The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Puddleford Papers; Or, Humors of the West

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Title: The Puddleford Papers; Or, Humors of the West

Author: Henry Hiram Riley

Release date: July 10, 2011 [eBook #36678]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Emmy, Darleen Dove, Josephine Paolucci and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
(This file was produced from images generously made
available by The Internet Archive.)


IKE TURTLE AND AUNT GRAVES.  "Marry? Me marry—marry a man—a great, awful man!"—Page 160. IKE TURTLE AND AUNT GRAVES.
"Marry? Me marry—marry a man—a great, awful man!"—Page 160.







New York:


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

Stereotyped at the Boston Stereotype Foundry,
No. 19 Spring Lane.

[Pg 5]


Everybody who writes a book, is expected to introduce it with a preface; to hang out a sign, the more captivating the better, informing the public what kind of entertainment may be expected within. I am very sorry that I am obliged to say that many a one has been wofully deceived by these outside proclamations, and some one may be again.

I am unable to apologize to the public for inflicting this work upon it. It was not through "the entreaty of friends" that it was written. It is not the "outpourings of a delicate constitution." (I weigh one hundred and sixty pounds.) I was not driven into it "by a predestination to write, which was beyond my control." It is not "offered for the benefit of a few near relatives, who have insisted upon seeing it in print;" nor do I expect the public will tolerate it simply out of regard to my feelings, if their own feelings are not enlisted in its favor.

[Pg 6]

The book is filled with portraits of Puddleford and the Puddlefordians. The reader may never have seen the portrait of a genuine Puddlefordian. Bless me, how much that man has lost! If the reader does not like the painting after he has seen it, I cannot help it; it may be the fault of the original, or it may be from a want of skill in the painter.

Like the carrier-pigeon, let it go, to return with glad tidings, or none at [Pg 7]all.


Many years have passed since Puddleford was first published. In the meanwhile the world has turned round and round, and so has Puddleford. The book, too, has been growing in size, from time to time, and some new "matter" has been now introduced.

The object of the book was not merely humor. It was hoped by the author that the reader would discover an undercurrent, showing strong points of human nature in the rough, and how at last the rugged rock becomes rounded and polished into the smooth stone—the iron cleaver turned into the tempered sword. How stern, honest men, who are driven to grapple and struggle with the hardships of a new country, meet and dispose of them in an irregular and home-made way, by striking at the root of the question, disregarding mere form. How the foundation of law, religion, and order is laid in strength, if not in beauty. How other generations build thereon the [Pg 8]temple with its pillars and spire.

I cannot attempt to describe the Puddleford of to-day. Ike Turtle is old and gray, but his children hold high positions in society and state. Some of them have Ike's thorny, sharp genius, but toned down by education and cultivation into method and power. Squire Longbow totters around on his staff, tries over his old cases with anybody who will listen to him, repeats his decisions of fifteen years ago, quotes Ike's jokes, and sums up all the testimony for the fortieth time to his weary listeners. Aunt Sonora has gone to her reward. Other courts are held in Puddleford now. Technicalities are observed. Law is law. How much more justice is administered, it is not for me to say.

The book is once more before the public. The public have received it in the past quite as well as it deserved, perhaps. Its future is now committed to the public again.

H. H. R.

September 8, 1874.

[Pg 9]




Puddleford.—Eagle Tavern.—Mr. and Mrs. Bulliphant.—May Morning.—Birds.—Venison Styles.—General Character of Society.—The Colonel.—Venison Styles's Cabin. 17


Lawsuit: Filkins against Beadle.—Squire Longbow and his Court.—Puddleford assembled.—Why Squire Longbow was a Great Man.—Ike Turtle and Sile Bates, Pettifoggers.—Mrs. Sonora Brown.—Uproar and Legal Opinions.—Seth Bolles.—Miss Eunice Grimes.—Argument to Jury, and Verdict. 34


Wanderings in the Wilderness.—A Bee-Hunt.—Sunrise.—The Fox-Squirrel.—The Blue-Jay.—The Gopher.—The Partridges.—Wild Geese, Ducks, and Cranes.—Blackbirds and Meadow-Larks.—Venison's Account of the Bees' Domestic Economy.—How Venison found what he was in Search of.—Honey secured.—After-Reflections. 54


The Log-Chapel.—Father Beals.—Aunt Graves.—Sister Abigail.—Bigelow Van Slyck, the Preacher.—His Entrée.—How[Pg 10] he worked.—One of his Sermons.—Performance of the Choir.—"Coronation" achieved.—Getting into Position.—Personal Appeals.—Effect on the Congregation.—Sabbath in the Wilderness.—Is Bigelow the only Ridiculous Preacher? 66


Indian Summer.—Venison Styles again.—Jim Buzzard.—Fishing Excursion.—Muskrat City.—Indian Burying-Ground.—The Pickerel and the Rest of the Fishes.—The Prairie.—Wild Geese.—The Old Mound.—Venison's Regrets at the degenerating Times.—His Luck, and Mine.—Reminiscences of the Beavers.—Camping out.—Safe Return. 81


Educational Efforts.—Squire Longbow's "Notis."—"The Saterday Nite."—Ike and the Squire.—Various Remarks to the Point.—Mrs. Fizzle and the Temperance Question.—Collection taken.—General Result. 96


Social War.—Longbow, Turtle & Co.—Bird, Swipes, Beagle & Co.—Mrs. Bird.—Mrs. Beagle.—Mrs. Swipes.—Turkey and Aristocracy.—Scandal.—Husking-Bees, and "such like."—The Calathumpian Band.—The Horse-Fiddle.—The Giant Trombone.—The Gyastacutas.—Tuning up.—Unparalleled Effort.—Puddleford still a Representative Place. 105


Puddleford and Politics.—Higgins against Wiggins.—The Candidates' Personale.—Their Platforms.—Delicate Questions.—Stump Speaking.—Wiggins on Higgins.—Impertinent Interruptions.—Higgins on Wiggins.—Ike Turtle not dead yet.—Commotion.—Squire Longbow restores Order.—Grand Stroke of Policy.—The Roast Ox at Gillett's Corners. 115

[Pg 11]


Winter upon us.—The Roosters in the early Morning.—The Blue-Jays and the Squirrels.—The Improvident Turkey.—The Domestic Hearth, and who occupied it.—The Old Dog.—The Blessed Old Mail-Horse.—The Newspapers.—Our Come-to-Tea.—Mrs. Brown, her Arrival and Experiences.—Entrée of Bird, Beagles & Co.—Conflicting Elements, and how Ike Turtle assimilated all.—Gratifying Consequences. 128


Mrs. Longbow taken sick.—General Interest.—Dr. Teazle.—His Visit.—"The Rattles."—Scientific Diagnosis.—A Prescription.—Short and Dr. Dobbs.—"Pantod of the Heart."—Dismissal of Teazle.—Installation of Dobbs.—"Scyller and Charabides."—Ike's Views.—The Colonel's.—Bates's.—Mrs. Longbow dies.—Who killed her: conflicting Opinions.—Her Funeral.—Bigelow Van Slyck's Sermon.—Interment. 148


Squire Longbow in Mourning.—The Great Question.—Aunt Sonora's Opinion.—Other People's.—The Squire goes to Church.—His Appearance on that Occasion.—Aunt Graves, and her Extra Performance.—"Nux Vomica."—Anxious Mothers.—Mary Jane Arabella Swipes.—Sister Abigail.—Ike Turtle, and his Designs.—He calls on Aunt Graves.—She'll go it.—Sister Abigail's Objection.—The Squire's First Love Letter.—The Wedding.—Great Getting-up.—Turtle's Examination.—The Squire runs the Risk of "the Staterts."—Bigelow's Ceremony.—General Break-Down.—Not very Drunk. 156


The Group at "The Eagle."—Entrée of a Stranger.—His Opinion of the Tavern.—Bulliphant wakes up.—Can't pick Fowls after Dark.—Sad Case of Mother Gantlet and Dr.[Pg 12] Teazle.—Mr. Farindale begins to unbend.—Whistle & Sharp, and their Attorney.—Good Pay.—Legal Conversation.—Going Sniping.—Great Description of the Animal.—The Party start, Farindale holding the Bag.—"Waiting for Snipe."—Farindale's Solitary Return.—His Interview with Whistle & Sharp.—Suing a Puddleford Firm.—Relief Laws.—Farindale gets his Execution.—The Puddleford Bank.—The Appraisers.—Proceeds of the Execution. 166


The "Fev-Nag."—Conflicting Theories.—"Oxergin and Hydergin."—Teazle's Rationale.—The Scourge of the West.—Sile Bates, and his Condition.—Squire Longbow and Jim Buzzard.—Puddleford prostrate.—Various Practitioners.—"The Billerous Duck."—Pioneer Martyrs.—Wave over Wave. 182


Uncommonly Common Schools.—Annual School District Meeting.—Accounts for Contingent Expenses.—Turtle and Old Gulick's Boy.—"That are Glass."—The Colonel starts the Wheels again.—Bulliphant's Tactics.—Have we hired "Deacon Fluett's Darter," or not?—Isabel Strickett.—Bunker Hill and Turkey.—Sah-Jane Beagles.—The Question settled. 190


Venison Styles again.—Sermon on Nature.—Funeral Songs of the Birds.—Their Flight and Return.—His Theory of Government.—Sakoset.—The Indians. 198


Some Account of John Smith.—Nicknames.—Progress of the Age.—The Colonel's Opinion of Science.—John Smith's Dream.—Ike Turtle's Dream.—Ike takes the Boots. 206

[Pg 13]


Ike Turtle in his Office.—The Author consults him on Point of Law.—Taxes of Non-Residents.—Law in Puddleford.—Mr. Bridget's Case.—Legal Discussion.—The Case settled. 222


The Wilderness around Puddleford.—The Rivers and the Forests.—Suggestions of Old Times.—Footprints of the Jesuits.—Vine-covered Mounds.—Visit to the Forest.—The Early Frost.—The Forest Clock.—The Woodland Harvest.—The Last Flowers.—Nature sowing her Seed.—The Squirrel in the Hickory.—Pigeons, their Ways and their Haunts.—The Butterflies and the Bullfrog.—Nature and her Sermons.—Her Temple still open, but the High-priest gone. 230


The Old New England Home.—The Sheltered Village.—The Ancient Buildings.—Dormer Windows.—An Old Puritanical Home.—The Old Puritan Church.—The Burying-Ground.—Deacon Smith, his Habits and his Helpers.—Major Simeon Giles, his Mansion and his Ancestry.—Old Doctor Styles.—Crapo Jackson, the Sexton.—"Training Days."—Militia Dignitaries.—Major Boles.—Major General Peabody.—Preparations and Achievements.—Demolition of an Apple Cart.—"Shoulder Arms!"—Colonel Asher Peabody.—The Boys, and their World.—My Last Look at my Native Village. 239


First Militia Law in Puddleford.—Aunt Sonora opposed to it.—Turtle sets her right.—Meeting to choose Officers.—Longbow electioneers for Captain: takes the Chair.—Turtle objects.—P'ints of Order.—Vivy Vocy Vote won't do.—Legally authorized Boxes must be had.—Longbow's Speech.—Turtle fined for Contempt.—Longbow elected Captain.—Great[Pg 14] Military Turn-out.—Company turn a Circle; Break down.—Turn an Angle; Break down again.—Address to Troops.—Adjourn sine die. 256


Mrs. Bird gets in a Rage.—Starve a Child.—Mrs. Bird blows off at Mrs. Beagle.—Takes Breath.—Blows off again.—Mrs. Beagle gives a Piece of her Mind.—Aunt Sonora drops in.—She has no Faith in Second Wives.—All adjourn to the House of Mrs. Swipes.—General Fight of Tongues.—Mrs. Swipes gives her Opinion.—A Dead Set by all upon Mrs. Longbow.—Mrs. Longbow raps at the Door.—The Scene changes.—Final Wind-up. 272


Appeal of Case Filkins vs. Beadle.—Turtle's Affidavit and "P'ints."—Longbow's Return.—County Court.—Turtle opens his Law "P'ints."—Bates replies.—A Fight.—Collateral Ish-ers.—Squire Longbow present.—The Court sustains Squire Longbow.—Turtle gets into a Passion.—Impanelling the Jury.—Mr. Buzzlebaum leaves.—Mr. Tumbleton upsets Ike.—Mr. Flummer is cut short bob off.—Ike opens to the Jury.—The Trial.—Charge of the Court.—Jury retire.—Can't agree. 284


Amusements in Puddleford.—The Highland Fling.—A Fire-eater comes next.—Runs a Sword down his Throat.—Starts his Ribbon Factory.—Borrows Squire Longbow's Hat.—Boils Eggs in it.—The Squire gets into a Passion.—The Grand Caravan is posted.—Squire Longbow lectures on the Lion.—Bigelow Van Slyck follows on the Ichneumon.—The Caravan arrives.—Great Excitement.—Jim Buzzard still himself.—Aunt Sonora in Trouble.—The Band blows away.—The Canvas is raised.—Terrible Press of Puddlefordians.—The Keeper shows up the Lion.—Explains why he has no Hair.—The Ichneumon is found at last.—The Monkey Ride.—Breaking up. 309

[Pg 15]


The Tinkhams arrive.—Great Stir.—Miss Lavinia Longbow's Head is turned.—Everybody in Love with the Tinkhams.—Wind changes.—The Tinkhams fall.—The whole Pack out on them.—They abandon the Settlement. 337


And still New England.—Sui Generis.—Her Ruggedness the Soil of Liberty.—The Contrast.—The New England Conservative.—The New England Man of Business.—The West has no Past.—Fast, and Hospitable.—Saxon Blood and Saxon Spirit. 346


Spring at the West.—"Sugar Days."—Performances of the Cattle.—April.—Advent of the Blue-Jays and the Crows.—The Bluebirds, Phebes, and Robins.—April and its Inspiring Days.—The Frogs and their Concerts.—Gophers, Squirrels, Ants; Swallows, Brown-Threshers, and Blackbirds.—The Swallows, the Martins, and the Advent of May. 357


A Railroad through Puddleford.—The Effect on Squire Longbow.—Bright Prospects of Puddleford.—Change.—"The Styleses."—The New Justice.—Aunt Sonora's Opinions.—Ike Turtle grows too.—Venison disappears from among Men.—His Grave and his Epitaph. 368


Conclusion.—The Philosophy of Puddleford.—Diverse Elements in Pioneer Life.—Longbow and his Administration.—Not Expensive.—Two Hundred a Year, all told.—What would Chief Justice Marshall have done as Justice of Puddleford?—Longbow a great Man.—Fame and Politics.—Ike,[Pg 16] a Wheel.—Puddleford Theology.—Camp-Meetings.—Who will do Bigelow's Work better than Bigelow?—Great Happiness, and few Nerves.—No "Society."—No Fashion in Clothes, or anything else.—Bull's-Eye and Pinchbeck.—The Great Trade didn't "Come Off."—Abounding Charity and Hospitality.—Pilgrim Blood.—Longbow's.—Planting the Mud-Sills.—Old Associations, how Controlling!—Good by, Reader. 372

[Pg 17]



Puddleford.—Eagle Tavern.—Mr. and Mrs. Bulliphant.—May Morning.—Birds.—Venison Styles.—General Character of Society.—The Colonel.—Venison Styles' Cabin.

The township of Puddleford was located in the far west, and was, and is, unknown, I presume, to a large portion of my readers. It has never been considered of sufficient importance by atlas-makers to be designated by them; and yet men, women, and children live and die in Puddleford. Its population helps make up the census of the United States every ten years; it helps make governors, congressmen, presidents. Puddleford does, and fails to do, a great many things, just like the "rest of mankind," and yet who knows and cares anything about Puddleford?

Puddleford was well enough as a township of land, and beautiful was its scenery. It was spotted with bright, clear lakes, reflecting the trees that stooped over them; and straight through its centre flowed a majestic river, guarded by hills on either side. The village of Puddleford (there was a village of Puddleford, too) stood huddled in[Pg 18] a gorge that opened up from the river; and through it, day and night, a little brook ran tinkling along, making music around the "settlement." The houses in Puddleford were very shabby indeed; I am very sorry to be compelled to make that fact public, but they were very shabby. Some were built of logs, and some of boards, and some were never exactly built at all, but came together through a combination of circumstances which the "oldest inhabitant" has never been able to explain. The log-houses were just like log-houses in every place else; for no person has yet been found with impudence enough to suggest an improvement. A pile of logs, laid up and packed in mud; a mammoth fireplace, with a chimney-throat as large; a lower story and a garret, connected in one corner by a ladder, called "Jacob's ladder," are its essentials. A few very ambitious persons in Puddleford had, it is true, attempted to build frame-houses, but there was never one entirely finished yet. Some of them had erected a frame only, when, their purses having failed, the enterprise was left at the mercy of the storms. Others had covered their frames; and one citizen, old Squire Longbow, had actually finished off two rooms; and this, in connection with the office of justice of the peace, gave him a standing and influence in the settlement almost omnipotent.

The reader discovers, of course, that Puddleford was a very miscellaneous-looking place. It appeared unfinished, and ever likely to be. It did really seem that the houses, and cabins, and sheds, and pig-sties, had been sown up and down the gorge, as their owners sowed wheat. The only harmony about the place was the harmony of confusion.[Pg 19]

Puddleford had a population made up of all sorts of people, who had been, from a variety of causes, thrown together just there; and every person owned a number of dogs, so that it was very difficult to determine which were numerically the strongest, the inhabitants or the dogs. There were great droves of cows owned, too, which were in the habit of congregating every morning, and marching some miles to a distant marsh to feed to the jingle of the bells they wore on their necks.

There was one public house at Puddleford. It was built of logs, with a long stoop running along its whole front, supported by trunks of trees roughly cut from the woods, and bark and knots were preserved in the full strength and simplicity of nature. Its bar-room was the resort of all the leading men of Puddleford, besides several ragged boys and these self-same dogs. It stood in the centre of the village, and announced itself to the public through a sign, upon which were painted a cock crowing and a spread eagle. The bar was fenced off in one corner of the room, and was supplied with three bottles of whiskey, called, according to their color, brandy, rum, and gin; but fly-tracks and dust had so completely covered them, that the kind of liquor was determined by the pledge of the landlord, that always passed current. There were also about a dozen mouldy crackers laid away on the shelf in a discarded cigar-box, intended more particularly for the travelling public. The walls of the bar-room were illuminated by a large menagerie advertisement, which was the only real display of the fine arts that ever entered the place. Upon a table, near the centre of the room, stood a backgammon and checker-board, which were in use from the rising[Pg 20] sun to midnight. Pipes, crusted thick with soot, lay scattered about on the window-stools and chimney-shelf—old stubs that had seen service—and all over the floor rolled great quids of tobacco, ancient and modern, the creatures of yesterday and years ago; for the floor of the "Eagle Tavern"—such it was called—of Puddleford was never profaned by a broom, nor its windows with water. He who attempted to look out would have supposed there was an eternal fog in the streets.

The ladies' parlor, belonging to the Eagle Tavern of Puddleford, was a very choice spot, and had been fitted up without regard to expense. Its floor was covered with a faded rag-carpet, and its walls were enlivened with a shilling print, showing forth Noah's Ark, and the animals entering therein. Any person who had an eye for the practical, could see just how Noah loaded his craft, as the picture brought out clearly a long plank thrown ashore, up which the animals were climbing. I have often thought that I never saw it rain so tremendously as it did in that picture. Near by hung a six-penny likeness of Washington, somewhat defaced, as some irreverent Puddleford boy had run his finger through the old general's eye, which detracted very much from the dignity of his expression. He looked rather funny with one eye cocked; and he felt, I presume—that is, if pictures can feel—just as funny as he looked.

One advantage which the lodging-rooms of this tavern possessed ought not to be overlooked. They were lit up by the everlasting stars, and the tired traveller could go to sleep by the dancing rays that shot down through the crevices of the roof above.

"Old Stub Bulliphant," as he was called, was, and[Pg 21] had been for years, landlord of the "Eagle." He was about five feet high, and nearly as many in circumference. His eyes were of no particular color, although they were once. His eye-lashes had been scorched off by alcoholic fire; and nature, to keep up appearances, in a fit of desperation, substituted in their stead a binding of red, which looked like two little rainbows hanging upon a storm, for a rheumy water was continually running between them. His nose was very red, and his face was always in blossom, winter and summer. A pair of tow breeches and a red flannel shirt composed his wardrobe two thirds of the year. The truth is, the old fellow drank, and always drank, and he became, finally, preserved in spirits.

Puddleford was not destitute of a church, not by any means. The "log-chapel," when I first became acquainted with the place, was an ancient building. It was erected at a period almost as early as the tavern—not quite—temporal wants pressing the early settlers closer than spiritual.

This, precious reader, is a skeleton view of Puddleford, as it existed when I first knew it. Just out of this village, some time during the last ten years, I took possession of a large tract of land, called "Burr-oak Opening," that is, a wide, sweeping plain, thinly clad with burr-oaks. Few sights in nature are more beautiful. The eye roams over these parks unobstructed by undergrowth, the trees above, and the sleeping shadows on the grass below.

The first time I looked upon this future home of mine, it lay calm and bright, bathed in the warm sun of a May morning, and filled with birds. The buds were just[Pg 22] breaking into leaf, and the air was sweet with the wildwood fragrance of spring. Piles of mosses, soft as velvet, were scattered about. Wild violets, grouped in clusters, the white and red lupin, the mountain pink, and thousands of other tiny flowers, bright as sparks of fire, mingled in confusion. It was alive with birds; the brown thrasher, the robin, the blue-jay, poured forth their music to the very top of their lungs. The thrasher, with his brown dress and very quizzical look, absolutely revelled in a luxury of melody. He mocked all the birds about him. Now he was as good a blue-jay as blue-jay himself, and screamed as loud; but suddenly bouncing around on a limb, and slowly stretching out his wings, he died away in a most pathetic strain; then, darting into another tree, and turning his saucy eye inquisitively down, he rattled off a chorus or two, that I might know he was not so sad a fellow after all. Now, his soft, flute-like notes fairly melted in his throat; then he drew out a long, violin strain the whole length of his bow; then a blast on his trumpet roused all the birds. He was "everything by turns, and nothing long." After completing his performance, away he went, and his place, in a moment almost, was occupied by another, repeating the medley, for the whole wood was alive with them.

Scores of blue-jays, in the tops of the trees, were picking away at the tender buds. The robin, that household bird, first loved by our children, was also here. Sitting alone and apart, in a reverie, and blowing occasionally his mellow pipe, he seemed to exist only for his own comfort, and to forget that he was one of the choristers of the wood. Woodpeckers were flitting hither and thither; troops of quails whistled in the distance;[Pg 23] the oriole streamed out his bright light through the green branches; there was a winnowing of wings, a dashing of leaves, as birds came rushing in and out. It was their festival.

This scene was heightened by the appearance of a hunter. He was a noble specimen of the physical man. Tall, brawny—a giant in strength—his form loomed up in the distance. He was attired with a red flannel "wamus," a leathern belt girt around his waist, deer-skin leggins and moccasons, and a white felt hat that ran up to a peak. His rifle and shot-pouch were slung around him, and a few fox-squirrels hung dangling on his belt. His whole figure exhibited a harmony of proportion, a majesty of combination, sometimes seen in Roman statues. As I approached him, his face fairly beamed with rustic intelligence and good nature, and the old man grasped me by the hand, and shook it as heartily as if he had known me a thousand years.

"So you are the person," said Venison Styles,—for such I afterwards learned was the name he went by in the neighborhood,—"so you are the person that's come in here to settle, I s'pose—to cut down the trees and plough up this ere ground." I told him I was. "Well," said he, "so it goes; I have moved and moved, and I can't keep out of the way of these ploughs and axes. It was just as much as the deer, and beaver, and otter, could do, to stand them government surveyors that went tramping around among 'em, just as though they were going to be sold out wher-or-no. And then," continued Styles, growing warmer, "they tried to form a thing they called a school de-strict about my ears; and then came a church, and they put a little bell on it, and[Pg 24] that scart out the game. Game can't stand church-bells, stranger, they can't; they clears right out."

I tried to soothe the old man's feelings, and among other things, advised him to give up his hunting and fishing, and settle down, and till the soil for a living.

"What on airth does anybody want to till the soil for?" replied Styles. "What does the soil want tilling for? Warn't the airth made right in the first place? The woods were filled with beast and bird, warn't they? and the whole face of natur covered with grass and wild fruits? and streams and lakes were scattered everywhere? Ain't there enough to eat, and drink, and wear, growing nat'ral in the woods? and what else does anybody want, stranger?"

"Yes, but you are growing old, and your sight is dim, my friend," said I.

"Old! dim! eyes bad! no! no! Venison Styles is good for twenty years yet. I don't take physic. There ain't no more use of taking such stuff, than there is of giving it to my dogs. 'Tain't nat'ral to take it, not no how. All a man wants in sickness is a little saxafax-tea, or something warmin' of that sort. Children are all spi'lt nowadays. Their heads and inards are crammed with physic and larning, and they ain't good for nothing. For my part, I hate physic, books, newspapers, and even the mail-carrier. None of my folks were troubled with larning; for, as near as I can tell, the old man (his father) died hunting game and furs down on the 'Hios, when it 'twas all woods there, and I never know'd of his writing or reading any."

"Well, Venison," said I, "how long have you been around in these parts?"[Pg 25]

"Not mor-nor four or five years, or so about," answered Styles. "The game and I have kept running westard and westard, from civilization, as they call it, till I have travelled nigh on a thousand miles, or so. I used to hunt and trap way down on Erie, before them steamboats came a-snorting up, but when they came, they scart all the deer and everything out of the woods and streams; and then I left, too. This rifle," continued Styles, "this rifle has been along with me for forty years. I have eat and slept with it. I have worn out mor-nor twenty dogs—fairly worn 'em out, and buried every one with a tear; and byme-by old Venison himself will go, but he is good on the track yet."

I assented to much that was said by old Styles, and growing warmer the more interest I took in him, he rattled on about civilization—its effects, &c., &c.; and, finally, looking into a tree, where a cluster of spring birds were singing, he turned to me, and pointing upward—"Do you hear that?" he exclaimed; "that music was made when the world was—them throats warn't tuned by any singing-master; they always keep in order. If men would only jist let natur alone, we could get along well enough. 'Tain't right to make any additions to natur. 'Tain't right to invent music, nor to mock the birds, nor cut down the woods, nor dam up the streams. It's all agin natur, the whole on't. The birds can't be improved on, and the streams and woods belong to the fish and game. They are their houses as much as my house is my house. I always hated a saw-mill," continued Styles; "its very sound makes me mad. I never know'd a deer to stay within hearing of one. They roar away just as though they were going to tear[Pg 26] down the whole forest, and pile it up into boards. I always try to keep out of their way." But I cannot give all the conversation of this eccentric genius of the forest, with me. He was one of a class of men who are hurried along by immigration, like clouds before the tempest. When the rays of improvement warmed Styles, he had pushed farther back into the shade. He was a connecting link between barbarism and civilization. One half of him was lit up with the light of the sturdy pioneers, who crowded in upon him from the east, and the other half stood dark and gloomy in savage solemnity. With all his antipathy to the society of the whites, he was their stanch friend, and in many ways was of great service. He became, as we shall see, one of my pleasantest companions, and I cannot help now declaring, that few men have taken such strong hold upon my affections as this same Venison Styles.

The old man shouldered his rifle, and inviting me to "drop into his cabin, up the creek," bid me "good morning, stranger."

Reader, such was the scene presented to my eye the day I first looked upon the piece of wild land upon which I finally settled and improved. I had just arrived from an eastern village, where I was born, and "brought up," as the phrase is. A somewhat broken fortune and breaking health had driven me from it, with a moderate family, to seek a spot elsewhere; and I resolved to try the Great West, that paradise (if the word of people who never saw it is to be taken) where the surplus population of a portion of the world have found a home.

The change was great. But great as it was, I resolved to endure it. So, at it I went. I procured[Pg 27] "help," girdled the trees, put a breaking team of twelve yoke of cattle on the ground, tore it up, fenced the land, raised a log-house, and in the fall I had a crop of wheat growing, the withered oak trees standing guard over it. My family, consisting of a wife and three children, a boy of eight, and two girls of twelve and ten, were removed to their new quarters, and I had thus fairly begun the world again, and all things were as new about me as if I had just been born into it.

During the summer, I had an opportunity of studying the general character of the inhabitants of Puddleford, and its surrounding country population. Like most western settlements, it was made up of all kinds of materials, all sorts of folks, holding every opinion. More than a dozen states had contributed to make up its people. Society was exceedingly miscellaneous. The keen Yankee, the obstinate Pennsylvanian, and the reckless Southerner were there. Each one of these persons had brought along with him his early habits and associations—his own views of business, law, and religion. When thrown together on public questions, this composition boiled up like a mixture of salts and soda. Factions, of course, were formed among those whose early education and habits were congenial; divisions were created, and a war of prejudice and opinion went on from month to month, and year to year. The New England Yankee stood about ten years ahead of the Pennsylvania German in all his ideas of progress, while the latter stood back, dogged and sullen, attached to the customs of his fathers. Another general feature consisted in this, that there was no permanency to society. The inhabitants were constantly changing, pouring out[Pg 28] and in, like the waters of a river, so that a complete revolution took place every four or five years. Everybody who remained in Puddleford expected to remove somewhere else very soon. They were merely sojourners, not residents. There was no attachment to, or veneration for, the past of Puddleford, because Puddleford had no past. The ties of memory reached to older states. There stood the church that sheltered the infant years of Puddleford's population, and there swung the bell that tolled their fathers and fathers' fathers to the tomb. There was the long line of graves, running back a hundred years, where the sister of yesterday, and the ancestor whose virtues were only known through tradition, were buried. There tottered the old homestead which had passed through the family for generations, filled with heirlooms that had become sacred. The school-house was there, where the village boys shouted together. Looking back from a new country, where all is confusion, to an old one, where figures have the stability of a painting, objects which were once trivial start out upon the canvas in bolder relief. The venerable, gray-headed pastor, who appeared regularly in the village pulpit for half a century, to impart the word of life, rises in the memory, and stands fixed there, like a statue. The quaint cut of his coat, the neat tie of his neckcloth, the spectacles resting on the tip of his nose, his hums and haws, his eye of reproof, his gestures of vengeance, are now living things—are preaching still. We see again the changing crowd, that year after year went in and out of that holy place; the spot where the old deacon sat, his head resting on a pillar, his tranquil face turned upward, his mouth open, enjoying a doze as[Pg 29] he listened to the sermon. We recollect the gay bridal, the solemn funeral, the buoyant face of the one, the still, cold one of the other. We even remember the lame old sexton, who rang the bell and went limping up to the burying-ground, with a spade upon his shoulder. Even he, of no consequence when seen every day, is transformed by distance, and mellowed by memory, into a real being. And then there are the hills, and streams, and waterfalls, that shed their music through our boyish souls, until they became a part of our very existence. No man ever lived who entirely forgot these things, suppressed though they might be by the cares and anxieties of maturer years. And no circumstance so likely to bring them all up, glowing afresh, as a removal to a new country. Of course, no one was attached to Puddleford, as a locality, any more than the wandering Arab is attached to the particular spot where he pitches his tent and feeds his camels.

Another general feature seemed to be the strange character of a large part of the population. Puddleford was filled with bankrupts, who had fled from their eastern creditors, anxious for peace of mind and bread enough to eat. Like decayed vessels, that had been tempest-tossed and finally condemned, these hulks seemed to be lying up in ordinary in the wilderness. Puddleford was to that class a kind of hospital. This man, upon inquiry, I found had rolled in luxury, but a turn in flour one day blew him sky-high. Another failed on a land speculation. Another bought more goods than he paid for. Another had been mixed up in a fraud. Another had been actually guilty of crime. The farming community were generally free from these charges; but Puddleford proper was not.[Pg 30]

The "Colonel," as we called him, was a fair specimen of the bankrupt class. He was one of those unfortunate beings who was well enough started in the world; but after having been tossed and buffeted around by his own extravagance, he was finally driven into the forest. He was educated, polished, proud, and poor. He had sunk two or three fortunes, earned by somebody else, chasing pleasure around the world. His reputation having become soiled, and his pockets emptied, he concluded—to use his own language—to "hide himself from his enemies and die a kind of civil death." "Men," said the Colonel, "are naturally robbers, and it is safer to run than fight with them." I have heard him declare, in a jocose way, that he was the most "injured man living; for the whole human family," he said, "set to and picked his pockets, and now the public ought to support him." He said, "he couldn't see why the government didn't pass laws for the relief of cases like his; for a government is good for nothing that fails to support its people. Starvation in a republic would be a disgrace, and ought not to be permitted." The Colonel said "there was no use in fighting destiny—no one man can do it—and it was his destiny to be poor." He said he "had no place to remove to, and that he couldn't get there if he had;" that he was "like an old pump that needs a pail of water thrown in every time it is used to set it a-going."

The Colonel resided in the village of Puddleford. His family was composed of a wife and two daughters, a couple of dashing girls, who looked like birds of fine plumage that had been driven by a storm beyond their latitude. His household furniture was made up of the[Pg 31] fag-ends of this and that, which had somehow escaped a half a dozen sheriff's sales. His family wardrobe had been rescued in the same way, and contained all the fashions of the last twenty-five years. Here and there were scattered some plain articles of western manufacture, by way of contrast. Three shilling chairs stood on a faded Brussels carpet; an unpainted white-wood table supported a silver tea-set; thus, the faded splendor of the past contrasted with the rustic simplicity of the present. One thing I must not overlook: the Colonel had an old tattered carriage that had followed him through good and evil report, his ups and downs of life. I have often been amused to see it roll along with a melancholy air of superiority, putting on the face of a good man in affliction. It was drawn by two diminutive Indian ponies, who would turn and look wildly at the antiquated thing, as if apprehensive of danger.

The Colonel kept an office, and pretended to act as a kind of land agent, and agent for insurance companies, and so on. He was never known to pay a debt; it being against his principles, as he used to say: besides, he said "his note would last a man ten times as long as the money; and they were not very uncurrent neither; for the justice of the peace at Puddleford had taken a very great many of them, and passed his judgment upon them for their full face."

But I will not go into particulars with the Puddlefordians at present. During the summer my acquaintance with Venison Styles had ripened into a deeper affection for the old hunter. I accepted his invitation to visit him, and found him sheltered in the depths of the forest, and nestled in a valley, his hut, overshadowed by great[Pg 32] trees, which were filled with birds pouring forth their songs. A little brook tinkled down the slope by his hut, singing all kinds of woodland tunes, as the breeze swelled and died along its banks. The squirrels were chatting their nonsense, and the rolling drum of the partridge was heard almost at his very door.

Venison was a hunter, a fisher, and a trapper. The inside walls of his cabin were hung about with rifles, shot-guns, and fishing-rods, which had been accumulating for years. Deer-horns and skins lay scattered here and there, the trophies of the chase. Seines for lakes, and scoop-nets for smaller streams, were drying outside upon the trees.

Venison kept around him a brood of lazy, lounging, good-for-nothing boys, of all ages, about half-clothed, who followed the business of their father. This young stock were growing up as he had grown, to occupy somewhere their father's position, and lead his life. They lived just as well as the hounds, for all stood on an equality in the family. These ragamuffins were perfect masters of natural history. There was not an instinct or peculiarity belonging to the denizens of the woods and streams which they did not perfectly understand. They seemed to have penetrated the secrecy of animal life, and fathomed it throughout. Birds, and beasts, and fish were completely within their power; and there was a kind of matter-of-course success with them in their capture that was absolutely provoking to a civilized hunter.

It was of no importance where Venison Styles' boys made their home, or under what particular roof. Their home was mainly a depot for their fishing-tackles, guns, and game. They roamed away weeks at a time, fifty[Pg 33] miles off, up this stream and that, over many a lake, and camped out nights, feeding upon their plunder; and Venison felt no more concern about them than he did about the deer, who indeed were not much wilder than they. They were as hard as flints, sharp on the chase, happy in their wild, wayward-life, and generally managed to trap and kill just enough to be self-supporting, and keep soul and body together.

[Pg 34]


Lawsuit: Filkins against Beadle.—Squire Longbow and his Court.—Puddleford assembled.—Why Squire Longbow was a Great Man.—Ike Turtle and Sile Bates, Pettifoggers.—Mrs. Sonora Brown.—Uproar and Legal Opinions.—Seth Bolles.—Miss Eunice Grimes.—Argument to Jury, and Verdict.

My intercourse with the inhabitants of Puddleford had been frequent during the summer, and my acquaintance with them had now become quite general. One morning, in the month of September, I was visited by a constable, who very authoritatively served upon me a venire, which commanded me to be and appear before Jonathan Longbow, at his office in the village of Puddleford, at one o'clock P. M., to serve as a juryman in a case, then and there to be tried, between Philista Filkins, plaintiff, and Charity Beadle, defendant, in an action of slander, etc. The constable remarked, after reading this threatening legal epistle to me, that I had better "be up to time, as Squire Longbow was a man who would not be trifled with," and then leisurely folding it up, and pushing it deep down in his vest-pocket, he mounted his horse, and hurried away in pursuit of the balance of the panel. Of course, I could not think of being guilty of a contempt of court, after having been so solemnly warned of the consequences, and I was therefore promptly on the spot, according to command.[Pg 35]

Squire Longbow held his court at the public house, in a room adjoining the bar-room, because the statute prohibited his holding it in the bar-room itself. He was a law-abiding man, and would not violate a statute. I found, on my arrival, that the whole country, for miles around, had assembled to hear this interesting case. Men, women, and children had turned out, and made a perfect holiday of it. All were attired in their best. The men were dressed in every kind of fashion, or, rather, all the fashions of the last twenty years were scattered through the crowd. Small-crown, steeple-crown, low-crown, wide-brim, and narrow-brim hats; wide-tail, stub-tail, and swallow-tail, high-collar, and low-collar coats; bagging and shrunken breeches; every size and shape of shirt-collar were there, all brought in by the settlers when they immigrated. The women had attempted to ape the fashions of the past. Some of them had mounted a "bustle" about the size of a bag of bran, and were waddling along under their load with great satisfaction. Some of the less ambitious were reduced to a mere bunch of calico. One man, I noticed, carried upon his head an old-fashioned, bell-crowned hat, with a half-inch brim, a shirt-collar running up tight under his ears, tight enough to lift him from the ground (this ran out in front of his face to a peak, serving as a kind of cutwater to his nose), a faded blue coat of the genuine swallow-tail breed, a pair of narrow-fall breeches that had passed so often through the wash-tub, and were so shrunken, that they appeared to have been strained on over his limbs: this individual, reader, was walking about, with his hands in his pockets, perfectly satisfied, whistling Yankee Doodle, and other patriotic airs. Most[Pg 36] of the women had something frizzled around their shoes, which were called pantalets, giving their extremities the appearance of the legs of so many bantam hens.

The men were amusing themselves pitching coppers and quoits, running horses, and betting upon the result of the trial to come off, as every one was expected to form some opinion of the merits of the case.

The landlord of the Eagle was of course very busy. He bustled about, here and there, making the necessary preparations. Several pigs and chickens had gone the way of all flesh, and were baking and stewing for the table. About once a quarter "Old Stub" "moistened his clay," as he called it, with a little "rye," so as to "keep his blood a-stirring." Mrs. "Stub Bulliphant" was busy too. She was a perfect whirlwind; her temper was made of tartaric acid. Her voice might be heard above the confusion around giving directions to one, and a "piece of her mind" to another. She was the landlady of the Eagle beyond all doubt, and no one else. Better die than doubt that.

"Bulliphant!" screamed she, at the top of her lungs, "Bulliphant, you great lout, you! what in the name of massy sakes are you about? No fire! no wood! no water in! How, in all created natur, do you s'pose a woman can get dinner? Furiation alive, why don't you speak? Sally Ann! I say, Sally Ann! come right here this minute! Go down cellar, and get a jug of butter, some milk, and then—I say, Sally Ann!—do you hear me, Sally Ann?—go out to the barn and—run! run! you careless hussy, to the stove! the pot's boiling over!"

And so the old woman's tongue ran on hour after hour.[Pg 37]

At a little past one, the court was convened. A board placed upon two barrels across the corner of the room, constituted the desk of Squire Longbow, behind which his honor's solitary dignity was caged. Pettifoggers and spectators sat outside. This was very proper, as Squire Longbow was a great man, and some mark of distinction was due. Permit me to describe him. He was a little, pot-bellied person, with a round face, bald head, swelled nose, and had only one eye, the remains of the other being concealed with a green shade. He carried a dignity about him that was really oppressive to by-standers. He was the "end of the law" in Puddleford; and no man could sustain a reputation who presumed to appeal from his decisions. He settled accounts, difficulties of all sorts, and even established land-titles; but of all things, he prided himself upon his knowledge of constitutional questions. The Squire always maintained that hard drinking was "agin" the Constitution of the United States, "and so," he said, "Judge Story once informed him by letter when he applied to him for aid in solving this question." "There is no such thing as slander," the Squire used to say, "and so he had always decided, as every person who lied about another, knew he ought not to be believed, because he was lying, and therefore the 'quar-animer,' as the books say, is wanting." (This looked rather bad for "Filkins's" case.) Sometimes Squire Longbow rendered judgments, sometimes decrees, and sometimes he divided the cause between both parties. The Squire said he "never could submit to the letter of the law; it was agin' personal liberty; and so Judge Story decided." "Pre-ce-dents", as they were called, he wouldn't mind,[Pg 38] not even his own; because then there wouldn't be any room left for a man to change his mind. "If," said the Squire, "for instance, I fine Pet. Sykes to-day for knocking down Job Bluff, that is no reason why I should fine Job Bluff to-morrow for knocking down Pet. Sykes, because they are entirely different persons. Human natur' ain't the same." "Contempt of court," the Squire often declared, "was the worst of all offences. He didn't care so much about what might be said agin' Jonathan Longbow, but Squire Longbow, Justice of the Peace, must and should be protected;" and it was upon this principle that he fined Phil. Beardsley ten dollars for contradicting him in the street.

"Generally," the Squire says, "he renders judgment for the plaintiff," because he never issues a process without hearing his story, and determining the merits. "And don't the plaintiff know more about his rights than all the witnesses in the world?" "And even where he has a jury," the Squire says, "that it is his duty to apply the law to the facts, and the facts to the law, so that they may avoid any illegal verdict."

The court, as I said, was convened. The Squire took his seat, opened his docket, and lit his pipe. He then called the parties:—

"Philista Filkins!" "Charity Beadle!"

"Here," cried a backwoods pettifogger, "I'm for Philista Filkins; am always on hand at the tap of the drum, like a thousand of brick."

This man was a character; a pure specimen of a live western pettifogger. He was called Ike Turtle. He was of the snapping-turtle breed. He wore a white wool-hat; a bandana cotton-handkerchief around his neck; a horse-blanket[Pg 39] vest, with large horn-buttons; and corduroy pantaloons; and he carried a bull's-eye watch, from which swung four or five chains across his breast.

"Who answers for Charity Beadle?" continued the Squire.

"I answer for myself," squeaked out Charity; "I hain't got any counsel, 'cause he's on the jury."

"On the jury, ha! Your counsel's on the jury! Sile Bates, I suppose. Counsel is guaranteed by the Constitution—it's a personal right—let Sile act as your counsel, then."

And so Sile stepped out in the capacity of counsel.

"Charity Beadle!" exclaimed the Squire, drawing out his pipe and laying it on his desk, "stand up and raise your right hand!"

Charity arose.

"You are charged with slandering Philista Filkins, with saying, 'She warn't no better than she ought to be;' and if you were believed when you said so, it is my duty, as a peace-officer, to say to you that you have been guilty of a high offence, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul. What do you say?"

"Not guilty, Squire Longbow, by an eternal sight, and told the truth, if we are," replied Bates. "Besides, we plead a set-off."

"I say 'tis false! you are!" cried Philista, at the top of her lungs.

"Silence!" roared Longbow; "the dignity of this court shall be preserved."

"Easy, Squire, a little easy," grumbled a voice in the crowd, proceeding from one of Philista's friends; "never speak to a woman in a passion."[Pg 40]

"I fine that man one dollar for contempt of court, whoever he is!" exclaimed the Squire, as he stood upon tiptoe, trying to catch the offender with his eye.

"I guess 'twarn't nothing but the wind," said Bates.

The Squire took his seat, put his pipe in his mouth, and blew out a long whiff of smoke.

"Order being restored, let the case now proceed," he exclaimed.

Ike opened his case to the jury. He said Philista Filkins was a maiden lady of about forty; some called her an old maid, but that warn't so, not by several years; her teeth were as sound as a nut, and her hair as black as a crow. She was a nurse, and had probably given more lobelia, pennyroyal, catnip, and other roots and herbs, to the people of Puddleford, than all the rest of the women in it. Of course she was a kind of peramrulary being. (The Squire here informed the jury that peramrulary was a legal word, which he would fully explain in his charge.) That is, she was obliged to be out a great deal, night and day, and in consequence thereof, Charity Beadle had slandered her, and completely ruined her reputation, and broken up her business to the damage of ten dollars.

Bates told the court that he had "no jurisdiction in an action of slander."

Longbow advised Bates not to repeat the remark, as "that was a kind of contempt."

Some time had elapsed in settling preliminaries, and at last the cause was ready.

"We call Sonora Brown!" roared out Ike, at the top of his lungs.

"No, you don't," replied the Squire. "This court is[Pg 41] adjourned for fifteen minutes; all who need refreshment will find it at the bar in the next room; but don't bring it in here; it might be agin' the statute."

And so the court adjourned for fifteen minutes.

There was a rush to the bar-room, and old Stub Bulliphant rolled around among his whiskey bottles like a ship in a storm. Almost every person drank some, judging from the remarks, "to wet their whistle;" others, "to keep their stomach easy;" some "to Filkins;" others, "to Beadle," etc., etc.

Court was at last convened again.

"Sonora Brown!" roared Ike again.

"Object!" exclaimed Sile; "no witness; hain't lived six months in the state."

Squire Longbow slowly drew his pipe from his mouth, and fixed his eyes on the floor in deep thought for several minutes.

"Hain't lived six months in the state," repeated he, at last; "ain't no resident, of course, under our Constitution."

"And how, in all created airth, would you punish such a person for perjury? I should just like to know," continued Sile, taking courage from the Squire's perplexed state of mind; "our laws don't bind residents of other states."

"But it isn't certain Mrs. Brown will lie, because she is a non-resident," added the Squire, cheering up a little.

"Well, very well, then," said Sile, ramming both hands into his breeches-pocket very philosophically; "go ahead, if you wish, subject to my objection. I'll just appeal, and blow this court into fiddle-strings! This[Pg 42] cause won't breathe three times in the circuit! We won't be rode over; we know our rights, I just kinder rather think."

"Go it, Sile!" cried a voice from the crowd; "stand up for your rights, if you bust!"

"Silence!" exclaimed Squire Longbow.

Ike had sat very quietly, inasmuch as the Squire had been leaning in his favor; but Sile's last remark somewhat intimidated his honor.

"May it please your honor," said Ike, rising, "we claim there is no proof of Mrs. Brown's residency; your honor hain't got nothing but Sile Bates's say so, and what's that good for in a court of justice? I wouldn't believe him as far as you could swing a cat by the tail."

"I'm with you on that," cried another voice.

"Silence! put that man out!" roared Longbow again.

But just as Ike was sitting down, an inkstand was hurled at him by Sile, which struck him on his shoulder, and scattered its contents over the crowd. Several missiles flew back and forth; the Squire leaped over his table, crying out at the top of his lungs,—

"In the name of the people of the State of ——, I, Jonathan Longbow, Justice of the Peace, duly elected and qualified, do command you."

When, at last, order was restored, the counsel took their seats, and the Squire retired into his box again.

THE JUSTICE'S COURT OF PUDDLEFORD.  The testimony of Sonora Brown, the witness who "didn't know anything worth tellin' on:" and who "warn't used to lawsuits, and didn't know how to swear."—Page 42. THE JUSTICE'S COURT OF PUDDLEFORD.
The testimony of Sonora Brown, the witness who "didn't know anything worth tellin' on:" and who "warn't used to lawsuits, and didn't know how to swear."—Page 42.

[Pg 43]

Sonora Brown was then called for the third time. She was an old lady, with a pinched-up black bonnet, a very wide ruffle to her cap, through which the gray hairs strayed. She sighed frequently and heavily. She said she didn't know as she knew "anything worth telling on." She didn't know "anything about lawsuits, and didn't know how to swear." After running on with a long preliminary about herself, growing warmer and warmer, the old lady came to the case under much excitement. She said "she never did see such works in all her born days. Just because Charity Beadle said 'Philista Filkins warn't no better than she ought to be,' there was such a hullabalu and kick-up, enough to set all natur crazy!"

"Why la! sus me!" continued she, turning round to the Squire, "do you think this such a dre'ful thing, that all the whole town has got to be set together by the ears about it? Mude-ra-tion! what a humdrum and flurry!"

And then the old lady stopped and took a pinch of snuff, and pushed it up very hard and quick into her nose.

Ike requested Mrs. Brown not to talk so fast, and only answer such questions as he put to her.

"Well, now, that's nice," she continued. "Warn't I sworn, or was't you? and to tell the truth, too, and the whole truth. I warn't sworn to answer your questions. Why, maybe, you don't know, Mr. Pettifogger, that there are folks in state's prison now for lying in a court of justice?"

Squire Longbow interfered, and stated that "he must say that things were going on very 'promis'cusly,' quite agin the peace and dignity of the state."

"Just so I think myself," added Mrs. Brown. "This place is like a town-meeting, for all the world."

"Mrs. So-no-ra Brown!" exclaimed Ike, rising on his feet, a little enraged, "do you know anything about what Charity Beadle said about Philista Filkins? Answer this question."[Pg 44]

"Whew! fiddle-de-dee! highty-tighty! so you have really broke loose, Mr. Pettifogger," for now the old lady's temper was up. "Why, didn't you know I was old enough to be your grandmother? Why, my boy," continued she, hurrying on her spectacles, and taking a long look at Ike, "I know'd your mother when she made cakes and pies down in the Jarseys; and you when you warn't more than so high;" and she measured about two feet high from the floor. "You want me to answer, do you? I told you all I know'd about it; and if you want anything more, I guess you'll have to get it, that's all;" and, jumping up, she left the witness-stand, and disappeared in the crowd.

"I demand an attachment for Sonora Brown!" roared out Ike, "an absconding witness!"

"Can't do it," replied the Squire; "it's agin the Constitution to deprive anybody of their liberty an unreasonable length of time. This witness has been confined here by process of law morn-a-nour. Can't do it! Be guilty of trespass! Must stick to the Constitution. Call your next witness."

Ike swore. The Squire fined him one dollar. He swore again. The Squire fined him another. The faster the Squire fined, the faster the oaths rolled out of Ike's mouth, until the Squire had entered ten dollars against him. Ike swore again, and the Squire was about to record the eleventh dollar, but Ike checked him.

"Hold on! hold on! you old reprobate! now I've got you! now you are mine!" exclaimed he. "You are up to the limit of the law! You cannot inflict only ten dollars in fines in any one case! Now stand and take it!"[Pg 45]

And such a volley of oaths, cant phrases, humor, wrath, sarcasm, and fun, sometimes addressed to the Squire, sometimes to the audience, and sometimes to his client, never rolled out of any other man's mouth since the flood. He commenced with the history of the Squire, when, as he said, "he was a rafting lumber down on the Susquehanna;" and he followed him up from that time. "He could tell the reason why he came west, but wouldn't." He commented on his personal appearance, and his capacity for the office of justice. He told him "he hadn't only one eye, any way, and he couldn't be expected to see a great way into a mill-stone; and he didn't believe he had as many brains as an 'ister. For his part, he knew the law; he had ransacked every part of the statute, as a glutton would Noah's Ark for the remnant of an eel; he had digested it from Dan to Beersheba; swallowed everything but the title-page and cover, and would have swallowed that if he warn't mortal; he was a living, moving law himself; when he said 'law was law, 'twas law;' better 'peal anything up from predestination than from his opinion! he would follow this case to the backside of sundown for his rights!"

During all this time there was a complete uproar. Philista's friends cheered and hurrahed; the dogs in the room set up their barking; Beadle's friends groaned, and squealed, and bellowed, and whimpered, and imitated all the domestic animals of the day, while the Squire was trying at the top of his lungs to compel the constable to commit Ike for contempt.

Ike closed and sat down. The Squire called for the constable, but he was not to be found. One man told him that "he was in the next room pitching coppers;"[Pg 46] another, that the last time he saw him "he was running very fast;" another, that "he rather guessed he'd be back some time another, if he ever was, because he was a sworn officer;" another asked the Squire "what he'd give to have him catched?" but no constable appeared; he had put himself out the way to escape the storm.

A long silence followed this outburst; not a word was said, and scarcely a noise heard. Every one was eagerly looking at the Squire for his next movement. Ike kept his eyes on the floor, apparently in a deep study. At last he arose.

"Squire," said he, "we've been under something of a press of steam for the last half 'our; I move we adjourn fifteen minutes for a drink."

"Done," answered the Squire; and so the court adjourned for a second time.

It was now nearly dark, when the court convened again. The trial of the cause, Filkins vs. Beadle, was resumed.

Seth Bolles was called. Seth was a broad-backed, double-fisted fellow, with a blazing red face, and he chewed tobacco continually. He was about two thirds "over the bay," and didn't care for all the Filkinses or Beadles in the world.

"Know Filkins and Beadle?" inquired Ike.

"Know 'em? thunder, yes."

"How long?"

"Ever sin' the year one."

"Ever heard Beadle say anything about Filkins?"

"Heard her say she thought she run'd too much arter Elik Timberlake."

"Anything, Seth, about Filkins' character?"[Pg 47]

"Now what do you 'spose I know about Filkins' character? Much as I can do to look arter my own wimmin."

"But have you heard Beadle say anything about Filkins' character?"

"Heard her say once she was a good enough-er-sort-a body when she was a-mind-er-be."

"Anything else?"

"Shan't answer; hain't had my regular fees paid as witness."

Squire Longbow informed Seth that he must answer.

"Shan't do it, not so long as my name is Bolles."

The Squire said he would commit him.

"W-h-e-w!" drawled out Bolles, stooping down, and putting his arms a-kimbo, as he gave the Squire a long look straight in the eye.

"Order! order!" exclaimed the Squire.

"Whew! whew! whew uo-uo-uo! who's afraid of a justice of the peace?" screamed Seth, jumping up about a foot, and squirting out a gill of tobacco-juice, as he struck the floor.

Seth's fees were paid him, at last, and the question was again put, if he heard "Beadle say anything else?" and he said "he never did;" and thus ended Seth's testimony.

Miss Eunice Grimes was next called. She came sailing forward, and threw herself into the chair with a kind of jerk. She took a few sidelong glances at Charity Beadle, which told, plainly enough, that she meant to make a finish of her in about five minutes. She was a vinegar-faced old maid, and her head kept bobbing, and her body kept hitching, and now she[Pg 48] pulled her bonnet this way, and now that. She finally went out of the fretting into the languishing mood, and declared she "should die if somebody didn't get her a glass of water."

When she became composed, Ike inquired if "she knew Charity Beadle?"

"Yes! I know her to be an orful critter!"

"What has she done?"

"What hain't she? She's lied about me, and about Elder Dobbin's folks, and said how that when the singing-master boarded at our house, she seed lights in the sitting-room till past three—the orful critter!"

"But what have you heard her say about Philista Filkins?"

"O! everything that's bad. She don't never say anything that's good 'bout nobody. She's allers talking. There ain't nobody in the settlement she hain't slandered. She even abused old Deacon Snipes' horse—the orful critter!"

"But what did she say about Philista Filkins?" repeated Ike again.

"What do you want me to say she said? I hain't got any doubt she's called her everything she could think on. Didn't she, Philisty?" she continued, turning her head towards the plaintiff.

Philista nodded.

"Did she say she warn't no better than she ought to be?"

"Did she? well, she did, and that very few people were."

"Stop! stop!" exclaimed Ike, "you talk too fast! I guess she didn't say all that."[Pg 49]

"She did, for Philista told me so; and she wouldn't lie for the whole race of Beadles."

Squire Longbow thought Eunice had better retire, as she didn't seem to know much about the case.

She said she knew as much about it as anybody; she want "going to be abused, trod upon; and no man was a man that would insult a poor woman;" and bursting into tears of rage, she twitched out of her chair, and went sobbing away.

Philista closed, and Sile stated, in his opening to the court on the part of the defence, that this was a "little the smallest case he ever had seen." His client stood out high and dry; she stood up like Andes looking down on a potato-hill; he didn't propose to offer scarcely any proof; and that little was by way of set-off—tongue against tongue—according to the statute in such case made and provided; he hoped the court would examine the law for himself. (Here Sile unrolled a long account against Philista, measuring some three feet, and held it up to the Squire and jury.) This, he said, was a reg'lar statement of the slanderous words used by Philista Filkins agin Charity Beadle for the last three years, with the damage annexed; everything had been itemized, and kept in tip-top style; all in black and white, just as it happened. Sile was about reading this formidable instrument, when Ike objected.

"That can't be did in this 'ere court!" exclaimed Ike; "the light of civilization has shed itself a little too thick for that. This court might just as well try to swallow a chestnut-burr, or a cat, tail foremost, as to get such a proposition a-down its throat."[Pg 50]

Squire Longbow said he'd "never heer'd of such law—yet the question was new to him."

"Laid down in all the law-books of the nineteenth century!" exclaimed Sile, "and never heard on't!"

"Never did."

"Why," continued Sile, "the statute allows set-off where it is of the same natur of the action. This, you see, is slander agin slander."

"True," replied the Squire.

"True, did you say!" exclaimed Ike. "You say the statute does allow slander to be set off; our statute—that statute that I learned by heart before I knew my A B C's—you old bass-wood headed son—" But the Squire stopped Ike just at this time. "We will decide the question first," he said. "The court have made no decision yet."

Squire Longbow was in trouble. He smoked furiously. He examined the statutes, looked over his docket, but he did not seem to get any light. Finally, a lucky thought struck him. He saw old Mr. Brown in the crowd, who had the reputation of having once been a justice in the State of New York. The Squire arose and beckoned to him, and both retired to an adjoining room. After about a half an hour, the Squire returned and took his seat, and delivered his opinion. Here it is:—

"After an examination of all the p'ints both for and agin the 'lowing of the set-off, in which the court didn't leave no stone unturned to get at justice, having ransacked some half a dozen books from eend to eend, and noted down everything that anywise bore on the subject; recollecting, as the court well doz, what the great Story, who's now dead and gone, done and writ 'bout this very[Pg 51] thing (for we must be 'lowed to inform this 'sembly that we read Story in our juvenil' years); having done this, and refreshing our minds with the testimony, and keeping in our eye the rights of parties—right-er liberty, and right-er speech, back'ards and for'ards—for I've as good a right to talk agin you, as you have to talk agin me—knowing, as the court doz, how much blood has been shed 'cause folks wern't 'lowed to talk as much as they pleased, making all natur groan, the court is of the opinion that the set-off must be let in; and such is also Squire Brown's opinion, and nobody will contradict that, I know."

"Je-hos-a-phat!" groaned out Ike, drawing one of his very longest breaths. "The great Je-mi-ma Wilkinson! and so that is law, arter all! There's my hat, Squire," Ike continued, as he arose and reached it out to him; "and you shall have my gallusses as soon as I can get at 'em."

The Squire said "the dignity of the court must be preserved."

"Of course it must! of course it must!" replied Ike, who was growing very philosophical over the opinion of the Squire; "there ain't no friction on my gudgeons now; I always gins in to reg'lar opinions, delivered upon consideration; I was just thinking, though, Squire, that as their bill is so much the longest, and as the parties are both here, Charity had better let her tongue loose upon my client, and take out the balance on the spot."

The Squire said "the cause must go on." Sile read his set-off, made up of slanderous words alleged to have been used; damages fifty dollars; and calling Charity herself, upon the principle, as he said, "that it was a book-account,[Pg 52] and her books were evidence; and her books having been lost, the paper which he held, and which was a true copy—for he made it out himself—was the next best evidence; all of which Charity would swear to straight along."

The court admitted Charity, and she swore the set-off through, and some fifty dollars more; and she was going on horse-race speed, when Sile stopped her "before," as he told her, "she swore the cause beyond the jurisdiction of a magistrate."

Here the evidence closed. Midnight had set in, and the cause was yet to be summed up.

The court informed Ike and Sile that they were limited to half an hour each.

Ike opened the argument, and such an opening, and such an argument! It will not be expected that I can repeat it. There never lived a man who could. It covered all things mortal and immortal. Genius, and sense, and nonsense; wit, humor, pathos, venom, and vulgarity, were all piled up together, and belched forth upon the jury. He talked about the case, the court, the jury, his client, the history of the world, and Puddleford in particular. "The slander was admitted," he declared, "because the defendant had tried to set off something agin it; and if his client didn't get a judgment, he'd make a rattling among the dry bones of the law, that would rouse the dead of '76!" He was "fifty feet front, and rear to the river;" "had seen great changes en the t'restial globe;" "know'd all the sciences from Neb-u-cud-nezzar down;" "know'd law—'twas the milk of his existence." As to the court's opinion about the set-off, "his head was chock full of cobwebs or bumble-bees,[Pg 53] he didn't know which;" "his judgment warn't hardly safe on a common note er-hand;" "he'd no doubt but that three jist such cases would run him stark mad;" "Natur was sorry she'd ever had anything to do with him; and he'd himself been sorry ever since; and as for ed'cation, he warn't up to the school-marm, for she could read;" "the jury had better give him a verdict if they didn't want the nightmare." And thus he was running on, when his half hour expired, but he could not be stopped—as well stop a tornado. So Sile arose, and commenced his argument for the defendant; and at it both labored, Ike for plaintiff, Sile for defendant, until the court swore a constable, and ordered the jury to retire with him, the argument still going on; and thus the jury left the room, Ike and Sile following them up, laying down the law and the fact; and the last thing I observed just before the door closed, was Ike's arm run through it at us, going through a variety of gestures, his expiring effort in behalf of his client.

