was wandering off with his sling down the meadow,
looking for frogs, maybe, that boy seemed to him a monster of

After a time, as the meetings continued, John fell also under the
general impression of fright and seriousness. All the talk was of
"getting religion," and he heard over and over again that the
probability was if he did not get it now, he never would. The chance
did not come often, and if this offer was not improved, John would be
given over to hardness of heart. His obstinacy would show that he
was not one of the elect. John fancied that he could feel his heart
hardening, and he began to look with a wistful anxiety into the faces
of the Christians to see what were the visible signs of being one of
the elect. John put on a good deal of a manner that he "did n't
care," and he never admitted his disquiet by asking any questions or
standing up in meeting to be prayed for. But he did care. He heard
all the time that all he had to do was to repent and believe. But
there was nothing that he doubted, and he was perfectly willing to
repent if he could think of anything to repent of.

It was essential he learned, that he should have a "conviction of
sin." This he earnestly tried to have. Other people, no better than
he, had it, and he wondered why he could n't have it. Boys and girls
whom he knew were "under conviction," and John began to feel not only
panicky, but lonesome. Cynthia Rudd had been anxious for days and
days, and not able to sleep at night, but now she had given herself
up and found peace. There was a kind of radiance in her face that
struck John with awe, and he felt that now there was a great gulf
between him and Cynthia. Everybody was going away from him, and his
heart was getting harder than ever. He could n't feel wicked, all he
could do. And there was Ed Bates) his intimate friend, though older
than he, a "whaling," noisy kind of boy, who was under conviction and
sure he was going to be lost. How John envied him! And pretty soon
Ed "experienced religion." John anxiously watched the change in Ed's
face when he became one of the elect. And a change there was. And
John wondered about another thing. Ed Bates used to go trout-
fishing, with a tremendously long pole, in a meadow brook near the
river; and when the trout didn't bite right off, Ed would--get mad,"
and as soon as one took hold he would give an awful jerk, sending the
fish more than three hundred feet into the air and landing it in the
bushes the other side of the meadow, crying out, "Gul darn ye, I'll
learn ye." And John wondered if Ed would take the little trout out
any more gently now.

John felt more and more lonesome as one after another of his
playmates came out and made a profession. Cynthia (she too was older
than John) sat on Sunday in the singers' seat; her voice, which was
going to be a contralto, had a wonderful pathos in it for him, and he
heard it with a heartache. "There she is," thought John, "singing
away like an angel in heaven, and I am left out." During all his
after life a contralto voice was to John one of his most bitter and
heart-wringing pleasures. It suggested the immaculate scornful, the
melancholy unattainable.

If ever a boy honestly tried to work himself into a conviction of
sin, John tried. And what made him miserable was, that he couldn't
feel miserable when everybody else was miserable. He even began to
pretend to be so. He put on a serious and anxious look like the
others. He pretended he did n't care for play; he refrained from
chasing chipmunks and snaring suckers; the songs of birds and the
bright vivacity of the summer--time that used to make him turn hand-
springs smote him as a discordant levity. He was not a hypocrite at
all, and he was getting to be alarmed that he was not alarmed at
himself. Every day and night he heard that the spirit of the Lord
would probably soon quit striving with him, and leave him out. The
phrase was that he would "grieve away the Holy Spirit." John wondered
if he was not doing it. He did everything to put himself in the way
of conviction, was constant at the evening meetings, wore a grave
face, refrained from play, and tried to feel anxious. At length he
concluded that he must do something.

One night as he walked home from a solemn meeting, at which several
of his little playmates had "come forward," he felt that he could
force the crisis. He was alone on the sandy road; it was an
enchanting summer night; the stars danced overhead, and by his side
the broad and shallow river ran over its stony bed with a loud but
soothing murmur that filled all the air with entreaty. John did not
then know that it sang, "But I go on forever," yet there was in it
for him something of the solemn flow of the eternal world. When he
came in sight of the house, he knelt down in the dust by a pile of
rails and prayed. He prayed that he might feel bad, and be
distressed about himself. As he prayed he heard distinctly, and yet
not as a disturbance, the multitudinous croaking of the frogs by the
meadow spring. It was not discordant with his thoughts; it had in it
a melancholy pathos, as if it were a kind of call to the unconverted.
What is there in this sound that suggests the tenderness of spring,
the despair of a summer night, the desolateness of young love? Years
after it happened to John to be at twilight at a railway station on
the edge of the Ravenna marshes. A little way over the purple plain
he saw the darkening towers and heard "the sweet bells of Imola."
The Holy Pontiff Pius IX. was born at Imola, and passed his boyhood
in that serene and moist region. As the train waited, John heard
from miles of marshes round about the evening song of millions of
frogs, louder and more melancholy and entreating than the vesper call
of the bells. And instantly his mind went back for the association
of sound is as subtle as that of odor--to the prayer, years ago, by
the roadside and the plaintive appeal of the unheeded frogs, and he
wondered if the little Pope had not heard the like importunity, and
perhaps, when he thought of himself as a little Pope, associated his
conversion with this plaintive sound.

John prayed, but without feeling any worse, and then went desperately
into the house, and told the family that he was in an anxious state
of mind. This was joyful news to the sweet and pious household, and
the little boy was urged to feel that he was a sinner, to repent, and
to become that night a Christian; he was prayed over, and told to
read the Bible, and put to bed with the injunction to repeat all the
texts of Scripture and hymns he could think of. John did this, and
said over and over the few texts he was master of, and tossed about
in a real discontent now, for he had a dim notion that he was playing
the hypocrite a little. But he was sincere enough in wanting to
feel, as the other boys and girls felt, that he was a wicked sinner.
He tried to think of his evil deeds; and one occurred to him; indeed,
it often came to his mind. It was a lie; a deliberate, awful lie,
that never injured anybody but himself John knew he was not wicked
enough to tell a lie to injure anybody else.

This was the lie. One afternoon at school, just before John's class
was to recite in geography, his pretty cousin, a young lady he held
in great love and respect, came in to visit the school. John was a
favorite with her, and she had come to hear him recite. As it
happened, John felt shaky in the geographical lesson of that day, and
he feared to be humiliated in the presence of his cousin; he felt
embarrassed to that degree that he could n't have "bounded "
Massachusetts. So he stood up and raised his hand, and said to the
schoolma'am, "Please, ma'am, I 've got the stomach-ache; may I go
home?" And John's character for truthfulness was so high (and even
this was ever a reproach to him), that his word was instantly
believed, and he was dismissed without any medical examination. For
a moment John was delighted to get out of school so early; but soon
his guilt took all the light out of the summer sky and the
pleasantness out of nature. He had to walk slowly, without a single
hop or jump, as became a diseased boy. The sight of a woodchuck at a
distance from his well-known hole tempted John, but he restrained
himself, lest somebody should see him, and know that chasing a
woodchuck was inconsistent with the stomach-ache. He was acting a
miserable part, but it had to be gone through with. He went home and
told his mother the reason he had left school, but he added that he
felt "some" better now. The "some" did n't save him. Genuine
sympathy was lavished on him. He had to swallow a stiff dose of
nasty "picra,"--the horror of all childhood, and he was put in bed
immediately. The world never looked so pleasant to John, but to bed
he was forced to go. He was excused from all chores; he was not even
to go after the cows. John said he thought he ought to go after the
cows,--much as he hated the business usually, he would now willingly
have wandered over the world after cows,--and for this heroic offer,
in the condition he was, he got credit for a desire to do his duty;
and this unjust confidence in him added to his torture. And he had
intended to set his hooks that night for eels. His cousin came home,
and sat by his bedside and condoled with him; his schoolma'am had
sent word how sorry she was for him, John was Such a good boy. All
this was dreadful.

He groaned in agony. Besides, he was not to have any supper; it
would be very dangerous to eat a morsel. The prospect was appalling.
Never was there such a long twilight; never before did he hear so
many sounds outdoors that he wanted to investigate. Being ill
without any illness was a horrible condition. And he began to have
real stomach-ache now; and it ached because it was empty. John was
hungry enough to have eaten the New England Primer. But by and by
sleep came, and John forgot his woes in dreaming that he knew where
Madagascar was just as easy as anything.

It was this lie that came back to John the night he was trying to be
affected by the revival. And he was very much ashamed of it, and
believed he would never tell another. But then he fell thinking
whether, with the "picra," and the going to bed in the afternoon, and
the loss of his supper, he had not been sufficiently paid for it.
And in this unhopeful frame of mind he dropped off in sleep.

And the truth must be told, that in the morning John was no nearer to
realizing the terrors he desired to feel. But he was a conscientious
boy, and would do nothing to interfere with the influences of the
season. He not only put himself away from them all, but he refrained
from doing almost everything that he wanted to do. There came at
that time a newspaper, a secular newspaper, which had in it a long
account of the Long Island races, in which the famous horse
"Lexington" was a runner. John was fond of horses, he knew about
Lexington, and he had looked forward to the result of this race with
keen interest. But to read the account of it how he felt might
destroy his seriousness of mind, and in all reverence and simplicity
he felt it--be a means of "grieving away the Holy Spirit." He
therefore hid away the paper in a table-drawer, intending to read it
when the revival should be over. Weeks after, when he looked for the
newspaper, it was not to be found, and John never knew what "time "
Lexington made nor anything about the race. This was to him a
serious loss, but by no means so deep as another feeling that
remained with him; for when his little world returned to its ordinary
course, and long after, John had an uneasy apprehension of his own
separateness from other people, in his insensibility to the revival.
Perhaps the experience was a damage to him; and it is a pity that
there was no one to explain that religion for a little fellow like
him is not a "scheme."



