« VorigeDoorgaan »
will be much that is refreshing in this old or of a Northerner to say that he has a Virginia home. The present house, built charm of manner that they in their busier upon the site of the original homestead, and more populous world have long fordates back only to the year 1794, and was gotten. planned, a family tradition relates, by Mr. As we cross the lawn the shadows of Jefferson, who was a second cousin of the half-a-dozen great oaks in which the genthen proprietor. However that may be, eral takes especial pride, are just dying we have at any rate the long portico rest from off the grass. The
“ bull-bats ing on white fluted columns which the nighthawks in the air above us are cir. great statesman is said to have done a cling to and fro. Against the dark hedges great deal in making characteristic of of box and arbor vitæ and trellises laden Southern country houses. The high brick with honeysuckles, the fireflies, when the walls are unrelieved by ivy or by creep. short twilight fades into night, will soon ers, but the green venetian shutters thrown begin to dance their ceaseless round; wide open almost cover the space be- various trees, both deciduous and evertween the many windows, while behind, green, have been scattered about at difinnumerable offices and buildings of every ferent times by different Montagues. conceivable shape and material, and set Here are mulberries that speak of a time at all angles, gradually lose themselves some forty years ago when the culture of among the stems of a grove of stately the silk-worm was being urged by the oaks.
French upon the Virginian planters as a In the lawn fence before which our car. means of utilizing the mass of female riage stops, fifty yards short of the front and decrepit labor that was increasing on door, there used to be a big gate, and a their bands. Here the mimosa, most sweep up to the house for driving pur- beautiful of trees, invites the humming. poses, but in these rough and ready days, birds, which in summer mornings hover when there is no regiment of juvenile among its fragile leaves. The shapely dependents to keep the weeds picked off, maple from the forests of western Virthe turf has been allowed to usurp every: ginia, the silver aspen, the acacia, the thing that it will, and little vestige is left cherry, all are there. An English holly, of the once frequented gravel track. So brought from eastern Virginia, where it we dismount at the wicket gate which is indigenous, has for many a year given now is sufficient for all purposes, not, the genuine touch to Christmas decora. however, before Caleb has rent the air tions of house and church, of which the with a tremendous shout, and brought general, who planted the tree as a boy, from the back quarters of the house a has always been proud, though not so stout negro woman, and a very irrespon- proud as he is of the magnolia which he sible-looking boy of the same persuasion, brought himself from Louisiana, long bewhose black faces beam with the Ethio fore the war, and which now taps the pian instinct of pleasure at anything like eaves of the house at the corner where, company. Nor are these the only an- as a mere shrub, he planted it. swers to the stentorian appeals of Caleb As from the depths of a cane chair which in the South do duty for door bells, upon the broad verandah we see the short but half-a-dozen foxhounds and setters twilight fade, and through the waving come bounding towards us with open streamers of bignonia, cypress, and Mamouths and bellowing throats. From be- deira vines, we watch the full moon rising hind the masses of annual creepers, that, slowly into the sky, and shedding its light trained on wires, stretch from pillar to over mountain, field, and woodland, there pillar of the portico and screen its occu-l is a sense of peace and softness over pants from view, the flash of a newspaper everything that speaks of a happy latitude is for a moment seen, and an elderly gen- where the extremes of northern and tleman descends the stone steps and southern climes temper one another, and comes towards us with hospitable baste. where a singularly picturesque country His hair and moustache are as white as echoes to the sounds of a singularly pic. snow, bis face well chiselled, his figure turesque and old-world life. There would erect, and his eye clear. A somewhat most probably come over the senses of shabby garb is forgotten in the gentleman the stranger a feeling of having at last lit as he greets us cordially and simply, but upon a spot in rural America that had not with an old-fashioned, gracious hospitality been regarded as the mere temporary
