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

Part 3 out of 4

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about a loose shoe, the Friend carried his weariness of life without
provisions up to a white house on the hill, and negotiated for boiled
milk. This house was occupied by flies. They must have numbered
millions, settled in black swarms, covering tables, beds, walls, the
veranda; the kitchen was simply a hive of them. The only book in
sight, Whewell's--Elements of Morality," seemed to attract flies.
Query, Why should this have such a different effect from Porter's? A
white house,--a pleasant-looking house at a distance,--amiable,
kindly people in it,--why should we have arrived there on its dirty
day? Alas! if we had been starving, Valle Crusis had nothing to
offer us.

So we rode away, in the blazing heat, no poetry exuding from the
Professor, eight miles to Banner's Elk, crossing a mountain and
passing under Hanging Rock, a conspicuous feature in the landscape,
and the only outcropping of rock we had seen: the face of a ledge,
rounded up into the sky, with a green hood on it. From the summit we
had the first extensive prospect during our journey. The road can be
described as awful,--steep, stony, the horses unable to make two
miles an hour on it. Now and then we encountered a rude log cabin
without barns or outhouses, and a little patch of feeble corn. The
women who regarded the passers from their cabin doors were frowzy and
looked tired. What with the heat and the road and this discouraged
appearance of humanity, we reached the residence of Dugger, at
Banner's Elk, to which we had been directed, nearly exhausted. It is
no use to represent this as a dash across country on impatient
steeds. It was not so. The love of truth is stronger than the
desire of display. And for this reason it is impossible to say that
Mr. Dugger, who is an excellent man, lives in a clean and attractive
house, or that he offers much that the pampered child of civilization
can eat. But we shall not forget the two eggs, fresh from the hens,
whose temperature must have been above the normal, nor the spring-
house in the glen, where we found a refuge from the flies and the
heat. The higher we go, the hotter it is. Banner's Elk boasts an
elevation of thirty-five to thirty-seven hundred feet.

We were not sorry, towards sunset, to descend along the Elk River
towards Cranberry Forge. The Elk is a lovely stream, and, though not
very clear, has a reputation for trout; but all this region was under
operation of a three-years game law, to give the trout a chance to
multiply, and we had no opportunity to test the value of its
reputation. Yet a boy whom we encountered had a good string of
quarter-pound trout, which he had taken out with a hook and a feather
rudely tied on it, to resemble a fly. The road, though not to be
commended, was much better than that of the morning, the forests grew
charming in the cool of the evening, the whippoorwill sang, and as
night fell the wanderers, in want of nearly everything that makes
life desirable, stopped at the Iron Company's hotel, under the
impression that it was the only comfortable hotel in North Carolina.


Cranberry Forge is the first wedge of civilization fairly driven into
the northwest mountains of North Carolina. A narrow-gauge railway,
starting from Johnson City, follows up the narrow gorge of the Doe
River, and pushes into the heart of the iron mines at Cranberry,
where there is a blast furnace; and where a big company store, rows
of tenement houses, heaps of slag and refuse ore, interlacing tracks,
raw embankments, denuded hillsides, and a blackened landscape, are
the signs of a great devastating American enterprise. The Cranberry
iron is in great esteem, as it has the peculiar quality of the
Swedish iron. There are remains of old furnaces lower down the
stream, which we passed on our way. The present "plant" is that of a
Philadelphia company, whose enterprise has infused new life into all
this region, made it accessible, and spoiled some pretty scenery.

When we alighted, weary, at the gate of the pretty hotel, which
crowns a gentle hill and commands a pleasing, evergreen prospect of
many gentle hills, a mile or so below the works, and wholly removed
from all sordid associations, we were at the point of willingness
that the whole country should be devastated by civilization. In the
local imagination this hotel of the company is a palace of unequaled
magnificence, but probably its good taste, comfort, and quiet
elegance are not appreciated after all. There is this to be said
about Philadelphia,--and it will go far in pleading for it in the
Last Day against its monotonous rectangularity and the babel-like
ambition of its Public Building,--that wherever its influence
extends, there will be found comfortable lodgings and the luxury of
an undeniably excellent cuisine. The visible seal that Philadelphia
sets on its enterprise all through the South is a good hotel.

This Cottage Beautiful has on two sides a wide veranda, set about
with easy chairs; cheerful parlors and pretty chambers, finished in
native woods, among which are conspicuous the satin stripes of the
cucumber-tree; luxurious beds, and an inviting table ordered by a
Philadelphia landlady, who knows a beefsteak from a boot-tap. Is it
"low" to dwell upon these things of the senses, when one is on a tour
in search of the picturesque? Let the reader ride from Abingdon
through a wilderness of cornpone and rusty bacon, and then judge.
There were, to be sure, novels lying about, and newspapers, and
fragments of information to be picked up about a world into which the
travelers seemed to emerge. They, at least, were satisfied, and went
off to their rooms with the restful feeling that they had arrived
somewhere) and no unquiet spirit at morn would say "to horse." To
sleep, perchance to dream of Tatem and his household cemetery; and
the Professor was heard muttering in his chamber,

"Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body's work's expir'd."

The morning was warm (the elevation of the hotel must be between
twenty-five hundred and three thousand feet), rainy, mildly rainy;
and the travelers had nothing better to do than lounge upon the
veranda, read feeble ten-cent fictions, and admire the stems of the
white birches, glistening in the moisture, and the rhododendron-
trees, twenty feet high, which were shaking off their last pink
blossoms, and look down into the valley of the Doe. It is not an
exciting landscape, nothing bold or specially wild in it, but restful
with the monotony of some of the wooded Pennsylvania hills.

Sunday came up smiling, a lovely day, but offering no church
privileges, for the ordinance of preaching is only occasional in this
region. The ladies of the hotel have, however, gathered in the
valley a Sunday-school of fifty children from the mountain cabins. A
couple of rainy days, with the thermometer rising to 80 deg.,
combined with natural laziness to detain the travelers in this
cottage of ease. They enjoyed this the more because it was on their
consciences that they should visit Linville Falls, some twenty-five
miles eastward, long held up before them as the most magnificent
feature of this region, and on no account to be omitted. Hence,
naturally, a strong desire to omit it. The Professor takes bold
ground against these abnormal freaks of nature, and it was nothing to
him that the public would demand that we should see Linville Falls.
In the first place, we could find no one who had ever seen them, and
we spent two days in catechizing natives and strangers. The nearest
we came to information was from a workman at the furnace, who was
born and raised within three miles of the Falls. He had heard of
people going there. He had never seen them himself. It was a good
twenty-five miles there, over the worst road in the State we'd think
it thirty before we got there. Fifty miles of such travel to see a
little water run down-hill! The travelers reflected. Every country
has a local waterfall of which it boasts; they had seen a great many.
One more would add little to the experience of life. The vagueness
of information, to be sure, lured the travelers to undertake the
journey; but the temptation was resisted--something ought to be left
for the next explorer--and so Linville remains a thing of the

Towards evening, July 29, between showers, the Professor and the
Friend rode along the narrow-gauge road, down Johnson's Creek, to
Roan Station, the point of departure for ascending Roan Mountain. It
was a ride of an hour and a half over a fair road, fringed with
rhododendrons, nearly blossomless; but at a point on the stream this
sturdy shrub had formed a long bower where under a table might have
been set for a temperance picnic, completely overgrown with wild
grape, and still gay with bloom. The habitations on the way are
mostly board shanties and mean frame cabins, but the railway is
introducing ambitious architecture here and there in the form of
ornamental filigree work on flimsy houses; ornamentation is apt to
precede comfort in our civilization.

Roan Station is on the Doe River (which flows down from Roan
Mountain), and is marked at 1265 feet above the sea. The visitor
will find here a good hotel, with open wood fires (not ungrateful in
a July evening), and obliging people. This railway from Johnson
City, hanging on the edge of the precipices that wall the gorge of
the Doe, is counted in this region by the inhabitants one of the
engineering wonders of the world. The tourist is urged by all means
to see both it and Linville Falls.

The tourist on horseback, in search of exercise and recreation, is
not probably expected to take stock of moral conditions. But this
Mitchell County, although it was a Union county during the war and is
Republican in politics (the Southern reader will perhaps prefer
another adverb to "although"), has had the worst possible reputation.
The mountains were hiding-places of illicit distilleries; the woods
were full of grog-shanties, where the inflaming fluid was sold as
"native brandy," quarrels and neighborhood difficulties were
frequent, and the knife and pistol were used on the slightest
provocation. Fights arose about boundaries and the title to mica
mines, and with the revenue officers; and force was the arbiter of
all disputes. Within the year four murders were committed in the
sparsely settled county. Travel on any of the roads was unsafe. The
tone of morals was what might be expected with such lawlessness. A
lady who came up on the road on the 4th of July, when an excursion
party of country people took possession of the cars, witnessed a
scene and heard language past belief. Men, women, and children drank
from whisky bottles that continually circulated, and a wild orgy
resulted. Profanity, indecent talk on topics that even the license
of the sixteenth century would not have tolerated, and freedom of
manners that even Teniers would have shrunk from putting on canvas,
made the journey horrible.

The unrestrained license of whisky and assault and murder had
produced a reaction a few months previous to our visit. The people
had risen up in their indignation and broken up the groggeries. So
far as we observed temperance prevailed, backed by public-opinion.
In our whole ride through the mountain region we saw only one or two
places where liquor was sold.

It is called twelve miles from Roan Station to Roan Summit. The
distance is probably nearer fourteen, and our horses were five hours
in walking it. For six miles the road runs by Doe River, here a
pretty brook shaded with laurel and rhododendron, and a few
cultivated patches of ground, and infrequent houses. It was a blithe
morning, and the horsemen would have given full indulgence to the
spirit of adventure but for the attitude of the Professor towards
mountains. It was not with him a matter of feeling, but of
principle, not to ascend them. But here lay Roan, a long, sprawling
ridge, lifting itself 6250 feet up into the sky. Impossible to go
around it, and the other side must be reached. The Professor was
obliged to surrender, and surmount a difficulty which he could not
philosophize out of his mind.

>From the base of the mountain a road is very well engineered, in easy
grades for carriages, to the top; but it was in poor repair and
stony. We mounted slowly through splendid forests, specially of fine
chestnuts and hemlocks. This big timber continues till within a mile
and a half of the summit by the winding road, really within a short
distance of the top. Then there is a narrow belt of scrubby
hardwood, moss-grown, and then large balsams, which crown the
mountain. As soon as we came out upon the southern slope we found
great open spaces, covered with succulent grass, and giving excellent
pasturage to cattle. These rich mountain meadows are found on all
the heights of this region. The surface of Roan is uneven, and has
no one culminating peak that commands the country, like the peak of
Mount Washington, but several eminences within its range of probably
a mile and a half, where various views can be had. Near the highest
point, sheltered from the north by balsams, stands a house of
entertainment, with a detached cottage, looking across the great
valley to the Black Mountain range. The surface of the mountain is
pebbly, but few rocks crop out; no ledges of any size are seen except
at a distance from the hotel, on the north side, and the mountain
consequently lacks that savage, unsubduable aspect which the White
Hills of New Hampshire have. It would, in fact, have been difficult
to realize that we were over six thousand feet above the sea, except
for that pallor in the sunlight, that atmospheric thinness and want
of color which is an unpleasant characteristic of high altitudes. To
be sure, there is a certain brilliancy in the high air,--it is apt to
be foggy on Roan,--and objects appear in sharp outline, but I have
often experienced on such places that feeling of melancholy, which
would, of course, deepen upon us all if we were sensible that the sun
was gradually withdrawing its power of warmth and light. The black
balsam is neither a cheerful nor a picturesque tree; the frequent
rains and mists on Roan keep the grass and mosses green, but the
ground damp. Doubtless a high mountain covered with vegetation has
its compensation, but for me the naked granite rocks in sun and
shower are more cheerful.

