페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

the

quarter," a row of nice white cottages, the stables near by, and also some tobacco barns, and one or two other out-houses ; in all making it look almost like a little hamlet. Beyond the “quarter” was a green slope covered thinly with trees, which led down to an enormous pool of pure cold water, formed by a cavernous hole in the limestone, known all the country over as Reedyrill Big Spring. On the other side of the slope was an old field, the first clearing that was made, forty years ago, by my grandfather, after he settled in Kentucky; the other side of the old field was skirted by the forest again, and at some distance across a dark lane, which penetrated

grove, peeped out from the trees, the chimneys and gables, and one or two shaft-like Lombardy poplars of Puckshenubbie, the residence of Colonel Overton, some three quarters of a mile, perhaps, from our house.

Across the woodland, somewhat in the direction of Puckshenubbie and the road thereto by the brook-side, and at the foot of the meadow slope, in a little slip of woods between it and the old field, stood a small church, or chapel, built of gray oolitic limestone, in the Norman Gothic style, with an octagon tower—an exquisite little gem of art, built by my two grandfathers, Overton and Kerne, at some considerable expense, for the benefit of their families and neighbors; and also their slaves, to whom a conspicuous gallery was appropriated. My grandfather Kerne was—as every old Virginian should be -a stanch high church Episcopalian. General Overton, on the contrary, and all the Overtons, were Catholics. They got along, however, much more amicably than might be expected, in regard to religious matters. A Catholic priest, father Claude, was the regular incumbent of the chapel, though the clergyman at Haysville Church performed the Episcopal service every other Sunday. There were but few Episcopalians in the county, and only two Catholic families of any importance—the Overtons and Squire Iveson, who bought out M. de Lisblanc. Being thrown into the minority, the two worthy priests, both men of piety and erudition, formed a defensive alliance against the Pres. byterians, who were the most numerous sect in the county.

This little “chapel,” as it was called, gave a beautiful and romantic effect to the lovely landscape around. It was nestled in a little dell near a small massive bridge, built of the same kind of stone spanning the brook, on the pathway leading through the woodland from Reedyrill to Puckshenubbie ; it was surrounded with holly, spruce, hemlock, cedars, and other evergreens, among which were a few marble monuments. The bones of my fathers slept there : and two slabs, one on each side of the pulpit, contained the inscriptions of the age, death, and virtues of my two worthy grandsires, in the good old world style. The Overtons and Kernes were very antique, conservative folks in their notions of things.

How did my heart melt with sadness the first time I wandered among those gravestones, on seeing on one of them, 'neath a red-berried holly, the simple inscription—"Mary Overton, wife of William Waldomer Kerne, ætat. 28, an. dormit.”

She sleeps! Oh, my mother! I never knew you but in my dreams. Those mild azure eyes, that angel face, which ever like a blessed spirit has haunted my heart—those eyes, so tender, they are the loadstars which, in sunshine and storm, have ever beamed upon my soul, thrilling it, filling it with heaven's unspeakable joy. But she sleeps—in the cold grave!

The plantations of Reedyrill were extensive, devoted chiefly to the culture of tobacco, and they stretched out to the north and north-east side of

[ocr errors]

the house in many a broad, rich acre, over which was studded here and there a vast pyramidal roofed barn for its reception. All this landscape for miles around could be seen from the house, which was more elevated than the adjacent country. The house itself was built in the style of a Gothic cottage, with more dormer windows, oriel windows, sharp-up gables and slate roofs, with over-jutting eaves and quaint cornices, more high stacks of chimneys and odd things than I could take time to enumerate. Here, at this rare old home, did the golden hours of my boyhood fly away in all innocence, contentment and bliss, unshadowed by scarce a cloud of sorrow; and those clouds that came were but those of April showers, that left things brighter when they passed away, until my eighteenth year: then indeed came a cloud which hung like a black pall over the heaven of my life. But even it, dark and gloomy as it was, passed away-strangely soon away. And then I was sent to college, and afterwards to mingle for the first time with the busy scenes of the world, to sully for the first time the purity of my young heart with the slough of the world's wickedness.

V.

Many were the sunny hours that Floralie Overton, my brother Chunk, and myself

, whiled away in that happy elysium of Reedyrill, shut out far away from the turmoil of the dark chaotic world. But I shall not expatiate upon them; it was the simple and innocent joy of childhood, which, however beautiful, is too monotone to dwell long upon. For those whose childhood has been happy, it is unnecessary—they have only to draw upon their memory; and those who have not, could not see into the depths of such happiness.

In a short time I began to get accustomed to my new home, and the new modes of life I had entered upon. In twelve months I became quite civilized, and such is the pliability of a young mind, that already my life in the wilderness seemed almost like a dream to me.

In my thirteenth year lowas started to school, having been previously taught at home by aunt Eliza, who took a delight in "civilizing" me.

