Part 3 out of 5
of the immortal poet's political life had escaped the untiring industry of
his countrymen. This toil was not wholly fruitless, and several interesting
facts obscurely known, and others utterly unknown by the Italians
themselves, are drawn forth by Mr. Wilde from the oblivion of these
While thus engaged, the circumstance of the lost portrait of Dante was
again brought to Mr. Wilde's mind, but now excited intense interest. In
perusing the notes of the late learned Canonico Moreri on Filelfo's life of
Dante, he found it stated that a portrait of the poet by Giotto was
formerly to be seen in the Bargello. He learned also that Signer Scotti,
who has charge of the original drawings of the old masters in the imperial
and royal gallery, had made several years previously an ineffectual attempt
to set on foot a project for the recovery of the lost treasure. Here was a
new vein of inquiry, which Mr. Wilde followed up with his usual energy and
sagacity. He soon satisfied himself, by reference to Vasari, and to the
still more ancient and decisive authority of Filippo Villari, who lived
shortly after the poet, that Giotto, the friend and contemporary of Dante,
did undoubtedly paint his likeness in the place indicated. Giotto died in
1336, but as Dante was banished, and was even sentenced to be burned, in
1302, it was obvious the work must have been executed before that time;
since the portrait of one outlawed and capitally convicted as an enemy to
the commonwealth would never have been ordered or tolerated in the chapel
of the royal palace. It was clear, then, that the portrait must have been
painted between 1290 and 1302.
Mr. Wilde now revolved in his own mind the possibility that this precious
relic might remain undestroyed under its coat of whitewash, and might yet
be restored to the world. For a moment he felt an impulse to undertake the
enterprise; but feared that, in a foreigner from a new world, any part of
which is unrepresented at the Tuscan court, it might appear like an
intrusion. He soon however found a zealous coadjutor. This was one Giovanni
Aubrey Bezzi, a Piedmontese exile, who had long been a resident in England,
and was familiar with its language and literature. He was now on a visit to
Florence, which liberal and hospitable city is always open to men of merit
who for political reasons have been excluded from other parts of Italy.
Signer Bezzi partook deeply of the enthusiasm of his countrymen for the
memory of Dante, and sympathized with Mr. Wilde in his eagerness to
retrieve if possible the lost portrait. They had several consultations as
to the means to be adopted to effect their purpose, without incurring the
charge of undue officiousness. To lessen any objections that might occur
they resolved to ask for nothing but permission to search for the fresco
painting at their own expense; and should any remains of it be found, then
to propose to the nobility and gentry of Florence an association for the
purpose of completing the undertaking and effectually recovering the lost
For the same reason the formal memorial addressed to the grandduke was
drawn up in the name of Florentines; among whom were the celebrated
Bartolini, now President of the School of Sculpture in the Imperial and
Royal Academy, Signor Paolo Ferroni, of the noble family of that name, who
has exhibited considerable talent for painting, and Signor Gasparini, also
an artist. This petition was urged and supported with indefatigable zeal by
Signor Bezzi; and being warmly countenanced by Count Nerli and other
functionaries, met with more prompt success than had been anticipated.
Signor Marini, a skillful artist, who had succeeded in similar operations,
was now employed to remove the whitewash by a process of his own, by which
any fresco painting that might exist beneath would be protected from
injury. He set to work patiently and cautiously. In a short time he met
with evidence of the existence of the fresco. From under the coat of
whitewash the head of an angel gradually made its appearance, and was
pronounced to be by the pencil of Giotto.
The enterprise was now prosecuted with increased ardor. Several months were
expended on the task, and three sides of the chapel wall were uncovered;
they were all painted in fresco by Giotto, with the history of the
Magdalen, exhibiting her conversion, her penance, and her beatification.
The figures, however, were all those of saints and angels; no historical
portraits had yet been discovered, and doubts began to be entertained
whether there were any. Still the recovery of an indisputable work of
Giotto's was considered an ample reward for any toil; and the Ministers of
the grandduke, acting under his directions, assumed on his behalf the past
charges and future management of the enterprise.
At length, on the uncovering of the fourth wall, the undertaking was
crowned with complete success. A number of historical figures were brought
to light, and among them the undoubted likeness of Dante. He was
represented in full length, in the garb of the time, with a book under his
arm, designed most probably to represent the "Vita Nuova," for the
"Comedia" was not yet composed, and to all appearance from thirty to
thirty-five years of age. The face was in profile and in excellent
preservation, excepting that at some former period a nail had unfortunately
been driven into the eye. The outline of the eyelid was perfect, so that
the injury could easily be remedied. The countenance was extremely
handsome, yet bore a strong resemblance to the portraits of the poet taken
later in life.
It is not easy to appreciate the delight of Mr. Wilde and his coadjutors at
this triumphant result of their researches; nor the sensation produced, not
merely in Florence but throughout Italy, by this discovery of a veritable
portrait of Dante, in the prime of his days. It was some such sensation as
would be produced in England by the sudden discovery of a perfectly well
authenticated likeness of Shakespeare; with a difference in intensity
proportioned to the superior sensitiveness of the Italians.
The recovery of this portrait of the "divine poet" has occasioned fresh
inquiry into the origin of the masks said to have been made from a cast of
his face taken after death. One of these masks, in the possession of the
Marquess of Torrigiani, has been pronounced as certainly the
_original_. Several artists of high talent have concurred in this
opinion; among these may be named Jesi, the first engraver in Florence;
Seymour Kirkup, Esq., a painter and antiquary; and our own countryman
Powers, whose genius, by the way, is very highly appreciated by the
We may expect from the accomplished pen of Carlo Torrigiani, son of the
marquess, and who is advantageously known in this country, from having
traveled here, an account of this curious and valuable relic, which has
been upward of a century in the possession of his family.
Should Mr. Wilde finish his biographical work concerning Dante, which
promises to be a proud achievement in American literature, he intends, I
understand, to apply for permission to have both likenesses copied, and
should circumstances warrant the expense, to have them engraved by eminent
artists. We shall then have the features of Dante while in the prime of
life as well as at the moment of his death.
THE TAKING OF THE VEIL
One of the most remarkable personages in Parisian society during the last
century was Renee Charlotte Victoire de Froulay De Tesse, Marchioness De
Crequi. She sprang from the highest and proudest of the old French
nobility, and ever maintained the most exalted notions of the purity and
antiquity of blood, looking upon all families that could not date back
further than three or four hundred years as mere upstarts. When a beautiful
girl, fourteen years of age, she was presented to Louis XIV., at
Versailles, and the ancient monarch kissed her hand with great gallantry;
after an interval of about eighty-five years, when nearly a hundred years
old, the same testimonial of respect was paid her at the Tuileries by
Bonaparte, then First Consul, who promised her the restitution of the
confiscated forests formerly belonging to her family. She was one of the
most celebrated women of her time for intellectual grace and superiority,
and had the courage to remain at Paris and brave all the horrors of the
revolution, which laid waste the aristocratical world around her.
The memoirs she has left behind abound with curious anecdotes and vivid
pictures of Parisian life during the latter days of Louis XIV., the regency
of the Duke of Orleans, and the residue of the last century; and are highly
illustrative of the pride, splendor, and licentiousness of the French
nobility on the very eve of their tremendous downfall.
I shall draw forth a few scenes from her memoirs, taken almost at random,
and which, though given as actual and well-known circumstances, have quite
the air of romance.
* * * * *
All the great world of Paris were invited to be present at a grand
ceremonial, to take place in the church of the Abbey Royal of Panthemont.
Henrietta de Lenoncour, a young girl, of a noble family, of great beauty,
and heiress to immense estates, was to take the black veil. Invitations had
been issued in grand form, by her aunt and guardian, the Countess Brigitte
de Rupelmonde, canoness of Mauberge. The circumstance caused great talk and
wonder in the fashionable circles of Paris; everybody was at a loss to
imagine why a young girl, beautiful and rich, in the very springtime of her
charms, should renounce a world which she was so eminently qualified to
embellish and enjoy.
A lady of high rank, who visited the beautiful novice at the grate of her
convent-parlor, got a clew to the mystery. She found her in great
agitation; for a time she evidently repressed her feelings, but they at
length broke forth in passionate exclamations. "Heaven grant me grace,"
said she, "some day or other to pardon my cousin Gondrecourt the sorrows he
has caused me!"
"What do you mean?--what sorrows, my child?" inquired her visitor. "What
has your cousin done to affect you?"
"He is married!" cried she in accents of despair, but endeavoring to
repress her sobs.
"Married! I have heard nothing of the kind, my dear. Are you perfectly sure
"Alas! nothing is more certain; my aunt de Rupelmonde informed me of it."
The lady retired, full of surprise and commiseration. She related the scene
in a circle of the highest nobility, in the saloon of the Marshal Prince of
Beauvau, where the unaccountable self-sacrifice of the beautiful novice was
"Alas!" said she, "the poor girl is crossed in love; she is about to
renounce the world in despair, at the marriage of her cousin De
"What!" cried a gentleman present, "the Viscount de Gondrecourt married!
Never was there a greater falsehood. And 'her aunt told her so'! Oh! I
understand the plot. The countess is passionately fond of Gondrecourt, and
jealous of her beautiful niece; but her schemes are vain; the viscount
holds her in perfect detestation."
There was a mingled expression of ridicule, disgust, and indignation at the
thought of such a rivalry. The Countess Rupelmonde was old enough to be the
grandmother of the viscount. She was a woman of violent passions, and
imperious temper; robust in person, with a masculine voice, a dusky
complexion, green eyes, and powerful eyebrows.
"It is impossible," cried one of the company, "that a woman of the
countess's age and appearance can be guilty of such folly. No, no; you
mistake the aim of this detestable woman. She is managing to get possession
of the estate of her lovely niece."
This was admitted to be the most probable; and all concurred in believing
the countess to be at the bottom of the intended sacrifice; for although a
canoness, a dignitary of a religious order, she was pronounced little
better than a devil incarnate.
The Princess de Beauvau, a woman of generous spirit and intrepid zeal,
suddenly rose from the chair in which she had been reclining. "My prince,"
said she, addressing her husband, "if you approve of it, I will go
immediately and have a conversation on this subject with the archbishop.
There is not a moment to spare. It is now past midnight; the ceremony is to
take place in the morning. A few hours and the irrevocable vows will be
The prince inclined his head in respectful assent. The princess set about
her generous enterprise with a woman's promptness. Within a short time her
carriage was at the iron gate of the archiepiscopal palace, and her
servants rang for admission. Two Switzers, who had charge of the gate, were
fast asleep in the porter's lodge, for it was half-past two in the morning.
It was some time before they could be awakened, and longer before they
could be made to come forth.
"The Princess de Beauvau is at the gate!"
Such a personage was not to be received in deshabille. Her dignity and the
dignity of the archbishop demanded that the gate should be served in full
costume. For half an hour, therefore, had the princess to wait, in feverish
impatience, until the two dignitaries of the porter's lodge arrayed
themselves; and three o'clock sounded from the tower of Notre Dame before
they came forth. They were in grand livery, of a buff color, with amaranth
galloons, plaited with silver, and fringed sword-belts reaching to their
knees, in which were suspended long rapiers. They had small three-cornered
hats, surmounted with plumes; and each bore in his hand a halbert. Thus
equipped at all points, they planted themselves before the door of the
carriage; struck the ends of their halberts on the ground with emphasis;
and stood waiting with official importance, but profound respect, to know
the pleasure of the princess.
She demanded to speak with the archbishop. A most reverential bow and shrug
accompanied the reply, that "His Grandeur was not at home."
Not at home! Where was he to be found? Another bow and shrug: "His Grandeur
either was, or ought to be, in retirement in the seminary of St. Magloire;
unless he had gone to pass the Fete of St. Bruno with the reverend
Carthusian fathers of the Rue d'Enfer; or perhaps he might have gone to
repose himself in his castle of Conflans-sur-Seine. Though, on further
thought, it was not unlikely he might have gone to sleep at St. Cyr, where
the Bishop of Chartres never failed to invite him for the anniversary
soiree of Madame de Maintenon."
