"Who loves to live at home, yet looke abroad,
And know both passen and unpassen road,
The wonders of a faire and goodlie land,
Of antres, rivers, rocks, and mountaines grande
Miss Fanny Crayon had just finished reading the foregoing narrative to a brace of attentive and delighted cousins, when, throwing the book upon the table with a pouting air, she put forth the following reflections on men and things: "It is really neither generous nor just that men should arrogate to themselves all the privileges, while we poor girls are condemned to eternal needlework and housekeeping, or, what is still worse, a dull round of insipid amusements - dancing, dressing, and thrumming the piano. What opportunities have we of seeing the world, or of making heroines of ourselves? Instead of planning pleasant jaunts and inviting us to grace their parties, no sooner does the summer weather set in, than away they go with their guns, and such quantities of provision that one might think they were going to Oregon. Then in two or three weeks they are back again, with their clothes all torn and appetites that are a disgrace to civilization. To see them at table, you would suppose they had eaten nothing during their absence; and then such bragging all among themselves, they don't even give us a chance to talk; and if occasionally we manage to slip in a word edgeways, it receives no more consideration than the whistle of my Canary bird."
"Indeed, Cousin Fanny," said Dora Dimple, "I think with you entirely. It would be so romantic and delightful for us to take such a trip. But then, with the rains and the wild animals, we should be so drenched and frightened."
"Well! I want to be drenched and frightened!" replied Fanny, with spirit; "I am tired of this humdrum life."
"Good graciouth! what is to prevent uth from going if we choothe?" lisped Miss Mignionette, or, as she was generally called for short, Minnie May. "Let's make Porte Crayon take uth traveling or bear-hunting with him."
"Pshaw!" replied Fanny, pettishly; "Brother Porte used to be very kind and obliging, but of late he has become such a bear in his manners, and such a sloven, it's shameful! You might really suppose, from his talk, that he thought women had no souls; and as to listening to any thing they say whew! he's entirely too high for that. The fact is, he got to reading the Koran some few years ago, and I don't think he has been quite right since."
"Nonsense! it's all affectation; he listens to me always," rejoined Minnie, with confidence; "and I'll go now directly and make him promise to take us somewhere. I can coax and flatter him into any thing." And, without more ado, she started on her embassy, while her companions followed on tiptoe to hear the result.
Porte Crayon sat with his legs comfortably stretched on a bench in the veranda which shades the front of the family mansion. Aroused from an apparently deep reverie by the rustling of a silk dress, he acknowledged Cousin Minnie's presence with a nod, and his hard face lit up with a smile.
"Cousin Porte," said she, abruptly, "we want you to take us somewhere." Mr. Crayon's only reply was a slight elevation of the eyebrows. "Yes," continued she, resolutely, "Fanny, Dora, and myself want you to take us traveling somewhere with you in search of adventures." Mr. Crayon's eyebrows disappeared under the visor of his cap, and his mouth puckered up as if about to whistle. "Indeed, Cousin Porte," continued Minnie, coaxingly, seating herself beside him, "we've been reading the Blackwater Sketches, and we're all crazy to see some wild life. I don't mean exactly that we wish to live in the woods like gipsies, or be starved, or exposed to the rain or wild beasts, or - Indeed, I don't know precisely what we want, but you are so clever you may plan us a pleasant trip yourself. Besides, it would be such a privilege for us girls to have you as an escort -you are such a genius, you know. Come, you can't refuse; it will be so delightful; we won't give you a bit of trouble." Mr. Crayon's countenance had by this time relaxed considerably. "With any ordinary person we would not wish to go," pursued the embassadrice; "but you know you are so talented, it would afford us such rare opportunities of improvement."
At this point Crayon heard some giggling inside of the hall-door. "Stop, Minnie, that will answer; I'm sufficiently buttered. Now just ask specifically for what you want."
Minnie clapped her hands exultingly. "Come, girls, come; we've got him; he has promised; it's all arranged!"
Here the listeners made their appearance, and all three were so vociferous in their thanks that Crayon was fain to affect an air of sternness. "What's arranged? I've promised nothing."
"Why, Cousin Porte, didn't you promise to take us a jaunt, and to plan it all yourself? Didn't he, Fanny?"
"I didn't hear precisely," said Fanny.
"Didn't he, Dora?"
"Indeed," replied Dora, " it seemed to me he did; or, at least, he was just going to promise, and that's the same thing."
"To be sure," said Minnie. "Didn't you both hear him say, 'Just ask specifically for any thing you want, and I'll do it?"'
"Certainly," cried both girls, eagerly, " we heard him say 'specifically.' We did indeed."
"You did! Then my case is a bad one. It is proved by three credible witnesses, supposed by courtesy to be sane and in their right minds, that I said 'specifically;' and, being duly convicted of the same, it is in your judgments fairly deducible from the premises that I promised to take you somewhere on a pleasure excursion."
"There!" cried Minnie,"didn't I tell you? Bless me! what a lawyer Cousin Porte would have made if he had taken to the bar instead of the fine arts. But come on, girls; let us go and get our traveling-dresses ready. Cousin Porte is the soul of honor; he never broke a promise, especially one made to a lady." And with the sweetest and most gracious courtesies the young ladies took their leave.
"Begone, you pests, and leave me to reflect on the absurd scrape I've got into."
A voice from the hall replied with a couplet from "Tom Bowline":
"Tom never from his word departed,
His virtues were so rare."
"Hum!" soliliquized Porte, reseating himself; "what the duece have I done? Promised to take three women traveling. Ha! ha! they want to go to the Blackwater, do they? ho! ho! by all that's preposterous! Kid slippers - lace collars - silk dresses! If the sun shines, they're broiling; if the wind blows, they're freezing; never hungry except when every thing eatable is out of their reach; always dying of thirst when they're on top of a mountain; afraid of caterpillars, and lizards, and grasshoppers! Let me see; the first of October; snakes are about going into winter-quarters; well, that's one comfort, at least. And then their baggage? Each of them, to my knowledge, has a trunk as big as a powder-car. Finikin, frivolous, whimsical creatures, where do they learn the art of coaxing? They don't acquire it at all it is a natural gift. If any man had approached me in that way, I should have felt bound to pull his nose; but that little lisping minx makes me promise what she pleases.
"Tis an old maxim of the schools,
That flattery's |he(food of fools,
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit."
"No, no, it was not that -I'm too old for that-but it was a piece of the most barefaced wheedling and imposture, and now they're doubtless giggling over their success." Mr. Crayon shook for some minutes with silent laughter, and it was long before his countenance settled into its accustomed gravity.
While he is thus sitting, let us sketch him. In person Mr. Crayon is about the middle height, of slender make, but well knit and tough. His face is what would be usually termed "a hard one," angular and sunburnt, the lower features covered with a beard, bushy, and
"Brode as though it were a spade."
This beard he has worn from time immemorial. Old-fashioned ladies who can't endure this savage taste, frequently tell Mr. Crayon he would be remarkably handsome if he would cut off that hor- rid beard. He laughs, however, sotto i baffi, in such a manner as to encourage the delusion, and modestly disclalms any desire to be remarked for his personal beauty. Crayon is neither old nor young
"But on his forehead middle age
Has slightly pressed its signet sage."
His dress is usually so little a matter of concern to himself, that it is, in consequence, the oftener remarked by others. At present his wardrobe in active service consists of a double-frilled shirt, a sack of Weidenfeldt's cut, stained corduroys, and a pair of stringless shoes, which exhibit to advantage his socks of gray yarn, darned with white and blue. This careless incongruity of dress is not altogether an eccentricity or individualisism of Mr. Crayon, but belongs to the State to which he owes birth and allegiance. Nothing is more rare than to find a Virginian solicitous about his dress; and although he may sometimes affect the sloven, he is never a dandy.
An itinerant phrenologist, who had the faculty of discovering the springs of human action by feeling the bumps on people's heads, ascertained, while traveling through the State, that this characteristic is the offspring of a noble aristocratic pride, a lofty disdain of trivialities; and the candid expression of this opinion gave much individual as well as public satisfaction, and brought the shrewd man of science many a dollar. Indeed, in one instance we were personally cognizant of the dollar. A remarkably dirty gentleman of the legal profession, who, it was confidently believed, hadn't a second shirt to his back, borrowed a dollar of us to pay the aforesaid itinerant for saying the same of him and putting it in writing.
But to be fully impressed with Crayon's personale, he should be seen as he sometimes appears at a masquerade, in ruff and doublet, with a slouched hat and plume. One might then swear the great Captain John Smith had reappeared to look after his government, and ready, as of yore, to do battle with "Turk or savage" - to thrust a falchion between the infidel ribs of Bonnymulgro, or kick his royal highness, Opeckancanough, in face of his whole tribe, into the payment of the three hundred bushels of corn. We shrewdly suspect Crayon of nurturing a vanity on this subject, and have several times heard him allude to the resemblance himself.
While this sketching has been going on, our sitter has been deeply philosophizing. "Man," thought he, "occupies a queer position in civilized society. By right of superior physical and intellectual endowment, by right of a direct appointment from Holy Writ, by the advice and consent of St.Paul, he is lord of creation. But of what avail is his empty title? He is practically no more than a nose of wax, to be modeled into any shape by women. What matters it whether he is tied with a hempen cord or a pink satin ribbon? - he's tied. What difference whether he is bullied out of his free agency or wheedled out of it? the tyranny is equally odious, equally subversive of social order and of self-respect. Man can't even wear the clothes he may happen to fancy" (here Crayon glanced at his coat). "Hunting-jackets have a rowdy look, so Miss Minnie thinks chick-a-dee. These Yankees are a wonderful people, full of energy and resources. They regulate the women up there; the men have the upper hand, as nature designed at least I infer it, from the bobbery and noise the women are making there about their rights. Egad! I'll travel in that country some day to learn how they manage. But, after all," continued Crayon, breaking into soliloquy, "che giova! siam nati a servir, we on the south side can't help ourselves, and we might as well put the best face on matters. It is not so unendurable, neither, this bondage of the heart, nor yet so very unbecoming to a gentleman. In the days of chivalry it was the proudest boast of knighthood. What is it but the willing tribute from generosity to weakness? When a command comes disguised as a prayer, who would not obey? When a beseeching look compels, who can resist? O fair Southern land, long may thy daughters continue to reign, strong in their gentleness, imperious in their loveliness!"
Here Porte Crayon leaped from his seat as if electrified, and, clapping his left hand to his side, with his right he drew an imaginary glittering sword, and flourishing it about his head, went through the broadsword exercise in brilliant style.
"Cousin Porte," cried a voice frorn the window, "what in the world are you doing?"
"Nothing in particular," replied Porte, looking rather sheepish.
"Then don't do it any more. It looks too ridiculous for one of your age to be prancing and capering in that unmeaning way."
"Look you, Miss Minnie, mind your sewing, and don't be troubling yourself about my capers or my age. I'll pay her for this. I'll lead her into blackberry-thickets, stick her fast in marshes, and put lizards in her reticule. I'll tease and frighten her into a proper appreciation of herself. She need not then visit the capitals of Christendom to see by what small people the world is governed."
During the week that followed Porte Crayon entered into the business of preparation for the proposed jaunt with alacrity and cheerfulness. He was in frequent consultation with the maps and Gazetteer of Virginia, and made copious notes therefrom, but was very silent and mysterious withal.
"Where are you going to take us, Cousin Porte?" Minnie often inquired.
"Never mind, child; stitch away at your traveling-dress; get yourself a pair of stout shoes, and don't ask me any more questions.
"I'm afraid Cousin Porte doesn't enjoy the idea of making this trip with us?" modestly observed Dora.
"Fiddlestick!" said Minnie, in an under tone; "he's delighted. He has been in a fever ever since I proposed it to him. Just listen to his lectures, and make believe you appreciate them, and pretend to let him have his own way in every thing, and he's one of the kindest and most manageable creatures in existence."
Crayon, who, with characteristic contempt of rule and order, was moulding bullets in the breakfast-room, looked up sharply.
"What was that I heard about lectures, and good, manageable creature?"
"Eh! good gracious! did you hear? I was just complimenting you to Dora, saying how kind you were. But, cousin, let me help you to cut the necks of those bullets: I can do it so nicely."
"No; go along. You'll cut your fingers. I always am in a fever when I see a woman with a pen-knife in her hand."
"Only hear! the vanity of men!" and Minnie quietly took the ladle out of Mr. Crayon's hand, and proceeded in the most adroit and pretty manner to mould up the remainder of the lead.
He looked on at first with amazement, which soon changed into unqualified admiration.
"Doesn't lose a particle of lead; half of them have no necks at all. They are better than mine. Cousin Minnie, you're a wonder."
The old carriage having been revarnished, and the roan and sorrel sleeked up to the utmost point of good looks that the nature of the case permitted, Mr. Crayon reported to the impatient trio that on his part every thing was in readiness for the expedition with the exception of a driver. This important office had not yet been filled. Old Tom, Young Tom, Peter, and a dozen others, had successively been catechised, cross-questioned, and rejected.
"And why won't they do?" asked Fanny; " they are all skillful drivers."
"Tut, Fanny, you know nothing about it. They would answer very well to drive you to church, but the selection of a driver for such a trip as I have in view requires the greatest tact and consideration. Leave the matter entirely to me. - "
"As the only person in the world who has the requisite tact and consideration," suggested Fanny.