My father purchased a little pony for me to ride on every morning. I was to dine at Dr. Montmery's, who was our family physician, and the particular friend of my father. His little, .son Isaac, some years younger than myself, was going to Mr. Rumsey, a fine old classic gentleman, who had from time immemorial taught the young ideas of Haysville how to sprout-principally by using the sprout very freely upon them. Accordingly, one morning I mounted Vubbin, my pony, and papa his big horse, and we rode into the village together.

The school-house was a tall old rusty brick building, in a large yard, shrouded by gloomy-looking locust trees, and surrounded by a high fort fence, which utterly precluded those within from having any cognizance of what was transpiring without. We entered a dusty ante-room or hall, whose walls, hung around with festoons of dingy cobwebs, were scribbled over with straggling scratchy names, rude caricatures, and sundry designs in charcoal and chalk, entirely hieroglyphical to me. An old smoky map of the world, a broken globe, dilapidated desk or so, and an ominous bundle of hickory switches in a corner, some of which had evidently seen service, constituted the furniture of the room. I had barely time to make these observations, when a muffled hum of an indescribable character, from within, which had saluted my ears, was hushed by my father's knock at the door, and a snub-nosed lad opened it, with an invitation for us to walk in. The hum had been resumed, and as we entered, a perfect Babel, in a small way, sounded in my astonished and bewildered ears.

I beheld a large room filled with rows of wooden desks, cut and hacked and stained with ink, and at each desk sat a couple of boys at their respective tasks.

One shock-headed urchin, in a blue jacket and dirty white trowsers, with swollen eyes and inflamed cheeks, was standing near the master, and crying and studying at the same time, in a dolorous sing-song tone, which evinced that he had been undergoing the “sprouting” process pretty extensively.

“ Boo-oo-Baffin's Bay, Baffin's Bay ! Cape-boo-hoo-Farewell.

“Oh! Lordy! owh!" (as a whack from the master's birch saluted his chubby shins for some misdemeanor of the moment.)

Another, with lank yellow hair and turned-up nose, made some telegraphic signal to the teacher, which being answered, he jumped up and ran to the fire, and broke out somewhat in the tune of Old Hundred, as he turned up his frock tails to the fire, with “ E-ter-ter-n-i-n-i-ty-ti-Eternity."

But this took place just as we entered; for as soon as we came forward, the master, who was a fine-looking portly old gentleman, with fair florid complexion and silken silvery hair, and intellectual Grecian features, rapped on his table with a ruler, and in an instant all was hushed. All those noisy brats turned their staring eyes and gaping mouths upon me, and a suppressed half-audible titter arose as I slunk along, behind my father, terrified at this novel scene.

The red-eyed geographer ceased his snubby song, and placing his thumb on his nose, twirled his fingers at me, as he looked over the master's shoulder with a very significant grin.

“Mr. Kerne !” said Mr. Rumsey, in a deep-toned, mellow voice, "happy to see you, Mr. Kerne. This is young master Ernie, eh? coming to prepare for the battle of life, is he? Well, well, we'll see what we can do towards making him a good soldier.” In my innocence I thought he meaut battling in good earnest, which puzzled me no little.

After some conversation with him in reference to my studies and other preliminary matters, my father took his leave. Then my heart sunk within me, the tears rose to my eyes, with a shocking sensation in my throat, for I felt lonely and afraid, as a sensitive boy will feel on his first introduction into school. Mr. Rumsey assigned me a seat and a desk, and the hubbub renewed itself as before. I took my place behind my desk, and leaning my head on my hands, I wept in silence. Mr. Rumsey apparently had some sympathy and appreciation for my feelings, and let me finish my weeping unmolested. I was, however, interrupted presently by a pinch on my elbow: and raising my head, I found a bright merry-faced boy, a little older than myself, with fine black eyes, aquiline nose, and a head covered with shining black ringlets, sitting by my side, and looking at me with a kind, but jovial expression, as he whispered :

My name is Charley Scamper : we are going to be chums, it seems, and we had as well be friends. I know your name ; Bolivar Blount told me, and he says he thinks you are a very clever fellow as far as he knows, so we must be good friends. You know Bolivar, don't you ?"

[ocr errors]

“I have seen him at our house, and have been to his house once or twice, and I know him tolerably well.”

Bolivar was the son of an old lawyer who did business for my father; he was about my age, and as our families visited, I had formed some acquaintance.

I agreed to Master Scamper's offer of friendship, for I was pleased with his frank, open, and handsome countenance.

He then began telling me who were the “ clever fellows” in school, and who were not, designating the latter by the expressive, but un melodious appellation of “sneaks.”

But,” said I, interrupting him as we whispered together, “Mr. Rumsey told me I mustn't whisper or talk in school, and I think we had better postpone it till playtime."

