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

William Alexander Caruthers


  The misery of the young and the beautiful is at all times infectious.Few young persons can withhold sympathy in such a case,--especially ifthe person thus afflicted be unmarried--of the other sex--and near one'sown age.

  Victor Chevillere could not expel from his imagination the image of thefair stranger. Again and again did he essay to join Lamar in his lightand sprightly conversation, as they, on the day after the one recordedin the last chapter, pursued their journey along the noble turnpikebetween Fredericktown and Baltimore. The same profound revery wouldsteal upon him, and abide until broken by the merry peals of Lamar'speculiarly loud and joyous laughter, at the new mood which seemed tohave visited the former. When a young person first begins to experiencethese abstracted moods, there is nothing, perhaps, that sounds moreharsh and startling to his senses, than the mirthful voice of his bestfriend. He looks up as one would naturally look at any unseemly orboisterous conduct at a funeral. He seems to gaze and wonder, for thefirst time, that all things and all men are jogging on at their usualgait. Thus were things moving upon the Fredericktown turnpike: Lamarriding forty or fifty paces in front, singing away the blue devils;Chevillere in the centre, moody and silent; and old Cato, stately as astatue on horseback, bringing up the rear.

  From hearing sundry merry peals of laughter from Lamar's quarter,Chevillere was induced at length to forego his own society for a moment,to see what new subject his Quixotic friend had found for such unusualmerriment; and a subject he had indeed found in the shape of a tallKentuckian. The name of the stranger, it seems, was Montgomery Damon. Hewas six feet high, with broad shoulders, full, projecting chest, lighthair and complexion, and a countenance that was upon the first blush anindex to a mind full of quaint, rude, and wild humour. His dress was anything but fashionable; he wore a large, two-story hat, with a bandanahandkerchief hanging out in front, partly over his forehead, as if toprotect it from the great weight of his castor. His coat and pantaloonswere of home-made cotton and woollen jeans, and he carried in his hand awarlike riding-whip, loaded with lead, and mounted with silver, withwhich, now and then, he gave emphasis to his words, by an unexpected andsonorous crack.

  Our Kentuckian was no quiet man; but, like most of his race, bold,talkative, and exceedingly democratic in all his notions; feeling asmuch pride in his occupation of drover, as if he had been a senator inCongress from his own "Kentuck," as he emphatically called it. He was apolitician, too, inasmuch as he despised _tories_, as he called thefederalists, approved of the late war, and had a most venomous hatredagainst Indians, of whatever tribe or nation. We shall break into theirdialogue at the point at which Victor became a listener.

  "How did it happen," said Lamar, "that you did not join the army eitherof the north or south, when your heart seems to have been so entirelywith them?"

  "O! as to _jine_en the army to the north," said Damon, "I was afraid theblasted tories would sell me to the British, me and my messmates, likeold Hull, the infernal old traitor, sold his men for so much a head,_jist_ as I sell my hogs. As to t'other business, down yonder, under OldHickory, I reckon I _did_ take a hand or so aginst the bloody Injins."

  "You prefer a fight with Indians, then, to one with white men."

  "To be sure I do; I think no more of taking my jack-knife, andunbuttonin the collar of a Creek Injin, than I would of takin the jacketoff a good fat bell-wether, or mout-be a yerlin calf. Old Hickory's theboy to _sculp_ the bloody creters; he's the boy to walk into theirbread-baskets; and Dick Johnston ain't far behind him, I can tell you,stranger; he's the chap what plumped a bullet right into old Tecumseh'sbagpipes. Let him alone for stoppin their war-whoops."

  "You were a rifleman, I suppose," said Lamar.

  "Right agin, stranger. Give me a rifle for ever; they never spiles meat,though, as one may say, Injin's meat ain't as good as blue-lick buck's;but for all that, it's a pity to make bunglin work of a neat job;besides, your smooth bores waste a deal of powder and lead upon theoutlandish creters."

  "Were you ever wounded?" asked Lamar.