The princess was in despair at this multiplicity of crossroads pointed out
for the chase; the brief interval of time was rapidly elapsing; day already
began to dawn; she saw there was no hope of finding the archbishop before
the moment of his entrance into the church for the morning's ceremony; so
she returned home quite distressed.
At seven o'clock in the morning the princess was in the parlor of the
monastery of De Panthemont, and sent in an urgent request for a moment's
conversation with the Lady Abbess. The reply brought was, that the abbess
could not come to the parlor, being obliged to attend in the choir at the
canonical hours. The princess entreated permission to enter the convent, to
reveal to the Lady Abbess in two words something of the greatest
importance. The abbess sent word in reply, that the thing was impossible,
until she had obtained permission from the Archbishop of Paris. The
princess retired once more to her carriage, and now, as a forlorn hope,
took her station at the door of the church to watch for the arrival of the
After a while the splendid company invited to this great ceremony began to
arrive. The beauty, rank, and wealth of the novice had excited great
attention; and, as everybody was expected to be present on the occasion,
everybody pressed to secure a place. The street reverberated with the
continual roll of gilded carriages and chariots; coaches of princes and
dukes, designated by imperials of crimson velvet, and magnificent equipages
of six horses, decked out with nodding plumes and sumptuous harnessing. At
length the equipages ceased to arrive; empty vehicles filled the street;
and, with a noisy and party-colored crowd of lackeys in rich liveries,
obstructed all the entrances to De Panthemont.
Eleven o'clock had struck; the last auditor had entered the church; the
deep tones of the organ began to swell through the sacred pile, yet still
the archbishop came not! The heart of the princess beat quicker and quicker
with vague apprehension; when a valet, dressed in cloth of silver, trimmed
with crimson velvet, approached her carriage precipitately. "Madame," said
he, "the archbishop is in the church; he entered by the portal of the
cloister; he is already in the sanctuary; the ceremony is about to
What was to be done? To speak with the archbishop was now impossible, and
yet on the revelation she was to make to him depended the fate of the
lovely novice. The princess drew forth her tablets of enameled gold, wrote
a few lines therein with a pencil, and ordered her lackey to make way for
her through the crowd, and conduct her with all speed to the sacristy.
The description given of the church and the assemblage on this occasion
presents an idea of the aristocratical state of the times, and of the high
interest awakened by the affecting sacrifice about to take place. The
church was hung with superb tapestry, above which extended a band of white
damask, fringed with gold, and covered with armorial escutcheons. A large
pennon, emblazoned with the arms and alliances of the high-born damsel, was
suspended, according to custom, in place of the lamp of the sanctuary. The
lusters, girandoles, and candelabras of the king had been furnished in
profusion, to decorate the sacred edifice, and the pavements were all
covered with rich carpets.
The sanctuary presented a reverend and august assemblage of bishops,
canons, and monks of various orders, Benedictines, Bernardines, Raccollets,
Capuchins, and others, all in their appropriate robes and dresses. In the
midst presided the Archbishop of Paris, Christopher de Beaumont; surrounded
by his four arch priests and his vicars-general. He was seated with his
back against the altar. When his eyes were cast down, his countenance, pale
and severe, is represented as having been somewhat sepulchral and
death-like; but the moment he raised his large, dark, sparkling eyes, the
whole became animated; beaming with ardor, and expressive of energy,
penetration, and firmness.
The audience that crowded the church was no less illustrious. Excepting the
royal family, all that was elevated in rank and title was there; never had
a ceremonial of the kind attracted an equal concourse of the high
aristocracy of Paris.
At length the grated gates of the choir creaked on their hinges, and Madame
de Richelieu, the high and noble Abbess of De Panthemont, advanced to
resign the novice into the hands of her aunt, the Countess Canoness De
Rupelmonde. Every eye was turned with intense curiosity to gain a sight of
the beautiful victim. She was sumptuously dressed, but her paleness and
languor accorded but little with her brilliant attire. The Canoness De
Rupelmonde conducted her niece to her praying-desk, where, as soon as the
poor girl knelt down, she sank as if exhausted. Just then a sort of murmur
was heard at the lower end of the church, where the servants in livery were
gathered. A young man was borne forth, struggling in convulsions. He was in
the uniform of an officer of the guards of King Stanislaus, Duke of
Lorraine. A whisper circulated that it was the young Viscount de
Gondrecourt, and that he was a lover of the novice. Almost all the young
nobles present hurried forth to proffer him sympathy and assistance.
The Archbishop of Paris remained all this time seated before the altar; his
eyes cast down, his pallid countenance giving no signs of interest or
participation in the scene around him. It was noticed that in one of his
hands, which was covered with a violet glove, he grasped firmly a pair of
tablets, of enameled gold.
The Canoness de Rupelmonde conducted her niece to the prelate, to make her
profession of self-devotion, and to utter the irrevocable vow. As the
lovely novice knelt at his feet, the archbishop fixed on her his dark,
beaming eyes, with a kind but earnest expression. "Sister!" said he, in the
softest and most benevolent tone of voice, "What is your age?"
"Nineteen years, monseigneur," eagerly interposed the Countess de
"_You_ will reply to me by-and-by, madame," said the archbishop,
dryly. He then repeated his question to the novice, who replied in a
faltering voice, "Seventeen years."
"In what diocese did you take the white veil?"
"In the diocese of Toul."
"How!" exclaimed the archbishop, vehemently. "In the diocese of Toul? The
chair of Toul is vacant! The bishop of Toul died fifteen months since; and
those who officiate in the chapter are not authorized to receive novices.
Your novitiate, mademoiselle, is null and void, and we cannot receive your
The archbishop rose from his chair, resumed his miter, and took the crozier
from the hands of an attendant.
"My dear brethren," said he, addressing the assembly, "there is no
necessity for our examining and interrogating Mademoiselle de Lenoncour on
the sincerity of her religious vocation. There is a canonical impediment to
her professing for the present; and, as to the future, we reserve to
ourselves the consideration of the matter; interdicting to all other
ecclesiastical persons the power of accepting her vows, under penalty of
interdiction, of suspension, and of nullification; all which is in virtue
of our metropolitan rights, contained in the terms of the bull _cum
proximis_:" "_Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini!_" pursued he,
chanting in a grave and solemn voice, and turning toward the altar to give
the benediction of the holy sacrament.
The noble auditory had that habitude of reserve, that empire, or rather
tyranny, over all outward manifestations of internal emotions, which
belongs to high aristocratical breeding. The declaration of the archbishop,
therefore, was received as one of the most natural and ordinary things in
the world, and all knelt down and received the pontifical benediction with
perfect decorum. As soon, however, as they were released from the
self-restraint imposed by etiquette, they amply indemnified themselves; and
nothing was talked of for a month, in the fashionable saloons of Paris, but
the loves of the handsome Viscount and the charming Henrietta; the
wickedness of the canoness; the active benevolence and admirable address of
the Princess de Beauvau; and the great wisdom of the archbishop, who was
particularly extolled for his delicacy in defeating this maneuver without
any scandal to the aristocracy, or public stigma on the name of De
Rupelmonde, and without any departure from pastoral gentleness, by adroitly
seizing upon an informality, and turning it to beneficial account, with as
much authority as charitable circumspection.
As to the Canoness de Rupelmonde, she was defeated at all points in her
wicked plans against her beautiful niece. In consequence of the caveat of
the archbishop, her superior ecclesiastic, the Abbess de Panthemont,
formally forbade Mademoiselle de Lenoncour to resume the white veil and the
dress of a novitiate, and instead of a novice's cell established her in a
beautiful apartment as a boarder. The next morning the Canoness de
Rupelmonde called at the convent to take away her niece; but, to her
confusion, the abbess produced a lettre-de-cachet, which she had just
received, and which forbade mademoiselle to leave the convent with any
other person save the Prince de Beauvau.
Under the auspices and the vigilant attention of the prince, the whole
affair was wound up in the most technical and circumstantial manner. The
Countess de Rupelmonde, by a decree of the Grand Council, was divested of
the guardianship of her niece. All the arrears of revenues accumulated
during Mademoiselle de Lenoncour's minority were rigorously collected, the
accounts scrutinized and adjusted, and her noble fortune placed safely and
entirely in her hands.
In a little while the noble personages who had been invited to the ceremony
of taking the veil received another invitation, on the part of the Countess
dowager de Gondrecourt, and the Marshal Prince de Beauvau, to attend the
marriage of Adrien de Gondrecourt, Viscount of Jean-sur-Moselle, and
Henrietta de Lenoncour, Countess de Hevouwal, etc., which duly took place
in the chapel of the archiepiscopal palace at Paris.
* * * * *
So much for the beautiful Henrietta de Lenoncour. We will now draw forth a
companion picture of a handsome young cavalier, who figured in the gay
world of Paris about the same time, and concerning whom the ancient
marchioness writes with the lingering feeling of youthful romance.
* * * * *
THE CHARMING LETORIERES
"A good face is a letter of recommendation," says an old proverb; and it
was never more verified than in the case of the Chevalier Letorieres. He
was a young gentleman of good family, but who, according to the Spanish
phrase, had nothing but his cloak and sword (capa y espada), that is to
say, his gentle blood and gallant bearing, to help him forward in the
world. Through the interest of an uncle, who was an abbe, he received a
gratuitous education at a fashionable college, but finding the terms of
study too long, and the vacations too short, for his gay and indolent
temper, he left college without saying a word, and launched himself upon
Paris, with a light heart and still lighter pocket. Here he led a life to
his humor. It is true he had to make scanty meals, and to lodge in a
garret; but what of that? He was his own master; free from all task or
restraint. When cold or hungry, he sallied forth, like others of the
chameleon order, and banqueted on pure air and warm sunshine in the public
walks and gardens; drove off the thoughts of a dinner by amusing himself
with the gay and grotesque throngs of the metropolis; and if one of the
poorest, was one of the merriest gentlemen upon town. Wherever he went his
good looks and frank, graceful demeanor, had an instant and magical effect
in securing favor. There was but one word to express his fascinating
powers--he was "charming."
Instances are given of the effect of his winning qualities upon minds of
coarse, ordinary mold. He had once taken shelter from a heavy shower under
a gateway. A hackney coachman, who was passing by, pulled up, and asked him
if he wished a cast in his carriage. Letorieres declined, with a melancholy
and dubious shake of the head. The coachman regarded him wistfully,
repeared his solicitations, and wished to know what place he was going to
"To the Palace of Justice, to walk in the galleries; but I will wait here
until the rain is over."
"And why so?" inquired the coachman, pertinaciously.
"Because I've no money; do let me be quiet."
The coachman jumped down, and, opening the door of his carriage, "It shall
never be said," cried he, "that I left so charming a young gentleman to
weary himself, and catch cold, merely for the sake of twenty-four sous."
Arrived at the Palace of Justice, he stopped before the saloon of a famous
restaurateur, opened the door of the carriage, and taking off his hat very
respectfully, begged the youth to accept of a Louis-d'or. "You will meet
with some young gentlemen within," said he, "with whom you may wish to take
a hand at cards. The number of my coach is 144. You can find me out, and
repay me whenever you please."
The worthy Jehu was some years afterward made coachman to the Princess
Sophia, of France, through the recommendation of the handsome youth he had
so generously obliged.
Another instance in point is given with respect to his tailor, to whom he
owed four hundred livres. The tailor had repeatedly dunned him, but was
always put off with the best grace in the world. The wife of the tailor
urged her husband to assume a harsher tone. He replied that he could not
find it in his heart to speak roughly to so charming a young gentleman.
"I've no patience with such want of spirit!" cried the wife; "you have not
the courage to show your teeth: but I'm going out to get change for this
note of a hundred crowns; before I come home, I'll seek this 'charming'
youth myself, and see whether he has the power to charm me. I'll warrant he
won't be able to put _me_ off with fine looks and fine speeches."
With these and many more vaunts, the good dame sallied forth. When she
returned home, however, she wore quite a different aspect.