Crayon gracefully bowed assent.
One morning a huge negro made his appearance in the hall, accompanied by all the negro household, and all in a broad grin. "Sarvant, master," said the giant, saluting, hat in hand, with the grace of a hippopotamus. "I'se a driver, sir!"
"Indeed!" said Porte, with some surprise; "what is your name?"
"Ke! hi!" snickered the applicant for office, and looked toward Old Tom.
"He's name Little Mice," said Tom, and there was a general laugh.
"That is a queer name, at least, and not a very suitable one. Has he no other?" inquired Porte.
"Why, d'ye see, Mass' Porte," said Tom, "when dis nigga was a boy, his ole miss tuck him in de house to sarve in de dinin'-room. Well, every day she look arter her pies an' cakes, an' dey done gone.' Dis is onaccountable,' say ole miss. ' Come here, boy. What goes wid dese pies?' He says, ' I spec, missus, little mice eats 'em.' ' Very well,' says she, ' maybe dey does.' So one mornin' arley she come in onexpected like, an' dar she see dis boy, pie in he's mouf ' So,' says she, ' I cotch dem little mice at last, have I?' An' from dat day, sir, dey call him nothin' but Little Mice, an' dat been so long dey done forgot his oder name, if he ever had any.
The giant, during this narration, rolled his eyes at Old Tom, and made menacing gestrues in an underhand way; but, being un- able to stop the story, he joined in the laugh that followed, and then took up the discourse.
"Mass' Porte, never mind dat ole possuqn. Any how I ben a-drivin' hosses all my life, and I kin wait on a gemplum fuss rate. To be sure dat name sounds sort a foolish 'mong strangers; but you can call me Boy, or Boss, or Pomp, or any ting dat suits; I answers all de same."
Having exhibited a permit to hire himself; Crayon engaged him on the spot, moved thereto, we suspect, more by the fun and originality indicated in Mice's humorous phiz than by any particular tact or consideration. The newly-appointed dignitary bowed himself out of the hall, sweeping the floor with his cap at each reverence; but no sooner was he clear of the respected precinct than his elephantine pedals spontaneously commenced a grotesque dance, making a clatter on the kitchen floor like a team of horses crossing a bridge. During this performance he shook his fists in size and color like old hams of bacon alternately at Old and Young Tom. "Ha, you ole turkey-buzzard! I take you in dar to recomend me, an' you tell all dem lies. You want to drive yourself, heh? And you black calf, you sot up to drive gemplum's carriage, did you? Mass' Porte too smart to have any sich 'bout him."
Old Tom's indignation at this indecorous conduct knew no bounds. He pitched into Mice incontinently, and bestowed a shower of lusty cuffs and kicks upon his carcass. Tom's honest endeavors were so little appreciated that they only served to increase the monster's merriment.
"Yah! yah! yah! lame grasshopper kick me," shouted he, escaping from the kitchen; and making a wry face at Tom through the window, he swung himself off toward the stable, "to look arter his critters."
A couple of pipes,with some tobacco, and a cast-off coat, soothed the mortification of the senior and junior Toms to such an extent, that they were both seen next morning actually assisting Mice in getting out the carriage.
"Something new under the sun!" exclaimed Porte Crayon, on the morning of the 8th of October, 1853. "A new era is about to commence in the history of women. The carriage has scarcely driven up to the door when all three are ready, cappie, to jump into it! I thought the last wonder was achieved when they got all their baggage into one trunk and two carpet-bags; but this latest development surpasses every thing that has gone before. Now fire away with your kissing and leave-taking, and let us be off."
Considering the number of grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, babies, etc., who had assembled to see the party off, and who had each and severally to give and receive from each and several of our travelers from one to half a dozen kisses, it will scarcely be credited that the carriage got fairly underway in something less than an hour from the time of its first appearance.
But not so fast. "Stop! stop!" screamed a dozen voices from the house.
"Something important has been forgotten, surely."
"Of course," said Porte Crayon. "Whose head is left behind? "Feel in your bonnets, girls."
A negro girl is seen running after them with a large bundle in her arms, and holding up a great dumpling of a baby to the carriage window.
"Miss say you forgot to kiss little mass' Bobby."
"True! it was an oversight. Kiss him, girls. And, hark ye! Molly, tell them at the house, if any one else has been omitted, to telegraph us at Winchester, and we'll come back."
"Bad to turn back now, Mass' Porte, specially sence Aunt Patty done flung her shoe arter us for good luck."
"Oh, if that ceremony has been performed, we must go on at all hazards."
As the roan and sorrel patted the Winchester pike, making the stones ring again with their wellshod hoofs, plowman and wayfarer turned aside to see, housewife and maiden hastened to the windows to stare and admire. Mark them well, good people, for it will be many a long day ere you look upon their like again. Little Mice was so sleeked and buttoned up that he did not appear more than half his usual size; but his hands, encased in a pair of buckskin gloves, which at a moderate computation would hold half a peck each, did not seem to have undergone a corresponding diminution. His head upon his ponderous shoulders looked no larger than a good-sized apple, and was surrnounted by a tiny Dutch cap, the effect of which was to increase, in appearance, the disproportion between the head and shoulders. His little bead-like eyes twinkled with delight, while his broad lips were forcibly puckered into an expression of respectful gravity; but, upon the slightest inattention on the part of their owner, and even in spite of his endeavors, occasionally they would relapse into their natural position that of a broad grin. Beside this model of a driver and valet sat Porte Crayon - quite a secondary personage, by the way in a substantial suit of gray cassimere, a black oil-cloth cap, hunting belt, leathern gaiters, and a short German rifle, which usually hung upon the dash-board of the carriage.
The three ladies occupied the interior. A spirited and accurate description of their dresses was promised the editor of these papers by one of the ladies, but that having failed to appear, he excuses himself from attempting any thing of the sort on his own responsibility. Men are generally bunglers when they undertake to write upon subjects they know nothing about. That their costumes were appropriate and becoming we can vouch, as also for the fact that they made them all with their own pretty hands during the week preceding their departure. Porte Crayon has drawn Fanny in a black velvet jacket and a skirt of blue mousseline. Minnie he sketches in a dress of some lighter material, fashioned with a basque, and loose sleeves trimmed with ruffles. Dora wore a plain, close-fitting gown, with a row of buttons in front. All three had neat little straw bonnets, which they generally wore hanging on their shoulders, with the green veils attached to them streaming down their backs, thus giving the sun and wind a long- coveted opportunity of kissing their rosy cheeks at pleasure. Porte Crayon says this mode of wearing bonnets reminds him of a story told by some missionaries, who, zealous in the cause of civilization, distributed among certain savage tribes a quantity of axes, mattocks, hoes, and spades. On revisiting their friends the following year, they found them promenading in all pomp and dignity with these useful and not at all cumbersome implements hung about their necks by thongs of deer-skin.
Having disposed of the dresses and millinery, let us go on to the equally puzzling but far more agreeable task of picturing the ladies themselves.
Fanny Crayon has a remarkable face. A nose slightly aquiline, full chiseled lips, dark-blue eyes, dark brows, and fair hair. She is about the middle height, straight as an arrow, perfectly moulded, round and full, but active and graceful as a fawn. Her complexion is very fair, with cheeks of the richest rose. The characteristic expression of her face is earnest and serious, easily provoked to merriment, and not quite so easily provoked to wrath. In this we are aware she differs from most of her sex, and especially from all heroines of love-stories. But she has, nevertheless, what the world calls a temper of her own. Those blue eyes of hers will sometimes flash, and the rose in her cheek so predominate that the lily is entirely lost for a time. Well, well! her native spirit is so well regulated by good sense and good feeling that it rarely shows itself amiss. Fanny, at the age of five-and-twenty, is considered the most accomplished young woman of her neighborhood; for, besides her skill in millinery and mantua-making, she is already a famous housekeeper. Every thing goes on like clock-work under her management, and she not unfrequently condescends to do up the more elegant branches of this department with her own hands.
It happens sometimes during the mince-pie season that Fanny enters the kitchen with an apron white as morning's milk, and her sleeves tucked up, showing a pair of arms scarcely less fair. Old Tom rises at her entrance, respectfully knocks the fire out of his pipe, and lays it in its niche in the chimney. Aunt Dilly, chief cook, and her daughter Jane, first scullion, stand on either side, attentive to the slightest sign. "Tray, Jane," says the obsequious Dilly. "Flour, Miss rollin'-pin, Miss butter mince-meat brandy." The pie approaches completion. Jane holds her breath in admiration. The chief cook looks on in proud humility proud of serving such a mistress, humble at seeing herself outdone by one of only half her age, and, sooth to say, not more than one third of her weight. The great bowl of egg-nog that foams at Christmas is of Fanny's brewage; and, when she does condescend, as she occasionally does, by way of special favor to somebody, to try her hand on a mint-julep, it is said to be unrivaled.
The walls of the paternal mansion were once ornamented with neatly-framed specimens of her skill in drawing and painting. There were kittens, and squirrels, and birds, and baskets of flowers, as an old aunt used to say, "as natural as life, and all drawn out of her own head." When Porte came home from abroad he was thoughtless enough to laugh at them, whereupon Fanny quietly took theln down and hid them; nor have the united entreaties of the family, nor repeated apologies from Porte, nor Uncle Nat's express commands, ever been potent enough to induce her to replace them. When Fanny dances (she never waltzed or polka'd), or when she rides on horseback, the negroes all declare "it is a sight to see her;" and when one of them wishes to compliment his dark-browed inamorata for her performance in a husking-reel or a kitchen hoe-down, he tells her she moves like Miss Fanny. But of all Fanny's accomplishments, none is so universally prized by her friends as her music,
"And of hire song, it is as loud and yerne
As any swallow sitting on a berne."
Then such a store of good old-fashioned songs! she could sing for a week without ever repeating a stanza. At one time Porte undertook to teach her some French and Italian airs, and found an apt and willing pupil; but Uncle Nat positively forbade her singing the foreign trash, insisting that it would spoil her. voice and vitiate her taste.
Beside Fanny sat Minnie May, with a shower of rich golden curls, and cheeks as smooth and delicately-tinted as the lips of a sea-shell, with a slight but elastic figure, and hands so small that she never could reach an octave on the piano, and consequently never learned music. Whether she would have learned if she had been able to accomplish the octave is a problem that will never be solved, for she is nineteen years old, and her hands are not likely to grow any bigger. Indeed, Minnie is not accomplished, as the world goes, for she can't sing except a little in concert, and is equally unskillful in fitting a dress or compounding a pudding. If she reads much she seems little the wiser for it, for most probably romances and poetry receive the principal part of her attention. Her character is an odd compound of archness and naivete, of espieglerie and sweetness. If she can't sing, her voice in conversation is like the warble of a blue-bird, in addition to which she lisps most charmingly. Unpretending and child-like in her manners, she has a quick and original wit, and reads character by intuition. To this power, probably, and to some pretty coaxing ways, she owes the unbounded influence she exercises over every one about her. Even Porte's proverbial obstinacy is not proof against it. He flounders and fumes like a bumble-bee stuck fast in molasses, and is sometimes hard ungallantly to wish her to the deuce; "for," says he, "when she is about, I can't even choose what coat I may wear." Little Mice already begins to own her sway, when, in reply to some disparaging commments on the horses, he obsequiously takes off his rag of a cap and gently defends his cattle. " Ah! young Mistis, some hosses is naterelly lean dat way. Now dat roan eats my two gloves full of oats every time, but he's ribs always shows; dis sorrel, he put up different; can't count he's ribs indeed! Gin I has dese creeters in my hands a week, dey'll shine; mind dat, Mistis."
Dora Dimple was a sweet little body with round, innocent eyes, which were, in truth, the windows of her soul, and she blushes when any one looked therein. The roses in her cheeks were ever blooming, and, when freshened by exercise or sudden excitement, they had a tendency to turn purple. Dora was but seventeen, quiet, modest, and sweet-tempered, and it never seemed to have entered her head that she lived for any thing else than to please every body and do as she was bid, like the good little girls in the Sunday-school books.
As they trotted along, chattering, giggling, and singing to the accompaniment of the wheels, no wonder that Crayon frequently looked back at his wards, and thought to himself, "After all, this looks as well as going out to the Blackwater. I dare say he'll have a merry time!" No wonder that Mice, with a superb flourish of his whip, observed, "Mass' Porte, dis is a very light-runnin' instrument; seems as if it would run along of itself."
The pleasant and hospitable town of Winchester, with its polished society, its flower-gardens, and famous market, savored too much of ordinary civilization to detain a party in search of the romantic and wonderful longer than was necessary to obtain the requisite supply of food and sleep. It was here that Porte Crayon first exhibited a programme of the proposed trip, which was received with such manifestations of approval and delight that he felt himself highly flattered. But our narrative must not lag by the way. Whip up, Mice! up the Valley turnpike as fast as the horses can trot on a bright frosty morning. At midday the light- running vehicle, with its light-hearted inmates, was rapidly approaching the Massanutten Mountains. These mountains rise to a majestic height in the midst of the valley between the forks of the Shenandoah River, and about twenty miles south of Winchester. They lie principally in the counties of Page and Shenandoah, and the Eastern Massanutten forms the boundary between the two counties. They are parallel with the Blue Ridge, and run in a double range for some twenty-five or thirty miles, and then in a single range for about the same distance, terminating in Rockingham county as abruptly as they rise. The double range includes a romantic and fertile valley twenty-five miles long and about three in width, the level of which is several hundred feet above the Great Valley, and which is entered from the north at the Fortsmouth, one of the most famous passes in the Virginia mountains.