  "Yes! don't you see this here hare-lip to my right eye? Well! that wasjist the corner of an Injin's hatchet. Bob Wiley jist knocked up his armin time to save me for another whet at the varmints; if so mout be thatwe ever has another brush with 'em, and Bob goes out agin, maybe I maydo him a good turn yet; he's what I call a tear down sneezer (crack wentthe whip). He's got no more fear among the Injins than a wild cat in aweasel's nest; O! it would have done your heart good to see him jist liedown behind an old log, and watch for one of the varmint's heads bobbinup and down like a muskovy drake in a barn yard, and as sure as you sawthe fire at the muzzle of his gun, so sure he knocked the creter's hindsights out. You see he always took 'em on the bob, jist as you wouldshoot a divin bird, and that's what I always called taking the bread outof the creter's mouth, for he was watchin for the same chance."

  "Did you scalp the slain?" said Lamar.

  "No!" replied Damon, "we had plenty of friendly Injins to do that, andit used to make me laugh to see the yallow raskals sculpin their kin;that's what I call dog eat dog."

  "Do you think an Indian has a soul?" said Lamar.

  "Ha! ha! ha!" roared the Kentuckian, giving a crack of unusual emphasis,"that's what I call a stumper; but as you're no missionary, I 'sposeI'll tell you. I knows some dumb brutes--here's this Pete Ironsides thatI'm ridin on, has more of a Christian soul in him than any leather-skinbetween Missouri and Red River. Why! stranger! what's an Injin good for,more nor a wild cat? You can't tame ne'er a one of 'em."

  "But those missionaries you spoke of, don't you think they willcivilize, if not Christianize them?"

  "Ha! ha! ha!" shouted Damon, with another loud crack, and rolling a hugequid of tobacco to the opposite side of his mouth, "they might as wellmount the trees and preach to the 'coons and tree-frogs; one of yourreal psalm-singers mout tree a coon at it, but hang me if he can everput the pluck of a white man under a yellow jacket. Catch a weaselasleep or a fox at a foot race. I rather suspicion, stranger, that I'veseen more Injins than your missionaries, and I'll tell you the way totame 'em;--slit their windpipes and hamstring 'em."

  "Perhaps you are an enemy to religion, or prejudiced against themissionaries?"

  "No! no! stranger, no! I likes religion well enough of a Sunday; buthang me if I should not die of laughin to see 'em layin it down to theredskins. I'd as soon think of going into my horse stable and preachinto the dumb brutes. Old Pete here knows more now than many an Injin, andhe's got more soul than some Yankees that mout be named; but come,stranger, here's a public house, let's go in and cut the phlegm."

  "Agreed," said Lamar, "but it must be at my expense."

  "Well," said Damon, "we'll not quarrel about that;" and turning toVictor, "Stranger, won't you join us in a glass of tight?"

  "No! I thank you," said Chevillere, "but I will look on while you and myfriend drink to the better acquaintance of us all."

  After the parties had refreshed themselves and their horses, andremounted, the conversation was resumed. "Well now," said theKentuckian, addressing Victor, "I wish I may be contwisted if you ain'tone of the queerest men, to come from the Carolinas, I have clapped eyeson this many a day. You don't chaw tobacco, and you don't drink nothin;smash my apple-cart if I can see into it."

  "I am one of those that don't believe in the happy effects of eitherbrandy or tobacco," replied Chevillere.

  "Then you are off the trail for once in your life, stranger, for I taketobacco to be one of God's mercies to the poor. Whether it came by arigular dispensation of providence (as our parson used to say), or in anatural way, I can't tell; but hang me, if when I gets a quid of thereal Kentuck twist or Maryland kite-foot into my mouth, if I ain't asproud a man as the grand Turk himself. It drives away the solemncholies,and makes a fellow feel so good-natured, and so comfortable; it turnsthe shillings in his pocket into dollars, and his wrath into fun anddeviltry. Let them talk about tobacco as they choose among the finegals, and at their theatres, and
balls, and cotillions, and all themsort of things; but let one of 'em git twenty miles deep into a Kentuckforest, and then see if a chew of the stuff ain't good for company andcomfort."

  "But you did not tell me," resumed Lamar, "whether you had ever shot ata white man?"