Every boy who is good for anything is a natural savage. The
scientists who want to study the primitive man, and have so much
difficulty in finding one anywhere in this sophisticated age,
couldn't do better than to devote their attention to the common
country-boy. He has the primal, vigorous instincts and impulses of
the African savage, without any of the vices inherited from a
civilization long ago decayed or developed in an unrestrained
barbaric society. You want to catch your boy young, and study him
before he has either virtues or vices, in order to understand the
primitive man.

Every New England boy desires (or did desire a generation ago, before
children were born sophisticated, with a large library, and with the
word "culture" written on their brows) to live by hunting, fishing,
and war. The military instinct, which is the special mark of
barbarism, is strong in him. It arises not alone from his love of
fighting, for the boy is naturally as cowardly as the savage, but
from his fondness for display,--the same that a corporal or a general
feels in decking himself in tinsel and tawdry colors and strutting
about in view of the female sex. Half the pleasure in going out to
murder another man with a gun would be wanting if one did not wear
feathers and gold-lace and stripes on his pantaloons. The law also
takes this view of it, and will not permit men to shoot each other in
plain clothes. And the world also makes some curious distinctions in
the art of killing. To kill people with arrows is barbarous; to kill
them with smooth-bores and flintlock muskets is semi-civilized; to
kill them with breech-loading rifles is civilized. That nation is
the most civilized which has the appliances to kill the most of
another nation in the shortest time. This is the result of six
thousand years of constant civilization. By and by, when the nations
cease to be boys, perhaps they will not want to kill each other at
all. Some people think the world is very old; but here is an
evidence that it is very young, and, in fact, has scarcely yet begun
to be a world. When the volcanoes have done spouting, and the
earthquakes are quaked out, and you can tell what land is going to be
solid and keep its level twenty-four hours, and the swamps are filled
up, and the deltas of the great rivers, like the Mississippi and the
Nile, become terra firma, and men stop killing their fellows in order
to get their land and other property, then perhaps there will be a
world that an angel would n't weep over. Now one half the world are
employed in getting ready to kill the other half, some of them by
marching about in uniform, and the others by hard work to earn money
to pay taxes to buy uniforms and guns.

John was not naturally very cruel, and it was probably the love of
display quite as much as of fighting that led him into a military
life; for he, in common with all his comrades, had other traits of
the savage. One of them was the same passion for ornament that
induces the African to wear anklets and bracelets of hide and of
metal, and to decorate himself with tufts of hair, and to tattoo his
body. In John's day there was a rage at school among the boys for
wearing bracelets woven of the hair of the little girls. Some of
them were wonderful specimens of braiding and twist. These were not
captured in war, but were sentimental tokens of friendship given by
the young maidens themselves. John's own hair was kept so short (as
became a warrior) that you couldn't have made a bracelet out of it,
or anything except a paintbrush; but the little girls were not under
military law, and they willingly sacrificed their tresses to decorate
the soldiers they esteemed. As the Indian is honored in proportion
to the scalps he can display, at John's school the boy was held in
highest respect who could show the most hair trophies on his wrist.
John himself had a variety that would have pleased a Mohawk, fine and
coarse and of all colors. There were the flaxen, the faded straw,
the glossy black, the lustrous brown, the dirty yellow, the undecided
auburn, and the fiery red. Perhaps his pulse beat more quickly under
the red hair of Cynthia Rudd than on account of all the other
wristlets put together; it was a sort of gold-tried-in-the-fire-color
to John, and burned there with a steady flame. Now that Cynthia had
become a Christian, this band of hair seemed a more sacred if less
glowing possession (for all detached hair will fade in time), and if
he had known anything about saints, he would have imagined that it
was a part of the aureole that always goes with a saint. But I am
bound to say that while John had a tender feeling for this red
string, his sentiment was not that of the man who becomes entangled
in the meshes of a woman's hair; and he valued rather the number than
the quality of these elastic wristlets.

John burned with as real a military ardor as ever inflamed the breast
of any slaughterer of his fellows. He liked to read of war, of
encounters with the Indians, of any kind of wholesale killing in
glittering uniform, to the noise of the terribly exciting fife and
drum, which maddened the combatants and drowned the cries of the
wounded. In his future he saw himself a soldier with plume and sword
and snug-fitting, decorated clothes,--very different from his
somewhat roomy trousers and country-cut roundabout, made by Aunt
Ellis, the village tailoress, who cut out clothes, not according to
the shape of the boy, but to what he was expected to grow to,--going
where glory awaited him. In his observation of pictures, it was the
common soldier who was always falling and dying, while the officer
stood unharmed in the storm of bullets and waved his sword in a
heroic attitude. John determined to be an officer.

It is needless to say that he was an ardent member of the military
company of his village. He had risen from the grade of corporal to
that of first lieutenant; the captain was a boy whose father was
captain of the grown militia company, and consequently had inherited
military aptness and knowledge. The old captain was a flaming son of
Mars, whose nose militia, war, general training, and New England rum
had painted with the color of glory and disaster. He was one of the
gallant old soldiers of the peaceful days of our country, splendid in
uniform, a martinet in drill, terrible in oaths, a glorious object
when he marched at the head of his company of flintlock muskets, with
the American banner full high advanced, and the clamorous drum
defying the world. In this he fulfilled his duties of citizen,
faithfully teaching his uniformed companions how to march by the left
leg, and to get reeling drunk by sundown; otherwise he did n't amount
to much in the community; his house was unpainted, his fences were
tumbled down, his farm was a waste, his wife wore an old gown to
meeting, to which the captain never went; but he was a good trout-
fisher, and there was no man in town who spent more time at the
country store and made more shrewd observations upon the affairs of
his neighbors. Although he had never been in an asylum any more than
he had been in war, he was almost as perfect a drunkard as he was
soldier. He hated the British, whom he had never seen, as much as he
loved rum, from which he was never separated.

The company which his son commanded, wearing his father's belt and
sword, was about as effective as the old company, and more orderly.
It contained from thirty to fifty boys, according to the pressure of
"chores" at home, and it had its great days of parade and its autumn
maneuvers, like the general training. It was an artillery company,
which gave every boy a chance to wear a sword, and it possessed a
small mounted cannon, which was dragged about and limbered and
unlimbered and fired, to the imminent danger of everybody, especially
of the company. In point of marching, with all the legs going
together, and twisting itself up and untwisting breaking into single-
file (for Indian fighting), and forming platoons, turning a sharp
corner, and getting out of the way of a wagon, circling the town
pump, frightening horses, stopping short in front of the tavern, with
ranks dressed and eyes right and left, it was the equal of any
military organization I ever saw. It could train better than the big
company, and I think it did more good in keeping alive the spirit of
patriotism and desire to fight. Its discipline was strict. If a boy
left the ranks to jab a spectator, or make faces at a window, or "go
for" a striped snake, he was "hollered" at no end.

It was altogether a very serious business; there was no levity about
the hot and hard marching, and as boys have no humor, nothing
ludicrous occurred. John was very proud of his office, and of his
ability to keep the rear ranks closed up and ready to execute any
maneuver when the captain "hollered," which he did continually. He
carried a real sword, which his grandfather had worn in many a
militia campaign on the village green, the rust upon which John
fancied was Indian blood; he had various red and yellow insignia of
military rank sewed upon different parts of his clothes, and though
his cocked hat was of pasteboard, it was decorated with gilding and
bright rosettes, and floated a red feather that made his heart beat
with martial fury whenever he looked at it. The effect of this
uniform upon the girls was not a matter of conjecture. I think they
really cared nothing about it, but they pretended to think it fine,
and they fed the poor boy's vanity, the weakness by which women
govern the world.

The exalted happiness of John in this military service I daresay was
never equaled in any subsequent occupation. The display of the
company in the village filled him with the loftiest heroism. There
was nothing wanting but an enemy to fight, but this could only be had
by half the company staining themselves with elderberry juice and
going into the woods as Indians, to fight the artillery from behind
trees with bows and arrows, or to ambush it and tomahawk the gunners.
This, however, was made to seem very like real war. Traditions of
Indian cruelty were still fresh in western Massachusetts. Behind
John's house in the orchard were some old slate tombstones, sunken
and leaning, which recorded the names of Captain Moses Rice and
Phineas Arms, who had been killed by Indians in the last century
while at work in the meadow by the river, and who slept there in the
hope of the glorious resurrection. Phineas Arms martial name--was
long since dust, and even the mortal part of the great Captain Moses
Rice had been absorbed in the soil and passed perhaps with the sap up
into the old but still blooming apple-trees. It was a quiet place
where they lay, but they might have heard--if hear they could--the
loud, continuous roar of the Deerfield, and the stirring of the long
grass on that sunny slope. There was a tradition that years ago an
Indian, probably the last of his race, had been seen moving along the
crest of the mountain, and gazing down into the lovely valley which
had been the favorite home of his tribe, upon the fields where he
grew his corn, and the sparkling stream whence he drew his fish.
John used to fancy at times, as he sat there, that he could see that
red specter gliding among the trees on the hill; and if the tombstone
suggested to him the trump of judgment, he could not separate it from
the war-whoop that had been the last sound in the ear of Phineas
Arms. The Indian always preceded murder by the war-whoop; and this
was an advantage that the artillery had in the fight with the
elderberry Indians. It was warned in time. If there was no war-
whoop, the killing did n't count; the artillery man got up and killed
the Indian. The Indian usually had the worst of it; he not only got
killed by the regulars, but he got whipped by the home guard at night
for staining himself and his clothes with the elderberry.