After a long deliberation among the jurors, during which almost everything was discussed but the evidence, it was announced by our foreman, on "coming in," that "we could not agree, four on 'em being for fifty dollars for the defendant 'cording to law, and one on 'em for no cause of action (myself), and he stood out, 'cause he was a-feared, or wanted to be pop'lar with somebody."

And thus ended the trial between Filkins and Beadle.

[Pg 54]


Wanderings in the Wilderness.—A Bee-Hunt.—Sunrise.—The Fox-Squirrel.—The Blue-Jay.—The Gopher.—The Partridges.—Wild Geese, Ducks, and Cranes.—Blackbirds and Meadow-Larks.—Venison's Account of the Bees' Domestic Economy.—How Venison found what he was in Search of.—Honey Secured.—After Reflections.

Venison Styles and myself, as I have stated, had now become intimate. Together we scoured the woods and streams, in pursuit of fish and game. There was a kind of rustic poetry about the old man that fascinated my soul. His thoughts and feelings had been drawn from nature, and there was a strange freshness and life about everything he said and did. He was as firm and fiery as a flint; and the sparks struck out of him were as beautiful. Winds and storms, morn's early dawn, the hush of evening, the seasons and all their changes, had become a part of him—they had moulded and kept him. They played upon him like a breeze upon a harp. How could I help loving him?

Before daybreak, one morning in October, Venison, myself, his honey-box, and axes, set out "a bee-hunting," as he called it. It was in the beautiful and inspiring season of Indian summer, a season that lingers long and lovely over the forests of the west. There had been a hard, black frost during the night, and the great red sun[Pg 55] rose upon it, shrouded in smoke. We were soon deep in the heart of the wilderness, tramping over the fallen leaves, and pushing forward to where the "bees were thick a-workin'," according to Venison.

As the sun rose higher and higher, the leaves began, all around, to thaw, and detach themselves from the trees, and silently settle to the ground. There stood the yellow walnut, the blood-red maple, side by side with the green pine and the spruce. Ten thousand rainbows were interlaced through the tops of the trees, and now and then a sharp peak shot up its pile of mosaic into the sky.

Not a sound was heard around us till morning's dawn. The tranquillity was oppressive. The mighty wilderness was asleep. Everything felt as fixed and awful as eternity. The vast extent of the wooded waste, reaching thousands of miles beyond, on, and on, and on, filled with mountains, lakes, and streams, lying in solitary grandeur, as unchanged as on the day the Pyramids were finished, overwhelmed the imagination. And then the future arose upon the mind, when all this will be busy with life—when the present will be history, referred to, but not remembered—when the present population of the globe will have been swept from the face of it, and another generation in our place, playing with the toys that so long amused, and which we, at last, left behind us.

But as day dawned, and morning began to throw in her arrows of gold about our feet, the wilderness began to wake up. A fox-squirrel shot out from his bed in a hollow tree, where he had been lodging during the night; and scampering up a tall maple, he sat himself down, threw his tail over his back, and broke forth with his chick-chick-chickaree, chickaree, chickaree!—making the woods ring with his song.[Pg 56]

"Look at him," exclaimed Venison; "he's as sassy as ever. If I had my rifle, I'd knock the spots off that check coat of his'n; I'd larn him to chickaree old Venison."

This squirrel, very common in some of the north-western states, is one of the largest and most beautiful of its species. He is dressed in a suit of light-brown check, and may be seen, in warm, sunny days, cantering over the ground, or running through the tree-tops. He is a very careful and a very busy body. I have often watched him, as he sat bolt upright in a hickory, eating nuts, and throwing the shucks on the ground, with all the gravity of a judge. During the fall, he hoards up large quantities of stores. He hulls his beech-nuts, selects the fairest walnuts, picks up, here and there, a few chestnuts, and packs everything away in his castle with the utmost care; and, as Venison says, "the choppers in the winter have stolen bushels on 'em!"

While our squirrel was singing his morning psalm, a crow, just out of his bed, went sailing along above us, with his "caw! caw!" and settled on a tree nearby. "Caw! caw!" he screamed again, looking down curiously at the squirrel, as much as to say, "Who cares for your music!" Then out hurried another squirrel, and another, breaking forth with joy, until the crow, fairly drowned out, spread his wings and soared away. Venison says, "Them crows can smell gunpowder, and that fellow know'd we hadn't any, when he lit so near us."

A blue-jay then commenced a loud call from a distant part of the forest. He is one of the birds that lingers behind, and braves the blasts of winter. He was flitting about in a tree-top, and had just commenced his day's[Pg 57] work. How gaudily Nature has dressed this bird! How he shines, during spring and summer! All the shades, and touches, and tinges of blue flow over his gaudy mantle; and how orderly and lavishly they are strown over him. But the blue-jay is a dissolute kind of a fellow, after all—"neither more nor less than a thief," Venison says. His shadowy dress fades with the leaf, and after strutting about during the warmer months, making a great display of his finery, he "runs down," at last, into a confirmed loafer. Groups of them may be seen in the winter, drudging around among the withered bushes, and scolding like so many shrews.

Then out popped the little gopher, that finished piece of stripe and check, that miner, who digs deep in the ground. He, too, had left his mansion, and come to greet the morn. A troop of quail marched along, headed by their chief. Who does not love the quail? She is associated with early childhood and household memories. Her voice rings through the past. We heard it sounding over our better years. What a rich brown suit she wears, cut round with Quaker simplicity! what taste and neatness about it! It was she that long ago went forth with the reapers, and piped for them her sunrise psalm, "More wet! More wet!" and she will stay here with us during the winter, and traverse, with her caravan, all day, the desert wastes of snow. Venison says he "don't never kill a quail—it ain't right—but he don't know why."

The partridges, all around, commenced rolling their drums, and every little while, one would whirr past our heads, and die away in the distance. The whole wood-pecker family began their labor. He who wears a red[Pg 58] velvet cap, silk shawl, and white under-clothes, was boring away in a rotten tree, to find his breakfast; and he kept hitching around, and hammering, without regarding or caring for our presence. The rabbit, with ears erect, sat drawn up in a heap, quivering with fear, as he gazed upon us.

At last we reached the bank of the river, and Venison said, "We had better sit down, and take our reck'ning." Here was one of the most beautiful pictures of still life ever painted by Nature. The river wound away like a silver serpent, until it was lost in a bank of Indian summer haze, and it gurgled and dashed through the aisles of the forest, like a dream through the silent realms of sleep. It lay, half sunshine, half shadow, and the shadow was slowly creeping up a tall cliff on the opposite shore, as the day advanced, counting, as it were, the moments as they passed. Afar down it, I was amused as I watched a flock of wild geese. They were about a hundred in number, sleeping upon the water, in a glassy cove, their heads neatly tucked under their wings. An old gander, who had been appointed sentinel, to keep watch and guard, was doing the best he could to perform his duty. He stood upon one leg, and he grew so drowsy, several times, that he nearly toppled over, to his great consternation, and the danger of his charge. But rousing up, and taking two or three pompous strides, and stretching his neck to its utmost, with a very wise look, he satisfied himself that all was right, and that he was not so bad a sentinel, after all.

Near by this sleeping community, where a ripple played over a cluster of rocks, a flock of ducks were performing their ablutions. Now they were diving, now combing[Pg 59] out their feathers, now rising and flapping their wings, now playing with each other, when the leader blowing a blast on his trumpet, they rose gracefully from their bath, and forming themselves into a drag, went winnowing up the river to their haunts far away.

A sand-hill crane, hoisted up on his legs of stilts, his clothes gathered up, and pinned behind him, was leisurely wading about, spearing fish for his breakfast. A dozy, stupid-looking kingfisher sat upon a blasted limb just over him, looking as grave as a country justice engaged in the same business. A bald eagle came rushing down the stream like an air-ship, his great wings slowly heaving up and down, as if he had set out upon an all-day's journey. A muskrat ferried himself over from one side to the other, urgent upon business best known to himself. A prairie-wolf came down to the water's edge, gave a bark or two, and taking a drink, turned back the way he came.

How many birds had left the wilderness for other climes! The blackbirds, those saucy gabblers, who spent the summer here, feeding upon wild rice, departed a month ago. I saw their bustle and preparation. They were days and days getting ready for their journey. The whole country around was alive with their noise. They sang, and fretted. They seemed to be out of all kind of patience with everybody and everything—to have a kind of spite against Nature for driving them off. All the trees about the marshes were loaded, and some were singing, some complaining, some scolding; but having finally completed their arrangements, all of a sudden they left. And the meadow-lark, that came so early with her spring song—she who used to sit upon the waving[Pg 60] grass, and heave herself to and fro, in so ecstatic and polite a manner, as her melody rose and fell—she, too, is gone.

But about hunting bees. Venison informed me that here was the spot where he should "try 'em—that he didn't know nothin' about his luck;" that "bees were the knowingest critters alive"—that they lived in "the holler trees, all around us." He said "they had queens to govern 'em"—that they had "workers and drones"—that "everything about 'em was done just so, and if any of 'em broke the laws, they just killed 'em, and pitched 'em overboard." This, he said, he had "seed himself; he had seed a reg'lar bee funeral." He "seed, once, four bees tugging at a dead body, drawing it on the back, when they throw'd it out of the hive, and covered it over with dirt." And then they have "wars," he says, and "gin'rals," and "captins," and "sogers," and "go out a-fightin', and a-stealin' honey;" they are very "knowin' critters, and there is no tellin' nothin' about 'em."

Venison took the little box he had brought with him, which was filled with honey, and, opening its lid, placed it on a stump. He then rambled around the woods until he found a lingering flower that had escaped the frost, with a honey-bee upon it. This he picked, bee and all, and placed on the honey. Soon the bee began to work and load himself; and finally he rose in circles, winding high in the air, and suddenly turning a right angle, he shot out of sight.

"Where has he gone?" inquired I.

"Gone hum where he lives," answered Venison, "to unload his thighs and tell the news."[Pg 61]

In a few moments, three bees returned, filled themselves, and departed; then six; then a dozen, until a black line was formed, along which they were rushing both ways, empty and laden, one end of which was lost in the forest.

Venison and myself then started on a trot, with our eyes upward, to follow this living line; and after having proceeded a quarter of a mile it became so confused and scattered that we gave it up, and returned.

"What now?" I inquired.

"I'll have 'em! I'll have 'em!" he replied. "They can't cheat old Venison. I've hunted the critters mor-nor forty years, and I allers takes 'em when I tries. I'll draw a couple of more sights on 'em."

Venison took two pieces more of honey, and placed one on each side of his box. The bees followed him and commenced their work. Very soon, instead of one, he had three lines established, his line of honey forming the base of a triangle, while the bees were all rushing to its point, on each side of this triangle, and through its middle.

This, of course, was a demonstration. Venison and myself followed up again, and, sure enough, we "had 'em," as he predicted. There they were, roaring in the top of a great oak, like thunder, coming in and going out, wheeling up and down through the air as though some great celebration was going on. It seemed that the whole hive of workers must have broken forth to capture and carry away Venison's honey-box.

"Will they sting?" inquired I.

"Some folks say they will," he replied. "If they hate a man they'll follow him a mile; and nobody knows who they hate and who they don't, until they're tried."[Pg 62]

"Where's the honey?" I inquired again.

"Well, that's the next thing I'm arter;" and Venison put his ear to the trunk of the tree to ascertain in what part of it they were "a-workin'." He listened a while, but "they warn't low down, he know'd, for he didn't hear 'em hummin'." He thought the honey was "out the way, high up somewhere." So at the tree he went with his axe, and in half an hour the old oak—older, probably, than any man on the globe—came down with a crash that roused up all the echoes of the wilderness.

Upon an examination, the honey was, probably, Venison thought, packed away in a hollow of the tree, about fifty feet from the ground, as a large knot-hole was discerned, out of which the bees were streaming in great consternation. So he severed the trunk again, at the bottom of the hollow, and there it was, great flakes piled one upon another, some of which had been broken by the fall of the tree, and were dripping and oozing out their wild richness.

"That's the raal stuff," exclaimed Venison; "something 'sides bees-bread."

Venison had brought nothing with him to hold his honey, and I was a little curious to know how he would manage. He cut the tree again above the knot. During his labor the bees had settled all over him. His hands, face, and hair were filled, besides a circle of them that were angrily wheeling about his head. But he heeded them not, except by an occasional shake, which was significant of pity rather than rage.

"Now," said Venison, when his work was finished, the tree cut, the knot-hole stopped, and the whole turned upside down, "that's what I call a nat'ral bee-hive, and we'll just stuff in a little dry grass on the top, and then I'll be ready to move."

A BEE HUNT.  "That's the raal stuff," exclaimed Venison; "something 'sides bees'-bread." Page 62. A BEE HUNT.
"That's the raal stuff," exclaimed Venison; "something 'sides bees'-bread." Page 62.

[Pg 63]

"Move!" I exclaimed, "move! You don't expect ue will carry home a tree, do you?"

"Two or three on 'em, I s'pect. Venison allers gets as much as that."

Venison was right. Before noon, half a dozen hives were captured and ready for removal. I confess, after the excitement was over, that I began to grow quite serious over my forenoon's labor. I sat down to rest myself, and the very solemnity of the wilderness produced a sober train of thought. A south-west breeze sprang up loaded with the dying breath of the fall-flowers. It was blowing down the leaves around me, and piling them up in gorgeous drifts. Like an undertaker around the remains of the dead, it was quietly tearing down the drapery, and preparing the year for its burial. A haze overspread everything, and the distance was mellow, the objects indistinct, and the whole landscape seemed swimming, as we sometimes see it in a dream. The trees were covered with haze; and a canoe, on its way down, appeared to be hung up in the air; the birds were hazy; and, looking about me, I appeared to be sitting in a great tent of haze. The squirrels were clattering through the trees, and throwing down the nuts; the partridges were drumming; the rabbits rustling through the dry leaves; the water-fowl hurrying through the air; and the crickets, those melancholy musicians, were piping a low, dirge-like strain to the golden hours of autumn as they passed away.

I thought I could hear the great heart of Nature beat with measured and palpitating strokes; could feel the pendulum of Time swinging back and forth.[Pg 64]

But I said I was rather sober. There stood our six bee-hives, and clinging to each in large clusters were its inhabitants, who had been driven forth by us to brave a pitiless winter. We had destroyed six cities, and banished their people; six cities, six governments of law and order. Cities laid out in lanes, and streets, and squares; cities of dwelling-houses and castles; cities filled with all sorts of people; all castes in society. There were the queen and her palace; the drones and their castles; and the serf, or day-laborer, and his hut; and there, sitting upon her throne, the sovereign swayed as mighty a sceptre, tyrannized over as great a people, in her opinion, as any human despot. She undoubtedly bustled about, talked large, swelled up herself with her importance, boasted of her blood, of her divine right to rule (certainly divine in her case), just as all earthly princes do. There she projected plans of war, marshalled her forces, and stimulated their courage with inflammatory appeals. She talked about her house as the royal line, as the French used to about the Bourbons. And then a lazy aristocracy had been broken up by us; we had turned hundreds of drones adrift, and according to the modern definition, drones must be aristocrats; that is, they did no work, and lived upon the labor of others. They were, in all probability, just like all other aristocratic drones. They lounged about the hive in each other's company; had an occasional uproar at each other's table; turned out to take the morning air, and slept after dinner. They probably advised in all matters of public policy, and cried every day, "Long live the Queen." I did not care much about the drones, however. But we had turned the poor day-laborer out of doors; he who[Pg 65] rose with the sun, and went forth to work while the dew was yet tying on the flowers. We had humbled the pride of six cities, and brought it to the dust. Is it strange that I felt sober?

But Venison broke my musing by informing me that it was "about time to cakalate a little about getting our honey home, and he guessed he'd go and rig up a raft, and float the cargo down."

And soon a raft was constructed of flood-wood, and bound together with green withes, the honey rolled aboard, two long poles prepared to be used to guide the craft, and away we glided, followed by a long train of bees, who had been despoiled, and who streamed along after us, until the shadows of evening arrested their flight, and parted them and their treasure forever.

[Pg 66]


The Log-Chapel.—Father Beals.—Aunt Graves.—Sister Abigail.—Bigelow Van Slyck, the Preacher.—His Entrée.—How he worked.—One of his Sermons.—Performance of the Choir.—"Coronation" achieved.—Getting into Position.—Personal Appeals.—Effect on the Congregation.—Sabbath in the Wilderness.—Is Bigelow the only Ridiculous Preacher?

Puddleford was not altogether a wilderness, although it was located near a wilderness. It was located just on the outskirts of civilization, and, like Venison Styles, it caught a reflection of civilized life from the east, and of savage life from the west. It was an organized township, and was a part of an organized county. There were hundreds and thousands of men who were busy at work all over this county, cutting down the trees and breaking up the soil. Law and religion had found their way among them, just as they always accompany the American pioneer. It could not be otherwise; because these obligations grow up and weave themselves into the very nature of the people of our republic. They are written on the soul. So that judicial circuits, a court-house and jail, Methodist circuits and circuit-riders, and meeting-houses, were established. All this was rough, like the country itself.

Few persons have ever attempted to define the piety of just such a community as this; and yet it has a form,[Pg 67] tone, and character peculiarly its own. The portraits of the Puddlefordians were just as clearly reproduced in their religion, as if they had been drawn by sunlight.

The "log-chapel," as it was called at Puddleford, was filled each week, with one or two hundred rough, hard-featured, unlearned men and women, who had come in from all parts of the country; some for devotional exercises, some for amusement; some to look, and some to be looked at. This congregation shifted faces each week, like the colors in a kaleidoscope. It was never the same. The man in the pulpit must have felt as though he were preaching to a running river, whose parts were continually changing. Yet there was a church at Puddleford, in the strict sense of the word; it was organized, and had, at the time I refer to, ten regular members in good standing; all the rest was "floating capital," that drifted in from Sunday to Sunday, and swelled the "church proper."

There was "Father Beals," and old "Aunt Graves," and "Sister Abigail," who were regular attendants at all times and seasons. They were, beyond all doubt, the pillars of the Puddleford church. Father Beals was the church, before any building for worship was erected. He was looked upon as a living, moving, spiritual body; a Methodist organization in himself; and wherever he went to worship on the Sabbath, whether in a private house, a barn, or in the forest, all the followers of that order were found with him, drawn there by a kind of magnetism. The old man had been one of the faithful from a boy; had carried his principles about him from day to day; was indeed a light in the world; and he was, by some plan of Providence, flung far back into the wilderness,[Pg 68] all burning, to kindle up and set on fire those about him. His influence had built the log-chapel, and, like a regulator in a watch, he kept it steady, pushing this wheel a little faster, and checking that. Sometimes he had to command, sometimes entreat, sometimes threaten, sometimes soothe.

"Father Beals" was a good man; and no higher compliment can be paid to any person. His head was very large, bald, and his hair was white. There was an expression of great benevolence in his face, and a cold calmness in his blue eye that never failed to command respect. He used to sit, on Sundays, just under the pulpit, with a red cotton handkerchief thrown over him, while his wide-brimmed hat, that he wore into the country, stood in front, on a table, and really seemed to listen to the sermon.

"Aunt Graves" was a very useful body in her way, and the Puddleford church could not have spared her any more than "Father Beals." She was an old maid, and had been a member of the log-chapel from its beginning. She was one of those sincere souls that really believed that there was but one church in the world, and that was her own. She felt a kind of horror when she read of other denominations having an actual existence, and wondered "what kind of judgment would fall upon them." She didn't know very much about the Bible, but she knew a great deal about religion; she knew all about her own duty, and quite a good deal about the duty of her neighbors.

Now "Aunt Graves" was useful in many ways. She kept, in the first place, a kind of spiritual thermometer, that always denoted the range of every member's piety[Pg 69] except her own. Every slip of the tongue; every uncharitable remark; every piece of indiscretion, by word or deed; all acts of omission, as well as of commission, were carefully registered by her, and could at any time be examined and corrected by the church. This was convenient and useful. Then, she was a choice piece of melody; there was not another voice like hers in the settlement. It had evidently been pitched "from the beginning" for the occasion. It possessed great power, was quite shaky (a modern refinement in music), and could be heard from a half to three quarters of a mile. She has been known to sweep away on a high note, and actually take the Puddleford choir off their feet. She rode through the staff of music headlong, like a circus-rider around the ring; and could jump three or four notes at any time, without lessening her speed, or breaking the harmony. She would take any piece of sacred music by storm, on the very shortest notice. In fact, she was the treble, aided by a few others who had received their instruction from her; and she was just as indispensable to worship, she thought, as a prayer or a sermon.

"Aunt Graves" always made it her business to "keep a sharp lookout" after the morals of the preacher. "Men are but men," she used to say, "and preachers are but men; and they need some person to give 'em a hunch once in a while." Sometimes she would lecture him of the log-chapel for hours upon evidences of piety, acts of immorality, the importance of circumspection, the great danger that surrounded him—her tongue buzzing all the while like a mill-wheel, propelled as it was by so much zeal. She said it almost made her "crazy to keep[Pg 70] the Puddleford church right side up; for it did seem as though she had everything on her shoulders; and she really believed it would have gone to smash long ago, if it hadn't been for her."

Now, "Sister Abigail" wasn't anybody in particular—that is, she was not exactly a free agent. She was "Aunt Graves's" shadow—a reflection of her; a kind of person that said what "Aunt Graves" said, and did what she did, and knew what she knew, and got angry when she did, and over it when she did. She was a kind of dial that "Aunt Graves" shone upon, and any one could tell what time of day it was with "Aunt Graves," by looking at "Sister Abigail."

Besides these lights in the church, there were about (as I have said) ten or a dozen members, and a congregation weekly of one or two hundred.

But I must not pass over the preacher himself. I only speak of one, although many filled the pulpit of the Puddleford church during my acquaintance with it. Bigelow Van Slyck was at one time a circuit-rider on the Puddleford circuit; and I must be permitted to say, he was the most important character that had filled that station prior to the time to which I have reference. He was half Yankee, half Dutch; an ingenious cross, effected somewhere down in the State of Pennsylvania. He was not yet a full-blown preacher, but an exhorter merely. He was active, industrious, zealous, and one would have thought he had more duty on his hands than the head of the nation. His circuit reached miles and miles every way. He was here to-day, there to-morrow, and somewhere else next day; and he ate and slept where he could.[Pg 71]

Bigelow's appointments were all given out weeks in advance. These appointments must be fulfilled; and he was so continually pressed, that one would have thought the furies were ever chasing him.

I have often seen him rushing into the settlement after a hard day's ride. He wore a white hat with a wide brim, a Kentucky-jean coat, corduroy vest and breeches, a heavy pair of clouded-blue yarn stockings, and stogy boots. He rode a racking Indian pony, who wore a shaggy mane and tail. Bigelow usually made his appearance in Puddleford just as the long shadows of a Saturday evening were pointing over the landscape. The pony came clattering in at the top of his speed, panting and blowing, as full of business and zeal as his master, while Bigelow's extended legs and fluttering bandana kept time to the movement. The women ran to the doors, the children paused in the midst of their frolic, as his pony stirred up the echoes around their ears; and it is said that the chickens and turkeys, who had often witnessed the death of one of their number when this phantom appeared, set up a most dismal hue-and-cry, and took to their wings in the greatest consternation.

We hope that none of our readers will form an unfavorable opinion of Bigelow, after having read our description of him. He was the man of all others to fill the station he occupied. He was as much a part of, and as necessary to, the wilderness he inhabited, as the oak itself. He belonged to the locality. He was one of a gallery of portraits that nature and circumstances had hung up in the forest for a useful purpose, just as Squire Longbow was another. The one managed the church, the other the courts; and all this was done[Pg 72] in reference to society as it was, not what it ought to be, or might be. There was a kind of elasticity about Bigelow's theology, as there was about the Squire's law, that let all perplexing technicalities pass along without producing any friction. They were graduated upon the sliding-scale principle, and were never exactly the same.

Bigelow was a host in theology in his way. He could reconcile at once any and every point that could be raised. He never admitted a doubt to enter into his exhortations, but he informed his hearers at once just how the matter stood. He professed to be able to demonstrate any theological question at once, to the satisfaction of any reasonable mind; and it was all folly to labor with the unreasonable, he said, for they would "fight agin the truth as long as they could, any way."

I used occasionally to hear him exhort, and he was in every respect an off-hand preacher. He worked like a blacksmith at the forge. Coat, vest, and handkerchief, one after the other, flew off as he became more and more heated in his discourse. At one time he thundered down the terrors of the law upon the heads of his hearers; at another he persuaded; and suddenly he would take a facetious turn, and accompany the truth with a story about his grandfather down on the Ohio, or an anecdote that he had read in the newspapers. He wept and he laughed, and the whole assembly were moved as his feelings moved; now silent with grief, and now swelling with enthusiasm.

I recollect one of his sermons in part, and, in fact, the most of the services accompanying it. It was a soft day in June. The birds were singing and revelling among the trees which canopied the chapel. The church was[Pg 73] filled. The choir were all present. "Father Beals," "Aunt Graves," and "Sister Abigail" were in their accustomed seats. The farmers from the country had "turned out;" in fact, it was one of the most stirring days Puddleford had ever known. It was quite evident that the occasion was extraordinary, as "Aunt Graves" was very nervous the moment she took her seat in the choir. If any error should be committed, the exercises would be spoiled, prayers, preaching, and all; because, according to her judgment, they all depended upon good music; and that she was responsible for. So she began to hitch about, first this way, and then that; then she ran over the music-book, and then the index to it; then she hummed a tune inaudibly through her nose; then she examined the hymn-book, and then changed her seat; and then changed back again. She was, in her opinion, the wheel that kept every other wheel in motion; and what if that wheel should stop!

But the hymn was at last given out; and there was a rustling of leaves, and an a-hemming, and coughing, and spitting, and sounding of notes; and a toot on a cracked clarinet, which had been wound with tow; and a low grunt from a bass-viol, produced by a grave-looking man in the corner. Then all rose, and launched forth in one of those ancient pieces of church harmony, "Coronation;" every voice and instrument letting itself go to its utmost extent. One airy-looking person was pumping out his bass by rising and falling on his toes; another, more solemn, was urging it up by crowding his chin on his breast; another jerked it out by a twist of his head; while one quiet old man, whose face beamed with tranquillity, just stood, in perfect ecstasy, and let the melody[Pg 74] run out of his nose. The genius on the clarinet blew as if he were blowing his last. His cheeks were bloated, his eyes were wild and extended, and his head danced this way and that, keeping time with his fingers; and he who sawed the viol tore away upon his instrument with a kind of ferocity, as if he were determined to commit some violence upon it. But the treble—what shall I say of it? "Aunt Graves" was nowhere to be seen, after the "parts" had got into full play; she put on the power of her voice, and "drowned out" everything around her at once; and then, rising higher and higher, she rushed through the notes, the choir in full chase after her, and absolutely came out safely at last, and struck upon her feet, without injuring herself or any one else.

When this performance closed, quite an air of self-satisfaction played over the faces of all, declaring clearly enough that their business was over for an hour at least. In fact, "Aunt Graves" was entirely out of breath, and remained in a languishing state for several minutes. So they busied themselves the best way they could. They gazed at every person in the house except the preacher, and did everything but worship. I noticed that it was very difficult for the female portion to "get into position." They tried a lounge and a lean, an averted face and a full one. Then their bonnet-strings troubled them, and then their shawls; and now a lock of hair got astray, and then something else. The men were as philosophical and indifferent as so many players at a show. He of the clarinet once so forgot the day as to raise his instrument to the window and take a peep through it, so that he might detect its air-holes, if any there were; and he afterwards amused himself and me, a long time, by gravely[Pg 75] licking down its tow bandage, so that it might be in condition when called upon to perform again. In fact, the Puddleford choir was very much like choirs in all other places.

By and by, Bigelow took his stand, preparatory to his sermon. I do not intend to follow Bigelow through his discourse, because I could not do so if I attempted it; nor would it be of any importance to the reader, if I could. He said he would not take any text, but he would preach a sermon that would suit a hundred texts. He did not like to confine himself to any particular portion of the Bible; but wished to retain the privilege of following up the manifold sins of his congregation, in whomsoever or wherever they existed. He then launched himself forth, denouncing, in the first place, the sin of profanity, which is very common in all new countries, evidently having in view two or three of his hearers who were notoriously profane; and after considering the question generally, he declared "that of all sinners, the profane man is the greatest fool, because he receives nothing for his wickedness. A'n't that true, Luke Smith?" he continued, as he reached out his finger towards Luke, whose daily conversation was a string of oaths; "a'n't that true? How much have you made by it?—answer to me, and this congregation." Luke quivered as if a shock of electricity had passed through him.

Bigelow then gave a short history of his own sins in that line at an early day, before he entered the pulpit, when he was young and surrounded by temptations; but, he said, he reformed at last, and every other man might do so by the same means. "When you feel yourself swelling with a big oath—for every man feels 'em inside[Pg 76] before they break out," exclaimed Bigelow,—"jump up and cry "Jezebel!" three times in succession, and you'll feel as calm as an infant. This," he continued, "lets off the feeling without the commission of sin, and leaves the system healthy."

He next considered the sin of Sabbath-breaking; and he poured down the melting lava upon the heads of his hearers with a strength and ingenuity that I have seldom seen equalled. "Men," he said, "would labor harder to break the Sabbath than they would for bread. They would chase a deer from morning till night on this holy day, kill him, and then throw the carcass away; but week-days they lounge about some Puddleford dram-shop, while their families were suffering. Men, too," he continued, "fish on Sundays, because the devil has informed them that fish bite better. It is the devil himself who does the biting, not the fish; it is he who is fishing for you; for Bill Larkin, and Sam Trimble, and Hugh Williams, and scores of others; he's got you now, and you will be scaled and dressed for his table unless you escape instantly;" and then, to impress his illustration, he soared away into a flight of eloquence just suited to his hearers; rough and fiery, plain and pointed, neither above nor below the capacity of those he addressed.

Bigelow then made a descent upon lying and liars. He regretted to say that this sin was very common in the church. "He had a dozen complaints before him now, undecided;" and he detailed a few of them, as specimens of "the depravity of the human heart." He "didn't want to hear any more of them, as he had something else to do, besides taking charge of the tongues of his church."

Then came an exhortation on duties; and almost every[Pg 77] practical virtue was mentioned and impressed. Early rising, industry, economy, modesty, contentment, etc., etc., all received a notice at his hands. "Don't sleep yourselves to death!" exclaimed Bigelow; "rise early! work! for while you sleep the Enemy will sow your fields full of tares; and the only way to keep him out is to be on the spot yourself!" This was a literal application of the parable, it is true; yet it was very well done, and productive, I have no doubt, of some good.

Bigelow closed in a most tempestuous manner. He was eloquent, sarcastic, and comical, by turns. He had taken off nearly all his clothes, except his pantaloons, shirt, and suspenders; a custom among a certain class of western preachers, however strange it may appear to many readers. Streams of perspiration were running down his face and neck; his hair was in confusion; and altogether, he presented the appearance of a man who had passed through some convulsion of nature, and barely escaped with his life.

I could not help thinking that Bigelow was entitled to great credit, not only for the matter his sermon contained, but in being able to deliver a sermon at all amid the confusion which often surrounded him. There were a dozen or more infants in the crowd, some crowing, some crying, and some chattering. One elderly lady, in particular, had in charge one of these responsibilities, that seemed to set the place and the preacher at defiance. She tried every expedient to quiet the little nuisance, but it was of "no use." She set it down, laid it down, turned it around, nursed it, chirped at it; and finally, giving up in despair, she placed it on her knee, the child roaring at the top of its lungs, and commenced trotting[Pg 78] it in the very face of the audience. This operation cut up the music of the innocent, and threw it out in short, quick jerks, very agreeable to the preacher and congregation.

An excellent old woman also sat directly in front of Bigelow, her left elbow resting on her knee, which she swayed to and fro with a sigh. Her face lay devoutly in the palm of her hand, while her right thumb and fore-finger held a pinch of snuff, which she every now and then slowly breathed up a hawk-bill nose, with a long-drawn whistle, something after the sort that broke forth from the clarinet a while before. She then blew a blast into a faded cotton handkerchief, that reverberated like the voice of "many trumpets." This was followed by fits of coughing, and sneezing, and sighing; in fact, she sounded as great a variety of notes as the choir itself.

Besides all this, a troop of dogs who had followed their masters were continually marching up and down the chapel; and when any unusual excitement occurred with Bigelow, or any one else, as there did several times, we had a barking-chorus, which threatened to suspend the whole meeting. Bigelow, however, didn't mind any or all of these things; but, like a skilful engineer, he put on the more steam, and ran down every obstacle in his way.

Reader, I have given you a description of the log-chapel at Puddleford. It is like a thousand other places of public worship in a "new country." If there is something to condemn, there is more to praise. There seems to be a providence in this, as in all other things.

The settlers in a forest are a rough, hardy, and generally an honest race of men. It is their business to hew[Pg 79] down the wilderness, and prepare the way for a different class who will surely follow them. They cannot cultivate their minds to any extent, or refine their characters. They must be reached through the pulpit by such means as will reach them. Of what importance is a nice theological distinction with them? Of what force a labored pulpit disquisition? They have great vices and strong virtues. Their vices must be smitten and scattered with a sledge-hammer; they are not to be played with in a flourish of rhetoric. Just such a human tornado as Bigelow is the man for the place; he may commit some mischief, but he will leave behind him a purer moral atmosphere and a serener sky.

Society, in such a place as Puddleford, is cultivated very much like its soil. Both lie in a state of rude nature, and both must be improved. The great "breaking-plough," with its dozen yoke of cattle, in the first place, goes tearing and groaning through the roots and grubs that lie twisted under it, just as Bigelow tore and groaned through the stupidity and wickedness of his hearers. Then comes the green grass, and wheat, and flowers, as years draw on; producing, at last, "some sixty, and some a hundred-fold."

There is something impressive in the Sabbath in the wilderness. A quiet breathes over the landscape that is almost overwhelming. In a city, the church-steeples talk to one another their lofty music; but there are no bells in the wilderness to mark the hours of worship. The only bell which is heard is rung by Memory, as the hour of prayer draws nigh; some village-bell, far away, that vibrated over the hills of our nativity, the tones of which we have carried away in our soul, and which are awakened by the solemnity of the day.[Pg 80]

There is a philosophy in all this, if we will but see it; there is more; there is a lesson, possibly a reproof. If we are disposed to smile at the rusticity of a Puddleford church, may we not with equal reason become serious over the overgrown refinement of many another? May not something be learned in the very contrast which is thus afforded? Do not the extravagant hyperbole, coarse allusions, irreverent anecdote, and strong but unpolished shafts of sarcasm, that such as Bigelow so unsparingly scatter over the sanctuary, give a rich background and strong relief to the finished rhetoric of many a pulpit essay, that has been written to play with the fancy and tranquillize the nerves of a refined and fashionable audience? Are not the extremes equally ridiculous? the one not having reached, the other having passed the zenith.

[Pg 81]


Indian Summer.—Venison Styles again.—Jim Buzzard.—Fishing Excursion.—Muskrat City.—Indian Burying-ground.—The Pickerel and the Rest of the Fishes.—The Prairie.—Wild Geese.—The Old Mound.—Venison's Regrets at the degenerating Times.—His Luck, and Mine.—Reminiscences of the Beavers.—Camping out.—Safe Return.

Indian summer had not yet taken her bow from the woods or her breath from the sky. Old Autumn still lay asleep; Time stood by, with his hour-glass erect, slowly counting the palpitations of his heart.

Venison Styles appointed a day for a fishing excursion, and was desirous of my company; so, on one of those bright mornings, we might have been seen loading our gear into the boat, preparatory to a night's lodging in the woods. We were accompanied by "Jim Buzzard," a genuine Puddlefordian, whom we took along to do up the little pieces of drudgery that always attend such an expedition.

Puddleford was a wonderful place for fish-eaters, and the only real harvest the villagers had was the fish-harvest. One half of Puddleford lived on fish, and everybody fished. But our "Jim Buzzard" was a character in fish, and I could never excuse myself if I should pass him over unnoticed.

Where "Jim" was born—who was his father or[Pg 82] mother—and whether he actually ever had any, are questions that no mortal man was ever yet able to answer. He appeared one spring morning in Puddleford with the swallows. The first thing seen of him, he was sitting, about sunrise, on an old dry goods' box, at the corner of a street, whistling a variety of lively airs. The crown was dangling from the top of his hat, he was shirtless and unshaved, and his shoes gaped horribly at the public.

"Jim" was a genuine loafer, and loafers, you know, reader, pervade every place, and are always the same. There is a certain class of animals that are said to follow civilization, as sharks follow in the wake of a ship, and generally for the same reason, to pick up what they can find. Rats and loafers belong to this class, and there is no human ingenuity shrewd enough to keep them off: their appearance seems to be a simple fulfilment of a law of nature.

Jim Buzzard was a fisher, too, and nothing but a fisher. He would sit on an old log by the bank of the river, and hold a pole from morning until night. If the fish would bite, very well; if they would not, very well. Ill-luck never roused his wrath, because there was no wrath in him to arouse. He was a true philosopher, and was entirely too lazy to get into a passion. Jim knew that the fish would bite to-morrow, or next day, if they didn't to-day. He was happy, completely so; that is, as completely happy as the world will admit. He didn't envy anybody—not he. All his wants were supplied, and what did he care about the possessions of his neighbors? He never realized any future, here or hereafter. Jim never lay awake nights, thinking about[Pg 83] where he would be, or what he should have, next week. He didn't know as there was any next week. He knew the sun rose and set, which was all the time he ever measured at once. Well, as I said, Jim made one of our company.

Our boat was finally loaded, our crew shipped, and we shot forth into the stream. The water lay as smooth as glass, and the reflected colors of the blazing trees that hung over it gave it the appearance of a carpet. The headlands put out here and there, intersected by long gores of marsh, that ran away a mile or more in the distance.

Upon one of these marshes a city had been reared by the muskrats, which presented an interesting appearance. Hundreds of huts had been erected by this busy population, intended by them as their winter quarters, composed of grass and sticks and mud, and hoisted up beyond the reach of the spring floods. Each one was a little palace, and the whole sat upon the water like a miniature Venice. Here huts were entered by diving down, the front door being always concealed to prevent intrusion. Up and down the canals of this city the inhabitants gossiped and gambolled by moonlight, like those of every other gay place. They had their routs, and cotillons, and suppers, in all human probability, and for aught I know drank themselves stupid. Perhaps they kept up an opera. I say perhaps—we know so little of the inner life of these strange creatures, that we may draw upon the imagination in regard to their amusements as much as we please. If any transcendental muskrat should ever write the history of this colony, I will forward it to the newspapers by the first mail.[Pg 84]

Venison said, "we were going to have a wet time on't, cause the rats had built so high, and the whole mash would be covered bime-by, by the rains." He said, "muskrats know'd more nor men about times ahead, and fixed up things 'cordingly."

Our boat glided along until we came in sight of a huge bluff that had pushed itself half across the stream. A melancholy fragment of one of the tribes of Indians, who once held the sovereignty of the soil, and who had escaped a removal, or had wandered back from their banishment, were clustered upon it. They had erected a long pole, and gathered themselves, hand in hand, in a circle about it; within this circle, their medicines and apparel worn in worship, lay for consecration. The plaintive chant was heard melting along the waters, as they wheeled round and round in their solemn service. I have never looked upon a more touching exhibition. Most of these Indians were very old; they had outlived their tribe, their country, their glory—everything but their ceremonies and themselves. What a beautiful tribute was this to the past! a handful of worshippers lingering round the broken altar of their temple, and hallowing its very ruins.

Near by, and on the southern slope of the bluff, lay the remains of an extensive Indian burying-ground. No white man could tell its age. Large oaks, centuries old, that had grown since the dead were first deposited there, stood up over the graves. No monuments of stone designated the thousands of sleepers—the living themselves were the monuments of the dead. Weapons of war and peace were scattered beneath the turf, mixed with crumbling human bones.[Pg 85]

What were this little band of red men, thought I, but so many autumn leaves? A few years more, and the solitary boat, as it turns this headland, will find no warrior kneeling on its height. The Great Spirit will brood alone over the solitude.

By and by, we turned into a bay, sheltered by an overhanging cliff, where we cast our anchor, and made ready for work. The water was transparent, and the shining pebbles glittered in the sandy depths below. Shoals of fish had gathered in this nook, beyond the strife of waters. The sun-fish, his back all bristling with rage, ploughed around with as much ferocity as a privateer; the checkered perch lazily rolled from side to side, as his breath came and went; the little silver dace darted and flashed through each other their streams of light; and away off, all alone, the pickerel, that terror of the pool, stood as still and dart-like as the vane of a steeple.

This congregation reminded me of the stir we sometimes find in the ports of a city. They seemed to have much business on hand. They were continually putting out and putting in; sometimes alone and sometimes in fleets. I noticed an indolent old "sucker," who made several unsuccessful attempts to reach the current, and get under headway. Once in a while, a fish would come dashing in from above, like a ship before a gale, throwing the whole community into an uproar.

Below us, on the left bank of the river, stretched a prairie which was several miles in circumference. It was dotted, here and there, with a settler's cabin, but the greater part yet lay in the wild luxuriance of nature. It was surrounded by the forest, and long points of woodland pierced it, now glowing like a flame. Shooting[Pg 86] back and forth, the prairie-hens sailed across it like boats upon the main. The sky above it was filled with hawks, sweeping round and round in search of prey—now they rested upon their outspread wings—then plunged through a long-drawn curve—then gracefully moved near the earth in downward circles, as some object was discovered, winnowing a while above it, to make sure of its nature and position, and rising once more, and turning with lightning quickness, away they rushed upon their quarry, and soared away with it on high.

In the depth of winter, when the lakes and rivers are bound in ice, vast bodies of geese assemble there. Acres of ground are covered, and they storm about their camp like an army of soldiers. Some commanding elevation, far out from shore, beyond the reach of the hunter's gun, is selected. When disturbed, their sentinels blow the alarm, and away they go, piping their dismal dirge, until it dies afar in the sky. By daybreak the next morning, they are on the ground again, as tranquil as though nothing had happened.

It is almost impossible to trap these wanderers. Before they establish their quarters, they study the landscape with the eye of a painter. They take a daguerrian view of objects as they are. The log-hut, with its curling smoke—the hay-stack crowned with snow—the settler's cart tipped up, its tongue pointing towards the north star—a goose understands as well as a man. They never blow up nor work destruction. But just try an artificial house of boughs, a brush fence, or an intrenchment near their lines. They see the plot at a glance, and draw out of harm's way, and pitch their snowy tents again, beyond its reach. As well chase the fabled island as a flock of wild geese.[Pg 87]

Not far below this prairie, near the bank of the river, a venerable mound raised its solitary head. It was thinly covered with oaks, and belonged to Oblivion. It was one of the few feathers that Time had cast in his flight, to mark the past and confuse the present. It looked like a hand reached out from eternity; but whose hand? Ay, whose? Who built it? When? Why? It was filled with all kinds of strange things that had been planted there by a busy race who were unable to preserve their own history. Their works had outlived themselves; but they cannot talk to us, nor tell us what they are, nor who fashioned them. There it stands, gazing dumbly at all who look upon it, a sad lesson to individual pride or national glory.

Venison did not seem quite satisfied with the prospect of catching fish in the little bay. "'Tain't as it used to be," sighed the old hunter. "Before the woods were cut down, and them are dams built," said he, "the whole river was alive with all sorts of fish. In the spring-time the salmon-trout and sturgeon used to come up out of the lakes to feed, but they can't get up any more. They keep trying it every year yet, and thousands on 'em may be seen packed in below old Jones' dam, 'long 'bout April, waiting and waiting for it to go off. For I s'pose they think 'tain't nothing but flood-wood lodged."

"Why don't they climb it?" inquired I.

"When the water is very high up, and there arn't much of a riffle there, they will sometimes; but they can't climb like them speckled trout—they'll go right up a mountain stream, and make nothing on't—them fellers beat all nater for going anywhere."[Pg 88]

However, as I said somewhere back in my narrative, we made ready for work. We looked around for Jim Buzzard, and found him sitting in the bow of the boat, his legs sprawled out, his head dropped on his chin, his ragged hat cocked on one side, fast asleep. There was an ease and self-abandonment about his appearance that were really beautiful. Jim could sleep anywhere—some people can't. He was never nervous. He never had any spasms about something that could never occur. He had no notes falling due—no crops in the ground—no merchandise on his hand—no property, except the little he carried on his back, and that he didn't really own; it was given to him—he was no candidate for office, and didn't even know or care who was President—all administrations were alike to him, for all had treated him well. He never flew into a passion because some persons slandered him, because he had no character to injure.

"Hallo, Jim!" I screamed, with my mouth to his ear, "the boat is sinking."

He gaped, and groaned, and stretched a few times, and finally opened his eyes, and adjusted his hat, and looking up at me, "Let her sink, then," he replied; "we can get-er up agin."

"Stir around! stir around, Jim!" I exclaimed; "the fish are waiting for our bait; out with your pole."

He said, "he was goin' overboard arter fresh-water clams—kase they were good with salt, and anybody could eat 'em;" and rolling up his breeches, over he went, and moving away down near a sandy beach, he commenced digging his clams with his feet, and piling them up on shore by his side.[Pg 89]

Venison and myself dashed our lines overboard. I watched every movement of the old hunter. He went through as many ceremonies as a magician working a charm. His "minnys" (minnows), as he called them, were hooked tenderly at a particular place in the back, so that they might shoot around in the water, without dying in the effort; his hook was pointed in a certain direction, so as to catch at the first bite; he then spit upon the bait, and swinging the line a few times in circles, he threw it far out in the stream.

"That'll bring a bass, pickerel, or something," said he, as it struck the water.

Soon the pole bent, and Venison sprang upon it.

"Pull him out!" exclaimed I.

"Don't never hurry big fish," replied he; "let him play round a little; he'll grow weak byme-by, and come right along into the boat;" and accordingly, Venison "let him play;" he managed the fish with all that refinement in the art that sportsmen know so well how to appreciate and enjoy. Sometimes it raced far up the stream, then far down; and once, as the line brought it up on a downward trip, it bounded into the air, and turned two or three summersets that shook the silver drops of water from its fins. After a while, it became exhausted, and Venison slowly drew him into the boat, all breathless and panting; a famous pickerel, four feet long and "well proportioned."

My poles, all this time, remained just where I first placed them—not a nibble, as I knew. Some very wicked people, I have been informed, swear at fish when they refuse to bite—but I did not—because I have never been able to see why they were to blame, or[Pg 90] why swearing would reform them, if they were. It was no very good reason that they should take hold of one end of my pole and line, because I happened to be at the other.

Not having much luck with big fish, I concluded to amuse the "small fry." So out went my hook ker-slump right down in the midst of a great gathering, who seemed to have met on some business of importance. It was a little curious to watch these finny fellows as they eyed my worm. They swept round it in a circle, a few times, and coming up with a halt, and forming themselves abreast, they rocked up and down from head to tail, as they surveyed the thing. By and by, a perch, a little more venturesome than the rest, floated up by degrees to the bait, his white fins slowly moving back and forth, and carefully reaching out his nose, he touched it, wheeled, and shot like a dart out of sight. In a few minutes he came round in the rear of the company, to await further experiments. Next came the sun-fish, jerking along, filled with fire and fury, with a kind of who's-afraid sort of look, and striking at my hook, actually caught the tip of the barb, and I turned the fellow topsy-turvy, showing up his yellow to advantage. He left for parts unknown. There was a small bass who had strayed into the community, whom I was anxious to coax into trouble; but he lay off on his dignity, near an old root, to see the fun. I moved my hook towards him. He shot off and turned head to, with a no-you-don't sort of air. I took my bait from the water and spit on it, but it wouldn't do. I took it out again, and went through an incantation over it, but I couldn't catch him by magic; and I have no doubt, reader, he is there yet.[Pg 91]

Venison, every little while, dragged another and another pickerel aboard. Pretty soon we had Jim Buzzard cleaning fish, and packing away in a barrel, with a little sprinkling of salt.

I gathered in my lines, arose, and thanked the whole tribe of fish, generally and particularly, for their attendance upon me, and promised not to trouble them for a month at least.

The sun was waning low, and the shadows of the trees were pointing across the river. The clouds in the west gathered themselves into all kinds of pictures. There was a fleet of ships, all on fire, in full sail, far out at sea; the fleet dissolved, and a city rose out of its ruins, filled with temples, and domes, and turrets, and divided into streets, up and down which strange and fantastic figures were hurrying. The city vanished, and a pile of huge mountains shot up their rugged peaks, around which golden islands lay anchored, all glowing with light. Away one side, I noticed a grave, corpulent, and shadowy old gentleman, astride an elephant, smoking a pipe, and he puffed himself finally away into the heavens, and I have never seen him since—a solemn warning to persons who use tobacco.

Venison said "we had better hunt up our camping-ground, for his stomach was getting holler, and he wanted to fill it up."

Below us, a sparkling stream put into the river. Just above it, a mile or so, lay a broad lake, which was fed from this same stream—it came in from the wilderness. We started for this lake, and wound our way up this little creek amid the struggling shafts of sunlight that hung over it. The water-fowl were hurrying past us,[Pg 92] towards the same spot, to take up their night's lodging, and we drove flocks of them ahead as we crowded upon them. The dip of our oars echoed among the shadows. We reached our ground, unloaded our gear, and prepared for the night.

Venison directed Jim Buzzard to build a "stack" and get supper. So, a pile of stones was laid up, with a flat one across the top, leaving a hole behind for the smoke to escape. Venison knocked over a gray duck on the lake with his rifle, and it was not long before we had four feet of pickerel and that self-same duck sprawled out on the hot stone, frying.

Venison was rather gloomy. "This," said he, "makes me think of times gone. I used to camp here all alone, years ago, when there warn't no settlers for miles. I used to catch otter and beaver and rat, and sleep out weeks to a time. But the beaver and otter are gone."

"Beaver here?" inquired I.

"Why, not more'n nor a mile or so up this creek, I've killed piles on 'em. Why, I seed a company on 'em, up there, once, of two or three hundred. They com'd down one spring and clear'd off acres of ground that had grown up to birch saplings, that they wanted to build a dam with, and there they let the trees lie until August. Then they started to build their houses all over the low water in the mash—great houses four or five feet through—and they work'd in companies of four or five on a house till they got 'em done. You jist ought to see 'em carry mud and stones between their fore-paws and throat, and see 'em lay it down and slap it with their tails, like men who work with a trowel."

"Well," said I, "about those trees that they cleared off?"[Pg 93]

"When they got 'em done, then they all jined in to build a dam, to raise up the water, so't wouldn't freeze up the doors of their houses. And then there was a time on't. You might see 'em by moonlight, pitching in the trees, and swimming down the stream with 'em, and laying 'em in the current of the creek, like so many boys."

"Pshaw!" said I.

"Yes, sir! I seed one night a lot of beavers drawing one of the biggest trees they had cut. It was more'n six inches through. They got it part over the bank, when it stuck fast. Jest the top of the tree was in the water, and there were four or five on 'em sousing round in the water, pulling this way and that, and as many more on the bank jerking at it, until byme-by it went in kerswash; the beavers all took hold on't, then, and towed it to the dam."

"And so they really built a dam?"

"A dam three feet high, and forty or fifty long—all laid up with birch trees, and mud and stones, so tight 'tain't gone yet. The beaver have gone long ago, but the dam hain't."

"How did you catch 'em?" said I.

"When the fur is good, in the winter, we jest went round with our ice-chisels and knocked their houses to pieces, when away they would go for their washes, as we used to call 'em, where we fastened 'em in and catch'd 'em."

"Washes? what are they?" inquired I.

"Holes the beavers dig in the bank, partly under water, where they can run in and breathe without being seen."

Venison was going on to tell me how many beaver[Pg 94] skins he got, but the duck and fish were done, and had been divided up by Jim Buzzard, and handsomely laid out on a piece of clean bark, ready to eat.

We ranged ourselves in a row, squat upon the ground like so many Turks, drew our hunting-knives, and went to work. I looked out upon the lake that lay like a looking-glass, draped with gauze, at my feet. Day was dying over it like a strain of music. One slender bar of light lay trembling along its eastern shore. By and by it crept up the bank; from that to a mound behind, and from which it took a leap to a hill a mile distant, where it faded and faded into twilight. The water-fowl were screaming among the flags, and I noticed a belated hawk winging his way through the air on high, to his home in the forest. I could almost hear the winnowing of his wings in the silent sky. A chick-a-dee-dee came bobbing and winding down an oak near me, for the purpose of coaxing a supper. The trees began to assume uncertain shapes—the arms of the oaks stretched out longer and longer. The new moon grew brighter and brighter in the west. There it hung, looking down into the lake. The river sent up its hollow roar, the mists settled thicker and thicker, and solemn night at last came down over the wilderness.

After I had finished my watch of departing day, I looked around for my company. "Jim" had been stuffing himself for the last half hour, until he had grown as stupid as an over-fed anaconda. His jaws were moving very slowly over the bone of a duck—his eyes were drowsy—and every now and then he heaved a long-drawn sigh—a kind of melancholy groan over his inability to eat any more.[Pg 95]

Venison said "we must build up our night fire to keep off the varmints," and accordingly we reared a pile of brush of logs, set it a-going, made up our bed of withered leaves, ranged ourselves in a circle with our feet turned to the blaze, and were soon lost in sleep.

Morn broke over us lovely as ever. As the first gray streaks began to melt away, Venison roused up to get a deer for breakfast. We went out on to a run-way, hid ourselves in the bushes, and soon a large buck, his antlers swung aloft, came snuffing and cracking along over the leaves, on his way to the lake to take his morning drink. Pop! and over he went, and soon his "saddles" were taken out and carried into camp, our stack started, and breakfast prepared.

Another day was loitered away among the fish—another day, beautiful as the last, we floated over the lake, and threaded the stream that poured into it. At night we found ourselves safely moored at Puddleford, our boat loaded with fish, and my soul filled with a thousand beautiful pictures of nature, that hang there winter and summer, as bright and lovely as life itself.

[Pg 96]


Educational Efforts.—Squire Longbow's "Notis."—"The Saterday Nite."—Ike and the Squire.—Various Remarks to the Point.—Mrs. Fizzle and the Temperance Question.—Collection taken.—General Result.

There has been much written in the world about the benefits of education. I am very sure that its importance was not overlooked in Puddleford. I cannot say that the village has ever produced giants in literature, but it has produced great men, comparatively speaking and judging, and very great if we take the opinion of the Puddlefordians themselves. Somebody once said that "in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed are monarchs," and I suppose it was upon this principle, if we give the maxim a literal construction, that Squire Longbow, who had lost an eye, as the reader may recollect, had become elevated to such a pitch among his neighbors.

Education, in almost every western community, stands at about a certain level among the masses. That level changes with changing generations, but very seldom among individuals of the same. I ought perhaps to exclude the Squire, who was an exception to all general rules, and would have undoubtedly distinguished himself anywhere and under any circumstances. The children of the pioneer, or a portion of them, receive educational[Pg 97] advantages, which had been denied the father, and their children still greater, until at last the polished statue rises out of the marble in the quarry.

But there were efforts making at Puddleford, about the time I allude to, to increase the common stock of knowledge, and keep up the general reputation of Puddleford with that of the world, which ought not to pass unnoticed.

One day in November, I discovered the following notice posted up in the streets, and nailed to several trees adjacent to the highways in the country:—


"To all it may konsarn—men, wimmin, and their children. Whareas, edication, and knowlidg of all sorts, is very likely to run down in all knew countrys, owin to a great manny reasons that aint propper to go into this ere notis—and whareas many of the habitants of Puddleford and the circumjacint country all round bout it, are in danger of suffering that way—And whareas a few of us leading men have thot on the matter, and concluded that sumthing must very soon be did, or til be too late—therefore a meeting will be held at the log-chapel next Saterday nite, to raise up the karacter of the people in this respect.


'Squire Longbow And others.'"

On the "Saterday nite," mentioned in the above "notis," I attended at the log-chapel, for the purpose of raising up the "karacter of the people." The gathering[Pg 98] was large—made up of men and women, and quite a number were in from the country. Squire Longbow, the "Colonel," "Stub Bulliphant" the landlord of the Eagle, Ike Turtle the pettifogger, Sile Bates his opponent, Charity Beadle, Philista Filkins, "Aunt Graves," "Sister Abigail," Sonora Brown, and a large number of others, made up the meeting. It was very evident that something would be done. Pretty soon Ike Turtle rose, gave a loud rap with his fist on the side of the house, and said it was "high time this ere body came to order, and he would nominate Squire Longbow for President."

"You've heerd the nomination," continued the Squire, rising slowly from his seat in another part of the house. "You who are in my favor say Ay!"

"Ay!" exclaimed the house.

"Clear vote—no use in putting the noes;" and Squire Longbow took his stand in the pulpit, and proceeded:—

"Feller-citizens, ladies and gentlemen, all on you who are here, just keep still while I thank you. We have cum up here on a pretty big business—neither more nor less than edication. P'raps you don't all on you know that edication makes everybody and everything—it made our forefathers, it made some of us, and is a going to make our children, if we do our duty. You have made me President on this occasion, and it is my duty to thank you, and feller-citizens, you don't, you can't, no man can tell how I feel when—"

Here Ike Turtle rose. "Squire Longbow," said Ike, "arn't it rather on-parliamentary to be speaking when you hain't got no secretary to take things down?"

The Squire was thunderstruck. "No secretary!" he exclaimed, "no secretary! all void! but I'll appoint Sile[Pg 99] Bates secretary tunk pro nunck (nunc pro tunc), as we say in law, and that'll save proceedings—and as I was saying," continued the Squire, "no man can tell how I feel, pressed down as I am with the responsibility that you have thrown on to me." The Squire then took his seat.

Ike Turtle rose again to state the object of the meeting. He said "he was an old residenter, and he had in fact grown up with the country. He had seed everything go ahead except edication. Taking out the President, members of the larned professions, the school-master, and the man who tended Clewes' grocery, there warn't hardly a person of edication left. Now," continued Ike, warming up, "this shouldn't orter be—we should all set about de tar mined to do something ('Amen!' groaned Father Beals.) Why, if it looks dark, feller-citizens, remember the dark days of the revolution, when the soldiers went roaming about, with a piece of corn-bread in one hand, nothing in t'other, with ragged uniforms on, and little or no breeches, yet all the while busting with patriotism. Jest turn your eyes backwards on to them times, and you'll think you're in paradise. Something's got to be did for edication. We've got to have a Lyceum, a library, and lecters on all the subjects of the day. (Here 'Aunt Graves' gave a groan, as she expected all this would be accomplished by taxation.) Don't groan over yender," exclaimed Ike, "'taint right to groan at a new thing just a-starting—might as well groan down a child for fear he wouldn't be a man. Yes, they must be had—I say they must! or we'll all run to seed, and die. Why, Christopher Columbus, men and women, how many on you don't know your right hand from your left, scientifically speaking, and byme-by we[Pg 100] shall go to ruin as old Nineveh did. Mr. President, I move that a collection be taken for the gineral purposes of this meeting."

I was a little puzzled to determine whether Ike was serious or not. With all his eccentricities, he was a good citizen, and always put his shoulder to the public wheel. When he made his motion to take up a collection, a dead calm fell upon the audience. After a few moments, Sile Bates rose, and said,—

He "hoped this 'spectable meeting warn't going to Peter-out."

The calm continued. Squire Longbow stepped forward from his seat in the pulpit, and remarked that "he couldn't see what difference it would make a thousand years hence whether they did anything, or whether they didn't."

A man from the country "didn't know what money had to do with edication."

The Colonel said his pockets were "as dry as a powder-house."

One old lady thought "somebody'd have to sign for her 'fore spring."

Aunt Graves thought that "poor folks, who lived on bil'd vittels, hadn't orter be called on."

The hat was, however, passed around, and three dollars and seventy-five cents raised, "for the gineral purposes of the meeting," according to Ike's motion; and I will say here that this amount was appropriated towards the purchase of books for the Puddleford library, which was established at this meeting, and which has now grown into usefulness and importance.

The hat was reached up to the secretary, who gave it[Pg 101] a couple of shakes, declaring at the same time, that he was "happy to say that the public spirit of Puddleford hadn't gin out yet."

Squire Longbow then rose and said, that "some plan must be laid to get up a set of lecters. There were three great sciences, law, preaching, and physic—law consarned property, physic consarned the body, and preaching consarned the soul. These sciences must be scattered, so everybody could enjoy 'em. He could talk on law himself, and Bigelow could on preaching, and physic was understood, any way. There were other subjects which would come up in their order. There was paintin', and poetry, and music—but them warn't of no account in a new country where money was skase. Politics was one of the uncertain sciences, and it didn't do much good to speak on't, any how. A feller might study and study, and just likely as not the next election would blow him into fiddle-strings. Yet politics had got to be had, 'cause that was what kept the country alive, and made liberty grow. Old Gineral Washington himself had a little on't. He said 'twas one etarnal job to start edication, but jist get the thing a-goin once, and it'll move off like ile—it'll run rite off like a steam injin."

Ike said "he know'd a curtain lecter or two might be had," looking round at Stub Bulliphant. "They warn't the worst kind nother. They'd bring a man all up standin', when nothin' else would. He'd seen a fellow cave right in under one on 'em, and come out as cow'd as a whipt spaniel. About lecterin' on politics, he didn't know. He guessed the bushes were a little too thick to talk on that, yet. He hoped the meetin' would speak right out, and 'spress their feelin's, wimmin and all."[Pg 102]

Old Mrs. Fizzle had been watching the movement of this august body for some time, and had thought, several times, that it was her duty to speak. When Ike, therefore, invited "women and all," she concluded to try it. She was a tall, weasel-faced looking person, and belonged to Bigelow's church. She was an out-and-out temperance woman, and had kept all Puddleford hot by her efforts to put down the sale of intoxicating drinks. She was a fiery, nervous, active, good sort of a woman. Mrs. Fizzle rose. She said "she thought she would give this meetin' a piece of her mind, consarnin' things in general. She didn't know but the meetin' was well enough—she liked meetins—she said she didn't care nothin' about politics, never did her any good as she know'd on—she didn't want to hear any lecters any way 'bout that. If some on 'em would talk 'bout temperance, she'd turn out, and give a little something to help the cause along. She said if she really thought that this meetin' could stop Clewes from selling licker, she'd tend it reg'lar."