A midday lunch under the shade of some maples, the fording of the crystal river, and the approach to this imposing pass, kept the animal spirits and the expectant fancies of our adventurers keenly on the alert. Soon they were winding along the banks of a rushing stream, and there scarcely seemed room between its rugged borders and the impending cliffs for a narrow carriage-way. As they advanced they perceived the mountain barriers rising on either side, like perpendicular walls, to a stupendous height the road and stream still crowding each other as they struggled along, and the gloom of the wild defile deepened by a tall growth of shadowy hemlocks. As the difficulties increased, our friends were fain to leave the toiling carriage to its assiduous and careful governor, and bravely take to the road afoot. How wild it was! how fresh and beautiful! The joyous stream seemed rushing to meet them with a free, noisy welcome, wimpling and dimpling, tumbling in tiny waterfalls into deep pools which sparkled with foam and bubbles. The girls, like wood-nymphs, ran here and there, gathering the rich and varied plants of the mountains, and such flowers as had survived the early frosts of autumn; while Porte Crayon, in the advance, regardless of the probabilities of game, the rifle at his back, or nerves of his fair companions, rent the air with shouts that made the mountains answer again and again. Perceiving at length that he was getting a little hoarse, his enthusiasm abated, and he left off. The stream crossed and recrossed their path so often that Minnie declared it was some spiteful Undine, who, in wanton mischief, was striving to detain them. "Not so, Cousin Minnie; but, rather, the water-sprite has seen something genial in your eyes, and meets you at every turn with the hope of beguiling you to stay and be her playmate. " But neither hinderance nor persuasion availed any thing. Here by a rustic bridge, there by an opportune drift-log, and, where neither lent their aid, by resolutely skipping from rock to rock, they kept on their way, Porte leading the troop, encouraging and giving directions, applauding each successful venture, and laughing loud when some unlucky foot dipped ankle-deep into the water. At the end of an hour's walk, and about two miles from the mouth of the defile, they found themselves fairly in the Valley of Powell's Fort and here the road becoming more practicable they again betook themselves to their carriage. Porte Crayon could not refrain from casting many regretful looks behind him. "What pictures!" sighed he; "what sketches! But we can't have every thing. Burner's is yet full twelve miles distant, and we must each there to-night by the programme."
"Vite! vite, conducteur!" "Ya-as, sir," replied the obsequious coachman, looking somewhat bewildered, but licking it into the horses all the while. As they went on winding their toilsome way around the spurs of the mountains a gorgeous sunset began to work its magic changes upon the extended landscape. But the sunset faded into twilight, and the twilight deepened into darkness before they reached their destination. Here a hospitable welcome, a blazing fire, and a keenly-appreciated supper were followed by a deep, unbroken sleep of some ten hours' duration.
Burner's Sulphur Springs, or, as they are sometimes more properly called, The Seven Fountains, are, apart from their beautiful surroundings, worthy objects of scientific curiosity. In a small bowl-like hollow, and within a circle whose radius is probably not more than a dozen paces, are these seven fountains, all differing in character. The central spring is a fine white sulphur; within a few feet are two other sulphurs, differing in temperature and chemical analysis. A few paces distant are Freestone, Slate, and Limestone Springs, each decided and unmistakable of its kind. The seventh is called the Willow Spring, but we do not know what are its virtues and qualities.
Our friends took to the open air while the frost was yet sparkling on the ground, and, after ranging the hill sides until the girls were tired, Crayon determined to amuse himself making a sketch of Mr. Burner's premises. Having chosen his point of view on an open hill side, he found himself much annoyed by a brilliant sun which took him directly in the face. The girls, seeing his difficulty, with prompt ingenuity spread their broad shawls over some leafless bushes, and thus contrived, in a few minutes, a perfect shade and a highly-picturesque canopy. This unexpected and graceful service awakened in Crayon that grateful surprise which the Lion must have felt when delivered from the toils of the hunter by the Mouse. He laid down his sketch-book deliberately.
"'Pon my soul, girls, this is enchanting! I'm really beginning to think that women are not such useless creatures, after all."
"How delicately he compliments!" said Minnie; "no coarse flattery not he. It requires a shrewd refinement to extract the honey from the flower. Isn't it worth while, girls, to make canopies, just to hear Cousin Porte speak so encouragingly of us?"
In the afternoon, the party, including Mice, went hunting, and, although they found some game, Porte Crayon, either from distraction, or over-anxiety to exhibit his address with the rifle, missed every thing he shot at. Minnie at length began to grow quizzical; at every shot she insisted that the birds were hit; she saw the feathers fly; hinted that the powder might be bad, or the sights accidentally knocked out of place. In all this she was earnestly seconded by Mice, who ran, like an over-anxious pointer, at every crack, to pick up the game. Finding nothing, he looked much perplexed and mortified, and finally suggested that the gun was bewitched; he had seen an old black woman looking at it very hard that morning before the party were up. The girls got into a titter, and Crayon bit his lips, but said nothing. A pheasant, a squirrel, and a couple of crows had already heard his bullets whistle by their ears, and had gone off in great alarm. Presently a fine rabbit sprung up, and after running about fifty yards, stood up to see who was coming. Porte took deliberate aim and fired, the rabbit disappeared, and every body but the rifleman ran to find him. On examining the spot they could see nothing; but Minnie, having slyly gathered half a dozen wild turkey feathers, which she found in the thicket, showed them triumphantly, exclaiming, "There! I was sure he was hit; look at the feathers."
Crayon quietly reloaded his piece and commenced looking about for a lizard. Although this search was unsuccessful, he did not wait long for his revenge. As they neared the edge of the wood, a large black animal suddenly stepped out of a thicket. "Heavens!" cried he, whipping out his knife, "a bear!"
A trio of shrieks echoed through the forest, and Porte suddenly found himself bound neck and hands by three pair of desperate arms.
"Don't don't choke me to death," he gurgled. "Help, Mice!"
"Why, Mistisses," said Mice, earnestly, "dat ain't no bar. Mass' Porte jis foolin'."
"Pshaw!" said Minnie, "it's only a great black ram. Oh, Porte, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!"
"Indeed," said Fanny, recovering herself, "I do wish it had been a bear. Such an adventure!"
"Ke, he! I 'specs, Miss, if he was a sure-enough bar, den you wish he was a sheep agin."
After this excitement, the ladies looked nervous and fatigued, and requested Porte to conduct them home by the nearest route. Like a wise man, he enjoyed his triumph moderately. He was uncommonly good-humored and polite during the rest of the evening, and was contented that no farther allusion was ever made to the shooting of that day.
In passing from Burner's to Woodstock six miles distance on the western descent of the Massanutten Mountain, our travelers were delighted with a magnificent view of the county of Shenandoah, which lay as it were a map spread out at their feet, checkered with field and woodland, dotted with villages and farrn-houses, and watered by the north fork of the Shenandoah River, which glistened in its doublings and windings like a silver serpent, inclosing many a fair and fertile meadow in its beneficent folds.
As far the town of Woodstock, it doubtless has, like many other little towns in Virginia, the merits of a singed cat, that of being much better than it looks. At any rate, our travelers did not tarry long enough to appreciate it, but, finding themselves once more upon the turnpike, pushed on rapidly. At noon they stopped as usual to refresh. At Crayon's request to serve something cold and without delay, the landlord looked considerably perplexed. After some circumlocution, however, he frankly acknowledged that there was nothing in the house - neither bread, nor meat, nor vegetables.
"We had a fine dinner, Sir," said Boniface, apologetically; "but the stage-passengers were so delighted with it they left nothing. It was a splendid dinner, Sir, if your party had only got in before the stage."
Crayon felt his curiosity piqued. "What had you?"
"A squirrel pie," said Boniface, rubbing his hands; "a squirrel pie, and-er-ah a fine squirrel pie. The fact is, stranger, my old woman is sick, or I wouldn't have been caught in this fix. You know young women ain't of no account anyhow."
This coincidence of opinion soothed Crayon's disappointment, and the party good-humoredly lunched on ham and sugar-cakes, which they found in their carriage-box, and went on their way rejoicing.
Following the valley road, they passed the night at New Market, and dined on the next day at Harrisonburg the county town of Rockingham. One mile south of this place they left the turnpike, and drove twelve or thirteen miles, over a pleasant country road, to Port Republic, a forlorn village on the Shenandoah, whose only claim to notoriety is the fact that it is only three miles from Weyer's Cave.
"There, girls!" exclaimed Porte Crayon, pointing to a hill which rose abruptly from the broad meadow lands skirting the river, "there is Cave Hill!"
This news caused quite a flutter among the inmates of the carriage, and furnished a subject of animated conversation, until they drove up to a neat-looking country house at the foot of the hill. The prompt landlord met them at the gate with a cheerful welcome, and the interior of Mr. Moler's house proved as agreeable and well-ordered as the outside was neat and attractive.
"Will you visit the cave to-night, ladies?" inquired the host.
"To-night!" exclaimed Fanny, taken by surprise.
"Oh yes," lisped Minnie, "by all means; we have the full moon now, and it would be charming to visit it by moonlight. It shows to greater advantage" turning to Mr. Moler "doesn't it, sir?"
"Why, Minnie!" cried Dora, her eyes resembling moons in miniature, "the moon doesn't shine in there. Does it, Cousin Porte?"
"Good gracious! I forgot! the idea of going in at all confuses me so. Then the thought of a place where the moon don't shine, nor the sun - it's horrible! It never struck me before!"
The girls all became thoughtful, and it required no persuasion to induce them to defer the proposed visit until the morrow.
When they met again next morning around an early breakfast table they seemed still more dispirited. They had had wonderful dreams, and the anticipated visit to the cave had begun to work terribly on their feminine fancies. Porte Crayon's countenance was austere and his manner mysterious, as if something of vast importance was about to be transacted. The proprietor looked grave, and exchanged meaning glances with Mr. Crayon, and their conversation was carried on in broken sentences of hidden meanings-dark hints, suggestive of nameless dangers and terrible things.
"I declare, this is dreadful! I won't go into such a horrible place! I wish to heaven I was at home!" exclaimed Minnie.
"Only to think," chimed Dora, " there are ladders to go down!"
"And," said Fanny, entirely forgetting the heroine, "dreadful bridges to cross, with awful pits on each side!"
"And," pursued Minnie, "all down, deep under ground, where the moon doesn't shine!"
"Nor the sun." suggested Dora. "Oh! we've traveled a hundred miles to see the cave, and now we'd go two hundred to escape."
Crayon here assumed a heroic tone and attitude. "It is too late, young ladies, too late to look back now. What would they say of us at home? Our memories will be covered with everlasting shame if any one of us fails to reach the uttermost limit of the cave. You, Fanny, that would be a heroine! You, Minnie, that wished to see a bear! You, Dora, that would go any where if Cousin Porte would only give you his arm! I'm ashamed of you. You're no better than a parcel of women!"
"Come on, girls," said Fanny, stoutly; "this is all nonsense. I'll go in, I'm determined, and I'll go first!" Fanny looked, and doubtless felt, very much like the Maid of Saragossa, when she was about to mount the fearful rampart.
"I'll go too," said Minnie, " until we come to the creeping-place; but I vow I will never creep under ground like a mole."
"And I," said Dora, "will go until we come to the ladders. Dear, dear, how my heart beats!"
Although Mr. Moler has some time since surrendered the office of guide to his son, a likely and intelligent lad, thirteen or fourteen years of age, he on this occasion agreed to resume it, in special compliment to the party. His appearance, enveloped in a long, shroud-like gown - originally white, but now stained to a brick-dust red by frequent explorations of his subterranean domain - a slouched hat, and a great key in his hand, seemed likely to dash again the reviving courage of the ladies. But Crayon energetically interfered. "Hush! every one of you. You'll talk each other into hysterics in five minutes. Forward march!"
A brisk walk of half a mile, partly along the picturesque banks of the Shenandoah, and partly ascending a steep zig zag path, brought them to a small wooden building set against a rock in the side of the hill.
The key grated in the lock, and the bolt sprung back with a hollow sound. With what sensations of mysterious awe, with what sinkings of heart, with what wild gushing fancies their young heads teemed as they crossed the threshold of that dark doorway, can never be known or written, for few words were spoken, and those only such as were necessary for the preparation. Bonnets were discarded, and their places supplied by handkerchiefs; long skirts were tucked up, and light shawls selected from the contents of the knapsack which had been packed and brought up for the purpose. Meanwhile the guide lit the candles, and gallantly handed to each the tin shade which held the light. Porte Crayon stood in a corner of the room, his scoffing tongue was silent, and perhaps there may have been a shade of sadness on his face but no one saw it. Twenty years before he had stood upon that same spot. How the retrospect of years will fill the soul with strange, unmeaning regrets, undefined, but deep. "Twenty years, twenty years! I was then a pale-faced, beardless boy, with a fancy fresh and untrammeled as theirs who stand now so serious, irresolute, and tremulous upon the threshold of this world of wonders, looking, indeed, as if they read upon the stone archway the fearful legend of the infernal portals:
"'Voi ch' entrate lasciate ogni speranza.'"