But once a year the company had a superlative parade. This was when
the military company from the north part of the town joined the
villagers in a general muster. This was an infantry company, and not
to be compared with that of the village in point of evolutions.
There was a great and natural hatred between the north town boys and
the center. I don't know why, but no contiguous African tribes could
be more hostile. It was all right for one of either section to
"lick" the other if he could, or for half a dozen to "lick" one of
the enemy if they caught him alone. The notion of honor, as of
mercy, comes into the boy only when he is pretty well grown; to some
neither ever comes. And yet there was an artificial military
courtesy (something like that existing in the feudal age, no doubt)
which put the meeting of these two rival and mutually detested
companies on a high plane of behavior. It was beautiful to see the
seriousness of this lofty and studied condescension on both sides.
For the time everything was under martial law. The village company
being the senior, its captain commanded the united battalion in the
march, and this put John temporarily into the position of captain,
with the right to march at the head and "holler;" a responsibility
which realized all his hopes of glory. I suppose there has yet been
discovered by man no gratification like that of marching at the head
of a column in uniform on parade, unless, perhaps, it is marching at
their head when they are leaving a field of battle. John experienced
all the thrill of this conspicuous authority, and I daresay that
nothing in his later life has so exalted him in his own esteem;
certainly nothing has since happened that was so important as the
events of that parade day seemed. He satiated himself with all the
delights of war.



It is impossible to say at what age a New England country-boy becomes
conscious that his trousers-legs are too short, and is anxious about
the part of his hair and the fit of his woman-made roundabout. These
harrowing thoughts come to him later than to the city lad. At least,
a generation ago he served a long apprenticeship with nature only for
a master, absolutely unconscious of the artificialities of life.

But I do not think his early education was neglected. And yet it is
easy to underestimate the influences that, unconsciously to him, were
expanding his mind and nursing in him heroic purposes. There was the
lovely but narrow valley, with its rapid mountain stream; there were
the great hills which he climbed, only to see other hills stretching
away to a broken and tempting horizon; there were the rocky pastures,
and the wide sweeps of forest through which the winter tempests
howled, upon which hung the haze of summer heat, over which the great
shadows of summer clouds traveled; there were the clouds themselves,
shouldering up above the peaks, hurrying across the narrow sky,--the
clouds out of which the wind came, and the lightning and the sudden
dashes of rain; and there were days when the sky was ineffably blue
and distant, a fathomless vault of heaven where the hen-hawk and the
eagle poised on outstretched wings and watched for their prey. Can
you say how these things fed the imagination of the boy, who had few
books and no contact with the great world? Do you think any city lad
could have written "Thanatopsis" at eighteen?

If you had seen John, in his short and roomy trousers and ill-used
straw hat, picking his barefooted way over the rocks along the river-
bank of a cool morning to see if an eel had "got on," you would not
have fancied that he lived in an ideal world. Nor did he
consciously. So far as he knew, he had no more sentiment than a
jack-knife. Although he loved Cynthia Rudd devotedly, and blushed
scarlet one day when his cousin found a lock of Cynthia's flaming
hair in the box where John kept his fishhooks, spruce gum, flag-root,
tickets of standing at the head, gimlet, billets-doux in blue ink, a
vile liquid in a bottle to make fish bite, and other precious
possessions, yet Cynthia's society had no attractions for him
comparable to a day's trout-fishing. She was, after all, only a
single and a very undefined item in his general ideal world, and
there was no harm in letting his imagination play about her illumined
head. Since Cynthia had "got religion" and John had got nothing, his
love was tempered with a little awe and a feeling of distance. He
was not fickle, and yet I cannot say that he was not ready to
construct a new romance, in which Cynthia should be eliminated.
Nothing was easier. Perhaps it was a luxurious traveling carriage,
drawn by two splendid horses in plated harness, driven along the
sandy road. There were a gentleman and a young lad on the front
seat, and on the back seat a handsome pale lady with a little girl
beside her. Behind, on the rack with the trunk, was a colored boy,
an imp out of a story-book. John was told that the black boy was a
slave, and that the carriage was from Baltimore. Here was a chance
for a romance. Slavery, beauty, wealth, haughtiness, especially on
the part of the slender boy on the front seat,--here was an opening
into a vast realm. The high-stepping horses and the shining harness
were enough to excite John's admiration, but these were nothing to
the little girl. His eyes had never before fallen upon that kind of
girl; he had hardly imagined that such a lovely creature could exist.
Was it the soft and dainty toilet, was it the brown curls, or the
large laughing eyes, or the delicate, finely cut features, or the
charming little figure of this fairy-like person? Was this
expression on her mobile face merely that of amusement at seeing a
country-boy? Then John hated her. On the contrary, did she see in
him what John felt himself to be? Then he would go the world over to
serve her. In a moment he was self-conscious. His trousers seemed
to creep higher up his legs, and he could feel his very ankles blush.
He hoped that she had not seen the other side of him, for, in fact,
the patches were not of the exact shade of the rest of the cloth.
The vision flashed by him in a moment, but it left him with a
resentful feeling. Perhaps that proud little girl would be sorry
some day, when he had become a general, or written a book, or kept a
store, to see him go away and marry another. He almost made up his
cruel mind on the instant that he would never marry her, however bad
she might feel. And yet he could n't get her out of his mind for
days and days, and when her image was present, even Cynthia in the
singers' seat on Sunday looked a little cheap and common. Poor
Cynthia! Long before John became a general or had his revenge on the
Baltimore girl, she married a farmer and was the mother of children,
red-headed; and when John saw her years after, she looked tired and
discouraged, as one who has carried into womanhood none of the
romance of her youth.

Fishing and dreaming, I think, were the best amusements John had.
The middle pier of the long covered bridge over the river stood upon
a great rock, and this rock (which was known as the swimming-rock,
whence the boys on summer evenings dove into the deep pool by its
side) was a favorite spot with John when he could get an hour or two
from the everlasting "chores." Making his way out to it over the
rocks at low water with his fish-pole, there he was content to sit
and observe the world; and there he saw a great deal of life. He
always expected to catch the legendary trout which weighed two pounds
and was believed to inhabit that pool. He always did catch horned
dace and shiners, which he despised, and sometimes he snared a
monstrous sucker a foot and a half long. But in the summer the
sucker is a flabby fish, and John was not thanked for bringing him
home. He liked, however, to lie with his face close to the water and
watch the long fishes panting in the clear depths, and occasionally
he would drop a pebble near one to see how gracefully he would scud
away with one wave of the tail into deeper water. Nothing fears the
little brown boy. The yellow-bird slants his wings, almost touches
the deep water before him, and then escapes away under the bridge to
the east with a glint of sunshine on his back; the fish-hawk comes
down with a swoop, dips one wing, and, his prey having darted under a
stone, is away again over the still hill, high soaring on even-poised
pinions, keeping an eye perhaps upon the great eagle which is
sweeping the sky in widening circles.

But there is other life. A wagon rumbles over the bridge, and the
farmer and his wife, jogging along, do not know that they have
startled a lazy boy into a momentary fancy that a thunder-shower is
coming up. John can see as he lies there on a still summer day, with
the fishes and the birds for company, the road that comes down the
left bank of the river,--a hot, sandy, well-traveled road, hidden
from view here and there by trees and bushes. The chief point of
interest, however, is an enormous sycamore-tree by the roadside and
in front of John's house. The house is more than a century old, and
its timbers were hewed and squared by Captain Moses Rice (who lies in
his grave on the hillside above it), in the presence of the Red Man
who killed him with arrow and tomahawk some time after his house was
set in order. The gigantic tree, struck with a sort of leprosy, like
all its species, appears much older, and of course has its tradition.
They say that it grew from a green stake which the first land-
surveyor planted there for one of his points of sight. John was
reminded of it years after when he sat under the shade of the
decrepit lime-tree in Freiburg and was told that it was originally a
twig which the breathless and bloody messenger carried in his hand
when he dropped exhausted in the square with the word "Victory!" on
his lips, announcing thus the result of the glorious battle of Morat,
where the Swiss in 1476 defeated Charles the Bold. Under the broad
but scanty shade of the great button-ball tree (as it was called)
stood an old watering-trough, with its half-decayed penstock and
well-worn spout pouring forever cold, sparkling water into the
overflowing trough. It is fed by a spring near by, and the water is
sweeter and colder than any in the known world, unless it be the well
Zem-zem, as generations of people and horses which have drunk of it
would testify, if they could come back. And if they could file along
this road again, what a procession there would be riding down the
valley!--antiquated vehicles, rusty wagons adorned with the
invariable buffalo-robe even in the hottest days, lean and long-
favored horses, frisky colts, drawing, generation after generation,
the sober and pious saints, that passed this way to meeting and to

What a refreshment is that water-spout! All day long there are
pilgrims to it, and John likes nothing better than to watch them.
Here comes a gray horse drawing a buggy with two men,--cattle

buyers, probably. Out jumps a man, down goes the check-rein. What a
good draught the nag takes! Here comes a long-stepping trotter in a
sulky; man in a brown linen coat and wide-awake hat,--dissolute,
horsey-looking man. They turn up, of course. Ah, there is an
establishment he knows well: a sorrel horse and an old chaise. The
sorrel horse scents the water afar off, and begins to turn up long
before he reaches the trough, thrusting out his nose in anticipation
of the coot sensation. No check to let down; he plunges his nose in
nearly to his eyes. in his haste to get at it. Two maiden ladies--
unmistakably such, though they appear neither "anxious nor aimless "-
-within the scoop-top smile benevolently on the sorrel back. It is
the deacon's horse, a meeting-going nag, with a sedate, leisurely jog
as he goes; and these are two of the "salt of the earth,"--the brevet
rank of the women who stand and wait,--going down to the village
store to dicker. There come two men in a hurry, horse driven up
smartly and pulled up short; but as it is rising ground, and the
horse does not easily reach the water with the wagon pulling back,
the nervous man in the buggy hitches forward on his seat, as if that
would carry the wagon a little ahead! Next, lumber-wagon with load
of boards; horse wants to turn up, and driver switches him and cries
"G'lang," and the horse reluctantly goes by, turning his head
wistfully towards the flowing spout. Ah, here comes an equipage
strange to these parts, and John stands up to look; an elegant
carriage and two horses; trunks strapped on behind; gentleman and boy
on front seat and two ladies on back seat,--city people. The
gentleman descends, unchecks the horses, wipes his brow, takes a
drink at the spout and looks around, evidently remarking upon the
lovely view, as he swings his handkerchief in an explanatory manner.
Judicious travelers. John would like to know who they are. Perhaps
they are from Boston, whence come all the wonderfully painted
peddlers' wagons drawn by six stalwart horses, which the driver,
using no rein, controls with his long whip and cheery voice. If so,
great is the condescension of Boston; and John follows them with an
undefined longing as they drive away toward the mountains of Zoar.
Here is a footman, dusty and tired, who comes with lagging steps. He
stops, removes his hat, as he should to such a tree, puts his mouth
to the spout, and takes a long pull at the lively water. And then he
goes on, perhaps to Zoar, perhaps to a worse place.

