D. H. RAMSEY LIBRARY
Charles Dudley Warner
Boston & New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company (The Riverside Press, Cambridge), 1888
" THE way to mount a horse " — said the Professor.
" If you have no ladder " — put in the Friend of Humanity.
The Professor had ridden through the war for the Union on the right side, enjoying a much better view of it than if he had walked, and knew as much about a horse as a person ought to know for the sake of his character. The man who can recite the tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims, on horseback, giving the contemporary pronunciation, never missing an accent by reason of the trot, and at the same time witch North Carolina and a strip of East Tennessee with his noble horsemanship, is a kind of Literary Centaur of whose double instruction any Friend of Humanity may be glad avail himself.
“The way to mount a horse is to grasp the mane with the left hand holding the bridle-rein,
put your left foot in the stirrup, with the right hand on the back of the saddle, and"—
Just then the horse stepped quickly around on his hind feet, and looked the Professor in the face. The Superintendents of Affairs, who occupy the flagging in front of the hotel, seated in cane-bottomed chairs tilted back, smiled. These useful persons appear to have a life-lease of this portion of the city pavement, and pretty effectually block it up nearly all day and evening. When a lady wishes to make her way through the blockade, it is the habit of these observers of life to rise and make room, touching their hats, while she picks her way through, and goes down the street with a pretty consciousness of the flutter she has caused. The war has not changed the Southern habit of sitting out-of-doors, but has added a new element of street picturesqueness in groups of colored. people lounging about the corners. There appears to be more leisure than ever.
The scene of this little lesson in horsemanship was the old town of Abingdon, in Southwest Virginia, on the Virginia and East Tennessee railway ; a town of ancient respectability, which gave birth to the Johnstons and Floyds and other notable people, a town that still preserves the flavor of excellent tobacco and something of the easy-going habits of the days of slavery, and is a sort of educational centre, where the young ladies of the region add the final graces of intellectual life in moral philosophy and the use of the globes to their natural gifts. The mansion of the late and left Floyd is now a seminary, and not far from it is the Stonewall Jackson Institute, in the midst of a grove of splendid oaks, whose stately boles and wide-spreading branches give a dignity to educational life. The distinction of the region is its superb oak-trees. As it was vacation in these institutions of learning, the travelers did not see any of the vines that traditionally cling to the oak.
The Professor and the Friend of Humanity were about starting on a journey, across country southward, through regions about which the people of Abingdon could give little useful information. If the travelers had known the capacities and resources of the country, they would not have started without a supply train, or the establishment of bases of provisions in advance. But, as the Professor remarked, knowledge is something that one acquires when he has no use for it. The horses were saddled ; riders were equipped with flannel shirts leather leggins ; the saddle-bags were stuffed with clean linen, and novels, and sonnets of Shakespeare, and other baggage, — it would have been well if they had been staffed with hard-tack, for in real life meat is more than raiment.
The hotel, in front of which there is cultivated so much of what the Germans call sitz-fleisch,
is a fair type of the majority of Southern hotels, and differs from the same class in the North in being left a little more to run itself. The only information we obtained about it was from its porter at the station, who replied to the question, " Is it the best? " " We warrant yon perfect satisfaction in every respect." This seems to be only a formula of expression, for we found that the statement was highly colored. It was left to our imagination to conjecture how the big chambers of the old house, with their gaping fireplaces, might have looked when furnished and filled with gay company, and we got what satisfaction we could out of a bygone bustle and mint-julep hilarity. In our struggles with the porter to obtain the little items of soap, water, and towels, we were convinced that we had arrived too late, and that for perfect satisfaction we should have been here before the war. It was not always as now. In colonial days the accommodations and prices at inns were regulated by law. In the old records in the court-house we read that if we had been here in 1777 we could have had a gallon of good rum for sixteen shillings ; a quart bowl of ram toddy made with loaf sugar for two shillings, or with brown sugar for one shilling and sixpence. In 1779 prices had risen. Good rum sold for four pounds a gallon. It was ordered that a warm dinner should cost twelve shillings, a cold dinner nine shillings, and a good breakfast twelve shillings. But the item that pleased us most, and made us regret our late advent, was that for two shillings we could have had a " good lodging, with clean sheets." The colonists were fastidious people.
