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Full text of "Life in prairie land"

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LIBRARY OF 

KNOX COLLEGE 





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FINLEY COLLECTION ON THE 

HISTORY AND ROMANCE OF 

THE NORTHWEST ■ S€ 

PRESENTED BY 
EDWARD • CALDWELL 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

CARLI: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois 



http://www.archive.org/details/lifeinprairielanOOinfarn 



LIFE 



IN 



PEAIEIE LAND. 



BY 



ELIZA W. FARNHAM. 



" Dear Nature is the kindest mother still." — Childe Harold. 



N E W-Y O R K : 

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, 
82 CLIFF STREET. 

18 46. 



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846, by 

Harper & Brothers, 
In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New- York. 



PREFACE. 



The following work was commenced with 
the intention of writing one or two brief sketches 
descriptive of Life at the West. And until some 
hundred and fifty pages were written, I never 
contemplated the possibility of extending them 
to a volume. At that point, I was so far from 
having said all I felt, that I very willingly re- 
signed myself to the current of my feelings and 
wrote on. 

To those who read the volume first, and after- 
ward, in some idle moment, turn back to the 
preface, I need not say that I have been impelled 
in every step by love of my theme. That will 
have been apparent enough to them, without 
any such declaration. I have loved the West, 
and it still claims my preference over all other 
portions of the earth. Its magnitude, its fertili- 
ty, the kindliness of its climate, the variety and 
excellence of its productions are unrivaled in 
our own country, if not on the globe. 

In these characteristics, it presents itself to 
my mind in the light of a strong and generous 
parent, whose arms are spread to extend pro- 



w?r 



IV PREFACE. 



tection, happiness, and life to throngs who seek 
them from other and less friendly climes. Set- 
ting a high value upon these resources, I rejoice 
to hear of emigration to the country possessing 
them — not alone because those who go will 
find there abundance for the supply of their 
natural wants, but because the influences with 
which it will address their spiritual natures are 
purifying, ennobling, and elevating. If nature 
ever taught a lesson which the endwarfed, de- 
based mind of man could study with profit, it is 
in these regions of her benignest dispensations. 
The burden of her teaching here, is too palpa- 
ble to be wholly rejected by any. Even vulgar 
minds do not altogether escape its influence. 
Their perceptions become more vivid, their de- 
sires more exalted, their feelings purer, and all 
their intellectual action more expanded. 

The magnificence, freedom, and beauty of the 
country form, as it were, a common element, in 
which all varieties of character, education, and 
prejudice are resolved into simple and harmo- 
nious relation. Living near to nature, artificial 
distinctions lose much of their force. Human- 
ity is valued mainly for its intrinsic worth — not 
for its appurtenances or outward belongings. 

It must not be forgotten, however, that a 
large class of minds have no adaptation to the 



PREFACE. 



conditions of life in the West. This is more 
especially true of my own sex. Very many 
ladies are so unfortunate as to have had their 
minds thoroughly distorted from all true and 
natural modes of action by an artificial and per- 
nicious course of education, or the influence of 
a false social position. They cannot endure the 
sudden and complete transition which is forced 
upon them by emigration to the West. Hence 
a class may always be found who dislike the 
country ; who see and feel only its disadvan- 
tages ; who endure the self-denial it imposes 
without enjoying any of the freedom it confers ; 
who' suffer the loss of artificial luxuries, but 
never appreciate what is offered in exchange 
for them. Persons so constituted ought never 
to entertain for a moment the project of emi- 
gration. They destroy their own happiness, 
and materially diminish that of others. Their 
discontent and pining are tolerated with much 
impatience, because those who do not sympa- 
thize* with them, see so much to enjoy and so 
little to endure, that their griefs command little 
or no respect. 

I had no such experience, for I loved the 
country, and when compelled to return to the 
crowded and dusty marts of the East, I did so 
with many and deep regrets; and these still 

a2 



VI PREFACE. 

linger and mingle largely with the emotions of 
my life. The writing of these sketches has, 
therefore, been a labor of love. While engaged 
upon them, I have lived again in the land of 
my heart. I have seen the grasses wave, and 
felt the winds, and listened to the birds, and 
watched the springing flowers, and exulted in 
something of the old sense of freedom which 
these conferred upon me. Visions, prophetic of 
the glory and greatness which are to be devel- 
oped here, have dwelt in my mind and exalted 
it above the narrow personal cares of life. 

It is the enjoyment afforded by this kind of 
emancipation which so endears the Western 
country to those who have resided in it. It 
steals upon the heart like what it is, the very 
witchery of nature ; so that those who are sus- 
ceptible to it, feel the charm but not the incon- 
venience through which it is invoked. Such 
persons delight in the perfection and beauty of 
the natural, and these suffice them. 

After what has been said, it would be super- 
fluous to add that of this latter class I am an 
humble member ; that no deprivation or suffer- 
ing incident to the country could sever my 
attachment to it, and that any portraiture of 
its life which I should draw would, therefore, 
abound in gay and cheerful colors. The som- 



PREFACE. Vii 

bre tints would not dwell in my heart, and I 
cannot reproduce them. This may make my 
picture appear to be a partial one, but to me 
and those who are of like spirit it will be honest. 
Conscious of the intent to make it so, I shall 
dismiss it without care in that regard, and leave 
it to tell its own story of the great and generous 
land whose name it bears. 



E. W. F. 



Mount Pleasant, N. Y. 
March, 1846. 



CONTENTS. 



Preface Page lii 

Chap. I. — Embarkation for the Illinois — Western steamboats in general 
— The Banner in particular — Her captain and crew — Hooshier bride and 
bridegroom— A walk in St. Louis — A horrible tale of Lynching 13 

Chap. II.— Departure from St. Louus— The first night on board the 
Banner— The next morning— Speed of our boat— J unction of the Mis- 
souri and Mississippi — Landing {U Alton — Unpardonable behavior of 
the boat under trying circumstances — Disaster to the captain — A speci- 
men of Hooshier indignation 22 

Chap. III. — Leaving Alton we discover that Jersey is on board — A day 
on an island — Who Jersey is — Some of his experience during his travels 
— His political opinions— Peculiar style of expressing them— His notions 
on travel 29 

Chap. IV. — Another night on the Banner— A conversation with our 
western bridegroom — His opinions on the woman question decidedly 
anti-Wolstoncraft — His reasons for entering into matrimony— How he 
would sympathize with his wife in sorrow, with a practical illustration 
— Her story and disposition to lighten the darker shades of his doc- 
trines 35 

Chap. V.— Improved conduct of the boat— Politeness of her captain— 
Our style of conversation pantomimic on my part— Landing— Pokerton 
— Starting for our final destination— The country, the road, the slues — 
Their peculiar character demonstrated— Woodland and its principal 
inhabitants — Prairie Lodge — Our meeting 43 

Chap. VI.— Sun-bonnets, veils, gloves, etc.— Environments of Prairie 
Lodge— Its neighbors— A horticultural curiosity — Preparing for tea — 
Partaking it— The evening — Who were present, and how we spent 
it • 54 

Chap. VH. — Prairie life begun — Rambles in the groves and over the prai- 
ries — Visits on horseback — An afternoon with a neighbor three miles 
distant — Amusing details of this visit, a fair specimen of the social 
visiting of the country 59 

Chap. VIII.— Commencement of Sucker life— Our next neighbor— The 
mother Meg Merrllies— The house ; its architecture— The grounds ; 
how laid out and adorned— The children ; their pastimes — The father ; 
his political and social position— Another house ; the spirit which 
reigned in it— Beauty of order and purity in domestic life . . 63 

Chap. IX. — Spring around Prairie Lodge— Showers — Thunder-storms at 
night — Their sublimity— Their effect on the landscape — Pleasures of 
the season— Strawberry — Quail — Scene from his domestic life— Grouse ; 
his habits — Spring morning in the prairies — Bob-o-link — Woodpecker — 
Parroquet— Crow— Buzzard— Wild Turkey— Cattle on the prairie- 
Hare— Deer— Whip-poor- Will 69 



X CONTENTS. 

Chap. X. — The tale of sorrow — Sickness of strangers on first arriving in 
the country — Their claims to hospitality — The solitary man's settle- 
ment in the west — His wife ; their love ; their progress and prospects 
— A remarkable series of thunder-storms — The pestilence which fol- 
lowed — The husband and wife both prostrated — The death of the wife 
and infant — His grief— Their grave — The beauty of the spot — Reasons 
for the attachment of the prairie settler to his home ... 81 

Chap. XI. — A rare opportunity for seeing the natives of our region — The 
menagerie ; getting to it — Style of locomotion — Tyler ; his peculiarities, 
ill luck, gait, &c; his companion — Our arrival — Street dialogue — Dis- 
cussion of the show — Entrance — Appearance of the crowd ; their motley 
dress — A character ; his garb — Another ; her dress ; stature ; recognition 
— Her sensibility and comments on the performances — Her description 
of the male personage before introduced — His stories of the wars and 
himself — An invitation — The departure for home — Discussion of per- 
sons and things — Legal document — Close of the day — Delicate foot- 
print 92 

Chap. XII. — Leaving Prairie Lodge — Difficulty of finding another home 
— What it proves when found — Its mistress — Her housekeeping — Com- 
mittee on dress — A walk — What it decides — Resignation under des- 
perate circumstances — A discovery — A cup of joy dashed before it is 
partaken — First night in the Sucker home — Room mates, furniture, 
&.c. — Pony — Rebellion ; how maintained 115 

Chap. XIII.— Sabbath— Next day ; its deeds— The house ; its decorations 
— The surprise anticipated — Comment of my neighbor — Settled — Toilet 
apparatus — Difficulty of retaining it — A new proposition rejected with 
some spirit at first — How acceded to final ly — Our host ; his origin, for- 
tunes, opinions^ &c. — His daughter Sidney and her husband— Their 
mode of life 126 

Chap. XIV. — Sidney's household affairs — Her culinary arts — How she 
was initiated into them — Fruit groves — Wanderings in them — Serpents 
— Caught in Boots — Western housekeeping — Another visit — Temperate 
meal — The consequence — Moonlight nights — Cceur de Lion and his 
suite — Their nocturnal ramblings— Shamefully terminated — Cceur de 
Lion's resignation. 134 

Chap. XV. — Better quarters completed — Disappointment — Housekeeping 

— Architecture of our dwelling — Grounds, &c, as described by Mr. F 

— My own picture of them — Our neighborhood— Interior of the house 
— The town — Our first night at home— Housekeeping — Purchases ; how 
disposed of — Our family — Susannah — Pony ; her artlessness and pa- 
tience — Deserved eulogium 143 

Chap. XVI. — Our town ; its first settlement — Yankees as early settlers — 
Character of our population — Political and religious faith — Mrs. Escu- 
lapius; her remarkable gifts — Deacon Cantwyne ; his piety, charity, 
&c 154 

Chap. XVII.— Our village doctor; his wonderful gait — His partner Pomp 
— How they did business — The doctor's musical efforts . . lt>3 

Chap. XVIII.— Fire on the prairie— Wood parties — The orchard— The 
parrighee of the moon — Sporting parties — Tragical termination of one 
—The grocery next door to us— Horrible event .... 170 

Chap. XIX.— Something more of my housekeeping— Making bread— My 
purveyor — My first dinner— Cook, lamb, &c 133 



CONTENTS. XI 

Chap. XX. — Winter on the prairies — Sleigh rides — Cold houses— Fickle- 
ness of the Climate — Deer-hunting in winter — Mode of building and 
style of dwellings — Winter evenings — Navigation suspended — Treach- 
erous ice 194 

Chap. XXI. — Opening of spring — A spring night— Features and voice of 
nature— Wild fowl— Steamboats — Magnitude of streams . . 202 

Chap. XXII. — Speculation — New arrivals — Opening farms — Breaking 
Prairie— Making fence — Planting trees 210 

Chap. XXIII. — Removal — Return to Prairie Lodge — Painful apprehen- 
sions — How dispelled — Their return ...... 217 

Chap. XXIV. — Reminiscences of early life 227 

Chap. XXV. — The progress of the destroyer — The final scene . 245 

Chap. XXVI. — Another mission of death 252 

Chap. XXVII. — Agonizing memories — Pestilence abroad — Drought — 
Character of the illness caused by it — Gloom and grief — Dawn of new 
light 256 



PART II. 

Chap. I. — Birds and animals of Prairie Land — The Gopher ; its curious 
habits — Prairie fox — Prairie dog . 262 

Chap. II.— Prairie w r olves — Red wolf harmless— Grey wolf ferocious — 
Danger of unarmed travelers in former years — Incidents in later years — 
Catamount and panther found in " bottom lands" — Grey wolf monarch 
of the Prairie — Robs the tomb when famished .... 264 

Chap. III. — The burning of the Prairie — A thrilling incident on the great 
northern and southern road, passing near Peoria, Illinois — The country 
around the spot — Its rare beauty — Account of an early settler here ; 
his preparation for winter; journey to the nearest settlement for his 
cow and for winter supplies — Mother and children left alone — Visit 
from warrior Indians — Sleepless night and foreboding of evil — She 
watches the Prairie — Faint light in the distance — Prairie on fire — Fear- 
ful progress of the flames, and the sublimity of the scene — Her terror 
and helplessness— Cabin in flames — The instinct of the dog saves the 
lives of mother and children — They sleep without shelter, and sustain 
life by a pittance of wild fruit 268 

Chap. IV. — Desolation of the scene— A storm conies on — Children and 
mother hover around the smouldering ruins of the cabin — The mother 
sinks — Premature birth — The father arrives to hear from his wife the 
terrible story, to witness her dying hour, and to bury mother and child 
in one tomb — His bitter grief 276 

Chap. V. — Progress of the settlers — Habits — Views of labor — A journev — 
Love Ring 283 

Chap. VI. — The next tavern — Amusing incidents— Court — Lawyers — 
Dialogue with the driver 289 

Chap. VII.— The stage-house— Hostess— The quandary— Indifference to 
the comforts of life ; how induced 295 



Xll CONTENTS. 

Chap. VIE.— Dixonville, the Vicksburg of Illinois— Gang of thieves- 
Incidents there 300 

Chap. IX.— Crimes of these men— The landlord— The night. . 305 

Chap. X.— Departure — Pleasant ride with the New England farmer — 
Arrival among friends — Three guests in one cabin — Fun — " Smudging" 
muskitos— Climate of the west 308 

Chap. XI. — The new town in prospect— The eccentric man its founder — 
His removal to the west 316 

Chap. XII. — The inhabitants of the town — The sea captain— Our host — 
His wife ; a pattern of excellence 321 

Chap. XIII. — Our amusements and visits in the neighborhood— Depar- 
ture 324 

Chap. XIV. — Early settlers — Emigrants — The emigrant supplants the 
Sucker ; the reason — Their different views of life . . . 328 

Chap. XV. — Hospitality of the people of the prairie — Their daily food and 
method of preparing it 331 

Chap. XVI. — Morals of the people— Religious sects— The circuit preacher 
— Styie of preaching — An amusing character — Happy effect of their 
ministry 334 

Chap. XVII.— Excursions— Visit to the burial grounds and council house 
of the Sauks— Reflections 341 

Chap. XVIII.— A tour through the prairie country — Anecdotes and dia- 
logues 347 

Chap. XIX.— Tour continued— Amusing incidents . • . 356 

Chap. XX.— Tour continued— Dialogues with the settlers . . 362 

Chap. XXI.— Cheerless hotel— Tour ended 368 

Chap. XXn. — Happy residence at Alton ; its social aspect more like the 
eastern cities — Beauty of the country 372 

Chap. XXHI— The picnic— Delightful close of the day . *. 376 

Chap. XXIV. — Return to our former residence — Change in the place — 
Effect of these changes on the mind — A mournful tale . . 382 

Chap. XXV. — A visit to Prairie Lodge — Departure from the west — Story 
and legends of the Indian — The prospects of this country — Its future 
greatness 394 



LIFE IN THE PRAIRIE LAND. 



CHAPTER I. 

On the morning of one of the last days of April, 
18 — , there was a small party of persons collected 
in the cabin of a steamboat which had just arrived 
at St. Louis from Louisville, discussing some topic 
which seemed to possess for them an engrossing 
interest. This party consisted of six persons, 
four ladies and two gentlemen, all evidently trav- 
elers. The question was how and when they 
should prosecute the remainder of their voyage up 
the principal eastern tributary which the father of 
waters receives above the Ohio. One of the 
gentlemen had explored the forest of steamboats 
which crowded the whaif of this growing city, 
and reported that there was but one advertised 
" For the Illinois this evening, without fail," that 
he could not get on board of her, but thought her 
appearance extremely unpromising. It was near 
the close of the week, and as the other gentleman 
was a clergyman, and he and his party had more- 
over no dear friends from whom they had been 
separated seven long years, awaiting their arrival, 
they concluded to stop till the succeeding one. 
They accordingly went on shore, and the writer 
and her companion set out, accompanied by a 
cartman and sundry trunks, chests, et cet., to find 
the elegant, fast-sailing, high-pressure boat that 
was going " up the Illinois this evening, without 
fail." 

B 



14 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

We had traveled far enough on the western 
waters already, to have learned that the " this even- 
ing" of the bills might possibly be adjourned twenty- 
four or even thirty-six hours ; but faith is no less 
requisite on western steamboats than elsewhere, and 
summoning all ours, we embarked ourselves and our 
baggage on board the " Banner." We soon found the 
faith which led us on board was a mere rush-light 
to that necessary to keep us there. If steamboats 
had been running on the Illinois at the time when 
Noah explored the summit of Ararat, one would 
have affirmed that this very " Banner" was the 
pioneer of that period. But there is a story to be 
told, by-and-by, of the first craft of this kind that 
ever went up the Illinois, and its effect on the set- 
tlers, which unfortunately conflicts with this suppo- 
sition, and drives the antiquarian to a period 
comparatively modern, as that which gave birth 
to the Banner. She was not a very large boat, 
but what she wanted in size was amply com- 
pensated in filth. One flight of stairs between 
the cabins was carpeted, and sundry small patches 
still remained on the floor of that in which we ate, 
being too firmly fastened by mingled grease and 
clay to be easily removed. It is not perhaps gen- 
erally known, that these articles, properly com- 
pounded, make a paste which is quite firm and 
nearly insoluble in cold water. I mention it for 
the benefit of the unenlightened, and can bear 
ample testimony to its virtues, having seen them 
repeatedly demonstrated in various ways at the 
west. The floors were broken, the stairs dilapi- 
dated ; there was no linen for the berths, the hum- 
cane deck leaked, and its edge was hung with deli- 
cate filaments of tar, which the warmth of the sun 
often drew to an inconvenient length and sometimes 
quite severed, irrespective of the welfare of those 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 15 

passing beneath. The waste of steam was so great 
that the wheels effected only about four revolutions 
a minute, and the boat had a strange habit which I 
could not then fully comprehend, but which has since 
been satisfactorily explained by a scientific friend, of 
occasionally running twice or thrice her length with 
considerable rapidity, and then suddenly lurching 
so as throw every thing to the larboard. She av- 
eraged five of these spasms a day. There was a 
one-handed chambermaid on board, a one-eyed 
cook, and a three-fingered boy to wait at table. 
But all these imperfections were more than com- 
pensated by the exquisite finish and perfection of 
the captain. He was a soft-voiced, red-haired 
gentleman, in white silk hose, and French pumps, 
umbrageous ruffles, and a light satin cravat ; who 
had strangely enough been transferred from his 
natural profession of lounging in the Broadway of 
some western town, to the command of this ante- 
diluvian piece of water craft. One could draw his 
portrait this day, by adding a thatch of red bristles 
over the mouth, and substituting for the silken hose 
gaiters of the neatest fit and finish. On deck he 
wore lemon-colored gloves. The first polish of 
the laundress was taken off his snowy linen panta- 
loons when I first saw him, and the plaits of his 
ruffle had relaxed a little from their precise an- 
gles, but the satin cravat, the pumps and hose, 
were unexceptionable. He walked with a min- 
cing, uneasy gait through the little hall which led 
to the ladies' cabin, and presented himself before 
my astonished eyes — one delicate glove drawn on, 
and the other straightened in his hand- — with a bow 
that would have graced the drawing-room of St. 
James. 

" It's a ver-ry-warm day, miss." I looked my 
astonishment, and was about informing him that 



16 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

the gentlemen's cabin was in some other part of 
the boat, when he laid his white hand on one of 
the filthy chairs and placing it near the door, seated 
himself upon it with such an at-home sort of air, 
looking at the same time so familiar with the filth 
and disorder about, that I felt convinced he must 
be a part of the establishment. He must either 
be the captain or clerk, for the cook is black, 
and none of the hands would dare undertake a 
prank of this kind. These thoughts passed rapidly- 
through my mind, while the object of them was 
adjusting his cravat, arranging his hair, and passing 
his cambric handkerchief slowly over his moist 
forehead, so that, notwithstanding my deliberation, 
I replied, before he was entirely prepared to con- 
tinue the conversation, that so far as the tempera- 
ture was concerned, I was happy to be able to 
coincide with him. 

" You are going up the Illinois, miss V 

" I am delighted with your sagacity, sir," I re- 
plied ; " that forms apart of my present expectation." 

" Have you ever been up V* 

" Never, sir." 

" Then you have a delightful trip before you." 

" I admire your taste," I replied, glancing at the 
naked floor, the mutilated chairs, and the greasy 
berths. 

" How far up do you go, miss V 

" I am not informed, sir, as to the exact distance." 

" You have recently arrived in this region, I 
presume V* 

" 1 have, sir." 

" I shall have great pleasure in carrying so in- 
telligible a young lady into the country." 

" You flatter me." 

" O no, miss, I believe I speak truth." 

" Your sagacity, sir is beyond praise." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 17 

Before lie had time to reply, a young chap in a 
red calico shirt, with a face dirtier than I can de- 
scribe, presented himself at the door and bawled 
out, " Cappen, please to come kyur* John's dead 
done with whiskey, the new ingineer's gone off 
on a spree, and th' ain't nobody to keep the fire 
up." Hereupon the " cappen" rose and departed, 
with a pompous solicitation that I would excuse 
his absence. 

He had been gone but a very few moments when 
the one-handed chambermaid entered, directing 
in a raw Hooshier girl who had been our fellow 
passenger from Louisville. Poor child ! even her 
eyes, trained as they were to rude sights, looked 
astonished at the poverty and filth about her. I 
did not wonder that she started with an exclama- 
tion of delight and said, " I'm light glad to see 
you !" though we had never exchanged a word be- 
fore. She was a tall, dark featured person, with 
a head of fine black hair that flowed to her feet 
when the horn comb was withdrawn from it. Her 
stature was large, her hands and feet proportiona- 
bly so. She was accompanied by a man whose re- 
lation to her had excited a good deal of speculation 
among us. He was several years her senior ; had 
lost three of his front teeth, wore a red flannel shirt 
with a standing collar of the same, supported by a 
cotton pocket-handkerchief, a fur cap, and the 
thickest of all possible boots, the tops of which 
were just invaded by the bottoms of a pair of jean 
pantaloons. His attentions to his traveling com- 
panion were so peculiar that we had been in a de- 
lightful state of uncertainty all the way as to what 

* It is difficult to convey by any written combination of letters 
the sound of this word as uttered by the natives of these regions. 
It is more like yur preceded by h sharply aspirated, than any- 
thing else to which 1 can liken it. 

2 B2 



18 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

this relation could be. They were authoritative 
enough for those of a father, but then their age 
forbade the supposition. He might have been an 
uncle, but she never called him so ; possibly a 
cousin, but no woman ever so prized the attention 
of a mere cousin. He could scarcely have been a 
brother, because there was not the faintest resem- 
blance between them. What then could he be 1 
We had examined and rejected every supposition 
but that of his being her husband ; but nobody 
would listen to that, because supported by no prob- 
abilities. The riddle was turned over to me for 
solution. It cannot be wondered at, that in such des- 
perate circumstances, I looked upon their entrance 
as quite a providence, and reciprocated the self- 
gratulation expressed by my fellow-passenger. 

She seated herself on one chair, deposited her 
bundle on another, and, laughing the while, ex- 
claimed, " This liyur boat ain't set out so smart by 
a heap as t'other. I 'lowed we shouldn't have such 
a fine place to be in all the way." 

" Why," said I, " had you been told that the boats 
up the Illinois were so poorly furnished V 

"No, I never heern nothin about 'em, but 'tain't 
in natur to have such carpets, and cheers, and 
glasses everywhere ; it costs a heap to have 'em. " 

Poor child ! the splendors of a comfortable cabin 
had been to her like the show of regal magnificence 
to a peasant ; and she could say with poor Hinda, 
though not in language so sentimental, " I knew, I 
knew it could not last !" 

In a few minutes her companion made his ap- 
pearance, and announced that he had toted the 
plunder aboard, and as the boat wa'n't goin to start 
till after night, he was goin up to see the place. 
He gave her no invitation to accompany him, nor 
did the seem to expect it. I did not wish to broach 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 19 

the question at once, so we had a few words on in- 
different topics, till Hal (I believe I have forgotten 
to say that my traveling companion bore that con- 
venient soubriquet) entered and asked me if I 
would like to stroll an hour or two over the west- 
ern city. 

"Most gladly," I replied; "a wilderness and 
motion were preferable to this tedious place." 

" Have you seen the captain V was his next ques- 
tion. 

" Yes, he has paid his respects formally." 

" Well, he's a character, isn't he, to finish off 
such a boat as this 1 but we'll have some fun out 
of him before we part." 

We sallied forth, and my heart really ached as I 
left the solitary girl sitting there, robbed of all the 
splendor that had so delighted her senses for the last 
few days, and alone. She looked sad, and I made 
an interrogative sign to Hal about asking her to ac- 
company us, with all the oddities of her person and 
apparel, but he shook his bead. When we were 
out, I asked why he had refused my request. 

" Why," said he, " Mr. Red-flannel may prefer 
to escort his wife himself, and his preference might 
be expressed rather strongly if he found me doing 
it without his consent. We don't know how these 
Huoshiers will receive any civilities to which they 
are not accustomed ; and you have heard enough 
of the modes in which they express their displea- 
sure, to be aware that it is no slight thing to awa- 
ken it. You see that clump of trees yonder in the 
skirt of the city V 

" Yes, but what have they to do with the resent- 
ment of insult or wrong 1 ?" 

" Much. There is a heap of ashes under one 
of them with which this pleasant wind is play- 
ing, as if they were not the most revolting ob- 



20 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ject that could be found on the face of this re- 
public." 

" And what, pray, renders them such 1 Your 
face tells a tale of horror." 

" And well it may; for last night, only last night, 
a man, an unfortunate and guilty one it may be, 
but still a man, and a citizen of this proud state, 
was tied to that tree and burned alive !" 

" Merciful heaven, it cannot be !" 

" Yes, it is even so, and a crowd of people were 
gathered around to witness the fearful spectacle." 

" And was there no heart during all that period 
of agony to relent and turn the tide of fury into 
pity and tenderness 1 A word uttered in the spirit 
of human love must have done it, methinks, and 
made the most violent ready to bear their suffering 
victim away in their arms." 

"It remained unspoken, then; for the damning 
fact is recorded on earth as well as in Heaven." 

" It surely must blast the peace of every person 
who had any knowledge of it and did not interpose 
to prevent it. But what was his offence'? Surely 
it must have been very aggravated to have awa- 
kened such awful vengeance." 

" I have not learned the precise circumstances, 
but rumor (and that from those who approved, or 
at least suffered the disgraceful event to take place, 
would, we may suppose, attribute to him his full 
measure of iniquity) says that he had led a despe- 
rate sort of life on the river and in its vicinity. 
His final offence was stabbing an officer who at- 
tempted to arrest him for some recent crime." 

" Did the wound produce instant death V 

" No. I believe the man is still living, or at least 
survived some hours. I have understood that he 
was very much esteemed, and had a family of small 
children. But these are less than feather weights 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 21 

in the scale that will balance the guilt of his mur- 
derers." 

" These things are awful truly, and disgraceful 
too, if we consider the boasted supremacy and 
efficiency of our laws. I trust the like does not 
occur so often that the city is not agitated by it." 

" No, such extreme cases do not; but this is only 
an extreme one of a class of public offences that 
are frequent here. Individual or associated feel- 
ing often assumes the prerogative of law in the 
infliction of lesser punishments." 

" Well, it is not perhaps, on reflection, so extra- 
ordinary as it seems at first sight to us. We come 
from a region comparatively old, where time has 
defined right and interest, and developed more fully 
the power of law, and established rules of action. 
Here all is new. Passion may break forth and do 
its fatal misdeeds, before the slower majesty of law 
is perceived by the turbulent actors to be sufficient 
for their purposes. Such scenes must exhibit 
clearly to every reflecting mind the necessity of 
framing in our seasons of entire self-possession 
rules by which we will abide when these have 
passed away. Fanatical liberalists may term them 
shackles to restrain our future freedom, but I 
would that every one of such might stand beside 
that funeral dust. Before the awful truth taught 
there, his ravings for large liberty would shrink 
into their true insignificance." 

" But if such lessons are not learned from the 
pages of history, black with the records of fouler 
violence than this, how shall the shallow minds 
which reject them there, imbibe them here 1" 

" True : but we are wandering far, and your 
horrible recital has been so painful that I am less 
disposed to walk than before I heard it. Let us 
return." 



22 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

CHAPTER II. 

On reaching the wharf, we found things wearing 
a very busy appearance. The engine was wheez- 
ino- like an asthmatic, some rough-looking men 
were toting plunder on board, the captain stood 
upon the guard with both gloves drawn on and but- 
toned, the hands were moving about as if intent on 
business, and things began to wear quite the as- 
pect of departure. This was encouraging. 

" Will you start to-night, captain V said Hal. 

" Certainly, sir," taking out his repeater. " Ring 
the bell, Jack. That's our first bell ; we shall be 
off in an hour." 

" Really," said I, as we walked up the street, 
" this affair has some creditable points, its punctu- 
ality for instance." 

" Yes, you'll learn the value of that when our 
friends who wait here till Monday pass us half- 
way up the Illinois." 

" Now out upon your croaking, and let's put a 
cheerful face on the attempt, since we have made 
it." 

The hour extended from one o'clock to six. "We 
left the wharf just as the sun was setting, and if 
the reader escapes a common-place description of 
spires gilded by his last rays, of windows blazing 
with crimson and golden light, of trees shaking 
their small foliage in the evening wind, and of the 
dying hum of the city, stealing fainter and fainter 
on our ears as the muddy waters parted slowly 
before our prow, he may thank the Banner and her 
peerless captain. Either were sufficient to have 
put to flight the sentimentality of a legion of 
school-misses, — both together quite routed mine ; 
not to mention our red-flanneled Hooshier, or his 
long-haired bride. Everything about me was so 



LIFE 'IN PRAIRIE LAND. 23 

thoroughly uncomfortable, that I felt no dispo- 
sition to rest in any anticipation short of that 
which pictured the home and faces we so longed 
to see. Three days of this dismal journeying 
were reported to lie between us and them, and it 
required under such circumstances some heroism 
in man or woman to look forward through their 
tedious length. 

I was fatigued, and requested the chambermaid 
to prepare my berth as early as possible. She 
offered me a very disinterested piece of advice in 
reference to it, which I shall give here for the ben- 
efit of such as may be similarly situated, without 
the like kindness to direct their choice. It was, 
that I had better abandon the little pen, otherwise 
state-room, which I had chosen beside the cabin, 
and take my berth in the latter apartment, " 'Kase," 
to use her own elegant language, " the bugs ain't a 
touch in hyur to what they be in yander." Here 
was another volume of misery opened to my already 
oppressed senses. Seeing my consternation, she 
added, " O, you needn't dread 'em so powerful ; I 
broomed the berths to-day, and shook the 'trasses, 
so they won't be so mighty bad." 

" Make my berth where you think best," I said. 

" There ain't no clean sheets, but I can tear off 
a pair, and you can sleep in 'em, you know, if they 
ain't hemmed, and I'll give you my pillow." 

" No, thank you," I replied; "just tear off a third 
sheet, and I'll make a pillow-case of it for myself." 

At last the berth was prepared, and the vermin 
made a night of it. They had evidently not been 
treated for some time, and brought vigorous appe- 
tites to my reception. After a contest of four or 
five hours, I was fain to yield possession to them. 
Making such limited ablution as the place allowed, 
I dressed myself and sat down on the stern of the 



24 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

boat to wait the coming day, and speculate on the 
distance we had made. When the light came up 
over the heavy forest which clothed the eastern 
bank of the river, I saw that the waters were still 
muddy, and knew, therefore, that we could not have 
passed the mouth of the Missouri. Nine hours' 
running had brought us twenty -two miles! — a 
dismal augury for the 240 that yet remained. As 
the daylight gained, I saw that the current under 
the eastern shore was dark and clear, and a few 
minutes after the scattered town of Alton began to 
peer up from among its beautiful bluffs, just touched 
with the first tender hue of spring. 

And now the waters widened on the west, and 
opened up inland a broad, eddying, plunging sea 
of mud. On the spine of a sand-bar which was 
just visible between the two streams, the currents 
met, and the waters of the Missouri rose into a 
circling wave which toppled an instant and ran on, 
eager to mingle with the purer element that glit- 
tered and danced beyond. But the Mississippi, 
as if disdaining the foul alliance thus tumultuously 
sought, stole angrily away beneath the dark forest 
on the opposite shore, and preserved her identity 
a long way down, in a narrow transparent vein, 
growing more slender, till at length its bed was 
wholly usurped by the muddy monster. 

This, then, was the junction of these two streams ! 
The point where the mighty son of the mountains 
meets the clear-eyed daughter of the lakes — majes- 
tic union of powers whose feeble birth is in the 
deep wilderness and the untrodden solitude, whose 
maturity makes the ocean tremble. Nothing could 
be more impressive. When the child's geography 
had first been put in my hands, I read of these 
great rivers and put my feeble powers to their 
utmost task to conceive them. I had followed the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 25 

insignificant red and green lines which represent 

them, and explored the echoing mountains whence 

one plunges to the plain below, and the gushing 

springs and softly chiming lakes whence the other 

rises and winds ; till fancy, wearied with the effort, 

drooped her pinion, and left me on the rough bench 

in the little brown school-house, sick and disgusted 

with the narrowness and coarseness of the world 

to which I was confined. I had taken the eagle's 

wing, and, perched upon the mountain pine, had 

seen the little rivulets 

" leap and gush 

O'er channeled rock and broken bush," 

bending towards each other, and swelling as they 
united, till their march became resistless. I had 
followed them where the dim wood and towering 
cliff reechoed to their tread, and where they cut the 
verdant bosom of the sunny plain like threads of 
molten silver. Vast, illimitable journey ! And here, 
beneath my eye, these messengers from the unvexed 
solitudes, thousands- of miles away, met and pursued 
their path together. It seemed like a union of 
strength to thread the more dangerous territory in- 
habited by man. Both streams at this time were 
swollen to their fullest capacities by the spring 
floods. The gigantic Missouri poured out his 
turbid waters with a force that made his feeble 
neighbor recoil and leave a chasm between the 
transverse muddy wall, and the clear dark stream 
that glided timidly by on the other side. 

While I was contemplating this scene, wrapt in 
silence, a little window close beside me opened, and 
a hand was thrust forth which I immediately recog- 
nized to be the solitary member belonging to the 
body of our chambermaid. She drew back with a 
scream, and an exclamation not of the most feminine 
character ; but the next moment her eyes relieved 

C 



26 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

her trepidation, and after muttering some apology, 
she expressed her opinion that I " must feel right 
^peart to be out that airly." I had no little diffi- 
culty in convincing her that there was sufficient 
activity in my nerves of sensation to render the in- 
sects that shared my berth somewhat troublesome. 
" I reckon," said she," thar must have been a mighty 
6mall chance of the varmints about you, 'kase I 
swep up about a pint of 'em yesterday and throw'd 
'em overboard ; so it's impossible you could ha 
had a great many." 

I yielded the point, and afterwards observed that 
whenever they were alluded to on board this boat, 
it was by measure ! 

We reached Alton at 8 o'clock. The bell rang 
when we were within 100 yards of the shore, and 
the boat was in one of her spasms, which the cap- 
tain calculated would lay him alongside in gallant 
style. But alas ! spasmodic action is no more to 
be relied on in boat nature than human. On we 
came, the waters quite whitening in our wake, and 
making, as the delighted Mrs. Raddle observed on 
another occasion, " acterally more noise" than if 
we had come in a better boat, for the engine 
creaked and hissed at every joint, and the escape- 
pipe disgorged itself about thrice a minute with a 
dismal hollow sound, as if its vitals were breaking 
up. We nearly touched the shore, the captain 
stood in his ruffles, silk-hose, pumps and gloves, 
the passengers waited, valises and trunks in hand, 
ready to jump ashore, and two or three were gath- 
ered at the waterside shaking hands with their 
friends, and exchanging the usual ceremonies, when, 
oh, mostinglorious spectacle ! the spasm ended, the 
boat rolled over on the other side, threw the captain 
across a stool, and the passengers among barrels, et 
cet., and lay motionless for several moments. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 27 

" ' That was the unkindest cut of all,' was it not?" 
cried Hal, maliciously, to the prostrate captain. 
" To play you such a trick here, before the town, 
just as we were on the eve of such a bold ap- 
proach ; but never mind. She'll hardly have an- 
other fit before you can bring her up." 

The bell rang, the wheels revolved backward, and 
all the numerous mysteries were duly performed 
again, but now the boat refused to approach the 
shore. She would come up obediently to within a 
few feet, but the nicest calculation and the most 
delicate persuasion could take her no nearer. At 
each failure she was obliged to turn quite round, and 
each evolution took her half-way across the stream, 
and consumed nearly half an hour. No petted 
child ever conducted herself in a more refractory 
manner before company, than she before the aston- 
ished eyes of the goodly citizens of Alton. Every 
prank deepened the tint of our captain's hair, 
whiskers, and face, and was made the occasion of as 
many jokes as could be uttered till another fol- 
lowed. 

" She shows off admirably, captain; nothing could 
be more fortunate." 

" If you could throw her into a fit just before 
she backs water, she'd be sure to come up." 

" If she refuses again, you may as well go on ; 
may be she'll come to her temper at the next 
landing." 

" The wood will be out soon, and then she'll 
certainly float ashore somewhere." 

In the midst of this scene our red-flanneled 
Hooshier made his appearance. His arms were 
inserted in his pockets, nigh to the elbow, the 
fur cap tipped over the left eye, and the thick 
boots projected more than ever as he leaned 
against the side of the cabin, raised his upper lip 



28 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

by way of adapting his eyes to the strong sunlight, 
and inquired with a loud voice into the meaning " of 
all these hi/ur turnins." He was informed by Hal 
that the captain had thought of landing at Alton, 
but had changed his mind and was now merely 
showing his boat to the citizens 

" Look hi/ur, stranger," said he, " do I look as 
if I could be gummed that easy 1 I've seed too 
many boats in my day to believe your story ; but 
if he's trying to land thar, this one takes the rag 
off them all. I say, cappen, what'll you give me 
to jump over and put my shoulder under the starn, 
and shove her up for you 1 I calculate there 
wouldn't be much difficulty in doin it, if you'd 
stop that infarnal old ingine that's whizzin and 
bustin, below thar. It's about half man-power, I 
reckon, when it don't leak." 

The poor captain became more and more per- 
plexed every moment, and actually went so far as 
to remove one of his gloves. The people on shore 
cheered the last two evolutions, and the whole 
thing had reached the climax of the ridiculous, 
when, by a fortunate guess on the part of some 
one, the boat was at last brought alongside the 
shore, just one hour and a half from the time of 
the first attempt. Everything had been brought 
up to the boiling point by the long suspense and 
severe effort. The perspiration stood in drops on 
the brow of the agonized captain ; the boilers had 
contracted the rage, and thrown off more steam 
than had brought us from St. Louis ; the very tar 
had been warmed into greater freedom, and threw 
itself more fearlessly on the luckless by-passers. 
Our Hooshier had not duly considered this cir- 
cumstance, and, in the excitement of the moment, 
he planted himself directly beneath one of these 
thin filaments. It spun out in a beautiful thread 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 29 

of dark amber, and then, unluckily, parting above, 
deposited a large lump on the very edge of his cap, 
and shot oif, in a fine stream, to the immaculate 
bosom of red flannel below. 

''Look hyur, now," said the wrathful Hoo- 
shier, doubling his fists ; " if anybody wants to 
throw tar on me, he may do it as long as he can 
stand, after I've had two or three good licks at 
him. I'm a better steamboat than this when I'm 
set a-goin, and 'twon't take much such combusti- 
ble as that aar to fire me up." 

The bystanders were greatly amused, but kept 
themselves at a safe distance, for his arms were 
swinging about in a manner rather inconvenient to 
those on the narrow guard. 

"Easy, friend, easy," said Hal; "you cannot 
suppose that any gentleman would throw tar upon 
you : if you look up, you will see where the insult 
came from." 

" Yes, I see it's the infarnal old boat. I could 
lick out twenty-four just like her ; but there'd be 
more sense in giving that ruffled carrot yonder a 
taste of a live man's fists." 

A little persuasion, however, cooled his wrath. 
Our old passengers sprang gladly ashore, and the 
new ones set their feet upon the plank rather 
doubtingly, but some one on the fire-deck settled 
the question by calling out " There won't be an- 
other boat till Tuesday." 



CHAPTER III. 

We got under weigh again after several starts and 
backings, and ran slowly along under the magnifi- 
cent bluffs that tower above the Mississippi on the 
Illinois side. In a short time Hal came to me, 

c2 



30 LTFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

his face drawn into one of its heartiest expressions 
of humor, and said, " Jersey is here ; who could 
have dreamed of the good luck %" 

But as the reader doesn't know Jersey, he will 
hardly participate in our pleasure till he is intro- 
duced. The brief appellation by which he is here 
distinguished was given him on the first day of his 
appearance among us, in honor of the declaration 
which he then made, that he " was born in Jarsey, 
and had never been out of it till that day." He 
wore a suit of coarse snuff-colored homespun, a 
large bell-crowned white hat, and a cravat of blue 
ground, dotted with large oval figures of copperas 
color. He had lost a front tooth, and had an awk- 
ward habit of grinning, which made it manifest at 
every word he uttered. Though much older than 
Hal, the latter had kindly offered to be his Mentor 
on first meeting him, and many were the waggish 
tricks he had played upon him, and the roars of 
laughter which the performances of Jersey, under 
his direction, had elicited. The simple, credulous 
face of the one, and the grave, imperturbable hon- 
esty of the other, in the height of Jersey's most 
ridiculous exhibitions, had been an inexhaustible 
fund of amusement among the gentlemen during the 
weary hours of our journey. Jersey had left home 
under the auspices of the celebrated Marion City 
colony, but had been separated from them at Co- 
lumbia, Penn., by getting on board the wrong boat. 
It was there that he first joined us. He traveled 
economically : that is, he found his own supplies, 
and slept on the floor of the cabin. His ignorance 
exposed him to every sort of imposition, against 
which Hal was in truth his protector. But for 
the honest care which he exercised over his worldly 
concerns, he repaid himself by letting out upon 
him the whole strength of his trick-loving disposi- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 31 

tion. A party of gentlemen were about leaving 
the packet, on the second day, for a walk. Hal 
suggested that Jersey had better accompany them, 
as his health might suffer from the long confine- 
ment. But there was a difficulty in the case. He 
had just purchased two large cards of gingerbread, 
— and what should he do with them ] To leave 
them on his box he thought would be dangerous, 
and this opinion was fully concurred in by his ad- 
viser. To eat them at so short notice, was out of 
the question ; to put them in his pocket impossible. 

" There is but one way in which you can dispose 
of them in safety," said Hal, " and that is to tie 
them up in your handkerchief and take them under 
your arm." 

This was accordingly done, and they set forth. 
But Jersey's handkerchief gaped and revealed 
the secret. It was no choice herbarium, as his 
friend had asserted to the company when they 
joined them, but a pair of luscious brown sheets 
of gingerbread, which he had purchased at a 
Dutch farm-house just back; none of your shop 
compounds made of dirty lard, vinegar, and sal 
aeratus, but a dainty mixture of golden butter, pure 
butter-milk, and superfine flour. A league was 
entered into at once ; two of the party engaged 
Jersey in familiar elbow conversation, and at a 
rough place in the road stumbled against him, 
while a third at the same moment dexterously ab- 
stracted about a third of one of the loaves. The 
foremost rogues begged his pardon, and the walk 
was resumed, Jersey replacing the handkerchief, 
which had settled a little in the shock he received. 
Another stumble was soon made, and the part of 
the other loaf which projected behind his arm was 
withdrawn. After a long walk there was a short 
run to gain a bridge from winch to let themselves 



32 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

down on the boat. Jersey seated himself on the 
railing beside Hal, and as the boat came up, the 
latter began to swing his arms and go through the 
various motions preparatory to a leap. These were 
continued till the moment of jumping, when at a 
word they all found themselves upon deck, but 
Jersey's bell crown was lying on the bridge. As- 
tonished and alarmed beyond measure, he looked 
about with the most ludicrous terror in his coun- 
tenance, and exclaimed " My hat's lost ! 

" No, it isn't," said his grave friend, who had 
knocked it oft*. " There, the steersman is throwing 
the boat up to the shore. I'll take care of your 
gingerbread while you run and get it." 

But Jersey preferred to keep the gingerbread 
under his own protection, and leaping ashore with 
it, soon returned with the favorite chapeau elevated 
to its old position. He now seated himself to ex- 
amine his stores, and great was his consternation to 
find that more than a third of each cake had disap- 
peared. A thousand ways of accounting for its loss 
were immediately suggested by the innocent youths 
about him. But Jersey evidently rejected them 
all, and from that hour, his confidence in Hal and 
his companions waned. When he reached Louis- 
ville, he took another boat, and came on to St. 
Louis alone. But if he had enjoyed greater freedom 
from jokes, he had been imposed on in more serious 
matters, and seemed rather glad than otherwise to 
meet his grave friend. I had never seen him yet, 
except in the heat of his performances, but now 
Hal was very desirous that I should have the 
pleasure of hearing him converse awhile. An 
opportunity soon ottered. 

We were passing a little wooded island three or 
four miles above Alton, when one of the spasms 
came on, and was succeeded by a lurch more 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 33 

violent than any previous one, and an immediate 
settling of the whole craft. She had sprung- a leak. 
The captain made his appearance, this time with- 
out the gloves, and ordered her to be run on the 
island instantly. The goods were all taken out, 
the hands set at work, while the passengers went 
strolling: through the woods. 

The island was small and uninhabited. There 
was nothing of interest upon it, save two or three 
little glades in which the early spring flowers were 
just unfolding their petals. We spent three or 
four hours in the checkered wood, admiring the 
various arts by which nature ushers her tender 
and beautiful train into being, and were about re- 
turning for some books, when the sound of ap- 
proaching footsteps arrested us. In a few minutes 
Jersey broke through a thick copse near us. 
" Stop," said Hal, "this fellow will be richer than 
any printed book." Accordingly we waited, and 
Jersey was introduced in due form. He had in 
some confidential moment intimated to Hal that he 
was more brilliant in the society of ladies than gen- 
tlemen, and I saw at once that he needed no pa- 
tronage. He prided himself on his political acumen, 
and, considering this his forte, plunged at once into 
a discussion of the various prominent men who 
were likely to claim the suffrages of the people in 
the ensuing presidential canvass. His opinion of 
them was delivered with a simplicity and brevity, 
which quite surprised me. 

First of all, he thought " Mr. Clay capable, honest, 
and fittin." Mr. Van Buren he guessed was capa- 
ble, but dishonester than Mr. Calhoun, who would 
be all right if he wasn't a nullifier. I asked about 
Mr. Webster. " Oh, Webster," said he, " is a capa- 
ble man, but he ain't fittin." On proposing a word 
or two of the leading doctrines of these statesmen, I 
3 



34 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

found him utterly ignorant of them. Nullification, 
for aught he knew, meant the annexation of Texas. 
Bank and anti-bank were the same to him. He only 
knew of banks in general, that they were places 
where people put their spare funds for safety. He 
seemed not to have become acquainted with that 
more modern feature, by the introduction of which 
they have become forced loans for the accommo- 
dation of gentlemen who wish to travel in Europe, 
Texas, or other " foreign parts." The tariff was 
in some way connected with trade, but whether 
trade between the mechanics and farmers of our 
own country or between us and the Indians, of 
which he understood there was " considerable" car- 
ried on in the west, he could not tell. In short, 
Jersey was one of the few Americans who, having 
a moderate share of sense, have grown up without 
travel or books, and while they have not the weak- 
ness of idiocy, have the ignorance of the most un- 
favored peasant. I have rarely met in a citizen of 
the republic a like absence of all-acquired knowl- 
edge, except among some of the miserable emi- 
grants from the mountains of North Carolina. 

Having finished his political discourse, this illus- 
trious son of " the Jarseys" was pleased to deliver 
himself of some rambling thoughts on travel. On 
this topic his style was more discursive. In gen- 
eral he thought people had better stay il to hum 
and mind their business, than to be licking it 
through the country, the way they do now in 
steamboats and on rail-roads. He thought they'd 
make more by it. Besides, when he went, he 
preferred going in conveyances to traveling. He 
didn't think it was a pleasant thing to be carried 
along as if you had a whirlwind wrapped around 
you ; and then you met so many sorts of folks. No 
doubt," he added, " a good many of 'em is honest 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 35 

as anybody, but there's a good many more that'll 
cheat you out of your eyes, if they can make six- 
pence on 'em, and some that'll steal your bread 
and meat and throw it away, if they don't want it 
themselves." These remarks werged, as Mr. Weller 
would say, on the personal, but the ringing of the 
bell left no time for explanation. We hurried to 
the boat. It was much later than we thought, be- 
fore the summons called our attention to the hour. 
When we arrived, the last of the barrels, boxes, 
&c, were going on board, the steam was up, and 
we were just ready to be off. Supper was soon 
laid, and we left the pleasant island while at table. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The night brought on another general engage- 
ment between the passengers and the vermin. 
The latter held the berths by prior occupancy and 
could not be routed, but they were more than wil- 
ling to enter into a treaty for joint tenancy with 
certain privileges in their favor. It was these 
privileges that made all the mischief. Like most 
questions in diplomacy, they were exceedingly 
difficult to settle ; one party claimed and exercised 
them on all opportunities, the other denied them, 
and rarely failed to offer the most violent opposi- 
tion to their use, even to the taking of life. It is 
due to the weaker party, however, to say that they 
gained by industry and perseverance what they 
never could by strength — the partial exercise of 
the prerogatives they claimed, and, in general, the 
final rout of their more powerful opponents. 

They at any rate were productive of much 
merriment below, but it was a heavy affair in our 
quarter. I had few books which were accessible, 



36 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND 

and the long-haired bride had fewer ideas. She 
possessed little of that strength of mind and bold 
thought, which characterize most of those rudely- 
bred women. I thought the magnificent garniture 
of her head had taken the place of more valuable 
properties inside, as is often the case among more 
cultivated females. The strange character of the 
feeling manifested by her husband, made me very 
desirous of drawing him into an expression of it in 
words before he left us, and as their landing- 
place would probably be reached on the third 
morning, I availed myself of a chance meeting on 
the shady guard in the afternoon, to engage him in 
conversation. A few words about the height of 
the water, the timber, and the prairies, served the 
purpose. 

