To order a copy contact the author Jerry McGinty at mcgintyboy aol. Also available on Amazon Kindle! Media kits, advance review copies and interviews are available upon request. Seventh Avenue Productions is a small press publisher of books, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Call This entry was posted on Thursday, November 24th, at am and is filed under Booglations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site.
You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Sign me up! Create a free website or blog at WordPress. The Boogle Mark McGinty musing on life's oddities. A square lamp that hung midway over the hall, was just lit up, and a few insulated beings were sauntering backward and forward in its light: some loitered in pairs, in low and reserved conversation; others stalked alone in incommunicable ruminations, with shaded brows, and their hands behind their backs.
One or two stood at the door humming familiar catches in unconscious medleys, as they gazed up and down the street, now clamorous with the din of carts and the gossip of serving-maids, discordant apprentice boys and over-contented blacks. Some sat on the pavement, leaning their chairs against the wall, and puffing segars in imperturbable silence: all composing an orderly and disconsolate little republic of humorsome spirits, most pitifully out of tune.
I was glad to take refuge in an idle occupation; so I strolled about the city. The streets, by degrees, grew less frequented.
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Family parties were gathered about their doors, to take the evening breeze. The moon shone bright upon some bevies of active children, who played at racing games upon the pavements. On one side of the street, a contumacious clarionet screamed a harsh bravado to a thorough-going violin, which, on the opposite side, in an illuminated barber-shop, struggled in the contortions of a Virginia reel.
And, at intervals, strutted past a careering, saucy negro, with marvellous lips, whistling to the top of his bent, and throwing into shade halloo of schoolboy, scream of clarionet, and screech of fiddle. Towards midnight a thunder gust arose, accompanied with sharp lightning, and the morning broke upon me in all the luxuriance of a cool and delicious atmosphere. You must know that when I left home, my purpose waF to make my way direct to Swallow Barn. Now, what think you of my skill as a traveller,.
I knew that it was in Virginia, and somewhere about the James River, and therefore I instinctively wandered to Richmond; but now, while making my toilet, my thoughts being naturally bent upon' my next movement, it very reasonably occurred to me that I must have passed my proper destination the day before, and, full of this thought, I found myself humming the line from an old song, which runs, "' Pray what the devil brings you here!
He knew Ned Hazard as a frequent visitor of Richmond, and his advice was, that I should take the same boat in which I came, and shape my course back as far as City Point, where he assured me that I might find some conveyance to Swallow Barn, which lay still farther down the river, and that, at all events, " go where I would, I could not go wrong in Virginia.
Now I hold that to be, upon personal experience, as true a word as ever was set down in a traveller's breviary. There is not a by-path in Virginia that will take a gentleman, who has time on his hands, in a wrong direction. This I say in honest compliment to a state which is full to the brim of right good fellows. Don't be frightened! At the appointed day I re-embarked, and in due time was put. Here some further delay awaited me This is not the land of hackney coaches, and I found myself somewhat embarrassed in procuring an onward conveyance.
At a small house to which I was conducted, I made my wishes known, and the proprietor kindly volunteered his services to set me forward. It was a matter of some consideration. The day was well advanced, and it was as much as could be done to reach Swallow Barn that night. An equipage, however, was at last procured for me, and off I went. You would have laughed" sans intermission" a good hour if you had seen me upon the road.
I was set up n an old sulky, of a dingy hue, without springs, with its body sunk between a pair of unusually high wheels. It was drawn by an asthmatic, superannuated racer with a huge Roman nose and a most sorrowful countenance. His sides were piteously scalded with the traces, and his harness, partly of rope and partly of leather thongs, corresponded with the sobriety of his character.
He had fine long legs, however, and got over the ground with surprising alacrity. At a most respectful distance behind me trotted the most venerable of outriders-an old free negro, formerly a retainer in -some of the feudal establishments of the low countries. His name was Scipio. His face, which was principally composed of a pair of protuberant lips, whose luxuriance seemed intended as an indemnity for a pair of crushed nostrils, was well set off with a head of silver wool that bespoke a volume of gravity. He had, from some aristocratic conceit of elegance, indued himself for my service in a ragged regimental coat, still jagged with some points of tarnished scarlet, and a pair of coarse linen trowsers, barely reaching the ankles, beneath which two bony feet occupied shoes, each of the superficies and figure of a hoe, and on one of these was whimsically buckled a rusty spur.
His horse gas a short, thick-set pony, with an amazingly rough trot, which kept Scipio's legs in a state of constant warfare against the. Scipio frequently succeeded, by dint of hard spurring, to get close enough to me to open a conversation, which he conducted with such a deferential courtesy and formal politeness, as greatly to enhance my opinion of his breeding. His face was lighted up with a lambent smile, and he touched his hat with an antique grace at every accost; the tone of his voice was mild and subdued, and in short, Scipio had all the unction of an old gentleman.
He had a great deal to say of the " palmy days" of Virginia, and the generations which in his time had been broken up, or, what in his conception was equivalent, had gone "over the mountain. He concluded these disquisitions with a reflection that amused me by its profundity —and which doubtless he had picked up from some popular orator: "When they change the circumstance, they alter the case. In this kind of colloquy we made some twenty miles before the shades of evening overtook us, and Scipio now informed me that we might soon expect to reach Swallow Barn. The road was smooth and canopied with dark foliage, and, as the last blush of.