"Certainly, ma'am," said Ike, rising, and turning his eyes towards Mrs. Fizzle. "We'll put a habus corpus on to him 'fore breakfast to-morrow morning."

Mrs. Fizzle said, "she didn't know what that was, and she didn't care much, if 'twould only hold him tight."

Ike said "it would hold him—couldn't break it no how—it was made by the law to catch just such chaps with."

"Wal," said Mrs. Fizzle, "if the law made it, I'm 'fraid on't. I've hearn tell how folks creep through holes the law leaves. I don't like your scorpus, as you call it."[Pg 103]

Squire Longbow rose. "He felt it his duty to say, that a writ of habus scorpus would hold anything on airth. It was one of the biggest writs in all nater. He could hold all Clewes' grocery with one on 'em. He felt it his duty further to say this as a magistrate, who was bound by his oath to take care of the law."

Mrs. Fizzle "thought that would do. She had great 'spect for the Squire's opinion—and she now thought she'd go in for the meetin'."

Sile Bates said, "for his part, he thought the meetin' was getting a good deal mixed. 'Every tub orter stand on its own bottom,' as the Apostle Paul, Shakspeare, John Bunyan, or some other person said. We can't do everything all at onst; if we try, we can't make the Millennium come until 'tis time for't. We can kinder straighten up matters—hold onto the public morals a little more—and give edication a punch ahead. But who knows anything about the sciences in Puddleford? and who can lecter? 'When the blind lead the blind,' as the newspapers say, 'they all go head over heels into the ditch.' Great Cæsar Augustus, Mr. President, jist think of a lecter on 'stronomy, that etarnal science, which no man can lay his hands on, which the human intellect gets at by figuring. Just think of Bigelow Van Slyck, Ike Turtle, or you, Mr. President, measuring the distance to the stars. Don't it make your head swim, to think on't? He wouldn't say that the Squire couldn't lay down the law for the people, 'cause he made most on't, and ought to know it by heart. (The Squire gave a loud cough, and straightened himself in his seat.) As for licker, he always was agin it, that is, he never touch'd it except in haying, harvesting, husking, and occasionally,[Pg 104] a little along, between, when he didn't feel right. He s'posed he was a strict temperance man—was secretary of a teetotal society once, but it died out for want of funds to keep up lights and fires. He hop'd this meetin' wouldn't get so much on its shoulders, as to break down 'fore it got started."

There were several more speeches and suggestions made. There were two or three on the floor at once, several times, during the progress of business. Order was out of the question. A course of lectures was finally decided upon, and the meeting adjourned. The reader will not forget that the end had in view by this rough, deliberate body was noble; and, in their own way, they moved along steadily towards it. Such a people do not forget their duty, however ludicrously the discharge of it may be at first.

Looking back from the present, over a period of ten years, at the proceedings of this meeting and its results, I feel quite disposed to write down Squire Longbow, Ike Turtle, and Sile Bates, among the philanthropists of the age.

[Pg 105]


Social War.—Longbow, Turtle & Co.—Bird, Swipes, Beagle & Co.—Mrs. Bird.—Mrs. Beagle.—Mrs. Swipes—Turkey and Aristocracy.—Scandal.—Husking-bees, and "such like."—The Calathumpian Band.—The Horse-fiddle.—The Giant Trombone.—The Gyastacutas.—Tuning up.—Unparalleled Effort.—Puddleford still a representative Place.

I have taken the liberty, in the preceding chapters, to speak freely of some of the leading characters of Puddleford. I have alluded to Longbow, Turtle, and Bigelow, not because they were the only people of the village, or the best; but because they were the rudder of society, and steered it along in the same way that ships are guided over stormy waters. Now, there were a great many more very excellent folks, who helped chink in and fill up around these more important personages, and make up an harmonious whole. Zeke Bird, the blacksmith, was one; Tom Beagle, the shoemaker, another; Lem Swipes, the tailor, still another. These men were among the first settlers of Puddleford, and had done as much towards its up-building as any other. They had immigrated from a place in Ohio, and consequently knew something about the world. All three families were cousins, or second cousins, to one another, and they acted in unison upon any public or social question.

They hated, with a supreme hatred, Longbow, Turtle[Pg 106] & Co., because they were "aristocrats." Mrs. Bird, who was a very impulsive, peak-nosed sort of a woman, and who always wore a red flannel petticoat protruding beyond her dress, and her shoes slip-shod, used to often say, "that if there was anything she did despise it was a stick-up. She didn't believe old Mrs. Longbow, or any of her darters, were any better than common folks; and she'd see the whole pack on 'em pumpin' lightning at two cents a clap, before she'd skrouch to 'em!"

Mrs. Beagle was quite a different body. She was not so full of fire and fury as Mrs. Bird. She didn't allow her feelings to get the advantage of her malice. She moved more underground; yet she was always busy pecking away at that "up-street clique," as she called them.

Mrs. Beagle was a neat, tidy body, and wore an air of great sincerity about her face. She used to say that "nothing grieved her so much as to be compelled to believe anything bad 'bout her neighbors," and that "she never spoke of nothing till it got all over, and there warn't no use of holding in any longer." She made it her business to watch the morals and religion of all the Longbows, and Turtleses, and Bateses, and report accordingly. She said "she didn't know but it was all right for a member of the Methodist church, like Miss Lavinia Turtle, to wear three bows to her bonnet on Sunday—she didn't know—she warn't going to say—'haps she hadn't orter say—but the way she looked at religion, 'twas as wicked as Cain—for herself, she made no pretensions, but when folks did, she wanted to see 'em lived up to." She said, "she meant to have Mrs. Bates turned out of the church for riding out on Sunday, for she'd seen her several times with her own eyes, six[Pg 107] miles from town; but she wouldn't speak of it, if it warn't such a scandal on her profession;" besides, she had it from good authority, that "she water'd her milk 'fore she sold it, but she wouldn't say who told her, 'cause she promised not to."

Mrs. Swipes was a fat, blouzy-faced, coarse, ignorant woman, and revenged herself by firing bombshells into the aristocratic camp every opportunity she could get, and cared but little what she said, or whom she hit, if she could only keep the enemy stirred up. "She'd heard that Mrs. Longbow's father got into jail once down in Pennsylvania, and that the hull batch on 'em were as poor as Job's turkey; and that the old Squire himself had a pretty tight nip on't; but his friends bailed him out, and he lean'd for the west. As for Mrs. Bates, she knew she'd lie, right flat out—she'd catch'd her dozens of times; and, of course, Lavinia couldn't be any better—for as the old cock crows, the young one learns. She wouldn't swap characters with any on 'em, not she."

The husbands of these ladies thought just about as much of Longbow & Co. as their wives did. They were an indolent trio, and labored only enough to keep soul and body together. The rest of their time was devoted to the "Eagle tavern," street-lounging, and commentaries upon the daily developments of the aristocracy. Each one of the families of these cliques were social centres, around which others revolved, and drew all their light and heat. And then there were still other families, away down below the Birds and Beagles in the scale of respectability, who were ever warring upon them, proving

"That fleas have other fleas to bite 'em,
And so on, ad infinitum."
[Pg 108]

I recollect attending a party, one evening during the winter, at Bird's, when the aristocracy took a regular broadside fire. It seemed that Longbow, some days previous, had a turkey on his table for dinner, which roused up all the wrath of his adversaries. Mrs. Bird said, "she really s'posed that he thought poor people couldn't have such things; but she'd let him know she'd lived on' turkeys before he ever know'd there was such a thing—and she had good sass with 'em too. Mrs. Longbow," she said, "cooked it for nothing in the world but to make her knuckle to her; but she'd never give in as long as she drew the breath of life—that she wouldn't!"

Mrs. Sonora Brown said, "that warn't all—Longbow had bo't a bran new carpet for down-stairs, and used sales-molasses for common, eenamost every day—and the clark in Clewes' grocery had got a goin' arter Lavinny every night—and Mrs. Longbow had got mift at Mrs. Weazel, because Weazel said he wouldn't stand any more of Longbow's decisions—and they'd got a burning sperm ile in the house instead-er taller—and they were a puttin' on the drefulest sight of airs, old woman and all, that ever was seen."

Mrs. Beagle said "it was all true about the ile—she see'd it burn through the winder—and she'd seen a great many more things through the winder—but she warn't a going to tell what they were!"

Mrs. Sonora Brown threw up her hands in horror, and said, "she had always suspected it, but darsn't say so."

"O, shaw!" exclaimed Mrs. Beagle; "that's nothing to Bates' wife; she walks out arm-in-arm in broad daylight with her cousin that's been sneaking round there on a visit." She said, "Puddleford used to be a 'spectable[Pg 109] village, but there warn't any morals any more since these high-flyers had got into it—and she guess'd Bates' wife was flaring out, and trading at the stores as much as Longbow."

Mr. Bird very grumly said, "he'd better hold in, for if he didn't hist a little note he had again' him 'fore long, he'd sue him to judgment, and level an execution on everything he had, and clean him out."

A yellow-looking woman, who sat in the corner, and who had just before remarked that "she'd had the shakin' ager onto her all winter," wanted to know if "the new marchant was going to jine the upper crust, or be one of our folks."

It was not long, however, before all were rattling away together, so that nothing but the emphatic words could be distinguished. Artillery, fire-arms, and all, were blazing. Such a scorching as the aristocracy received had hardly ever been equalled.

Longbow & Co. did not care for their enemies. They rather felt proud of the notice bestowed upon them. Ike Turtle used to say, "'twas fun to stand and take the fire of fools;" but Squire Longbow's dignity was so profound, that he never permitted himself to know that there was really any war going on.

Society in the country, among the farmers, was quite another thing. Puddleford village had a country, and village pride looked down upon it, just as it does in larger places. The amusements and frolics of the country were more simple and hearty. In the winter, husking-bees, apple-parings, and house-warmings were held every week at some of the farm-houses. Great piles of corn were stacked up in barn, the girls and boys invited[Pg 110] in for miles around, long poles run through strung with lanterns, and the husking rushed through, 'mid songs and jokes. Then all hands adjourned to the house, and drank "hot stuff," ate nuts, and played games, and stormed around, until they started the very shingles on the roof; while the great fireplace, piled up with logs into the very throat of the chimney, shook its shadows around the room in defiance of the winds that roared without.

Now and then the country quality held a regular blow-out at Bulliphant's tavern. On these occasions, dancing commenced at two in the afternoon, and ended at daylight next morning. Dry goods and perfumery suffered about those days. The girls and boys dressed their hair with oil of cinnamon and wintergreen, and the Eagle smelt like an essence shop. It fairly overpowered the stench of Bulliphant's whiskey-bottles. Every one rigged out to within an inch of their lives. The girls wore ruffles on their pantalets frizzled down over their shoes, nearly concealing the whole foot; and all kinds and colors of ribbons streamed from their heads and waists. The "boys" mounted shirt-collars without regard to expense, and flaunted out their brass breast-pins, two or more to each, with several feet of watch-chain jingling in front. The landlord of the Eagle termed these gatherings his "winter harvest."

Another amusement, frequent in the country, was the turnout of the "Calathumpian Band." The band, I am aware, did not originate with Puddleford. Newly-married couples were serenaded before it ever had an existence there. But this band was one of the very finest specimens. No one knew exactly who its members were;[Pg 111] but they were always on hand, soon after a wedding, in full uniform, with all their instruments in order. It was organized when the country was very new, and was, at the period I refer to, in the highest state of prosperity.

One of its instruments was called the "horse-fiddle;" another the "giant trombone;" another the "gyastacutas." The "horse-fiddle" was two enormous bows, made of hoops, heavily stringed and rosined, with a beef-bladder, fully inflated, pushed between the string and the bow. The "great trombone" was a dry goods box, turned bottom-side up, and was played upon with a scantling eight or ten feet long. The edge of the box and the scantling were rosined, and it was worked by two men sawing up and down. The "gyastacutas" was a nail keg, with a raw hide strained over it, like a drum-head, and inside of the keg, attached to the centre of this drum-head, a string hung, with which this instrument was worked by pulling in the string and "let fly."

Besides all these, the band were supplied with dinner horns, conch-shells, sleigh-bells, and sometimes guns and pistols.

It assembled, usually about eleven o'clock at night, around the quarters of the newly-married couple, and within a day or two after marriage. Its members were dressed up like an army of scare-crows. Some wore their shirts outside, some their coats and vests buttoned behind, and some were attired in female dress. Its leader marched and countermarched this strange medley, and announced and conducted all the music. The band never moved without orders—it was thoroughly disciplined.[Pg 112]

The instruments were first put in tune. The trombone gave out a low and heavy growl—the "gyastacutas," a bung! the horse-fiddle sullenly replied—a chink-chink from a few pairs of bells, and a toot-e-toot from the horns and shells, showed the blast was near at hand.

And such a blast! The infernal regions could not equal it. It roared and echoed for miles around. It fairly tore out the inside of one's head. The cows bellowed and the dogs barked, honestly believing that the dissolution of all things was at hand. The whole surrounding population roused up, for no person pretended to sleep when the Great Calathumpian Band was assembled.

The reader must not suppose that this band was a mere congregation of boys. Not by any means; it was one of the institutions of the country—one of the public amusements of the day, and was patronized by young and old. Men had lived and died members of the Calathumpian Band, and are remembered in Puddleford for this, if nothing else.

It is said that the songs and the amusements of a people determine their character. If this be true, the reader can judge something of the country population about Puddleford from the little sketch I have given of them. The amusements of the villagers themselves were quite miscellaneous. The "aristocracy," as Bird & Co. termed them, gathered every night at the Eagle, where they played cards, checkers, backgammon, made bets, discussed the affairs of the nation and the private affairs of their neighbors, drank a little whiskey, and went home at eleven or twelve o'clock deeply impressed with their own importance. Bulliphant's bar-room was their centre[Pg 113] of gravity, and it was a matter of deep concern, if any member of the club was not found in his accustomed place. Longbow, Turtle, and Bates had actually unseated several pairs of pantaloons on the landlord's chairs, which proved clearly enough that they were faithful members.

Important business was transacted by this club. It made all the justices of the peace, constables, school inspectors, &c., &c., and was a controlling clique, in all political matters, within the township.

The reader discerns that Puddleford, in most respects, was like other places. It had its divisions in society, its importance, its pomp and show, and relatively speaking, its aristocracy. It played through the same farce in a small way that larger places do on a more extended plan. Longbow felt just as omnipotent, walking up and down the streets of Puddleford, as the tallest grandee treading a city pavement. The scale of greatness was not as long in his village, but he stood as high on it as any other man in the world on his—and so long as he headed his own scale, it mattered but little to him where the "rest of mankind" were.

It must have been a very remarkable character who once said, "human nature is always the same"—that the only difference in human pride and folly is one of degree. And I really hope there are none of my readers who feel disposed to look down upon Puddleford with contempt, because I have presented a few personages who have innocently caricatured what others daily practise, who have been polished in the very laboratory of fashion. Puddleford ought not, for that reason, to be condemned.[Pg 114]

It seems to me that it may, on the contrary, be a lesson to such, because it makes a burlesque of itself in chasing folly. Puddleford is a great looking-glass, which reflects the faces of almost every person who looks into it, and proves, what that remarkable character said, "that human nature is always the same."

[Pg 115]


Puddleford and Politics.—Higgins against Wiggins.—The Candidates' Personale.—Their Platforms.—Delicate Questions.—Stump Speaking.—Wiggins on Higgins.—Impertinent Interruptions.—Higgins on Wiggins.—Ike Turtle not dead yet.—Commotion.—Squire Longbow restores Order.—Grand Stroke of Policy.—The Roast Ox at Gillett's Corners.

Puddleford was famous for its political excitements, and so indeed is a new country generally. Its people watched the altar of liberty with an "eternal vigilance." The qualifications of all persons, from a candidate for the presidency down to township constable, were thoroughly canvassed by the electors. What might be a qualification for office in Puddleford, might disqualify in another region, but we cannot expect that all men will think alike. We must not forget that office meant something in Puddleford—that it conferred honor on the man, whether the man conferred honor on it or not. A highway commissioner, or overseer of the poor, was a character looked up to, and a supervisor or justice were the oracles of their neighborhood.

The merits and demerits of candidates were freely discussed at public meetings, held most usually in the open air, and composed of all parties. Aspirants for public favor, who were opposed to each other, met and made and answered arguments. All things in the "heavens[Pg 116] above and the earth beneath," were raked up and presented at these gatherings. The creation of the world—Adam and Eve—Cain—Jerusalem—Greece and Rome—the revolution, and the last war, were dragged into speeches, and made material for electioneering.

In the fall, subsequently to my settlement, Higgins ran against Wiggins for member of the legislature. It was said that this was one of the most exciting contests that Puddleford ever experienced. Every man, woman, and child were enlisted. The "Higgins" men didn't speak to the "Wiggins" men, nor the "Wiggins" men to the "Higgins" men, for more than two months, and the opposing families absolutely refused to visit.

Wiggins was a little, waspish man, who lived in the country, and was called a "forehanded" farmer. He had been a justice of the peace in Cattaraugus county, State of New York, and thought as much of himself as he did of any other person living. He had a small, withered face, which looked like a frost-bitten apple, red hair, and a quick, restless eye. He was a violent politician, a shrewd manager, had a keen insight of human nature, some humor; and was and always had been a red-hot democrat. He rafted lumber for several years on the Susquehanna, where he received the greater part of his education. He could write his name, and had been known to attempt a letter, but no one was ever yet found who could read his correspondence. His orthography was decidedly bad. He spelled in a sort of short-hand way, which was not so objectionable, after all, as his language usually conveyed the pronunciation of the words intended. "Il" was used for "ile" or "oil;" "hos" stood for "horse;" "kanderdit for ofis," for "candidate[Pg 117] for office," and so on. His extemporaneous speaking was quite tolerable, and it was this gift which had given him notoriety.

Higgins was a man much after the sort of Wiggins, in many respects, though not altogether. He was a violent whig, and talked incessantly about his "glorious party." He was a large, tall, broad-breasted fellow, ignorant, cunning, and cut something of a swagger wherever he went. He drank whiskey, chewed a paper of fine-cut every day, read the newspapers, cursed the locofocos, prognosticated the downfall of the country, and pledged himself to die game, let what would happen.

These candidates for office had a "platform," a part of which was intended for Puddleford, and a part for their common country—some planks of which were thrown in merely to catch votes, and some for future fame. Wiggins said he was for "giving immortal man full swing inter all things, and letting his natur fly loose like the winds." He was "for driving the American eagle inter every land, whether she'd go or not." He was "for a railroad and canal straight thro' Puddleford, to be built by the state, under the penalty of a revolution." He was "agin rich men everywhere, for they trampled down the poor." He was "for upsetting Longbow and his clique, and declared he would bring in a bill, if elected, that would blow the whole set out of sight." He was for "easy times," "plenty of cash," "little or no work," "good crops," and everything else the people wanted.

Higgins was for "breaking down, and scat'ring locofocos everywhere." He went "for everything that's right, and agin everything that's wrong." He was[Pg 118] for "beating Wiggins." He could "show that he hadn't patriotism enough to keep the breath warm in a four year old child! there warn't a spark of American glory in him. He wanted to sell out the whole country to the British, and would if elected! Besides, he kicked up a fuss in Bigelow's church, about the doctrines preached, and damaged religion." Higgins, it seemed to me, based his success upon the supposed unpopularity of Wiggins, and not upon any political principles of his own, while Wiggins relied upon the great fundamental truths that were shadowed forth in his platform.

There were other questions which agitated the populace of Puddleford and its county, such as the sale of liquor, the removal of the Indians, &c., &c., which both Higgins and Wiggins touched very tenderly, because it became necessary to advocate both sides, sometimes for and sometimes against, according to the views of those persons who happened at the time to be soliciting information.

During the fall, I had the pleasure of hearing these two rival aspirants for office define their position before the people. The gathering was in a grove, very large for a new country, and made up of men, women, and children. Flags and inscriptions were flying here and there, some for Higgins and some for Wiggins, and every person was as brimful of patriotism as he could hold.

Wiggins rose, and presented himself on a high platform that had been erected for the occasion, pulled up his collar, buttoned his coat, coughed a few times, and then took a leisurely survey of the crowd. "Feller citizens! men and women!" said he, "there is going[Pg 119] to be an election, and I'm a-goin to run for office. Not that I care anything about the office itself, for I don't, a tinker's ladle, but I want to beat Higgins, who never ought to be trusted with the liberties of any people, and I'm willing to sacrifice something to do it. Feller citizens! I want to have you recollect where Higgins lives—at 'Satan's Half Acre!'—where they don't have any Fourth of July; no Sunday school, only about two months a year; and the same place, feller citizens, where they mobbed the temperance lecturer, and swore they'd drink streak-lightning if they were a-min-to! (Great applause, and cheers for Wiggins, mingled with oaths and hisses from Higgins' friends.) Feller citizens, Higgins is a leading man there, and accountable for all this; and if he is elected, we shall indorse all these doings."—A man from the "Half Acre," one of Higgins' friends, rose, and said he'd take the liberty of saying that was an "infarnal lie." Wiggins replied, by inquiring "if the meeting would see free discussion gagged down, here, in the presence of the immortal Washington, who, he hoped, was looking down on-to us!" whereupon the unfortunate man was pitched, headlong, out of the crowd. "Arter having looked at where Higgins lives," continued Wiggins, "look at Higgins himself! what is he? what does he know? what can he do? Why, feller citizens, he was born down somewhere in a place so small, that it ain't on the map, and started life by tending a lime-kiln; but he broke down in this business, and was discharged. He next tried to go to school, but there warn't any class low down enough to get him into. He then tried hoss doct'ring; and you, feller citizens, know when a man turns[Pg 120] out good-for-nothing, he goes rite into the larned professions. He tried hoss doct'ring! and, after laying out ten or a dozen of those noble animals inter the cold embrace of death (applause), he ran away to get rid of a summons that was clus arter him! Then he fiddled for a while winters, and laid off summers; then he druv stage, then he got-tor-be captain of a raft, his first office; but he stranded her, and she's never been got off yet. At last, he went to 'Satan's Half Acre,' where he thinks he ain't known, and actually, feller citizens, has the impudence to come up for office. (Great applause.)

"Now," continued Wiggins, "having disposed of Higgins, I am going to launch out on the great political questions of the day—questions that swell up in me, and fairly make me tremble all over, to think on. We've a mighty sight to do, to take care of them liberties that was 'queathed to us by Gen'ral Washington, jest before he died. The old hero know'd he was a-going, but afore he went, he give us our liberty, and said all that he asked on us was to take care on it, and not let anybody steal or coax it away from us, but always hold on to it like a dog to a root. If it hadn't been for our party," exclaimed Wiggins, in a loud voice, "that great American eagle that has flew'd so long, and kivered our juvenil' years with his wings—that eagle, feller citizens, that sleeps on the ragin tornado, and warms himself in the sun—that eagle, I say—that eagle! eagle! would now be as dead as a smelt, lying on his back, a-groaning for help. (Great applause, and three cheers.) (Wiggins said he hoped the audience would hold in their manifestations of applause as much as they could, as it scattered his thoughts.) The fust whig," continued Wiggins, "that[Pg 121] we have any notis' on in his'try, is the old feller with tail and horns, who goes to and fro, up and down the airth; and he, you know, stole all-er Job's property, killed off his children, and came pretty near killing the old man himself. The next was John Adams, who didn't want anybody to come into the country, nor say nothing after they had got here. He, feller citizens, was for exploding all the glories of natur, and drying up the etarnal fountains of hope and consolation—for turning man back again into the regions of confusion, where all is night and misery! (Very great applause, followed by a flight of hats in the air.) The next whig was everybody that supported old John, such as Higgins and his party.

"Now, feller citizens, what's the reason you hain't got any more money? It's because the laws ain't right. Man was born to have enough of everything. This is a big world we live in—it ram'fys itself all round the 'quator, and its mountains diversify themselves into infinity. You own your part on't just as much as the greatest nabob; and all you've got to do is to stand up to the rack, vote for true men, and you'll get it; and it's your duty to rise in your wrath, break the chains of oppression, and declare that you'll never lay down the sword until the last enemy is routed." (More applause.) Here a solemn-faced man rose, and asked Wiggins to define himself on the "licker question." "Thank you, sir," replied Wiggins—"was just comin' to that." "The licker question—the licker question," continued Wiggins, speaking with gravity, for there was a great division of opinion among his hearers on that subject—"the licker question, feller citizens, is a great question.[Pg 122] Some people drink, some don't—some drink a little, some a good deal. The licker question is a question that a great many folks talk about. I talk about it myself, and" (the same man rose again, and ask'd Wiggins if he would "vote agin licker?" Wiggins said "it throw'd him off his balance, to be disturb'd in public speaking")—"everybody know'd how he stood on that pint—he'd never chang'd; he stood where his forefathers did; he went the whole hog on the licker question"—("Which side?" inquired the man.) "Which side? which side?" ejaculated Wiggins: "do you wanter trammel up a free and inderpendent citizen of this mighty republic! How do I know, here, what I shall be called upon to vote for or agin! Ask me to say I'll vote agin something that hain't come up yet! When David knocked over the great giant Goliah, do you 'spose he knew just where he'd throw the stone to hit him." "Yes-sir-ee," exclaimed Higgins, springing on his feet "he did that very thing." Wiggins "hoped order would be preserved. I shall leave to the expansive development of the times," continued Wiggins, his arms flying like a windmill, "the blazing energies of the day, and cling to the constitution till it goes out inter the expiring regions of oblivion." (Three cheers were given.)

Wiggins sat down, evidently quite exhausted; and I noticed that he had made a decided impression. Higgins rose, stripped off his coat and vest, rolled up his shirt-sleeve, stuffed a quarter-paper of tobacco into his cheek, and "ascended the platform." He said he was a humble citizen, and warn't com'd of rich or larned folks—he had tended lime-kiln—he had doctor'd hosses—he had druv stage; and he was goin' to drive and doctor[Pg 123] a jackass. (Much cheering.) He had always worked for his living. He'd give five dollars to any man who'd tell him where Wiggins was born, or show that he ever did anything. He lived on the sweat, and the blood, and the brains of the people. He'd tended grocery, peddled calickers, try'd to talk law once, and was now on a farm, just for appearance' sake. For himself, he was a humble link in the great whig chain. (Ike Turtle said he s'posed he was that link called the swivel.) Higgins, with an affected pleasantry, asked Turtle "how long it was since he run'd away from the State of New York, for debt?" Turtle replied, that "Wiggins ought to know, for he was along with him"—whereupon a tremendous shout was raised in favor of Turtle. Higgins rallied and proceeded. He said "he warn't goin' to talk about the devil, and John Adams—he didn't know nothing about either on 'em—it was entirely agin his religion to speak of such things before such a 'spectable audience. (Some sensation.) What he wanted to do was, to carry the great, etar-nal, glorious principles of his party rite strait inter every mortal being, and save the country, which now lies bleeding at its last gasp." (Ike asked Higgins to "throw him down a bundle of them principles, and if they suited him, he'd take a few.")

Somebody told Turtle to sit down, whereupon Turtle appealed to the crowd, and inquired if they'd see a citizen gagged down. ("No! no!" was the reply.)

Higgins went on. He said Wiggins warn't so near straight on the licker question as his yaller dog at hum, for his dog never got drunk, and Wiggins did, sometimes. ("That's a lie!" exclaimed Wiggins.) "Of[Pg 124] course he'll deny it, feller citizens—I would, if I was in his place—but I, feller citizens, without fear of man, not caring about an election, step forth, and say to you all, in the full blaze of day, that I'll do all for the cause that lies in my power, having in view the interests of everybody in this republic." (Applause.)

Higgins said that "he was sorry to see such a man as Wiggins trying to quote scripter to this audience—a man, feller citizens, is Wiggins—who don't know whether David was the son of Goliah, or Goliah the son of David—a man who don't know whether Paul wrote the book of Genesis, or Genesis the book of Paul—a swearin' man, feller citizens; and yet he talks about Goliah throwing stones at David. (Wiggins wished to correct Higgins—it was the other way—David threw the stone at Goliah.) Howsomever," continued Higgins, "he talks about the stones bein' thrown, and uses the scripters in this way; and arn't it a vile way, feller citizens, to catch your votes—to run himself into the legislater with, where he can knock over the liberties of the country, and make the green fields a howlin' waste again!" (This was followed by very great applause.)

After the applause ceased, Ike Turtle rose with gravity, and reaching forth a bottle towards Higgins, inquired if "he wouldn't have a little, as natur couldn't bear up long under such rackin' thoughts."

Higgins said he didn't believe this free and highly moral and religus audience would long stand a party who'd throw a jug of licker inter their faces.

Turtle replied that it was a mere experiment. He bro't it on purpos to see if there was any place where Wiggins wouldn't drink. (This raised a shout.)[Pg 125]

Wiggins retorted by saying that "he never had made a walking grocery of himself." (Much laughter.)

Turtle "didn't know about that—if he did he carried it inside." The whole meeting finally got into a commotion, each party taking sides. Squire Longbow set up a hue and cry, "In the name of the people of ——," and order was restored. I heard him say, after the crowd had become quiet, "that the constitution guaranteed talking, and altho' he was on t'other side in politics, he must say, as a magistrate, that it guaranteed Higgins the floor, as the great Story decided in his chapter on rows and mobs."

Higgins bowed to Squire Longbow, and proceeded. "I'm not goin' to say much more, and, finally, feller citizens," he continued, "I won't say any more. The audience is so intelligent, understand so well all the principles of gov'ment, from Noah's family that sailed inter the ark, down to the remotest possibility of futer gen'rations—have so weigh'd everything 'longing to 'em, before the morning stars sang, and dirgested it by piece-meal—that it would be an everlasting insult for me to attempt to talk furder—and in conclusion I will say: Three cheers for the dying heroes who got our freedom, and who now lie a-sleeping on the shores of glory!" (Tremendous applause, accompanied by cheers and swinging of hats.)

I have given, I believe, the substance of the first two speeches, but these were only introductory to those that followed. It was expected, when the meeting opened, that the speaking would occupy most of the day, and the specimens which I have reported were merely straws thrown out to determine which way the wind blew. The[Pg 126] real questions at issue were dexterously dodged by sallies of wit and flights of unmeaning bombast.

Wiggins mounted the stand again, and spoke for an hour. He told a large number of humorous stories, and turned their point against Higgins—then he sailed away into the clouds astride a burst of nonsense—then he came down again. At one time, while Wiggins was "cavorting in the upper regions," as Turtle called it, Sile Bates, who was a whig, started to his feet, and placing his closed hand to one eye, and cocking the other, he stared away after him, as earnestly as if he were just passing out of sight. Higgins followed, and the speaking was kept up, alternately, until about four o'clock in the afternoon, when the meeting closed, without either Higgins or Wiggins defining their position, or saying one word indicative of their future political course.

Just as the meeting closed, Ike Turtle, who was the real political manager on the part of the democratic party, rushed up to the speakers' stand, and swinging his hat round, cried out at the top of his lungs, "Feller citizens! The democratic party, knowin' that the speaking would last a good while, and that natur might become exhausted in listenin' and 'tendin' to the duties of our common country, have prepared a roasted ox, down at 'Gillett's Corners' with all the fixins, where we want you all to go, whigs and democrats, both Higgins and Wiggins, and particularly the ladies, who have turned out so nobly—and the young folks can have a dance in the evenin' if they wish."

Here was a stroke of management worth all the speeches of the day. No one suspected that there was a dinner in preparation, and when Ike made the announcement,[Pg 127] there was a shout that came from the heart, and made the woods ring. And the meeting adjourned to "Gillett's Corners."

Several other public political gatherings were held, and a very large amount of breath, time, and eloquence were expended; but the result was the election of Wiggins by a tremendous majority, and I do not now recollect of hearing of an allusion, by him, in the legislature, to any of those "leading measures" that occupied his thoughts on the "stump."

I believe, after all, that the country was very well represented. Wiggins used about as much gas and deception in securing his seat as a New York politician, but not any more; but after he had obtained it, he felt and acted like a representative of the people, who had a reputation of his own to sustain. When I say "well represented," I mean that he did no harm—nor any good either—but always voted right on party questions, because his name began with W, and was nearly the last called—if it had begun with A, he would have ruined himself, and perhaps his country—so true it is that a man's fame or infamy may hang by a single thread.

[Pg 128]


Winter upon us.—The Roosters in the early Morning.—The Blue-Jays and the Squirrels.—The Improvident Turkey.—The Domestic Hearth, and who occupied it.—The Old Dog.—The Blessed Old Mail-Horse.—The Newspapers.—Our Come-to-Tea.—Mrs. Brown, her Arrival and Experiences.—Entrée of Bird, Beagles & Co.—Conflicting Elements, and how Ike Turtle assimilated all.—Gratifying Consequences.

My little family, that I have spoken of, were quietly nestled away in the log hut, and winter was now upon us. The days came and went, and were marked by light and darkness, and our own domestic joys. There were no startling events to disturb any person's serenity—no rise or fall of stocks—no fires—no crashes in business—no downfall of pride—no bustle in the streets about the latest news—no nothing. The world moved on as monotonous as the tick-tick of a clock.

The gray of each morning was first heralded by a famous rooster, which I had imported from the east. He blew his clarion voice at about four, and I used to lie and hear its echoes wander away off through the streets of Puddleford, until they finally expired in the wilderness. He was usually answered by some half-awakened cock, whose drowsy, smothered crow was quite ludicrous. Then he would give another blast—and get, usually, a snappish answer from some quarter, saying as well as it could[Pg 129] be said—"Well, I know it—what of it?" Pretty soon, a braggadocio fellow would belch forth in a coarse, sullen strain—"I've been-up-these-two-hours." This was followed, often, by the cracked voice of some nervous old fellow, away in another direction, declaring, "I rather guess you h—a—i—n—t." And so one after another, strain was added to strain, until the whole orchestra were blowing their horns in the face of opening day.

At sunrise, the blue-jays and other birds gathered about the door and garden, to pick the dry seeds that the weeds were shedding on the earth. What are snow birds? Where do they live? See them chirping in yonder ray of sunlight—darting hither and thither, like motes in a beam of light. See them go whirling through the tempest, like angel spirits, beautiful in the very midst of the storm. What are they? Do they sleep on the wings of the wind, or hide themselves in a scroll of snow? How is it that these little singing harps live on amid such dreary scenes? The blue-jays, however, were very petulant. Their gorgeous summer plumage was exceedingly mussed, and they went about from bush to bush, and tree to tree, screaming and fretting at each other and themselves. They acted like so many Siberian prisoners, who were forced to brave the blasts as the penalty of some crime they had committed.

Sometimes, a keen, frosty night would be succeeded by a still, sunny day, when the eaves pattered their sleepy music, and the cows strayed away into the forest, as though they smelt approaching spring—when the cats flew out of the house, and chased each other up into the trees, and the dog went away by himself, wandering along the river-banks for reasons known only to himself.[Pg 130]

These were visiting days, holidays, jubilee days, for those animals that were housed in trees, and burrowed in the earth. Go forth into the woods. You may, on such a day, see the squirrel push out his head from the door of his castle, where he has been confined for a month, and cautiously look over the landscape—then dart in again. Soon he pushes himself out farther, and farther, and timidly glides down to the foot of the tree. Then he tries the snow, and then again, and finally goes cantering to the nearest stump, and chirruping, up he goes with a flirt, throws his tail over his back, sits down, and breaks forth into a burst of song.

Do you believe that squirrel remembers his last summer rambles in those woods—yon rivulet where he drank, now sleeping beneath its silver frost-work, and chanting its low, muffled dirge—yon icy knoll, that stood, last June, a pyramid of flowers—yon hickory where he harvested his nuts? Is his song for the present or the past?

Look a little farther—the solemn tread of the turkey—who is busy disinterring some of the buried mast of autumn. Such a day is a bright page in the winter life of the turkey. She comes forth from beneath the roots of upturned trees, from thickets or hollow logs, where she has been so long cowering and starving, to hail the blessed warmth. She dreamed away the summer, stalking about from wood to stream, and stream to wood—she passed the provident squirrel often, in October, and saw him roll in his winter stores, but she didn't know why; and now she is shovelling the snow, scattering it right and left with her feet, with a melancholy twit! twit! to get a kernel of bread.

Farther on is a little gorge sloping up from the brook,[Pg 131] and on such days the snows melt off, and the banks grow warm, and the green grass shines as brightly as it did in May. It is soft and spring-like there. The sunbeams seem to be all tangled together in that spot. There are clusters of winter birds sporting in this temple, and occasionally one breaks forth with a note or two of her last June's song, as though she were just twanging her harp to try its strings. They think those tangled sunbeams are the footfall of April, and so they chirrup, and flutter, and bow to them, and seem to ask where gentle May is, and when she is coming with her music and flowers.

Sometimes the fog from the river would freeze upon the trees during a night, and the sun would rise upon a forest all burst out into a white bloom. As the sun rose higher, the little particles glittered and flashed, and then it was a forest of silver—every shrub, every bush, every tree, was silver. The woods were a frozen poem—written in a night by invisible fingers, to be read for an hour or two, and then scattered away in shining scales, forever. These natural changes and beauties were all that there were to attract attention, and arrest our out-door thoughts. How different is all this from the life of a resident of some large city—where the life of a man is read in the street—and where each day shifts its pictures with its revolution, like the changing colors of a kaleidoscope!

In-doors, however, was the domestic hearth. There were joys there that knew no winter. Wife and children—how many? I said three—but were there not more? There was the babe, the creeping infant, the tottering child, in each. The portraits of half a dozen children were daguerreotyped on my soul as I looked at one. But a part were dead!—the babe had died in the infant, and[Pg 132] the infant in the child—not died, either, but one grace had faded into another, one beauty had risen upon the ruins of another, until the child was born where the infant perished, we know not when nor how. Instead of two, I always felt that I had a family of little ones about me.

And then, that old dog that had been with us for years, and shared our fortunes and misfortunes, always the same, under all circumstances—he was one of the family. He used to pioneer the children a half a mile to school, and wag his tail, and bid them "good morning," as he left them at the door. He was also there in waiting, at night, to escort them home again. He used to walk around, over the farm, and examine this thing and that, as though he was half proprietor of the premises. He used to sleep during the long winter evenings by the fire, his nose between his fore paws, his hind legs stretched out full length, and dream of scouring the woods—first a tremor! then a twitch! then a bark, and a leap! and looking up, and finding all a sham, away he would walk under the table, overwhelmed with mortification.

This dog never made any acquaintance among the Puddlefordians, nor their dogs. He always stood aloof on his dignity, and if either approached too near, warned them away with a low growl. He was a noble Newfoundland, and prided himself upon his ancestry.

But there are little threads of beauty that penetrate every household, wherever it may be, and warm the heart. Those thoughts, and kind words, and remembrances, that fly back and forth, hundreds of miles, and keep the poorest hovel all a-glow. They are so many rays that converge there, and make a star. That sleepy old horse that brought in the mail once a week was a blessed old horse,[Pg 133] and bore upon his back treasures that far outweighed gold. That mail-bag, like all mail-bags, was full of passions—love, hatred, and revenge—all kinds of courtesy, civility, politeness, sycophancy—some coarseness and vulgarity, too; and when it burst, like a bomb, in the post-office, it covered some persons with a rainbow light, gave others a cold drench, overpowered still others, and turned many into so many raging madmen. The imprisoned conflicting elements that jogged along up hill and down dale, so cosily on that old horse's back, made strange work when they were let loose.

Mail days were bright days in our calendar. They came only once a week—but that day always brought something. We then sat down, wife, children, and all, and posted up the books of the past. The letters brushed off the dust from the pictures of distant friends that were hanging in our souls—and those pictures talked. Some were sick; some were married; some had gone to one place, some to another. They were sailing on the great current of life as well as we. We were all together, yet apart; and these letters were only a shaking of hands across the flood that divided us—the shuttle that wove our passage into one.

And then the newspapers were something more to us than ever before. The jar and roar of the world, like music, was softened and mellowed by distance. Advertisements grew valuable; and our little daughter Kate absolutely read a patent-medicine notice from end to end without smiling.

During the winter, my wife made a little "come-to-tea" gathering, for the purpose, as she said, of getting "better acquainted with her neighbors." We were living,[Pg 134] as I have stated before, a little out of the village of Puddleford, and our opportunities for seeing its society were not very good. She invited Squire Longbow and wife (of course); Bates and wife; Turtle and wife; Mrs. Sonora Brown, Tom Beagle and his clique—in fact, it was got up "without distinction of party," as our house was neutral ground, never having thus far been the scene of a social fight. I set apart the day to attend to our guests.

The first lady who made her appearance was Mrs. Sonora Brown, who had walked out from Puddleford alone, and who hove in sight, pursuant to her invitation to come to tea, at about two P. M.

The snow was falling fast, and the wind quite rough, but Mrs. Sonora didn't mind that. She was covered with one of those plaid cloaks that were made twenty years ago, had on a pair of heavy brogan boots (sensible woman), a tight hood, and over that a red and white cotton handkerchief tied under her chin. The old lady sailed along through the gale as calmly and stately as a seventy-four. When she reached the door, she rapped and stamped, and gave a loud hawk, all of which she undoubtedly thought ought to announce her presence.

My wife opened the door. "Well," exclaimed Sonora, "you see I've come," giving her cloak a hearty shake, and scattering the snow about her.

"Glad—very glad to see you," replied my wife.

"I know'd you would be—that's just what I told 'em," continued Sonora; "you ain't so dreadfully stuck up out here as some folks tries to make believe, arter all."

"We are like most other people, I suppose," said my wife.[Pg 135]

Sonora took off her hood, when her eyes fell upon me. "So, this your man? I'd hearn tell on him, but never see'd him afore, near by—and there are the children! and that is your big looking-glass they tell'd about! The dear massy on us," she exclaimed, "how nice!"

"Why, Mrs. Brown," said I, "you must recollect me: I was a juryman on the trial between Filkins and Beadle."

"Come to take a good look at you, and so you was; but I was so frustered that day that I didn't know which eend I stood on. How pesky sassy them 'turneys-at-la' are!" continued Mrs. Brown, as she seated herself in the big rocking-chair.

"Mrs. Brown, have you lived long in this country?" I asked.

"Why, bless your soul, yes! Didn't you know that? We come in from the 'Hio twenty years ago, and lived her 'fore there was anybody, nor nothing but bears and catamounts."

"How, in the world, did you manage to get through the country twenty years ago?" I asked.

"Well, it was a pretty orful time," said the old lady; "it almost brings the tears into my eyes now to think on't. There was my husband and four children—Lem and Jim, and Molly and Bessy. Lem was about twenty, and Jim about fifteen, and Molly and Bessy ten and twelve; and we were all piled inter a big cover'd wagon, drawn by two yoke of cattle, with what little furniter we had; and in this kinder way we started for—I didn't know where."

"Where did you eat and sleep?" inquired I.

"We bunk'd in the wagon nights, and camp'd out to eat; and so we travelled for two months."[Pg 136]

"But you got through all safe?" I said.

"No, we didn't," said she, heaving a sigh; "little Bessy died" (she wiped away a tear); "she got the measles somewhere on the road; and everybody was afraid of catchin' on 'em; and nobody would come near us, and so we had to stop and take care of her in the wagon the best way we could. We done all we could think of, but she kept growin' worse and worse, 'till one mornin' she died."

"She died!" I repeated, feeling sad.

"And we had to bury her in a strange place—a high knoll in the woods by the road-side—and go away and leave her there alone. O, Mr. ——," she exclaimed, "I've dream'd a thousand times of that spot in the woods: what wouldn't I give if I could go and find it!"

"What did you do when you first arrived here?" I inquired.

"Why, it was all trees all over, everywhere, then. There warn't any houzens, nor any roads to travel on, nor no white folks but Venison Styles, and some other hunters who are gone away now; nor anything to live on; and nothin' to be heard nights but the varmints screamin'," said Mrs. Brown, laying down her knitting-work, and shoving up her spectacles with a convulsive twitch, for she was getting eloquent. "There warn't a pound of meat for fifty miles round—no pork for love nor money—and so we cut down a place, and built a log shanty, and liv'd on deer meat, for deers were as thick as hops all over."

"And what then?" said I.

"The next spring," she continued, "we cleared a[Pg 137] couple of acres, and put it into taters, turnips, beets, and all kind-er garden sass; and then we girdled the trees on ten or twelve acres more, and in the fall we put this inter wheat, and in a year or so we began to live."

"And that large farm you live on, Mrs. Brown, is the spot you first settled? Where are your children now?"

"They are round yet," said Sonora. "Jim teaches school, and spec'lates, and fiddles some, and can doctor if he likes. Jim is the only genus in our family: he's as smart as litenin'; Lem is more staid and sober-like. He allers took to hum chores, fod'ring cattle, and such like-er things. He married Squire Nolet's darter; and they are pretty big folks—got carpets in their bed-rooms, and all over the house—and he is now settled on a farm out on Horse-Neck Plains; and Jim is now doin' fust-rate."

"What became of Molly?"

"Molly made a bad go on't. She married a trav'ling singing-master—and I do suppose," she exclaimed, "he is one of the most good-for-nothin' dogs in the whole settlement. I don't see how in airth Molly ever took a notion to him: he hain't got no larnin'—he won't work—and I don't like his singin'. I don't see what such critters are made for." (The old lady heaved a long sigh.)

There was a rap at the door, and Mrs. Bird, Mrs. Beagle, and Mrs. Snipes came in. These three ladies were inseparable. They visited together, and warred, as we have seen, upon the "up-street aristocracy" together. Mrs. Bird, who was, as I have stated, a great sozzle about home, was now decked out with as many ribbons and streamers as a Maypole. She had mounted on her back[Pg 138] a most tremendous bustle, and she bowed, and bobbed, and twitched about, as she saluted my wife, with all the airs and friskiness of a young girl. Mrs. Beagle was quite reserved.

"Why, bless you, Mrs. ——, how cold 'tis!" said Mrs. Bird. "My dear husband couldn't hardly think of lettin' me go out. Bird is so particular, and allers so scared for fear'd sunthin' will happen to me. 'Wife,' said Bird to me one day—'wife,' sez he, 'you musn't go out with them are thin shoes on—'t'il be the death on you,' sez he. 'O, shaw!' sez I. 'Bird, you're allers bor'ring trouble.' 'No, I ain't, nother,' sez he. 'Byme-by, you'll get a mortal sickness in your lungs, and it'll run you inter the inflammation, and then you're gone.' But I allers laughs at Bird when he talks so. Why, of all things," continued Mrs. Bird, looking round, if here ain't Mrs. Brown. "Are you well, Aunt Sonora, to-day?"

"Pretty sorter," answered Mrs. Brown.

"Hain't had the rheumatiz, nor shakin' ager, nor any of that buzzing in your head?"

"None to speak on."

"How is your old man, Mrs. Brown?"

"Well, he's gruntin' some—but so's to be about."

"Did he catch that feller who ow'd him and run'd away?"

"Not's I ever heerd on," replied Mrs. Brown.

"Why, what a nice caliker you're got on, Mrs. Brown; was it one-and-three or one-and-six?"

"I b'lieve it was somewher's along there," said Mrs. Brown.

"It's jest like Charity Beadle's, only Charity had hers made up with the figur' runnin' down."[Pg 139]

About sundown, and in the midst of Mrs. Bird's conversation—for her tongue kept in full play—Squire Longbow and wife announced themselves by a rap. Their arrival spiked Mrs. Bird's battery. After making a cold, scornful, and exceedingly low and ironical bow to them, she retired one side with Mrs. Beadle and Mrs. Snipes.

Squire Longbow had on his best rig—a suit of grayish homespun. His shirt-collar was unusually tall, and he had put a double bow-knot in his neckcloth of white cotton. The shade over his lost eye was very clean and bright. He really looked like a Justice.

Longbow said he was glad to get out—that the business of justice was wearin' him to death.

"Much on your mind, Squire, now?" I inquired.

"All the time—all the time sunthin'. There's a pin't of law to be settled in that case 'tween Whippum against Snappett. Snappett's nigger man druv Snappett's cattle over Whippum's dog, and broke Whippum's leg—I mean Whippum's dog's leg; and Whippum's dog's goin' to die—a very valuable dog—cost Whippum six shillings last spring—good for cattle, hogs, anything—children thought a good deal on him; and so Whippum swore Snappett should pay for the dog, if he spent his farm to get it."

"I declare," exclaimed I.

"Yes, he said it in my offis last week; but whether to sue Snappett or the nigger is the p'int. If we sue the nigger, he arn't good; if we sue Snappett, twarn't he that druv the oxen."

"Join the nigger and the white man together in one suit," said I.

"T-h-u-n-der!" exclaimed the Squire, looking wildly at[Pg 140] me—"can't jine niggers and white men together by our constitution—Story's dead agin it. They'd come in on t'other side, and squash everything inter pieces."

"Can it be possible?" said I.

"Yes-sir-ee!" said the Squire; "they would that—and have me 'peal'd up to the higher courts in a jiffy.

"And then," continued the Squire, "Tibbits and Jenkins have got inter trouble. Jenkins got mad at Tibbits 'bout somethin' a while ago, and so he went down to Tibbits' house, his gun on his shoulder, full-er wrath—and spyin' a favorit' cow of Tibbits in the barn-yard, jest drew up, and popped her over—Tibbits run'd out, grabbl'd the gun out of Jenkins' hand, and smashed it up fine on a tree—then they had a fight, and Jenkins bung'd up Tibbits, and Tibbits bung'd up Jenkins, so neither on 'em could see much—now Tibbits wants to bring suit for the value of his cow."

"Do tell now if he does," exclaimed Aunt Sonora, who had been listening to the Squire's story; "I tell'd our folks at hum, yesterday, that I hadn't any doubt but Puddleford would be turned enside out 'bout that."

"Yes!" continued the Squire, "Tibbits wants to bring suit—but I tell'd Tibbits that I wanted to know how much the cow was worth. 'Fourteen dollars,' said he. 'How much was the rifle worth?' ''Bout the same,' said he. 'Jest a set-off,' said I; 'the rifle pays for the cow, and the cow for the rifle.' Tibbits said that warn't la', and swore, and said I should issue the writ. I threatened to commit him for contempt. He said he'd get a ramdamus (mandamus) onter me, and there the matter stands."

"Well," said I, "you do have trouble, Squire—I'd resign."[Pg 141]

"Nobody to fill my place," said the Squire, pushing his arms down into his breeches pockets and stretching out his legs and throwing his eyes up to the ceiling—"nobody that understands the staterts."

"There's Ike Turtle," said I.

"Ike arn't cool enough—it takes a cool man for justis in these parts—a man that arn't afear'd of nothin'."

"Just so," said I. Here was a rap, and Ike Turtle, Mr. and Mrs. Bates, and many others, entered.

We had a house full nearly. The elements, as I have said, were not harmonious. The Birds, and Swipes, and Beagles, and their friends were huddled together by themselves in one part of the room, and Longbow and his friends in another. You might hear whispers and suppressed laughs, and Ohs! and Ahs! from the circle of Mrs. Bird, and side-looks and other manifestations of uneasiness.

Ike Turtle, whose knowledge of human nature was equal to his humor, after eying the group a while, concluded to break into and scatter it, if possible. So turning around—"Mrs. Bird, you look un-comonly well, to-day," he said.

"Think I do," replied Mrs. Bird, pettishly.

"Why, you look as fresh as a new-blown rose."

Mrs. Bird held down her head, and actually appeared confused. Soon she gathered courage to speak. "Why, Mr. Turtle, how can you think so? I'm an old woman."

"Not so old, arter all," said Ike; "you've taken good care of your sperits and complexion."

"Why, Mrs. Bird don't use sperits!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown, looking down over her spectacles, at Ike, with horror.

"Not them kind," said Ike—"but her nat'ral sperits,[Pg 142] I mean. Now," continued Ike, "here's Squire Longbow, past fifty, hearty as a buck, full-er fire, and can kick up his heels as high as his head—all owin' to his sperits. Don't you think so, Mrs. Bird?"

Mrs. Bird said she didn't know much about Squire Longbow.

"O, nonsense now—yes, you do—liv'd neighbor to him in Puddleford these ten years or more. But if there's any doubt about it, I'll just introduce you. Squire Longbow," continued Ike, rising and pointing to Mrs. Bird—"Mrs. Bird—Mrs. Bird, Squire Longbow. And here's Mrs. Beagle and Mrs. Swipes—all of Puddleford—maybe you don't know 'em—all old residenters—come in when the country was new, and have cut their own fodder ever since."

The Squire rose, bowed, and said—he "know'd 'em all, and was glad to meet 'em looking so fust rate."

"Now," said Ike, "I've introduced you, enjoy yourselves."

This movement of Ike's broke the ice. The clique relaxed their brows, and conversation grew more general.

"Is Lavinny at school this winter?" inquired Mrs. Beagles of the Squire.

"Yes, marm, she is—studying 'stronomy—got inter the fix'd stars last week—and will be onter Capercorn, byme-by."

"Bless my soul!" exclaimed Aunt Sonora, her knitting-needles rattling with surprise, "how did she get out—got into the stars?"

"Yes, marm," continued the Squire, "she larned herself inter 'em—and she knows all 'bout 'em—what they're there for—and who put 'em there—jest as[Pg 143] much as though she'd lived six months on the spot. And then, Mrs. Beagle, she's up to her eyes in hist'ry. She talks 'bout the Cæsars and 'Gustuses jest as though she'd allers know'd 'em. Tells all about how Christopher Columbus came over with the Puritans and settled onter Plymouth rock, 'cause Richard Third, king-er Spain, got mad at 'em, 'cause they would kiss the Pope's toe."

"Dear me suz, I wanter know," exclaimed Mrs. Brown again.

"And then she's at the head in the gography class—she's draw'd a map of the Cannibal Islands—and on one on 'em, Capt'n Cook lies with his head off, crying for marcy—and she says, down onter the squator it don't never snow, nor nothin', and it's hotter than blue-blazes, in the winter—and when it thunders and litenins, it tears everything inter pieces—she's goin' ahead wonderfully, Mrs. Beagle."

"Well, now, that is satisfying," said Mrs. Beagle. "It does one so much good to see one's children get larnin'!"

"That's just what I tell'd Mr. Brown when Jim was first born," said Aunt Sonora. "I tell'd him the boy had genus, for there never was one of our family that didn't. 'But you've got-ter give him schooling,' said I, 'to bring it out.' And so he did—and you orter to have see'd how he run'd to books and newspapers. When he was fifteen, he tell'd the old man, as he called his father, he orter to go to district-school—(he was a wonderful boy; know'd everything, then)—that he was way ahind the age. Then he went off a roamin', a seekin' his fortin'—and when he com'd back, nobody would know'd him—he was so improved—he fling'd his legs onter to the stove, and smoked and chewed, and talk'd[Pg 144] about furrin parts—and didn't take any notice of the old man—said how the old man didn't know nothin'—(warn't he genus, Squire Longbow?)—he wouldn't work any, because he said genuses never work'd—that they wouldn't be genuses if they did—he made the old man give him a fast horse, and a p'inter dog, and a gun, all kivered with silver plates, and then he rid, and hunted, and courted—(warn't he genus?)—he courted Squire Boson's darter, and Mr. Fogg's two darters, and all the gals in the western settlement, till he finally settled down, as I was tellin' Mr. —— a while ago, into jest as much of a genus as ever—the dear massy on us, what won't larnin' do?"

"'S'prisin' boy," answered the Squire.

The conversation ran on about everything, until Ike had really broken up the clique of Bird & Co., and one would have thought there never had been a social war in Puddleford. There never lived a mortal, I believe, who could hold out against the humor of Ike Turtle. He magnetized all who came within his influence. He was shrewd, keen, far-seeing, full of good sense, and had a stock of fun that was positively inexhaustible. Ike, in reality, never cared about the antipathy of Bird, Beagle & Co.—all their malice and slander had never "ruffled a feather," as he used to say. He was amusing himself in the experiments he had been making to bring the factions together; but he did not in fact care whether they ever came together or not.

About nine o'clock in the evening, and after "supper," as Mrs. Sonora called it, had passed off, Ike inquired of me if my fiddle was in the house, as he intended to have Squire Longbow, Aunt Sonora, Mrs. Bird, Swipes, and "all hands," dancing before the company broke up.[Pg 145]

The fiddle was produced—rather an asthmatic instrument—that strayed into the country among my lumber, and was somewhat out of order. Ike tinkered it up with his jack-knife, until it finally emitted a few strains of something like music. He then played "Over the Hills," "Fisher's Hornpipe," and several other lively airs, until old Squire Longbow unconsciously began to rap the time with his heels, and Mrs. Bird to grow quite nettlesome.

Ike finally bowed himself up to Mrs. Bird, sawing away all the time on his fiddle—and declared that "nothing on airth would do him so much good as a country dance, and she must consent to walk straight out without wincing." Mrs. Bird looked pleased and provoked, by turns, but she finally took Ike's arm, and was duly placed on the floor. Squire Longbow and Mrs. Sonora were next hauled out by Ike; Mrs. Swipes and Sile Bates, and so on, until he had united (with the exception of Squire Longbow and partner) the most discordant elements of Puddleford.

The dance opened, Ike himself fiddling, shuffling, and calling off. He and Mrs. Bird went down in the middle, up outside, and crossed over, Ike's feet playing all the while like drum-sticks to the music of "Fisher's Hornpipe," which he was sawing off with inconceivable rapidity, while Mrs. Bird followed after him, panting and blowing, without much regard to time or tune.

Squire Longbow and Mrs. Sonora trotted through their parts—Mrs. Sonora having declared, before she took the floor, "that she never was one of them are dancing critters, but she'd try and hobble through the figger the best she could."

By and by the general "wind-up" came, when "all[Pg 146] hands" went into it heart and soul. Ike's fiddle, and Ike's voice, and the pattering of feet, were all that was heard. "Right and left!" "Cross over!" "Don't run agin Mrs. Bird, Squire Longbow!" "A leetle faster, Mrs. Swipes!" "Pardners keep clus arter one another!" "Don't cave!" "Not quite so much cavortin' down thar!" exclaimed Ike, giving expression to his words with his bow, when at last he drew the whole to a close by a long, high squeak, and the company rushed to their seats puffing, and covered with perspiration.

This movement of Ike's was a masterly performance. He had actually danced with Mrs. Bird, one of his bitterest enemies. He had melted the two hostile cliques of Puddleford into one. His flattery and music had accomplished this, and it was productive of lasting good, for the war from this time began to decline in Puddleford, and the hostile cliques were finally dissolved.

Perhaps the reader is disposed to smile at my description of a Puddleford tea-party. Perhaps he thinks the ingenuousness of Aunt Sonora, the free-and-easy humor of Ike Turtle, the peevish jealousy of Mrs. Bird, are the fruit simply of what he terms "western vulgarity." Don't be too fast, my friend. You belong, perhaps, to a society that wears a mask—made up, nevertheless, of "envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness." Your Mrs. Bird is just as jealous, but for another reason, and with this difference, too, that she can smile upon her bitterest enemy, when and where the rules of fashionable life demand it. You've got a Squire Longbow or two with you in all probability—not dressed in homespun, but "broadcloth"—one who has been favored by fortune,[Pg 147] and no god beside—one who hums and haws, and looks as wise and solemn as an owl, and to whom, perhaps, you unconsciously pay homage. We are all alike, dear reader—we look at your society through the telescope of education and refinement—at Puddleford, with the naked eye.

[Pg 148]


Mrs. Longbow taken sick.—General Interest.—Dr. Teazle.—His Visit.—"The Rattles."—Scientific Diagnosis.—A Prescription.—Short and Dr. Dobbs.—"Pantod of the Heart."—Dismissal of Teazle.—Installation of Dobbs.—"Scyller and Charabides."—Ike's Views.—The Colonel's.—Bates's.—Mrs. Longbow dies.—Who killed her: conflicting Opinions.—Her Funeral.—Bigelow Van Slyck's Sermon.—Interment.

Not long after this jolly little gathering at my house, I heard that Mrs. Longbow was sick. Her symptoms were very alarming, and, as she was the wife of Squire Longbow, and as the Squire was the man of Puddleford, her critical condition was a matter of public concern.

"What is the matter with Squire Longbow's woman?" "How did she rest last night?" "Did she roll and tumble much?" "Is her fever brok't onto her?" were questions frequently put. Now Mrs. Longbow was a very worthy person, and entitled to all the sympathy she received; but that is not to be the subject of this chapter.

When Mrs. Longbow was first taken ill, Dr. Teazle was called—yes, reader, Dr. Teazle—who had been as good authority in medicine, as Longbow ever was in law. I say had been—"Things were different now."

Teazle was one of the pioneers of Puddleford. He[Pg 149] was there when the first log-house was laid up—the first field cleared—the first child born. Teazle possessed a very little learning, a very great deal of impudence, and a never-ending flow of language. He was opinionated, and tolerated no practice but his own. (What physician ever did?) Teazle never let a doubt enter his mind—he intuitively read a case, as rapidly as though he were reading a printed statement of it. Teazle was about the size of Longbow, but he had two eyes.

"How long have you been attackted?" inquired Teazle, approaching the bedside of Mrs. Longbow, and placing his fingers over the lady's pulse.

Mrs. Longbow said "it was some time during the night."

"Run out your tongue," continued Teazle.

Mrs. Longbow obeyed.

"Very bad tongue—all full'er stuff—you ain't well, Mrs. Longbow; there's a kind of collapse of the whole system, and a sort of debility going on, everywhere all over you."

Squire Longbow, who sat by, anxiously inquired what the disease was.