The advantage of Roan is that one can live there and be occupied for
a long time in mineral and botanical study. Its mild climate,
moisture, and great elevation make it unique in this country for the
botanist. The variety of plants assembled there is very large, and
there are many, we were told, never or rarely found elsewhere in the
United States. At any rate, the botanists rave about Roan Mountain,
and spend weeks at a time on it. We found there ladies who could
draw for us Grey's lily (then passed), and had kept specimens of the
rhododendron (not growing elsewhere in this region) which has a deep
red, almost purple color.

The hotel (since replaced by a good house) was a rude mountain
structure, with a couple of comfortable rooms for office and sitting-
room, in which big wood fires were blazing; for though the
thermometer might record 60 deg., as it did when we arrived, fire was
welcome. Sleeping-places partitioned off in the loft above gave the
occupants a feeling of camping out, all the conveniences being
primitive; and when the wind rose in the night and darkness, and the
loose boards rattled and the timbers creaked, the sensation was not
unlike that of being at sea. The hotel was satisfactorily kept, and
Southern guests, from as far south as New Orleans, were spending the
season there, and not finding time hang heavy on their hands. This
statement is perhaps worth more than pages of description as to the
character of Roan, and its contrast to Mount Washington.

The summer weather is exceedingly uncertain on all these North
Carolina mountains; they are apt at any moment to be enveloped in
mist; and it would rather rain on them than not. On the afternoon of
our arrival there was fine air and fair weather, but not a clear sky.
The distance was hazy, but the outlines were preserved. We could see
White Top, in Virginia; Grandfather Mountain, a long serrated range;
the twin towers of Linville; and the entire range of the Black
Mountains, rising from the valley, and apparently lower than we were.
They get the name of Black from the balsams which cover the summits.

The rain on Roan was of less annoyance by reason of the delightful
company assembled at the hotel, which was in a manner at home there,
and, thrown upon its own resources, came out uncommonly strong in
agreeableness. There was a fiddle in the house, which had some of
the virtues of that celebrated in the history of old Mark Langston;
the Professor was enabled to produce anything desired out of the
literature of the eighteenth century; and what with the repartee of
bright women, big wood fires, reading, and chat, there was no dull
day or evening on Roan. I can fancy, however, that it might tire in
time, if one were not a botanist, without the resource of women's
society. The ladies staying here were probably all accomplished
botanists, and the writer is indebted to one of them for a list of
plants found on Roan, among which is an interesting weed, catalogued
as Humana, perplexia negligens. The species is, however, common

The second morning opened, after a night of high wind, with a
thunder-shower. After it passed, the visitors tried to reach Eagle
Cliff, two miles off, whence an extensive western prospect is had,
but were driven back by a tempest, and rain practically occupied the
day. Now and then through the parted clouds we got a glimpse of a
mountain-side, or the gleam of a valley. On the lower mountains, at
wide intervals apart, were isolated settlements, commonly a wretched
cabin and a spot of girdled trees. A clergyman here, not long ago,
undertook to visit some of these cabins and carry his message to
them. In one wretched hut of logs he found a poor woman, with whom,
after conversation on serious subjects, he desired to pray. She
offered no objection, and he kneeled down and prayed. The woman
heard him, and watched him for some moments with curiosity, in an
effort to ascertain what he was doing, and then said :

"Why, a man did that when he put my girl in a hole."

Towards night the wind hauled round from the south to the northwest,
and we went to High Bluff, a point on the north edge, where some
rocks are piled up above the evergreens, to get a view of the sunset.
In every direction the mountains were clear, and a view was obtained
of the vast horizon and the hills and lowlands of several States--a
continental prospect, scarcely anywhere else equaled for variety or
distance. The grandeur of mountains depends mostly on the state of
the atmosphere. Grandfather loomed up much more loftily than the day
before, the giant range of the Blacks asserted itself in grim
inaccessibility, and we could see, a small pyramid on the southwest
horizon, King's Mountain in South Carolina, estimated to be distant
one hundred and fifty miles. To the north Roan falls from this point
abruptly, and we had, like a map below us, the low country all the
way into Virginia. The clouds lay like lakes in the valleys of the
lower hills, and in every direction were ranges of mountains wooded
to the summits. Off to the west by south lay the Great Smoky
Mountains, disputing eminence with the Blacks.

Magnificent and impressive as the spectacle was, we were obliged to
contrast it unfavorably with that of the White Hills. The rock here
is a sort of sand or pudding stone; there is no limestone or granite.
And all the hills are tree-covered. To many this clothing of verdure
is most restful and pleasing. I missed the sharp outlines, the
delicate artistic sky lines, sharply defined in uplifted bare granite
peaks and ridges, with the purple and violet color of the northern
mountains, and which it seems to me that limestone and granite
formations give. There are none of the great gorges and awful
abysses of the White Mountains, both valleys and mountains here being
more uniform in outline. There are few precipices and jutting crags,
and less is visible of the giant ribs and bones of the planet.

Yet Roan is a noble mountain. A lady from Tennessee asked me if I
had ever seen anything to compare with it--she thought there could be
nothing in the world. One has to dodge this sort of question in the
South occasionally, not to offend a just local pride. It is
certainly one of the most habitable of big mountains. It is roomy on
top, there is space to move about without too great fatigue, and one
might pleasantly spend a season there, if he had agreeable company
and natural tastes.

Getting down from Roan on the south side is not as easy as ascending
on the north; the road for five miles to the foot of the mountain is
merely a river of pebbles, gullied by the heavy rains, down which the
horses picked their way painfully. The travelers endeavored to
present a dashing and cavalier appearance to the group of ladies who
waved good-by from the hotel, as they took their way over the waste
and wind-blown declivities, but it was only a show, for the horses
would neither caracole nor champ the bit (at a dollar a day) down-
hill over the slippery stones, and, truth to tell, the wanderers
turned with regret from the society of leisure and persiflage to face
the wilderness of Mitchell County.

"How heavy," exclaimed the Professor, pricking Laura Matilda to call
her attention sharply to her footing

"How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek--my weary travel's end
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
Thus far the miles are measur'd from thy friend!
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider loved not speed, being made from thee:
The bloody spur cannot provoke him on
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;
For that same groan doth put this in my mind;
My grief lies onward and my joy behind."

This was not spoken to the group who fluttered their farewells, but
poured out to the uncomplaining forest, which rose up in ever
statelier--and grander ranks to greet the travelers as they
descended--the silent, vast forest, without note of bird or chip of
squirrel, only the wind tossing the great branches high overhead in
response to the sonnet. Is there any region or circumstance of life
that the poet did not forecast and provide for? But what would have
been his feelings if he could have known that almost three centuries
after these lines were penned, they would be used to express the
emotion of an unsentimental traveler in the primeval forests of the
New World? At any rate, he peopled the New World with the children
of his imagination. And, thought the Friend, whose attention to his
horse did not permit him to drop into poetry, Shakespeare might have
had a vision of this vast continent, though he did not refer to it,
when he exclaimed:

"What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?"

Bakersville, the capital of Mitchell County, is eight miles from the
top of Roan, and the last three miles of the way the horsemen found
tolerable going, over which the horses could show their paces. The
valley looked fairly thrifty and bright, and was a pleasing
introduction to Bakersville, a pretty place in the hills, of some six
hundred inhabitants, with two churches, three indifferent hotels, and
a court-house. This mountain town, 255O feet above the sea, is said
to have a decent winter climate, with little snow, favorable to
fruit-growing, and, by contrast with New England, encouraging to
people with weak lungs.

This is the center of the mica mining, and of considerable excitement
about minerals. All around, the hills are spotted with "diggings."
Most of the mines which yield well show signs of having been worked
before, a very long time ago, no doubt by the occupants before the
Indians. The mica is of excellent quality and easily mined. It is
got out in large irregular-shaped blocks and transported to the
factories, where it is carefully split by hand, and the laminae, of
as large size as can be obtained, are trimmed with shears and tied up
in packages for market. The quantity of refuse, broken, and rotten
mica piled up about the factories is immense, and all the roads round
about glisten with its scales. Garnets are often found imbedded in
the laminae, flattened by the extreme pressure to which the mass was
subjected. It is fascinating material, this mica, to handle, and we
amused ourselves by experimenting on the thinness to which its scales
could be reduced by splitting. It was at Bakersville that we saw
specimens of mica that resembled the delicate tracery in the moss-
agate and had the iridescent sheen of the rainbow colors--the most
delicate greens, reds, blues, purples, and gold, changing from one to
the other in the reflected light. In the texture were the tracings
of fossil forms of ferns and the most exquisite and delicate
vegetable beauty of the coal age. But the magnet shows this tracery
to be iron. We were shown also emeralds and "diamonds," picked up in
this region, and there is a mild expectation in all the inhabitants
of great mineral treasure. A singular product of the region is the
flexible sandstone. It is a most uncanny stone. A slip of it a
couple of feet long and an inch in diameter each way bends in the
hand like a half-frozen snake. This conduct of a substance that we
have been taught to regard as inflexible impairs one's confidence in
the stability of nature and affects him as an earthquake does.

This excitement over mica and other minerals has the usual effect of
starting up business and creating bad blood. Fortunes have been
made, and lost in riotous living; scores of visionary men have been
disappointed; lawsuits about titles and claims have multiplied, and
quarrels ending in murder have been frequent in the past few years.
The mica and the illicit whisky have worked together to make this
region one of lawlessness and violence. The travelers were told
stories of the lack of common morality and decency in the region, but
they made no note of them. And, perhaps fortunately, they were not
there during court week to witness the scenes of license that were
described. This court week, which draws hither the whole population,
is a sort of Saturnalia. Perhaps the worst of this is already a
thing of the past; for the outrages a year before had reached such a
pass that by a common movement the sale of whisky was stopped (not
interdicted, but stopped), and not a drop of liquor could be bought
in Bakersville nor within three miles of it.

The jail at Bakersville is a very simple residence. The main
building is brick, two stories high and about twelve feet square.
The walls are so loosely laid up that it seems as if a colored
prisoner might butt his head through. Attached to this is a room for
the jailer. In the lower room is a wooden cage, made of logs bolted
together and filled with spikes, nine feet by ten feet square and
perhaps seven or eight feet high. Between this cage and the wall is
a space of eighteen inches in width. It has a narrow door, and an
opening through which the food is passed to the prisoners, and a
conduit leading out of it. Of course it soon becomes foul, and in
warm weather somewhat warm. A recent prisoner, who wanted more
ventilation than the State allowed him, found some means, by a loose
plank, I think, to batter a hole in the outer wall opposite the
window in the cage, and this ragged opening, seeming to the jailer a
good sanitary arrangement, remains. Two murderers occupied this
apartment at the time of our visit. During the recent session of
court, ten men had been confined in this narrow space, without room
enough for them to lie down together. The cage in the room above, a
little larger, had for tenant a person who was jailed for some
misunderstanding about an account, and who was probably innocent--
from the jailer's statement. This box is a wretched residence, month
after month, while awaiting trial.