  "No! no! I never did; and I don't know that I ever will. I think Ishould feel a leetle particlar, at standin up and shooting at a realChristian man, with flesh and blood like you and me. You see, when weboys of the long guns shoot, we don't turn our heads away and pulltrigger in a world of smoke, so that nobody can tell where the leadgoes; we look right into the white of a fellow's eye, and can mostalways tell which side of his nose the ball went, and you see that wouldbe but a slayin and skinnen business among white people; but as toshootin and sculpin Injins, that's a thing there is no bones made about,because out on the frontiers at the west, if a man should stand addlinhis brains about the right and the wrong of the thing, the red devilswould just knock them out to settle the matter, and sculp him for hispains into the bargain. Shooting real Christian men's quite anotherthing. It's what I ha'nt tried yet; but when we Kentuck boys gits at it,it won't all end like a log-rollin, with one or two broken shins and ablack eye. But I'm told the Yankees always sings a psalm before they goto battle. Now, according to my notion, a chap would make a blue fist oftakin a dead aim through double sights, with the butt end of a psalm inhis guzzle."

  "Some person must have told you that as a joke," said Lamar.

  "No, no, I believe it, because we had just such a fellow once in ourneighbourhood--a Yankee schoolmaster--and we took him out a deer-drivingtwo or three times, and he was always singing a psalm at his stand. Hespoilt the fun, confound him! Hang me if I didn't always think thefellow was afraid to stand in the woods by himself without it. I went tohis singin school of Saturday nights, too; but I never had a turn thatway. All the master could do, he could'nt keep me on the trail,--I wasfor ever slipping into Yankee Doodle; you see, every once in a while,the tune would take a quick turn, like one I knowed afore, so I used toblaze away at it with the best of 'em, but the same old Yankee Doodlealways turned up at the end. But the worst of it was, the infernalYankee spoiled all the music I ever had in me; when I come out of theschool, I thought the gals at home would have killed themselves laughin'at me. They said I ground up Yankee Doodle and Old Hundred together,all in a hodge-podge, so I never sings to no one now but the dumb brutesin the stable, when they gits melancholy of a rainy day. Old Pete hereraises his ears, and begins to snort the minute I raises a tune."

  "Your singing-master was, like his scholar, an original."

  "An original! When he come to them parts, he drove what we call a Yankeecart, half wagon and half carriage, full of all sorts of odds and ends;when he had sold them out, he sold his horse and cart too, and thenturned in to keepin a little old-field school; and over and above this,he opened a Saturday night singin-school,--and I reckon we had raretimes with the gals there. At last, when the feller had got considerableahead, the word came out that he was studyin to be a doctor; and sureenough, in a few months, he sold out the school for so much a head, justlike we sell our hogs; then off the Yankee starts to git made a doctorof; and hang me if ever I could see into that business. How they canturn a pedlar into a doctor in four months, is a leetle jist over myhead. It's true enough they works a mighty change in the chaps in thattime. Our Yankee went off, as well-behaved and as down-faced a chap asyou would wish to see in a hundred, and wore home-made clothes likemine; but when he had staid his four months out, and 'most everybody hadforgot him, one day as I was leanen up against one of the poplar treesin the little town, I saw a sign goin up on the side of a house, withDOCTOR GUN in large letters. I'll take my Bible oath, when I saw thething, I thought I should have broke a blood-vessel. Howsomever, Istrained 'em down, till an old woman would have sworn I had thehigh-strikes, with a knot o' wind in my guzzle. But I quieted the devilin me, and then I slipped slyly over the street, behind where the doctorwas standing with his new suit of black; one hand stuck in his side, andthe other holding an ivory-headed stick up to his mouth in the mostknowing fashion, I tell you. I stole up behind him, and bawled out inhis ear, as loud as I could yell, '_faw--sol--law--me_.' Oh! mygrandmother! what a smashin rage he flew into; he shook his cane--hewalked backwards and forwards--and didn't he make the tobacco juice fly?I rather reckon, if I hadn't had so many inches, he'd have been into mymeat; but the fun of it all was, the feller had foreswore his mothertongue; dash me if he could talk a word of common lingo, much less singpsalms and hymns by note; he rattled off words as long as my arm, and asfast as a windmill. Some of the old knowing ones says they've got somekind of a mill, like these little hand-organs, and that chops it out tothe chaps eny night and morning, pretty much as I chop straw to myhorses; but I'm going in to see that doctor-factory, when I git toPhiladelphia, if they don't charge a feller more nor half a dollar ahead."

