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The Kentuckian in New-York; or, The Adventures of Three Southerns. Volume 1 (of 2)

William Alexander Caruthers


  Or, The Adventures of Three Southerns.


  "Perhaps it may turn out a sang,Perhaps turn out a sermon."--_Burns._

  In Two Volumes.

  VOL. I.

  New-York:Published by Harper & Brothers,No. 82 Cliff-Street.1834.

  Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1834,By Harper & Brothers,In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.

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  HELEN. A new Tale. By MARIA EDGEWORTH--forming the _tenth_ volume of Harper's Uniform Edition of her Works. Containing two beautiful Engravings on steel.

  TALES AND SKETCHES,--such as they are. By W. L. STONE, Esq. In 2 vols. 12mo.

  THE FROLICS OF PUCK. In 2 vols. 12mo.


  GUY RIVERS. A Novel. By the Author of "Martin Faber." In 2 vols. 12mo.

  MRS. SHERWOOD'S WORKS. Uniform Edition. With Engravings on steel. 12mo.

  PAULDING'S WORKS. Uniform Edition. Revised and corrected by the Author. 12mo.

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  Towards the latter part of the summer of 18--, on one of those cool,delightful, and invigorating mornings which are frequent in the southernregions of the United States, there issued from the principal hotel onthe valley-side of Harper's Ferry two travellers, attended by avenerable and stately southern slave. The experienced eye of the oldferryman, as he stood in his flat-bottomed boat awaiting the arrival ofthis party, discovered at once that our travellers were from the farSouth.

  The first of these, Victor Chevillere, entered the "flat," leading bythe bridle a mettlesome southern horse; when he had stationed this fineanimal to his satisfaction, he stood directly fronting the prescriptiveCharon of the region. This young gentleman, who appeared to be theprincipal character of the party just entering the boat, was handsomelyformed, moderately tall, and fashionably dressed. His face was bold,dignified, and resolute, and not remarkable for any very peculiarfashion of the hair or beard which shaded it. He appeared to be abouttwenty-three years of age, and though so young, much and earlyexperience of the world had already o'ershadowed his face with abecoming serenity, if not sadness. Not that silly, affected melancholy,however, which is so often worn in these days by young and romantic idlegentlemen, to catch the errant sympathies of some untravelled countrybeauty.

  The next personage of the party (who likewise entered the boat leading afine southern animal), was a fashionable young gentleman, about themiddle size; his face was pale and wan, as if he had but just recoveredfrom an attack of illness. Nevertheless there was a brilliant fire inhis eye, and a lurking, but too evident, disposition to fun and humour,which illness had not been entirely able to subdue. Augustus Lamar, forsuch was his name, was the confidential and long-tried friend of thefirst-named gentleman: their mutual regard had existed undiminished fromthe time of their early school days in South Carolina, through theirwhole college career in Virginia up to the moment of which we speak.

  The third and more humble personage of the party bore the time-honouredappellation of Cato. He was a tall old negro, with a face so black as toform a perfect contrast to his white hair and brilliant teeth. He waswell dressed and cleanly in his person, and rather solemn and pompousin his manners. Cato had served the father of his present highlyhonoured young master, and was deeply imbued with that strong feudalattachment to the family, which is a distinguishing characteristic ofthe southern negroes who serve immediately near the persons of the greatlandholders.

  Our travellers were now smoothly gliding over that most magnificent"meeting of the waters" of the Shenandoah and Potomack, which is usuallyknown by the unpretending name of "Harper's Ferry." It was earlymorning; the moon was still visible above the horizon, and the sun hadnot yet risen above those stupendous fragments whose chaotic andirregular position gives token of the violence with which the mass ofwaters rent for themselves a passage through the mountains, when rushingon to meet that other congregation of rivers, with whose waters theyunite to form the Bay of the Chesapeake. The black bituminous smoke fromthe hundred smithies of the United States' armory, had just begun torise above the towering crags that seemed, at this early period, tobattle with the vapours which are here sent up in thick volumes from thecontest of rocks and rivers beneath.