Lights were glimmering through different apertures, and several stacks of chimneys were visible above the horizon; the whole mass being magnified into the dimensions of a great castle. Some half-dozen dogs bounding to the gate, brought a host of servants to receive me, as I alighted at the door. Cousins count in Virginia, and have great privileges. Here was I in the midst of a host of them. Frank Meriwether met me as cordially as if we had spent our whole lives together, and my cousin Lucretia, his wife, came up and kissed me in the genuine country fashion.
Of course, I repeated the ceremony towards all the female branches that fell in my way, and, by the by, the girls are pretty enough to make the ceremony interesting, although I think they consider me somewhat oldish. As to Ned Hazard, I need not tell you he is the quintessence of good humor, and received me with that famous hearty honesty of his, which you would have predicted. At the moment of my arrival, a part of the family were strewed over the steps of a little porch at the front door, basking in the moonlight; and before them a troop of children, white and black, trundled hoops across the court-yard, followed by a pack of companionable curs, who seemed to have a part of the game; whilst a piano within the house served as an orchestra to the players.
My arrival produced a sensation that stopped all this, and I was hurried by a kind of tumultuary welcome into the parlor. If you have the patience to read this long epistle to the end, I would like to give you a picture of the family as it appeared to me that night; but if you are already fatigued with my gossip, as I have good reason to fear, why you may e'en skip this, and go about your more important duties.
But it is not often you may. The parlor was one of those specimens of architecture of which there are not many survivors, and in another half century, they will, perhaps, be extinct. The walls were of panelled wood, of a greenish white, with small windows seated in deep embrasures, and the mantel was high, embellished with heavy mouldings that ex.
In one corner stood a tall triangular cupboard, and opposite to it a clock equally tall, with a healthy, saucy-faced full moon peering above the dial-plate. A broad sofa ranged along the wall, and was kept in countenance by a legion of leather-bottomed chairs, which sprawled their bandy legs to a perilous compass, like a high Dutch skater squaring the yard. A huge table occupied the middle of the room, whereon reposed a service of stately china, and a dozen covers flanking some lodgments of sweetmeats, and divers curiously wrought pyramids of butter tottering on pedestals of ice.
In the midst of this array, like a lordly fortress, was placed an immense bowl of milk, sur. An uncarpeted floor glistened with a dim, but spotless lustre, in token of careful housekeeping, and around the walls were hung, in grotesque frames, some time-worn portraits, protruding their pale faces through thickets of priggish curls. The sounding of a bell was the signal for our evening repast.
My cousin Lucretia had already taken the seat of worship behind a steaming urn and a strutting coffee-pot of chased silver, that had the air of a cock about to crow,-it was so erect. A little rosy gentleman, the reverend Mr. Chub, a tutor in the family, said a hasty and half-smothered grace, and then we all arranged ourselves at the table.
An aged dame in spectacles, with the. A vacant seat remained, which, after a few moments, was occupied by a tall spinster, with a sentimental mien, who glided into the parlor with some stir. She was another cousin, Zachary, according to the Virginia rule of consanguinity, who was introduced to me as Miss Prudence Meriwether, a sister of Frank's, —and as for her age,-that's neither here nor there.
The evening went off, as you might guess, with abundance of good feeling and unaffected enjoyment. The ladies soon fell into their domestic occupations, and the parson smoked his pipe in silence at the window. The young progeny teased " uncle Ned" with importunate questions, or played at bo-peep at the parlor door, casting sly looks at me, from whence they slipt off, with a laugh, whenever they caught my eye. At last, growing tired, they rushed with one accord upon Hazard,. It was not long before the rest of us followed, and I found myself luxuriating in a comfortable bed which would have accommodated a platoon.
Here, listening to the tree-frog and the owl, I dropped into a profound slumber, and knew nothing more of this under world, until the sun shining through my window, and the voluble note of the mocking-bird, recalled me to the enjoyment of nature and the morning breeze. So, you have all my adventures up to the moment of my arrival. Perhaps I shall give you something compounded of all these. And if a book be the upshot-who's afraid? You may read or let it alone, as you please.
It may be some time before we meet; till then, I wear you in my heart. It looks down upon a shady pocket or nook, formed by an indentation of the shore, from a gentle acclivity thinly sprinkled with oaks whose magnificent branches afford habitation to sundry friendly colonies of squirrels and woodpeckers. This time-honored mansion was the residence of the family of Hazards. But in the present generation, the spells of love and mortgage have translated the possession to Frank Meriwether, who having married Lucretia, the eldest daughter of my late Uncle Walter Hazard, and lifted some gentlemanlike incumbrances which had been sleeping for years upon the domain, was thus inducted into the proprietary rights.
The adjacency of his own estate gave a territorial feature to this alliance, of which the fruits were no less discernible in the multiplication of negroes, cattle, and poultry, than in a flourishing clan of Meriwethers. The main building is more than a century old. It is built with thick brick walls, but one story in height, and surmounted by a double-faced or hipped roof, which gives the idea of a ship bottom upwards.
Later buildings have been added to this, as the wants or ambition of the family have expanded. These are. But they form altogether an agreeable picture of habitation, suggesting the idea of comfort in the ample space they fill, and in their conspicuous adaptation to domestic uses. The hall door is an ancient piece of walnut, which has grown too heavy for its hinges, and by its daily travel has furrowed the floor in a quadrant, over which it has an uneasy journey.