  "I hope we shall travel together to Philadelphia," said Lamar; "and ifso, I will introduce you into the establishment, free of expense."

  "Thank you, sir, thank you," said the Kentuckian; "but I'm ratherinclined to think that we will hardly meet again after to-day; 'cause,you see, I'm 'bliged to do a might of business in Baltimore afore I cango on. After that, then I can go on as I please; as I'm only goin to seethe world abit, afore I settle down for life."

  "But," said Lamar, "if you will call at Barnum's, and leave word whatday you will set out, I will see that we travel together, for I willsuit my time to yours; and I would advise you to send your horse a shortdistance into the country, both for the sake of convenience andeconomy."

  "What! part with old Pete here! Bless my soul, stranger! he would gointo a gallopin consumption! or die of the solemncholies, if a rainyspell should come on, and he and I couldn't have a dish of chattogether; and then I shouldn't know no more what to do in one of yourcoaches nor a cow with a side-pocket."

  "My word for it," replied Victor, "you would soon enjoy yourself insideof a stage-coach. Come, let us make a bargain. I will engage to haveyour horse well taken care of in the country, and provide him with agroom that will soon learn his ways, and be able to cheer him up when hegets low-spirited."

  "Yes, do!" said Lamar, jocosely; "we are anxious to have your companyduring our visit to the cities. We are from Carolina, and you are fromKentuck; and after you get through with your business, we shall all beon the same errand--pleasure and improvement."

  "And a wild-goose chase it's like to be, I'm afraid; especially if I'mto be of your mess. But suppose you should meet with some fine ladyacquaintances, what, in the name of old Sam, would you do with me? Ishould be like a fifth wheel to a wagon."

  "Were you never in the company of fine ladies?" asked Chevillere.

  "Yes! and flummuck me if ever I want to be so fixed again; for there Isat with my feet drawn straight under my knees, heads up, and hands laidclose along my legs, like a new recruit on drill, or a horse in thestocks; and, twist me, if I didn't feel as if I was about to be nicked.The whole company stared at me as if I had come without an invite; and Iswear I thought my arms had grown a foot longer, for I couldn't get myhands in no sort of a comfortable fix--first I tried them on my lap;there they looked like goin to prayers, or as if I was tied in that way;then I slung 'em down by my side, and they looked like two weights to aclock; and then I wanted to cross my legs, and I tried that, but my legstuck out like a pump handle; then my head stuck up through a glazedshirt-collar, like a pig in a yoke; then I wanted to spit, but the floorlooked so fine, that I would as soon have thought of spittin on thewindow; and then to fix me out and out, they asked us all to sit downto dinner! Well, things went on smooth enough for a while, till we hadgot through one whet at it. Then a blasted imp of a nigger come to mefirst with a waiter of little bowls full of something, and a parcel oftowels slung over his arm; so I clapped one of the bowls to my head, anddrank it down at a swallow. Now, stranger, what do you think was in it?"

  "Punch, I suppose," said Lamar, laughing; "or perh
aps apple toddy."

  "So I thought, and so would anybody, as dry as I was, and that wantedsomething to wash down the fainty stuffs I had been layin in; but no! itwas warm water! Yes! you may laugh! but it was clean warm water. Theothers dipped their fingers into the bowls, and wiped them on the towelsas well as they could for gigglin; but it was all the fault of thatpampered nigger, in bringin it to me first. As soon as I catched hiseye, I gin him a wink, as much as to let him know that if ever I caughthim on my trail, I would wipe him down with a hickory towel."

  "But I suppose you enjoyed yourself highly before it was all over?" saidChevillere.

  "When it was all over, I was glad enough; I jumped and capered like aschool-boy at the first of the holydays."

  "Have you never been invited out since?" asked Lamar.

  "O yes, often," said Damon; "but you don't catch a weasel asleep again.I like to give a joke, and take a joke; but then the joke was all on oneside. If I can take a hand in the laugh, I don't care whether a personlaughs _at_ me, or _with_ me."

  "But what say you?" said Chevillere; "shall we send your horse to thecountry with ours?"