We learned on inquiry that it is practically impossible to get a jury
to convict of murder in this region, and that these admitted felons
would undoubtedly escape. We even heard that juries were purchasable
here, and that a man's success in court depended upon the length of
his purse. This is such an unheard-of thing that we refused to
credit it. When the Friend attempted to arouse the indignation of
the Professor about the barbarity of this jail, the latter defended
it on the ground that as confinement was the only punishment that
murderers were likely to receive in this region, it was well to make
their detention disagreeable to them. But the Friend did not like
this wild-beast cage for men, and could only exclaim,

"Oh, murder! what crimes are done in thy name."

If the comrades wished an adventure, they had a small one, more
interesting to them than to the public, the morning they left
Bakersville to ride to Burnsville, which sets itself up as the
capital of Yancey. The way for the first three miles lay down a
small creek and in a valley fairly settled, the houses, a store, and
a grist-mill giving evidence of the new enterprise of the region.
When Toe River was reached, there was a choice of routes. We might
ford the Toe at that point, where the river was wide, but shallow,
and the crossing safe, and climb over the mountain by a rough but
sightly road, or descend the stream by a better road and ford the
river at a place rather dangerous to those unfamiliar with it. The
danger attracted us, but we promptly chose the hill road on account
of the views, for we were weary of the limited valley prospects.

The Toe River, even here, where it bears westward, is a very
respectable stream in size, and not to be trifled with after a
shower. It gradually turns northward, and, joining the Nollechucky,
becomes part of the Tennessee system. We crossed it by a long,
diagonal ford, slipping and sliding about on the round stones, and
began the ascent of a steep hill. The sun beat down unmercifully,
the way was stony, and the horses did not relish the weary climbing.
The Professor, who led the way, not for the sake of leadership, but
to be the discoverer of laden blackberry bushes, which began to offer
occasional refreshment, discouraged by the inhospitable road and
perhaps oppressed by the moral backwardness of things in general,
cried out:

"Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,--
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily foresworn,
And gilded honor shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone."

In the midst of a lively discussion of this pessimistic view of the
inequalities of life, in which desert and capacity are so often put
at disadvantage by birth in beggarly conditions, and brazen
assumption raises the dust from its chariot wheels for modest merit
to plod along in, the Professor swung himself off his horse to attack
a blackberry bush, and the Friend, representing simple truth, and
desirous of getting a wider prospect, urged his horse up the hill.
At the top he encountered a stranger, on a sorrel horse, with whom he
entered into conversation and extracted all the discouragement the
man had as to the road to Burnsville.

Nevertheless, the view opened finely and extensively. There are few
exhilarations comparable to that of riding or walking along a high
ridge, and the spirits of the traveler rose many degrees above the
point of restful death, for which the Professor was crying when he
encountered the blackberry bushes. Luckily the Friend soon fell in
with a like temptation, and dismounted. He discovered something that
spoiled his appetite for berries. His coat, strapped on behind the
saddle, had worked loose, the pocket was open, and the pocket-book
was gone. This was serious business. For while the Professor was
the cashier, and traveled like a Rothschild, with large drafts, the
Friend represented the sub-treasury. That very morning, in response
to inquiry as to the sinews of travel, the Friend had displayed,
without counting, a roll of bills. These bills had now disappeared,
and when the Friend turned back to communicate his loss, in the
character of needy nothing not trimm'd in jollity, he had a
sympathetic listener to the tale of woe.

Going back on such a journey is the woefulest experience, but retrace
our steps we must. Perhaps the pocket-book lay in the road not half
a mile back. But not in half a mile, or a mile, was it found.
Probably, then, the man on the sorrel horse had picked it up. But
who was the man on the sorrel horse, and where had he gone? Probably
the coat worked loose in crossing Toe River and the pocket-book had
gone down-stream. The number of probabilities was infinite, and each
more plausible than the others as it occurred to us. We inquired at
every house we had passed on the way, we questioned every one we met.
At length it began to seem improbable that any one would remember if
he had picked up a pocketbook that morning. This is just the sort of
thing that slips an untrained memory.

At a post office or doctor's shop, or inn for drovers, it might be
either or neither, where several horses were tied to the fence,, and
a group of men were tilted back in cane chairs on the veranda, we
unfolded our misfortune and made particular inquiries for a man on a
sorrel horse. Yes, such a man, David Thomas by name, had just ridden
towards Bakersville. If he had found the pocket-book, we would
recover it. He was an honest man. It might, however, fall into
hands that would freeze to it.

Upon consultation, it was the general verdict that there were men in
the county who would keep it if they had picked it up. But the
assembly manifested the liveliest interest in the incident. One
suggested Toe River. Another thought it risky to drop a purse on any
road. But there was a chorus of desire expressed that we should find
it, and in this anxiety was exhibited a decided sensitiveness about
the honor of Mitchell County. It seemed too bad that a stranger
should go away with the impression that it was not safe to leave
money anywhere in it. We felt very much obliged for this genuine
sympathy, and we told them that if a pocket-book were lost in this
way on a Connecticut road, there would be felt no neighborhood
responsibility for it, and that nobody would take any interest in the
incident except the man who lost, and the man who found.

By the time the travelers pulled up at a store in Bakersville they
had lost all expectation of recovering the missing article, and were
discussing the investment of more money in an advertisement in the
weekly newspaper of the capital. The Professor, whose reform
sentiments agreed with those of the newspaper, advised it. There was
a group of idlers, mica acquaintances of the morning, and
philosophers in front of the store, and the Friend opened the
colloquy by asking if a man named David Thomas had been seen in town.
He was in town, had ridden in within an hour, and his brother, who
was in the group, would go in search of him. The information was
then given of the loss, and that the rider had met David Thomas just
before it was discovered, on the mountain beyond the Toe. The news
made a sensation, and by the time David Thomas appeared a crowd of a
hundred had drawn around the horsemen eager for further developments.
Mr. Thomas was the least excited of the group as he took his position
on the sidewalk, conscious of the dignity of the occasion and that he
was about to begin a duel in which both reputation and profit were
concerned. He recollected meeting the travelers in the morning.

The Friend said, "I discovered that I had lost my purse just after
meeting you; it may have been dropped in Toe River, but I was told
back here that if David Thomas had picked it up, it was as safe as if
it were in the bank."

"What sort of a pocket-book was it?" asked Mr. Thomas.

"It was of crocodile skin, or what is sold for that, very likely it
is an imitation, and about so large indicating the size."

"What had it in it?"

"Various things. Some specimens of mica; some bank checks, some

"Anything else?"

"Yes, a photograph. And, oh, something that I presume is not in
another pocket-book in North Carolina,--in an envelope, a lock of the
hair of George Washington, the Father of his Country." Sensation
mixed with incredulity. Washington's hair did seem such an odd part
of an outfit for a journey of this kind.

"How much money was in it?"

"That I cannot say, exactly. I happen to remember four twenty-dollar
United States notes, and a roll of small bills, perhaps something
over a hundred dollars."

"Is that the pocket-book?" asked David Thomas, slowly pulling the
loved and lost out of his trousers pocket.

"It is."

"You'd be willing to take your oath on it?"

"I should be delighted to."

"Well, I guess there ain't so much money in it. You can count it
[handing it over]; there hain't been nothing taken out. I can't
read, but my friend here counted it over, and he says there ain't as
much as that."

Intense interest in the result of the counting. One hundred and ten
dollars! The Friend selected one of the best engraved of the notes,
and appealed to the crowd if they thought that was the square thing
to do. They did so think, and David Thomas said it was abundant.
And then said the Friend :

"I'm exceedingly grateful to you besides. Washington's hair is
getting scarce, and I did not want to lose these few hairs, gray as
they are. You've done the honest thing, Mr. Thomas, as was expected
of you. You might have kept the whole. But I reckon if there had
been five hundred dollars in the book and you had kept it, it
wouldn't have done you half as much good as giving it up has done;
and your reputation as an honest man is worth a good deal more than
this pocket-book. [The Professor was delighted with this sentiment,
because it reminded him of a Sunday-school.] I shall go away with a
high opinion of the honesty of Mitchell County."

"Oh, he lives in Yancey," cried two or three voices. At which there
was a great laugh.

"Well, I wondered where he came from." And the Mitchell County
people laughed again at their own expense, and the levee broke up.
It was exceedingly gratifying, as we spread the news of the recovered
property that afternoon at every house on our way to the Toe, to see
what pleasure it gave. Every man appeared to feel that the honor of
the region had been on trial--and had stood the test.

The eighteen miles to Burnsville had now to be added to the morning
excursion, but the travelers were in high spirits, feeling the truth
of the adage that it is better to have loved and lost, than never to
have lost at all. They decided, on reflection, to join company with
the mail-rider, who was going to Burnsville by the shorter route, and
could pilot them over the dangerous ford of the Toe.

The mail-rider was a lean, sallow, sinewy man, mounted on a sorry
sorrel nag, who proved, however, to have blood in her, and to be a
fast walker and full of endurance. The mail-rider was taciturn, a
natural habit for a man who rides alone the year round, over a lonely
road, and has nothing whatever to think of. He had been in the war
sixteen months, in Hugh White's regiment,--reckon you've heerd of



"Was he on the Union or Confederate side?"

"Oh, Union."

"Were you in any engagements?"


"Did you have any fighting?"

"Not reg'lar."

"What did you do?"


"What did you do in Hugh White's regiment?"

"Oh, just cavorted round the mountains."

"You lived on the country?"


"Picked up what you could find, corn, bacon, horses?"

"That's about so. Did n't make much difference which side was round,
the country got cleaned out."

"Plunder seems to have been the object?"


"You got a living out of the farmers?"

"You bet."

Our friend and guide seemed to have been a jayhawker and mountain
marauder--on the right side. His attachment to the word "which"
prevented any lively flow of conversation, and there seemed to be
only two trains of ideas running in his mind: one was the subject of
horses and saddles, and the other was the danger of the ford we were
coming to, and he exhibited a good deal of ingenuity in endeavoring
to excite our alarm. He returned to the ford from every other
conversational excursion, and after every silence.

I do' know's there 's any great danger; not if you know the ford.
Folks is carried away there. The Toe gits up sudden. There's been
right smart rain lately.

If you're afraid, you can git set over in a dugout, and I'll take
your horses across. Mebbe you're used to fording? It's a pretty bad
ford for them as don't know it. But you'll get along if you mind
your eye. There's some rocks you'll have to look out for. But
you'll be all right if you follow me."

Not being very successful in raising an interest in the dangers of
his ford, although he could not forego indulging a malicious pleasure
in trying to make the strangers uncomfortable, he finally turned his
attention to a trade. "This hoss of mine," he said, "is just the
kind of brute-beast you want for this country. Your hosses is too
heavy. How'll you swap for that one o' yourn?" The reiterated
assertion that the horses were not ours, that they were hired, made
little impression on him. All the way to Burnsville he kept
referring to the subject of a trade. The instinct of "swap" was
strong in him. When we met a yoke of steers, he turned round and
bantered the owner for a trade. Our saddles took his fancy. They
were of the army pattern, and he allowed that one of them would just
suit him. He rode a small flat English pad, across which was flung
the United States mail pouch, apparently empty. He dwelt upon the
fact that his saddle was new and ours were old, and the advantages
that would accrue to us from the exchange. He did n't care if they
had been through the war, as they had, for he fancied an army saddle.
The Friend answered for himself that the saddle he rode belonged to a
distinguished Union general, and had a bullet in it that was put
there by a careless Confederate in the first battle of Bull Run, and
the owner would not part with it for money. But the mail-rider said
he did n't mind that. He would n't mind swapping his new saddle for
my old one and the rubber coat and leggings. Long before we reached
the ford we thought we would like to swap the guide, even at the,
risk of drowning. The ford was passed, in due time, with no
inconvenience save that of wet feet, for the stream was breast high
to the horses; but being broad and swift and full of sunken rocks and
slippery stones, and the crossing tortuous, it is not a ford to be
commended. There is a curious delusion that a rider has in crossing
a swift broad stream. It is that he is rapidly drifting up-stream,
while in fact the tendency of the horse is to go with the current.