So they come and go all the summer afternoon; but the great event of
the day is the passing down the valley of the majestic stage-coach,--
the vast yellow-bodied, rattling vehicle. John can hear a mile off
the shaking of chains, traces, and whiffle-trees, and the creaking of
its leathern braces, as the great bulk swings along piled high with
trunks. It represents to John, somehow, authority, government, the
right of way; the driver is an autocrat, everybody must make way for
the stage-coach. It almost satisfies the imagination, this royal
vehicle; one can go in it to the confines of the world,--to Boston
and to Albany.

There were other influences that I daresay contributed to the boy's
education. I think his imagination was stimulated by a band of
gypsies who used to come every summer and pitch a tent on a little
roadside patch of green turf by the river-bank not far from his
house. It was shaded by elms and butternut-trees, and a long spit of
sand and pebbles ran out from it into the brawling stream. Probably
they were not a very good kind of gypsy, although the story was that
the men drank and beat the women. John didn't know much about
drinking; his experience of it was confined to sweet cider; yet he
had already set himself up as a reformer, and joined the Cold Water
Band. The object of this Band was to walk in a procession under a
banner that declared,

"So here we pledge perpetual hate
To all that can intoxicate; "

and wear a badge with this legend, and above it the device of a well-
curb with a long sweep. It kept John and all the little boys and
girls from being drunkards till they were ten or eleven years of age;
though perhaps a few of them died meantime from eating loaf-cake and
pie and drinking ice-cold water at the celebrations of the Band.

The gypsy camp had a strange fascination for John, mingled of
curiosity and fear. Nothing more alien could come into the New
England life than this tatterdemalion band. It was hardly credible
that here were actually people who lived out-doors, who slept in
their covered wagon or under their tent, and cooked in the open air;
it was a visible romance transferred from foreign lands and the
remote times of the story-books; and John took these city thieves,
who were on their annual foray into the country, trading and stealing
horses and robbing hen-roosts and cornfields, for the mysterious race
who for thousands of years have done these same things in all lands,
by right of their pure blood and ancient lineage. John was afraid to
approach the camp when any of the scowling and villainous men were
lounging about, pipes in mouth; but he took more courage when only
women and children were visible. The swarthy, black-haired women in
dirty calico frocks were anything but attractive, but they spoke
softly to the boy, and told his fortune, and wheedled him into
bringing them any amount of cucumbers and green corn in the course of
the season. In front of the tent were planted in the ground three
poles that met together at the top, whence depended a kettle. This
was the kitchen, and it was sufficient. The fuel for the fire was
the driftwood of the stream. John noted that it did not require to
be sawed into stove-lengths; and, in short, that the "chores" about
this establishment were reduced to the minimum. And an older person
than John might envy the free life of these wanderers, who paid
neither rent nor taxes, and yet enjoyed all the delights of nature.
It seemed to the boy that affairs would go more smoothly in the world
if everybody would live in this simple manner. Nor did he then know,
or ever after find out, why it is that the world permits only wicked
people to be Bohemians.



One evening at vespers in Genoa, attracted by a burst of music from
the swinging curtain of the doorway, I entered a little church much
frequented by the common people. An unexpected and exceedingly
pretty sight rewarded me.

It was All Souls' Day. In Italy almost every day is set apart for
some festival, or belongs to some saint or another, and I suppose
that when leap year brings around the extra day, there is a saint
ready to claim the 29th of February. Whatever the day was to the
elders, the evening was devoted to the children. The first thing I
noticed was, that the quaint old church was lighted up with
innumerable wax tapers,--an uncommon sight, for the darkness of a
Catholic church in the evening is usually relieved only by a candle
here and there, and by a blazing pyramid of them on the high altar.
The use of gas is held to be a vulgar thing all over Europe, and
especially unfit for a church or an aristocratic palace.

Then I saw that each taper belonged to a little boy or girl, and the
groups of children were scattered all about the church. There was a
group by every side altar and chapel, all the benches were occupied
by knots of them, and there were so many circles of them seated on
the pavement that I could with difficulty make my way among them.
There were hundreds of children in the church, all dressed in their
holiday apparel, and all intent upon the illumination, which seemed
to be a private affair to each one of them.

And not much effect had their tapers upon the darkness of the vast
vaults above them. The tapers were little spiral coils of wax, which
the children unrolled as fast as they burned, and when they were
tired of holding them, they rested them on the ground and watched the
burning. I stood some time by a group of a dozen seated in a corner
of the church. They had massed all the tapers in the center and
formed a ring about the spectacle, sitting with their legs straight
out before them and their toes turned up. The light shone full in
their happy faces, and made the group, enveloped otherwise in
darkness, like one of Correggio's pictures of children or angels.
Correggio was a famous Italian artist of the sixteenth century, who
painted cherubs like children who were just going to heaven, and
children like cherubs who had just come out of it. But then, he had
the Italian children for models, and they get the knack of being
lovely very young. An Italian child finds it as easy to be pretty as
an American child to be good.

One could not but be struck with the patience these little people
exhibited in their occupation, and the enjoyment they got out of it.
There was no noise; all conversed in subdued whispers and behaved in
the most gentle manner to each other, especially to the smallest, and
there were many of them so small that they could only toddle about by
the most judicious exercise of their equilibrium. I do not say this
by way of reproof to any other kind of children.

These little groups, as I have said, were scattered all about the
church; and they made with their tapers little spots of light, which
looked in the distance very much like Correggio's picture which is at
Dresden,--the Holy Family at Night, and the light from the Divine
Child blazing in the faces of all the attendants. Some of the
children were infants in the nurses' arms, but no one was too small
to have a taper, and to run the risk of burning its fingers.

There is nothing that a baby likes more than a lighted candle, and
the church has understood this longing in human nature, and found
means to gratify it by this festival of tapers.

The groups do not all remain long in place, you may imagine; there is
a good deal of shifting about, and I see little stragglers wandering
over the church, like fairies lighted by fireflies. Occasionally
they form a little procession and march from one altar to another,
their lights twinkling as they go.

But all this time there is music pouring out of the organ-loft at the
end of the church, and flooding all its spaces with its volume. In
front of the organ is a choir of boys, led by a round-faced and jolly
monk, who rolls about as he sings, and lets the deep bass noise
rumble about a long time in his stomach before he pours it out of his
mouth. I can see the faces of all of them quite well, for each
singer has a candle to light his music-book.

And next to the monk stands the boy,--the handsomest boy in the whole
world probably at this moment. I can see now his great, liquid, dark
eyes, and his exquisite face, and the way he tossed back his long
waving hair when he struck into his part. He resembled the portraits
of Raphael, when that artist was a boy; only I think he looked better
than Raphael, and without trying, for he seemed to be a spontaneous
sort of boy. And how that boy did sing! He was the soprano of the
choir, and he had a voice of heavenly sweetness. When he opened his
mouth and tossed back his head, he filled the church with exquisite

He sang like a lark, or like an angel. As we never heard an angel
sing, that comparison is not worth much. I have seen pictures of
angels singing, there is one by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck in the
gallery at Berlin,--and they open their mouths like this boy, but I
can't say as much for their singing. The lark, which you very likely
never heard either) for larks are as scarce in America as angels,--is
a bird that springs up from the meadow and begins to sing as he rises
in a spiral flight, and the higher he mounts, the sweeter he sings,
until you think the notes are dropping out of heaven itself, and you
hear him when he is gone from sight, and you think you hear him long
after all sound has ceased.

And yet this boy sang better than a lark, because he had more notes
and a greater compass and more volume, although he shook out his
voice in the same gleesome abundance.

I am sorry that I cannot add that this ravishingly beautiful boy was
a good boy. He was probably one of the most mischievous boys that
was ever in an organ-loft. All the time that he was singing the
vespers he was skylarking like an imp. While he was pouring out the
most divine melody, he would take the opportunity of kicking the
shins of the boy next to him, and while he was waiting for his part,
he would kick out behind at any one who was incautious enough to
approach him. There never was such a vicious boy; he kept the whole
loft in a ferment. When the monk rumbled his bass in his stomach,
the boy cut up monkey-shines that set every other boy into a laugh,
or he stirred up a row that set them all at fisticuffs.