- this undecorated and unpensioned hero abode of a family engaged in the producof a hundred fights. It is no disparage. tion of dollars, but where there is the look ment to the breeding of an Englishman of a race having long taken root, to whom
dollars were not everything. The sights price of wheat, and the improvement of and sounds of farmhouse life are near the the country roads, dashed now and again door it is true, yet it is the old home of a with allusions to the advantage which the family whom you would have no difficulty young republic would gain from sympain believing, did you not know it, to have thy with France rather than with her been something more than farmers. unnatural parent Great Britain. Here
Within the house a broad hall reaches too, Patrick Henry, the greatest popular from end to end ; its floors shining and orator America ever produced, with his slippery with polish; its walls wainscoted long face and eagle eye, hangs above an balf-way to the ceiling, their upper half armchair which a family legend treasures simply whitewashed and covered with as having rested the old man groaning emblems of rural life. Antlers of deer under the ingratitude of his countrymen killed fifty years ago
the dense forests upon his last political campaign. There on the eastern border of the county, engravings of the Vienna Congress, of or trophies of more recent expeditions Queen Victoria, and of the famous royalacross the Blue Ridge to the wild hunting ist Colonel Tarleton, after Sir Joshua grounds of the Alleghanies. Suspended Reynolds, remind you that blood after all from these hang old shot-fiasks and pow. is thicker than water. Two or three ladies derhorns that have served the general and in the costume of the first George, and as his generation in days gone by, before many gentlemen in wigs and swords, could trouble fell upon the land. In the corner tell you, if they could speak, of the big stands the Joe Manton and the long Ken- square mansion of English bricks upon tucky rifle, that five-and-twenty years ago the Chesapeake shore which they still were the weapons of the Southern squire looked upon as the home of their race, in stubble and in forest respectively. and there too in the post of honor above Here, on another wall, a younger genera- the high chimney.piece is the general's tion of nephews from Richmond or Balti- uncle, the senator, who, as every one in more, who look on the home of their America knows, was minister to France fathers as
a happy hunting.ground for in 183—. autumn holidays, have hung their“ Green. Here, too, in utter defiance of the com. ers” and their cartridge belts. The re. monest rules of modern decorative art, mainder of the wall is relieved by a map hang specimens of the earlier efforts of of the county, a picture of the University photography, framed moreover in fir cones of Virginia, the Capitol at Richmond, and and in forest leaves! French - looking several illustrated and framed certificates men in grey uniforms with stars upon the of prizes taken by the general at agricul- collars of their tunics. In the centre are tural shows.
Lee and Jackson. Around them are those It is in the drawing-room, however, that of this family and their friends who fought the treasures of the family are collected. and bled by their side. The other rooms Here again oak wainscoting and white. apart from the furniture are much the wash, with carved chimney-pieces clam- same. There is a library where the books bering up towards the ceiling, silently are kept in high, glass-covered shelves, protest against your conventional ideas of and where modern periodicals, Richmond, America; and here too the floor – for the New York, and local papers, with pirated winter carpets have not yet been laid editions of some of the English reviews, down shines with polish, and is treach- lie scattered on the table. A dining-room erous to walk upon. Brass dog-irons of also wainscoted and whitewashed, with a ponderous build, and as old as the house, long table in the centre, surrounded by shine against the warm brick hearth, wait. cane-bottomed chairs, a bare floor, a sideing for the logs that the cool October board containing some curious specimens nights will soon heap upon them. Old- of old silver, and a chimney-piece devoted fashioned tables that suggest