The road in the afternoon was not unpicturesque, owing to the streams
and the ever noble forests, but the prospect was always very limited.
Agriculturally, the country was mostly undeveloped. The travelers
endeavored to get from the rider an estimate of the price of land.
Not much sold, he said. "There was one sale of a big piece last
year; the owner enthorited Big Tom Wilson to sell it, but I d'know
what he got for it,"

All the way along, the habitations were small log cabins, with one
room, chinked with mud, and these were far between; and only
occasionally thereby a similar log structure, unchinked, laid up like
a cob house, that served for a stable. Not much cultivation, except
now and then a little patch of poor corn on a steep hillside,
occasionally a few apple-trees, and a peach-tree without fruit. Here
and there was a house that had been half finished and then abandoned,
or a shanty in which a couple of young married people were just
beginning life. Generally the cabins (confirming the accuracy of the
census of 1880 swarmed with children, and nearly all the women were
thin and sickly.

In the day's ride we did not see a wheeled vehicle, and only now and
then a horse. We met on the road small sleds, drawn by a steer,
sometimes by a cow, on which a bag of grist was being hauled to the
mill, and boys mounted on steers gave us good-evening with as much
pride as if they were bestriding fiery horses.

In a house of the better class, which was a post-house, and where the
rider and the woman of the house had a long consultation over a
letter to be registered, we found the rooms decorated with patent-
medicine pictures, which were often framed in strips of mica, an
evidence of culture that was worth noting. Mica was the rage. Every
one with whom we talked, except the rider, had more or less the
mineral fever. The impression was general that the mountain region
of North Carolina was entering upon a career of wonderful mineral
development, and the most extravagant expectations were entertained.
Mica was the shining object of most "prospecting," but gold was also
on the cards.

The country about Burnsville is not only mildly picturesque, but very
pleasing. Burnsville, the county-seat of Yancey, at an elevation of
2840 feet, is more like a New England village than any hitherto seen.
Most of the houses stand about a square, which contains the shabby
court-house; around it are two small churches, a jail, an inviting
tavern) with a long veranda, and a couple of stores. On an
overlooking hill is the seminary. Mica mining is the exciting
industry, but it is agriculturally a good country. The tavern had
recently been enlarged to meet the new demands for entertainment) and
is a roomy structure, fresh with paint and only partially organized.
The travelers were much impressed with the brilliant chambers, the
floors of which were painted in alternate stripes of vivid green and
red. The proprietor, a very intelligent and enterprising man, who
had traveled often in the North, was full of projects for the
development of his region and foremost in its enterprises, and had
formed a considerable collection of minerals. Besides, more than any
one else we met, he appreciated the beauty of his country, and took
us to a neighboring hill, where we had a view of Table Mountain to
the east and the nearer giant Blacks. The elevation of Burnsville
gives it a delightful summer climate, the gentle undulations of the
country are agreeable, the views noble, the air is good, and it is
altogether a "livable" and attractive place. With facilities of
communication, it would be a favorite summer resort. Its nearness to
the great mountains (the whole Black range is in Yancey County), its
fine pure air, its opportunity for fishing and hunting, commend it to
those in search of an interesting and restful retreat in summer.

But it should be said that before the country can attract and retain
travelers, its inhabitants must learn something about the preparation
of food. If, for instance, the landlord's wife at Burnsville had
traveled with her husband, her table would probably have been more on
a level with his knowledge of the world, and it would have contained
something that the wayfaring man, though a Northerner, could eat. We
have been on the point several times in this journey of making the
observation, but have been restrained by a reluctance to touch upon
politics, that it was no wonder that a people with such a cuisine
should have rebelled. The travelers were in a rebellious mood most
of the time.

The evidences of enterprise in this region were pleasant to see, but
the observers could not but regret, after all, the intrusion of the
money-making spirit, which is certain to destroy much of the present
simplicity. It is as yet, to a degree, tempered by a philosophic
spirit. The other guest of the house was a sedate, long-bearded
traveler for some Philadelphia house, and in the evening he and the
landlord fell into a conversation upon what Socrates calls the
disadvantage of the pursuit of wealth to the exclusion of all noble
objects, and they let their fancy play about Vanderbilt, who was
agreed to be the richest man in the world, or that ever lived.

"All I want," said the long-bearded man, "is enough to be
comfortable. I would n't have Vanderbilt's wealth if he'd give it to

"Nor I," said the landlord. "Give me just enough to be comfortable."
[The tourist couldn't but note that his ideas of enough to be
comfortable had changed a good deal since he had left his little farm
and gone into the mica business, and visited New York, and enlarged
and painted his tavern.] I should like to know what more Vanderbilt
gets out of his money than I get out of mine. I heard tell of a
young man who went to Vanderbilt to get employment. Vanderbilt
finally offered to give the young man, if he would work for him, just
what he got himself. The young man jumped at that--he'd be perfectly
satisfied with that pay. And Vanderbilt said that all he got was
what he could eat and wear, and offered to give the young man his
board and clothes."

"I declare" said the long-bearded man. "That's just it. Did you
ever see Vanderbilt's house? Neither did I, but I heard he had a
vault built in it five feet thick, solid. He put in it two hundred
millions of dollars, in gold. After a year, he opened it and put in
twelve millions more, and called that a poor year. They say his
house has gold shutters to the windows, so I've heard."

"I shouldn't wonder," said the landlord. "I heard he had one door in
his house cost forty thousand dollars. I don't know what it is made
of, unless it's made of gold."

Sunday was a hot and quiet day. The stores were closed and the two
churches also, this not being the Sunday for the itinerant preacher.
The jail also showed no sign of life, and when we asked about it, we
learned that it was empty, and had been for some time. No liquor is
sold in the place, nor within at least three miles of it. It is not
much use to try to run a jail without liquor.

In the course of the morning a couple of stout fellows arrived,
leading between them a young man whom they had arrested,--it didn't
appear on any warrant, but they wanted to get him committed and
locked up. The offense charged was carrying a pistol; the boy had
not used it against anybody, but he had flourished it about and
threatened, and the neighbors wouldn't stand that; they were bound to
enforce the law against carrying concealed weapons.

The captors were perfectly good-natured and on friendly enough terms
with the young man, who offered no resistance, and seemed not
unwilling to go to jail. But a practical difficulty arose. The jail
was locked up, the sheriff had gone away into the country with the
key, and no one could get in. It did not appear that there was any
provision for boarding the man in jail; no one in fact kept it. The
sheriff was sent for, but was not to be found, and the prisoner and
his captors loafed about the square all day, sitting on the fence,
rolling on the grass, all of them sustained by a simple trust that
the jail would be open some time.

Late in the afternoon we left them there, trying to get into the
jail. But we took a personal leaf out of this experience. Our
Virginia friends, solicitous for our safety in this wild country, had
urged us not to venture into it without arms--take at least, they
insisted, a revolver each. And now we had to congratulate ourselves
that we had not done so. If we had, we should doubtless on that
Sunday have been waiting, with the other law-breaker, for admission
into the Yancey County jail.


>From Burnsville the next point in our route was Asheville, the most
considerable city in western North Carolina, a resort of fashion, and
the capital of Buncombe County. It is distant some forty to forty-
five miles, too long a journey for one day over such roads. The
easier and common route is by the Ford of Big Ivy, eighteen miles,
the first stopping-place; and that was a long ride for the late
afternoon when we were in condition to move.

The landlord suggested that we take another route, stay that night on
Caney River with Big Tom Wilson, only eight miles from Burnsville,
cross Mount Mitchell, and go down the valley of the Swannanoa to
Asheville. He represented this route as shorter and infinitely more
picturesque. There was nothing worth seeing on the Big Ivy way.
With scarcely a moment's reflection and while the horses were
saddling, we decided to ride to Big Tom Wilson's. I could not at the
time understand, and I cannot now, why the Professor consented. I
should hardly dare yet confess to my fixed purpose to ascend Mount
Mitchell. It was equally fixed in the Professor's mind not to do it.
We had not discussed it much. But it is safe to say that if he had
one well-defined purpose on this trip, it was not to climb Mitchell.
"Not," as he put it,--

"Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,"

had suggested the possibility that he could do it.

But at the moment the easiest thing to do seemed to be to ride down
to Wilson's. When there we could turn across country to the Big Ivy,
although, said the landlord, you can ride over Mitchell just as easy
as anywhere--a lady rode plump over the peak of it last week, and
never got off her horse. You are not obliged to go; at Big Tom's,
you can go any way you please.

Besides, Big Tom himself weighed in the scale more than Mount
Mitchell, and not to see him was to miss one of the most
characteristic productions of the country, the typical backwoodsman,
hunter, guide. So we rode down Bolling Creek, through a pretty,
broken country, crossed the Caney River, and followed it up a few
miles to Wilson's plantation. There are little intervales along the
river, where hay is cut and corn grown, but the region is not much
cleared, and the stock browse about in the forest. Wilson is the
agent of the New York owner of a tract of some thirteen thousand
acres of forest, including the greater portion of Mount Mitchell, a
wilderness well stocked with bears and deer, and full of streams
abounding in trout. It is also the playground of the rattlesnake.
With all these attractions Big Tom's life is made lively in watching
game poachers, and endeavoring to keep out the foraging cattle of the
few neighbors. It is not that the cattle do much injury in the
forest, but the looking after them is made a pretense for roaming
around, and the roamers are liable to have to defend themselves
against the deer, or their curiosity is excited about the bears, and
lately they have taken to exploding powder in the streams to kill the

Big Tom's plantation has an openwork stable, an ill-put-together
frame house, with two rooms and a kitchen, and a veranda in front, a
loft, and a spring-house in the rear. Chickens and other animals
have free run of the premises. Some fish-rods hung in the porch, and
hunter's gear depended on hooks in the passage-way to the kitchen.
In one room were three beds, in the other two, only one in the
kitchen. On the porch was a loom, with a piece of cloth in process.
The establishment had the air of taking care of itself. Neither Big
Tom nor his wife was at home. Sunday seemed to be a visiting day,
and the travelers had met many parties on horseback. Mrs. Wilson
was away for a visit of a day or two. One of the sons, who was
lounging on the veranda, was at last induced to put up the horses; a
very old woman, who mumbled and glared at the visitors, was found in
the kitchen, but no intelligible response could be got out of her.
Presently a bright little girl, the housekeeper in charge, appeared.
She said that her paw had gone up to her brother's (her brother was
just married and lived up the river in the house where Mr. Murchison
stayed when he was here) to see if he could ketch a bear that had
been rootin' round in the corn-field the night before. She expected
him back by sundown--by dark anyway. 'Les he'd gone after the bear,
and then you could n't tell when he would come.