Abingdon, prettily situated on rolling hills and a couple of thousand feet above the sea, with views of mountain peaks to the south, is a cheerful and not too exciting place for a brief sojourn, and hospitable and helpful to the stranger. We had dined — so much, at least, the public would
expect of us — with a descendant of Pocahontas ; we had assisted on Sunday morning at the dedication of a new brick Methodist church, the finest edifice in the region, a dedication that took a long time, since the bishop would not proceed with it until money enough was raised in open meeting to pay the balance due on it, — a religious act, though it did give a business aspect to the
place at the time ; and we had been the light spots in the evening service at the most aristocratic church of color. The irresponsibility of this amiable race was exhibited in the tardiness with which they assembled: at the appointed time nobody was there except the sexton ; it was three quarters of an hour before the congregation began to saunter in, and the sermon was nearly over before the pews were at all filled. Perhaps the sermon was not new, but it was fervid, and at times the able preacher roared so that articulate sounds were lost in the general effect. It was precisely these passages of cataracts of sound and hard breathing which excited the liveliest responses, — " Yes, Lord," and " Glory to God." Most of these responses came from the " Amen corner." The sermon contained the usual vivid description, of the last judgment-ah, and I fancied that the congregation did not get the ordinary satisfaction out of it. Fashion bad entered the fold, and the singing was mostly executed by a choir in the dusky gallery, who thinly and harshly warbled the emotional hymns. It occupied the minister a long time to give out the notices of the week, and there was not an evening or afternoon that had not its meetings, its literary or social gathering, its picnic or fair for the benefit of the church, its Dorcas society, or some occasion of religions sociability. The raising of funds appeared to ''be the burden on the preacher's mind. Two collections were taken up. At the first, the boxes appeared to get no supply except from the two white trash present. But the second was more successful. After the sermon was over, an elder took his place at a table within rails, and the real business of the evening began. Somebody in the Amen corner struck up a tune that had no end, but a mighty power of setting the congregation in motion. The leader had a voice like the pleasant droning of bag-pipe, and the faculty of emitting a continuous note like that instrument, without stopping to breathe. It went on and on like a Bach fugue, winding and whining its way, turning 'the corners of the lines of the catch without a break. The effect was soon visible in the emotional crowd: feet began to move in a regular cadence and voices to join in, with spurts of ejaculation ; and soon, with an air of martyrdom, the members began to leave their seats and pass before the table and deposit their
contributions. It was a cent contribution, and we found it very difficult, under the contagions influence of the hum from the Amen corner, not to rise and go forward and deposit a cent. If anything could extract the pennies from a reluctant worldling it would be the buzzing of this tune. It went on and on, until the house appeared to be drained dry of its cash ; and we inferred by the stopping of the melody that the preacher's salary was secure for the time being. On inquiring, we ascertained that the pecuniary flood that evening had risen to the height of a dollar and sixty cents.
All was ready for the start. It should have been early in the morning, but it was not ; for Virginia is not only one of the blessed regions where one can get a late breakfast, but where it is almost impossible to get an early one. At ten A. M., the two horsemen rode away out of sight of the Abingdon spectators, down the eastern turnpike. The day was warm, but the air was fall of vitality and the spirit of adventure. It was the 22d of July. The horses were not ambitious, but went on at an easy fox-trot that permits observation and encourages conversation. It had been stipulated that the horses should be good walkers, the one essential thing in a horseback journey. Few horses, even in a country where riding is general, are trained to walk fast. We hear much of horses that can walk five miles an hour, but they are as rare as white elephants. Our horses were only fair walkers. We realized how necessary this accomplishment is, for between the Tennessee line and Asheville, North Carolina, there is scarcely a mile of trotting-ground.