It is shaded by a narrow porch, with a carved pediment upheld by massive columns of wood, somewhat split by the sun. An ample court-yard, inclosed by a semi-circular paling, extends in front of the whole pile, and is traversed by a gravel road leading from a rather ostentatious iron gate, which is swung between two pillars of brick surmounted by globes of cut stone. Between the gate and the house a large willow spreads its arched and pendent drapery over the grass.
A bridle rack stands within the inclosure, and near it a ragged horse-nibbled plum-tree —the current belief being that a plum-tree thrives on ill usage-casts its skeleton shadow on the dust. Some Lombardy poplars, springing above a mass of shrubbery, partially screen various supernumerary buildings at a short distance in the rear of the mansion.
Amongst these is to be seen the gable end of a stable, with the date of its erection stiffly emblazoned in black bricks near the upper angle, in figures set in after the fashion of the work on a girl's sampler. In the same quarter a pigeon-box, reared on a post and resembling a huge tee-totum, is visible, and about its several doors and windows a family of pragmatical pigeons are generally strutting, bridling, and bragging at each other from sunrise until d'rk.
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Appendant to this homestead is an extensive tract of land which stretches some three or four miles along the river, presenting alternately abrupt promontories mantled with pine and dwarf. Some sparse portions of forest vary the landscape, which, for the most part, exhibits a succession of fields clothed with Indian corn, some small patches of cotton or tobacco plants, with the usual varieties of stubble and fallow grounds. These are inclosed by worm fences of shrunken chestnut, where lizards and ground-squirrels are perpetually running races along the rails.
Across this stream is thrown a rough bridge, which it would delight a painter to see; and not far below it an aged sycamore twists its roots into a grotesque framework to the pure mirror of a spring, which wells up its cool waters from a bed of gravel and runs gurgling to the brook. There it aids in furnishing a cruising ground to a squadron of ducks who, in defiance of all nautical propriety, are incessantly turning up their sterns to the skies.
On the grass which skirts the margin of the spring, I observe the family linen is usually spread out by some three or four negro women, who chant shrill music over their wash-tubs, and seem to live in ceaseless warfare with sundry little besmirched and bow-legged blacks,. Beyond the bridge, at some distance, stands a prominent object in the perspective of this picture,-the most venerable appendage to the establishment-a huge barn with an immense roof hanging almost to the ground, and thatched a foot thick with sunburnt straw, which reaches below the eaves in ragged flakes.
It has a singularly drowsy and decrepit aspect. The yard around it is strewed knee-deep with litter, from the midst of which arises a long rack resembling a chevaux de frise, which is ordinarily. This is the customary lounge of half a score of oxen and as many cows, who sustain an imperturbable companionship with a sickly wagon, whose parched tongue and drooping swingle-trees, as it stands in the sun, give it a most forlorn and invalid character; whilst some sociable carts under the sheds, with their shafts perched against the walls, suggest the idea of a set of gossiping cronies taking their ease in a tavern porch.
Now and then a clownish hobble-de-hoy colt, with long fetlocks and disordered mane, and a thousand burs in his tail, stalks through this company. But as it is forbidden ground to all his tribe, he is likely very soon to encounter a shower of corn-cobs from some of the negro men; upon which contingency he makes a rapid retreat across the bars which imperfectly guard the entrance to the yard, and with an uncouth display of his heels bounds away towards the brook, where he stops and looks back with a saucy defiance; and after affecting to drink for a moment, gallops away with a braggart whinny to the fields.
THE master of this lordly domain is Frank Meriwether. He is now in the meridian of life-somewhere about forty-five. Good cheer and an easy temper tell well upon him. The first has given him a comfortable, portly figure, and the latter a contemplative turn of mind. He has some right to pride himself on his personal appearance, for he has a handsome face, with a dark blue eye and a fine intellectual brow.
His head is growing scant of hair on the crown, which induces him to be somewhat particular in the management of his locks in that locality, and these are assuming a decided silvery hue. It is pleasant to see him when he is going to ride to the Court House on business occasions. He is then apt to make his appearance in a coat of blue broadcloth, astonishingly glossy, and with an unusual amount of plaited ruffle strutting through the folds of a Marseilles waistcoat. A worshipful finish is given to this costume by a large straw hat, lined with green silk.
There is a magisterial fulness in his garments which betokens condition in the world, and a heavy bunch of seals, suspended by a chain of gold, jingles as he moves, pronouncing him a man of superflui ties. It is considered rather extraordinary that he has never set up for Congress: but the truth is, he is an unambitious man, and has a great dislike to currying favor-as he calls it. And, besides, he is thoroughly convinced that there will always be men enough in Virginia willing to serve the people, and therefore does not see why he should trouble his head about it.
Some years ago, however, there was really an impression that he meant to come out. By some sudden whim, he took it into his head to visit Washington during the session of Congress, and returned, after a fortnight, very seriously distempered with politics. He told curious anecdotes of certain secret intrigues which had been discovered in the affairs of the capital, gave a clear insight into the views of some deep-laid combinations, and became, all at once, painfully florid in his discourse, and dogmatical to a degree that made his wife stare.