And yet this boy was a great favorite. The jolly monk loved him best
of all and bore with his wildest pranks. When he was wanted to sing
his part and was skylarking in the rear, the fat monk took him by the
ear and brought him forward; and when he gave the boy's ear a twist,
the boy opened his lovely mouth and poured forth such a flood of
melody as you never heard. And he did n't mind his notes; he seemed
to know his notes by heart, and could sing and look off like a
nightingale on a bough. He knew his power, that boy; and he stepped
forward to his stand when he pleased, certain that he would be
forgiven as soon as he began to sing. And such spirit and life as he
threw into the performance, rollicking through the Vespers with a
perfect abandon of carriage, as if he could sing himself out of his
skin if he liked.

While the little angels down below were pattering about with their
wax tapers, keeping the holy fire burning, suddenly the organ
stopped, the monk shut his book with a bang, the boys blew out the
candles, and I heard them all tumbling down-stairs in a gale of noise
and laughter. The beautiful boy I saw no more.

About him plays the light of tender memory; but were he twice as
lovely, I could never think of him as having either the simple
manliness or the good fortune of the New England boy.



"The way to mount a horse"- said the Professor.

"If you have no ladder--put in the Friend of Humanity.

The Professor had ridden through the war for the Union on the right
side, enjoying a much better view of it than if he had walked, and
knew as much about a horse as a person ought to know for the sake of
his character. The man who can recite the tales of the Canterbury
Pilgrims, on horseback, giving the contemporary pronunciation, never
missing an accent by reason of the trot, and at the same time witch
North Carolina and a strip of East Tennessee with his noble
horsemanship, is a kind of Literary Centaur of whose double
instruction any Friend of Humanity may be glad to avail himself.

"The way to mount a horse is to grasp the mane with the left hand
holding the bridle-rein, put your left foot in the stirrup, with the
right hand on the back of the saddle, and---"

Just then the horse stepped quickly around on his hind feet, and
looked the Professor in the face. The Superintendents of Affairs,
who occupy the flagging in front of the hotel, seated in cane-
bottomed chairs tilted back, smiled. These useful persons appear to
have a life-lease of this portion of the city pavement, and pretty
effectually block it up nearly all day and evening. When a lady
wishes to make her way through the blockade, it is the habit of these
observers of life to rise and make room, touching their hats, while
she picks her way through, and goes down the street with a pretty
consciousness of the flutter she has caused. The war has not changed
the Southern habit of sitting out-of-doors, but has added a new
element of street picturesqueness in groups of colored people
lounging about the corners. There appears to be more leisure than

The scene of this little lesson in horsemanship was the old town of
Abingdon, in southwest Virginia, on the Virginia and East Tennessee
railway; a town of ancient respectability, which gave birth to the
Johnstons and Floyds and other notable people; a town, that still
preserves the flavor of excellent tobacco and, something of the easy-
going habits of the days of slavery, and is a sort of educational
center, where the young ladies of the region add the final graces of
intellectual life in moral philosophy and the use of the globes to
their natural gifts. The mansion of the late and left Floyd is now a
seminary, and not far from it is the Stonewall Jackson Institute, in
the midst of a grove of splendid oaks, whose stately boles and wide-
spreading branches give a dignity to educational life. The
distinction of the region is its superb oak-trees. As it was
vacation in these institutions of learning, the travelers did not see
any of the vines that traditionally cling to the oak.

The Professor and the Friend of Humanity were about starting on a
journey, across country southward, through regions about which the
people of Abingdon could give little useful information. If the
travelers had known the capacities and resources of the country, they
would not have started without a supply train, or the establishment
of bases of provisions in advance. But, as the Professor remarked,
knowledge is something that one acquires when he has no use for it.
The horses were saddled; the riders were equipped with flannel shirts
and leather leggings; the saddle-bags were stuffed with clean linen,
and novels, and sonnets of Shakespeare, and other baggage, it would
have been well if they had been stuffed with hard-tack, for in real
life meat is more than raiment.

The hotel, in front of which there is cultivated so much of what the
Germans call sitzfleisch, is a fair type of the majority of Southern
hotels, and differs from the same class in the North in being left a
little more to run itself. The only information we obtained about it
was from its porter at the station, who replied to the question, "Is
it the best?" "We warrant you perfect satisfaction in every
respect." This seems to be only a formula of expression, for we
found that the statement was highly colored. It was left to our
imagination to conjecture how the big chambers of the old house, with
their gaping fireplaces, might have looked when furnished and filled
with gay company, and we got what satisfaction we could out of a
bygone bustle and mint-julep hilarity. In our struggles with the
porter to obtain the little items of soap, water, and towels, we were
convinced that we had arrived too late, and that for perfect
satisfaction we should have been here before the war. It was not
always as now. In colonial days the accommodations and prices at
inns were regulated by law. In the old records in the court-house we
read that if we had been here in 1777, we could have had a gallon of
good rum for sixteen shillings; a quart bowl of rum toddy made with
loaf sugar for two shillings, or with brown sugar for one shilling
and sixpence. In 1779 prices had risen. Good rum sold for four
pounds a gallon. It was ordered that a warm dinner should cost
twelve shillings, a cold dinner nine shillings, and a good breakfast
twelve shillings. But the item that pleased us most, and made us
regret our late advent, was that for two shillings we could have had
a "good lodging, with clean sheets." The colonists were fastidious

Abingdon, prettily situated on rolling hills, and a couple of
thousand feet above the sea, with views of mountain peaks to the
south, is a cheerful and not too exciting place for a brief sojourn,
and hospitable and helpful to the stranger. We had dined--so much,
at least, the public would expect of us--with a descendant of
Pocahontas; we had assisted on Sunday morning at the dedication of a
new brick Methodist church, the finest edifice in the region--
a dedication that took a long time, since the bishop would not
proceed with it until money enough was raised in open meeting to pay
the balance due on it: a religious act, though it did give a business
aspect to the place at the time; and we had been the light spots in
the evening service at the most aristocratic church of color. The
irresponsibility of this amiable race was exhibited in the tardiness
with which they assembled: at the appointed time nobody was there
except the sexton; it was three quarters of an hour before the
congregation began to saunter in, and the sermon was nearly over
before the pews were at all filled. Perhaps the sermon was not new,
but it was fervid, and at times the able preacher roared so that
articulate sounds were lost in the general effect. It was precisely
these passages of cataracts of sound and hard breathing which excited
the liveliest responses,--"Yes, Lord," and "Glory to God." Most of
these responses came from the "Amen corner." The sermon contained
the usual vivid description of the last judgment--ah, and I fancied
that the congregation did not get the ordinary satisfaction out of
it. Fashion had entered the fold, and the singing was mostly
executed by a choir in the dusky gallery, who thinly and harshly
warbled the emotional hymns. It occupied the minister a long time to
give out the notices of the week, and there was not an evening or
afternoon that had not its meetings, its literary or social
gathering, its picnic or fair for the benefit of the church, its
Dorcas society, or some occasion of religious sociability. The
raising of funds appeared to be the burden on the preacher's mind.
Two collections were taken up. At the first, the boxes appeared to
get no supply except from the two white trash present. But the
second was more successful. After the sermon was over, an elder took
his place at a table within the rails, and the real business of the
evening began. Somebody in the Amen corner struck up a tune that had
no end, but a mighty power of setting the congregation in motion.
The leader had a voice like the pleasant droning of a bag-pipe, and
the faculty of emitting a continuous note like that instrument,
without stopping to breathe. It went on and on like a Bach fugue,
winding and whining its way, turning the corners of the lines of the
catch without a break. The effect was soon visible in the emotional
crowd: feet began to move in a regular cadence and voices to join in,
with spurts of ejaculation; and soon, with an air of martyrdom, the
members began to leave their seats and pass before the table and
deposit their contributions. It was a cent contribution, and we
found it very difficult, under the contagious influence of the hum
from the Amen corner, not to rise and go forward and deposit a cent.
If anything could extract the pennies from a reluctant worldling, it
would be the buzzing of this tune. It went on and on, until the
house appeared to be drained dry of its cash; and we inferred by the
stopping of the melody that the preacher's salary was secure for the
time being. On inquiring, we ascertained that the pecuniary flood
that evening had risen to the height of a dollar and sixty cents.

All was ready for the start. It should have been early in the
morning, but it was not; for Virginia is not only one of the blessed
regions where one can get a late breakfast, but where it is almost
impossible to get an early one. At ten A. M. the two horsemen rode
away out of sight of the Abingdon spectators, down the eastern
turnpike. The day was warm, but the air was full of vitality and the
spirit of adventure. It was the 22d of July. The horses were not
ambitious, but went on at an easy fox-trot that permits observation
and encourages conversation. It had been stipulated that the horses
should be good walkers, the one essential thing in a horseback
journey. Few horses, even in a country where riding is general, are
trained to walk fast. We hear much of horses that can walk five
miles an hour, but they are as rare as white elephants. Our horses
were only fair walkers. We realized how necessary this
accomplishment is, for between the Tennessee line and Asheville,
North Carolina, there is scarcely a mile of trotting-ground.