It appeared that Big Tom was a thriving man in the matter of family.
More boys appeared. Only one was married, but four had "got their
time." As night approached, and no Wilson, there was a good deal of
lively and loud conversation about the stock and the chores, in all
of which the girl took a leading and intelligent part, showing a
willingness to do her share, but not to have all the work put upon
her. It was time to go down the road and hunt up the cows; the mule
had disappeared and must be found before dark; a couple of steers
hadn't turned up since the day before yesterday, and in the midst of
the gentle contention as to whose business all this was, there was an
alarm of cattle in the corn-patch, and the girl started off on a run
in that direction. It was due to the executive ability of this small
girl, after the cows had been milked and the mule chased and the boys
properly stirred up, that we had supper. It was of the oilcloth,
iron fork, tin spoon, bacon, hot bread and honey variety,
distinguished, however, from all meals we had endured or enjoyed
before by the introduction of fried eggs (as the breakfast next
morning was by the presence of chicken), and it was served by the
active maid with right hearty good-will and genuine hospitable

While it was in progress, after nine o'clock, Big Tom arrived, and,
with a simple greeting, sat down and attacked the supper and began to
tell about the bear. There was not much to tell except that he
hadn't seen the bear, and that, judged by his tracks and his sloshing
around, he must be a big one. But a trap had been set for him, and
he judged it wouldn't be long before we had some bear meat. Big Tom
Wilson, as he is known all over this part of the State, would not
attract attention from his size. He is six feet and two inches tall,
very spare and muscular, with sandy hair, long gray beard, and honest
blue eyes. He has a reputation for great strength and endurance; a
man of native simplicity and mild manners. He had been rather
expecting us from what Mr. Murchison wrote; he wrote (his son had
read out the letter) that Big Tom was to take good care of us, and
anybody that Mr. Murchison sent could have the best he'd got.

Big Tom joined us in our room after supper. This apartment, with two
mighty feather-beds, was hung about with all manner of stuffy family
clothes, and had in one end a vast cavern for a fire. The floor was
uneven, and the hearthstones billowy. When the fire was lighted, the
effect of the bright light in the cavern and the heavy shadows in the
room was Rembrandtish. Big Tom sat with us before the fire and told
bear stories. Talk? Why, it was not the least effort. The stream
flowed on without a ripple. "Why, the old man," one of the sons
confided to us next morning, "can begin and talk right over Mount
Mitchell and all the way back, and never make a break." Though Big
Tom had waged a lifelong warfare with the bears, and taken the hide
off at least a hundred of them, I could not see that he had any
vindictive feeling towards the varmint, but simply an insatiable love
of killing him, and he regarded him in that half-humorous light in
which the bear always appears to those who study him. As to deer--he
couldn't tell how many of them he had slain. But Big Tom was a
gentleman: he never killed deer for mere sport. With rattlesnakes,
now, it was different. There was the skin of one hanging upon a tree
by the route we would take in the morning, a buster, he skinned him
yesterday. There was an entire absence, of braggadocio in Big Tom's
talk, but somehow, as he went on, his backwoods figure loomed larger
and larger in our imagination, and he seemed strangely familiar. At
length it came over us where we had met him before. It was in
Cooper's novels. He was the Leather-Stocking exactly. And yet he
was an original; for he assured us that he had never read the
Leather-Stocking Tales. What a figure, I was thinking, he must have
made in the late war! Such a shot, such a splendid physique, such
iron endurance! I almost dreaded to hear his tales of the havoc he
had wrought on the Union army. Yes, he was in the war, he was
sixteen months in the Confederate army, this Homeric man. In what
rank?" Oh, I was a fifer!"

But hunting and war did not by any means occupy the whole of Big
Tom's life. He was also engaged in "lawin'." He had a long-time
feud with a neighbor about a piece of land and alleged trespass, and
they'd been "lawin'" for years, with no definite result; but as a
topic of conversation it was as fully illustrative of frontier life
as the bear-fighting.

Long after we had all gone to bed, we heard Big Tom's continuous
voice, through the thin partition that separated us from the kitchen,
going on to his little boy about the bear; every circumstance of how
he tracked him, and what corner of the field he entered, and where he
went out, and his probable size and age, and the prospect of his
coming again; these were the details of real everyday life, and
worthy to be dwelt on by the hour. The boy was never tired of
pursuing them. And Big Tom was just a big boy, also, in his delight
in it all.

Perhaps it was the fascination of Big Tom, perhaps the representation
that we were already way off the Big Ivy route, and that it would, in
fact, save time to go over the mountain and we could ride all the
way, that made the Professor acquiesce, with no protest worth
noticing, in the preparations that went on, as by a natural
assumption, for going over Mitchell. At any rate, there was an early
breakfast, luncheon was put up, and by half-past seven we were riding
up the Caney,--a half-cloudy day,--Big Tom swinging along on foot
ahead, talking nineteen to the dozen. There was a delightful
freshness in the air, the dew-laden bushes, and the smell of the
forest. In half an hour we called at the hunting shanty of Mr.
Murchison, wrote our names on the wall, according to custom, and
regretted that we could not stay for a day in that retreat and try
the speckled trout. Making our way through the low growth and bushes
of the valley, we came into a fine open forest, watered by a noisy
brook, and after an hour's easy going reached the serious ascent.

>From Wilson's to the peak of Mitchell it is seven and a half miles;
we made it in five and a half hours. A bridle path was cut years
ago, but it has been entirely neglected. It is badly washed, it is
stony, muddy, and great trees have fallen across it which wholly
block the way for horses. At these places long detours were
necessary, on steep hillsides and through gullies, over treacherous
sink-holes in the rocks, through quaggy places, heaps of brush, and
rotten logs. Those who have ever attempted to get horses over such
ground will not wonder at the slow progress we made. Before we were
halfway up the ascent, we realized the folly of attempting it on
horseback; but then to go on seemed as easy as to go back. The way
was also exceedingly steep in places, and what with roots, and logs,
and slippery rocks and stones, it was a desperate climb for the

What a magnificent forest! Oaks, chestnuts, Poplars, hemlocks, the
cucumber (a species of magnolia, with a pinkish, cucumber-like cone),
and all sorts of northern and southern growths meeting here in
splendid array. And this gigantic forest, with little diminution in
size of trees, continued two thirds of the way up. We marked, as we
went on, the maple, the black walnut, the buckeye, the hickory, the
locust, and the guide pointed out in one section the largest cherry-
trees we had ever seen; splendid trunks, each worth a large sum if it
could be got to market. After the great trees were left behind, we
entered a garden of white birches, and then a plateau of swamp, thick
with raspberry bushes, and finally the ridges, densely crowded with
the funereal black balsam.

Halfway up, Big Tom showed us his favorite, the biggest tree he knew.
It was a poplar, or tulip. It stands more like a column than a tree,
rising high into the air, with scarcely a perceptible taper, perhaps
sixty, more likely a hundred, feet before it puts out a limb.

Its girth six feet from the ground is thirty-two feet! I think it
might be called Big Tom. It stood here, of course, a giant, when
Columbus sailed from Spain, and perhaps some sentimental traveler
will attach the name of Columbus to it.

In the woods there was not much sign of animal life, scarcely the
note of a bird, but we noticed as we rode along in the otherwise
primeval silence a loud and continuous humming overhead, almost like
the sound of the wind in pine tops. It was the humming of bees! The
upper branches were alive with these industrious toilers, and Big Tom
was always on the alert to discover and mark a bee-gum, which he
could visit afterwards. Honey hunting is one of his occupations.
Collecting spruce gum is another, and he was continually hacking off
with his hatchet knobs of the translucent secretion. How rich and
fragrant are these forests! The rhododendron was still in occasional
bloom' and flowers of brilliant hue gleamed here and there.

The struggle was more severe as we neared the summit, and the footing
worse for the horses. Occasionally it was safest to dismount and
lead them up slippery ascents; but this was also dangerous, for it
was difficult to keep them from treading on our heels, in their
frantic flounderings, in the steep, wet, narrow, brier-grown path.
At one uncommonly pokerish place, where the wet rock sloped into a
bog, the rider of Jack thought it prudent to dismount, but Big Tom
insisted that Jack would "make it" all right, only give him his head.
The rider gave him his head, and the next minute Jack's four heels
were in the air, and he came down on his side in a flash. The rider
fortunately extricated his leg without losing it, Jack scrambled out
with a broken shoe, and the two limped along. It was a wonder that
the horses' legs were not broken a dozen times.

As we approached the top, Big Tom pointed out the direction, a half
mile away, of a small pond, a little mountain tarn, overlooked by a
ledge of rock, where Professor Mitchell lost his life. Big Tom was
the guide that found his body. That day, as we sat on the summit, he
gave in great detail the story, the general outline of which is well

The first effort to measure the height of the Black Mountains was
made in 1835, by Professor Elisha Mitchell, professor of mathematics
and chemistry in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Mr. Mitchell was a native of Connecticut, born in Washington,
Litchfield County, in 1793; graduated at Yale, ordained a
Presbyterian minister, and was for a time state surveyor; and became
a professor at Chapel Hill in 1818. He first ascertained and
published the fact that the Black Mountains are the highest land east
of the Rocky Mountains. In 1844 he visited the locality again.
Measurements were subsequently made by Professor Guyot and by Senator
Clingman. One of the peaks was named for the senator (the one next
in height to Mitchell is described as Clingman on the state map), and
a dispute arose as to whether Mitchell had really visited and
measured the highest peak. Senator Clingman still maintains that he
did not, and that the peak now known as Mitchell is the one that
Clingman first described. The estimates of altitudes made by the
three explorers named differed considerably. The height now fixed
for Mount Mitchell is 6711; that of Mount Washington is 6285. There
are twelve peaks in this range higher than Mount Washington, and if
we add those in the Great Smoky Mountains which overtop it, there are
some twenty in this State higher than the granite giant of New

In order to verify his statement, Professor Mitchell (then in his
sixty-fourth year) made a third ascent in June, 1857. He was alone,
and went up from the Swannanoa side. He did not return. No anxiety
was felt for two or three days, as he was a good mountaineer, and it
was supposed he had crossed the mountain and made his way out by the
Caney River. But when several days passed without tidings of him, a
search party was formed. Big Tom Wilson was with it. They explored
the mountain in all directions unsuccessfully. At length Big Tom
separated himself from his companions and took a course in accordance
with his notion of that which would be pursued by a man lost in the
clouds or the darkness. He soon struck the trail of the wanderer,
and, following it, discovered Mitchell's body lying in a pool at the
foot of a rocky precipice some thirty feet high. It was evident that
Mitchell, making his way along the ridge in darkness or fog, had
fallen off. It was the ninth (or the eleventh) day of his
disappearance, but in the pure mountain air the body had suffered no
change. Big Tom brought his companions to the place, and on
consultation it was decided to leave the body undisturbed till
Mitchell's friends could be present.

There was some talk of burying him on the mountain, but the friends
decided otherwise, and the remains, with much difficulty, were got
down to Asheville and there interred.

Some years afterwards, I believe at the instance of a society of
scientists, it was resolved to transport the body to the summit of
Mount Mitchell; for the tragic death of the explorer had forever
settled in the popular mind the name of the mountain. The task was
not easy. A road had to be cut, over which a sledge could be hauled,
and the hardy mountaineers who undertook the removal were three days
in reaching the summit with their burden. The remains were
accompanied by a considerable concourse, and the last rites on the
top were participated in by a hundred or more scientists and
prominent men from different parts of the State. Such a strange
cortege had never before broken the silence of this lonely
wilderness, nor was ever burial more impressive than this wild
interment above the clouds.

We had been preceded in our climb all the way by a huge bear. That
he was huge, a lunker, a monstrous old varmint, Big Tom knew by the
size of his tracks; that he was making the ascent that morning ahead
of us, Big Tom knew by the freshness of the trail. We might come
upon him at any moment; he might be in the garden; was quite likely
to be found in the raspberry patch. That we did not encounter him I
am convinced was not the fault of Big Tom, but of the bear.

After a struggle of five hours we emerged from the balsams and briers
into a lovely open meadow, of lush clover, timothy, and blue grass.
We unsaddled the horses and turned them loose to feed in it. The
meadow sloped up to a belt of balsams and firs, a steep rocky knob,
and climbing that on foot we stood upon the summit of Mitchell at one
o'clock. We were none too soon, for already the clouds were
preparing for what appears to be a daily storm at this season.