Teazle said it might be a sour stomach, or it might be fever, or it might be rheumatiz, or it might be the liver, or it might be that something else was out of order—or it might be the rattles.

"Dear me!" exclaimed the Squire, "the rattles—what is that?"

"The rattles," answered Teazle, "the rattles is a disease treated of in the books—Folks catch cold; the nose stops up; the throat gets sore, and there is a kind of rattling going on when they breathe, whether we can hear it or not—and that's the rattles."[Pg 150]

Mrs. Longbow said "she hadn't got any rattles as she know'd on."

Teazle said he would make up a prescription that would make a sure business of it, as he always did when he was in doubt. "He would prepare a compound of the particular medicines used for the particular diseases he had mentioned, and fire at random, and some of the shot would hit, he knew."

"Gracious! doctor!" exclaimed Longbow, "what comes of the rest on 'em?"

"All passes off—all passes off," answered Teazle glibly, with a flourish of the hand, "through the pores of the skin—" continued Teazle; "and you must also take four quarts-er water, two pounds-er salt, a gill-er molasses, a little 'cumfrey root, some catnip blows (but mind don't get in any of the leaves; that'll kill her), stir it all up together, and soak her feet just ten minutes; then get five cents worth-er sassyfarilla, three cents worth-er some kind of physic, pour in some caster-ile, and I'll put in some intergrediences and stuffs, and will give it inwardly every two hours; and in the morning I will 'quire agin into the condition of the patient."

This, reader, was the result of Teazle's call. Mrs. Longbow was really suffering under an attack of bilious fever.

In a few days there was an uproar among the physicians of Puddleford. Dr. Short and Dr. Dobbs had united their influence and tongues together, and Teazle was denounced as a quack and a fool. Short and Dobbs never united for any other purpose but the abuse of Teazle. Sometimes Short and Teazle abused Dobbs, and sometimes Dobbs and Teazle abused Short. Short declared[Pg 151] that "Mrs. Longbow had nothing but a kind of in'ard strictur', and a little salts would clear it right out."

Dobbs said it "was either that or the pantod of the heart, and that Teazle's medicine would lay out the poor soul as cold as a wedge."

I endeavored to ascertain by Dobbs what he wished us to understand by "pantod of the heart."

Dobbs said it was "unpossible for him to explain it without the books—it was something that laid hold of the vessels about the heart, and throw'd everything into a flutter."

The war went on—Squire Longbow's friends finally joined the force of opposition to Teazle—and in two or three days Teazle was ejected very unceremoniously from the Squire's house, and Dobbs took his place.

The first thing Dobbs did, when he was fairly installed, was to gather up, and pitch headlong into the fire, all of Teazle's remaining medicines. He wondered whether Teazle "really intended to kill Mrs. Longbow! Perhaps he was only a fool!" The whole system of practice was now changed. A new administration had come into power, and with it new measures. Dobbs "didn't know but he might raise Mrs. Longbow, but he couldn't hold himself responsible—Teazle had nearly finished her—but he would try."

Dobbs immediately introduced a seton into the side of his patient, "to get up a greater fluttering somewhere else, and get away the flutter at the heart, and when that went, the fever would go away with it," he said.

Dobbs moved around Puddleford for a day or so, with great pomp of manner. He had unseated Teazle, and now occupied his place. But what was his surprise to find[Pg 152] Short and Teazle united, and out upon him, in full cry! Short had become chagrined because Dobbs had been called to fill the place of Teazle, instead of himself.

The war was renewed with increased fury. Dobbs's seton failed to produce the desired effect, and he, therefore, resorted to blistering and calomel. In a week he had nearly skinned and salivated the poor woman, and yet she lived. The fact was, Dobbs was a greater blockhead than Teazle, if that were possible. Ike Turtle said the "old 'oman was between Scyller and Charabides!"—Ike had heard this classical allusion at some time,—"and she'd got-ter go for it—and she'd better just step out at onst, and save trouble and expense."

The "Colonel" said that he "once read a story in Æsop's Fables, called the 'Fox and the Brambles,' and he recollected that the Fox refused to shake off a swarm of flies that were sucking out his life-blood, because a more hungry swarm would succeed; and he thought Mrs. Longbow made a great mistake in discharging Teazle; for Teazle had exhausted his energies upon his patient, and nature was about restoring the ruin he had wrought."

Bates expressed a different opinion. He was a strong advocate of lobelia and cayenne-pepper—he was, in short, a supporter of the "hot-water" practice. All mineral medicine Bates declared poisonous. Bates said "Nature knew enough to take care of herself—for every disease a remedy had been provided—what we call weeds were all valuable remedies: and he thought Teazle and Dobbs ought both to be indicted for malpractice."

This war between men, soon became a war of systems. Philista Filkins, Aunt Sonora, Bates & Company, raised a tempest around Longbow's ears; and Dobbs was finally[Pg 153] thrown overboard, and his medicines after him; and Mrs. Filkins was placed at the helm, and the hot-water practice introduced.

But what is the use, reader?—Mrs. Longbow died. Who wouldn't? Nature cannot endure everything—she died, and was buried. But who killed her? That was a question for months afterwards. Dobbs said Teazle—Teazle said Dobbs; and Teazle and Dobbs, when talking together on the subject, said Mrs. Filkins—and Bates said "the calomel"—and Turtle said "the 'oman had been conspir'd agin, and was killed."

I attended the funeral of Mrs. Longbow. A funeral is solemn anywhere—in the wilderness it is impressive. In a city it is too often an exhibition of pride, carried down to the very gates of death—the poor handful of dust is used to glorify, a little longer, the living—it preaches no sermon, chastens no feeling; but a funeral in the wilderness is as lonely as one at sea. Nature becomes almost oppressive. The scattered population, for miles around, gathered at the log-chapel, and Bigelow Van Slyck preached over the remains of Mrs. Longbow. The sermon was characteristic of Bigelow—strange and inappropriate, perhaps, in the opinion of the reader; but, after all, the very thing for Bigelow's audience. This was his text: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble!" Bigelow said his "text used the word 'man that is born,' &c., but it was jest as applicable to a woman as to a man, for woman was, after all, a kind of a man; not that a woman was a man, nor a man a woman—but texts allers spoke of things in general, 'cause the Bible was writ for all time." In dwelling upon the words "that is born," Bigelow said,[Pg 154] "he would go into the history of the Longbow family"—and he did go into their history, with a vengeance. He began with Squire Longbow's grandfather, who, he said, "fit in the old French war," and told us when he was born, and how he lived, and where he lived, and when he died, and gave us a kind of synopsis of the old man's services in the flesh. He then seized, violently, hold of the Squire himself, informed us he was born "down in the Pennsylvanys 'bout the old Tom Jefferson times, was the last of ten children, whose history he couldn't go into for want of time—that the Squire hadn't any larnin' until after he becom'd of age, and then got what he did get himself." Bigelow hoped his audience "would improve on this lesson, and get larnin' themselves." He then followed up the Squire through his immigration and settlement at Puddleford, and informed us, I recollect, among other things, that he built the first frame-house, being "twenty feet by thirty-four." Bigelow was still more specific in his history of Mrs. Longbow. If there was anything overlooked in the poor woman's life, I do not know what it was. Bigelow labored some half hour over her virtues, and brought them out so systematically, at last, that the list, when completed, reminded me of an inventory of the personal effects of a deceased person—of the preparation of a document, to file away somewhere.

The latter part of Bigelow's text, upon the brevity of life, was well managed—roughly, perhaps, but pointedly. He drew copiously from nature, by way of illustration, as all persons do who live more with nature than with man. "The corn," he remarked, "died in the ground, sprouted, grew green, then the blades died agin"—"the[Pg 155] flowers jest breathed a few times, then they died"—"day died into night, and night died in the morning"—"everything died everywhere; and man died, and woman died, and we'd all got-ter die." I have selected only a few sentences, at random, from this part of Bigelow's discourse.

Then there was an address to the audience, an address to the aged, another to those in middle life, another to the young, and finally, one to the mourners, standing. Some two hours and a half were occupied in the sermon altogether; and when it finally closed, the remains of Mrs. Longbow were silently and sadly deposited in the grave.

The death of Mrs. Longbow created a great chasm in society. The "settlement" was so small, that the loss of any one was severely felt. In small places, every person has a great deal of individuality—in large, only here and there is one distinguished from "the crowd." Mrs. Longbow was certainly fortunate in one respect, if she was unfortunate in another. If the physicians of Puddleford hastened her end, its population have not forgotten her, nor her many virtues.

[Pg 156]


Squire Longbow in Mourning.—The Great Question.—Aunt Sonora's Opinion.—Other People's.—The Squire goes to Church.—His Appearance on that Occasion.—Aunt Graves, and her Extra Performance.—"Nux Vomica."—Anxious Mothers.—Mary Jane Arabella Swipes.—Sister Abigail.—Ike Turtle and his Designs.—He calls on Aunt Graves.—She'll go it.—Sister Abigail's Objection.—The Squire's First Love Letter.—The Wedding.—Great Getting-up.—Turtle's Examination.—The Squire runs the Risk of "the Staterts."—Bigelow's Ceremony.—General Break-Down.—Not Very Drunk.

Squire Longbow sincerely mourned the loss of his wife—internally and externally. Externally, he was one of the strongest mourners I ever saw. He wore a weed, floating from his hat, nearly a foot long. It was the longest weed that had ever been mounted at Puddleford; but our readers must not forget who Squire Longbow was—a magistrate, and leading man in community. And while the reader is about it, he may also recollect that the Squire is not the only man, east or west, who has ventured upon a little ostentation over the grave of the departed—nor woman either.

Who was to be the next Mrs. Longbow? That was the question. The public, indeed, asked it long before the Squire. Who was to have the honor of presiding at the Squire's table? What woman was to be placed at the head of society in Puddleford? The Swipeses and[Pg 157] Beagles, Aunt Sonora, Aunt Graves, and Sister Abigail, and scores of others, all began to speculate upon this important subject. Even Turtle and Bates indulged in a few general remarks.

Aunt Sonora gave it as her mind, that "the Squire ought to be pretty skeery how he married anybody, kase if he got one of them flipper-ter-gibbet sort o' wimmin, she'd turn the whole house enside out, and he'd be one of the most miserablest of all men." She said, "if he know'd what was good for himself, he'd jest keep clear of all the young gals that were fussing and figeting round him, and go right in for some old stand-by of a woman, that know'd how to take the brunt of things—but, lors a-me," continued Aunt Sonora, "there's no doing nothing with these old widowers—they're all like my Uncle Jo, who married in a hurry, and repented arterwards—and the poor dear old soul arn't had a minute's peace since."

The Swipeses and Beagles, who, it will be recollected, belonged to a clique that had, in times past, warred against Longbow & Co., "tho't it would be shameful for the Squire to marry at all—it would be an insult agin the memory of poor old Mrs. Longbow, who was dead and gone." (Some people, you know, reader, abuse the living, but defend the dead.) "And if the Squire should marry, they should think, for their part, that she'd rise up out of her grave, and haunt him! She could never sleep easy, if she know'd that the Squire had got some other woman, who was eating her preserves, and wearing out her clothes, and lording it over the house like all possess'd."

Other opinions were expressed by other persons—in fact, the Squire's widowhood was the great concern of[Pg 158] Puddleford. "He was so well on to do," as Aunt Sonora used to call it, that he was considered a great "catch."

After a few weeks of sorrow, the Squire himself really began to entertain notions of matrimony. It is true he had passed the age of sixty, and it required a great effort to get up a sufficient amount of romance to carry out such an enterprise. Symptoms began, however, to wax strong. The first alarming indication was his attendance at church. The Squire had always been a kind of heathen in this respect, and had for many years set a poor example; but people, who want to marry, will go to church. Whether this is done to get up a reputation, or simply to take a survey of the unappropriated female stock yet remaining on hand, I cannot say.

The Squire was "fixed up" amazingly, the first time I saw him at church. His hair had been cut, and thoroughly greased. His shirt-collar covered his ears; and his boots shone like a mirror. Aunt Sonora said he looked "enymost as good as new." Aunt Graves was in the choir that day, and she sang as she never sang before. She blowed all the heavy strains of music—strains that lifted her on her toes—directly into Squire Longbow's face. Whether Aunt Graves had any design in this, is more than I can say; but I noticed some twinges about the Squire's lips, and a sleepy wink of the eye, that looked a little like magnetism. It was ridiculous, too, that such an old castle should be stormed by music.

But the Squire exhibited other symptoms of matrimony. He grew more pompous in his decisions, disposed of cases more summarily, and quoted law Latin more frequently. It was about this time that he talked about the "nux[Pg 159] vomica," instead of the "vox Populi." He used to "squash" proceeding's before the case was half presented; and, in the language of Turtle, "he tore around at a great rate." Turtle said, "the old Squire was getting to be an old fool, and he was goin' to have him married, or dismissed from office—there warn't no livin' with him."

There were a great many anxious mothers about Puddleford who were very desirous of forming an alliance with the Longbow family. Even Mrs. Swipes, as much as she openly oposed the Squire's marriage in general, secretly hoped a spark might be struck up between him and her daughter, Mary Jane Arabella Swipes; and Mrs. Swipes was in the habit of sending her daughter over to the Squire's house, to inquire of him "to know if she couldn't do sunthin' for him in his melancholy condition;" and Sister Abigail went down several times to "put things to rights," and was as kind and obliging, and attentive to all the Squire's wants, as ever Mrs. Longbow was in her palmiest days. On these occasions, Sister Abigail used frequently to remind the Squire of "his great bereavement, and what an angel of a wife he had lost; and that things didn't look as they used to do, when she was around, and she didn't wonder he took on so, when the poor thing died."

But, reader, Ike Turtle had ordered things otherwise. He was determined to strike up a match between the Squire and Aunt Graves. So Ike made a special visit to Aunt Graves one evening, for the purpose of "surveying and sounding along the coast, to see how the waters laid, and how the old soul would take it," to use his language.[Pg 160]

I have already given an outline of Aunt Graves; but I will now say further, that she never had an offer of matrimony in her whole life. She was what is termed a "touchy" old maid. She professed to hate men, and affected great distress of mind when thrown into their society. Aunt Graves was just ironing down the seams of a coat that she had finished, when Ike called.

Ike opened the conversation by reminding Aunt Graves that "she was livin' along kinder lonely like."

"Lonely 'nough, I s'pose," she replied, snappishly.

"Don't you never have the blues, and get sorter obstrep'rous?"

Aunt Graves "didn't know as she did."

"Why, in the name of old Babylon, don't you marry?"

"Marry? me marry—marry a man—a great awful man!" and the iron flew through the seams like lightning.

"Yes," continued Ike, "marry—marry a man—why, woman, you are getting as old and yellow as autumn leaves. What have you been livin' for?—you've broken all the laws of Scripter inter pieces—and keep on breakin' on 'em—adding sin unto sin, and transgression unto transgression, and the thing's got-ter be stopped. Now, Aunt Graves, what do you think—there's Squire Longbow, as desolate as Sodom, and he's got-ter have a woman, or the old man'll run as crazy as a loon a-thinkin' 'bout his household affairs; and you know how to cook, and to wash, and to iron, to make pickles and soap; and then, you're a proper age—what say?"

Aunt Graves ran to the fire, plunged her goose into the ashes, and gave the coals a smart stir. She then dropped down in her large rocking-chair, leaned her cheek[Pg 161] upon her elbow, fixed her eyes upon the floor, and came near going off into hysterics.

Ike dashed a little water into Aunt Graves' face, and she revived. After having gained strength, she replied in substance to Ike's query in a very languishing, die-away air: "She couldn't say—she didn't know—if it was a duty—if she could really believe it was a duty—if she was called on to fill poor old dead-and-gone Mrs. Longbow's place—folks were born inter the world to do good, and she had so far been one of the most unprofitablest of sarvants; but she could never marry on her own account—"

"In other words," exclaimed Ike, cutting her short, "you'll go it."

Aunt Graves agreed to "reflect on't."

It was not long after this consultation that Mrs. Swipes began to "smell a rat," as she said. She commanded Mary Jane Arabella "never to darken the doors of that old hog, Longbow, agin; and as for that female critter, Graves, she'd got a husband living down at the East'ard, and they'd all get into prison for life, the first thing they know'd."

Sister Abigail declared, "she'd have Aunt Graves turned out of church, if she married a man who warn't a member." This was a great deal for Sister Abigail to say, for she had been the bosom friend of Aunt Graves: "people out of the church, and people in the church, shouldn't orter jine themselves together—it was agin Scripter, and would get everything inter a twist."

But Ike Turtle had decreed that the marriage should go on. He even went so far as to indite the first letter of the Squire's to Aunt Graves. This letter, which Ike[Pg 162] exhibited to his friends, as one of his best literary specimens, was indeed a curiosity. I presume there is nothing else like it on the face of the globe. It opened by informing Aunt Graves that since the "loss of his woman, he had felt very grievous-like, and couldn't fix his mind onto anything—that the world didn't seem at all as it used to do—that he and his woman had liv'd in peace for thirty years, and the marriage state was nat'ral to him—that he had always lik'd Aunt Graves since the very first time he see'd her, and so did his woman too;" and many more declarations of similar import, and it was signed "J. Longbow, Justice of the Peace," and sealed too, like his legal processes, that his dignity might command, even if his person did not win, the affections of this elderly damsel.

Aunt Graves surrendered—and all this within two months after the death of Mrs. Longbow. The Squire cast off his weeds, and made violent preparations for matrimony; and on a certain night—I shall never forget it—the affair came off.

There was a great gathering at the Squire's—a sort of general invitation had been extended far and near—the Swipeses and Beagles, Aunt Sonora, and all. Great preparations had been made in the way of eatables. The Squire was rigged in a new suit of "home-made," (made by Mrs. Longbow, too, in her life-time),—a white vest, and he wore a cotton bandana neck-handkerchief, with heavy bows, that buried his chin, and a pair of pumps and clouded blue stockings. Aunt Graves' dress cannot be described. She was a mass of fluttering ribbons, and she looked as though she would take wings and fly away.

Bigelow Van Slyck and Ike Turtle conducted the marriage[Pg 163] ceremony—the one took the ecclesiastical, the other the civil management. When the couple were ready, Turtle sat down in front of them with the statutes under his arm, with Bigelow at his right hand.

Turtle examined the statutes amid profound silence for some time, turning down one leaf here and another there, until he found himself thoroughly prepared for the solemn occasion. Finally, he arose, and with a gravity that no man ever put on before or since, exclaimed,—

"Miss Graves, hold up your right hand and swear."

Miss Graves said "she was a member of the church, and dar'sent swear."

Ike said it was "legal swearing he wanted, 'cording to the staterts—not the wicked sort—he wanted her to swear that she was over fourteen years of age—hadn't got no husband living, nowhere—warn't goin' to practise no fraud nor nothin' on Squire Longbow—and that she'd jest as good a right to get married now as she ever had."

Miss Graves looked blank.

Squire Longbow said "he'd run the risk of the fourteen years of age and the fraud, and finally he would of the whole on't. The staterts was well enough, but it warn't to be presumed that a justice of the peace would run agin 'em. Some folks didn't know 'em—he did."

Ike said "there was something another in the statert about wimin's doing things 'without any fear or compulsion of anybody,' and he guessed he'd take Miss Graves into another room, and examine her separately and apart from her intended husband." This was a joke of Turtle's.

The Squire said "that meant married wimin—arter[Pg 164] the ceremony was over, that ere would be very legal and proper."

Mrs. Swipes said, "for her part, she thought the oath or-ter be put—it would be an awful thing to see a poor cretur forced into marriage."

Sister Abigail thought so, too.

Aunt Sonora hoped there wouldn't be nothin' did wrong, "so people could take the law on 'em."

Turtle said, "that they needn't any on 'em fret their gizzards—he was responsible for the la' of the case."

Bigelow then rose, and told the parties to jine hands, and while they were jined, he wanted the whole company to sing a psalm.

The psalm was sung.

Bigelow then commenced the wedding process. "Squire Longbow," exclaimed Bigelow—"this is your second wife, and some folks say the third, and I hope you feel the awful position in which you find yourself."

The Squire said "he felt easy and resigned—he'd gone inter it from respect to his woman who was now no more."

"You do promise to take this ere woman, to eat her, and drink her, and keep her in things to wear, so long as you and she lives."

"I do that very thing," responded the Squire.

"And you, on your part," continued Bigelow, turning to Aunt Graves, "promise to behave yourself and obey the Squire in all things."

Aunt Graves said "she would, Providence permitting."

This marriage ceremony, I believe, is nearly word for word.

"Then," said Turtle, "wheel yourselves into line, and[Pg 165] let's have a dance;" and drawing out his fiddle the whole crowd, in five minutes, were tearing down at a most furious rate; and when I departed, at about midnight, the storm was raging still higher, the whiskey and hot water circulated freely, Turtle looked quite abstracted about his eyes, and his footsteps were growing more and more uncertain, Bulliphant's face shone like a full moon, the voices of the females, a little stimulated, were as noisy and confused as those of Babel, and your humble servant—why, he walked home as straight as a gun—of course he did—and was able to distinguish a hay-stack from a meeting-house, anywhere along the road.

[Pg 166]


The Group at "The Eagle."—Entrée of a Stranger.—His Opinion of the Tavern.—Bulliphant wakes up.—Can't pick Fowls after Dark.—Sad Case of Mother Gantlet and Dr. Teazle.—Mr. Farindale begins to unbend.—Whistle & Sharp, and their Attorney.—Good Pay.—Legal Conversation.—Going Sniping.—Great Description of the Animal.—The Party start, Farindale holding the Bag.—"Waiting for Snipe."—Farindale's Solitary Return.—His Interview with Whistle & Sharp.—Suing a Puddleford Firm.—Relief Laws.—Farindale gets his Execution.—The Puddleford Bank.—The Appraisers.—Proceeds of the Execution.

Late in the fall of the year, early one evening, Turtle, Longbow, Bates, the "Colonel," Swipes, and Beagle were congregated at the Eagle. Turtle and Bates were engaged at a game of checkers, and each one, fast-anchored at his right hand, had a glass of whiskey and water, or, as Turtle called it, "a little diluted baldface." Their mouths were pierced with a pipe, in the left hand corner, which hung loosely and rakishly down, besmearing their laps with ashes, and now and then they puffed forth a column of smoke. The "Colonel," Longbow, and the other Puddlefordians were ranged round the fire. The Colonel sat in a rickety chair, his feet hoisted up on the mantel on a line with his nose, and his shoulders hitched over the ends of its posts; the Squire was busily looking into the glowing coals, his hands clasped across[Pg 167] his breast, unravelling some question of law, and Swipes sat very affectionately on Beagle's lap, his right arm thrown around his neck.

While in this position, aloud call of "Hallo!" "Landlord!" "O-r-s-t-ler!" was heard without.

"Stir yer stumps, old Boniface—a traveller in distress," exclaimed Ike, to Bulliphant, who was asleep on a wooden box behind the bar, and was snoring louder and louder at each succeeding blast.

"Another two-and-sixpence, old free and easy," added Bates.

"This ere's a licensed tavern, and you must be up and doing, or the la' 'll be inter you," gravely remarked the Squire.

By this time the stranger dashed into the bar-room, his face flushed, and his temper, or his offended dignity, or both, in the ascendant, and exclaimed, ferociously, "Is this a tavern! are you all dead! where's the landlord! the hostler! Got any hay—oats!—anything for a gentleman to eat!—any place to sleep!"—when Bulliphant rubbed open his eyes with the knuckle of his fore-finger, gave a sleepy nod, and stumbled towards the door, to provide for his furious guest and his horse.

The stranger walked into the bar-room, unwound two or three gaudy shawls from his neck, took off an overcoat, a surtout-coat, shed a pair of India-rubber travelling-boots, run both of his hands deep into his breeches-pockets, took half a dozen pompous strides across the floor, looking down all the while in abstracted mood at his feet, paraded before a glass, twisted one of the locks of his hair around his fore-finger, and finally brought up with his back to the fire, where he stood, his hands holding[Pg 168] apart the skirts of his coat, and his attention fixed upon something on the ceiling.

Turtle measured him with his eyes several times from head to foot; the "Colonel" hitched out of his way and begged his pardon, when, in fact, he was not at all in his way; the Squire was quite overcome at the amount of opposing dignity brought so directly in contact with him; Bates gravely whistled Yankee Doodle, gazing out of the window, and winked over his shoulder at Beagle and Swipes, who winked back again.

Bulliphant returned wide awake. "Any turkeys or chickens?" inquired the stranger.

"All gone to roost," answered Bulliphant, with a grave kind of brevity.

"Take a broiled chicken," said the stranger, giving a heavy hawk, with his hand upon his breast, and spitting half across the floor.

"Have to take it feathers and all, then," said Bulliphant—"wimin folks are superstitious—don't b'lieve it's right to pick fowls in the night—'twas jest so with my wife's grandmother—she had the same complaint."

The stranger looked very hard at Bulliphant, and spit again, somewhat spitefully.

"Can give you mush, souse, slap-jacks, briled pork," continued Bulliphant, looking quizzically towards Turtle.

The stranger said, "he thought he'd stopped at a tavern—but he'd a great deal better turned himself into the woods, and browsed for supper"—and heaving a long sigh, sat down, and crossed his legs in a settled mood of desperation.

Bulliphant said "there warn't no cause for alarm—he'd seen sicker men than he die—and get well, too."[Pg 169]

The stranger grunted and shifted his legs.

There was a long silence. All the Puddlefordians, except Ike and Bates, who were absorbed in their game, were looking soberly and steadily into the burning logs.

"Turtle," exclaimed Swipes, at last, breaking the solitude—"is that man goin' to die?"

"Can't tell," replied Turtle; "his life's on a pize—may turn one way, may turn t'other," and he took out his pipe, and blew a long whiff.

"Sleep well, last night?"

"Groan'd some 'bout midnight."

Swipes looked very sad, and the stranger's eyes passed from face to face with anxious looks.

"Ain't goin' to bleed to death?"

"Not zactly that, but mortification's goin' to set in, and he cannot stand it long, when that takes him."

"Dear me!" exclaimed the Colonel.

"Very strange case!" added the Squire.

"Great loss!" rejoined Bates.

The stranger, who was none other than the junior member of the firm of Follett, Fizzlet & Farindale, dry goods merchants, doing business in the city of New York, and who was out at Puddleford hunting up the firm of Whistle & Sharp, a couple of debtors, whose account had been in the rear for some time—the stranger, I say, became very anxious to hear the particulars of the man whose life was in jeopardy—and he exclaimed before he thought—"What is it, gentlemen?—who's hurt?"

"Why," said Ike, his face all the while cast iron, and his eyes steadily fixed on his game; "why, you see, old[Pg 170] mother Gantlet was took with a violent mis'ry in her head—sent for Dr. Teazle—our village doctor here—the old 'oman said her head would bust—doctor said it wouldn't—the old 'oman said it would—the doctor said he'd tie it up—and he did try to tie it up, stranger—and while he was busy, her head did bust, and blew off the doctor's thumb and fore-finger"—and Ike shoved a man into the king-row and crowned him, without a look at Mr. Farindale, his face all the while as rigid as a tombstone.

Mr. Farindale gave a long whistle, and immediately called for a cigar; the Colonel dropped a quid of tobacco into his hand, and gave it a toss across the bar-room; Longbow shot forth a dignified spit into the fire, or rather it seemed to shoot out itself, without moving a muscle, and Bates stroked his chin several times with his left hand.

A long pause ensued. "What became of the woman?" inquired Farindale, after five minutes, looking sharply at Ike.

"She hain't been heer'd on since, as I knows on," replied Ike; "but the doctor's in a dref-ul state."

The game of checkers closed, and Ike and Bates moved around near Mr. Farindale.

"Stranger," said Ike, "travelled long in these ere parts?"

"Not long—but long enough."

"Goin' on?"

"On where?"

"Why, on to the next place?"

"Does Whistle & Sharp live hereabouts?" inquired Farindale, without answering Ike's question.[Pg 171]

"To be sure they do," said Ike; "I know 'em like a book; am their 'torney."

"Their attorney—you their attorney—attorney of Whistle & Sharp," said the stranger, slowly and musingly, scratching his head with his fore-finger.

"Got anything for 'em or agin 'em?" inquired Ike.

"Are they good pay?" inquired the stranger.

"Always pays at the end of an execution," replied Ike—"never before—allers takes a receipt on the docket—makes their settlements a matter of record—puts things where they can't be ripp'd up—best way, ain't it, stranger?"

The stranger grunted, "Humph!"

"And then," said Ike, "there's no dispute 'bout authority to collect. Everybody can't tell who everybody's agent is. One New York clark run'd away one year with all the collections from Puddleford in his breeches-pocket; but the court has authority—gin'ral jurisdiction—and the discharge of a court is a discharge what is a discharge."

"That's a real opinion," exclaimed Longbow, who had not spoken for half an hour; "there's nothin' like a court to put a finish onter things;" and the Squire gave two or three heavy coughs, and blew his nose into his red cotton handkerchief, and doubling it up into a wad, looked around very gravely at Farindale as he dropped it back into his hat.

"Authority! The authority of courts to collect debts! They may have authority, but I never saw a court that had the power to collect a debt of me," exclaimed the Colonel, shifting his tobacco from one side of his mouth to the other as he spoke; "and I never put in a plea in[Pg 172] my life—the plea always puts itself in, and is a dead bar to further proceedings every time—'no assets'—'nothing whereon to levy'"—

"Nully Bony! Nully Bony! you mean," said the Squire, horror-stricken at the Colonel's use of law language.

"That's it," said Bates; "hain't got nothin' to get onter"—

"And ain't nowhere to be found, nor nothin'," added Turtle.

"Just so," said the Colonel; "a kind of general suspension for want of capital—the fiddle's on hand, but the bow is gone."

The stranger was puzzled at the Puddlefordian view of paying debts, and wondered if Whistle & Sharp were advocates of the same doctrine.

"Stranger!" said Bates, turning the subject of conversation, "do you ever hunt?"

"Never," answered Farindale.

"Rare sport to-night, going a-sniping," said Bates.

"Sni-ping?" inquired the stranger, emphasizing the first syllable; "sni-ping! what is sni-ping?"

"Sni-ping?" answered Bates—"why, catching snipe, to be sure."

"Great sport," said the Colonel; "bagged three hundred night before last."

"The real yaller legs, too!" remarked Turtle.

Farindale said "he would like to accompany them—never saw a snipe in his life—would like to take one back to the city. Do they sing?" he inquired, turning to Turtle.

"Great singers! catch any tune! s'prising critters to[Pg 173] larn," answered Ike; "got one up to my house that goes thro' half of 'Old Hundred,' by jest hearing the folks hum it round the house."

"Re-markable!" exclaimed Farindale.

"Great eating, too," said Longbow.

"Hain't got mor'n two or three bones in their whole body; all the rest meat," said Bates.

Preparations were immediately made for the sniping expedition. The stranger put on his India-rubber boots, and shawls, and overcoat; Ike procured a large bag of Bulliphant; and all hands, excepting Squire Longbow, whose dignity forbade anything like sport, wended their way to the river, where, Turtle said, "there were whole droves on 'em."

"Now," whispered Turtle, drawing Farindale close to him, and holding his arm all the while as he spoke in his ear, "we must keep very still—snipe are scary critters, and when they get frightened they put straight for the river. There is a big log out yonder—a favorite spot of theirs—down which they travel and jump off into the river. You jest take this ere bag, creep softly down to the log, slip the bag over the end on't, and wait there until we drive in the snipe. Don't speak—don't move; make 'em think you are the trunk of a tree; and when the bag is full, slip it off, and close it in a jiffy."

"Yes! yes!" whispered back Farindale.

"Mind, don't stir from your post till I halloo."

"No! no!" said Farindale.

Farindale did as he was directed. He found, however, a foot of black muck; but, after "slumping" a while, he managed to plant his spread legs out like a pair of extended compasses, and slide the bag over the log.[Pg 174] Here he stood, half bent together, grasping the bag, and waiting for snipe.

There was a beating of the bushes around him; then all was still; then another beating, and another, and then a longer silence. Farindale was sinking deeper and deeper in the mud, and the water was nearly to the top of his boots. By and by, the noises ceased—no foot-step could be heard, and the stranger was alone with the bag and the log, and half up to his middle—waiting for snipe.

What ever became of the Puddlefordians is more than I can say. Farindale returned to the Eagle alone. Early the next morning he might have been found in anxious consultation with Whistle & Sharp concerning a claim there of a hundred and twelve dollars, and interest after six months, which he was very desirous to secure or settle. Mr. Whistle, the senior member of the firm of Whistle & Sharp, was a very thin-faced man, with sandy hair that had seldom been combed, and he wore a faded blue coat with metal buttons, the two behind having been placed just under his armpits, which made him look as though some invisible power was all the while lifting him up from the ground. His woollen pantaloons had passed so many times through the wash-tub, that he was obliged to strain out the wrinkles when he put them on, and they clung as tight to his legs as his skin. Sharp was a little man, had a long face, and his mouth seemed to have been bored—for it was round—about midway between his chin and his forehead; and he was always wasping around, giving consequential orders about nothing, and very often spoke of the firm of Whistle & Sharp, and what Whistle & Sharp[Pg 175] had done, and what Whistle & Sharp could do, and would do.

Mr. Whistle informed Mr. Farindale that "the debt could not be paid at present, although," he added, "that the firm of Whistle & Sharp were good for ten times that amount."

"And another ten top of that," added Sharp, from the other end of the store, where he was tumbling down and putting up goods by way of exercise.

"Can you secure them?" inquired Farindale.

"Well, now, you have said it!" exclaimed Whistle, with apparent astonishment. "What can be safer than the firm of Whistle & Sharp?—secure!—never had such a thing hinted before during the ten years of our business."

"A mortgage," insinuated Farindale.

"Can't do that,—not no how; my old grandfather was swept out clean with a mortgage once; took all he had, and he was compelled to emigrate; died of broken heart at last."

"Then," said Farindale, "I must sue."

"What! sue the firm of Whistle & Sharp! Very well, sir, do, if you please."

"Yes-sir-ee—horse-cob! Mr. Follett, Fizzlet & Farindale," exclaimed Sharp, springing at one bound over the counter; "just sue us if—you—please; we'll pay the costs!" and Sharp whistled a tune with his eyes fixed steadily upon Farindale.

"Court sits next month," said Whistle.

"And we'll confess judgment," said Sharp.

"And the pay is sure," said Whistle.

"And no trouble hereafter," said Sharp.[Pg 176]

Mr. Farindale began to think another sniping expedition was afoot. He was not a coward, if his cockneyism had lured him after snipe; but he was unable to determine what kind of people the Puddlefordians were. He had never met anything like them. So he sat in his chair, the account against Whistle & Sharp in his hand, tapping the floor with his right foot, trying to devise some way to secure his claim.

A thought struck him. "Pay it, and I will make a discount of twenty-five per cent.," said he.

"What's that you say?" indignantly exclaimed Sharp. "Do you mean to injure our firm?—the firm of Whistle & Sharp, who pay dollar for dollar! That ere, sir, is an insult. There's the door—walk! Sue! but you can't insult us on our own premises. That's the way to talk it, sir!" And Mr. Farindale did go, and he did sue, and the firm recovered a judgment against Whistle & Sharp for the sum of three hundred and twenty-four dollars and sixteen cents, and costs of suit.

It was no great matter to recover a judgment against a Puddlefordian; but it was something of a business to realize the damages. And that the reader may understand what kind of a prospect Follett, Fizzlet & Farindale had for their money, it is necessary to speak of the laws then in force for the collection of debts. The new states at that time were entirely "shingled over" with relief laws, which were passed to save the property of the pioneer from sacrifice. There was scarcely any money in Puddleford, and exchanges were made by barter. Personal property was valued by its relation to other property; eight yards of calico were worth so much wheat, corn, potash, cord-wood, or saw-logs. The[Pg 177] merchant managed to turn his grain into high wines, or put it in some other shape that would bear transportation, and he was thus enabled to pay his debts. The farmer gave the mechanic an order on the merchant; the professional man took an order on the merchant; the day-laborer took an order on the merchant; everybody took an order on the merchant. The merchant was general paymaster; what he could not, or would not pay, remained unpaid; and he, in his turn, swept the farmer's crops, and took everything available; and the balance yet his due, and remaining unpaid, if any, was carried over against the farmer, and against the next crop. Thus the whole business of Puddleford ran through the merchant like wheat through a mill, and generally at a profit to the latter of from seventy-five to a hundred per cent.

It was this condition of the country that drove the legislature into the enactment of relief-laws. As there was no money to pay debts, it was enacted that property should be a legal tender. The law in force, at the date of the judgment against Whistle & Sharp, was a beautiful specimen of legislative impudence and ingenuity. It was a relief law! One section of the act provided, in substance, that upon the presentation of an execution, issued by any court in the state, by the officer to whom the same shall be directed, to the debtor or debtors mentioned therein, such debtor or debtors may turn out any property, personal or real, to said officer who shall levy on the same; and the said officer shall cause the same to be appraised by three appraisers, one to be chosen by the plaintiff, one by the defendant, and one by the officer, who shall forthwith be sworn, etc., and proceed to appraise[Pg 178] said property turned out at its true cash value; and the said plaintiff in such execution shall receive said property at two thirds its appraised value; and, if he refuse, he shall not proceed any farther with his execution, or have another, until he first pay up all the costs of said appraisement.[A]

An execution was issued by J. Snappit, Esq., attorney for Follett, Fizzlet & Farindale, upon the judgment, recorded as foresaid, against the firm of Whistle & Sharp, and put into the hands of the sheriff for collection.

Now the sheriff of the county which included Puddleford within its limits was an accommodating man, a humane man, a man of the people, a—politician. He did not think it necessary to oppress debtors who were unfortunately unable to pay their debts—for the people elected him. Follett, Fizzlet & Farindale never voted for him—never could vote for him; Whistle & Sharp had, and would again. So the sheriff went down to Puddleford, and very politely informed them, with a wink, that "he had that execution against them, and it must be paid."

"Jest so—jest so," answered Sharp, reading over the writ: "Whistle & Sharp always pay—always have a pile of assets ready for a levy;" and returning the execution to the sheriff, begged a moment's delay, until "we could consult with our attorney."

Mr. Turtle was consulted, and the conclusion of Sharp's interview with him amounted to this: that Turtle should go immediately, and purchase for Whistle & Sharp the[Pg 179] old steamboat cylinder, crank, and shaft; and the parties separated.

The steamboat cylinder, crank, and shaft, alluded to, was what Turtle called the "Puddleford bank—metallic basis." Some years before, a steamboat, on an exploring expedition up the river, among its windings and sand-bars, was wrecked, and a heavy cylinder, crank, and shaft, thrown ashore at Puddleford, where they lay at the period I speak of, and had for a long time, deeply imbedded in sand. This mass of iron, weighing many tons, had for a long time been a perpetual bar to the collection of all debts against Puddlefordians. Chitty, in his Pleadings, never invented one so omnipotent. It suspended every execution directed against it. It was transferred, by bill of sale, from one Puddlefordian to another (as no creditor was ever found willing to receive it at any price), as necessity required, and was considered, by common consent, public property—a "bank" as Turtle called it, "to which any person had a right to resort in distress."[B]

Turtle took a bill of sale of this iron from the last man in trouble, and turned it out to the sheriff on the execution against Whistle & Sharp.

"Now, Mr. Sheriff," said Turtle, triumphantly, "bring on your apprizers; a thousand dollars' worth of property to pay a little over three hundred. My clients, Whistle & Sharp, are bunkum yet—allers stand up to the rack at the end of an execution. Bring on your apprizers, Mr. Sheriff."

Mr. Turtle chose an appraiser first—a second cousin[Pg 180] of Mr. Whistle, of the firm of Whistle & Sharp, and a man who was deeply in debt on their books—a bilious, weazen-faced, melancholy-looking man, who had acquired a great reputation for wisdom by saying nothing—whose name was Clinket. No one appearing to choose for the plaintiffs, the sheriff selected the other two. He named Mr. Troper, a seedy old fellow, whose crown was half out of his hat, whose beard was white, his nose red, and who had a whiskey-cough, and who was in the habit of visiting the barrel-tap of Whistle & Sharp three or four times a day, in consideration of odd jobs performed by him around the store; also, Mr. Fatler, a chubby-faced, twinkle-eyed wag, who would not hesitate to perpetrate a good joke, even under oath, particularly upon non-residents.

The Puddlefordians were out in mass to see Follett & Co. try a run on their "bank." Many remarks were made.

Bulliphant said "the cylinder alone cost five hundred dollars."

Swipes said "it was a bully piece of stuff."

"How much is the debt?" inquired Bates.

"Two thirds of twelve hundred," exclaimed Turtle, loudly, "is eight hundred."

"Worth the debt for old iron," said the Colonel.

These remarks, designed for the appraisers, had their effect; they examined; they figured; retired for consultation; returned; retired again; and finally appraised the property turned out at sixteen hundred dollars; paying, at two thirds its value, the debt of Whistle & Sharp, and leaving a very handsome surplus due them from their creditors. But I am very happy to be enabled[Pg 181] to say that Whistle & Sharp most magnanimously offered to release all their claim on the levy to Follett & Co., if they would take the property, and discharge the judgment and costs, "making," as they said in their letter to them, "a clear profit on their part of from four to five hundred dollars."


[A] This is the substance of a portion of the act, as it stood in force some years.

[B] This is a literal fact.

[Pg 182]


The "Fev-Nag."—Conflicting Theories.—"Oxergin and Hydergin."—Teazle's Rationale.—The Scourge of the West.—Sile Bates, and his Condition.—Squire Longbow and Jim Buzzard.—Puddleford Prostrate.—Various Practitioners.—"The Billerous Duck."—Pioneer Martyrs.—Wave over Wave.

During my first fall's residence at Puddleford, I frequently heard a character spoken of, who seemed to be full as famous in the annals of the place as Squire Longbow himself. He was called by a great variety of names, and very seldom alluded to with respect. He was termed the "Fev-Nag," the "Ag-an-Fev," the "Shakin' Ager," the "Shakes," and a great variety of other hard names were visited upon him.

That he was the greatest scourge Puddleford had to contend with, no one denied. Who he really was, what he was, where born, and for what purpose, was a question. Dobbs had one theory, Short another, and Teazle still another. Dr. Dobbs said "that his appearance must be accounted for in this wise—that the marshes were all covered with water in the spring, that the sun began to grow so all-fir'd hot 'long 'bout July and August, that it cream'd over the water with a green scum, and rotted the grass, and this all got stewed inter a morning fog, that rose up and elated itself among the Ox-er-gin and Hy-der-gin, and pizened everybody it touched."[Pg 183]

Dr. Dobbs delivered this opinion at the public house, in a very oracular style. I noticed several Puddlefordians in his presence at the time, and before he closed, their jaws dropped, and their gaping mouths and expanded eyes were fixed upon him with wonder.

Dr. Teazle declared that "Dobbs didn't know anything about it. He said the ager was buried up in the airth, and that when the sile was turned up, it got loose, and folks breath'd it into their lungs, and from the lungs it went into the liver, and from the liver it went to the kidneys, and the secretions got fuzzled up, and the bile turn'd black, and the blood didn't run, and it set everybody's inards all a-tremblin'."

Without attempting the origin of the ague and fever, it was, and always has been, the scourge of the West. It is the foe that the West has ever had to contend with. It delays improvement, saps constitutions, shatters the whole man, and lays the foundation for innumerable diseases that follow and finish the work for the grave. It is not only ague and fever that so seriously prostrates the pioneer, but the whole family of intermittent and remittent fevers, all results of the same cause, press in to destroy. Perhaps no one evil is so much dreaded. Labor, privation, poverty, are nothing in comparison. It is, of course, fought in a great variety of ways, and the remedies are as numerous as they are ridiculous. A physician who is really skilful in the treatment of these diseases is, of course, on the road to wealth, but skilful physicians were not frequent in Puddleford, as the reader has probably discovered.

I recollect that, during the months of September and October, subsequently to my arrival, all Puddleford was[Pg 184] "down," to use the expression of the country; and if the reader will bear with me, and pledge himself not to accuse me of trifling with so serious a subject, I will endeavor to describe Puddleford "in distress."

I will premise by saying that it is expected that persons who are on their feet during these visitations, give up their time and means to those who are not. There is a nobleness of soul in a western community in this respect that does honor to human nature. A village is one great family—every member must be provided for—old grudges are, for the time, buried.

I have now a very vivid remembrance of seeing Sile Bates, one bright October morning, walking through the main street of Puddleford, at the pace of a funeral procession, his old winter overcoat on, and a faded shawl tied about his cheeks. Sile informed me "that he believed the ager was comin' on-ter him—that he had a spell on't the day before, and the day before that—that he had been a-stewin' up things to break the fits, and clean out his constitution, but it stuck to him like death on-ter a nigger"—he said "his woman and two boys were shakin' like all possess't, and he railly believed if somebody didn't stop it, the log-cabin would tumble down round their ears." He said "there warn't nobody to do nuthin' 'bout house, and that all the neighbors were worse off than he was."

Sile was a melancholy object indeed. And in all conscience, reader, did you ever behold so solemn, woe-begone a thing on the round earth, as a man undergoing the full merits of ague and fever? Sile sat down on a barrel and commenced gaping and stretching, and now and then dropped a remark expressive of his condition. He finally[Pg 185] began to chatter, and the more he chattered, the more ferocious he waxed. He swore "that if he ever got well, he'd burn his house, sell his traps, 'bandon his land, pile his family into his cart, hitch on his oxen, and drive 'em, and drive 'em to the north pole, where there warn't no ager, he knew. One minit," he said, "he was a-freezin', and then he was a-burnin', and then he was a-sweatin' to death, and then he had a well day, and that didn't 'mount to nothin', for the critter was only gettin' strength to jump on him agin the next." Sile at last exhausted himself, and getting upon his feet, went off muttering and shaking towards his house.

The next man I met was Squire Longbow. The Squire was moving slower, if possible, than Bates. His face looked as if it had been just turned out of yellow oak, and his eyes were as yellow as his face. As the Squire never surrendered to anything, I found him not disposed to surrender to ague and fever. He said "he'd only had a little brush, but he'd knock it out on-him in a day or two. He was jist goin' out to scrape some elder bark up, to act as an emetic, as Aunt Sonora said if he scraped it down, it would have t'other effect—and that would kill it as dead as a door-nail."

I soon overhauled Jim Buzzard, lying half asleep in the bottom of his canoe, brushing off flies with an oak branch. Jim, too, was a case, but it required something more than sickness to disturb his equilibrium. Jim said "he warn't sick, but he felt the awfulest tired any dog ever did—he was the all-thunderest cold, t'other day, he ever was in hot weather—somethin' 'nother came on ter him all of a suddint, and set his knees all goin', and his jaws a quiv'rin', and so he li'd down inter the sun, but[Pg 186] the more he li'd, the more he kept on a shakin', and then that are all went off agin, and he'd be darned to gracious if he didn't think he'd burn up—and so he just jumped inter the river, and cool'd off—and, now he feel'd jist so agin—and so he'd got where the sun could strike him a little harder this time. What shall a feller do?" at last inquired Jim.

"Take medicine," said I.

"Not by a jug-full," said Jim. "Them are doctors don't get any of their stuff down my throat. If I can't stand it as long as the ager, then I'll give in. Let-er-shake if it warnts to—it works harder than I do, and will get tir'd byme-by. Have you a little plug by-yer jest now, as I haven't had a chew sin' morning, as it may help a feller some?" Jim took the tobacco, rolled over in his canoe, gave a grunt, and composed himself for sleep.

This portrait of Buzzard would not be ludicrous, if it was not true. Whether Socrates or Plato, or any other heathen philosopher, has ever attempted to define this kind of happiness, is more than I can say. In fact, reader, I do not believe that there was one real Jim Buzzard in the whole Grecian republic.

But why speak of individual cases? Nearly all Puddleford was prostrate—man, woman, and child. There were a few exceptions, and the aid of those few was nothing compared to the great demand of the sick. It was providential that the nature of the disease admitted of one well day, because there was an opportunity to "exchange works," and the sick of to-day could assist the sick of to-morrow, and so vice versa.

I looked through the sick families, and found the patients[Pg 187] in all conditions. One lady had "just broke the ager on-ter her by sax-fax tea, mix'd with Colombo." Another "had been a-tryin' eli-cum-paine and pop'lar bark, but it didn't lie good on her stomach, and made her enymost crazy." Another woman was "so as to be crawlin'"—another was "getting quite peert"—another "couldn't keep anything down, she felt so qualmly"—another said, "the disease was runnin' her right inter the black janders, and then she was gone"—another had "run clear of yesterday's chill, and was now goin' to weather it;" and so on, through scores of cases.

It is worthy of note, the popular opinion of the character of this disease. Although Puddleford had been afflicted with it for years, yet it was no better understood by the mass of community than it was at first. I have already given the opinion of Dobbs and Teazle of the causes of the ague; but as Dobbs and Teazle held entirely different theories, Puddleford was not much enlightened by their wisdom. (If some friend will inform me when and where any community was ever enlightened by the united opinion of its physicians, I will publish it in my next work.) Aunt Sonora had a theory which was a little old, but it was hers, and she had a right to it. She said "nobody on airth could live with a stomach full of bile, and when the shakin' ager come on, you'd jest got-ter go to work and get off all the bile—bile was the ager, and physicians might talk to her till she was gray 'bout well folks having bile—she know'd better—twarn't no such thing."

Now Aunt Sonora practised upon this theory, and the excellent old lady administered a cart-load of boneset[Pg 188] every season—blows to elevate the bile, and the leaf as a tonic. However erroneous her theory might have been, I am bound to say that her practice was about as successful as that of the regular physician.

Mr. Beagle declared "that the ager was in the blood, and the patient must first get rid of all his bad blood, and then the ager would go along with it." Swipes said "it was all in the stomach." Dobbs said "the billerous duck chok'd up with the mash fogs, and the secretions went every which way, and the liver got as hard as sole-leather, and the patient becom' sick, and the ager set in, and then the fever, and the hull system got-er goin' wrong, and if it warn't stopped, natur'd give out, and the man would die." Teazle said "it com'd from the plough'd earth, and got inter the air, and jist so long as folks breath'd agery air, jist so long they'd have the ager." Turtle said "the whole tribe on 'em, men-doctors and women-doctors, were blockheads, and the surest way to get rid of the ager, was to let it run, and when it had run itself out, it would stop, and not 'afore."

Here, then, was Puddleford at the mercy of a dozen theories, and yet men and women recovered, when the season had run its course, and were tolerably sure of health, until another year brought around another instalment of miasma.

How many crops of men have been swept off by the malaria of every new western country, I will not attempt to calculate! How many, few persons have ever attempted! This item very seldom goes into the cost of colonization. Pioneers are martyrs in a sublime sense, and it is over their bones that school-houses, churches, colleges, learning, and refinement are finally planted.[Pg 189] But the death of a pioneer is a matter of no moment in our country—it is almost as trifling a thing as the death of a soldier in an Indian fight. There is no glory to be won on any such field. One generation rides over another, like waves over waves, and "no such miserable interrogatory," as Where has it gone? or How did it go? is put; but What did it do?—What has it left behind?

Any one who has long been a resident in the West, must have noticed the operation of climate upon the constitution. The man from the New England mountains, with sinews of steel, soon finds himself flagging amid western miasma, and a kind of stupidity creeps over him, that it is impossible to shake off. The system grows torpid, the energies die, indifference takes possession, and thus he vegetates—he does not live.

And, dear reader, it does not lighten the gloom of the picture to find Dobbs, and Teazle, and Short, quarrelling over the remains of some departed one, endeavoring to delude the public into something themselves have no conception of, about the manner in which he or she went out of the world. Not that all the physicians are Dobbses or Teazles, but these sketches are written away out on the rim of society, the rim of western society, where the townships are not yet all organized, and a sacred regard to truth compels me to record facts as they exist.

[Pg 190]


Uncommonly Common Schools.—Annual School District Meeting.—Accounts for Contingent Expenses.—Turtle and Old Gulick's Boy.—"That are Glass."—The Colonel starts the Wheels again.—Bulliphant's Tactics.—Have we hired "Deacon Fluett's Darter," or not?—Isabel Strickett.—Bunker Hill and Turkey.—Sah-Jane Beagles.—The Question settled.

Common schools are said to be the engine of popular liberty. I think we had some of the most un-commonly common schools, at Puddleford, that could be found anywhere under the wings of the American eagle. Our system was, of course, the same as that of all other townships in the state, but its administration was not in all respects what it should be. Our schools were managed by Puddlefordians, and they were responsible only for the talent which had been given them. Every citizen knows that our government is a piece of mechanism, made up of wheels within wheels, and while these wheels are in one sense totally independent, and stand still or turn as they are moved or let alone, yet they may indirectly affect the whole. In other words, our government is like a cluster of Chinese balls, curiously wrought within, and detached from each other, and yet it is, after all, but one ball. There is something beautiful in the construction and operation of this piece of machinery. A school district is one machine, a township another, a county[Pg 191] another, and a state another—all independent organizations, yet every community must work its own organization. They are not operated afar off by some great central power, over the heads of the people; but they are worked by the people themselves, for themselves.

However clumsily the work may be performed at first, practice makes perfect, and men become the masters, as well as the administrators of their own laws.

We had an annual school district meeting in the village of Puddleford—and there were many others in the country at the same time—for the township was cut up into several districts, and I never attended one that did not end in a "row," to use a western classical expression. The business of these meetings was all prescribed by statute, and it amounted to settling and allowing the accounts of the board for the last school year, voting contingent fund for the next, determining whether a school should be taught by a male or a female teacher, and for how many months, and the election of new officers.

The last meeting I attended, Longbow was in the chair by virtue of his office as president of the school district board. Being organized, the clerk of the board presented his account for contingent expenses, and Longbow wished to know "if the meetin' would pass 'em."

Turtle "wanted to hear 'em read."

Longbow said "the only account they had was in their head."

Turtle said "that warn't 'cordin' to the staterts."

Longbow said "he'd risk that—his word was as good as anybody's writin', or any statert."

Turtle said "he'd hear what they was, but 'twarn't[Pg 192] right, and for his part, he didn't b'lieve the board know'd what they'd been about for the last six months."

Longbow raised his green shade from his blind eye, rose on his feet, looked down very ferociously upon Turtle, stamped his foot, and informed Ike "that this was an org'nized meetin', and he mustn't reflect on-ter the officers of the de-strict; 'twas criminal!"

The account was then repeated by Longbow, item by item, and among the rest was two shillings for setting glass.

When glass was mentioned, Turtle sprang to his feet again. "Thar, old man," he exclaimed, rapping his knuckles on the desk, "thar's where I'se got you—thar's a breach er trust, a squand'rin' of funds, that ain't a-going to go down in this ere meetin'. Old Gulick's boy broke that are glass just out of sheer dev'ltry, and you s'pose this ere school de-strict is a-goin' to pay for't? What do you s'pose these ere staterts was passed for? What do you s'pose you was 'lected for? To pay for old Gulick's boy?—Well, I rather caklate not, by the light of this ere moon—not in this ere age of Puddleford."

Squire Longbow took a large chew of plug-tobacco, which I thought he nipped off very short, and remained standing, with his eyes fixed on Turtle.

Sile Bates rose, and said "he wanted to know the particulars 'bout that are glass."

Longbow said "the board 'spended money in their 'scretion, and 'twarn't fur Turtle or Bates, or anybody else, to 'raign 'em up 'fore this 'ere meetin'."

Here was a long pause. The "Colonel" finally arose, put his hand deliberately into his pocket, drew out a quarter, and flung it at the Squire, and "hop'd the meetin'[Pg 193] would go on, as it was the first public gathering that he ever knew blocked by twenty-five cents."

This settled the difficulty, and the report for contingent expenses was adopted.

Bulliphant then said he had a motion. He "moved that we hire Deacon Fluett's darter to keep our school."

The Squire said "the meetin' couldn't hire, but it could say male or female teacher."

Bulliphant "moved we hire a female, and we recommend Deacon Fluett's darter."

Bates said "he jest as 'lieve have one of Fluett's two-year olds."

The "Colonel" said "she couldn't spell Baker."

Swipes thought "she was scarcely fit to go to school."

Turtle said "the meetin' hadn't got nothin' to do with it, nohow, and the whole motion was agin law."

Bulliphant, who had become a little out of humor, then "moved that we don't hire Deacon Fluett's darter."

Bates declared "the motion out of order."

The Squire said "he guess'd the motion was proper. The staterts said the meetin' shouldn't hire anybody, but the de-strict board should; and this ere motion was jest 'cordin' to statert."

But the meeting voted down Bulliphant's motion, and Bulliphant then declared that the vote was "tan-ter-mount to a resolve to hire the woman."

Here was a parliamentary entanglement that occupied an hour; but the "Colonel" settled it at last, by reminding the president "that it was two negatives that made one affirmative—not one;" and the Squire said "so he believed he had seen it laid down inter the books."

But I cannot attempt to report the proceedings of this[Pg 194] miscellaneous body. The business occupied some four or five hours, and was finally brought to a close. A new school board was elected, and your humble servant was one of the number; positively the first office that was ever visited upon him.

The great question with two of the members of our board, in hiring a teacher, was the price. Qualification was secondary. The first application was made by a long-armed, red-necked, fiery-headed youth of about nineteen years, who had managed to run himself up into the world about six feet two inches, and who had not worn off his flesh by hard study, and who carried about him digestive organs as strong as the bowels of a thrashing-machine. He "wanted a school, 'cause he had nothing else to do in the winter months."

He was accordingly introduced to our School Inspectors; the only one of whom I knew was Bates. The other two were rather more frightened at the presentation than the applicant himself.

Bates proposed first to try the gentleman in geography and history. "Where's Bunker Hill?" inquired Bates, authoritatively.

"Wal, 'bout that," said Strickett—our applicant called his name Izabel Strickett—"'bout that, why, it's where the battle was fit, warn't it?"

"Jes so," replied Bates; "and where was that?"

"Down at the east'ard."

"Who did the fightin' there?"

"Gin'rul Washington fit all the revolution."

"Where's Spain?"

"Where?" repeated Strickett—"Spain? where is it?"

"Yes! where?"

JIM BUZZARD AND THE AGER.  "Them 'ere doctors don't get any of their stuff down my throat. If I can't stand it as long as the ager, then I'll give in."—Page 186. JIM BUZZARD AND THE AGER.
"Them 'ere doctors don't get any of their stuff down my throat. If I can't stand it as long as the ager, then I'll give in."—Page 186.

[Pg 195]

"Wal, now," exclaimed Strickett, looking steadily on the floor, "I'll be darn'd if that ere hain't just slipped my mind."

"Where's Turkey?"

"O, yes," said Strickett, "Turkey—the place they call Turkey—if you'd ask'd me in the street, I'd told you right off, but I've got so fruster'd I don't know nothin';" and thinking a moment, he exclaimed, "it's where the Turks live. I thought I know'd."

"How many States are there in the Union?"

"'Tween twenty-live and thirty—throwin' out Canady."

Bates then attempted an examination in reading and spelling. "Spell hos!" said Bates.


"Thunder!" roared Bates. Bates did know how to spell horse. He had seen notices of stray horses, and a horse was the most conspicuous object in Puddleford, excepting, of course, Squire Longbow. "H—o—s! that's a hos-of-a-way to spell hos!" and Bates looked at Strickett very severely, feeling a pride of his own knowledge.

Strickett said "he us'd the book when he teach'd school—he didn't teach out of his head—and he didn't believe the 'spectors themselves could spell Ompompanoosuck right off, without getting stuck."

Izabel's examination was something after this sort, through the several English branches; yet a majority of the Board of School Inspectors decided to give him a certificate, if we said so, as he was to teach our school, and we were more interested than they in his qualifications; and whether the Inspectors knew what his qualifications[Pg 196] really were, "this deponent saith not." Strickett "sloped."

The next application was by letter. The epistle declared that the applicant "brok'd his arm inter a saw-mill, and he couldn't do much out-door work till it heal'd up agin, and if we'd hire him to carry on our school, he tho't he would make it go well 'nough,"—but the School Board decided that all-powerful as sympathy might be, it could scarcely drive a district school under such orthography, syntax, and prosody.

Next appeared Mrs. Beagle, in behalf of her "Sah-Jane." "She know'd Sah-Jane, and she know'd Sah-Jane was jist the thing for the Puddleford school; and if we only know'd Sah-Jane as well as she know'd Sah-Jane, we'd have her, cost what it might." She said "Sah-Jane was a most s'prisin' gal—she hung right to her books, day and night—and she know'd she had a sleight at teachin'. Mr. Giblett's folks told Mr. Brown's folks, so she heer'd, that if they ever did get Sah-Jane into that ere school, she'd make a buzzin' that would tell some."

Sah-Jane's case was, however, indefinitely postponed. Some objections, among other things, on the score of age, were suggested. This roused the wrath of Mrs. Beagle, and she "guessed her Sah-Jane was old enough to teach a Puddleford school—if she tho't she warn't, she'd bile her up in-ter soap-grease, and sell her for a shillin' a quart!—and as for the de-strict board, they'd better go to a school-marm themselves, and larn somethin', or be 'lected over agin, she didn't care which;" and Mrs. Beagle left at a very quick step, her face much flushed and full of cayenne and vengeance.[Pg 197]

There were a great many more applications, and at last the board hired—I say the boardI didn't. But the other members overruled me, and price, not qualification, settled the question at last.

This was the way the machinery was worked in our school district, during the very early days of Puddleford. As the stream never rises above the fountain-head, education was quite feeble. But we do better now—there is less friction on our gudgeons, and if Puddleford should turn out a President one of these days, it would be nothing more than what our glorious institutions have before "ground out" under more discouraging circumstances.

[Pg 198]


Venison Styles again.—Sermon on Nature.—Funeral Songs of the Birds.—Their Flight and Return.—His Theory of Government.—Sakoset.—The Indians.