We soon turned southward and descended into the Holston River Valley. Beyond lay the Tennessee hills and conspicuous White-Top Mountain (5530 feet), which has a good deal of local celebrity (standing where the States of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina corner), and had been pointed out to us at Abingdon. We had been urged, personally and by letter, to ascend this mountain, without fail. People recommend mountains to their friends as they do patent medicines. As we leisurely jogged along we discussed this, and endeavored to arrive at some rule of conduct or the journey. The Professor expressed at once a feeling about mountain-climbing that amounted to hostility,—he would go nowhere that he could not ride. Climbing
was the most unsatisfactory use to which a mountain could be put. As to White-Top, it was a small mountain, and not worth ascending. The Friend of Humanity, who believes in mountain climbing as a theory, and for other people, and knows the value of being able to say, without detection, that he has ascended any high mountain about "which he is questioned, — since this
question is the first one asked about an exploration in a new country, — saw that he should have
to use a good deal of diplomacy to get the Professor over any considerable elevation on the trip. And be had to confess also that a view from a mountain is never so satisfactory as a view of a mountain, from a moderate height. The Professor, however, did not argue, the matter on any such reasonable ground, but took his stand on his right as a man not to ascend a mountain. With this appeal to first principles' —A position that could not be confuted on account of its vagueness
(although it might probably be demonstrated that in society man has no such right), — there was
no way of agreement except by a compromise. It was accordingly agreed that no mountain under six thousand feet is worth ascending ; that disposed of White-Top. It was further agreed that any mountain that is over six thousand feet high is too high to ascend on foot.
With this amicable adjustment we forded the Holston, crossing it twice within a few miles. This upper branch of the Tennessee is a noble stream, broad, with a rocky bed and a swift current. Fording it is ticklish business except at comparatively low water, and as it is subject to sudden rises there must be times when it seriously interrupts travel. This whole region, full of swift streams, is without a bridge, and, as a consequence, getting over rivers and brooks and the dangers of ferries occupy a prominent place in the thoughts of the inhabitants. The life necessarily had the “frontier" quality all through, for there can be little solid advance in civilization in the uncertainties of a bridgeless condition. An open, pleasant valley, the Holston, but cultivation is more and more negligent and houses are few and poorer as we advance.
We had left behind the hotels of " perfect satisfaction," and expected to live on the country, trusting to the infrequent but remunerated hospitality of the widely scattered inhabitants. We were to dine at Ramsey's. Ramsey's had been recommended to us as a royal place of
entertainment, the best in all that region ; and as the son grew hot in the sandy valley, and weariness of noon fell upon us, we magnified Ramsey's in our imagination, — the nobility of its
situation, its cuisine, its inviting restfulness,—and half decided to pass the night there in the true
abandon of plantation life. Long before we reached it, the Holston River which we followed had become the Laurel, a most lovely, rocky, winding stream, which we forded continually, for the valley became too narrow much of the way to accommodate a road and a river. Eagerly as we were looking out for it, we passed the great Ramsey's without knowing it, for it was the first of a little settlement of two houses and a saw-mill and barn. It was a neat log house of two lower rooms and a summer kitchen, quite the best of the class that we saw, and the pleasant mistress of it made us welcome. Across the road and close to the Laurel was the spring-house, the invariable adjunct to every well-to-do house in the region, and on the stony margin of the stream was set up the big caldron for the family-washing ; and here, paddling in the, shallow stream, while dinner was preparing, we established an intimacy with the children and exchanged philosophical observations on life with the old negress who was dabbling the clothes. What impressed this woman was the inequality in life. She jumped to the unwarranted conclusion that the Professor and the Friend were very rich, and spoke with asperity of the difficulty she experienced in getting shoes and tobacco. It was useless to point out to her that her al fresco life was singularly blessed
and free from care, and the happy lot of any one who could loiter all day by this laughing stream, undisturbed by debt or ambition. Everybody about the place was barefooted, except the mistress, including the comely daughter of eighteen, who served our dinner in the kitchen. The dinner was abundant, and though it seemed to us incongruous at the time, we were not twelve hours older when we looked back upon it with longing. On the table were hot biscuit, ham, pork, and green beans, apple-sauce, blackberry preserves, cucumbers, coffee, plenty of milk, honey, and apple and blackberry pie. Here we had our first experience, and I may say new sensation, of "honey on pie." It has a cloying sound as it is written, but the handmaiden recommended it with enthusiasm, and we evidently fell in her esteem, as persons from an uncultivated society, when we declared our inexperience of “honey on pie." " Where be you from ?" It turned out to be very good, and we have tried to introduce it in families since our return, with indifferent success. There did not seem to be in this family much curiosity about the world at large, nor much stir of social life. The gayety of madame appeared to consist in an occasional visit to paw and maw and grandmaw, up the river a few miles, where she was raised.
Refreshed by the honey and fodder at Ramsey's, the pilgrims went gayly along the musical Laurel, in the slanting rays of the afternoon soon which played upon the rapids and illumined all the woody way. Inspired by the misapprehension of the colored philosopher and the dainties of the dinner, the Professor soliloquized : —
"So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hoar survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since seldom coming, in the long year set,
Like stones of wealth they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet."