The guide moved on, and our friends followed in single file, Crayon bringing up the rear. Passing through the dark throat of the cavern, a somewhat straitened passage, and down an easy descent for a short distance, they reached a level flooring and more roomy passway. As they advanced it grew still wider, and anon groups of white shadowy figures seemed starting from the palpable darkness. Fanny stopped short, while Minnie and Dora grasped Porte's arms convulsively, trembIing like aspens.
"What are they?"
The guide advanced, and turned his triple light upon the groups.
"This is the Hall of Statuary."
"How strange! How wild! How wonderful! It reminds me," said Crayon, "of the galleries of the Vatican by torch-Iight."
On a nearer approach, the statues were seen to be but grotesque and shapeless stalagmites, more resembling petrified stumps than any thing else. Above them was a circular opening in the ceiling fifteen feet in diameter, fringed with sparkling stalactites.
Through this opening was seen the interior of a feet in height, draped and columned gorgeously. On one side was the similitude of an altar, with curtains and candlesticks upon it, and, on the other, it required but a little liveliness of fancy to see a cathedral organ, with its rows of pipes and pendent cornices. The guide withdrew the lights with which the dome had been illuminated, and resumed his march forward through a narrow passage and down a rude flight of some eighteen or twenty steps into a room of considerable extent.
"Now stand here; throw your lights forward, and look up. The Cataract!"
A stream seemed to leap from a great height, pouring its white waters in sheets of foam over a broken ledge of rock, and tumbling down to the feet of the amazed spectators. They held their breath as if listening to murmur broke the death-like silence.
"The cataract, that like a giant wroth
Rushed down impetuously, as seized at once
By sudden frost, with all his hoary locks
As they gazed, feelings of awe came creeping over them, taking the place of admiration. The whole scene was so unearthly. "Now you have but to face about upon the ground where you stand to illuminate a scene of an entirely different character, and suggestive of a different class of fancies."
Less imposing, less sublime, but excelling in beauty and splendor, a massive column of sparkling white, rich with complicated grooves and flutings, appeared rising from floor to roof. Around and half in shade were other columns of less striking form and color, supporting the ribbed and fretted ceiling. This glittered far and near with snow-white and sparkling stalactites, now richly fringing the stone roof-ribs, now hanging in dense masses, covering the spaces between. The richest arabesques of a Persian palace, or the regal halls of the far-famed Alhambra, are but poor and mean in comparison. Doubt and terror were all forgotten. The girls were wild with wonder and delight.
"'Tis the work of fairies!" exclaimed Fanny.
"Or the enchanted palace of some magician," said Minnie.
"Oh dear!" said Dora, "they look like beds of silver radishes, all growing through the earth with their roots hanging down."
"And there," said Fanny, "is a round waiter of frosted silver, half filled with beautiful shells."
"And here," said the guide, "is something we must not overlook. What does that look like?" he inquired, directing their attention to an angular nook.
"As I live," exclaimed Fannie, promptly, "there is a great shoulder of mutton hanging on the wall!"
"I perceive," said the guide, pleasantly, "that the young lady knows something of housekeeping. This fine room is called Solomon's Temple, and this corner, for the sake of consistency, is Solomon's Meat House."
"I should have thought," said Porte Crayon, "that the magnificent and all-accomplished Solomon would hardly have com- mitted such a crime against good taste as to hang his meat in such a temple as this."
"And yet," replied the guide, "a greater than Solomon placed it there."
"True, true. In the midst of sublimest passages, Nature will sometimes step aside to play the farceur."
Ascending a stairway similar to that by which they entered, and on the opposite side of the Temple, our travelers pursued their marvelous journey, not in profound silence, as at first, for the sentiment that paralyzed their tongues had given place to pleasant confidence and eager curiosity.
Again they call a halt, while the guide nimbly leaps from point to point, illuminating, as he goes, the wonders of the Cathedral. In the centre of this room hangs a mass of spar which bears a fancied resemblance to a chandelier, while beyond it rises the pulpit, an elevated circular desk covered with the most graceful folds of white drapery. On the opposite side is a baldachin, enriched with glittering pendent crystals, and the whole ceiling is hung with stalactites, dropping in long points and broad wavy sheets, some of a pure white, others of a clay red, bordered with bands of white, or with darker stripes of red and brown. These stone draperies are translucent and sonorous, emitting soft musical tones on being struck; and the heavier sheets which tapestry the sidewalls respond to the blows of the hand or foot with notes like deep-toned bells.
With interest and confidence increasing at every step, our adventurers went on; not caring who was before or who behind, they climbed up and down ladders, crept through narrow passages, and looked fearlessly down into the awful pits that yawned beside the way, passing through many apartments which, if found isolated, might have been accounted among the wonders of the world, but here, being secondary in interest and brilliancy, were hastily viewed and left behind. The largest of these is called the Ballroom, from the fact that its hard clay floor, a hundred feet by forty in extent, served indifferently for dancing, at times when the cave was illuminated and visited by large numbers of persons, as was formerly the custom in the months of August and September. These annual illuminations have been discontinued by the proprietor, because the smoke from so large a number of candles sullied the purity of the sparry incrustations, and visitors not unfrequently, taking advantage of the license which prevailed, would break and carry off whatever of the curious and beautiful they found within their reach.
Another room of smaller size, called the Senate Chamber, is remarkable for a broad gallery projecting midway between the ceiling and the floor, and corniced with stalactites like the icicles that fringe the eaves on a winter's morning. At length they came to a passage so straitened that it required some management and some creeping on all fours to get through. This accomplished, they went down a steep, narrow stairway of fifteen or twenty feet descent. This stairway is called Jacob's Ladder. A square rock, covered with an incrustation resembling a table-cloth, is called Jacob's Tea-table, and an ugly-looking pit near at hand is Jacob's Ice-house. By a peculiar twinkle of Porte Crayon's eye, any one who knew him might perceive that he was about to indulge in some comments on this whimsical collection of property accredited to the Patriarch; but what he intended to say was lost forever to the world by a sudden signal from the guide.
"Hist! be silent for a moment. I hear all. There must be someone in the cave besides ourselves. Listen!"
"Yes! yes!" they all heard something, not like voices in conversation, but half stifled grunts and groans. Now it approaches nearer still, accompanied by a sputtering and scratching like the noise of a cat in a cupboard.
"It is coming through the narrow passage. What can it be?"
"Possibly some animal that has taken refuge in the cave, and is following the lights."
"Oh mercy!" twittered Dora; "perhaps a bear!"
At this awful suggestion the girls huddled together like a covey of partridges.
"Stand off!" said Porte Crayon, fiercely, feeling for his knife. "Don't take hold of me."
The knife had been left behind. What was to be done? All kept their eyes intently fixed on the mouth of the narrow passage.
Presently a huge hand, holding a dim candle, protruded from the apertrue. A hand without an owner has always been an object of terror since the times of Belshazzar. It was evidently not a bear; and the fears of the party, relieved on the score of a material enemy, began to turn toward the immaterial. They stood speechless and aghast, staring at that awful, superhuman hand. Soon, however, the phiz of Little Mice appeared to claim the property, but all ashen with terror and red with mud.
"Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculous mus," said Crayon, curtly.
"It will be a nasty ridiculous muss," said the guide, "if he should stick fast."
It was for some moments doubtful whether the body could follow the arm and head; but Mice, having marked the lights, and recognized the laughter which greeted his appearance, gave a Titanic heave, as if he would lift the roof off the cave, and broke through, sacrificing his coat, and at the imminent risk of upsetting Jacob's Tea-table.
"Master and Mistis, are you da? ugh - ugh! Oh Lord! dis is a mizzible place!"
The narrow ladder scarcely afforded room for Mice's enormous shoes, and in his haste to join his protectors he was near tumbling over the parapet. "A very narrer lather," said he, half soliloquizing. By this time the group below was shaking with laughter.
"Oh, Mistis," said Mice, devoutly, "now I believes dere is a torment, sence I seen dis place.
"What, in the name of torment, induced you to venture in here along, you inconceivable blockhead?"
"Why, Mass' Porte, you see, I hearn you was all gone in, an' I thinks any wha' de young missusses can go I can go too. Den when I come in a piece it git so dark and lonesome I begin to git feard-like. Den I seen sich things standin' about, and I hearn things like big bells. I think den I swine right straight down below. Ugh! it was misssable. I am glad I found you, sure enough." And, during the rest of the exploration, Mice stuck closer to his master than his sense of respect would have permitted any where on the earth's surface.
If the first chambers through which they passed excelled in the rich profusion and brilliancy of their ornaments, they are thrown far in the background by the superior grandeur and sublimity of those apartments which our adventurers are now entering, and which, like the scenes of a well arranged drama, go on increasing in interest and magnificence to the end. Now they group themselves at the entrance of the Great Hall.
"Good Mr. Moler, permit us to drop your puerile and inappropriate nomenclature, and let fancy run riot." The complaisant guide bows, and walks on with both hands full of lights. At every step strange and beautiful objects flash into being. Pillared walls, hung with long, sweeping folds of tapestry; banners flaunting from overhanging galleries; canopied niches filled with shadowy sculpture; the groined and vaulted ceiling dimly appearing at a majestic height, and long pendents dropping from out of the thick darkness that the feeble torches can not penetrate. Then the white, startling giant, which imposes so completely on the senses that it is difficult to conceive it was not sculptured by the hand of man, and pedestaled where it stands, precisely in the centre of the hall. Then the weird towers that rise beyond on either side, so draped and fluted, whose tops are lost in the upper room. This must be the Palace of the King of the Gnomes, and the gigantic figure there is his seneschal.
"Girls, you are not afraid of him? Let us advance our compliments to his swart majesty. Now this looks like hospitality. Here is a clear, dripping fountain, and, as I live, a glass tumbler to drink from."
"I wonder," said Minnie, "if the seneschal put the glas here?"
"It looks like Wheeling glass," said Fanny; "and it is more probable Mr. Moler put it here, I dare say by the seneschal's orders."
"How strange!" said Dora. "On examination, it no longer resembles a statue, but a great shapeless stalagmite, and it looks more terrible even than at first."
"True," quoth Minnie;
"'Tis like some Bedlam statuary's dream,
The crazed creation of misguided whim."'
They pass on by the statue and the towers, but before leaving, the Hall turn to observe some candles which had been left burning at the other extremity. The distance appears immense, by actual measurement it is two hundred and sixty feet. Still other rooms, whose ceilings reach the imposing height of ninety or a hundred feet, and this last is the grandest of them all. It is the nave of some vast Gothic cathedral, which has been ingulfed by an earthquake, and lies buried half in ruin.
"It recalls to me," said Minnie, "a Moorish legend: how that in the caverns of Granada ten thousand Moorish knights, armed cap-a-pie, were shut up by enchantment, and stand like statues of stone awaiting the hour of their deliverance. Look at them, Porte; do they not resemble Moorish knights, all in linked mail, with their long cloaks and pointed helmets?"
"Bravo, Minnie! well fancied; and there in the distance is the throne, where sits the unhappy Boabdil, stern and solemn, awaiting but the touch of this talisman to step down among us. Here, Minnie, take this seal ring, and go touch his hand!"
"Oh, Porte! put it up. I would not touch one of them for the world. I've fancied until I half believe what we've been talking about."
At the extremity of this long aisle, where the ceiling is ninety feet in height, stands the largest detached mass of concretion to be found in the cave. It is shaped like a tower, an oval thirty by thirty-six feet in diameter, and thirty or forty feet in height. Its surface is covered with irregular horizontal ridges and with perpendicular plaits or flutings a style of enrichment which might be introduced advantageously in some kinds of architecture. On one side a sheet of drapery falls from the top of the tower nearly to its base, in folds that a sculptor might imitate but could never excel. After wandering for half a mile through these subterranean halls, where Nature has poured out, "with such a full and unwithdrawing hand," her mingled stores of the beautiful, the fantastic, the awful, the sublime, you seem here to have reached the culminating point of grandeur. Then turn an angle of the rock and advance a few paces, when your lights flash upon the gaping oyster-shell.
"From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step, said Porte Crayon. "What an absurd freak!"
Mice examined the premises with such minuteness that one might have supposed he was looking for the oyster. "High!" said he; "it must a took a monstus man to a-swallered it. But I believes in any thing now, sence I seen dis place."
Here they were informed they had reached the end of the cave; and, having refreshed themselves with water dipped from an alabaster fountain, covered by a transparent pellicle of spar, they resumed their lights, and commenced retracing their steps toward the realms of day.
On their return they deviated from the course by which they had entered, and visited several side rooms, each exhibiting some new phase of beauty, grandeur, or surprise. The Bridal Chamber, on your first entrance, appears but a gloomy vault of naked limestone, until the light, like a magic talisman, reveals one of the most curious and beautiful objects in the cave. It resembles a sheet of white drapery thrown over a gigantic round buckler, and falling in classic folds nearly to the ground. Some ingenious person has fancied that it looked like a bride's veil hanging over a monstrous Spanish comb, and hence the name of the room.
Porte Crayon and his companions were dissatisfied with the name, and desired the proprietor to change it.
"With pleasure," said he. "Suggest an appropriate one, and the room shall be rebaptized upon the spot."
Having puzzled their brains for some time to no purpose, the critics acknowledged themselves in a predicament. They gave it up. It was determined, however, that Crayon should take a drawing of it, and give the world an opportunity of taking the matter under advisement.
