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“Poor little fellow, it reminds him of his home in the wilderness,” said Mrs. Overton, kindly.
“Dah, little Ernie, donte cry," said Floralie, patting me on the head, and talking to me as she would to a baby or a doll-supposing, doubtless, that I could understand that language better than I could pure English. “ Florie did'nt mean to make it cry,” added she, wiping the tears from my cheeks with the corner of her apron, while her own soft blue eyes were filling fast with tears as she gazed tenderly upon me.
I was older and bigger than she, and felt myself above her sympathy somewhat, and besides, I had been taught that it was disgraceful for a man to shed tears or manifest any of the tenderer emotions of our nature, and ashamed of my weakness, I turned rudely away from her, wiped my face with my sleeve, and took a seat on an ottoman with an assumed air of stoical indifference on my countenance. Floralie, hurt at my harshness, and deeming herself the cause of my trouble, now began crying outright, and I, on finding that I had wounded her feelings with my unintentional abruptness, now went up to her again, and tried to pacify her as I best could.
After supper, the Colonel was detailing the circumstances of my capture in the top of the tree, my breaking the skull of the negro, my affright at the incomprehensible steamboat, and many laughable minor incidents, all of which seemed to entertain and amuse the company vastly, particularly a mulatto footman, of about seventeen, who was standing in the corner I formerly occupied, and whose ivory eye-balls and teeth shone like meteors, as he shook with convulsions of suppressed laughter. Colonel Overton had ever labored under the erroneous opinion that he was a
funny man,” and consequently always gave a ludicrous cast to any story he had to relate; all the time, however, Mr. Kerne listened with a thoughtful brow which only an occasional smile illumined like sunlight bursting through a field of fleeting clouds. As the Colonel continued his recital, he would now and anon look at me with an expression of deep interest, mingled with an air of doubt and perplexity. I noticed it, for I had felt an instinctive repulsion towards this man at first, on account of his stern gray eyes, and dark lofty mien, but the more kind and gentle expression which now they wore, altered his whole appearance, and naturally attracted me more towards him. I succeeded in getting Floralie into a good humor again—no difficult task, I found—she and I were prattling away in merry companionship, and she was brought to the highest pitch of delight, when I unclasped the string of blue beads around my neck and bound it as a fillet around her beautiful hair.
Mr. Kerne observed me, and springing forward with a loud and agitated voice, exclaimed, “ God of heaven! what is that?" and he snatched the beads from Floralie's head, and holding them up to the light, trembling in every limb, he gazed eagerly for a moment at the gold clasp which secured them, and then dropping the beads on the floor, rushed towards me with a wild cry that smote upon my heart,
“My son !
"Oh! my long lost-my first born! I divined it, I knew it-and these beads confirm the instinct of a parent's heart. God, I thank thee!” and the hot tears fell like rain on my bewildered brow as he clasped me to his bosom.
II. I was petrified with amazement at this strange denouement—I could not understand it.
“ It is my son !"
I began crying—I did not know what else to do. “I am not your son, I am a Pawnee. Kahtoli is my father.” “Kahtoli is a base-hearted vil. lain,” said—my father, shall I call him? “ He stole you away from us when you were a small child, and broke your poor mother's heart.”
The truth, with the conviction of intuition, flashed upon me at once. I saw it all-the meaning of the mystery in Kahtoli's manner, the blue-eyed spirit of my dreams, and the faint unlinked memories, disjecta membra, of infantine hours, that I had sometimes to flit across my brain, now began to interweave themselves together—and young as I must have been, I gathered together in that brief moment some snatches of recollection of my abduction, enough to convince me of the truth, and I murmured, "father," as I clung to his embrace.
As for the worthy Colonel, he was so lost in astonishment that he could not utter a word, but sat back in his chair with his eyes rolling and his mouth gaped open, as if about to choke with sheer amazement.
Madame Overton picked up the beads and examined the mysterious clasp. It was a golden locket, in one side of which was set a small brown curl of silken hair, on the other were engraved the letters M. K.
It was the initials of my mother's name.
After the due season of hugging and kissing, and crying and wonderment, and abundant gabble was over, Col. Overton said,
“Well, Ernie, lad, you are in luck for a chap of thirteen—first Kahtoli, then the Aricaree, then myself, and now William, here—no less than four fathers. I say, Kerne, here is the last of the work of that infernal Leon Paul. Darn it, I would like to have got a shot at him.”
“ You did not see him at all, did you ?" asked Mr. Kerne.
" Who-this creole, Kahtoli, Leon Paul ? No, indeed. I should have recognized him at once. He was in St. Louis while I was there, but I never saw him. Well, darn him, I say, his work is over now."