Fortunately, this orgasm soon subsided, and Frank relapsed into an indolent gentleman of the opposition; but it had the effect to give a much more decided cast to his studies, for he forthwith discarded the " Richmond Whig" from his newspaper subscription, and took to " The Enquirer," like a man who was not to be disturbed by doubts. And as it was morally impossible to believe all that was written on both sides, to prevent his mind from being abused, he from this time forward took a stand against the re-election of Mr.
Adams to the Presidency, and resolved to give an implicit faith to all alleged facts which set against his administration.
The consequence of this straight-forward and confiding deportment was an unexpected complimentary notice of him by the Executive of the State. He was put into the commission of the peace, and having thus become a public man against his will, his opinions were observed to undergo some essential changes. He now thinks that a good citizen ought neither to solicit nor decline office; that the magistracy of Virginia is the sturdiest pillar which supports the fabric.
In this temper, he has of late embarked on the millpond of county affairs, and nothwithstanding his amiable character and his doctrinary republicanism, I am told he keeps the peace as if he commanded a garrison, and administers justice like a Cadi. He has some claim to supremacy in this last department; for during three years he smoked segars in a lawyer's office in Richmond, which enabled him to obtain a bird's-eye view of Blackstone and the Revised Code.
Besides this, he was a member of a Law Debating Society, which ate oysters once a week in a cellar; and he wore, in accordance with the usage of the most promising law students of that day, six cravats, one over the other, and yellow-topped boots, by which he was recognized as a blood of the metropolis. Having in this way qualified himself to assert and maintain his rights, he came to his estate, upon his arrival at age, a very model of landed;ent]emen. Since that time his avocations have had a certain literary tincture; for having settled himself down as a married man, and got rid of his superfluous foppery, he rambled with wonderful assiduity through a wilderness of romances, poems, and dissertations, which are now collected in his library, and, with their battered blue covers, present a lively type of an army of continentals at the close of the war, or a hospital of invalids.
These have all, at last, given way to the newspapers-a miscellaneous study very attractive and engrossing to country gentlemen. This line of study has rendered Meriwether a most perilous antagonist in the matter of legislative proceedings. A landed proprietor, with a good house and a host of servant,: s naturally a hospitable man. A guest is one of his daily wants.
A friendly face is a necessary of life, without which the heart is apt to starve, or a luxury without which it grows parsimonious. MIen who are isolated from society by distance, feel these wants by an instinct, and are grateful for the opportunity -c relieve them. In Meriwether, the sentiment goes beyond this. It has, besides, something dialectic in it. His house is open to every body, as freely almost as an inn.
But to see him when he has had the good fortune to pick up an intelligent, educated gentleman,-and particularly one who listens well! Such a person caught within the purlieus of Swallow Barn, may set down one week's entertainment as certain-inevitable, and as many more as he likes —the more the merrier. He will know something of the quality of Meriwether's rhetoric before he is gone. Then again: it is very pleasant to see Frank's kind and considerate bearing towards his servants and dependents.
His slaves appreciate this, and hold him in most affectionate reverence, and, therefre, are not only contented, tut happy under his dominion.
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Meriwether is not much of a traveller. He has never been in New England, and very seldom beyond the confines of Virginia. He makes now and then a winter excursion to Richmond, which, I rather think, he considers as the centre of civilization; and towards autumn, it is his custom to journey over the mountain to the Springs, which he is obliged to do to avoid the ul. But the upper country is not much to his taste, and would not be endured by him if it were not for the crowds that resort there for the same reason which operates upon him; and I may add,-though he would not confess it -for the opportunity this concourse affords him for disiussion of epin!
He believes that those who live in them are hollow-hearted and insincere, and wanting in that substantial intelligence and virtue, which he affirms to be characteristic of the country. He is an ardent admirer of the genius of Virginia, and is frequent in his commrendation of a toast in which the state is compared to the mother cf the Gracchi:-indeed, it is a familiar thing with him to speak of the aristocracy of talent as only inferior to that of the landed interest,-the idea of a freeholder inferring to his mind a certain constitutional pre-eminence in all the virtues of citizenship, as a matter of course.
The solitary elevation of a country gentleman, well to do in the world, begets some magnificent notions. He becomes as infallible as the Pope; gradually acquires a habit of making long speeches; is apt to be impatient of contradiction, and is always very touchy on the point of honor. There is nothing more conclusive than a rich man's logic any where, but in the country, amongst his dependents, it flows with the smooth and unresisted course of a full stream irrigating a meadow, and depositing its mud in fertilizing luxuriance.
Meriwether's sayings, about Swallow Barn, import absolute verity. But I have discovered that they are not so current out of his jurisdiction. Indeed, every now and then, we have quite obstinate discussions when some of the neighboring potentates, who stand in the same sphere with Frank, come to the house; for these worthies have opinions of their own, and nothing can be more dogged than the conflict between them.
They sometimes fire away at each other with a most amiable and unconvinceable hardihood for a whole evening, bandying interjections, and making bows, and saying shrewd things with all the courtesy imaginable. But for unextinguishable perhinacity in argument, and utter impregnability of belief, there is.
When one of these discussions fairly gets under weigh, it never comes to an anchor again of its own accord;-it is either blown out so far to sea as to be given up for lost, or puts into port in distress for want of documents,-or is upset by a call for the boot-jack and slippers-which is something like the previous question in Congress.