The summit is a nearly level spot of some thirty or forty feet in
extent either way, with a floor of rock and loose stones. The
stunted balsams have been cut away so as to give a view. The sweep
of prospect is vast, and we could see the whole horizon except in the
direction of Roan, whose long bulk was enveloped in cloud. Portions
of six States were in sight, we were told, but that is merely a
geographical expression. What we saw, wherever we looked, was an
inextricable tumble of mountains, without order or leading line of
direction,--domes, peaks, ridges, endless and countless, everywhere,
some in shadow, some tipped with shafts of sunlight, all wooded and
green or black, and all in more softened contours than our Northern
hills, but still wild, lonesome, terrible. Away in the southwest,
lifting themselves up in a gleam of the western sky, the Great Smoky
Mountains loomed like a frowning continental fortress, sullen and
remote. With Clingman and Gibbs and Holdback peaks near at hand and
apparently of equal height, Mitchell seemed only a part and not
separate from the mighty congregation of giants.

In the center of the stony plot on the summit lie the remains of
Mitchell. To dig a grave in the rock was impracticable, but the
loose stones were scooped away to the depth of a foot or so, the body
was deposited, and the stones were replaced over it. It was the
original intention to erect a monument, but the enterprise of the
projectors of this royal entombment failed at that point. The grave
is surrounded by a low wall of loose stones, to which each visitor
adds one, and in the course of ages the cairn may grow to a good
size. The explorer lies there without name or headstone to mark his
awful resting-place. The mountain is his monument. He is alone with
its majesty. He is there in the clouds, in the tempests, where the
lightnings play, and thunders leap, amid the elemental tumult, in the
occasional great calm and silence and the pale sunlight. It is the
most majestic, the most lonesome grave on earth.

As we sat there, awed a little by this presence, the clouds were
gathering from various quarters and drifting towards us. We could
watch the process of thunder-storms and the manufacture of tempests.
I have often noticed on other high mountains how the clouds, forming
like genii released from the earth, mount into the upper air, and in
masses of torn fragments of mist hurry across the sky as to a
rendezvous of witches. This was a different display. These clouds
came slowly sailing from the distant horizon, like ships on an aerial
voyage. Some were below us, some on our level; they were all in
well-defined, distinct masses, molten silver on deck, below trailing
rain, and attended on earth by gigantic shadows that moved with them.
This strange fleet of battle-ships, drifted by the shifting currents,
was maneuvering for an engagement. One after another, as they came
into range about our peak of observation, they opened fire. Sharp
flashes of lightning darted from one to the other; a jet of flame
from one leaped across the interval and was buried in the bosom of
its adversary; and at every discharge the boom of great guns echoed
through the mountains. It was something more than a royal salute to
the tomb of the mortal at our feet, for the masses of cloud were rent
in the fray, at every discharge the rain was precipitated in
increasing torrents, and soon the vast hulks were trailing torn
fragments and wreaths of mist, like the shot-away shrouds and sails
of ships in battle. Gradually, from this long-range practice with
single guns and exchange of broadsides, they drifted into closer
conflict, rushed together, and we lost sight of the individual
combatants in the general tumult of this aerial war.

We had barely twenty minutes for our observations, when it was time
to go; and had scarcely left the peak when the clouds enveloped it.
We hastened down under the threatening sky to the saddles and the
luncheon. Just off from the summit, amid the rocks, is a complete
arbor, or tunnel, of rhododendrons. This cavernous place a Western
writer has made the scene of a desperate encounter between Big Tom
and a catamount, or American panther, which had been caught in a trap
and dragged it there, pursued by Wilson. It is an exceedingly
graphic narrative, and is enlivened by the statement that Big Tom had
the night before drunk up all the whisky of the party which had spent
the night on the summit. Now Big Tom assured us that the whisky part
of the story was an invention; he was not (which is true) in the
habit of using it; if he ever did take any, it might be a drop on
Mitchell; in fact, when he inquired if we had a flask, he remarked
that a taste of it would do him good then and there. We regretted
the lack of it in our baggage. But what inclined Big Tom to
discredit the Western writer's story altogether was the fact that he
never in his life had had a difficulty with a catamount, and never
had seen one in these mountains.

Our lunch was eaten in haste. Big Tom refused the chicken he had
provided for us, and strengthened himself with slices of raw salt
pork, which he cut from a hunk with his clasp-knife. We caught and
saddled our horses, who were reluctant to leave the rich feed,
enveloped ourselves in waterproofs, and got into the stony path for
the descent just as the torrent came down. It did rain. It
lightened, the thunder crashed, the wind howled and twisted the
treetops. It was as if we were pursued by the avenging spirits of
the mountains for our intrusion. Such a tempest on this height had
its terrors even for our hardy guide. He preferred to be lower down
while it was going on. The crash and reverberation of the thunder
did not trouble us so much as the swish of the wet branches in our
faces and the horrible road, with its mud, tripping roots, loose
stones, and slippery rocks. Progress was slow. The horses were in
momentary danger of breaking their legs. In the first hour there was
not much descent. In the clouds we were passing over Clingman,
Gibbs, and Holdback. The rain had ceased, but the mist still shut
off all view, if any had been attainable, and bushes and paths were
deluged. The descent was more uncomfortable than the ascent, and we
were compelled a good deal of the way to lead the jaded horses down
the slippery rocks.

>From the peak to the Widow Patten's, where we proposed to pass the
night, is twelve miles, a distance we rode or scrambled down, every
step of the road bad, in five and a half hours. Halfway down we came
out upon a cleared place, a farm, with fruit-trees and a house in
ruins. Here had been a summer hotel much resorted to before the war,
but now abandoned. Above it we turned aside for the view from
Elizabeth rock, named from the daughter of the proprietor of the
hotel, who often sat here, said Big Tom, before she went out of this
world. It is a bold rocky ledge, and the view from it, looking
south, is unquestionably the finest, the most pleasing and picture-
like, we found in these mountains. In the foreground is the deep
gorge of a branch of the Swannanoa, and opposite is the great wall of
the Blue Ridge (the Blue Ridge is the most capricious and
inexplicable system) making off to the Blacks. The depth of the
gorge, the sweep of the sky line, and the reposeful aspect of the
scene to the sunny south made this view both grand and charming.
Nature does not always put the needed dash of poetry into her
extensive prospects.

Leaving this clearing and the now neglected spring, where fashion
used to slake its thirst, we zigzagged down the mountain-side through
a forest of trees growing at every step larger and nobler, and at
length struck a small stream, the North Fork of the Swannanoa, which
led us to the first settlement. Just at night,--it was nearly seven
o'clock,--we entered one of the most stately forests I have ever
seen, and rode for some distance in an alley of rhododendrons that
arched overhead and made a bower. It was like an aisle in a temple;
high overhead was the somber, leafy roof, supported by gigantic
columns. Few widows have such an avenue of approach to their domain
as the Widow Patten has.

Cheering as this outcome was from the day's struggle and storm, the
Professor seemed sunk in a profound sadness. The auguries which the
Friend drew from these signs of civilization of a charming inn and a
royal supper did not lighten the melancholy of his mind. "Alas," he

"Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
'T is not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief:
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss."

"Loss of what?" cried the Friend, as he whipped up his halting

"Loss of self-respect. I feel humiliated that I consented to climb
this mountain."

"Nonsense! You'll live to thank me for it, as the best thing you
ever did. It's over and done now, and you've got it to tell your

"That's just the trouble. They'll ask me if I went up Mitchell, and
I shall have to say I did. My character for consistency is gone.
Not that I care much what they think, but my own self-respect is
gone. I never believed I would do it. A man ca'nt afford to lower
himself in his own esteem, at my time of life."

The Widow Patten's was only an advanced settlement in this narrow
valley on the mountain-side, but a little group of buildings, a
fence, and a gate gave it the air of a place, and it had once been
better cared for than it is now. Few travelers pass that way, and
the art of entertaining, if it ever existed, is fallen into
desuetude. We unsaddled at the veranda, and sat down to review our
adventure, make the acquaintance of the family, and hear the last
story from Big Tom. The mountaineer, though wet, was as fresh as a
daisy, and fatigue in no wise checked the easy, cheerful flow of his
talk. He was evidently a favorite with his neighbors, and not
unpleasantly conscious of the extent of his reputation. But he
encountered here another social grade. The Widow Patten was highly
connected. We were not long in discovering that she was an
Alexander. She had been a schoolmate of Senator Vance,--" Zeb Vance
"he still was to her,--and the senator and his wife had stayed at her
house. I wish I could say that the supper, for which we waited till
nine o'clock, was as "highly connected " as the landlady. It was,
however, a supper that left its memory. We were lodged in a detached
house, which we had to ourselves, where a roaring wood fire made
amends for other things lacking. It was necessary to close the doors
to keep out the wandering cows and pigs, and I am bound to say that,
notwithstanding the voices of the night, we slept there the sleep of

In the morning a genuine surprise awaited us; it seemed impossible,
but the breakfast was many degrees worse than the supper; and when we
paid our bill, large for the region, we were consoled by the thought
that we paid for the high connection as well as for the
accommodations. This is a regular place of entertainment, and one is
at liberty to praise it without violation of delicacy.

The broken shoe of Jack required attention, and we were all the
morning hunting a blacksmith, as we rode down the valley. Three
blacksmith's shanties were found, and after long waiting to send for
the operator it turned out in each case that he had no shoes, no
nails, no iron to make either of. We made a detour of three miles to
what was represented as a regular shop. The owner had secured the
service of a colored blacksmith for a special job, and was, not
inclined to accommodate us; he had no shoes, no nails. But the
colored blacksmith, who appreciated the plight we were in, offered to
make a shoe, and to crib four nails from those he had laid aside for
a couple of mules; and after a good deal of delay, we were enabled to
go on. The incident shows, as well as anything, the barrenness and
shiftlessness of the region. A horseman with whom we rode in the
morning gave us a very low estimate of the trustworthiness of the
inhabitants. The valley is wild and very pretty all the way down to
Colonel Long's,--twelve miles,--but the wretched-looking people along
the way live in a wretched manner.

Just before reaching Colonel Long's we forded the stream (here of
good size), the bridge having tumbled down, and encountered a party
of picnickers under the trees--signs of civilization; a railway
station is not far off. Colonel Long's is a typical Southern
establishment: a white house, or rather three houses, all of one
story, built on to each other as beehives are set in a row, all
porches and galleries. No one at home but the cook, a rotund, broad-
faced woman, with a merry eye, whose very appearance suggested good
cooking and hospitality; the Missis and the children had gone up to
the river fishing; the Colonel was somewhere about the place; always
was away when he was wanted. Guess he'd take us in, mighty fine man
the Colonel; and she dispatched a child from a cabin in the rear to
hunt him up. The Colonel was a great friend of her folks down to
Greenville; they visited here. Law, no, she didn't live here. Was
just up here spending the summer, for her health. God-forsaken lot
of people up here, poor trash. She wouldn't stay here a day, but the
Colonel was a friend of her folks, the firstest folks in Greenville.
Nobody round here she could 'sociate with. She was a Presbyterian,
the folks round here mostly Baptists and Methodists. More style
about the Presbyterians. Married? No, she hoped not. She did n't
want to support no husband. Got 'nuff to do to take care of herself.
That her little girl? No; she'd only got one child, down to
Greenville, just the prettiest boy ever was, as white as anybody.
How did she what? reconcile this state of things with not being
married and being a Presbyterian? Sho! she liked to carry some
religion along; it was mighty handy occasionally, mebbe not all the
time. Yes, indeed, she enjoyed her religion.