Five miles beyond Ramsey's the Tennessee line was crossed. The Laurel became more rocky, swift, full of rapids, and the valley narrowed down to the river-way, with standing room, however, for stately trees along the banks. The oaks, both black and white, were, as they had been all day, gigantic in size and splendid in foliage. There is a certain dignity in riding in such stately company, and the travelers clattered along over the stony road under the impression of possible high adventure in a new world of such freshness. Nor was beauty wanting. The rhododendrons
had, perhaps, a week ago reached their climax, and now began to strew the water and the ground with their brilliant petals, dashing all the way with color ; but they were still matchlessly beautiful. Great banks of pink and white covered the steep hillsides ; the bending stems, ten to twenty feet high, hang their rich clusters over the river ; avenues of glory opened away in the glade of the stream ; and at every turn of the winding way vistas glowing with the hues of romance wrenched exclamations of delight and wonder from the Shakespearean sonneteer and his humble Friend. In the deep recesses of the forest suddenly flamed to the view, like the slashes of splendor on the sombre canvas of an old Venetian, these wonders of color, — the glowing summer-heart of the
It was difficult to say, meantime, whether the road was laid out in the river, or the river in the road. In the few miles to Egger's (this was the destination of our great expectations for the night) the stream was crossed twenty-seven times, — or perhaps it would be more proper to say
that the road was crossed twenty-seven times. Where the road did not run in the river, its bed was washed out and as stony as the bed of the stream. This is a general and accurate description of all the roads in this region, which wind along and in the streams, through narrow valleys, shut in by low and steep hills. The country is full of springs and streams, and between Abingdon and Egger's is only one (small) bridge. In a region with scarcely any level land or intervale, farmers are at a disadvantage. All along the road we saw nothing but mean shanties, generally of logs, with now and then a decent one-story frame, and the people looked miserably poor. As we picked our way along up the Laurel, obliged for the most part to ride single-file, or as the Professor expressed it, —
" let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one," —
we gathered information about Egger‟s from the infrequent hovels on the road, which inflamed our imaginations. Egger was the thriving man of the region, and lived in style in a big brick house. We began to feel a doubt that Egger would take us in, and 80 much did his brick magnificence impress us that we regretted we had not brought apparel fit for the society we were about to enter. It was half past six, and we were tired and hungry, when the domain of Egger towered in sight, — a gaunt two-story structure of raw brick, unfinished, standing in a narrow intervale. We rode up to the gate, and asked a man who sat in the front-door porch if this was Egger's, and if we could be accommodated for the night. The man, without moving, allowed that it was Egger's, and that we could probably stay there. This person, however, exhibited so much indifference to our company, he was such a hairy, unkempt man, and carried on face, hands, and clothes so much more of the soil of the region than a prudent proprietor would divert from raising corn, that we set him aside as a poor relation, and asked for Mr. Egger. But the man, still without the least hospitable stir, admitted that that was the name he went by, and at length advised us to " lite " and hitch our horses, and sit on the porch with him and enjoy the cool of the evening. The horses would be put up by and by, and in fact things generally would come round some time. This turned out to be the easy way of the country. Mr. Egger was far from being inhospitable, but was in no hurry, and never had been in a hurry. He was not exactly a gentleman of the old school. He was better than that. He dated from the time when there were no schools at all, and he lived in that placid world which is without information and ideas. Mr. Egger showed his superiority by a total lack of curiosity about any other world.
This brick house, magnificent by comparison with other dwellings in this country, seemed to us, on nearer acquaintance, only a thin, crude shell of a house, half unfinished, with bare rooms, the plastering already discolored. In point of furnishing it had not yet reached the " God bless our Home " stage in crewel. In the narrow meadow, a strip of vivid green south of the house, ran a little stream, fed by a copious spring, and over it was built the inevitable spring-
house. A post, driven into the bank by the stream, supported a in wash-basin, and here we performed our ablutions. The traveler gets to like this freedom and primitive luxury.