If my worthy cousin be somewhat over-argumentative as a politician, he restores the equilibrium of his character by a considerate coolness in religious matters. He piques himself upon being a high-churchman, but is not the most diligent frequenter of places of worship, and very seldom permits himself to get into a dispute upon points of faith. If Mr.
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Chub, the Presbyterian tutor in the family, ever succeeds in drawing him into this field, as he occasionally has the address to do, Meriwether is sure to fly the course; he gets puzzled with scripture names, and makes some odd mistakes between Peter and Paul, and then generally turns the parson over to his wife, who, he says, has an astonishing memory.
He is somewhat distinguished as a breeder of blooded horses; and, ever since the celebrated race between Eclipse and Henry, has taken to this occupation with a renewed zeal, as a matter affecting the reputation of the state. It is delightful to hear him expatiate upon the value, importance, and patriotic bearing of this employment, and to listen to all his technical lore touching the mystery of horse-craft. He has some fine colts in training, which are committed to the care of a pragmatical old negro, named Carey, who, in his reverence for the occupation, is the perfect shadow of his master.
He and Frank hold grave and momentous consultations upon the affairs of the stable, in such a sagacious strain of equal debate, that it would puzzle a spectator to tell which was the leading member in the council. Carey thinks he. The old man feels himself authorized to maintain his positions according to the freest parliamentary form, and sometimes with a violence of asseveration that compels his master to abandon his ground, purely out of faint-heartedness.
Meriwether gets a little nettled by Carey's doggedness, but generally turns it off in a laugh. I was in the stable with him, a few mornings after my arrival, when he ventured to expostulate with the venerable groom upon a professional point, but the controversy terminated in its customary way. WHILST Frank Meriwether amuses himself with his quiddities, and floats through life upon the current of his humor, his dame, my excellent cousin Lucretia, takes charge of the household affairs, as one who has a reputation to stake upon her administration. She has made it a perfect science, and great is her fame in the dispensation thereof!
Those who have visited Swallow Barn will long remember the morning stir, of which the murmurs arose even unto the chambers, and fell upon the ears of the sleepers; —the dry-rubbing of floors, and even the waxing of the same until they were like ice;and the grinding of coffee-mills — and the gibber of ducks, and chickens, and turkeys; and all the multitudinous concert of homely sounds.
And then, her breakfasts! I do not wish to be counted extravagant, but a small regiment might march in upon her without disappointment; and I would put them for excellence and variety against any thing that ever was served upon platter. Moreover, all things go like clock-work. She rises with the lark, and infuses an early vigor into the whole household.
And yet she is a thin woman to look upon, and a feeble; with a sallow Complexion, and a pair of animated black eyes which impart a portion of fire to a countenance otherwise demure from the paths. But, although her life has been somewhat saddened by such visitations, my cousin is too spirited a woman to give up to them; for she is therapeutical in her constitution, and considers herself a full match for any reasonable tertian in the world. Indeed, I have sometimes thought that she took more pride in her leech craft than becomes a Christian woman: she is even a little vain-glorious.
For, to say nothing of her skill in compounding simples, she has occasionally brought down upon her head the sober remonstrances of her husband, by her pertinacious faith in the efficacy of certain spells in cases of intermittent. But there is no reasoning against her experience. She can enumerate the cases —" and men may say what they choose about its being contrary to reason, and all that:-it is their way!
But seeing is believing-nine scoops of water in the hollow of the hand, from the sycamore spring, for three mornings, before sunrise, and a cup of strong coffee with lemon-juice, will break an ague, try it when you will. She is in the habit of preparing some death-routing decoction for them, in a small pitcher, and administering it to the whole squadron in succession, who severally swallow the dose with a most ineffectual effort at repudiation, and gallop off, with faces all rue and wormwood.
Every thing at Swallow Barn, that falls within the superintendence of my cousin Lucretia is a pattern of industry. In fact, I consider her the very priestess of the American system, for, with her, the protection of manufactures is even more of a passion than a principle. Every here and there, over the estate, may be. In these laboratories the negro women are employed in preparing yarn for the loom, from which is produced not only a comfortable supply of winter clothing for the working people, but some excellent carpets for the house.
It is refreshing to behold how affectionately vain our good tostess is of Frank, and what deference she shows to his judgment in all matters, except those that belong to the home department; — for there she is confessedly and without appeal, the paramount power. It seems to be a dogma with her, that he is the very " first man in Virginia," an expression which in this region has,rown into an emphatic provincialism. Frank, in return, is a devout admirer of her accomplishments, and although he does not pretend to an ear for music, he is in raptures at her skill on the harpsichord, when she plays at night for the children to dance; and he sometimes sets her to singing'The Twins of Latona,' and' Old Towler,' and' The Rose-Tree in Full Bearing' she does not study the modern music , for the entertainment of his coin pany.
On these occasions he stands by the instrument, and nods his head, as if he comprehended the airs. She is a fruitful vessel. They have two lovely girls, just verging towards womanhood, who attract a supreme regard in the household, and to whom Frank is perfectly devoted. Next to these is a boy,-a shrewd, nlischievous imp.
His whole air is that of an untrimmed colt torn down and disorderly; and I most usually find him with the bosom of his shirt bagged out, so as to form a great pocket, where he carries apples or green walnuts, and sometimes pebbles, with which he is famous for pelting the fowls. I must digress, to say a word about Rip's head-gear. He wears a nondescript skull-cap, which, I conjecture from some equivocal signs, had once been a fur hat, but which must have taken a degree in fifty other callings; for I see it daily employed in the most foreign services.