all kinds of entirely to petroleum lamps — a room grandmotherly skill in silk and worsted, meant to eat in, not to sit in. There is cluster in the corners of the room. Upon no bell in the house, but it is not much the walls hang the celebrities that the wanted, as an obsequious darkey even in good Virginian delights to honor. Here these days of freedom follows you to your Washington, surrounded by the notables room and anticipates your wants. of liis time, both men and women, is hold. When supper is over (for late dinner ing his first reception. Here Mr. Jeffer. has never crept into southern life, even son looks down upon an old cabinet Baltimore still dines at unearthly hours), containing bundles of his private letters we drift naturally into the verandah. The to the general's grandfather, full of the general's wife has appeared and made tea,
but you will not see much of her. She stubbornness of his rebellious blade, and has a soft voice, has once been pretty, and in the growing cosmopolitanism of their was a Harrison of Sussex County a dis. rampant prosperity, pat him on the head tinction which in Southern cars has the as a curious historic and social relic of same sort of ring as that of a Courtenay which nationally they are proud. He of Devon, or a Percy of Northumberland rather likes all this, but takes it with his would have in this more exacting land. tobacco, puts it in his pipe, and smokes She will tell you, if you ask her, that there it, in fact, as he used to thirty years ago were many months between 'bi and 65 in the bloodhound stories. Outside opinion which she was glad to get a little corn to the general and his generation are not flour, and green coffee, and also of how of much consequence, as death alone she buried the plate beneath the magnolia will put an end to the conviction that he on the lawn when the Yankee general and his compeers are representatives of a threatened to make “Oak Ridge” his past social state that was superior to headquarters, and how the negroes re- everything, not only in America, but on mained faithful to her all through the war, earth. and cried when they were told they were The general's only brother was a cap: free and had to go. She captivated the tain in a U. S. cavalry regiment when the general thirty years ago at the White Sul. war broke out, and he will tell you of the phur Springs; and in the comprehensive struggle of conscience that decided the ideas of kinship which exist in Virginia latter against his worldly interests to a they doubtless up to that time ranked as course that some partisan historians have cousins.
flippantly stigmatized as treachery The general has sent to the barn for treachery that very often gave up comfort some tobacco, and through bowls of red and future honors, friends and profesclay such as were smoked by the father of sional devotion, for the cause their native Pocahontas, and long reed stems froin State had seen fit to embrace, whose hopethe swamps of North Carolina, we blow lessness was far better realized by such clouds into the balmy night, and listen to men than by their civilian and untravelled the general's stories of the past.
brethren at home. He was killed at The general, of course, talks over old Shiloh, and his sword hangs in the hall; days. He has sobered down about the while our friend, his brother, who had
In fact, like many of his neighbors, never seen anything till then but a militia he was himself against secession, or all muster, rose to be a general. thoughts of it, till the mutual aggravations It is a common fallacy to credit the and the complications of those severish Southern planter with an unusual amount times drove him into the struggle in which of profanity. Whatever may be the case he so pre-eminently distinguished himself. in the extreme South, the ordinary conHe is immensely proud of the part his versation of the Virginian of all classes is State played in the war, however, and if more free from bad language than that of you saw him every day for six months, he any Anglo-Saxon community on either might bore you on the subject; but who side of the Atlantic I have ever come can be surprised that the stirring scenes
The general is certainly no exof those five years should be uppermost ception to this rule, and as a fair speci. in the evening of a life that has otherwise men of his class, has a strong reverence been spent in the unbroken monotony of for religion, and respect for the Episcopal country pursuits ?