Near this is the Music Room, the interior of which is nearly filled with broad sheets of incrustation falling from the ceiling to the floor, between which one might walk as through the mazes of a labyrinth. These sheets, like others which they had seen, were translucent and highly sonorous. When lights were placed behind them they glowed like candent metal, and at every blow gave out deep, rolling notes, which filled the cave like the peal of a church organ. On singing with this accompaniment, the effect was singularly pleasing, the voice being broken into tremulous quavers by the overpowering vibrations.
On their return by the way of the Great Hall, it was proposed to put out the lights, that they might enjoy the poetry of darkness and silence for a while. The guide stationed himself at a distance, the girls formed a group around Crayon, and Mice seated himself near enough to touch Porte's boot with his hand, which he assured himself of by actual experiment before the lights were doused.
"Now, girls, endeavor to hold your tongues, and be inspired with solemn awe."
A nod of acquiescence was the answer.
"Out with the lights! " And in a moment all was dark. Porte felt his arms simultaneously pinched by three little hands, and at the same time a huge grasp took him by the boot-leg. The silence was only broken by the suppressed breathing of the company, distinctly audible, and the not unmusical tinkling of water dropping far and near, ringing in the darkness like fairy bells. The attempt at silence soon became oppressive to the ladies, and Minnie, in a stage-whisper, began to express her disappointment in regard to the darkness.
"Dat's a fac'," said Mice. "I 'spected to a seed it good deal darker. "
"I can see more now," said Dora, "than I could when the candles were lighted."
True enough; pillared aisle, swath roof-rib, and candent column floated before their vision, distinct, but changing as a dream.
"It is owing to some excited condition of the optic nerves,' said Porte, "which I will explain more thoroughly when we get out. Meanwhile, as the performance does not seem to give satisfaction, and we can neither hear silence nor see darkness, as we expected, let us light up and proceed."
As they revisited the different points of interest on their return, there was a general disposition shown to linger and look again, as if the curious appetite was unsatiated still, and the faculty of wonder still untired. They slowly traveled on, however, and at length observed a soft, greenish tint upon the floor and walls of the cave, which had the appearance of paint or delicate moss. This coloring gradually grew greener and brighter until they found themselves re-entering the wooden vestibule, through the openings of which the bright, blasting light of midday streamed. So strong was the contrast that it required some minutes of preparation before it was agreeable to venture out. On referring to the watches, it was ascertained that their visit had lasted nearly four hours, and yet no one had felt the slightest symptom of fatigue, physical or mental.
But the sight of the familiar things of earth soon reminded them that it was dinner-time, and they cheerily retrod the path to the hotel.
After dinner Porte Crayon took his sketch-book and pencils, and, with the proprietor's son for his guide, returned to the cave; and it is to his persevering labors during that and the three succeeding days that we are indebted for the accurate illustrations which give point and interest to what would otherwise be but a loose and unfinished description of "Nature's great master-piece."
Indeed, but for the sketches, the disheartening task of description would probably not have been undertaken, for how can mere words portray scenes which have no parallel among the things of upper earth? How can the same conventional forms of speech which have been used a thousand thousand times to describe mountains, rivers, waterfalls, buildings, thunder-clouds, sunset, and so on, to the end of the catalogue, be combined with sufficient skill and refinement to delineate suhjects and sentiments so new and incomparable? Language fails frequently in conveying correct impressions of the most commonplace objects, and in the hands of its most skillful masters is sometimes weak, uncertain, false. Combine it with the graphic art, and how the page brightens! Well have our fathers called it the art of Illumination. Most books without illustrations are but half written; and with the increased and increasing facilities of art, the reading public will soon begin to demand it as their due, and pass by with disdain the incomplete narrative which is given only in words. This must and will become, par excellence, the age of Illustrated Literature.
The details of Porte Crayon's experiences in subterranean sketching are not without interest. On going into the cave, generally after an early breakfast, he took some one with him to assist in carrying in candles, and in illuminating the different apartments. This accomplished, he sent his companion out, and had the cavern to himself, with his thoughts for company.
"I had visited the place," said he, "when a mere boy, and supposed the keenness of my appreciation of its wonders would have been blunted by that circumstance, as well as by the years of travel and adventure that have followed. I was gratified to find I was mistaken. It seemed, rather, that time and cultivation had mellowed the sensibilities and increased the power of vision. Nor did familiarity with its details diminish my astonishment; on the contrary, at each visit wander seemed to grow upon me. So different from what we are accustomed to see, so infinite in its variety, every flash of light developing some new field wherein the imagination might revel, every change of position suggesting some new theme for the fancy to seize upon. Had there been a concealed spectator near when I was endeavoring to choose a point from which to make a sketch, he must have been highly amused at my ludicrous indecision. I arranged my candles and rearranged them. I ran up and down. I could not choose, and was forced frequently to laugh aloud at my own absurdity. I lay flat on the soft clay floor, with my sketch-book before me. I perched myself on the round head of some giant stalagmite. I climbed up the walls, and squeezed myself into damp niches. More miserable than the ass, I had a hundred bundles of hay to choose from, and the regret at what I missed seemed to overbalance the satisfaction I felt in the sketches actually made. Not unfrequently I forgot my drawing entirely, and would sit looking with all the intensity of eyes and soul, as if endeavoring to comprehend more fully the wonderful creations by which I was surrounded. Canst thou read, O philosopher, what is written on these eternal tablets? The percolation of water through limestone strata for ten thousand years and nothing more?
"The last sketch I made," continued Crayon, "is a most singular one. In arranging the lights to show the the Magic Tower to the greatest advantage, I observed two gigantic figures standing in deep shade, but strongly relieved against the illuminated wall. They stood so statue-like, and so complete was the illusion, that I felt some hesitation in representing them, fearing that I might be suspected of condescending to an artistic trick. Although wonderful stories are often prefaced in the same manner, it rarely happens that any opportunity of telling them is neglected, notwithstanding the risk incurred in the reputation of the teller. So here go the statues, at all hazards. While I was at work upon them, two boys entered with a pot of hot coffee, which had been sent to me by arrangement. Both started with surprise, and remarked on the giants, as they called them. By my pocket thermometer I ascertained the temperature of the cave to be about 53 1/2 degrees Fahrenheit, and, although I sometimes remained in it from eight to ten hours at a time, I never felt the slightest discomfort from the darkness or any other cause. One morning, having risen before daylight, I went to work at a point not more than a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet from the entrance. Here I suffered greatly from the cold, as the external air was at that time in the morning very frosty, and I was near enough to feel its influence."
The length of the cave in a straight line is about sixteen hundred feet, but the aggregate of all its branches and windings is near three thousand. It is said to have been discovered in 1804 by one Bernard Weyer, a hunter, while in search of some lost traps. Crayon, however, tells us he was credibly informed that Weyer was not the actual discoverer, but some one else whose name he unfortunately forgets. It makes no difference. Not all the historians nor indignant poets who have written, or will write, can ever restore to Columbus the lost honor of naming the New World; and Weyer's Cave will be called Weyer's Cave till the end of time, in spite of any right or knowledge to the contrary.
During the period of Mr. Crayon's entombment the ladies began to grow restless and seemed likely to fall a prey to ennui. As often as he returned to the hotel, he promised a speedy termination of his labors; and as often as he re-entered the cave, he forgot them and all the rest of the superficial world. One evening he was surprised and gratified to find them in a state of high good-humor; and, in answer to his apologies for detaining them so much longer than he had promised, he has assured that they would cheerfully remain a day or two longer if he wished it; they could amuse themselves very well, and were in no hurry to get to Staunton.
"And now, Cousin Porte," lisped Minnie, "we want your judgment on a question of taste."
Porte Crayon, charmed by their complaisance, and flattered by the appeal, signified his readiness to sit in judgment.
"While you were in the cave," continued Minnie, "we were perishing with ennui and for something to do. We ordered the carriage and drove to Port Republic, where we made some purchases, and we want you to decide which is prettiest;" and thereupon each of the young ladies drew from her work-basket a wax doll, and held it up for Porte's inspection, producing, at the same time, sundry bits of gay-colored calico and cotton lace. "Mine," said Minnie, with great animation, "is to be dressed in red, and Dora's in green, and Fanny's is to have a black velvet polka!"
"And so," said Porte Crayon, recovering his utterance," you've deliberately gone back to playing with dollbabies!"
"Why Porte! How absurd! These are not for ourselves; they are intended as presents for the children at home. You certainly do not suppose that we could be amused with dolls?"
"Certainly not," replied Porte. "I beg your pardon. I was frightened. Indeed, I am glad it is explained. But you were so earnest and so gleeful."
"Well, and have you not often told us that the secret of happiness was in always having something to do, and in doing that something with zeal and cheerfulness?"
Mr. Crayon was mollified at hearing himself quoted. " Every thing that I say is not thrown away," thought he; "some of it sticks."
"And now, Porte, that's a good cousin, sit down, and tell us something more about the cave while we carry on our sewing."
Crayon drew up his chair complacently. "This, young ladies, is a favorable occasion to explain to you my theory in regard to the optical delusions in the cave when the lights were put out. The optic nerves -" "I say, Fanny, hand me the scissors." "Are you listening?" said Crayon. "Certainly; you said nerves." "The reason why, upon the first extinguishment of the lights, the intensity of the darkness is not appreciated, is -" "Now, Minnie, would you advise me to trim this skirt with white or black?"
"Are you listening to me?" inquired Crayon, with some heat of manner. "To be sure we are, and very much interested; you said is." "The reason, then, of this phenomenon is, that the optic nerves -" "Oh! Dora, don't for the world cut that bias; you'll waste the green calico!" "Now, seriously, young ladies," said Crayon, reddening, "I am endeavoring to give you some scientific information which may be highly useful, and will be at least ornamental, if perchance in society this subject should be introduced -" "How elegant! oh! oh!" exclaimed Minnie; "it will be charming. It will be too sweet in this red dress. Diddle diddle, diddle diddle, diddle diddle," sung she, dancing the doll over the work-table in an ecstasy of delight. "May the deuce take them all!" said Porte Crayon, rising indignantly, and stalking out of the room. " Such is the fate of all who, in the simplicity of their hearts, volunteer to benefit or instruct the world!" Presently he burst into a good-humored laugh. "After all, didn't Chief-justice Marshall play marbles after presiding in the Supreme Court - ay, and enjoy the game, too, as much as any of the boys?"
Crayon put his head in at the open door. "Girls, I ask pardon for my impatient exclamation just now. Amuse yourselves while I seek a subject for another sketch."
Once more upon the road! The horses, seemingly tired of inglorious ease and golden oats, trotted along at a jolly pace, expressing their satisfaction in alternative snorts; the coachman flourished his whip with such hearty good-will that the fuzz flew at every crack; the girls chattered and sang in a manner betokening the highest exhilaration. Porte Crayon along sat pensive and abstracted. His voice mingled not in the gleeful chorus; and to Mice's frequent exclamations, "Mass' Porte! da's a squirrel; 'Mass Porte, da's a crow," he paid no attention.
Presently a light hand tapped him on the shoulder. "Cousin, are you asleep? or what has befallen you?"
"I am not asleep, Cousin Dora, and the cause of my hidden grief can never be hade manifest. I fear it is beyond the comprehension of you girls."
"Indeed!" cried they, indignantly; "what unparalleled assumption! as if any secret was beyond our comprehension."
"Pish!" said Fanny, "I would not give a brass thimble to hear one of Porte's secrets I suppose he has lost a favorite lead pencil, or something of equal importance" and, so saying, she looked out of the carriage window with as much nonchalance as she could assume.
"I always did despise secrets," said Dora. "I never read one of those mysterious novels but I turned over the leaves to find out the secret before the characters in the book knew it."
"But, Cousin Porte," said Minnie, with her most winning smile, "it seems to me that, when persons are traveling together, all the joys and sorrows of the trip should be common property, and that it is selfish, or at least ungenerous, for any one to appropriate exclusively either the one or the other."
"So pretty a speech, cousin, deserves a better return that I shall be able to make; for, in truth, like Canning's poor Knifegrinder. I have no secret to tell. Indeed, if I had not been taken off my guard, I should have been tempted to invent one to satisfy you."
"Now," said Minnie, "I suspect you are wishing yourself back in the cave."
"That was a shrewd guess, Miss Minnie, and very near the truth; for I have been ill satisfied with my success in subterranean sketching, and would fain have had a few more trials. But it is just as well as it is, probably, for if I had remained a month, I do not know that I should have succeeded better. When I compare the soul-filling grandeur of the originals with these bits of scratched and smutted paper which I have taken so much pains to elaborate, I begin to feel a sort of contempt for my art."
"Why, brother!" exclaimed Fanny, with warmth, "the drawings are beautiful. We all recognized them. My Moler recognized them. Any one who has seen the cave would recognize them at first sight."
"But, Cousin Porte, you draw portraits so well," said Dora, encouragingly. "I would much rather excel in likenesses than to have a talent for caves."
"Ah! pretty cousin, I failed more ingloriously in sketching you the other day than I have done in the cave."
"Mass' Porte picters off a hoss 'mazin good, anyhow; he tuck dis sorrel so pat, I think I see him switching' he's tail."
"Truly," said Crayon, with an air of satisfaction, "a little well-timed self-deprecation has brought me abundance of sympathy and consolation. I feel quite refreshed."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Minnie; "and truly glad, on you account, that we have got away from the cave. I began to be apprehensive lest you might share the fare of a mocking-bird I once hear of."