"Well," said her husband, "how much have you received from the 'charming'
"Let me alone," replied the wife; "I found him playing on the guitar, and
he looked so handsome, and was so amiable and genteel, that I had not the
heart to trouble him."
"And the change for the hundred-crown note?" said the tailor.
The wife hesitated a moment: "Faith," cried she, "you'll have to add the
amount to your next bill against him. The poor young gentleman had such a
melancholy air that--I know not how it was, but--I left the hundred crowns
on his mantel-piece in spite of him!"
The captivating looks and manners of Letorieres made his way with equal
facility in the great world. His high connections entitled him to
presentation at court, but some questions arose about the sufficiency of
his proofs of nobility; whereupon the king, who had seen him walking in the
gardens of Versailles, and had been charmed with his appearance, put an end
to all demurs of etiquette by making him a viscount.
The same kind of fascination is said to have attended him throughout his
career. He succeeded in various difficult family suits on questions of
honors and privileges; he had merely to appear in court to dispose the
judges in his favor. He at length became so popular that on one occasion,
when he appeared at the theater on recovering from a wound received in a
duel, the audience applauded him on his entrance. Nothing, it is said,
could have been in more perfect good taste and high breeding than his
conduct on this occasion. When he heard the applause, he rose in his box,
stepped forward, and surveyed both sides of the house, as if he could not
believe that it was himself they were treating like a favorite actor, or a
prince of the blood.
His success with the fair sex may easily be presumed; but he had too much
honor and sensibility to render his intercourse with them a series of cold
gallantries and heartless triumphs. In the course of his attendance upon
court, where he held a post of honor about the king, he fell deeply in love
with the beautiful Princess Julia, of Savoy Carignan. She was young,
tender, and simple-hearted, and returned his love with equal fervor. Her
family took the alarm at this attachment, and procured an order that she
should inhabit the Abbey of Montmartre, where she was treated with all
befitting delicacy and distinction, but not permitted to go beyond the
convent walls. The lovers found means to correspond. One of their letters
was intercepted, and it is even hinted that a plan of elopement was
discovered. A duel was the consequence, with one of the fiery relations of
the princess. Letorieres received two sword-thrusts in his right side. His
wounds were serious, yet after two or three days' confinement he could not
resist his impatience to see the princess. He succeeded in scaling the
walls of the abbey, and obtaining an interview in an arcade leading to the
cloister of the cemetery. The interview of the lovers was long and tender.
They exchanged vows of eternal fidelity, and flattered themselves with
hopes of future happiness, which they were never to realize. After repeated
farewells, the princess re-entered the convent, never again to behold the
charming Letorieres. On the following morning his corpse was found stiff
and cold on the pavement of the cloister!
It would seem that the wounds of the unfortunate youth had been reopened by
his efforts to get over the wall; that he had refrained from calling
assistance, lest he should expose the princess, and that he had bled to
death, without any one to aid him, or to close his dying eyes.
THE EARLY EXPERIENCES OF RALPH RINGWOOD [Footnote: Ralph Ringwood, though a
fictitious name, is a real personage: the worthy original is now living and
flourishing in honorable station. I have given some anecdotes of his early
and eccentric career in, as nearly as I can recollect, the very words in
which he related them. They certainly afforded strong temptations to the
embellishments of fiction; but I thought them so strikingly characteristic
of the individual, and of the scenes and society into which his peculiar
humors carried him, that I preferred giving them in their original
NOTED DOWN FROM HIS CONVERSATIONS
"I am a Kentuckian by residence and choice, but a Virginian by birth. The
cause of my first leaving the 'Ancient Dominion,' and emigrating to
Kentucky was a jackass! You stare, but have a little patience, and I'll
soon show you how it came to pass. My father, who was of one of the old
Virginian families, resided in Richmond. He was a widower, and his domestic
affairs were managed by a housekeeper of the old school, such as used to
administer the concerns of opulent Virginian households. She was a
dignitary that almost rivaled my father in importance, and seemed to think
everything belonged to her; in fact, she was so considerate in her economy,
and so careful of expense, as sometimes to vex my father, who would swear
she was disgracing him by her meanness. She always appeared with that
ancient insignia of housekeeping trust and authority, a great bunch of keys
jingling at her girdle. She superintended the arrangement of the table at
every meal, and saw that the dishes were all placed according to her
primitive notions of symmetry. In the evening she took her stand and served
out tea with a mingled respectfulness and pride of station, truly
exemplary. Her great ambition was to have everything in order, and that the
establishment under her sway should be cited as a model of good
housekeeping. If anything went wrong, poor old Barbara would take it to
heart, and sit in her room and cry; until a few chapters in the Bible would
quiet her spirits, and make all calm again. The Bible, in fact, was her
constant resort in time of trouble. She opened it indiscriminately, and
whether she chanced among the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the Canticles of
Solomon, or the rough enumeration of the tribes in Deuteronomy, a chapter
was a chapter, and operated like balm to her soul. Such was our good old
housekeeper Barbara, who was destined, unwittingly, to have a most
important effect upon my destiny.
"It came to pass, during the days of my juvenility, while I was yet what is
termed 'an unlucky boy,' that a gentleman of our neighborhood, a great
advocate for experiments and improvements of all kinds, took it into his
head that it would be an immense public advantage to introduce a breed of
mules, and accordingly imported three jacks to stock the neighborhood. This
in a part of the country where the people cared for nothing but blood
horses! Why, sir! they would have considered their mares disgraced and
their whole stud dishonored by such a misalliance. The whole matter was a
town talk and a town scandal. The worthy amalgamator of quadrupeds found
himself in a dismal scrape: so he backed out in time, abjured the whole
doctrine of amalgamation, and turned his jacks loose to shift for
themselves upon the town common. There they used to run about and lead an
idle, good-for-nothing, holiday life, the happiest animals in the country.
"It so happened that my way to school lay across this common. The first
time that I saw one of these animals it set up a braying and frightened me
confoundedly. However, I soon got over my fright, and seeing that it had
something of a horse look, my Virginian love for anything of the equestrian
species predominated, and I determined to back it. I accordingly applied at
a grocer's shop, procured a cord that had been round a loaf of sugar, and
made a kind of halter; then summoning some of my schoolfellows, we drove
master Jack about the common until we hemmed him in an angle of a 'worm
fence.' After some difficulty, we fixed the halter round his muzzle, and I
mounted. Up flew his heels, away I went over his head, and off he
scampered. However, I was on my legs in a twinkling, gave chase, caught him
and remounted. By dint of repeated tumbles I soon learned to stick to his
back, so that he could no more cast me than he could his own skin. From
that time, master Jack and his companions had a scampering life of it, for
we all rode them between school hours, and on holiday afternoons; and you
may be sure schoolboys' nags are never permitted to suffer the grass to
grow under their feet. They soon became so knowing that they took to their
heels at the very sight of a schoolboy; and we were generally much longer
in chasing than we were in riding them.
"Sunday approached, on which I projected an equestrian excursion on one of
these long-eared steeds. As I knew the jacks would be in great demand on
Sunday morning, I secured one overnight, and conducted him home, to be
ready for an early outset. But where was I to quarter him for the night? I
could not put him in the stable; our old black groom George was as absolute
in that domain as Barbara was within doors, and would have thought his
stable, his horses, and himself disgraced, by the introduction of a
jackass. I recollected the smoke-house; an out-building appended to all
Virginian establishments for the smoking of hams, and other kinds of meat.
So I got the key, put master Jack in, locked the door, returned the key to
its place, and went to bed, intending to release my prisoner at an early
hour, before any of the family were awake. I was so tired, however, by the
exertions I had made in catching the donkey, that I fell into a sound
sleep, and the morning broke without my awaking.
"Not so with dame Barbara, the housekeeper. As usual, to use her own
phrase, 'she was up before the crow put his shoes on,' and bustled about to
get things in order for breakfast. Her first resort was to the smoke-house.
Scarce had she opened the door, when master Jack, tired of his confinement,
and glad to be released from darkness, gave a loud bray, and rushed forth.
Down dropped old Barbara; the animal trampled over her, and made off for
the common. Poor Barbara! She had never before seen a donkey, and having
read in the Bible that the devil went about like a roaring lion, seeking
whom he might devour, she took it for granted that this was Beelzebub
himself. The kitchen was soon in a hubbub; the servants hurried to the
spot. There lay old Barbara in fits; as fast as she got out of one, the
thoughts of the devil came over her, and she fell into another, for the
good soul was devoutly superstitious.
"As ill luck would have it, among those attracted by the noise was a
little, cursed, fidgety, crabbed uncle of mine; one of those uneasy spirits
that cannot rest quietly in their beds in the morning, but must be up
early, to bother the household. He was only a kind of half-uncle, after
all, for he had married my father's sister; yet be assumed great authority
on the strength of this left-handed relationship, and was a universal
intermeddler and family pest. This prying little busybody soon ferreted out
the truth of the story, and discovered, by hook and by crook, that I was at
the bottom of the affair, and had locked up the donkey in the smoke-house.
He stopped to inquire no further, for he was one of those testy curmudgeons
with whom unlucky boys are always in the wrong. Leaving old Barbara to
wrestle in imagination with the devil, he made for my bedchamber, where I
still lay wrapped in rosy slumbers, little dreaming of the mischief I had
done, and the storm about to break over me.
"In an instant I was awakened by a shower of thwacks, and started up in
wild amazement, I demanded the meaning of this attack, but received no
other reply than that I had murdered the housekeeper; while my uncle
continued whacking away during my confusion. I seized a poker, and put
myself on the defensive. I was a stout boy for my years, while my uncle was
a little wiffet of a man; one that in Kentucky we would not call even an
'individual'; nothing more than a 'remote circumstance.' I soon, therefore,
brought him to a parley, and learned the whole extent of the charge brought
against me. I confessed to the donkey and the smoke-house, but pleaded not
guilty of the murder of the housekeeper. I soon found out that old Barbara
was still alive. She continued under the doctor's hands, however, for
several days; and whenever she had an ill turn my uncle would seek to give
me another flogging. I appealed to my father, but got no redress. I was
considered an 'unlucky boy,' prone to all kinds of mischief; so that
prepossessions were against me in all cases of appeal.
"I felt stung to the soul at all this. I had been beaten, degraded, and
treated with slighting when I complained. I lost my usual good spirits and
good humor; and, being out of temper with everybody, fancied everybody out
of temper with me. A certain wild, roving spirit of freedom, which I
believe is as inherent in me as it is in the partridge, was brought into
sudden activity by the checks and restraints I suffered. 'I'll go from
home,' thought I, 'and shift for myself.' Perhaps this notion was quickened
by the rage for emigrating to Kentucky, which was at that time prevalent in
Virginia. I had heard such stories of the romantic beauties of the country;
of the abundance of game of all kinds, and of the glorious independent life
of the hunters who ranged its noble forests, and lived by the rifle; that I
was as much agog to get there as boys who live in seaports are to launch
themselves among the wonders and adventures of the ocean.
"After a time old Barbara got better in mind and body, and matters were
explained to her; and she became gradually convinced that it was not the
devil she had encountered. When she heard how harshly I had been treated on
her account, the good old soul was extremely grieved, and spoke warmly to
my father in my behalf. He had himself remarked the change in my behavior,
and thought punishment might have been carried too far. He sought,
therefore, to have some conversation with me, and to soothe my feelings;
but it was too late. I frankly told him the course of mortification that I
had experienced, and the fixed determination I had made to go from home.
"'And where do you mean to go?'
"'To Kentucky! Why, you know nobody there.'
"'No matter: I can soon make acquaintances.'
"'And what will you do when you get there?'
"My father gave a long, low whistle, and looked in my face with a
serio-comic expression. I was not far in my teens, and to talk of setting
off alone for Kentucky, to turn hunter, seemed doubtless the idle prattle
of a boy. He was little aware of the dogged resolution of my character; and
his smile of incredulity but fixed me more obstinately in my purpose. I
assured him I was serious in what I said, and would certainly set off for
Kentucky in the spring.