Venison Styles, rough and rugged as he was, had acquired much knowledge in a wild way, and could, in that way, stagger a philosopher. No man had a nicer insight into nature. Birds and brooks, hills and valleys, trees and flowers, were all his study. He had no faith in science, except just so far as it came within his own experience. "Book larnin'," he said, "was all very well; but lookin' natur' in the face, and listening to what she said, was a deal better." I remember one of his sermons, which he delivered to me one bright October afternoon, when the woods were all russet and gold, the squirrels chattering in the trees, the nuts dropping, the partridges whirring and drumming, and the soft autumnal light was faintly struggling along the aisles of the forest. "You see," said Venison, "how all natur' is talkin', and if you will only listen, can tell enymost what she says. There," he continued, "just hear that robin pecking away on that ere coke bush. Hear him pipe away so melancholy-like—'All goin'! all goin'!' he says. How low and fine that yaller-bird sings—a kinder fun'ral song. The jay is sad-like, and acts just as[Pg 199] though he felt winter comin'. That crow, sailin' through the air, croaks awful gloomy-like and holler—and all these ere crickets and insects jine in so sad and downcast. 'Tain't their spring song. They are down onter another key now. They begin to feel frost inter their bones. They know what's comin'."

"Know!" said I; "what do birds know about winter, till it comes." I wanted to draw the old philosopher out.

"Know! know!" continued Venison. "Birds think and talk—yes, they do—they know. I've heerd 'em talk to one another, from tree-top to tree-top, across these woods many a time—lay plans many a day. What makes 'em flockin' around us to-day, and soarin' around in companies, if they don't understand each other? They go round and round for a week or two, visit this wood and that, jabber, and fret, and fume, pick up a straggler here, 'nother there, and when they get a good ready, and are flock'd, off they go, travellin' south. Hain't they got col'nels, captins, and laws?—they are jest as much of a body as our school de-strict is, and every bird knows what he is about, what he is going to do, and how, too."

"Why don't all the blackbirds go into one flock, Venison?" said I.

"There 'tis! there 'tis!" replied Venison; "if 'twas all chance, they would. But it jest ain't chance. Natur' has 'lowed them to fix it. There," he continued, "goes a flock now—they've got a captin among 'em, leading 'em on—he knows every one under him—and they are jest around visitin' their friends before goin' off—that's all."[Pg 200]

"Do you think they will come back again, Venison?" I inquired.

"Back again! back again!" he exclaimed, looking up to me with surprise. "Why, man, this is their home—they were born 'here. This is their ground, hereabouts. They know every tree, and mash, and river for miles 'round. You'll hear 'em chatterin' and gabblin' by next April 'gain."

"Doubtful," I replied.

"Well, now," said Venison, "I've tried that. Down to where I live, the blackbirds and robins are thick as spatter. They make it all ring round me. I caught a dozen or more of each in a net one fall, cut off one toe all round, and let 'em go. Jim Spikes bet they wouldn't come back; I bet they would. I wanted to try it, you see. When spring came on again there the fellers were, sure enough, or most on 'em, on hand, ready for summer's business again. Jim gin in—he did."

"I should think they would stray away, Venison," said I.

"Don't you believe in a God!" broke out Venison, in an animated tone. "When He made 'em, He put a compass inter their heads that can't get out of fix, and they run jest as straight by it as my dog does by his nose—and a dog's nose is his compass, you know."

This was a quaint, but a very pointed way, of illustrating a law of nature. Venison was a quaint man, and drove at a conclusion frequently cross lots, by some startling figure of speech.

"And I've got an idee," continued Venison, "an idee—I don't put it down as fact—that birds know one another, jest as we do—remember each other from y'ar[Pg 201] to y'ar—how they sang together last y'ar and every y'ar in the shadows and sunshine of this old wood, and nested and raised their young 'uns together—and they kinder bid good by to one 'nother when they go off in the fall, and say How are you? when spring comes on—and may be they have their likes and dislikes, and old grudges to bring up agin—for there is a world of human natur' in 'em—a world on't—it is only an idee—can't say—but I believe it—but,"—and the old hunter turned round with a sad look,—"they won't roam round here much longer; the big trees are tumblin'; the old seventy-sixers are enymost gone; morn'er twenty y'ars ago they were mighty noisy up in that ar oak (he pointed to an enormous oak stump), but the varmints heeved it down, and made it inter lumber—the old tree that liv'd and rock'd in the storms five hundred years, I reckon; the bees and birds all knew it, and jest hung around it 'cause they lov'd it. I have had many a good shot from it. I heerd it crash when it came down—felt it, I did—feel it yet—the varmints."

"But," said I, with an effort to turn the current of the old man's thoughts, "you really believe that birds have their captains and colonels, and all that, do you?"

"Yes, sir! and mor'n that; kings and queens, for aught I know. It's a king that leads the ducks in their flight, ain't it? Hain't you heer'd him blow his horn, away in the sky, as he led 'em on up the rivers and takes? Don't the bees have their queen?"

Venison launched forth in his peculiar style on the theory of government, despotic and republican—maintained that God "hadn't any republics" in his kingdom—"all on 'em kings and queens—nobody was 'lected[Pg 202] there—all on 'em were made from the beginning to rule and reign over their subjects." He maintained that as God was almighty, so he put almighty power in the rulers of the kingdoms under him. Therefore—such was his argument—"man orter be governed by man"—not by the voice of the people, but by a sovereign higher than himself. His arguments and language were home-made, but his ideas were brought out with great point and force.

I had long known that Venison was well posted on the trees and shrubs, flowers, and even the weeds. Nothing that he had ever observed had failed him. Probably he never read a book on the subject in his life, that is, if he could read. The familiar names of all creation were understood by him, and he had his own theories about everything animate and inanimate. I started him off on this subject. I called his attention to the oak over which he shed a tear, and by degrees drew him along to the time when the axe and the plough would change the whole face of the country around us into hamlets, green pastures, and waving fields of grain. The old man looked solemn. The subject was not pleasant to him—he heaved a sigh, and said, finally, "'Tis all the same! 'tis all the same with me! I shall be under the ground then! I don't wanter live to see it."

He rallied, and went on—"They've enymost spilt it now. When I was young, I could see a deer a mile away—no underbrush to shade my rifle. The deer, too, look'd grander like, somehow, than they do now. They had a freedom in 'em. They seemed to know the woods was theirs. They kinder go sneakin' round now, as though some critter was arter 'em. This stream was[Pg 203] filled with ducks, flappin' their wings, and washin' themselves; and many a time I've heer'd 'em, jest as the sun was a-settin', talkin' to themselves, and gettin' ready to go to bed. But the settlers came in, dammed the river, and down came the sawdust, and it roar'd and rattled 'em all away. The partridges used to drum and drum in the still afternoon, and whirr about—and they are gone, too. I don't believe natur' likes to be disturbed. She sorter rebels agin the plough at first. She allers sends up coke and bramble when the furrows are first made—fights it as well as she can, till they get her under, and put her inter what they call crops. The Lord made the airth well enough to begin with. He knew what we wanted. He gave us airth and sky, woods and water—birds and fish to eat—and it all rais'd itself, and enough on't, too. This thing they call civ'lation is right agin natur'. It makes poor young men and wim'in'. They hain't got no stuff in 'em—they can't do anythin'—they are peepin' round, full of pain of every sort—full of rheumatiz, agers, janders, and all sorter ails. I've gone morn'er twenty miles a day, loaded with game, and not a tired hair in me—can do it agin." And thus Venison preached, too much and too long for me to record in full.

Venison continued, and declared that "there was enough of everything just as it was." He attempted to show that there were seeds of life deep in the earth, planted there from the beginning, that came forth in due time, and replenished the earth. He never "see'd any coke till they ploughed a furrow, and built that ere rail fence"—"and down in that ere breakin' (which I saw had been neglected, and was overgrown heavily), the[Pg 204] blackberries and ten thousand other things were comin' up." He said he "would jest like to know where all that seed had been lyin' since the world was made—how long it would have laid, he'd jest like ter know, if that ere plough hadn't stirred up the sile." And thus he attempted to illustrate his theory of vegetation.

"Not only the trees, but the Injuns were goin'. 'Tain't as 'twas with 'em when they went a-whoopin' around among the streams and woods. I've see'd mor'n nor forty canoes sailing away here on this river at on'st—and then we had raal Injuns—tall, six-foot fellers, with eyes like the eagle. But they, too, are pinin' out like. The white man, and the white man's ways, and the white man's drink, has taken all the tuck out on 'em. They know, what are left on 'em, that they ain't raal Injuns any more. They don't whoop any more. They hang about the towns a while, and get full of pizen, and then slink away silently inter the forest again. Sometimes, when huntin' season comes on, they fire up, and chase the game, but it is kinder melancholy, after all—like a flame jest spirtin' out a minute from a charr'd and half-burning log. There's old Sakoset (I've known him enymost on to forty years), was jest as much of a king, and had jest as much of a throne, as old George Third ever had. He lov'd his tribe, and they lov'd him. His word was law. These were all his grounds for a hundred miles round. I know it warn't mark'd off into counties, townships, and school de-stricts. They didn't have any place to file away papers, nor didn't write everythin' they did in books—but they had their laws jest as well, all written down inter their heads; and they knew their history—they had, what white men call their traditions—they[Pg 205] knew all about their fathers and grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers—and old Sakoset was their chief. He was six feet three inches by measure, and as straight as that 'ere hickory. He was knit all over as tight as an oak. He was as hansome as a picter, and I've seen him in council, when I tho't he was the noblest lookin' mortal on this airth. And there warn't no man, no gov'ment (Venison grew excited here) that had as good a right to these 'ere grounds as Sakoset. God gave 'em to him, and the white man stole 'em away, stole 'em, sir!—stole 'em. Yes, sir! they passed a law that they should be removed 'yond the 'Sippi—gave 'em huntin' grounds, as they call 'em—drove 'em together like scar'd sheep, and forc'd 'em away from their own sile. But old Sakoset didn't like his new home, wouldn't stay, and he and a few of his tribe straggled back here agin, and now wander round these woods. But he ain't the same man any more; he's all broke down like; 'tain't the same place to him, he says. The stream winds round the hill yet, and the mountain is there, but the forest is mostly down, and the white man is everywhere. Sakoset says but little; goes round dreamin'-like; hangs about alone in the woods, a-thinkin', and sees in his mind his tribe all before him as it was when he was king over them on these grounds. I saw him a few days ago up in the Injun buryin'-ground sittin' so still, I first tho't he was a monerment somebody had put up—but 'twas Sakoset."

Venison was here attracted by the roar of a gun, and a deer rushed past, breaking his discourse, and we both followed the hunter and the hunted, to see how the chase would end—saw the deer plunge into the river, the dogs after him, and I watched them until they floated away around the bend beyond my sight.

[Pg 206]


Some Account of John Smith.—Nicknames.—Progress of the Age.—The Colonel's Opinion of Science.—John Smith's Dream.—Ike Turtle's Dream.—Ike takes the Boots.

Pioneers—men who grow up in the woods—are famous for luxuriant imaginations. Everything, with them, is on a sweeping scale with the natural objects amid which they dwell. The rivers, and lakes, and plains are great, and seem to run riot—so men sometimes run riot too, in thought, and word, and deed. They deal largely in the extravagant, and do extravagant things in an extravagant way.

I have seen a rusty pioneer, when giving his opinion upon some trite matter, garnish his language with imagery and figures, and clothe himself with an action, that Demosthenes would have copied, if he had met with such in his day. Gestures all graceful, eye all fire, language rough, but strong, and an enthusiasm that was magnetic—a kind of unpremeditated natural eloquence, that many a one has sought for, but never found.

John Smith was an ingenious Puddlefordian in the way of story-telling. He was almost equal to Ike Turtle. John was a great, stalwart, double-breasted fellow, who cared for nothing, not even himself; a compound made up of dare-devil ferocity, benevolence, and impudence.[Pg 207] His feelings, whether of the higher or lower order, always ran to excess. He was an importation from Massachusetts, of fair education, and, from his recklessness of life, had drifted into Puddleford, like many other tempest-tossed vessels, stripped of spars and rigging. Smith's fancy and imagination were always at work. He had nicknamed two thirds of Puddleford, and there was something characteristic in the appellations bestowed. One small-eyed man, he called "Pink-Eye;" another, a bustling fellow, who made a very great noise on a very small capital, was known as "Bumble-bee;" another, a long-shanked, loose-jointed character, was "Giraffe;" Squire Longbow he christened "Old Night-Shade." Turtle was known as "Sky-Rocket;" Bates as "Little Coke;" the Colonel as "Puff-Ball." Indeed, not one man in twenty was recognized by his true name, so completely had Smith invested the people with titles of his own manufacture.

I recollect one of Smith's flights of imagination—one among many—for I cannot write out all his mental productions.

The Puddlefordians were met, as usual, at Bulliphant's. That was the place, we have seen, where all public opinion was created. Turtle, and Longbow, and Bates, and the whole roll, even down to Jim Buzzard, were present. The progress of the age was the subject.

Turtle thought "there was no cac'latin' what things would come to—steam and ingin-rubber were runnin' one etarnal race, and he guess'd they'd lay all opposition to the land, and bring on the millennium."

Bates said "the sciences were doin' sunthin', but they'd never make anybody better—human natur' was[Pg 208] so shockin' wicked, that it would require a heap mor'n injin-rubber to rejuvify 'em."

Mr. Longbow requested Bates "to repeat that 'ere last word agin."

Bates said "it was 'rejuvify'—that is, 'drag out,' 'resurrect.'"

The Squire thanked Bates for his explanation.

The Colonel said there was such a thing as too much science. He professed to have lived a scientific life—that is, without work—but all the while he found some one a little more scientific, and he had never been able to hold his own anywhere. He had been stranded fourteen times in his life, owing to a press of science brought against him; but the most destructive science in the known world was that for the collection of debts. It deprived men of their liberty, their comforts, their property, their friends; and the manner in which this was all done was barbarous. He defied any man to produce as cool-blooded a thing as an execution at law, which was a branch of legal science.

Squire Longbow said—"A fiery facius (fieri facias) was one of the most ancientest writs which he issued, and there warn't nothin' cool-blooded or ramptious about it."

Mr. Smith sat silently up to this point in the debate. "Boys," said he, at last, "the world is goin' ahead. Talkin' of science, let me tell you a dream I had last night." But, if the reader will permit me, I will give the substance of Smith's dream in my own language. It may detract from its point, but it will be more connected and intelligible.

"I dreamed, boys," said Smith, "that I was in the great Patent Office, at Washington. I looked, and its[Pg 209] ceiling was raised to an enormous height, while through open doors and passages I saw room after room groaning with thousands of models, until it appeared as though I was in a wilderness of machinery. Very soon a pert little gentleman, with a quick black eye, and a 'pussy' body, arrayed in the queerest costume I ever saw, came bustling up to me, and asked me for my ticket. I involuntarily thrust my hand into the depths of my breeches-pocket, and pulling out a card, delivered it to him. After looking at the card, and then at me, and then at the card again, he burst out into a loud guffaw, that made the old Patent-Office ring. 'Why, sir,' said he, 'this is no ticket. It is the business card of one John Smith, advertising a patent dog-churn, of which he here says he is the real inventor, and it bears date in the year 1840—two hundred years ago! The churn may be found in room marked "Inventions of Year 1840," but the man John Smith we haven't got. I don't much think he is around above ground, just at this time," said the little man, chuckling. 'But,' said I, 'who are you, if I am not John Smith? Were you not appointed by Polk, Secretary of the Interior, and did I not put a word in his ear favorable to you?' 'Polk, a Secretary of the Interior!' exclaimed he; 'I appointed by Polk! Why, my dear sir, I was appointed only two years ago—not two hundred!—"Chief of the Great Central Department," as the office is now called.'

"While we were talking, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Fulton, walked in and took seats. I knew Uncle Ben the moment I cast my eyes upon him. He was dressed in good old '76 style;—shoe-buckles, short breeches, queue, and all; and that same jolly, round face,[Pg 210] and double chin, that tranquil countenance just touched, without being destroyed, by comedy—were all there. Adams and Jefferson I had before seen, and they were a little more modern in dress, but they both looked care-worn. Fulton sat apart, and eyed the other three as though he had seen them somewhere, but yet could not call them by name.

"The rather unexpected arrival of these gentlemen broke up the comments of my bustling interrogator, and one of those pauses occurred which frequently do upon the appearance of strangers. Uncle Ben asked Jefferson if he would 'not like to move up to the fire and warm his feet?' 'Fire!' said I, 'fire. Why, Uncle Ben, there is no fireplace now-a-days. Stoves and hot-air furnaces are all the go. This building is warmed by a great furnace, and two miles of pipe that conducts the heat to every room in it.' 'Not by a long way,' said my bustling friend—'not by a long way, Mr. John Smith. This trumpery is all piled away among the inventions of the years that were. These things belong to the age of your dog-churn. Why, gentlemen,' continued he, 'have you never heard of the Great Southern Hot-Air Company, chartered in 1960, whose business it is to furnish warm air from the South to persons at the North; price to families three dollars a year; all done by a gigantic underground tunnel, and branches, worked at the other end by an air-pump! Have you never heard of this, gentlemen? Here we get the natural heat of the South, warmed by the sun; none of your stinking coal and wood gases to corrupt and destroy it. And then the principle of reciprocity is kept up; for we send back our cold air in the same way; and so we keep up an equilibrium, for the[Pg 211] South are just as strenuous as ever to keep up the equilibrium of the Union. Why, gentlemen, those stoves required constant care. As often as every week it was necessary to replenish them with wood or coal. No! no!—those improvements belonged to the dark ages."

"Bless me!" exclaimed Uncle Ben. "Impossible!" repeated Fulton. "And so you don't use the old 'Franklin' stove any more?" said Uncle Ben. "Perhaps," he continued, a quiet smile playing over his face, as if he intended a comical shot, "perhaps you don't use lightning now-a-days either, and my lightning-rods, of course, belong to the dark ages too!"

"We have the lightning, and use it too, but only one rod, built by the state, near its centre, which is so colossal and powerful that it protects everything around it." And then the little fellow rattled on about the use of lightning; how it wrote all over the world the English language, until I verily believe that Uncle Ben, Fulton, and all, set him down as the most unscrupulous liar that they had ever met with.

"I think," said Uncle Ben, "that I could convince myself of the truth of your assertions, if I could go to Boston; but as my time is very limited, I cannot."

"Send you there in five minutes by the watch!" answered the little man; "or, if that's too soon, in twenty-four hours. It requires powerful lungs to go by balloon—time five minutes—departure every half hour. The magnetic railway train will take you through in four hours, or on the old-fashioned railroad in twenty-four." "What," said Uncle Ben, "is the old stage company entirely broken up?" "Don't know what you mean by stages," said the little man, "but I will look for the word[Pg 212] in the big dictionary." "Go by steamboat," said Fulton. "Steamboat!" repeated the little man,—"steamboat! too everlasting slow—not over twenty-five miles an hour—well enough for freight, but passengers cannot endure them; they go laboring and splashing along at a snail's pace, and they are enough to wear out any man's patience. Yet the steamboat was the greatest stride ever made at any one time in the way of locomotion, and was very creditable to Fulton and the age in which he lived." "That is admitting something," burst out Fulton, who had sat like a statue, watching the little man's volubility. "But," said Uncle Ben, "all this talk don't get me on my way to Boston. That is my birthplace. I was there for the last time in 1763, and you know that, according to the provisions of my will, there is more than four million pounds sterling of my money which has by this time been disposed of by the state somehow." Uncle Ben was always a shrewd fellow in the way of dollars and cents, and I could see he was very anxious about that money. "Oho! oho!" said the little man; "so you are Ben Franklin, and you are the old gentleman who left that legacy. We've got a portrait of you up-stairs, more than two hundred years old, and it does look like you. Glad to see you! You said something in your life-time about immersing yourself in a cask of Madeira wine with a few friends, and coming to the world in a hundred years again. These are your friends, I suppose?" "These gentlemen," replied Uncle Ben, "are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, signers of the Declaration of Independence." "The other gentleman," continued I, "is Robert Fulton, whom you have spoken of." "Well, I declare!" ejaculated the little man, "this is a meeting! But about[Pg 213] that legacy, Uncle Ben, of yours; two million sterling of it has gone to build the Gutta Percha Magnetic Telegraph line, connecting Boston with London and Paris, two of the largest cities in the Eastern Republic of Europe." "Gutta Percha!—Magnetic telegraph!—Republic of Europe!"—repeated all of them. "All built under water, and sustained by buoys," continued the little man, "and it works to a charm—plan up-stairs in room 204—and can be seen in a moment; and, as I told you before, it writes the English language as fast as my deputy." "Republic of Europe!" exclaimed Jefferson, again. "Yes, sir," said the little man, "for more than a century. No more thrones; no more rulers by divine right; no more governments sustained by powder and ball; no lords nor nobles; man is man, not merely one of a class of men, but individually man, with rights as perfect and powers as great as any other man. The principles, Jefferson, of your Declaration, which you did not create, but only asserted, have prostrated every arbitrary government on the globe. Even the Jews, since their return to Jerusalem, have organized a republican form of government, and have just elected Mr. Noah President." "Well," thinks I to myself, "that can't be Mordecia M. Noah, anyhow, for politics must have used up his constitution before this." But the little man chattered away, and declared that Europe was divided into two republics, the Eastern and Western; that Constantinople was the capital of the Western; that Africa and Asia were also republican; until the three signers of the Declaration, perfectly wrought up to a frenzy of joy, rose up from their seats, took off their hats, and swinging them round, gave "Three cheers for '76, and the[Pg 214] old Army of the Revolution!"—and I verily believe Uncle Ben forgot all about that money, and about going to Boston, for he did not allude to it any more in my presence.

"Great changes these!" continued the little man, "from your days. But you must not think, gentlemen, that we have forgotten you or your services, while we have improved in wisdom and strength. Look here, gentlemen," and he motioned us away, and, leading on, he conducted us to an observatory on the top of the building. Such a prospect I never before beheld. Away, around, on every side, stretched a mighty city, whose limits the eye could not reach. Towers, temples, spires, and masts succeeded towers, temples, spires, and masts, until they were lost in the distant haze. Canals traversed every street, and boats of merchandise were loading and unloading their freights. Steam-carriages were puffing along the roads that ran by the canal, some filled with pleasure parties, and some laden with goods. Turning my eye to an elevation, I saw fifty-six gigantic monuments, whose peaks were nearly lost in the sky, ranged in a line, all alike in form and sculpture. "These," said the little man, "were erected to the Signers of the Declaration of Independence;" and, taking out his telescope, he handed it to Uncle Ben, who read aloud among the inscriptions the names, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams. "But let us know what this city is called?" inquired Jefferson. "This, sir, is called Columbiana; it lies on the west bank of the Mississippi, population five millions, according to the last census." "But what supports it?" "Supports it! The great East India trade. That vessel down there is direct from Canton, by ship canal across the Isthmus. All Europe is secondary to us now. No[Pg 215] doubling capes, as was done in your day. Yonder stands the Capitol; and the whole North American continent is annually represented there. The city of San Francisco alone sends forty-four members. There," continued he, pointing his finger, "that balloon rising slowly in the sky has just started for that place, and the passengers will take their dinner there to-morrow."

Jefferson asked the little man "whether the Federalists or Democrats were in power?"—and I saw that Adams waked up when he heard the question. "Don't know any such division," replied he. "The great measure of the day, upon which parties are divided, is the purchase of the South American continent at five hundred millions of dollars. I go for it; and before another year the bargain will be consummated. We must have more territory—we haven't got half enough. Extent of territory gives a nation dignity and importance. The old thirteen states of your day, gentlemen, were a mere cabbage patch, and should have been consolidated into one state. Ten or twenty days' sail ran you plump into a hostile port, and then you had a demand for duty. Besides, conflicting interests always brew up difficulties; and then come treaties, and finally war, and then debt, and at last oppressive taxation. A nation should own all the territory that joins it. The ocean is the only natural boundary for a people." Thinks I, "You have been a politician in your day, and I'll just engage you to correspond with a certain New York editor, who shall be nameless; you strike off the doctrine boldly!"

Uncle Ben told the little man, after he closed, that a nation might "get so very ripe as to become a little rotten; and, if he had no objection, he would present him[Pg 216] with the 'Sayings of Poor Richard.'" And, suiting the action to the word, he pushed his hand into his breeches-pocket, and pulled out an old almanac, printed at Philadelphia in 1732, and, bowing, handed it to him. The little man thanked him, and promised to deposit it in the Museum, as a curious piece of antiquity.

"Getting somewhat anxious for a smoke, I drew forth a cigar and 'loco-foco,' rubbed the latter across my boot, which flashed out its light full in Uncle Ben's face. 'That is nice,' exclaimed he; 'rather an improvement on the old string, wheel, and tinder plan.' 'Simple, too, isn't it?' said I; 'and yet all the science of your day didn't detect it.' Just then I gave a puff, which made Uncle Ben sneeze; and he broke out into a tirade against tobacco that would read well. But I told him there was no use; men had smoked and chewed the weed—would smoke and chew it, economy or no economy, health or no health, filth or no filth; and that in all probability the last remnant of the great American Republic, for succeeding nations to gaze at, would be a plug of tobacco; for I sincerely believed that tobacco would outlive the government itself.

"The little man proposed returning into the Patent Office, and exhibiting to us in detail the models of art there deposited. But I cannot weary you with what I there saw. The fruits of every year, since the organization of the department, were divided into rooms, and indicated on the door by an inscription. There were thousands of improvements in every branch of science, many of which were so simple, that I thought myself a fool that I did not discover them long ago. Principles were applied, the very operation of which I now recollected[Pg 217] to have often seen, yet without a thought of their practical utility. I came to the conclusion that accident was the parent of more that I saw than design; 'for how,' reasoned I, 'is it possible that these pieces of machinery could otherwise have escaped the great men who have lived and died in ignorance of them?'

"By this time we were quite fatigued, and Uncle Ben complained a little of the 'stone,' which he said he was subject to. The little man gave him some 'Elixir of Life,' as he called it, being, as he said, 'an extract of the nutritious portions of meats and vegetables, purged from their grossness as found in their natural state;' and while we were sipping it, he launched forth upon its great benefit to mankind; the money saved that used to be expended in cookery and transportation—millions upon millions; the great economy in time, formerly squandered in eating, &c., &c.; and he wound up his eulogy by presenting each of us with a bottle, which I carefully put away in my pocket.

"Adams then rose up, and said he must leave, and Jefferson, Uncle Ben, and Fulton followed. And in a moment Uncle Ben, Fulton, Adams, Jefferson, the little man, the apartments, wheels, and machinery, began to rock, and heave, and fade, and finally dissolve; and suddenly I awoke!"

"You did awake!" exclaimed the Colonel, drawing a breath all the way from his boots; "I should have thought you would."

Bates gave a yawn, and throwing his quid into the fire, called for a glass of whiskey and water, saying he would "try to choke down the story with that."

Longbow sat perfectly magnetized—his arms folded[Pg 218] across his breast, his chin dropped, his legs resting on his boot-heels, and pushed out in front of him, as though he was driving a hard-bitted horse, and his one eye stared vacantly at the coals in the huge fireplace. He gave an unconscious grunt when Smith concluded, but made no commentary.

Turtle said "the dream was very remarkable for such a man as Smith; but he guessed he had it, and he was going to believe it, because it was upon the word of a Puddlefordian. But he'd had one that beat it all holler—s'prisin' dream—like them air visions that somebody unriddled for—he couldn't recollect the name of the man now—no matter, the dream's the same.

"I got up one morning," said Ike, "and went down to my breakfast-table, but there warn't one of my family present. I saw seated around it, however, a strange company of folks, and dressed as no mortals ever were before, since the flood, I reckon. There warn't nothin' that ever I seed before on any on 'em. I took my place at the head of the board, and attempted to do the carvin'; but there warn't nobody that understood my meanin'. Pork warn't pork any more; and when I tried to pass pork, I found that it had a kind-er' fancy name, which I have now forgot.

"One great goggle-eyed fellow, who sat at my right hand, informed a lady near him 'that he'd got-ter go over to Agoria before dinner, and get his sun-dial fixed; but his wings were down at the shop being fixed, and he couldn't start this hour yet."

"'Agoria! Where's that?' asked I.

"'Don't know where Agoria is—ha, ha! On the River Amazon, a trip of a couple of thousand of miles.'[Pg 219] And so he took out a little eye-glass, and looked at me for a long time, and, putting it back in his pocket, said 'he thought I was a North Pole-ander, or a ghost; he didn't know which.

"'Dear me! you will be keerful, now won't you?' said the lady. Two hundred collisions in the air last night, among the winged men; almost as many the night afore—awful!'

"The goggle-eyed man said he would.

"'Did you hear President Jones lecter last night,' said a spectacled critter, at the upper end of the table, sticking his fore-finger out to me.

"'No, sir-ee!' I hollered back to him, as I was some little frustrated by this time.

"'He showed,' said the man, 'that one Tom Jefferson prob'bly did write the Declaration of Independence that the ancients made.'

"'You don't say so, though, do you?' said I. 'You're a bright set of chaps the whole on you, President Jones and all.'

"There was a mighty deal said about the Persian war with America; what somebody said who came from Africa last night—what this man and that man done in Congress; but getting out of patience at last, I jumped up, and left the whole on 'em; and as I passed out of the room, told 'em 'they might all go to grass.'

"As I left the house, I saw an almanac hanging on the wall for the year 2564. The first thought, when I saw this, was, 'Where, in the name of Andrew Jackson, is Puddleford now?'

"But what was my surprise, when I got inter the street, which was all laid with slabs of granite, and lined[Pg 220] with palaces, to find Squire Longbow walking along with his wings folded on his back, looking as nat'ral as the old fogy himself.

"'Squire,' said I, 'here's to you!'

"The Squire said 'he hadn't the honor of my 'quaintance.'

"'O, you old scoundrel!' said I, 'you can't come that—'"

"That's false!" exclaimed Longbow; "I didn't have no such talk."

"It was only a dream—you forget," answered Ike.

"Exactly," replied the Squire, relapsing into his former mood.

"'You can't come that, old man,' I repeated; 'I could tell you in the streets of Jerusalem in the night; what are you about, old feller? You look fat and pussy.'

"The Squire said 'he was Judge of the Continental Supreme Court.'

"'So I should think,' said I; 'I just left a dozen asses at my breakfast table, and you're just the man for all the world to be their judge.'

"That's a contempt!" exclaimed the Squire, jumping from his chair.

"Nothin' but a dream, and they allers go by contraries," answered Ike.

"So they do,' said the Squire, calmly, sitting down again.

"Where's Bates, and the Colonel, and Bulliphant, and the other Puddlefordians?' inquired I.

"'Bates,' said the Squire, 'burst a blood-vessel several hundred years ago, running down a southern kidnapper, and died quick-ern a flash. He didn't leave nothing[Pg 221] scasely for his family, 'cause he spent all his time on public affairs. The Colonel left the country with the sheriff at his heels; and he rather thought he was somewhere about the streets now, as he saw a feller t'other day 'fore the court, for debt, that looked jest like him. Bulliphant went off in spontaneous combustion—in a kind of blue fire, and the old woman fretted herself out, a couple of years arter; but,' said the Squire, 'I can't be detained. Story's waitin' for me on the bench, and we decide the title to a million of acres of land, at ten this morning.'

"This woke me. Story and the decision by Longbow, knocked my dream out-er sight."

Bates pulled off his boots, and handing them to Ike, informed him that they were his, by the custom of Puddlefordians, and the meeting adjourned.

[Pg 222]


Ike Turtle in his Office.—The Author consults him on Point of Law.—Taxes of Non-Residents.—Law in Puddleford.—Mr. Bridget's Case.—Legal Discussion.—The Case settled.

We very often get an idea of a community by fathoming its leading men. We stick our stakes at that point, and reason, by comparison, downward; not that prominent individuals make the community, any more than the community makes them; but both act and react upon each other, until a standard is formed—and that standard is just high enough for the occasion—the necessities of the present. Water never rises above its level.

You have, respected reader, already seen much—perhaps too much—of Ike Turtle. You must recollect, however, as I have before declared, that he was an embodiment of the spirit of his time. He was the presiding genius of Puddleford, and had been as much moulded by it as he had moulded Puddleford.

Turtle, as we have seen, was a host in law—that is, he was a host in Puddleford law. He was just as useful and mighty in his sphere as Webster ever was in his. It must in candor be admitted that there was a difference in spheres; but that in no way affects the principle—and principle is what we are contending for.[Pg 223]

I have thus far exhibited to you Turtle under excitement, as an advocate in the case of Filkins vs. Beadle, defending his country against what he called an "abolition lecter," struggling in the cause of education; but we cannot always probe a great man to the bottom, and disinter the latent jewels of mind, unless we know and observe him unruffled by passion, and unswayed by feeling. The line and lead must be cast into still waters to sound the depths of the ocean.

I had occasion to consult Turtle on a point of law. The question was, whether a certain woman who claimed dower in my land could probably show a state of facts that would legally entitle her to recover.

Mr. Turtle's office was in one of the upper rooms of a tumble-down tailor's shop in the village. Outside his sign swung to and fro: "I. Turtle, 'Torney in all Courts." Inside, it was garnished with three chairs without backs, a pine table, whittled into pieces by the loungers, a number of loose papers lying in an old flour-barrel, an ink-bottle with a yellow string around its nose, a copy of the statutes, a stub of a pen, volume two of Blackstone, and no law-book beside, all of which were enveloped in dirt and cobwebs. Mr. Turtle himself, when I entered, sat in one chair, his two feet stretched wide apart, each in another, like the two extremities of a letter A; and Ike himself was very philosophically smoking a pipe, and blowing the whiffs out of the window.

"Is this Mr. Turtle's office?" inquired I.

"I should rayther think it was," answered Ike, drawing out his pipe, and pointing to a chair.

"I have a little business," said I.[Pg 224]

"Most people do have," said he. "I'm chuck full on't myself."

"Suppose," said I, "a man dies, and leaves a widow, and that widow should claim—"

"Hold on, right there!" exclaimed Ike, laying down his pipe. "Hold on, old fellow; this s'posin' don't do in this 'ere office. I never gives opinions on fancy cases. Time's little too precious. I want the raal facts on the matter, jest as they happened; and, besides, Mr. ——, fust thing I know I shall give an opinion right butt agin one of my clients—(I have reg'lar clients, you see, that I've got ter stand up for, if it busts me),—and this wheelin' round and taking a back track spiles one's reputation, and tears his conscience, awful to behold!"

"Well," I continued, "as I was goin' to say—"

"No, sir-ee! you ain't goin' to say. Who died? who's the widow? Them are the startin' pints in a new country."

"But," continued I, "that will not affect the principle."

"Won't it, though?" answered Ike. "What are principles to folks in a new country? What are residents to non-residents? Why, you take a resident widow, a little good-lookin', and she can hold all the land she claims agin a non-resident. Juries have feelin's, and are human like other people."

"O, I see!" said I.

"Jest so," said he.

"Well, then," I continued, "the widow is a resident of Puddleford, and so am I; and the widow claims a life interest in one third of my land."

Ike pondered, and rubbed his head, and looked for a[Pg 225] long time steadily at the toes of his boots. At last a thought struck him.

"Has she any children?" inquired he.

"She has."


"Twelve and fourteen."

"Bad age for you," said Ike; "worse than two positive witnesses swearin' straight inter yer favor."

"But what have children to do with a principle of law?" I exclaimed, somewhat animated.

"You're green," exclaimed Ike; "you'll sprout if you get catched in a shower. What has law got ter do with a widder and two children out here? Don't you know the widder and the two children will be put right straight to the jury, and that they'll swamp you and your case, and all the la' you can bring agin 'em?"

"Very likely," said I; "but is Puddleford law all made for widows, babies, and residents?" inquired I.

"You see," continued Ike; "you hain't lived long here. A new country is a kind of self-sustainin' machine. We've all got-ter go in for ourselves. When folks take the brunt of settlin' wild land, somebody's got-ter and ought-ter suffer. Non-residents have ter pay all taxes. They have to pay onto the value, and onto our takin' care of their lands. We can't afford to scare off the animals and bring their property into market for nothin'. Why, old Sykes, who lives away down to the east'ard, pays half the taxes of Puddleford, and don't own more than four sections of land. The 'sessors kind-er look at the spirit of the law when they lay taxes, and the spirit of our tax-law stretches 'cordin' to circumstances. India-rubber ain't nothin' to it. Jest so in[Pg 226] la' matters. The la' is favorable to Puddlefordians; our courts lean that way—it's kind-er second nater to 'em—a kind-er law of self-preservation—primary law of natur', you know—a duty; and therefore I was particular to know who the person was who claimed your land."

"Mine's a case," said I, after Ike concluded his digression, "of Puddleford against Puddleford."

"Puddleford against itself, both residents—a woman and two children against a man?"

"That's the case," said I.

"Well!" said Ike.

"The widow claims a life interest, and yet she signed the deed with her husband."

"Did sign it?" inquired Ike again. "What is she growlin' about, then?"

"She claims she was deranged."

"And didn't know nothin', ha?"

"And she says she can prove it."

"That is, Sile Bates can for her, I s'pose."

Squire Longbow dropped in at this point of the conversation. Ike arose, walked several times swiftly across the floor, turning each time with a jerk, and finally wheeling up in front of me, said his fee for opinions was one dollar.

The fee was paid.

"Now," exclaimed Ike, pushing his fee in his vest pocket, "who's the woman?"

"Old Mrs. Bridget," said I.

"There are just half a dozen defences," exclaimed Ike; "and each one will blow the case sky-high. Nobody can't set up insanity in a new country, because[Pg 227] there ain't nothin' here to make anybody insane; and if there was, our judges and juries think a leetle too much of themselves, thick as the bushes are, to 'low a Puddlefordian to prove herself a fool in open court. There is a pride that won't permit it. Yes, sir!" Here Ike slapped the table hard by way of emphasis. "Ain't that la', Squire Longbow?" continued Ike, turning round to the Squire, who was almost magnetized by intense thought.

The Squire gave two or three ahems to clear his throat, and his voice seemed a long time on its way. "That," said the Squire, "is just what the 'mortal Story said; he never would permit a man to make a fool of himself; he went agin all such kind-er things. The 'mortal Story said, if a man don't know nothin', he oughten-ter say nothin', or do nothin'. He very specially said it warn't a safe rule to let crazy folks rip up things, 'cause how do we know, or anybody know, but they are jist as crazy when they rip 'em up, and then they'll have to be ripped over agin; that's the 'thority, sir—page—let me see—but no matter 'bout pages—"

"And, secondly," continued Ike, breaking into the Squire, "it's a rule of law that everybody's stopped by their deed; and if the woman knowed enough to sign and seal it, that 'ere seal is an everlasting and eternal bar to provin' anything agin it. That'll stop a crazy woman; that's laid down in all the books since King Richard got possession of England, and the staterts are full on it, too."

The Squire said "that looked reasonable. How do we know that Andrew Jackson warn't crazy when he signed off the patents for Puddleford. That's an open[Pg 228] question yet. And if it warn't for the broad seal—if it warn't for that 'ere spread eagle—some whig President (and the whigs allers did say 'Old Hickory' was crazy) would set it all aside, and throw all the land titles into hotch-potch, kick me out-er house and home, and ruin all Puddleford!"

"Certainly," said I.

"And agin," said Ike, "the woman warn't crazy; I can prove that."

"That will do," said I. "How?"

"When was the deed executed?"

I stated.

"That's jest the time," said Ike, "that old covy, her brother-in-law, used her as a witness to recover his farm."

The Squire said that "the woman was under oath then, and she might tell the truth, if she was a little shattered."

"Th-u-n-der!" exclaimed Ike.

"Witnesses are sworn to tell the truth," said the Squire.

The Squire was evidently getting quizzical. Mr. Turtle begged "he would not interrupt him agin. The case was one of great importance, and it required a power of thought and research to look inter it.

"And now," continued Ike, "there are three more p'ints of la' in your case. You've got the fee of this 'ere land—that is, you've got a deed, and got inter possession; that makes a fee. And as to that, the deed don't matter so much; possession out here is jest as good. I never see a sheriff who could get a man off. 'Tain't pop'lar—won't pay—it costs votes—men[Pg 229] don't vote for officers who push 'em; possession is more'n nine p'ints of the la' in Puddleford; it's ninety-nine—it's 'most as good as a patent."

"But that would be a resistance of process, if the widow succeeded," said I.

"There won't be nothin' to resist," answered Ike. "You'll never feel the process; it will always be defective—there'll be a flaw in it somewhere. Settlers on the sile must be protected."

"That," chimed in the Squire, "is la'. That was settled in the constitution. There was blood shed for that."

"But there ain't no use," continued Ike, "in goin' into particulars, and puttin' down every p'int of la'. I can scatter a thousand such cases to the four winds—have done it—can do it agin. Give me Kent and the staterts, and I'll cut my way to daylight in no time."

If there is any one who believes that such an opinion was not given for one dollar, or that hundreds have not been given in the very far West just as absurd, let them inquire further of those persons who have experienced a frontier life. Yet, Mr. Turtle lives and flourishes, gains reputation, and will die as much respected and lamented as any one.

[Pg 230]


The Wilderness around Puddleford.—The Rivers and the Forests—Suggestions of Old Times.—Footprints of the Jesuits.—Vine-covered Mounds.—Visit to the Forest.—The Early Frost.—The Forest Clock.—The Woodland Harvest.—The Last Flowers.—Nature sowing her Seed.—The Squirrel in the Hickory.—Pigeons, their Ways and their Haunts.—The Butterflies and the Bullfrog.—Nature and her Sermons.—Her Temple still open, but the High-priest gone.

Puddleford was a mere spot in the wilderness. Its region abounded with patches of improved land, and patches partly improved, and fields of stumps that the pioneer had just passed over with his axe. The great sweep of land around it, however, was a wilderness—not a thicket—not a dense mass of timber, nor a swamp—but a rolling plain of upland prairie, and heavily-wooded flats along the rivers; and it extended no one knew where, and was covered with lakes and rivers that shone, and roared, and babbled, day and night, through the great solitude. The surface of the upland was as smooth and shaven as an English park. No undergrowth obstructed the eye, and the outline of a deer might be discerned two miles distant. Trees upon the distant ground-swells, amid their quivering shadows, appeared to be riding upon waves. In this gigantic park, which overreached degrees of longitude, flowers of every[Pg 231] form and hue budded, blossomed, faded, and died, from May until November. The prairies were so many blooming seas; and when the soft south-west stirred up their depths, they shed a gorgeous light, as if they were breathing out rainbow colors.

The rivers that watered this waste were large, and flowed from still deeper solitudes towards the great lakes. The sun, as ancient as they, rose and set upon them now as it did centuries ago. The forests upon their banks sprang up, flourished, waxed old, and died; and still the river ran, and new forests rose upon the ruins of the old, and the glory of the new stood implanted in the grave of the old. The bison, moose, and bear drank from the sources of these rivers, driven upward by the noise of civilization. But they had an interest to me beyond all this: they were the inlets to Christian missionaries more than a century ago. It was up these streams that the French Jesuit,[C] with his eye aloft, and the cross erect, paddled his solitary canoe among the aborigines. Here he built his camp-fire beneath the stars, and told his rosary in the awful presence of his God—how awful, indeed, in such a spot, at such a time! We can almost see the venerable man, and hear the dip of his oar; the water-fowl scream, scared, and dive along before him, and the Indian stands upon the bank in his presence, like a monument in wonder.

The footprints of the Jesuits are still found upon the bluffs of these rivers. Mounds, which were thrown by them into square and circular forms, now roofless and silent, and matted all over with vines, still bear witness[Pg 232] to their devotion. Yet how little is thought of them now! Because the Jesuits did not till the earth, and sow, and reap, and swell the commerce of the world: but didn't they sow? They sowed the seeds of everlasting life among the simple children of the forest; and they have sown from age to age since, and many an Indian still offers the prayer which was taught his forefathers so long ago.

Such, reader, were the woods around Puddleford, and such the associations. I was in the habit of going down into their depths, and scraping acquaintance with the inhabitants. It was a relief to me. I sometimes even went so far as to set myself up as a sportsman. I made a special visit, just after the first frost, for the purpose of spying out the game. The morning was still and bright, and the dash of a distant rivulet, which I could step across, filled the "long drawn aisles" with its echoes. I had been down often during the summer, but every object looked strangely different now. The first frost had given Nature a shock—a kind of palsy; she looked serene, almost sad. Its inmates had gadded about during the summer in a very reckless way; they looked more sober after the first frost—more thoughtful—more anxious about something.

It was late in September, and yet "the storms of the wild Equinox, with all its wet," had not come. It was due and over-due. Amid the more hardy foliage the first frost had drawn his brush in the most delicate way possible—a mere tinge, and no more—a kind of autumnal hint. There was one limb of an oak just changing, and the balance of the tree stood up as bravely and defiant as ever; the soft maple was completely dipped—it blazed;[Pg 233] the aspen trembled and glowed; the hickory was only touched, and still hesitated about her full suit of yellow; while the dog-wood and spice bush had entirely given up the ghost.

It was just after the first frost, so I went down to the banks of the rivulet that had so long been singing its woodland psalm. It came from away off somewhere, and strayed, and dove over precipices, and spread into miniature lakes; but, where I stood, it tumbled through a gorge with green, sloping banks. As I gazed, the sun waxed higher and warmer. Day wore its way up the gorge, and literally struck a sisterhood of frosted sumachs, and they turned blood-red; I thought I saw them shift their summer dress.

Near by, a vine circled a tree, and swung out from its top. I had noticed it many times before during the season. It was then hung with large-mouthed flowers, which opened with the morning. Was it a summer chime of bells that tolled the sunlight into the temple?—the forest clock, that opened and shut the hours? The bells were broken now; the first frost had cracked them. I saw a bird, dressed in blue, run up the vine, and hitch along in a very deliberate way, and peer into this bell and into that, as if he wondered why they did not spread; but this might have been an odd fancy of mine.

The first frost seemed to have passed through the tree-tops that rolled over the gorge in a hurry. The prominent points of the foliage were tufted with russet, but its hollows and dells were as green as ever.

The woodland harvest was nigh—the Creator's own harvest, sown and reaped without the aid of man. The pawpaw began to shed its fruit; mandrakes stood up all[Pg 234] over the forest, like umbrellas loaded with apples of gold; the wild cucumber was bending under its own weight; the bark of the hickory and beech nut was broken, and the fruit peeped out; acorns were loosening in their cups; the grape was purple and fragrant, and ready to gush with richness; and away down below me I noticed a crabbed, sour-looking plum tree, holding on to the hill-side with all its energy, and covered with its rosy-cheeked children.

A few flowers yet lingered on the upland, breathing their last. The pink, violet, lupine, and a thousand nameless ones, had shed and buried their seeds long before; but the flaming, cardinal-fringed gentian, the yellow moccasin, and troops of lilies, still crowded the swales and watercourses, braving out the first frost. Insects were singing a melancholy dirge around me; a bee droned past in great haste, with a consequential hum; the year was passing and dying, like a vibration over the earth.

The air was filled with winged seeds, sailing away off here and away off there, and going I do not know where. The wild cotton burst its pod, and furred out at a great rate; a large company of thistle balloons rolled up lazily into the sky, and went out of sight (to the stars, probably), directed by some invisible hand to the place of their destination. Birds were picking and carrying clusters of grapes and s'coke far and wide. How beautifully Nature sows her solemn wastes! The winds and the birds are her husbandmen, and the work goes on with a song.

There was a bustle in a hickory—a black squirrel was flirting about, and making an examination of the crop.[Pg 235] He had come early into the harvest-field. He ran up and down the branches, nipped the nuts, jumped upon his haunches, thought a while, chattered to himself, and said—or I thought he said—"Little too soon"—"Little too soon"—"Come again"—"Come again." At a distance, a male partridge, with his tail curved like a fan, and his feathers erect, was blustering and strutting around with great pomp, as consequential as a Broadway fop—a rabbit, crouched in a heap, sat off timidly under an upturned root, eating a pawpaw—a lonely snipe came tetering up the rivulet—a robin lit upon a scoke-bush, picked a berry or two, whistled, took a kind of last look, and departed; a little bird, as rich as sunset, next startled me with a stream of fire, which he wove through the green foliage, as if he were tying it up with a blazing cord; a sanctimonious crow floated in circles in the air, and screamed very savagely to things below him, like a preacher in a passion; and I heard turkeys clucking and calling to each other in every direction.

Suddenly, a flock of pigeons broke the few bars of light that were struggling down, and wheeled to a dry limb, at a respectful distance; they ranged themselves in rows like platoons of soldiers, and bowed forwards and sideways, in a very polite, diplomatic way. A few words passed between them—(pigeons don't talk much)—exchanging, no doubt, opinions of me and my whereabouts. By and by, one spread his wings and fluttered to the ground, and began feeding—then another, and another, until the whole flock descended, except three sentinels, who remained posted to watch and guard. I knew them well. There was a "roost" in a tamarack swamp, some miles distant. Not long before, I had[Pg 236] visited their noisy metropolis. It was at the close of day, and its evergreen canopy was half-dipped in light. I recollected what hosts came thronging in, on all sides, roaring like a tempest, and how they piled themselves upon the top of each other upon the boughs like swarming bees—and how all night the trees bent and cracked with the crowded population, who seemed continually treading upon each other's toes, and tumbling each other's beds—and how, when the day dawned, they all dissolved, and winged their way to the plains, and the troubled city was as silent as fallen Babylon.

I like the pigeon. He has a business-way, and a way of minding his own business. He is always doing something. Who ever saw a pigeon trifle or frolic, or put on airs? He is the clipper of the skies' air-line. Eight hundred miles a day, few stoppages, and no bursting of boilers. He is a practical bird—no such dreamy, twilight sort of a thing as the whippoorwill, who is forever complaining about nothing, like a miserable rhymester—whir—whir—whir. "Ah! you are going. Pay my respects to the alligators among the rice swamps of Florida," said I, "when you see them next winter."

The pigeons were started by the bay of hounds. By their voice, the hounds had probably been on the chase during most of the night—(it was a weary voice and almost painful)—and I soon discovered that they were approaching. Soon a drove of deer, led forward by a noble buck, carrying antlers like tree-branches, came crashing by, leaped the ravine, and were soon followed by their pursuers, and I watched them afar over the plain until they were lost. I knew the dogs. They belonged to Venison Styles. But where was Venison? I could[Pg 237] see the old hunter, in my imagination, standing away off on some "run-way," listening to the strife around him, and watching for his victims.

Perhaps you know, and perhaps you don't know, reader, that deer, at certain seasons of the year, have "run-ways"—that they have great highways—thoroughfares that follow mountains, thread morasses, cross lakes and streams, up and down which they travel. I cannot say who first laid them out. It may be they can tell. If I ever find out, I will let you know.

I was next overhauled by a fleet of white butterflies, who came winding down the brook in a very loitering sort of a way. They anchored in front of me, near the water's edge, and amused themselves by opening and shutting their huge sails—huge for butterflies. Their wings were all bedropped with gold, and powdered with silver dust. Then another fleet, arrayed in chocolate velvet, came up the stream. They were large and showy. Their chocolate wings were ribbed with lines of blue and green; and a few plain, yellow plebeians followed on after, train-bearers, probably, to their lordly superiors. What brush touched those rich and delicate wings? What alchemist wrought those magical colors? Who put on those gorgeous uniforms? Were they equipped for the beauty and glory of the world, or their own? For what purpose was this winged mystery sent upon the earth? Just here a large frog, who had been sitting on a stone near the water, wrapped up to his eyes in his green surtout, looking as taciturn and gloomy as the Pope, went down with a "jug-a-ro," and spoiled my reflections.

It was just after the first frost, and the wasps were[Pg 238] hard at work, preparing, or repairing their mansions for winter. The mason-wasp, as he is called, was digging up the mud, which he carried to a hollow log, where he lived. He was "plastering up a little." The "paper-wasp" was gathering wild cotton and flax, and manufacturing it, for his palace that hung, half furnished, swinging in a tree like a top. Strange that man should have so long remained without the secret of making paper—when the wasp had made and hung it up high before his eyes, for so many thousand years!

Thus, reader, the great wilderness was alive—and away down the chain of animated being, beyond the reach of the eye or ear, there was life—busy life—all links in a great chain held and electrified by the hand of the Almighty.

What sermons there were all around me—Nature preaching through her works! What cathedral like this, with its living pillars—its dome of sun, and moon, and stars? Morn swings back its portals with light and song, and evening gently closes them again amid her deepening shadows—and the worship and work goes on like the swell of an anthem; but the great high-priest that worshipped at its altars, and burnt incense to the spirit that pervades this solitude, where is he? Where are his fires now? The temple still stands, and the anthem is still heard, but the worshippers are gone "Lo! the poor Indian."


[C] Father Hennepin and others.

[Pg 239]


The Old New England Home.—The Sheltered Village.—The Ancient Buildings.—Dormer Windows.—An Old Puritanical Home.—The Old Puritan Church.—The Burying-Ground.—Deacon Smith, his Habits and his Helpers.—Major Simeon Giles, his Mansion and his Ancestry.—Old Doctor Styles.—Crapo Jackson, the Sexton.—"Training Days."—Militia Dignitaries.—Major Boles.—Major General Peabody.—Preparations and Achievements.—Demolition of an Apple Cart.—"Shoulder Arms!"—Colonel Asher Peabody.—The Boys, and their World.—My Last Look at my Native Village.

Reader, there are mental pictures in the wilderness, as vivid as any in nature. They are the pictures of the past. They haunt the pioneer by day and by night. They go with him over the fields—sit down with him by the streams—linger around his evening hearth, and rise up in his dreams.

I was born in New England. The village was very old, and had received and discharged generations of men. Some two centuries ago, a troop of iron-sided old pilgrims, full of theology and man's rights, an offshoot of a larger body, with their pastor at their head, founded the place, and gave it tone and direction.

This village is very beautiful now. It stands sheltered between two mountains that cast their morning and evening shadows over it. A long stretch of meadow land lies between, through which a river, fringed with[Pg 240] willows, lazily lingers and twists in elbows and half circles. The mountains sometimes look down very grim at the valley, and in places have advanced almost across it. There are a great many profiles detected by the imagination in their outline. Cotton Mather's face has been discovered in one huge rock—and the old fellow's head seems to withstand the storms of nature about as successfully as it did the storms of life. The "Devil's Pulpit"—a group of splintered shafts of Gothic appearance—is near by, and superstitious persons used to think that during every thunder-storm his majesty entered it, arrayed in garments of fire, and gave the Puritan a sound lecture.

There are all kinds of buildings in this village. These buildings mark the age in which they were erected, and are the real monuments of their founders. They are as they were. They have not been marred or profaned by modern notions. Some are very eccentric piles, hoary with age, full of angles and sharp corners; and some are painfully plain and severe. They all have a face, a cast of countenance, an expression—they almost talk the English of a hundred and fifty years ago. The row of dormer windows on the roof are to me great eyes that frown down upon the frivolity and thoughtlessness of the present—and those eyes are full of theology and civil rights. They look as though they were watching a Quaker, or reading the Stamp Act. The very souls of their architects are transferred to them. I never enter one, even in these fearless times, without feeling nervous and sober, half expecting to run afoul of its original proprietor, with some interrogatory about my business, and the wickedness of his descendants.[Pg 241]

There used to stand—there is still standing—one of these queer piles upon a bluff overlooking the river. It was built of stone, and is very much moss-grown. It fairly looks daggers at the ambitious little structures that have sprouted up by its side. It is a heap of Puritanical thoughts—visible thoughts—all hardened into wood and rock. There it has stood, frowning and frowning, for a century and a half. It is full of great massive timbers and stones, and is as stout as the heart of its founder. A weather-cock is attached to one of the chimneys—a sheet-iron angel, lying on his breast, and blowing a trumpet, and the wind shifts him round and round over different parts of the village. This angel has blown away thousands of men; but there he lies, his cheeks puffed, blowing yet, as fresh and healthy as ever.

The internal arrangement of this building is characteristic. A dark, gloomy hall—an enormous fireplace, extending across the whole end of a room—a quaint pair of andirons, which run up very high and prim, and turn back like a hook, with a dog's head growling on each tip. There are strange pictures on the walls, which have been preserved in memory of the past—Moses leading the Children of Israel through the Wilderness—Samson slaying the Lion—David cutting off the head of Goliath—stern shadows of the men who used to study them—not very remarkable works of art, but vivid outlines of the scenes themselves.

This house has been occupied by an illustrious line of men, distinguished as divines, lawyers, and reformers; and it seems to glow with the fires they kindled in it—in fact, I believe it is inhabited by them yet. I believe that Parson ——, who lived under its roof for more than[Pg 242] half a century, and preached during that time in the church near by, occasionally mounts his low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, round-cornered coat, short breeches, knee-buckles, and heavy shoes, ties on his white neckcloth, and takes his cane, and, in a spiritual way, wanders back to his mansion, sits down again before the capacious fireplace, and meditates an hour or two as he used to do in life. He is one of those who keep the house company and give to it its sober air of determination and defiance.

The old Puritan church stands near by. Time has thrown a mantle of moss over it. When erected, it was shingled from foundation to steeple—and a quaint little pepper-box steeple it was. Square, high, solemn-looking pews may be yet seen inside. The pulpit is perched away up under the eaves, like a swallow's nest. It is reached by a flight of steps almost as long as Jacob's ladder. It is covered with names, inscriptions written by men and women who were dust long ago. It looks like the place where "Old Hundred" was born, lived, and died—sombre, earnest, immovable.

A burying-ground, ancient as the church, closes in on its three sides, and partly encircles it in its arms. There is preaching there yet. The dust of the living and dead congregations are one:

"Part of the host have crossed the flood,
And part are crossing now."

Rough tombstones—mere ragged slugs, torn from some quarry—rounded and smoothed a little by a pious hand—stand half buried in the earth, pointing to the silent sleeper below. And then there are marble slabs, of a more modern date—yet very old—leaning this[Pg 243] way and that, and nodding at each other. Preachers and congregations lie side by side, and it is one eternal Sabbath now. There are quaint pictures, and holy pictures, and horrible pictures chiselled out on these slabs. Skeleton Death, triumphantly marching with his scythe! Skulls, angels—and occasionally a figure that looks like his Satanic Majesty! Epitaphs full of theology, wit, and practical wisdom, are strewn around with an unsparing hand.

There are a few genuine specimens of the Puritan stock lingering in this village—great boulders that lie around in society, like granite blocks on the earth, dropped by Time in his flight, and overlooked or forgotten. Deacon Smith is one of them. He and his father, and his father's father, were born and lived in the house he now occupies. He has almost reached fourscore and ten years. He wears the costume of 'seventy-six, inside and out. His habits are as uniform and regular as the swing of the pendulum. He retires at nine, rises at four, breakfasts at six, and dines at twelve; and this is done to a fraction—no allowance is made for circumstances—what are circumstances in the way of one of his rules? He marches to bed at the time, and would, if he left the President of the Republic behind him—he sits down to his table at the time, whether there is a dish on it or not. Law is law with him.

The Deacon hates royalty and the British—he never overlooked the blood they shed in the Revolution. He seldom speaks to an Englishman. He hates interlopers, innovations, modern improvements; and I recollect well how he poured out his vials of wrath upon the first buggy wagon that he saw. He said it was a "very nice thing to sleep in." He left the church for some months when[Pg 244] stoves were first put up, and declared that it was "as great a sacrilege as was ever committed, and enough to overthrow the piety of a saint. Religion would keep a man warm anywhere." He says he "thinks the Puritan blood is running down into slops! folks are rushing headlong to perdition! that there hasn't been a man in the village for twenty years who ought to be intrusted with himself"—and it seems to him that the world is winding up business.

When the Deacon rises, he goes around his house, hawking, spitting, slamming doors, tumbling down wood, just to cast a slur on the lazy habits of modern days. Sometimes he tramps up and down the village, two hours before day, a-hemming, hawing, and sneezing, for the purpose of letting the sluggards understand he is stirring. He has been known, on more than one occasion, to give vent to his feelings, at this early hour, by blowing the family dinner-horn, and declaring, as the blast echoed away, "that no Christian man could sleep, after such a call."

The Deacon has a few helpers about him, who think as he thinks—but they are very few. When they meet, the world takes a most inhuman raking—they spare neither "age, sex, nor condition."

But the leading business men of the village are of a different stamp—not Puritans, but Puritanical—the same rock with the corners knocked off—of less strength, but more polish. They reverence their fathers, keep the religious and political altar they have raised burning, but are not so regardless of temporal comforts; in a word, they are Yankees.

Major Simeon Giles is a specimen. It is difficult to[Pg 245] draw his portrait. He has a hard, dry face, which looks as though it had been turned out from a seasoned white-oak knot. He wears a grievous expression, lying somewhere between sobriety and melancholy. His money, character, and family have made him a great man—he is a leading personage in church and state, and exercises a wonderful influence in every department of society. The deacon is full of dry expressions, and many of his cool, sly remarks have become proverbs; but the hardest thing he ever said was after his pious soul had been very much vexed, when he observed, "that if Providence should see fit to remove Mr. —— from this vale of tears, he would endeavor to resign himself to the stroke."

Major Simeon has many severe struggles within him, between the flesh and the spirit. His avarice and piety are both strong, and the former sometimes gains a temporary advantage. All his movements are governed by method. He remains so long at his store, so long at his house, "takes a journey" with his family once a year, "has a place for everything, and everything in its place,"—a peg for his hat, a corner for his boots—and he is almost as rigid in observing and enforcing his laws as Deacon Smith.

Major Simeon is supreme, of course, over his own family. He never trifles with his children. A cold shadow falls around him, which often silences their voice of mirth and ringing laugh—the effect of reverence, however, more than fear.