"What was that? Tell us about the mockingbird."
"Well," said Minnie, "an acquaintance of mine in the lower country had a mocking-bird whose powers of song and mimicking were marvelous, even among the talented race to which he belonged. From his cage, that hung in an upper window, he heard and reproduced, with variations and improvements, the notes of all the feathered tribe, from the chattering of the wren that built her nest beneath the window-sill, to the cooing of the dove that haunted the locust grove. He had even been known to make recognizable attempts at imitating the gobble of a famous turkey-cock that strutted about the yard, and it was universally conceded he could do everything but talk. One unlucky day a smart-looking negro rode up to the house, bearing a note from his mistress to the mocking-bird's mistress. As he tarried at the door for an answer, to pass time he commenced whistling. Now it seems the boy was also a genius in his way. He whistled like a flageolet, and, at all the dancing parties, Christmas revels, or huskings, he was the acknowleded leader of the orchestra - fiddle, bones, and tambourine all playing second to his magnificent whistle. At the first notes which struck his ear the bird's eye sparkled; he raised himself upon his perch, and thus continued spellbound until the strain ceased. His mission finished, the lackey went his way whistling. Then the mocking-bird set himself firmly on his legs, and swelling his throat, began a warble. It was a failure. Again he strove, and again stopped, disgusted and dejected. A third time he gathered up his strength, and poured forth a super-avine trill. He ceased; the white film closed over his eye, and with a shivering flutter of his wings he fell from his perch - dead!"
"Ugh!" said Mice, giving vent to his pent-up feelings, "he bu'st he's heart a-tryin'."
"Poor thing!" said Fanny "I know just how he felt; I heard Jenny Lind once. It was not envy, nor jealousy, nor self- depreciation; but it seemed as if those undefined longings of the soul, those dreams of happiness and perfection, were for a moment about to be realized; then the delusion passes away, and for a while after common life appears intolerable."
"How eloquent she is!" muttered Crayon. "There the genius of song got entirely the upper hand of the practical housekeeper."
"Porte, get out with your nonsense!"
"And," continued Minnie, "suppose that Porte, overcome by his high-wrought feelings, had perished in the cave, and become a great stalagmite, like - like - who! ?
"Niobe, incrusted all over with carbonate of soda -"
"Of lime," interrupted Crayon.
"Or like Lot's wife, a pillar of chloride of something or other."
"A pillar of salt," suggested Dora.
"True enough; so it was. There goes the chemistry!" cried Crayon. "The laboratory will be blown up directly."
"And, as Porte tells us," cried Minnie, "the stalagmite would grow, and grow, and grow, until it reached the roof of the cave, and resemble a tower, which the proprietor, with his usual aptitude in naming would undoubtedly call the Tower of Genius, and which would be admired and wondered at through all time."
"And if such a thing had happened," quoth Crayon, "you, dear cousin, would have wasted away like Echo, until there was nothing left but the tip of your tongue, which, like the soul, I firmly believe, is destined to be everlasting. And, by the grace of fortune! there's Staunton."
"Where? Let us see!" cried they all at once.
The approach to the town of Staunton, by the road from Weyer's Cave, is quite imposing, especially if the view and its surroundings happen to be lighted by a brilliant autumn sunset, as in this instance. On the right, the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb stands out in bold relief from its background of rich foliage, its Doric portico being one of the best specimens of architecture to be seen in Virginia. On the left are the extensive and commodious buildings for the Insane; and on the surrounding hills a number of pretty edifices academies, seminaries, and private residences exhibiting far more architectural taste than is usually found in the smaller Virginian towns.
As the authorities had not been informed of the approach of our travelers, there was no public demonstration on their entrance into the town. But, in recompense, there was a considerable amount of staring on private account, especially along the colored population. And they flattered themselves, as they descended from their carriage at the door of the principal hotel - Crayon in his hunting costume, and each of the girls with a book in her hand that there was an unusual commotion among the loungers. The idea of making an impression was not altogether ungrateful to our friends, as they well knew that Staunton was renowned all over the State for its cultivated society.
"Hark ye, girls," said Porte Crayon, making an emphatic gesture with his finger, "no doll babies here!"
"Certainly not," replied they, in chorus.
"The idea of carrying the books," pursued he, "is a good one. In connection with my sketching, it gives a superior air to the party, suggestive of the literary tourist, or something of that sort. While I don't admire pretension in any thing, there is a certain modest, yet dignified manner of suggesting, rather than asserting one's claims, that goes far among strangers.
At this discourse Dora appeared really alarmed. "Mercy on us! I hope no one will take me for a literary body. I'm confused at the bare idea. I sha'n't know what to say. I shall be afraid to open my mouth."
"Bless your innocent eyes, Cousin Dimple, don't be alarmed. No one would ever suspect you for a moment. But prattle away in your usual amiable and artless manner, and, believe me, you will be none the less admired."
Here Crayon scrutinized his wards, and then cast an oblique glance at his own figure in the parlor glass. "I don't think," said he, "that a person of ordinary knowledge of the world would be apt to take any of us for literary characters. But we must endeavor to keep up appearances, at any rate."
On the following morning an untoward event occurred which gave great vexation to our friends, and showed that, however plausible Crayon's observations might appear, yet, upon the whole, those are least liable to mortification or misconstruction who live and travel without any pretension whatsoever.
On sallying forth after breakfast to see the town, the girls in full costume, each with a magazine, and Porte Crayon with his sketch-book, they marched up street in high good-humor. On turning into the principal street, they saw an object that brought them to a halt. This was no other than that marplot scoundrel, Mice, dressed in his holiday suit, with a ruffled shirt of red calico, a June-bug breast-pin, a brass headed cane, like the club of Hercules, and, to crown all, a number of "Harper" under his arm. As he swaggered along at a leisurely pace, his face beaming with exalted complacency, he was an object of general attention. Occasionally he paused to address a condescending question to some "common nigger," to salute some turnaned damsel of his own race in an opposite window, or to cast a look of ineffable satisfaction at his goodly shadow, which entirely overspread the narrow sidewalk.
Crayon is a philosopher (one of a multitudinous and lofty school), who looks on the varying events of life with admirable calmness and equanimity when every thing goes to please him, but who, when disappointed or thwarted, behaves very much like common people; for, as Crayon sagely remarks, "It is not well for any individual to be entirely cut off from human felings and sympathies." On this occasion, had his coachman been within reach, he would undoubtedly have caned him. As it was, his perception of the ridiculous got the better of his wrath; and venting his feelings in a jumbled paragraph (which he afterward told the girls was a quotation from Furius Bibaculus, the Roman satirist), he turned about and hastened back to the hotel.
"Waiter," said Mr. Crayon, "go into the next street, and when you see a big, foolish-looking negro parading about with a book under his arm, tell him to come down and get out my carriage, as we wish to take a drive."
"Yes sir," replied the grinning waiter. "I know him."
As the streets were very dusty during the remainder of their sojourn in Staunton, our friends generally went out in their cariage.
They were highly gratified by a visit to the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, a near approach to which did not disappoint the expectations excited by the distant view. The grounds are already improved with great taste, and, from their peculiarly fortunate location, are susceptible of improvement to an almost unlimited extent. The buildings are extensive, well arranged, and imposing. Our friends took great interest in the exercises of the different classes of deaf mutes, and saw with wonder and delight how the missing faculties seemed, in some cases, to be more than supplied by the ingenious and skillful cultivation of the remainder. An air of cheerfulness and home-like contentment pervaded the whole establishment, and it is not a matter of surprise that the pupils generally leave their Alma Mater with reluctance. While there they are unconscious of misfortune, surrounded by companions and guardians with whom their intercourse is free and unrestrained, and carried on in a language as graceful and expressive as the most cultivated forms of speech. A part of the establishment is devoted to the Blind, a considerable number of whom are at present under instruction.
On the return of our party, the conversation turned upon what they had seen. Minnie May observed that if she had the choice of misfortunes, she would prefer being blind; "Because," said she, "I am naturally fond of talking, and one's friends would read aloud all the new works, and Cousin Fanny would sing for me; and besides, there is a touching interest which attaches itself to the blind, which does not belong at all to the deaf mute. A woman, after all, is a helpless dependent creature; and this misfortune, in rendering her more so, increases in a still greater degree her claims to attention and protection." Fanny agreed to some extent to the foregoing, remarking that the cultivation of music, and the increased susceptibility to its charms, might compensate in some degree for the loss of sight. She appreciated the pleasure of conversation, the fireside in winter, and the veranda in summer, but she was by no means prepared to admit that women were such helpless or dependent creatures. Moreover, she thought a deaf and dumb lady could keep house quite as advantageously as one that had the use of her tongue, and that, upon an average, the servants got along as well without scolding as with it. Dora yawned, and said, for her part, she would be very well contented to remain as she was, but she did think she would like to have little feet, like a Chinese lady.
"Mice," said Crayon, abruptly, "don't you wish you were white?"
"Bless your soul, Mass' Porte, I'se better as I is. I'se a pretty good nigger, but I ain't got sense enough to be white."
The Hospital for the Insane consists of a double range of brick buildings, extensive, elegant, and handsomely located, although its position is not so commanding as that of the Asylum, nor are the grounds about it in so forward a state of improvement. This work, however, is in progress, and will be carried out in a style commensurate with the extent and importance of the institution.
Of the visit of our friends to the interior of the establishment they have never said much. They of course saw the public rooms, the cooking apparatus, and the chapel for the use of the patients, which is furnished with a fine organ, all of which are entirely unexceptionable. Porte Crayon, however, was a good deal vexed with his wards for their persevering curiosity in wishing to see the unfortunate inmates of the Hospital. Having used moral suasion to no purpose, he privately bribed their conductor to tell them that the patients were not permitted to see or to be seen of strangers.
Having thus disposed of the lions of Staunton, our travelers resumed their journey, and, leaving the general direction of their route, took the road to the northwest, toward the Chimneys, some sixteen miles distant. Several miles on their way they passed a man engaged in a controversy with a mule. As the presence of witnesses generally serves to aggravate a quarrel, so, upon the approach of the carriage, both mule and man became more violent in their demonstrations. As well as could be ascertained from their actions, the man wanted to go to Staunton, and the mule seemed willing to go any where else, even preferring the alternative of going backward over a bank ten feet high rather than yield his point. The quarrel growing out of this diversity of opinion or of interest seemed likely to last some time, as the mule was a stout, healthy animal, and the rider a sinewy, long-legged, sun-burned farmer, with a choleric and determined expression of face. The ladies united in desiring Porte Crayon to stop the carriage, that they might see the result of the dispute. This, however, he peremptorily refused to do, alleging as a reason that there was no calculating the time they might lose in waiting, and, besides, that politeness forbade them to be impertinent witnesses of the misfortunes of their neighbors. "Moreover," said he, "judging from the condition of things when he passed, you would most probably overhear, before long, a number of indelicate and profane expressions, improper for female ears."
But Minnie was unwilling to give up the point, and insisted that the poor man might get hurt, and that it would at least be civil to stop and send Mice to his assistance.
"By no means, Cousin. I can appreciate your kind motive, but the man in question probably would not certainly not in his present state of mind. Sympathy, in a case like this, only serves to increase the evil. I know something of these things by personal experience," said Crayon, with a wise wag of his head.
Anon he leaned out from his seat, and looked back with great interest.
"What's the matter? Can you see him yet?" exclaimed the girls, looking through the peepholes in the back of the carriage. There, indeed, they caught the last glimpse of the unhappy couple, in the same spot where they had first seen them; the mule seated in the middle of the road on his ultimatum, and the rider, burning with rage and grief, standing astride of him, holding on by one ear, and pummeling him lustily with his disengaged fist.
"Well, Cousin Porte, as politeness forbids us to laugh at the unlucky countryman, suppose you amuse us by the recital of some of your adventures the experiences in mule-driving, for example, which you hinted at just now."
"Welladay, girls!" it has been fifteen years or more since I rode one of them, and, to tell the truth, I have never cared to repeat the experiment. On that well remembered occasion I was one of a riding-party, consisting of some eight or ten young people of both sexes, bound for a picnic on top of the North Mountain. When the party assembled at the rendezvous, I appeared mounted on a mule. The girls giggled, as a matter of course, and the men criticised my perverse eccentricity, as they called it. I, however, defended my monture with great vehemence. The ancient kings of Israel rode mules; knights and ladies in the chivalrous ages ambled on mule-back; the great Mohammed rode one; and why should not Porte Crayon bestride the likeness of Alborac? As the little animal trotted along with great sprightliness, I began to get credit for some judgment in my selection, and one youngster, who was mounted on a bone-setter, begged me to exchange with him. This offer, in the pride of my heart, I refused disdainfully. On fording the Tuscarora at the Old Church, we reined up to water our beasts. Alborac junior drank deep of the limpid wave, and, when he had finished, suddenly roached his back, and pitched me plump over his head into the midst of a flock of geese. I remember perfectly well how I felt when I rose out of the water. There was the cursed beast sipping away with the most cheerful and unconcerned expression of countenance, and making no attempt whatever to run away.