  Old Cato had by this time assumed his post at the heads of the threehorses, while our southerns stood with folded arms, each impressed withthe scene according to his individual impulses. As they approachednearer to the northern shore, Chevillere, addressing Lamar, observed:"An unhappy young lady she must be who arrived at our hotel lastevening. I could hear her weeping bitterly as she paced the floor, untila late hour of the night, when finally she seemed to throw herself uponthe bed, and fall asleep from mere exhaustion;" and then, turning to theweather-beaten steersman, continued: "I suppose we are the firstpassengers in the 'flat' this morning?"

  "No, sir, you are not; a carriage from the same tavern went over half anhour ago. There was an old gray-headed man, and two young women in it,besides the driver, and the driver told me that they were all the wayfrom York State,--the mail stage, too, went over."

  "The same party," said Chevillere, abstractedly; "Did you learn wherethey were to breakfast, boatman?"

  "About ten miles from this, I think I heard say."

  They were soon landed and mounted, and cantering away through the fogand vapours of the early morning. Nor were they long in overtaking ahandsome travelling-carriage, which was moving at a brisk rate, inaccordance with the exertions of two fine, evidently northern, horses.The carriage contained an elderly, grave, formal, and magisterialgentleman; his locks quite gray, and hanging loose upon the collar ofhis coat; his countenance harsh, austere, and forbidding in the extreme.By his side sat a youthful lady, so enveloped in a large black mantle,and travelling hat and veil, that but little of her form or featurescould be seen, except a pair of brilliant blue eyes.

  It is not to be denied, that these sudden apparitions of young andbeautiful females, almost completely shrouded in mantles, drapery, orveils, are the very circumstances fully to arouse the slumberingenergies of a lately emancipated college Quixotte. A lovely pair ofeyes, brimful of tears,--a "Cinderella" foot and ankle,--a white andbeautifully turned hand and tapered fingers, with perhaps a mourningring or two,--or a bonnet suddenly blown off, so as to dishevel amagnificent head of hair, its pretty mistress meanwhile all confusion,and her snowy neck and temples suffused with blushes,--these are thelittle incidents on which the real romances of human life are founded.How many persons can look back to such a commencement of their youthfulloves! nay, perhaps, refer to it all the little enjoyment with whichthey have been blessed through life! We venture to say, that those whowere so unfortunate as never to bring their first youthful romance to afortunate denouement, can likewise look back upon such occurrences withmany pleasing emotions. A bachelor or a widower, indeed, may not alwaysrecur with pleasure to these first passages in the book of life,--butthe feelings even of these are not altogether of the melancholy kind.The fairy queens of their spring-tide will sometimes arise in thepresent tense, until they almost imagine themselves in the possessionagain of youth and all its raptures,--its brilliant dreams, airycastles, "hair-breadth 'scapes," and miraculous deliv
erances,--cruelfathers, and perverse guardians, and stolen interviews, and lovers' vowsand tokens,--winding up finally with a runaway match--all of theimagination.

  After the equipage before alluded to had been for some time left behind,our travellers began to descry, at the distance of several miles, thelong white portico of the country inn at which they proposed tobreakfast. The United States mail-coach for Baltimore was standing atthe door, evidently waiting till the passengers should have performedthe same needful operation. Servants were running hither and thither,some to the roost, others to the stable, as if a large number of themost distinguished dignitaries of the land had just arrived.

  But, behold, when our travellers drew up, they found that all this stiramong the servants of the inn was called into being by the real oraffected wants of a number of very young gentlemen. We say affected,because we are sorry to acknowledge that it is not uncommon to see veryyoung and inexperienced gentlemen, on such occasions, assume airs andgraces which are merely put on as a travelling dress, and which would bethrown aside at the first appearance of an old acquaintance. At suchtimes it is by no means rare to see all the servants of the inn,together with the host and hostess, entirely engrossed by one of theseovergrown boys or ill-bred men, while their elders and superiors arecompelled either to want or wait upon themselves. At the time we notice,some young bloods of the cities were exercising themselves in their newsuit of stage-coach manners.