Major Giles lives in the Old Giles Mansion. I will not pretend to say how many Gileses have occupied it. Their portraits are hanging upon its walls, and their bodies lie in the burying-ground; a long row of them, all the[Pg 246] way across it, and half back again—bud, blossom, and gathered fruit. There is the portrait of the celebrated Elnathan Giles, who died during the reign of Queen Anne. He looks very stern. He had passed through the scenes of the Salem witchcraft, and had been personally connected with the excitement—had attended several of the trials as a witness; was bewitched once himself—and, according to family tradition, saw one witch hung—an out-and-out witch—who had bridled many innocent people at midnight, sailed through chamber windows, and hurry-scurried off with them, astride a broomstick.

Next to him hangs the face of his son, Colonel Ethelbert, as he was called, who lived just long enough to fight at Bunker Hill. He had been a militia colonel before the Revolution, and militia colonels were something in those days. He made a ferocious-looking portrait, certainly. One can almost smell gunpowder in the room. He is dressed up in his military coat, standing collar, an epaulet on his shoulder; and there are strewn around him, in the background, armies, artillery, drums, and banners. No wonder the Americans were victorious. And then came the face of Major Simeon, whom I have described.

The wives of these men are also done up in oil, and hang meekly and submissively by the side of their lords, as all wives should, or rather as all wives did, in those days—and actually died without knowing how much they were oppressed.

There are other things besides portraits, to remind Major Simeon of his ancestry. There is a tree still standing (strange that a tree should outlive generations of men), that Elnathan planted with his own hand, on the day Ethelbert was born—a stately elm, whose branches,[Pg 247] in their magnificent curve, almost sweep the ground. This tree shadowed the cold face of both Elnathan and Ethelbert, when their coffins were closed for the last time beneath it. There is the spring, more than half a century old, that bubbles from the hill, and goes trickling, leaping, and flashing down the green slope, singing away to itself as sweetly as ever. The old lilac-bush, too, has outlived thousands whose hands have plucked its blossoms, and yet it bursts out in the spring, and looks as fresh as the children who play beneath it.

It has been thought that Major Simeon and his family were aristocratic. There is a stately air about them, when they enter church, that smacks of blood. And the Major himself has often declared that, while "stock isn't everything, it is a great consolation to know, in his case, that the name of Giles has never been stained."

There are several other families in the village whose ancestry runs back as far as the Gileses'; and they have about them as many heirlooms to remind them of it.

The village is filled with other characters, quite as original as any I have described. They are important personages, and have lived in it a long time; but they have no family history to fall back upon. There is Major Follett, who still lingers on the shores of time, and sustains a vast dignity amid his declining years. His head is very white, his hat very sleek, and his silk vest is piled very full of ruffles. He carries a gold-headed cane, and when he marches through the streets, it rises and falls with great emphasis, in harmony with his right foot. Now and then he gives out an a-hem!—one of the lordly kind—that fairly awes down his inferiors. He is a remarkable talker, too, among his equals—uses words[Pg 248] having a great many syllables. He never spits, but "expectorates"—his pains are all "paroxysms"—talks about the "foreshadowing of events"—and all his periods are as round and stately as the march of a Roman army. The Major has actually made his assumed dignity pave his way in life—it has given him wealth and influence among those who are intrinsically his superiors, but who do not know how to put on the airs of consequence.

Old Doctor Styles is living yet. He has survived two or three crops of customers—helped them in and out of the world—balanced their accounts—and his face is as ruddy, his laugh as hearty, his stories as ludicrous, his nose as full of snuff, as though nothing melancholy had ever happened in his practice. Eighty odd and more, he stands as straight as a staff. Death has been so long a business with him, and he has stared it for so many years in the face, that he really does not know, or care, how near he is to it himself.

Crapo Jackson, the sexton, is one of the characters. He has announced the end of Doctor Styles's labor a great many hundred times through the belfry, and helped cover up what remained. Crapo is black, but he has a fine heart. He is a perfect master of his work. He puts on an air of melancholy and circumspection at a funeral, that becomes the occasion. He sings, from door to door, a hymn on Christmas mornings, with cap in hand extended for his "quarter"—peddles gingerbread on training days—and aids the female portion of the community on festival occasions, and does a great many more things, "too numerous to mention."

Speaking of "training days"—dear me!—there used to be a military spirit in this village, in times past.[Pg 249] I can recollect the names of scores of generals, majors, colonels, captains, and even corporals—yes, corporals—every man couldn't be a corporal in those times. Why, bless your soul, reader! there was General Peabody, and General Jones, and Major Goodwin, and Major Boles, and any quantity of colonels. And then "training day"—nobody worked—the village was upside down—"'Seventy-six" was in command, and martial law declared.

Major Boles I recollect, when in the active discharge of his duty. He always grew serious as the great militia muster drew on. He went away off by himself, into the chamber, where he could be alone with the spirits of his forefathers, and burnished up his sword, shook out the dust from his regimentals—warned his children to stand out of the way—and looked ferociously at his wife. He knew he was Major Boles, and he knew every other respectable man knew it.

But Major-General Peabody was the greatest general I ever saw. When a boy, I looked upon him as a very blood-thirsty man, and nothing would have induced me to go near him. He was a little fellow in stature, had a hard round paunch that looked like an iron pot, and short, thick, dropsical legs. (Major Boles, who was a little envious, said they were stuffed, which produced a coldness between them.) His face was freckled, and his hair gray. He wore two massive epaulets, an old Revolutionary cap, shaped like the moon in its first quarter, from which a white and red feather curved over his left ear. He had a sword—and such a sword! Nobody dared touch it; for it was the General's sword!

"Training day" usually opened with a boom from the[Pg 250] field-piece, at sunrise, that shook the hills. About ten in the morning the soldiers began to pour in from all quarters. Drums and fifes, and muskets and rifles, filed along in confusion,—ambitious companies in uniform—common militia, who were out according to law. Uncle Joe Billings, who had played the bass-drum for more than twenty years (poor old man, he is dead now!) was seen gravely marching along all by himself, his drum slung about his neck, his head erect, his step firm, pushing on to head-quarters at the measured beat of his own music, now and then cutting a flourish with his right hand, for the amusement of the children who were capering around him. Knots of soldiers gathered about the tavern, and made a circle for the music to practise, preparatory to the great come-off. Then came the good old continental tunes that were full of fight, played by old fifers and drummers that had been through the wars; men who made a solemn and earnest thing of martial music—who reverenced it as the sacred voice of liberty, not to be trifled with, who thought of Bunker Hill until the tears started from their eyes. Those old airs, that used to echo among the mountains of New England—where are they?

But the captains, and colonels, and generals did not mix with the common soldiers on training day—no! nor speak to them. Rank meant something. They felt as though they were out in a war. They kept themselves covered from the public gaze away off in a secluded corner of the tavern, and were waited upon with great respect by those of inferior grade. Sometimes a guard was stationed at the door to prevent a crowd upon their dignity. Occasionally, one of them would bustle out among the rank and file on some momentous duty, fairly blazing[Pg 251] with gold and silver, lace and feathers; but there was never an instance of one of these characters recognizing even his own brother while in military costume. Major Boles has often said that "no officer can be expected to see small things when in the active discharge of his duty."

At about eleven o'clock the solemn roll of the drums was heard, and loud voices of command followed; and swords flashed, and feathers danced, in the organization of the companies; and then came the training—real training—a mile down street; a mile back again; a perfect roar of music; and flags flying—horses prancing. What was rain, or dust, or mud with such an army! They marched straight through it; it was nothing to war. The sweat poured down, but the army moved on for hours and hours in its terrible march.

The great sight of the day, however, was the Major-General and his staff—I mean, of course, Major-General Peabody. They were not seen until about three o'clock in the afternoon; it being customary for them to withdraw from public observation the day prior to the muster. When the army was drawn up in the field, preparatory to inspection, there was usually a pause of an hour—a pause that was deeply impressive. We never knew exactly where the General and his staff were concealed. Some persons said they were housed in one place, some in another; but, upon the discharge of a cannon, they burst upon us, glittering like the sun, and came cantering down the road with perfect fury, in a cloud of dust, followed by a score of boys who were on a sharp run to "keep up."

General Peabody and his staff always rushed headlong into the field, without looking to the right or left. I recollect[Pg 252] that on one occasion he demolished an apple-cart, and absolutely turned everything topsy-turvy, besides creating great consternation among the by-standers; but it did not disturb him, and it was only upon information the next day that he knew that anything serious had happened.

Passing the ruins of the apple-cart, and entering within the guarded lines, he halted, and took a survey of his troops. Then the music saluted him, and the companies waved their flags. He rode a little nearer, rose in his stirrups, jerked out his sword spitefully, and, looking ferociously, cried out, "Shoulder arms!" This cry was just as spitefully repeated by the subordinate officers; and, after a while, the privates, one after another, lazily raised their "pieces" to their shoulders. The General was in the act of rising again, and was drawing in his breath for a command of thunder, when his horse wheeled at the report of a musket that went off in the lines, and came near upsetting him, feathers and all; but he fell into the arms of one of his aids, and—swore, as I was at the time credibly informed, though I could hardly believe it.

The General very soon righted himself, and, striking his horse several violent blows across his rump, cut a great many flourishes on the field, to the utter astonishment of the lookers-on. He then rushed through the orders of the day like a madman, and was manifestly utterly fearless of consequences.

I hope my readers are satisfied that Major-General Peabody was a great military character. I recollect, when a boy, that I heard him say, "that he was very sure he would be the last man to run in a fight,"—"that[Pg 253] he was afraid to trust himself in a battle, for he never could lay down his sword until the last enemy was massacred!"

The old man was laid under the turf one autumnal afternoon, many years ago, but his prowess is not forgotten to this day. His son, Colonel Asher Peabody, who inherited his father's spirit, erected a stately monument over his remains, which was covered with drums, and fifes, and swords, and waving banners, and big-mouthed guns, intermixed with texts of Scripture, the virtues of the deceased, admonitions to the living, &c. This monument was always as terrific to me as the General himself; and, in my boyish days, I always contemplated it from a distance, not knowing but that it might blow up a piece of juvenile impertinence like myself on the spot.

Yes, reader, these were training days in New England; but the military glory has now actually died out. The last gathering I saw I shall never forget. It was, indeed, a sorry group, made up of a rusty captain, two or three faded corporals, and a handful of dare-devil privates, who cared no more for their country than so many heathen. The officers looked cowed and heart-broken, and loitered about in a very melancholy way; and it was evident that the spirit of '76 was on its last legs. I afterwards learned, I am sorry to say, that the captain, in a fit of patriotic rage, broke his sword across his knee, and declared "that he never would turn out again as long as his name was Jones!"

And then, reader, this village was full of boys when I was a boy. Every village is, you say. Very likely; but such boys! there have never been anything like them since. They wandered with me Saturday afternoons[Pg 254] through the meadows, where the lark was flitting and singing; and we related wonderful stories about the future. We cut red-willow canes, made whistles, and dammed mountain rivulets. Life opened to us with a chant: it was melody, melody everywhere. There was the mountain gorge, down which we rolled stones with the voice of thunder; the "big rock," in the river, from which we fished; the pond, that we thought had "no bottom;" the mountain cliff, with its "den of snakes:" where are those boys now? Everywhere—nowhere! Citizens of the world, some; and some of that other world. They will never be all gathered but once more.

But what has all this to do with Puddleford? Much. They are so many pictures that I carry around with me, and they form a part of my existence. They color life, thought, action; they mould the man; they are continually inviting contrasts, and making suggestions; and I cannot omit to notice them in my sketch of that famous village.

When I last saw my native village—it was but a little while ago—it lay sleeping in its amphitheatre as beautiful and tranquil as ever among the shadows of its elms. It was summer, and the air was rich with music and flowers. The highest peaks of the mountain were draped in blue, and the valley beneath was a waving sea of green, down which the sunshine chased the shade. The quail was blowing his simple pipe among the fields of grain; the drone of the locust, the clanging of the mower's scythe, and the shout and the song, were heard in the fields in the still afternoon. When the sun went down, and its last flash leaped from the vane of the church-steeple to a lofty mountain-peak three miles[Pg 255] away, the whippoorwill began her plaintive song, and the night-hawks went wheeling through the sky. Then the evening bells broke forth, and their echoes sobered the twilight; and, as their last vibration expired along the valley, the river stood golden beneath the rays of the moon.

[Pg 256]


First Militia Law in Puddleford.—Aunt Sonora opposed to it.—Turtle sets her right.—Meeting to choose Officers.—Longbow electioneers for Captain; Takes the Chair.—Turtle objects.—P'ints of Order.—Vivy Vocy Vote won't do.—Legally authorized Boxes must be had.—Longbow's Speech.—Turtle fined for Contempt.—Longbow elected Captain.—Great Military Turn-out.—Company turn a Circle; Break down.—Turn an Angle; Break down again.—Address to Troops.—Adjourn sine die.

This great republic has ever been notorious for its patriotism, and this patriotism used to break out everywhere, in days past, into a volcanic eruption on days of general militia muster. Puddleford began very early to feel the necessity of a spontaneous expression of its devotion to our common country. When it was very new, and before any law had been passed by the legislature organizing its people into companies, regiments, battalions, and divisions, very strong premonitory symptoms of war were frequently manifested. Beagle brought into the country an old snare drum, which gave out a very crazy sound. Swipes owned a fife that squeaked most hideously; and this fife and drum, with their owners tied to them, often went on one of the most public corners of the village, on moonlight nights, and roused up the war spirit of the whole neighborhood. They seemed to put the very furies into the dogs, who[Pg 257] barked and howled from every quarter. By and by, a law was passed by the legislature of the state, compelling every man to do militia duty, under fines and penalties that were really frightful; and Turtle most solemnly declared, upon the strength of a fee of one dollar to him paid for his advice thereon, "that the act was constitutional, and accordin' to the common la' and the staterts, and that it must be lived up to, fodder or no fodder!"

Aunt Sonora said, "she didn't see what under heavens an' airth anybody wanted of a war la'; they'd allers got along well 'nough in Puddleford mindin' their own business. Somebody allers got killed when there were so many guns and sogers, and so much powder; and for her part, she'd not stay round any such gath'rings, if she starv'd in jail. She'd quit the settlement fust!"

Turtle informed the old lady that "wimin wouldn't have-ter turn out; it was only the men over eighteen years of age—and that there was no fighting done, only in case of actual invasion of the country, when wimin and all would have-ter fight like blazes, or the whole settlement would be laid in ashes."

Aunt Sonora still insisted that "guns were dang-rous, any way; that they would go off, nobody knew when, and she shouldn't be s'prised to hear of a dozen men bein' killed at every trainin'; if men would only be ker-ful, but then they wouldn't; they'd all get as crazy as March hares, and as wild as loons!"

By the law, every company was permitted to choose its own officers, and Puddleford counted just about people enough to make a respectable organization of one company in numbers. It was resolved to hold a meeting for[Pg 258] organization, and to immediately choose officers at the tavern of Bulliphant, no man under eighteen years of age to be present, because, as Longbow declared, "that would be agin the la', and the proceedin's would be all squashed."

In truth, Longbow had no doubt in his mind, from the very first, that he would be captain from the very necessity of the case. He was, he thought, the military pillar of the whole township, as well as the civil; and as he had generalled everything so far, he did not believe any one would dare to dispute his inalienable right to that eminent position. So the Squire began very early to talk learnedly about the last war, and the blood and fury which accompanied it; and he put on a very ferocious look when in public, and was frequently seen practising with his old fusee at a mark, which discharged like a funnel, wrong end foremost. "He had a brother," he said, "who fit at Lunder's Lane, and who was shot in the back, by savage Injuns in the rear, jest as he was a-bagnettin' some of the British!"

Turtle, who was a little ambitious for the office, and who saw the drift of the Squire's bravado, said, "he guessed he was a-runnin' when he got that are shot."

The Squire replied, that "he shouldn't sit still and hear such talk from any man. He didn't care 'bout his brother—it warn't that—but to hear the patriots of our country slandered was a species of high treason, and that was agin the constitution; and that 'ere insterment couldn't be violated in his presence by no man—he was a sworn officer—and the glorious blood of the great wars was a sacred thing in his eye—and it should be protected."[Pg 259]

Turtle declared, "it didn't make any difference what the Squire's brother did, or did not do—it didn't help the Squire any. He guessed the Squire's blood had Peter'd out."

The Squire said, "he was the last man to boast of his relations, but blood was blood, whatever they might say."

On the famous night when the election came off, the tavern of Bulliphant was crowded. A dozen or more ragged urchins, who had been barred out by authority contained in the notice, had clustered around the windows, and were gazing in with awe upon the assemblage. The "wimin" had been admitted by special grace, and occupied the adjoining rooms. It was a most momentous occasion—a great day for Puddleford—"it looked so much like war," as Aunt Sonora said, "as if they were a-goin' to fight right off."

The Squire rose, after the crowd had gathered, and said, "the first thing in order was to drink—it wouldn't be proper to enter into any important military business, without first drinking to our common country—and he wished the landlud to set on a gallon of baldface—the Puddleford name for whiskey—so the wheels could be started right."

"And another thing," exclaimed Turtle; "we want the American flag and an eagle, these 'ere glorious symbols that went along with our forefathers when they were a fightin' for the liberties of our country!" but as Puddleford had no flag, a compromise was made, and the meeting concluded to nail a shilling pocket-handkerchief, which had one painted on it, to the bar, leave out the eagle, and take the whiskey.

Squire Longbow took the chair, and said, "he would[Pg 260] listen to anything the meetin' had to say. He was by la' inspector of elections."

Turtle objected—"he didn't know whether he'd take the chair or not—that was for the meetin' to say."

The Squire said, "he took it by virtue of bein' a member of the board of inspectors of township elections—and this was one of 'em—a regular township 'lection, and nothin' else, held by authority of la', under the statert, past and 'proved, and sent him as justis to be lived up to."

Turtle replied, "he didn't see how the Squire was a board of inspectors; 'cordin' to his own showin'—where's the township clerk, and where's the supervisor—have you swallow'd 'em all up, Mr. Longbow?" He objected, and he wanted his objection noted—taken down in black and white.

The Squire said, "that was their business—if they neglected the defence of our common country, he couldn't help it—he meant to be a patriot, and stand up to the constitution and staterts, if every man in Puddleford turned traitor." The Squire swelled out very large, after concluding this speech.

At this point, Aunt Sonora, who was intently absorbed in the earnestness which pervaded the meeting, and who sat in the next room, rose, and asked the Squire "if there was really goin' to be war?"

The Squire replied, "that the meetin' must not be disturbed; the wimin had been let in as a great favor—for he didn't think the statert meant to have a soul on 'em present, and he didn't know but jest that thing would blow all the proceedin's to flinders in the higher courts, and that every soul on 'em would be court-martialed."[Pg 261]

Aunt Sonora slunk out of sight, drew her handkerchief, and heaved a long sigh.

Turtle rose and said, "he would nominate the Colonel captain of the first militia company of Puddleford."

"That's straight agin la'!" exclaimed the Squire; "that makes a vivy vocy vote on't, and we can't take any vivy vocy vote here; this 'ere thing has got-ter go through the town ballot-box, or it won't be legal—this vote must be returned in form to the governor, and if he should see it was a vivy vocy vote, he'd squash everything quicker'n you could say Jack Robinson." The Squire didn't like the nomination—he was determined to be captain himself.

Turtle asked the Squire "if a hat would not do to collect votes?"

The Squire said, "nothing short of the legally authorized boxes; he couldn't trample down the la'."

The legally authorized boxes were procured, and the voting was ready to go forward.

Hereupon the Squire arose, and blowing his nose with one finger, a side at a time, and heaving a few sepulchral hems, said "that it was his duty to say a few words: He was something of a military man himself—he belonged to the Hos Guards down in the Susquehannas, when he was a young man, a great many years ago, and they had sham fights most every year." ("Was anybody killed?" exclaimed Aunt Sonora, who had forgotten herself, and whose nerves had been shocked by hearing the word "fight.")

The Squire turned to Aunt Sonora, and declared that "it was the last time she should speak. They had sham fights most every year," continued the Squire, "and he[Pg 262] recollected that, while pursuin' the enemy in an open field, he fell from his horse, and bruised his head, but he caught his horse agin, and jined his company, 'fore anybody knew what had happened."

Turtle rose, and inquired, "What he put on his head? If it warn't opodildoc?"

"And that company," continued the Squire, disregarding Turtle's question, "is in existence yet, and is commanded by Captain Zekiel—Zekiel—Zekiel—I don't know what his t'other name is; and there ain't no time, feller-citizens, sin' it's bin a company, that it wouldn't er turned out in war if there'd bin a war, and they'd bin called on, feller-citizens."

Turtle Said "he know'd about the last war, and he never heer'd of that company of Hos Guards nowhere."

"Ah! but you see!" answered the Squire, "they weren't called on—and he might as well say that he was lef-tenant onc't in the great Pennsylvaney militia—not that he wanted to be captain of this company—and he might a 'gone higher, but he wouldn't take it—his former wife, that's dead and gone, know'd that. And then, feller-citizens, there's a great deal of la' 'bout our militia, and if a captin don't know the la', everything will be illegal, and every son of you will be called up and court-martialed, and fined, and 'prisoned, and your property taken and sold; and there ain't no 'peelin' it up, for military laws ain't like other laws, feller-citizens, they ain't—"

"That's a lie!" exclaimed Turtle.

"Who says that's a lie?" vociferated the Squire, jerking his head around. "What's a lie?"

"It's all a lie!" repeated Ike.

"Give me that 'ere statement," roared the Squire.[Pg 263] It was handed up. "By authority in me vested, in that 'ere book, I fine you one dollar. It's a contempt, sir—a contempt upon both a justice of the peace, and a 'spector of 'lections. I oughter say two dollars—it's a double contempt—I fine you one dollar, sir; and you can't vote, sir, here, sir, in this 'ere meetin', sir, while you're under contempt, sir, until you pay the dollar, sir—and I might sue you for special damages, sir, but I don't care 'bout that, sir—it is my office that I am protectin';" and the Squire sat down in the midst of his unfinished speech, filled with wrath.

Squire Longbow was very sincere in his position which he had so confidently taken. He had been so long a magistrate, and "head man" of Puddleford, and he had been so closely identified with its public affairs, that he felt himself always in court, and every personal insult was construed by him into a contempt. Turtle humored the weakness of the old man, when his dignity was in jeopardy, and on this occasion he felt no alarm, for he knew that the fine would never be collected. Turtle owed the Squire more fines already than he was worth.

Squire Longbow was elected captain of the Puddleford company. When he spoke so eloquently of the liberty and property of the people being so likely to be jeopardized by an officer ignorant in the law, he carried his point, for there was no man in the settlement so mighty as the Squire in that respect, in the estimation of the public.

In the fall, the Squire exhibited the first Puddleford militia company ever assembled upon parade to the gaping wonder of its men, women, and children. He formed his raw recruits into a line by the aid of a board fence, which was supposed to be nearly straight, in the[Pg 264] outskirts of the place. The Squire was a very blood-thirsty looking captain, after he had mounted his regimentals. He had turned up a broad-brimmed felt hat, and tacked the sides by a flaming red cockade made of flannel, and had fastened an ostrich feather, which he found in the wardrobe of his second wife, Aunt Graves, in its top, which drooped heavily over his back. His coat was his best homespun, the same that was woven by the hands of his first wife, and in which he afterwards courted Aunt Graves, and it was bedizened with stripes of cloth of every color. His sword was an old-fashioned affair, which he had loaned of Ike Turtle, and was an heirloom in the Turtle family, it having been used by his grandfather in the revolutionary war. His waistcoat was red, and his boot-legs came over his pantaloons, each one supporting a heavy cotton tassel, which swung to and fro as he walked.

The company was as complete a specimen of ragamuffins as were ever congregated together. There were three guns to the crowd, and the balance of the arms were made up of the most murderous implements within reach, such as axes, pitchforks, &c.

But the Squire did not forget his dignity for a single moment. He put on a martial air, and felt himself every inch a captain. While his company stood erect in a line against the board fence, he marched backwards and forwards, looking at it over his shoulder, with the greatest military pride, while three dogs, his own property, and who had come out to witness the parade, trotted after him. When the Squire wheeled to retrace his steps, the dogs wheeled; when the Squire faced about to take a broadside view of his company, the dogs sat down on[Pg 265] their haunches, and took a view with him. During the exercises, the Squire accidentally cut a low flourish with his sword, and upset one of his own curs, who went howling towards the fence, and lay down in the shade, perfectly satisfied with war, while the other two, taking warning, retired farther in the rear, where they thought they could see just as well. The Squire had not studied very deeply military works on tactics, and his orders were somewhat monotonous, and were mostly made up of two—"Shoul-der arms!" and "Rest!" Walking a few paces, he would suddenly wheel and cry, like the cracking of a pistol, in a most furious tone—"Shoul-der arms!" then taking a few strides, which seemed to soften his temper, he would turn softly, as if he repented his harshness, with—"Rest!" And the Puddleford company for an hour shouldered and unshouldered their arms, to the astonishment of the crowd of urchins that were looking on.

It had been announced for a week, that the field exercises would come off in the afternoon, at three o'clock. The ladies were invited to attend at that hour, to witness the display. Squire Longbow gave as a reason for this second eruption of patriotism, that the "Hos Guards down on the Susquehannas allers had field exercises in the arternoon,"—"that, if it hadn't-er been for field exercises, the Hos Guards wouldn't-er never been fit for war,"—and Aunt Sonora told Mrs. Swipes, and Mrs. Swipes told Mrs. Beagle, and they all told somebody else, that the field exercises were going to be "jist sich as the Squire used to have down on the Susquehannas." Aunt Sonora, however, sent down her boy Jabez to inquire of Squire Longbow's wife, if there was a-goin' to be any[Pg 266] shootin' there, for if there was, "she was the last critter that would go—she could tell 'em that."

At noon the Puddleford company adjourned for one hour, when the Squire thanked them, "one and all, for their grand military performance, which was a credit alike unto themselves and their country, and he hop'd they'd be on hand in the arter-noon, 'cordin' to law."

At three o'clock the troops assembled for field exercises, in a ten-acre lot, and they appeared to be very much recruited. Some eight or ten of the patriots, however, had evidently been indulging at the "Eagle," and they did not stand quite plumb. The captain found it very difficult to form them into a line. Beagle could not possibly shoulder arms without sagging against the column. Swipes stood much straighter than he did when sober in the forenoon. He was so anxious to disguise his condition, that he had planted himself in a most defiant attitude, with one foot advanced, and had fixed his eyes upon the sky; he went through the exercises in a twitching, nervous way, as if Longbow was moving him like a puppet by a string. Turtle felt mischievously well, and the colonel stood as stoical as if he expected to lay down his life before the enemy in fifteen minutes.

The Squire's three dogs, who had been out during the forenoon, had returned to see the end of the parade. Thirty or forty women and children were also present, sitting upon stumps, and hanging upon fences in a very miscellaneous sort of confusion. Aunt Sonora and Mrs. Longbow had procured a couple of chairs, and the old lady seated herself, and took up her knitting. Mrs. Longbow did not mix very much with the crowd, because she could not forget that her husband was "captin of[Pg 267] the day," as she said, and she and her husband she felt to be one.

The Squire formed the company into a line. "The fust thing to be did," exclaimed he, drawing his sword, and swinging it three times around his head, as a kind of three cheers, and scaring his dogs by this frightful flourish, repeated before their eyes, and who had not forgotten the accident of the morning—"the fust thing to be did, feller-sogers, is to turn a circle."

"To turn a what?" roared Turtle from the ranks.

"To turn a circle," repeated the captain, "as the Hos Guards used to do, down inter the Susquehannas."

"T-h-u-n-d-e-r!!" ejaculated Ike.

"No talking in the ranks—'tis finable—and 'twon't be permitted. We're under martial law, and that's very sum'ry, Mr. Turtle, very sum'ry! And to turn a circle," continued the Squire, "is one-er the most complercated revolutions ever performed by the Hos Guards. I hereby appoint Mr. Beagle the centre pin. Mr. Turtle will head the column—Mr. Beagle will stand still, and the column will sweep round him, to the point from which they started. Heads up! Shoul-der arms! Ev'ry man to his post!"

The captain drew his sword, and cried terribly, "For-erd, men!" Turtle ran—the man behind him ran—and all ran, helter-skelter, some whooping, some groaning, and in their sweep they took in a score of ragged boys, and hurled them upon Aunt Sonora and Mrs. Longbow, who keeled over backwards in their chairs, their petticoats fluttering, in their somerset, in the face of the whole company. The Squire, forgetting his own position, when he saw the position of his second wife, hastened to her[Pg 268] rescue, set her up, and pointed with his sword to the road, and she and Aunt Sonora pushed desperately for the fence, their hair streaming behind them, bellowing "Murder!" while the company brought up in the shape of a pot-hook, having about half described the circle,—Beagle, the "centre-pin," crying to them to "come on!"

"H-ll!" involuntarily ejaculated the Squire, as he looked upon the confusion.

"That's swearin'," said Ike from the ranks, "and is agin the statert."

The Squire explained. "He didn't swear as a justis', he swore as a captin', and captins allers swore on the field-er action—but he'd take that 'ere oath back.—What do you s'pose the Hos Guards would think of such a revolution as that 'ere,"—continued the Squire, looking at the huddle before him, "wouldn't they swear? Do you call that a circle?—Every man to his post in a line!" and the company straggled back into a column.

Aunt Sonora sat upon the fence, panting with fright, and fanning her flushed face with her cotton handkerchief. She told Mr. Longbow that "she know'd that somebody'd be kill'd afore night—these sogers were so ker-less—everybody was so hurly-burly, they'd run anybody right down, and stomp on 'em; and if she hadn't got out-er the way jist as she did, she would have been a dead woman, she know'd."

"Now," said the Squire, "we'll try to turn an angle; if you can't turn a circle, maybe you can turn an angle; and we'll drive a stake to turn it by, and Mr. Turtle will again head the column."

The stake was driven at the point of the right angle,[Pg 269] "where," said the captain, "you will all turn square around." The column moved forward solemnly, in a line like a scythe snath, and, reaching the corner, began to waver. Beagle at last fell headlong over the stake, and the whole company brought up in a pile around him; whereupon the Squire threw his sword on the ground, and declared, "he'd throw up his commission—and the country might go to grass for all him."

Turtle, who had brought about this confusion, "regretted the misfortune. It was all an accident—Beagle had fallen, and discomboberated the whole proceedings—accidents would occur on the field—and, in fact, he know'd a man shot down dead once in the ranks—he guess'd the movement had better be tried over; the stake, he thought, was a leetle too high."

The Squire said, "it was very discouragin'—the Hos-Guards down on the Susquehannas turned an angle the fust time tryin'—and on hosses, too. His fust wife, now dead and gone, know'd that, for she was thar—it was one of the simplest revolutions in all military tactics. He would like jist to know what a company would be good for, on a field-er battle, that couldn't turn an angle? He would jist like to know what they would do if they were following the enemy through a hilly country, if they couldn't turn an angle?—they'd all be butcher'd 'fore they could get round to the spot they'd started for. War was war—and the revolution ought to be did jist as if we were to-day fightin' for our liberties. He'd like to know what the Hos Guards would say if he should tell 'em that one of his sogers had fallen down turnin' an angle! He would throw up his commission afore he'd tell 'em any such thing."[Pg 270]

Beagle said he "stumbled." "Stumbled!" roared the Squire. "You stumbled!—who ever heard of the Hos Guards stumblin'! Stumbled? by the great Bonyparte—that ain't swearin', Mr. Turtle—you'd be hung by the neck, sir, if you stumbled on the field-er battle—it's a hangin' offence, sir—a hangin' offence, sir. We are under martial law, sir, to-day, sir, and if it was war time, sir, I'd order you to be stretch'd, sir, in five minutes, sir, from that 'ere tree, sir—I'd show you war, sir—real war, sir! bloody war, sir!"

Turtle suggested that a lower stake had better be driven—or the outside angle of the fence would be still better, that would stand—they could walk round a fence corner, he knew.

Aunt Sonora "hop'd for massy-sakes they warn't a-goin' to come out of the field—they ought-er be fenced in—she thought it warn't safe!"

Mrs. Longbow, who had great confidence in her husband, said, "she needn't be alarm'd any, the capt'n would take care on 'em."

The Squire declared, "he wouldn't try any sich revolution over agin, but he thought they could march in platoons;" and thereupon he cried, "Company, form in pla-toons!"

Turtle said, "he wasn't any war character, and he didn't know what a platoon was, but he know'd Injun file."

"Well, Injun file, then," exclaimed the captain; and from Injun file, Longbow set them around into a hollow square, put the women in the centre, and he delivered to his troops the address of the day, with uncovered heads, and in the most affecting silence.[Pg 271]

The address was a very patriotic production. The Squire drew heavily from the great revolutionary war to find inspiring materials to stimulate his forces. He told them, among other things, that his own grandfather was "wounded in the hip a-fightin' for his country, and that he draw'd a pension arterwards as long as he lived. He hop'd they'd all get ready for the great muster that was a-goin' to come off in a few weeks; for the gin'ral would be there, then, and a good deal was expected of the Puddleford company on that occasion." The Squire had forgotten the unfortunate blunders of the day, in his enthusiasm, or, at any rate, he did not allude to them, for he said, "he was proud of the soldier-like bearin' of his men, and the great respect they all seem'd to have for their capt'n—that their arms were not 'zactly accordin' to la'."

"'Cording to the Lord," whispered Aunt Sonora, horrified, very audibly—"Hear that."

"'Cording to la'," repeated the Squire, who overheard her, "not 'zactly 'cordin' to la', but it is a constructive compliance with the statert, and will pass muster on the first turn-out;" and, thankin' them all for their attendance, he adjourned the company siney die.

[Pg 272]


Mrs. Bird gets in a Rage.—Starve a Child.—Mrs. Bird blows off at Mrs. Beagle.—Takes Breath.—Blows off again.—Mrs. Beagle gives a Piece of her Mind.—Aunt Sonora drops in.—She has no Faith in Second Wives.—All adjourn to the House of Mrs. Swipes.—General Fight of Tongues.—Mrs. Swipes gives her Opinion.—A Dead Set by all upon Mrs. Longbow.—Mrs. Longbow raps at the Door.—The Scene changes.—Final Wind-up.

Aunt Graves had not got warm in her seat as mistress of Squire Longbow's household, when she found half of the female portion of Puddleford upon her in full cry. The Swipeses, and the Beagles, and Birds, who were very jealous of the sudden elevation of the old spinster, gave her no peace night nor day. They had seen the time when she looked up to them, and now she was the wife of a Squire—had taken good old Mrs. Longbow's place, and "really," as they said, "tried to lord it over them."

Mrs. Bird went all the way in the rain, mud over shoe, to inform Mrs. Beagle "that she warn't a-goin' to stand it any longer; she'd seen enough, and if other people were a-mind to blind their eyes, they might—she guessed she know'd what was what—she warn't brought into the world for nothin'—they might humbug her if they could—she only wished old Mrs. Longbow could jist rise from her grave—jist once—that's all she would ask—she'd[Pg 273] make a scatterin' among the dry bones—jist to think—to think—"

"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Beagle, who stood waiting for the climax, with her mouth wide open, holding her dish-cloth in her hand.

"What?—what"—repeated Mrs. Bird, "you may well say what—that Longbow woman abuses little Elvira Julia Longbow like sixty—the darling creature—how my heart bleeds. That child," continued Mrs. Bird, putting down each word in a measured way by striking her fist on the table—"that child—that dear—Elvira Julia—the idol—you know of her mother—and what a mother she had, too, Mrs. Beagle—O, what a mother! That child is starved! She don't get half enough to eat—I know it just as well as if the child had told me so with her own lips. She looks puny-like. She didn't hold up her head in church all sarvice time, last Sunday—how my heart ached for her—I couldn't think of nothin' else—and to think—to think, Mrs. Beagle, that that woman who warn't nobody, and who'd come onto the town if she hadn't fooled the old Squire, is now goin' to turn round and starve his children. One thing I do know, I shall never knuckle to her—not while my name is Bird—I'll let her know who Mrs. Bird is. She'll find out that the Birds can hoe their own row—the Birds allers have liv'd, and will live, I guess, and they never were beholdin' to the Longbows, nuther. Starve a child!—and if she thinks I ever mean to know her as anybody but old Poll Graves, she is most grandly mistaken. I'll jist tell her who old Graves, her father, was, and what he was, and how he used to drink, the old brute. She knows it all—but she thinks Mrs. Bird forgets such[Pg 274] things—but Mrs. Bird don't forget such things—she has a long memory—and her mother warn't none too good, nuther—I could touch her up a little on that. Starve a child! Lord-a-massey, I s'pose she thinks she is the queen of Puddleford, now, and can do as she has a mind-ter. If she don't run agin a snag some day, then call Sally Bird a liar, that's all. Pride must have its fall, Mrs. Beagle;" and here Mrs. Bird took the first long breath, after entering the house.

"How—you—do—talk!" ejaculated Mrs. Beagle, her eyes half started from her head. "I'd thought just as much, but dare not say so."

"Darsen't! darsen't!" popped Mrs. Bird, "Well, thank the Lord, I dare; I'll pull down the whole Longbow nest around her ears; I'll complain to the town officers; I'll have her taken up, and then let her show her hand; to think that the child of that dear, good woman we lov'd so much, should be starved! And that ain't all: old Longbow is one of the most miserablest men livin'; he don't have a minute's peace day nor night; he rolls and tumbles, and talks to himself—thinks, in his dreams, that his former wife is back agin, and he talks to her jest as if she was; he hain't had a full meal for a mouth. She is the stingiest of all mortals! She liv'd on nothin' afore she was married—why she counts the very coffee kernels she uses—she allers was afraid of goin' to the poor-house—pity she hadn't-er gone—but la-sa-me, you can't get one of the Longbows to say a word about it—they are as whist as mice—fairly caught—less said the better, you know—they are so everlastin' etarnal proud, the hull pack on 'em would die before they'd let anything out—but they can't deceive Mrs. Bird—murder will[Pg 275] out—starve a child!" and here Mrs. Bird took another long breath.

Mrs. Beagle looked still wilder, if possible, than before. But she was a very cautious woman, as has been seen. There was a method in her malice. "She had thought for a long time," she said, "that affairs were all wrong-end-foremost at the Longbows. She could see some things too. But she didn't want to say a word agin nobody. She had allers tried to be a keerful woman—and she was a keerful woman—and although she said it, who had not orter say it, she was a keerful woman. She tried to live in peace and Christian charity with everybody—and she would put up with enymost anything rather than to have hard feelings 'gin anybody. She had allers been a friend of Mrs. Longbow, and was really glad when she heard she had at last got married, for she did think she would make a good wife—she had orter, for Squire Longbow had been the makin' on her, and had set her up in the world for sumthin'—but things warn't-er a-goin' right, that she know'd, and had know'd it for a long time; the old Squire looked as cowed-like as if he'd give all his old shoes to see his old wife back agin—he didn't look so chirck as he used to do—but then she didn't want-er say nothin' about it, for there was one thing she didn't do—she didn't talk about her neighbors—if there was any kind of people that she did hate, it was the slanderers—she never slandered nobody—but she allers did know that Mrs. Longbow was tighter than bark to a tree—she used to jest keep soul and body together 'fore she married—a leetle too tight to be honest—there wern't no slander in that—she hadn't said she was dishonest, nor she warn't a-goin' to say it—she[Pg 276] would skin a copper the closest of anybody she ever see'd; such people can't be honest—they will cheat in the dark—not that she meant to say that Mrs. Longbow would cheat—she slandered nobody—but the child did look half-starved, and anybody could see it with one eye, and you can't learn old dogs new tricks—what's bred in the bone stays there—and the old Squire's darter, Livinny, looks like death, too—she's lost a mother, and it'll be a long time before that woman will fill her place—this is between you and me, Mrs. Bird—'twarn't no longer than t'other day that Mrs. Swipes told me that old Longbow wanted to marry Mary Jane Arabella, but Mrs. Swipes said she jest put her foot down and said No! and he's been cross-grained at her ever since. Well—well—so it goes."

Aunt Sonora dropped in "to take a breath," as she said. Mrs. Bird and Mrs. Beagle had to repeat to her the new developments in the Longbow family, with some new additions.

Aunt Sonora said she never did have any faith in second wives. "Depend upon't," said the old lady, "no good comes out on 'em. And the old maids were the very worst on 'em all. They were the awfullest dead-settest people she ever know'd. They will have their way. They allers rule the roost. She guessed that her old man knew when he was well off. He hated second marriages like pizen."

Finally, the women, after exhausting themselves, all agreed to adjourn to the house of Mrs. Swipes, to see what could be done to improve the domestic arrangements of the Longbow family. Mrs. Bird said at first she wouldn't move an inch, to see Mrs. Swipes or anybody[Pg 277] else, for it wasn't no business of her'n, but then she know'd that, if it was her child, and she was dead, and Mrs. Longbow wasn't dead, Mrs. Longbow would do just as she did.

Mrs. Swipes was delighted to see such a crowd of her friends, but declared "she couldn't for the life of her tell what was up."

By the time the "ladies" had arrived at the house of Mrs. Swipes, they were very highly charged with electricity. They had lashed themselves into a very respectable sort of fury. Even Aunt Sonora, amiable as she was, muttered to herself, while crossing the road—"Starve a child!"

Nobody ever told Mrs. Swipes any news—that was not possible—she had always heard of it, seen it, or expected it; the most astounding development was no more than she had "allers known would come about." There was no story so large that it was unexpected, or beyond her power to add a little to it—no black so black, that she couldn't make it a little blacker—no slander so public, but that she had heard a little more than her neighbors of it. A piece of scandal melted like sugar in her mouth, and it seemed to send a glow over her whole being while she digested it; it braced her up for a whole day, and carried her through the most fiery domestic trials—no story, therefore, ever lost strength or sting while in her keeping—it gathered weight and power like a snowball—she paid it out with interest. Her husband, Zeb Swipes, she didn't like, for he did not care a pin about his neighbors, "'specially the women folks," as he said; and Mrs. Swipes declared she never could interest him in the wickedness of the place. Many a[Pg 278] time she had talked him to sleep, flaring, and foaming, and fretting about Puddleford.

When Mrs. Bird, and Beagle, and Aunt Sonora entered Mrs. Swipes's room, the clap burst at once from the whole delegation.

"Don't you think!" exclaimed Mrs. Bird.

"Did you ever!" snapped Mrs. Beagle.

"Pretty doin's these!" chimed in Aunt Sonora.

"That that thing!"—"that Longbow woman," continued Mrs. Bird.

"Starve!" added Mrs. Beagle.

"Yes, starve!" repeated Mrs. Bird.

"A child!" groaned Aunt Sonora.

"Yes, a child!" gasped Mrs. Bird.

"And to think!" said Mrs. Beagle.

"Yes, to think!" said Mrs. Bird.

"Only to think!" repeated Aunt Sonora.

"That," continued Mrs. Beagle.

"Yes, that," said Aunt Sonora.

"What she was," said Mrs. Beagle.

"Only—jest—to—think," screamed Mrs. Bird.

"Nobody," continued Mrs. Beagle.

"Nobody at all!" snapped Mrs. Bird.

"But"—said Mrs. Beagle.

"But what?" inquired Mrs. Bird.

"But—old—Poll—Graves!" screamed the whole three together.

"Hadn't the second gown to her back," added Mrs. Bird.

"Foller'd sowing, too, for a livin'," hinted Mrs. Beagle.

"And glad enough to get it, too," sputtered Mrs. Bird.[Pg 279]

"Couldn't-er worn Squire Longbow's old shoes, then," said Mrs. Beagle.

"And now she puts on more ker-ink-tums than the governor's darter," spit out Mrs. Bird.

"Starve a child!" exclaimed another.

"Yes, starve a child!" chimed in all the rest, in a most furious tone of malicious spite that almost raised the roof. When the storm had spent itself on the head of Mrs. Swipes, who stood it with philosophy, for she liked it, all hands "set in" to tell her of the barbarous cruelty of Mrs. Longbow.

Mrs. Swipes replied, "that nothin' more could have been expected on her—old Longbow might-er known she'd-er taken the very hide off on him, and off all on 'em—if he didn't know what Poll Graves was, then it was his fault; if he hadn't liv'd long-er enough in this community to find her out, then the old fool ought-er suffer—good 'nough for him. He tried to get our Mary Jane Arabella, 'fore he went arter her—but I let him know that I was the mother of that gal. He found that Mrs. Swipes had a word to say, and it took me to send the old codger adrift—it jest did. It's 'nough to make one's blood run cold to see the highty-tighty airs that woman puts on. Last Sunday she had on all of old Mrs. dead and gone Longbow's finery-finery—that bunnit, the very same that she bought at Whistle and Sharp's store—price, twenty shillings and sixpence—bought it not mor'n two weeks afore she died. That drab of her'n, you know; the dear good woman never worn it mor'n onct or twict, 'tended Deacon Pettibone's funeral with it, I remember—that very same bunnit, and she had it on; and she had on, at the same time, old Mrs. Longbow's[Pg 280] gown, and shawl too; and she did comea—sailing right inter church, jest as if she was lord of the manor! I thought old Mrs. Longbow had rose from her grave, and I shed tears on the spot. It made my blood run cold. Thinks I to myself, old critter, if Mrs. Longbow should jest come back agin, she'd make you scatter, she would—she'd tear them clothes off on you—she'd let you know where your place was; she'd learn you to dress up inter her clothes. You'd rue the day you ever tried that game with her. Starve a child? Why, of course she will; anybody that don't care nothin' 'bout dead folkses clothes don't care nothin' 'bout folkses children."

At this point, the whole pack made another dead set at Mrs. Longbow, with the exception of Aunt Sonora, who sat rocking violently, and taking snuff. It is impossible to repeat the jargon that made up the hurly-burly that followed. All the troop were firing together, all kinds of shot, and epithets, and sentences were violently broken up into fragments by each other, and hurled in a mass at Mrs. Longbow's head with the hottest vengeance.

It might have looked something like the following: "Nobody!" "Who cares!" "I'll let her!" "Just to think!" "Starve!" "Yes, starve!" "A child!" "That new bonnit!" "Twenty shillings!" "Sowed for a livin'!" "And sixpence!" "Yes, and sixpence!" "Right in church!" "Hardly cold in!" "The poor child!" "And gown, too!" "Her grave!" "Hardly cold in her grave!" "Marry!" "Was as poor!" "Marry my Mary!" "As poor as Job's!" "Marry my Mary Jane Arabella!" "Was as poor as Job's turkey!" "I can see!" "I only wish!" "I can see[Pg 281] how it!" "I only wish old Mrs. Longbow could!" "Goes!" "Rise from her!" "Starve!" "Grave!" "I'll complain!" "I wonder!" "To the town!" "If she thinks!" "Starve!" "I'll knuckle!" "A child!" "To her!" "Poll!" "No!" "Old!" "Not as long as my—" "Poll!" "Name is—" "Graves!" "Bird!"

There was a rap at the door, and the uproar ceased, and the vixens were magnetized as instantaneously and as completely as if they had all been stricken with palsy, and their tongues fastened to the roofs of their mouths.

Mrs. Swipes put on a smile, and courtesied to the door, opened it, and there stood Mrs. Longbow!

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Longbow. Well, I do declare!" exclaimed Mrs. Swipes, putting on one of her blandest faces, "you have raaly got out at last. It warn't no longer than this very morning that Swipes and I were wondering what had become of you. Swipes said he know'd you must be sick, but I told Swipes you had so many cares—we women folks have so many cares, Mrs. Longbow. And who do you think is here?—Mrs. Bird, and Mrs. Beagle, and Aunt Sonora—and we were jest a-talkin' 'bout you—and we all wonder'd how you did manage to get along so well in your family;" and after Mrs. Swipes had chatted and bowed Mrs. Longbow through the hall, Mrs. Longbow was introduced to the nest of hornets which had just been buzzing so unconsciously about her ears.

"Why—Mrs. Longbow!" cracked Mrs. Bird's voice at the same time, jumping from her chair with a convulsive jerk, and grasping her hand, and imprinting a kiss upon her. "You have—done it—now—you have[Pg 282] come out at last. Goin' to call at our house, I s'pose. Let me see—it's one, two—yes—three weeks since you've show'd your face, Mrs. Longbow—lookin' as bright as a spring mornin', I see."

"All-er that," said Mrs. Beagle.

"But then you have had so much to do," continued Mrs. Bird; "the Squire's house had got inter an awful muss while he was a wid'wer. Lavinny didn't—know—how—to—do—but the people say that it shines like a pink now—and how you have spruc'd up the children—I didn't hardly know Elvira Julia last Sunday. I thought her mother had come back agin."

"She looked so happy!" exclaimed Mrs. Beagle.

"And the old Squire begins to hold up his head agin, like somebody," added Aunt Sonora.

"Nothin' like a woman in a house," chimed in Mrs. Swipes.

"Nothin' like it," said Aunt Sonora.

"Everything goes to loose ends where there ain't no woman," said Mrs. Bird.

"Jest look at old Fluett's house," said Aunt Sonora; "'tis chaos come agin—woman gone—everything spilt from garret to cellar."

"And jest so at Dobbins," added Mrs. Bird.

"I do raaly b'lieve," said Mrs. Beagle, "that if Longbow had put off gettin' him a woman six months longer, he'd a brok't down."

"Jest what the old man himself said," added Mrs. Bird.

"And—then—to—think," drawled out Mrs. Swipes, "that he should have been so fort'nit."

"Might-er tried a hundred times," said Mrs. Bird.[Pg 283]

"And got bit," said Mrs. Swipes.

"Yes, and got bit," repeated Mrs. Bird. "There was a kind-er Providence in it. There certainly was."

"Jest what Parson Bigelow said," added Aunt Sonora; "he said he could see the hand-er Providence inter it, jest as plain as he wanted to."

"Strange world," said Mrs. Beagle.

"Full-er sorrow," said Mrs. Bird.

"Never know when it's comin'," added Aunt Sonora.

"The only way's to be ready for't, and do our duty," said Mrs. Swipes.

Thus the conversation ran on. Mrs. Longbow supposed herself looked upon as a martyr by the crowd of "friends" among whom she had unconsciously fallen, and felt almost crushed by the weight of sympathy which they had so gratuitously thrust upon her; and finishing her call, returned to her domestic labors with a lighter heart, and a satisfied conscience, while those she left behind her, on her departure, took the advantage of her absence to completely finish up the remainder of the woman's reputation.

[Pg 284]


Appeal of Case Filkins vs. Beadle.—Turtle's Affidavit and "P'ints."—Longbow's Return.—County Court.—Turtle opens his Law "P'ints."—Bates replies.—A Fight.—Collateral Ish-ers.—Squire Longbow present.—The Court sustains Squire Longbow.—Turtle gets into a Passion.—Impanelling the Jury.—Mr. Buzzlebaum leaves.—Mr. Tumbleton upsets Ike.—Mr. Flummer is cut short bob off.—Ike opens to the Jury.—The Trial.—Charge of the Court.—Jury retire.—Can't agree.

Among the causes that were found in the county court for trial was the appeal of Filkins against Beadle. Turtle had carried it up. He had informed the court and the jury, when he argued the cause below, that he would carry it up if he didn't get a verdict, and he was as good as his word. Turtle was a long-winded attorney, and what he lacked in brains he made up in bottom. He could worry out any opponent in Puddleford, and drive the man against whom he had no case into a settlement, or starve him out. Turtle often said that "a man's peace was worth something, and he who wouldn't buy his peace, orter sweat. La' was la', and if a man didn't want to pay for it, he ought to keep out of it." It was necessary, at the time we speak of, for any party who desired an appeal, to make out an affidavit, stating the errors below. Mr. Turtle was a host on an affidavit. He could raise and swear to more "p'ints" than any man in Puddleford.[Pg 285]

Turtle's affidavit was a curiosity. It covered all the "p'ints," as he called them—"all the 'ish-ers' of law and all the 'ish-ers' of fact."

According to this document, he set up error in the judgment below:—

1. "'Cause the justis' had counselled with the defendant, and had sworn to go for her anyhow.

2. "'Cause the justis' allowed Sile Bates, one of the jurymen, to leave the jury, and pettifog for Charity Beadle.

3. "'Cause there wern't but five jurymen to try the cause, and there had orter been six.

4. "'Cause counsel hadn't mor'n half got through arguing the case to the jury, when the justis' shut them off, and forcibly sent out the jury to deliberate on their verdict.

5. "'Cause the justis' err'd in everything from the beginnin' to the end of the cause.

6. "'Cause he 'low'd Charity Beadle's set-off, which was agin all kind-er law, and never heer'd on in the books.

7. "'Cause the justis' drank liquor while he was tryin' the cause.

8. "'Cause the justis' got inter a passion while he was tryin' the cause.

9. "'Cause the jury got drunk while they were tryin' the cause.

10. "'Cause liquor was sold clus by the court room all the time they were tryin' the cause.

11. "'Cause one of the jurymen warn't fit to sarve—he bein' no voter—or if he was, he never had voted.

12. "'Cause, as he understood, the jury flopp'd a copper to see who should win the cause.[Pg 286]

13. "And, finally, the verdict warn't no verdict, 'cause the jury didn't agree."

Here were "p'ints" enough to overthrow the most righteous cause in the world. This affidavit was filed before Squire Longbow, within the time prescribed by statute, as appeared by the return of the magistrate to the county court, and the return itself of Squire Longbow was also spread out as large as life on the files of the same.

If there was anything that Squire Longbow did pride himself upon, it was his returns to county court. He had often said, "that he would like to see the man who could pick a flaw in one of his papers." He said "that none of his decisions had ever been 'squashed' by the upper courts. He knew what la' was, and when a man knew the law, he would allers be sustained."

I do not know as it is worth while to give the full return of the Squire to the threatening array of legal objections found in Turtle's affidavit. He argued every one of them as if his very existence, both as a man and a magistrate, depended on the result. In substance, he returned to the first point,—

"That of course he counselled some with both of the parties. He didn't want folks quarrellin' 'bout nothin'—a-spendin' their time and their money—and how could he know anything about the case, if the parties didn't tell him. He was a sworn officer, bound to do his duty, or throw up—if he should ish-er papers for everybody that axed him to, without lookin' into the case, he wouldn't do nothin' but try causes. His time was worth sumthin', as well as other folkses. It was his business to see that every plaintiff had a case, and that[Pg 287] every defendant had a defence. Turtle counsell'd with him first, and he tho't Turtle had a case—but he lied to him, or was greatly mistaken, at any rate—Miss Beadle counsell'd next, and he then saw it was all up with Turtle, but it was too late to stop proceedings, for the summons had gone out, and couldn't be stopp'd; if it could-er been, he'd stopp'd it."

To the second point, the Squire returned,—

"That he did 'low Sile Bates to leave the jury, and 'pear as counsel for Charity Beadle—that that was constitutional right—right-er counsel in all crim'nal cases, thank the Lord, was presarv'd yet—and the case was a crim'nal case, or a kind-er crim'nal case—'twarn't for debt, and must be crim'nal. He couldn't choose counsel for anybody—thank the Lord that was a personal right—Charity Beadle had the right to choose her own counsel—it warn't none of his business who she took—how could any one take her counsel away from her by putting him outer a jury—that would destroy the constitution itself. If the court would jist look inter Story on the constitution, he'd see how that was; and if he ever did make a righteous decision, that was a righteous decision. The woman sav'd her case by it—for if she hadn't had any counsel, the greatest injustice would-er come on't—maybe the jury would-er 'greed—and she—nobody knows where she would-er been now."

To the third point he returned,—

"''Cause there wern't but five jurymen,' it is said. Well, there warn't. What of it? Five were jist as good in this case, as six; 'cause if five couldn't agree, how could six?'"

To the fourth point, as follows,[Pg 288]

"He did choke off counsel while they were argerin' the cause to the jury, and swore the officer and sent out the jury to deliberate. He'd do it agin, under like circumstances. They vi'lated the dignity of the court—there wern't no order nor nothin'—everything went on hurly-burly—there was more racket than if there was a town-meetin'. One thing there had got-ter be, and that was order in his court—he might-er sent them all to jail for contempt—but he wanted to be mild with 'em—he didn't allers think it best to go to the length of the la'—two counsel talkin' to the jury at onct was agin all la'—it was a great contempt of court—they'd orter been fin'd ten dollars apiece—but he didn't want-er fine 'em—he took a shorter course—he acted in his discretion—and he had a discretion in sich cases—any other court would-er done as he did, or worse, maybe. So long as he was magistrate, he meant to be magistrate—and his court was a court—and that thing people had got-ter find out, sooner or later."

To the fifth point, as follows,—

"He'd jist submit that to the higher court."

To the sixth point, as follows,—

"He did let in the set-off of Charity Beadle, and he did it, arter examinin' all the 'thorities on that p'int. He consulted Squire Brown, too, who did business down inter the State of New York, as justis', more'n ten years, and who had a great many jist sich cases afore him. The Squire said it was la' there, and had bin ever sin' he was a boy—and York la' was good la' anywhere. Story was dead for 'lowin' sich kind-er set-offs, and his works were all in favor on't—and it would be a likely p'int for anybody to set up that sich a set-off couldn't[Pg 289] be allow'd. Filkins sues for so much money for so many slanders—now, then, he would jist like to know, if five slanders are worth ten dollars to her, if five slanders wouldn't be worth ten dollars to Charity Beadle—and if one ten dollars ain't jist as good as another ten dollars—he would like to know if one don't suffer jist as much as t'other—and if one hadn't orter be paid jist as much as t'other. If you go lyin' round 'bout me, you've got to pay, but if I go lyin' round 'bout you, I hain't got-ter pay—he'd like to know what justis' there was in all that—he didn't b'lieve Turtle thought so himself, but he was allers tryin' to bull-rag the court—and he warn't goin' to be bull-ragg'd by him nor nobody else."

To the seventh point, as follows,—

"He didn't know whether Mr. Turtle meant to be personal or not. He didn't know whether he meant to say, right out, that he was drunk, or not. If he did, he was a liar. He had no right to slander him onter the public records of the higher courts, in that sort-er way. What if he did drink? he had a right to drink—that was his business—when anybody can say that Squire Longbow is unfit for business from 'licker,' then there's time 'nough to blow out at him, and not afore—he shouldn't notice that p'int any furder."

To the eighth point, as follows,—

"'Got inter a passion?' He did rise in his wrath onct or twict, to presarve the order of the court. He warn't goin' to sit and be trampled on. He was de-tar-min'd that justis' should take its course, if he had to fight to do it. He couldn't keep Turtle down any other way—he'd used up all the fines in the staterts agin him, and[Pg 290] that wouldn't do—he tore on worse than ever—and he'd jist say here, it was high time the fines were increas'd. He informed the court that Turtle said, 'he hadn't but one eye, and that he couldn't see but a little ways—that he hadn't as many brains as an 'ister—that his head was full-er cobwebs or bumble-bees, he didn't know which—that his judgment warn't good on a common note-er-hand—that he warn't up to the school-marm, for she could read—and that he did get inter a passion that the court should have been so trampled upon—for he would presarve the dignity of his court so long as he was magistrate—a great deal depended upon order in court—and when everything was a-goin' topsy-turvy, there warn't no justis'—he should allers, use jist as much force as was necessary to presarve order—and get into a passion, too, if he wanted to."

To the ninth point, as follows,—

"He didn't know whether the jury were drunk or not—that's their biz-ness, not his'n—they could answer for themselves on that p'int; and if Mr. Turtle wanted to know how that was, he'd better ax 'em; he warn't a-goin' to—he never took away any of the priv'leges of the jury—they were sacred things to him. When he tried cases, he did as he was a mind-ter, and the jury did as they were a mind-ter—if they wanted to drink, he wouldn't interfere—'twas out of his jurisdiction—he never did dabble with a jury, nor he never would—but he would say that the jury 'peared very well, listened to all the evidence as men should—stay'd out long 'nough to consider on the evidence and gin in a verdict, he verily believed, 'cordin' to their oath."

To the tenth point, as follows,[Pg 291]

"Licker might-er bin sold clus to the court-room—but it warn't sold in the court-room—that he'd never 'low'd since he was a justice—every man who drank, went inter the bar-room, and thar was a strong pe-tition and a clus door atween the two rooms—he wouldn't-er 'low'd a drop in the court-room—he had allers bin very keerful 'bout that—they did drink onct or twict, but it was in the bar-room—the trial was very long and very troublesome—and the jury got dry—but they drank every time in the bar-room, and not in the court-room—and he was keer-ful every time they did drink, to 'journ the court, to save all questions—and he would say that Turtle drank as often as anybody—and onct, certainly, he moved to 'journ the court for to drink, and nothin' else—and now he goes up to the higher court, and makes a fuss 'bout it—the staterts said there should be no licker sold in the room where the court is held—not out of it, nor in the next room—and he'd allers bin a la'-'bidin' man, and allers meant to be."

To the eleventh point, as follows,—

"He didn't know whether the juryman was a voter or not—'twas none of his bizness—best known to himself—if he set, knowin' he warn't a juryman, he orter to be proceeded agin by the next grand jury."

To the twelfth point as follows,—

"How in airth did he know anything 'bout floppin' coppers—he warn't thar—he warn't a juryman—he was the court—they might-er flopped for all he knew—but he had seen Mr. Swipes, who was one of the men who set, and he says thar warn't a copper flopped."

To the thirteenth point, as follows,—

"There was a verdict, and it was recorded on his[Pg 292] docket—it was, 'that the jury couldn't agree, one of 'em standin' out 'cause he was a-feared or wanted to be pop'lar with somebody;' and that was jist as it was gin in."

Squire Longbow had returned much more matter to the court than he was required to do by his affidavit, which has not been stated—mere speculations of his own about the law and facts of the case as they appeared before him, all of which he said the court "orter know."

The judge of the county court was an enlarged edition of Longbow himself—enlarged, because his jurisdiction was greater. He was one of the foremost men of the county, because he was one of the most independent. He owned a great deal of land, and a great deal of stock—bought and sold much—and had acquired a practical knowledge of the way things were done in a new country. He had been school inspector, highway commissioner, supervisor, and member of the legislature, and he was now judge. He did not know any law, except what Bates, Turtle, and other kindred pettifoggers had taught him—and when he shot at a case, he shot in the dark. He was right half of the time upon the result of chances; and that, perhaps, was doing as well as half the judges do, who pretend to more knowledge in the profession. He was a stumpy, red-headed man, and very "percussion" in his decisions—gave very short or no reasons for them—and like Longbow, didn't know a technicality from a sign-post.