" You are going to become a prairie farmer I" 
I said. 

" No, I've been one afore, I've got a farm up 
the river hyur that I've crapped twice a'ready; 
there's a good cabin on it, and it's about as good 
a place, I reckon, as can be found in these dig- 
gins." 

" Then you built a cage," I said, " and went 
back for your bird to put in it V 

He looked at me, and his face underwent a con- 
tortion, of which words will convey but a faint 
idea. It was a mingled expression of pride aud 
contempt, faintly disguised by a smile that was in- 
tended to hide them. 

" Why, I don't know what you Yankees call a 
bird," he replied, " but I call her a woman. I 
shouldn't make much account of havin a bird in 
my cabin, but a good, stout woman I should cal- 
culate was worth somethin. She can pay her way, 
and do a handsome thing besides, helpin me on 
the farm." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 37 

Think of that, ye belles and fair-handed maid- 
ens ! How was my sentiment rebuked ! 

" Well, we'll call her a woman, which is, in 
truth, much the more rational appellation. You 
intend to make her useful as well as ornamental to 
your home V 

" Why, yes ; I calculate 'tain't of much account 
to have a woman if she ain't of no use. I lived up 
hyur two year, and had to have another man's 
woman do all my washin and mendin and so on, 
and at last I got tired o' totin my plunder back 
and forth, and thought I might as well get a woman 
of my own. There's a heap of things beside these, 
that she'll do better than I can, I reckon; every 
man ought to have a woman to do his cookin and 
such like, 'kase it's easier for them than it is for us. 
They take to it kind o' naturally." 

I could scarcely believe that there was no more 
human vein in the animal, and determined to sound 
him a little deeper. 

" And this bride of yours is the one, I suppose, 
that you thought of all the while you were making 
your farm and building your cabin ] You have, I 
dare say, made a little gai'den, or set out a tree, o* 
done something of the kind to please her alone 1" 

" No, I never allowed to get a woman till I 
found my neighbors went ahead of me with 'em, 
and then I should a got one right thar, but there 
wasn't any stout ones in our settlement, and it 
takes so long to make up to a stranger, that I 
allowed I mought as well go back and see the old 
folks, and git somebody that I know'd thar to come 
with me." 

" And had you no choice made among your 
acquaintances 1 was there no one person of whom 
you thought more than another'?" said I. 

" Yas, there was a gal I used to know that was 
D 



38 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

stouter and bigger than this one. I should a got 
her if I could, but she'd got married and gone off 
over the Massissippi, somewhar." 

The cold-hearted fellow ! it was a perfectly busi- 
ness matter with him. 

" Did you select this one solely on account of 
her size V said I. 

" Why, pretty much," he replied ; " I reckon 
women are some like horses and oxen, the biggest 
can do the most work, and that's what I want one 
for." 

" And is that all 1 M I asked, more disgusted at 
every word. " Do you care nothing about a pleas- 
ant face to meet you when you go home from the 
field, or a soft voice to speak kind words when 
you are sick, or a gentle friend to converse with 
you in your leisure hours S" 

" Why, as to that," he said, " I reckon a woman 
ain't none the worse for talk because she's stout and 
able to work. I calculate she'll mind her own busi- 
ness pretty much, and if she does she won't talk a 
great deal to me ; that ain't what I got her for." 

" But suppose when you get home she should 
be unhappy, and want to see her parents and other 
friends |V 

" Why I don't allow 6he will ; I didn't get her 
for that." 

" But if she does," I replied, really anxious to 
touch some chord that might afterwards vibrate in 
the poor girl's behalf; "if she does feel unhappy] 
you know one's feelings are not always under their 
own control." 

" Wall, if she does I expect I shan't mind it 
much, if she keeps it to herself." 

The selfish brute! 

" If she kept it to herself, as you say, would you 
not attempt to alleviate her sorrows '( would you 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 39 

not take her on some pleasant ride or walk, and 
speak very kindly to her, and endeavor to make 
your new home and company agreeable to her %" 

" Oh !" said he, laughing feebly, " I shall give her 
enough to eat and wear, and I don't calculate she'll 
be very daunsey if she gets that ; if she is she'll git 
shet of it after a while." 

My indignation increased at every word. 

" But you brought her away from her home to be 
treated as a human being, not as an animal or ma- 
chine. Marriage is a moral contract, not a mere 
bargain of business. The parties promise to study 
each other's happiness, and endeavor to promote it. 
You could not marry a woman as you could buy 
a washing machine, though you might want her 
for the same purpose. If you take the machine 
there is no moral obligation incurred, except to 
pay for it. If you take the woman, there is. Be- 
fore you entered into this contract I could have 
shown you a machine that would have answered 
your purpose admirably. It would have washed 
and ironed all your clothes, and when done, stood 
in some out-of-the-way corner tiint was wanted 
again. You would have been under no obligation, 
not even to feed and clothe it, as you now are. It 
would have been the better bargain, would it not]" 

" Why that would be according to what it cost 
in the fust place ; but it wouldn't be justly the 
same thing as havin a wife, I reckon, even if it 
was give to you." 

" No, certainly not ; it would free you from many 
obligations that you are under to a wife" (it was the 
first time, by the way, he had used the word), 
" and leave you to pursue your own pleasure with- 
out seeing any sorrowful or sour faces about you." 

u Oh, I calculate sour faces won't be of much 
account to me. If a woman '11 mind her busi- 



40 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ness, she may look as thunderin as a live airth- 
quake, I shan't mind it." 

" No, sir, I see you possess a very happy insen- 
sibility to the woes or happiness of others. Your 
wife has occasion to congratulate herself on the 
prospects of life with a person elevated so far above 
the emotions which move the human herd." 

I will not deny that the fellow's coolness some- 
what enraged me. There was a fair prospect that I 
should have read him a lecture as long as he would 
find patience to hear, but at this moment his wife 
came round the stern of the cabin. I thought she had 
heard the conversation, for the usual insipid smile 
was replaced by a slightly contracted expression 
on her dark brow, and her voice sounded more as 
if it were the utterance of a soul conscious of its 
own identity and requirements, as she said, "John, 
will you come help me git to the big chist, the 
captain has had some truck put on it." 

" Wall, you ain't a baby, I reckon, that you can't 
tote it somewhar else," was the amiable reply. 

" But thar's such a heap of it," answered the poor 
girl, unwilling to be wholly refused — so early too ! 

" What if thar is a heap. Tote away ten or 
fifteen minutes, and thar won't be so much." 

She turned away without another word, but as 
she passed the open window, I saw her wiping her 
eyes with the corners of her calico apron. It was 
the most human manifestation I had seen in her. 
Notwithstanding the intense disgust I felt for the 
base-hearted tyrant who stood before me, I was 
constrained to make one more effort on behalf of 
his victim. I said, therefore, as gently as I could 
speak, that it was not customary to treat females so 
in our country ; that a man would be pronounced 
a brute who would refuse to render or procure 
assistance for a woman under like circumstances, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 41 

even if she were his servant, and such conduct was 
still more abhorrent toward a wife. 

"Wall, I reckon the Yankees may do as they 
like about them things, and I shall do jist the 
same. I don't think a woman's of much account 
anyhow, if she can't help herself a little and me 
too. If the Yankee women was raised up like the 
women here aar, they'd cost a heap less and be 
worth more." 

This was the old key again. He was hope- 
lessly benighted and brutified. His red flannel 
bosom and dark face inspired stronger aversion 
than ever, and I turned away, saying that I trusted 
his wife would agree with him in these opinions, or 
they might lead to some unpleasant differences. 

" Oh, as to that,'' said he, " I reckon her pinions 
won't go fur anyhow ; she'll think pretty much as I 
do, or not at all." 

Thou beast ! I exclaimed mentally ; and sat down 
in the cabin pondering on the incredible brutality 
of such opinions in a civilised man, when the wife 
came in. She had just returned from her visit to 
the " big chist." There was no longer a doubt, 
from the expression of her face, that she had heard 
the conversation, and understood some part of it 
too. I left her to her own choice, whether to speak 
of it or not. 

After a few minutes she said, " I reckon you'll 
think John talks hard about women." 

I replied, that it was quite unusual to find per- 
sons who thought as he did. 

" Well," said the faithful creature, " I reckon he 
don't think as bad as he says ;" but her suffused 
eyes more than half contradicted her tongue. 

There's too much of the true woman in her for 
this brute, notwithstanding her ignorance and 
silliness, thought I. It's an absolute waste of some 

d2 



42 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of the fairest materials that compose human nature 
to throw her away with this selfish animal. 

"How long have you been married ]" I asked. 

" Two weeks yesterday," she replied, the blood 
mantling through her dark cheek and brow. 

" Had you been long acquainted]" 

This question unsealed her tongue, and without 
waiting further inquiry, she ran on with her story. 

" No, I never see'd him but three or four times. 
We was new-comers in the settlement whar his 
folks lived, and nobody knowed when he come 
back that he wanted to git a woman to take with 
him. He come to our house once after night, and 
him and the old man had a long talk out doors, and 
finally he come in and stopt a little, and went off. 
The next day, dad ast me how I'd like to come 
to lllinice ! I didn't take his meanin rightly, but 
John come again afore long, and then he ast me. 
I told him I'd heern 'twas a good country, but I 
liked it well enough thar. Then he said the old 
man had told him he might have me to go back 
with him if I was willin to it, and he allowed I 
would be. So after two or three weeks, we got 
married and put right off for his place." 

"And you expect to be happier in the new 
home than you were with your father and mother I" 

" I hain't calculated much about that ; but I 
reckon I'll want to see them and the young ones a 
little, till I get broke in." 

I could scarce forbear a laugh at the significancy 
of this rude expression. It was a common one 
with her, but described the process before her 
more forcibly than the most elegant language. 
There was no hope for her but to settle into her 
slavery, and wear the shackles, if possible, without 
chafing under them. She had not character enough 
to redeem herself, and the brutal treatment to 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 43 

which she was doomed would tend every day to 
diminish the little that she had, and reduce her to 
the condition of a mere machine. Both parties 
were beyond hope : so that in gratifying my curi- 
osity I had raised a crowd of painful emotions in 
my own breast, and turned a dark page for the 
poor over-grown child before me. They left us 
next day, the bride wrapping her light slippers in 
her pocket-handkerchief, and walking barefoot 
from the landing. 



CHAPTER V. 

Our boat conducted herself much better in the 
latter part of her tour than the first. Her improved 
conduct gave the captain leisure, when he was 
awake, to spend some time with his female pas- 
sengers. As I was the only one left after the de- 
parture of the Hooshier bride, these honors were 
concentrated on me. It would have been a trou- 
blesome distinction had the engine been less noisy 
or his voice louder, but as the one was " soft and 
low," and the other hissed, whistled, groaned, and 
sputtered continually, I was but little embarrassed 
by them. If his face expressed astonishment at 
what he uttered, I proceeded to look astonished 
myself. If he looked a negative, I shook my head; 
an affirmative, I nodded : sentiment, nothing was 
easier than to respond ; profound, it cost little 
effort to look wise and inquiring. Every day he 
donned a fresh ruffle and white pantaloons ; but 
the hose, I think, were the same — so that after 
two or three days, there were several transverse 
stripes of a dark brown color crossing the foot, 
which, at a distance, with a little aid from the 



44 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

imagination, might be construed into ribbons, and 
so made to impart the appearance of a more elab- 
orate finish to the fine pumps. He had a Leghorn 
hat. with a wide rim lined with lemon-colored silk, 
in which he aired his brainless cranium on very 
warm days, though he never pardoned himself for 
appearing in the cabin with it. 

We worried on through the flood of water that 
was pouring down the bed of the Illinois and sub- 
merging its banks, till the night of the fifth day 
brought us to the landing-place of our friends in 
the town of Pokerton. It was at that time the 
county seat of one of the largest and wealthiest 
counties in the state. Its name is faintly descrip- 
tive of its inhabitants in a double sense : one of 
their favorite recreations being a game at cards, 
which is indicated by the first two syllables of this 
name. A still more conclusive right to it was de- 
monstrated before we left the town. We had a 
promise of a conveyance to reach our friends early 
in the morning, but our utmost efforts of coaxing, 
hiring, and remonstrating failed to bring it till one 
o'clock. My vexation may easily be conceived. 
After a journey of nearly four weeks, to be delayed 
so long within nine miles of the dearest friends I 
had on earth ; to be doomed to sit in the wooden 
room of a wooden tavern, every beam and board 
of which was saturated with the juice and fumes of 
tobacco ; to look out, hour after hour, into the 
sleepy street of a river town, thronged with rough 
boatmen, horse-jockeys, plaintiffs and defendants 
(for the court was in session) with their learned 
counsel, every man and boy of them armed with 
a cigar, or old pipe, brown with the absorbed 
fumes of the weed ; to see among them all not a 
face that one had ever seen, and, tired as I then 
felt, not one that I could fancy I should ever wish 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 45 

to see again, — was insufferable. Reading, in such 
a state of suspense, was out of the question ; and 
it was impossible to set foot out of doors, for the 
mud mounted half-way to the tops of the men's 
boots. I had not a few misgivings about the "new 
country," and they increased in arithmetical pro- 
gression, till a nondescript vehicle drove to the 
door, and Hal came in to announce that deliver- 
ance had at last come. Cloak and hat were never 
donned quicker than mine on that occasion. I 
stood waiting long before the baggage was in. 

The driver was a native. " Is this hyur the young 
woman that's goin out V said he. 

" The very same, sir." 

" Wall, just wait till I get this truck aboard, and 
I'll help you in." 

" Thank you, I can help myself. How long 
will it take you to drive to my sister's I" 

"I can't rightly judge now; the roads is heavy 
and the slues deep, but I allow we'll fetch it about 
five o'clock, anyhow. I should a been here two 
hours ago, but my beast was out on the prairie, 
and I couldn't git him afore." - 

" Well, our patience has been amply proved, 
meantime ; but now, if you can, accomplish it by 
five o'clock. It's just half-past one, and I confess 
I do not see clearly how one horse is to travel nine 
miles, with three persons and the baggage, over 
the heavy roads and those other phenomena that 
you named, whatever they may be, even in that long 
time." 

" Thar, we're all ready now, that big piece of 
plunder can't go; seat yourself with the lady, Mr., 
and we'll put out ; — jist hold on the lines a min- 
ute, till I go in." 

When he returned he had replenished the inner 
man with a liberal potation of whiskey, and his res- 



46 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

olutions for our benefit were multiplied indefinitely. 
He mounted a large trunk in front, flourished his 
whip, and we soon left the suburbs of Pokerton 
behind us. 

It was a glorious April day. The very air was 
exhilarating enough to have routed a legion of 
azure tormentors, not to mention the circumstan- 
ces under which we were breathing it. 

Those who have ever experienced the emotions 
that fill the heart when one approaches the home of 
friends — a dear sister or brother, after a separation 
of years, can appreciate something of ours as the 
wheels rolled on and brought us nearer to this in- 
teresting termination of our wanderings. The deep 
joy which will not permit one to be silent and yet 
finds no relief in words, the questions which will 
continually force their way to utterance, though 
no answer is expected, the imaginary portrait of 
the home, its internal arrangements and external 
appearance, the changes which time has wrought in 
the persons of its old inmates, the appearance of the 
new ones he has introduced, the volume of the past 
which is to be opened by each party, its mingled 
contents of painful and pleasurable records, the 
new things that are to be told, and the old ones 
that are to be reviewed, the freshness of each to 
each, and the days that must elapse before this 
single charm can be diminished, the speculations 
upon the probable position and employment of each 
member of the family when you enter, and their 
surprise contrasted with your coolness which says, 
" Why, you didn't know we were so near, but we 
did and are not at all surprised;" all these thoughts 
and feelings, and a thousand others which human 
language can define, crowded our minds and kept 
every faculty upon its fullest tension. 

The country itself had indescribable charms for 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 47 

the eye to which it was new. We had left the 
foliage of spring farther south, but I rejoiced more 
to see the prairies in their naked majesty, having 
in my mind the rich promise which the coming 
months were to fulfil. Where they had not been 
burned, the grass was still brown, and the trees and 
copses naked. 

One of the great desires of my life that yet re- 
mained ungratified, was to see a prairie. Several 
smooth openings among the groves looked large 
enough to our uneducated vision, but the driver 
declared they were nothing — mere " little mea- 
dows which would make smart truck patches by- 
and-by. Jest nothin at all in the way of a prairie." 
But this did not restrain our exclamations of delight 
at the beauty around us. To all which came the 
reply " Nothin at all, ma'am." 

I at last asked if we should pass nothing entitled 
to the name of prairie 1 

" None of much account," he replied; "thar'stwo 
or three smart little openings among the baarens, 
but the timber's scattered all over hyur." 

We crossed a little stream at some distance from 
the town, and our road thence onward, for more than 
a mile, wound among beautiful heights, thinly wood- 
ed and covered with the clean brown grass. As we 
mounted one of these the country opened before 
us, and swept away to the eastern horizon, a dis- 
tance of many miles — a smooth, open plain, undot- 
ted by a tree or other familiar object. I can never 
forget the thrill which this first unbounded view on 
a prairie gave me. I afterwards saw many more 
magnificent — many richer in all elements of beauty, 
many so extensive that this appeared a mere 
meadow beside them, but no other had the charm 
of this. I have looked upon it a thousand 
times since, and wished in my selfishness that it 



48 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

might remain unchanged ; that neither buildings, 
fences, trees, nor living things should change its 
features while I live, that I might carry this first 
portrait of it unchanged to my grave. I see it 
now, its soft outline swelling against the clear 
eastern sky, its heaving surface pencilled with 
black and brown lines, its borders fringed with 
the naked trees ! 

No better proof of the reality of this prairie could 
have been given than the silence which it inspired 
in myself and my companion. We had burst into 
exclamations of delight a dozen times before, when 
the little glades opened around us, but now there 
was not a word uttered. Both were lost in con- 
templation of the sublime spectacle which lay be- 
fore us. We had no inquiries to make. Nature 
spoke to us in her own unequivocal language. 

But the view was short ; the road soon wound 
again among trees, and afterward ran across a tract 
of low open ground from which the prospect beyond 
was cut oft'. It began now also to be worse than 
we had found it. The turf was wet and very soft, 
and the soil where it was cut, so adhesive that it 
was extremely difficult for the horse to make any 
progress. We had not yet learned what the slues 
were, and I was about asking our Jehu to enlighten 
us on this point, when a practical demonstration, 
much more impressive than the most eloquent de- 
scription, superseded the necessity, and indeed, the 
opportunity of speech. 

We approached a long narrow line of stagnant 
water, filled with bogs of tall grass and apparently 
very much broken up in the middle. There was no 
bridge in sight, and the road terminated abruptly 
on one side of this miniature swamp and emerged 
as abruptly on the other. It was evident that peo- 
ple crossed, or at least drove in from both sides. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 49 

The man on the trunk betrayed no hesitation, 
he only looked first to the right, then to the left, as 
if he contemplated turning out of the beaten track 
if any better one offered ; but apparently the exam- 
ination was fruitless, for he advanced and plunged 
his horse at once into the thickest of the black 
pool. I was certain we should never get through. 
The animal sprung, floundered, and pulled his best, 
and drew the waggon (the driver, by the way, 
called it a dearborn) about twice its length, when 
he went down, and I thought was going to dis- 
appear altogether, but a sudden jerk showed that 
he still found footing. The fore wheels sank in 
the place he had just occupied, the driver lay in 
the pool between, the horse stood high and dry on 
the opposite side, the shafts dragging at his heels, 
and Hal and I sat looking all sorts of consternation, 
first at the driver, then at the horse, then at each 
other. It was but a moment, and both broke into 
a shout of laughter that brought Jehu in astonish- 
ment to his feet, and drew the attention of two 
elderly ladies who were looking up some early 
sprouts of beans in a garden near by. There we 
sat, dismally helpless, in a bemired and decrepid 
waggon, the horse and driver a few feet in advance, 
and both of us wondering how we were to get out. 
The man of the whip soon recovered his self-pos- 
session, and merely remarking that the bottom of 
the slue must have fallen out since he crossed it, 
suggested that I should walk ashore as I best could 
and go into the tavern, while he went to the black- 
smith's shop for help, and to get his fractures re- 
paired. " It was right good luck," said he as he 
drove off, " that we didn't get slued afore we got 
to town." 

"To town !" said Hal, opening his eyes in as- 
tonishment ;■" where is a town ?*? 
4 E 



50 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

" Why hyur, don't you see there's a tavern, and 
yonder is a blacksmith's shop, and two housen be- 
side. This is woodland." 

" Yes, so I should think, in its natural state." 

On due inspection, however, a sign-post was vis- 
ible before the smartest-looking of the three cabins. 
It belonged to the garden where we had seen the 
elderly ladies, and now both their caps were vis- 
ible in front. People with traveling baggage 
could not pass through the town without inspec- 
tion, still less be "slued" in its very suburbs, and 
not receive any proffer of hospitality from its prin- 
cipal inhabitants. On charitable thoughts intent, 
therefore, the good matrons issued from the door 
to invite the strangers in till repairs were made. 
While they approached I had time for a brief sur- 
vey of their persons. As we were within two or 
three miles of our sister's house, these people must 
be neighbors, so I had some interest in the exam- 
ination. 

Both were somewhat past the middle period of 
life. One was a straight, tall, precise figure, trimmed 
at all corners into more than puritan stiffness. Her 
face was expressive of much kindness, I thought. 
I was not so well skilled in physiognomy then as 
now. Her carnage was lady-like, and both her 
dress and manner indicated that she was an em- 
igrant from the east. The former, however, was 
peculiar, and betrayed the presence of some strong 
prejudices in the wearer. The waist was short, 
and the long skirt fell in narrow, perpendicular 
folds to the feet. The sleeves (it will be remem- 
bered that this was the period of maturity among 
large sleeves) were confined to the long, slender 
arm half-way above the elbow, and thence enlarged 
a trifle to the shoulder. A neat, square collar of 
spotted muslin surrounded the neck. The cap 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 51 

was equally plain ; still all was in keeping with 
the person, whose whole mien was characterized 
by a stiffness that reminded one of a new made 
Quaker in a ball-room. Her companion was quite 
a contrast to this in person and dress. She was 
shorter and thicker. Her movements were quick 
and free, and indicated a woman who had moved 
much, and always with an object. Her dress was 
more conformable, as Mr. Weller, sen., would say. 
Her sleeves were larger, her waist longer, her 
skirt not so perpendicular, and her cap had a fuller 
border. All these observations were made in a 
much shorter space than it will take to read them, 
for we met in less than a minute from the time 
when they commenced. A courteous salutation 
from the non-conformist and a cordial one from 
her companion, were followed by a scrutinizing 
gaze through the glasses of the latter, and an ex- 
clamation, " La! it's Miss , Mary's sister, isn't 

itl" There was no denying the charge. 

" I thought so, you look so much like her; come 
in, do. Why, you broke down in the slue, eh % 
Well, who'd a thought it ? — but Mary's been ex- 
pectin on you this good while. She'll be glad 
enough, I guess. Take a chair ; you must be 
tired. And that's your brother Henry with you, 
eh ] I thought I knowed you as soon as I looked 
at you. It beats all how much you and Mary looks 
alike. Why, when'd you come up the river ] 
What, last night, and never got out here till this 
time ] Take off your things ; you'll have to wait 
some time for 'em to mend the waggon : the whip- 
pletree is broke ; I see the fellow carryin it along 
in his hand." 

" No, thank you," said I, embracingthe first pause 
in the good old lady's interrogatories and saluta- 
tions, to inquire the distance that yet remained. 



52 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

" La ! 'tain't but three mild ; we're nigh neigh- 
bors. Well, how glad they will be to see you ! 
Do take off your bunnut ; they won't get the 
waggon mended right away." 

I replied that I would walk rather than wait 
long, now we were so near. 

" I massy, you can't do it, — the road is so wet 
and the slues so full of water. There's a slue right 
out here that you couldn't get across at all, so 
you'll have to wait." 

I now turned my attention to a group of young 
girls who were gathered at the other side of the 
room. One of them, a pale, timid-looking child 
of fourteen, with large black eyes and a face sin- 
gularly like that of the taller woman, came for- 
ward, and was introduced by the latter as her 
daughter Josephine. The others bore the like 
relation to the hospitable landlady. When the 
latter abated the tempest of her speech a little, the 
more dignified non-conformist entered into con- 
versation with me. She told me who she was, a 
piece of information which had more interest for 
me than the reader may suppose ; how long she 
had been there, and where she came from. It was 
all done in a very proper and precise manner. Not 
a single rule of etiquet was transgressed, either 
in question or answer. 

At the end of half an hour the waggon was at the 
door, and we were once more ready to start. We 
inquired of the landlady for the house. 

" It's the next but one," she replied. " You go 
by Squire O'Brien's jist out here in the edge of the 
grove, and it's the next one you come to. It's a 
story and a half frame-house, with a kitchen back." 

Silence seize your tongue, good woman, for the 
next half hour, for that hint ! I wouldn't have 
looked at the best painting that represented it, and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 53 

here, within an hour of seeing it, I have the whole 
things set before me. 

We drove on, got over the slue without breaking 
down, rode through one or two little copses of 
hazel and sassafras, emerged on the open prairie 
with the same sky-bound savannah in front that 
had so charmed us a little way back, and continued 
thus till we struck the outskirts of a thin tract of 
barrens, entered a lane with fair fields on either 
hand, and saw two houses before us. But now 
we were all seized with a sudden mistiness of 
recollection. Nobody could tell whether it was the 
first or the second ; something had been said about 
two close together, and it was finally settled be- 
tween Hal and his Jehu that it must be the farther 
one. We looked hard at the first, to see if we 
could detect no familiar face peering from its 
windows, but they seemed deserted and lonely. 
The yard and garden adjoining were enclosed 
with picket-fence, some rose bushes and a few 
other flowering shrubs dotted the turf of clean 
cultivated grass, which was just springing from its 
winter bed, and there was an aspect about the 
whole that made me almost exclaim " This must 
be Mary's home." But we had passed, and were 
looking back, when a face appeared at one of the 
kitchen windows that settled our doubts, and turned 
the horse's head in the direction of our own rather 
quicker than was quite consistent with the safety 
of the dearborn. No accident befel us, however, 
and in another moment we were ushered through 
the unfinished hall into the room which served 
as kitchen, parlor, and dining-room. One was 
there whom our hearts bounded to see, but not 
Mary. 

" Where is she ]" 

" She has stepped into her father-in-law's, the 
e2 



54 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

next house ; but she'll be here in a moment, for 
she must have seen you." 

The words were scarcely uttered when the outer 
door opened, and a thin, slight figure bounded in, 
and the next moment we were alternately clasped 
in her arms. My dear sister! My dear brother! 
were the only words we had need to exchange. 
Deep emotion is always silent. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Mary was followed by a sturdy little boy, with 
cheeks like the rich side of a fall pear. He looked 
at us a moment, and then drew to the opposite 
side of the room. 

" This is my Junius," said the proud mother. 

" So this is the famous letter- writer, about whose 
wonderful doings and sayings we have been favored 
with such long passages in certain epistles from 
Prairie Lodge. He is not exactly as spiritual as 
old No??iinus Umbra was at the last date, but he 
will be all the more interesting to us mortals by 
and by, when his highness condescends to make 
our acquaintance. Now let us see the externals 
of Prairie Lodge." 

" Oh, there is little to see now. Nature does 
most of our ornamental work here, and she has 
barely commenced the business of the season yet. 
I can show you what she has to work on, and you 
will soon see for yourselves that she is an elegant 
and unsparing artist here. Now, are you ready V 

" Yes." 

» What, no gloves ?" 

" Never a one. I want my hands at liberty, 
having a special use for them : and, moreover, I 
hate gloves." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 55 

'* But you'll wear a sun-bonnet V* 

" Why, yes, I must concede as much as that, I 
suppose, though next to the articles just mentioned, 
your close, straight-forward sun-bonnet is my ab- 
horrence." 

" Yes, so I should think, and all other forms in- 
cluded, to judge from the color of your face and 
neclc" 

" Why, I have worn, as you see, a little open 
hat, that would let me look wherever I chose. I 
have not lost sight of a leaf, or rock, or anything 
either curious or beautiful, for the sake of saving 
a shade of brown on my complexion." 

"But you havn't traveled from New York in 
that little ribboned nut-shell without a veil V* 

" Exactly so, sister mine. I packed my veil in 
the bottom of my trunk when I started, to save all 
scruples, and relieve myself from two or three 
troublesome debates each day, on the propriety of 
dropping it over my face for five minutes. I put 
veils in the same category with gloves." 

" And sun-bonnets too 1 Why you'll run wild 
on the prairie before the first flowers are out ; if 
the Indians were crossing the countiy as often as 
they used to be, three or four years since, they'd 
take you along for a stray princess." 

" Thank you ; the rank would be flattering : but 
if it were due to our family on the score of color, 
I have an elder sister who should take prece- 
dence." 

" Here we are. This little brook that is fringed 
by these willows, runs from a piece of springy 
ground above the garden, and falls into the little 
stream that crosses the road at the foot of that 
large tree. It is here all the year, except, occa- 
sionally, a few weeks in very dry seasons. One 
could scoop out a delicious little pool under those 



56 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

drooping willows, if one had time and felt no scru- 
ples about gloveless hands." 

" Yes, I'll think of it. Now where does this 
clean path lead through that unparalleled gate and 
those bushes beyond V 

" To the spring." 

" Ah, what a distance !" 

" Oh yes, but we only bring water thence for 
drinking and cooking ; we have, usually, an abun- 
dance of rain-water near the door." » 

" That's a blessing ; but when the clouds fail I" 

" That is a failure we very seldom hear of here. 
You'll see before you have been with us a week it 
is the last dispensation one would provide against." 

" You have showers, then, sometimes ?" 

" The clouds will answer that question some 
day, in a manner that will astonish you." 

" Is there anything worth seeing in this grove 
beyond your spring ]" 

"Nothing of much interest in the natural world ; 
there is a little spot there — " and my sister's face 
lost its playful expression while she spoke, i* But 
I must tell you the story some day, when we have 
leisure, and take you to see it." 

" Very well, if it be melancholy, as I guess, let 
us dismiss it till some future time, when sorrow 
will be a pleasure. Whose house is that down the 
road r 

" That is Mr. R % John's father. We call 

it ' the other house.' " 

"It would be more convenient, would it not, to 
eliminate the last two letters of the article, and cut 
the phrase down to two words V 1 

" Undoubtedly. But I trust you will not claim 
the idea as original. It is one we have often 
availed ourselves of, since the erection of this, 
made a t'other of that," 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 57 

" Very ingenious, truly. But what are all these 
shrubs about the yard f" 

" Here you see a row of forest trees : this tall 
one that bends so gracefully is an elm. John and — 
placed them here two years ago. These are roses 
along here ; yonder are two lilacs on each side the 
front door; farther on is another kind of rose between 
the gate and the large tree, and this is a seringa, but 
it has never flowered yet. Those scattered pro- 
miscuously yonder, are roses. I have been unable 
to procure a greater variety ; indeed, if roses 
would bloom at all seasons I should scarcely crave 
it. As the roots increase I intend to divide and 
multiply them till the yard, all except my bleach- 
ing plat, is a wilderness of them. There is no- 
thing in the flower world that I so much love. 
They grow very fast on our rich soil. If different 
kinds of shrubbery were to be had here, one could 
have a magnificent display in a very few years. I 
have the promise of some from Cincinnati this 
spring, by a gentleman with whom you are par- 
tially acquainted, I believe. Oh, I declare it's a 
phenomenon that red can be seen through so dark 
a brown ! But this gentleman is to have a variety 
of plants sent on, and he offers to divide with 
me. By the way I had like to have forgotten 
one horticultural curiosity. It is here on the west 
side of the house, under the bed-room window. 
These windows are not 60 bare in summer. I 
have a flowering scarlet-runner that clusters very 
thickly over them, and makes a more beautiful 
drapery than your damask and gossamer." 

" I have no doubt j but show me your curios- 
ity." 

" Here it is, do you recognize it 1 But there's 
little need of asking ; for a lady who abhors bon- 
nets and veils, you blush easily, methinks," 



58 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

" I scarcely know who would not blush to see 
themselves stared at by their own initials, done in 
green of that size, and in salad, too ! common salad ! 
By-and-by it will be plucked and eaten in vinegar. 
Who would not blush at the prospect of such an 
ignominious blotting from the face of nature ] 
But who is that approaching us V 

" My husband. You'll hardly recollect him : — 
but come in. I must set about tea. Hal is whis- 
pering me that you havn't eaten since you left St. 
Louis." 

"If he doesn't call such service as he did at 
the supper table last evening eating, it must be 
confessed we have not." 

" Be seated ; you will now learn the conveni- 
ence of having your parlor and dining-room in the 
kitchen, that is, when you are your own servant. 
I take care of my family alone, but it will interfere 
little with our conversation ; you sit there, I work 
here ; so it all goes on harmoniously." 

" But suppose I work with you, let me lay the 
table." 

"Certainly, I shall refuse you no privilege of that 
kind." 

In a few minutes the shining plates were laid upon 
the snowy cloth ; a reflecter filled with tender bis- 
cuit glittered on the hearth ; the tea-kettle bubbled 
into the fire ; the cellar yielded its stores of golden 
butter, cheese, and honey, and a repast was before 
us that would have tempted appetites more pam- 
pered than ours had been. In the evening all the 
family were gathered, not excepting the gentleman 
whose plants were on their way from Cincinnati. 
There was also present a gentleman who had long 
been domiciliated with my sister's family — a man 
with a dark face, which seemed the home of the 
very genius of melancholy. A single word ex- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 59 

plained his connexion with the story which Mary- 
had promised me at some future day. The even- 
ing was spent in the enjoyment of some of the 
richest emotions that belong to humanity ; all re- 
tired at a late hour ; we new ones, with a world of 
novelty yet to explore — the others with many 
wonders of the eastern world yet to learn. 



CHAPTER VII. 

The next day calls were received from the 
other house, invitations accepted, and prairie life 
fairly begun. 

There was everything yet to see and learn, but 
we were under progress very soon. Hal, I be- 
lieve, advanced much more rapidly than myself — 
a natural consequence of his being abroad so much 
more. But we were no stayers indoor. When the 
household cares were disposed of for an hour or 
two, away we went into the groves and thickets, 
or out upon the prairies. There were some visits 
to be made at two or three miles' distance ; these 
called for horses. Sometimes the call was re- 
sponded to by one only, and I remember one 
afternoon enjoying a hearty laugh when Hal, who 
was to accompany us, came in and announced 
very gravely, that the horse was ready, and that 
he would mount and wait till we came out. He 
had built a small addition to him, he said, and quite 
regretted there was not a fourth person to accom- 
pany us. Mounted thus, one on the saddle, the 
other behind on a blanket, with Hal for our bridle 
knight — and never had two ladies a more waggish 
or humorous one — we scoured the prairies. Hal 
was generally in at the mounting and dismounting ; 
but unless there were danger to be encountered, 



60 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

we saw little of him between the goals; what we 
gained over him by our speed being lost by the 
various explorations which curiosity or fancy led 
us to make. 

The equestrian of the prairies enjoys the largest 
liberty which falls to the lot of mortals. Time 
and distance are the only checks he knows. He 
draws his rein for whatever point he lists, and 
gallops in straight or curved lines on till he tires 
or reaches the spot. Physical freedom is nowhere 
more perfect, and seldom is it enjoyed with a 
higher zest than we brought to these excursions, 
great as was the disproportion between steeds and 
riders. 

Our visits were usually made in the afternoon. 
The hour for starting was the earliest practicable 
after dinner, which was always taken at twelve. 
When the morning had been auspicious within, 
and only the ordinary affairs of the house were on 
hand, the preparations could all be made by one 
o'clock. But the force of habit was too strong to 
suffer me to submit to this without an earnest pro- 
test, and I remember feeling very much annoyed 
one day at being dragged out to spend a long after- 
noon less agreeably than we should have spent it 
at home. 

" What possible pleasure can it afford our host- 
ess V I inquired. 

"I cannot vouch for the pleasure," said Mary; 
"but the convenience, I can assure you, will be 
very great." 

" How, pray V 

" If we go at one she will have time to prepare 
tea ; if we wait till two, she will be compelled to 
dismiss us without." 

" Send a messenger then to assure her that wo 
are coming; that will give her time." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 61 

" Yes, but it would be very awkward to take 
her in mid preparation." 

" Not at all for us, and the lady, on your own 
showing, can be endowed with no very high 
degree of sensibility; so I think your argument 
fails." 

" My argument may, but my experience does 
not. I have visited this lady, you never have, and 
I speak from positive knowledge when I say that 
it will not do to go later than one." 

This was one of those obstinate cases — such as 
arise in many other affairs of life — in which one 
feels the reasons to be indisputable, but finds it 
difficult to set them forth in words. We repaired 
to our post at one o'clock ; the hostess was already 
on the qui vive. She however sat about five min- 
utes after our entrance, to give dignity to the 
reception, and then went about consummating the 
great event of the day — the tea table. The whole 
affair went on in the room where we sat, so that I 
shall be able to give its different stages and pro- 
gress with an accuracy which, I trust, may be 
appreciated. 

First stage — half-past one — a kettle of pumpkin 
is suspended over the fire for stewing, and a tea- 
kettle placed on the hearth, a few inches from the 
forestick ; half past two, a patent oven is placed 
before the fire, filled with gingerbread, of which I 
will give the recipe to the next edition of the Fru- 
gal Housewife. Next, the pumpkin is taken up 
and prepared for baking, by sifting and mixing 
with eggs, milk, ginger, and molasses. I ought to 
have remarked that as all this took place in the 
month of May, the pumpkin was dried. At four 
o'clock, the gingerbread was replaced by a pan of 
wheaten biscuit, and the teakettle was suspended 

F 



62 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

from the hook whence the pumpkin had been 
taken. At half-past four, the table was placed in 
the centre of the room, and covered with a cloth. 
Dishes now began to drop around upon it. They 
appeared at random, of all ages, colors, and sizes, 
just as the congregation gathers at a country meet- 
ing-house. This continued till dark, broken at 
intervals by the attention necessary to affairs else- 
where. At five o'clock, the biscuits were removed, 
wrapped in a table-cloth or towel, and a pie placed 
in the oven. The fire was stimulated with a fresh 
basket of chips. Time was shortening now, and 
affairs began to wear a hurried look. I could not 
forbear taking advantage of a short absence of the 
hostess, to ask Mary whether her experience would 
enable her to guarantee us any supper, with all our 
punctuality. At six o'clock, a plate of dried beef 
and pickles appeared on the table, flanked by a 
saucer of honey and a preserve dish of plums. 
The teapot was scalded at half-past six, the biscuit 
and cake had taken their places at a quarter to 
seven, and just fifteen minutes afterward, we were 
seated at the table. The attention of the hostess 
was several times interrupted by the pie, which 
would not bake ; at last she declared herself under 
the necessity of apologizing for its conduct, and 
asking us to excuse its appearance. We left a 
little before eight o'clock, and the naughty pie 
was taken from its hot berth a few minutes pre- 
vious. When I was invited to repeat the visit, 
it was impossible to forbear expressing myself so 
highly entertained that I should take great pleasure 
in doing so. 

This is not an exaggerated report ; but it is due 
to the females of the country to say that such ex- 
treme slowness is not characteristic of them. The 
person who figured here was an importation from 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 63 

the Buckeye state, and would have been a snail 
even in Yankee land. 

This, though a literal description, is a fair rep- 
resentation of social visiting in that country. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

At Prairie Lodge our acquaintance with Sucker* 
life commenced. But it was not carried to any 
great intimacy here. My sister's home had been 
little visited, even in earlier days, by the primitive 
settlers. Their principal intercourse had consisted 
of business affairs between the men, and visits of 
mercy between the females in the times of sick- 
ness or death, so that we saw little of them except- 
ing an occasional out-of-door call from some neigh- 
bor, or in passing their residences or waggons in 
our various excursions. 

One family of this kind occupied the next house 
west from the Lodge. We often passed it, and 
the external appearance excited the most intense 
curiosity to have a peep at the internal. But I 
grieve to say that it could never be accomplished 
under any decent pretext whatever. All the 
showers were either too early or too late. No 
waggon ever broke down in the neighborhood, 
though the road was at times bad enough to en- 
courage hope for a long way on either side. It 
was too near home ever to stop for water. It is 
true there was an occasional illness, but this could 
not serve my purpose, for the wife had a mother, 
to whom the lively doctor of our village gave the 
name of Meg Merrilies (I fancy there was a little 

* The cognomen of the Illinoiahs, answering to the Buckeye 
of Ohio, the Wolverine of Michigan, the Corn-cracker of Ken- 
tucky, &c. 



64 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

spite in it, for she was his rival in this branch of 
the medical profession), who would travel fifteen 
or twenty miles on foot in the morning, attend to 
her patient, and return in the evening. Meg then 
officiated, to the exclusion of all the curious gos- 
sips of the neighborhood, and had things all her 
own way. The patient was generally out the next 
day, and all went on as before. 

The house was one of the meanest description 
of cabins. It turned its back upon the road, and 
showed only a four-light window, or rather sash ; 
for soon after I first saw it, the third was broken 
out, and the fourth so fractured that its continuance 
seemed extremely doubtful. A patchwork quilt 
of blue jeans and red flannel was hung across the 
aperture a few days after, and never removed 
while I remained in the country. Directly beneath 
this, against the wall, which was on a line with the 
fence, was a green pool of about the dimensions of 
the house. It was of artificial construction, and 
redounded not a little to the taste of some eight 
or ten large swine, who delighted their senses in 
its aromatic depths, at the same time that they 
regaled those of by-passers. 

The entrance to the house was in the rear. A 
low kind of shantee projected from the door sev- 
eral feet back, which served for pantry, milk- 
house, pig-pen, poultry-house, and possibly stable 
in winter. In the right angle between these was 
the well, just far enough from the corner to be 
visible in passing. The ground around this was 
the great theatre of action for mother and chil- 
dren. I never knew the exact number of the 
latter, but if called to testify in any matter con- 
cerning them, I should say the minimum was eight, 
the maximum double that number. I rarely saw 
less than the former, sporting away the morning of 



LIFE IN rilAIlUE LAND. 65 

life, in their rags and filth, on the banks of the ver- 
dant pool, or the hard-trodden ground around the 
well. Their dress and complexions were so uni- 
form that I could never distinguish but one of 
them, a girl of some twelve years, whose face was 
always a little dirtier, her hair a little stiffer, and 
her clothes a shade nearer the color of the earth 
in which she burrowed. When any one approached 
the house, they all scampered like a herd of wild 
animals into the angle between the cabins, and 
peeped around the corners as long as the traveler 
was in sight. A general yell and shout announced 
his disappearance and their return to the several 
amusements from which they had fled. 

The father of this family was a man of sense 
and much general information ; his morals were 
unimpeachable, and his character commanded so 
much respect, that he was proposed for one of the 
highest offices in the county. His election was 
lost in consequence of some local division, not at 
all connected with the degraded condition of his 
family. He had a fine farm, valuable horses, and 
other property, and, away from home, appeared 
as well as any of his neighbors who lived more 
comfortably. His means would have enabled him 
to build a good house, surround it with cultivated, 
grounds, and furnish it with every requisite for 
neatness and comfort. Had such physical degra- 
dation been the result of extreme poverty, the case 
would have excited compassion, instead of curios- 
ity or disgust. But it was not so. 

It may be asked, then, what was the cause ? 
It was not that the parties were misers, and 
hoarded their gains ; for their means were spent 
freely to procure whatever they deemed necessary 
to comfort. What, then, was it ] Merely the in- 
capacity of the mistress of this family to appre- 
5 f 2 



66 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ciate a better condition, or help to create one. I 
afterwards saw many cases of a like mode of 
living, and am bound, in fairness, to say, that the 
credit was due in nearly every one to the fe- 
males. 

I once entered a cabin of this description, on a 
cold November day. It had no window; all the 
light came down the wide chimney, or through the 
open door. There was a long shelf in one corner, 
on which two plates, two cups, and three saucers 
were arranged, in conjunction with an iron skillet, 
a small bake kettle, and a tin tea-pot. A broken 
table stood against the wall, on which the break- 
fast things yet remained, though it was eleven 
o'clock. In a back corner of the room was a bed, 
and the only thing that indicated the exercise of 
powers superior to the ingenuity of the beaver, 
was a wide shelf over it, on which some husks were 
deposited, and covered with a bit of filthy cotton 
cloth. This was constructed for the nocturnal 
quarters of the blowsy little heir, who was then 
tumbling over and over on the ground. There 
was one dilapidated chair in the room, besides a 
single bench and a double one. The chair was 
standing back on the platform which had been 
laid for the bed, and, as I entered, escorted by the 
husband, the wife rose from her seat near the 
table, took her pipe from her mouth, and placing 
it near the edge of the hearth, invited me to sit. 
A second child was playing in the ashes. The 
door was wide open, and the raw wind swept in 
gusts through the miserable place, filling it with 
ashes and smoke. I have never seen more utter 
poverty or filth. 

When I had gathered my skirts and seated my- 
self as safely as the circumstances would permit, 
the woman returned to her pipe, and the employ- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 67 

ment which my entrance had interrupted. She 
had a large paper of coffee in her lap, from some 
of which she was selecting the foul kernels, et cet., 
preparatory to roasting. Never was there a more 
perfect picture of self-satisfaction. She had a fat 
figure, which seemed, when she seated herself, to 
settle away into a circular mass of matter, in 
which life and motion were barely manifest. Her 
children received but little attention ; indeed, it 
was not easy to see how one could bestow more 
upon them. The elder was enjoying himself in- 
tensely ; and the happiness of the younger was 
abated only by the caution which the mother 
occasionally gave it, " not to s waller the rocks," 
which she threw from among the coffee. 

It was impossible for me to contemplate this 
revolting scene, without endeavoring to ascertain 
the state of mind that could lead a human being to 
live willingly in the midst of it. I remarked, that 
it must be a serious inconvenience to live through 
the winter with the door open. 

"Why, yes," she replied, "'tain't as warm hyur 
as it used to be in Kaintucky : 'twasn't of much 
account there." 

" But we obviate the difficulty of a colder 
climate by windows; they admit the light with- 
out the cold." 

" Yes, I reckon they're mighty convenient, but 
we hain't had one yet." 

" How long have you lived here V 

" Four year." 

H Have you never had a floor V 

" No, we hain't yit; but I reckon we shall git 
one afore long. It's mighty bad to have the old 
man to work around the house, so I don't say 
nothing about it : he wants to put it down, but I 
don't allow 'twould make much difference j I 



68 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

reckon that out thar," pointing to the little plat- 
form, " will do us yet." 

It would weary the reader to give further de- 
tails of a conversation that evinced only the most 
distrusting indifference to the common comforts of 
a more civilized condition. I rode several miles 
on the same day, with the husband of this woman, 
and had an opportunity to learn that he would 
prefer a better manner of life, but that her aver- 
sion to change or action rendered so great an effort 
necessary on his part, that he had never under- 
taken it. He had ample means for surrounding 
himself and his family with every comfort. Beside 
a fine farm, which he cultivated near a good 
market, he owned a valuable stock of cattle and 
other property, and had between a thousand and 
fifteen hundred dollars, in specie, lying in a black 
chest by the head of his bed. He had no dispo- 
sition to hoard it; he would spend it the next day, 
for anything that they could agree on as conducive 
to happiness. He was likewise possessed of supe- 
rior natural powers, which he had used in acquir- 
ing knowledge of various kinds, and was then 
capable of making himself a very pleasant com- 
panion, by the use of his varied information. His 
mode of living was never the subject of remark 
among people of his own class. No one thought 
it strange, or wondered whether it would ever im- 
prove. The women, who, with more household 
industry, lived better than "Miss Andreivs," prob- 
ably thought she lost a " heap of comfort" in her 
windowless, floorless, dirty house, but so a smart 
Yankee woman would have thought of them. 

These extreme cases, however, are fortunately 
rare. In the homes of most of the first settlers 
there is much more regard paid to cleanliness and 
comfort. In many of them the neatness and order 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 69 

are perfect. Of necessity they have fewer artificial 
luxuries than the inhabitants of older regions, but 
these are not evidences of talent or worth. The 
inherent virtues of cleanliness, order, and self- 
respect are often more manifest in a simple than a 
complicated style of living, and are not less pro- 
ductive of happiness in one than the other. 



CHAPTER IX. 

The beautiful progeny of spring began now to 
gather around Prairie Lodge. Animate and in- 
animate nature teemed with the loveliest creations. 
The showers that had been so emphatically fore- 
told on our arrival did not disappoint us. They 
fell almost daily for several weeks, and were 
generally accompanied by lightning and thunder, 
such as the dwellers in the east have no concep- 
tion of. Nothing of the kind can be more magnifi- 
cent, unless it be the marshalling of the same storms 
on the vast plains farther west, where they are said 
to be even more terrific. They come more gener- 
ally toward evening, and not unfrequently continue 
till near morning. Nothing can exceed the rapid- 
ity with which they gather after the first signal is 
given. A little cloud not larger than a man's 
hand rises on the horizon, and in fifteen minutes 
the earth is deluged, and the pealing heavens seem 
on fire. There are few showers here unaccom- 
panied by the most striking electric phenomena : 
sometimes the whole arch is lighted by a continu- 
ous flickering glare, rent occasionally by a more 
intense vein. The thunder roll is ceaseless, with 
such lightning! The deep peals that accompany 
the brighter flashes only strike with a more appall- 
ing tone. At other times the whole vault is filled 
with a darkness that seems ponderable, till a mighty 



70 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

flash rends the pall and searches the very soul. It 
is gone, and the solid earth trembles under the 
mighty concussion. Again darkness, as if eternal 
night had come, wraps the scene till the flame 
leaps forth with a more blinding glare than before, 
and a crash follows that seems to shatter the 
foundation of the world. The third or fourth sig- 
nal is followed by the storm, which breaks through 
the sable rack as if half the ocean had been lifted 
from its bed and were wandering in the upper air. 
In an inconceivably short space of time the plains 
around you are deluged, so that every succeed- 
ing flash is reflected from innumerable little pools 
as if you were in the midst of a shallow lake 
broken by islands of sedge and grass. I never 
appreciated the sublime power of the elements till 
I witnessed these storms. They are one of the 
most glorious features of the country. 