The farm of Egger produces corn, wheat, grass, and sheep ; it is a good enough farm, but most of it lies at an angle of thirty-five to forty degrees. The ridge back of the house, planted in corn, was as steep as the roof of his dwelling. It seemed incredible that it ever could have been ploughed, but the proprietor assured as that it was ploughed with mules, and I judged that the harvesting must be done by squirrels. The soil is good enough, if it would stay in place, but all the hillsides are seamed with gullies. The discolored state of the streams was accounted for as soon as we saw this cultivated land. No sooner is the land cleared of trees and broken up than it begins to wash. We saw more of this later, especially in North Carolina, where we encountered no stream of water that was not muddy, and saw no cultivated ground that was not washed. The process of denudation is going on rapidly wherever the original forests are girdled (a common way of preparing for crops), or cut away.
As the time passed and there was no sign of supper, the question became a burning one, and we went to explore the kitchen. No sign of it there. No fire in the stove, nothing cooked in the house, of course. Mrs. Egger and her comely young barefooted daughter had still the milking to attend to, and supper must wait for the other chores. It seemed easier to be Mr. Egger, in this state of existence, and sit on the front porch and meditate on the price of mules and the prospect of a crop, than to be Mrs. Egger, whose work was not limited from sun to sun ; who had, in fact, a day's work to do after the men-folks had knocked off ; whose chances of neighborhood gossip were scanty, whose amusements were confined to a religious meeting once a fortnight. Good, honest people these, not unduly puffed up by the brick house, grubbing away year in and year out. Yes, the young girl said, there was a neighborhood party, now and then, in the winter. What a price to pay for mere life!
Long before supper was ready, nearly nine o'clock, we had almost lost interest in it. Meantime two other guests had arrived, a couple of drovers from North Carolina, who brought into the circle — by this time a wood-fire had been kindled in the sitting-room, which contained a bed, an almanac, and some old copies of a newspaper — a rich flavor of cattle, and talk of the
price of steers. As to politics, although a presidential campaign was raging, there was scarcely an echo of it here. This was Johnson County, Tennessee, a strong Republican county ; but dog-gone it, says Mr. Egger, it 's no use to vote ; our votes are over-borne by the rest of the State. Yes, they 'd got a Republican member of Congress, — he 'd heard his name, but he 'd forgotten it.
The drover said he 'd heard it also, but he did n‟t take much interest in such things, though he was n‟t any Republican. Parties is pretty much all for office, both agreed. Even the Professor, who was traveling in the interest of Reform, could n‟t wake up a discussion out of such a state of
Alas! the supper, served in a room dimly lighted with a smoky lamp, on a long table covered with oil-cloth, was not of the sort to arouse the delayed and now gone appetite of a Reformer, and yet it did not lack variety: corn-pone (Indian meal stirred up with water and heated through), hot biscuit slack-baked and livid, fried salt-pork swimming in grease, apple-butter, pickled beets, onions and cucumbers raw, coffee, so-called, buttermilk, and sweet milk when specially asked for (the correct taste, however, is for buttermilk), and pie. This was not the pie of commerce, but the pie of the country, — two thick slabs of dough, with a squeezing of
apple between. The profusion of this supper staggered the novices, but the drovers attacked it as if such cooking were a common occurrence, and did justice to the weary labors of Mrs. Egger.
Egger is well prepared to entertain strangers, having several rooms and several beds in each room. Upon consultation with the drovers, they said they 'd just as soon occupy an apartment by themselves, and we gave up their society for the night. The beds in our chamber had each one sheet, and the room otherwise gave evidence of the modern spirit ; for in one corner stood the fashionable aesthetic decoration of our Queen Anne drawing-rooms, —the spinning-
wheel. Soothed by this concession to taste, we crowded in between the straw and the home-made
blanket and sheet, and soon ceased to hear the barking of dogs and the horned encounters of the drover's herd.
We parted with Mr. Egger after breakfast (which, was a close copy of the supper) with respect than regret. His total charge for the entertainment of two men and two horses — supper,
lodging, and breakfast—was high or low, as the traveler chose to estimate it. It was $1.20: that is, thirty cents for each individual, or ten cents for each meal and lodging.
Our road was a sort of by-way up Gentry Creek and over the Cut Laurel Gap to Worth's, at Creston Post-Office, in North Carolina, — the next available halting place, said to be fifteen
miles distant, and turning out to be twenty-two, and a rough road. There is a little settlement about Egger's, and the first half mile of our way we had the company of the school-mistress, a modest, pleasant-spoken girl. Neither she nor any other people we encountered had any dialect or local peculiarity of speech. Indeed, those we encountered that morning had nothing in manner or accent to distinguish them. The novelists had led us to expect something different ; and the modest and pretty young lady with frank and open blue eyes, who wore gloves and used the common English speech, had never figured in the fiction of the region. Cherished illusions vanish often on near approach. The day gave no peculiarity of speech to note, except the occasional use of "hit " for " it."