"Month after month passed away. My father now and then adverted slightly to
what had passed between us; doubtless for the purpose of sounding me. I
always expressed the same grave and fixed determination. By degrees he
spoke to me more directly on the subject, endeavoring earnestly but kindly
to dissuade me. My only reply was, 'I had made up my mind.'
"Accordingly, as soon as the spring had fairly opened, I sought him one day
in his study, and informed him I was about to set out for Kentucky, and had
come to take my leave. He made no objection, for he had exhausted
persuasion and remonstrance, and doubtless thought it best to give way to
my humor, trusting that a little rough experience would soon bring me home
again. I asked money for my journey. He went to a chest, took out a long
green silk purse, well filled, and laid it on the table. I now asked for a
horse and servant.
"'A horse!' said my father, sneeringly: 'why, you would not go a mile
without racing him, and breaking your neck; and, as to a servant, you
cannot take care of yourself much less of him.'
"'How am I to travel, then?'
"'Why, I suppose you are man enough to travel on foot.'
"He spoke jestingly, little thinking I would take him at his word; but I
was thoroughly piqued in respect to my enterprise; so I pocketed the purse,
went to my room, tied up three or four shirts in a pocket-handkerchief, put
a dirk in my bosom, girt a couple of pistols round my waist, and felt like
a knight errant armed cap a-pie, and ready to rove the world in quest of
"My sister (I had but one) hung round me and wept, and entreated me to
stay. I felt my heart swell in my throat; but I gulped it back to its
place, and straightened myself up; I would not suffer myself to cry. I at
length disengaged myself from her, and got to the door.
"'When will you come back?' cried she.
"'Never, by heavens!' cried I, 'until I come back a member of Congress from
Kentucky. I am determined to show that I am not the tail-end of the
"Such was my first outset from home. You may suppose what a greenhorn I
was, and how little I knew of the world I was launching into.
"I do not recollect any incident of importance until I reached the borders
of Pennsylvania. I had stopped at an inn to get some refreshment; and as I
was eating in the back room, I overheard two men in the barroom conjecture
who and what I could be. One determined, at length, that I was a runaway
apprentice, and ought to be stopped, to which the other assented. When I
had finished my meal, and paid for it, I went out at the back door, lest I
should be stopped by my supervisors. Scorning, however, to steal off like a
culprit, I walked round to the front of the house. One of the men advanced
to the front door. He wore his hat on one side, and had a consequential air
that nettled me.
"'Where are you going, youngster?' demanded he.
"'That's none of your business!' replied I, rather pertly.
"'Yes, but it is, though! You have run away from home, and must give an
account of yourself.'
"He advanced to seize me, when I drew forth a pistol. 'If you advance
another step, I'll shoot you!'
"He sprang back as if he had trodden upon a rattlesnake, and his hat fell
off in the movement.
"'Let him alone!' cried his companion; 'he's a foolish, mad-headed boy, and
don't know what he's about. He'll shoot you, you may rely on it.'
"He did not need any caution in the matter; he was afraid even to pick up
his hat: so I pushed forward on my way, without molestation. This incident,
however, had its effect upon me. I became fearful of sleeping in any house
at night, lest I should be stopped. I took my meals in the houses, in the
course of the day, but would turn aside at night into some wood or ravine,
make a fire, and sleep before it. This I considered was true hunter's
style, and I wished to inure myself to it.
"At length I arrived at Brownsville, leg-weary and wayworn, and in a shabby
plight, as you may suppose, having been 'camping out' for some nights past.
I applied at some of the inferior inns, but could gain no admission. I was
regarded for a moment with a dubious eye, and then informed they did not
receive foot-passengers. At last I went boldly to the principal inn. The
landlord appeared as unwilling as the rest to receive a vagrant boy beneath
his roof; but his wife interfered in the midst of his excuses, and half
elbowing him aside:
"'Where are you going, my lad?' said she.
"'What are you going there for?'
"She looked earnestly at me for a moment or two. 'Have you a mother
living?' said she at length.
"'No, madam: she has been dead for some time.'
"'I thought so!' cried she warmly. 'I knew if you had a mother living you
would not be here.' From that moment the good woman treated me with a
"I remained several days beneath her roof recovering from the fatigue of my
journey. While here I purchased a rifle and practiced daily at a mark to
prepare myself for a hunter's life. When sufficiently recruited in strength
I took leave of my kind host and hostess and resumed my journey.
"At Wheeling I embarked in a flat bottomed family boat, technically called
a broad-horn, a prime river conveyance in those days. In this ark for two
weeks I floated down the Ohio. The river was as yet in all its wild beauty.
Its loftiest trees had not been thinned out. The forest overhung the
water's edge and was occasionally skirted by immense cane-brakes. Wild
animals of all kinds abounded. We heard them rushing through the thickets
and plashing in the water. Deer and bears would frequently swim across the
river; others would come down to the bank and gaze at the boat as it
passed. I was incessantly on the alert with my rifle; but somehow or other
the game was never within shot. Sometimes I got a chance to land and try my
skill on shore. I shot squirrels and small birds and even wild turkeys; but
though I caught glimpses of deer bounding away through the woods, I never
could get a fair shot at them.
"In this way we glided in our broad-horn past Cincinnati, the 'Queen of the
West' as she is now called, then a mere group of log cabins; and the site
of the bustling city of Louisville, then designated by a solitary house. As
I said before, the Ohio was as yet a wild river; all was forest, forest,
forest! Near the confluence of Green River with the Ohio, I landed, bade
adieu to the broad-horn, and struck for the interior of Kentucky. I had no
precise plan; my only idea was to make for one of the wildest parts of the
country. I had relatives in Lexington and other settled places, to whom I
thought it probable my father would write concerning me: so as I was full
of manhood and independence, and resolutely bent on making my way in the
world without assistance or control, I resolved to keep clear of them all.
"In the course of my first day's trudge, I shot a wild turkey, and slung it
on my back for provisions. The forest was open and clear from underwood. I
saw deer in abundance, but always running, running. It seemed to me as if
these animals never stood still.
"At length I came to where a gang of half-starved wolves were feasting on
the carcass of a deer which they had run down; and snarling and snapping
and fighting like so many dogs. They were all so ravenous and intent upon
their prey that they did not notice me, and I had time to make my
observations. One, larger and fiercer than the rest, seemed to claim the
larger share, and to keep the others in awe. If any one came too near him
while eating, he would fly off, seize and shake him, and then return to his
repast. 'This,' thought I, 'must be the captain; if I can kill him, I shall
defeat the whole army.' I accordingly took aim, fired, and down dropped
the old fellow. He might be only shamming dead; so I loaded and put a
second ball through him. He never budged; all the rest ran off, and my
victory was complete.
"It would not be easy to describe my triumphant feelings on this great
achievement. I marched on with renovated spirit, regarding myself as
absolute lord of the forest. As night drew near, I prepared for camping. My
first care was to collect dry wood and make a roaring fire to cook and
sleep by, and to frighten off wolves, and bears, and panthers. I then began
to pluck my turkey for supper. I had camped out several times in the early
part of my expedition; but that was in comparatively more settled and
civilized regions, where there were no wild animals of consequence in the
forest. This was my first camping out in the real wilderness; and I was
soon made sensible of the loneliness and wildness of my situation.
"In a little while a concert of wolves commenced: there might have been a
dozen or two, but it seemed to me as if there were thousands. I never heard
such howling and whining. Having prepared my turkey, I divided it into two
parts, thrust two sticks into one of the halves, and planted them on end
before the fire, the hunter's mode of roasting. The smell of roast meat
quickened the appetites of the wolves, and their concert became truly
infernal. They seemed to be all around me, but I could only now and then
get a glimpse of one of them, as he came within the glare of the light.
"I did not much care for the wolves, who I knew to be a cowardly race, but
I had heard terrible stories of panthers, and began to fear their stealthy
prowlings in the surrounding darkness. I was thirsty, and heard a brook
bubbling and tinkling along at no great distance, but absolutely dared not
go there, lest some panther might lie in wait, and spring upon me.
By-and-by a deer whistled. I had never heard one before, and thought it
must be a panther. I now felt uneasy lest he might climb the trees, crawl
along the branches overhead, and plump down upon me; so I kept my eyes
fixed on the branches, until my head ached. I more than once thought I saw
fiery eyes glaring down from--among the leaves. At length I thought of my
supper and turned to see if my half-turkey was cooked. In crowding so near
the fire I had pressed the meat into the flames, and it was consumed. I had
nothing to do but toast the other half, and take better care of it. On that
half I made my supper, without salt or bread. I was still so possessed with
the dread of panthers that I could not close my eyes all night, but lay
watching the trees until daybreak, when all my fears were dispelled with
the darkness; and as I saw the morning sun sparkling down through the
branches of the trees, I smiled to think how I had suffered myself to be
dismayed by sounds and shadows; but I was a young woodsman, and a stranger
"Having breakfasted on the remainder of my turkey, and slaked my thirst at
the bubbling stream, without further dread of panthers, I resumed my
wayfaring with buoyant feelings. I again saw deer, but as usual running,
running! I tried in vain to get a shot at them, and began to fear I never
should. I was gazing with vexation after a herd in full scamper, when I was
startled by a human voice. Turning round, I saw a man at a short distance
from me in a hunting dress.
"'What are you after, my lad?' cried he.
"'Those deer,' replied I, pettishly: 'but it seems as if they never stand
"Upon that he burst out laughing. 'Where are you from?' said he.
"'What! In old Virginny?'
"'And how on earth did you get here?'
"'I landed at Green River from a broad-horn.
"'And where are your companions?'
"' I have none.'
"'Where are you going?'
"'And what have you come here for?'
"'Well,' said he, laughingly, 'you'll make a real hunter; there's no
mistaking that! Have you killed anything?'
"'Nothing but a turkey; I can't get within shot of a deer: they are always
"'Oh, I'll tell you the secret of that. You're always pushing forward, and
starting the deer at a distance, and gazing at those that are scampering;
but you must step as slow, and silent, and cautious as a cat, and keep your
eyes close around you, and lurk from tree to tree, if you wish to get a
chance at deer. But come, go home with me. My name is Bill Smithers; I live
not far off: stay with me a little while, and I'll teach you how to hunt.'
"I gladly accepted the invitation of honest Bill Smithers. We soon reached
his habitation; a mere log hut, with a square hole for a window and a
chimney made of sticks and clay. Here he lived with a wife and child. He
had 'girdled' the trees for an acre or two around, preparatory to clearing
a space for corn and potatoes. In the meantime he maintained his family
entirely by his rifle, and I soon found him to be a first-rate huntsman.
Under his tutelage I received my first effective lessons in 'woodcraft.'
"The more I knew of a hunter's life, the more I relished it. The country,
too, which had been the promised land of my boyhood, did not, like most
promised lands, disappoint me. No wilderness could be more beautiful than
this part of Kentucky in those times. The forests were open and spacious,
with noble trees, some of which looked as if they had stood for centuries.
There were beautiful prairies, too, diversified with groves and clumps of
trees, which looked like vast parks, and in which you could see the deer
running, at a great distance. In the proper season these prairies would be
covered in many places with wild strawberries, where your horses' hoofs
would be dyed to the fetlock. I thought there could not be another place in
the world equal to Kentucky--and I think so still.
"After I had passed ten or twelve days with Bill Smithers, I thought it
time to shift my quarters, for his house was scarce large enough for his
own family, and I had no idea of being an encumbrance to any one. I
accordingly made up my bundle, shouldered my rifle, took a friendly leave
of Smithers and his wife, and set out in quest of a Nimrod of the
wilderness, one John Miller, who lived alone, nearly forty miles off, and
who I hoped would be well pleased to have a hunting companion.