Their effect was heightened too by contrast with 
the scenes which followed them. The vast ex- 
panse of country over which they ranged was in afew 
hours after as quiet and smiling as if the upper ele- 
ments had dispensed only peace and sunshine from 
the first hour of creation. And beauty born of these 
awful warrings stole over every rolling height and 
into every green glade in our landscape. The swell- 
ing bud, the unfolding leaf and flower followed in 
the path of their majestic progress, making rich 
and beautiful what had before been desolate and 
wintry. The spirit that had all the night perhaps 
raved with such fearful and angry power, seemed, 
when the bright and peaceful morning came, to 
have borne a magician's wand after his wrath, and 
kindled life, beauty, and joy on the plains it had 
threatened to devastate. The trees around our 
lodge, now began to put on their summer garb ; 
the hazel copses unfolded thoir young leaves. The 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 71 

prairies spread their green carpets and even went 
so far as to variegate the pattern with the violet 
and the scarlet-painted cup. The strawberry came 
out in her bridal flowers, and blushed herself into 
luscious maturity beneath the ardent sun. It was 
not confined to beds and patches such as delight 
the eyes of the urchin roving through forbidden 
meadows in the east, but reddened whole acres 
around the lodge. The pleasure of gathering it 
was surpassed only by its delicious flavor. When 
we came in heated, and just enough fatigued to 
make rest delightful, our blushing treasures were 
cleansed of the leaves and grass, sprinkled with 
sugar, and deluged with delicious cream fresh from 
the brimming pan. Oh what a feast ! and while we 
were enjoying it the soft breeze floated in laden 
with the odors of the young world, and the music of 
its varied, populace. The grove in the rear of the 
house was tenanted by many little songsters, bu- 
sily employed in these days of universal industry 
in announcing their return and preparing for the 
duties of the season. My favorite was the Quail, 
the merriest, the happiest, and most business-like 
bird of them all. He rejoices in the showers, and 
so do I. The harder the rain, the livelier his 
cheering when it is over. He makes the dripping 
wood ring with his shrill note. If you walk out 
while the drops hang upon the leaves, and the 
grass bends with the weight of its gems, you hear 
his merry greetings floating by as gaily as if a bevy 
of children had escaped to the woods and were 
playing hide and seek with an omnipresent " Bob 
White," who would only answer when called with a 
whistle. You hear it in every tone, the imperative, 
the plaintive, the querulous, the dignified, the en- 
treating, the congratulatory. " Bob White !" solil- 
oquizes one philosophic-looking fellow from the 



72 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

second story of a hazel clump. He looks about a 
moment, and repeats in a higher and more intense 
key, " Bob White!" Two or three more turns of 
the smooth little head and the sagacious little eye 
seem to raise his temper, and he adds the epithet 
" Old !" as if Bob White were rather sensitive on the 
score of his years and would be drawn out to repel 
the injurious insinuation. " Old Bob White !" he 
exclaims, and it is responded to from below. Pre- 
sently out trips a neat, industrious, thrifty-looking 
bird, who appears to be keeping house in some of 
the snug little apartments to which these clean 
paths lead, and exclaims " Old Bob White !" He 
starts and looks smartly about for the individual 
who has perpetrated so unjust a slander. "Old 
Bob White !" And, as if the enormity grew with 
the repetition, he hops upon another branch, ad- 
justs his plumage, and boldly as an eye can defy, 
he defies any libeller to prove his charge. 

The altercation is becoming sharp, when pre- 
sently a softer and entreating voice from below, 
cries out " Bob White !" His anger is dissipated 
in a moment. With a look of universal charity 
toward all Quail slanderers, he alights from his 
post of defiance, and trips away up the leafy aisle. 
He runs along in haste, looking expectant but de- 
termined. He evidently anticipates some appeal 
to his feelings as a husband and father ; but is re- 
solved to yield to no indiscreet solicitation. He 
reaches a little nook near the edge of the thicket, 
where low herbage has crept in and woven a thick 
bed, soft and odorous. The branches are closely 
knotted above it, and two or three stems of the Ge- 
ranium Mat u ( \i ta in droop gracefully over, looking 
with their meek pale eyes at the nestling little 
group which Mrs. Bob White is vainly endeavor- 
ing to keep in order during her husband's sally in 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 73 

defence of his youth. When he arrives, he finds 
a dozen callow Bob Whites tumbling about with 
the manifest intention of rebelling against parental 
authority. The mother entreats, the father remon- 
strates, but to no purpose. He finally changes 
his tone to that of instruction, and warns his in- 
experienced children against the many dangers 
which wait on the life of a Quail, but more espe- 
cially against traps. In due time order is again 
restored, and the exercise of the parental authority 
has so elevated Bob White's estimation of himself, 
that he can now forgive all that previously excited 
his indignation. He feels that respectability estab- 
lished on such a basis is not easily overthrown ; and 
thus reconciled with himself and the world at large, 
he walks forth beneath the dripping boughs with 
a complacency which mere epithets cannot dis- 
turb. 

The Grouse is another member of the feathered 
tribe, peculiar to these beautiful regions. He is 
a large, mottled grey bird, with a heavy ruff of 
feathers running over his head, which adds much 
to the watchfulness and timidity of his appearance. 
Their nests are built on the open prairie in some 
thick knot of grass. This bird has no proper 
song, and is in general a very silent inhabitant of 
these vast plains. When hunted or overtaken by 
the traveler, they rise suddenly with a whirr, 
somewhat similar to, but not so distinct as that of 
the pheasant, and fly very rapidly. If not dis- 
turbed they describe the half of an ellipse between 
the points of rising and alighting. The strokes of 
the wing are short and rapid, and the flight is very 
swift and direct. These fowls are rarely heard to 
utter any noise except at one chosen hour of the 
day. On a spring morning before sunrise, if you 
are in the vicinitv where grove and prairie meet, 

G 



74 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

the air resounds with a peculiar noise, between 
the whistle of the quail and the hoarse blowing of 
the night-hawk, but louder than either. You in- 
quire what it is, and are told it is the prairie cocks 
greeting the opening day. 

Spring morning on the prairies ! I wish I could 
find language that would convey to the mind of 
the reader an adequate idea of the deep joy 
which the soul drinks in from every feature of this 
wonderful scene ! If he could stand where I 
have often stood, when the rosy clouds were piled 
against the eastern sky, and the soft tremulous 
light was streaming aslant the dewy grass, while 
not a sound of life broke on the ear, save the wild 
note just mentioned, so much in harmony with the 
whole of visible nature, he would feel one of the 
charms which bind the hearts of the sons and 
daughters of this land. 

We are within the borders of a little grove. 
Before us stretches a prairie ; boundless on the 
south and east, and fringed on the north by a line 
of forest, the green top of which is just visible in 
a dark waving line between the tender hue of the 
growing grass and the golden sky. South and 
east as far as the eye can stretch, the plain is un- 
broken save by one " lone tree," which, from time 
immemorial, has been the compass of the red man 
and his white brother. The light creeps slowly 
up the sky ; for twilight is long on these savannahs. 
The heavy dews which the cool night has deposited 
glisten on the leaves and spikes of grass, and the 
particles, occasionally mingling, are borne by their 
own weight to the earth. The slight blade on 
which they hung recovers then its erect position, 
or falls into its natural curve, with a quick but 
gentle motion, that imparts an appearance of life 
to that nearest you, even before the wind has laid 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 75 

his hand on the pulseless sea beyond. A vast 
ocean, teeming with life ; redolent of sweet odors ! 
It yields no sound save the one which first arrested 
our attention, and this is uttered without ceasing. 
It is not the prolonged note of one, but the steady 
succession of innumerable voices. It comes up 
near you and travels on, ringing more and more 
faintly on the ear, till it is returned by another 
line of respondents, and comes swelling in full 
chorus, stronger and nearer, till the last seems to 
be uttered directly at your feet. 

But the light is gaining upon the grey dawn. 
Birds awaken in the wood behind us, and salute 
each other from the swinging branches. Insects 
begin their busy hum. And now, the sun has just 
crowded his rim above a bank of gorgeous clouds, 
and pours a flood of dazzling light across the 
grassy main. Each blade becomes a chain of 
gems, and, as the light increases, and the breath 
of morning shakes them, they bend, and flash, and 
change their hues, till the whole space seems 
sprinkled with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, ame- 
thysts, and all precious stones. Nothing can be 
conceived more beautiful or joyous than such a 
scene at this hour. The contiguous wood conveys 
an idea of home, such as you have borne from the 
forest-clad states of the east. It is a refuge from 
the vastness which oppresses the mind, because it 
can never wholly compass it. You rejoice, you 
exult in the friendly presence of the trees; not 
because they afford you a grateful retreat from the 
ardent sun ; not because they adorn your rude 
dwelling ; not because they promote the growth 
of fruit and flowers ; not even because they con- 
gregate the dear little birds about your home ; but 
because they afford the natural and familiar alter- 
native to which the mind recurs when it is weary 



76 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of the majesty which lies beyond them. You have 
sat under them in childhood ; you have swept the 
fragments from the little spaces among their roots 
and carpeted them with moss, and festooned them 
with the wild flowers which nodded near. You 
have peopled these magic palaces with fairies, and 
felt a joy which words can never tell, in dreaming 
how happy the little beings might be where nothing 
is visible to their tiny eyes but exquisite beauty, 
and no sound falls on their small ears but the 
melodies of growing life. You have listened to 
the winds, sighing plaintively through the boughs, 
and felt your soul grow fit for companionship with 
all things whatsoever that are beautiful and lovely. 
And now your heart turns fondly to these tall 
tenants of the plain as to elder brothers, and for 
a moment you look coldly on the naked expanse 
beyond. But stop ! the sun is fairly up. The 
flashing gems have faded from the grass tops; the 
grouse has ceased his matin song ; the birds have 
hailed the opening day, and are gaily launching 
from the trees : the curtain which has hung against 
the eastern sky is swept away, and the broad 
light pours in resistless. The wind comes cours- 
ing gently up from the far distance, bending the 
young herbage, and bearing to your senses sweet 
sounds and odors, nursed on the unsullied breast 
of Nature. 

The tenants of the farm-yard are now astir; the 
cows are milked, and all the animals whose 
services the farmer does not call to aid his labors, 
are dismissed to ramble in the boundless pasture. 
The generous oxen are summoned to the yoke, 
and the labor of the day commences. If I have 
lingered long over this revel of nature, a spring 
morning on the prairies, with the grouse be all 
the blame ! 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 77 

Among the more accomplished feathered artists 
here are the Bob o'Link, a species of mocking- 
bird, sometimes called the Brown Thrasher, the 
Robin, and the melancholy Whip-poor- Will. 
These inhabit the barrens and the prairies in 
their vicinity. They are seldom found at any 
great distance from the woods. There are some 
small birds who love the free plain, but they can- 
not boast of much genius as singers. It is beauti- 
ful to think, however, that as man creeps outward 
from the groves and builds his cabin, opens his 
garden, and nurses a few shrubs and small trees 
around him, the little wood songsters construe it 
into an invitation to accompany him. Trees are 
of very rapid growth on the exhaustless soil of the 
prairies. A few years' care will bring about your 
house a dense grove of the locust, the cotton 
wood, aspen, and several other species, so that 
one need not be long deprived of bird-music. 
There are several varieties of the Woodpecker ; 
but they will not visit a new home so soon. They 
look upon young and thrifty trees as humbugs, so 
far as they pretend to any present utility, and 
regard them rather as estates to be held in trust 
for future generations, than as available funds for 
the present. They decidedly prefer the aged and 
established to the young and ambitious. In the 
heavily wooded bottoms of large rivers, and their 
tributaries, is found the Parroquet ; not so finished 
a speaker as the Parrot, but quite as ready. He 
is a lively chatterer among the stately trees in the 
summer months, and when winter comes he be- 
takes himself to the dark deep forests of the 
south. Like the most voluble consolers of our 
own species, he shrinks before the approach of 
stern trial. There are also several coarser tribes, 
which I never loved, and shall therefore only 

g2 



78 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

name for the gratification of the curious. The 
Crow caws here as everywhere else, but he has 
been rescued from the general detestation in 
which he was formerly held by the magic pen of 
Bryant. No other could have done it. And yet, 
who can read the " Death of the Flowers," and 
not entertain a higher respect for him, and feel 
more melody in his croakings than before ] The 
Hawk screams above the wood top, and over the 
poultry yard, all through the bright summer day. 
But nothing could make him other than an object 
of abhorrence to me since he bore my favorite 
chicken away before my very eyes, many, many 
years ago. I could not love him even with such 
an introduction as made his croaking cousin ac- 
ceptable. 

Next in kind, but more loathsome, is the Buz- 
zard, an indolent, gluttonous bird, who wheels 
lazily over the great plains, till the decaying 
carcass of a wolf, deer, or other animal attracts 
him to the earth. He then descends, gorges him- 
self with the foul carrion, and often rests beside it 
after eating, from sheer inability to rise. The 
Turkey, whom this infamous fellow so much re- 
sembles, that he has succeeded in stealing his name 
as a prefix to his own, is a much pleasanter mem- 
ber of the feathered tribe. Great numbers of them 
abound in the woodlands, where the stately march 
of the old cock gallanting his hen and her lively 
brood through the forest is one of its most de- 
lightful features. 

The landscape grows more beautiful every day. 
The prairie puts on its richest garb about the first 
of June. The painted cup, mocassin flower, and 
geranium, come out ; and there is more repose in 
the vegetable world than there has been. Nature, 
like a notable dame, has cleaned house in proper 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 79 

season, got her furniture and ornaments arranged, 
and now seated complacently in* her easy chair, 
challenges the admiration of beholders. In the 
vicinity of farms, the landscape is enriched by 
herds of cattle feeding on the prairies. If you 
walk or drive among them in the afternoon, they 
are panting like gourmands after a turtle dinner. 
Their very ribs are distended with the luxurious 
fare in which they have reveled all day, and their 
breath perfumes the air. As the sun declines they 
wander homeward, the cows bearing a treasure 
that almost flows without the pressure of the 
housewife's hand. When the milk is strained and 
set away, the cares of the day are over, and then 
we wander out among the hazel copses or through 
the grove, to enjoy the gorgeous sunset, and the 
long dreamy twilight that lingers over these peer- 
less lands. 

The hazel copse is one of the most picturesque 
features of our landscape. It grows very abund- 
antly, and in autumn yields an inexhaustible har- 
vest of the most delicious nuts. It is found several 
miles from the woodland, and grows in clumps 
from three to six feet in height. At a little distance 
these shrubs have the appearance of green mounds 
thrown up on the smooth surface of the plain. Its 
shelter is much sought by the rabbit, the most 
tender and timid inhabitant of the prairie. Where 
the hazel has a strong compact growth it uproots 
the grass and leaves the soil unoccupied, except 
by an occasional flower or creeping vine, whose 
long tendrils make a beautiful festoonery for such 
little aisles. Along these the timid hare skips and 
feeds during the day, and when twilight favors his 
faint heart, he may be seen leaping out into the 
more dangerous paths trodden by man and other 
beings whom his instinct teaches him to dread as 



80 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

foes. Let him hear your footsteps and he flees 
the sound as if it foretold his death. We stroll 
through these miniature groves, treading carefully, 
and speaking in low whispers not to alarm the 
quick ear of their little tenants. By and by, we 
emerge from the winding road into the more open 
barrens. We wander onward, talking of olden 
time and the time to come, when presently a 
sharp, shrill sound breaks upon the ear, followed 
by the bounding of light feet. Away flies the 
deer, startled by our white dresses moving among 
the green foliage, and fearful every moment of 
the cracking rifle. Poor innocent, we shall not 
harm you ! You might have cropped the twigs 
unmolested, and been spared that pang of fear, 
had you known that we love mercy, and find no 
pleasure in depriving any created thing of the 
joys which are its natural inheritance. 

But while we have mused and talked, the mag- 
nificent drapery of the west has been folded away. 
The gorgeous piles of gold and crimson have 
melted and left the sky, faintly tinted with their 
departing glories. The curtain of night is creep- 
ing slowly over the earth ; the breeze steals 
gently through the foliage, and shakes the large 
leaf of the sassafras with a soft hollow sound, 
which, with the quick, liquid rustling of the aspen, 
and the fuller notes of the forest tree, pours a 
delicious harmony into the ear of night. Half an 
hour later the light is gone out in the west. The 
night-hawk has ceased his airy, sounding swoops, 
and the whip-poor-will has come from his retreat, 
to tell again the melancholy tale he urged so 
mournfully last night. There he sits, in the top 
of the tall oak before the door, and will not cease 
his plaint. What is it troubles thee, poor Will ] 
Hast thou been engaged in 6ome naughty affair, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LANl). 81 

wronging thy neighbor, or looking sweetly at the 
daughter of some sour old worshiper of Mammon, 
who scorns thy poverty, and threatens thee, unless 
thou desist. Or has some gay gallant misled thy 
dame, and is thy song a cry for vengeance % Me- 
thinks it is too melancholy in its tone. Some sorrow 
surely is its burthen. But our ears are grown 
familiar with it, Will ; and thine, perhaps, is lighter 
than that we turn away from every day, though 
uttered more intelligibly. They say thou art a 
merry little fellow all day ; that joy dances in thine 
eye, and that thou hoppest from branch to branch, 
laughing under thy wing at the anticipation of the 
melancholy pranks thou wilt play at night, with 
sentimental maidens and moonstruck lovers. If 
so, Will, thou art a sad rogue, and deservest some 
real sorrow, little masker that thou art ! 

But, good night ! I turn my ear to a tale of more 
unequivocal sorrow than thine. Sister has prom- 
ised me the story of the dark man's griefs. 



CHAPTER X. 

" Sit with me here," said Mary, "in this dark, 
unfinished room. It has been the theatre of some 
of the scenes which I shall endeavor to delineate, 
and do not prepare yourself for any high-wrought 
romance. My story is one of reality too palpable 
to be recurred to, even now, without the most 
painful emotions. It is one of the many I could 
relate illustrative of the trials which sometimes 
wait on the settler in new countries. But you 
were down at the graves to-day, and have already 
guessed the import of what is to follow, so I will 
begin in my own way. 

" I must premise that, from our first settling here, 
we have been under the necessity (often a pleasant 
6 



82 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

one) of entertaining many strangers, for the most 
part gentlemen, who come to view the country. 
Persons landing at any of the river towns in our 
vicinity, and wishing to spend a few days or weeks 
for that purpose, were generally referred to us ; 
and when they came, it was impossible to deny 
them such a home as we had to share with them. 
It has been a severe burthen to us females, over- 
tasked as we have been, with the cares of our own 
families, and the arduous labors which the imper- 
fection of the mechanic arts imposes on the good 
housekeeper of new countries ; but we could not, 
and often did not wish to escape from it. When 
we moved into this house, most of these persons 
came to us, probably because my family was 
smaller than Mrs. R.'s, and my house larger. 
Sometimes such guests have been attacked with 
fevers, and lain on the threshold of death for 
weeks, requiring such care and attention as only 
an accomplished nurse, otherwise unemployed, 
could give. I have, in such cases, had to divide 
my time and ability between them and my family, 
watching by night and working by day, till they 
have recovered, and gone from our roof bearing 
the recollection, that humanity is not always con- 
fined to the homes in which physical refinement 
contributes so much to the comfort of the afflicted. 
Happily, no one of these wayfarers ever expired 
anions us, though I have many times lived in the 
daily expectation of such an event. We watched 
one young stranger on that bed for ten weeks, 
during three of which we expected each day 
would terminate his sufferings and our hope. But 
he recovered to thank us, and bless his Maker for 
the energies which had borne him safely through 
the fierce conflict. 

"But this is not my story. I relate these events 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 83 

merely to convey some idea of the claim which 
strangers have to our hospitality, and of the feel- 
ing which links us as brethren to those who are 
homeless and friendless in our land. This feeling 
breaks down all the barriers of ceremony where- 
with we are restrained in more populous regions. 
It brings strangers together without the frigid 
medium that makes them mere objects of sight to 
each other ; it seats them at your table and invites 
them to partake of whatever your home affords, 
with a freedom and genuineness that make the 
recollection of the cold and heartless ceremonies 
of more artificial society sickening. . 

" Such was the feeling that opened our doors to 
the solitary man whom you see still among us. 
But he came not thus alone. When he landed, 
three years ago this spring, at the place you left a 
few days since, he was accompanied by a young 
wife. They had set out together from one of the 
eastern cities, to seek happiness and fortune at the 
west. Having no definite place in view, they 
landed at P , and there the young bride re- 
mained, while her husband visited the interior in 
search of a spot where they might make their 
home. He came to our neighborhood, and find- 
ing a piece of land which he liked, about a mile 
beyond us on the prairie, returned and brought 
his wife to see it. They stopped at our house, and 
I was more than willing they should find a home 
here till their own was ready to receive them. 

" Mrs. K. was a dark-haired woman, with an eye 
that made her whole face glow when it was lighted 
up with pleasure or expectation. She was rather 
above the middle stature, with a well-formed per- 
son, and a clear, happy voice. It was easy to see 
that her husband, silent and grave as he was, loved 
her with a strength that is rarely surpassed in 



84 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

man. They seemed to me a happy couple. They 
boarded a few days in our family, and then com- 
menced housekeeping in this room. She was a 
pleasant companion, and being nearly of my own 
age, and possessing a cultivated mind, there soon 
grew up a warm friendship between us. Each 
could enliven the solitary hours of the other, and 
during the long days when our husbands were at 
work, we were much together. 

" Their farm progressed quite rapidly ; one or 
two fields were broken by the plough, a house 
built, and an enclosure made around it the first 
season. The next spring they removed. Their 
place, as I said, is about a mile east of this ; it is 
farther out on the prairie, and commands a beau- 
tiful view to the south and south-east. It was de- 
lightful, after they removed there, to see near us 
another tenanted home. You cannot appreciate 
this feeling till you have passed a deserted one on 
some wide prairie. A sign of life, about one of 
the thinly-scattered houses here, stirs the heart 
with joy, though you have never seen its inmates ; 
but a deserted prairie home, with smokeless chim- 
ney and curtainless windows, is one of the loneliest 
objects on which the eye can rest 

"A new source of joy cheered the young wife in 
her labors. She was soon to become a mother; 
and what task sweeter than to prepare her dwell- 
ing for the expected guest. She toiled faithfully 
and patiently, as if her hands had been trained to 
it from childhood ; and her labor was directed by 
a capacity that made it effective. Her rough house 
grew into a pleasant habitable abode, and the 
young harvest springing around, gave cheering 
promise for the coming season. I saw her often 
after their removal, and always found her happy 
and rejoicing in the prospect before her. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 85 

" On the 24th of April of that year, there com- 
menced the most remarkable series of storms ever 
known in the country. They occurred daily and 
sometimes twice a day, till the last of June, ac- 
companied by the most terrific thunder and light- 
ning ever witnessed. You may judge of the ter- 
ror they inspired, when I tell you, that much as I 
loved the conflict of the elements before, the roll 
of thunder even now always produces a temporary 
faintness and nausea ; then it completely overcame 
me. Language can convey no idea of those ter- 
rible days. The storms gathered with such fearful 
rapidity. A small cloud would be seen somewhere, 

" When all the rest of heaven was clear," 
and in a moment the deluge was upon us. It 
seemed as if another flood were coming to purify 
the earth. The falling of the rain was frightful, 
to say nothing of the lightning that cleft the at- 
mosphere, and the crashing thunder that followed 
so close upon it, that the tread of the latter seemed 
to extinguish the light of the former. 

" These terrible scenes, following each other with- 
out the intermission of a day for more than two 
months, seemed to blight the country. The prai- 
ries were saturated, and in many places submerged, 
and yet the rain came. Sometimes when it had 
stormed thus all night, the sky would be clear till 
noon, and the sun pour his rays upon the steaming 
earth, till vegetation seemed scalded. Perhaps, 
just as dinner was set, a little cloud would gather 
in the west, or a faint roll of thunder strike the 
ear. My appetite would vanish in an instant ; and 
with blanched face and trembling limbs, we would 
set away the meal untasted. The men always 
came in, though they were generally drenched be- 
fore they reached the house. But such was our 
terror, that we could not have remained alone. 

H 



86 LIFE IV PRAIRIE LAND. 

When a shower commenced,, we knew not that 
its termination would see us alive. One flash and 
thunder-peal, I remember, were so awful that they 
brought us all to our feet with pale faces, and eyes 
that looked as if they were gazing on- death. 
When the shock had passed, and we found that 
we could still move, the people of each house 
rushed to the doors, expecting to see the other on 
fire. But the lightning had rifted that large oak, 
the stump of which still stands about midway be- 
tween them. After a while we ceased all employ- 
ment when these awful periods came, and sat like 
people awaiting their doom. I have never seen 
anything of the sublime or terrible that approached 
the storms of those seventy days. 

" But the consequences were still more dreadful. 
The earth was filled with water, and every little 
hollow upon the prairies became a stagnant pool 
to engender disease ; so that after the fierce 
storm-demon had scourged us and departed, the 
silent pestilence rose from the green plains that 
smiled beneath his reign, and stalked resistless 
among; their inhabitants. 

" It was a critical period for my friend. The new 
cellar beneath their house had been half-filled with 
water, and I dreaded extremely its effect on her 
health. But there was no way to escape it, except 
to leave the house, which was scarcely thought ne- 
cessary, while the danger seemed so remote. She 
preserved her spirits and energy through all, till 
her husband was prostrated by the fever. Then 
came her time of trial. Except the laborer who 
had. assisted her husband on his farm, they were 
alone, and ours was the nearest family with which 
they had any acquaintance. I rode over nearly 
every day after my work was done, and frequently 
apent the night with her. There was a long pe- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 87 

riod of dreadful suspense. The same disease was 
raging elsewhere with a fearful malignity, and it 
was impossible, for many days, to say whether 
hope or fear predominated. I knew that the 
effect on herself must be great, whichever way the 
scale turned. When the excitement was removed, 
she must sink. It was even as I dreaded. She 
was attacked long before the recovery of her hus- 
band, and both lay helpless ; dependent on the 
skill of their lured man and the kindness of neigh- 
bors. I watched with them every alternate night 
for several weeks, and spent a part of almost every 
day there, after she was brought to her bed. Her 
attack commenced with a fever and terminated in 
a premature confinement. The babe that had been 
so long and joyfully expected, was thrown heed- 
lessly aside, and all attention concentrated on the 
sinking mother — but vainly. She survived only 
till the third day; and the first time her husband 
left his house, was to follow his wife and child to 
the little spot you visited to-day, beneath those 
trees. His grief was appalling. Sickness had 
blanched his dark face into a ghastly hue, and 
drawn deep furrows in his cheek, which were im- 
movable as if chiseled in granite. He had seen 
little of her lately, for his mental faculties had 
been partially suspended while she was watching 
by his couch ; he knew she had been with him, 
but in terrible affliction which he had not soothed, 
Her last days were days of intense mental suffer- 
ing, which he had not alleviated ; and, finally, her 
life had closed in fierce agonies, which he had been 
compelled to witness, but could neither share nor 
relieve. He seemed to be a stranger to himself 
in these new circumstances, that had so suddenly 
changed the aspect of hig whole life. 

" Her grave was the first that had been made 



88 . LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

among us. We selected the spot for its quiet 
beauty, and the repose which its situation prom- 
ised the dead, even when all who are interested in 
them pass away. When we arrived at the tomb, 
it seemed impossible for him to resign her without 
one more look. The lid of the coffin was removed ; 
he gazed a brief moment, bent over it, imprinted 
one long kiss on the cold brow, and turned away. 
The mother and child were lowered, the grave 
filled — and thus departed the stranger who had 
come among us so recently, filled with hope and 
joy. His home was now too desolate to be en- 
dured. All that had made it home was gone for 
ever. He returned to us sick, dejected, melan- 
choly ; all the brightness which had gathered round 
his life turned to darkness — all his hope to de- 
spair. The house now stands untenanted, a cheer- 
less sight to us who have known its better time. 
He spends his days at work on his farm, and his 
evenings as you see. But, notwithstanding his mis- 
fortunes, he still loves our country, and will, I 
think, remain in it." 

" That, I believe," said I, " is the choice of most 
who ever spend any time here, and it was to me a 
mystery very difficult of solution, till I saw what 
enchains them. I do not now wonder that a per- 
son who has senses to be gratified, with all the va- 
rious objects of each, that surround him here, and 
higher faculties to be elevated by communion with 
nature in her loveliest forms, can never willingly 
leave the land in which they are so daintily fed." 

"Yes," replied Mary; "there is a charm in 
this country which cannot be resisted. But what 
is it ] I have lived here five years, and am yet 
unable to say. It may be in our majestic streams ; 
in our glorious prairies; in our delicious springs 
and summers ; our profuse and glowing autumn; 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 89 

in the variety of free and joyous birds and animals 
that revel here ; in the unrestrained freedom which 
we enjoy, or in all these combined." 

" Undoubtedly, if my short acquaintance entitles 
me to an opinion, it is the latter." 

" Social and physical freedom exist here," said 
Mary, " in their most enlarged forms. In less 
favored portions of the earth, man is more or less 
enslaved. Want, custom, artificial desires, or some 
of the thousand phantoms which tread upon the 
heels of human enjoyment, restrain his freedom. 
They limit his action, give complexion to his feel- 
ing, oppress his thought, cut off his communion 
with the primal sources of truth. His necessities 
have each an individual voice, and call loudly for 
effort. He may not rest till this is made. Here, 
it is to a great extent otherwise. Our genial cli- 
mate and exhaustless soil afford an abundant and 
ready return for his labors. He is soon released 
from want, and his faculties, rebounding from their 
depressed condition, go leisurely forth in quest of 
happiness. There is just enough of ease in his 
outward circumstances to excite, instead of ener- 
vating the tone of his energies y and with enlarged 
capacities for enjoyment, he finds himself sur- 
rounded by the most propitious array of facts and 
objects for promoting it. Nature in her loveliest 
and benignest aspect is spread before him. She 
invites him to her acquaintance ; and while he 
courts it, the jarring selfishness in which his life 
has been spent softens into greater harmony with 
the good, the true, and the beautiful in creation. 
He becomes a better, wiser, happier man. His 
fetters crumble, and he begins to reach forth to 
ascertain the boundaries and qualities of the new 
sphere in which he finds himself. These are such 
as to afford him a greater degree of pleasure than 

H 



90 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

he has probably ever before experienced. Free- 
dom from want, purchased with a moderate use of 
his physical powers ; freedom from social tram- 
mels ; freedom from the struggles of an emulation 
founded in vanity, or other vitiated desires ; from 
the myriad forms of ruinous and slavish excess 
which feeling takes in more populous regions, 
where man's intercourse is more with his fellows, 
and less with Nature and his God." 

" These elements," I replied, " create a happi- 
ness which all can enjoy and appreciate, the culti- 
vated as well as the rude. Hence it is no longer 
a problem with me, that one possessing tolerable 
powers of mind may leave the most refined society 
of the older world, where material as well as mental 
elegance have previously surrounded him, and, 
coming here, find that charm in his life, though 
stripped of everything that had before constituted 
happiness, which will not let him sever himself from 
your fair land without many a pang and heartfelt 
longing to lay himself once more upon its broad 
and beautiful bosom." 

f? There is another thought," said Mary, "which 
has always constituted a strong bond between my 
heart and the land of my adoption. It is that of 
the mighty Future which lies before a country 
possessing resources like ours. To bear a part in 
developing this, seems to me equally calculated to 
stimulate and gratify our noblest powers." 

" Unquestionably ; but are such thoughts enjoyed 
by any but the nobler class of minds ] Have they 
existence among the unthinking and uncultivated I ' 

"A better defined one, I suspect," replied my 
sister, " than you are disposed to concede to them. 
Indeed, I think them born of the country, and 
nursed by every day's acquaintance with it. One 
could as well gaze upon the rising sun and not 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 91 

foresee the splendors of midday, as live in these 
magnificent plains, and have no vision of their 
future greatness." 

" You are probably right. At least, I have as 
yet no authority to dispute opinions growing out 
of five years' experience." 

" I think your longer dwelling here would lead 
you to the same conclusions. It is impossible for 
the commonest mind to resist the united influences 
of which we have spoken. It must be elevated 
and made happier by them. Hence, if I were 
asked to name the charm that binds the prairie 
settler to his home, I would say, it is not merely 
the fine climate, the beautiful lands, the diversity 
of the natural world, nor the majesty of stream or 
plain, nor even the bountiful seasons. It is the 
combined effect of all these, Driving ^ e widest free- 
dom of thought and action, and inspiring each indi- 
vidual with the consciousness that his acts, be they 
few or many, tell upon the development of ener- 
gies that have slumbered for ages, but are now fast 
growing into gigantic stature before the world. 
Nor is it necessary, in order to constitute a part 
of that which prompts us to action, that these ideas 
should have a distinct existence in the mind. Men 
often act from motives that are buried beneath an 
ocean of lighter feeling, and are but partially 
recognized by themselves, till, like the electric 
shock, which compels the sea to reveal its most 
startling secrets, some mighty event, searching the 
depths of their being, brings them to the surface, 
to astonish their possessors. Many a man has 
mouldered into dust, whose life has been shaped 
by motives which, clothed in words, would at 
first have appeared strangers to him, but which 
he would soon come to recognize as a part of 
himself." 



92 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

" But it is bedtime for people who rise with the 
day, and to-morrow you have another half-day's 
penance to perform at " 

" Which I shall rejoice to have accomplished, I 
assure you. Good night ; I am certain 1 shall see 
that dark face in my dreams." 



CHAPTER XL 

Our life at Prairie Lodge soon became more 
quiet. Visits having been received and for the 
most part returned, we were left to the enjoyment 
of our own circle. But I had still seen so little of 
the Suckers that every opportunity of coming in 
contact with them was gladly embraced, and just 
as we were beginning to cast about for some ex- 
cursion that should furnish one, the kindest of all 
chances sent along a traveling menagerie and 
circus. A most rare conjunction of attractions for 
the " natyues." 

The " Zoological Institute and Grand Corps 

of Equestrians" was to exhibit on Friday the 

day of June, at the town of Washington, about ten 
miles north of us. It contained an elephant, two 
camels, a Numidian lion, a royal Bengal tiger, 
and several other less important personages, all 
whose claims were duly set forth ; in addition to 
which, the " Grand Equestrian Corps" would ex- 
hibit the " most remarkable acts of horsemanship," 
and " Messrs. Sands and Turner would perform 
some of the most striking feats of physical agility 
ever witnessed." In short, the enterprising pro- 
prietors had determined to spare no pains to make 
these wandering entertainments as attractive as 
possible. But the certainty that the native popu- 
lation from far and near would be gathered was 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 93 

sufficient for me, without reference to the wonder- 
ful attractions set forth in the bills. Master Junius 
was anxious to see the elephant, lion, tigers, et cet., 
and his father and mother to see him enjoy the 
novelty ; so it was determined without debate to go 
to the menagerie. It rained nearly all the night 
preceding, but the eventful day opened bright and 
clear as became a day in June. The horses were 
harnessed to the large farm-wagon, from eight to 
twelve chairs placed in it, some sidewise for better 
stowage and some facing each other. All the 
umbrellas, from our smart new-comers, to the old 
mutilated ones whose heads had grown grey, and 
whose limbs were fractured and luxated by five 
years' service in a new country, were put in requi- 
sition. Everything being ready, and the party 
seated, we set forth. 

While we are making way over the wet prai- 
rie and through the " Slues" I shall, with the 
reader's leave, introduce to him the steeds by the 
aid of whose good limbs we journey. They are 
emigrants, and have always held themselves very 
much aloof from the natives of their species, so 
that, notwithstanding a residence of five years, 
they are not on visiting terms with one of their 
neighbors. The one whose character and career 
are most interesting bears a name which has suf- 
fered much since the time when he gloried in it. 
This cognomen is Tyler. At the time of which I 
write, and for several years before, the adjective 
" old" had been prefixed, but it was purely in hon- 
or of his years, not as an epithet of insult. Tyler 
had some peculiarities which made him rather a 
pleasant object of contemplation wherewithal to 
diversify a long ride. His physical eccentricities 
deserve precedence. There was about the for- 
ward extremity of his neck a sort of decayed or 



94 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

constricted appearance, as if he once suffered the 
extreme penalty of the law and the impression of 
its instrument was never effaced. This gave 
his head the air of not being at home with his 
body. It looked as if he had drawn it in a lot- 
tery, and not being pleased with his bargain, had 
refused all pains to make the best of it, and put 
it on in the rudest style, — a lifelong warning to all 
horses who would speculate in like manner. But 
the other defensive member so indispensable to all 
quadrupeds, was characterized by the reverse of all 
these appearances. It had been robbed of its nat- 
ural fair proportions, so that only a fraction of it 
was left, but what there was, was perfectly at home 
and very useful in the small sphere in which it 
moved. Its principal office when the body was 
not at work was to refresh the memory of flies, 
and add bitterness to the natural prejudices of these 
insects against the owners of all such appendages. 
It was not as efficient in defence as in offence, 
but was tireless in both capacities, to the extent of 
its abilities. No one ever saw it still. Its most 
brilliant achievements, however, were displayed 
when the owner was employed ; and of all the kinds 
of labor which he performed, traveling before a 
waggon seemed most to favor its powers and pre- 
tensions. Tyler had a gait which I think was an 
anomaly among his species, though his friends 
called it a " trot." It was considerably slower than 
a walk, but was characterized by such a harmony 
of the whole animal, mental and physical, that it 
was really a pleasure to see him perform it. He 
settled into it naturally, after one or two applica- 
tions of the lash, and instantly there was such an 
air of repose and contentment in his face, and such 
a harmonious moving of the whole body and its 
appendages, that it was delightful to see him. On 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 95 

these occasions the organ of which we speak 
played its most brilliant part. It seemed to gov- 
ern his entire machinery, to be as it were the music- 
master of the choir, and by its beats regulate the 
whole. So perfect was its supremacy, that even 
the engrafted head yielded and swung from side to 
side in exact time with it. Flies could now light 
with impunity, for the harmony was not to be 
broken for a trifle. 

Tyler had a habit which it seemed absolutely mar- 
velous how he could preserve, of appearing very 
much astonished when any means were taken to 
quicken his gait. He, however, used his ears and 
tail principally to manifest this feeling. The for- 
mer would prick up and the latter flash out of all 
time, as if some wonderful phenomenon had burst 
upon his senses. But he recovered from it in an 
incredibly short space ; the tail resumed its swing 
and the ears their unwondering position, before he 
had described a distance equal to the length of 
himself and the waggon. Then if the request were 
repeated at the end of that time, he experienced 
the same surprise, and manifested it in the same 
manner, with the addition of a shake of the head 
if it were pretty sharply conveyed. There was 
but one argument for increased speed which 
wrought any conviction in Tyler's mind. To this 
he always yielded on its first presentation. If you 
exhibited the corner of a buffalo robe to him over 
the side of a waggon, he construed it into a neces- 
sity that could not be resisted, and away his hete- 
rogeneous body flew over the prairie, helter- 
skelter, one eye ever and anon cast back to see 
whether the reason were still good. Such an 
event always gave a shock to his feelings from 
which he did not soon recover; unless the remain- 
ing distance were long, it was certain to be accom- 



96 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

plished in much less time than if his tranquillity 
had not been thus disturbed. 

Tyler was sustained in his labors by a compan- 
ion of the feminine gender to whom he had been 
long and faithfully attached. But she was Xan- 
tippe to his Socrates. If his conduct was at any 
time offensive to her taste, which it must be con- 
fessed was more refined than his, she informed 
him promptly by snapping his ears and otherwise 
showing the most unequivocal symptoms of wrath. 
I fancied that her affections waned as the graces of 
youth departed from her companion. 

But Tyler has swung his head, tail, and feet to 
some purpose, for here we are in the suburbs of 
the town whose name will, if its proprietors are to 
be believed, redound not a little to the honor of 
the Father of his Country. It is prettily situated 
in a grove, through the borders of which runs a 
stream of considerable size. As we come upon 
the high swell south of the village, we have a full 
view of its principal street. At this moment it is 
lined with a crowd of all ages and sexes, dressed 
in a great variety of styles. We descend the slope, 
cross the bridge, and are at once in the midst of 
them. Let us alight here. This is my menagerie. 
I wish to fall in with that tide of females, and hear 
what they say. There are three walking along to- 
gether. One of them has on a pair of paper shoes, 
and is obliged, as she wishes to keep her feet in 
them, to tread rather daintily ; the others, more 
prudent, have walked in their substantial leather 
shoes, and carry the finer ones wrapped in their 
pocket handkerchiefs. They are talking busily 
while they pick their steps in the black mud. One 
of them addresses her friend on the right. 

" I expect there'll be a power of folks Jnjur to- 
day." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 97 

u I reckon," is the brief reply. 

" Was you ever in one of these hyur shows V 

*t No, I never was ; but Irene has been." 

" Whar was it at V 

"In Indiany, 'fore dad moved hyur. She said 
there was a heap of droll beasts in that, and dad 
says they're pretty much alike. They tote the 
same critters about every summer in different parts 
of the country." 

" Well, it's just as good, 1 reckon, for them that 
never seed 'em afore," said the third party, who 
had hitherto been silent. 

" Yes, I reckon so, and two bits ain't much any- 
how, if they should bring the same back." 

"Where be they?" exclaimed the one in ad- 
vance of her companions, looking up as she ap- 
proached the public square ; " I don't see nothing 
hyur." 

" No, I allow you won't," said her friend, laugh- 
ing, " they don't keep 'em runnin about the roads. 
They ain't many would pay two bits to see 'em if 
they run out." 

By this time we had reached the centre of the 
village. The two prudent ladies turned into the 
house of an acquaintance to change their shoes, 
and we went on toward the immense canvass pa- 
vilion, which was erected just beyond. The usual 
noises which proceed from a collection of the kind 
were issuing from it as we entered on the flood- 
tide of Suckerism that was setting into the narrow, 
winding door. A large number of grated boxes 
were placed around the sides, and one stately 
elephant was vibrating at the upper end, between 
a large and small camel. An immense number of 
seats rose to the very roof from the spaces between 
the waggons, a part of which were already taken, 
though it was early in the day. While the young 
7 I 



98 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

letter-writer went one way, to delight his father 
and mother with his original remarks and profound 
questions on the animals, I turned another, to 
study what was by far the more interesting to me — 
the human part of the show. 

It would be vain to attempt any description of 
the external of this crowd. The philosophy of 
Sartor Resartus himself would have failed in the 
endless variety before me. Here were garments 
whose a^e must have exceeded that of their wear- 
ers ; — bonnets of a fashion which must have pre- 
vailed in the last century, for nothing like them 
had ever been known within the memory of the 
oldest of our party ; Vandykes in imitation of the 
Elizabethan period, and caps, whose fantastic pro- 
portions and trimming would have irritated the 
risibles of Hogarth's sleeping congregation. There 
was one young girl barefoot, her head covered 
with an antique Leghorn, trimmed with black, and 
projecting enormously over her face. Her dress 
was silk, of a hue which no language will describe. 
It was compounded of the color of apple-tree 
bark, old soap, and sole leather. The waist was 
too short to let her arms fall into their natural po- 
sition ; when they did, the blood-vessels ceased to 
perform their office, as the crimsoned broad hands 
and protruding wrists gave too palpable evidence. 
The brevity of this part, the length of the skirt, 
the total absence of all tournure in that part of the 
figure where it has been fashionable of late years 
to admire it, and the naked feet, made one of the 
most extraordinary tout ensembles of the day. 

Another miss, of more mature years, sported a 
pair of light cream-colored shoes with the hose 
which nature had given her, and these in quite an 
unsophisticated condition ; a coarse red and black 
calico dress, a silk apron of mazarine blue, and a 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 99 

black cape of the same material, over which one 
of the capacious tamboured collars of the olden 
time was spread, its lateral extremities drooping- 
from the elbow. On her head was a pink sun- 
bonnet with a square frill which covered her 
shoulders, and a pair of green cotton gloves, the 
wrists ornamented with wide lace, were displayed 
upon her hands. 

There was little conversation while they were 
examining the tenants of the cages. Some- 
times an expression of wonder or admiration was 
elicited, but the hum which tires one's ears in an 
eastern assemblage on like occasions was not 
heard. I took an advantageous position on one 
of the seats, and gave myself up to the examination 
of the crowd. Presently Mary came up, to point 
out a character. He was a middle-aged man with 
dark hair, and eyes which seemed to look out at 
the sides of the head, so continually were they roll- 
ing from side to side. He was clad in a blue 
jeans coat, and pantaloons of the same, and held 
a large riding- whip in his hand, wherewith he em- 
ployed himself in whipping the dust from one leg 
of the latter. He was looking about with the air 
of a man to whom the emotion of surprise was no 
longer possible. If he had just returned from the 
African deserts with a full collection of every spe- 
cies of animal which they contain, he could not 
have regarded these with more coolness. But for 
his garb and one other circumstance, one would 
have affirmed he could be no other than Van Ara- 
burgh or Monsieur Martin himself. That other cir- 
cumstance was a certain constrained expression of 
the face, and, when it rested upon a new object, a 
gleaming of the eye, which, closely observed, 
showed that the man in the jeans coat and panta- 
loons was not quite so familiar with elephants, 



100 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

lions, tigers, &c, as he wished the Yankees to 
think him. He was evidently playing a part for 
their edification. I watched him sometime, not a 
little amused at the assumed indifference with 
which he suffered his eyes to wander about him. 

The crowd increased every moment, and began 
to form about the entrance a dense, heaving mass 
of heads which, for aug:ht one could see, miffht 
have been floating on some buoyant medium, so 
perfectly were the bodies which belonged to them 
concealed from view. It was a very pleasant 
amusement to guess, when a new head appeared, 
what sort of body belonged to it, and follow it to 
the skirt of the crowd, to test your own acuteness. 
The contrast between the fact and your expecta- 
tions was often highly ludicrous. Presently there 
appeared in the midst of the scene an upper ex- 
tremity which left one in no doubt as to the char- 
acter of the pedestal on which it was supported, 
for the shoulders and part of the chest towered 
clear of the crowd, and bore aloft one of the most 
extraordinary heads — its furniture included — I 
have ever had the good fortune to see. The face 
indicated that it might have seen some fifty-five 
years. It was a long face, sharp at the lower ex- 
tremity, and rather rounded at the upper. The 
eyes were between a grey and a black. They had 
a quick and penetrating, but not a restless glance ; 
they were eyes which had been compelled to serve 
their owner in scenes of danger, and had contracted 
the habit of looking too strongly to be able to 
abandon it when the necessity was removed. The 
mouth seemed to have been originally drawn up 
at the corners, as if nature had made it to laugh, 
but the events of life had thwarted this purpose, 
and hung so heavily upon them as to draw them a 
little below the straight line. Yet there was ever 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 101 

and anon an effort made to repair this wrong, 
which lent an indescribable mixture of the sorrow- 
ful and comical to the face. The eyes shared in 
giving utterance to these blended emotions, but 
when anything decidedly comical presented itself, 
they supported the melancholy expression, and put 
on a look — partly of resistance, partly of defiance 
— which was very curious. Thus the face was 
continually hovering between a smile and a cloud ; 
but the former seemed to be laboring under some 
disgrace, so that before it could fairly show itself, 
it was hissed down, and shrunk away in shame. 
The forehead was surrounded with short hair, 
which had in former times been black, but was 
now an iron grey. A very wide but scant cap 
border hung over it, and the whole was surmounted 
by a capacious sugar-loaf Navarino scoop, which 
had once vied with the raven hair, but was now 
faded, and mottled with bluish grey spots, that cor- 
responded well with the lead-colored ribbon that 
fastened it. The crown mounted from the back 
of the neck, in a cone, to the height of half a yard, 
and the ribbon climbed over this, holding loosely 
in its place a circular piece of pasteboard, which 
supplied the absence of the original top. Let no 
one suppose, however, that the old lady had 
repaired her black hat with white pasteboard. It 
had either been inked, or dipped in a black dye ; 
probably the latter, for ink must have been a rare 
article in her domicile. So much for the head. 
Her shoulders were covered with a small black 
shawl, and a blue and white cotton handkerchief 
supplied the place of a cravat, though neither could 
possibly conduce to comfort, in the heated crowd. 
At the first look, it was impossible to avoid the 
ludicrous idea that the old lady had provided her- 
self with stilts, the better to enjoy the spectacle 

i2 



102 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

before her ; but this thought was instantly put to 
flight by the character of her face. Besides, her 
gigantic stature was too well proportioned, and 
each part too much at home in its elevation, to ad- 
mit the idea of temporary or artificial foundation ; 
for she advanced when others stood still and gazed 
with wonder at her amazing stature and progress. 
She fairly divided the honors of the day with the 
elephant, and stalked up to the camel in a mena- 
cing attitude, as if she thought he did not see a 
woman of her presence every day, and might as 
well confess it at once. Sometimes her scoop bon- 
net covered half my field of vision, at others it was 
tui aed so that the paper-capped crown towered 
ab( ve everything else. As the people began to 
take seats, preparatory to clearing the ring for the 
monkey ride, I was very desirous that the old lady 
should get a post in my neighborhood. I rose on 
my feet, therefore, and as her eye was wandering 
in search of an eligible spot, beckoned her to ap- 
proach. She looked hard at me a moment, as if a 
little bewildered, and then, suddenly changing the 
expression of her face, came down at her most 
rapid pace. As she approached, I made room for 
her beside me. 

" I reckon," said she, while adjusting herself in 
it, " you're Miss Roberts' sister that's come lately 
from York. You look a heap alike." 

"Indeed," said I, "has my sister the good fortune 
to know you V 

" O yes, I've know'd Miss Roberts ever since 
she come to the country, and a right smart woman 
she is, if she is your sister." 

" Really, do you consider her ' smartness ' any 
the more remarkable on that account?" 

"No, I didn't jist mean that, but I've all'us 
thought a heap of Miss Roberts, and like to say it." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 103 

The old lady's panegyric was interrupted by the 
voice of the manager ordering the more curious to 
"> fall back," and clear the ground. My neighbor's 
head was instantly turned and elevated several 
inches to command the theatre of action. A beau- 
tiful little brown pony trotted out into the ring, and 
was very soon followed by a sagacious and most 
respectable-looking monkey in regimentals. He 
was introduced to the gaping multitude as Gen. 
Jackson, but his servility made it a poor compli- 
ment to his Roman prototype. The master of 
ceremonies on this occasion, as on all similar ones 
which I have ever witnessed, was a very tall man 
in a long-skirted frock-coat and rather short brow- 
sers. The fact is one which I would recommend 
to the attention of naturalists — not a little ingenuity 
may be exhibited in its solution. Whether it is 
one person who, gifted with ubiquity to a certain 
extent, presides over all the monkey-rides of the 
country, or whether there is a peculiar affinity be- 
tween these animals and tall men, are questions 
beyond my depth. Any one who inclines to the 
latter supposition will please bear in mind that the 
principle, whatever it be, must cover the long frock- 
coat, the short pantaloons, and a tall seedy hat. I 
have never known these adjuncts fail. On the 
present occasion the performance was not very 
brilliant. The pony threw up his heels and whirled 
exactly with the crack of the whip, the monkey 
was quite as inelegant as usual in his postures, and 
not a whit more excited with the novelty of his 
Sucker audience than if he had been performing for 
a common New York assemblage. I did think he 
winked a little quicker when he faced the Nava- 
rino, but it might have been imagination. The 
most edifying part of the whole spectacle was the 
comments of my neighbor. 



104 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

" Mighty !" she exclaimed, as the pony took his 
place, " what be they goin to set on that little 
horse's back ] That great feller ain't agoin to 
mount him, I'll knock him off myself if he does. 
He's too long for such a powerful little beast. The 
great lazy ramajjin" 

The good old lady, in her friendly zeal for the 
pony, forgot that the feller whom she was de- 
nouncing was several inches below her own 
stature. But while she was in the high tide of 
her anathema, the monkey appeared. She looked 
for a moment quite bewildered, and at last broke 
out. 