We soon turned southward and descended into the Holston River Valley.
Beyond lay the Tennessee hills and conspicuous White-Top Mountain
(5530 feet), which has a good deal of local celebrity (standing where
the States of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina corner), and
had been pointed out to us at Abingdon. We had been urged,
personally and by letter, to ascend this mountain, without fail.
People recommend mountains to their friends as they do patent
medicines. As we leisurely jogged along we discussed this, and
endeavored to arrive at some rule of conduct for the journey. The
Professor expressed at once a feeling about mountain-climbing that
amounted to hostility,--he would go nowhere that he could not ride.
Climbing was the most unsatisfactory use to which a mountain could be
put. As to White-Top, it was a small mountain, and not worth
ascending. The Friend of Humanity, who believes in mountain-climbing
as a theory, and for other people, and knows the value of being able
to say, without detection, that he has ascended any high mountain
about which he is questioned,--since this question is the first one
asked about an exploration in a new country,--saw that he should have
to use a good deal of diplomacy to get the Professor over any
considerable elevation on the trip. And he had to confess also that
a view from a mountain is never so satisfactory as a view of a
mountain, from a moderate height. The Professor, however, did not
argue the matter on any such reasonable ground, but took his stand on
his right as a man not to ascend a mountain. With this appeal to
first principles,--a position that could not be confuted on account
of its vagueness (although it might probably be demonstrated that in
society man has no such right), there was no way of agreement except
by a compromise. It was accordingly agreed that no mountain under
six thousand feet is worth ascending; that disposed of White-Top. It
was further agreed that any mountain that is over six thousand feet
high is too high to ascend on foot.

With this amicable adjustment we forded the Holston, crossing it
twice within a few miles. This upper branch of the Tennessee is a
noble stream, broad, with a rocky bed and a swift current. Fording
it is ticklish business except at comparatively low water, and as it
is subject to sudden rises, there must be times when it seriously
interrupts travel. This whole region, full of swift streams, is
without a bridge, and, as a consequence, getting over rivers and
brooks and the dangers of ferries occupy a prominent place in the
thoughts of the inhabitants. The life necessarily had the "frontier"
quality all through, for there can be little solid advance in
civilization in the uncertainties of a bridgeless condition. An
open, pleasant valley, the Holston, but cultivation is more and more
negligent and houses are few and poorer as we advance.

We had left behind the hotels of "perfect satisfaction," and expected
to live on the country, trusting to the infrequent but remunerated
hospitality of the widely scattered inhabitants. We were to dine at
Ramsey's. Ramsey's had been recommended to us as a royal place of
entertainment the best in all that region; and as the sun grew hot in
the sandy valley, and the weariness of noon fell upon us, we
magnified Ramsey's in our imagination,--the nobility of its
situation, its cuisine, its inviting restfulness,--and half decided
to pass the night there in the true abandon of plantation life. Long
before we reached it, the Holston River which we followed had become
the Laurel, a most lovely, rocky, winding stream, which we forded
continually, for the valley became too narrow much of the way to
accommodate a road and a river. Eagerly as we were looking out for
it, we passed the great Ramsey's without knowing it, for it was the
first of a little settlement of two houses and a saw-mill and barn.
It was a neat log house of two lower rooms and a summer kitchen,
quite the best of the class that we saw, and the pleasant mistress of
it made us welcome. Across the road and close, to the Laurel was the
spring-house, the invariable adjunct to every well-to-do house in the
region, and on the stony margin of the stream was set up the big
caldron for the family washing; and here, paddling in the shallow
stream, while dinner was preparing, we established an intimacy with
the children and exchanged philosophical observations on life with
the old negress who was dabbling the clothes. What impressed this
woman was the inequality in life. She jumped to the unwarranted
conclusion that the Professor and the Friend were very rich, and
spoke with asperity of the difficulty she experienced in getting
shoes and tobacco. It was useless to point out to her that her
alfresco life was singularly blessed and free from care, and the
happy lot of any one who could loiter all day by this laughing
stream, undisturbed by debt or ambition. Everybody about the place
was barefooted, except the mistress, including the comely daughter of
eighteen, who served our dinner in the kitchen. The dinner was
abundant, and though it seemed to us incongruous at the time, we were
not twelve hours older when we looked back upon it with longing. On
the table were hot biscuit, ham, pork, and green beans, apple-sauce,
blackberry preserves, cucumbers, coffee, plenty of milk, honey, and
apple and blackberry pie. Here we had our first experience, and I
may say new sensation, of "honey on pie." It has a cloying sound as
it is written, but the handmaiden recommended it with enthusiasm, and
we evidently fell in her esteem, as persons from an uncultivated
society, when we declared our inexperience of "honey on pie." "Where
be you from?" It turned out to be very good, and we have tried to
introduce it in families since our return, with indifferent success.
There did not seem to be in this family much curiosity about the
world at large, nor much stir of social life. The gayety of madame
appeared to consist in an occasional visit to paw and maw and
grandmaw, up the river a few miles, where she was raised.

Refreshed by the honey and fodder at Ramsey's, the pilgrims went
gayly along the musical Laurel, in the slanting rays of the afternoon
sun, which played upon the rapids and illumined all the woody way.
Inspired by the misapprehension of the colored philosopher and the
dainties of the dinner, the Professor soliloquized:

"So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since seldom coming, in the long year set,
Like stones of wealth they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet."

Five miles beyond Ramsey's the Tennessee line was crossed. The
Laurel became more rocky, swift, full of rapids, and the valley
narrowed down to the riverway, with standing room, however, for
stately trees along the banks. The oaks, both black and white, were,
as they had been all day, gigantic in size and splendid in foliage.
There is a certain dignity in riding in such stately company, and the
travelers clattered along over the stony road under the impression of
possible high adventure in a new world of such freshness. Nor was
beauty wanting. The rhododendrons had, perhaps, a week ago reached
their climax, and now began to strew the water and the ground with
their brilliant petals, dashing all the way with color; but they were
still matchlessly beautiful. Great banks of pink and white covered
the steep hillsides; the bending stems, ten to twenty feet high, hung
their rich clusters over the river; avenues of glory opened away in
the glade of the stream; and at every turn of the winding way vistas
glowing with the hues of romance wrenched exclamations of delight and
wonder from the Shakespearean sonneteer and his humble Friend. In
the deep recesses of the forest suddenly flamed to the view, like the
splashes of splendor on the somber canvas of an old Venetian, these
wonders of color,--the glowing summer-heart of the woods.

It was difficult to say, meantime, whether the road was laid out in
the river, or the river in the road. In the few miles to Egger's
(this was the destination of our great expectations for the night)
the stream was crossed twenty-seven times,--or perhaps it would be
more proper to say that the road was crossed twenty-seven times.
Where the road did not run in the river, its bed was washed out and
as stony as the bed of the stream. This is a general and accurate
description of all the roads in this region, which wind along and in
the streams, through narrow valleys, shut in by low and steep hills.
The country is full of springs and streams, and between Abingdon and
Egger's is only one (small) bridge. In a region with scarcely any
level land or intervale, farmers are at a disadvantage. All along
the road we saw nothing but mean shanties, generally of logs, with
now and then a decent one-story frame, and the people looked
miserably poor.

As we picked our way along up the Laurel, obliged for the most part
to ride single-file, or as the Professor expressed it,

"Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one,"

we gathered information about Egger's from the infrequent hovels on
the road, which inflamed our imaginations. Egger was the thriving
man of the region, and lived in style in a big brick house. We began
to feel a doubt that Egger would take us in, and so much did his
brick magnificence impress us that we regretted we had not brought
apparel fit for the society we were about to enter.

It was half-past six, and we were tired and hungry, when the domain
of Egger towered in sight,--a gaunt, two-story structure of raw
brick, unfinished, standing in a narrow intervale. We rode up to the
gate, and asked a man who sat in the front-door porch if this was
Egger's, and if we could be accommodated for the night. The man,
without moving, allowed that it was Egger's, and that we could
probably stay there. This person, however, exhibited so much
indifference to our company, he was such a hairy, unkempt man, and
carried on face, hands, and clothes so much more of the soil of the
region than a prudent proprietor would divert from raising corn, that
we set him aside as a poor relation, and asked for Mr. Egger. But
the man, still without the least hospitable stir, admitted that that
was the name he went by, and at length advised us to "lite" and hitch
our horses, and sit on the porch with him and enjoy the cool of the
evening. The horses would be put up by and by, and in fact things
generally would come round some time. This turned out to be the easy
way of the country. Mr. Egger was far from being inhospitable, but
was in no hurry, and never had been in a hurry. He was not exactly a
gentleman of the old school. He was better than that. He dated from
the time when there were no schools at all, and he lived in that
placid world which is without information and ideas. Mr. Egger
showed his superiority by a total lack of curiosity about any other

This brick house, magnificent by comparison with other dwellings in
this country, seemed to us, on nearer acquaintance, only a thin,
crude shell of a house, half unfinished, with bare rooms, the
plastering already discolored. In point of furnishing it had not yet
reached the "God bless our Home" stage in crewel. In the narrow
meadow, a strip of vivid green south of the house, ran a little
stream, fed by a copious spring, and over it was built the inevitable
spring-house. A post, driven into the bank by the stream, supported
a tin wash-basin, and here we performed our ablutions. The traveler
gets to like this freedom and primitive luxury.

The farm of Egger produces corn, wheat, grass, and sheep; it is a
good enough farm, but most of it lies at an angle of thirty-five to
forty degrees. The ridge back of the house, planted in corn, was as
steep as the roof of his dwelling. It seemed incredible that it ever
could have been plowed, but the proprietor assured us that it was
plowed with mules, and I judged that the harvesting must be done by
squirrels. The soil is good enough, if it would stay in place, but
all the hillsides are seamed with gullies. The discolored state of
the streams was accounted for as soon as we saw this cultivated land.
No sooner is the land cleared of trees and broken up than it begins
to wash. We saw more of this later, especially in North Carolina,
where we encountered no stream of water that was not muddy, and saw
no cultivated ground that was not washed. The process of denudation
is going on rapidly wherever the original forests are girdled (a
common way of preparing for crops), or cut away.