Church of which he, like his fathers beHe never liked the North, and never had fore him, is a member. The parson who anything in common with them. Their officiates in the buildiny whose wooden ways were not his ways, and for years the spire we could see peeping above the gen. intolerance of either waxed stronger from eral's woods were it daylight, has ex-officio a mutual ignorance born of absolute social eaten his Sunday dinners at Oak Ridge separation. He has, however, little ran- ever since the Montagues revived Episcocor left, and is conscious rather of having pacy in the county after the lapse caused come well out of the struggle in at least by its identification with Toryism during public estimation. His fallen grandeur and after the Revolutionary War. is soothed by being made the hero of the The general still reads the lessons on novels and the magazine articles of his Sundays, and when some unusually anprosperous and triumphant but generous cient and “good old tune is sung, his foe. He lives in dignified retirement, deep voice may be heard booming lustily courting no man, and civil to all; but they, above the piercing notes of the rustic in the fulness of their heart, forget the choir. Here upon the verandah, with his
legs crossed and his chair tilted back | than we really were, but our political con. against the wall, he will talk to you of the trol at Washington did much in saving us glorious days of old, of the hundred ne- from the mental stagnation that our bare groes of all ages and sizes that every literary record might imply. Christmas assembled beneath his roof, " Whatever else we were, we were al. and when barn and cabin echoed to the ways farmers and country gentlemen, but, thud of their stamping feet and to the in addition, were often judges, senators, banjo's twang, when a gentleman was a bankers, physicians; that the Yankees, gentleman, and people knew how to when the war broke out, thought we were
place one another. Of how most of enervated by luxury, is a proof of how his old friends who sat upon the bench of little the two sections knew of one an. the county court with him in the old days other in those days (and I sometimes think when magistrates were gentlemen of influ- they don't know inuch more now.) There ence and property, are dead, or gone to never was luxury in your sense of the the great cities, and the country homes word in Virginia. Such as you see my with which their names have been asso. home to-day it has always been, and the ciated passed into other hands. “I know meal my wife gave you to-night you would it's foolish,” says he, “but somehow I have got in 1860, for thank God and a hate to see the old Virginia ways and good plantation and a taste for farmning, I fashions passing away. The war was have never since the year after the war necessary; we were a parcel of fools to- had to want for the ordinary comforts of gether, and got well whipped for our pains, life. I pay more attention to grass and though we gave the Yankees some trouble improved cattle than of old. I have to do it, and I own everything turned out seeded much of my alluvial low ground to for the best; but I tell you, gentlemen, I timothy, and cut all the hay I require wish the old arrangement had lasted my every year from them, and the rest protime any how. There were no happier duces as heavy crops of Indian corn per people on earth than we were. Take this acre as the Ohio valley, and has done so county" — and as the general says this, from time immemorial. Upon the poorer he drops the front legs of his chair and uplands I range my cattle, and grow what his feet simultaneously on to the porch wheat and oats my own people and horses floor, and waves his band out to where the require. I have set out a vineyard which moonlight is streaming over the lawn and is fast coming into bearing, and have the woods behind, and the stubble-fields planted several hundred peach and apple and the pastures and the winding stream irees, for the benefit, if not of myself, at in valley beneath – “there were perhaps any rate of those that come after me. a dozen such places as this, owned by Negro tenants cultivate the odd corners people of our class. We were all brought of the property in tobacco and corn on up more or less together. We fought and shares with me, and upon the whole I scuffled at the local school when we were have no great cause to complain. youngsters, and followed one another as “Twenty years ago, however, it is not young men to the University of Virginia, at all likely you would have been sitting fox-hunted and shot together, danced, in the porch alone with me as you now raced, and intermarried, till we had lost are. The chances are, there woul ve all count of our relationships. We rarely been half a dozen here, and double the travelled abroad, because we couldn't number of young folks frolicking in the leave our large households of slaves and parlor. We sometimes scare up a right the responsibilities entailed by them for smart crowd, even now, when the city so long; and to tell you the truth, we people are out here in the summer; but, were not very flush of money as a rule. bless me, I've seen the men lying so thick To say that we were generally in debt, on the floors, tucked up for the night, you though true, would leave a false impres. could hardly get about the house without sion. Our plantations, dear to us though treading on them. they were, were of nothing like the value Then, in those days, as I before said, of our slave property, whose increase we you knew who was who. Now if your preferred to borrow money upon rather daughter goes out to a dance in the neighthan to sell, from motives of pride and borhood, the chances are she is escorted kindliness towards our dependents; but home by young Smith whose father kept we were heavily overstocked, and often the store at the forks of the road yonder lived for years on paper.