"Well ifthese Yankees don't go ahead of heaven 
and airth ! I reckon now they made that little 
fixin a-purpose for that horse, but he ain't very 
handsome no how ; he looks like a baby with his 
grandfather's head on. They mought a made the 
tail of his coat longer, and he'd looked better than 
he does now — but the Yankees don't care what's 
decent, for the young women goes with their necks 
bare a heap more than I ever seed anybody else." 

Dropping the tone of soliloquy, and addressing 
herself to me in the most earnest manner, " Look 
at them two critters," said she, " I s'pose they are, 
for they say that one that's ridin ain't a boy, for all 
he looks so powerful like one. That horse'll throw 
him off yet, and stomp his brains into the ground if 
he's got any." 

Two or three whirls of the pony wrought the 
old lady's sympathy and indignation to the highest 
pitch. 

" If everybody felt like I do they wouldn't set 
such a fool as that a horseback, whether he's a 
monkey or not. He's alive, I reckon, and that's 
enough to make a christian take him off o' that 
critter's back, anyhow." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 105 

The tall man came in for his share of denuncia- 
tion at every new feat which he commanded the 
monkey to execute, and before the three perform- 
ers retired, the good old lady had denounced all 
Yankees and " Yankee doins " for the fortieth 
time. The man in the jeans clothes and riding- 
whip had watched the whole affair with such evident 
admiration, that the look of contempt which he 
remembered to assume after they retired was ex- 
tremely ludicrous, and served better than a volume 
to reveal his whole character. But he was too 
remote for his comments, if he made any, to be au- 
dible to us. 

Next came Mr. Turner with his dog, and their 
wonderful feats drew whole volleys of exclamation 
from my transparent neighbor. But when the 
young man climbed the centre pole and suspend- 
ed himself from its top by a cord around his 
wrists, the poor woman could restrain herself no 
longer. 

"Mighty Heaven!" she exclaimed, or rather 
shrieked, for her voice was sharpened by her ex- 
cited sensibilities. " Does the 'farnal Yankee think 
we come to a hangin 1 I've saw one in my life, 
and that'll do me. But if he's a mind to hang thar 
he may, I won't look at him," and the giant hat 
swung quickly round, facing the audience above. 

"It don't make you feel like it does me," she 
remarked, touching my elbow, " or you wouldn't 
look that way. I reckon you never see a real 
hang, did you V 

" No." 

" "Wall, you'd never want to see another if you 
had, nor any such shammin as that. 'Tain't fit 
for folks to look at that knows what christians is." 

I expressed so hearty an assent to this opinion 
both in relation to the real and the sham hanging, 



106 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

that the old lady looked, earnestly at me for a mo- 
ment, and then said, " Well now, I allow you've got 
some christian feelins in you. I like to hear any- 
body talk like that. Come and see me. Mr. R 

will tote you and Miss Roberts up some day, and. 
I should be mighty glad to see you, and so would 
my old man." 

While this little complimentary by-play was 
going on, the man whom we left suspended had 
come down, the crowd had relieved its excited 
feelings by two or three hearty rounds of applause 
and several interchanges of opinion among them- 
selves. 1 lost sight of the man with the whip, but, 
to my great joy, he presently appeared in our im- 
mediate vicinity. I pointed him out to my neigh- 
bor, and asked who he was. 

" O, that's old man C ; everybody knows 

him for the biggest liar ever lived in these 
parts. It's no account what you tell him, he'll 
alVurs break up ahead on you. And one thing is 
strange, he all'urs tells his lies as if he b'leeved 
them himself. He was in the milichary under 
Gineral Harrison a good many year ago, an if 
they should set down together anybody that heerd 
him would reckon he was the first man of the 
two. There ain't nothin on airth that anybody 
has ever seed or know'd, but what he's seed 
6omethin a powerful sight bigger. You'll see 
afore long, now he's come so nigh." 

While my friend was thus enlightening me, the 
ring had been again cleared, and a springing board 
elevated upon two blocks placed within it. In a 
few minutes, one of the most athletic-looking riders 
appeared in knit garments fitting closely to his fine, 
muscular form, and was introduced to the audience 
as Mr. Sands, who was about to perform some sur- 
prising gymnastic feats. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 107 

" I hope he won't hang himself," said the old 
lady, looking earnestly at his splendid figure, " he's 
too handsome, and there's been enuf of that^'m- 
nasty now." 

But Mr. Sands, after a few preliminary perform- 
ances, to assure himself that he was all right, re- 
lieved the good woman's apprehensions by setting 
himself into a sort of rotary motion in the air, like 
a human windmill. I counted twenty-nine of 
these surprising aerial evolutions, and then turned 
away, for the spectacle grew painful. 

" He'll kill himself," said my excitable neighbor, 
" why don't they take him away ] Stop him I" 
she screamed; "he can't stop himself! Why 
don't you catch hold of his legs and arms, some of 
you ] I could hold him myself if I was thar," 
and the sympathizing creature rose on her feet 
and stood expostulating with the heartless audi- 
ence some seconds before the performance ceased; 
when it did, there was a great deal of confusion 
for a few moments, and then a shrewd neighbor, 
who understood the constitutional infirmities of 
" Old man C ," remarked to him, 

" Well, Mr. C , for a Yankee boy, that was 

pretty fairly done, eh'?" 

"Oh, I reckon it'll pass among Yankees, but it's 
no account among us. When we was in the army, 
we used to do that every day, and we had some 
fellers who would turn them somersets sixty-feet 
right up a tree !" 

" What, branches and all]" 

" No ; we cut away the branches of some of the 
trees round the camp, a purpose to have 'em 
ready. It's no account to do that. A right smart 
man would turn eighty or ninety without stoppin 
to breathe; that fellow, now, is a puffin like a beat 
horse." 



108 LIFE II PRAIRIE LAND. 

*' Yes, he does breathe a little quicker, it's true, 
but we think he has done well." 

" Oh, it's right for you that never see anything 
better to think so, but I've got smarter blood than 
that myself." 

"Ah! how?" 

" My grandfather fit the British under Begyne, 
thar in old Virginny ; and when orders was give 
for every man to take care of himself, he took a 
knapsack from a feller that was dead close by 
him, and put it on hisn, and started. Jest as he 
got to the fence, a powerful, big, old nigger that 
he know'd a long time, hollered to him for help, 
for both his legs was broke by a cannon-ball, and 
he allowed the Indians 'd scalp him if they got 
hold on him. So the old feller just throws him over 
the two knapsacks, and jumps the fence. But the 
British was most on his heels when he cleared it. 
He retreated fifteen miles in sixteen minutes, and 
then he come to the race-way of a mill eighteen 
feet wide ; that he jumped, and the British halted 
on the other side for a raft, and so he got away." 

" With the two knapsacks and the black man ]" 
said the listener. 

" Yes, and the next day they weighed 'em all, 
and what do you reckon they all made \ n 

" Two hundred pounds Y* 

" Two hundred \ The knapsacks weighed eighty 
a piece, and the old man weighed two hundred 
and fifty without his legs, for they cut 'em off' be- 
fore they weighed him." 

" Indeed ! your grandfather must have been a 
very powerful man, to retreat so rapidly under 
such an immense burthen." 

M Yes, he was a right smart old feller ; but I've 
seen younger men that could do more than that." 

" Ah and who were they V* 



LIFE INT PRATRIE LAND. 109 

" Why, 'tain't of much account for a man to 
brag of himself, but I've done better than that ar 
in my own time" (whipping his boot more vehe- 
mently than ever). " When I was with Gin. Har- 
rison, we wanted to make a forced march once, 
when the roads was mighty bad, and the streams 
all in a fresh. So the gineral he come to me in 
the mornin, and said he calculated I'd be the best 
man to go ahead, for if anybody could do it — I 
could ; and the men would follow me better than 
any other man. So jest to oblege him I started on, 
and told the boys to come, for I'd clar the road for 
'em. We went on till after night, and it growed 
so cold, we thought everything would freeze up 
anyhow. At last we come to a stream that had ris 
a right smart sence morning, and left the ice un- 
der water : I halted here, and waited for the gin- 
eral to come and insult with him afore I tried it. 
We waited an hour, and at last the rare-guard 
come. I told the gineral that I reckoned we bet- 
ter not try it that night, but he said he wanted to 
git over ; and he allowed I could git the boys to 
follow. So I never waited for him to say it agin, 
but I put right in, and swum my horse through, 
and broke the ice all the way. When I got on 
t'other side, I toted four or five old trees to the 
water, and laid 'em across myself, 'cause you see 
the stream was narrow, though it was right deep. 

At last they all got across, and then we marched 
five miles afore the gineral would let us camp. 
When we come to the place, I started to git off 
o' my horse, and couldn't stir. I was froze fast 
to the saddle. It was growing colder and colder, 
and I didn't know what I should do. Some of 
the boys allowed they could warm some water, 
if I'd set still, and thaw me up. So they went to 
building fires, but I didn't want to set there and 

K 



110 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

wait ; and, at last, I give a mighty spring that lifted 
the horse right off his feet, and when he come 
down, the ice cracked all around, and I got loose." 

" You must have been sick after it," said his 
listener, " and so lost the battle the next day." 

" Not a bit of it. I never was better than I was 
the next day ; and I'll tell you what I did. I had 
a boy to load my rifle, and while he was doing it, 
I fit the Indians with a hatchet. I shot twenty- 
one, and — " but here a surge of the retiring mul- 
titude took the speaker and listener beyond my 
hearing. 

" There," said the old lady, who had caught the 
last few words ; " didn't I tell you right ] He'll lie 
like that as long as anybody will stop to hear him, 
and that's a wicked man that's keepin him agoin." 

" I have heard," I replied, " of story-tellers who 
would never suffer themselves to be out-done by 
others, but this man seems determined not to be 
surpassed by himself." 

" That's jest it," replied my friend. " If he 
should ever tell so big a lie that he couldn't tell a 
bigger one, I reckon 'twould kill him. But I see 
my old man yonder waitin. Good bye ! come 
and see me, and tell Miss Roberts to come with 
you." And with these words the old lady de- 
parted. 

I began now to experience some trepidation, 
lest it should not prove so easy to rejoin my 
friends. I looked long and anxiously over the 
moving mass, but nowhere were their faces visible, 
till a sudden jog of the elbow brought me to the 
right, and showed Mary standing with Master 
Junius in her hand. 

"Come, 'light down,'" said she. "John has 
gone for the horses, and you will not find another 
Mrs. S. here to-day." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. Ill 

" Nor anywhere else, I apprehend," said I. 
" Women like her must be rare." 

" Yes, they are, more's the pity, for, with all 
her eccentricities, and they are interwoven with 
mind and body, she possesses some of the finest 
elements of character. Kind, just, generous, and 
hospitable, with clear perceptions and a ready 
humor, blended with the best feelings which be- 
long to humanity, yet almost wholly devoid either 
of the arts of cultivated life, or the prejudices of 
her class, she is a model of a frontier housewife. 
Poor woman ! she has endured much physical 
hardship and suffering, as well as other afflictions. 
They seem to have bent her naturally buoyant 
spirits almost to the ground, so that one is con- 
stantly reminded, while conversing with her, of 
the purple frost flower we used to admire so much 
at the east, which, always bent under the strong 
November blasts, seems ever vainly seeking to 
regain its former position. You may laugh at 
my comparison, and think that a woman over six 
feet, with such a Navarino and other appurte- 
nances, should remind one of flowers only by 
contrast ; but when you have lived as long as I 
have, away from the world where clothes make 
the man or woman, you will learn to see and 
appreciate beauty of spirit, irrespective of garb." 

" I scarcely needed such a lesson as I have had 
to-day, sister, to teach me that. You know I 
never placed undue value upon dress, nor other 
material refinement ; and if I had, I could not 
have failed to discover some of the spiritual 
beauties you have enumerated, under the coarse 
exterior of your friend. She seems an excellent- 
hearted woman ! With some cultivation, and a 
little training in the hands of a posture-master, 
she mis:ht have carried even her enormous stature 



112 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

into any circle, and awakened only respect and 
affection. As it is, I have no doubt these are the 
predominant sentiments with which she is re- 
garded by her acquaintance. Still it cannot be 
denied that the Navarino is an extraordinary 
adjunct of such a figure; see, now, if it is not," 
said I, pointing to the huge Pennsylvania waggon, 
in which the good woman was seated, beside her 
little husband. "It is in admirable keeping, all 
but the man, is it not ] The very horses seem to 
copy their mistress : but the husband must be a 
cipher !" 

" No ; you are mistaken. He is almost the 
equal of his wife in excellence, and enjoys as 
undisputed supremacy in his family as if the size 
were all on his side." 

" That is the best thing you have said of her 
yet. But I am going to visit her some time, and 
then I shall see for myself. Here are our steeds, 
and, I think, by the time Tyler has accomplished 
ten miles, we shall be willing to discuss something 
more substantial than external or spiritual beauty." 

Just as we were crossing the stream I looked 
back. The great tent was struck, the cages were 
all converted into close waggons, the circus horses 
and riders had off their holiday garb, and were 
each ready for the journey before them; the 
camels had shouldered their bundles, and the 
elephant, acting as his own porter, though under 
a cloak, was advancing towards us. But we soon 
left them out of sight, for Tyler plied his six 
organs of locomotion with such praiseworthy 
celerity, that we reached home just as the sun 
was sinking before us into a range of gold and 
purple mountains. 

The adventures of the day led to some lively 
discussion of men and things in the west. 1 found 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 113 

the descendant of the " Begyne" hero was quite 
as notorious as he had been represented by that 
eccentric show. The stories which he told that 
day were declared to have formed a part of his 
honest belief for the last ten years. 

" It cannot be otherwise," said my brother, 
" for he has, within that time, repeated them so 
often, and so earnestly, that he would have con- 
vinced you yourself of their truth, unless you had 
argued their probability in your own mind after 
each telling; and certainly, he has a right to in- 
dulge in the luxury of such hard-earned belief.* 
His stories no longer amuse me ; but his absurd 
misapplication of words has not lost that power. 
It is only a few days since he called on us in the 
field to inquire for ' strays.' We told him there 
was one among our cattle, and were about specify- 
ing its age, et cet., when he stopped us, and said 
we ought always to make a man who was looking 
for strays ■ subscribe 1 them himself. * Now I'll 
subscribe the beast I am looking for, and you can 
tell whether it's this one or not.' When he had 
finished the ' subscription,' as he called it, we in- 
formed him that it did not belong to our ' stray,' 
and he plumed himself not a little on the shrewd 
lesson he had taught us." 

I afterward saw a deed, conveying a consider- 
able amount of real estate, of which this expe- 
rienced gentleman had taken the acknowledge 
ment. He had never held the office of magistrate, 
nor was he in any way qualified to perform an act 

* These passages may serve to show the almost incredible 
influence of habitual falsehood in warping the judgment as well 
as the moral sense. The anecdotes related in the text were 
narrated with as much gravity, and, ultimately, I have no doubt, 
with almost as earnest a belief in their truth, as the demon- 
stration of any proposition could be recited by a grave pro- 
fessor. 

8 k2 



114 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of the kind. It was, therefore, " of no account," 
either in a legal or a common sense. But it had 
the merit of originality, both in structure and 
orthography. It was briefer, too, than those 
forms wherewith more learned gentlemen certify 
the legality of like documents. Here it is, ver- 
batim et literatim : — 

" hear i dothe surtify that the said his 

wife and the said is the said peepul that 

has maid this said dead and they allow they did it 
without compunctions or fears of themselves or 
enny body the said wummen aint 'feared of her 
said man nor him of her — Thereunto i set my 
hand an seal 

(seal.)" 

But everything has an end, and I know of no 
class who should be more grateful for thisj:ruth, 
than people who are continually making themselves 
absurd. Even " Old man C's " ridiculous blunders 
ceased to excite our laughter, and after the cows 
had been milked and the chickens fed, we retired 
to rest, with a hearty welcome to the kind " Re- 
storer," after the lengthened amusements and 
labors of the day. Our repose was not broken till 
deep in the night, when the growling of lions, ti- 
gers, etc., and the heavy rumbling of waggons, with 
the tramp of horses, roused us. The menagerie 
was passing on its way to the next town to exhibit. 
The following morning the elephant was found to 
have left the print of his foot in the soft turf beyond 
the house. It was about fifteen inches deep, and 
large enough to allow a child of six or seven years 
to sit down in it. It was not obliterated for many 
weeks. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 115 

CHAPTER XII. 

The time had now arrived when I was to leave 
Prairie Lodge and try my fortunes among strangers. 
This was in truth the commencement of " Western 
life " to me ; for in my sister's home the ruder and 
less pleasant conditions of life in a new country 
had been softened down by innumerable little arts 
and resources. The peculiarities of the people 
had been only so many sources of amusement or 
themes for speculation. They had never come so 
near as to embarrass or annoy. Now the chances 
were that they might assume a very different as- 
pect. Instead of provoking mirth or awakening 
only cool curiosity, they might and probably would 
conflict painfully with my previous habits and long 
indulged preferences. Nevertheless the trial must 
be made, and the first difficulties to be solved 
were, where and how 1 that is, in what particular 
house should the new home be found ] Every 
habitation in the little town, on which our choice 
had fallen, was already crowded to excess. Several 
were in progress which offered prospective homes, 
and in one of these quarters were finally promised 
when it should be completed. Meantime some six 
weeks or two months must elapse, and a temporary 
" place " must be found, in which to wear these 
away. Far and near was the country searched 
therefore to find it. Suitableness was a consider- 
ation quite out of the question, for be it known to 
the fastidious that seeking board in the west is very 
different from the same thing in New York. Here 
the host is favored, there the guest. After several 
days of fruitless inquiry the anxious seeker was 
commended to a Quaker family about a mile and 
a half from town, where many of the citizens had 



116 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

boarded while building their own dwellings. I had 
lived so much and happily in the neat quiet houses 
of these people at the east, that the bare suggestion 
filled me with delight. My imagination immedi- 
ately conjured up the most delightful pictures of 
order and neatness. This house was visited on 
Saturday afternoon, and found to offer a very tol- 
erable prospect of comfort. The mistress was ab- 
sent, but her husband gave assurance that we 
could be accommodated. We could come the 
next week. 

Behold us then landed at the door, the next 
Saturday a little past one p.m. The house stands 
on a hill which is bordered on the west and south 
by a grove, and commands a fine view of the 
prairie north and east. The spot is really quite 
beautiful. I shall find many charms " in the wood 
and by the stream " to lighten the long and lonely 
hours, if such come, as come they must to one 
among strangers. The exterior of the house looks 
very respectable. It has the western stamp ; the 
tall chimney is turned out at the end, and there are 
four outside doors, two in front, and two in the 
rear, opening opposite each other. The windows 
also are uniform, two between the doors and one 
beyond each. A slat-fence of some pretension 
encloses a part of the yard, but, most wonderful of 
all our claims to gentility, the house is painted. It 
is a dark red, bordered at the angles with a stripe 
of dull white. The window frames have a dubious 
hue which I cannot name. We alight and enter 
the southernmost of the front doors. It is a warm 
day in July, and the opposite entrance is thrown 
wide to allure the current. But oh, what an ely- 
sium it breathes upon ! We gain the floor by one 
step, though it is of rather inconvenient height, and 
here the full view bursts upon us. The room is 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 117 

unequivocally filthy ; near the opposite door sits the 
patriarch, his chair standing at an angle of forty- 
five degrees with the floor. He has on neither 
coat nor waistcoat, the whole of his simple garb 
being made up of a pair of blue cotton pantaloons, 
and a muslin shirt of very doubtful hue. On the 
right as we enter is a large open fire-place, the hearth 
of which is covered with ashes that in some places 
even encroach on the floor. Among them stand 
several baking-kettles and spiders, in which were 
apparently going on some very moderate cooking 
operation. Opposite the fire-place, partly under 
the stairway, stands a table, spread with a dark- 
figured india-rubber cloth. Beside this stands our 
lady hostess manipulating various parcels of dough ; 
a process rendered particularly interesting from 
the fact, that a current of air enters the fire-place 
every few moments from the south side, and departs 
at the northern to make the circuit of the room ; 
having during its brief stay taken a heavy freight 
of ashes and smoke. As it travels around to the 
opposite side, a very considerable portion of these 
cargos is deposited upon the table ; and the prin- 
cipal object of the woman's labor seems to be to 
distribute this brown coating fairly through the 
mass. Each time that the parcels are taken up, 
the space they have covered is left comparatively 
clean, and though I will with an earnestness that 
starts the perspiration, that the operator shall lay 
them on the same spot again, yet she fails to do it 
in every instance. She must be proof against all 
magnetic influence ! The old adage of a rolling 
stone is utterly refuted in those loaves. Locomo- 
tion was never more successfully proved to be fa- 
vorable to gathering. My eyes grow to those balls 
of dough, and will not be persuaded from them, till 
they rest quietly in the filth of a single spot. The 



118 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

transition is then very natural to the person who 
has been operating with them. She is a woman of 
ordinary size, with two black eyes settled very 
near each other on a lymphatic face. Her hair is 
drawn tightly back from the forehead, leaving the 
grey temples entirely uncovered, and fastened be- 
hind in a most slatternly twist with a small white 
comb. She is clad in a dark blue calico, made 
very short in the waist and very narrow in the 
skirt. A small cape of another color, finished at 
the neck with a rectangular collar, is, I suppose, 
designed to cover the space left bare by the dress. 
But the various duties to which she is called, have 
so reduced it from its fair proportions, that two- 
thirds at least of its office is left undischarged, 
and that in the most important point. A part of 
these duties is very soon explained, for a cry is 
heard in the next room, to which she responds by 
rubbing the dough hastily from her hands, and pre- 
senting herself in person. In a moment she returns 
with a child of some twelve or fifteen months in 
her arms, and seating herself directly in front of the 
gentleman, proceeds to offer, without a spoon, the 
universal cordial for such woes. Shocking as is 
this proceeding, it does not prevent my noticing for 
the first time her feet. It is no tiny slippered 
member that peeps from beneath the flowing folds 
of her dress ; but a broad flat foot, partially clad in 
a homeknit stocking of brown linen. The heels 
of both have long since got leave of absence, and 
the toes are earnestly soliciting the like indulgence, 
but with less success. The most melancholy state 
of the epidermis is manifest where these rents ap- 
pear, and the sight of them reminds me so stromal v 
of the anecdote of Dr. Abernethy, and the old 
woman who won a guinea from him by the exhi- 
bition of her lame foot, that, notwithstanding the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 119 

horrors of my situation, I can scarcely resist the 
involuntary smile that rises to my lips. 

There are two children in the room ; girls of 
seven and nine, who from the moment I entered 
have politely turned their attention from ornament- 
ing the loaves on the table with finger marks, to 
the inspection of my dress and person. Let the 
reader figure to himself, then, the dirty house, the 
dirtier man, the dirtiest woman, and the most dirt- 
iest children, for nothing but a double superlative 
will convey any idea of their condition, and the 
writer sitting in the midst clad all in white of the 
most unsullied purity, and he will have some faint 
conception of my debut in " Sucker life." Perfectly 
astounded by the scene before me, I had dropped 
upon the first chair, and sat gazing at the objects I 
have attempted to describe with a consternation 
that, had it been observed, would, I fear, have led 
our host and hostess to doubt my sanity. The two 
girls dodged around me in all directions. The 
whiteness of my dress seemed to amaze them. 
They took hold of it in various places, and lifted it 
from the floor to get a look at my feet. I drew 
them back instinctively. What if the hose had by 
some mysterious process become such as I saw be- 
fore me ! I could scarcely persuade myself that 
they had not, and felt agreeably relieved when the 
elder, who had assumed this part of the inspection, 
exclaimed in a half whisper to the other, " She's 
got on new stochins /" But their most profound 
wonder was called forth by an embroidered sew- 
ing-silk shawl. I could not keep their hands off it. 
The pure white of the fabric, and the bright and 
delicate tracery of flowers, could never be suffi- 
ciently admired. At last my gloves drew their 
attention. They seized the one which I had un- 
fortunately laid off, and bore it away for a more 



120 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

minute examination. I looked imploringly at the 
father, and was understood ; for after he had several 
times repeated an order for its restoration, they 
returned, and a few minutes more, very much to 
my relief, brought the examination to a close. 
When it was over, the juvenile committee retired 
precipitately to the yard in front, and throwing 
themselves down "on all Jours," scampered at full 
speed through the grass for several minutes, utter- 
ing all the time a noise so nearly like that of the 
wild turkey, that I started with surprise. 

" That's the girls thee hears," said the hostess, 
half adjusting her dress, when the uncleanly baby 
signified his willingness to get down. She slid 
him to the floor, and, without washing her hands, 
walked directly to the table and recommenced her 
baking operations. The loaves had been very 
freely sprinkled several times during her absence, 
and the dark table-cover was quite whitened by 
the repeated deposits of ashes, so that the present 
working over was to some purpose ! How could 
one ever eat that bread 1 I made a random esti- 
mate of the number of days one might subsist with- 
out food ; and calculated the chances of getting 
boiled eggs twice or thrice a week, but the pros- 
pect was very dismal. 

" Let us walk out," said Mr. F. 

I gladly accepted the proposal, and stepped 
hastily forth, relieved, like one oppressed with 
nightmare, by the blessed name of the outer 
world. When we were fairly out of ear distance 
my husband spoke. 

" You cannot live even for a few weeks in that 
place, can you'?" 

It was a difficult question to answer. Three 
minutes before, with that horrid spectacle around 
me, I should have said, without hesitation, No ! 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 121 

But now it had faded away. Nature was pure 
and beautiful here as elsewhere. The deep wood, 
with its clear leafy aisles, was doubly inviting, 
by contrast, with the filth from which I had just 
escaped. The winds that sighed around us were 
fresh, and birds were chirping and singing pleas- 
antly in the trees, as if the house had been the 
home of all the domestic virtues. I should have 
a little place of my own somewhere, that could 
not be proof against hot water and soap, and 
there I could sit alone and enjoy its neatness. 
Beside all this, I knew that a better, or, indeed, 
any other place was out of the question ; and it 
seemed quite inconsistent with duty or comfort, 
therefore, to show any adequate appreciation of 
the disgusting realities of this. Moreover, retreat 
was now impossible. The conqueror of Mexico, 
when he had landed his forces on the shores of 
the new country, destroyed his ships to prevent 
the possibility of return. We had followed this 
illustrious example, not with so imposing a motive, 
perhaps, but to scarcely less purpose in regard to 
the alternative of escape. Weighing all these 
things in my mind, in much less time than they 
can be written, I answered decidedly, "Yes." 
I will not deny that the answer was rendered 
more energetic by a discovery made at the mo- 
ment, that the grove abounded in wild fruit, as 
the plum, blackberry, cherry, &c, which would 
soon be ripe, and afford a most luxurious fare 
without that loathsome bread. So much was I 
encouraged by these unexpected accessories, that 
it really cost but little effort to dress the prospect 
in colors which comforted both very much. After 
a deliberate survey of the external, we turned our 
feet reluctantly houseward, for homeward, as yet, 
it was not. On reapproaching, I noted, for the 

Ei 



122 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

first time, a little cabin almost adjoining the large 
house on the northern end, which gave every in- 
dication of being inhabited. The entrance looked 
neat, and there was a cleanliness about the pails, 
kettles, and other household implements standing 
without, that quite revived me. " Here must be 
something," I exclaimed, " that can be seen, at 
least, if not participated in. It looks familiar 
and cheering." 

I set my foot reluctantly upon our dirty thresh- 
old, and, as I entered, saw a young woman sitting 
within sewing. She looked so cleanly and whole- 
some, that I set her down at once for the tenant of 
the cabin. She was introduced as the married 
daughter of our host, and the housekeeper afore- 
said, a ceremony, by the way, which would never 
have been performed but for another announce- 
ment that followed it, and made me almost 
embrace her in the joy it produced. We were to 
eat at her table ! Judge of my relief, any one 
who can, to be transferred from this dreadful 
place, to be no more haunted by those loaves, to 
get leave of absence from those stockings, and the 
children, and the vile india-rubber cloth ! My 
happiness seemed perfect ! I wanted to take my 
young hostess by the hand and say, Let us leave 
this place, and go to your own neat home. But 
this would not do. I was obliged to restrain my 
transports, and reconcile myself a little longer to 
the apartment of her lady-mother. But, alas ! 
true happiness is always brief, and mine was a 
little briefer on this occasion than usual. It 
suddenly occurred to me, that some place must 
be provided to spend the night in, and the hints I 
had heard of congregated sleepers among these 
people, combined with the fact that there was but 
one other room in the house, throw mo into a 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 123 

greater trepidation than I had yet experienced. 
To settle the question at once, I asked the young 
woman where my room was. 

"Room!" she replied, regarding me with evi- 
dent surprise, " thee can't have a whole room, but 
thy bed stands in tkar." 

" Show it me," I said, while a cold shudder 
passed over my frame. 

She led the way, and I followed to a room cor- 
responding exactly, save the staircase and fire- 
place, with the one we had left. There were three 
beds in it, two occupying the front corners, and 
one at the back. The latter was pointed out as 
the one assigned to my use, and I thought, from 
the tone in which it was done, that I migrht con- 
sider myself fortunate if the whole of this were left 
to me. Beside the beds, the apartment contained 
four flour barrels standing in the corner fronting 
mine, a cast-off tin oven near them, two chairs, a 
large bundle of old calicos and muslins lying under 
my window, and a few bits of board covered with 
fragments of broken plates, cups, et cet., with which 
the young ladies before referred to, doubtless 
amused their elegant leisure. The floor was not 
so hopelessly bemired as that we had just left, but 
it was strown with all descriptions of loose litter — 
flour, meal, potato rinds, plum pits, apple cores^ 
chips, rags, feathers, et cet. The young woman 
apologized for the disordered condition of the room. 
But this was the least dreadful of the realities it pre- 
sented to me. The other was enough to make the 
greatest heroine that ever lived in romance, stand 
aghast. I inquired who occupied the other beds. 

" The boys sleeps in this hyur," was the reply, 

" and , the county surveyor, in this, when 

he's hyur ; but that ain't more than oncet or twicet 
a week." 



124 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

The tone in which these facts were communi- 
cated was such as utterly to defy remonstrance or 
appeal. The proprietor of a first-class hotel could 
not have shown his best suite of rooms with less . 
expectation that they would be complained of. I 
must demur to these arrangements, but where to 
begin was the question. At last I observed that it 
was so at war with all our eastern usages to sleep 
in a room with other people, that I scarcely saw 
how I should become reconciled to it. 

" Thee'll soon git shet of that," said my host- 
ess, " 'taiu't of much account anyhow, and a body 
gits so they don't mind it after a little." 

" But the initiation," I said, " is terrible. I 
would rather have a couch on the floor of your 
garret, or sit up in a chair all night, than sleep in 
a room where there are two other beds occupied 
by strangers." 

" Oh, thee needn't mind the boys, they'll be 
asleep long afore you go to bed, and up afore 

you're awake, and I won't be here to-night. 

He allowed he'd be gone till the middle of next 
week. So thee needn't make thyself any more 
trouble. I reckon thee hain't been in the country 
long, has thee ]" 

" Not long enough," I replied, " to be accus- 
tomed to this, and I never shall be. I don't intend 
to be," I added, waxing somewhat warm at the 
nature of the supposition. " I shall never sleep in 
that bed till some partition is thrown across the 
room. I have some ideas of exclusiveness, which 
shall not be outraged by any degree of necessity." 

The good-natured creature laughed in my face. 

M If I see thee next year at this time," said she, 
" thee won't feel so." 

" That may be," I replied, " though I doubt it 
exceedingly. But how I may feel a year hence is 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 125 

a matter of no consequence. The present is what 
I care for. If I degenerate with the lapse of time, 
I will lament it then, not exult in it now. Be as- 
sured I can never attempt to sleep in that bed as 
it now is. I only regret that there is not another 
day between this and the sabbath. If there were, 
I would show you what the ingenuity of a Yan- 
kee girl could do. As it is, I shall live outdoors 
most of the time till Monday morning, and then 
you shall see." 

" Very well," replied my hostess, " but I reckon 
thee won't care much about it after a little." 

I had forgotten to say that before we left Prai- 
rie Lodge, Mr. F. had purchased a little roan pony 
for my progresses over the country, and that she 
was the only living thing here, beside ourselves, 
in which we felt any personal interest. We were 
not, therefore, altogether so helpless as the great 
conqueror after his ships were destroyed ; for 
pony was still left, when our carriage returned ; 
but for all practical purposes of escape we were 
equally so, since the flight of two persons could 
scarcely have been effected in any manner, with 
such small means of locomotion, not to mention 
trunks, valises, et cet. If any lady wonders how 
pony finds a place in this arrangement for the night, I 
will tell her. I contemplated dispatching a boy to 
town on her to procure the wherewithal for my 
temporary carpentering, and, as I stepped quickly 
to the door for this purpose, the faithful creature, 
who was feeding in the yard, came up and laid 
her head in my hand, as if she would offer me any 
service in her power. But night was too near at 
hand ; I was obliged to abandon the enterprise 
till Monday morning came. I, however, requested 
(for ordering was no part of my prerogative there) 
that the flour-barrels might be removed, the tin 

l2 



126 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAXD. 

oven set away, and the playhouse and bundles of 
rags carried to the other side of the room. When 
this was done, I borrowed a broom, and made clean 
work with the flour, chips, et cet., that covered 
my part of the floor. The trunks were then placed, 
and so much done toward domiciliating in this un- 
paralleled place. Never did anybody rest more 
unwillingly than I from these labors. But tea 
came, and the white cloth and shining dishes quite 
reconciled me to the delay I was obliged to en- 
dure. Besides, there was a glory in originating 
and prosecuting such a scheme, to reward one for 
submitting to a little restraint. I determined to 
keep my own secret ; and the complacency with 
which I sat up in the great naked room till a late 
hour, and, finally, lay down in a wrapper to rest a 
little before morning, excited no little wonder in 
the sharer of my vigils. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

The Sabbath, spent in quiet wanderings through 
the woods and fruit thickets, and reading on the 
clean turf, and another night like that described, 
brought us to the morning which I had so ardently 
desired. No scrupulous housewife ever longed 
more earnestly for the absence of the male part of 
her household while her slaked lime was waiting, 
and her tubs of water ready for the onset, than I, 
till Mr. F., With many adieus and ceremonies, and 
much condolence for my condition, at last took 
his departure for the day. At the end of the next 
three minutes my working toilet was finished, and 
my labors commenced. I had bespoken a supply 
of the necessary articles from the cabin, and having 
cleared so much of the floor as I intended to occu- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 127 

py, proceeded to put these cleansing agents to their 
duty. Their efficiency exceeded my most sanguine 
expectations. The floor came up from the super- 
incumbent mass, with a distinctness which no one 
would have anticipated. Blistered hands and lacer- 
ated fingers were matters of no moment to one intent 
upon a great purpose like mine. I toiled away, 
therefore, in spite of a variety of these little inci- 
dents, till the dinner summons came and found me 
still in the high tide of successful effort. But the 
room, for it had now become one, had undergone a 
great change. A heavy partition of quilts doubled 
on each other twice or thrice, had been run across 
above the head of the bed, and the whole space 
enclosed by them was exclusively mine ! The little 
floor was covered with a piece of carpeting. The 
two chairs were scoured, the window washed, and 
the wooden work of the walls thoroughly cleansed. 
Between the window and door was a space for a 
mirror, and here I had set a toilet made of dry- 
good boxes, and covered with brown linen damask. 
The trunks were snugly stowed under the bed, 
and I fancied, as I looked about, that I might safely 
challenge any home of six hours' growth, for an 
equal air of comfort and neatness. My door and 
window looked out upon a green lawn, dotted with 
the wild cherry and other trees, and still farther, 
upon a rich and distant stretch of prairie and grove. 
Now that I had brought affairs within to so im- 
proved a condition, I could regard those without 
with more complacency. Even the beauty of the 
distant landscape was much enhanced by the envi- 
ronments from which I now beheld it ; and still 
more, I suspect, by the better state of feeling 
induced in myself by the latter. I piled my books 
— the best companions of such a quiet retreat — 
upon the toilet, which, by a curious, and I flatter 



128 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

myself ingenious, arrangement of the boxes, was 
made to answer the purpose of toilet-table and 
bureau, and dressing myself hastily, answered the 
call to dinner. My hands smarted and ached with 
the wounds they had received, and I felt a degree 
of fatigue which made rest welcome, but a more 
delightful feeling of satisfaction is rarely experien- 
ced, than was mine when contemplating the result 
of my morning's work. And then the anticipation 
of Mr. F.'s surprise when he should come in, and 
find such a snug, neat little home grown up since 
morning ! My only sorrow on returning was that 
there remained nothing else to be done. But I 
borrowed a broken pitcher, and gathering such 
wild flowers as could be found at that season, 
placed it between two piles of books, and then sat 
down to compose my mind for reading. 

I had seen nothing of my neighbor in the next 
room since the day previous, but how could I for- 
bear inviting her to witness the superiority of 
industry and order over her own miserable house- 
wifery \ She seemed to have an idea of being 
quite exclusive, so that I thought there could be no 
risk in inviting her to look in upon my new quar- 
ters. I confidently expected a burst of admiration, 
or at least some hearty commendation of my in- 
dustry. Judge then of my surprise, when the good 
lady seated herself, and, after looking coolly about 
her, exclaimed, " Wall, I reckon thee thinks it 
looks better than it did before ! but I shouldn't 
like so small a room !" Comment was unneces- 
sary. I did not even name the window which 
would stand open all night, nor the door which 
might remain ajar likewise, nor, bad as is the foul 
air of a small bedroom, the things which wore even 
worse than that to me, but dismissed the old lady, 
more than ever confirmed in the ouinion that she 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 129 

was destitute of everything which could awaken in 
me the least interest. 

My young hostess was not equally stupid : she 
appreciated the advantages I had gained, and par- 
ticularly the satisfaction arising from a sense of 
cleanliness in everything about me — a sensation 
unknown to the other. She could likewise under- 
stand something of the feelings which had prompted 
my labors, and participate, to a certain extent, in 
the joy of success. She loved to have her own 
little cabin neat and orderly ; and so far there was 
a bond of sympathy between us. Beside, she could 
estimate the joy of the surprise which I was con- 
tinually hovering over and studying to heighten ; 
and this made her seem far more human than if 
she had looked with indifference upon it. 

At last the time came. Just as the sun was 
setting behind the woods, pony came dashing 
gaily up the hill, and in a moment more the 
" gude mon " stood in the door, looking very much 
as if he had entered the wrong house. I pass 
over the repetition of the details which I was 
obliged to give, and the lamentations that were 
taken up over my hands, and simply say, that we 
found ourselves so happy under the new arrange- 
ment, that the more commodious apartments of 
Prairie Lodge were pined for less than we feared. 
My principal regret was, that pony could not 
walk in and share our comfort; but she frequently 
came up to the door, and, putting in her head, 
looked as if she were convinced that it was all 
right, although the means of making it so were 
not quite so apparent. I had more difficulty in 
making arrangements for mv morning ablutions 
than anything else. Towels I could furnish my- 
self; but the best ewer I could get was an old 
pail, and the best basin, a tin one, holding about 
9 



130 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

two quarts. These would have answered the 
purpose very well, if I could have been left in 
undisturbed possession of them. But they were 
sure to disappear at least half a dozen times 
during the day ; and then it was exceedingly 
difficult to track them. When found, too, they 
must always be cleansed ; for no one could tell to 
what uses they had been put during their absence. 
I had several times, while thus engaged, met the 
patriarch of the establishment, and thought he 
cast an evil eye on my proceedings. But as I 
knew no reason for his doing so, I had gone on in 
all the consciousness of innocence, to assert, prac- 
tically and theoretically, when occasion required, 
my right to these articles. Judge, then, of our 
astonishment, when, after bearing with his dis- 
turbed spirit several days, the old gentleman took 
my husband aside, and, after expressing himself 
perfectly satisfied with our deportment, et cet., 
added, " But I can't allow thee, nor thy wife, to 
wash in my house. I reckon outdoors is good 
enough for anybody; thar's a basin by the well, 
and plenty of water in it ; and anybody that can't 
wash thar, I expect mought as well go without." 

Ridiculous as this may appear to the reader, 
and does now to me, I scarcely knew at the time 
whether to be most amused or indignant. 

" I will wash in his house," I said, " so long as 
I sleep in it, whether he is accustomed to it or 
not. If the other ladies who have boarded here 
were weak enough to yield to this barbarian 
prejudice, I will not. Of that I can assure the 
venerable gentleman, in one moment, if he wants 
my decision. Does he think I shall sally forth 
every morning, and stand at the well, waiting my 
turn for that vessel, which lies on the ground all 
day, and answers every conceivable purpose, from 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 131 

a pig-trough to a washtub — for the baby's linen. 
It is so completely encrusted with filth, that you 
might safely defy a legion of chemists to name the 
material of the original form. Out upon the old 
savage. I'll maintain my separate establishment 
in spite of him." 

But as there were some four weeks yet re- 
maining, it was thought prudent to indulge his 
prejudices so far as to appear willing to comply 
with them. Accordingly, after bathing and com- 
pleting my morning toilet, I usually transferred 
my basin from the wooden chair seat to the sill of 
the door, and made a very circumstantial display 
of a sham washing outside. If the patriarch 
passed anywhere in the vicinity during this time, 
I esteemed it particularly fortunate, and, if pos- 
sible, advanced the basin a little further into the 
outer world. This honest compliance brought its 
reward ; for although it did not quite meet his 
views, he was pleased to express the pleasure it 
afforded him M to see so much goodwill in the 
young woman." Poor Mr. F. was obliged to 
recompense my rebellion, by taking the basin to 
the well, and performing ablutions equally super- 
fluous there among the young gentlemen. 

But it is time to introduce the reader more par- 
ticularly to the senior personage. He was a dark 
complexioned man, of some fifty-five years, with 
an eye that had nothing peculiar about it when his 
face was in repose, but which had a keen piercing 
look when anything excited him.' He bore the 
name of an illustrious preacher of the sect to 
which he claimed alliance, and had originated in 
the same neighborhood ; but the branch of the 
family to which he belonged had left Long Island 
many years before, for " Virginny ;" and as their 
fortunes declined, had gone farther west, till he 



132 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

now occupied the outpost in Illinois. He had 
speculated himself into several fortunes which he 
had lost by the same means ; was a shrewd calcu- 
lator of his gains ; (but would risk them all when 
a "right smart spec"" offered;) and had that pe- 
culiar kind of industry, which led to continual 
scheming, but to little manual labor. He loved 
the country and his mode of life. But this feeling 
was subsidiary to those already named. If he 
could have schemed as well in an eastern city, he 
would have relished life there ; and only found 
occasional cause of complaint in the absence of 
game, which he loved to shoot. He would never 
have hesitated to place his family anywhere. An 
introduction to the Court of St. James would have 
flurried him less than a private dinner party does 
many people. Himself arrayed in his jeans suit, 
and lonof furred hat, and Catharine in her ancient 
pongee and quaker bonnet, he would have 
"reckoned" they were "fixed enough for any- 
body." He was tyrannical in his family, and 
" allowed that boys was made to work," an 
opinion in which his sons did not so heartily 
concur, as to evince thereby the highest degree 
of filial respect. 

The daughter with whom we boarded, and the 
eldest boy, a youth of sixteen, were the children of 
a former wife, and, if rumor were to be trusted, did 
not find the paternal fireside so agreeable as the 
darlings of the second mother. The only dowry 
which this daughter had received, was the name of 
Sidney ; though as she said " she never know'd 
that was a man's name till the Yankees come to 
board thar." She was a good-natured girl, with 
no great depth of feeling or thought, but all that 
tthe had of both was expended on her coarse, long- 
haired husband a Hooshier of tho broadest stamp. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 133 

She appeared to have had her native buoyancy 
suppressed by some unnatural process in early 
life, for her face was always grave, even in her 
happiest moments. If she laughed it was a fleet- 
ing laugh, gone as soon as it came, and succeeded 
by a reproving expression, as if it were a thing to 
be repented of. She had grown up in the most 
abject ignorance. Reading could scarcely be in- 
cluded in the catalogue of her accomplishments, 
and writing was to her as mysterious as Egyptian 
hieroglyphics. The simplest arts of cultivated life 
were unknown to her, and she was at the same 
time ignorant of those other branches of knowledge 
which may be almost universally found among fe- 
males of her class. Poor Sidney had, therefore, 
few resources within herself, and fewer still in the 
indulgence of the filial and fraternal affections. No 
wonder then that what capacity she had for love 
was concentrated on her husband. Beside, he 
deserved it ; for though somewhat rough in the ex- 
terior, his kindness was inexhaustible, and his faith 
in ner perfection impregnable. They were really 
pleasant models of domestic happiness. He had 
more physical industry than his father-in-law ; the 
forests of Indiana had perhaps cultivated it ; but 
when the labors of the week were closed, and Sid- 
ney had prepared an extra meal after breakfast on 
Sunday morning, he would " gear up," and, seated 
side by side in the immense Pennsylvania waggon, 
they drove off to " meeting," or to some friend's to 
spend the day, and returned at night pleased with 
themselves, with each other, and with the prospect 
of returning next morning to their labors. They 
were far happier with these rude enjoyments, than 
thousands who live in luxury and ride in splendid 
carriages, with liveried servants. 

M 



134 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



For many comforts in the household affairs of 
the little cabin, we were indebted to those who 
had preceded us. Sidney had taken the title of 
Mrs. the preceding year, and the festivities of the 
occasion had been superintended by a family of 
" York girls," as she designated them. During 
their progress she had been initiated into the mys- 
teries of pound-cake, jumbles, and apple-tarts. 
And these now constituted the principal delicacies 
with which she tempted our appetites. It is need- 
less to say that having only an imperfect knowledge 
of the rule by which they were compounded, she 
was not always successful in her attempts ; and as 
we were little addicted to the consumption of the 
articles when she was, her ingenuity was not 
greatly taxed in these matters. Her style of serv- 
ing the cake was quite original. She shaved and 
laid it on the plate as one would old cheese ; and 
her notions of the quantity which should be in- 
dulged in at once, were extremely moderate, not 
covering more than one of these thin small slices. 
This should be the rule at many other tables than 
that of Sidney. 

We fared very well for four weeks. My resi- 
dence grew more and more pleasant as the summer 
advanced. The blackberry and plum ripened all 
around us, and afforded delicious desserts at break- 
fast, dinner, and tea. I could gather any quantity 
myself, in the grove and thicket below the house, 
and used to spend many hours thus when Mr. F. 
was in town. The only drawback to these pleasant 
rambles was the fear of snakes, and the danger 
from these was more imaginary than real ; for I 
never saw but one or two (and those were harm- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 135 

less) in all my wanderings about the place. And 
I may as well take this occasion to say that dangers 
of this kind are very much exaggerated both in 
books and the minds ef settlers on the prairies. I 
resided nearly five years in the country, and spent 
a large portion of my time abroad on foot, on 
horseback, and in waggons, and was never once 
menaced or frightened by a venomous or danger- 
ous serpent. That there are many there, cannot 
be disputed ; and so there are in all country re- 
gions which I have ever visited. But if unmolested 
they are mostly harmless ; and when a bite is re- 
ceived, nature has an antidote immediately at hand. 
You scarcely walk ten yards on the prairies with- 
out passing several tufts of an herb, the leaf of 
which is said by old settlers to be an infallible 
remedy if applied within a short time. The bite 
of the rattlesnake is, therefore, little dreaded among 
those who understand this. In the rich bottom- 
lands are two or three larger species whose speed 
is equal to that of a horse. They sometimes give 
the incautious traveler chase, and are dangerous, 
from the heartiness of their embrace, when they 
overtake him ; but there is little danger in the 
prairies from these tenants. It takes time, how- 
ever, to become convinced of this, and I, to make as- 
surance doubly sure, made my sallies under the pro- 
tection of a pair of boots, which, though they im- 
peded my progress and threatened to forsake me 
at every step; quieted the little fear I had, and left 
me free to wander and look for something beside 
snakes — a hateful search anywhere ! On one of 
these excursions I was overtaken by a citizen who 
was riding along the same road. Skirts were not 
so long then as now, and I felt a painful conscious- 
ness of my feet, that drove me to the tall grass to 
await his disappearance. In my haste I nearly lost 



136 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

one of the boots, and had to stop and replace it 
just as he was opposite me; but a beautiful flower 
that was springing up where I stood, afforded a 
graceful pretext for stooping, and so relieved the 
awkwardness of my position. When he was out 
of sight, I promised never again to wear the boots, 
snakes or no snakes, a vow which I kept religiously 
ever after. 

I saw no company in my temporary home, ex- 
cept the inmates of Prairie Lodge, who some- 
times rode down and paid us brief visits. The 
reception of strangers was out of the question in 
my narrow apartment. Every night brought a 
report of the progress of the house whose comple- 
tion we were awaiting, and every morning sent 
forth most fervent aspirations for the day when 
its walls would be tenantable. Six weeks spent 
in this retreat, seeing scarcely a face, save those of 
our neighbors in the next room and cabin, made 
me begin to feel that society would be welcome. 
Beside books and my wandering^ the only amuse- 
ment I had, was to make observations on the char- 
acter and domestic arrangements of the elder lady. 
The former was soon exhausted : the latter afforded 
a more protracted employment. There was one 
little mystery that I felt some curiosity to solve, 
and that was how the house should have had so 
cleanly an aspect on the Saturday when Mr. F. 
first visited it, and been so incredibly the reverse 
when we arrived. In due time the solution came. 
The thrifty housewife had a regular rule for clean- 
ing, which she conscientiously observed. No ac- 
cident, as of storm outdoors or an upsetting within, 
ever induced her to swerve from it. She washed 
her floor every other Saturday, and Mr. F. had hit 
the happy day. We were halfway between, and 
hence the different complexion. But even these 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 137 

cleanings were not such as to satisfy more scrupu- 
lous housewives. Many an eastern dame would 
not have hesitated to denounce them as mere pre- 
tence ; and they always seemed to me to be made 
more from the force of habit than from any sense 
of duty or increased comfort. They served, how- 
ever, to make sitting down in her room less dan- 
gerous for a day or two, and so were very accept- 
able. 