  "Here waiter! waiter!" with an affectedly delicate and foreign voice,cried one of these youths, enveloped in a brown "Petersham box" coat,and with his hands stuck into his pockets over his hips. Under the armof this person was a black riding-switch, with a golden head, and asmall chain of the same precious metal, fastened about six inchestherefrom, after the fashion of some old rapier guards. He wore arakish-looking fur cap, round and tight on the top of his head as abladder of snuff; this was cocked on one side after a most piraticalfashion, so as to show off, in the best possible manner, a greatprofusion of coarse, shining black hair, which was evidently indebted toart rather than nature for the curls that frizzled out over his ears,while the back part of his head was left as bare and defenceless as ifhe had already been under the hands of a deputy turnkey. He practisedwhat may be called American puppyism, as technically distinguished fromthe London species of the same genus. "Here waiter! waiter!" said he,"bring me a gin sling,--and half-a-dozen Bagdad segars,--and a lightedtaper,--and a fresh egg,--and a bowl of water, and a clean towel,--andpolish my boots,--and dust my coat,--and then send me the barber, do youhear?"

  "O, sir! we has no barber, nor Bagdab segars neither; but we has plentyof the real Baltimores,--real good ones, too,--as I knows very well, forI smokes the old sodgers what the gentlemen throws on the bar-roomfloor."

  "It is one of the most amusing scenes imaginable," said VictorChevillere to Augustus Lamar, as they sat witnessing this scene, "whenthe waiter and the master pro tempore are both fools. The fawning,bowing, cringing waiter, with his big lips upon the _qui vive_, his headand shoulders constantly in motion, and rubbing his hands one over theother after the most approved fashion of the men of business. In such acase as that which we have just witnessed, where puppyism comes incontact with the kindred monkey-tricks of the waiter, I can enjoy it.But when it happens, as I have more than once seen, that the waiter is amanly, sensible, and dignified old negro of the loftier sort, such asold Cato,--then you can soon detect the curl of contempt upon hislip,--and he is not long thereafter in selecting the real gentlemen ofthe party,--always choosing to wait most upon those who least demandit."

  "I would bet my horse Talleyrand against an old field scrub, that thatfellow is a Yankee," answered Lamar.

  "He may be a Yankee," continued Victor Chevillere, "but you havetravelled too much and reflected too long upon the nature of man, toascribe every thing disgusting to a Yankee origin. For my part, I makethe character of every man I meet in some measure my study during mytravels, and as we have agreed to exchange opinions upon men and things,I will tell you freely what I think of that fellow who has justretreated from our laughter. I have found it not at all uncommon, to seethe most undisguised hatred arise between two such persons as he of thestage-coach,--the one from the north, and the other from thesouth,--when in truth, the actuating impulse was precisely the same inboth, but had taken a different direction, and was differently developedby different exciting causes.

  "The puppyism of Charleston and that of Boston are only different shadesof the same character, yet these kindred spirits can in nowise tolerateeach other. As is universally the case, those are most intolerant toothers who have most need of forgiveness themselves. The mutual jealousyof the north and south is a decided evidence of littleness in bothregions, and ample cause for shame to the educated gentlemen of allparties of this happy country. If pecuniary interest had not been mixedup with this provincial rivalry, the feeling could easily have been soheld up to the broad light of intelligence, as to be a fertile source ofamusement, and furnish many a subject for comedy and farce inafter-times."

  This specimen was by no means the only one among the arrivals by thestage-coach. Every waiter in the house was pressed into the service ofthese coxcombs,--some smoked,--some swaggered through the privaterooms,--others adjusted their frizzled locks at the mirrors with brushescarried for the purpose,--and all together created a vast commotion inthe quiet country inn.

  As our two young southerns sat in the long piazza, eying thesestage-coach travellers and waiting for breakfast, the same equipagewhich they had passed on the road, and containing our northern party,drew up to the door.

  Not many minutes had elapsed before a black servant stood in the entrybetween the double suite of apartments, and briskly swung a small bellto and fro, which seemed to announce breakfast, from the precipitatehaste with which the gentlemen of the stage-coach found their way intothe long breakfasting-hall of the establishment. Our southerns followedtheir example, but more quietly, and by the invitation of the host. Atthe upper end of the table stood the hostess, who, like most of her kindin America, was the wife of a wealthy landholder and farmer, as well astavern-keeper. She was a genteel and modest-looking woman, and did thehonours of the table like a lady at her own hospitable board, and amongselected guests. It is owing to a mistake in the character of the hostand hostess, that so many foreigners give and take offence at theseestablishments. They often contumaciously demand as a right, what wouldhave been offered to them in all courtesy after the established usagesof the country.