"I soon found out that one of the most important items in woodcraft in a
new country was the skill to find one's way in the wilderness. There were
no regular roads in the forests, but they were cut up and perplexed by
paths leading in all directions. Some of these were made by the cattle of
the settlers, and were called 'stock-tracks,' but others had been made by
the immense droves of buffaloes which roamed about the country, from the
flood until recent times. These were called buffalo-tracks, and traversed
Kentucky from end to end, like highways. Traces of them may still be seen
in uncultivated parts, or deeply worn in the rocks where they crossed the
mountains. I was a young woodman, and sorely puzzled to distinguish one
kind of track from the other, or to make out my course through this tangled
labyrinth. While thus perplexed, I heard a distant roaring and rushing
sound; a gloom stole over the forest: on looking up, when I could catch a
stray glimpse of the sky, I beheld the clouds rolled up like balls, the
lower parts as black as ink. There was now and then an explosion, like a
burst of cannonry afar off, and the crash of a falling tree. I had heard of
hurricanes in the woods, and surmised that one was at hand. It soon came
crashing its way; the forest writhing, and twisting, and groaning before
it. The hurricane did not extend far on either side, but in a manner plowed
a furrow through the woodland; snapping off or uprooting trees that had
stood for centuries, and filling the air with whirling branches. I was
directly in its course, and took my stand behind an immense poplar, six
feet in diameter. It bore for a time the full fury of the blast, but at
length began to yield. Seeing it falling, I scrambled nimbly round the
trunk like a squirrel. Down it went, bearing down another tree with it. I
crept under the trunk as a shelter, and was protected from other trees
which fell around me, but was sore all over from the twigs and branches
driven against me by the blast.
"This was the only incident of consequence that occurred on my way to John
Miller's, where I arrived on the following day, and was received by the
veteran with the rough kindness of a backwoodsman. He was a gray-haired
man, hardy and weather-beaten, with a blue wart, like a great beard, over
one eye, whence he was nicknamed by the hunters 'Bluebeard Miller.' He had
been in these parts from the earliest settlements, and had signalized
himself in the hard conflicts with the Indians, which gained Kentucky the
appellation of 'the Bloody Ground.' In one of these fights he had had an
arm broken; in another he had narrowly escaped, when hotly pursued, by
jumping from a precipice thirty feet high into a river.
"Miller willingly received me into his house as an inmate, and seemed
pleased with the idea of making a hunter of me. His dwelling was a small
log-house, with a loft or garret of boards, so that there was ample room
for both of us. Under his instruction I soon made a tolerable proficiency
in hunting. My first exploit, of any consequence, was killing a bear. I was
hunting in company with two brothers, when we came upon the track of bruin,
in a wood where there was an undergrowth of canes and grapevines. He was
scrambling up a tree, when I shot him through the breast: he fell to the
ground and lay motionless. The brothers sent in their dog, who seized the
bear by the throat. Bruin raised one arm and gave the dog a hug that
crushed his ribs. One yell, and all was over. I don't know which was first
dead, the dog or the bear. The two brothers sat down and cried like
children over their unfortunate dog. Yet they were mere rough huntsmen,
almost as wild and untamable as Indians; but they were fine fellows.
"By degrees I became known, and somewhat of a favorite among the hunters of
the neighborhood; that is to say, men who lived within a circle of thirty
or forty miles, and came occasionally to see John Miller, who was a
patriarch among them. They lived widely apart, in log huts and wigwams,
almost with the simplicity of Indians, and wellnigh as destitute of the
comforts and inventions of civilized life. They seldom saw each other;
weeks, and even months, would elapse, without their visiting. When they did
meet, it was very much after the manner of Indians; loitering about all
day, without having much to say, but becoming communicative as evening
advanced, and sitting up half the night before the fire, telling hunting
stories, and terrible tales of the fights of the Bloody Ground.
"Sometimes several would join in a distant hunting expedition, or rather
campaign. Expeditions of this kind lasted from November until April; during
which we laid up our stock of summer provisions. We shifted our hunting
camps from place to place, according as we found the game. They were
generally pitched near a run of water, and close by a cane-brake, to screen
us from the wind. One side of our lodge was open toward the fire. Our
horses were hoppled and turned loose in the cane-brakes, with bells round
their necks. One of the party stayed at home to watch the camp, prepare the
meals and keep off the wolves; the others hunted. When a hunter killed a
deer at a distance from the camp, he would open it and take out the
entrails; then climbing a sapling he would bend it down, tie the deer to
the top, and let it spring up again, so as to suspend the carcass out of
reach of the wolves. At night he would return to the camp and give an
account of his luck. The next morning early he would get a horse out of the
canebrake and bring home his game. That day he would stay at home to cut up
the carcass, while the others hunted.
"Our days were thus spent in silent and lonely occupations. It was only at
night that we would gather together before the fire and be sociable. I was
a novice, and used to listen with open eyes and ears to the strange and
wild stories told by the old hunters, and believed everything I heard. Some
of their stories bordered upon the supernatural. They believed that their
rifles might be spellbound, so as not to be able to kill a buffalo, even at
arms-length. This superstition they had derived from the Indians, who often
think the white hunters have laid a spell upon their rifles. Miller partook
of this superstition, and used to tell of his rifle's having a spell upon
it; but it often seemed to me to be a shuffling way of accounting for a bad
shot. If a hunter grossly missed his aim he would ask, 'Who shot last with
this rifle?'--and hint that he must have charmed it. The sure mode to
disenchant the gun was to shoot a silver bullet out of it.
"By the opening of spring we would generally have quantities of bears'-meat
and venison salted, dried, and smoked, and numerous packs of skins. We
would then make the best of our way home from our distant hunting-grounds;
transporting our spoils, sometimes in canoes along the rivers, sometimes on
horseback over land, and our return would often be celebrated by feasting
and dancing, in true backwoods style. I have given you some idea of our
hunting; let me now give you a sketch of our frolicking.
"It was on our return from a winter's hunting in the neighborhood of Green
River, when we received notice that there was to be a grand frolic at Bob
Mosely's, to greet the hunters. This Bob Mosely was a prime fellow
throughout the country. He was an indifferent hunter, it is true, and
rather lazy to boot; but then he could play the fiddle, and that was enough
to make him of consequence. There was no other man within a hundred miles
that could play the fiddle, so there was no having a regular frolic without
Bob Mosely. The hunters, therefore, were always ready to give him a share
of their game in exchange for his music, and Bob was always ready to get up
a carousal, whenever there was a party returning from a hunting expedition.
The present frolic was to take place at Bob Mosely's own house, which was
on the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy, which is a branch of Rough Creek,
which is a branch of Green River.
"Everybody was agog for the revel at Bob Mosely's; and as all the fashion
of the neighborhood was to be there, I thought I must brush up for the
occasion. My leathern hunting-dress, which was the only one I had, was
somewhat the worse for wear, it is true, and considerably japanned with
blood and grease; but I was up to hunting expedients. Getting into a
periogue, I paddled off to a part of the Green River where there was sand
and clay, that might serve for soap; then taking off my dress, I scrubbed
and scoured it, until I thought it looked very well. I then put it on the
end of a stick, and hung it out of the periogue to dry, while I stretched
myself very comfortably on the green bank of the river. Unluckily a flaw
struck the periogue, and tipped over the stick: down went my dress to the
bottom of the river, and I never saw it more. Here was I, left almost in a
state of nature. I managed to make a kind of Robinson Crusoe garb of
undressed skins, with the hair on, which enabled me to get home with
decency; but my dream of gayety and fashion was at an end; for how could I
think of figuring in high life at the Pigeon Roost, equipped like a mere
"Old Miller, who really began to take some pride in me, was confounded when
he understood that I did not intend to go to Bob Mosely's; but when I told
him my misfortune, and that I had no dress: 'By the powers,' cried he, 'but
you _shall_ go, and you shall be the best dressed and the best mounted
"He immediately set to work to cut out and make up a hunting-shirt of
dressed deer-skin, gayly fringed at the shoulders, with leggings of the
same, fringed from hip to heel. He then made me a rakish raccoon-cap, with
a flaunting tail to it; mounted me on his best horse; and I may say,
without vanity, that I was one of the smartest fellows that figured on that
occasion at the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy.
"It was no small occasion, either, let me tell you. Bob Mosely's house was
a tolerably large bark shanty, with a clap-board roof; and there were
assembled all the young hunters and pretty girls of the country, for many a
mile round. The young men were in their best hunting-dresses, but not one
could compare with mine; and my raccoon-cap, with its flowing tail, was the
admiration of everybody. The girls were mostly in doe-skin dresses; for
there was no spinning and weaving as yet in the woods; nor any need of it.
I never saw girls that seemed to me better dressed; and I was somewhat of a
judge, having seen fashions at Richmond. We had a hearty dinner, and a
merry one; for there was Jemmy Kiel, famous for raccoon-hunting, and Bob
Tarleton, and Wesley Pigman, and Joe Taylor, and several other prime
fellows for a frolic, that made all ring again, and laughed that you might
have heard them a mile.
"After dinner we began dancing, and were hard at it, when, about three
o'clock in the afternoon, there was a new arrival--the two daughters of old
Simon Schultz; two young ladies that affected fashion and late hours. Their
arrival had nearly put an end to all our merriment. I must go a little
roundabout in my story to explain to you how that happened.
"As old Schultz, the father, was one day looking in the cane-brakes for his
cattle, he came upon the track of horses. He knew they were none of his,
and that none of his neighbors had horses about that place. They must be
stray horses; or must belong to some traveler who had lost his way, as the
track led nowhere. He accordingly followed it up, until he came to an
unlucky peddler, with two or three pack-horses, who had been bewildered
among the cattle-tracks, and had wandered for two or three days among woods
and cane-brakes, until he was almost famished.
"Old Schultz brought him to his house; fed him on venison, bear's-meat, and
hominy, and at the end of a week put him in prime condition. The peddler
could not sufficiently express his thankfulness; and when about to depart
inquired what he had to pay? Old Schultz stepped back with surprise.
'Stranger,' said he, 'you have been welcome under my roof. I've given you
nothing but wild meat and hominy, because I had no better, but have been
glad of your company. You are welcome to stay as long as you please; but,
by Zounds! if any one offers to pay Simon Schultz for food he affronts
him!' So saying, he walked out in a huff.
"The peddler admired the hospitality of his host, but could not reconcile
it to his conscience to go away without making some recompense. There were
honest Simon's two daughters, two strapping, red-haired girls. He opened
his packs and displayed riches before them of which they had no conception;
for in those days there were no country stores in those parts, with their
artificial finery and trinketry; and this was the first peddler that had
wandered into that part of the wilderness. The girls were for a time
completely dazzled, and knew not what to choose: but what caught their eyes
most were two looking-glasses, about the size of a dollar, set in gilt tin.
They had never seen the like before, having used no other mirror than a
pail of water. The peddler presented them these jewels, without the least
hesitation; nay, he gallantly hung them round their necks by red ribbons,
almost as fine as the glasses themselves. This done, he took his departure,
leaving them as much astonished as two princesses in a fairy tale that have
received a magic gift from an enchanter.
"It was with these looking-glasses, hung round their necks as lockets, by
red ribbons, that old Schultz's daughters made their appearance at three
o'clock in the afternoon, at the frolic at Bob Mosely's, on the Pigeon
Roost Fork of the Muddy.
"By the powers, but it was an event! Such a thing had never before been
seen in Kentucky. Bob Tarleton, a strapping fellow, with a head like a
chestnut-burr and a look like a boar in an apple orchard, stepped up,
caught hold of the looking-glass of one of the girls, and gazing at it for
a moment, cried out: 'Joe Taylor, come here! come here! I'll be darn'd if
Patty Schultz ain't got a locket that you can see your face in, as clear as
in a spring of water!'
"In a twinkling all the young hunters gathered round old Schultz's
daughters. I, who knew what looking-glasses were, did not budge. Some of
the girls who sat near me were excessively mortified at finding themselves
thus deserted. I heard Peggy Pugh say to Sally Pigman, 'Goodness knows,
it's well Schultz's daughters is got them things round their necks, for
it's the first time the young men crowded round them!'