The road over Cut Laurel Gap was very steep and stony, the thermometer mounted, up to 80?, and notwithstanding the beauty of the way the ride became tedious before we reached the summit. On the summit is the dwelling and distillery of a colonel famous in these parts. We stopped at the house for a glass of milk ; the colonel was absent, and while the women in charge went after it, we sat on the on the veranda and conversed with a young lady, tall, gent, well-favored, and communicative, who leaned in the doorway.
" Yes, this house stands on the line. Where I you sit you are in Tennessee ; I 'm in North Carolina."
“Do you live here?"
"Law, no ; I'm just staying a little while at the colonel's. I live over the mountain here, three miles from Taylorsville. I thought I‟d be where I could step into North Carolina easy."
" Well, they wanted me to go before the before the grand jury and testify about some pistol-shooting down by our house, — some friends of mine got into a little difficulty, — and I
did n‟t want to. I never has no difficulty with nobody, never says nothing about nobody, has nothing against nobody, and I reckon nobody has nothing against me."
" Did you come alone?"
" Why, of course. I come across the mountain by a path through the woods. That's nothing."
A discreet, pleasant, pretty girl. This surely must be the Esmeralda who lives in these mountains, and adorns low life by her virgin purity and sentiment. As she talked on, she turned from time to time to the fireplace behind her, and discharged a dark fluid from her pretty lips, with accuracy of aim, and with a nonchalance that was not assumed, but belongs to our free-born American girls. I cannot tell why this habit of hers (which is no worse than the sister habit of "dipping ") should take her out of the romantic setting that her face and figure had placed her in ; but somehow we felt inclined to ride on further for our heroine.
“And yet," said the Professor, as we left the site of the colonel's thriving distillery, and by a winding, picturesque road through a rough farming country descended into the valley,—"and
yet why fling aside so readily a character and situation so full of romance, on account of a habit of this mountain Helen, which one of our best poets has almost made poetical, in the case of the pioneer taking his westward way, with ox-goad pointing to the sky: —
"‟He‟s leaving on the pictured rock
His fresh tobacco stain.'
" To my mind the incident has Homeric elements. The Greeks would have looked at it in a large, legendary way. Here is Helen, strong and lithe of limb, ox-eyed, courageous, but woman-hearted, and love-inspiring, contended for by all the braves and daring moon-shiners of Cut Laurel Gap, pursued by the gallants of two States, the prize of a border warfare of bowie knives and revolvers. This Helen, magnanimous as attractive, is the witness of a pistol difficulty on her behalf, and when wanted by the areopagus, that she may neither implicate a lover nor punish an enemy (having nothing, this noble type of her sex, against nobody) skips away to Mount Ida, and there, under the gegis of the flag of her country, in a Licensed Distillery, stands with one slender foot in Tennessee and the other in North. Carolina " —
" Like the figure of the Republic itself, superior to state sovereignty," interposed the Friend.
'"I beg your pardon," said the Professor, urging up Laura Matilda (for so he called the nervous mare, who fretted herself into a fever in the stony path), "I was quite able to get the woman out of that position without the aid of a metaphor. It is a large and Greek idea, that of standing in two mighty States, superior to the law, looking east and looking west, ready to transfer her agile body to either State on the approach of messengers of the court ; and I‟ll be hanged if I did n‟t think that her nonchalant rumination of the weed, combined with her lofty moral attitude, added something to the picture."
The Friend said that be was quite willing to join in the extremest defense of the privileges of beauty, — that he even held in abeyance judgment on the practice of dipping ; but when it came to chewing, gum was as far as he could go as an allowance for the fair sex.
" When I consider everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment " —
The rest of the stanza was lost, for the Professor was splashing through the stream. No sooner had we descended than the fording of streams began again. The Friend had been obliged to stipulate that the Professor should go ahead at these crossings, to keep the impetuous nag of the latter from throwing half the contents of the stream upon his slower and uncomplaining companion.