"I hastily swallowed a large gulp of fury and water, and mounted the animal again, endeavoring, at the same time, to appear as little incommoded as was possible under the circumstances. 'Ha, ha! ha, ha!' said I, forcing a hearty laugh, 'I got a little ducking!' There was no response, but such faces as I could catch a glimpse of appeared all purple with constraint. 'He! he! he!' I snickered again, 'I got a funny fall.' No one replied. 'What the — prevents you from laughing?' cried I, in a fury. 'Nobody's killed!' A chorus of shouts and shrieks followed, long, loud, and unrestrained. I wouldn't have minded it, but Cousin Julia was there, and that infernal fellow Frank Williams. Cousin Julia could scarcely keep her saddle for laughing; in fact, she laughed all the way to the North Mountain. Every silly, pointless speech furnished occasion for such extravagant and disproportioned merriment, that it was impossible not to perceive what was at the bottom of it. I had at least the satisfaction of perceiving that Frank was as much annoyed with it as I. The creature was in love to that degree that he could neither laugh himself nor endure to see Julia laugh. By the way, I can't imagine a more disgusting condition for any one to be in. They can't appreciate fun in any way, and are totally unfit for general society.
"When we got to the top of the mountain, and were riding along its wooded crest in search of the spot for the view and the picnic, Williams rode beside me. 'Crayon,' said he, 'I am heartily sorry for your misfortune.'
"I replied, tartly, that I was not aware of having met with any serious misfortune, or of standing in need of any one's sympathy, and especially of his. Frank reddened, and, without more words, rejoined my Cousin. They exhanged a few sentences in an undertone, and presently she whipped up her horse and joined me. "Porte, my dear cousin, you seem to be hurt. Frank - that is, Mr. Williams - did not intend to wound your feelings, and, indeed, I am extremely sorry. 'Cousin Julia, stop this stuff. It's bad enough to be thrown by a mule, ducked, and laughed at for an hour and a half without intermission; but to be insulted in this manner, I won't put up with it. As for your Mr. Williams, he shall hear more from me.' And, to cut short the conversation and relieve my excited feelings, I gave my beast two or three sharp whacks across the rump. One would have been enough. He bolted like a shot, and, when I found myself, I was hanging to the limb of a scrub oak, unhorsed, and the breath nearly knocked out of my body. I was so bewildered by this 'hey, presto!' movement, that, although I hung only a few feet from the ground, I had not sense enough to get down myself, but was lifted down and set against a tree by one of the party.
"Like the man of Islington's second leap into the quickset hedge, this second mishap, aided by an apologetic glass of toddy brewed by Cousin Julia, entirely restored me to my good-humor, and, by the time the cloth was spread, I felt as well, soul and body, as I did before I ever mounted the accursed mule.
"'Williams, a word with you.' Frank approached me rather stiffly. We walked toward a laurel thicket a short distance off. I observed Cousin Julia's eyes following us uneasily. 'Frank Williams, I have had an unlucky day of it I have been ducked, laughed at, and, finally, hung on the limb of a scrub oak like a scarecrow. I have borne the laugh with reasonable fortitude; but politeness and sympathy, under such circumstances, are beyond human endurance. Let me apologize.' 'No,' said Frank, 'I must apologize -' 'I was ill-tempered,' I insisted. 'I was a fool,' said he; and we both laughed until the tears rolled down our cheeks.
"By this time Cousin Julia had joined us. 'What are you two laughing at?' inquired she, with evident surprise and pleasure. 'Only some funny explanations we've been making,' I replied. 'Then, sir, you owe me an explanation for your uncivil haste in riding off when I was talking to you;' and, as she made this allusion, she bit her lips, convulsively striving to avert an approaching paroxysm. 'Indeed, Miss Julia, I shall make no explanation whatever to you; you have diverted yourself sufficiently at me and my misfortunes to-day to clear all scores, and leave me still your creditor for a considerable alllount; but Frank - oh no, I mean Mr.Williams - is dying to make some explanations to you.' 'What do you mean, Porte?' said she, suddenly forgetting her merriment, and blushing scarlet. 'Oh! nothing at all,' I replied, hastening to rejoin the company, and chuckling at my wicked device for stopping Cousin Julia's mirth."
"Well, what became of them?" asked Minnie, with interest. "Pshaw! They walked off somewhere, and didn't return until we had eaten up all the dinner. Some of the girls were considerate enough to save them a few sandwiches and a piece of pickle; but they didn't want any thing to eat. Frank, on being rallied about his loss of appetite, did take a sandwich; but, after nibbling a mouthful or two, he quietly slipped the remainder to a pointer dog. However, he did not refuse a thumping swig of toddy; and then, seizing my arm, dragged me off to take a walk with him, and made me the custodier of such a string of mawkish confidences that I returned with the deliberate intention of making him drunk.
"As soon as my cousin laid eyes on us she divined my intentions, and gave me such a look! What an expressive eye Cousin Julia had! Language was really of no use to her, her eyes spoke so handsomely and eloquently; every glance was a paragraph. That look entirely unnerved rne; it read thus: 'Dear Cousin Porte, can you be so ungenerous as to take advantage of poor Frank's soft condition? You know, when a young gentleman has just been accepted, he is open to any folly or extravagance that may be suggested. Don't do it, for my sake; don't make him drunk.' Having first secured a glass of toddy for myself, to nerve me to the sacrifice, I slyly upset the pitcher on the grass. You may imagine how I was berated and reviled. Dick Spindle, who was already in a state of juvenile exhilaration, expressed his regret that the mule had not broken my neck before I got there. The girls, however, thought the accident was not amiss, and Cousin Julia gave me a look and grateful pressure of the had that was entirely satisfactory."
"And what became of the mule?" asked Fanny.
"How absent I am. I forgot the mule entirely."
"We all forgot the mule toward the conclusion," said Dora; "and I think, cousin, your mule story was near turning into a love story."
"Bless me! child, what better could I do? The story had to run its course. My hero kicked up and ran away before the story was finished. He left me hanging in a tree with a couple of stupid lovers on my hands. I have got myself out of the tree, disposed of the eatables and drinkables, and left my lovers very happy. What more can any reasonable person ask?" "I believe, " said Minnie, " that Porte was in love with Cousin Julia himself."
"Is that the only moral you can extract from my story, little humming-bird?"
"And that Frank married Cousin Julia, of course."
"Frank did," replied Porte Crayon, with a contemptuous shrug of his shoulders. "At that day Frank was a brilliant young man. He had a riding-horse that could out-rack Pegasus, was a jolly sportsman, chock full of adventure, and the life of all dinner parties and dances. Now he is the most commonplace of farmers, growing fat and rich, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and green baize leggins. He rides his old brood mare to town, with a colt trotting after him; has become a squire of the county, and goes to the Legislature. Poor Frank!" sighed Porte Crayon, feelingly, "that he should have sunk to this! And yet he don't seem aware of his degradation: he brags like a Kentuckian. 'Vita conjugalis altos et generosos spiritus frangit, et a magnis capitationibus ad humilimas detrahit.'"
And thus they beguiled the time in pleasant chat until some two hours after midday, when they found themselves within sight of the neat little village of Mount Solon. The inn to which they were directed–the only one in the village–was a very modest-looking establishment altogether, and was kept by an old palsied man, who appeared as if he might have known better days. Ascertaining here that the object of their curiosity was only about two miles distant, they left their baggage and an order for supper with the landlord, and drove on.
After jolting over a rocky, uneven road for a short time, they at length had the satisfaction of seeing the black tops of the Chimneys towering above the trees in the distance. At this point our travelers left their vehicle, and proceeded on foot, by a path leading through a barn-yard, to the base of the rocks, about two hundred yards from the main road.
This curious group of natural towers rises at the point of a limestone hill, which juts out like a promontory into an extensive alluvial bottom. There are seven of them, some seventy or eighty feet in height, their bases washed by a small stream, and their whole appearance reminding one of the ruined stronghold of some feudal baron surrounded by its neglected moat. To those whose fancies are more exclusively American, they look like the chimneys of a deserted iron foundry, and, altogether, the picture presented is in a high degree unique and interesting.
From no point can all the towers be seen at one view. The northern one is the tallest, the most completely detached from the hill, and in all respects the most perfect. Its round, regular stratifications, gradually narrowing toward the top, show like successive galleries and cornices, such as are represented in the old pictures of the Tower of Babel. This structure is about eighty feet in height, and thirty in diameter near its base. It is tunneled below by a wide archway, through which is the most convenient approach to the bases of the other towers; and, from one point of view, this huge mass appears supported only upon two pillars.
The southern group, consisting of three towers, united for about half their height, is also perforated by a cavernous passage, narrow at each entrance, but opening to a chamber of some size in the centre. None of the Chimneys are completely detached from the hill; and the view from every quarter is intercepted by a heavy growth of timber, much to the annoyance of the artist.
Although these rocks are highly picturesque, curious, and not wanting in grandeur, our travelers, having lately seen objects of such surpassing interest, expressed their gratification here in moderate terms, and were soon seated under some opportune apple trees, discussing their lunch with a zeal and earnestness which neither custom nor daily repetition had in the smallest degree abated.
Not so Mr. Crayon. He spent his time walking curiously about, examining the towers and caverns at all points. Having made several unsuccessful attempts to ascend the rocks, he at length succeeded in reaching the summit of one of the lowest, which is joined to the hill by a natural wall several feet in thickness, and reaching more than half way to the top of the tower. Thinking this no great feat, and perceiving that the ladies were too much engaged to look at him, he came down and betook himself to his sketch-book. Having taken his position at some distance out in the meadow, to get a better view of the southern group, he was in a short time surrounded by all the dogs on the plantation, bull, ring, and bobtail, who barked and clamored until they were tired, and then trotted off, surprised and disgusted at the imperturbability of the artist.
The sketches being completed, and the curiosity of all parties satisfied, our friends returned to their carriage. It was unanimously agreed that, although they had been much gratified by their visit, yet there was nothing about the Chimneys to excite enthusiasm–in short, they were wanting in the quality of sublimity. Porte went on further to observe that he preferred the homely name of "The Chimneys" to the more elegant appellation of "Cyclopean Towers;" for, although an admirer of the classics in the abstract, and understanding fully the propriety of the name as applied to this style of architecture, yet he had always felt averse to mixing associations drawn from the Old World with American scenery. The most striking characteristic of our scenery, when compared with the European, is its freshness, observable even in the appearance of the rocks, and the charm of the impression is always disturbed by any association with the old mythology. The family of the Cyclops was Sicilian, and was disposed of long before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492. Let them kick and sprawl till Doomsday under their mountain tomb. We doubt if the introduction of distinguished foreigners is of much advantage in any way to us on this side of the water.
Miss Dora expressed a doubt whether there were ever any such persons as the Cyclops; but Crayon assured her that he had seen the place where they were buried.
Arrived at the barn-yard, they found their horses still engaged in munching some remarkably fine oats, which had been served up in an old pig-trough. Crayon complimented his man on his thoughtful attention, and desired him, to go and pay the farmer for the feed.
The coachman replied that, having a suspicion that the horses might get hungry, he had taken the precaution to bring a supply with them, which he had procured from Mr. Moler's barn at the Cave Hotel.
Not recollecting any charge for extra oats at that place, a suspicion began to insinuate itself into Mr. Crayon's mind.
"What? why, here's a bushel more in the carriage-box! You scoundrel! have you been stealing, and feeding my horses on surreptitious oats?"
"No, indeed, Mass' Porte, dese ain't dem kind; dese is de best oats I seen sence I left home."
And Mice went on to declare that the oats in question fairly belonged to the horses, as they had not eaten their full allowance while stabled at the Cave Hotel, and he had only taken what he thought they ought to have eaten. He moreover added, by way of strengthening his defense, that the horses relished these oats especially, and that Mr. Moler had such a pile of them in his barn that he would not have missed ten bushels, if any one had seen fit to take that quantity. Notwithstanding this clear explanation Crayon would have given his coachman a severe reprimand, but they all got into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, and one should never attempt to moralize without a sober countenance.
Fanny, being the first to recover her gravity sufficiently, reminded Mice of his devout belief in a place of future punishment, expressed while in the cave. This belief he reaffirmed, but felt assured that he "wasn't gwine to be saunt dere becase he took good care of his hosses." Porte Crayon then mildly but firmly suggested that, whenever there should be need of a fresh supply of oats, he should be informed, and they should be acquired by purchase in the regular way, as our government formerly acquired territory. Mice acquiesced, of course, promising faithfully to attend to the matter; but looked, at the same time, as if he thought this arrangement involved a very unnecessary and absurd expenditure of money.
Our adventurers were on the road next morning before sunrise, while the fields were yet white with frost.
"This is an improvement, girls. How well you all look this morning! This is the glorious time for traveling. The horses move gayly, and puff clouds of smoke from their nostrils like two steam-engines. Now the sun begins to show his red disk above the hills, and gilds the mountain-tops rising to the westward of us."
Dora's eyes sparkled as she suddenly plucked Crayon's sleeve. "Hist! cousin, there's a pheasant!"
"Where? quick! point him out!" whispered Crayon, unslinging his yager.
"There! don't you see? On that old log among the pines."
Mice had stopped the carriage upon the first intimation of game, and was looking intently into the bushes. "Da he is! I sees him! big as a turkey-gobbler. Good Lord, Mass' Porte, shoot quick: he gwine to fly!"
"Be quiet, you blockhead! I see him now. A fine cock, with his neck stretched and his ruff up.
Bang went the rifle; whir–r, whir–r, whir–r went the pheasants in every direction from among the grape-trees, where a large company of them were breakfasting.