As the time passed and there was no sign of supper, the question
became a burning one, and we went to explore the kitchen. No sign of
it there. No fire in the stove, nothing cooked in the house, of
course. Mrs. Egger and her comely young barefooted daughter had
still the milking to attend to, and supper must wait for the other
chores. It seemed easier to be Mr. Egger, in this state of
existence, and sit on the front porch and meditate on the price of
mules and the prospect of a crop, than to be Mrs. Egger, whose work
was not limited from sun to sun; who had, in fact, a day's work to do
after the men-folks had knocked off; whose chances of neighborhood
gossip were scanty, whose amusements were confined to a religious
meeting once a fortnight. Good, honest people these, not unduly
puffed up by the brick house, grubbing away year in and year out.
Yes, the young girl said, there was a neighborhood party, now and
then, in the winter. What a price to pay for mere life!

Long before supper was ready, nearly nine o'clock, we had almost lost
interest in it. Meantime two other guests had arrived, a couple of
drovers from North Carolina, who brought into the circle--by this
time a wood-fire had been kindled in the sitting-room, which
contained a bed, an almanac, and some old copies of a newspaper--a
rich flavor of cattle, and talk of the price of steers. As to
politics, although a presidential campaign was raging, there was
scarcely an echo of it here. This was Johnson County, Tennessee, a
strong Republican county but dog-gone it, says Mr. Egger, it's no
use to vote; our votes are overborne by the rest of the State. Yes,
they'd got a Republican member of Congress,--he'd heard his name, but
he'd forgotten it. The drover said he'd heard it also, but he didn't
take much interest in such things, though he wasn't any Republican.
Parties is pretty much all for office, both agreed. Even the
Professor, who was traveling in the interest of Reform, couldn't wake
up a discussion out of such a state of mind.

Alas! the supper, served in a room dimly lighted with a smoky lamp,
on a long table covered with oilcloth, was not of the sort to arouse
the delayed and now gone appetite of a Reformer, and yet it did not
lack variety: cornpone (Indian meal stirred up with water and heated
through), hot biscuit, slack-baked and livid, fried salt-pork
swimming in grease, apple-butter, pickled beets, onions and cucumbers
raw, coffee (so-called), buttermilk, and sweet milk when specially
asked for (the correct taste, however, is for buttermilk), and pie.
This was not the pie of commerce, but the pie of the country,--two
thick slabs of dough, with a squeezing of apple between. The
profusion of this supper staggered the novices, but the drovers
attacked it as if such cooking were a common occurrence) and did
justice to the weary labors of Mrs. Egger.

Egger is well prepared to entertain strangers, having several rooms
and several beds in each room. Upon consultation with the drovers,
they said they'd just as soon occupy an apartment by themselves, and
we gave up their society for the night. The beds in our chamber had
each one sheet, and the room otherwise gave evidence of the modern
spirit; for in one corner stood the fashionable aesthetic decoration
of our Queen Anne drawing-rooms,--the spinning-wheel. Soothed by
this concession to taste, we crowded in between the straw and the
home-made blanket and sheet, and soon ceased to hear the barking of
dogs and the horned encounters of the drovers' herd.

We parted with Mr. Egger after breakfast (which was a close copy of
the supper) with more respect than regret. His total charge for the
entertainment of two men and two horses--supper, lodging, and
breakfast--was high or low, as the traveler chose to estimate it. It
was $1.20: that is, thirty cents for each individual, or ten cents
for each meal and lodging.

Our road was a sort of by-way up Gentry Creek and over the Cut Laurel
Gap to Worth's, at Creston Post Office, in North Carolina,--the next
available halting place, said to be fifteen miles distant, and
turning out to be twenty-two, and a rough road. There is a little
settlement about Egger's, and the first half mile of our way we had
the company of the schoolmistress, a modest, pleasant-spoken girl.
Neither she nor any other people we encountered had any dialect or
local peculiarity of speech. Indeed, those we encountered that
morning had nothing in manner or accent to distinguish them. The
novelists had led us to expect something different; and the modest
and pretty young lady with frank and open blue eyes, who wore gloves
and used the common English speech, had never figured in the fiction
of the region. Cherished illusions vanish often on near approach.
The day gave no peculiarity of speech to note, except the occasional
use of "hit" for "it."

The road over Cut Laurel Gap was very steep and stony, the
thermometer mounted up to 80 deg., and, notwithstanding the beauty of
the way, the ride became tedious before we reached the summit. On
the summit is the dwelling and distillery of a colonel famous in
these parts. We stopped at the house for a glass of milk; the
colonel was absent, and while the woman in charge went after it, we
sat on the veranda and conversed with a young lady, tall, gent, well
favored, and communicative, who leaned in the doorway.

"Yes, this house stands on the line. Where you sit, you are in
Tennessee; I'm in North Carolina."

"Do you live here?"

"Law, no; I'm just staying a little while at the colonel's. I live
over the mountain here, three miles from Taylorsville. I thought I'd
be where I could step into North Carolina easy."

"How's that?"

"Well, they wanted me to go before the grand jury and testify about
some pistol-shooting down by our house, some friends of mine got into
a little difficulty,--and I did n't want to. I never has no
difficulty with nobody, never says nothing about nobody, has nothing
against nobody, and I reckon nobody has nothing against me."

"Did you come alone?"

"Why, of course. I come across the mountain by a path through the
woods. That's nothing."

A discreet, pleasant, pretty girl. This surely must be the Esmeralda
who lives in these mountains, and adorns low life by her virgin
purity and sentiment. As she talked on, she turned from time to time
to the fireplace behind her, and discharged a dark fluid from her
pretty lips, with accuracy of aim, and with a nonchalance that was
not assumed, but belongs to our free-born American girls. I cannot
tell why this habit of hers (which is no worse than the sister habit
of "dipping") should take her out of the romantic setting that her
face and figure had placed her in; but somehow we felt inclined to
ride on farther for our heroine.

"And yet," said the Professor, as we left the site of the colonel's
thriving distillery, and by a winding, picturesque road through a
rough farming country descended into the valley,--"and yet, why fling
aside so readily a character and situation so full of romance, on
account of a habit of this mountain Helen, which one of our best
poets has almost made poetical, in the case of the pioneer taking his
westward way, with ox-goad pointing to the sky:

"'He's leaving on the pictured rock
His fresh tobacco stain.'

"To my mind the incident has Homeric elements. The Greeks would have
looked at it in a large, legendary way. Here is Helen, strong and
lithe of limb, ox-eyed, courageous, but woman-hearted and love-
inspiring, contended for by all the braves and daring moonshiners of
Cut Laurel Gap, pursued by the gallants of two States, the prize of a
border warfare of bowie knives and revolvers. This Helen,
magnanimous as attractive, is the witness of a pistol difficulty on
her behalf, and when wanted by the areopagus, that she may neither
implicate a lover nor punish an enemy (having nothing, this noble
type of her sex) against nobody), skips away to Mount Ida, and there,
under the aegis of the flag of her country, in a Licensed Distillery,
stands with one slender foot in Tennessee and the other in North

"Like the figure of the Republic itself, superior to state
sovereignty," interposed the Friend.

"I beg your pardon," said the Professor, urging up Laura Matilda (for
so he called the nervous mare, who fretted herself into a fever in
the stony path), "I was quite able to get the woman out of that
position without the aid of a metaphor. It is a large and Greek
idea, that of standing in two mighty States, superior to the law,
looking east and looking west, ready to transfer her agile body to
either State on the approach of messengers of the court; and I'll be
hanged if I didn't think that her nonchalant rumination of the weed,
combined with her lofty moral attitude, added something to the

The Friend said that he was quite willing to join in the extremest
defense of the privileges of beauty,--that he even held in abeyance
judgment on the practice of dipping; but when it came to chewing, gum
was as far as he could go as an allowance for the fair sex.

"When I consider everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment..."

The rest of the stanza was lost, for the Professor was splashing
through the stream. No sooner had we descended than the fording of
streams began again. The Friend had been obliged to stipulate that
the Professor should go ahead at these crossings, to keep the
impetuous nag of the latter from throwing half the contents of the
stream upon his slower and uncomplaining companion.

What a lovely country, but for the heat of noon and the long
wearisomeness of the way!--not that the distance was great, but miles
and miles more than expected. How charming the open glades of the
river, how refreshing the great forests of oak and chestnut, and what
a panorama of beauty the banks of rhododendrons, now intermingled
with the lighter pink and white of the laurel! In this region the
rhododendron is called laurel) and the laurel (the sheep-laurel of
New England) is called ivy.

At Worth's, well on in the afternoon, we emerged into a wide, open
farming intervale, a pleasant place of meadows and streams and decent
dwellings. Worth's is the trading center of the region, has a post
office and a saw-mill and a big country store; and the dwelling of
the proprietor is not unlike a roomy New England country house.
Worth's has been immemorially a stopping-place in a region where
places of accommodation are few. The proprietor, now an elderly man,
whose reminiscences are long ante bellum, has seen the world grow up
about him, he the honored, just center of it, and a family come up
into the modern notions of life, with a boarding-school education and
glimpses of city life and foreign travel. I fancy that nothing but
tradition and a remaining Southern hospitality could induce this
private family to suffer the incursions of this wayfaring man. Our
travelers are not apt to be surprised at anything in American life,
but they did not expect to find a house in this region with two
pianos and a bevy of young ladies, whose clothes were certainly not
made on Cut Laurel Gap, and to read in the books scattered about the
house the evidences of the finishing schools with which our country
is blessed, nor to find here pupils of the Stonewall Jackson
Institute at Abingdon. With a flush of local pride, the Professor
took up, in the roomy, pleasant chamber set apart for the guests, a
copy of Porter's "Elements of Moral Science."