What a lovely country, but for the heat of noon and the long wearisomeness of the way! —not that the distance was great, but miles and miles more than expected. How charming the open glades of the river, how refreshing the great forests of oak and chestnut, and what a panorama of beauty the banks of rhododendrons, now intermingled with the lighter pink and white of the laurel! In this region the rhododendron is called laurel, and the laurel (the sheep-laurel of New England) is called ivy.
At Worth's, well on in the afternoon, we emerged into a wide, open farming intervale, a pleasant place of meadows and streams and decent dwellings. Worth's is the trading centre of the region, has a post-office and a sawmill and a big country store ; and the dwelling of the proprietor is not unlike a roomy New England country-house. Worth's has been immemorially a stopping place in a region where places of accommodation are few. The proprietor, now an elderly man, whose reminiscences are long ante bellum, has seen the world grow up about him, he the honored,
just center of it, and a family come up into the modern notions of life, with a boarding-school education and glimpses of city life and foreign travel. I fancy that nothing but tradition and a remaining Southern hospitality could induce this private family to suffer the incursions of this wayfaring man. Our travelers are not apt to be surprised at anything in American life, but they did not expect to find a house in this region with two pianos and a bevy of young ladies, whose clothes were certainly not made on Gut Laurel Gap, and to read in the books scattered about the house the evidences of the finishing schools with which our country is blessed, nor to find here pupils of the Stonewall Jackson Institute at Abingdon. With a flush of local pride, the Professor
took up, in the roomy, pleasant chamber set apart for the guests, a copy of Porter's Elements of Moral Science.
" Where yon see the Elements of Moral Science," the Friend generalized, " there‟ll be plenty of water and towels ; "and the sign did not fail. The friends intended to read this book in the cool of the day ; but as they sat on the long veranda, the voice of a maiden reading the latest novel to a sewing group behind the blinds in the drawing-room ; and the antics of a mule and a boy in front of the store opposite ; and the arrival of a spruce young man, who had just ridden over from somewhere, a matter of ten miles, gallop, to get a medicinal potion for his sick mother, and lingered chatting with the young ladies until we began to fear that his mother would recover before his return ; the coming and going of lean women in shackly wagons to trade at the store ; the coming home of the cows, splashing through the stream, hooking right and left, and lowing for the hand of the milker, — all these interruptions, together with the generally drowsy quiet of the approach of evening, interfered with the study of the Elements. And when the travelers, after a refreshing rest, went on their way next morning, considering the Elements and the pianos and the refinement, to say nothing of the cuisine, which is not treated of in the text-book referred to, they were content with a bill double that of brother Egger, in his brick magnificence.
The simple truth is that the traveler in this region must be content to feed on natural beauties. And it is an unfortunate truth in natural history that the appetite for this sort of diet fails after a time, if the inner man is not supplied with other sort of food. There is no landscape in the world that is agreeable after two days of rusty bacon and slack biscuit."
How lovely this would be," exclaimed the Professor, " if it had a background of beef-steak and coffee! "
We were riding along the west fork of the Laurel, distinguished locally as Three Top Creek, — or rather we were riding in it, crossing it thirty-one times within six miles ; a charming wood (and water) road, under the shade 'of fine trees, with the rhododendron illuminating the way, gleaming in the forest and reflected in the stream, all the ten miles to Elk Cross Roads, our next destination. We had heard a great deal about Elk Cross Roads; it was on the map, it was down in the itinerary furnished by a member of the Coast Survey. We looked forward to it as a sweet place of repose from the noontide heat. Alas! Elk Cross Roads is a dirty grocery-store, encumbered with dry-goods boxes, fly-blown goods, flies, loafers. In reply to our inquiry, we were told that they had nothing to eat, for us, and not a. grain of feed for the horses. But there was a man a mile further on, who was well to do and had stores of food,— old man Tatem would
treat us in bang-up style. The difficulty of getting feed for the horses was chronic all through the journey. The last corn crop had failed, the new oats and corn had not come in, and the country was literally barren. We had noticed all along that the hens were taking a vacation, and that chickens were not put forward as an article of diet.