when I was a boy, or young Jones who "I know we were provincial and ego measures calico in a dry.goods store in tistic. We thought ourselves bigger men town. Perhaps that's all right; mind
you, I don't want to say anything against | silently in the balmy night. The cease. it. We are a free country now, and a re- less trill of frogs and tree-crickets seems public (worse luck to it), but I sometimes to grow louder now; all sounds of human feel like the old Lord Fairfax, who, on voices have ceased; great-winged beetles hearing in the backwoods of Augusta and cockchafers go swinging through the County, of Cornwallis's surrender at trellis work of cypress and trumpet flow. Yorktown, told his servant to carry him ers, and fall with a thud upon the veranup.stairs to die, as there was no use in his dah foor; bats Ait backwards and forliving any longer.'
wards before the lighted windows; the “ Then there was a large class of good, night owl hoots gloomily from the orchard, honest yeoman farmers living amongst us, and the whip-poor-will fills the valley also slave-holders, that were welcome to below with his plaintive song; fireflies a seat at our table, or a bed for that mat- dance against the dark background of ter, if they came along, and with whom shrubbery, while the great oak-trees above we were on a familiar and friendly foot-us gently rustle their leaves on which the ing, but still they were not of us. Their moonlight is streaming from a sky cloudfainilies and ours did not even pretend less and twinkling with a myriad stars. to associate. The annual call they made “Then as for sport,” continued the perhaps as neighbors was a mere relic general, having once again seated himself of very old colonial days when families at his favorite angle, "those antlers in the
more dependent on one another, hall were of course not taken here. Of and a sort of feeble protest against class partridges and turkeys we had plenty, and distinctions - mere show of equality still have, but my father was a great that hurt nobody and amounted to noth. sportsman, and we owned, like many other ing, and that the very negroes laughed at. families, a quantity of wild land in one of But if we held our heads above the large the south-western mountain counties. In yeoman who very often had considerable fact, nearly the whole of County at property, and nearly as many negroes, that time belonged to us. It did not sometimes more than we had, they in their amount to very much as a property. Our turn looked down on the smaller farmers, Virginia mountaineers are tough customwho again revenged themselves by their ers, and they squatted all over the valleys contempt for the overseers and the poor at a nominal rent, which had to be drawn whites.' In fact,” says the general, laugh- from them like their eye teeth. The old ing, “we were a powerfully aristocratic gentleman, however, had a fancy for the people, I promise you, and you will find place, and used to come home with a the fires still smouldering through the whole string of horses behind him as the country now, and working with the new revenue of his principality. But we boys, elements if you lived here long enough to and indeed all our friends, used to look get below the surface
forward keenly to the annual excursion to “ Mar'se George. Oh,* Mar’se the mountains. My father had a pack of George." The voice is Caleb’s from out hounds of which he was exceedingly the darkness; he has stolen round the proud, and with which he would hunt house and his white teeth are flashing on foxes at home, and deer when we went us from the foot of the verandah steps.
County. A long cavalcade it used “Hullo, Caleb, what's up?"
to be that every October started from this “ Mar'se George, sah dars suthin the door for the mountains. My father and matter wid dat ar sorrel mar agin, 'pears one of his old cronies in the big carriage, like she's powerful oneasy a snortin' an' two wagons full of provender, ammunia gwine on; I thote I'd jes git you to step tion, blankets, etc., and fifteen or twenty round an' look at her."
friends and servants, mounted on saddleWhile the general, who, like all South- horses in the rear. The ninety miles erners, can not only break, buy, and ride used to give us three days of travelling, a horse, whether he be farmer, merchant, and at the end our mountaineer tenants or lawyer, but doctor one, too, in a rough used to throng to meet us at the rude and ready fashion, gets his stable lantern shooting box with stories of deer and and hurries across the lawn towards the bar,' wonderful to listen to, and with lodging of the “sorrel mar,” we revel eyes looking wistfully at the corner where
the whiskey jar always stood. I could fill the universal Southern prefix when calling the night with stories of the odd ways any one is barely spellable, and is pronounced in vari- and curious simple lives of these mounous ways, and long or short according to the distance the voice has to travel. Oh, aw-er, aw, waw-er, as
taineers, though none of them were such nearly represent the actual sounds as anything could. curiosities as old Jake, my father's negro