  On the right of the hostess sat the youthful lady who had spent such anunhappy night at the ferry,--in the hearing of Victor Chevillere,--andwhom they had passed on the road. She was still so enveloped in hertravelling dress and veil as to be but partially seen. On the same side,unfortunately, as he no doubt thought, sat Chevillere with Lamar. Thegrave-looking old gentleman, the companion of the youthful ladymentioned, sat immediately opposite to her. The gentlemen of extreme ton(as they wished to be thought), were ranged along the table, alreadymangling the dishes, cracking and replacing the eggs, and apparentlymuch dissatisfied with the number of seconds they had remained in heatedwater. Nor were they long in striking up a conversation, as loud andfull of slang as their previous displays had been. During this unseemlyand boisterous conduct, some more tender chord seemed to be touchedwithin the bosom of the lovely young female, than would have beensupposed from the character of the assailants. Victor Chevillere turnedhis head in that direction, and saw that her face had become more deadlypale; at the same moment he heard her say, in an under-tone, to the oldgentleman her companion, "My dear sir, assist me from this room,--myhead grows dizzy, and I feel a deathlike sickness."

  Chevillere was upon his feet in an instant, and assisted the lady torise; by this time, the old gentleman having taken her other arm, theycarried rather than led her into one of the adjoining apartments,where, after depositing their beautiful burden upon a sofa, Chevillereleft her to the care of the hostess, who had followed, and returned tothe breakfast-table.

  Let us describe a country breakfast for the uninitiated. At the head ofthe table was a large salver, or japanned waiter, upon which was spreadout various utensils of China-ware,--the only articles of plate being asugar-dish and cream-pot. On the right of this salver stood a coffee andtea-urn, of some composition metal, resembling silver in appearance. Atthe other end of the table, under the skilful hands of the host, was alarge steak, cut and sawed entirely through the sirloin of the beef.Half-way up the table, on either side, were dishes of broiled game, theintermediate spaces being filled up with various kinds of hot bread,biscuit and pancakes (as they are called in some parts of the north).This custom of eating hot bread at the morning and evening meal, isalmost universal at the south. Immediately in the centre stood a pyramidof fresh-churned butter, with a silver butter-knife sticking into thevarious ornaments of vine-leaves and grapes with which it was stamped.

  To this fare Chevillere found his friend Lamar doing the most amplejustice, nor was his own keen appetite entirely destroyed by thetemporary indisposition of the lady who had so much excited hiscuriosity and his sympathy. He could have congratulated himself on thelittle occurrence which had given him some claims to a fartheracquaintance, and doubtless could have indulged in delightful reveriesas to the fair and youthful stranger,--had not all his gay dreams beenput to flight by the boisterous laughter and meager attempts at wit ofthe other travellers. As he returned towards the table, the one whom wehave more particularly described elevated a glass, with a golden handle,to his large, full, and impudent eye. Chevillere returned the gaze untilhis look almost amounted to a deliberate stare. The "bloods" lookedfierce, and exchanged pugnacious looks, but all chance of a collisionwas prevented by the return of the hostess. Notwithstanding thedisagreeable qualities of most of the guests at the table, Chevillerefound time to turn the little incident of the sudden indisposition andits probable cause several times in his own mind; and, as may be wellimagined, his mental soliloquy resulted in no injurious imputation uponthe youthful lady,--there was evidently no trait of affectation.

  At length the meal was brought to a close,--not however, before thedriver of the mail-coach had wound sundry impatient blasts upon hisbugle,--general joy seemed to pervade every remaining countenance afterthe departure of the coxcombs. Both the northern and southerntravellers, who were journeying northward, and who had breakfasted atthe inn, were soon likewise plodding along at the usual rate of wearytravellers by a private conveyance.