"I saw immediately the danger of the case. We were a small community, and
could not afford to be split up by feuds. So I stepped up to the girls, and
whispered to them: 'Polly,' said I, 'those lockets are powerful fine, and
become you amazingly; but you don't consider that the country is not
advanced enough in these parts for such things. You and I understand these
matters, but these people don't. Fine things like these may do very well in
the old settlements, but they won't answer at the Pigeon Roost Fork of the
Muddy. You had better lay them aside for the present, or we shall have no
"Polly and her sister luckily saw their error; they took off the lockets,
laid them aside, and harmony was restored: otherwise, I verily believe
there would have been an end of our community. Indeed, notwithstanding the
great sacrifice they made on this occasion, I do not think old Schultz's
daughters were ever much liked afterward among the young women.
"This was the first time that looking-glasses were ever seen in the Green
River part of Kentucky.
"I had now lived some time with old Miller, and had become a tolerably
expert hunter. Game, however, began to grow scarce. The buffalo had
gathered together, as if by universal understanding, and had crossed the
Mississippi, never to return. Strangers kept pouring into the country,
clearing away the forests and building in all directions. The hunters began
to grow restive. Jemmy Kiel, the same of whom I have already spoken for his
skill in raccoon catching, came to me one day: 'I can't stand this any
longer,' said he; 'we're getting too thick here. Simon Schultz crowds me so
that I have no comfort of my life.'
"'Why, how you talk!' said I; 'Simon Schultz lives twelve miles off.'
"'No matter; his cattle run with mine, and I've no idea of living where
another man's cattle can run with mine. That's too close neighborhood; I
want elbow-room. This country, too, is growing too poor to live in; there's
no game; so two or three of us have made up our minds to follow the buffalo
to the Missouri, and we should like to have you of the party.' Other
hunters of my acquaintance talked in the same manner. This set me thinking;
but the more I thought the more I was perplexed. I had no one to advise
with; old Miller and his associates knew but of one mode of life, and I had
had no experience in any other; but I had a wide scope of thought. When out
hunting alone I used to forget the sport, and sit for hours together on the
trunk of a tree, with rifle in hand, buried in thought, and debating with
myself: 'Shall I go with Jemmy Kiel and his company, or shall I remain
here? If I remain here there will soon be nothing left to hunt; but am I to
be a hunter all my life? Have not I something more in me than to be
carrying a rifle on my shoulder, day after day, and dodging about after
bears, and deer, and other brute beasts?' My vanity told me I had; and I
called to mind my boyish boast to my sister, that I would never return home
until I returned a member of Congress from Kentucky; but was this the way
to fit myself for such a station?
"Various plans passed through my mind, but they were abandoned almost as
soon as formed. At length I determined on becoming a lawyer. True it is, I
knew almost nothing. I had left school before I had learned beyond the
'rule of three.' 'Never mind,' said I to myself, resolutely; 'I am a
terrible fellow for hanging on to anything when I've once made up my mind;
and if a man has but ordinary capacity, and will set to work with heart and
soul, and stick to it, he can do almost anything.' With this maxim, which
has been pretty much my mainstay throughout life, I fortified myself in my
determination to attempt the law. But how was I to set about it? I must
quit this forest life, and go to one or other of the towns, where I might
be able to study, and to attend the courts. This too required funds. I
examined into the state of my finances. The purse given me by my father had
remained untouched, in the bottom of an old chest up in the loft, for money
was scarcely needed in these parts. I had bargained away the skins acquired
in hunting for a horse and various other matters, on which in case of need
I could raise funds. I therefore thought I could make shift to maintain
myself until I was fitted for the bar.
"I informed my worthy host and patron, old Miller, of my plan. He shook his
head at my turning my back upon the woods, when I was in a fair way of
making a first-rate hunter; but he made no effort to dissuade me. I
accordingly set off in September, on horseback, intending to visit
Lexington, Frankfort, and other of the principal towns, in search of a
favorable place to prosecute my studies. My choice was made sooner than I
expected. I had put up one night at Bardstown, and found, on inquiry, that
I could get comfortable board and accommodation in a private family for a
dollar and a half a week. I liked the place, and resolved to look no
further. So the next morning I prepared to turn my face homeward, and take
my final leave of forest life.
"I had taken my breakfast, and was waiting for my horse, when, in pacing up
and down the piazza, I saw a young girl seated near a window, evidently a
visitor. She was very pretty; with auburn hair and blue eyes, and was
dressed in white. I had seen nothing of the kind since I had left Richmond;
and at that time I was too much of a boy to be much struck by female
charms. She was so delicate and dainty-looking, so different from the hale,
buxom, brown girls of the woods; and then her white dress!--it was
perfectly dazzling! Never was poor youth more taken by surprise, and
suddenly bewitched. My heart yearned to know her; but how was I to accost
her? I had grown wild in the woods, and had none of the habitudes of polite
life. Had she been like Peggy Pugh or Sally Pigman, or any other of my
leathern-dressed belles of the Pigeon Roost, I should have approached her
without dread; nay, had she been as fair as Schultz's daughters, with their
looking-glass lockets, I should not have hesitated; but that white dress,
and those auburn ringlets, and blue eyes, and delicate looks, quite
daunted, while they fascinated me. I don't know what put it into my head,
but I thought, all at once, that I would kiss her! It would take a long
acquaintance to arrive at such a boon, but I might seize upon it by sheer
robbery. Nobody knew me here. I would just step in, snatch a kiss, mount my
horse, and ride off. She would not be the worse for it; and that kiss--oh!
I should die if I did not get it!
"I gave no time for the thought to cool, but entered the house, and stepped
lightly into the room. She was seated with her back to the door, looking
out at the window, and did not hear my approach. I tapped her chair, and as
she turned and looked up, I snatched as sweet a kiss as ever was stolen,
and vanished in a twinkling. The next moment I was on horseback, galloping
homeward; my very ears tingling at what I had done.
"On my return home I sold my horse, and turned everything to cash; and
found, with the remains of the paternal purse, that I had nearly four
hundred dollars; a little capital which I resolved to manage with the
"It was hard parting with old Miller, who had been like a father to me; it
cost me, too, something of a struggle to give up the free, independent
wild-wood life I had hitherto led; but I had marked out my course, and had
never been one to flinch or turn back.
"I footed it sturdily to Bardstown; took possession of the quarters for
which I had bargained, shut myself up, and set to work with might and main
to study. But what a task I had before me! I had everything to learn; not
merely law, but all the elementary branches of knowledge. I read and read,
for sixteen hours out of the four-and-twenty; but the more I read the more
I became aware of my own ignorance, and shed bitter tears over my
deficiency. It seemed as if the wilderness of knowledge expanded and grew
more perplexed as I advanced. Every height gained only revealed a wider
region to be traversed, and nearly filled me with despair. I grew moody,
silent, and unsocial, but studied on doggedly and incessantly. The only
person with whom I held any conversation was the worthy man in whose house
I was quartered. He was honest and well meaning, but perfectly ignorant,
and I believe would have liked me much better if I had not been so much
addicted to reading. He considered all books filled with lies and
impositions, and seldom could look into one without finding something to
rouse his spleen. Nothing put him into a greater passion than the assertion
that the world turned on its own axis every four-and-twenty hours. He swore
it was an outrage upon common sense. 'Why, if it did,' said he, 'there
would not be a drop of water in the well by morning, and all the milk and
cream in the dairy would be turned topsy-turvy! And then to talk of the
earth going round the sun! How do they know it? I've seen the sun rise
every morning and set every evening for more than thirty years. They must
not talk to _me_ about the earth's going round the sun!'
"At another time he was in a perfect fret at being told the distance
between the sun and moon. 'How can any one tell the distance?' cried he.
'Who surveyed it? who carried the chain? By Jupiter! they only talk this
way before me to annoy me. But then there's some people of sense who give
in to this cursed humbug! There's Judge Broadnax, now, one of the best
lawyers we have; isn't it surprising he should believe in such stuff? Why,
sir, the other day I heard him talk of the distance from a star he called
Mars to the sun! He must have got it out of one or other of those
confounded books he's so fond of reading; a book some impudent fellow has
written, who knew nobody could swear the distance was more or less.'
"For my own part, feeling my own deficiency in scientific lore, I never
ventured to unsettle his conviction that the sun made his daily circuit
round the earth; and for aught I said to the contrary, he lived and died in
"I had been about a year at Bardstown, living thus studiously and
reclusely, when, as I was one day walking the street, I met two young
girls, in one of whom I immediately recalled the little beauty whom I had
kissed so impudently. She blushed up to the eyes, and so did I; but we both
passed on with further sign of recognition. This second glimpse of her,
however, caused an odd fluttering about my heart. I could not get her out
of my thoughts for days. She quite interfered with my studies. I tried to
think of her as a mere child, but it would not do; she had improved in
beauty, and was tending toward womanhood; and then I myself was but little
better than a stripling. However, I did not attempt to seek after her, or
even to find out who she was, but returned doggedly to my books. By degrees
she faded from my thoughts, or if she did cross them occasionally, it was
only to increase my despondency; for I feared that with all my exertions, I
should never be able to fit myself for the bar, or enable myself to support
"One cold stormy evening I was seated, in dumpish mood, in the bar-room of
the inn, looking into the fire, and turning over uncomfortable thoughts,
when I was accosted by some one who had entered the room without my
perceiving it. I looked up, and saw before me a tall and, as I thought,
pompous-looking man, arrayed in small clothes and knee-buckles, with
powdered head, and shoes nicely blacked and polished; a style of dress
unparalleled in those days, in that rough country. I took a pique against
him from the very portliness of his appearance, and stateliness of his
manner, and bristled up as he accosted me. He demanded if my name was not
"I was startled, for I supposed myself perfectly incog.; but I answered in
"'Your family, I believe, lives in Richmond?'
"My gorge began to rise. 'Yes, sir,' replied I sulkily, 'my family does
live in Richmond.'
"'And what, may I ask, has brought you into this part of the country?'
"'Zounds, sir!' cried I, starting on my feet, 'what business is it of
yours? How dare you to question me in this manner?'
"The entrance of some persons prevented a reply; but I walked up and down
the bar-room, fuming with conscious independence and insulted dignity,
while the pompous-looking personage, who had thus trespassed upon my
spleen, retired without proffering another word.
"The next day, while seated in my room, some one tapped at the door, and,
on being bid to enter, the stranger in the powdered head, small-clothes,
and shining shoes and buckles, walked in with ceremonious courtesy.
"My boyish pride was again in arms; but he subdued me. He was formal, but
kind and friendly. He knew my family and understood my situation, and the
dogged struggle I was making. A little conversation, when my jealous pride
was once put to rest, drew everything from me. He was a lawyer of
experience and of extensive practice, and offered at once to take me with
him, and direct my studies. The offer was too advantageous and gratifying
not to be immediately accepted. From that time I began to look up. I was
put into a proper track, and was enabled to study to a proper purpose. I
made acquaintance, too, with some of the young men of the place, who were
in the same pursuit, and was encouraged at finding that I could 'hold my
own' in argument with them. We instituted a debating club, in which I soon
became prominent and popular. Men of talents, engaged in other pursuits,
joined it, and this diversified our subjects and put me on various tracks
of inquiry. Ladies, too, attended some of our discussions, and this gave
them a polite tone, and had an influence on the manners of the debaters. My
legal patron also may have had a favorable effect in correcting any
roughness contracted in my hunter's life. He was calculated to bend me in
an opposite direction, for he was of the old school; quoted Chesterfield on
all occasions, and talked of Sir Charles Grandison, who was his beau
ideal. It was Sir Charles Grandison, however, Kentuckyized.
"I had always been fond of female society. My experience, however, had
hitherto been among the rough daughters of the backwoodsmen; and I felt an
awe of young ladies in 'store clothes,' and delicately brought up. Two or
three of the married ladies of Bardstown, who had heard me at the debating
club, determined that I was a genius and undertook to bring me out. I
believe I really improved under their hands; became quiet where I had been
shy or sulky, and easy where I had been impudent.
"I called to take tea one evening with one of these ladies, when to my
surprise, and somewhat to my confusion, I found with her the identical
blue-eyed little beauty whom I had so audaciously kissed. I was formally
introduced to her, but neither of us betrayed any sign of previous
acquaintance, except by blushing to the eyes. While tea was getting ready
the lady of the house went out of the room to give some directions, and
left us alone.