The law points in the appeal were first to be argued—if Turtle failed on them, he was then entitled to a trial on the facts.

Turtle argued his law points in a pile. He flung the whole return at the judge in gross, playing first upon this[Pg 293] string, and then upon that, abusing everybody connected with the cause but his own witnesses and himself, until he blew himself almost entirely out of breath.

He began by flattering the court. "It was sunthin'," he said, "to have a county court to 'peal up to—if 'twarn't for that, he'd stop business—Squire Longbow had got so that la' warn't la' any more with him. When he first came inter the settlement, he was a pretty good justis, but he was as woolly as a sheep now. If he got a crotchet inter his head, you couldn't beat it out—he was worse now than he was afore he got married the second time. The cause below was killed by him—he was 'torney, and justis, and jury—he had 'greed to go for defendant from the start—had knock'd the jury inter fits by takin' Sile Bates off on't agin la'—had let folks in to swear that hadn't lived in the State six months, and nobody know'd whether they were to be believed or not; but the presumption of la' was agin 'em—that he cuss'd him for it, but that didn't do any good—that the Squire drank himself, and let the jury get drunk, shocking as the fact might be—and yet he warn't a drunken man—rather a sober man—but it was done by him to fuddle the jury, and spile his cause—that he let in the almight-i-est set-off he ever did hear on—the very thought on't was 'nough to give this court spasms—and this court orter for that, if for nothin' else, 'point a guar-dine over him—that he told him when he did it, that he'd foller the case to the backside of sundown, and blow him inter flinders, but he didn't seem to care 'bout it—that the jury did flop on the verdict, and the justis' knew it, and his return warn't worth shucks on that p'int"—and so on for an hour or more, until he became exhausted.[Pg 294]

Sile Bates rose and said, "that, 'cordin' to the return of the justice, Turtle's speech was a lie!"

Mr. Turtle hurled an inkstand and contents at Bates's head, which besmeared him from head to foot.

Mr. Bates hurled another back at him, which emptied its contents upon Mr. Turtle.

The court called them both to order, reminding them that things were going too far.

Mr. Bates declared "it was a lie!"

Mr. Turtle said "he should boot him if the word was repeated."

Mr. Bates repeated the word, and was booted through the court-house door.

Difficulties being settled, counsel appeared in court very amiable, covered with ink, ready to proceed.

Mr. Turtle attempted to 'pologize to the court—"he had no 'pology for Bates."

The court remarked that "it wasn't necessary—the doctrine of set-off would apply."

Mr. Bates said he had no speech to make—the court knew the justice who made the return—if it believed him, then Turtle might as well cave.

During this uproar, Philista Filkins with her friends, and Charity Beadle with her friends, each troop ranged round their counsel, were looking upon this war of words with the most intense anxiety. Miss Filkins had attired herself for the occasion in a mussy crape dress, a pinched-up hat, and a black shawl, being, as she said, in affliction. She declared that Miss Beagle tried to "spile" her character, and she felt it, for that when that was gone, one might as well give up, and die. She carried a deep-set grievance in her face, a fixed anguish, which occasionally[Pg 295] broke up into a snuffle. She was sustained, however, as has been seen, in her trials, by a few benevolent Puddleford ladies, who had most magnanimously followed her and her case, reckless of time and money, and who said, "they meant to see the end on't, cost what it might."

Miss Beadle and her friends were a very different-looking tempered body. They were charged to the brim with acid and red pepper. They looked and felt lightning, and any one could see at a glance that they meant to fight as long as there was a hair of their friend left. It was generally understood that they had agreed to "throw in around" and help Miss Charity out, and her case had now, of course, become their case, and Bates was as much their lawyer as Miss Beadle's lawyer—and Turtle, when he got "ramptious," was jest as "sassy" to them as he was to the court, or Miss Beadle, they said—"and if they were not greatly mistaken, he'd see the day that he'd repent on't."

The women who composed these two hostile factions got into several side-fights between themselves, what Ike called "collateral ish-ers"—and twitted each other of a dozen or more dead and buried slanders, which had for a long time been forgotten. Mrs. Bird gave Aunt Sonora a regular "runnin' over," as she call'd it—"a piece of her mind, that would last her as long as she liv'd." She told Aunt Sonora, who was one of Miss Filkins's body-guard, that "she was a pretty old woman to come up thar and try to screen that Filkins crittershe'd better stick up for her—she was a nice old woman—a handsum old woman—a beau-tiful old woman—she'd better be home a-takin' care on her children—she'd better be a mendin' her husband's old breeches—it would look a[Pg 296] great deal better. What if Filkins had lied as much about her, or her old man, she'd ask her that. Guess'd she'd make the fur fly some—guess'd she wouldn't-er stood it no longer than other folks—guess'd she couldn't get along without a character better'n other people—guess'd she hadn't got any too much to brag on, anyhow, if reports were true—s'pose she should rake up all she'd heer'd about her, and go tellin' it round arter everybody, where would she be. Bah! how I hate sich folks," she continued, putting on one of her most contemptible faces, and spitting like a mad cat, at Aunt Sonora.

Aunt Sonora was a philosopher on such occasions. She knew the storm would soon blow over, and that Mrs. Bird would be "round," to take tea with her, in less than a week—so she took a quiet pinch of snuff, and told Mrs. Bird in reply, that "she'd call onto the court, if she cut any more of her antics round her—she ought-er recollect she was in the high court, and they didn't 'low any flabbergastin' in sich places; she'd be in jail quicker'n scart first thing she know'd, and her hull pack with her, if they didn't keep mighty mum. She wasn't in Puddleford now, she'd find, if she let her mouth spit bile at that rate."

Mrs. Bird sobered down.

Squire Longbow was also present, to see the end of this famous suit. The Squire usually followed his cases into the county court, "to look arter 'em," as he said, "and to explain things." He was dressed in his best suit of homespun, and also had on his most dignified air. He did not even wince during the scathing Turtle gave him and his return, feeling perfectly sure that he couldn't be hurt by any country 'torney in the upper courts. He[Pg 297] "ray-ther thought he was known thar." The county judge, in a very summary and careless manner, decided, "the p'ints Mr. Turtle had raised warn't good; they were all agin the return of the justis'; and he must pay respect to the lower courts."

(Here Squire Longbow drew his pocket handkerchief and blew his nose like a trumpet, to call the attention of the by-standers to the decision.)

He would repeat—this for the benefit of the Squire, evidently—"they were all agin the return of the justis', who was an old magistrate, and had did a great deal of business."

(Here the Squire bowed his head, by way of assent, to the court.)

"The court orter say, further, that Mr. Turtle's affidavit was sworn to, and how he could have sworn to such an affidavit, right agin the return of the justis', was mor'n he know'd; perhaps Mr. Turtle know'd himself, and could inform the court."

Mr. Turtle said that was his business. Mr. Turtle spoke very short, for he was greatly nettled.

The court said, "it didn't make any difference—it warn't neither here nor thar—the p'ints were all squashed, and that was his decision; costs to go agin Turtle."

"Agin Turtle," exclaimed Ike, rising, "costs agin Turtle!"

"Agin Turtle's client," said the court, correcting himself.

"That sounds a leetle more like a court of justis'," added Ike; "but it was a bull-head decision, he would say that, if he rotted in jail for contempt, that is, if anybody could commit contempt agin such a bass-wood-headed court, as this had got-ter be!"[Pg 298]

A jury was now about to be impanelled to try the case between Filkins and Beadle a second time, and this was no small matter. The whole county had heard of this remarkable suit, and had talked about it, and each person had allied himself or herself to the parties. A very small matter will throw a new country into a tempest of excitement, as a very few matters of importance exist to get excited about. When the panel was filled, and the clerk had announced that fact to the court, Ike saw, or thought he saw, some of the most violent Beadle men in the county among the number. He had only two peremptory challenges, and if he could not remove some of them for "cause," as the books say, "he was gone up," as he thought to himself.

Mr. Buzzlebaum, a hickory-headed farmer, with short hair, which stuck up all over his head like a porcupine's quills, was a very dangerous man. Ike knew he was a bachelor, and he had been strongly suspected of "paying some attention" to Miss Beadle; so Ike put a few questions to Mr. Buzzlebaum.

"Mr. Buzzlebaum," exclaimed Ike, "you a juryman in this case?"

Mr. Buzzlebaum said he was.

"Y—e—s," drawled Ike, "so I see," as if he had got on the panel fraudulently some way.

"Know Miss Beadle?"


"You do know the 'oman then?"


"Sot up at her house any?"

"Sot up!"

"Yes, sot up; don't you know what that is by this time, at your time-er life, Mr. Buzzlebaum?"[Pg 299]

"Well, what of it?" asked Mr. Buzzlebaum.

"What—of—it! Je-ru-sa-lem!" exclaimed Ike, slapping a book on the table, and looking fury at the court. "The man says 'what of it?'—sittin' up with the defendant nights a-courtin' her, and then wants to know what of it? Wouldn't he be a pretty man to try this case?"

"Sot up where?" inquired Buzzlebaum.

"How do I know where! Ever talk of marryin' the 'oman, hey?"

"Wal!" heaved Buzzlebaum.

"No wals here; you're sworn now; out with it. Didn't you tell old Soper, if she warn't so old and rusty-like, you'd strike, hit or miss? What, sir?"

"Wal!" groaned Buzzlebaum again.

"Guilty as a dog; won't answer; is a-goin'-ter die game, right inter the face of the court," exclaimed Ike.

Mr. Buzzlebaum began to scratch his head, and just got an idea of what "sot up" meant, and declared, "he'd never sot up with Miss Beadle, nor nobody else, but he warn't goin' to answer any more questions;" and asking another juryman for his hat, which stood among a huddle of hats outside the jury-box, "leaned" for the door, amid the cries of the court, clerk, Bates, &c., of "hold on," "don't go," "stop him," "bring him back, sheriff," &c. But Buzzlebaum didn't return.

The next juryman who Ike thought was "dang-rous," was Mr. Tumbleton.

"Mr. Tumbleton," exclaimed Ike, "form'd or 'spressed any 'pinion in this case?"

"No, sir!"

"Hain't form'd nor 'spressed any?"

"No, sir!"[Pg 300]

"Hain't said that you hop'd the old maid would come out hunk?"

"No, sir!"

"Hain't said that Turtle was a jackass for pushin' on this 'ere suit?"

"No, sir!"

"Hain't thought he was?"


"Pretty clus questions," said Mr. Tumbleton, balancing on one leg, and looking thoughtfully up at the ceiling.

"Now don't you think—and haven't you said, that Turtle was a jackass for pushin' on this suit?" inquired Ike, rising from his chair.

"No, sir!—haven't said any such thing."

"Don't you think he is, is the question, Mr. Tumbleton?"

"Think you are a jackass!" repeated the juror.

"Yes, sir!"

"Very likely I do."

Mr. Turtle submitted to the court, if that "warn't 'nough to break him from sittin'."

Mr. Bates said, "the man show'd his good sense—best juryman on the whole panel."

The court thought the juryman was entitled to his own opinion; it was not pos-i-tive proof that Turtle was a jackass 'cause the juryman might have thought so; shouldn't drive him out the box for that.

"Ever been in state-prison?" continued Turtle, resuming the examination.

"S—i—r!" ejaculated Mr. Tumbleton, moving towards Ike, with his arm raised.[Pg 301]

"Or, in the county jail," added Ike, almost in time, and cocking his eye saucily at Mr. Tumbleton.

Mr. Tumbleton rushed upon Ike, and upset him, before Ike knew that he really was in danger.

Mr. Turtle rose in a very unruffled manner for him, and asked the court, "if sich a contempt as that was to go unnoticed—a reg'lar admitted 'torney assaulted right inter the face of the court—he moved that Mr. Tumbleton be confined in the log jail for twenty-four hours—out of respect to his honor the court."

The judge ordered Mr. Tumbleton to be confined, and thus the second juror was disposed of.

"You live up on Poverty Common—don't you?" continued Ike, as if nothing had happened, addressing himself to a runt of a man, who looked as if he had been on short feed, and who had strayed on the jury no one knew how.

"Yes, I do," answered the man.

"Your name is Flummer?"

"Flum what?" inquired the juror.

"Flum-mer," answered Ike, tartly.

"Well, whose business is that, if it is?"

"Mine," said Ike. "Wasn't old Zeb Flummer your grandfather?"

"Old Zeb? yes."

"Didn't old Zeb Flummer marry old Sally Beadle?"

"That's what they say."

"And wasn't old Sally Beadle, Charity Beadle's grandmother?"

"S'pose so," said Flummer.

"Well, sir, you can just step out," said Turtle; "the statert cuts you short-bob-off; no blood relatives sit[Pg 302] here." And the court seemed to assent, and Flummer left—nine jurymen remaining in the box.

Bates "knocked off" three more for "causes," leaving six; and by this time the first day was about exhausted. Talesmen were picked up from the by-standers to supply the places of the "missing," and the court adjourned.

On the next day, Ike opened the cause in his best style. He gave a biography of Philista Filkins, and dwelt upon her ups and downs in this mortal life. "He did s'pose, that if there ever was a woman that had grief, and stood it, too, 'twas his client, and she was nothin' but a woman, nuther. She lik'd to gone off with the measles when she was a child, and had been puny-like ever since; her father was kill'd by an oak-tree 'fore she could do anythin' for herself, down on the Catta-ra-gus, leaving a pile of young-uns, he didn't know how many. Her father warn't rich, but that warn't neither here nor thar; he was honest, and paid up his debts afore he died, to the last cent; he was a man that struggled a good deal for a livin', but he got it; allers kept a stiff upper lip, as tho' the skies were bright, and the sailin' good. Arter he died, they were a most distressed family. His client, 'bout the year—'bout the year—[Ike stopped and scratched his head]—'bout the year—[he had forgotten when, and turning, exclaimed to Aunt Sonora], When in thunder was it that Miss Filkins came inter the settlement?"

"Wal, now, let me think," answered Aunt Sonora,—"Brumijim's youngest boy died—died—when did he die?—but no matter—but when we bought our brindle cow—we got her of old lame Gosander, and I recollect[Pg 303] jist as well as if it was yesterday, that when my boy Jim was drivin' off that 'ere cow from Gosander's—one warm spring mornin'—that he tell'd me, arter he got home, that he met some strang-ers on the road—and I axed him who they were? And Jim said—"

"When—in thunder—was it?" ejaculated Ike again, who hung suspended in the middle of his speech, while the old lady was fogging away over the history of the past.

"I was jist a-goin' to tell you! You needn't get so fluster'd 'bout it," answered Aunt Sonora—"where was I—O, yes! Jim said, when I axed him—that he didn't know who they were—guess'd 'twas sumbody that was movin' in to settle—he tell'd me that the woman had on an old legun bunnit—and arterwards I found out that that very woman was Philista Filkins. Now you've got it," concluded Aunt Sonora.

As Ike was no wiser than he was before, and he could not wait to investigate the point any further, he proceeded: "At any rate, his client came inter Puddleford, and had been one of the fust 'mong 'em ever sin'. He warn't goin' to repeat what he said afore the court below, now, he would wait 'til he summ'd up. He warn't goin' to say nothin' 'bout the unspotted character of his client; he warn't goin' to say nothin' 'bout the defendant nuther. He warn't a-goin' to say how she would lie, nor how she went around a-backbitin' everybody she could get a dab at; there were twenty persons within the sound of his voice that know'd that—that know'd the woman like a book."

"Yes, sir-ee!" exclaimed a voice from the crowd, being one of Filkins' supporters.[Pg 304]

"Silence!" roared the court.

"You hear that, don't you, gentlemen? They know her like a book."

"No! he warn't goin' to say anythin' 'bout the defendant now. He might say enough 'bout her to blow her sky-high; perhaps she wouldn't steal, he didn't think she would, but folks who do lie, will steal; but she hadn't stole nothin' yet, as he know'd on; he warn't goin' to say so 'tany rate;" and thus Ike rambled on for more than an hour before the jury, in the opening of his cause, touching upon almost everything connected with the rise of Puddleford, and closed by saying, "That they only claimed ten dollars damages; but 'twern't the money they were arter; 'twas the great principle; his client scorned money as pay for her character; she'd never touch a cent on't so long as her name was Filkins—and he might as well say that he, as her counsel, had 'vised her to give every jot on't to some religus institution, or to orphin children, and she'd do it too—catch her takin' that money!"

Bates occupied about as much time as Turtle did in opening for the defence; the law permitting both counsel to open together, if they chose to do so; and he finished his speech by reading Squire Longbow's return to the jury, which he said was more full than anything he could say.

The trial went forward. But I shall not attempt to detail the vicissitudes which accompanied it for two days. Every question and every answer was objected to, and entered by the court formally on the record. The lie was given backward and forward a dozen times or more; the court had often been obliged to interfere through the[Pg 305] sheriff—all the witnesses on the part of the plaintiff were impeached by the defendant's witnesses, who swore their reputation for truth and veracity was bad, and that they would not believe them under oath; all the witnesses on the part of the defendant were also impeached for the same reason. Of course the reputation of the witnesses had been utterly destroyed before the trial came on, and long before, by each backbiting the other; and when the trial closed, and the arguments were ended, the case, if it could have been painted, would have looked very much like a militia training, without beginning, middle, or end, form or substance, and the jury were about as wise as if they just awoke from a hard nightmare.

The court charged the jury—and such a charge was never "fired off" by any man outside of a new country.

Some hundred "p'ints of la'" had been handed up by Turtle and Bates, which they said must be noticed—but Turtle's law and Bates's law were in conflict—but each one declared that his law was the law—and they were, they said, ready, if necessary, to swear to it before any tribunal.

The judge went off with his charge upon the same principle that a man fires an old musket into a tree, where he supposes a bird is concealed. Some of the shot must hit, and the rest won't do any harm, anyhow.

He told the jury that he had got somethin' to say now—he was the judge of the court, and the jury must pay special attention to what he had to offer. 'Torneys were paid for their talk, and the jury could believe 'em jest so far as they were a mind-ter and no furder—the law come from him—if he made a mistake in the law, it was none of the jury's business, that would be straightened[Pg 306] out somewhere else, by somebody else. He would proceed now. The action was trespass.

"Not by a long shot!" said Turtle, rising.

"Or," continued the judge, "a-kinder trespass—it was one woman a-tryin' to carry away another woman's character. Now, gentlemen, there has been a great deal of evidence in this case, and it don't all 'mount to much nuther—"

"'Cept to that part of the charge!" exclaimed Ike. "'Don't 'mount to much nuther."

"That is," continued the judge, "there ain't much on't to the p'int—and when evidence ain't to the p'int, the court will knock it outer the case, if a row of 'ceptions is filed as long as the moral law. Now take the impeaching testimony—what does that all amount to?—why just this:—Filkins' witnesses don't believe Beadle's witnesses, and so they swear—Beadle's witnesses don't believe Filkins' witnesses, and so they swear—and so the witnesses on one side are just as good as the witnesses on t'other side, and you must believe them all, just as fur, gentlemen of the jury, as if none of 'em had been impeached; and the court tells you so. Any objection to that, Mr. Turtle?"

Turtle said nothing.

"No objection to that, then. Now, then, gentlemen, the defendant below set off slanderous words agin slanderous words she had used agin the plaintiff, and I let it in agin here, and Mr. Turtle objected. Gentlemen of the jury, Mr. Turtle would object, of course—he is 'torney for plaintiff, but I tell you the set-off is law, and I agree with Squire Longbow, who let it in. It was right."

Squire Longbow drew his handkerchief and blew a heavy blast out of his nose at this compliment.[Pg 307]

"Now, then, gentlemen, slander is slander—you all know what slander is—as I said before, it is slander—it ain't refusing to pay one's debts—it ain't 'zactly takin' one's property—though character is a kinder property—it ain't stealin'—but—but—it is slander—if you lie 'bout me, 'tis slander—if I lie 'bout you, 'tis slander—if anybody lies 'bout anybody, 'tis slander—it don't matter what anybody says 'bout anybody, if 'tis a lie, 'tis slander. You can now see, gentlemen of the jury, what slander is—how the law looks at slander—how it is laid down in the books. This action is for slander—and if I should examine all the books, and go inter the hull subject fully, you would not know any more 'bout slander, gentlemen, than you know 'bout slander now. Any objection to that, Mr. Turtle?"

No objection was raised.

"Now, then," continued the court, "you're to look the evidence all over, and if you b'lieve the plaintiff has slandered the defendant—I say, if you b'lieve it—the court has its own notions on that subject too—but 'tain't for the court to say—I say, if you b'lieve, gentlemen, the plaintiff has slander'd the defendant—if you b'lieve it upon your oaths—you're under oath, gentlemen—you should never forget you're under oath, gentlemen—very solemn duty, gentlemen, you've got-to perform—I say if—after looking all the testimony all over, you b'lieve it on your oaths—why, then, gentlemen, the court tells you, gentlemen, that you must render a verdict for the plaintiff, gentlemen, you must. But if, gentlemen—and here comes the p'int—the great p'int for you to consider, gentlemen, under oath—if you b'lieve the defendant has not slandered the plaintiff, gentlemen—it's a[Pg 308] hard charge, slander is, gentlemen—if you b'lieve the defendant has not slandered the plaintiff, why, then, render the verdict for the defendant. Mr. Clerk, swear an officer to take charge of this jury."

The jury retired and deliberated one day and one night—but could not agree. They returned into court, and were again charged on some law points, about which they differed, they said—they retired again, and after quarrelling another half a day, came into court once more, and declared they differed this time about the evidence. The court set them right upon the particular disputed point of testimony, as he understood it, when they appeared a third time, and the foreman announced that they could not agree any way, and they wouldn't go out again for the court, or anybody else—and thus forever was ended the famous trial between Filkins and Beadle.

[Pg 309]


Amusements in Puddleford.—The Highland Fling.—A Fire-eater comes next.—Runs a Sword down his Throat.—Starts his Ribbon Factory.—Borrows Squire Longbow's Hat.—Boils Eggs in it.—The Squire gets into a Passion.—The Grand Caravan is posted.—Squire Longbow lectures on the Lion.—Bigelow Van Slyek follows on the Ichneumon—The Caravan arrives.—Great Excitement.—Jim Buzzard still himself.—Aunt Sonora in Trouble.—The Band blows away.—The Canvas is raised.—Terrible Press of Puddlefordians.—The Keeper shows up the Lion.—Explains why he has no Hair.—The Ichneumon is found at last—The Monkey Ride.—Breaking up.

The amusements of a new country are on a scale with everything else. As every people are set to some scale, from the most refined and luxurious, to the most rustic and simple, that scale is always preserved in whatever may exist. Puddleford was not without its public amusements. It was not beyond the reach of strolling vagabonds, and impudent mountebanks. These troops, like light, penetrate every quarter of the globe, and, of course, visited Puddleford.

One of the first exhibitions which wormed its way among the Puddlefordians was made up of a drunken Irishman and a vixen of a woman, a cracked fiddle and a greasy fife, all of whom and which performed the "Highland fling" with variations and other tunes as the man declared (there were no bills), in full costume.[Pg 310] The Highlander was drunk, and the woman was out of temper; the fiddle was crazy, and the fife could scarcely squeak. The performance opened with the "Highland fling," was succeeded by the "Highland fling," continued by the "Highland fling," and closed by a grand display of the "Highland fling." This exhibition being the first that ever found its way into the settlement, everybody was delighted. Aunt Sonora said, "she didn't b'lieve there war any such Highlanders—nor any such flings nuther—but the music was very purty, say what they would."

After the Irishman and woman departed, and their memory had nearly faded out, a "fire-eater" came on, and positively turned Puddleford nearly topsy-turvy. He was certainly a most ferocious character. He boiled eggs in a hat, hatched chickens, ate tow, and pulled out ribbons from his mouth; swallowed swords, point foremost, burned all the handkerchiefs in the room, and restored them to their owners again; and did divers more astonishing things, which completely upset the brains of the Puddlefordians, and they began to think, before he finished, that he was fresh from the infernal regions, and had been sent on by Satan himself.

There had never been such a crowd collected at Puddleford for any purpose as assembled to see the wonderful performance of this fire-eater. Mrs. Bird, Mrs. Longbow, Mrs. Beagle, Mrs. Swipes, Aunt Sonora, and a few more of the female aristocracy of Puddleford, occupied the front seats, which were covered with green baize, as a mark of respect and distinction. The background was composed of a very miscellaneous sort of people—Jim Buzzard being in the extreme rear, perched upon a barrel.[Pg 311]

It was exceedingly fearful to hear the screams of the women, when the performer had a sword half down his throat.

"What is the man a-goin'-ter to do?" exclaimed Mrs. Bird.

"O, murder!—mur-der!" screamed Aunt Sonora, jumping from her seat.

"O, twitch it out quick—he's cho-kin'!" gasped Mrs. Swipes.

"See him!—see him!" exclaimed a dozen voices at once. "Stop him!" "Run!" "'Tis goin' right straight inter his throat." "He's dyin'! How his eyeballs glare!" "Squire Longbow!—Squire Longbow!—run—run—you're a peace officer—don't see him die!" "There! O, dear me—'tis gone down—it's outer sight—he's swaller'd it now." "He's got it inter him, mor'n three feet long." "How it must cut!" "There—there!" "I see it—he's pullin' it up agin." "I can jest see the tip end of the handle—but there ain't no blood on't." "How can he get it out?" "Well, if it ain't a comin' right out, I wouldn't say so, handle and all!" "O, dear me—whoever heer'd of a man swallerin' a sword afore!" "How his in'ards must feel!" And so on, keeping the house in a tempest of noise and alarm.

When the performer, however, began to make ready to run his "ribbon factory," as he called it, the women recovered from their fright, and were in high glee, particularly during the preliminary remarks, and during the tow-stuffing exercises. He was, beyond all question, a very funny man, and said a host of very funny things. He threw himself into many strange shapes, twisted his[Pg 312] face out of form—looked gay and looked solemn by turns, and kept the house in a continual burst of merriment.

Mrs. Bird declared "she should die a lafin'."

Aunt Sonora said "it did seem as if her sides would split right open."

Mrs. Swipes said "she know'd that it did beat all—he was the oddest critter that ever com'd into the settlement."

Ike Turtle said "he was sum, if not more."

Bates declared "he must stay over another night."

Squire Longbow said but little. He sat and shook his sides. "It was as good as anything he ever see'd down on-ter the Susquehannas. He was so glad the man had come so far jist to amuse 'em a little."

But when the man began deliberately to light up the tow, and to set his mouth all in a blaze, the screams commenced again.

"He will blow up—he will blow up!" said one.

"He's all-on-a fire!" another.

"How the sparks do fly out of his mouth!"

"'Tis fire! 'Tis raal fire!"


"Take him some wa-ter!"

"I say, mister—mister," exclaimed Mr. Longbow, who had become really frightened, and who could sit still no longer, when he saw the man positively burning up—"Did you really mean to set that tow on fire? Don't it burn, mister? Don't you want some help? I say, sir, mis-ter!"

The man answered by blowing a stream of sparks out of his mouth straight at the Squire, who started back in[Pg 313] terror, and overset Mrs. Longbow, who uttered an unearthly scream.

The fire flickered out at last, and order was restored.

This was followed by the "ribbon factory," and the man pulled a pile of them out of his mouth, of all sizes and colors, and scattered them around his feet in the most reckless manner.

"Don't tromp on 'em," said Aunt Sonora.

"He ought to be keerful on 'em," said another.

"If Whistle & Sharp only sold sich ribbons," another.

"And to think," continued Mrs. Bird, "they come right out on him, too."

"He keeps 'em in his butes," roared Turtle.

"They don't come out of his butes at all," said Aunt Sonora; "they're all in his mouth."

"He didn't put 'em in his butes," said Mrs. Swipes; "how could they come out on 'em?"

"Put 'em in 'fore he come," said Turtle.

"I say, mister," inquired Squire Longbow, who wished to settle the disputed point for the benefit of all, "did you put them 'are ribbons inter yer butes 'fore you come?"

The man cocked his eye, and kept pulling away.

The Squire looked indignant.

"Ask him if they are raal ribbons," said Aunt Sonora.

"I say, mister," stammered the Squire, again rising, "are them 'are raal ribbons?"

The man still pulled.

"Won't answer no questions!" exclaimed the Squire, and he sat down. The ribbon factory at last ran out.

The only other exercise of importance was cooking eggs in a hat. The performer had borrowed the Squire's hat in the most polite way possible, saying, "he would[Pg 314] confer a great favor upon him for the loan of it for a few moments; it would so much aid him in his feats. It was just the hat he wanted—it was sometimes difficult for him to find just the hat—but the Squire's hat filled his eye to a dot."

Now the Squire's hat was the most remarkable hat in all Puddleford. It was a broad-brimmed affair, "raal beaver," he said, which he'd worn mor'n twenty years. He bought it down on the "Susquehannas," and had watched it with sacred care ever since he had owned it. He wore it on Sunday, Fourth of July, on town-meeting days, and on all special occasions. He kept it the rest of the time in a closet in the "cham-ber," covered with a piece of "ile-cloth," which was about as ancient as the hat. There was one grease spot on it, and only one, and there was not a man, woman, or child in the settlement who did not know how it "come on," for the Squire had detailed the circumstances that led to the catastrophe, a hundred times.

The hat was set upon the floor, and the performer brought out a basket of eggs, and bowing gracefully, holding one in his hand at the same time, said he would cook a dozen in that hat, pointing to the Squire's hat significantly.

"S-i-r!" exclaimed the Squire.

"Keep easy, sir!" said the man.


"Yes, sir! in your hat!"

"In my beaver hat?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Cook eggs?"

"Yes, sir! Cook 'em!"[Pg 315]

"That hat!"

"Yes, sir! I say that hat!"

"Down in front!" exclaimed Turtle; "can't see."

"That hat!" gasped the Squire again.

"He's gummin' you," roared Turtle; "can't cook eggs in a hat. Down in front!"

Squire Longbow was very much excited, and had turned very red in the face. He could not help but think what his first wife would say if she was there—what she would say if she saw that hat with eggs "a-bilin'" in it—but perhaps the showman was "a-tryin'" to scare him, as Turtle said—he would wait a little and watch him closely.

"And now," said the performer, "examine this egg—it is a real egg—and now you see me break it—and now it is broke—and now," cracking it apart with his thumb nails, and looking down into the Squire's hat—"there it goes!"

"Twenty-five dollars! twenty-five dollars for that!" ejaculated the Squire, filled with fury, and jumping towards the performer, with his fist doubled, and his teeth firm set. "You're a great scoundrel, sir—you borrow'd that hat, sir—you borrowed it of me, sir—it is my hat, sir, that you've got, sir—my name is Longbow, sir—Squire Longbow, sir—that's my beaver hat, sir—twenty years old, sir—cost ten dollars, sir!"

"And there goes another," continued the performer, amid the stamping and roars of the audience, popping another egg into the Squire's hat, in the coolest manner possible, disregarding the tempest around him.

"I call upon Mr. Turtle to witness!" continued the Squire; "I'll ish-er a warrant for you, sir—I'll have[Pg 316] you up, sir—before me, sir—you can't pay me for that 'ere hat, sir—you'll be imprison'd—you'll go to jail, sir—you won't spile any more people's hats, sir—you won't bile eggs, arter this, sir—it's your last bilin', sir—"

By this time the smoke was rising out of the Squire's hat and curling away towards the ceiling, and the smell of cooked eggs was waxing strong in the nostrils, and the hat, so they all said, was "gone for sartin."

"La!" exclaimed Aunt Sonora, as she saw the fate of the hat, "what wicked critters these performers are; sit right down and burn up a hat—a-bilin' eggs in it!"

The performer returned Squire Longbow's hat, after he had concluded his wonderful experiment of cooking eggs, but the old man looked upon it with suspicion. He turned it over and over, and smelled of it, but declared, at last, that it was his old beaver, and jest as good as new; whereupon he apologized for his getting into a passion, and gave as a reason, that it "was the first time he ever saw the trick done—but now he know'd the man was a gentleman, every inch on him."

But the most remarkable exhibition that ever fell upon Puddleford occurred after this. A caravan of wild animals, about the autumnal days, took Puddleford in its way. It was called the grand caravan. Quite a flaming poster preceded the animals themselves. The bill was indeed a very attractive-looking affair. There was a lion and a tiger painted on it, at a dead lock. The lion, it appeared, had opened the tiger's bowels, and the tiger had opened the lion's bowels—the lion had torn the tiger's head, and the tiger had torn the lion's head—these two furious beasts seemed to be[Pg 317] about on an equal footing. An elephant was also portrayed in a very stately manner, carrying a house full of people on his back, who were armed to the teeth, for some unknown purpose, and who also supported a stern-looking gentleman, seated upon his tusks, who carried a long pole in his hand. Monkeys of all sizes were scattered around the picture. Some climbing trees, some chattering higher up in the branches, and some cutting curious antics, evidently for the gratuitous amusement of the public who might choose to look on. This bill was posted up at the Eagle, and it created a very great excitement throughout Puddleford and the adjacent country. Scores of people came in from "round about," to wonder over and digest this wonderful "picter." Aunt Sonora, Mrs. Swipes, Mrs. Bird, Mrs. Beagle, Mrs. Longbow, and their husbands, the "Colonel," Bigelow Van Slyck, Jim Buzzard, and scores of ragged children, pressed into the bar-room, day after day, and "Oh'd" and "Ah'd" over it. All kinds of comments were made by the multitude. The origin, history, habits, and ferocity of the animals were sagely discussed and settled. Squire Longbow, among the rest, told wonderful stories about the "roar" of the lion—how he "shak't the whole woods, when he got his wrath up, and made all the other animals run and hide themselves—he said they'd all have to stop their ears if that feller (pointing to the said lion on the show-bill) giv' 'em a blast—he heer'd one roar onct, down onter the Susquehannas, and he shouldn't forget it the longest day he lived."

Aunt Sonora inquired of Squire Longbow, "where lions came from, and how they got 'em here, and if they were dang-rous animals, and would bite people."[Pg 318]

The Squire drew a long a-hem! stretched out his legs, and looked very wise, for he thought if there was anything that he did know about, it was about lions. He recollected just how that lion looked that he saw down on the Susquehannas. He knew, too, that there was no other person in Puddleford that could throw any light upon the subject of lions. So the Squire began in the most profound manner to answer Aunt Sonora. "The lion," said the Squire, "the great African lion—jist sich a lion as you see on that 'ere bill—inasmuch as you have axed me, I tell you, comes from the jungles of the torrid zone."

Mr. Bates wanted to know what "a jungle was, while he was about his lion story?"

"A jungle—a jungle," continued the Squire, coughing in his embarrassment; "a jungle—is—a—place—a kind-er cave, where the lions go, deep inter the airth, and where they can growl and roar, without disturbin' anybody."

"Inter the airth?" exclaimed Turtle; "how do they catch 'em, then?"

"How do they ketch 'em?—how do they ketch 'em?" exclaimed the Squire; "how do I know?—how can I tell?—I've never been in Africa—I was only tellin' how the lions liv'd."

Mrs. Bird asked the Squire what the lions ate?

"Anything they can get," answered the Squire, very philosophically; "they ain't 'tall particular."

"Don't eat grass, do they?"

The Squire said he "shouldn't be s'prised if they did."

"Do they eat up men and women?"

"Wal," answered the Squire, "to tell you the plain truth, I s'pose they do."[Pg 319]

"O Lordy!" exclaimed Mrs. Bird. "Ugh! how he looks!"

During all this time the young Puddlefordians, dirty and barefooted, who had crowded themselves into a corner in a distant part of the room, were filled with terror during the Squire's sage remarks, and fairly trembled for their safety.

Jim Buzzard took occasion to say that "he s'posed the an-er-mals would bite, but he warn't goin' to be scart, if they had 'em fasten'd in cages—but if they were goin' ter run loose, he'd be gaul-blasted if they seed him round thar when they com'd—he'd jest let 'em know he warn't a-goin' to be eat up by their lions and elephuntses—he didn't care nothin' 'bout their monkeys—he warn't 'fraid of them, nohow—but them 'are lions—what teeth they have got—O! mighty!—guess'd they wouldn't ketch him round them grinders."

The bill, among other startling announcements, declared that "the celebrated animal mentioned in Holy Writ, and now known as the Ichneumon," would be exhibited—that it was the first time any company had ever succeeded in carrying him so far into the interior, as he was very partial to salt water, and suffered very much, and grew very faint and weak, when removed any distance away from it.

The showman had been very careful not to furnish a picture of the Ichneumon, whose peculiarities had been so vividly portrayed in print, and the Puddlefordians were in great doubt about his real appearance. There were many curious speculations, and sage reflections indulged in by the more learned portion of the crowd, about his origin and history. It was very difficult, in the first place, to pronounce his name.[Pg 320]

Bigelow Van Slyck, who was a host at Puddleford in philology, attempted to give the most correct pronunciation of the word. It was "Ich, something," he said—"probably the whole word was taken from Ich—and that was an animal that scratched himself—and yet he didn't believe this animal had any hair—and it was only hairy animals that did scratch themselves—and the reason why he thought the animal hadn't any hair, was, that he must be a salt-water animal—for the bill said he was mentioned in Holy Writ—and also, that he couldn't live away from salt-water. He thought he knew sun-thin' 'bout Holy Writ—he thought he did—and sunthin' 'bout animals, too—and if he was to give his opinion, he should say the Ichneumon was the great Le-vi-a-thern, that went into the mighty deep!" (Here Bigelow raised upon his toes, and spread out his arms, as if to show the crowd how big the great Le-vi-a-thern was.)

Bigelow's oration produced a very solemn effect on the Puddlefordians. The idea that the great Leviathan, of Holy Writ, was really coming into their midst, was a most astounding thought to every man, woman, and child present.

Mrs. Longbow, who was a member of Bigelow's church, as has been seen, wanted to know "in what part of Holy Writ that 'are Ich-what-do-ye-call-it was found?"

Bigelow said it was somewhere—he couldn't 'zactly tell—it was either in the Old or New Testament, he was very—"sartin."

Mrs. Longbow said "she'd never see'd it."

Bigelow said "he'd never seen him nuther."

Mrs. Longbow explained—"she'd never seen the animal in the Holy Writ."[Pg 321]

Bigelow thought, "if she'd look, she'd find it."

Mrs. Longbow said "she'd look now."

Bigelow said "he hadn't time now, but he'd look it up by next Sunday, and preach on't."

Turtle, who had been carefully watching Bigelow in his attempt to identify the Ichneumon, and who had great respect for his opinion in all matters connected with Holy Writ, thought he discovered a flaw in the argument. He would "jest like to know how they could carry around a salt-water animal on land?"

Bigelow said "he warn't alive—he was stuff'd. It didn't say the celebrated live animal called the Ichneumen."

"But it did say," replied Turtle, "that it was the first time they had succeeded in carrying the animal so far in the interior."

Bigelow was a little puzzled at this—but said, "he s'posed it was in great danger of being stolen—but at any rate, the Ichneumen was the great Leviathern, or some other—very—strange—animal,—that he was sure of."

Squire Longbow, who had listened in the most dignified manner to all that Bigelow had said, heaved a long sigh at his last remark, and declared that Bigelow had, in his opinion, "s'plained the whole thing—and 'twas clear 'nough to him that the Ich-nu-men was the Viathen—'tany rate, he know'd the Viathen was the Ich-nu-men."

The excitement was very great from the time the bill was posted until the grand caravan actually arrived. Very little else was talked about, or thought of in Puddleford, and the region round about. Every business,[Pg 322] and every domestic and social arrangement had reference to the coming event. Squire Longbow had declared, two weeks before the day fixed for the performance, that no law business would be done in his office on show-day. Turtle had issued a similar proclamation. Important financial arrangements were everywhere matured to enable the Puddlefordians to "raise the wind," so they might procure an entrance behind the canvas. The draft of ready money upon the people threatened to be very disastrous, for the admission was two shillings per head, children half price—cash down.

The caravan was expected to arrive at about ten o'clock in the forenoon. But the mighty multitude, who had some distance to travel, packed and provisioned, and started on their way the day previous. Everybody was determined to be on the ground when the first blow was struck. The morning of the long-looked for period presented a spectacle more stirring and sublime than anything which had ever been before known. Every man, woman, and child was dressed in his or her best. Many had strained a point, and appeared in a style so rich that they were scarcely known by their best friends. And then, too, every person appeared to be so full of good humor and smiles, that it really seemed to be the only desire of all to make each other happy. Squire Longbow shone like a dollar. The old homespun coat and beaver hat wore a new brightness about them; and, what was very unusual for the Squire, he had procured a new hickory cane, and had cut "Longbow" upon it, which very much added to his dignity. Turtle had actually mounted a clean collar, which was one of the most remarkable occurrences of the season. Jim Buzzard, however, had not[Pg 323] met with any change, outwardly or inwardly. He wore the same hat, coat, and boots that were found with him when he was first seen sunning himself on a dry-goods box, one morning, in the streets of Puddleford. The hat was a little more jammed up, and the boots gaped a little wider—but he was still the same Jim Buzzard, and they were still the same hat and boots. They bade fair to last as long as he did. His garments seemed to have grown to him, and to have become a part of him—to have formed a sort of attachment for him, and he really looked as if he had been born with these very clothes on.

Jim sauntered around and said nothing. Sometimes he might be seen perched away off by himself upon a post, overlooking the crowd—sometimes stretched out on a box in the sun, snoring, and making ready for the coming occasion. He knew he would get in. He had no money, but he was a philosopher. He let matters take care of themselves, and as he had always been provided for, he felt perfectly satisfied that he always would be.

Everybody inquired very particularly about everybody's family on that day; and why shouldn't everybody inquire about everybody's family, for it was the day of the great caravan, and everybody was of course overflowing with joy. Mrs. Longbow assured Aunt Sonora, that "she would sartinly call on her the very next afternoon;" and Aunt Sonora apologized for not having dropp'd in to take tea with Mrs. Longbow, long afore. Mrs. Bird went so far as to inquire of Mr. Longbow, "how his cousins," which she said she had heer'd on, were gettin' along down on the Susquehannas—the only time before or since that the old lady ever alluded to the Squire's cousins, down on the Susquehannas, or anywhere else.[Pg 324]

The grand caravan at last appeared in the distance, preceded by a cloud of dust, and heralded by distant strains of music. The shock was electrical—the rush was immense. The boys ran, and turned somersets—the men ran after the boys, and the women ran after the men. Jim Buzzard, disturbed by the "noise and confusion," actually rolled off a box, where he was dozing; crawled to his feet, and rubbed his eyes open with his fist. The jam was really terrific—women lost portions of their dresses, men's hats flew off, and somehow, in the hurly-burly and jam, Squire Longbow missed his beaver hat, cane, and eye-shade. The Squire was in great mental excitement, as well as in bodily danger. He panted for breath, and plodded on the best way he could. Even a man of his distinction was not regarded on that day. Among other trials and reverses, he found himself separated from Mrs. Longbow, who, for anything he knew, was "trampled to death," somewhere; and with one eye on the grand caravan, and the other (the blind one) looking after his second wife, he hurried along, muttering to himself like some mad animal. He was dashed on to Mr. Turtle in his progress, and nearly upset that respectable legal gentleman. Mr. Turtle rose, filled with wrath, and with drawn fist, and just saw his mistake in time before the blow descended. "O, it's you, Squire!" said Mr. Turtle. Squire Longbow asked Mr. Turtle where his wife was? Mr. Turtle, very much excited, said something which the Squire did not understand, and pointed nowhere in particular, and then bounded on after the grand caravan. The Squire, after twisting and turning, and panting and blowing, and after having overturned three or four innocent women, who happened to be in his way,[Pg 325] found himself at last out of the rush, in the corner of a rail fence, blowing his flushed face with his best cotton handkerchief. When he came to himself, he began to think. He recollected that he was a magistrate yet, and if anybody should steal his hat, cane, or his eye-shade, he muttered, "he'd bring 'em afore him by daylight next morning, he would—he'd have some kinder la' in town, if 'twas caravan day."

The fate of Aunt Sonora was about as melancholy as that of the Squire. She was somehow drawn into the tide, and as the good old lady could not move fast, the current that passed her on each side rolled her round and round, as she stood, first one way and then the other, until she became completely peeled of her outer clothes. Cries were jerked out of her in a spasmodic way, as she could catch her breath. "Massy—massy! O, massy—me! I'm—k-i-l-l-'d!" and many more heart-rending exclamations she uttered; but it was the great caravan that was coming, and she was neither heard nor heeded. When she escaped, she looked as if she had been plucked of all her feathers; she, however, quietly slid into the house of Mrs. Longbow, which was near by, for repairs. When she found herself able to speak, she declared, "if that was the way the caravan was a-goin' to use folks, she hop'd lite-ning would strike 'em 'fore they got out-er the settlement—they'd sp'ilt her shillin' caliker dress, and she wouldn't gin it for all the monkeys the confounded consarn had."

But the caravan moved on regardless of accidents, and the music grew stronger and stronger, as it approached nearer and nearer; and as the breeze cast aside the dust, men, and horses, and wagons were seen moving forward,[Pg 326] solemnly preceded by an elephant, which carried a stately looking gentleman upon his tusks, according to the representation on the bill. As the procession approached the village, its extent and magnificence began to dwindle. Alas! three wagons and one sickly-looking elephant comprised the whole affair. The people were evidently very much disappointed. The bill was a very large bill, and they did not see how it was possible for the few vehicles that came into town, to hold all the live stock which had been promised.

Squire Longbow still stood in the corner of the rail fence, looking out for the lion, for he had pledged his reputation to the Puddlefordians that the lion should be all that he had promised. He didn't know whether he would come on foot or not, housed or open; but the Squire saw no lion, nor any place for one.

Bigelow was busy sharply scenting out the "Ich-nu-men, celebrated in Holy Writ," as the bill declared. He felt it to be his duty to take a kind of guardianship over the Ich-nu-men, while he might favor Puddleford with his presence, because he was associated with Holy Writ; but Bigelow could not find him anywhere, living or dead, kicking or stuffed. He was much disappointed, but took courage from the hope that he was shut up from vulgar gaze in one of the strong cages.

The musicians still blowed their blast, as the cavalcade wound its way through the principal streets. The bill declared that the band was the celebrated "Boston Band," led by Monsieur Huzzleguget, and, according to that, it was composed of some twenty-four performers, drawn by six fiery steeds, attached to a Grecian chariot, driven by one elegant-looking gentleman, heavily whiskered, who[Pg 327] must have been some six feet high; but, alas! the band itself that led on the animals through the streets of Puddleford consisted of only four seedy-looking performers, who carried three rusty copper horns and a bass drum, which was beat by a melancholy-looking boy. The three horn-men had blown their faces as round as pumpkins, and as red, too; or something besides wind, perhaps, had blown the color into their faces, for they occasionally took something to drink, during the heat of the exercises, from a bottle which they kept under the seat of the chariot.

The chariot was a large high-boarded wagon, and painted red, and was drawn by a couple of jaded "tugs," who showed plainly enough that their days were fast drawing to a close. But the music still blowed, and the procession moved on, and the Puddlefordians were as much delighted as if the proclamation had been fully realized.

Up went the canvas, and the show prepared to open. The hurry to enter was most marvellous—such a crowd Puddleford never saw before. Even Squire Longbow could not wait until the doors were actually opened. He was bewitched to see the great African lion. The Squire, as a peace-officer, ordered the crowd to keep back, in reality for the purpose of giving him and Mrs. Longbow a better chance; but the Squire's commands were entirely disregarded; he had sunk down to the level of a mere citizen; he was stripped of all his power; it was the great caravan day, and who cared for a justice of the peace on such an occasion?

Aunt Sonora having repaired the disasters of the forenoon, had determined to see the fun out. She had put[Pg 328] on her "'t'other frock," and looked as well as she did before she had been peeled through the morning multitude. The doors were opened at last, and the "rush" entered, and in a few moments the canvas was alive with human beings. The grand caravan now on exhibition was originally the fag-end of a large concern, which had been bought up by sharpers to swindle the people. I say, originally, because this fag-end had been divided up into three smaller fag-ends which were out in different parts of the new country scouring around for money. The Puddleford fag-end had a runt of a lion, who was very evidently on his last legs; for he had been travelled until his hair was worn entirely off, and his spirits exhausted. It was very clear that he was showing himself for about the last time. The elephant was diseased, and the tiger was about four times the size of a cat. There were three dirty-looking monkeys in a cage eating crackers and hickory nuts, and chatting and throwing shucks through the bars at the gaping crowd—an ichneumon—a black bear, the only hearty fellow in the concern—and a mussy-looking ostrich, who had lost his tail-feathers in his peregrinations through the globe. This was the caravan.

Aunt Sonora entered, trembling.—"Dear me! dear me! dear me!" she uttered to herself as she went in; "and so this is really the great caravan; if the animals should get loose—and there—O, there—is that the lion!" she exclaimed involuntarily to those around her, starting back, as she saw the bars of a cage in the distance,—"are them bars iron?" she exclaimed, looking frightened.

"Walk up! walk up!" exclaimed the keeper, as he[Pg 329] saw several persons standing back; "the lion is one of the most docile animals we have, ladies and gentlemen; he never bites, ladies and gentlemen; got him in a strong cage; walk up, ladies and gentlemen, and see the li-on, the monarch of the forest, as he is called."

"How his eyeballs glare!" exclaimed Aunt Sonora, disregarding the peaceful proclamation of the keeper, as the great African lion looked up lazily, and brushed a fly from his nose with his fore-paw.

"This African lion, ladies and gentlemen," continued the keeper, "is fourteen years old; was caught in the great jungles of Ethiopia, by throwing a large rope around his neck when he was a-sleeping, ladies and gentlemen; he floundered a good deal, ladies and gentlemen, but he was caught and brought away to the shores of Ameri-ca, where he has been ever since. Nobody need be afear'd, for he never breaks out of his cage, and always minds his keeper. Walk up clo-ser and look at the animal, ladies and gentlemen." Here the keeper struck the iron bars of the cage a heavy blow with a stick which he carried, but the great African lion took no notice of it.

"Don't be skeer'd," exclaimed Mrs. Swipes, who had listened attentively to the assurances of the keeper, addressing herself to Miss Lavinia Longbow, whom she held between herself and the great African lion, as a precaution; "don't be skeer'd, he's one of the most docilest animals in the whole caravan, the keeper says; push along. Don't be skeer'd; go right up to where he is a-lying."

"This," exclaimed Squire Longbow, in a loud tone of voice, to a host of Puddlefordians who had gathered around him for protection; "this is the great lion I tell'd you[Pg 330] about; he ain't so large as the one I onct saw down onter the Susquehannas. Can he roar any, Mr. Keeper?" continued the Squire, turning solemnly, and addressing himself to that august personage with his usual dignity.

"He's a perfect roarer, ladies and gentlemen!" answered the keeper; "but the lion don't roar at this time of the year—you don't understand the nater of the animal—he loses his voice during the latter part of the season. You ought to have heard him last spring, when he was in the roaring mood, ladies and gentlemen."

"Bless us!" exclaimed Aunt Sonora.

"Frightened the children half to death," said the keeper.

"The great—African lion," muttered Aunt Sonora.

"But he won't roar now, ladies and gentlemen—walk up, walk up!"

"Com'd from the jungles, I s'pose," inquired the Squire, with much gravity.

"Caught right in a jungle," said the keeper.

"Jest as I told you!" said the Squire, turning around to his friends.

"Has he got claws?" inquired Aunt Sonora.

"Claws!" exclaimed the keeper, looking astonished; "the great—African lion—got claws? Bless you! why he's all claws and teeth; let me show them to you;" and the keeper ran his arm into the cage, in the act of pulling out one of the paws of the ferocious beast; when all Puddleford started with a rush for the door, mingled with screams that were most heart-rending.

"Never mind," said the keeper, who had become affected by the terror around him; "we won't show the lion's claws now."[Pg 331]

Order being restored, Mrs. Bird wanted to know why the lion "hadn't got any har?"

"Any what?" inquired the keeper, peering through the crowd to find where the voice came from, and what it said.

"Any har, Mr. Keeper."

"Ah! O, yes—any hair—I see—it is a lady who makes the inquiry. Why the animal hasn't got any hair? Yes, yes, very proper inquiry. We like to answer such questions, or any questions. These animals are great curiosities; and we travel for the instruction of the people. Why the animal hasn't got any hair? Put all the questions you can think of, ladies and gentlemen. The animal hasn't got any hair just now. Well, ladies and gentlemen, he has just shed his coat—the lion is the monarch of the forest—he sheds his coat in the fall of the year, ladies and gentlemen; he's from Africa, where the animals shed their coats at a different season from the animals in this country; and the lion does just as he would do if he were in Africa now, ladies and gentlemen. A very proper question that, ladies and gentlemen; the lion is a wonderful beast—the most wonderful beast, ladies and gentlemen, we have. Any more questions? He has shed his coat, you see; looks bad just now. A sight at the lion alone is worth the whole admission money. Any more questions?"

Mrs. Bird wanted to know of the keeper if he couldn't make him "snap and snarl a little."

As the lion could scarcely stand upon his legs, the request of Mrs. Bird rather took the keeper aback for a moment. But he recovered himself and proceeded. He said he could do it—did do it sometimes—but he didn't[Pg 332] like to do it. "You see, ladies and gentlemen, that he is very docile now; resting very quiet; nothing disturbs him; but if he should get once roused up, there is no knowing what he would do; I have stirred him up upon particular request, but I never do it of my own accord, ladies and gentlemen. We don't propose to do any such thing on our bills; we don't like to do such a thing; but we always mean to satisfy the public, ladies and gentlemen." Here the keeper started for a long pole with a sharp spike in the end of it, and returning with it in his hand, announced, "I will now make the great African lion foam and rage, and gnash his teeth."

A scream of terror went up from the whole multitude, filled with broken ejaculations. "Murder!" "Don't!" "Let me out!" "Stop him!" and everybody rushed in the wildest confusion a second time for the door.

The keeper laid down his pole, and calmed the crowd.

The exercises connected with the lion now closed. Turtle took advantage of the interregnum to make an inquiry of his own. He had in his possession the flaming poster that had so long hung at the Eagle, and amused and astonished the Puddlefordians, and slowly unfolding it, he caught the eye of the keeper, as he held it out at full length, and wished to know where "all the monkeys were that were put on to that 'ere bill?"

The keeper pointed to the monkeys' cage, where the three were, still chewing nuts and crackers, and chattering and bobbing from one side to the other.

"Je-hos-a-phat!" exclaimed Turtle, "them ar' ain't these 'ere monkeys—there ain't but three on 'em, nuther, and they ain't climbing trees, as these are—Je-hos-a-phat!—are them your monkeys, Mr. Keeper?"[Pg 333]

The keeper said "he would explain. They were the same monkeys that the gentleman found on the bill; the same monkeys in different attitudes. That monkey, for instance, ladies and gentlemen," continued the keeper, pointing his stick at a gray-bearded one in the cage, who was just then intently at work pulling a sliver out of his foot, "that monkey is represented four or five times on the bill in different forms, ladies and gentlemen; jumping here, and climbing there, ladies and gentlemen; and in other places performing those wonderful and curious feats that the monkey only can perform. Will the gentleman show the bill for the benefit of all? (Ike held up the bill over his head.) Now, ladies and gentlemen, look at the bill, and then look at the monkey. These bills are printed for the instruction of the people; it gives them a knowledge of natural history. That monkey can do anything that we have represented on our bill; or, rather, monkeys in their native woods do all these things; but the woods we cannot carry around with us, ladies and gentlemen; and so we give it to you on our bills. (Hold the bill a little higher, if you please, sir.) There you see the monkey as he is—next thing to a man, ladies and gentlemen. Study the monkey; he's an as-ton-ishing animal; very different from the lion there; wherever we go, the mon-keys are admired. Any more questions, ladies and gentlemen?"

Turtle said "he b'lieved he shouldn't ask any more questions."

Bigelow Van Slyck had not yet seen "that wonderful animal mentioned in Holy Writ, and now known as the Ichneumon." He had walked the whole caravan over and over a dozen times, but the Ichneumon was nowhere to be seen.[Pg 334]

He inquired, at last, of the keeper, "where he kept his Ichneumon."

"Certainly," answered the keeper in the most amiable manner possible, leading the way to a little cage on the ground, where he had an animal housed about the size of a small dog.

"There," exclaimed the keeper, "is the sacred quadruped now known as the Ichneumon."

Bigelow ran his hands into his breeches-pockets and looked down very reverently upon the little fellow.

"Spoken of in Holy Writ?" repeated Bigelow.

"Often," said the keeper.

"Old Testament, probably," said Bigelow.

"Most probably," replied the keeper.

Bigelow took another long look.

"And he's alive, too," said Bigelow, drawing a long breath.

"But it costs a great deal of money," answered the keeper, "to preserve his life—most expensive animal we have—bathe him in salt water three times a day."

"Mi-rac-ulous!" said Bigelow.

"Treat him very tenderly," continued the keeper; "liable to lose him any moment; cost a great sum; but we don't mind that—it is our business—we will satisfy the public."

Bigelow introduced Mrs. Bird, Mrs. Swipes, and Mrs. Longbow to the Ichneumon, who did not happen to be present and hear the keeper's remarks, and repeated in low breath the information which he had just derived, with suitable and appropriate remarks of his own. For his part, he said, he was paid. He had seen the sacred animal called the Ichneumon; and he managed to weave[Pg 335] him into a sermon which he preached some weeks afterwards, in which he identified him as clearly as he did when inspecting the poster at the Eagle.

Jim Buzzard was present during all the exercises. He crawled in under the canvas at rather a late hour, but appeared in time to see all that was to be seen. He made very few comments upon the animals. He took a very long look at the elephant, who seemed to just strike his fancy. Jim was a picture, and so was the elephant. As he stood in rags gaping at the monster, it seemed as if he was magnetized to the ground. He examined him up and down, looked under him, and over him, and at last, after having digested all there was about him, he scratched his head and said, "O, Gosh!"

But all things must have an end, and the grand caravan, in time, came to its end. The last performance, which was intended as the climax to the whole day's proceedings, and which had been looked forward to by the Puddlefordians with the most enthusiastic feeling, was the "ostrich and monkey ride." The poster had painted this affair in shining colors, and it was finally announced by the keeper, amid a tempest of applause. It is not in my power to describe this ride. The monkey rode the ostrich, as promised, carrying a whip in his hand—and then the monkey took another round on the ostrich, carrying something else—and then again and again, each time under renewed and stronger vociferations from the multitude, until I really began to think that the monkey and ostrich were certain to transport the crowd into hysterics, and cover themselves with immortal glory.

When the afternoon shadows began to lengthen over[Pg 336] the green, the tent, which had so recently gone up by magic, as suddenly dissolved, and the people dissolved too. The show was over, and there were scores of people who were twenty or thirty miles from home, jaded and nearly out of money. Puddleford was in an uproar in the general preparation for a departure. The showmen were packing their monkeys, ostrich, and ichneumon, temporarily hobbling their elephant, and counting up the proceeds of the day, and making ready for a fresh swindle upon some adjacent town. The women were dealing out gingerbread to squalling children to fortify their stomachs against the journey of the night. The men were settling up their bills at the Eagle; and all was bustle and commotion.

Aunt Sonora hurried home and "took a nap;" she had passed such a day; "was," as she said, "nearly killed in the morning, and skeer'd to death in the arternoon, that it seemed as if she should fly off the handle; her head danc'd round like a top; see if they could catch her at any more of their powwows; their lions and their monkeys might go to grass, for all her; she'd not look at 'em agin; that's what she wouldn't—there warn't nothin' so grand 'bout 'em, arter all, as folks tell'd on—she wouldn't use up herself agin for any such strolling critters—not she."

The procession formed in a line, just at twilight, to take its farewell. A knot of urchins, and twenty or more Puddlefordians, were all that were left of the pride and pomp of the morning to see them safely on their way. The band struck up a lively air, the wagons moved forward, and soon had wound away out of sight; and all settled down again into the most profound tranquillity.

[Pg 337]


The Tinkhams arrive.—Great Stir.—Miss Lavinia Longbow's Head is turned.—Everybody in Love with the Tinkhams.—Wind changes.—The Tinkhams fall.—The whole Pack out on them.—They abandon the Settlement.

It is remarkable how the people of a new country run in fixed channels of thought and action. That this is true of an old one where ages have hardened down and vitrified a long train of habits, is not so wonderful. Puddleford was in the gristle, it was true, and had not as yet made any permanent development. But even in its gristle, it had its laws—temporary, of course, but laws, nevertheless, which were as unbending as iron, while they lasted.

No person was permitted to outstrip his neighbor in any of the luxuries or refinements of social life. Any attempt at such a piece of ambition was regarded as a kind of premeditated insult upon the whole town. It was never for a moment supposed that a Puddlefordian could act without some hidden motive, maliciously directed against those who were not in any way connected with his personal affairs. The pride of a new country is most marvellous. The less wealth, or the less education, or the less of the luxuries of life, which such a people may possess, the more tender they are upon those very deprivations. In one sense, again, not a particle of[Pg 338] pride could be found lingering in all Puddleford. This pride was the source of the most unrelenting jealousy.

Mrs. Longbow never bought a new calico without being agitated. She knew that not only the calico, but herself, too, in connection with such a bold enterprise, must necessarily pass in review before all the women of the place. And she also knew that not unfrequently it happened that very improper motives were attributed. The calico might have been purchased to cast a slur upon some one else—a way taken by her to "let people know what some folks could do, and what other people could not do,"—a kind of open triumph, maliciously intended to humble the pride, and sneer at the poverty of another, who dare not venture upon such an outlay of money—and Mrs. Longbow knew and felt that it was as much as her reputation was worth to appear for the first time in public in such a garment—for Mrs. Swipes or Mrs. Bird would be sure to declare that "she did it on purpos' jist to insult her."