I had been for several days dreading an invita- 
tion to her table, and could only pray that, if it 
must come, it might be on the afternoon of the 
clean Saturday. But no such fortune awaited me. 
It came in the middle of the last week, when the 
disagreeableness had nearly reached its climax. 
What could be done ] Excuse or evasion was 
impossible there, under such convenient observa- 
tion. If one could have become suddenly indis- 
posed ; but that was an alternative to which I had 
neither the patience nor artifice to resort. I had 
no confidential friend to send for me, saying that 
my presence was indispensable; and after exam- 
ining every loophole of escape, I gave up in de- 
spair. Here was another act of semi-martyrdom 
four or five hours in duration, and infinitely worse 
than any I had suffered at Prairie Lodge. Deter- 
mined, however, to endure as little as possible, I 

stepped into the cabin and petitioned S to 

share it. She readily consented, and seemed dis- 
posed to make quite a formal thing of it, by putting 
on her Sunday gown. At half-past one, the latest 
moment she declared that we could wait, we pre- 
sented ourselves in the good woman's room. The 
resignation of a lamb going to the slaughter was 
nothing compared to that into which I com- 
pelled myself, as we took our seats. If the dirty 
casket before us had been enriched with a single 

m2 



138 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

gem of thought or feeling above what its exterior 
appearance indicated, one might have forgotten its 
uncomeliness in their lifrht. But the disa^reeable- 
ness had no such qualification. To sit a half day 
with her, was to sit with the mere physical mate- 
rial of a woman, put together in a somewhat 
exceptionable style, and sadly soiled. The after- 
noon wore away in discussions of the fruit harvest; 
in some uninteresting reminiscences of life in Ohio ; 
and a detailed account of the babyhood of her 
promising daughters. Meantime the young ladies 
were demonstrating their emancipation from this 
period, by tumbling about in the grass before the 
door, and imitating the cry of turkeys, grouse, 
owls, et cet. They had the most incorrigible love 
of locomotion " upon all fours." Wherever business 
or pleasure summoned them, unless great haste 
were requisite, they journeyed in this unique style. 
One could not avoid being reminded of a species 
of animal to which they seemed allied by other 
similarities as striking as this. 

When tea-time approached, the dodger was 
mixed and placed at the fire, the "salt risin" loaf 
that had stood in the corner all the afternoon was 
examined (with hands that had not been cleaned 
since we entered), and put to baking ; and in due 
time the india-rubber table-cover was garnished 
with a variety of dishes, empty and filled, and we 
were invited to take our places. Then came the 
time that tried my stomach. There was nothing 
on the table that was not of home manufacture ; 
not even that last refuge of the distressed, a " store 
cracker." The milk had passed through sundry 
pails, strainers, and pans, so that it stood little 
chance of being purer than the bread ; the butter 
was not to be thought of by one who had seen the 
churn, and the hands with which its contents were 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 139 

removed ; the preserves were, if possible, more 
impracticable than anything else ; the fried bacon 
was too loathsome in itself; and the chicken radi- 
ated pin feathers from every part of its surface ; 
beside having gone through with all the stages of 
preparation in our presence. Graham himself 
never took a more temperate meal in point of quan- 
tity than I on that memorable afternoon. I had 
made up my mind to devote myself exclusively to 
a piece of bread. I attempted the crust, but there 
was the table-cover on which it had been kneaded 
staring me in the face : then the inside ; but this 
was soft, and it was impossible to swallow it with- 
out remembering the hands that had been thrust 
through and through it. The hostess pressed me 
in the kindest manner to eat. Dish after dish was 
offered and rejected, till, at last, when my stomach 
was on the eve of uttering a protest that could not 
be mistaken, I withdrew, and retreated as hastily 
as decency would permit to my own room. Scarcely 
was my equanimity restored, when a considerable 
bustle arose in the apartment I had just left ; and 
presently one of the girls came in to say that the 
baby had a fit. I stepped in, and found the child 
lying in a stupor upon its mother's lap. She was 
chafing his feet, hands, and temples alternately, 
and appeared more like an animate being than I 
had ever seen her. In a short time the boy 
revived, and his mother then informed me that he 
was " often took that way, but he soon got shet of 
it." The table was still standing, and she ordered 
the elder girl, who was in her favorite attitude be- 
fore the door, to stop " cutting up," and come in 
and clear it away. " And git the basin," added 
the fastidious woman, " and wash the dishes off: 
thee can do it as well as I, if thee's a mind to." 
I sat a few moments, till the poor baby seemed 



140 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

quite recovered, and then rose to return to my 
own room. One might suppose, after what I had 
seen, that no evidences of uncleanliness could sur- 
prise me, yet when I cast my eye at the table in 
passing it, and saw the cups from which we had 
just drank piled into the basin that had been com- 
mended to my husband for our morning ablutions, 
I was obliged to confess a new cause of wonder. 
The sight drove my digestive apparatus to open 
rebellion. I fled as from an embodied pestilence ; 
and the whole affair was soon settled, by my re- 
signing all claim to the few morsels of bread I had 
swallowed, and promising never to abuse myself 
thus again. But I little knew what fate had in 
reserve for us. The week before we left, some 
near relative of our young landlord was taken ill, 
and his wife was obliged to leave us to the tender 
mercies of ma chhre mere. It would have been 
seven days of a fast unbroken, at least at her table, 
if we could not have been supplied with boiled 
eggs, plums, and blackberries. The former could 
not be contaminated, and the latter we could gather 
for ourselves. So that affairs were still sufterable, 
and the more so that relief was in speedy pros- 
pect. Indeed, those days might have been quite 
agreeable, but for the necessity of appearing at 
table. One could not take a meal in a private 
room without giving offence, and thus producing 
a state of things that would by no means enhance 
our comfort. 

I had. nearly forgotten to mention one very novel 
feature of our entertainment in this place. Our 
" old man," as he was familiarly designated by his 
sons, had been, and in truth still was, so great a 
lover of sport, that he had at one time kept a large 
band of dogs for the indulgence of this taste. They 
were now dwindled to lour sturdy fellows, who 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 141 

seemed, like the few retainers of some decayed 
knight, to mourn the days that were gone. Their 
leader was a noble old brown dog, who bore the 
name of Lion ; I prefixed Cceur, and made him a 
hero. He was a famous fellow, of lordly presence 
and magnanimous spirit. His supremacy over 
his brethren was never disputed. In all quarrels 
he was the final umpire. In all expeditions he 
was the commander. In all difficulties with foreign 
powers, he was the diplomatist, and his terms were 
never dissented from by the democracy. But not- 
withstanding this confessed greatness, Cceur de 
Lion wore a sorrowful expression, and, except in 
periods of excitement, walked humbly about as if 
conscious that the sun of his glory had set. He 
looked an Othello, his "occupation gone." He 
was the patriarch of a race whose power was 
diminishing, whose greatness was decaying before 
his eyes, and how could he be other than melan- 
choly ? There were seasons however when he 
seemed to enjoy partial relief from this oppression. 
Moonlight nio-hts were the chosen of these. The 
silence, the cessation of man from those plebeian 
labors which no well-bred dog can share, the par- 
tial light, friendly to illusions elsewhere, as well 
as in the mind of Cceur de Lion, all favored the 
revival of olden memories and the imaginary par- 
ticipation in scenes of bygone power and useful- 
ness. On these occasions he was wont to stalk 
about in a contemplative mood, not suffering his 
followers to be heard, and scarcely to be seen, till 
night had fairly set in and the moon rode high, the 
undisputed source of light. 

His friends were then summoned ; and after 
consultation, one or two, as the case might de- 
mand, were dispatched to the woods, and the 
noble leader with the remaining force took up his 



142 LIFE IN Pit AIR IE LAND. 

station near the house. In a few minutes the 
scouts commenced their reports, and the replies 
and instructions began to be sent forth from head- 
quarters. This always continued, each waxing 
warmer as their duties seemed to grow more real, 
till the din brought the " old man" suddenly to his 
feet, and the ignominious " git out !" repeated two 
or three times with increasing emphasis, and a 
most irreligious expletive at the end, silenced the 
home department. On such occasions, Cceur de 
Lion's ears and tail dropped suddenly ; and look- 
ing at his company with a mournful resignation, he 
led them away, the picture of abject and hopeless 
shame. It was doubtless mortifying to him beyond 
measure ; but obedience was one of his many ex- 
alted virtues. He could not have been guilty of 
its opposite to save the whole canine race. Cceur 
de Lion was no noisy radical. He preferred dis- 
grace and suffering under the existing order, to 
reform in defiance of it. But there was a difficulty 
in enforcing this rigid discipline, of which he was 
not the master when his forces were divided. He 
could compel the party under his immediate com- 
mand, to silence ; but the scouts were not so easily 
reduced. Distance was favorable to the mainte- 
nance of the authority which had been delegated 
to them ; beside which it was impossible, without 
a personal interview, to inform them that no more 
reports could be responded to that night. This 
could not be had without leaving the post which 
he had pledged himself to maintain, and thus poor 
Cceur do Lion, placed botween an imperative order 
on one hand, and the calls for his opinion to be 
audibly expressed growing every moment louder 
and more pressing on the other, was in a most pit- 
iable state of perplexity. Ho ran from one side 
of the house to tho other ; ho snuffed the wind, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 143 

and scented the grass, and at every renewed call 
from the woods seemed on the point of bursting 
forth again into oral communication with the dis- 
tant party. At last he grew desperate ; and, hope- 
less of restoring order while he was dumb, sent 
forth a sharp and brief command to " come in." 
This astonished the other division, and always led 
to some inquiry into the cause of the order. Dis- 
ciplinarian as he was, it was impossible for him to 
produce perfect obedience without a word of ex- 
planation ; and while he was giving this, footsteps 
were again heard, the door opened, and another 
shameful " git out !" issued, followed by the irrepa- 
rable ignominy of a broomstick, an old hat, or a 
billet of wood, to enforce it. And then poor Coeur 
de Lion, broken in spirit, sorrowful, disgraced in 
his own eyes and those of his followers, slunk away 
by long, slow steps around the corner of the house, 
and was no more seen or heard till the folio win o- 
morning. His friends, left to the discouragement 
of reporting to a silent camp, usually came in about 
half an hour after; and having learned the true 
cause of the apparent neglect with which they had 
been treated, received apologies, and all retired to 
rest. 

Such scenes diversified the early hours of nearly 
every moonlight night. When they were con- 
ducted with spirit, and one was not too far pledged 
to Morpheus, they became a source of much mer- 
riment. 



CHAPTER XV. 

Our house progressed more moderately than we 
expected ; but at last, to my great joy, it was within 
three days of completion. I was anticipating the 



144 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

pleasure of having a whole room, and the innu- 
merable little appurtenances of comfort "thereunto 
belonging," when one day Mr. F. returned from 
his office much earlier than usual, and informed 
me that our apartment was already occupied by 
others, and that he had taken a tenement, and 
determined, with my concurrence, to commence 
housekeeping. Here was a most unexpected state 
of things ! I was as ignorant of the great art of 
housekeeping as if I had been a child instead of a 
woman. But that which so disqualified me for 
undertaking it, made me all the more ready to 
begin ; so that fifteen minutes' pondering over the 
proposition made it seem even pleasanter than our 
original plan. I was ready to go the next day, or 
even that, if it were practicable. " But the house 
— what kind of one was it, how large, how many 
rooms ? which way did it front 1 was it painted, 
finished, had it a garden, et cet. V All these 
questions were answered in a breath. It was a 
small house with two rooms, fronted south, stood 
back from the street, leaving a fine yard, which, 
however, was not yet fenced, and there was any ex- 
tent of land back, for a garden. The front room was 
not finished, but would be in two days, and the 
house cleaned, ready for moving. Two days were 
left for preparation, and though I had nothing to 
prepare, I was exceedingly busy. Meantime, on 
Mr. F.'s return each day, I could not but fancy 
that he had very much the air of a man who had 
been engaged in some severe labor, but I ques- 
tioned him in vain to find out what it was. I was 
cpiite too inexperienced myself to come to the 
correct conclusion : the shrewdest guess 1 could 
make being that he was buying furniture, &:c. 
to save me the trouble after my arrival. On the 
morning of the third day, the house was reported 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 145 

to be ready, and having packed my partition, 
taken up my carpet, and undressed my toilet., I 
6tepped into the waggon, and in twenty minutes 

made my entrance into the town of , and my 

debut as housekeeper. 

I must give my own description of this theatre 
of my future exploits ; for the one given by Mr. F. 
is too meagre to do justice to the place. We 
alight at the back door of a building, so small that 
I fancy it is one of our outbuildings, till the sight 
of some chairs, turned helter-skelter over each 
other, and a Franklin stove standing within, con- 
vinces me that this is the veritable house. It was 
reported to be small, and I do not find the report 
exaggerated. The door by which we enter is so 
disproportioned to the house, that one thinks it 
was designed to allow the house itself to walk out. 
It is made of heavy rough oak boards, and parts 
in the middle, as if it opened into a carriage-house. 
It is altogether one of the most extraordinary of 
doors ; but this is explained by reference to the 
fact, that the building has once been used for a 
grocery store. The adjacent lot, on the right as 
we enter, is occupied by a gaping cellar, all un- 
covered, and affording, therefore, readier inoress 
than egress to sundry small pigs, chickens, et cet., 
who perambulate the vicinity. Its walls, however, 
are so weather-washed, that one of them offers a 
practicable way of escape when the wits of the 
small prisoners are sufficiently collected to try it. 
Beyond, on the same side, the near view is diver- 
sified by the rears of several wooden stores of 
different lengths, the ground about each being 
picturesquely ornamented with broken crockery, 
soiled sheets of wrapping paper, rifled boxes, 
and crates. On the left, is a row of three 
buildings, which were afterwards called " Globe 
10 N 



146 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Row," from the fact that the " Globe Hotel" was 
opened in the one farthest from us. They contain 
a room each and an attic. The middle one is 
occupied by our nearest neighbors, the family of a 
worthy mechanic recently from Philadelphia. The 
old lady's first call was made in about half an hour 
after our arrival, and accompanied by the tender 
of a barrel of rain-water, a kindness which those 
only can appreciate who have undertaken to clean 
such a house with lime-water, and that to be 
brought a distance of some dozen rods. Now 
that I am speaking of water, I may as well add, 
that there was no well belonging to our house, and 
the nearest one was at the distance just named. 

Thus much for the view from the back door. I 
should add, that all these buildings were unen- 
closed, and thus presented temptations which 
wrought lamentable corruption in the morals of 
the swine. Young pigs were thus tempted, nay, 
heartlessly allured into all manner of offences 
which grow out of too close an investigation of 
pails, kettles, boxes, mops, brooms, and other 
articles that usually consort at the back doors of 
dwellings which have neither closet, cellar, cham- 
ber, nor entry. 

But I must leave moralizing, and finish my 
picture. We shall have to pass through the house 
to get a front view, and on our way may as well 
take a cursory glance at its finish, proportion, and 
contents. The entire tenement is sixteen feet by 
twenty. It has a door and window in each end, 
and a partition of very thin boards dividing it into 
two rooms. One of these is nine feet deep, the 
other eleven. The preponderance in size has 
been given to the roar apartment, which is finished 
inside with boards of the same description as those 
outside, and put on in the same maimer ; except 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 147 

that, instead of lapping, they do not quite meet, 
and therefore hold out the most unlimited invita- 
tions to winds and vermin, to enter and examine 
the premises. Nearly opposite the doorway, foi 
as yet there is no door, which leads to the other 
room, stands a Franklin stove, making every 
possible effort to look social, as if it had been an 
old acquaintance in some of the pleasant sitting- 
rooms of the east. But it appears to great disad- 
vantage, being besmeared with a mixture of paste 
and tar, with which Mr. F. has been trying to 
fasten strong brown paper over the cracks in the 
ceilings. Half a dozen green wooden chairs stand 
about, trying to give a home look to the room. 
But some appear to have become disgusted with 
the effort, and turned themselves on their heads, 
in the laps of their neighbors. 

We pass through into the next room. This is 
got up in very creditable style. The proportions, 
to be sure, are not just what one may call elegant, 
being sixteen feet one way and nine the other. 
But the walls are plastered, and there is a very 
large front door, with a very small window beside 
it, and a narrow side door, which affords an ad- 
vantageous view of the cellar aforesaid, and the 
dead wall of a brown framed store, about thirty 
feet in length, beyond it. But the grand prospect 
is from the front. Here is the little niche left 
between the grocery next door, and Globe Row, 
which will be a front yard when there is a fence 
thrown across it. At present it is a very interest- 
ing area of black soil, on which the vegetation has 
been so often disturbed by ploughing matches be- 
tween gentlemen who combine in themselves all 
the advantages of team, plough, and driver, that 
there is not a blade on its surface. Beyond lies 
the pride of the town — the Public Square — an 



148 LIFE IN PfiAIRIE LAND. 

open space of ten acres, which has had trees 
enough lithographed for it to cover it three times 
with a dense forest, but which yet remains an 
obstinate and ungrateful piece of prairie turf. 
Still beyond this, is a hollow, or slough, which 
traverses the centre of the town from east to west; 
and divides it into "Trade end," and "Court 
end." The latter is on the opposite side, and, 
exclusive of a few straggling houses, contains a 
large two-story framed building, without a chim- 
ney, painted white, and denominated the Court 
House. Here the ministers of justice assemble 
twice a year, to terrify honest and peaceable 
citizens, and annoy rogues who are less adroit 
than their compeers. That other appendage of 
civilization — the jail — is in another part of the 
county. The last man who was in it, after stay- 
ing some four weeks, begged the jailer to excuse 
him from keeping the key any longer for him, and 
assured him that he should take pleasure in trans- 
acting any little business he might have in the part 
of the state to which he was bound ! 

But this by the way. The few remaining evi- 
dences of public enterprise will hardly bear notice 
here ; so we will omit further description, and 
return to our house, which is at the opposite 
extremity of the town. Upon a more deliber 
ate examination, I find it has neither cellar noi 
chamber. The entire establishment, including 
the privilege of bringing water from a distant 
neighbor and cultivating any degree of intimacy 
which fancy might dictate with the swine of the 
town, most of whom were distinguished for their 
pedestrian powers, consists of these sixteen feet 
by twenty, inclosed within the four walls already 
described. Mr. F. had, it is true, endeavored 
to avail himself of a trap-door in the back room 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 149 

by making an excavation beneath it sufficient to 
contain a tirkin of butter or a small basket of vege- 
tables. But this did not promise to be eminently 
serviceable, inasmuch as one foot of the Franklin 
stood upon the corner of the door, so that the lat- 
ter could never be opened without first swinging 
the former round ; a process not easy of accom- 
plishment, and attended with imminent risk to the 
pipe. The floors were thoroughly wet, and exhib- 
ited every evidence of having been recently visited 
with other implements of cleaning than those usu- 
ally employed by females. But they were still far 
from clean ; and we addressed ourselves therefore, 
broom and cloth in hand, to bring affairs to a more 
wholesome state. If any delicate lady asks how 
I could have undertaken the scrubbing myself, I 
reply, that if I had not, no one would. No consid- 
eration could have procured the assistance of a 
stout Irish or colored woman, because none such 
were there. I might have sat myself down, folded 
my hands, and wept over the disorder; but that 
would never have brought order out of it. A much 
pleasanter and more efficient method was the one 
I adopted. It cleaned and curtained my windows, 
brought my stove out from the rubbish which cov- 
ered it, made my chairs fit for use, and restored 
the floors to a comfortable degree of cleanliness 
before sunset. Our first meal under my auspices, 
consisted of crackers, cheese, and cold water, served 
on the lid of my bureau toilet. Our first night's 
rest, and welcome rest it was too, was taken on a 
straw bed laid in the six green chairs. 

The next day advanced my housekeeping oper- 
ations very much. My closet, consisting of four 
short pine shelves, was built in a corner of the 
back room and filled with dishes. My hollow 
ware was purchased and put in order. My floors 

n 2 



150 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAXD. 

were visited -with another deluge of hot water and 
soap. Still the bedstead and table came not, and 
housekeeping was necessarily imperfect, to a cer- 
tain extent, without them. Making purchases is 
not the same thing at the west as here. One does 
not go out to select sofas, chairs, bureaus, toilet 
6tands, mirrors, carpets, tables, et cet., but to take 
such as can be found, and consider it lucky to find 
one article or set of the kind required. The ques- 
tion, too, is not how much you shall buy, but how 
little. Because, where shall you put it when it 
comes to you ? This requires calmer judgment 
than any other part of the business. In my little 
box I could not have entertained twelve persons 
in any manner, unless they had been so good-na- 
tured that part of them would have remained with- 
out half the time. Yet I must purchase a dinner 
and tea set for twelve, to cumber the frail shelves 
of my small closet. Dining, breakfast, and tea 
plates, at least half of which had not the remotest 
prospect of coming into use, were therefore stored 
away, to the imminent risk of the whole. 

These injudicious purchases gave me much 
trouble. My shelves were the favorite resort of 
whole troops of mice, to whose obtuse senses the 
volume of experience was a sealed book. For 
though they explored every aperture and crevice 
daily, and found not the slightest morsel to gratify 
the appetite withal, they returned each day as 
eager and expectant as before. Nothing but per- 
sonal inspection satisfied them, and nearly as often 
as this was repeated, I had to follow it with the 
application of water and soap. Before a month 
was over, I wished my unlucky dishes fairly back 
in the shopkeeper's hands. 

In due time the bedstead and table arrived. A 
carpet was found large enough for the front room, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 151 

and a piece to make the back one look comforta- 
ble ; some parlor chairs, a mirror, and bureau 
were obtained. My toilet was re-dressed, a door 
was made for the space between the rooms which 
had hitherto been curtained ; and thus the whole 
affair became in time quite respectable. Our family 
consisted of Mr. F., myself, pony, and another 
member who ought to have been introduced to the 
reader before. This member bore the cognomen 
of Susannah, a name which was bestowed in con- 
sideration of her circumspect and exemplary cha- 
racter. Susannah belonged to the Swine family ; 
but it seemed a melancholy perverseness in nature 
to have placed her there. She was a pattern of 
all the virtues that ever dwelt in her race. Comely 
in person, grave and dignified in manner, she 
carried in her whole deportment that air of humble 
merit that quite won the hearts of beholders. Su- 
sannah made but little acquaintance with the town 
swine. Their corrupt morals and lawless habits 
seemed to disgust her. She never joined their for- 
aging expeditions, never put her nose into a pail, 
nor looked in at a door as if she thought she had 
a right to enter. She always advised against the 
scaling of garden fences and the stealthy visiting of 
neglected corn-fields. Susannah was therefore not 
so popular among pigs as many who were less 
worthy. She was voted an aristocrat, a Tory — a 
pig of no spirit— a pig whose example, if followed, 
would reduce the intelligent, enterprising, and 
highly-favored pig democracy of the town to a spirit- 
less set of man-servers ; a set who would eat when 
food was given them, and mind their own business 
at other times. What could be more disgraceful or 
dastardly 1 Whence then would come that large 
liberty which pigs of talent, courage, and enterprise 
bad wrought for themselves, in spite of dogs, fences, 



152 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

broomsticks, and hot water — those infamous agents 
of wrong and oppression, against which their an- 
cestors and themselves had so long and fearlessly 
protested ? Such addresses, coming from the in- 
fluential leaders among the pigocracy, frequently 
led to Susannah's expulsion by violence from their 
circles. Cries of " down with the advocate of or- 
der !" " put her out !" " long live the enterprising 
democracy !" were heard, and poor Susannah ran 
forth sorrowful and alone, a persecuted victim of 
principle. Being of the feminine gender, she had 
no opportunity to make head against these enemies. 
She knew they were demagogues, but what then ] 
The very principles for which she suffered forbade 
her overstepping the bounds of order and taking 
the field against them. So she grew up from early 
pighood to maturity, preserving her integrity in 
the heart of a corrupt community, a flower wasted, 
a model lost. But exemplary as she was, Susan- 
nah had some enemies among the biped citizens ; 
some, I suspect, who bore in mind that very homely 
adage, in which it is alleged that silence facilitates 
the process of deglutition ; and at last she met her 
death at the hand of one of these illiberals. She 
was found one morning to have been assassinated 
in the vicinity of the sheriff's office, the place hav- 
ing been chosen, doubtless, to give a legal coloring 
to the act. She was lamented as her worth de- 
served amonor those who knew her, and her de- 
scendants are to this day the most respectable 
pigs in the town. This passing tribute was due 
from one who know her many virtues. The mo- 
rale of the picture may often apply to a higher 
race. 

Pony was quite a different personage from this. 
She was neat and compact in person, with a 
freckled complexion, that looked as if she had been 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 153 

thoroughly wetted and then covered with unbolted 
wheat meal. She was mirthful, affectionate, and 
withal not a little eccentric. Her favorite place 
of feeding was on the prairie, in the rear of the 
house. There she stalked very demurely about, 
cropping the rich grass till she was filled, and then, 
all on a sudden, she raised her head, snuffed the 
air, pricked up her ears, and stood an instant, as 
if listening to some mysterious communication, 
when she started at the top of her speed for the 
house. On she came, like the wind, looking as if 
she had something very wonderful to tell; but 
when I met her at the door and inquired what it 
was, she laughed in my face and said "salt!" 
When she had eaten a quantity from my hand, she 
would lay her head against my shoulder, and apol- 
ogize in the playfulest manner for the artifice. 
Pony, as might have been expected, was a great 
favorite among ladies and gentlemen who were 
fond of equestrian exercises. Her docility of dis- 
position and rocking-chair gait made her very 
popular. I could throw my rein over the horn of 
the saddle, take a book when I did not care to look 
about, and had no companion to entertain me, and 
gallop up to Prairie Lodge any morning and back 
at evening, never uttering a word, except in a 
pleasant colloquial way, the whole distance. If I 
dropped my book, discovered a flower or other 
natural object which I desired to inspect more 
closely than was practicable from her back, T in- 
formed her of it, sprung from the saddle, and left 
her to feed till I was ready to remount. This 
was not so difficult a process as one might sup- 
pose it would be on the open plain. The distance 
from the ground to her back was very trifling ; and 
I think she would have looked with contempt on 
any lady who could not have accomplished it, with- 



154 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

out aid, at a single spring. If you failed, however, 
her contempt never overcame her patience ; she 
merely looked around, as if she thought the failure 
ought to have excited your own indignation, and 
putting her head to the grass, left you to repeat it 
at your leisure. When all was ready, away she 
galloped again, looking about as if she enjoyed the 
prospect as much as yourself, and would like, if 
6he had time, to point out some features of the 
scene which might escape your notice. 

We loved pony, and so would any one who had 
known her as we did. She had but a single weak- 
ness, and that was one which she shared with 
many of our own species. It was a dread of 
showers, more particularly those which were ac- 
companied by electrical phenomena. On these 
occasions she would run to the house at full speed, 
and standing close under its lee, if it happened to 
be on the windowed side, look in so entreatingly, 
that I was almost moved to open the door and in- 
vite her in, or go out and share her trouble. There 
she would stand, cowering and shaking before the 
wind and the thunder-peals till it was all over, 
and then trot away to crop the moistened grass. 
The words of an old lady who had enjoyed some 
opportunity of becoming acquainted with her mer- 
its, are the briefest and most appropriate eulogy 
that can be uttered to her memory. " She was an 
ornament to her speeshy." 



CHAPTER XVI. 

But it is time I left my domestic circle, and in- 
troduced to the icadtr some of our neighbors and 
fellow citizens, and their doings. Our town had 
been settled two years before, by a colony com- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 155 

pounded of New-Yorkers, Bostonians, Providence 
people, and a few random Yankees and adventu- 
rers, that were said by an ancient Sucker lady in 
the neighborhood to have been " hove in to fill 
up." They had organized in the east and come 
to the west at random, knowing that there was 
plenty of territory there whereof to manufacture 
farms, cities, et cet. The honor of being the shire- 
town of this large and wealthy county was then 
vibrating between two villages, both of which were 
settled mostly by western people. The Yankee 
colony came, took this tract of unbroken prairie, 
laid out a square mile into lots (the wealthiest men 
holding the contiguous farms under promise not to 
refuse room in case the town should outgrow its 
original boundaries) ; and by the aid of a little cap- 
ital, some notes of hand, more brains, and still 
more cunning, bore off the prize for which the 
open-mouthed Kentuckians, Tennesseeans, and 
Buckeyes were disputing. What equivalent was 
offered the Commissioners, who were appointed to 
select the most eligible spot, for their choice of 
this, was never known to the public ; but it has since 
appeared that they were pretty " shreivdly done''' to 
a considerable amount in promises, the payment 
of which was afterward refused on the plea of 
want of consideration ! One may guess, therefore, 
that we have a pretty sharp population, and he 
will not very widely err. It is but rendering 
honor where it is due, however, to say that most 
of this kind of public spirit dwells in a few of the 
original company. The majority are thriving, in- 
dustrious mechanics, farmers, and tradesmen, who, 
possibly, contributed their quota for such purposes 
when called upon, but otherwise pursued their 
occupation peaceably — content with their daily 
gains and the prospect of a rise in the price of 



156 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

property. The latter formed by far the larger 
item in their expectations of becoming capitalists. 
The most matter-of-fact citizen who had paid six 
hundred dollars for a choice lot at the sales, could 
not but see his money doubled, interest included, 
within the first two years. Nearly every citizen 
owned one, two, or three such lots, besides farms 
of immense value in the vicinity, so that we had 
also a wealthy population. 

In politics the balance was pretty nearly equal 
in point of numbers between the two great parties. 
The four leading spirits, those on whom the re- 
sponsibility of public efforts rested, were equally 
divided. But like true men and patriots, they suf- 
fered no party questions to divide or weaken their 
efforts in the common cause of personal aggran- 
dizement. In truth, political considerations among 
them were rarely suffered to outrun community of 
interest. Not that men were less rank politicians 
there than elsewhere, but causes that affected the 
price of town lots were superior to all other consid- 
erations ; and as this was the great point on which 
golden expectation turned, nothing was allowed to 
interfere with it. Our religious zeal was much 
more heated and less suppressed. Sectarian piety 
ran high among the professing heads of the com- 
munity ; and, as people who buy town property, et 
cet., for the most part care little whether a man has 
any religion, and still less what particular sect he 
adopts (his choice in these matters not affecting his 
vote), we were less restrained in the expression of 
these opinions than of those which bore on the 
more embarrassing question of politics. Orthodox 
and heterodox, therefore, were terms in frequent 
use among us. The precise meaning attached to 
each was known only to the initiated (if indeed to 
them) ; but this very iudefmiteness was one of their 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 157 

greatest charms. Nothing more restrains vitupe- 
ration and combat than an exact use of words. A 
term which has great latitude of meaning is much 
more easily hurled at an antagonist, than if it were 
precisely defined and did not touch his case. As 
in metaphysics, imagination is made to cover every 
phenomenon for which no other cause can be as- 
signed ; so in our discussions of character and 
morals, orthodoxy and heterodoxy were made the 
sources of all sin, or the parents of all virtue. Un- 
like political opinions, these extended to the femi- 
nine population, and were, I rejoice to say, the 
single cause of whatever dissension or difficulty 
existed among us. Let me not be understood to 
rejoice that this existed, but that it was the only 
one known among us. 

The most important personage in all village 
affairs was one of our nearest neighbors, who, for 
certain good and sufficient reasons, I shall call 
Mrs. Esculapius. The reader will suppose now, 
that Mrs. Esculapius was the wife of the physician, 
but his sagacity is entirely at fault in the suppo- 
sition. The occupation of her husband is a matter 
of no moment whatever to us. If it were, it would 
exceed his own importance in his family, for never 
man had less. The law that size is, cater is paribus, 
a measure of power, has been much discussed of 
late years ; I only wish those who doubt its truth 
could have seen the complete illustration of it 
afforded by these worthy citizens. In no fact that 
ever fell under my observation was it more fully 
demonstrated, than in the relative size and power 
of Mrs. Esculapius and her husband. Both these 
qualities were in the extreme of contrast in them. 
He was the smallest of men, she at the opposite 
end of the scale among women. He was less of a 
master in his household than any other man, she 

O 



158 LIFE IX PRAIRIE LAND. 

quite the reverse. He was good-natured ; this 
did not spoil the contrast. He was submissive, 
she imperative. He was timid and retiring, she 
was always foremost in every domestic movement. 
But beside these points of difference, Mrs. Escu- 
lapius possessed some other peculiarities which 
will, if permitted, stand alone. She was endowed 
with a sense of hearing, the acuteness of which 
was perfectly astounding : neither walls nor dis- 
tance offered any impediment to it. She knew as 
well the topics under discussion at her neighbor's 
houses, and the opinions expressed upon them, as 
if she had been present. She could report all 
these opinions the next day with as much certainty 
as if she had participated in the utterance of them 
herself. Her optical sense was equally keen; 
and, what was still more extraordinary, both these 
wondrous powers could be used at once ; and 
hence she could report the expressed opinions, 
and the unuttered thoughts, of persons in any 
part of the town. We should have voted the 
phenomenon magnetic, but for two reasons ; first, 
we were all unbelievers ; and, secondly, a stronger 
faith in the possible than any of her friends exer- 
cised, would have been necessary to believe that 
she was ever in a magnetic state. For no one 
ever saw her asleep. But all conjecture and 
speculation of this sort were rendered superfluous 
by reference to the plain demonstrable fact, that, 
at the time when she was taking notes for these 
reports, she was always pursuing her ordinary 
household avocations ; to all appearance as unab- 
stracted by such employment, as any person to 
whom this power was denied. 

The only circumstance which threw any light 
upon this wonderful faculty, was the necessity of 
waiting till the next day, and possibly till the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 159 

second, before she proceeded to report. It was 
suggested, that a troop of fairies had chosen her 
for their general post-office, and were making her 
the victim of their harmless pranks. If any more 
ingenious solution can be offered, the case still 
waits for its light. Passing these peculiarities, this 
lady is a pattern housekeeper, a kind friend to 
those whom she likes, a sympathetic woman at a 
sick bed, a hospitable and generous hostess in her 
own house. She takes pleasure in sending speci- 
mens of her excellent cookery to neighbors who 
are less skilful in the art, or less favored with 
conveniences for plying it. I take pleasure in 
acknowledging myself still her debtor for many 
such little kindnesses. 

In the front ranks of our religious community 
stands Deacon Cantwyne — a man celebrated in all 
the " country side" for his piety, his love of money, 
and his affectation of philosophy. Deacon Cant- 
wyne's house is the resort of all the clergy of his 
own denomination ; and the philosophy which he 
affects, leads him to extend his hospitalities to many 
others. So that he lives in a theological atmos- 
phere, so to speak, an atmosphere musical with 
expressions of the religious feelings. This is his 
chosen condition. But if denied him in the pres- 
ence of others, he is capable of creating it to a great 
extent for himself. He prays three times a day, 
and reads the Scriptures each time. He never 
neglects religious worship, takes an active part in 
the orthodox Sabbath-schools, frowns on open vice 
or dishonesty in any shape, is scrupulous in the 
observance of the Sabbath, even to leaving the 
room in which so profane a thing as the Pilgrim 
Fathers is sung on that day, and loses no opportu- 
nity of exhorting his non-professing neighbors to 
" come out from the world," and " fight the good 



160 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

fight of faith." Deacon Cantwyne is a business 
man, and he declares that a profession of religion, 
so far from interfering with success in business, as 
many worldly-minded but mistaken individuals 
think, is no little aid to it. He speaks from expe- 
rience, for his religious pretensions have enabled 
him to pray his way to the bottoms of hundreds of 
pockets, which he could never otherwise have ap- 
proached. All the while that he is doing it, he 
will lavish the most hearty expressions of esteem 
on you — esteem grounded on the virtues which he 
has discovered in you, for, as a Christian, he can 
admire no other qualifications. If you are in afflic- 
tion, he will console you, pray with you and for 
you, commend you to the Bible, and to those 
sources of comfort which he has found so potent, 
and in the next moment, count the dollars which 
some proposed operation will enable him to make 
out of the confidence his speech was designed to 
create. When any special enterprise of this kind 
is in prospect, he prays longer and more fervently 
than usual ; and if the victim is present, in the 
shape of a purchaser, or a debtor whose all lies 
under a mortgage which he holds, he is apt to be 
quite overpowered with his love of duty and his 
charity for his neighbor. Ten chances to one but 
he makes you the subject of a special petition, and 
closes with a request that you may be preserved 
from the devouring influences of the carnal appe- 
tites, from vanity, and from love of riches. He 
feels for you already, and wishes that your suffer- 
ings may be light when he shall have sounded 
your purse. His piety is never more apparent 
than on these occasions. If the operation is one 
of considerable magnitude, he solicits the brethren 
of the neighborhood to unite in a protracted meet- 
ing, for he feels that the gospel is losing its inllu- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 161 

ence on the hearts of men. When he has con- 
summated the affair, he will meet you with the 
blandest face, and enter into a conversation on 
electricity, the aurora borealis, or the last Arctic 
expedition. But he never fails to turn to the pole 
of his thoughts before he leaves you, and exhort 
you to remember that all these " phenomeny," 
wonderful as they are, are the handiwork of a 
power to whom your highest services are due, and 
that the best of us can but poorly glorify Him. Or 
perhaps he reads you a page from his own expe- 
rience, telling you how, when he was a young 
man, he began life with the hope of achieving 
some worldly honors and possessions, but soon 
found that to do so, he " should have to set his face 
like a flint " and close his ears to all the petitions 
of mercy ; how this struggle between his better 
nature and the desire to do his duty had almost 
ended in the triumph of Satan ; how thankful he 
is that it did not, and how much he hopes that 
every young man whom he sees entering life may 
be preserved as he was. And all this is said with 
as grave a face as if he had not just defrauded you 
of your last penny, and were not ready to do you 
the like favor to-morrow. 

Deacon Cantwyne's exhortations are uttered 
with a. face and tone that would subdue a Phila- 
delphia mob. These are natural gifts — at least I 
set them down as such. If they are not, they 
must have been cultivated in early life ; for nothing 
of the kind can be more perfect. The face leads 
you to anticipate the voice, and vice versa. Deacon 
Cantwyne has been pretty intimately connected 
with the affairs of the colony, and son^e of his 
transactions would edify men whose kindred genius 
is restrained by stone walls and sheriff's processes. 

He was originally from one of the principal 
11 o2 



162 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

cities of the east. While there he was employed 
in a highly useful trade, from which he seems to 
have realized a handsome equivalent for his labors. 
To this he has added whatever has fallen in his 
way, beside several things that have not been able 
to get out of it since he came west; and he is now 
one of our wealthiest men. He is not so ardently 
beloved in the neighborhood as many persons I 
could designate, but he never discovers this unless 
it is forced on his attention ; and when it is, he 
sets it down to the account of his rigid piety. 
" How shall a devoted christian expect to com- 
mand the love of the children of darkness 1 He 
ought to glory in their hatred, and would if it did 
not argue such deplorable wickedness in them" — 
and show that they would be on their guard 
against his long prayers. His piety is embellished 
by a liberality as striking as itself. This, however, 
partakes more of a public than a private character. 
Any public bequest which will enhance the value of 
property, he makes freely, provided it be expended 
in the vicinity of his own possessions. There are 
many little tales afloat in the village and country, 
illustrative of Deacon Cantwyne's peculiarities, 
which his biographer will doubtless gather for the 
purpose of doing justice to his memory. If I have 
drawn his picture correctly enough to have it re- 
cognized bv himself and his friends, I have done 
all that I proposed to do on this page. If occasion 
to refer to him again should arise, a single stroke 
will bring him before the reader. That is a prin- 
cipal advantage in having his character well defined 
at the outset. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 163 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Our village abounded in professional men. Not 
to mention the youthful Cokes and the unassuming 
Blackstones, who asked no loftier place for their 
names than gilt or gamboge letters on a black 
shingle nailed beside their office-doors; we had 
magistrates, judges of law and probate, retired 
counsellors, waiting a favorable opportunity to 
embellish some of the more elegant walks of 
life. But most indispensable and popular of 
all was our doctor. He was the ornament not 
only of our professional classes, but of the village. 
His personal appearance is worthy a livelier pen 
than mine. He is actually of middle stature, but 
seems considerably below it, from the excessive 
deficiency of anything like hauteur in his character. 
His head projects well over the eyes, and towers 
above the forehead into an immense table-land, on 
which you might heap offences that would out- 
number the hairs that cover it, and yet find for- 
giveness. This preponderance brings the head 
forward and upward in a right line, but it is the 
most graceful departure from a perpendicular that 
could be imagined. His strong perceptions leave 
about him no air of stumbling abstraction, but, 
combined with a boundless benevolence, lend the 
delightful expression one wears when looking for 
objects of sympathy or admiration. Leaving the 
doctor's head, the next most striking thing about him 
is his gait. Various were the attempts at descrip- 
tion which this wonderful gait elicited from his 
fellow-citizens. A walk it certainly was not, if by 
this term is meant a straightforward, or indeed 
almost any other use of the limbs given for that 
purpose. I do not mean to say that he performed 



164 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

locomotion without the use of these organs at all, 
because that would imply that he walked upon his 
hands or head — arts which I am not aware that he 
ever cultivated ; and which it will be conceded 
must have been extremely inconvenient, unless his 
pockets had been made to correspond, for they 
were his medicine-chests. If he had been an im- 
porter of drugs, he would never have wanted any 
storehouse but these, and the privilege of deposit- 
ing samples that were unsaleable, or robbed of 
their virtues by age, upon the shelves of his wife's 
closets. 

But to go back to his gait. It certainly was a 
curious one. It was made up of incredibly short 
steps, that followed so fast upon one another as to 
give the idea of a man with two pairs of legs, each 
running on a wager against the other. If one 
could conceive a sheep with his two fore-legs 
lengthened so as to give him an erect attitude, yet 
still preserving his peculiar motion, with a perfect 
resemblance to the human figure in all other 
respects, he might have a tolerable idea of the 
doctor's gait. I am aware that this is a labored 
illustration, and that the idea at best is complicated ; 
but no one knows how difficult the subject is, nor 
how long I might search the whole kingdom of 
animate nature in vain, for something whereunto 
to liken this motor phenomenon. It is true, that 
the terms "nudge" "shuffle" "trot" and sundry 
others were used among the puzzled villagers to 
designate it ; but they are all feeble, and so I be- 
lieve will be anything I can add to them. There 
are things in nature which words hover around in 
vain : they never touch them. 

The other eccentricities of our Galen were not 
so indescribable. He had a versatility of genius, 
which never failed to respond to any appeal. An 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 165 

Indian war-dance, or the amputation of a limb ; the 
old woman in Robin Roughhead at a private 
theatrical entertainment, or a post at the couch 
of prostrating, withering disease,, were matters of 
equal facility — I had almost said of pleasure ; for the 
warm exercise of his sympathies on the painful 
occasions, and the relief which his skill and ten- 
derness often enabled him to afford, were high 
sources of pleasure. As might be expected with 
such a constitution, our doctor had been a merry 
youth. He had spent a very considerable fortune 
in early life, for the purpose of reducing himself 
to terms of equality with necessity, whom he could 
not coax to his acquaintance in any other way. 
And he seemed even now to have a fear that she 
would forsake him again, for he never collected 
his dues, never informed any one that his services 
were to be paid for, unless by way of assent when 
the proposition originated with themselves. When 
he returned from a ball one winter morning with 
his splendid wife and brother, and found the house 
which they had jointly occupied burned to the 
ground, with everything it had contained, he stood 
a moment, and then said, " There are plenty of 
houses about here whose inmates will receive Mary 
for a few days, and there will be sick enough 
this season, heaven help them, to whom I can do 
some good, in return for which they shall enable 
me to build her a better home. I'll have it all 
right in a year or so, except the little mementos 
and trifles endeared by association #nd otherwise. 
Those cannot be replaced, so I suppose we must 
mourn over them a little." And the doctor kept 
his word ; catching the means which fortune 
threw at him for his poorly-paid, arduous, and 
ceaseless labors, he purchased a beautiful building- 
spot in " Court-end ;" built a cottage with a roof 



166 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

so sharp that it was described by a stage-driver, 
who had a passenger to set down there, as " the 
house with a ruff that split the rain-drops," made 
a sort of bird's nest of it, whose chief ornament 
was his peerless wife : and there he lives, or rather, 
the lady and her babes ; for he is too much abroad 
during the warm season to have a proper residence 
anywhere. And there a hospitality and social 
charm are offered to guests, which is rarely sur- 
passed in more elegant mansions. 

At this time the doctor is accompanied in his 
professional visits by a faithful old horse, who is 
known throughout the country by the name of 
"Pomp." It would, perhaps, be as correct to say 
that the doctor accompanies Pomp ; for the latter, 
if harnessed and left loose, under the false impres- 
sion that his friend was in the seat, would doubt- 
less have gone alone to visit their patients. I say 
their patients, because it always seemed to me that 
the doctor and Pomp were partners. What share 
the latter had in the profits was never known, 
though his share in the labors was, for he some- 
times traveled sixty or seventy miles a day, beside 
stopping for calls. The estimation in which the 
doctor held Pomp was very high. To have struck 
him would have been treason : yet I ought to add, 
as an evidence of the inconsistency of man, that he 
would allow him to be driven till his bay coat was 
white with foam. But how could Pomp complain 
when his master treated himself in the same man- 
ner ! Seated jn his light waggon, reins in hand, 
the doctor announced his readiness to set oft" by 
speaking the name of his four-footed friend, in a 
tone which seemed to be agreed on between them 
as a signal for moving; and away they went; never 
a blow was struck, nor a harsher word spoken. I 
apprehend it would not have been safe for any 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 167 

person to have attempted either. I remember 
ridino- out with the doctor once, to see a sick 
friend. On our arrival, a coarse fellow came up, 
and seizing Pomp by the head, called out to know 
whether he should " ondo him!" 

"Ondo him!" exclaimed the doctor. "Ondo 
Pomp !" and he cast a look at him which might 
have been translated into a volume ; but, passing 
on, he merely said " No ! you may give him some 
flesh grass, if you have any here. I should like 
to see the man," he added, in a muttered paren- 
thesis, " who would dare ondo Pomp !" 

The doctor's mode of communicating his opinions 
and wishes to Pomp is very convenient and pleas- 
ant, not only to themselves, but to the settlers whose 
habitations they visit. You may foretel their ap- 
proach when two miles distant on the prairies, at 
any hour of the night, by listening to the mono- 
syllable Pomp ! Pomp ! And pleasant sounds 
they are to those who leave the bedside of lan- 
guishing pain, and step forth an instant into the 
cool silent night, to breathe and catch the signal 
of the visit so ardently longed for. 

In sickly seasons they travel all night. The 
doctor moves the seat of his waggon back, has an 
extra cloak or buffalo robe, of which he makes a 
bed, and, when he leaves a house, curls himself 
up in it, gives Pomp the signal, and starts on, 
leaving the latter pretty much to his own choice 
about the road. And they thus go on admirably; 
for the doctor has such a habit of speaking to 
Pomp, that, though fast asleep, he articulates his 
name in the usual tone, about once in twenty 
minutes, and the latter knows the roads so well 
that he always goes right, if not left to his own 
pleasure too long. In these latter cases the doctor 
is likely, on awaking, to find himself before the 



168 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

sharp-roofed cottage, for Pomp, among his other 
virtues, is eminent for his love of home. This 
goes on till poor Pomp is incapable of traveling 
longer at such rate, and then a stranger is hired 
for day-driving, and Pomp kept for night-driving. 

For himself the doctor has no substitute. He 
goes night and day for weeks, snatching rest as I 
have described, and sometimes, when he goes into 
a house, after examining his patient, lying down 
upon the floor, or on three chairs, with a strict 
injunction to the watchers not to let him sleep 
over half an hour. This and a cup of tea twice a 
day, strong enough for the brother of the Sun or 
Moon himself, were all that the doctor required to 
keep him going till the pestilence abated. It is 
only in rare seasons, however, that their duties 
are so arduous. Ordinarily, the " sickly season," 
as it is termed, extends through some two or two 
months and a half at the close of the summer and 
opening of the autumn. During those weeks bilious 
fevers prevail more or less through the whole 
country ; but especially in the vicinity of streams 
and low grounds. Here they are very general, 
and more malignant than in the prairies and higher 
regions. In many cases, where the medical ad- 
viser is unskilful, or proper care is not bestowed, 
the patient is left with the " shakes" this term 
being merely a shorter name for the disease which 
others choose to call " Fever Ragy" Exclusive 
of the short period just specified, little sickness 
prevails. More than half the numerous forms of 
disease which poison society and baffle the phy- 
sician here are there unknown. And, judging 
from my own experience, I should say that a 
largo proportion of those which do prevail, might 
be avoided, by ordinary attention to the laws of 
health. Regularity in sleep, temperance in diet, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 169 

personal cleanliness, and a due share of exercise 
at proper seasons, would reduce materially the 
frightful amount of disease which now makes these 
western summers alarming. A residence of nearly 
five years, with only a tolerable attention to diet 
and regimen, brought me not a week's indispo- 
sition from the causes incident to the country. 

But I have left our doctor to speak a word of 
caution to settlers. I know his good-nature so 
well however, that I am assured of pardon, even 
though my advice should shorten his bills. And 
why not, since the length of so few of them is ever 
estimated ] In periods when his professional cares 
relax, the doctor is the most efficient of our village 
sociables. Always ready to converse well with 
those who wish to do so, or play the mountebank for 
those who prefer amusement ; ready to flatter a 
lady into good-nature with herself, if it be neces- 
sary, or argue political tendencies with her hus- 
band, if this be more agreeable ; he was indispen- 
sable in all social meetings, and nowhere a more 
delightful companion than at his own table or fire- 
side. Though not an accomplished singer, he was 
sometimes prevailed upon to do his devoir even in 
this behalf. I never heard but one or two exhibi- 
tions of his vocal powers, and these were made at 
the pressing instance of friends who could not be 
refused. He had one favorite piece which served 
on both occasions, though doubtless he was mas- 
ter of others equally elegant in diction and charm- 
ing in composition. I more than half suspected 
that he had played Mozart himself to the following 
lines — 

" At the battle of the Nile, 
I was there all the while." 

These lines were burthen, chorus, and all : they 
comprised the entire piece. And the third or 

P 



170 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

fourth repetition, in a tone incomparably more 
monotonous than the words, generally drew such 
peals of applause from the gentlemen and such a 
waving of handkerchiefs from the ladies, that the 
doctor was quite overcome, and took his seat in a 
very interesting state of confusion. As a mere 
artist the doctor was rarely excelled in what he 
undertook. A negro dance or a lofty flight of 
admiration for the works of nature, with which he 
was so continually conversant, were executed with 
nearly equal excellence, except that to the latter 
he brought the strength of a fine mind, as well as 
a high degree of artistic skill. In short our doctor 
was a rare character, and we prized him as such. 
His very faults and weaknesses, and he had plenty 
of them, only made us pity him and wish they were 
not — one could scarcely be indignant at them. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Summer had worn away, with its wealth of 
golden grains and flowers. The luxuriant harvest 
had disappeared from the farms in the adjacent 
country, the tall corn was in its sere and yellow 
leaf, the late fruits began to ripen, the prairies 
faded from their rich green, save where here and 
there a " late burn" showed the tender grass, like 
an emerald island in the vast brown ocean. Au- 
tumn in the prairie land is scarcely excelled for 
the richness of its charms by any other season. 
Coupled with the perfection of the wide vegetable 
world is an idea of repose which fills the soul. 
An immense country, whose energies have been 
springing all the previous months with ceaseless 
toil, whose rank luxuriance evinces the employ- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 171 

ment of tremendous powers, now lies all around you 
in the deep quiet which ushers in a truly natural 
death. The sun pours forth a rich, mellow light ; 
dim and soft, as if like a tender nurse he watched 
over this sleep of nature. The native birds, happy 
in the abundance which they cannot consume, fly 
cheerfully but quietly about, as if, their labor done, 
the season of rest had come to them also. The 
quail whistles and dances among the brown hazel 
thickets ; the grouse flies from field to field, di- 
viding his depredations through the neighborhood, 
and bearing off, when unmolested, a full crop to 
the plains, which he loves better than the abodes 
of man. The crow calls from the wood top, or 
wheels his long and lazy flights above the naked 
prairies, seeming really more amiable than at any 
other season. The air is filled with the smoke of 
distant fires ; some day they creep up into your 
own neighborhood, and when night comes, light the 
heavens and the earth as far as the eye can reach. 
These are magnificent spectacles. I have stood upon 
the roof of our large hotel in the evening, and looked 
into a sea of fire which appeared to be unbroken 
for miles. These incidents occasionally interrupt 
the dreamy rest to which everything tends, but they 
pass away in a few hours, and the next day is as 
quiet as before. Sporting parties are made up 
among the gentlemen, and fruit parties, including 
ladies, to visit the nearest groves in search of haws, 
nuts, et cet. ; or if any orchard has been cultivated in 
the vicinity by some ancient settler, this is resorted 
to, and small parcels of its rare fruit purchased and 
taken home. Our fruit parties usually resorted to 
a grove about a mile distant, on the west, and re- 
turned after an hour or two of delightful rambling, 
with baskets laden with the delicious haw-berry, a 
feast for many days. The paw-paw and persimon 



172 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

did not flourish in our vicinity. They love the 
bottom lands of streams. 