Sometimes it is a drinking-vessel, and then Rip pinches it up like a cocked hat; sometimes it is devoted to push-pin, and then it is cuffed cruelly on both sides; and sometimes it is turned into a basket, to carry eggs from the hen-roosts. It finds hard service at hat-ball, where, like a plastic statesman, it is popular for its pliability. It is tossed in the air on all occasions of rejoicing; and now and then serves for a gauntlet-and is flung with energy upon the ground, on the eve of a battle; and it is kicked occasionally through the schoolyard, after the fashion of a bladder.
It wears a singular exterior, having a row of holes cut below the crown, or rather the apex, for it is pyramidal in shape, to make it cool, as Rip explains it. The only rest that it enjoys through the day, as far as I have been able to perceive, is during schoolhours, and then it is thrust between a desk and a bulkhead, three inches apart, where it generally envelopes in its folds a handful of hickory-nuts or marbles.
This covering falls downfor it has no lining-like an extinguisher over Rip's head. To prevent the recurrence of this accident, he has tied it up with a hat-band of twine. From Rip the rest of the progeny descend on the scale, in regular gradations, like the keys of a Pandean pipe, and witE the same variety of intonations, until the series is terminated in a chubby, dough-faced infant, not above three months old. This little infantry is under the care of mistress Barbara Winkle, an antique retainer of the family, who attends them at bed and board,-and every morning, I am told, plunges the whole bevy, one by one, into a tub of cold water, at which they make terrible wry faces.
This mistress Barbara is a functionary of high rank in the family, and of great privileges, from having exercised her office through a preceding generation at Swallow Barn. She is quite remarkable at that time of day when festive preparations are in progress. A dinner-party calls forth all her energy, and exhibits her to great advantage as an effective woman. She glides up and down stairs like a phantom, and you are aware of her coming Dy a low jingle of keys.
One moment she is whipping cream, and the next threatening the same operation on some unlucky youngster of the kitchen who chances to meddle with her labors. You may hear her clattering eggs in a bowl, scolding servants, and screaming at Rip, who is perpetually in her way, amongst the sweetmeats: all of which matters, though enacted with a vinegar aspect, it is easy to see are very agreeable to her selflove.
There is no reverence like that of children for potentates of this description. Her very glance has in it something disconcerting to the young fry; and they will twist their dumpling faces into every conceivable expression of grief, before they will dare to squall out in her presence. Even Rip is afraid of her. Winkle's complexion is the true parchment, and her voice is somewhat cracked.
She takes Scotch snuff from a silver box, and wears a pair of horn spectacles, which give effect to the peculiar peakedness of her nose. On days of state she appears in all the rich coxcombry of the olden time; her gown being of an obsolete fashion, sprinkled with roses and sun-flowers, and her lizard arms encased in tight sleeves as far as the elbow, where they are met by silken gloves without fingers. A starched tucker is pinned, with a pedantic precision, across her breast; and a prim cap of muslin, puckered into a point with a grotesque conceit, adorns her head.
Then, when she walks, it is inconceivable how aristocratically she rustles,-especially on a Sunday. MY picture of the family at Swallow Barn would be incomplete if I did not give a conspicuous place to my two young cousins, Lucy and Victorine. It is true they are cousins only in the second remove, but I have become sufficiently naturalized to the soil to perceive the full value of the relation; and as they acknowledge it very affectionately to me-for I was promoted to "Cousin Mark" almost in the first hour after my arrival-I should be unreasonably reluctant if I did not assert the full right of blood.
Lucy tells me she is only fifteen, and that she is one year and one month older than Vic, "for all that Vic is taller than she. Victorine is almost a head taller, and possesses a stronger frame. She differs, too, from her sister by her jet-black eyes and dark hair; though they resemble each other in the wholesome tan which exposure to the atmosphere has spread alike' over the cheeks of both.
These two girls are educated entirely at home, and are growing up together in the most confiding mutual affection. No over-stimulated ambition is likely there to taint the mind with those vices of rivalry which, in schools, often render youth selfish and unamiable, and suggest thoughts of concealment and stratagem as aids in the race of preeminence. Home, to a young girl, is a world peopled with kindly faces and filled only with virtues. She does not know, even by report, the impure things of life.
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She has heard and read of its miseries, for which her heart melts in charity, and she grows up in the faith that she was born to love the good and render kind offices to the wretched; but she conceives nothing of the wickedness of a world which she has never seen, and lives on to womanhood in a happy and guarded ignorance, which is not broken until her mind has acquired a strength sufficient to discern and repel whatever there may be dangerous in knowledge.
Let me get back to my appro priate function of narrative. Lucy is rather meditative for her. She is a little housekeeper, and affects to have cares. Victorine is more intrepid, and attracts universal regard by the jollity of her temperament, which is equally the index of her innocence and her healthful organization.
They pursue the same studies, and I see them every morning at their tasks, often reading from the same book with their arms around each other's waist. They have profound confidences in which they think themselves very secure and exclusive; but I can often tell them their whole secret by watching their by-play — which shrewdness of mine is so inexplicable to them, that they think I am scmething of a conjurer. I frequently walk with them in the evening on the river bank. They are invariably attended upon these rambles by two large white pointers, who gambol around them with a most affectionate playfulness, and are constantly soliciting the applause of their pretty mistresses by the gallant assiduities which are characteristic of this race of faithful animals.