"Fotch him!" shouted Mice, tumbling out of the carriage, and rushing into the bushes. Presently he returned, his face illuminated with a triumphant grin, carrying the bird by the legs. "Bullet tuck him right through the neck; mizzible good brile he'll make; fat as butter."
The whole company were now on the alert. "There's a pheasant! No, it's a ground squirrel." "There's one in the grapetree!" Bang! down he tumbled, whirring and fluttering among the dead leaves. The girls clapped their hands, and were so full of the sport that the carriage could scarcely hold them; and when Porte Crayon missed a shot in his haste, they were quite outrageous upon him. He reinstated himself, however, by shooting two more birds shortly after. "We've now come to an open country, and there will be no more pheasants this morning," remarked Crayon.
The girls were quite vexed, and insisted on going back over the same road. "How blood will show itself, in spite of every thing!" cried the delighted Crayon. " All our family take to hunting as naturally as sparrowhawks."
The appearance of the Augusta Springs diverted the attention of our travelers from the subject in hand; and as it was a pleasant, rural-looking spot, they determined to tarry for half an hour to see what was to be seen. This place is twelve miles distant from Staunton, and is more frequented by visitors from the neighborhood than by those from a distance, its name abroad being overshadowed by its more celebrated rivals in the counties of Bath and Greenbrier. The water is a sulphur, and is said to possess some value as a remedial agent. The girls here purchased a spotted fawn's skin from an old lady, for the purpose of making Porte Crayon a bullet-pouch, to be presented as a testimonial of his skill in shooting pheasants.
About two miles from these springs our friends struck the Lewisburg road, which passes the mountain at Jennings's Gap without a perceptible grade. From this point the country becomes more wild and rugged in its features. Mountains rise on every side, forests of pine and hemlock border the way, and limpid streams pour over rocky beds, murmuring of deer and trout. Human habitations become fewer and farther between, ruder in their character, and frequently ornamented on the outside with trophies of the chase–deers' horns, raccoon and bear skins, and turkeys' wings. At this season, too, the road seemed to be deserted by travel. Occasionally, indeed, they met a lonely teamster, who, after exchanging with Mice their characteristic salute, a crack of the whip, passed on his snail-like journey toward Staunton.
The horses made good speed that day although the meridian sun was hot and the road dusty. Cloverdale was reached at length and left behind. It was still far to the Bath Alum, and the sun was rapidly declining. The mountains rose grandly, deep blue, with sharp-drawn outline against the glowing west. Still the tired horses jogged on, fetlock-deep in dust. The pine forests grew taller and gloomier in the fading twilight. No sign of life or civilization yet. Then utter darkness closed her wing over all the land. Night is the time for evil-doers to be abroad. Night is the time when wild birds range for their prey. Night is the season for the busy teeming fancy to conjure up its thousand phantoms. The girls whispered timidly among themselves, and Crayon instinctively examined his arms to feel assured that all was right.
"Drive cautiously, now, Mice: it is useless to hurry; it can get no darker, and we must trust to the instinct of the horses."
Presently these came to a dead halt of their own accord, nor was a cautious admonition of the voice and whip sufficient to in- duce them to stir. "Dey sees somethin'," said Mice, who believed firmly that horses could see ghosts and other strange things invisible to mortal eyes. But the animals snorted and gently pawed the ground, thereby intimating to their masters that they were neither frightened nor fatigued, but had stopped from some other motive.
"I think I see something myself," quoth Porte Crayon; "a tall white thing standing on the left of the road."
"Lord bless us, master!" cried Mice; "what you think it is?"
"I think it is a sign-post," replied Porte. "Fanny, feel in my knapsack, under the sketch-book, and rolled up in a silk handkerchief you will find my tin match-box. Hand it to me."
Crayon got out, and having lighted a wisp of paper, found that he had not been deceived. There was a sign-post standing where the road forked, and by the light of his flickering torch he managed to read the direction to the Bath Alum, one mile distant. The horses, satisfied with this reconnaissance, started off briskly before Crayon had fairly regained his seat, or the coachman had given the warning crack of his whip. "D'ye hear, Mice? these horses must be well rubbed and curried before you go to bed to-night; to-morrow they shall rest."
Now they see the star of hospitality twinkling in the distance, suggestive of smoking suppers and comfortable beds. These promises were, in the present instance, destined to be fully realized. Soon the cheerful board, spread with biscuit, corn cakes, and hot venison steaks, rejoiced the souls of our benighted travelers, while crackling fires roared in the chimneys of the parlors and bed-rooms. "Ah!" said Porte Crayon, throwing himself upon a springy sofa with a sigh of unspeakable satisfaction, and a dreamy retrospect of numberless corn dodgers, hot, and brown, floating in butter, and of four broad-cut, generous portions of venison steak–"ah me!" As much as I contemn [sic] luxury and despise civilization, with its attendant fopperies and vices, I don't mind taking a good supper occasionally."
"Indeed," said Fanny, "I don't think you could take many such meals as you made to-night; the sixth time your plate went up for steak, both the waiter and manager got into a titter."
"My plate went up but four times," replied Crayon, dogmatically; "and the manager was laughing at my wit, and not my appetite."
"It went up six times, as I live."
"Young woman," said Crayon, with feigned asperity, " I did observe, but did not intend to comment on your performance at supper. Suffice it to say, if you had been in a region where fashion takes cognizance of what and how much young ladies eat, you would have lost caste forever. Indeed, if those peony-colored cheeks of themselves would not be an insuperable objection to your admission into any refined society."
"Good gracious!" cried all the girls at once, "you don't mean to say our cheeks are red?"
"Red!" quoth Crayon, contemptuously; "the word don't express it. A respectable damask rose would look pale beside them."
"This comes of traveling in the sun and wind with these foolish bonnets," cried Fanny, spitefully.
"It comes of exercise, fresh air, and good appetites; for, be sides, you are getting as fat as partridges."
"It is no such thing," said Minnie, indignantly. "Porte, you're a horrid bear! Come, girls, let us retire and leave him."
"And as freckled as turkey eggs," continued Crayon.
"It is positively insulting. He has no consideration for our feelings."
Porte shouted after them as they flounced out of the room, insisting that he had not intended to offend, but had really supposed he was complimenting them.
After enjoying his sofa for a while, it occurred to him to commend his pheasants to the cook, as they might probably be opportune at breakfast. Nor did he omit to assure himself of the well-being of the horses; and, not long after, our hero found himself mentally comparing the merits of a hair mattress with those of the hemlock couch of the Canaan. As no conclusion has ever been reported, it is supposed he fell asleep before finally disposing of the subject.
The drizzling rain which fell during the whole of next day did not prevent our friends from enjoying their comfortable quarters, nor even from making sundry out-door excursions. The improvements at the Bath Alum are certainly superior, in point of taste and elegance, to those at any watering-place in the mountains of Virginia. At a distance of several hundred yards from the hotel, beneath a slatestone cliff fifteen feet in height, are found the Alum Springs, which are nothing more than six little reservoirs so excavated as to catch the drippings from the projecting rock. These reservoirs contain the alum water in different degrees of strength; one of them is a strong chalybeate, and one a mixture of chalybeate and alum. These waters are but recently known as a remedial agent, and have suddenly obtained immense celebrity by their success in curing diseases hitherto reckoned incurable.
Those who are desirous of more accurate and extended information on the subject are commended to Dr. Burke's excellent work on the Virginia Springs, or, what might be still more to the purpose, visit to the Springs themselves. As for our travelers, having taken large doses of broiled pheasant that morning, they confined their experiments in alum water to a cautious sip from the glass handed by the polite manager, a conical wry face, and a forced compliment to its flavor–faugh!
In the afternoon the rain increased to a continued heavy shower; notwithstanding which, Crayon, accompanied by his valet, went hunting, and it was near dark before they returned, weary, wet, and hungry, with only three or four unlucky squirrels for their pains.
From this place to the Warm Springs, the distance of five miles is accomplished by traversing the Great Warm Spring Mountain, on an easy, well-constructed road. When our friends set out from the Alum the rain had ceased, and fair promises of a clear day were-given. Masses of damp-looking clouds still hung about the tops of the mountains, as if unwilling yet to yield the day to Phoebus, who, for his part, poured his bright rays through at every opening, producing in endless variety those brilliant and startling effects of light and shade so much sought after by the scenic school of English painters. When about half way up the mountain, the girls, who had walked in advance, were seen suddenly to turn and fly with all speed toward the slow-toiling carriage.
"Oh heavens! let us in–let us in quick!"
"What now? What's the matter? Have you encountered some untimely snake or frost-bitten lizard?"
To Crayon's inquiry they vouchsafed no reply, but in breathless haste bundled into the vehicle, and, ere they had fairly disposed themselves in their seats, the question was answered from another quarter. Where the road swept in a bold curve around the base of a cliff, now advanced with slow and stately tread, in all the pomp of bovine majesty, the vanguard of one of those monstrous herds of cattle wending their way from the rich pastures of Monroe and Greenbrier to the eastward. First came a stout negro, with stupid face and loutish step, leading an ox, whose sublime proportions and majestic port might have served as a disguise for Jove himself.
"Large rolls of fat about his shoulders clung,
And from his neck the double dewlap hung,"
while his horns sprung from his curling forehead in tapering length, a full cloth-yard each one. What horns! What noble drinking cups they would have made. One of them would hold enough to fuddle a Thracian. The negro remarked Crayon's admiring glances, and, as he touched his hat, the dull face lighted up with an expression: "Am not I one of the chosen–I, who serve so magnificent a beast? Night and morning I curry him, and walk all day in his presence. He and I are the observed and envied of all." "'Pears to me," said Mice, " dat fool nigger is proud to be a leadin' of dat big beef."
Following this leader came a train of thirty or forty others, scarcely inferior in size or appearance; and when the carriage, winding slowly through this formidable-looking company, turned the angle of rock, the road was visible in its windings for a mile or more, alive with cattle and bristling with horns. The horses held on their way through the living mass as steadily as if unaware of their presence, although the mountain resounded far and near with the hoarse bellowing of the beeves, mingled with the oaths and whoops of the drivers. The girls, who at first looked doubtfully upon the array of monstrous horns, and the red, lowering eyes of the savage troop, soon regained their self-possession, and commented coolly on their size and keeping.
The celebrated view from the summit of the Warm Spring Mountain did not strike our travelers very forcibly, probably owing to the clouds which hid the distant mountain-tops rising to the eastward. The view of the Warm Springs and the valley seen directly below them was extremely pretty. This village, which is the county-seat of Bath, owes its existence and name to the famous fountain, and, in fact, consists of nothing more than the group of hotels, cottages, and out-houses about the Springs, and the ordinary county buildings, a court-house, jail, etc. The principal hotel has heretofore had a high reputation for excellence; and the bathing-houses, although somewhat primitive in their construction, furnish a bath at a natural temperature of 98° Fahrenheit, the luxury of which must be experienced to be appreciated.
Our party remained at this place but a few hours, and hurried on to the Hot Springs, five miles distant, where they arrived about five o'clock on Saturday evening, the 22d of October. Although the hotel here was closed for the season, the proprietor gave them a hospitable welcome, and they soon found themselves installed in comfortable quarters.
This place, to the scientific traveler, is one of the most curious and interesting in the mountains. The Hot Springs, about twenty in number, issue from the base of a hill or spur of the Warm Spring Mountain, and range in temperature from 98° to 106°, but, owing to the proximity of fountains of cold water at 53°, baths of any intermediate temperature may be had. The bathing-houses are numerous and well arranged to suit the purposes of invalids. These waters are chiefly celebrated for their efficacy in rheumatism, dyspepsia, and affections of the liver, although they are resorted to by all classes of invalids. The proprietor is himself an eminent physician, and to the enlightened use of the waters under his direction is probably owing much of their success in the cure of disease.
The hotel and cottages here are pleasantly situated and comfortable, and the table most unexceptionable. Sunday was a delightful day, and our friends passed it pleasantly and quietly, wandering up and down hills, through meadows and forests, drinking in buoyant health with the pure atmosphere, and enjoying the mellow beauties of the autumn landscape. The evening fell in still and solemn grandeur.
"We will have a brilliant starlit night," quoth Crayon; "the air is soft and balmy. To-morrow I will make two or three fine sketches before we leave here."
"To-morrow," said Fanny, "I will produce my colors, and attempt this bit of purple landscape opening to the south."
"To-morrow," laughed Minnie May,"I will gather leaves of the maple and hickory, and weave chaplets of crimson and gold to crown our artists withal."
"And what shall I do to-morrow?" inquired Dora. "I'll point Porte Crayon's pencils for him, and hold Fanny's color-box while she paints, and help Minnie to weave her chaplets."
To-morrow, ay, to-morrow–oh, simple-hearted schemers! who can reckon what a night may bring forth? In a night the gourd of Jonah grew, and in a night it withered. In a night the host of the Assyrian was blasted. And while your young eyelids are fanned by the soothing wings of sleep, in the darkness and silence of a night, what mighty changes may be wrought upon the face of nature!
Virginia illustrated : containing a visit to the Virginian Canaan, and the adventures of Porte Crayon and his cousins
by David Hunter Strother (1816-1888)
Publication date: 1857
Topics: Randolph County (W. Va.) – Description and travel, Virginia – Social life and customs
Publisher: New York : Harper & brothers