"Where you see the 'Elements of Moral Science,'" the Friend
generalized, "there'll be plenty of water and towels;" and the sign
did not fail. The friends intended to read this book in the cool of
the day; but as they sat on the long veranda, the voice of a maiden
reading the latest novel to a sewing group behind the blinds in the
drawing-room; and the antics of a mule and a boy in front of the
store opposite; and the arrival of a spruce young man, who had just
ridden over from somewhere, a matter of ten miles' gallop, to get a
medicinal potion for his sick mother, and lingered chatting with the
young ladies until we began to fear that his mother would recover
before his return; the coming and going of lean women in shackly
wagons to trade at the store; the coming home of the cows, splashing
through the stream, hooking right and left, and lowing for the hand
of the milker,--all these interruptions, together with the generally
drowsy quiet of the approach of evening, interfered with the study of
the Elements. And when the travelers, after a refreshing rest, went
on their way next morning, considering the Elements and the pianos
and the refinement, to say nothing of the cuisine, which is not
treated of in the text-book referred to, they were content with a
bill double that of brother Egger, in his brick magnificence.

The simple truth is, that the traveler in this region must be content
to feed on natural beauties. And it is an unfortunate truth in
natural history that the appetite for this sort of diet fails after a
time, if the inner man is not supplied with other sort of food.
There is no landscape in the world that is agreeable after two days
of rusty-bacon and slack biscuit.

"How lovely this would be," exclaimed the Professor, if it had a
background of beefsteak and coffee!

We were riding along the west fork of the Laurel, distinguished
locally as Three Top Creek,--or, rather, we were riding in it,
crossing it thirty-one times within six miles; a charming wood (and
water) road, under the shade of fine trees with the rhododendron
illuminating the way, gleaming in the forest and reflected in the
stream, all the ten miles to Elk Cross Roads, our next destination.
We had heard a great deal about Elk Cross Roads; it was on the map,
it was down in the itinerary furnished by a member of the Coast
Survey. We looked forward to it as a sweet place of repose from the
noontide heat. Alas! Elk Cross Roads is a dirty grocery store,
encumbered with dry-goods boxes, fly-blown goods, flies, loafers. In
reply to our inquiry we were told that they had nothing to eat, for
us, and not a grain of feed for the horses. But there was a man a
mile farther on, who was well to do and had stores of food,--old man
Tatern would treat us in bang-up style. The difficulty of getting
feed for the horses was chronic all through the journey. The last
corn crop had failed, the new oats and corn had not come in, and the
country was literally barren. We had noticed all along that the hens
were taking a vacation, and that chickens were not put forward as an
article of diet.

We were unable, when we reached the residence of old man Tatem, to
imagine how the local superstition of his wealth arose. His house is
of logs, with two rooms, a kitchen and a spare room, with a low loft
accessible by a ladder at the side of the chimney. The chimney is a
huge construction of stone, separating the two parts of the house; in
fact, the chimney was built first, apparently, and the two rooms were
then built against it. The proprietor sat in a little railed
veranda. These Southern verandas give an air to the meanest
dwelling, and they are much used; the family sit here, and here are
the washbasin and pail (which is filled from the neighboring spring-
house), and the row of milk-pans. The old man Tatern did not welcome
us with enthusiasm; he had no corn,--these were hard times. He
looked like hard times, grizzled times, dirty times. It seemed time
out of mind since he had seen comb or razor, and although the lovely
New River, along which we had ridden to his house,--a broad, inviting
stream,--was in sight across the meadow, there was no evidence that
he had ever made acquaintance with its cleansing waters. As to corn,
the necessities of the case and pay being dwelt on, perhaps he could
find a dozen ears. A dozen small cars he did find, and we trust that
the horses found them.

We took a family dinner with old man Tatern in the kitchen, where
there was a bed and a stove,--a meal that the host seemed to enjoy,
but which we could not make much of, except the milk; that was good.
A painful meal, on the whole, owing to the presence in the room of a
grown-up daughter with a graveyard cough, without physician or
medicine, or comforts. Poor girl! just dying of "a misery."

In the spare room were two beds; the walls were decorated with the
gay-colored pictures of patent-medicine advertisements--a favorite
art adornment of the region; and a pile of ancient illustrated papers
with the usual patent-office report, the thoughtful gift of the
member for the district. The old man takes in the "Blue Ridge
Baptist," a journal which we found largely taken up with the
experiences of its editor on his journeys roundabout in search of
subscribers. This newspaper was the sole communication of the family
with the world at large, but the old man thought he should stop it,--
he did n't seem to get the worth of his money out of it. And old man
Tatem was a thrifty and provident man. On the hearth in this best
room--as ornaments or memento mori were a couple of marble
gravestones, a short headstone and foot-stone, mounted on bases and
ready for use, except the lettering. These may not have been so
mournful and significant as they looked, nor the evidence of simple,
humble faith; they may have been taken for debt. But as parlor
ornaments they had a fascination which we could not escape.

It was while we were bathing in the New River, that afternoon, and
meditating on the grim, unrelieved sort of life of our host, that the
Professor said, "judging by the face of the 'Blue Ridge Baptist,' he
will charge us smartly for the few nubbins of corn and the milk."
The face did not deceive us; the charge was one dollar. At this rate
it would have broken us to have tarried with old man Tatem (perhaps
he is not old, but that is the name he goes by) over night.

It was a hot afternoon, and it needed some courage to mount and climb
the sandy hill leading us away from the corn-crib of Tatem. But we
entered almost immediately into fine stretches of forest, and rode
under the shade of great oaks. The way, which began by the New
River, soon led us over the hills to the higher levels of Watauga
County. So far on our journey we had been hemmed in by low hills,
and without any distant or mountain outlooks. The excessive heat
seemed out of place at the elevation of over two thousand feet, on
which we were traveling. Boone, the county seat of Watauga County,
was our destination, and, ever since morning, the guideboards and the
trend of the roads had notified us that everything in this region
tends towards Boone as a center of interest. The simple ingenuity of
some of the guide-boards impressed us. If, on coming to a fork, the
traveler was to turn to the right, the sign read,

To BOONE 10 M.
If he was to go to the left, it read,
.M 01 ENOOB oT

A short ride of nine miles, on an ascending road, through an open,
unfenced forest region, brought us long before sundown to this
capital. When we had ridden into its single street, which wanders
over gentle hills, and landed at the most promising of the taverns,
the Friend informed his comrade that Boone was 3250 feet above
Albemarle Sound, and believed by its inhabitants to be the highest
village east of the Rocky Mountains. The Professor said that it
might be so, but it was a God-forsaken place. Its inhabitants
numbered perhaps two hundred and fifty, a few of them colored. It
had a gaunt, shaky court-house and jail, a store or two, and two
taverns. The two taverns are needed to accommodate the judges and
lawyers and their clients during the session of the court. The court
is the only excitement and the only amusement. It is the event from
which other events date. Everybody in the county knows exactly when
court sits, and when court breaks. During the session the whole
county is practically in Boone, men, women, and children. They camp
there, they attend the trials, they take sides; half of them,
perhaps, are witnesses, for the region is litigious, and the
neighborhood quarrels are entered into with spirit. To be fond of
lawsuits seems a characteristic of an isolated people in new
conditions. The early settlers of New England were.

Notwithstanding the elevation of Boone, which insured a pure air, the
thermometer that afternoon stood at from 85 to 89 deg. The flies
enjoyed it. How they swarmed in this tavern! They would have
carried off all the food from the dining-room table (for flies do not
mind eating off oilcloth, and are not particular how food is cooked),
but for the machine with hanging flappers that swept the length of
it; and they destroy all possibility of sleep except in the dark.
The mountain regions of North Carolina are free from mosquitoes, but
the fly has settled there, and is the universal scourge. This
tavern, one end of which was a store, had a veranda in front, and a
back gallery, where there were evidences of female refinement in pots
of plants and flowers. The landlord himself kept tavern very much as
a hostler would, but we had to make a note in his favor that he had
never heard of a milk punch. And it might as well be said here, for
it will have to be insisted on later, that the traveler, who has read
about the illicit stills till his imagination dwells upon the
indulgence of his vitiated tastes in the mountains of North Carolina,
is doomed to disappointment. If he wants to make himself an
exception to the sober people whose cooking will make him long for
the maddening bowl, he must bring his poison with him. We had found
no bread since we left Virginia; we had seen cornmeal and water,
slack-baked; we had seen potatoes fried in grease, and bacon
incrusted with salt (all thirst-provokers), but nothing to drink
stronger than buttermilk. And we can say that, so far as our example
is concerned, we left the country as temperate as we found it. How
can there be mint juleps (to go into details) without ice? and in the
summer there is probably not a pound of ice in all the State north of
Buncombe County.

There is nothing special to be said about Boone. We were anxious to
reach it, we were glad to leave it; we note as to all these places
that our joy at departing always exceeds that on arriving, which is a
merciful provision of nature for people who must keep moving. This
country is settled by genuine Americans, who have the aboriginal
primitive traits of the universal Yankee nation. The front porch in
the morning resembled a carpenter's shop; it was literally covered
with the whittlings of the row of natives who had spent the evening
there in the sedative occupation of whittling.

We took that morning a forest road to Valle Crusis, seven miles,
through noble growths of oaks, chestnuts, hemlocks, rhododendrons,--a
charming wood road, leading to a place that, as usual, did not keep
the promise of its name. Valle Crusis has a blacksmith shop and a
dirty, flyblown store. While the Professor consulted the blacksmith

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