Meriwether is accustomed to have these girls read to him some portion of every day. By this requisition, which he puts upon the ground of an amusement for himself, he has beguiled them into graver studies than are generally pursued at that time of life. It is quite charming to notice the unwearying devotion they bestow upon this labor, which they think gives pleasure to their father.
He, of course, looks upon them as the most gifted creatures in existence. And truly, they have gained so much upon me, that I don't think he is far wrong. A window in the upper story of one of the wings of the building overlooks a flower-garden, and around this window grows a profusion of creeping vine which is trained with architectural precision along the wall to the roof.
It is a prim, decorous plant, with icy leaves of perdurable green, without a flower of its own to give variety to its staid drapery. Here and there, how. In this window, about noon-tide, may be daily seen the profuse tresses of a head of flaxen hair scrupulously adjusted in glossy volume; and ever and anon, as it moves to some thoughtful impulse, is disclosed a studious brow of fairest white. And sometimes, more fully revealed, may be seen the entire head of the lady as she sits intent upon the perusal of a book. The lady Prudence is in h.
And sometimes, in listless musing, she rests her chin upon her gem-bedizened hand, and fixes her soft blue eye upon the flower-beds where the humming-bird is poised before the honeysuckle. But howsoever engaged, it is a dedicated hour. I have said profanely, once before, that "a tall spinster" sat at the family board, and now here she sits in her morning guise, silent and alone, pondering over the creations of genius and the dreams of art. Prudence Meriwether is an only sister of Frank's, and holds a station somewhat eminent amongst the household idols.
She is rather comely to look upon-very neat in person, and is considered high authority in matter of dress. But Time, who notches mortal shapes with as little mercy as the baker, in his morning circuit, notches his tally-stick, has calendared his visits even upon this goodly form. A shrewd observer may note in sundry evidences of a fastidious choice of colors, and of what,-to coin a word, —I might call a scrupulous toiletry, that the lapse of human seasons has not passed unheeded by this lady.
He may detect, sometimes, an overdone vivacity in her accost, and an exaggerated thoughtlessness; sometimes, in her tone of conversation, a little too much girlishness, which betrays a suspicion. These are quite pleasant signs to an astute: experienced, perspicacious bachelor, like myself, who can read them with a learned skill; they speak of that mellow time when a woman captivates by complaisance, and overcomes.
There is a dash of the picturesque in the character of this lady. Towards sunset she is apt to stray forth amongst the old oaks, and to gather small bouquets of wild flowers, in the pursuit of which she contrives to get into very pretty attitudes; or she falls into raptures at the shifting tints of the clouds on the western sky, and produces quite a striking pictorial effect by the skilful choice of a position which shows her figure in strong relief against the evening light. And then in her boudoir may be found exquisite sketches from her pencil, of forms of love and beauty, belted and buckled knights, old castles and pensive ladies, Madonnas and cloistered nuns,-the offspring of an artistic imagination heated with romance and devotion.
Her attire is, sometimes, studiously simple and plain, and her bearing is demure and contemplative; but this is never long continued, for, in spite of her discipline, she does not wish to be accounted as one inclined to be serious in her turn of mind. I have seen her break out into quite a riotous vivacity. This is very likely to ensue when she is brought into fellowship with a flaunting mad cap belle who is carrying all before her: she then " overbears her continents," and becomes as flaunting a madcap as the other. If Prudence has a fault-which proposition I prudently put with an if, as a doubtful question-it is in setting the domestic virtues at too high a value.
One may, perhaps, be too inveterately. I think the establishment of three Sunday schools, a colonization society membership, a management in a tract association, and an outward and visible patronage of the cause of temperance, by the actual enrolment of her name amongst those who have taken the pledge, smack a little of supererogation, though I don't wish to set up my judgment too peremptorily on this point.
And I think, also, one may carry the praise of the purity of country life, and of the benefits of solitude and selfconstraint, to an extent which might appear merciless towards those whose misfortune it is to live in a sphere where these virtues cannot be so fully cultivated. If a tendency in this direction be a blemish in the composition of our lady, it is a very slight one, and is amply compensated by the many pleasant aberrations she makes from this phase of her character.
She converses with great ease upon all subjects-even with a dangerous facility, I may say, which sometimes leads her into hyperbole: her diction occasionally becomes high-flown, and expands into the incomprehensible-but that is only when she is excited. Her manner, at times, might be called oratorical, particularly when, in imitation of her brother, she bewails the departure of the golden age, or declaims upon the prospect of its revival among the rejuvenescent glories of the Old Dominion.
She has an awful idea of the perfect respectability, I might almost say splendor, of her lineage, and this is one of the few points upon which I know her to be touchy. Apart from these peculiarities, which are but fleecy clouds upon a summer sky, even enhancing its beauty, or mites upon a snow-drift, she is a captivating specimen of a ripened maiden, just standing on that sunshiny verge from which the prospect beyond presents a sedate autumnal landscape gently subsiding into undistinguishable and misty confusion of hill and dale arrayed in golden-tinted gray. It is no wonder, therefore, that with.