The groves at this season are indescribably charm- 
ing. There is not in the large foliage that gor- 
geous variety which we find in the eastern forest. 
The trees wear a more sober and uniform com- 
plexion ; but there are a thousand minuter beauties 
which touch the heart. A few flowers linger in the 
borders of the woodland and skirt the small streams. 
In the deeper recesses some sprightly ones are found, 
indicating by their vigor and freshness that they 
belong to the season of frost. Among these is one 
which I dearly love. It grows upon a tall stalk 
sparsely set with leaves, and forms near the top a 
beautiful shaft, studded with myriads of small flow- 
ers of the most exquisite hue and loveliness. They 
are like so many bright eyes looking gaily out into 
the pleasant world around. This flower does not 
belong to the deep groves, but is found in the lit- 
tle glades or openings in the woodside. And there, 
when October winds play among the leaves, and 
the bright sunshine pours through a sea of mist 
and smoke, into little nooks and corners, by de- 
caying logs and upturned roots, where it has not 
gained admittance during all the leafy reign of 
summer, this bright flower is seen nodding and 
dancing merrily in the breeze as if it rejoiced in 
the approaching gloom. The squirrel searches 
timidly about among the fallen leaves, making pro- 
vision for the winter ; and the hare, whom he often 
meets, skips by him, half in sport, half in earnest, 
seeking tho tender twigs whereof to make her 
dinner. The ripened nuts dropping among the 
leaves often startle her from her contemplations, 
and drive her to seek refuge in the nearest clump 
of grass or bushes. 

These wood-partios aro delightful recreations. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 173 

Armed with thick shoes and provided with a basket 
each, for trophies of all descriptions — or if the dis- 
tance be too great to be traversed on foot, mounted, 
as we could be best provided (the reader will re- 
member pony), without our riding dresses, that we 
may not be cumbered with them when we reach 
the wood — away we go, free as the winds. North, 
south, east, or west, the way is equally open. The 
wild Indian, mounted on his hunting horse, has 
scarcely a larger liberty than we. We scour the 
plain, leap or plough the " slues," and gain the 
grove. Here our steeds are fastened to trees and 
boughs, and we scatter. Oh what a joyous after- 
noon is before us ! And some at least know it, 
though all do not seem to do so. Toward even- 
ing, when the shadows begin to lengthen on the 
turf, and the winds to sweep more chillingly 
through the grove, we gather at the rendezvous ; 
bring forth the shawls and other cautionary arti- 
cles, spring into our saddles, give free rein, and 
after a swift and exhilarating ride, stop at our 
own doors filled with happy recollections, and 
made better in spirit and body by a day in the 
woods. 

About three miles from our village is an orchard, 
which has been cultivated these many years by 
the widow of the original proprietor. It is the 
only one in the vicinity, and the old lady's name is 
therefore well known. And though no two words 
could be more unlike in Orthography and sound than 
her own name and that of the fruit she sold, yet to 
me the former was always synonymous with ap- 
ples. You could not hear or speak it without 
having your mouth water for the delicious fruit 
with which it thus became associated. The old 
lady was much patronized by our villagers and the 
settlers on adjacent farms. She lived quite neatly 

p2 



174 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

in a half-framed house, which you had to circum- 
vent in order to enter it, there being three doors 
in the rear, but none on the roadward-side. (I avoid 
saying front, to be exact in the use of words.) The 
grounds contiguous to the house had at certain 
seasons of the year rare beauty and richness. A 
stream of some magnitude swept in a crescent 
form around the orchard-clad hill, on which it stood. 
Across the road this hill sloped downward to the 
stream in a smooth green lawn, dotted with trees. 
On either hand from the house and skirting the bank 
of the 6tream in front of it, was a dense grove of the 
peach, the apple, and wild-crab apple-trees. About 
the first of June these were in full bloom, and no 
perfume of Araby could excel their sweetness, no 
floral display, their beauty. As you approached 
the spot after sunset, when the light dews just 
moistened the blooming boughs, and the evening 
winds swept over them, the whole air was laden 
with their fragrance ; and when you gained the 
summit of the hill and looked down upon the 
nodding clusters of blossoms, set, as it were, in the 
tender green of the forest trees towering above 
them, nothing could be conceived more beautiful. 
Many a pleasant twilight ride have we enjoyed, 
lingering through the paths of this blossoming wil- 
derness, inhaling its delicious odors, and gazing on 
its unequaled beauty. I remember one evening, 
when the sounds of bells seemed coming up from 
the grove below our patlf to greet us : they ad- 
vanced slowly ; and we almost stopped in admira- 
tion of the gorgeous sunset above and the wealth of 
the foliage lavished around. Presently the sounds 
became more distinct, and a largo Pennsylvania 
waggon with a top of snowy whiteness emerged 
from the green wood. It was an emigrant family 
— a group of the happiest faces and the cleanest 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND 175 

persons one often finds among them. This was a 
favorite camping ground, — and we lingered watch- 
ing them till their supper fires shone in the ad- 
vancing darkness, and then reluctantly turned our 
horses' heads homeward. How I envied those 
people ! — to lie down there, bathed in the calm, 
pure air of a June night, the dropping petals strew- 
ing their place of rest, the clear brooklet murmur- 
ing to their sleep ; who could submit patiently to 
imprisonment within four walls, as dull then as if 
nature were not doing her best in grove, plain, and 
sky to induce us to leave them ! 

But here lived the old lady of apple memory, 
and here amid all this beauty had she lived from 
time immemorial among the Yankee settlers. Her 
spirit had partaken of the scene. She lived neatly 
in doors, and there was an air of comfort about 
the exterior of her home quite in harmony with 
the feelings awakened by the surrounding scenery. 
How indeed could she have violated so beautiful 
a sanctuary, by a life altogether coarse and un- 
lovely. But she was not proof against the perni- 
cious influences which the possession of absolute 
power works in the mind which exercises it. 
Being for many years the sole dispenser of apples 
to a large region round her, she had grown ca- 
pricious in her tastes, and now cared little to accom- 
modate those whom she did not like. If you were 
one of her favorites, and called on her in the fruit 
season, either by way of compliment, or as a pur- 
chaser, she always presented you a dish of the 
choicest productions of her orchard to eat in her 
house, and made her happiest selection for your 
purchase. We were fortunately of this class. She 
regarded it as an evidence of kind and friendly in- 
terest, to inquire after the prosperity of her place, 
and usually tendered some hints gratis, on the 



176 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

cultivation of fruit trees. In one of these familiar 
lessons, she remarked that there was a way to 
make trees bear much earlier than most persons 
supposed they would. 

" Pray how is that, Mrs. S 1" 

" Why, when we was a settin out the last of 
our trees, them in the orchard down thar," pointing 
out of the door, " the man we got 'em of, told my 
old man that if he wanted 'em to bear early ho 
must set 'em out when the moon was in parri- 
ghee." 

" When is that, Mrs. S V* said I, making a 

violent effort to preserve my gravity, for her keen 
eyes were fixed on my face. 

" O, I reckon folks that's college larnt as you be, 
needn't ax me when the moon's in parrighce. I 
expect you can tell any time when you look at 
it." 

" I am not college learned," I replied, " you 
know ladies never are, and I presume my husband 
has forgotten all about the parrigliee of the moon 
long since." 

" Well you can find it any time by looking in a 
nahnanic ; that's whar we found it. Some folks," 
added the old lady, " don't allow there's anything 
in the moon about fruit and so on, but I reckon 
they don't know so much more than other folks as 
they think they do. I know a heap of things 
that does better when they're planted at sartin 
times o' the moon, and there can't nobody make 
me think 'tain't so, 'cause I've tried it. 'Tain't so 
much account about some things ; I reckon taters 
does as well planted one time as another, and so 
does beets and so on, but cabbages and onions and 
all them 'dought to be planted in the new o' the 
moon, if you want 'em to be of any 'count." 

Such edifying conversation usually occupied the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 177 

time spent at the old lady's house. If you were 
particularly deferential and received instructions 
meekly, you were always rewarded by having 
your pockets or basket filled with the choicest ap- 
ples for your own especial gratification. I know 
of no other way in which the good woman ever 
corrupted the morals of her visitors, but this was 
bad enough. Whose integrity could stand un- 
shaken before a dish heaped with apples such as 
money could not buy 1 Who would venture to 
correct the friendly old woman's orthoepy at such 
a risk ! Certainly not one who had such a longing 
for the apple bins of eastern cellars as I had. 

Such were some of the many excursions of autumn 
days which we shared. Then, as I intimated, the 
gentlemen more frequently went out in small com- 
panies to shoot the quail, grouse, hare, and squir- 
rel. These parties were generally equestrian and 
very jocose among themselves, though the whole 
mass of female nerves in the village was in a 
flutter till they returned. Because it had been 
found that in the absence of game they shot each 
other ! My husband had joined one of these par- 
ties and came home with shot enough in his limbs 
to make us count it quite a serious affair, though 
it only resulted in his giving two or three days* 
exclusive attention to books within doors. 

Later in the season an occurrence under similar 
circumstances robbed us of one of our worthiest 
young mechanics, and produced a most melan- 
choly feeling throughout on our little commu- 
nity. Two young men, intimate friends, had left 
the village together on Saturday evening, to 
spend the Sabbath at the house of a friend six 
miles away. On Monday morning they started for 
home, each with his rifle and game-bag, intending 
to search the groves and thickets on their way 
12 



178 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

down for game. Near sunset they had reached 
the skirt of the grove about a mile and a half from 
the village, and discovering some quail in one of 
the hazel thickets which bordered it, they parted to 
" beat" the thicket. Stealing cautiously around, 
one raised his rifle and fired at a bird that was just 
tripping into his place of concealment. The bird 
fell, but a spring and a dismal groan at the same 
instant made his blood curdle. He dropped his 
rifle and ran to the other side. Judge of his feel- 
ings when he saw his friend lying on the ground, a 
crimson stream spouting from his breast ; and heard 

him exclaim in a faint voice, " C , you have 

shot me!" In three minutes he was dead! The 
ball had passed through the heart ! His remains 
were borne to the village on the waggon of a 
neighboring farmer, a coroner's inquest was held, 
And on the second day they were followed to the 
grave by the mourning citizens. The unfortunate 
man was a son of New Hampshire, the pride of his 
aged father and mother, whom he had left to seek a 
more promising home in the richer regions of the 
west. His friend, scarcely less an object of sym- 
pathy, took a vow never again to handle fire-arms ; 
but so completely had the horrors of the scene fast- 
ened upon his mind, that he never recovered his 
former calmness. He brooded over the dreadful 
event with a morbid kind of self-accusation, aban- 
doned his business, and at length wandered away 
melancholy, abstracted, miserable. This was a 
painful tragedy for our little community, and last- 
ing and deep was the sympathy it created for the 
two unfortunate young men. 

The reader will remember I informed him that 
our next door on the left was a grocery — (groggery 
would be the truer name, but what lady can ever 
make up her mind to write it). If he has heard 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 179 

nothing from this place before, it is not because I 
have not. Many a day's tranquillity and many a 
night's rest did this horrid place destroy. All the 
influence which the respectable portion of the 
community could bring to bear upon it, failed to 
mitigate its character or check the abominations 
daily enacted in it. The sights and sounds of the 
poor wretches who frequented it often compelled 
me to forsake and close the front of my house ; but 
it was vain to seek seclusion from them in my 
small tenement ; their sickening shouts and groans 
reached one everywhere. Sometimes these diabol- 
ical orgies lasted two or three days and nights 
without pause, and then a time of comparative 
quiet followed. The master-spirit among those 
who shared in their scenes, was the individual 
who kept the shop. His ceaseless habits of drunk- 
enness had made him one of the most disgusting 
of human spectacles. AVith a face enormously 
bloated beyond its natural proportions, eyes bleared 
and watery, white lips, parched and mottled with 
bright red spots, and palsied limbs, the miserable 
wretch, not yet thirty-five years of age, crept 
about, a warning, one would have thought, to those 
who congregated about him. But here they as- 
sembled, two or three miserably lost spirits from 
the eastern states, and as many Kentuckians of the 
lowest class ; and here, hand in hand, they led 
each other to ruin. Sometimes the citizens would 
acquire influence enough over one of the band to 
keep him from the spot for a period, but they 
seized on him again at the first opportunity, and 
made him pay for his respite by a deeper plunge 
than ever. There was one unfortunate man highly 
connected in one of the principal cities of the east, 
where he had left a wife and two interesting chil- 
dren. He had fallen among these wretches soon 



180 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

after his arrival, but had several times been re- 
strained, partly by his better feelings, partly by 
the remonstrances of his friends. Every one who 
knew him mourned over the waste of a man who 
possessed so many of the elements of usefulness 
and happiness. Early in the autumn, he received 
a letter from his wife, appealing to him, as her 
husband and the father of his children, to return 
to them or make provision for them to come to 
him. It touched the right chord in him ; he re- 
solved to become a temperate man. And he per- 
severed in this resolution till the beginning of 
November with every promise of success. Acci- 
dent at length threw him into the clutches of these 
fiends. They dragged him to their place of sac- 
rifice, and compelled him to taste, nay, to drink, 
till he was again without self-control or reason. 
His friends, who had watched him with deep in- 
terest, seizing every opportunity to strengthen his 
good resolutions, called on the master demon, and 
begged that he would let him go ; that he would 
n N t supply him with the means of self-destruction. 
He answered their remonstrances with curses, and 
assured them that as long as he had liquor and 
" Mac" had money, the latter should have what he 
■wanted. On Saturday evening there was deep 
drinking in this miniature hell. The carousal 
held till morning opened, and at a late hour the 
various inmates set out reeling and stumbling 
toward home, or whatever lodging chance might 
bring them. The Sabbath opened clear and bright. 
A light frost had crisped the grass ; the red sun 
came up the eastern sky, curtained with mist and 
6moke ; soft winds crept over the embrowned 
forests and plains, and all nature seemed to be 
filled with a kind of sad joy. I shall never forget 
that morning. The holy quiet which rested on 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 181 

the earth contrasted strongly with the fierce and 
harrowing sounds of the previous night. I looked 
out just as the sun was rising. The smoke began 
to curl slowly upward from various chimneys, and 
a few early risers were abroad inhaling the air 
freshened by the frost which yet lay upon the 
grass. They looked as if care were dismissed, and 
man as well as nature was to enjoy a holy day. 
When the family who had sheltered poor " Mac," 
notwithstanding his many deviations, ascertained 
that he had not returned to the house, they dis- 
patched a person to the grocery, to bring him 
home. But he was not there ! The miserable 
proprietor reported as nearly as his half conscious 
state and drunken recollections would permit, that 
he left there about two o'clock. 

" You'll find him," said he, " under some fence 
or the side of a house, fast enough, I'll warrant 
you ; for he was drunk when he went away ; he 
wanted to git off afore he took the last drink, but 
we made him go it !" 

There was an unfinished house some distance 
below, and thither they went, thinking it probable 
that he had crept in there to sleep. But he was 
not to be found. They were wondering where he 
could have gone, when one of them, happening to 
pass near the open well, glanced into it, and was 
horrified to discover the figure of the lost man in 
the bottom, partly covered with water. He was 
immediately removed, and measures taken to resus- 
citate him, but life was utterly quenched. Another 
coroner's inquest was held. A rude coffin was 
nailed together, and the remains were deposited 
the same day in the earth. I see now before me 
the thrilling events of that day, faint as is this pic- 
ture of them. I feel again the overpowering emo- 
tions we experienced when reflecting on the fate 

Q 



182 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of this unwilling victim to the vices of others. The 
poor wretch, half conscious, notwithstanding the 
maddening potations that had been forced upon 
him, stumbling along in the dark night for a place 
of rest, thinking possibly of his broken vows, and 
of the faithful wife and children whose hearts 
would bleed could they know his situation ; half 
resolving, perhaps, that he would still save him- 
self, and never touch again the fire that had so 
nearly consumed his soul — all these thoughts and 
feelings, faintly recognized, passing through the 
mind that had bowed reluctantly to its renewed 
degradation, and all cut short by the brief and sud- 
den plunge which ended in almost instant death ! 
What an entrance into eternity ! what a fearful 
leave-taking of the fair earth ! what an introduction 
to the mighty future ! For days my mind was 
busied with his last thoughts, and the fearful strug- 
gles he must have made to recover his hold upon 
life. I could not dismiss them. 

If everything connected with this terrible place 
had been painful and disgusting before, it will 
readily be conceived that they were incomparably 
more so now. The groans seemed the dying ago- 
nies of fiends, the shouts their exultations. The 
reeling forms and bloated faces seemed more 
deeply lost than ever. But they did not remain 
long : public indignation was so roused at the de- 
struction of a man who had naturally so much to 
win esteem and respect, that the grocery was 
doomed from the day of his death. Pity it could 
not have been before ; but people require some- 
thing which would startle the blind and deaf, to 
rouse them to action in such matters. Even now 
public opinion barely permitted individual action, 
but did not aid it. The licence which conferred 
the power to do all these things was revoked, the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 183 

shop broken up, and the miserable wretch who 
had kept it driven to seek another place of abode. 
He lingered about some time in his degradation, 
till at last one of his brother masons took him to 
his house in a neighboring town, and by some 
means induced his reformation. When I last saw 
him, I scarcely recognized him. But improved as 
he was, he still bore the stamp of a degraded, 
wretched man. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

The reader must wish by this time to hear 
something of my housekeeping. It will be remem- 
bered that my only fire was in a small-sized Frank- 
lin stove ; and as this had a grate in it, it will not 
be difficult for housekeepers to conceive that my 
conveniences for the multifarious operations of 
baking, boiling, stewing, and roasting, were some- 
what limited. By the nicest possible adjustment 
of my tea-kettle to the middle of the arch, I 
could pass it in and out of the grate. The first 
task was by no means difficult, being generally 
performed when the vessel contained cold water. 
But to remove it, when the boiling liquid was bub- 
bling from the spout, and every crevice performing 
the office of an escape pipe, to the utmost of its 
capabilities, was quite another affair. Neverthe- 
less, twice, thrice, and even double the last num- 
ber of times in a day, I wrought myself up to the 
effort, and what is still clearer evidence of heroism 
and genius, never failed, nor even met with any 
greater accident than sundry small burns on my 
hands and fingers. The greatest number of these 
agreeable little incidents of tea-kettle rescue, was 
four at one attempt, the average two. 



184 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Beside my tea-kettle, the largest vessel which I 
could use was a three-pint saucepan ; and herein 
were performed all soils of operations, from the 
fricasseeing of chickens to the boiling of corned 
beef and cabbage. Not to tax credulity too much, 
let it be borne in mind that I could use three of 
these at once — a privilege which every dinner I 
prepared taught me to appreciate. The most 
troublesome of all my culinary operations was 
baking. It is true I had a good tin oven, but then 
where to place it was a troublesome question. If 
it had been possessed of any means of generating 
caloric within itself, so that, having placed the 
preparation within, I could have set it on the table 
or flour barrel, and left it to bake at its own pace, 
my troubles would have been sensibly alleviated. 
But my tin oven was like all others. Never taking 
into account the difference between a small Frank- 
lin and a wide fireplace, although it had looked the 
former in the face so often, and been times with- 
out number crowded and jostled from its position 
before it, it said, "Set me to the fire, and I'll bake 
your bread ; if you don't, it shall stand here raw 
till doomsday." So I was always compelled to 
make some provision for it. The front feet could 
stand on the hearth, but the back ones were of the 
same length, and, of course, called for something 
to make up the difference between the height of 
the hearth and floor. Sticks of wood and chips — I 
had like to have said stones, but of these we had 
none-: — were the articles most in demand for this 
use. But as these, when piled loosely upon each 
other, are not the most stable foundation, it will 
not be wondered at, that my oven sometimes went 
over and poured out the half-baked loaves upon 
the floor. 

But, beside these mechanical obstacles, there 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 185 

was another difficulty attendant upon baking, of 
much more serious import, and that was the 
making of the bread. I scarcely know how I 
should have conquered this, but for the kind in- 
structions of the excellent old lady whose barrel 
of rain-water had been so acceptable a letter of in- 
troduction. The best of yeast from her own jar 
was always at my service, and the most patient 
directions for mixing, kneading, and rising. I 
had learned in the laboratory that it was a most 
pernicious thing to suffer bread to pass the stage 
of saccharine fermentation; and have no doubt that 
if any housekeeper, before I was one myself, had 
applied for instructions in making bread, I could 
have delivered quite a voluble lecture on the 
various stages of fermentation, and the changes 
attendant upon each. But theory is one thing, 
practice another; and though the knowledge I 
had derived from our lamented professor was by 
no means useless, yet it did not make my first nor 
my second loaf of bread as good as that of my 
neighbor, who had never read a page of chemistry. 
However, the mysteries of sponge, first mixing, 
moulding, and second rising, became familiar after 
a few sour experiences, till I could, with much 
complacency, set a plate of my own good bread 
before my husband. I had one other main diffi- 
culty; and that was to keep this last-named person- 
age from making a private grocery and meat-house 
of my little place. Never man looked at the con- 
suming powers of two common individuals through 
such enormous magnifying lenses I Those described 
by Mr. Weller to Sergeant Buzfuz, were nothing 
to them ! Four dozen quails, and half a dozen 
rabbits, purchased in one day, it will be confessed, 
was rather a large provision, abating the innumer- 
able fancies for salt-fish and corned beef, which 

Q2 



186 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

one might take before these were consumed. We 
tried, under this profuse administration, the salted 
quail ; and, I hesitate not to say, for the benefit of 
posterity, that they bear no comparison to the 
fresh bird. The same testimony will apply to the 
corned rabbit, of which we had a great abundance. 
I speak of these dishes, not to boast of the dainti- 
ness of our fare, but because they are, I think, 
anomalies in the gastronomic world, and because 
I wish that the young housekeeper who has never 
had so formidable a purchase to dispose of, may 
admire our ingenuity. Truth compels me to say, 
however, that a considerable portion of this game 
afterwards made its escape by the side door, with- 
out having seen the interior of my saucepans. 

The period to which I looked forward with 
most trepidation, was the session of Court. My 
better half being in the legal profession, it would, 
of course, be incumbent on us to entertain some 
of the brethren whom this event would call to- 
gether. Getting up a formal dinner was an affair 
quite beyond my comprehension. I had paid so 
little attention to the externals of the art, that I 
did not even know how a table should look when 
laid, to say nothing of the formidable detail by 
which it was brought about. The first dinner, 
therefore, was likely to be quite an event. While 
it was yet in futuro, Hal made his appearance at 
our little domicile. I laid all my troubles before 
him, but he bade me be of good cheer, promising 
to preside over the cuisine himself when the dread- 
ed day came, and comforted me by asserting that 
he could prepare a handsomer dinner than half 
the housekeepers of the village, and that both of 
us together must make a brilliant thing of it. 

Behold us, then, on the morning of the eventful 
day, all stir and earnestness. The moment the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 187 

professional moiety of the household left, the con- 
sultation began. I was not in the condition of 
Elise, whom Mrs. Gunilla relieved, at a very late 
hour, with a pair of chickens. My purveyor had 
been at his large purchases again, and I had 
lamb, quails, chickens, and pig. In the perplexity 
of choosing I turned to Hal. 

* Which shall I take ] for you know it is impos- 
sible to prepare more than one." 

" Let it be the lamb, then, by all means. It will 
be more substantial as a solitary dish than chick- 
en or quail, and will not, on an average, compel 
so many of your guests to cannibalism as the other 
four-footed animal would." 

"Bequiet,SirImpudence. I don't employ cooks 
to make comments on my guests. But if you think 
the lamb will be better than either of the other meats, 
let us decide upon it. How shall it be cooked V* 

" You have but one way — a leg of lamb will 
hardly go into a three-pint saucepan. You must 
roast it of course ; and if you have dinner at two, 
it must go to the fire about twelve." 

" But there is a difficulty," I replied, " about 
roasting which my limited practice has not yet 
enabled me to overcome. That is to tell when the 
meat is done ! and a small degree of over or under 
doing, you know, ruins the whole for nice palates." 

" Oh leave that to me," said my assistant. " I'll 
keep all that right. You make the various other 
things ready, and prepare the roast, and I'll be 
here in time to superintend it. I'm going over to 
see the Sucker court now." 

" Well, don't fail of being here at half past 
eleven, for I shall be in a fever if you do." 

" No, good by." 

I spent the remainder of the morning in the sub- 
ordinate duties of preparing potatos, turnips, to- 



188 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

matos, et cet. The narrowness of my apartment 
compelled me to restore everything to order as fast 
as I disordered it ; I could not leave a utensil soiled, 
because there was no spare place which it could 
occupy. No vessel of water which had been once 
used could remain standing ; for my hollow ware, 
beside the tea-kettle and frying-pan, was confined to 
the three saucepans already named. I had but one 
table and the three short shelves before described, 
and on, or about these, all my preparations had to be 
made. Such very limited conveniences for house 
keeping duties drew the deepest commiseration 
from the neighboring ladies who visited me, and 
yet, strange as it may seem, I thought they were 
quite uncalled for. My entire unacquaintance 
with practical housekeeping, while it doubtless 
multiplied the few cares I had, rendered me una- 
ble to appreciate a more favorable condition, so 
that it was, after all, a source of much content. I 
had no better state with which to compare this, and 
was therefore ready at all times to pronounce it 
good. With a few alterations which I could have 
suggested, I should have thought it unexception- 
able. 

In the initiatory stages of the dinner, when 
doubts of my success would rise to torment me, I 
had one stronghold to flee to for comfort. That 
was my dessert. There was no doubt about it. 
My pumpkin pies were as good as ever graced a 
New England thanksgiving, and the peaches de- 
licious ! And then, too, I was certain of good 
coffee. Mr. F. had taught me the Parisian mode 
of making it, and there was no chance of failure. 
So between the doubts and hopes, pretty nearly 
balanced (for what would the dessert be if the 
meat were spoiled), I got through the morning. 
Punctually, a little before twelve, came Hal full 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 189 

of marvelous things to relate about the court room, 
and the people, and the functionaries, more espe- 
cially the judge. The personal apearance of this 
gentleman he declared to be very extraordinary. 
His wardrobe demonstrated that he had been on 
a long circuit and left his valise at the first stop- 
ping-place. One could scarce refrain condoling 
with him, and offering the loan of a change of 
linen. He patronized the never-failing uniform 
of ajeanscoat and pantaloons; the latter so much 
worn, that really it was wonderful he had not re- 
membered to order a new pair in place of those 
he must have left. So overflowing was the youth's 
mind with recollections of the Court-house, that 
I had some difficulty in bringing him back to the 
leg of lamb. But this was effected at last, and the 
earnest business of the day commenced. Boil and 
roast was the burthen of our song till half-past 
one. But the tribulation we were in ! or rather 
I, for Hal was wicked enough to enjoy my per- 
plexity. The lamb began to shrink as soon as it 
was thoroughly warmed through, and continued 
to diminish till he declared another half hour would 
use up its very shadow. 

" It must have been killed when the moon was 
in parigee," said he, " for no position of the hea- 
venly bodies, less extraordinary, could produce 
such an effect." 

It was too late now to repair the consequences 
of this unaccountable freak ; and its diminutive 
appearance when placed upon the large dish I had 
reserved for it, nearly made me desperate. "What 
would my guests think of such a solitary piece of 
lamb ! What a misery, I thought, that apologies 
have been so worn out by their unmeaning use, 
that one cannot now be uttered without the forfeit 
of self-respect. I can never explain the true difli- 



190 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

culty here, for I should burst into an uncontrollable 
laugh over the wasting lamb. I can never tell 
them why I did not prepare another dish, because 
while I was expatiating on the inelastic capacities of 
a small Franklin, and three half-grown saucepans, 
they would be weighing some point in evidence 
or law, and wondering why women would talk 
forever about such small matters ! There was 
but one way ; and that was to be silent. The mo- 
ment I made this discovery, I was at rest. If there 
be any excellence about my philosophy of life, it 
is that of adopting heartily, and at once, whatever 
way seems clearly to be right, no matter how much 
it may conflict with preconceived feelings or opin- 
ions. This disposition, ability, or whatever one 
may please to term it, has saved me many hours of 
indecision, complaint, and pining. It is so much 
happier, not to have one's energies and desires 
warring with each other — not to be debating 
between the right and the wrong — wishing to 
pursue the one, yet unable to abandon the other. 
If my moralizing over a shrunken bit of lamb 
seems out of place, the reader will remember that 
I had extricated myself from great tribulation by 
resolving to treat my dinner as if it were worthy, 
not only of my own respect, but that of my guests 
also. 

My temperature, however, was a little raised by 
the sudden reflection that Mr. F. might double the 
proposed number of guests, if he could find, among 
his acquaintances, so many that were unengaged. 
He would forget the size of the house, the size of 
the stove, and the size of his wife's capacity as 
cook, and bring as many as if all these had been 
on the most extensive scale. Fortunately, the rec- 
ollection of this indefinite hospitality did not seize 
me, until just as the tide of learning and law was 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 191 

flowing out of the white wooden temple, and I was 
soon after able to distinguish our little party, lim- 
ited to the original number. Two of the guests 
were strangers to me; the third scarcely other- 
wise. When the ceremony of introduction was 
over, they were seated in the little front bedroom, 
and I retired to dish up the dinner. Hal was mis- 
sing, and I could not call him ; the partition was 
too thin. While I was externally busied with the 
vegetables, and internally denouncing the friend 
who could forsake one in the hour of severest trial, 
the popular half of the great back door swung open, 
and the waggish face of my extempore cook was 
thrust cautiously in. 

" I say," he exclaimed in a whisper, " consider- 
ing the lamb, I may as well take a botanizing tour 
while you are at dinner, eh V 

" Be off," I replied, " and botanize, or do any 
other thing you please, but don't come here to 
perplex me now, when I have so many weighty 
matters to adjust." 

" You don't call the mutton weighty 1 Just put 
a couple of quails into one of those things there 
that never rest, and we'll have the better dinner yet. 
It's a pity you hadn't something to lay around that 
fraction of roasted lamb," returning provokingly 
to the sore subject ; " shall I get you a handful of 
greens from the prairie V 

" Oh, be merciful, Hal, and go away for an 
hour, if you won't sit down to dinner with us. 
When you come back, I'll have a quail ready for 
you." 

" Well, good bye ;" but a moment after the face 
reappeared. 

" Just allow me to suggest that you had better 
not take any of the lamb. You need not look at 
the dish when you decline, but just carry it off with 



192 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

a Graham air, as if you thought the less any one 
ate of it the better." 

" Now, sir, if you add another word to your im- 
pudent counsel, you shall go elsewhere for dinner ; 
speak only once again," said I, seizing a tumbler 
of water, " and I'll — " 

The door slowly closed, and my tormentor dis- 
appeared. I arranged my various dishes, unfas- 
tened my working-apron, and was folding it, pre- 
paratory to inviting in my guests, when the face 
again looked in. 

" Shall I not come in and pour the water for 
youl It is rather an awkward business." 

" Nevertheless I am fully competent to it my- 
self. Judge if I am not," and away went the 
tumbler I had menaced him with plump in his 
face. He was fairly rid of now, beyond a doubt, 
for the door shut quickly, and a handkerchief was 
put in requisition on his streaming face and head. 
When I had enjoyed the joke sufficiently to be 
grave, I invited the gentlemen to take seats. One 
of them was good-natured enough to praise the 
lamb, though it must have been execrable. When 
they left it, there remained an abundant supply for 
a much larger company. But the coffee was in- 
dubitably good, the pie ditto, and the peaches and 
cream required no praise. 

I got through the meal without receiving any 
very distinct impression of the characters of the 
party, except that one appeared a slow man, with 
heavy thoughts which came to the surface, some- 
what as a load of coal comes up from dark mines, 
and seemed not a little astonished to find them- 
selves there. Another seemed to be halting be- 
tween two species of animate existence, his ears 
not being long enough to give him an undisputed 
position in one, and all other qualifications, except 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 193 

the power of speech, too short to entitle him to a 
place in the other. The third was a Kentuckian 
— a member of the legislature — an honest man of 
free but not elegant speech. A man who thought 
truly, but made some ludicrous blunders in giving 
utterance to his ideas. The character of a high 
public functionary came under discussion, and this 
gentleman testified to his being " the most indig- 
nant man" he had ever seen. I had before heard 
his honor spoken of as rather pugnacious, and sup- 
posed this to be the Kentucky style of expressing 
the same thing. " The most indignant man, mad- 
am," said he, turning to me; "he has no more 
dignity than a schoolboy !" 

" Indeed, sir ; if that be true, I think he has 
ample occasion to be indignant." 

" Take some more of the fruit, major," said my 
husband ; " help yourself, sir." 

" Thank you, I'll endeevor" was the character- 
istic reply. 

At last the dinner was over. "What with law, 
blunders, and nonsense, the gentlemen adjourned 
to the court-room, and I sat like a feminine Ma- 
rius looking over the ruins, when the face I had so 
recently washed without the consent of the owner, 
peeped in at a crack of the great door, and asked 
if there "was any mutton left]" 

" Come in and see," I replied, " and look well 
to your conduct, or I shall try the virtues of cold 
water again." 

" But this time I shall be able to return it, so it will 
behove you, madam, to look to your ways also. If 
you do me another such favor on credit, I shall feel 
bound to reciprocate both — with interest." 

We, however, got through with no more hydro- 
pathic sparring ; and when the house, i. e., the 
13 R 



194 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

back-room, was fairly set in order again, I felt no 
little ground of self-gratulation that my first din- 
ner was so creditably over. 



CHAPTER XX. 

As the autumn advances toward winter in the 
"prairie land," nature, as everywhere else, loses 
her benign aspect. Heavy winds from the west 
and north sweep over the immense plains, shaking 
their brown, crumbling herbage on the unburned 
regions, and howling with a sharper tone over the 
tracts that have been left naked and black by the 
fire. Much rain usually descends in the month of 
November, and slight falls of snow commence in 
the latitude of 41° about the middle of the follow- 
ing month. But they rarely whiten the ground till 
much later in the season. The roads are fright- 
fully bad until the rains are over, and the frost 
locks up the surface of the earth. There is then 
rarely snow enough to make sleighing in the 
beaten tracks. The greatest depth seldom exceeds 
five inches, the average is about two and a half. 
Very few sleighs are kept. Occasionally a young 
gentleman who bears rich recollections of the 
moonlight rides of the east, possesses himself of a 
nondescript article of this kind ; more, however, as 
a memento, than as a means of like enjoyment in 
the new country. 

The farmers usually keep a coarse vehicle, on 
which they slide their produce to market and their 
wood home. When a ride is taken it is in this, 
rigged with the box of a farm waggon. They are 
pleasant rides, notwithstanding the roughness of 
the conveyance. A slight fall of snow on the long 
grass gives the sleigh an easy, flowing motion, and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 195 

you glide as gaily over the prairies as you would 
along the fenced ways of the east, with a foot of 
snow beneath your polished runner. Away you go 
with nothing to restrain your motions. The wide 
domain is all unfenced; the frost has bridged the 
sloughs ; and your excursion is bounded only by 
time'and the capacity of your steeds. Dashing along, 
you start up a bevy of grouse that have been shrink- 
ing under a clump of tall grass or weeds. Away 
they fly, their steady wings cutting the clear dense 
air, with a scarcely visible motion, till they alight at 
no great distance, and seek a shelter similar to the 
one they have left. The small red wolf too occa- 
sionally crosses your path, but his gaunt form soon 
disappears behind some hillock or tree. If you 
turn into the barrens, you do not ride far before 
the tramp of your horses and the merry voices of 
your party startle some timid hungering deer from 
his browsing, and send him bounding over the 
snowy surface, with a tread almost as light and 
fleet as the wind that follows him. If a rifle has 
been clandestinely stowed beneath the buffalo 
robes, it is produced now in quick time, but the 
ladies one and all declare that it shall not be dis- 
charged at the fugitive. If it is leveled at him, 
they push it aside, or strike it up into the air, so 
that the sportsman, if he persist, sends his ball 
among the naked boughs, or if reasonable, lays it 
aside, and contents his savage heart with a promise 
to come out next day, unattended by " these foolish 
women." 

The quail dodges about farm-yards, grain-fields, 
and woodland, and during all the winter months is 
trapped in immense numbers. I have known them 
offered in market at sixpence a dozen. No meat 
surpasses them for richness and delicacy of flavor. 
Broiled, fricasseed, roasted, or fried, they are in- 



196 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

comparable. But one must have more stomach 
than soul to devour the little charmers, without 
some compunctions. The bare recollection of one 
of the cheerful, happy-looking little beings who 
has tripped along in the road before you when 
you were taking a summer ride or walk, the de- 
lightful feature that his presence lent to the land- 
scape, and the charm of his clear voice, ringing 
through the copses and groves, must, if you have 
any love of these things, detract from the mere 
palate pleasure before you. Yet notwithstanding 
all these appeals to the higher sense of man, mil- 
lions of these beautiful little creatures are every 
winter devoured. 

The winters of these western regions are much 
shorter and less severe than those in the same lati- 
tudes in the eastern states. Indeed, this season 
scarcely sets in till the middle of December. After 
this the cold is often as intense as is ever experi- 
enced below the high latitudes of the New England 
states ; but its period of duration is very short. 
Two or three days at most of such weather are 
invariably followed by fair, sunny days, often mild 
as those of June ; the hard-trodden streets of 
towns become quite dry, and even dusty ; soft, 
pleasant winds from the south prevail throughout 
the day ; your fires die away in the bright sunlight 
that pours through the open doors and windows. 
Sometimes these days are attended by warm rains, 
which soften the soil and make the roads and streets 
almost impassable. It seems then as if spring 
were at hand. You almost watch for tender grass 
to spring through the dead herbage that covers the 
prairies. But these pass away, and presently the 
frost-king is down upon us again, his cold breatli 
searching every cranny and chink of the rude cabin 
oi the Sucker, and the unfinished house of the more 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 197 

ambitious settler. I do not mean to say that so 
mild a temperature as I have described is invaria- 
ble at this season. Yet no person can spend a 
winter in the region to which I refer, without ex- 
periencing many such days. Farther south, in the 
latitude of Vandalia and Kaskaskia, they make a 
considerable part of the season. 

The most objectionable feature of the climate of 
all these valley states north of the Ohio, is the sud- 
den and extreme changes to which it is liable. The 
mercury sometimes rises many degrees in a few 
minutes, and often falls as rapidly. 

I remember one of these changes which occurred 
in the winter of '37, when the mercury fell incred- 
ibly in a very few minutes. There had been a 
slight fall of snow two or three days previous, 
which the warm sun had converted into water, and 
left standing in pools all over the surface of the 
frozen ground. The morning was mild, and the 
sun shone bright till a few minutes before eleven, 
when the air became suddenly chilly, and in less 
than ten minutes the whole face of the earth was 
locked as under a Lapland winter. Many persons 
lost their lives by the sudden and extreme cold. 
Travelers over the large prairies had no means of 
escape, and for several days tidings were continu- 
ally coming in, of some unfortunate victim who 
had perished. An old gentleman and his daugh- 
ter had left a little town north of us for their home 
six miles away just before the change, and never 
reached it. Three men on horseback were cross- 
ing a large prairie on the south, all of whom per- 
ished, with their steeds. One of them, in hopes to 
escape by uniting to his own the warmth of his 
horse, had removed the entrails of the animal, and 
crept into the cavity ! They were all found the next 
day, a short distance from each other, stark and stiff. 

r2 



198 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

In the northern part of the state the winters are 
longer, the snow falls deeper, and the cold, though 
not always more intense, is of longer duration. 
But the prairies here are divided into smaller 
tracts, and partially sheltered by copses of wood, 
so that the long winter does not rave so fiercely 
over them as it would over the wide savannahs 
farther south. The deep snow occasionally leads 
to dreadful destruction among the deer. It is often 
crusted over, so as to bear the weight of a man, 
while their long, slender limbs plunge into it, 
and sink them beyond the hope of extrication. 
In this helpless condition, the terrified creatures 
are overtaken, and often cruelly beaten to death, 
by barbarians whose only object is to destroy them. 
Sometimes they are not even removed, and at 
others only the choice parts are taken off and car- 
ried home for use. The unmitigated barbarity of 
these merciless hunters is more clearly demonstrated 
toward spring, when starvation has left the deer a 
feeble skeleton. In this state he can be of no value 
whatever, yet the ruthless butchery continues add- 
ing another to the many evidences that blood- 
shedding may become a pleasant recreation. 

The fickleness of the wintry season greatly im- 
pairs the farmer's chance of success with fall crops. 
In those regions where the surface is not covered 
with snow, the small grains which the eastern far- 
mer is accustomed to sow in the fall, have little 
prospect of coming to much strength of maturity ; 
but this disadvantage is, according to all western 
agriculturists, compensated tenfold by the gigantic 
growth of summer. 

One of the most trying conditions of western life 
is the first winter, which finds the settler moved out 
of his warm cabin into the new house which he has 
erected for himself, but not finished. The former 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 199 

tenement has afforded good security against the 
greatest degree of cold. Its thick walls, chinked 
between the logs with triangular bits of wood, 
plastered neatly in with clay, have been impervious 
to the biting frost. The wide fireplace has afford- 
ed abundant facilities for imparting warmth ; and 
the heavy floor, if well put together, has protected 
the feet without a carpet. But since the last win- 
ter passed away, the new framed house has been 
erected. Boards split by his own hands form its thin 
outside walls, and these are generally for the first 
year the only thing interposed between the bitter 
elements and the shivering tenants. No wonder 
then, that the cups freeze to the saucers while they 
are at table, or that the chicken or grouse from 
which they have just breakfasted, is thoroughly 
frosted over while the housewife is setting away 
the remains of the meal. These are trying times. 
Quilts are put in requisition, in place of lath and 
plaster, the fire is kept on active duty, and food is 
abundant. Hope too whispers that such weather 
cannot long continue. A few pinching days, and 
the bright sun and the warm winds will steal in 
where the keen cold now enters, and be all the 
more welcome for the constrast. One, two, and 
sometimes three winters are worn out in this way. 
The material for finishing houses is scarce ; labor 
is still more difficult to procure ; and, most of all, 
the great length of the warm season and the thou- 
sand delights which the external world furnishes, 
relax the care and energy which under circum- 
stances less favorable to other enjoyments, would 
prove a more efficient security against the rigors 
of this season. A like want of forecast against the 
inclemencies of winter marks the whole economy 
of the early agriculturists of these genial regions. 
Their cattle are no better cared for than them- 



200 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

selves. No barns or outbuildings, except a small 
corn crib, are constructed for years after they set- 
tle on a farm. This neglect is doubtless owing, in 
part, to the scarcity of material for building, to the 
defective state of the mechanic arts, and nearly as 
much, perhaps, to the unsettled feeling experienced 
by these strange lovers of the freedom of frontier life. 

Liable at any moment to be pressed upon in his 
chosen home by eastern emigrants, the western 
farmer feels that he must retreat from it. He has 
little sympathy with the living tide that is flowing 
over his beautiful plains from the land of the rising 
sun, and when it has passed and closed around 
him, he feels a stranger in his own home. The 
charms for which he loved the country are no 
longer there, the spirit which bound him to it 
dwells not in the thrifty growing estates of his 
Yankee neighbors. It has fled to the untenanted 
plains beyond, and thither he must follow it. Of 
what avail then were it to build, as if his life were 
to be spent here ] He must be ever moving, ever 
in the van of civilization, pressing hard upon the 
Indian, whose footstep brushes the first dew from 
the face of nature in all these magnificent king- 
doms of her richest wealth. 

But I am departing from winter and winter life 
on the prairies. The firesides of many families 
present something of the aspect which those of our 
grandsires did in the eastern states. The small 
wheel employs the females in the hours not de- 
voted to the cares of the family. The bunch of 
linen grows day by day, and by and by the sound 
of the loom may be heard from the chamber or the 
adjoining room, if there be one. The men look 
after their cattle, husk their corn at the shock in 
the field, and if preparations for building the next 
season are in progress, spend the remaining time in 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 201 

preparing timber, splitting boards, riving shingles, 
and in every other way making their own hands 
perform the duties of the various mills, machines, 
and instruments, which elsewhere relieve the cul- 
tivator of the soil of these duties. "When nothing 
of this kind employs them, they fasten a horse to 
a little " pung" or jumper,* take a gun, and driving 
around the corn-fields of the vicinity, shoot grouse 
enough for one or two dinners, and return home 
to read or do whatever else seems good, until the 
return of evening brings fresh wants to be supplied 
at the farm-yard, or some social neighbor to chat 
away the hours at the fireside. 

Navigation is suspended on the streams of the 
interior, and on the upper Mississippi, for a few 
weeks. It usually opens toward the last of Jan- 
uary, seldom later than the first of the succeeding 
month. The ice bridge, however, is not to be 
trusted. While it remains, therefore, it is a serious 
obstacle to those whose business or pleasure leads 
them over unbridged streams ; and some of the 
most painful accidents have occurred in attempting 
to cross them. I recollect one that took place 
during the last winter I spent in the country. A 
party of four or five young persons set out toward 
evening to cross the Illinois, for the purpose of 
attending a ball in the village opposite their place 
of residence. The river at this place is widened 
into what is, in this country, termed a lake. The 
width, at the point of crossing, is probably between 
half and a quarter of a mile. The weather had 
been remarkably mild for some days, and the 
crossing was considered extremely precarious ; 
but their love of gaiety predominated over pru- 
dence, and the party entered on the dull, saturated 

* A miniature sleigh, each shaft and runner of which is made 
of one long bough bent up in front. 



202 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ice. They had proceeded but a few yards from 
the shore, when it gave way, and plunged them 
all in. Fortunately, the water was shallow, and 
many trees and shrubs grew far out from the bank. 
They caught at these, and, with almost super- 
human exertion, climbed into their branches, and 
were all saved; though they nearly perished of 
the cold before relief came. It was not until a 
late hour of the following morning, that their 
situation was discovered by some one passing 
near the water's edge ; and then some time was 
consumed in getting a passage for a boat through 
the ice, which was now broken up and moving 
slowly off. One of the females, when taken from 
her perilous position, was stupefied and helpless. 
All, however, recovered. 

The ice generally moves about the last of 
January. Navigation is then uninterrupted, till 
midsummer reduces the streams, and leaves the 
"bars," which occur at frequent intervals, too 
scantily covered with water to allow a steamboat 
of ordinary draft to pass them. This is true only 
of the tributaries of the Mississippi and Missouri. 
The latter streams are supplied with an abund- 
ance of water during the whole year. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

It is always pleasant to resume communication 
with the world around, when the icy fetters of 
winter are cast off. Every one rejoices that the 
great highways are again open, even though he 
may expect to derive no personal pleasure or 
benefit therefrom. This feeling, united with the 
anticipation of the approaching jubilee of nature, 
makes the settlers in the vicinity of navigable 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 203 

streams rejoice to hear of the " first steamboat." 
And as the sun wheels himself day by day higher 
in our heavens, and the chill winds are followed 
oftener and longer, by soft airs from the south, and 
the evenings grow mild, and the frogs begin to 
pipe in the moist spots on the prairies, one's very 
heart leaps to meet the benignant spirit of the 
opening year. 

How intense has been my enjoyment of such 
seasons in Prairie Land ! How entire the happi- 
ness, with which we have stood by our door at a 
late hour on some mild March evening, when all 
sounds of human life were hushed in our little 
village, and listened to the thousand minute and 
gentle voices by which nature announced her 
emancipation from the grim rigor of the hoary 
winter ! Millions of the little creatures just named, 
tenants of the sloughs and low grounds moistened 
by the rains and melted snows, send forth their 
cheerful chorus to the night. The moon shines 
faintly through a veil of mist and smoke, accumu- 
lated from the slow fires that have all day crept 
lazily through the saturated grass. Delicious 
breezes press gently over the vast plains, with a 
solemn ceaseless sound, that subdues and yet 
gladdens the soul ! In such an hour the mind is 
all unchained from its material fetters — free — its 
conceptions large as nature herself. Tt floats with 
the evening winds over all the dim region, searches, 
like them, every recess in plain or grove, teeming 
with young life, and ready, when a few more 
sunny days shall have passed, to burst into visible 
and joyous beauty. Sympathy, thought, emotion, 
when nature is in such a mood, scorn all laws of 
time and place, and career through every period, 
and over all the regions of space. What are 
nations and empires the most potent, to the ex- 



204 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

istence of which mind is conscious ] The mightiest 
events of earth sink into insignificance before its 
own exulting sense of being. It asks no power 
but that which it can achieve for itself. It sees 
neither joy nor pain, in the definite acts of life, 
whatever be their nature. It asks only to go 
abroad with the unfolding of the omnipotent spirit 
that breathes around it, of which it feels itself a 
part. All its past is but a point — all its future 
eternity ! It inquires not how or whence it came, 
cares not for the circumstances in which it finds 
itself, but rejoices in being — itself the most 
wonderful of all the mysteries which it cares not 
now to solve. Nature, in all her vast extent, her 
manifold operations, is within its grasp. Clouds, 
volcanos, oceans, tempests, mountains, deserts — 
the secret workings of the vital and physical laws, 
the innumerable forms of life and matter ; all the 
beauty of the world which is just bursting into 
life ; all the glory of the millions that have passed 
away, become only sources of exquisite pleasure. 
They waken no inquiry, they seem no mystery. 
We live in the past as if it were the present ; we 
are tenants of all time. We seize, for a moment, 
our place in the spirit world, and look upon mate- 
rial nature as if we were no longer a part of it. 
What are such Teachings of the mind but a 
lengthening of the bonds by which it is allied to 
Omnipotence ] Are they not foretastes of its un- 
shackled future, glimpses of its eternity — faint and 
brief, surely, yet sufficient to make us rejoice that 
it is not destined to reside ever with matter ] Who 
is not richer for such a moment 1 Whose soul 
does not thrill with a joy unutterable, when this 
chord has been swept by the breath of nature, to 
find how deep and rich are the tones it yields, in 
making up the harmony of his being] Who does 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 205 

not descend to earth, from such ecstatic flights, 
happier and better for the exquisite sense which 
has been kindled by them ! His love of the ma- 
terial beauty and harmony which has summoned 
him from himself is a thousandfold stronger. They 
are no longer regarded merely as objects of de- 
light to the faculties which perceive them, but, as 
links to draw us higher, as incense laid on the 
altar of our hearts, to kindle therein brief but 
angelic light. Blessed be nature — beautiful, life- 
enkindling nature ! Blessed be the thousand arts 
by which she appeals .to our love and reverence. 
Bud, leaf, and tree, raging tempest and gentle 
life-distilling dew — fathomless ocean and clear, 
moss-bound spring — blessed are ye all. And 
thrice-blessed and adored be the wisdom which 
has enabled us to see all these, and feel ourselves 
partakers of their being, their beauty, and their 
power. 