“How? Don't you suppose, from what Ernie told him, that he knows where to find him, and that he will be prowling around here as he used to do, to get a chance to make away with him again ?"
“No, darn it—did'nt I tell you he was blown sky high when the Phoenix blew up ?"
“Ah! yes—I had forgotten.”
“Well, safe from his machinations, let us return thanks to a kind Providence, for restoring to us our darling lost one,” said Aunt Eliza ; and she took me in her lap and bestowed a kiss upon me, while her merry little eyes danced with joy.
Here was a new epoch in my life—one father lost, I found no difficulty in finding another, and this time apparently the right one.
Here was Aunt Eliza and Aunt Lenora, now really such, as I was informed. Little white-headed master Thealan, and his check apron, my brother, and since the discovery, he had removed his finger from its normal locality in the corner of his mouth, to throw his little chubby arms around my neck. Floralie, now my cousin, as I learned, came in too for a share of kisses; and so forth, in this jubilatory juncture.
It is needless to describe the scene which followed the discovery of my new relationship; and, as the fellow said about cursing his cart, when it turned over and spilled all his load of turnips, I feel I can't do it justice, so I shall say nothing.
The solution of the mystery was, as we soon learned from Mr. Kernemy father, I should say—that Kahtoli had stolen me away from my parents when I was about three or four years old, and carried me off to the wilderness. The string of beads I had on when he kidnapped me, fortunately had never been removed, and now was the talisman by which Providence had permitted me to be restored to my true home and family.
My father related, in detail, the history of my abduction, which, in an abridged form, I will give to the reader now, as I received it in after years; for there was inuch of it that, at the time, I did not understand; and, in fact, I did not hear it all, for Toppy, now relieved of his natural reserve and timidity, was as lively as a cricket, and whispered into my ears, “ Brother, lets me and you, and Florie and Parker, (the mulatto boy,) go in the hall and play. What's o'clock, old witch? Come on."
And away we went.
III.-LEON PAUL. The Overtons and the Kernes, two old Virginia families who had settled in southwestern Kentucky about the same time, were come from the same place in the “old country," and had intermarried from time immemorial.
My grandfather Kerne had two sons and two daughters-Oliver, William, and Eliza and Lenora. My grandfather Overton had also two daughters and two sons; these married each other in the following order: Oliver Kerne....
Sarah Overton, William Kerne, (my father).
Mary Overton. Sebastian Overton, (the Col.)..
Lenora Kerne. Jack Overton, (Florie's and Mary's father). .A Mississippi
[lady, named Howard, Eliza Kerne...
..Spinster. My Uncle Oliver I never saw; he died when I was in the wilderness ; his wife was also dead—a son was left, however, a few years older than myself, who was living in M- county, Tennessee.
Jack Overton married a Mississippi heiress, and having squandered his own fortune and hers in horse-racing, and other congenial sports, he broke his wife's heart by breaking his own neck, in attempting to ride up a flight of stairs on horseback for a wager of five hundred dollars. She did not long survive him, and left two orphan girls without a cent in the world.
These Aunt Eliza, who lived ostensibly at Reedyrill, but also half her time at Puckshenubbie, the residence of the Colonel, a mile distant, adopted as her own; not suffering their own uncle, Sebastian, to do so, though he anxiously desired to have them, or at least one of them, having been married two years without any likelihood of being blessed that way himself. Aunt Eliza had but a small property ; but enough to support herself and her élèves with all comfort. About the time that all these old folks were young folks,
mother a beautiful girl of eighteen, there was a Louisiana planter, Etienne Paul de Lisblanc, a wealthy old Frenchman, who used to spend his summers in the part of Kentucky where my ancestors dwelt-now about fifteen years ago. He had amassed a large fortune by trading with the Indians. In the course of his journeyings to St. Louis and back, he found a Pawnee girl, the daughter of a chief of that tribe, whom he married, and by whom he had one child—a son-about the same age of my father, raised up in the same neighborhood; and, as the families were very friendly, Mary Overton and he grew up together. Leon, a handsome and accomplished youth, somewhat wild and passionate in character-after the traits of his mother's race-and Mary, the acknowledged beauty, and pride of the county--Leon, as a matter of course, fell deeply in love with her. Finding such an alliance a subject of aversion to Gen. Overton, who mistrusted the stability of young Leon's character, and also discour. aged by Mary, who had placed her affections on her young cousin, William Kerne, M. de Lisblanc, who was about making a voyage to France, took young Leon with him, and left him at the University of Paris to finish his education, in the hope that absence, and new scenes and associations, and other charmers, would obliterate the inauspicious passion which had been created in the breast of his son.