We were unable, when we reached the residence of old man Tatem, to imagine how the local superstition of his wealth arose. His house is of logs, with two rooms, a kitchen and a spare room, with. a low loft accessible by a ladder, at the side of the chimney. The chimney is a huge construction of stone, separating the two parts of the house; in fact, the chimney was built first, apparently, and the two rooms were then built against it. The proprietor sat in a little railed veranda. These Southern verandas give an air to the meanest dwelling, and they are much used ; the family sit here, and here are the wash basin and pail (which is filled from the neighboring spring-house) and the row of milk-pans. The old man Tatem. did not welcome ns with enthusiasm; he had no corn, — these were hard times. He looked like hard times, grizzled times, dirty times. It seemed time out of mind since he had seen comb or razor, and although the lovely New River, along which we had ridden to his house, — a broad, inviting stream, — was in sight across the
meadow, there was no evidence that he bad ever made acquaintance with its cleansing waters. As to corn, the necessities of the case and pay being dwelt on, perhaps he could find a dozen ears. A dozen small ears he did find, and we trust that the horses found them.
We took a family dinner with old man Tatem in the kitchen, where there was a bed and a stove, — a meal that the host seemed to enjoy, but which we could not make much of, except the milk; that was good. A painful meal, on the whole, owing to the presence in the room of a grown-up daughter with a graveyard cough, without physician or medicine, or comforts. Poor girl! just dying of "a misery." In the spare room were two beds; the walls were decorated with the gay-colored pictures of patent-medicine advertisements — a favorite art adornment of the region;
and a pile of ancient illustrated papers with the usual patent-office report, the thoughtful gift of the member for the district. The old man takes in the Blue Ridge Baptist, a journal which we found largely taken up with the experiences of its editor on his journeys roundabout in search of subscribers. This newspaper was the sole communication of the family with the world at large, but the old man thought he should stop it,—he didn't seem to get the worth of his money out of it.
And old man Tatem was a thrifty and provident man. On the hearth in this best room—as
ornaments or memento mori — were a couple of marble grave-stones, a short head-stone and foot-stone, mounted on bases and ready for use, except the lettering. These may not have been so mournful and significant as they looked, nor the evidence of simple, humble faith ; they may have been taken for debt. But as parlor ornaments they had a fascination which we could not escape.
It was while we were bathing in the New River, that afternoon, and meditating on the grim, unrelieved sort of life of our host, that the Professor said, " Judging by the face of the Blue Ridge Baptist, he will charge us smartly for the few nubbins of corn and the milk." The face did not deceive us; the charge was one dollar. At this rate it would have broken us to have tarried with old man Tatem (perhaps he is not old, but that is the name he goes by) over night.
It was a hot afternoon, and it needed some courage to mount and climb the sandy hill leading us away from the corn-crib of Tatem. But we entered almost immediately into fine stretches of forest, and rode under the shade of great oaks. The way, which began by the New River, soon led us over the hills to the higher levels of Watauga County. So far on our journey we had been hemmed in by low hills, and without any distant or mountain outlooks. The excessive heat seemed out of place at the elevation of over two thousand feet, on which we were traveling. Boone, the county-seat of Watauga County, was our destination, and, ever since morning, the guideboards and the trend of the roads had notified us that everything in this region tends towards Boone as a centre of interest. The simple ingenuity of some of the guide-boards impressed us. If, on coming to a fork, the traveler was to turn to the right, the sign read,
To BOONE 10 M.
If he was to go to the left, it read,
. M 01 EN00B oT [reverse print]
A short ride of nine miles, on an ascending road, through an open, unfenced forest region, brought us long before sundown to this capital. When we had ridden into its single street, which wanders over gentle hills, and landed at the most promising of the taverns, the Friend informed his comrade that Boone was 3250 feet above Albemarle Sound, and believed by its inhabitants to be the highest village east of the Rocky Mountains. The Professor said that it might be so, but it was a God-forsaken place. Its inhabitants numbered perhaps 250, a few of them colored. It had a gaunt, shaky courthouse and jail, a store or two, and two taverns. The two taverns are needed to accommodate the judges and lawyers and their clients during the session of the court. The court is the only excitement and the only amusement. It is the event from which other events date. Everybody in the county knows exactly when court sits, and when court breaks. During the session the whole county is practically in Boone, men, women, and children. They camp there, they attend the trials, they take sides; half of them, perhaps, are witnesses, for the region is litigious, and the neighborhood quarrels are entered into with spirit. To be fond of lawsuits seems a characteristic of an isolated people in new conditions. The early settlers of New England were.
Notwithstanding the elevation of Boone, which insured a pure air, the thermometer that afternoon stood at from 85? to 89?. The flies enjoyed it. How they swarmed in this tavern! They