The majestic silence (for the rich music of na- 
ture is silence to the soul that harmonizes with it) 
in which such emotion can alone live, is deep on 
the dark plains around us. No discordant sound 
of life — no jarring stir — no hum of art or toil, 
breaks on the soul. Its pinion soars untiring — its 
keen sense is drawn ever onward, but only by the 
voices which Omnipotence has called forth. The 
human world is all absent, gone, faded away in the 
immense distance. What sound is that which re- 
calls the ear to its mortal sense, at this deep hour ] 
A slow, measured march, which you deem for a 
moment might be the deeper bass of the universal 
choir — the cloud voice answering to the solemn 
spirit of the night. Whence comes it] It is dis- 
tant, but belongs to earth. It dissolves the spirit 
fabric in which we have been enshrined, and leaves 
the keenly sensitive soul unshielded, until it again 

S 



206 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

enters the mortal, and adapts itself to its old abode. 
Earth is here again, with all its forms of beauty 
and notes of harmony, to waken admiration, won- 
der, and love. The vision is past. Sensations and 
emotions belonging to the mortal, come again, all 
summoned from their slumbers, by this one note 
from the human world. What is it 1 A moment's 
attention tells you. 

Far off in that forest, behind whose leafless 
boughs the sun set, and the twilight faded, lies a 
6tream — a river. Its dark waters flow slowly on- 
ward, between rich banks, wooded with the gigan- 
tic black walnut, the graceful elm, the slight and 
mobile cotton-wood. Nearer the margin the red- 
bud, already begins to swell, and close beside it, 
the pure white blossoms of the dog-wood are un- 
folding:. So that even now, before the trees are 
clothed with their young leaves, these beautiful 
shrubs enliven long lines of the dull, brown forest 
with chaste and exquisite colors. As the winds 
career along the surface of the waters, they bend 
and dance above them ; and when their more ma- 
jestic neighbors shall put on the vernal garb, they 
will fling their petals to the stream, and mingle in 
the common world of leaves about them. In all 
the still, currentless nooks of this stream, myriads 
of wild fowl are now engaged in preparing for their 
young. Occasionally a 6cream overhead, and the 
sound of swift wings cutting the air, announce that 
another party has arrived from the sunny south, to 
join them. If you were near that river, you would 
hear their small talk all the night, as they glide 
about in the water. And sweet music it is, to one 
who loves the wild and unrestrained in nature. 
Here they have built their temporary homes and 
reared their young, from time immemorial. And 
here, long years ago, they were unmolested in 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 207 

these cares and pleasures. The wild tenants of 
the woods and streams passed them by, without 
harm, and if man came there, he came silently. 
The slight canoe shot through the waters with a 
sound that scarcely struck their ear till it was gone. 
The night was profoundly quiet — the day brought 
no harsh sounds, no waste of joyous life, no giants 
rushing through the still waters, casting their 
waves far up on the shore, to return laden with 
mire and earth. Now, how changed! Monsters 
plough the bosom of the river, whose hoarse voices 
ring through the silent valley for miles ; whose 
eyes are fire, whose breath is destruction. Long 
before they approach, their measured marchings 
terrify these feathered dwellers in the wilderness, 
and long after they are past the sound returns, and 
the disturbed waters roll ashore with an angry 
splash, as if they would signify their displeasure 
at such intrusion. It is the note of this almost liv- 
ing thing that fell on our ear just now. Though 
nearly nine miles away, it may be plainly heard in 
peculiar states of the atmosphere. Its first few 
puffs are faint, but as it approaches nearer, they 
swell louder into the silent air, till you almost fancy 
you can hear the wheels dashing into the foamy 
waters. Then they die away. Fainter and fainter 
grows the sound, and at last it is wholly lost. Si- 
lence, profound as before, reigns around us, and 
the mighty creation, that called us back to earth, 
is gone, to break the solemn repose of the wilder- 
ness beyond. 

One of the most impressive features of this 
magnificent land, is the magnitude of its streams. 
One can form no adequate conception of the ef- 
fect which these watercourses have on the mind : 
the smallest of them that is ever entered by 
6teamboats, longer than the most vaunted rivers 



208 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of the east ; the largest, half spanning a con- 
tinent. 

To float along on these majestic waters, through 
regions whose fertility and beauty we can scarce 
imagine to have been surpassed by Eden itself; 
to travel thousands of miles through forests whose 
deep aisles reecho to no sound save the monoto- 
nous breath of your own steamer, and plains which 
stretch away from the water-side to the sky ! mil- 
lions upon millions of acres, sending forth no sound 
or sign of life ; silent, tenanted only by wild animals 
and at long intervals by the solitary wood-chopper, 
whose " shantee," hidden among the trees, is indi- 
cated by the smoke which curls up from its stick 
chimney ; or possibly by the shouts of children 
around its door : to travel thus for days and even 
weeks, your steed never tiring, your speed never 
flagging, is to gather an idea of vastness, unpar- 
alleled except upon the ocean. Firm, inhabitable 
vastness, every foot of which is teeming with the 
energies that support lifej every acre of which 
would yield an ample subsistence to large num- 
bers of the famishing and perishing thousands of 
the crowded old world. 

To set out on one of the tributaries of the mighty 
stream which has given name to this immense val- 
ley, to follow this comparatively insignificant one 
till it is lost in the larger, and then to float on 
amid waters that have fallen upon the mountain 
peaks an interminable distance toward the setting 
sun, and made their devious way through the myr- 
iad windings of forest, cliff, and plain, bearing mes- 
sages from all these to the distant ocean, awakens 
a perception of extent which it is impossible to 
realize elsewhere. There is a sublimity in jour- 
neying on these great waters which language can- 
not describe. You feel it from the first moment 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 209 

you find yourself afloat. It is not in looking out 
upon them. To the mere optical sense they are 
often less impressive than the puny streams of the 
east. It is in the association — the idea that the 
water which ripples at your side has come from a 
far land, a land full of unexplored wonders and 
beauties. The reflection opens an immense field 
of thought and inquiry, and makes you long to be 
transported to the region where all these exist. 

But you must love nature, to enjoy this senti- 
ment. There must be a chord in your mental 
existence that will vibrate to the potent wand 
which summons life, beauty, and majesty to these 
vast solitudes. 

Oh, I love nature. The old world, burthened 
as it is with the sublime and exquisite products of 
human energy, enveloped as it is with the associ- 
ations of tumultuous ages, and glorified with the 
light of mighty minds, is interesting. It tells many 
a tale to subdue and to enkindle the soul ; it opens 
many a volume to delight, to astonish, to agonize. 
It offers a continual spectacle of warning, exhorta- 
tion, and instruction to him who will gaze thereon. 
Wiser heads may prefer this, but give me the free 
untrodden empire of nature ! Give me her piled 
cliffs, her forest aisles, her chant of rushing winds 
and waters, her untrained songsters, her exquisite 
forms and hues of beauty, and I will ask no other. 
The lofty edifices which art, directed by the reli- 
gious feelings, has wrought and piled, may waken 
devotion in others, but my cathedral should be the 
overhanging cliff, my temple the eloquent shades. 
My worship is kindled by these into far more in- 
tense life than by the displays of human power. 
Living much with nature, makes me wiser, better, 
purer, and therefore, happier ! 

14 s 2 



210 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



The spring of '37 opened with delicious beauty 
on the prairie land ! The growing world, both 
animate and inanimate, seemed to rejoice in the 
departure of an unusually rigorous winter. The 
showers fell more lightly than those of the pre- 
vious year, and the earth, moistened with gentle 
rains and bathed in genial sunshine, seemed more 
willing than ever to enrich man. Happy would 
it have been for the inhabitants of these fertile re- 
gions had they obeyed her summons, and turned 
from the alluring uncertainties of speculation to 
honest, productive labor ! But they had not then 
learned the bitter lesson which the few following 
years taught them. Men had resorted to the west 
expecting to coin the rich soil, not by expending 
patient labor to convert its energies into products 
useful to man, nor by erecting upon it homes which 
should increase the amount of happiness there en- 
joyed ; but by dividing it into small fractions and 
setting an inflated estimate upon them — an esti- 
mate not authorized by its capacities, or the con- 
dition of the country ; but dependent on the extent 
to which they could deceive each other and them- 
selves. So the growing population of the rich 
savannahs disregarded all the strong inducements 
which the earth held out to seek legitimate wealth 
and happiness, and left the fertile acres uutilled, 
to scour the country for " town sites," which no 
one of their generation will ever see occupied. 
Time and energy were spent in these fruitless 
labors, that, well directed, would have enriched 
the state. Men seemed to have forgotten that 
wealth has natural sources, without drawing upon 
which, it can never he obtained except in few and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 211 

rare instances. And, forgetting this, they plunged 
deeper and deeper into the mazes of speculation. 
The cloud of distress which had risen over the 
eastern world had not yet cast its shadow on these 
favored regions. Money was abundant, and hope 
high. This was the year of the " crisis" in the 
west ; and the change which succeeded it was ter- 
rible. 

But the country was now full of life and energy. 
The human, the animal, and the vegetable world 
seemed alike rejoicing in the superabundant vigor 
of the season. Happy and joyous life smiled 
everywhere ! Our little village had received many 
valuable families the preceding autumn, and with 
the first flowers of spring came several others, 
who had been long expected and were joyfully re- 
ceived. Among the former was one which I shall 
introduce here, as well for the interesting charac- 
ter of its members, as because there is a tragical 
sequel to be told, by-and-by, of the husband and 
father. This family consisted of four — father, 
mother, and two sons. They had emigrated from 
the metropolis of the east late in the preceding au- 
tumn, and spent the winter in a neat little dwell- 
ing on the southeastern border of the village. 
They were members of the Society of Friends, and 
if their form of faith were to be accepted as the 
origin of their many and exalted virtues, one could 
wish it universal. Nowhere else were such peace, 
harmony, gentleness, and affection found ! The 
father was a middle-aged man, with nothing 
extraordinary in his personal appearance till the 
expression of his face, and the contour of his head, 
arrested attention. The latter would have delight- 
ed the phrenologist, the former would have won 
the affection of the most timid child. Benevolence, 
kindness, mingled with justice, and a proper de- 



212 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

gree of self-respect, were the leading characteris- 
tics of both. His high, open brow, and mild yet 
intelligent eye, the noble development of the up- 
per portion of the head, and the thinness at the 
base, were delightful assurances that a spirit every 
way worthy the name of man dwelt within. And 
so it proved. No person was more respected, 
more beloved, and it is a rare combination that 
commands both these tributes from our fellow be- 
ings. Endowed with a fine taste, and good pow- 
ers of mind, he had been ever a devoted lover of 
some branches of natural science, among which 
ornithology claimed preference. Much delight 
therefore was in store for him in the new varieties 
of birds to which western life would introduce him. 
And great was his pleasure when a leisure day 
came, to sally forth, gun in hand, and return after 
a few hours' ramble, with some of the feathered 
tenants of the new country for preservation. Many 
beautiful specimens of his preparation are still 
found among eastern collections, and in the 
homes of his friends. Such was the husband. 
The wife, though differing widely from this, was 
not less respected and beloved among those who 
knew her. Plain and exceedingly neat in per- 
sonal appearance, soft and quiet in speech, gentle 
and tender in her deportment, kind and dignified 
in her treatment of strangers, and unaffectedly 
loving in her family, she was an object of just 
admiration and warm regard. Between these 
persons there still existed that lively affection 
which poets sing as belonging only to the fresh 
and glowing days of youth. Their intercourse 
was marked by the tenderest consideration in 
each for the wishes of the other. Their lan- 
guage had still the warmth of youthful feeling, 
chastened by the purifying influences of parental 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 213 

love, and the higher moral sense which well-spent 
years produce. The happy children of these pa- 
rents were two sons, well advanced toward man- 
hood — such sons as one might expect would grow 
up at a fireside adorned by so many virtues. And 
beautiful it was to see this family gathered in their 
neat and simple home ; each a bond to the other, 
and all to him. They were the model which 
many of the young beginners in our village set 
before themselves for imitation. Happy will they 
be who shall ever reach its perfect semblance. 

When the spring came, the father and sons 
began to open their farm about two miles below 
the village on the prairie. It was a beautiful spot. 
The plain around was diversified by high swells 
which fell off into pleasant hollows, where the 
large, luscious strawberry, concealed by the rank 
grass, clustered and ripened much later than on 
the adjacent elevations. Groves bordered the 
prairie at no great distance from the house on the 
south and west ; and on the northwest lay a bold 
eminence, on the summit of which stood the cabin 
of their nearest neighbor. In due time, the little 
cottage in which they were to find their future 
home, was completed and entered. Trees were 
set about it, outbuildings constructed, and the farm 
began to wear a cheerful and inviting aspect. The 
health of the mother, which had been extremely 
delicate in the east, improved very much. The 
cares of her family were no longer burthensome to 
her, and every source of enjoyment seemed open- 
ing before her, as if youth were returning, instead 
of passing away. And here, giving and receiving 
happiness, we leave them for the present. 

Meantime many farms began to be opened in 
the vicinity of our village. Riding over the prai- 
rie you would see the heavy team of three and four 



214 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

yokes of oxen traveling slowly over a tract, 
dragging after them a plough, which if you have 
never seen " breaking'' 1 done, is an entire stranger 
to you. The forward end of the beam runs on two 
wheels, to the axle of which the team is made fast. 
One of the wheels, that on the right, is larger in 
diameter than the other by about three inches. 
This runs in the furrow ; and as the machine 
advances, a belt of turf, from eighteen to twenty- 
seven inches broad, and two or three deep, is cut off, 
.and turned smoothly over into the space from which 
its neighbor has just been ejected. When the turf is 
well broken, these strips lie as smoothly in their 
inverse, as natural positions. The uniformity of 
the surface renders it unnecessary to hold the 
plough; so that one man can perform the labor 
alone. If the track be fenced previously to break- 
ing, a very respectable crop of corn, called by the 
farmers "sod corn," may be raised on the broken 
turf, with no other preparation than this. It is 
usually planted at the time of ploughing, a few 
kernels being: scattered along: the edo-e of each 
furrow, and left to spring up between the contig- 
uous belts of sod. I have often seen this " sod 
corn," thus planted and never afterward aided by 
cultivation, attain a larger growth than the most 
cultivated fields of the east. It is principally used 
as fodder. 

June is the month generally preferred for this 
process of breaking. The turf, once fairly turned, 
the overlaid vegetation decays during the summer, 
the roots below " die out ;" and by the next spring 
a pair of horses will easily turn a furrow four 
inches below the first. After this, nothing can 
exceed the ease with which the soil is cultivated. 
So mellow, soft, and free from obstructions is it, 
that a child could almost work it. Breaking the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 215 

turf is, to the prairie agriculturist, what clearing 
the ground is to those of wooded countries : the 
difference being that one man with a good team 
and plough will break three acres of the former in 
a day, while the same force employed in the forest 
would scarcely prepare a like area for cultivation 
in a year. 

The fertility and inexhaustibleness of the prairie 
soil are other sources of pleasant congratulation 
to its cultivators. From three to six and even 
nine feet of the richest black loam cover millions 
of acres. No wonder that an English gentleman, 
on riding many days over such rich grounds, and 
seeing them lie along the navigable streams for 
thousands of miles, exclaimed in astonishment, 
M It is wonderful that your farmers do not cul- 
tivate these rich lands !" One might easily have 
told him that we had not a sufficient number grown 
yet ! There are spots in the prairie country which 
have been planted with wheat annually for two 
hundred years, by the early French settlers; and 
yet no signs of exhaustion are visible. The growth 
is apparently as rank, and the maturity as vigorous, 
as in the first year of its culture. 

These slow-moving teams and the brown sur- 
face around them are pleasant sights to those who 
love to witness the growth of a country. Then 
there are other features indicative of the same 
thing, which one rejoices to look on. Houses 
spring up in various parts of the prairie, with 
fenced fields about them. The road on which 
last spring we could ride three miles north from 
our village without seeing a dwelling or any sign 
of cultivation, has now within that space two 
houses, one of which has a noble farm look. The 
other is the residence of a worthless mechanic, 
whose home might be a princely one, if he would 



216 LIFE IN PRAIKIE LAND. 

use his time and skill in that manner, instead of 
spending it in lawless carousals, and spreading 
ruin and degradation among the families of his 
neighbors. 

Fence-making is an important item in prairie 
agriculture. Where farms are opened at a con- 
siderable distance from timber, the expense and 
difficulty of procuring rails are insurmountable ; 
there is no stone to supply their place ; and the 
next expedient is to use the turf. This is suffi- 
ciently firm, and when properly " laid up," not 
only serves admirably for purposes of utility, but 
often lends much beauty to the face of the land- 
scape. Hedges surmounting these walls of green 
have been tried, and I believe sometimes with 
tolerable success. There is no doubt, if sufficient 
pains were taken, they would succeed to perfec- 
tion, and nothing can be imagined more beautiful 
than a densely populated prairie, divided by such 
hedges, the broad rich harvest waving between, 
and the luxuriant orchards bending their laden 
boughs over them. I have seen some sections of 
these turf fences surmounted by a lofty border of 
the late yellow flowers, so that at a little distance 
the earthy elevation was perfectly concealed, and 
the field looked as if it were enclosed by a floral 
hedge six or eight feet in height. 

Another and a still more delightful task to the 
person of taste is setting out trees. Early in the 
spring you will see an occasional waggon, laden 
with the young members of the forest, going to 
some cheerful-looking farm, or rolling into the 
village with its choice cargo, for the public grounds. 
In the season of which I am now writing, the 
square of our little town was surrounded, and many 
private grounds were similarly ornamented with 
them, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 217 

No enterprise, public or private, produces more 
chaste and unselfish joy than this. Every body 
loves trees, and every one feels a thrill of grati- 
tude toward the man whom they see planting one. 
A tree is unlike any other ornament. Though set 
on private property, it is a public blessing. It is 
not like a piece of statuary or painting, accessible 
only to the few. Its beauty may be seen, its 
glory appreciated by all. But not for this alone is 
it prized. Every leaf-laden bough that dances 
before a prairie house, invites the merry songsters 
of the woodlands to come out and cheer its in- 
mates. And the rapid growth which the locust, 
cotton-wood, aspen, and some other species have 
in the strong soil, leaves no excuse for living 
long in a treeless and birdless home. While the 
more beautiful and stately specimens are coming 
forward, these will give the bobo'link, brown 
thrasher, robin, whip-poor-will, &c., ample en- 
couragement to visit you. They will not come 
without them. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

As the spring advanced, we forsook our little 
toy-shop, and, after boarding for a few weeks in 
the family of a very dear friend in town, I found 
myself once again domiciliated within the beloved 
walls of Prairie Lodge. The earth, I think, holds 
no spot, the memory of which will ever be so dear 
to me as this. Even at this long distance of time 
and space, and with the wide chasm which succeed- 
ing events have opened between the then and the 
now, I remember its every feature, its every charm, 
as if they had been seen and enjoyed yesterday. 
The little stream, and the willows which drooped 

T 



218 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAXD. 

over it ; the profusion of roses, which drew, daily, 
exclamations of delight from Mary ; the rich grass 
about the house, which she had so carefully 
watched and defended against the encroachments 
of its wild neighbors ; the tall old oak before the 
door, and the vigorous growth of the shrubs and 
vines which had been set in the garden the pre- 
ceding spring, and which every evening found us 
admiring ; the rich foliage of the barrens and 
groves around, and of the tract covered with the 
shrubby oaks where the solitary graves were made, 
seem as fresh as if objects of the present hour. 
The latter spot more particularly won much of 
our thought and admiration during the summer. 
It lay in front of the room in which most of our 
time was spent ; and, in the warm afternoons, when 
the sun left the door shady and cool, we used to 
gather near it or even upon the sill, and sit and 
look at the bright leaves glancing in the light, and 
talk of such repose as might be enjoyed beneath 
them, till it seemed as if to lie down there would 
be no terror. In June, when it was in the height 
of its beauty, the whole tract was thronged with 
locusts. Myriads of these busy insects reveled in 
the rich foliage ; all day the soft air resounded 
with their ceaseless hum, and we used to listen to 
it with a kind of charmed feeling, and wonder 
over the mystery which unfolded itself in visible 
forms only at such long intervals. Toward the 
close of July their song and revel ended. Their 
feasts had been principally confined to wild vege- 
tation ; the fields were scarcely touched, and the 
abundant harvest yielded a generous reward for 
the labor which had been bestowed upon it. Day 
after day the creaking wain came slowly in from 
the sunny fields, and its rich burthens were trans- 
ferred to the noble barn which the farmers had 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 219 

reared and finished with their own hands. The 
labor of the season was severe both in doors and 
out. But Mary had passed through five such, 
performing toils infinitely multiplied during some 
of them, by sickness in her own family or the 
neighborhood. Still I wondered each day, as she 
moved about to her appointed tasks, how so slight 
a form could endure so much. Yet she rarely 
complained of fatigue or indisposition. But I 
looked with boding anticipations at Tier small 
chest, and thought of our mother who had died 
long, long years before, of the disease which this 
figure too surely signaled. And yet we were 
happy; no word was ever spoken that defined 
these thoughts. Indeed they had but a dim ex- 
istence in my own mind. We laid plans for finish- 
ing and ornamenting her house ; we formed schemes 
for revisiting the scenes of early childhood, dis- 
cussed systems of education for the promising boy 
in whom we all delighted so much, and, in every 
expression and thought, looked forward to sharing 
a long life in the beautiful country we so loved, 
and to many years of happiness and comparative 
ease for her in the home she had so hardly earned. 
But as the summer drew to a close, she began to 
droop, and a cough, so slight that we scarcely 
noticed its existence, began to hang: about her. 
There was no pain, apparently no disease, and yet 
the limbs, that had never before tired, now refused, 
at times, to obey the energetic mind ! " What can 
be the matter]" she would say. "It must be in- 
dolence ! It must be that the event which I have 
so ardently desired, the arrival of my friends, has 
wrought a desire for relaxation from the severe 
labors which I have never abated before, since we 
came to the new country. 

We were accustomed to repel this half-playful 



220 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

self-accusation, and it was often said that she 
needed repose ; that she had exhausted her ener- 
gies by incessant labor, both of body and mind ; 
and that they would return fresh as ever after a 
period of rest. In any other case we should have 
known this was a glaring fallacy ; but we wished 
it so, and therefore believed it. But when the 
repose came, the result we had hoped for did not 
follow. At times, it is true, there was a little recruit- 
ing, barely enough to balance our fears, with the 
hope it enkindled, but the gain would be all unac- 
countably lost in a few days ; and then our ingenuity 
was vainly taxed for a reason, and for some other 
resource in which to trust anew. Thus it went on. 
The last of August brought an event which quite 
diverted our attention from all previous objects — an 
event fraught with emotions at once the most joyful 
and solemn to me — one which ever opened the 
deepest fountains of feeling in the female heart ; 
which added to my other sources of happiness the 
charm of maternity. Absorbed as 1 was in this new 
relation, as we all were in the little being, whose 
charms and wants claimed our attention, we forgot, 
in a measure, the previous object of our solicitude. 
She seemed to be better too, and when we left her 
late in the autumn and returned to our little village 
home, we had the most ardent hopes of seeing her 
quite well before the winter set in. When the 
calm mild days of the Indian summer came, she 
rode down, and spent a considerable part of a 
week with us. Our boy grew nobly ; and what with 
the delight this gave us, and the hopes which oc- 
casional periods of improvement in Mary kindled, 
the short winter wore nearly away without start- 
ling us from our fancied security. But the time 
came when we could no longer delude ourselves ! 
The invalid herself was the first to show us how 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 221 

much we had been deceived. "We were frequent- 
ly together, and one day toward the last of Feb- 
ruary, when we all were seated in her room, she 
took occasion to express her wishes in regard to 
the disposition of affairs when she should no longer 
be with us. She spoke as calmly as if preparing 
for a journey to some pleasant land from which 
she would soon come back restored and happy. 
We were plunged in the deepest grief. I can 
never forgret the effect which this conversation had 
upon my feelings. It seemed the opening of a 
dismal gulf before me, whose hungry depths were 
going to devour the form, the affection, and the 
noble mind I had been so long denied, and had 
but now just come to enjoy. I had nothing to an- 
swer, not even tears. To utter words of hope, 
with that wasted form before me, and those dark 
eyes fixed upon my face, their deep, intense, un- 
earthly light piercing my very soul, was impossible. 
To unite with the resignation she expressed, equally 
so, and thus I was compelled to listen in silence 
to her feebly uttered words, every tone of which 
struck upon my heart like the voice of a burial 
knell ! I have seen few bitterer days than that. It 
broke down the barrier of hope which I had almost 
unconsciously reared around us, and left nothing 
whereon to lean. I felt then that the reality could 
scarcely be more agonizing than the certainty 
which placed it before me. 

My sister's disease thence onward took a more 
active and complicated form. But it wrote itself 
in strangely deceptive characters on her person. 
In her days of early girlhood, she had possessed 
what a few persons call beauty. Her figure was 
always slight, and the bust too thin for mere phy- 
sical beauty. But there was a grace in all her 
movements which few could see and not admire ; 

t2 



222 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

her finely proportioned head was covered with a 
profusion of glossy chesnut hair, which flowed half- 
way to her feet. Her high, broad forehead sur- 
mounting a small lower face, indicated the pres- 
ence of a mind of no common order. There was 
something quaint yet sweet in the expression of 
the mouth — something which gave assurance of the 
predominance of earnest and grave thought ; and 
yet betrayed the presence of a humor which, upon 
sufficient provocation, would break forth into ir- 
resistible laughter; and a merry laugh it was, 
when it came — a laugh to which no one could 
listen without responding. But the finest feature 
of her face was the eye. It was dark, darker than 
the hair ; and though not uncommonly large, was 
at times dilated and lighted up with such an ex- 
pression that one would not hesitate to pronounce 
it of extraordinary size ; it was a bright, clear eye, 
that one could look into, as into a shady spring, 
and seem to see all that lay beneath the surface. 
In my early admiration I had thought it exceed- 
ingly beautiful, and my ripened affection was 
scarcely likely to correct my judgment if it erred. 
Beside, it had gathered a richer expression from 
all the stirring duties, pleasures, and trials of her 
new life. It was now the eye of a mother, a wife, 
a high-purposed, thoughtful woman. On her sick 
bed how changed were all these things ; the thin 
form was now so wasted, that we could bear her 
in our arms from one place of rest to another ; the 
face seemed more than ever disproportioned to 
the heavy forehead — the complexion was pure, 
and the cheeks had each a color like the deep 
blush of the roses she loved so well. But the eye 
was most changed of all ; it was dilated, apparently 
to twice its usual size, and, was indescribably 
bright and clear. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 223 

As the genial days of spring drew on, and the 
balmy air floated in at the open doors and win- 
dows, we used to lift her from the bed as a mother 
would a pining infant, and lay her, half recumbent, 
in her pillowed chair, where she could look abroad 
upon the opening world. Oh, it was bitter then 
to sit helplessly down beside her ; when her large 
spiritual eyes were wandering over the reviving 
plains and awakening groves — when every shrub 
and tree that she had so loved and cherished 
around her home, was putting on its richest charms 
to fascinate and bind the heart ; when the birds, 
whose joyous notes had cheered the solitary hours 
of so many similar seasons, were returning to their 
olden haunts full of life and music, and the vines and 
roses that her own hand had trained were unfold- 
ing their young tendrils around her casement, and 
the brook which she had so gaily challenged me 
to arrest, under the clump of willows, was coming 
down with its freight of vernal waters, babbling 
and murmuring the same song to which she had 
listened, through long years full of vigor and hope ; 
and feel that she was passing irresistibly away 
from all this; that a hand was upon her which 
neither skill nor affection could remove ; that by 
and by she would depart, no more seeing nor seen : 
this was the agony which never finds utterance. 

To feel that in this spot, made beautiful by 
her untiring industry and little arts, she had spent 
so many years of loneliness and toil, pining for 
those far-off few, for each of whom her faithful 
heart so yearned; anxious to perfect her home, 
that if they came they might be happy in it ; and 
that now, when this was nearly consummated, and 
the fond ones were all gathered at her side, she 
was going from among us, and we were impotent 
alike to save or detain her, was insupportable. 



224 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Yet this was my task on the anxious days that 
ushered in that memorable summer. 

The solitary resting-place of her friend lay di- 
rectly before the door, and though the graves were 
hidden in the rich foliage of the shrubbery around, 
the spot claimed many of her thoughts. They 
sometimes found faint utterance in words. 

" It is beautiful," she said one day, while look- 
ing out upon it, " it is beautiful, that dancing foli- 
age ! How many days I have watched its blended 
light and shadow from this door. But the feeling 
with which I have done so, has wonderfully 
changed since the grave was made. Before that, 
I used to wonder when the bushes would be 
removed, and delight to anticipate a luxuriant 
orchard growing up there. I have had fair visions 
of trees laden with the red and golden stores of 
autumn, such as I used to love to wander among, 
away in the land of our nativity. I was always a 
lover of autumn. When I lived in the great 
city our friends used to visit the country in the 
spring and summer ; they especially loved the 
joyful spring-time. But I chose nature's solemn 
autumnal days. I loved then to steal away to the 
silent wood, or ramble under the drooping boughs 
of the orchard trees. And here, I anticipated 
many sunny days in advanced life, when I should 
find that pleasure on this spot. But when the 
grave was made, this feeling changed. I would 
not have seen a shrub removed, nor a tree felled, 
for the world. It is so quiet now, so far removed 
from the stir and toil of the farm, and the large, 
glossy leaves of those low oaks are such fit drapery 
for one's final couch ! See, when a slight breeze 
rustles them, how the light and shade mingle on 
their polished surfaces. Those tall trees that stand 
beside the grave, and mark the spot in the wil- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 225 

derness of leaves below, must never be cut down. 
They are dear to me, and will, I trust, be so to 
you all by-and-by. Do not weep for me. It is 
true, I little thought to have been laid beneath 
them so soon myself; but it is the tomb I have 
always wished I might rest in. When I used to 
see the dead borne through crowded streets, and 
deposited in populous cemeteries, I prayed for a 
grave in the deep wilderness, with the rich foliage 
above, and solemn silence around. I have reached 
it sooner than I then wished — my autumn has come 
before my summer has reached its full dawn ; but 
what then 1 except," she added with moistened 
eyes, the mother rising superior to the submissive 
christian, " except for my boy, who needs his 
mother's care these many years yet — except for 
him, much as I love you all, I could go willingly to 
the greater peace that lies beyond. But it pains 
you, and I will say no more. Look," she said, 
after a pause, " there is a bird that has built her 
nest every spring, in the tall tree over the grave. 
It is a little pe-weet. They are not so fine singers 
as some others, but I have always loved them, 
because they belong to our earliest associations. 
When I used to lead you to school, up the hill- 
road by the Friends' Meeting-house, those birds 
would greet us from the fences and trees, every 
dewy morning; and I remember so well the 
delight you used to express, when I could succeed 
in making you see that it was, indeed, no other 
than a little brown bird that had spoken the name 
of our elder sister so plainly, that they have ever 
since been associated with my pleasantest remin- 
iscences of our childhood. What a blessed priv- 
ilege to pass one's childish days in close commu- 
nion with nature. The heart is so susceptible then 
to impressions of beauty — so free from everything 
15 



226 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

which afterwards engrosses and lacerates its sensi- 
bilities ! One gathers then many a gem to bear 
through life, many a bright glance from the be- 
nignant face of nature, to beam on the stormy 
hours of after years. I would not barter the 
recollections of my early childhood, for the uni- 
ted display of the cities of earth. T would not 
lose the delicious memories then gathered, of 
the deep wood, the running stream, the mossy 
rock, the valley, mountain side, and verdant plain, 
for all the wealth which art can boast. I value 
the exquisite productions of the sculptor and 
painter, but I love the works of God. One af- 
fords the highest pleasure to the mere human 
faculties, but the other exalts our affections to the 
ansfelic ! "When I hear mothers, who have come 
from cities to this glorious country, regretting the 
change on account of their children, I long to lead 
them forth, and show them the magnificence in 
which they may revel here. Feeble minds ! that 
can compare the puny works of man to those of 
his Maker. I could better educate a child here, 
with the great volume of nature to expound to 
him, than in the pent city, with all its dusty libra- 
ries and elaborate preparations. I could draw his 
soul upward — I could purify his aspirations — I 
could instil the love of enjoying and creating 
beauty — I could teach him those great truths 
which ought to be the foundation of all education, 
better here, alone with nature, with a few choice 
books, and enough of society to call out the natu- 
ral affections, than the most learned professor 
could, shut in his cloister. I count knowledge 
of things as they exist; I count a high reve- 
rence for the right — a strong reliance on truth — 
just perceptions of duty — a keen sense of the 
beautiful and the harmonious, which God has ere- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 227 

ated around us, and a profound adoration of Him, 
superior to the gross ideas, related in the lan- 
guages of nations long extinct — to their corrupt 
mythology — their feeble attempts in science — 
their sanguinary wars. I would rather my son 
spent years, roaming among the sublime solitudes 
of the mountains and plains, studying the secret 
labors of nature, and her grand and beautiful pro- 
ductions, the Bible his only book, than the same 
length of time in becoming acquainted with the 
Greek or Latin tongue. I wish his affections 
drawn out thus, when I am gone. It will soothe 
the hardest pang of my early death, to know that 
he will love what I have loved and derived such 
happiness from. But you say I must not talk. 
Indeed, I feel that I cannot; let me lie down; 
the shadows of those tall trees are lengthening on 
the miniature forest below. If 1 could walk out 
with you an hour hence, we should look upon a 
sunset, gorgeous enough for the skies of Italy. 
But go you alone, and when you see the golden, 
purple, and crimson tints, changing and blending, 
fading and deepening, and feel that you can scarce 
restrain the emotions which the scene kindles in 
your bosom, think how often I have looked upon 
such, and wished that you were here to enjoy it 
with me. Draw the curtain, and let me look out 
upon the grass and my little elm. How gracefully 
it bends ! I once thought to have seen it a majestic 
tree ; but that will be for other eyes than mine." 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

Such, and so heartwringing, were these last 
communions. I had never seen her so beautiful 
as she was in those days. Her mind, too, seemed 



228 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

to act with more than its usual strength of reason. 
It was thronged with images of beauty which took 
the most appropriate and eloquent forms of ex- 
pression. There was a kind of painful pleasure in 
listening to these feebly enunciated thoughts and 
sentiments, which I could not deny myself. 

I remember one bright day, when she felt unu- 
sually well, she was sitting up in the bed support- 
ed by pillows, and looking upon the growing 
world outside. She had just heard her little boy 
recite the Lord's Prayer, and dismissed him to 
play, when she turned suddenly to me, and said 
" To-day is the eighth anniversary of my wed- 
ding." 

" Is it possible V' I said, struck by the painful 
thought that it must be the last she would ever 
see ; but as we were accustomed to suppress our 
feelings in her presence, I remained silent. 

" Yes, it is eight years to-day, and just about 
this hour, too," glancing at the clock, " since I 
stood by my husband's side with a heart overflow- 
ing with strength and hope. We were both 
young ; I was but seventeen, and he some four 
years older. We had health, energy, intelligence 
enough to enjoy the highest pleasures within our 
reach, and, above all, that affection for each other, 
without which all these blessings would have been 
of little avail to secure happiness. Eight years ! I 
spoke of it this morning, but it was so painful to 
John to recall the pleasant recollections of that 
day, that I forbore. I feel strong now, and you 
must let me talk. Do you know Ave have never 
been acquainted since we were little girls V 

I looked up in surprise. 

" I mean," she added, "that wehave never enjoy- 
ed that full revelation of thought and feeling, whieh 
alone can constitute acquaintance between sisters. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 229 

There has never been an opportunity for this till 
since you came here, and you have thus far been 
too much engrossed with other affections to admit 
of it. Do not think I speak reproachfully ; I have 
rejoiced in your happiness, but the young wife and 
mother could hardly find time and affection to bestow, 
in those deep, heart-searching communings, which 
should make each thoroughly known to the other. 
There have been long years of event, and ages of 
emotion in the life of each, since we lived togeth- 
er unengrossed by our love for others. Now you 
must listen, and let me tell you something, such as 
my weak memory and weaker powers will permit, 
of those many years of separation. 

" You remember the little home in the little 
village surrounded by mountains, where we first 
found ourselves. You remember one chilly, dark 
afternoon, when we returned from the small school- 
house in the woods, we were met at the gate by an 
older schoolmate, a relative of the family, who told 
us to come softly in, for our mother was dying ! 
You remember the awe which these words in- 
spired, and the solemnity with which we were led 
through the tearful crowd collected in the room, to 
her bedside ; and how we gazed with bursting 
hearts into her dim eyes, to which the full day 
already seemed faint twilight; how we took timidly 
hold of her hands, that were wandering in air to 
grasp the children she could no longer see. You 
remember how next morning, when you asked to go 
in and see her, she lay upon a hard board, straight 
and cold, and how we turned away from the pale 
face and leaden eyes, and refused to believe that 
it was our dear mother ; how we stayed home from 
school, and wandered all that day about the silent 
house, scarcely speaking above a whisper, and 
occasionally peeped fearfully into the dark room ; 

U 



230 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

how the next day, mourning garments came ; and 
a coffin that struck us with such dread we could 
not be brought to look on it, till a great crowd of 
people gathered about, and our father led us up, 
and asked us to look once again at our mother, be- 
fore she was put in the cold earth. I recollect 
you were not tall enough, and he raised you in his 
arms by my side, and little Henry, still younger, 
looked down from his uncle's arms and lisped 
coaxingly to her to get up and take off her cap. 
A few minutes after, the coffin was closed and 
borne away ! We followed it, and when it was 
covered in the grave, returned home, scarcely 
knowing what had happened, but having a dim 
impression that some great sorrow had come upon 
us. 

" From that day we had no longer a home in 
common ; when we met, it was as visitors. This 
was a great affliction to me, for our continual com- 
panionship had ripened in my older mind to warm 
attachment, and I was grieved to be denied its 
object. You were more easily satisfied with little 
Henry's company; though I remember no one's 
arrival ever gave you so much pleasure as mine. 
All your most charming resorts were shown me, 
all the choice mementos that had been laid care- 
fully away since my last visit were brought forth, 
and many little things exchanged by way of 
remembrancers. Those were delightful visits that 
I paid you at grandfather's. The dark pine-tree 
that stood before the door used to play music that 
held us spell-bound many an hour, while we sat 
beneath it. I remember at these times, and when 
we lay in bed, while the rain was pattering on the 
roof close to us, you always began to talk of " ma," 
and expected her return. You used to ask me if 
I thought she would come back in the cap and 






LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 231 

night-gown she had on when she went away ; and 
where she would stand when we first saw her. At 
last these visits ceased. We were wholly sepa- 
rated. You went many hundred miles from us all, 
with strangers, and the remaining four gathered 
once again under our father's roof. But no longer 
in the little village ; we were now in a great city, 
and I was old enough to begin to learn that life 
had more painful realities than had come to us, 
when we were together. Seven years ! what may 
not seven years — from nine to sixteen, from seven 
to fourteen — do for children such as we were? 
What did they, till we met again, bring us 1 what 
sorrow, keener than all that had gone before, in 
the loss of our last parent ! to you, what oppression 
and bondage among heartless strangers ! Those 
were dark volumes to be opened by gay-hearted 
girls, that we learned to read during those seven 
years : gloomy commentaries on the world in which 
we were left to make our way to happiness or ruin. 
Mine taught me to shrink continually from the 
world, to regard it as an enemy ever on the watch 
to destroy my peace, ever waiting with lies and 
deceit, to lead me away from my true path. The 
greatest blessing was, that I had a pretty clear 
perception of what this was. Many a poor girl 
who started under fairer auspices than myself, has 
made a total wreck. Since I have come to years 
of maturity, I have learned that our mother was 
gifted with a superior mind and great depth of 
purpose and feeling; and if we have struggled 
successfully against tides that have borne others to 
ruin, we owe praise and gratitude to Him who 
gave us such a parent. But I had some terrible 
trials in the great heartless city during those years ! 
I remember one fierce conflict of four days, that 
came near destroying my reason. I have never 



232 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

been able to look back upon it without a shudder. 
On the one hand, misfortune and suffering among 
those who were dearer to me than my own life ; 
on the other, ceaseless labor by day and night for 
a pittance which I tremble to think is now lessened 
by nearly half to thousands of unfortunate females, 
similarly situated. How could I escape the temp- 
ters, who never tired in spreading their diabolical 
nets for my weary feet 1 I will tell you the nature 
of this fierce trial some other day, when I am 
stronger. Let me hasten on now. When I was 
little more than fifteen, I received an offer of mar- 
riage from a young man who had shown himself 
an honest and firm friend from the first day of our 
acquaintance. He was several years my senior, 
the son of wealthy parents, and bore an unexcep- 
tionable character. All these things made him 
what the world calls a ' very desirable match.' Our 
friends thought it almost heaven-sent. Everybody 
was so pleased with my fortune that I too thought 
it must be good, and with much encouragement 
from others, and sanguine hopes of the increased 
happiness I should be able to afford those I loved, 
I finally entered into an engagement with him. 
But it did not require much reflection on my pan, 
after this relation was established between us, to 
discover that the affection which should be the first 
and holiest motive to marriage, was wanting in 
me. All the other requisites of happiness — wealth, 
integrity, an agreeable person, and certainly as 
high an order of intelligence as most girls of fif- 
teen look for, were present. But I soon saw that 
these would not do. Poor as I was, and welcome 
as would be the means of ease, and the opportu- 
nity of intellectual pursuits which I most craved, I 
could not perjure myself to obtain them. Better 
my two hands and a subsistence daily earned with 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 233 

them, I thought, than wealth, arid a spirit oppressed 
with so great falsehood ! So I told Mr. H. that I 
was convinced I should consult the happiness of 
both, by begging him to release me from the en- 
gagement. After many conversations and much 
reasoning, which continually strengthened my pre- 
vious conviction of the right, I prevailed, and turned 
from the high anticipations of those few weeks again 
to my needle. But I must not linger over those 
days ; in less than eighteen months I entered into 
the engagement which was fulfilled eight years ago 
to-day. It will soon be severed now. This was 
one of the heart. There was no wealth, no posi- 
tion superior to my own, but only those personal 
qualities which assured me that, without these, our 
happiness would be enhanced by a union. I loved 
my husband, and that was a stronger motive than 
ail that had operated in the other case combined. 
" During those eighteen months I had found an- 
other source of tranquillity, in higher and more 
clearly defined perceptions of religious duty than 
I had ever before experienced. I had found that 
there was positive and exalted happiness in ap- 
proaching my Maker as a tender father and friend. 
And thanks be to Him, who deserves our most 
elevated affections, this never failed me in my 
hours of severest trial. It was a safeguard and 
shield. Armed with this newly awakened senti- 
ment, I felt secure and quiet amid all temptations. 
Most young persons think their enjoyment of life 
will be diminished by an allegiance to the laws of 
Christianity, but I think they are in error. Mine 
was infinitely increased ! I wished every one to 
feel as I did. It was in this state of mind, and 
just after I had formed the engagement with my 
husband, that I met you after the lapse of those 
seven eventful years. Such a period, spent as that 

u2 



234 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

had been by you, not only in a natural but moral 
wilderness, away from society, away from schools, 
away from everything but the tyranny of a selfish, 
passionate woman, and that woman — oh most won- 
derful phenomenon ! — that woman an Atheist — a 
defier of her God — had wrought startling changes 
in you. The timid, inquiring child from whom I 
had parted with such agonizing tears, met me al- 
most a woman in stature, and with more than a 
woman's boldness of thought and speech ; — they 
were an atheist's ! Judge now — but no, you can- 
not ; you never can until you are similarly situa- 
ted, of the anguish I experienced on the first eve- 
ning of our reunion, when, as we all knelt down, 
my heart overflowing with a gratitude which God 
alone could measure for your restoration to us, you 
walked away to the door, saying you wanted no 
part in such delusive mummery ! I never remem- 
ber to have felt a keener pang ; and when, after 
much persuasion, I induced you, through your af- 
fection for me, to rejoin the circle and wait while 
thanks were offered and petitions put up for your- 
self, you turned impatiently away and requested 
that you might be made the subject of no more 
prayers until you saw the necessity of them. You 
remember, that our conversations almost always 
took the form of controversies ; that I found you 
conversant with the works of Paine, Volney, Vol- 
taire, and nearly the whole school of infidel wri- 
ters, modern as well as early ; that every consid- 
eration which I proposed was instantly gainsayed 
by an appeal to them, or by some fearless sugges- 
tion of your own mind. You had not only made 
these men your standard, but even exceeded their 
impiety, and by your impious reasoning, made up 
of the boldest conceptions and the most unshrink- 
ing conclusions, led yourself to renounce all belief. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 235 

I was at last compelled to give up in despair, trust- 
ing to time and better influences to eradicate these 
frightful errors. 

" A few weeks parted us again. I have some- 
times, when looking over our past lives, compared 
ourselves to two helmless, rudderless ships, float- 
ing on the storm-wrought ocean. For a moment 
they approach each other, and seem as if they 
would journey on together, but the next, they are 
parted and driven about on the waste for years ; 
perhaps never to meet again till they decay and 
sink into a common sepulchre. It has been almost 
so with us. We parted ; you to seek the educa- 
tion and mental culture which should have been 
the work of earlier years ; I to make such prepa- 
ration as I might, for the great event before me. 
The next spring I was married. You know my 
husband had meantime visited this country, and 
returned a few weeks previous to our union, with 
such glowing descriptions of its beauty and advan- 
tages, that his father gathered the little means he 
had, and proposed that we should all start west 
together after our marriage. We did so, and it 
will be eight years in a few weeks (I may live to 
see the day), since we bade adieu to our friends 
and commenced our journey. This state at that 
time was thought, among the stable population of 
our mountain region, to be almost beyond the 
knowledge of civilized man. Our friends bade us 
farewell as if we were about to plunge into the 
deserts of the old world, instead of the richest and 
most beautiful region of the new. 

" I rejoiced in that journey. It was the season 
of life fullest of hope and trust, and all nature 
seemed like me, to be exulting in the future that 
was opening before it. We journeyed several 
weeks through the blooming orchards and fields 



236 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of the cultivated country, and at last plunged into 
the heavy forests of Ohio and Indiana. Here we 
sometimes slept in our waggon or on the ground, 
and took our meals in the woods. At last we 
emerged upon the great prairie which extends from 
the Wabash, west and north, nearly three hundred 
miles. Here the magnificence of the country to 
which we were bound began to appear. I re- 
member, as we journeyed day after day across its 
heaving, verdant bosom, that I seemed to be living 
in a new world. All the noise, all the selfish hur- 
ry and turmoil in which my past years had been 
spent, faded away. They seemed as remote as if 
the barrier of eternity had been placed between 
me and them. A new creation was around me. 
The great, silent plain, with its still streams, its 
tender verdure, its lovely flowers, its timid birds 
and quadrupeds, shrinking away from our sight ; 
its soft winds, its majestic storms — was a sublime 
spectacle ! Occasionally a herd of deer bounded 
across our path, or a solitary pair of grouse, startled 
from their parental cares, rose and cleft the air 
like the arrows of their old pursuers ; but save 
these we were alone, in silence broken only by 
our own voices. I thought how many ages that 
plain had been spread out beneath those soft skies 
and that genial sun ; how its flowers had bloomed 
and faded, its grasses grown and decayed ; how 
storms had swept over all its wide expanse, and 
the thunder echoed from its bosom ; how the 
solemn winds of autumn had sighed over it, and 
the raging fires marched in unrestrained fury from 
one border to the other ; how long all this power 
and magnificence had displayed itself •unseen of any 
eye, save His who made it ! How long all these 
mighty and beautiful phenomena had followed 
each other, and awoke no human emotion, appealed 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 237 

to no enlightened soul. Nature disporting with 
herself, frolicking in merriment, fading in sadness 
or raging in anger ; the sole witness of her own 
acts ! 

" Then as we crossed the narrow, deep-worn 
trail of the dark people who had traversed it so 
long before us, I thought how much emotion had 
dwelt here ; how much love, hospitality, friend- 
ship, and fierce hatred had grown, matured, and 
been extinguished here. How many fearful war- 
shouts had resounded ; how many death fires had 
been kindled in the distant groves ; how many 
wailings for the lost had mingled with the solemn 
winds. 

" In imagination, I could still see files of dark 
warriors stealing silently along, unmindful of the 
flowers and the bright skies, the gay birds and the 
happy creatures who reveled in the rich world of 
vegetation around them ; intent only upon the 
fierce butchery to which they were marching. 
And my blood used to chill under these fearful 
visions. But my husband enjoyed them. He had 
more sympathy with the stern and implacable in 
the Indian character than I, and he delighted to 
think of the free warriors roaming, fearless of their 
foes, fearless of storm or tempest, in search of their 
enemies. Later years have quenched much of this 
feeling in him, but he still loves those legends of 
the olden time. 