"Heavens and earth, what a situation! I would have given all the pittance I
was worth to have been in the deepest dell of the forest. I felt the
necessity of saying something in excuse of my former rudeness, but I could
not conjure up an idea, nor utter a word. Every moment matters were growing
worse. I felt at one time tempted to do as I had done when I robbed her of
the kiss; bolt from the room, and take to flight; but I was chained to the
spot, for I really longed to gain her good-will.
"At length I plucked up courage, on seeing that she was equally confused
with myself, and walking desperately up to her, I exclaimed:
"'I have been trying to muster up something to say to you, but I cannot. I
feel that I am in a horrible scrape. Do have pity on me, and help me out of
"A smile dimpled about her mouth, and played among the blushes of her
cheek. She looked up with a shy, but arch glance of the eye, that expressed
a volume of comic recollection; we both broke into a laugh, and from that
moment all went on well.
"A few evenings afterward I met her at a dance, and prosecuted the
acquaintance. I soon became deeply attached to her; paid my court
regularly; and before I was nineteen years of age had engaged myself to
marry her. I spoke to her mother, a widow lady, to ask her consent. She
seemed to demur; upon which, with my customary haste, I told her there
would be no use in opposing the match, for if her daughter chose to have
me, I would take her, in defiance of her family, and the whole world.
"She laughed, and told me I need not give myself any uneasiness; there
would be no unreasonable opposition. She knew my family and all about me.
The only obstacle was that I had no means of supporting a wife, and she had
nothing to give with her daughter.
"No matter; at that moment everything was bright before me. I was in one of
my sanguine moods. I feared nothing, doubted nothing. So it was agreed that
I should prosecute my studies, obtain a license, and as soon as I should be
fairly launched in business we would be married.
"I now prosecuted my studies with redoubled ardor, and was up to my ears in
law, when I received a letter from my father, who had heard of me and my
whereabout. He applauded the course I had taken, but advised me to lay a
foundation of general knowledge, and offered to defray my expenses, if I
would go to college. I felt the want of a general education, and was
staggered with this offer. It militated somewhat against the self-dependent
course I had so proudly or rather conceitedly marked out for myself, but it
would enable me to enter more advantageously upon my legal career. I talked
over the matter with the lovely girl to whom I was engaged. She sided in
opinion with my father, and talked so disinterestedly, yet tenderly, that,
if possible, I loved her more than ever. I reluctantly, therefore, agreed
to go to college for a couple of years, though it must necessarily postpone
"Scarcely had I formed this resolution, when her mother was taken ill and
died, leaving her without a protector. This again altered all my plans. I
felt as if I could protect her. I gave up all idea of collegiate studies;
persuaded myself that by dint of industry and application I might overcome
the deficiencies of education, and resolved to take out a license as soon
"That very autumn I was admitted to the bar, and within a month afterward
was married. We were a young couple, she not much above sixteen, I not
quite twenty; and both almost without a dollar in the world. The
establishment which we set up was suited to our circumstances: a log-house,
with two small rooms; a bed, a table, a half dozen chairs, a half dozen
knives and forks, a half dozen spoons; everything by half dozens; a little
delf ware; everything in a small way; we were so poor, but then so happy!
"We had not been married many days, when court was held at a county town,
about twenty-five miles distant. It was necessary for me to go there, and
put myself in the way of business; but how was I to go? I had expended all
my means on our establishment; and then it was hard parting with my wife so
soon after marriage. However, go I must. Money must be made, or we should
soon have the wolf at the door. I accordingly borrowed a horse, and
borrowed a little cash, and rode off from my door, leaving my wife standing
at it, and waving her hand after me. Her last look, so sweet and beaming,
went to my heart. I felt as if I could go through fire and water for her.
"I arrived at the county town on a cool October evening. The inn was
crowded, for the court was to commence on the following day. I knew no one,
and wondered how I, a stranger, and a mere youngster, was to make my way in
such a crowd, and to get business. The public room was thronged with the
idlers of the country, who gather together on such occasions. There was
some drinking going forward, with much noise, and a little altercation.
Just as I entered the room I saw a rough bully of a fellow, who was partly
intoxicated, strike an old man. He came swaggering by me, and elbowed me as
he passed. I immediately knocked him down, and kicked him into the street.
I needed no better introduction. In a moment I had a dozen rough shakes of
the hand, and invitations to drink, and found myself quite a personage in
this rough assembly.
"The next morning the court opened. I took my seat among the lawyers, but
felt as a mere spectator, not having a suit in progress or prospect, nor
having any idea where business was to come from. In the course of the
morning a man was put at the bar, charged with passing counterfeit money,
and was asked if he was ready for trial. He answered in the negative. He
had been confined in a place where there were no lawyers, and had not had
an opportunity of consulting any. He was told to choose counsel from the
lawyers present, and to be ready for trial on the following day. He looked
round the court and selected me. I was thunderstruck. I could not tell why
he should make such a choice. I, a beardless youngster; unpracticed at the
bar; perfectly unknown. I felt diffident yet delighted, and could have
hugged the rascal.
"Before leaving the court he gave me one hundred dollars in a bag as a
retaining fee. I could scarcely believe my senses; it seemed like a dream.
The heaviness of the fee spoke but lightly in favor of his innocence, but
that was no affair of mine. I was to be advocate, not judge nor jury. I
followed him to jail, and learned from him all the particulars of his case;
from thence I went to the clerk's office and took minutes of the
indictment. I then examined the law on the subject, and prepared my brief
in my room. All this occupied me until midnight, when I went to bed and
tried to sleep. It was all in vain. Never in my life was I more wide-awake.
A host of thoughts and fancies kept rushing through my mind; the shower of
gold that had so unexpectedly fallen into my lap; the idea of my poor
little wife at home, that I was to astonish with my good fortune! But then
the awful responsibility I had undertaken!--to speak for the first time in
a strange court; the expectations the culprit had evidently formed of my
talents; all these, and a crowd of similar notions, kept whirling through
my mind. I tossed about all night, fearing the morning would find me
exhausted and incompetent; in a word, the day dawned on me, a miserable
"I got up feverish and nervous. I walked out before breakfast, striving to
collect my thoughts and tranquilize my feelings. It was a bright morning;
the air was pure and frosty. I bathed my forehead and my hands in a
beautiful running stream; but I could not allay the fever heat that raged
within. I returned to breakfast, but could not eat. A single cup of coffee
formed my repast. It was time to go to court, and I went there with a
throbbing heart. I believe if it had not been for the thoughts of my little
wife, in her lonely log house, I should have given back to the man his
hundred dollars, and relinquished the cause. I took my seat, looking, I am
convinced, more like a culprit than the rogue I was to defend.
"When the time came for me to speak, my heart died within me. I rose
embarrassed and dismayed, and stammered in opening my cause. I went on from
bad to worse, and felt as if I was going down hill. Just then the public
prosecutor, a man of talents, but somewhat rough in his practice, made a
sarcastic remark on something I had said. It was like an electric spark,
and ran tingling through every vein in my body. In an instant my diffidence
was gone. My whole spirit was in arms. I answered with promptness and
bitterness, for I felt the cruelty of such an attack upon a novice in my
situation. The public prosecutor made a kind of apology: this, from a man
of his redoubted powers, was a vast concession. I renewed my argument with
a fearless glow; carried the case through triumphantly, and the man was
"This was the making of me. Everybody was curious to know who this new
lawyer was, that had thus suddenly risen among them, and bearded the
attorney-general at the very outset. The story of my debut at the inn on
the preceding evening, when I had knocked down a bully, and kicked him out
of doors for striking an old man, was circulated with favorable
exaggerations. Even my very beardless chin and juvenile countenance were in
my favor, for people gave me far more credit than I really deserved. The
chance business which occurs in our country courts came thronging upon me.
I was repeatedly employed in other causes; and by Saturday night, when the
court closed, and I had paid my bill at the inn, I found myself with a
hundred and fifty dollars in silver, three hundred dollars in notes, and a
horse that I afterward sold for two hundred dollars more.
"Never did miser gloat on his money with more delight. I locked the door of
my room; piled the money in a heap upon the table; walked round it; sat
with my elbows on the table, and my chin upon my hands, and gazed upon it.
Was I thinking of the money? No! I was thinking of my little wife at home.
Another sleepless night ensued; but what a night of golden fancies, and
splendid air-castle! As soon as morning dawned, I was up, mounted the
borrowed horse with which I had come to court, and led the other which I
had received as a fee. All the way I was delighting myself with the
thoughts of the surprise I had in store for my little wife; for both of us
had expected nothing but that I should spend all the money I had borrowed,
and should return in debt.
"Our meeting was joyous, as you may suppose: but I played the part of the
Indian, hunter, who, when he returns from the chase, never for a time
speaks of his success. She had prepared a snug little rustic meal for me,
and while it was getting ready I seated myself at an old-fashioned desk in
one corner, and began to count over my money, and put it away. She came to
me before I had finished, and asked who I had collected the money for.
"'For myself, to be sure,' replied I, with affected coolness; 'I made it at
"She looked me for a moment in the face, incredulously. I tried to keep my
countenance, and to play Indian, but it would not do. My muscles began to
twitch; my feelings all at once gave way. I caught her in my arms; laughed,
cried, and danced about the room, like a crazy man. From that time forward,
we never wanted for money.
"I had not been long in successful practice, when I was surprised one day
by a visit from my woodland patron, old Miller. The tidings of my
prosperity had reached him in the wilderness, and he had walked one hundred
and fifty miles on foot to see me. By that tame I had improved my domestic
establishment, and had all things comfortable about me. He looked around
him with a wondering eye, at what he considered luxuries and superfluities;
but supposed they were all right in my altered circumstances. He said he
did not know, upon the whole, but that I had acted for the best It is true,
if game had continued plenty, it would have been a folly for me to quit a
hunter's life; but hunting was pretty nigh done up in Kentucky. The buffalo
had gone to Missouri; the elk were nearly gone also; deer, too, were
growing scarce; they might last out his time, as he was growing old, but
they were not worth setting up life upon. He had once lived on the borders
of Virginia. Game grew scarce there; he followed it up across Kentucky, and
now it was again giving him the slip; but he was too old to follow it
"He remained with us three days. My wife did everything in her power to
make him comfortable; but at the end of that time he said he must be off
again to the woods. He was tired of the village, and of having so many
people about him. He accordingly returned to the wilderness and to hunting
life. But I fear he did not make a good end of it; for I understand that a
few years before his death he married Sukey Thomas, who lived at the White
From the time of the chimerical cruising of Old Ponce de Leon in search of
the Fountain of Youth, the avaricious expedition of Pamphilo de Narvaez in
quest of gold, and the chivalrous enterprise of Hernando de Soto, to
discover and conquer a second Mexico, the natives of Florida have been
continually subjected to the invasions and encroachments of white men. They
have resisted them perseveringly but fruitlessly, and are now battling amid
swamps and morasses for the last foothold of their native soil, with all
the ferocity of despair. Can we wonder at the bitterness of a hostility
that has been handed down from father to son, for upward of three
centuries, and exasperated by the wrongs and miseries of each succeeding
generation! The very name of the savages with which we are fighting
betokens their fallen and homeless condition. Formed of the wrecks of once
powerful tribes, and driven from their ancient seats of prosperity and
dominion, they are known by the name of the Seminoles, or "Wanderers."
Bartram, who traveled through Florida in the latter part of the last
century, speaks of passing through a great extent of ancient Indian fields,
now silent and deserted, overgrown with forests, orange groves, and rank
vegetation, the site of the ancient Alachua, the capital of a famous and
powerful tribe, who in days of old could assemble thousands at bull-play
and other athletic exercises "over these then happy fields and green
plains." "Almost every step we take," adds he, "over these fertile heights,
discovers the remains and traces of ancient human habitations and
About the year 1763, when Florida was ceded by the Spaniards to the
English, we are told that the Indians generally retired from the towns and
the neighborhood of the whites, and burying themselves in the deep forests,
intricate swamps and hommocks, and vast savannas of the interior, devoted
themselves to a pastoral life, and the rearing of horses and cattle. These
are the people that received the name of the Seminoles, or Wanderers, which
they still retain.