Immigrants, who settled in Puddleford, felt the force of this social law very forcibly. Mr. Tinkham and family came in and took up their residence. Mr. Tinkham was a small merchant, and hailed from a small eastern village, and brought in his train a wife, one son, and two daughters—Mr. Howard Tinkham, Miss Jenet Tinkham, and Miss Mary Tinkham—old enough all for society. They were a very plain family, had been educated in a very plain way, and were very unpretending in their deportment. "Old Mr. Tinkham," as he was called, was on the downhill side of life, and was fast running into the shadows of the valley; and "Old Mrs. Tinkham" was not very far behind him. They had immigrated for[Pg 339] the benefit of their children—made themselves miserable from a philanthropic desire to make somebody else happy—had buried all the associations, comforts, and joys of their lives, to linger out an unnatural existence in the West.

When Mr. Tinkham and his family came on, Puddleford was overflowing with enthusiasm. Indeed, their anticipated arrival was heralded by all hands long before they made their appearance, and their "means," personal history, politics, and religion were well known weeks in advance. The accession of a new family was a great event in Puddleford—and well it might be—for it was a rare event to find any one bold enough to settle down in the village—and it usually turned out to be as great an event to the individual who settled, as those whom he settled among.

There was a general uprising to receive Mr. Tinkham—it did not seem possible to do enough for Mr. Tinkham—he was from the very first completely run down, crushed, and smothered with attention—all the women offered their services in any and every way to Mr. Tinkham, and to Mrs. Tinkham, and Mr. Howard Tinkham, and Miss Jenet Tinkham, and Miss Mary Tinkham—one ran this way to do this, and another that way to do that—sometimes two or three female Puddlefordians would insist upon performing the same act for Mrs. Tinkham, which not unfrequently resulted in hard words and red faces among themselves, for their kindness was so impulsive and excessive, that it was not possible for them to restrain it, as long as the Tinkham fever lasted.

The Tinkhams thought that they had been very much underrated, or very much overrated. They were positively[Pg 340] delighted with the spontaneous attention of the Puddlefordians—and yet, as has been stated, the Tinkhams were a plain people, not subject to any fashionable flights, nor haughty airs, nor had they ever demanded or received much notice before, and they could only account for the novel exhibitions of hospitality of their new acquaintances by supposing it was "their way," and that they were no exception to a general rule.

Miss Lavinia Longbow, who was decidedly one of the fashionable "upper crust" of society—for every society has its "upper crust"—and who was the daughter of Squire Longbow, which of itself was all-sufficient to fix her social position—Miss Lavinia Longbow almost went into ecstasies over Mr. Howard Tinkham the first time she saw him.

She declared that "he was the splendidest man she ever see'd—that she thought that Jim Barton was something of a feller once—but, O, pshaw! he warn't nothin'. Mr. Howard Tinkham had such a poetical eye, and such tap'rin' hands, and then he was so much slimmer-er than Jim Barton, and he walked off so peert like—and then he talked so bu-tiful—all about the Venuses, and the God-es-es, and she did not know how many more things, that she never heer'd of afore in all her born days. Jim Barton didn't know nothin' 'bout anything—he couldn't say boo afore Mr. Howard Tinkham—he was sich a man, Mr. Howard Tinkham was—he know'd everything—how many pretty stories he had told her—O, pshaw! talk about Jim Barton."

Miss Lavinia ran on in the most extravagant terms, at all times and places, about Mr. Howard Tinkham, and she positively refused to speak to, or notice Jim Barton, for six months after Tinkham came in.[Pg 341]

Mrs. Swipes, Bird, Longbow, Aunt Sonora, and all were bewitched with Mrs. Tinkham. Mrs. Swipes presented Mrs. Tinkham with a dried-apple pie within an hour after her arrival, at the same time informing her that "it would come right handy while they were putting things to rights—and that if there was anything else—any—thing—no matter what—that she had in her house, to come over and take it right away, and ask no questions. She wanted her to be at home in her house, jist as long as they liv'd in Puddleford."

Mrs. Tinkham thought Mrs. Swipes was a very accommodating woman.

Mrs. Longbow sent a ham—Mrs. Bird a loaf of "Injun," as she called it—and as Mrs. Swipes knew what Mrs. Longbow had sent, and as Mrs. Longbow ascertained what Mrs. Swipes had sent, and as Mrs. Bird discovered by inquiry "round about," what they both sent, and as the rest of the Puddleford ladies made it their business to know what they all had sent, and as they were determined not to be outdone by the upper crust, who they declared were no better than they were, and couldn't do any more than they could do, the consequence was that the Tinkhams began to think that they had reached the promised land, and that the windows of Heaven were opened, and showering down blessings broadcast upon them.

The Tinkhams were in raptures with Puddleford. Mrs. Swipes called two or three times a day to know how they got along—to know if Mary Jane Arabella could not come in and "chore around a little while they were settlin'"—that she know'd what it was "to get fix'd"—to know if "there warn't sumthin' she could do."[Pg 342]

Mrs. Longbow was very anxious to find out "when Mrs. Tinkham could come over and spend a sociable afternoon—it seemed as if she couldn't wait."

Mrs. Bird declared that "she would have the first visit—that she'd say flat-footed."

The Tinkhams were certainly very much in love with Puddleford. They had positively never seen anything like it. The impression which they had made exceeded all their expectations. They did not see how they could ever repay the manifestations of its people.

But this paroxysm of attention in time passed away. The Tinkhams in time—and in a very short time, too—fell from their high position. Mrs. Tinkham did call first upon Mrs. Longbow, and she and all the other Tinkhams were ruined from that day.

Mrs. Bird then declared "she just began to see what they were"—she blazed out with all her fires, and showered down her red-hot lava upon the Tinkhams, both great and small. She "had a lurkin' kinder suspicion all the time that they warn't much"—she said "she meant to treat 'em decently, and she had treated 'em decently—she and Mary Jane didn't do nothin' but run for 'em all the time, when they fust cum—and now this was her thanks for't—this was what she got—this was her pay—she'd tell the whole pile on 'em what she thought, some day—she'd give 'em a piece of her mind—she'd show 'em what Sall Bird could do—they'd find her out—they couldn't tromp onter her—jest—to—think—after all said and done—that the huzzy went straight over and call'd fust on Mrs. Longbow—on Mrs. Longbow—yes, old Squire Longbow's second wife—old Aunt Graves, and nobody else—who I've know'd fust[Pg 343] and last these twenty years—and no good of her nuther—to think of it! to think!—only to think!"

This little explosion went off in the presence of Mrs. Swipes, who had been as deeply injured by this "call" as Mrs. Bird, and Mrs. Bird knew it.

Mrs. Swipes declared "that while she was the last woman on the face of the airth to injure anybody, or talk 'bout anybody, that was well known, she couldn't help lettin' out on the Tinkhams—she couldn't! she'd tried it, but she felt it her duty to do it—and she would do it, and she'd do it now,—she thought she saw sumthin'—sumthin' a-nuther—'bout that Mrs. Tinkham, the fust day that they came inter the settlement, that warn't right—she didn't like her eye—there was a certain sort-of-er-look there—and she might as well say it right out, it looked wicked to her—wicked as Cain—she told Mr. Swipes then that she believed that she was a dang-rous woman—but she was detarmined to try her, for she was a person who allers tried everybody—she gin everybody a chance—she didn't cry down nobody, she didn't—she warn't a-goin' to—'twas agin her principles to do so—but when she did find people out—and she allers did—allers—sooner or la-ter—sum time or a-nuther—she was sure to find 'em out, then they'd got ter take a piece of her mind—and she had found the Tinkhams out, and she thought the Tinkhams warn't any great shakes—that's what she thought."

"Jest my mind exactly!" exclaimed Mrs. Bird, who had listened with great attention, with her eyes staring, and her mouth open, so she could not lose a word.

"Nor warn't any great shakes where they com'd from," added Mrs. Swipes; "that I've larned for true, and I know it."[Pg 344]

"Nor never will be any great shakes," continued Mrs. Bird, "anywhere—never! never!"

"From the old man down," said Mrs. Swipes.

"Yes! from the old man down," repeated Mrs. Bird.

Aunt Sonora, who was very "set in her way," and a great stickler for the old order of things, was, nevertheless, not naturally malicious. She thought the Tinkhams, however, "were getting mighty stuck up," and that the "gals put on the dref'ellest sight of airs"—"she didn't think Puddleford could hold 'em long—people who ate sales-molasses for common, and bought fresh every day, must have a long purse or they'd bust"—she said "she was very sure that Mr. Howard Tinkham wore broadcloth; and as for the women-folks, why, they were flarin' out all the while in their silks—and laws-a-me," said the old lady, "they hain't got such a killin' sight to be proud of nuther—if they had, she didn't know where they kept it, for her part."

The Tinkhams found themselves in hot water on every side—and simply for the reason that Mrs. Tinkham had made her first call on Mrs. Longbow. But Mrs. Tinkham could not have escaped her fate—that was not possible; if she had selected any other of her devoted friends, the result would have been precisely the same.

In four weeks from the time the Tinkhams had been received with such demonstrations of affection, it was discovered,—

That Mrs. Bird did not speak to Mrs. Tinkham;

That Mrs. Swipes did not speak to Mrs. Tinkham;

That Mrs. Beagle did not speak to Mrs. Tinkham;

That a very great many other persons who did not speak to Mrs. Bird, Swipes, or Beagle, did not speak to Mrs. Tinkham.[Pg 345]

Mr. and Mrs. Tinkham found that they had come in conflict with public opinion in Puddleford—they were completely driven out from society.

The social war soon extended itself further. The Bird clique would not trade at Mr. Tinkham's store. Mrs. Bird declared "that she wouldn't have nothing at all to do with 'em no way—not the fust thing—she wouldn't darken any of their doors, and they shouldn't darken hers—not a Tinkham should enter her front gate—she'd larn 'em, that's what she would." Mrs. Swipes and Mrs. Beagle agreed to the same thing—the Tinkhams shouldn't darken their doors, nuther. Mrs. Bird said she wouldn't go where the Tinkhams went. Mrs. Swipes and Mrs. Beagle thereupon agreed that they wouldn't go where the Tinkhams went—and the lesser lights that revolved around Mrs. Bird, Swipes, and Beagle, agreed that they wouldn't "nuther."

The Tinkhams were obliged to draw their business to a close, and leave the land of their adoption. They did not understand the social law of the country. They were seen, early one morning, wending their way out of the village, solitary, yet not sad, without pomp or parade, their faces to the rising sun, retracing their steps back to the land which they had left, wiser, if not better, we trust, with a fixed determination to "let well enough alone" during the remainder of their lives, and never again give "a bird in the hand for (none) in the bush."

Puddleford experienced no more spasms from a disturbance of its social equilibrium for a long time; not until the Styles family came in many years afterwards, and overturned the whole order of things, and established upon the ruins an entirely new government.

[Pg 346]


And still New England.—Sui Generis.—Her Ruggedness the Soil of Liberty.—The Contrast.—The New England Conservative.—The New England Man of Business.—The West has no Past.—Fast, and Hospitable.—Saxon Blood and Saxon Spirit.

Such is a picture of some of the old-school New England men, as they flourished years ago. Such are some of the portraits and images that rise up, and stand out vividly before me.

New England is unlike anything the pioneer sees, hears, or feels in a wilderness country. She is unlike his country in her creation. Her solemn mountains, lone lakes—her rushing streams, that dart like arrows from her precipices—the roar of her cataracts, amid her rugged gorges—her long and tranquil reaches of valley—the cold, solemn, and quiet pictures of Nature that she mingles and groups on her canvas, give soul and spirit to the people who are nursed upon her soil; and they, too, grow gigantic, like the objects around them—patriotism, integrity, firmness, germinate and become athletic in such fastnesses: Liberty last expires upon the mountains.

Why was civil and religious liberty planted, amid December snows, upon her inhospitable coast? Why was it committed to her rugged elements of Nature, if not to harden the men, and strengthen and preserve principles? Had the May Flower discharged its freight of ideas[Pg 347] amid abundance, soft skies, and a teeming soil, it is not certain that the Declaration would have been signed in 1776.

How different is the great West! One great plain of prairie and woodland, reaching from zone to zone, fairly bursting with the richness of its varied soil and climate—reserved, as it were, by Providence, to receive the less hardy and vigorous generations which time might throw off upon her—tame in scenery, but filled with the resources of wealth and power.

But New England is not only unlike the West in its creation, but her people, from a thousand causes, have fixed and established habits and customs as unlike. And all these have become as stereotyped by ages, as the figures upon a panorama. The New England panorama, in all its essential features, rolls off to-day as it did years ago. Who has not been impressed with this truth? Select an old New England town—analyze it as you once knew it, and as it is now. How was it, how is it made up? It was finished then—the last blow was struck, the last foundation laid, the rubbish all cleared away; as if it only waited for the final explosion of all things—even the magnificent elms that solemnly swept its streets, grew no longer—they, too, had reached maturity, and gone to sleep. So it is now.

A western village, in its general aspect, presents the very reverse of this. Like Jonah's gourd, it is the "son of a night." It seems to have been thrown up by an army on the march—and such is the fact—the mighty army of pioneers, who are here to-day and there to-morrow, and who are only traced by such huge footsteps.

The people of a New England village appear to have[Pg 348] been procured, assorted and arranged, for their positions and occupations. Each person treads in his own circle—each is stamped with a value—branded good, bad, or indifferent. There is the conservative gentleman—the dash that connects generations—he who has taken a preëmption right to respectability—whose patent dates away back among historical reminiscences and dead bones—whose presence is prima facie evidence of all that is claimed and exercised. A man of authority is he. He carries an odor of the past around with him—an air—a something that smells of blood—a consciousness that some time, or somehow, somebody or something had given his ancestors a cross that followed and sublimated his whole race.

Such men impress a consequence upon objects around them. Their family carriages look wise and venerable—heirlooms embalmed by generations gone. They drive horses that think and know who and what they are—and who live and die under the protection of their masters. Their church-pews blaze in crimson—are piled with cushions, arrayed with stools, and tables, and books, with two pillows and a foot-stove in the corner, for the old lady of seventy, who wheezes and takes snuff.

Perhaps, reader, you have met just such a New England character. He never moves below a line in society—a line as arbitrary with him as 36° 30'. He had a broad face, double chin, heavy nose, wide-brimmed hat, and buff vest, filled with ruffles. You have heard him deliver his opinion upon a question of public policy, or public morals—his voice slow and sepulchral—his manner heavy, almost melancholy—made impressive through[Pg 349] the aid of a gold-headed cane, with which he occasionally beats out the emphatic portions of his homily. Perhaps you attempted to make a suggestion yourself—if you did, you recollect the frown, the reproof that came down upon you, from those cold, gray eyes of his, and perhaps the shock you inflicted upon the timid around you, from your impudence.

This class do not, by any means, constitute the backbone of New England. The enterprise that breaks through her mountains, upheaves her valleys, and sends the iron horse on its way—creates the roar of machinery that reverberates among her hills—grasps with, and battles for, the public questions of the day—pours a tide of life and energy into everything around—which makes itself felt through the long arms of commerce in every part of the world, and whose touch electrifies every mart—this enterprise is born, and quickened, and sustained somewhere else. These men are the mere spectators of all this bustle. They are rather drag-weights upon it—the acknowledged conservative army of "masterly inactivity."

These conservatives are not without value, but they can only exist in a fixed state of society. They are the work of ages, and cannot be created in a breath. No such characters can be found in the western world. The roots of such a growth lie away back among the Puritans. One can smell Plymouth Rock, Cotton Mather, Bunker Hill, and indeed the whole revolutionary war, in the very production. Pedigree associations, musty ideas, which lie scattered everywhere, and yet nowhere in particular, are the foundation of this kind of aristocracy; all of which is submitted to by custom and habit.[Pg 350]

What if an attempt should be made to build up such a society in a new country? Where would we begin? There is no past to hallow and dignify the present; and without a past to draw upon, and anchor to, an aristocracy would be all afloat. The past of Puddleford, so far as my researches go, ends in the Pottawatomie Indians—a little later in Longbow, Turtle, and Bates. This is the extent of our resources; and no one has been yet found who was willing to go into that kind of business on such a capital. Money, so often the foundation of pretension, is widely diffused, in very small parcels. Historical local incidents there are none. The conquest of the country was by the axe and an indomitable spirit. There was no blood nor brimstone used. The pioneer's little family of sinewy children was the army that entered it, and took possession of the soil.

But the people of New England, I said, were assorted. The man of business, the merchant, the mechanic, was a merchant, a mechanic, in the same place, the same building, perhaps forty years ago—and his whole life is one of order and system. He lives by rule—is as fixed in his sphere as the conservative in his. His income for the future can be calculated from the past. His duties are foreseen and provided for. Domestic expenses so much; support of the gospel so much; charity so much; pleasure so much; which, deducted from income, balance, so much. Here, again, is the fruit of a fixed society. The creditor of a New England merchant knows where his customer will be next year—at his old post, or dead.

How is it in a new country? Not one resident in ten is permanently located. Every man expects to remove[Pg 351] somewhere else, at some time. Here is no association, no tie, to bind him to the soil. The pioneer is but a passenger who has stopped over night, as it were, and he holds himself ready to push forward at the blow of the trumpet. Villages, and even whole townships, change inhabitants in short periods, and other men, with other views and habits, step in and take their places. Where does the merchant creditor find his western customer of last year? Sold out, perhaps, to Mr. A., and Mr. A. sold to Mr. B., and Mr. B. to Mr. C. Mr. C. pays all arrearages, and Mr. A. and B. are boating on the Mississippi, or "ballooning" in some fancy speculation on the north shore of the Oregon.

While the great West suffers from a want of the virtues that attend a fixed society, as it undoubtedly does, it does not find itself obliged to contend against its prejudices. There are no arbitrary lines drawn, based upon mere ideas—no venerable fictions in the way. Custom, habit, society, immemorial usage, hang no dead-weights upon the young and ambitious. All start from the same line, the prize is aloft in full view, and he who first reaches it creates his own precedence.

If there is no past to hallow and chasten the people of a new country, no permanent present to hold them to one spot, so in one sense there is no future. There is no locality that is adorned and beautified for coming years—no spot designated to become venerable to posterity—no tree nursed and protected in memory of him who planted it—no ground consecrated for the burial of the dead. Houses are built, localities adorned, trees planted, cemeteries erected, but they who fashioned all this do not abide with them—they are ever on the[Pg 352] march, and the stranger takes possession of the memorials they leave behind; and if posterity should attempt to collect the works of such an ancestor, it would find them scattered over the circuit of states.

We have attempted, in a plain way, to draw a comparison, very briefly, to be sure, between a fixed and an unfixed society. Both have their advantages and their disadvantages.

If New England is slow and methodical, she is strong. She moves in close phalanx upon any public question or duty. The very bonds of habit which pervade all, and all alike, concentrate and intensify her action. Her people act in a mass towards one point. They strike through organizations which are gigantic and reverend with age. The Church gathers the energies and means of the benevolent. Public opinion is harmonious about public ends. And this very fixedness of society enables its members to push forward with a unity and strength almost omnipotent.

In a new country, as we have seen, action is individual and ends are individual; men are unorganized. He who goes forward with axe in hand to hew his pathway to competence and respectability, is governed by few relics of the past. He breaks away, in time (too completely perhaps), from old associations, some of which were trammels, being the mere result of usage, and some of which he ought to cherish for their intrinsic excellence. He looks forward to a country and people in the future (somewhere in the future; locality is nothing), and he hurries on, with fury almost, to reach the destination of his dreams.

The people of the West are called a fast people. How[Pg 353] can they be otherwise? Their very necessities drive them. They cannot fall back upon any prop; they can move onward without limit. It required, half a century ago, the labor of a generation to sweep off the forest, and plant cities and villages—but all this is accomplished in half of that time now. Pioneers grow more expanded in their views. The father of the pioneer of to-day grew into consequence as a heavy landed proprietor upon a farm of forty acres—his son can hardly satisfy his ambition with six hundred—and that is always for sale—(there is no poetry, as we have seen, about a western homestead)—and he stands ready to vacate upon six months' notice and a consideration.

This miscellaneous state of society begets a peculiar hospitality. New England has been famed for its hospitality; but the kind I mean is a very different thing. Hospitality in an old country, under the bonds of society, is too formal, too cold, and sometimes a little oppressive. It is not always hospitality; it is, sometimes, the performance of a social duty, according to the rules and regulations prescribed for its observance—painful to all parties concerned. It is artificial—as hearty, perhaps, as it can be under "bonds." The table, in the West, is always spread, and the roof always offers shelter. There is an ease, an abandonment in its exercise, that is positively beautiful, and can be understood only when felt.

A fixed state of society begets feuds, and cherishes old grudges. A quarrel that originated between grandfathers is often carried down and kept brewing. Families are divided from other families for years, and sometimes for generations, about matters of no consequence. It is perhaps a point of etiquette, a stinging[Pg 354] remark, an accidental or premeditated slight, a question of dollars and cents, a political or religious difference of opinion, that opened the breach which will not be healed. Thus, bombshells are often thrown from one to another, by fathers and children and grandchildren, and families kept in an uproar about nothing. This society not only cherishes old grudges, but it is nervous and sensitive to the least touch of the present. A morbid pride of wealth, family, position, is ever on the lookout for an attack upon its consequence—perhaps to make an onslaught upon others.

Here the West has the advantage. There is no one to keep alive old grudges. Not one man in a hundred can tell what his neighbor's father or grandfather was—where he flourished or decayed—what were his personal piques or social battles. And as for present causes of personal war, they are few—it requires something more than a sublimated idea or notion—an antiquated figment of the brain or present artificiality—to warm up the combatants. The practical realities of the West are too great and pressing to give time or disposition to dally with abstractions. Gross outrages are quickly met and redressed—they are not carried down on the docket of time for posterity to try, nor nursed in the bosom from the revengeful pleasure they afford.

Reader, these are a few of the advantages and disadvantages of the two states of eastern and western society—not western society after it becomes rooted and established, as it has in many of the states—but during its first ten, perhaps twenty years, in its green state, while the gristle is hardening into bone.

These few suggestions are written in no morbid or[Pg 355] carping spirit. They are written with a consciousness of the manly virtues, and solid worth, of New England, as she is, and always has been. They simply mark points of difference worked upon men by a change of soil and society—points that should be known, whether approved or condemned. What son of New England does not look back upon her with pride? What associations throng around him when her name is mentioned! Her hills, her hearts, her homes, send a thrill through the soul, and make him, for a time at least, a better man. What armies of scholars have walked forth into the battle of life from her cloisters? How many have been girded and helmeted in her halls? Where is the spot where her footsteps are not imprinted, her cheering voice heard? Shall we ever forget her? What sermons her old homesteads are continually preaching to her children, scattered as they are throughout every degree of latitude and longitude, in all positions and avocations! The cold brooks, where the trout darted—the grove where the nuts dropped—the blue sublimity of her mountain-tops, where sunlight first broke in the morn, and last died at night—the great shadows that slept in her valleys—the reverberation of her thunder—her solemn "fasts and feasts"—her day of Thanksgiving, that united again the broken fragments of the family circle—the merry voice of Christmas, that rung so cheerily through her halls—her graves, that hold all that remains of those who were giants in religion, liberty, and law, and who, "although dead, yet speak"—her arts—her monuments—her altars, where generations have knelt and passed away—are all living eloquence to her children, and can never be forgotten, if[Pg 356] not always remembered. She is the Mecca to which many a weary pilgrim turns for strength and counsel in the storm and bustle of life, and her brain, and her capital, and her example are felt throughout half the globe.

Let us not, however, in our veneration for New England, forget the iron-souled and true-hearted men, who have gone forth from that ancient hive to make a way in the wilderness for incoming generations, whose march is ever upon the ear. They had their mission, too, and nobly have they performed it. What but Saxon blood, and Saxon spirit, could have accomplished so much? If it was, and still is, done roughly, it was all done for time, and will stand—it is something that will bear looking back upon, and of which no son of posterity will be ashamed.

[Pg 357]


Spring at the West.—"Sugar Days."—Performances of the Cattle.—April.—Advent of the Blue-Jays and the Crows.—The Bluebirds, Phebes, and Robins.—April and its Inspiring Days.—The Frogs and their Concerts.—Gophers, Squirrels, Ants; Swallows, Brown-Threshers, and Blackbirds.—The Swallows, the Martins, and the Advent of May.

Spring opens in the western wilds with great pomp and beauty. After our winter had passed, accompanied with few out-door amusements, how inspiring were her first footsteps! February slowly gave way to March, the sun each day rolled higher and higher, and the heavens grew bluer and bluer. Then came the still, clear, cold nights, when the stars flashed like diamonds, and the still, warm days, that flooded the lakes and streams. Here and there a bird would appear—one of the more hardy sort—a kind of courier, that had been sent out by his fellows, lonely, like the dove from the ark, to spy out the land, and report its condition. These couriers, who I supposed were birds that were with us the preceding year, rummaged around the woods, like a family who had just returned to a long deserted mansion. They flew from tree to tree, eyed the knot-holes, examined everything, shivered a few nights on a snowy limb, and then hurried back to make their report. The outside birds who were thus represented, and who were so anxious to[Pg 358] "come on," were like a press at the theatre, before the hour had arrived to hoist the curtain.

These March days were "sugar days." Puddleford was, of course, in confusion; men, women, and children turned out with kettles and pans, into the "bush;" and one would have supposed, from the clouds of smoke that rolled over the tops of the trees, that a tribe of gypsies had camped there. The girls, dressed in linsey-woolsey, were boisterous; the boys, uproarious; and a whole army of dogs, full of the spirit of the occasion, stormed around, barking at every deer track, and tore all the rotten logs in pieces. Then came a long, warm, still rain—and the frogs shouted to each other their melancholy music—and the grass and the roots that were soaking in the marshes sent out their sweetness—the bud began to swell on the willow—the geese gathered in a procession, with some pompous gander at its head, and marched to the river—and the barn-yard fowls climbed up into trees, on top of the sheds and stacks, and cackled, and crowed, and clucked, and chatted together, like so many guests at a party.

The cattle congregated, and wandered away off to an open plain, and went through certain exercises, the significance of which was known only to themselves. One old cow of mine, whose reputation was good, and whose frosty bones had scarcely moved during the winter, and who was present at this celebration, suddenly wheeled out of the ranks, rolled her tail over her back, put herself on a circuitous canter, cutting as many capers as a French dancing-master, and brought up, at last, with a bellowing blast that was quite terrific.

At a distance stood another of the herd, frothing at[Pg 359] the mouth, lashing herself with her tail, and throwing clouds of sand on high with her fore feet. Away, in another quarter, were a couple of very thoughtful looking animals, fencing with their horns. Every little while some good or evil spirit would take possession of them, and the whole company would fling their tails aloft, and with a great noise go off in a stampede that made the ground tremble.

As April approached, or rather the reflected light from her distant wheels, the voice of the birds changed into a mellower tone. The blue-jay, whose harsh scream had so long grated on my ear, grew softer, and he blew once in a while one of his spring pipes (for he is a great imitator, and has many), which, after all, sounded rather husky and winter-like. His heart grew warmer, too. He would sit on a dry tree close to the eaves of my house, and peer through the windows, to see what was going on inside, jump down, and bow himself up on the door-steps, to remind us, in the best way he could, of the sunshine outside.

Soon the crows began to sweep solemnly through the air with their caw! caw! They sailed round and round, now lighting on some tree, now on the ground, then away they went into the heavens again. They seemed to be taking a very thorough examination of the premises, making out the lines of occupation, and acquiring a new possession of the same, for the use of themselves and those they represented. Sometimes a body of them, lazily winging their way over my house, and looking down from their height upon my diminutive form, would shower upon my head ten thousand Ca's! as if in utter contempt of both me and mine. I occasionally fired a[Pg 360] shot at them, and the only answer I got was a quick "Ca-Ca!"—as much as to say, "Try it again! Try it again? Who cares?"

Then came the bluebird. I threw up my window amid the latter days of March, one sunshiny morning, and there she sat on a maple, blowing her flute. Banks of snow were scattered here and there, but the ground smelled moist and spring-like. Where did that little piece of melody come from? Where was she the day before? Her song was a little poem about south-west winds, and violets, and running brooks—perhaps she was a preacher, sent out by the daisies to herald their coming—perhaps her song was only a prayer—for she went round from place to place, on this tree and that, in her little cathedral, as priests do in theirs, and erected her altar, and made her offering. She had a great deal to say, and a great many persons and things to deliver her message to; for in a little while she went, rising and falling as though she were riding billows of air, to the roof of my neighbor's house, where she sang the same song again; and after thus spending an hour or two about the neighborhood, she crossed the river, and dashed into the woods.

On the next morning the bluebird came again, and brought a phebe with him, and the two sang a kind of duet for my benefit. Their harmony was perfect—for "there is no discord in nature." On the following day, at dawn, before the sun arose, I heard the robin rolling off her mellow notes. I looked out and saw a little flock running along on the ground, and picking at the fresh earth, evidently for the purpose of determining its condition. This same flock, I am sure, remained upon my premises during the summer, and had, in fact, possession[Pg 361] of them for many years previous. For they appeared every day or two, and grew more and more inquisitive, and examined more closely. A couple finally took possession of this tree, and a couple of that. They commenced "cleaning house." They flitted about from limb to limb, balanced themselves on the dry twigs, as if trying their strength and elasticity, ran themselves away down into the joints, and dissected the crotches, picked up and cast away the dead moss and leaves, and made as much bustle and stir as a woman on May-day.

As I was watching a couple of them one day, while they were busy at work, they seemed quite annoyed at my presence. They flirted off from the tree to a fence near by, with a mellow cry—saying, plainly enough, as they bobbed around, "What! what!" "Any-thing-wrong? Any-thing-wrong?" "Please-go-away—ha-ha-please-go-away."

Some four weeks later, these birds began to build. They went sailing through the air with the timbers of their castle in their mouths. This timber was selected with great care. Straw after straw, and sprig after sprig, was picked up and cast away before the right one was found. They remained with me during their stay north, and returned each succeeding year to the same tree, until the woods all about me were felled, when they deserted me for other quarters.

April shone out at last. Away down in the wild meadows the cowslip pushed up its green head into the sunshine, and along the warm hill-sides the wind-flowers were strewn. How they came there, I cannot tell. The day before it was all bleak, and chilly, and flowerless there. They must have been scattered by the morning[Pg 362] rays of light. A melting bank of snow frowned down upon them, close by. Soon the shade-tree sent out its blossoms of lilac, and the dog-wood burst into a pile of snow. The hard, gray, leafless trees stood up sternly around these first daughters of spring, arrayed in their garments of pomp, and looked, as well as inanimate things can look, jealous and uneasy. All over the aisles of the forest lay enormous trunks of trees, like columns about an unfinished temple, thickly coated with a heavy green moss; and there was a smell of bark, and swelling twigs, and struggling roots—such a smell as only the early spring days give out—as though the earth and the forest were just gaping and stretching with a decayed last year's breath, before rousing up to the duties of this.

Then the rivulets began to get into tune. The one that ran tumbling through the woods seemed to be in a very great hurry, and shot around its islands of moss and promontories of tree-roots with great zeal. It had unwound from its reel of light and moisture a green ribbon, that lay along its shores miles and miles away in the wilderness; and the birds slyly bathed themselves in its waters; and now and then a small fish came rushing down with the speed of an arrow, just returning from his winter quarters to the river, probably to enter his name upon the great piscatorial roll preparatory to summer service.

In a basin, just below a little fall of this brook, two or three wood-ducks were ploughing round and round. These wood-ducks are hermits, and secrete themselves in ponds and watery thickets, where silence and shadows prevail. On one of these mornings, ruminating on its banks, sat Venison Styles, his gun resting on the[Pg 363] ground, apparently in a profound study. I looked at the old hunter a long time, and his figure was as fixed and immovable as if he were a part of the landscape, and had grown there like the trees about him. What can the old man be dreaming about? thought I. Perhaps he already hears the approaching footsteps of dancing May, her head crowned with flowers, and the music of the thousand birds that supported her train. It was already spring—summer—in his soul. He was thinking of the sports of the coming year, and the light and pomp of the seasons passed before his imagination like the gorgeous pictures of a panorama.

These April days were inspiring. Occasionally a bleak squall of rain or snow obscured the sky, and silenced the music of Nature; but the heavens looked bluer, and the birds sang more lustily, after it passed away. In the latter part of the month the ground became settled, and the frogs, towards evening, and sometimes during the moist, smoky afternoons, sent up their melancholy wailing from the wide wastes of marsh that stretched themselves through the woods and along the river banks. Some of these marshes were ten miles long, and two or three broad; and such a concert of voices as congregated there was never equalled by anything else. I had, and still have, notions of my own about these vocalists. I am sure that they sang under discipline and system—that they performed on different kinds of instruments. Some of them seemed to be blowing a flageolet; others drew their bows across their violins; some played the fife; while here and there might be heard grum twangs, like the twanging of bass-viol strings. He who listened long and closely might detect delicate vibrations of almost[Pg 364] every tone in art or nature. Sometimes their voices sounded like the dying echoes of ten thousand bells, all of a different key, yet the tangled melody was an entanglement of chords and discords, and it rolled away, and expired in waves of pure harmony; again, it was like a choir of human voices performing an anthem. I thought I could hear syllables, too—the articulation of words—something like a psalm. Then the words and sounds appeared to change, and, by the aid of the imagination, one would have supposed that the whole community were shouting—delivering political harangues—or that its members had got on a "bust," and were rattling off all kinds of nonsense in a drunken frolic.

April brought with it, too, flying showers and warm sunshine. The grass began to wake up, and scent the air with its sweetness. Along the watercourses the willows unfolded their leaves; the buds swelled in the forests; and the tree-tops were touched with a light shade of brown, and then a shade of green, which grew deeper and deeper each day. Large flocks of pigeons darkened the air, all moving from south to north,—from whence, or to where, I could not tell. A company would sometimes "hold up" for an hour or two, to "feed and rest," like a caravan at an oasis; but they soon took their wings again, and pursued their journey.

The tenants of the ground burst their tombs, and came up for duty. The gopher, and squirrel, and the ant went to work. I noticed a large community of ants who had commenced building a city. Their last year's metropolis was destroyed, and they were compelled to begin from the foundation; and such a stir and bustle was never exceeded. Hundreds of laborers were in the work[Pg 365] up to their eyes. Here was one fellow with a grain of sand in his mouth—a rock to him, I suppose—climbing over twigs and dead grass, standing sometimes perpendicular with his load, and not unfrequently falling over backwards, yet struggling away, surmounting all obstacles, until he finally reached the place of deposit. Then there was a class of miners who shot up from their holes, dropped their speck of dirt, wheeled, and shot back again. Trains of them were continually ascending and descending. There was still another class—"blooded characters," most likely—possibly overseers—who did not do any work, but ran around from point to point, as if inspecting the rest, and giving to them directions. Once in a while a couple of workmen would run a-foul of each other, and get into a quarrel—a clinch—a fight—and the "tussle" lasted until they were parted. This colony, I will say, erected a large mound of earth in a very few weeks—gigantic to them as an Egyptian pyramid is to us—in which they lived and labored during the season.

Finally, the swallows, and brown-threshers, and blackbirds, and martins came—not all in a body, but straggling along. The blackbirds appeared first, and might be seen flying about from tree to tree, and fence to fence, near by the upturned furrows that the ploughman had left behind him. Such a saucy troop of pirates as they were! Flocks of them sat about in the oaks, showering a host of epithets upon the said ploughman; then a dozen or more darted down, staggered over the ground, picked up a worm, and dashed away into the oaks again. They scolded, and fretted, and coaxed, and threatened, and nettled about like a belle of sixteen. Some of them were dressed in a suit of glossy black, with a neckcloth[Pg 366] of shifting green; others wore red epaulets on their wings; and a flock of them, darting through the air, had the appearance of braided streams of fire, or interlaced rainbows. Towards evening they all went down among the alders and willows by the river, and had a long chat among themselves. They bowed, and twitched, and stretched down one wing, and then the other; lit upon the little twigs, and see-sawed as they sung, and did many other things. They were evidently erecting themselves into some kind of a government for the year—holding a caucus—perhaps an election—deposing an old monarch, or elevating a new; for it was easy to hear them say what they would do, and what they wouldn't—that is, easy for one who has studied the blackbird language—and sometimes an awful threat might be detected, mixed with a great many wheedling words and gracious postures.

The brown-threshers came next, and they were just as full of chatter and life as they were the year before. Birds never grow old, it seems to me, nor have I ever been able to determine when or where they die. The hunter kills but a very few, and those few of a certain kind. What becomes of the rest? They breed every spring in great numbers; but how, when, and where do they die? We do not find dead birds in the woods; at any rate, very few. Yes, the brown threshers were as young as ever. They looked very shabby and mussed when I last saw them in the fall; but now their brown clothes shone as cleanly as a Quaker-girl's shawl. They took up Nature's music-book, and rattled off all the songs, and glees, and anthems in it—very often making a medley of it, mixing the notes of the birds that were[Pg 367] chanting around all together—and they often closed the performance with an original strain of their own, composed on the spot.

When the swallows and the martins came, I knew that spring was fully established. They appeared suddenly during the night; for when the May sun arose, they were twittering and wheeling through the air, shooting up and plunging down in a kind of delicious rapture. Their music was set on the staff of blue skies, south-west winds, and flowers. There was not a note of winter in it. The woods, and streams, and fields seemed to have been waiting for their melody, for all Nature went to work, and was soon clad in beauty, and light, and song.

[Pg 368]


A Railroad through Puddleford.—Effect on Squire Longbow.—Bright Prospects of Puddleford.—Change.—"The Styleses."—The New Justice.—Aunt Sonora's Opinions.—Ike Turtle grows too.—Venison disappears from among Men.—His Grave, and his Epitaph.

Reader, I have written for you the history of a year's residence at Puddleford. But the place is changed now—very much changed. It is not what it used to be—its people, its habits, are very different. This change was the result of a variety of causes. The first thing that happened to it—a startling event it was—a railroad was built plump through its heart. It was a road running a great distance, and it took Puddleford in its way merely because it happened to fall in its line. I shall never forget Squire Longbow's frenzied excitement the first time the locomotive came puffing and whistling in. He actually lost his dignity for the moment. He ran and wheezed after the steam-horse like a madman, lost his green eye-shade, and committed a very serious breach in the rear part of his pantaloons. He did not venture very near the machine at first, but sheltered himself behind a tree, where he could watch its panting and spitting without danger.

I recollect how pompously the Squire talked on this occasion. He said "all nater couldn't stop Puddleford[Pg 369] having ten thousand inhabitants 'fore 'nother census—she'd be one of the ex-poriums (emporiums) of the West—it was nothing on airth that made Greece and Rome but these great etarnal improvements"—and as he was a kind of oracle among a large class, he infused a spirit of consequence and importance into those around him that was quite ludicrous. Ike Turtle, Sile Bates, the Beagles, and Swipes, and many others, actually mounted their Sunday clothes, and wore them every day—but whether Ike himself was in fun or earnest, no person could tell.

The building of this road was the cause of a great change certainly; yet it changed not the population itself, but substituted another in its stead. It brought in a class of persons who had money, and money is omnipotent everywhere. It brought different habits, thoughts, and feelings. The "Styles family" first purchased a large farm near the village. There was an air about them that fairly awed the Puddlefordians. They were petted, run after, imitated. One could hear nothing but "Young Mr. Styles," "Old Mr. Styles," "The elderly Mrs. Styles," "Miss Arabella Styles," "Miss Florinda Styles." Miss Florinda and Arabella wore flaring under-clothes in those days, and this fashion fairly upset the heads of the Puddleford ladies; and in less than a month I could not identify half the women of the place. Their shrunken forms, stuffed with skirts, were about the shape of little pyramids.

Purchases of farms and village property went on, year after year, until nearly every true Puddlefordian was ousted. The place has now, like the snake, cast its skin; and the old pioneers, they who hewed down the forest,[Pg 370] and "bore the heat and burden of the day," are living around the outskirts of the village, with hardly a competence, or have emigrated to wilds still farther west.

Squire Longbow, however, still holds his own. He still lives on the old spot—is just as wise and happy as ever. Time has not affected his intellect, or impaired his self-consequence. He is no longer justice of the peace, but in his place we have a pert, dapper, little fellow, who wears a large ring on his little finger, and gives very scholastic opinions. The Squire professes to hold him in contempt, and says he "runs agin the staterts and common law mor'n half the time"—that "he don't know a fiery factus from a common execution"—that "he never looks inter the undying Story for 'thority, but goes on squashing papers, right straight agin the constitution and the etarnal rights of man."

Aunt Sonora was dissatisfied, too, with the revolution in society. She told me, the last time I saw her, that Puddleford was "made up of a hull passel of flip-er-ter-gib-its, and she couldn't see what in created natur' the place was a-comin' to—she never see'd such works in all her born days," that "the men wore broadcloth, and the women silks, and flar'd and spread about like pea-cocks. Nobody does nuthin'," said she. "The dear massy! They are getting so hoity-toity! I do wonder who pays!"

Ike Turtle is about the only person who has grown with the place. There was no such thing as keeping him under. He is just as humorous as ever, but a little more polished. Ike says "it won't do to let his natur' out as he used to, when the bushes were thick, and Squire Longbow was gov'ner"—that "he feels himself almost[Pg 371] a-bustin' with one of his speeches, sometimes; but the folks wouldn't understand him if he made it—and as for law, he'd gin it all up—it had got to be so nice and genteel an article, there warn't a grain of justis' in it—everything was 'peal'd up, and 'peal'd up, until both parties themselves were 'peal'd to death." Ike has turned his attention to land and saw-mills, and is getting rich.

Poor Venison Styles! Dear old hunter! Venison is dead, and his children are scattered in the wilderness. He was found, one May morning, stretched out under a large maple, his dog and gun by his side, stiff and cold. The brown-threshers and bluebirds were singing merrily above him, and the squirrels were chattering their nonsense in the distance. His dog lay with his nose near his master's face, his fore paw upon his shoulder. How he died, no one could tell. He is buried on a bluff that overlooks the river; and I have fenced his grave, and erected a stone over his remains, with this inscription—"Nature loved him, if man did not."

[Pg 372]



The Philosophy of Puddleford.—Diverse Elements in Pioneer Life.—Longbow and his Administration.—Not Expensive.—Two Hundred a Year, all told.—What would Chief Justice Marshall have done as Justice of Puddleford?—Longbow a great Man.—Fame and Politics.—Ike, a Wheel.—Puddleford Theology.—Camp-Meetings.—Who will do Bigelow's Work better than Bigelow?—Great Happiness, and few Nerves.—No "Society."—No Fashion in Clothes, or anything else.—Bull's-Eye and Pinchbeck.—The Great Trade didn't "Come Off."—Abounding Charity and Hospitality.—Pilgrim Blood.—Longbow's.—Planting the Mud-Sills.—Old Associations, how Controlling!—Good by, Reader.

Reader, I cannot dismiss Puddleford without adding a chapter in conclusion. The pictures I have drawn suggest to me something more. There is a philosophy that underlies the dignity of Longbow, the humor of Turtle, the rough sincerity of Aunt Sonora, the stormy and eccentric eloquence of Bigelow. Do you not think so?

Puddleford was like a thousand other new settlements—it had its green state to pass through; and Puddleford's pioneers were like other pioneers—rough, honest, hardy, strong in common sense, but weak in the books. It was not a perfect organization, packed beforehand with men fitted to all the stations of life, like Hooker and his band. But one pioneer came after another—and notions, creeds,[Pg 373] and prejudices, were all tumbled in together. Puddleford prospered, nevertheless. Every man was right upon the question of civil and religious liberty. Each person brought this law with him, written on his soul; and, however clumsily he might give it expression, the law was there, and he could not rid himself of it any more than he could throw off his nature. If Longbow administered the details of jurisprudence awkwardly, Longbow was, after all, right in leading principles. If Longbow at times trampled down technicalities, the community, on the average, did not suffer. If Longbow even made a little law now and then, to fill a gap, it was well made, and the gap well filled. Longbow might as well have attempted to shave an elephant with a razor as to manage the raw recruits of early Puddleford with subtle distinctions; and, besides, Longbow, as the reader has discovered, had no knowledge of that kind of instrument, nor was it necessary that he should have. Longbow's legal rules necessarily ran on a sliding-scale, and he fitted them to the case in hand, not to cases in general.

The reader sees, then, a necessity for such men as Longbow in such a community. If it is impossible to find a man capable of preparing a technical set of legal papers, it is important to find a man who is incapable or unwilling to break them down. No man ever slipped through Longbow's fingers upon a mere technicality.

Again, Longbow's judicial duties were not expensive. An expensive judicial tribunal would have ruined Puddleford outright. Puddleford was not only obliged to use such timber as it had for public men, but the timber must also be cheap. Longbow was no mahogany judge, polished and wrought into scrolls, though there were a[Pg 374] great many lines and angles about him. He was a plain piece of green-ash, strong, yet elastic enough to bend when justice demanded. He was not an expensive article, and therefore the interest the public paid upon him was small. He would sit all day, amid the war and tumult of contending litigants, and breast the storm of insult that was heaped upon him from the right and the left, for four shillings and sixpence. I do not mean to say that he lacked self-respect—no man respected himself more—but he had, somehow or somewhere, imbibed the idea that pettifoggers were entitled to great latitude of speech, and that he was paid for listening to them. I have seen the Squire many a time passing through one of these conflicts, when his name was used very irreverently, holding as solemn a face as that worn by a marble statue of Solon.

Longbow's annual income amounted to about two hundred dollars a year, and this Puddleford could "stand." But he had many duties to perform outside of his office of magistrate to insure him this amount. As I have said elsewhere, he was the grand Puddleford umpire, and, I am very certain, settled more difficulties as a man than a magistrate. School and highway districts and officers often got twisted in a snarl, and Longbow unravelled the knot—right or wrong it matters not, he put a finish to the matter; and, whether right or wrong, reader, what difference did it make so long as no one else knew it, and everybody had confidence? If confidence will sustain a bank, ought not confidence to sustain Squire Longbow?

And then A.'s pigs broke into B.'s garden—A.'s line-fence stood three feet on B.'s land. A. swore there was a legal, lawful highway across B.'s land; B. swore it[Pg 375] was no such thing, and he would shoot the first man who crossed it. A. called B. a thief, and B. called A. another. A. agreed to break up for B., but never did, because B. refused to clear his land. A. and B. exchanged horses; A.'s horse had the heaves, and B.'s was spavined; and so on, trouble after trouble, how often and many in kind I cannot say, Squire Longbow has brought to a compromise. These were extrajudicial services, and the two hundred dollars a year covered all.

If it had been possible to place Chief Justice Marshall, or even a finished city lawyer, in the seat of Squire Longbow, how signally he must have failed! He would have been utterly incompetent to the task, and would have burned his books, and fled from the settlement under cover of night. Confusion is often the best manager of confusion. A clean, clear, analytical mind might have flashed now and then, but it could never have governed the storm. While our finished lawyer was playing about a refined distinction, Longbow would bury all distinctions "ten fathoms deep," and end all controversy by repeating some old saying, and dismiss the whole matter as summarily as the adjournment of a cause.

Longbow was not only a good man, a cheap man, but he was a great man. Greatness is relative, not absolute. I hope my friends do not intend to dispute the truth of this proposition; because I have the documents to prove it, when officially called upon to do so. Great men are like figures on a thermometer—some thermometers, it is true, are much longer, and contain a great many more figures than others. The only question any ambitious man cares to ask is, how many figures there are on the scale above his. The Puddleford thermometer was very[Pg 376] short, dear reader, and Longbow's figure was the highest. Is not this fame? Puddleford fame, say you? Puddleford fame, indeed! It will outlast, I will wager my old hat, the fame of nine tenths of the members of Congress, who have for the last ten years blown themselves hoarse making speeches to their outraged and indignant constituency. Why, Longbow's name will be remembered in Puddleford years after his death; and how many names can you repeat of those who strutted through the last Congress, or how many of the members for your own district for the last thirty years? Fame, indeed! But I do not wish to quarrel about so fleeting a thing as fame, and I will, therefore, dismiss that subject.

The politics of Puddleford were a little ridiculous; but Turtle's political fun was used by him as a means to carry out an end. Turtle's patriotism and Turtle's principles were beyond suspicion. Reader, there is no spot of American soil more truly patriotic than Puddleford. There are no great depositories—no central heart—in this country, from which American principles flow; every man is a centre, a law unto himself. Ike Turtle was a centre; he was a kind of political wheel; ran on his own axis; borrowed no propelling power from abroad, but kept himself whirling with the spirit of '76, of which he had always a large supply on hand. He reminded me of a fire-wheel, used on celebration days, he cast off so many colored lights: now he whizzed; then he banged; now he shot forth stars; then spears of flame; but he was still a wheel, and always set himself in motion to some purpose.

What shall I say of the theology of Puddleford? I have already alluded to it in the pages of this work.[Pg 377] Permit me to say more. Creeds travel with men wherever they go. Creeds often colonize the wilderness; they have nerved more hearts, stirred and sustained more souls, scattered more civilization, than any or all other agents. But Puddleford was not settled by any particular idea, civil or religious; yet the Puddlefordians brought with them a great many ideas, both civil and religious. They were, however, incidental, not primary. The religious exercises of the country were like its people, ardent, strong, fiery, and often tempestuous. Bigelow Van Slyck was an embodiment of Puddleford theology. He did not argue doctrine, for two reasons: he did not know how, and he would not if he could; but, to use his own language, "he took sin by the horns, and held it by main force."

A quiet religion with a Puddlefordian was synonymous with no religion. Religion with him was something to be seen, to touch, to handle. Puddleford religion was often very noisy, and it manifested itself in many ways. We used to have an outburst at camp-meeting, which was held once in each year by the prevailing sect in the country. A camp-meeting! The reader has attended a camp-meeting, I know; but we had the genuine kind. Puddleford was depopulated on such occasions; and its inhabitants, supplied with the necessaries of life and a tent, went forth into the wilderness to give a high tone to their piety. They wanted air, and space, and time. All this was characteristic, and was like the people. What would they have done inside a temple of springing arches and fretted dome—of statues looking coldly down from their niches—of pictured saints—where organ anthems rolled and trembled?[Pg 378]

What to the Puddlefordians were the refinements of religious exercises? The wild wood was their "temple not made with hands," columned, and curtained, and festooned, and lit up by the sun at day, and the stars at night; and here, in this temple, day after day, the people camped; in the more immediate presence of the Most High built their watch-fires, that sent up long streams of smoke over the green canopy that sheltered them, and knelt down to pray.

The theology of Puddleford was brought out in strong relief at these meetings. They were business gatherings. The trials and crosses of every member were freely canvassed, and consolation administered. The "inner life" of each individual was thoroughly dissected—the spiritual condition of the vineyard in general carefully examined; sermons preached strong enough, both in voice and expression, to raise the dead; money was collected for benevolent purposes, and many more duties performed, which I cannot stop to mention.

The reader sees that these men and women were laying the foundation timbers of many sects that must follow them—follow them with their houses of worship, their intelligence, their refinement, and, I may say, their theological abstractions, their shadows, and shades, and points of distinction. Who is there that could do Bigelow's work better than he? Who is there that will ever toil and sweat more hours in his Master's vineyard? And to whom will the posterity of Puddleford be more indebted?

But, to drop the leading characters of Puddleford, let us go down a while among the rank and file; let us examine their condition. And here I may get into trouble.[Pg 379] Comparisons are said to be odious. I do not know who said it, nor do I care; the motive which one has in view must determine the truth of the remark. There was a vast deal of happiness in Puddleford. I do not now remember one nervous woman in the place. Think of that. If refinement brings its joys, it often covers a delicate, sensitive nature; but there was nobody delicate or sensitive at Puddleford; nobody went into fits because a rat crossed the floor, or a spider swung itself down in their way. The evening air was never too damp, nor the morning sun too oppressive. Labor made the people hardy, and an over-taxed brain hatched no bugbears. I verily believe the nightmare was never known. There were no persons tired of time—not that they had so much to do—but they were all contented with time and things as they were.

You have discovered that there was no society in Puddleford; and when I say Society, I do not mean that there was no social intercourse, but society organized and governed by rules and regulations. Here was another blessing. Aunt Sonora never got into hysterics because Mrs. Beagles had not called on her for three weeks. Aunt Sonora would say, that "Mrs. Beagles might stay to hum as long as she was a min-ter." Aunt Sonora never worked herself up into a frustration because her gingerbread didn't rise when Squire Longbow took tea with her; but she just told the Squire, "he'd got-ter go it heavy, or go without." And then Aunt Sonora was under no obligation to make fashionable calls; she was not a fashionable lady; there was no fashion to call on. She did not go around and throw in a little very cold respect into her neighbor's parlor, because there[Pg 380] were no parlors in Puddleford, and Aunt Sonora couldn't for the life of her do a formal thing if there had been. If she wanted to "blow out agin' any one," to use her language, why, she blew out, and in their faces, too, because the rules of her society had not taught her hypocrisy.

There was another blessing. Puddlefordians were not continually tempted to covet some new thing of their neighbors. A new bonnet now and then raised a breeze; but no one was under any obligation to purchase a similar one. In other words, the laws of society did not dictate what one should wear. Aunt Sonora had worn her old plaid cloak for twenty years, and yet remained in society. Mrs. Beagle's "Leghorn," which looked something like a corn-fan, and came into the country with her, was orthodox. Turtle had a pair of breeches old enough in all conscience, the legs cut off above the knees, and turned, as he said, "hind side afore, to hide the holes in front," which pettifogged as well as when they were new. Squire Longbow wore the same clouded-blue stockings that he did when first elected magistrate; but Mrs. Longbow had ravelled them up several times, and "footed them over." I dislike, reader, to go into particulars, and thus expose the wardrobe of the Puddlefordians, but I cannot express myself clearly on so important a point in any other way; and I promised at the commencement of this sketch to make it philosophical.

I do not know how the reader will look on the blessings which I have just enumerated. He may be a leader of fashion; the shade and tie of his neckcloth may be as weighty and important a matter with him as his reputation. He may be one of those who religiously believe[Pg 381] that a man, at a party, without a white vest, is no gentleman, and ought forthwith to be kicked, in a genteel way, headlong into the street. He may think it vulgar to laugh, and that no smile but a fashionable smile should be tolerated. He may, I say—and may think me an ——. But just pause a moment. I am only writing the history of Puddleford, my friend; and, besides, just sit down coolly, and think of the luxury there must be in sojourning at a place where one can wear his old clothes year in and year out, preserve public respect, and cut and turn his breeches at that!

The household furniture of the Puddlefordians was always in fashion; in fact, there was a remarkable uniformity in this respect in all the cabins in the settlement. The white-wood table, wooden chairs, the dozen cups and saucers, the cook-stove and its furniture, bed and bedding, comprised the stock of nearly every family. Turtle often said that the people "didn't have as much furniter as the law allow'd 'em, and the state had got-ter make it up." It is discovered that this equality was productive of beneficial results. It was not possible for one Puddlefordian to envy another Puddlefordian. There was no fancy hundred-dollar rocking-chair exhibited to throw any one into spasms; there were no pianos bewitching the souls and purses of the community. (Reader, I have no spite against pianos.) Why, in short, there was not anything there that was not there when the pioneers first planted themselves on the soil. I recollect that Sile Bates owned a pinchbeck watch, and Squire Longbow was the proprietor of a "bull's-eye," and they were both wonders. The Squire and Sile once attempted an exchange of these articles, and the transaction was so momentous that all[Pg 382] Puddleford was kept in excitement for three weeks. The bargain was as important and solemn as a treaty between two high contracting powers. There was one point in the trade that was positively exciting. Sile had offered five dollars to boot, payable in saw-logs (no person paid money at Puddleford, unless by special agreement, "'fore witness"), and here the parties "hung fire" for several days. Turtle said the Squire "orter to strike;" Beagles said, "he'd get skin'd if he did;" Bulliphant said, "the pinchbeck was worn out;" Aunt Sonora said, her husband "tell'd her, that a man tell'd him, that he know'd Longbow's bull's-eye forty years afore, and it could scase tick then;" and much more was said; but, alas! the trade, to use Ike's language, "fizzled out," and Puddleford settled down again into its usual tranquillity.

The philosophy of this attempted bargain is clear enough. There was nothing in Puddleford to excite envy. What there was, was old; no new thing was thrown in to tantalize. Longbow, it is true, once ventured upon a carpet, but, as he was a magistrate, the enterprise was deemed very proper. Do you not agree with me, that Puddleford had its blessings? Does not poverty often "bring healing on its wings"? How many are there in the world that would gladly flee from the chains of society, even to Puddleford, willing to fling themselves in some just such by-place of the world, where they could sit down perfectly independent, and take "their own ease in their own inn?" How many, reader?

I must not forget the charity of the Puddlefordians. Charity and hospitality are distinguishing characteristics of western people. However violent feuds might rage,[Pg 383] suffering and want were relieved, so far as there was an ability to do it. I have seen another kind of charity, a fashionable article, used according to the laws of etiquette, and not according to the laws of heartfelt sympathy. I do not know that any person was ever neglected in Puddleford because he or she did not belong to a particular church. Mrs. A. never refused to assist Mrs. B. in sickness, because she and Mrs. B. did not visit, or because she did not know Mrs. B. (That word, don't "know," in finished society, simply means, reader, that the person holds no intercourse.) But everybody did know everybody in Puddleford; and when one of the number was stricken down by affliction, the remainder all "turned in," and "put their shoulders to the wheel." Why, bless you, reader, you ought to witness an eruption of Puddleford sympathy. You ought to see Aunt Sonora, with her apron loaded with boneset, sage, and a pail filled with gruel, hurrying along "for dear life," to relieve the distressed—Mrs. Swipes, with a little mustard, or a bit of "jel"; Mrs. Beagles, Aunt Graves, and Sister Abigail, with something else. Is not this something?

I must, however, draw my "Conclusion" to a close. Permit me to do it gradually, as I have a word or two more to say, and I may never have another opportunity. The reader has, by this time, become quite intimate with the leading characters of Puddleford, and says, perhaps, "A queer compound." But do you know, reader, that Longbow, and Turtle, and I do not know how many more, trace their blood directly back to the Pilgrims? It is "as true as fate." And how they have become so metamorphosed is the question. Puddleford stock was,[Pg 384] much of it, Puritan stock. Those old stalwart heroes, whose hearts were a living coal; whose wills, granite; whose home, heaven; who "walked by faith, not by sight;" before whose eyes moved "the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night;" who heard voices all around them, such as haunted John on the Isle of Patmos, are the progenitors of Longbow and Turtle. What a country is this of ours, to have worked such results!

But I learned, upon inquiry, that Longbow's blood had experienced a very serious pilgrimage since its departure from its New England head. It had been mixed with Irish, and Scotch, and English, and German. In reality, the Squire was a kind of "compound" of all nations, as most Americans are. If it were possible to introduce Captain Standish, the military hero of 1620, or Bradford, or Winslow, to Squire Longbow, they would look as wildly at him as the boys did at poor Rip Van Winkle after his long sleep on the mountain. I am sure they would not be able to detect any resemblance to the Mayflower. They would find the Squire a little the worse for wear—ignorant in spiritual matters—discover that his psalm-book was lost, and he as blind as a beetle in the New-England catechism. But, after all, if they probed him deep, they would strike much, very much, of the old stuff, living and burning yet.

The Squire's Pilgrim blood, too, had filled nearly all occupations in life. It had been a sailor—the master of a vessel—a merchant—fought in the Revolution—a preacher once, and once a lawyer. These facts I procured from the Squire for my special use, and they may be relied upon. And now that same blood was doing service at Puddleford as a magistrate. Whether blood[Pg 385] changes occupation, or occupation blood, is a physiological question that I do not intend to debate. But that one can be surprised at any exhibition of American character, after looking into the crosses and counter-crosses of blood, is marvellous.

Here is a sample of Puddleford blood, and such is the blood of many western pioneers. How much the world is indebted to the pioneer! He lays the foundation, let build who may. I regret the necessity of perpetrating a ridiculous figure, but I cannot help it: he plants deep the mud-sills of empire, amid toil, and sweat, and groans, poverty and disease. The superstructure is always reared by other hands. The columns and capitals are the product of wealth and taste. How few of them reap the harvest, their cabins, now standing deserted and silent, and strewn thousands of miles over the West and North-west, abundantly testify.

The pioneer severs all connection between himself and the past when he enters upon his work. I have already remarked that Puddleford had no past. He breaks all local ties, and snaps in twain the golden threads that link him to his home. The caravan that winds away from the old hearth-stone, where the first kiss was imprinted, the first prayer offered, where the winter cricket sang as the tempest roared without, and devotes itself to a wilderness, leaves behind what can never be found again. The barefooted striplings who gambol with it—the immortal seed to be sown, and to sow—from whose loins giants in thought, word, and action will spring—"may forget," and themselves become new centres of new associations—but men and women never.

What constitutes a man?—a nation? Inhabitants[Pg 386] only? The songs of a people stir them up to revolution—and what are they but the glowing language of the associations of the soul? What is Bannockburn to a savage? A plain, over which the winds blow and the thistles gather. What to a Scotchman? A living, breathing host! What to the pioneer is the memory of that church steeple that flung its long shadow over his boyhood, around whose vane the swallows whirled, and the evening sun lingered?—that bell that swung high therein?—the torrent that roared through his early years, and wove its music into his very being?—the lone cliff, where the cloud slept and the eagle rested? These all are a part of the man himself; and when he is torn from them, his very nature receives a shock, and he has lost, he hardly knows how or where, a portion of his very existence.

Reader, you and I must part. How I ever happened to write the history of Puddleford is more than I can say. I have more than once been frightened at my impudence. In all probability you will never hear of me again in print—and, before we separate, reach me your hand—(if it is a lady's, it is all the better)—"Good by to you, my friend;" and if you should stray into Puddleford, I will set apart an hour, and give you an introduction to Squire Longbow—an honor to which, I am very sure, you cannot be insensible or indifferent.