Pshaw, he won't do anything to you the first day, and, besides, he'll never find out if we whisper, and look on our books as if we were studying; the boys make so much noise in studying, that he can't tell who talks and who don't."

I did not come into this plan of deception at first very readily-no boy of honor ever does—but I soon began to find out that a code of honor was in practice among the schoolboys, of a very different character from that to which I had been accustomed, by which lying to the teacher about some things, and circumventing and deceiving him in a great many others, was considered as a very laudable and praiseworthy performance.

When school broke up at dinner-time, the boys, with an uproarious yell, made a simultaneous rush for the play-ground, and Scamper hurried me along with him. As we were standing talking together, and several lads grouping around to scrutinize the new comer with a rude stare, the lankhaired fellow, who had been spelling at the fire-place, came up to me, and cried out

“Halloo, boys! come up here, and see this little Injun that Mr. Kerne brought to school this morning. I say, green ’un," he asked, in an impudent tone, and accompanying the question by pulling down the corner of his eye with his fore finger, “can you give me change for that ?"

I looked at him, and though I did not understand the expression or the gesture accompanying it, from the laughter of the boys I knew he intended to insult me. Boys, as a general thing, are very brutes in their natural disposition, and a new comer never gets amongst a herd of them without being tormented, and cowed by them, if he will permit it. I was not of the sort that would brook such usage. Colonel Overton had told me before I started to school, never to give an insult and never to take one : fight first, whether I was whipped or not. And I now found a fine chance to get a sound thrashing in defence of my honor; for the fellow, whom the boys called Tory Owens, was larger than I, evidently stronger, and well disposed to fight. However, I doubled up my fists, and replied, that if he repeated his question, I would try and see whether I had any “ change” for him or not.

“Hurrah for the little one !" cried a tall, slovenly fellow, with a goodhumored face, and a slouchy gait—“I'll bet on him ;” and as the boys gathered round, crying, “Hit him, Owens !” “Go it, little one"-he gave me a shove which sent me against Owens, and nearly threw him down. The latter took this as a signal for battle, and accordingly planted a blow between my eyebrows, which reeled me up against Charley Scamper, and made me see stars.

Choking with rage, and half blinded with pain, I nevertheless contrived to adıninister a well-aimed kick on his shins, which sent him off howling. He rallied, though, immediately, and returned to the charge. This time Bolivar, stepping between us, declared that he was too big for me, and quickly knocked him down. I objected to this, and begged him not to interfere ; and when Owens arose, we went at it again, and after a bloody battle, I got him down, and was poking my thumbs into the burrs of his ears, when he cried out “'nuff,” and fairly gave in.

By this time Blount had joined us, and shaking me by the hand, complimented me on my conquest. “I'll bet on Indiano here all the time,” said Scamper, patting me exultingly on the back-"you are of the right grit, my boy; if there's any boy here of his weight, or ten pounds over, I'll bet a dozen marbles he can whip him.” And he looked around the crowd much as a cock-fighter would when betting his favorite against the field. There seemed, however, to be no competitor to take up his offer, and loth that so fine an opportunity for a fight should be lost, he turned to the tall chap who had pushed me on: “ And now, Wad Aukley, what did you mean by pushing Indiano against him ?"

“ None of your business,” replies Wad, emphatically.

“ I intend to make it my business,” rejoined Scamper, divesting himself of his coat and cap, which he handed to fellow called Jack Stiles, who was appointed umpire. They then had a sharp set-to, in which Aukley was worsted, but my friend Scamper did not come out unscathed.

It was with such boys as these that I had my schooling ; brave as lions, most of them, full of devilment, preeminently " up to snuff,” taking a delight in smoking a greenhorn, or kicking up a fight: but though noblehearted, high-spirited fellows, they were withal, as a general thing, rough and coarse in their natures, with no delicate sensibilities; in fact, any show of such was despised and ridiculed by them. And they took delight in jeering any boy who manifested any timidity or bashfulness in his disposition.

Charles Scamper was, perhaps, endowed with higher and more refined feelings, which he maintained by dint of his animal courage. Bolivar was a quiet and more gentlemanly boy than most of them, but both of these relished a bit of fun at the expense of some shy youth, whose very diffidence laid him open to the rude assaults of his heartless companions.

For my part, my good success at the outstart in my conflict with Owens, gave me character in school as a boy of "spunk,” and I had nothing to fear.

VI.

I don't feel disposed to detain the reader with the details of my schoolboy days: they passed much as the school days of other boys have passed, perhaps, in a general view, and it would occupy too much space to enter extensively into particulars.

Suffice it to say, that Domine Rumsey was a schoolmaster of the olden time, none of your new-fangled Yankee innovators. He was a gentleman and a scholar. His mind was of a stamp higher than ordinary, well culti

« 이전계속 »