The Colonel appeared and gave us a most cordial welcome. The fat and
merry cook blustered around and prepared a good dinner, memorable for
its "light" bread, the first we had seen since Cranberry Forge. The
Colonel is in some sense a public man, having been a mail agent, and
a Republican. He showed us photographs and engravings of Northern
politicians, and had the air of a man who had been in Washington.
This was a fine country for any kind of fruit,--apples, grapes,
pears; it needed a little Northern enterprise to set things going.
The travelers were indebted to the Colonel for a delightful noonday
rest, and with regret declined his pressing invitation to pass the
night with him.

The ride down the Swannanoa to Asheville was pleasant, through a
cultivated region, over a good road. The Swannanoa is, however, a
turbid stream. In order to obtain the most impressive view of
Asheville we approached it by the way of Beaucatcher Hill, a sharp
elevation a mile west of the town. I suppose the name is a
corruption of some descriptive French word, but it has long been a
favorite resort of the frequenters of Asheville, and it may be
traditional that it is a good place to catch beaux. The summit is
occupied by a handsome private residence, and from this ridge the
view, which has the merit of "bursting" upon the traveler as he comes
over the hill, is captivating in its extent and variety. The pretty
town of Asheville is seen to cover a number of elevations gently
rising out of the valley, and the valley, a rich agricultural region,
well watered and fruitful, is completely inclosed by picturesque
hills, some of them rising to the dignity of mountains. The most
conspicuous of these is Mount Pisgah, eighteen miles distant to the
southwest, a pyramid of the Balsam range, 5757 feet high. Mount
Pisgah, from its shape, is the most attractive mountain in this

The sunset light was falling upon the splendid panorama and softening
it. The windows of the town gleamed as if on fire. From the steep
slope below came the mingled sounds of children shouting, cattle
driven home, and all that hum of life that marks a thickly peopled
region preparing for the night. It was the leisure hour of an August
afternoon, and Asheville was in all its watering-place gayety, as we
reined up at the Swannanoa hotel. A band was playing on the balcony.
We had reached ice-water, barbers, waiters, civilization.


Ashville, delightful for situation, on small hills that rise above
the French Broad below its confluence with the Swannanoa, is a sort
of fourteenth cousin to Saratoga. It has no springs, but lying 2250
feet above the sea and in a lovely valley, mountain girt, it has pure
atmosphere and an equable climate; and being both a summer and winter
resort, it has acquired a watering-place air. There are Southerners
who declare that it is too hot in summer, and that the complete
circuit of mountains shuts out any lively movement of air. But the
scenery is so charming and noble, the drives are so varied, the roads
so unusually passable for a Southern country, and the facilities for
excursions so good, that Asheville is a favorite resort.

Architecturally the place is not remarkable, but its surface is so
irregular, there are so many acclivities and deep valleys that
improvements can never obliterate, that it is perforce picturesque.
It is interesting also, if not pleasing, in its contrasts--the
enterprise of taste and money-making struggling with the laissez
faire of the South. The negro, I suppose, must be regarded as a
conservative element; he has not much inclination to change his
clothes or his cabin, and his swarming presence gives a ragged aspect
to the new civilization. And to say the truth, the new element of
Southern smartness lacks the trim thrift the North is familiar with;
though the visitor who needs relaxation is not disposed to quarrel
with the easy-going terms on which life is taken.

Asheville, it is needless to say, appeared very gay and stimulating
to the riders from the wilderness. The Professor, who does not even
pretend to patronize Nature, had his revenge as we strolled about the
streets (there is but one of much consideration), immensely
entertained by the picturesque contrasts. There was more life and
amusement here in five minutes, he declared, than in five days of
what people called scenery--the present rage for scenery, anyway,
being only a fashion and a modern invention. The Friend suspected
from this penchant for the city that the Professor must have been
brought up in the country.

There was a kind of predetermined and willful gayety about Asheville
however, that is apt to be present in a watering-place, and gave to
it the melancholy tone that is always present in gay places. We
fancied that the lively movement in the streets had an air of
unreality. A band of musicians on the balcony of the Swannanoa were
scraping and tooting and twanging with a hired air, and on the
opposite balcony of the Eagle a rival band echoed and redoubled the
perfunctory joyousness. The gayety was contagious: the horses felt
it; those that carried light burdens of beauty minced and pranced,
the pony in the dog-cart was inclined to dash, the few passing
equipages had an air of pleasure; and the people of color, the comely
waitress and the slouching corner-loafer, responded to the animation
of the festive strains. In the late afternoon the streets were full
of people, wagons, carriages, horsemen, all with a holiday air,
dashed with African color and humor--the irresponsibility of the most
insouciant and humorous race in the world, perhaps more comical than
humorous; a mixture of recent civilization and rudeness, peculiar and
amusing; a happy coming together, it seemed, of Southern abandon and
Northern wealth, though the North was little represented at this

As evening came on, the streets, though wanting gas, were still more
animated; the shops were open, some very good ones, and the white and
black throng increasing, especially the black, for the negro is
preeminently a night bird. In the hotels dancing was promised--the
german was announced; on the galleries and in the corridors were
groups of young people, a little loud in manner and voice,--the young
gentleman, with his over-elaborate manner to ladies in bowing and
hat-lifting, and the blooming girls from the lesser Southern cities,
with the slight provincial note, and yet with the frank and engaging
cordiality which is as charming as it is characteristic. I do not
know what led the Professor to query if the Southern young women were
not superior to the Southern young men, but he is always asking
questions nobody can answer. At the Swannanoa were half a dozen
bridal couples, readily recognizable by the perfect air they had of
having been married a long time. How interesting such young voyagers
are, and how interesting they are to each other! Columbus never
discovered such a large world as they have to find out and possess
each in the other.

Among the attractions of the evening it was difficult to choose.
There was a lawn-party advertised at Battery Point (where a fine
hotel has since been built) and we walked up to that round knob after
dark. It is a hill with a grove, which commands a charming view, and
was fortified during the war. We found it illuminated with Chinese
lanterns; and little tables set about under the trees, laden with
cake and ice-cream, offered a chance to the stranger to contribute
money for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church. I am afraid it was
not a profitable entertainment, for the men seemed to have business
elsewhere, but the ladies about the tables made charming groups in
the lighted grove. Man is a stupid animal at best, or he would not
make it so difficult for the womenkind to scrape together a little
money for charitable purposes. But probably the women like this
method of raising money better than the direct one.

The evening gayety of the town was well distributed. When we
descended to the Court-House Square, a great crowd had collected,
black, white, and yellow, about a high platform, upon which four
glaring torches lighted up the novel scene, and those who could read
might decipher this legend on a standard at the back of the stage:


Happy John, who occupied the platform with Mary, a "bright" yellow
girl, took the comical view of his race, which was greatly enjoyed by
his audience. His face was blackened to the proper color of the
stage-darky, and he wore a flaming suit of calico, the trousers and
coat striped longitudinally according to Punch's idea of "Uncle Sam,"
the coat a swallow-tail bound and faced with scarlet, and a bell-
crowned white hat. This conceit of a colored Yankee seemed to tickle
all colors in the audience amazingly. Mary, the "bright" woman (this
is the universal designation of the light mulatto), was a pleasing
but bold yellow girl, who wore a natty cap trimmed with scarlet, and
had the assured or pert manner of all traveling sawdust performers.

"Oh, yes," exclaimed a bright woman in the crowd, "Happy John was
sure enough one of Wade Hampton's slaves, and he's right good looking
when he's not blackened up."

Happy John sustained the promise of his name by spontaneous gayety
and enjoyment of the fleeting moment; he had a glib tongue and a
ready, rude wit, and talked to his audience with a delicious mingling
of impudence, deference, and patronage, commenting upon them
generally, administering advice and correction in a strain of humor
that kept his hearers in a pleased excitement. He handled the banjo
and the guitar alternately, and talked all the time when he was not
singing. Mary (how much harder featured and brazen a woman is in
such a position than a man of the same caliber!) sang, in an
untutored treble, songs of sentiment, often risque, in solo and in
company with John, but with a cold, indifferent air, in contrast to
the rollicking enjoyment of her comrade.

The favorite song, which the crowd compelled her to repeat, touched
lightly the uncertainties of love, expressed in the falsetto pathetic
refrain :

"Mary's gone away wid de coon."

All this, with the moon, the soft summer night, the mixed crowd of
darkies and whites, the stump eloquence of Happy John, the singing,
the laughter, the flaring torches, made a wild scene. The
entertainment was quite free, with a "collection" occasionally during
the performance.

What most impressed us, however, was the turning to account by Happy
John of the "nigger" side of the black man as a means of low comedy,
and the enjoyment of it by all the people of color. They appeared to
appreciate as highly as anybody the comic element in themselves, and
Happy John had emphasized it by deepening his natural color and
exaggerating the "nigger" peculiarities. I presume none of them
analyzed the nature of his infectious gayety, nor thought of the
pathos that lay so close to it, in the fact of his recent slavery,
and the distinction of being one of Wade Hampton's niggers, and the
melancholy mirth of this light-hearted race's burlesque of itself.

A performance followed which called forth the appreciation of the
crowd more than the wit of Happy John or the faded songs of the
yellow girl. John took two sweet-cakes and broke each in fine pieces
into a saucer, and after sugaring and eulogizing the dry messes,
called for two small darky volunteers from the audience to come up on
the platform and devour them. He offered a prize of fifteen cents to
the one who should first eat the contents of his dish, not using his
hands, and hold up the saucer empty in token of his victory. The
cake was tempting, and the fifteen cents irresistible, and a couple
of boys in ragged shirts and short trousers and a suspender apiece
came up shamefacedly to enter for the prize. Each one grasped his
saucer in both hands, and with face over the dish awaited the word
"go," which John gave, and started off the contest with a banjo
accompaniment. To pick up with the mouth the dry cake and choke it
down was not so easy as the boys apprehended, but they went into the
task with all their might, gobbling and swallowing as if they loved
cake, occasionally rolling an eye to the saucer of the contestant to
see the relative progress, John strumming, ironically encouraging,
and the crowd roaring. As the combat deepened and the contestants
strangled and stuffed and sputtered, the crowd went into spasms of
laughter. The smallest boy won by a few seconds, holding up his
empty saucer, with mouth stuffed, vigorously trying to swallow, like
a chicken with his throat clogged with dry meal, and utterly unable
to speak. The impartial John praised the victor in mock heroics, but
said that the trial was so even that he would divide the prize, ten
cents to one and five to the other--a stroke of justice that greatly
increased his popularity. And then he dismissed the assembly, saying
that he had promised the mayor to do so early, because he did not
wish to run an opposition to the political meeting going on in the

The scene in the large court-room was less animated than that out-
doors; a half-dozen tallow dips, hung on the wall in sconces and
stuck on the judge's long desk, feebly illuminated the mixed crowd of
black and white who sat in, and on the backs of, the benches, and
cast only a fitful light upon the orator, who paced back and forth
and pounded the rail. It was to have been a joint discussion between
the two presidential electors running in that district, but, the
Republican being absent, his place was taken by a young man of the
town. The Democratic orator took advantage of the absence of his
opponent to describe the discussion of the night before, and to give
a portrait of his adversary. He was represented as a cross between a
baboon and a jackass, who would be a natural curiosity for Barnum.
"I intend," said the orator," to put him in a cage and exhibit him
about the deestrict." This political hit called forth great
applause. All his arguments were of this pointed character, and they
appeared to be unanswerable. The orator appeared to prove that there
wasn't a respectable man in the opposite party who wasn't an office-
holder, nor a white man of any kind in it who was not an office-
holder. If there were any issues or principles in the canvass, he
paid his audience the compliment of knowing all about them, for he
never alluded to any. In another state of society, such a speech of
personalities might have led to subsequent shootings, but no doubt
his adversary would pay him in the same coin when next they met, and
the exhibition seemed to be regarded down here as satisfactory and
enlightened political canvassing for votes. The speaker who replied,
opened his address with a noble tribute to woman (as the first
speaker had ended his), directed to a dozen of that sex who sat in
the gloom of a corner. The young man was moderate in his sarcasm,
and attempted to speak of national issues, but the crowd had small
relish for that sort of thing. At eleven o'clock, when we got away
from the unsavory room (more than half the candles had gone out), the
orator was making slow headway against the refished blackguardism of
the evening. The german was still "on" at the hotel when we ascended
to our chamber, satisfied that Asheville was a lively town.