Leon Paul, after two years forced absence, returned to Kentucky, upon the news of his father's death, with the fire of his youthful first affections still burning in his breast-the Indian never forgets—loving the beautiful Mary Overton as devotedly as ever, to find her the wife of his old friend and rival, William Kerne.
For a time he went deranged—became stark, staring crazy-grew thin and emaciated, and wandered about the woods, the shackling rennant of his former self. He at length, however, gradually recovered his senses, but settled into a melancholy misanthrope, and after moping about his plantation for a month or two, till his mother also died, he sold his estate to a gentleman by the name of Iveson, who had recently moved into the neighborhood, and suddenly disappeared from the country, and nobody knew what became of him.
Two years afterwards Mrs. Kerne's little boy, Overton Kerne, the pride and darling of his mother—as a matter of course—was one day with his nurse out in the meadow which skirted the brook from whence the estates of Reedyrill derived their name, whither he had been carried by her for the purpose of a ramble in the fresh air, amid the hay and flowers-she was playing about near the edge of a wood, when suddenly a man rushed out from the bushes, seized upon her, tore away the child, and vanished in the woods. Her screams soon aroused the family-everybody was in arms— the most rigid and indefatigable search was made by the whole neighborhood, but not a trace could be found of the abductor.
The nurse, in whom all confidence could be placed, affirmed that it was Leon Paul. And the attestation of one or two neighbors and some of the slaves, that they had seen himn prowling about for a day or two before, confirmed this belief.
IV.- REEDYRILL. Reedyrill is situated about three miles from the village of Haysville, in the southwestern part of the state, in that portion of Kentucky called the " Barrens,"
** The Barrens of Kentucky are by no means sterile, as they have sometimes been represented. Their local appellation, however, had so much deceived me before I traveled over them, that I expected to find nothing but an undulating extent of rocky ground, destitute of vegetation, and perforated by numerous caverns. My ideas were soon corrected. I saw the " Barrens” for the first time in the early days of June, and as I entered them from an immense forest, I was surprised at the beauty of the prospect before me. Flowers without number, and vieing with each other in their beautiful tints, sprung up amidst the luxuriant grass ; the fields, the orchards, and the gardens of the setilers, presented an appearance of plenty, scarcely anywhere rivalled ; the wild fruit trees, having their branches interlaced with grape vines, promised an abundant harvest, and at every step I trod on ripe and fragrant strawberries. When I looked around, an oak knoll rose here and there before me; a charming grove embellished a valley ; gently sloping hillocks stretched away into the distance ; while at hand the dark entrance of some cavern attracted my notice, or a bubbling spring gushing forth at my feet, seemed to invite me to rest and refresh myself with its cooling waters.
• The timid deer snuffed the air asit bounded gracefully off; the wild turkey led her young ones in silence among the tall herbage, and the bees buzzed on every flower. If I struck the stiff, glossy foliage of a black-jack, perchance there fluttered up before me in dismay the frightened grouse and her cowering brood. All was beautiful; and I thought the " Barrens” must have been the part from which Kentucky derived her name of the Garden of the West !!**
Such are the Barrens-a lovely garden of nature. In just such a landscape was situated the romantic little village of Haysville, in a wide shallow vale, surrounded by undulations very low, and in many places tabling off into a perfect level of thousands of acres of mingled barrens and rich groves, and dotted with broad tobacco plantations, stately farm-houses, and little white groups of cabins for the slaves. The plantations are capacious and highly cultivated, but not crowded, since the whole county lands were in the hands of a few individuals, and there were, consequently, large tracts of unopened land, which gave a rural beauty to the scene.
In fact, the wooded land and barrens predominated over the plantations, so as to cause the latter to appear as openings in them.
I have already mentioned the park, or “woodland,” as we called it, fronting the farmstead to the south. This park, about a hundred and fifty acres in extent, was a slip of the original forest, an immense grove of which skirted two sides of the plantations, the other two sides opening on the barrens. Through the lower part of the park, running westerly, was the gentle and lovely reed-bordered brook, we called Reedyrill, separating the park from the meadow slope beyond. To the west of the house, which was built in the midst of grounds sowed down in Kentucky blue grass, and tastefully adorned with walks, shrubberies and flowerborders, was a beautiful garden, a greenhouse, conservatory, and various tasteful architectural fancies, setting off the sombre stateliness of the old Gothic hall, which it was large enough to be called, though we termed it simply the “Cottage;" up to which swept the pebbly avenue leading from the great gate which opened on the road. Next to the garden came the old orchard, skirting the road to the left of the woodland as you approached from the road which led to Haysville. To the east was a small grass lot, fenced in with a high white paling, beyond which was the “negro
Audubon's Ornithology, Vol. V., p. 93.
VOL. XXIX.—NO. I.