He has a fine; flowing stream of good spirits, which is sometimes interrupted by a slight under-current of sadness; it is even a ludicrous pensiveness, that derives its comic quality from Ned's constitutional merriment. He is now about thirty-three, with a tolerably good person, a little under six feet, and may be seen generally after breakfast, whilst old Carey is getting our horses for a morning ride, in an olive frock, black stock, and yellow waistcoat, with a German forage-cap of light cloth, having a frontlet of polished leather, rather conceitedly drawn over his dark, laughing eye.
This head-gear gives a picturesque effect to his person, and suits well with his weather-beaten cheek, as it communicates a certain reckless expression that agrees with his character. The same trait is heightened by the half swagger with which he strikes his boot with his riding-whip, or keeps at bay a beautiful spaniel, called Wilful, which haunts his person like a familiar.
Indeed, I have grown to possess something of this canine attachment to him myself, and already constitute a very important member of his suite. It is a picture worth contemplating, to see us during one of those listless intervals. For, first, there is Ned lounging along.
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It may be conjectured from this picture that Ned possesses fascinations for man and beast. He is known, universally by the name of Ned Hazard, which, of itself, I take to be a good sign. This nicknaming has a flavor of favoritism, and betokens an amiable notoriety. There is something jocular in Ned's face, which I believe is the source of his popularity with all classes; but this general good acceptation is preserved by the variety of his acquirements.
He can accommodate himself to all kinds of society. He has slang for the stable-boys, proverbs for the old folks, and a most oratorical overflow of patriotism for the politicians. To the children of Swallow Barn he is especially captivating. He tells them stories with the embellishment of a deep tone of voice that makes them quake in their shoes; and with the assistance of a cane and cloak, surmounted by a hat, he will stalk amongst them, like a grizzly giant, so hideously erect, that the door is a mere pigeon-hole to him;-at which the young cowards laugh so fearfully, that I have often thought they were crying.
A few years ago he was seized with a romantic fever which manifested itself chiefly in a conceit to visit South America, and play knight-errant in the quarrel of the Patriots. It was the most sudden and unaccountable thing in the world; for no one could trace the infection to any probable cause; —still, it grew. As may be imagined, this matter produced a serious disquiet in the family, so that Frank Meriwether was obliged to take the subject in hand; and, finding all his premonitions and expostulations unavailing, was forced to give way to the current of Ned's humor, hoping that experience would purge the sight that had been dimmed by.
It was therefore arranged that Ned should visit this theatre of glory, and stand by the award of his own judgment upon the view. So, after glancing at the Patriots in all their positions, attitudes and relations,-with an eye military and civil,-and being well bitten with fleas, and apprehended as a spy, and nearly assassinated as a heretic, he carefully looked back upon the whole train of this fancy, even from its first engendering, with all the motives, false conclusions, misrepresentations, and so forth, which had a hand in the adopting and pursuing of it, and then came to a sober conclusion that he was the most egregious fool that had ever set out in quest of a wild goose.
However, he came home the most disquixotted cavalier that ever hung up his shield at the end of a scurvy crusade; and to make amends for the inconvenience and alarm he had occasioned,-for my cousin Lucretia expected to hear of his being strangled, like Laocoon, in the folds of a serpent,-he brought with him an amusing journal, which is now bound in calf, and holds a conspicuous place in the library at Swallow Barn.
This trip into the other hemisphere has furnished him with an assortment of wonders, both of the sea and the land, the theme of divers long stories, which Ned tells. He is accused of repeating them to the same auditors, and Frank Meriwether has a provoking way of raising his hands, and turning his eyes towards the ceiling, and saying in an under-tone, just as Ned is setting out: "A traveller there was who told a good tale; By my troth I it was true, but then it was stale. It is, however, but for a moment, and he takes the joke like a hero.
It is now customary in the family, when any thing of a marvellous nature is mentioned, to say that it happened round the Horn. Ned is evidently shy of these assaults, and rather cautious how he names the Horn if Meriwether be in company. I have gleaned some particulars of Hazard's education, which, as they serve to illustrate his character, I think worth relating. When he was ten or eleven years old, he was put under the government of a respectable teacher, who kept an academy on the border of the mountain country, where he spent several years of his life. In this rustic gymnasium, under the supervision of Mr.
Crab, who was the principal of the establishment, he soon became conspicuous for his hardiness and address in the wayward adventures and miniature wars which diversified the history of this little community. He was always an apt scholar, though not the most assiduous; but his frank and upright qualities rendered him equally. He speaks of the attachments of this period of his life with the unction of unabated fondness. In one of our late rambles, he gave me the following sketch of the circumstances under which he quitted these scenes of his youth.
His father was about removing him to college, and the separation was to be final. I have endeavored to preserve his own narrative, because I think it more graphic than mine would be; and at the same time it will show the gentle strain of affection that belongs to his nature. All that the scripture tells us about the transitoriness of human affairs,-of man being a traveller, and life a shadow,-is constitutionally part and parcel of the meditations of the schoolboy.
He lives amidst discomforts; his room is small and ill-furnished; his clothes are hung upon a peg, or stowed away in a chest, where every thing that should be at the top, is sure to lodge at the bottom; his coat carries its rent from term to term, and his stockings are returned to him undarned from the washerwoman; his food is rough and unsavory; he shivers in a winter morning over a scant and smoky fire; he sleeps in summer in the hottest room of the house:-All this he submits to with patience, because he feels that he is but for a season, and that a reversion of better things awaits him.