The sojourner at Asheville can amuse himself very well by walking or
driving to the many picturesque points of view about the town; livery
stables abound, and the roads are good. The Beau-catcher Hill is
always attractive; and Connolly's, a private place a couple of miles
from town, is ideally situated, being on a slight elevation in the
valley, commanding the entire circuit of mountains, for it has the
air of repose which is so seldom experienced in the location of a
dwelling in America whence an extensive prospect is given. Or if the
visitor is disinclined to exertion, he may lounge in the rooms of the
hospitable Asheville Club; or he may sit on the sidewalk in front of
the hotels, and talk with the colonels and judges and generals and
ex-members of Congress, the talk generally drifting to the new
commercial and industrial life of the South, and only to politics as
it affects these; and he will be pleased, if the conversation takes a
reminiscent turn, with the lack of bitterness and the tone of
friendliness. The negro problem is commonly discussed
philosophically and without heat, but there is always discovered,
underneath, the determination that the negro shall never again get
the legislative upper hand. And the gentleman from South Carolina
who has an upland farm, and is heartily glad slavery is gone, and
wants the negro educated, when it comes to ascendency in politics--
such as the State once experienced--asks you what you would do
yourself. This is not the place to enter upon the politico-social
question, but the writer may note one impression gathered from much
friendly and agreeable conversation. It is that the Southern whites
misapprehend and make a scarecrow of "social equality." When, during
the war, it was a question at the North of giving the colored people
of the Northern States the ballot, the argument against it used to be
stated in the form of a question: "Do you want your daughter to marry
a negro?" Well, the negro has his political rights in the North, and
there has come no change in the social conditions whatever. And
there is no doubt that the social conditions would remain exactly as
they are at the South if the negro enjoyed all the civil rights which
the Constitution tries to give him. The most sensible view of this
whole question was taken by an intelligent colored man, whose brother
was formerly a representative in Congress. "Social equality," he
said in effect, "is a humbug. We do not expect it, we do not want
it. It does not exist among the blacks themselves. We have our own
social degrees, and choose our own associates. We simply want the
ordinary civil rights, under which we can live and make our way in
peace and amity. This is necessary to our self-respect, and if we
have not self-respect, it is not to be supposed that the race can
improve. I'll tell you what I mean. My wife is a modest,
intelligent woman, of good manners, and she is always neat, and
tastefully dressed. Now, if she goes to take the cars, she is not
permitted to go into a clean car with decent people, but is ordered
into one that is repellent, and is forced into company that any
refined woman would shrink from. But along comes a flauntingly
dressed woman, of known disreputable character, whom my wife would be
disgraced to know, and she takes any place that money will buy. It
is this sort of thing that hurts."

We took the eastern train one evening to Round Nob (Henry's Station),
some thirty miles, in order to see the wonderful railway that
descends, a distance of eight miles, from the summit of Swannanoa Gap
(2657 feet elevation) to Round Nob Hotel (1607 feet). The Swannanoa
Summit is the dividing line between the waters that flow to the
Atlantic and those that go to the Gulf of Mexico. This fact was
impressed upon us by the inhabitants, who derive a good deal of
comfort from it. Such divides are always matter of local pride.
Unfortunately, perhaps, it was too dark before we reached Henry's to
enable us to see the road in all its loops and parallels as it
appears on the map, but we gained a better effect. The hotel, when
we first sighted it, all its windows blazing with light, was at the
bottom of a well. Beside it--it was sufficiently light to see that--
a column of water sprang straight into the air to the height, as we
learned afterwards from two official sources, of 225 and 265 feet;
and the information was added that it is the highest fountain in the
world. This stout column, stiff as a flagstaff, with its feathery
head of mist gleaming like silver in the failing light, had the most
charming effect. We passed out of sight of hotel and fountain, but
were conscious of being--whirled on a circular descending grade, and
very soon they were in sight again. Again and again they disappeared
and came to view, now on one side and now on the other, until our
train seemed to be bewitched, making frantic efforts by dodgings and
turnings, now through tunnels and now over high pieces of trestle, to
escape the inevitable attraction that was gravitating it down to the
hospitable lights at the bottom of the well. When we climbed back up
the road in the morning, we had an opportunity to see the marvelous
engineering, but there is little else to see, the view being nearly
always very limited.

The hotel at the bottom of the ravine, on the side of Round Nob,
offers little in the way of prospect, but it is a picturesque place,
and we could understand why it was full of visitors when we came to
the table. It was probably the best-kept house of entertainment in
the State, and being in the midst of the Black Hills, it offers good
chances for fishing and mountain climbing.

In the morning the fountain, which is, of course, artificial, refused
to play, the rain in the night having washed in debris which clogged
the conduit. But it soon freed itself and sent up for a long time,
like a sulky geyser, mud and foul water. When it got freedom and
tolerable clearness, we noted that the water went up in pulsations,
which were marked at short distances by the water falling off, giving
the column the appearance of a spine. The summit, always beating the
air in efforts to rise higher, fell over in a veil of mist.

There are certain excursions that the sojourner at Asheville must
make. He must ride forty-five miles south through Henderson and
Transylvania to Caesar's Head, on the South Carolina border, where
the mountain system abruptly breaks down into the vast southern
plain; where the observer, standing on the edge of the precipice, has
behind him and before him the greatest contrast that nature can
offer. He must also take the rail to Waynesville, and visit the
much-frequented White Sulphur Springs, among the Balsam Mountains,
and penetrate the Great Smoky range by way of Quallatown, and make
the acquaintance of the remnant of Cherokee Indians living on the
north slope of Cheoah Mountain. The Professor could have made it a
matter of personal merit that he escaped all these encounters with
wild and picturesque nature, if his horse had not been too disabled
for such long jaunts. It is only necessary, however, to explain to
the public that the travelers are not gormandizers of scenery, and
were willing to leave some portions of the State to the curiosity of
future excursionists.

But so much was said about Hickory Nut Gap that a visit to it could
not be evaded. The Gap is about twenty-four miles southeast of
Asheville. In the opinion of a well-informed colonel, who urged us
to make the trip, it is the finest piece of scenery it this region.
We were brought up on the precept "get the best," and it was with
high anticipations that we set out about eleven o'clock one warm,
foggy morning. We followed a very good road through a broken,
pleasant country, gradually growing wilder and less cultivated.
There was heavy rain most of the day on the hills, and occasionally a
shower swept across our path. The conspicuous object toward which we
traveled all the morning was a shapely conical hill at the beginning
of the Gap.

At three o'clock we stopped at the Widow Sherrill's for dinner. Her
house, only about a mile from the summit, is most picturesquely
situated on a rough slope, giving a wide valley and mountain view.
The house is old rambling, many-roomed, with wide galleries on two
sides. If one wanted a retired retreat for a few days, with good air
and fair entertainment, this could be commended. It is an excellent
fruit region; apples especially are sound and of good flavor. That
may be said of all this part of the State. The climate is adapted to
apples, as the hilly part of New England is. I fancy the fruit
ripens slowly, as it does in New England, and is not subject to quick
decay like much of that grown in the West. But the grape also can be
grown in all this mountain region. Nothing but lack of enterprise
prevents any farmer from enjoying abundance of fruit. The industry
carried on at the moment at the Widow Sherrill's was the artificial
drying of apples for the market. The apples are pared, cored, and
sliced in spirals, by machinery, and dried on tin sheets in a
patented machine. The industry appears to be a profitable one
hereabouts, and is about the only one that calls in the aid of

While our dinner was preparing, we studied the well-known pictures of
"Jane" and "Eliza," the photographs of Confederate boys, who had
never returned from the war, and the relations, whom the traveling
photographers always like to pillory in melancholy couples, and some
stray volumes of the Sunday-school Union. Madame Sherrill, who
carries on the farm since the death of her husband, is a woman of
strong and liberal mind, who informed us that she got small comfort
in the churches in the neighborhood, and gave us, in fact, a
discouraging account of the unvital piety of the region.

The descent from the summit of the Gap to Judge Logan's, nine miles,
is rapid, and the road is wild and occasionally picturesque,
following the Broad River, a small stream when we first overtook it,
but roaring, rocky, and muddy, owing to frequent rains, and now and
then tumbling down in rapids. The noisy stream made the ride
animated, and an occasional cabin, a poor farmhouse, a mill, a
schoolhouse, a store with an assemblage of lean horses tied to the
hitching rails, gave the Professor opportunity for remarks upon the
value of life under such circumstances.

The valley which we followed down probably owes its celebrity to the
uncommon phenomena of occasional naked rocks and precipices. The
inclosing mountains are from 3000 to 4000 feet high, and generally
wooded. I do not think that the ravine would be famous in a country
where exposed ledges and buttressing walls of rock are common. It is
only by comparison with the local scenery that this is remarkable.
About a mile above judge Logan's we caught sight, through the trees,
of the famous waterfall. From the top of the high ridge on the
right, a nearly perpendicular cascade pours over the ledge of rocks
and is lost in the forest. We could see nearly the whole of it, at a
great height above us, on the opposite side of the river, and it
would require an hour's stiff climb to reach its foot. From where we
viewed it, it seemed a slender and not very important, but certainly
a very beautiful cascade, a band of silver in the mass of green
foliage. The fall is said to be 1400 feet. Our colonel insists that
it is a thousand. It may be, but the valley where we stood is at
least at an elevation of 1300 feet; we could not believe that the
ridge over which the water pours is much higher than 3000 feet, and
the length of the fall certainly did not appear to be a quarter of
the height of the mountain from our point of observation. But we had
no desire to belittle this pretty cascade, especially when we found
that Judge Logan would regard a foot abated from the 1400 as a
personal grievance. Mr. Logan once performed the functions of local
judge, a Republican appointment, and he sits around the premises now
in the enjoyment of that past dignity and of the fact that his wife
is postmistress. His house of entertainment is at the bottom of the
valley, a place shut in, warm, damp, and not inviting to a long stay,
although the region boasts a good many natural curiosities.

It was here that we encountered again the political current, out of
which we had been for a month. The Judge himself was reticent, as
became a public man, but he had conspicuously posted up a monster
prospectus, sent out from Augusta, of a campaign life of Blaine and
Logan, in which the Professor read, with shaking knees, this
sentence: "Sure to be the greatest and hottest [campaign and civil
battle] ever known in this world. The thunder of the supreme
struggle and its reverberations will shake the continents for months,
and will be felt from Pole to Pole."

For this and other reasons this seemed a risky place to be in. There
was something sinister about the murky atmosphere, and a suspicion of
mosquitoes besides. Had there not been other travelers staying here,

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