  "Why! as you gentlemen seem to speak me so fair, and to know the worldso well, I don't care if I do send old Pete out to board awhile. Ishouldn't be surprised though if he should give me up for lost, and frethimself to death. But I must see the man that goes to the country withthem; 'cause Pete couldn't bear shabby talk; he's what I call a leetleparticular in his company for a dumb brute."

  "The man rides behind us," said Chevillere, "who will perform that duty.Cato! this gentleman wishes to speak to you."

  "Did you call, your honour?"

  "Yes. Cato! Mr. Damon wishes to give you some charges about his horse,which you are to take into the country with ours."

  "Cato," said Damon, "tell the farmer who takes the horses, that old PeteIronsides here has been used to good company, and that he has beentreated more like a Christian nor a horse, and that I wish him indulgedin his old ways."

  During this harangue, Cato cast sundry glances from his master to thespeaker, as if to ascertain whether he was in earnest, or only playingoff one of those freaks in which the young men had so often indulged inhis presence. Being accustomed, however, to treat with respect thosewhom his master respected, and seeing his eye calm and serious, he bowedwith grave deference, saying, "It shall be done as you direct, yourhonour;" and then fell back.

  "Now," said Damon, "that's what I call a well-bred nigger. I wouldventure that old Scip would'nt have puzzled me with the warm water;'cause he knows that I'm not one of them there sort of chaps what knowsall their new-fangled kick-shaws. He knows in a case of realneedcessity, or life and death, as I may say, either to man, woman, orhorse, I'm more to be depended on than a dozen such chaps as went alonghere in the stage this morning."

  "You saw the dandies in the stage, then?" asked Victor.

  "Yes, and one of 'em popped his head out of the window, and says to meas they went by, 'Country,' says he, 'there's something on your horse'stail.'--'Yes,' says I, 'and there's something in his head that youhav'nt got, if his ears ain't so long.'"

  Thus were our acquaintances and their new companion jogging along whenthe distant rumbling of wheels upon the pavements and the dense cloudsof black smoke which seemed to be hanging in the heavens but a shortdistance ahead, announced that they were soon to enter the monumentalcity.

  There is not, perhaps, a feeling of more truly unmixed melancholy,incident to the heart of an inexperienced and modest student, than thatwhich steals over him upon his first entrance into a strange city; afeeling of incomparable loneliness, even deeper than if the sameindividual were standing alone upon the highest blue peak of the farstretching Alleghany. The vanishing rays of twilight were extendingtheir lengthening shadows; the husbandman and his cattle were seenwending their way to their accustomed abodes for the night; and thefeathered tribes had already sought the resting-places which nature soplentifully provides for them in our well-wooded land. The sad, and itmay be pleasing reflections which such sights produced, wereoccasionally interrupted by the clattering of a horse's hoofs upon theturnpike, as some belated countryman sought to redeem the time he hadspent at the alehouse; or as the solitary marketman, with more staid andquiet demeanour, sped upon a like errand. Occasionally the scene wasmarred by some besotted and staggering wretch, seeking his lowly andmiserable hut in the suburbs. At intervals too, the barking of dogs andthe lowing of cattle contributed their share to remind our friends thatthey were about to take leave of these quiet and pastoral scenes, for anindefinite period, and to mix in the bustle and gay assemblage of citylife. Often, at such junctures, there is a presentiment of the evilwhich awaits the unhappy exchange. Warning clouds of the mind arebelieved to exist by many of the clearest heads and soundest hearts: wedo not say that our heroes were thus sadly affected, nor that theKentuckian had a fore-taste of evil; but certain it is, that all weresilent until they arrived at the place of separation. All things havingbeen previously settled, they exchanged salutations, and departed upontheir separate routes. They passed a variety of streets in that mostgloomy period of the day when lamp-lighters are to be seen, with theirtorches and ladders, starting their glimmering lights first in onedirection and then in another, as they hurry from post to post. Draymenwere driving home with reckless and Jehu-like speed; and the brilliantlights which began to appear at long intervals, gave evidence that thetrading community carried their operations also into that portion oftime which nature has allotted for rest and repose to nearly all livingthings. Our travellers now alighted at Barnum's; but as their adventureswere of an interesting character, we shall defer them till a newchapter.