Bartram gives a pleasing picture of them at the time he visited them in
their wilderness; where their distance from the abodes of the white man
gave them a transient quiet and security. "This handful of people," says
he, "possesses a vast territory, all East and the greatest part of West
Florida, which being naturally cut and divided into thousands of islets,
knolls, and eminences, by the innumerable rivers, lakes, swamps, vast
savannas, and ponds, form so many secure retreats and temporary
dwelling-places that effectually guard them from any sudden invasions or
attacks from their enemies; and being such a swampy, hommocky country,
furnishes such a plenty and variety of supplies for the nourishment of
varieties of animals that I can venture to assert that no part of the globe
so abounds with wild game, or creatures fit for the food of man.
"Thus they enjoy a superabundance of the necessaries and conveniences of
life, with the security of person and property, the two great concerns of
mankind. The hides of deer, bears, tigers, and wolves, together with honey,
wax, and other productions of the country, purchase their clothing equipage
and domestic utensils from the whites. They seem to be free from want or
desires. No cruel enemy to dread; nothing to give them disquietude but the
gradual encroachments of the white people. Thus contented and undisturbed,
they appear as blithe and free as the birds of the air, and like them as
volatile and active, tuneful and vociferous. The visage, action, and
deportment of the Seminoles form the most striking picture of happiness in
this life; joy, contentment, love, and friendship, without guile or
affectation, seem inherent in them, or predominant in their vital
principle, for it leaves them with but the last breath of life.... They are
fond of games and gambling, and amuse themselves like children, in relating
extravagant stories, to cause surprise and mirth." [Footnote: Bartram's
Travels in North America.]
The same writer gives an engaging picture of his treatment by these
"Soon after entering the forests, we were met in the path by a small
company of Indians, smiling and beckoning to us long before we joined them.
This was a family of Talahasochte, who had been out on a hunt and were
returning home loaded with barbecued meat, hides, and honey. Their company
consisted of the man, his wife and children, well mounted on fine horses,
with a number of pack-horses. The man offered us a fawn skin of honey,
which I accepted, and at parting presented him with some fish-hooks,
"On our return to camp in the evening, we were saluted by a party of young
Indian warriors, who had pitched their tents on a green eminence near the
lake, at a small distance from our camp, under a little grove of oaks and
palms. This company consisted of seven young Seminoles, under the conduct
of a young prince or chief of Talahasochte, a town southward in the
isthmus. They were all dressed and painted with singular elegance, and
richly ornamented with silver plates, chains, etc., after the Seminole
mode, with waving plumes of feathers on their crests. On our coming up to
them, they arose and shook hands; we alighted and sat a while with them by
their cheerful fire.
"The young prince informed our chief that he was in pursuit of a young
fellow who had fled from the town carrying off with him one of his favorite
young wives. He said, merrily, he would have the ears of both of them
before he returned. He was rather above the middle stature, and the most
perfect human figure I ever saw; of an amiable, engaging countenance, air,
and deportment; free and familiar in conversation, yet retaining a becoming
gracefulness and dignity. We arose, took leave of them, and crossed a
little vale, covered with a charming green turf, already illuminated by the
soft light of the full moon.
"Soon after joining our companions at camp, our neighbors, the prince and
his associates, paid us a visit. We treated them with the best fare we had,
having till this time preserved our spirituous liquors. They left us with
perfect cordiality and cheerfulness, wishing us a good repose, and retired
to their own camp. Having a band of music with them, consisting of a drum,
flutes, and a rattle-gourd, they entertained us during the night with their
music, vocal and instrumental.
"There is a languishing softness and melancholy air in the Indian convivial
songs, especially of the amorous class, irresistibly moving attention, and
exquisitely pleasing, especially in their solitary recesses, when all
nature is silent."
Travelers who have been among them, in more recent times, before they had
embarked in their present desperate struggle, represent them in much the
same light; as leading a pleasant, indolent life, in a climate that
required little shelter or clothing, and where the spontaneous fruits of
the earth furnished subsistence without toil. A cleanly race, delighting in
bathing, passing much of their time under the shade of their trees, with
heaps of oranges and other fine fruits for their refreshment; talking,
laughing, dancing and sleeping. Every chief had a fan hanging to his side,
made of feathers of the wild turkey, the beautiful pink-colored crane, or
the scarlet flamingo. With this he would sit and fan himself with great
stateliness, while the young people danced before him. The women joined in
the dances with the men, excepting the war-dances. They wore strings of
tortoise-shells and pebbles round their legs, which rattled in cadence to
the music. They were treated with more attention among the Seminoles than
among most Indian tribes.
ORIGIN OF THE WHITE, THE RED, AND THE BLACK MEN
A SEMINOLE TRADITION
When the Floridas were erected into a territory of the United States, one
of the earliest cares of the Governor, William P. Duval, was directed to
the instruction and civilization of the natives. For this purpose he called
a meeting of the chiefs, in which he informed them of the wish of their
Great Father at Washington that they should have schools and teachers among
them, and that their children should be instructed like the children of
white men. The chiefs listened with their customary silence and decorum to
a long speech, setting forth the advantages that would accrue to them from
this measure, and when he had concluded, begged the interval of a day to
deliberate on it.
On the following day a solemn convocation was held, at which one of the
chiefs addressed the governor in the name of all the rest. "My brother,"
said he, "we have been thinking over the proposition of our Great Father at
Washington, to send teachers and set up schools among us. We are very
thankful for the interest be takes in our welfare; but after much
deliberation have concluded to decline his offer. What will do very well
for white men will not do for red men. I know you white men say we all come
from the same father and mother, but you are mistaken. We have a tradition
handed down from our forefathers, and we believe it, that the Great Spirit,
when he undertook to make men, made the black man; it was his first
attempt, and pretty well for a beginning; but he soon saw he had bungled;
so he determined to try his hand again. He did so, and made the red man. He
liked him much better than the black man, but still he was not exactly what
he wanted. So he tried once more, and made the white man; and then he was
satisfied. You see, therefore, that you were made last, and that is the
reason I call you my youngest brother.
"When the Great Spirit had made the three men, he called them together and
showed them three boxes. The first was filled with books, and maps, and
papers; the second with bows and arrows, knives and tomahawks; the third
with spades, axes, hoes, and hammers. 'These, my sons,' said he, 'are the
means by which you are to live: choose among them according to your fancy.'
"The white man, being the favorite, had the first choice. He passed by the
box of working-tools without notice; but when he came to the weapons for
war and hunting, he stopped and looked hard at them. The red man trembled,
for he had set his heart upon that box. The white man, however, after
looking upon it for a moment, passed on, and chose the box of books and
papers. The red man's turn came next; and you may be sure he seized with
joy upon the bows and arrows and tomahawks. As to the black man, he had no
choice left but to put up with the box of tools.
"From this it is clear that the Great Spirit intended the white man should
learn to read and write; to understand all about the moon and stars; and to
make everything, even rum and whisky. That the red man should be a
first-rate hunter, and a mighty warrior, but he was not to learn anything
from books, as the Great Spirit had not given him any: nor was he to make
rum and whisky, lest he should kill himself with drinking. As to the black
man, as he had nothing but working-tools, it was clear he was to work for
the white and red man, which he has continued to do.
"We must go according to the wishes of the Great Spirit, or we shall get
into trouble. To know how to read and write is very good for white men, but
very bad for red men. It makes white men better, but red men worse. Some of
the Creeks and Cherokees learned to read and write, and they are the
greatest rascals among all the Indians. They went on to Washington, and
said they were going to see their Great Father, to talk about the good of
the nation. And when they got there, they all wrote upon a little piece of
paper, without the nation at home knowing anything about it. And the first
thing the nation at home knew of the matter, they were called together by
the Indian agent, who showed them a little piece of paper, which he told
them was a treaty, which their brethren had made in their name, with their
Great Father at Washington. And as they knew not what a treaty was, he held
up the little piece of paper, and they looked under it, and lo! it covered
a great extent of country, and they found that their brethren, by knowing
how to read and write, had sold their houses and their lands and the graves
of their fathers; and that the white man, by knowing how to read and write,
had gained them. Tell our Great Father at Washington, therefore, that we
are very sorry we cannot receive teachers among us; for reading and
writing, though very good for white men, is very bad for the Indians."
THE CONSPIRACY OF NEAMATHLA
AN AUTHENTIC SKETCH
In the autumn of 1823, Governor Duval, and other commissioners on the part
of the United States, concluded a treaty with the chiefs and warriors of
the Florida Indians, by which the latter, for certain considerations, ceded
all claims to the whole territory, excepting a district in the eastern
part, to which they were to remove, and within which they were to reside
for twenty years. Several of the chiefs signed the treaty with great
reluctance; but none opposed it more strongly than Neamathla, principal
chief of the Mickasookies, a fierce and warlike people, many of them Creeks
by origin, who lived about the Mickasookie lake. Neamathla had always been
active in those depredations on the frontiers of Georgia which had brought
vengeance and ruin on the Seminoles. He was a remarkable man; upward of
sixty years of age, about six feet high, with a fine eye, and a strongly
marked countenance, over which he possessed great command. His hatred of
the white men appeared to be mixed with contempt: on the common people he
looked down with infinite scorn. He seemed unwilling to acknowledge any
superiority of rank or dignity in Governor Duval, claiming to associate
with him on terms of equality, as two great chieftains. Though he had been
prevailed upon to sign the treaty, his heart revolted at it. In one of his
frank conversations with Governor Duval, he observed: "This country belongs
to the red man; and if I had the number of warriors at my command that this
nation once had I would not leave a white man on my lands. I would
exterminate the whole. I can say this to you, for you can understand me:
you are a man; but I would not say it to your people. They'd cry out I was
a savage, and would take my life. They cannot appreciate the feelings of a
man that loves his country."
As Florida had but recently been erected into a territory, everything as
yet was in rude and simple style. The governor, to make himself acquainted
with the Indians, and to be near at hand to keep an eye upon them, fixed
his residence at Tallahassee, near the Fowel towns, inhabited by the
Mickasookies. His government palace for a time was a mere log house, and he
lived on hunters' fare. The village of Neamathla was but about three miles
off, and thither the governor occasionally rode, to visit the old
chieftain. In one of these visits he found Neamathla seated in his wigwam,
in the center of the village, surrounded by his warriors. The governor had
brought him some liquor as a present, but it mounted quickly into his brain
and rendered him quite boastful and belligerent. The theme ever uppermost
in his mind was the treaty with the whites. "It was true," he said, "the
red men had made such a treaty, but the white men had not acted up to it.
The red men had received none of the money and the cattle that had been
promised them: the treaty, therefore, was at an end, and they did not mean
to be bound by it."
Governor Duval calmly represented to him that the time appointed in the
treaty for the payment and delivery of the money and the cattle had not yet
arrived. This the old chieftain knew full well, but he chose, for the
moment, to pretend ignorance. He kept on drinking and talking, his voice
growing louder and louder, until it resounded all over the village. He held
in his hand a long knife, with which he had been rasping tobacco; this he
kept flourishing backward and forward, as he talked, by way of giving
effect to his words, brandishing it at times within an inch of the
governor's throat. He concluded his tirade by repeating that the country
belonged to the red men, and that sooner than give it up his bones and the
bones of his people should bleach upon its soil.
Duval saw that the object of all this bluster was to see whether he could
be intimidated. He kept his eye, therefore, fixed steadily on the chief,
and the moment he concluded with his menace, seized him by the bosom of his
hunting shirt, and clinching his other fist:
"I've heard what you have said," replied he. "You have made a treaty, yet
you say your bones shall bleach before you comply with it. As sure as there
is a sun in heaven, your bones _shall_ bleach, if you do not fulfill
every article of that treaty I I'll let you know that I am _first_
here, and will see that you do your duty!"
Upon this, the old chieftain threw himself back, burst into a fit of
laughing, and declared that all he had said was in joke. The governor