" As we advanced into the midst of this im- 
mense prairie, our horses were tortured by a large 
fly that gathered in great numbers upon them, 
and drove them almost to madness. At length 
we were obliged to stop during the day, and travel 
all night. There were houses at long intervals, 
situated sometimes in the points of groves that 
projected into the plain, and sometimes several 



238 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAXD. 

miles from the woodland. These were usually 
our stopping-places, where we remained during the 
day and then traveled on. My heart ached for 
the men. They could sleep little during the day, 
and two or three (there were five of them, you 
know) were obliged to be continually on foot at 
night to guide the horses. Their fatigue was 
almost insupportable. My husband has told me, 
that he was conscious of having often walked 
several rods at a time when he was asleep ; that 
his eyes closed in spite of all his efforts to keep 
awake, and at length a stumble or a word from 
some of the party would startle him, and he would 
find himself walking along beside the team as 
usual. They were faithful creatures, those horses. 
You have caused and enjoyed many a hearty 
laugh at their expense ; but if they had borne you 
patiently over nearly two thousand miles, of roads 
without bridges ; traveled night and day with you, 
you would feel something of that sentiment which 
has often restrained me, when Tyler's peculiari- 
ties have set your powers of ridicule in operation. 
" But we left the prairie at last ; I was not sorry ; 
neither could I rejoice, except for those who suf- 
fered more than I. But the long journey, the 
excitement attendant upon the strange features of 
the country, and the broken rest, were too much 
for me. When we reached the crossings of the 
Mackinaw, about thirteen miles from here, you 
know where it is, I was in a raging fever. We 
traveled on, however, for there was then no house 
where we could stop. Our people heard in some 
way that this ' claim' was for sale. They wished 
to buy an improved one — that is, one with a cabin 
in which we could live till a house was built, and 
with grain enough on the ground for the season's 
use. I have pointed out to you the very small, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 239 

low cabin which we found here. There were 
also several acres of grain growing. We all 
liked the situation, and so a bargain was soon 
made with the owner, or the ' squatter,' as he 
termed himself, for his place. But there was one 
circumstance which was very awkward for us. 
He could not leave the larger cabin till autumn, 
and we were therefore obliged all to live in that 
little pen until our people could build another. I 
scarcely know how things went on those few 
weeks. I was sick and wretched in person ; but 
at last the other cabin was finished, and we felt 
ourselves very comfortable in it. When the family 
of the ' squatter' left us, John and I moved into 
the old one, and lived there until the framed house 
was built. That was our first introduction to cabin 
life. The summer was considerably advanced 
when we arrived, and our people were soon en- 
gaged in the harvest. The grain was stacked in 
the cow-yard, for there were then no bams or 
outbuildings of any description. When the har- 
vest was over, they began their preparations for 
carrying on farming more systematically the next 
year. They made fences, ploughed and sowed, 
and built a small log stable for their horses. 

" I remember the whole land seemed to me a 
paradise that summer and autumn. The profu- 
sion of late flowers and wild fruits, the abundance 
of game, the richness of vegetation, the mildness 
of the climate, the sublime storms, and the soft 
musical winds, delighted me. Our men worked 
much in the woods, and I used at noon to take a 
small basket of dinner to them. The sound of 
their distant axes, and, as I drew nearer, of their 
cheerful voices, contrasted delightfully with the 
silence of the sleeping grove. 

U We all had good health so far, and appetites 



240 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

that led to many jokes between ourselves about 
famine, et cet. You have now learned by experi- 
ence how this climate acts on the appetite, and 
you may judge of the amount of food which nine 
persons, in this stage of acclimation, would consume. 
But we had plenty of grain stacked, and meats 
more delicious than the daintiest markets of the 
east afford, were abundant everywhere, so we only 
exulted in our fine health, and pursued our labors 
joyfully. 

" The prairie below us where there are now so 
many pleasant farms, was then unsettled. There 
was no house on the south between us and the 
Mackinaw, and at the crossings of that stream was 
the only family whom I visited for the first two 
years. You ask if those were not lonely years. 
I answer that there were many, many hours when 
John and I talked of the friends we had left, 
when the cheerful social circles where we had 
sometimes met, were named with moistened eyes, 
and yet there was no day of them all when we 
would have returned and forsaken the land of 
our adoption. Much as we wished for the society 
of our absent friends, we could not have consented 
to exchange for it, the joys we had won in the new 
country. We loved everything in the new land too 
much for that. But I was telling you that the 
prairie was all unsettled when we came. I be- 
lieve it remained so two years. The autumn 
fires raged then much more fiercely than now that 
they are trodden or partially fed. You cannot 
estimate, from what you now see, the sublimity 
and fury of those early conflagrations. One after- 
noon late in October, the prairie below us took tiro 
by accident, or was set on fire by some one on tho 
other side. There was little wind, and the flam 
came lazily over the grassy surface ; it seemed as it a 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 241 

breath would extinguish it. It was a fine spectacle, 
however, to us new-comers, and we watched it occa- 
sionally, almost wishing that it might show a little 
more energy. No one thought of danger. To- 
ward sunset the wind rose slightly and the fire in- 
creased ; as darkness came, the breeze freshened 
till it became almost a tempest, and the plain 
around was a sea of roaring flames as far as 
the eye could reach. It daunted us a little, but 
was too sublime a spectacle to turn away from, 
till one of the family suggested that it came with 
such fury the stacks might be in danger. The 
thought was instantly acted upon, and every pre- 
caution taken to secure them, but vainly ! The 
fire came on with such irresistible energy that, like 
the wind itself, it overleaped all barriers. In 
less than an hour, our grain was burned to ashes ! 
The houses, farming utensils, et cet., were barely 
saved, and we were left in this thinly inhabited re- 
gion with but a mouthful of bread stuff ! It was a 
severe blow to us with our small finances, and the 
difficulty of procuring grain, independently of that. 
" But I enjoyed that fire. The finest spectacle 
was when the danger had passed. While the 
stacks were burning more slowly, the flames swept 
furiously onward through those shrub oaks. That 
was a magnificent sight. They mounted quite to 
the tops of the tallest trees, and went roaring and 
cracking through the silent barrens with a noise 
that contrasted strangely with the usual stillness 
of the hour. The blackness and desolation of the 
following morning, and the reflection that we had 
lost all our grain, were painful consequents of such 
an entertainment. There was, however, no danger 
of real suffering. The greatest abundance of fine 
game abounded in our vicinity, and it could not be 
impossible, so we thought and said, to find some- 
16 X 



242 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

thing whereof to make bread. Our houses and 
other property were spared, and we were thank- 
ful. 

" By the next summer the unnatural appetite 
which had beset us all, disappeared, and the suc- 
ceeding stage of acclimation came on. Part of our 

-l • • • • 

number were prostrated with bilious fever, which 
in almost every case was followed by ague, and 
the others were visited with that cutaneous disease 
which you know sometimes takes the place of 
prostrating fevers. It is the safer process, but 
scarcely the more agreeable. Some of our people 
suffered extremely with it. Their arms and hands 
were perfectly denuded of skin, and in such a 
state, that, for two or three weeks, those who were 
not so afflicted had to feed them as if they were 
infants. My husband and I both underwent the 
severe ordeal of a long fever, succeeded by ague, 
but we came through, apparently with unimpaired 
constitutions. All recovered in time, and there 
has been little sickness among us since, except the 
poor invalid sister, who seems to have been born 
to suffer. 

" Still we have had many seasons of trial. There 
has been more or less sickness in the country 
every summer, and we cannot sit down in our own 
homes in peace when our neighbors are afflicted. I 
have sometimes rode one, two, or three miles every 
day, or every alternate day, to visit a sick neighbor; 
and here our visits are not calls. We go to per- 
form the duties of nurse for a day or night, and 
having no servants at home, are obliged to return 
as soon as possible, and, notwithstanding our 
weariness, proceed at once to the cares of the 
family. We had beside, as I have already in- 
formed you, many strangers in our homes, some 
of whom were long and dangerously ill while 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND, 243 

there ; and these circumstances increased our bur- 
thens : nevertheless we were happy. In the fall 
of the third year our little boy came to cheer us 
with his beautiful presence. Oh that was a happy 
day when I first heard myself spoken of as a 
mother, and happier still were those that followed, 
as our darling grew under our care. He is a 
brov/n boy now, since he has gone abroad so 
much, but he was a beautiful babe. He had dark 
eyes and hair, and a clear skin, with cheeks that 
deepened like the heart of the rose whenever he 
slept. We moved into this house the next spring. 
I had a great deal of labor to perform, and the 
dear child used to sit and creep on the floor from 
morning till noon. Many a time, when I have 
been too much engaged to attend to him, my ear 
has been struck by the cessation of his prattle, 
and I have turned to find his cheek pillowed upon 
the naked board, and his wearied faculties lost in 
profound sleep. I have laid him on the bed, some- 
times with smiles, sometimes with tears. I was 
seldom lonely now, even when his father was 
away all the long days in the field or wood. He 
was a world to me. Our society increased, too, 
about the country. Many intelligent and excellent 
families came into our neighborhood, and the little 
towns that had grown around us, improved our 
social life very much. Still we were not so de- 
pendent on society as you might suppose. The 
charms of the country, which never tired with us, 
the delights of building a new home and beautify- 
ing it ourselves, of having everything grow from 
nature, under our own hands, and the pleasure we 
began to anticipate in your arrival, were ample 
sources of happiness. Every tree and shrub 
which we planted in our grounds was a compan- 
ion, whose growth it was delightful to watch. 



244 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Every strawberry-bed that I discovered about the 
house was counted on as a means of enjoyment 
when we should all be once more assembled. 

"I must be a dreamer, for I have had delightful 
visions of our wandering together long years hence, 
over these little spots, our children gathering the 
fruit, while we looked on and applauded their kind 
zeal. But that is all past now ; I have striven 
to make my home pleasant. I have wrought 
within and about it harder, perhaps, than will ever 
be the lot of another. I have loved its natural and 
its cultivated beauties better, perhaps, than any one 
else can, and now I must leave them ! It is hard, 
but hardest of all to leave my husband, who has 
shared these pleasures and tasks, and my boy, for 
whom we have most rejoiced to perform them. 
Yet I desire not to remain. The solace which, 
under lighter afflictions, I learned to draw from 
divine sources, is more precious now than ever ; 
and though, to the human eye, I seem to have 
toiled through these twenty-five years to gain this 
spot in life, and my blessing is yet unenjoyed, still, 
I doubt not, it is best so. I have, perhaps, had my 
share of happiness. If I have endured bitter griefs, 
I have enjoyed intense emotions of pleasure. If I 
have buffeted storms and tempests, my sunshine 
has been proportionally bright. If I have been 
oppressed with cares and labors, my rest and free- 
dom have brought delights enough to compensate 
for them. If I have been repeatedly and long 
separated from those I loved, I have felt the most 
unalloyed pleasure in meeting them. I would fain 
persuade myself that the last two years have repaid 
all the ardent prayers I offered for the presence of 
my brothers and sisters, and that I am ready to 
depart and leave you all ! Once I should have felt 
it my duty to bow with unqualified submission to 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 245 

my fate, as to a special expression of my Master's 
will. I should have attributed no part of it to the 
effect of natural causes which were left to human 
control. Now I feel otherwise. I have learned 
within the last few years to be wiser, though I 
humbly trust not less a christian. If my resigna- 
tion is not entire and blind, it is because I feel that 
the responsibility of my early death rests on hu- 
man beings, and that the will of the Almighty is 
expressed in it only so far as to remove me in 
kindness when repeated transgressions of His law 
have placed it out of my reach to be longer happy 
and useful. Do not weep. I am tired now ; take 
away the pillows, and let me lie down. I have 
talked long, and yet have failed of relating half 
that I desire, or expressing what I feel. Bring 
me a rose from my favorite bush. I would have 
something fresh and beautiful to win repose after 
this long effort." 



CHAPTER XXV. 

I never saw my sister so beautiful as she was 
at this period of her illness. But we knew it was 
the beauty which ushers in decay — the rich sunset 
which is soon followed by blackest night. And 
even so it proved. The last signs of emaciation 
began to appear as spring passed away. When 
the full strength of summer came, the beauty had 
departed from the wasting frame, the cheeks no 
longer wore the hectic hue. They faded and 
grew thinner each day as we looked upon them, 
till it seemed, when she slept, that mere emacia- 
tion must forbid her ever waking. 

The summer began also to grow gloomy abroad. 
Tidings of disease came from every part of the 

x2 



246 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

great valley. Strangers from the states, south, 
east, north, and west of us, spoke of the suffering 
and death they had left at home, and witnessed 
along the way ; and an unusual solemnity rested 
over the whole country. The heavens seemed no 
longer propitious. The sun poured down his 
scorching rays upon our great prairies ; bat no 
rain fell ! Vegetation began to parch ; the heavy 
dews grew lighter and the heat more intense. My 
sister's sufferings were greatly enhanced by the hot 
and unrefreshed state of the atmosphere. She 
pined for showers, for the freshness, beauty, and 
odors which they used to awaken in the world 
around her. She grew weaker daily, and express- 
ed a clear conviction that she should not live to 
see the month of August. At her request, a large 
Bible was procured for her son, and a letter which 
she had addressed to him while she was yet able 
to hold a pen, fastened among its leaves. There 
was something deeply touching in the hope which 
led to this act. She trusted that this voice speak- 
ing from a mother's grave, to a son whom she had 
so dearly loved, might link his affections to her in 
after years ; might be as a spoken admonition to 
him when temptations crowded his future path. 
The beautiful lines beginning with 

" Remember, love, who gave thee this, 
When other years shall come," 

were inscribed by his father on a blank leaf. 

She loved the scriptures, and frequently asked 
to hear the sixteenth chapter of John read. Its 
exalted and earnest promise cheered and strength- 
ened her. The month of July drew toward a close, 
and we could not but see that her days were num- 
bered. The form that had once been so elastic, 
was wasted to a shadow; the limbs that had never 
tired were feeble us an infant's; the wan face with 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 247 

its large, sunken eyes, and passionless expression, 
all told that a period would soon come to her suf- 
ferings and our fears. She was restless ; she pined 
to be abroad, where she could see the face of na- 
ture and the familiar objects she had so cherished. 
Her husband would bear her in his arms to the 
shade of the old oak before the door, where she 
would sit while the soft air played over her pale 
brow, and look upon her favorite shrubs and flow- 
ers with a kind of mournful affection as if she 
would fain linger yet a little while among them. 
There was one young rose-tree which she had set 
with her own hands the year before in the corner 
of the yard. It was luxuriant and full of vigor; 
she begged it might bear her name and never be 
removed. u You cannot think, " she said one day, 
** how much I have loved these flowers. When 
the beautiful wilderness lay about our home, they 
were like friends of the olden time to us ; familiar 
voices from a far land. Everything was new to 
us here. The trees were not such as we had play- 
ed beneath in childhood ; the flowers were stran- 
gers ; the very grasses seemed to belong to another 
clime. It is true there were glory and beauty in 
them all, but the heart cannot rejoice in what is 
altogether strange. I have often thought if I were 
placed in a world where nothing but exquisite love- 
liness and forms of beauty grew around me, I should 
still crave some familiar object, however plain; 
something which I had known in the old home ; 
something which would be a visible link to the by- 
gone. These flowers were such ; many a long day f 
when I have been all alone, I have stolen out in 
some leisure moment, and stood by them and dream- 
ed pleasant dreams of the years long gone. Here 
was the same rose which I had thought it such a 
privilege to pluck and carry to school or to meet- 



248 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ing. It had the same odor, the same clustering 
petals, the same deep tint nestled in its dewy re- 
cesses, and why should I not love it ! It was a 
pleasant remembrancer of the past ; the only one 
I had in all the world of nature. I nursed them 
as children, watched their growth and exulted in 
their beauty, and the love of them will go with me 
to my last resting-place. 

" It is a strange thing," she added after a pause, 
" this undying desire of the heart for something 
which it has before known and loved. I have 
thought much of late, whether it does not prefig- 
ure a reunion with the objects of our earthly af- 
fections in the spirit land ! Those who have loved 
strongly here must be changed in their whole na- 
ture, if they enjoy the happiness which we picture, 
and yet find there none who have shared their 
human affection. I sometimes feel convinced that 
we shall know and love each other there ; but 
then — if we found not all ! — if some whom we 
have loved and pitied ; some for whom we have 
struggled and prayed, for whom we. could have 
laid down our lives, were not among the rejoicing 
throng ! Oh, it is a terrible thought ! it is the one 
which most pains me now, till I reflect that what- 
ever is, is best. It sometimes occurs to me that 
the beatification of the just made perfect will con- 
sist principally in arriving at such wisdom, such an 
exaltation of mind over feeling, that we shall rec- 
ognize all things in the economy of the Divine 
ruler to be right. If the mind be thus elevated 
over our present affections, we shall feel no pain 
in the absence of those whom we have loved on 
earth. But it is difficult to conceive such a state 
while we are here." 

Such were some of the conversations of these 
last days. They were uttered in so low a tone, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 249 

that the rustling of the leaves or the chirping of a 
bird would drown their sound. But we had 
listened so long, with all our senses sharpened ; 
had become so accustomed to gather the import of 
her speech, from the play of the wasted lips, and 
the expression of her languid eyes, that it was no 
longer difficult to understand her perfectly. One 
day, when her husband was sitting alone by her 
couch, she asked him for the hymn book. Her 
hands had scarcely strength to support it while 
she turned the leaves slowly, and, at length, open- 
ing to that sublime burial piece, commencing 

*' Unveil thy bosom, faithful tomb," 

she handed it back, with a request that it might 
be sung at her funeral. "It is an impressive 
poem," she added, " and expresses the hopes in 
which I die. I pray daily that they may become 
yours, and that you may bring our boy up to 
entertain them." Her last hours with her son 
were very touching. She felt an anxiety which 
was intensely painful to us, to impress a recollec- 
tion of herself upon, his young memory. Some- 
times she despaired, and her lamentations were 
the only words of murmuring we ever heard. " He 
will forget me," she would say. " He is too 
young ! Oh if I could but have lived long enough 
to be assured of a place in the affections of the 
man whom I have borne. If I could feel that 
during his life, the recollection of his dying mother 
would be to him what mine has been to me, a safe- 
guard against temptation, a shield against the un- 
holy allurements of a world in which so much 
that is evil must be resisted ! But I fear he will 
lose it ! his mind is too elastic. Yet I must submit 
to it. I only ask that you will all aid in the execu- 
tion of my wishes after I am gone. You will have 



250 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

many opportunities to speak of me, and recall his 
young faculties to the effort of remembering me, 
as I have been for the last year. I would rather 
his memory bore its impress from my well and 
happy days, but that is impossible." 

The last days of July were now drawing on ; 
and though there was no change, other than that 
which had been manifest from day to day, for 
several weeks, still our beloved invalid assured us 
that she should not live to see August. The thir- 
tieth of July was Sunday, and a solemn day it was 
with us. The angel of death seemed visibly hover- 
ing over the silent house. Our babe, usually a 
lively, happy little fellow, full of laugh and prattle, 
was somewhat unwell, so that even his pleasant 
voice was seldom heard in the silent rooms. The 
few words that we spoke were uttered in low 
tones; the table was laid very quietly, and its con- 
tents removed each time almost untouched. The 
day was excessively warm and dry. " Oh !" ex- 
claimed the suffering invalid, " shall I never see 
another pleasant shower fall upon the fair earth 1 
shall I never again inhale the delicious odors of 
reviving grass, and flowers, and trees ; nor hear 
the happy song of birds when the clouds are 
fading away in the distant sky % How much I 
long for all this once more. Take me out, John ; 
let me breathe once more beneath the open sky!" 
Towards night a slight dew began to gather upon 
her forehead. It chilled me, as if a mountain of 
ice had fallen beside me. It was a sign which I 
knew too surely foretold the fulfilment of her pain- 
ful prophecy. I passed my hand softly over her 
brow. It was cold and deathlike. Then I knew 
the dart had gone forth — the struggle had com- 
menced. Death was among us ! She smiled faintly 
as I removed my hand. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 251 

" Is it moist V she whispered. Tears were my 
only reply. " Then I have not much longer to 
suffer. Let them all go to bed; I shall see them 
to-morrow morning." I sat at her side all night ! 
As the dark hours flew by the death damp gathered 
in cold drops upon her brow, her large lustrous 
eyes grew dim, and her breath came more hurriedly. 
She was restless. Many times during the night I 
raised her from her recumbent position ; but she 
soon returned to it, weary and exhausted. Oh, 
that was such a vigil as I hope never to keep 
again ! When morning came she was apparently 
the same. Breakfast was set, but it was a mere 
form. Our boy seemed more unwell, and claimed 
much of my attention ; still I scarcely left her 
couch. She spoke little. About nine o'clock she 
said to her husband, "Between eleven and twelve 
I shall cross Jordan." It was even so. She was 
conscious when the last moment approached, and 
turning her dim eyes toward the clock, with a 
faint smile, extended her hands to us. Her face 
suddenly blanched — her white lips parted an in- 
stant — and all was over! Our lonef- dreaded trial 
had come. The patient spirit, to whose wants we 
had ministered so anxiously, had fled! 

Fond and faithful sister ! How often thy memory 
6teals on these distant hours ! How often thy griefs 
and trials rise in painful array before me ! How 
jealously memory treasures every unkind word or 
look I gave thee ; and how faithfully does she set 
them before me, now, when to recall them is im- 
possible, when the wound which they inflicted is 
no longer within my healing, when all the arts 
which the tenderest affection can susfSfest are im- 
potent to procure the forgiveness that could alone 
silence regret. Thy tomb is far away from me ! 
The silence and beauty thou so much lovedst are 



252 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

around thee ! The winds of spring bear the same 
delicious odors over thy couch that played around 
thee years ago ; the foliage is as bright as when it 
danced before thy rejoicing eyes, the stream winds 
as softly by, as when thy light footsteps trod its 
verdant bank. 

" There, through the long, long summer hours, 

The golden light doth lie ; 
And thick young herbs, and groups of flowers, 

Stand in their beauty by. 

■ The oriole doth build and tell 
His love tale close beside thy cell, 

The idle butterfly 
Doth rest him there, and there are heard 
The housewife bee and humming-bird." 

The solemn winds of autumn moan around thee, 
and bear from thy overshadowing canopy of boughs, 
rich offerings to thy tomb ! We buried thee with 
many and bitter tears : we trust in the faith which 
so exalted thee above thy trials, to meet thee, 
where tears are all wiped away, where there shall 
be no more sorrow, neither any sin, nor any pain. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

My sister's death was a severe affliction to me. 
Much as we had been separated by the events of 
our early years, our hearts had grown together by 
the strongest bonds of sisterly love. We had 
looked forward to an unbroken union, in the beau- 
tiful country whither she had led us, and now I was 
there, but she was gone forever. Much and bit- 
terly did I grieve over the dreadful void left in our 
circle by her death. But our little boy's health 
soon claimed attention. He did not recover, as I 
had trusted he would, and when the first few days 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 253 

Were past, he seemed so much indisposed, that a 
physician was summoned, and all our energies 
directed to his restoration. I was too ignorant of 
children to appreciate his true condition, and the 
blow which had just fallen, instead of preparing 
me for a heavier one, seemed rather to be a secu- 
rity against further affliction. While, therefore, I 
hovered around the sick couch of our babe, sor- 
rowing over his sufferings, which my ignorance 
did not permit me to appreciate, and anxious be- 
yond the power of language, to see him joyous 
and happy again, and hear his musical voice, 
breaking upon my silent hours of grief, I never 
dreamed that it would not be so. True, I saw 
him waste day by day. I saw the fair face grow 
thin, the vigorous limbs feeble and tiny, the bright 
red lips pale and distorted with suffering. His 
large black eye, in which love, delight, and wonder 
were used to reign alternately, now wore only the 
sorrowing look which tells of pain ; and his fair brow 
was contracted to a slight frown, as if he would 
fain resist the infliction. Yet notwithstanding all 
this, I never dreamed that he could die. It was 
strange, it now seems incredible to my own mind, 
looking back upon that awful period, that I could 
have been so blind to a language which afterwards 
seemed to have inscribed itself, in letters of fire, 
upon my heart. Yet so it was ; and many a young 
mother, who has entered upon her holy office, as I 
did, with no acquaintance with infant life, either 
practical or theoretical, will bear witness, that 
even a mother's instincts are all too feeble, to be 
trusted without knowledge. Our boy never grew 
better ; he sunk from the time of my sister's death, 
and spite of all that skill and tenderness could do, 
just two weeks from the day on which her life 
closed, he yielded his, and we were wholly bereft. 



254 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Even to the day of his death, I did not anticipate 
the event. It is true, I had fears, anxieties, sym- 
pathy which only a mother can feel, but preemi- 
nent over all these, there was a hope, so disguised 
by its very strength, that I did not recognize its 
true character. When, therefore, the kind doc- 
tor, who had stolen an hour from his arduous 
duties, to spend it with us, said to one of those 
present, that " the little sufferer would soon be 
released," his words seemed to dry the very springs 
of life within me. I had no word to say, no tear 
to shed, but I gazed upon the little panting form, 
and glassy eye, with every faculty suspended by 
that dreadful sentence. In half an hour, I was 
a childless mother ! Such alone can judge my 
feelings ! 

My previous affliction was utterly forgotten. 

Who shall ever tell the bitter, the agonizing 
pangs, that rend the very bonds of life, when a 
mother stands by the cold clay of her only child ! 
What thronging recollections come of happy hours, 
and shouts of joyous laughter, and peals of merry 
music, which earth will never again afford her 
ear ; and then, oh agony beyond comparison, of 
pain which she has "not alleviated, or perhaps 
has caused, of grief which she has not soothed, of 
sadness which she has not cheered, of words spo- 
ken in impatience, when they should have been 
uttered in love, of little pleasures denied, when 
they should have been granted, of mortal agony 
which she could not share, and Death descending 
in grim tyranny upon the little sufferer, who is 
all unconscious of his approach. G-od grant I may 
never see another such a night, as that which 
closed the life to which my own was so closely 
linked ! There he lay, in his little crib, where I 
had so often frolicked with him, the lips now all 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 255 

cold and leaden, which, in his last agony, had 
called imploringly on me, by the dearest name to 
which the heart of woman ever responds ; the 
eyes, which had so often looked into mine, over- 
flowing with merriment, with silent wonder, or 
appealing tears, closed forever. What could I 
do 1 How impotent is every form of expression, 
which grief can take, to relieve the heart oppres- 
sed with such a burthen. 

Again the spot where we had stood so few brief 
days before was visited. The little coffin which 
seemed to carry my very heart into the earth with 
it, was lowered close beside my sister's grave ; 
but the latter had not now power to call forth a 
single tear. We turned away. The deserted 
house stood before us : its doors were closed, its 
windows all silent, its neglected vines climbing in 
untrained profusion over the silent walls. At any 
other time it would have unsealed all the fountains 
of emotion within me ; now I scarcely recognized 
it as an object connected with my feelings. The 
deepest chord of my heart was vibrating to the 
last fierce blow, and no lighter touch could waken 
its other strings. 

But the home whence our darling was forever 
gone ! Oh who shall describe its desolation ! who 
shall ever tell what a mother feels when she re- 
turns to her silent house from the new-made grave 
of her only child] How the practised ear will 
listen for the accustomed greeting; how the eye 
will wander to the door for the merry face that 
was wont to come peeping in ; and then what 
agony, when some favorite toy is turned from the 
place where it was hidden by those little hands 
which you never more may clasp, which will never 
again wander in playful affection over your face 
and neck ! The little garments which you have 



256 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

not had the heart to put away from your sight, 
hang about your room as they did in happier days. 
Here is one perhaps in which the little departed 
breathed away his life, and there another whose 
brio-lit colors and tasteful fashion carry vour aching 
heart back to the days when all was blithesome 
promise and intense happiness. I shall never for- 
get the pang that wrung my bosom when one 
morning, two or three weeks after we were alone, 
I found a toy of pine wood indented all over with 
the print of small teeth. The last hand that had 
touched it was my babe's, its familiar form and 
bruised surface brought the happy little owner so 
strongly before me, that I seemed to live the terri- 
ble parting over again. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

The close of this summer found our home a 
melancholy one. Days of agony, and nights of 
delicious visions that made the morning sorrowful, 
wore slowly away. Abroad, the gloom still deep- 
ened. The sickness which had begun early to 
prevail in various parts of the country, increased 
in strength and malignancy. The longer the 
drought held, the more fatal grew its ravages and 
the more cheerless the aspect of the whole land. 
Vegetation was parched to ashes. The dews no 
longer fell ; the thirsty earth gaped under the 
merciless sun, and the trodden roads were piled 
with dust, so that every breath of wind which swept 
across them and every vehicle that passed along 
raised a blinding cloud. The skies seemed to 
have shut their chambers of mercy and to have no 
relenting toward the blighted earth. For long, long 
weeks, the heavens were watched for a cloud or 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 257 

some sign of mercy, but in vain. A hard metallic 
glare pervaded the whole arch, an impassable bar- 
rier to the blessings we so much craved. Mean- 
time pain, disease, and death were stalking abroad. 
The pestilence claimed its victims in almost every 
house. In some the whole family was prostrated, 
and the sufferers were dependent on the kindness 
of their distant neighbors to minister to their wants. 
The fevers took their most malignant and fatal 
character in the " bottom lands." These, as the 
name indicates, are the low lands bordering the 
streams. On some of the larger water-courses 
they are very extensive, and on all they have a 
character which strongly distinguishes them from 
the prairies and barrens above. They are .gener- 
ally wooded. On most of those bordering the 
large rivers, the growth is extremely dense and 
heavy. Gigantic trees shoot up on the rich earth, 
made by the spring floods of every season, and 
weave their heavy branches above into a dense 
canopy which the sun can scarcely penetrate. On 
the black soil below, which is often ten, twelve, or 
fifteen feet in depth, and of the finest loam, vegeta- 
tion riots in unbounded energy. Immense quanti- 
ties are produced, the decay of which, with the heavy 
foliage of the trees, generates vast volumes of mias- 
mata. The high bluffs then which border these 
teeming lands, together with the dense wood that 
covers them, prevent the circulation of the purer 
air from the uplands, and leave all the causes of 
disease to take their most concentrated forms 
among the unfortunate settlers. Most of the fami- 
lies living on these tracts were French and Ger- 
man settlers. The former are the remnants of the 
old trading companies, the latter more recent emi- 
grants. There are few Americans among; them. 
They live for the most part in cabins of the poor- 
17 y 2 



258 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

est description, and their general habits are little 
conducive to health. Here therefore, at this fated 
period, the pestilence found its readiest and most 
numerous victims. My husband sometimes rode 
through these regions, and frequently found houses 
in which every member of the family was sick ; 
so that it was a blessing for a stranger to call and 
hand them a cup of water. In these districts in- 
dividuals were found lying in all stages of disease. 
Some had never been seen by a physician ; some 
were pronounced to have the yellow fever, and the 
few that recovered wore a ghastly sallow hue that 
was frightful to behold, as they crept about their 
death-stricken homes. One could ride miles 
through these dark woods, the steady sun when it 
poured through the leaves heating the still air al- 
most to suffocation, and pass on his route many 
cabins apparently deserted ; but on entering he 
found two or three, or perhaps a greater number 
of persons lying in the same dark room, tossing 
and raging in the various stages of consuming fever. 
It was frightful to hear of, and still more so to wit- 
ness their condition. 

But suffering and mortality were not confined to 
these gloomy districts. They spread throughout 
the entire country. Our little village was one of 
the last spots visited, but it paid its tribute in the 
loss of one of its most accomplished and excellent 
women, and the severe illness of many other citi- 
zens. On the eighteenth of September, the day of 
the great eclipse, two infants, twin daughters of 
our village teacher, were buried. I remember 
well the gloom of that afternoon. It was easy to 
conceive how in periods of affliction and calamity 
the benighted nations that had lived here before us 
should construe such an impressive phenomenon 
into an expression of anger by the Great Spirit. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 259 

The prolonged and unnatural darkness, and the 
alarm which prevails among the lower animals fol- 
lowing the impression already produced upon the 
mind, might well be considered as evidences of 
displeasure in the Power that rules the elements. 
We trusted that some change would be wrought 
in the atmosphere by this great event, that would 
break the dreadful monotony of drought. There 
were but three or four wells in the village that 
afforded any water, and the earth seemed actually 
consuming under the fiery orb, now for a brief 
space hidden from our weary eyes. Not a drop of 
rain had fallen for near seven weeks, and for a 
previous period of nearly twice that length the few 
showers that had descended were barely sufficient 
to saturate the dust. But our hopes were vain ; 
the shadow passed from the sun, and he rode out 
glaring and bright as ever in the relentless heavens. 
Gloom and despair brooded over everything. Na- 
ture seemed about to light her own funeral pile. 
People walked slowly about with countenances 
darkened by their own griefs, or saddened with 
sympathy for their neighbors. One met with no- 
thing cheerful anywhere. I had on my part no 
wish to have it otherwise. The wide-spread sad- 
ness harmonized well with my feelings. The loss 
of my boy, and this loneliness, heightened by the 
previous death of my sister, made me shrink from 
everything like joyousness in the natural or human 
world. If my mind were won from its burthen 
for a moment by books or conversation, it bowed 
the next, more painfully and inescapably than be- 
fore. I could not get my own consent to resign 
those whom all my griefs could never recall ; and 
thus my days wore away under the ceaseless 
gnawings of the bitterest and keenest emotions. 
The unaffectedly good pastor of the church which 



260 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

we attended, handed me from time to time many 
books, the perusal of which he thought would tend 
to soothe feelings so deeply wounded ; but while 
I appreciated his kindness, and enjoyed a few 
hours of comparative tranquillity over the pages of 
his choice, still I found nothing of the peace and 
resignation which I had often seen others manifest 
under similar afflictions. One afternoon when I 
had exhausted the solace of tears over recollections 
of my lost babe, the sublime consolations with 
which the Psalmist hushed his griefs under a like 
affliction, occurred to my mind with unusual force : 
" I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 
The recollection of these words drew me to a more 
diligent and frequent reading of the scriptures, a 
new set of faculties was called into action, and the 
cloud began to pass away. From that time there 
was a new element mingled with my grief — one 
which robbed it of its fiercest power, softened its 
sterner lineaments, lighted its darkest depths. I 
no longer brooded in despairing silence over my 
sorrows. I felt that there were infinite love and 
infinite pity in the divine Mind, and there was a 
solace which words can never describe in uttering 
them before Him. But the comfort which I found 
was no miraculous shining forth of anything exter- 
oal to myself; it was no everflowing fountain 
which poured itself out, independent of my own 
Btate of mind ; such as many seem to have found, 
but simply a more exalted action of some powers 
which I had always possessed, and a partial sub- 
duing of others. The newly acquired supremacy 
of those which directed my thoughts heavenward, 
which made the departed, objects of benignant 
hope instead of black despair, could be overthrown* 
I found no power superior to my own mind, pull- 
ing down the one and setting up the other — it de- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 261 

pended on myself. I found no perpetual source 
of joy flowing continually around me, but only one 
to which I could resort when I governed my feel- 
ings carefully, and sought it earnestly. But this 
was all that I desired, it was all that I could be- 
lieve true — it was sufficient. 

The pure and exquisitely beautiful sermons of 
our pastor, to which I had before listened with an 
intellectual pleasure merely, had now a higher im- 
port, a loftier mission to my mind. The sublime 
truths were interesting on other accounts than the 
chasteness and simplicity of the language in which 
they were presented. In truth I believed I had 
attained what I had always heard talked of as a 
great mystery, an incomprehensible blessing, viz., 
a religious state of mind. A blessing it certainly 
was to me. Its benignant aspect shone far over 
the future. It gave me strength and hopefulness, 
and while it lightened the present burthen, was 
itself a preparation for such as the future might 
bring. 

Thus with heaviest afflictions on the one hand, 
and cheering hopes on the other, closed the second 
year of Life in the Prairie Land. 



PART II. 



CHAPTER I. 

Prairie Land is tenanted by numerous varieties 
of native birds and animals. Among the former 
I have already mentioned the quail, the grouse, 
turkey, buzzard, and many others. Among the 
latter are many whose habits and characters con- 
tribute not a little to the interest which the country 
possesses for the lovers of humor or adventure. 
One of these is a little ground inhabitant of the 
prairies, bearing the uneuphonic cognomen of 
" Gopher," and a passionate devotee of subter- 
ranean architecture. He is a small personage, 
not much exceeding in size the large wharf rat ; 
wears a very compact coat of dark satiny fur, un- 
equaled for fineness and beauty ; a long tail, a 
sharp nose, and a pouch, or sack, outside each 
cheek, opening close to the corners of his mouth, 
in which he transports the refuse of his labours. 
He must have the most implicit faith in the strength 
of his genius; for he never suspends the cultiva- 
tion of it for a day. If he is ejected from premises 
which he has improved, he never mourns his loss, 
nor institutes legal proceedings to recover damages, 
but, with unabated energy, seeks another site and 
commences anew. He is both sagacious and.sus- 
picious ; and, in all his plans, manifests plainly a 
desire not to be unceremoniously intruded on. 
Thus, when he finds an eligible site, he proceeds, 
like all settlers in new countries, to break ground ; 
but, having gone under the turf, he forthwith lays 
himself out to elude pursuit. Down he goes, 
crooking and bending his path, now straight, now 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 263 

obliquely, for five or six feet. It is not known 
that, at the end of this labyrinth, he applies his 
thumb to the extremity of bis nasal organ, and 
looks contemptuously back ; but it is presumable 
that he enjoys something of the feeling which 
leads to this gesture in biped builders ; for he im- 
mediately turns toward the surface in another 
direction, and often extends his researches a fourth 
or a half mile within a few feet of it. At points, 
not many rods distant from each other, he emerges 
with his sacks filled with earth, empties their con- 
tents, and goes back to reload; but, from each of 
these points, he makes a winding departure as at 
first. Thus the little brown hillocks which he 
throws up, are only indications of his vicinity, but 
afford little clue to his immediate whereabouts. 
These deposits are often found in great numbers 
together, forming a little village, in the subterra- 
nean streets of which it is not difficult to imao-ine 
many pleasant incidents, when toil is relaxed, °and 
the social feelings come into play. 

I remember one of these little towns, which 
must have contained near three hundred little 
dark mounds on the space of an acre. They 
looked very social and pleasant, and were calcu- 
lated, withal, to excite one's humor, when, on 
inquiring of a boy, in the midst of them, for the 

town of , well known to eastern capitalists, 

he answered, with a grin, " Why, this hyur is it, 
don't you see the stakes?" Besides the Gopher 
settlement, there were two houses in sight, one 
about a mile, the other half that distance from us, 
in opposite directions. 

The fox inhabits the prairie country, and is very 
much such a fox there as elsewhere, levying con- 
tributions on domestic poultry-yards, when it is 
expedient, and, in default of these, making the 



264 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

most unscrupulous sallies against the grouse, 
quails, and other feathered neighbors of his. He 
burrows in the copses which skirt the plains, in 
the bluffs that border streams, and on the sides of 
the most elevated swells in large prairies. Hunt- 
ing him is a sport much relished in the winter 
season. 

The prairie dog formerly dwelt here, but he has 
retired with the Indian, and is now scarcely found 
east of the Mississippi. He was a gentle, grega- 
rious, social tenant of this beautiful wilderness, 
and seems, by some strange adhesion to the 
natives, to have fled with them, while many other 
animals remained. 



CHAPTER II. 

There are two species of native wolf found on 
the prairies. One is the small red wolf, a com- 
paratively harmless animal, rarely attacking any- 
thing about the farm but sheep or small pigs. But 
he is a noisy neighbor in the night. Congregated 
in large troops, they trot off from one point to any 
other they desire to reach, and never, for a single 
moment on the way, suspend the growling, bark- 
ing, yelping, and whining, in which they utter 
themselves in different moods. I remember when 
I had lain on a sick bed for several days, without 
sleep, to have fallen into a doze about midnight, 
and been awakened by a band of these marauders 
passing under my window. There must have 
been a large number of them, for the noise was 
almost deafening while they passed the house. A 
party of maniacs, of all ages and sexes, roaming 
the country, could scarcely have produced a 
greater variety and confusion of noises. It was 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 265 

an evil sound to steal upon one's slumbers, and, 
to my disturbed mind, boded no good. The next 
day we were informed that their wanderings had 
terminated in a sheep-fold, about a mile beyond 
us. The slaughter was complete, not one of the 
terrified innocents having escaped. This, however, 
was an uncommon occurrence. During a resi- 
dence of four years I never heard of a similar one. 

The large grey wolf is much more ferocious ; 
when pressed by hunger, he not unfrequently 
attacks men. Many cases are related of travelers 
who have arrived pale and breathless at some 
cabin on the borders of a large prairie, their lives 
having been saved only by the speed of their 
horses. The ravening, famished wolf has hung 
upon their heels for miles and at last been foiled 
only to return with deeper rage and desperation 
to the solitary plain ! Woe, then, to the unarmed 
traveler who next crosses his path ! He sees his 
death warrant in the glaring eye and gaunt, foam- 
ing mouth. 

In the early period of white settlements, the 
traveler was sometimes startled by coming upon 
the bleached bones and knotted scalp of some 
unfortunate, who had perished thus terribly. But 
these are now tales of the past. The supremacy 
of man is less disputed by these prowling maraud- 
ers, as his dwellings multiply, and his means of 
invading their territory grow more formidable. 
Occasionally, however, when hunger makes them 
desperate, they compel the unarmed traveler to 
stake his life upon the speed of his horse, or, in 
default of this, upon the best defence he can make. 
I was informed by a gentleman that he was at- 
tacked so late as the summer of 1839, by a gang 
of these hungry fellows, in the midst of a prairie 
twenty-two miles in extent. One of his horses was 

Z 



266 J.IFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

sick, and very much emaciated, and he was with- 
out arms of any kind except a large club, which 
had been accidentally left in his waggon. He 
confessed that when he saw the hungry troop 
making toward him, and looked upon his feeble 
horse, and around on the empty waggon, he felt 
that there were many conditions more enviable 
than his. On they came, and for want of better 
tactics, directed all their forces against him. He 
was a large and very powerful man, and having 
previously made such preparations as the circum- 
stances permitted, he gave his startled horses the 
rein, and seizing the club, addressed himself solely 
to defending the waggon. He dealt his blows with 
so much vigor and rapidity, that what with the pro- 
gress made by the team, and the bruised heads 
and feet they bore down from each assault, they 
at length gave over, and parted company with, 
him ; but not without many looks and growls, 
which seemed to threaten dire vengeance, should 
they ever meet him in a more helpless state. 

A most melancholy occurrence took place not 
far from us in the winter of '38 — 9, to which these 
lawless animals contributed ; though how far could 
never be correctly ascertained. A poor fellow, 
laboring under temporary derangement, left his 
dwelling early one cold evening when the snow 
was two or three inches in depth, and still falling 
fast ; and although the most diligent search was 
made for several days, no knowledge of him was 
obtained till the following spring, when on plough- 
ing a neighboring corn-field, his bones were found 
scattered over it, peeled of most of their flesh, and 
exhibiting thrilling proof that after death, if not 
before, his limbs had been torn by these merciless 
animals. 

In the early years of the settlement such painful 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 267 

events not unfrequently startled the inmates of the 
rude cabins which bordered the prairies. There 
were few other ferocious animals to disturb the 
quiet of the settlers. Occasionally a catamount or 
panther was found in the dark, wooded bottoms ; 
but the treeless plains were never visited by them. 
There the wolf seems to have been undisputed 
monarch, and, like the hyena of the desert, when 
living prey was not at hand, he rifled the tomb of 
its sacred trust. 

An incident of this kind, connected with the first 
settlement on one of the most beautiful prairies in 
the state, had a thrilling interest as it was commu- 
nicated to me. 

The great road from the northern to the southern 
extremities of the state passes, for the most part, 
over large prairies. These are sometimes divided 
by groves two or three miles in extent, sometimes 
by open, sparsely timbered tracts, called barrens, 
and sometimes by a mere thread of timber, tower- 
ing above the swelling plain, showing a dark green 
line at the distance of miles, the first glimpse of 
which often elicits a cheerful " land ho" from trav- 
elers who are unaccustomed to these long voyages 
by terra Jirma. This road intersects at Peoria 
the Illinois river, with which it runs nearly parallel 
for sixty or seventy miles, at a distance varying 
from four to eight, ten, and fifteen miles from the 
stream. The wood which crowns the bluffs of the 
stream stretches back at frequent intervals in long 
lines, and fringes the plains over which the road 
passes. These groves are generally very beautiful. 
They are usually seen on the high swells of the 
prairies, their outlines clearly defined on the hori- 
zon, long before you reach them. Their edges 
are bordered with the plum, hazel, and other fruit- 
bearing trees, and shrubs, which are frequented by 



268 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

birds, hares, squirrels, et cet. The music, life, 
and freshness of these woodlands, together with 
their utility to the husbandman, led the early set- 
tlers to select them as the sites of their new homes. 
There the cabin was laid up under the spreading 
boughs of the outermost trees ; and there the hardy 
frontiersman placed his family, remote from every 
artificial means of comfort, W alone with nature," 
rich, beautiful, majestic, nature in the silent prairie 
land. 



CHAPTER III. 

It was at one of these spots that the incident 
referred to took place. On the northern side of a 
prairie, eighteen miles in extent, two groves ap- 
proach within a short distance of each other from 
the east and west. They lie on a lofty swell of 
land and are visible many miles away. The plain 
between these dark green promontories is smooth 
as the unruffled sea, and you fancy as you look upon 
its quiet outline, while the tree-tops toss, and swell 
against the clear blue sky, that the smallest object 
would be discernible. Presently a short dark line 
rises against the light, and as the coach toils over 
swell after swell, and brings you nearer the object, 
it grows distinct, permanent, and bold, and fastens 
itself with a strange pertinacity on the eye and 
mind. It concentrates your wandering thoughts, 
and you wonder what could have led to the con- 
struction of such an object on that spot. No dwel- 
ling or other tenement is visible, and the green 
wall of the western grove rises apparently a full 
mile from it. There it stands without proportion 
or symmetry, its harsh angles unrelieved by a single 
shrub, its silent walls brown with the storms of 
years. It is a tomb ! Farther back in the grove, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 269 

stands a house near which its silent tenant lived 
and died. 

Long before these lands were vacated by the 
Indians, a settler came hither from the eastward, 
with his family. He was roving through these 
beautiful gardens in search of a spot whereon to 
make his home. One morning his white-topped 
waggon entered the southern border of this large 
prairie, and, all day, was seen by the wondering 
Indians at the grove, to rise and fall slowly among 
the green swells, coming nearer and nearer, till at 
nightfall it halted on the line where this solitary 
tomb now stands. Here the travelers encamped, 
and one who has visited the spot, will not wonder 
that when the patriarch had seen the next sun rise 
on the scene before him, he declared their jour- 
neyings ended ! A site was selected in the grove 
for their cabin, the logs were felled, and laid up 
by the father and his sons, and a frontier home 
soon sent its smoke curling through the overhang- 
ing boughs. Their only neighbors were the ram- 
bling Indians who, in their excursions from the 
north and south, always halted at this grove. 
They had no domestic animals save the faithful 
cattle that had drawn them and a dog. 

For many months after the cabin was built they 
depended on wild game and fruits for subsistence. 
The rifle of the father brought down abundant 
supplies of deer and grouse, and the smaller mem- 
bers of the family could trap the quail, gather ber- 
ries and plums, and beat the hazel and nut trees. 

The wife and mother wrought patiently for 
those she loved. Her busy hands kept a well or- 
dered home during the day, and at night, they plied 
the needle to the wardrobe of her little household 
band. It was already scanty, and materials to re- 
place the worn-out garments were far away, and 

z2 



270 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

would cost what she had not to give. When one 
was worn beyond the resuscitating powers of her 
needle, its place was supplied as well as might be, 
by the skins which they had taken from their game. 
Sunrise and evening twilight found the father at 
his labors. He had no harvest that year, but if he 
would reap the next, much preparation must be 
made before the winter came. First, the turf was 
broken where he proposed to plant his corn, rails 
were next made and laid around it, some of the 
native hay was gathered and piled up at the corner 
of his cabin, and a little garden fenced and 
ploughed. When all these things were done, 
there yet remained the journey to the nearest set- 
tlement for winter goods and grains, and for the cow, 
which could not longer be dispensed with. When 
all was ready, the father and his eldest son started 
in the emigrant waggon, and were absent many 
days, during each of which the mother and her 
little children — protected, if danger came, only by 
the dog — looked anxiously out upon the great 
prairie, now embrowned by the frosts of autumn, 
and wondered when they would return. There 
were few travelers then in those uninhabited 
plains. Day after day passed, and no sign of life 
was visible on the plain, save the deer bounding 
among its crisp herbage, or the famished wolf, 
rushing madly against tho winds which bore the 
scent of prey. The intense sunshine which flooded 
this swaying sea, was now softened by the hazy 
atmosphere peculiar to those plains in the autumn 
months, the flowers were all dead, the trees dis- 
robed, and a wild, vast desolation, which pene- 
trated the soul of tho lone woman, seemed hover- 
ing over the face of her new home. 

On the fifth day, a party of Sauk warriors, plumed 
and painted, entered her dwelling. Her heart 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 271 

beat quick, and her eye glanced wildly toward her 
little ones, as their swarthy figures darkened the 
door ; but a moment restored her self-possession. 
She knew they were not enemies, and felt secure 
in her very helplessness. They had not lived much 
among the whites, and it requires some teaching 
to induce the savage to fall on a helpless person 
who is not his foe. With the few words and signs 
which she had acquired, she entered into conver- 
sation with them, and learned that they were on 
their way to give battle to the Kaskaskias and 
Peorias. Here was a new cause of solicitude; 
her husband's road lay through the battle-ground, 
and who could tell what savages, seeking blood, 
might do 1 or what would be his fate, should he 
fall between the hostile parties ! Offering them 
such hospitality as her poor home afforded, and 
praying that it might purchase the safety of the ab- 
sent, she signified her hopes and fears, and watched 
their retreating footsteps with a boding heart. 

All day she bent her eyes to scan the plain, but 
nothing met her search save the forms of the 
retreating warriors, which grew dimmer with dis- 
tance and the fading light, till at length they were 
wholly lost. With aching head and anxious heart 
she put her little ones to bed; and when they 
slept, she rose and looked anxiously out upon the 
night. Black broken clouds were driving across 
the heavens at a fearful rate, and the wind rushed 
through the naked trees, and howled around her 
chimney, like some evil spirit demanding sacrifice. 
The only window of her cabin looks over the 
plain ; and there she stands gazing as if the day- 
light rested on it, and she hoped each moment to 
see the long wished-for object heave in sight. 
Presently a strange light gleams on the blackened 
sky! What should it bel not lightning, for it 



272 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

rose instead of falling, and hung longer on the 
sight than the electric flash. But it is gone ! — now 
again it comes, stronger, and looks as if the bright, 
fiery sun had lost his place, and without any pre- 
cursor were rushing up the southern sky. Again 
it almost disappears ; but the faint tinge is soon 
increased, and a broad glare bursts up which over- 
whelms that widowed heart. The dreadful truth 
pierces her very heart, and makes her whole frame 
tremble. The prairie is on fire ! Oh God ! what 
a conviction ! She remembers now that they have 
talked of prairie fires, and promised themselves 
much pleasure in beholding them. But she never 
dreamed of the red demon as an enemy, and one 
to be encountered in this dreadful solitude. 

Her heart sinks within her. There are no means 
to avert or escape it. The only living things about 
her are the children and the faithful dog. The 
former are sleeping quietly, and the latter sits at 
her feet gazing in her face with a mute sympathy 
that brings tears to her eyes. She does not need 
to look for the light now, for it has gained so that 
she cannot escape its glare. The wind is bearing 
the fire almost with its own speed across the im- 
mense savannah. She cannot calculate the dis- 
tance at which she first saw it, but if it were at the 
extreme southern border, it must, with such a 
wind, reach her in a few hours, nay, even less ! 

But what to do, where to go ! She rushes to 
the door. Merciful Heaven ! It is all one sea of 
dry combustibles around her. Grass, dry grass 
everywhere ! she can find no refuge. The very 
tree-tops, if she could gain them, with those she 
is bound to save or perish with, would afford 
her no protection from such a sea of flamo as is 
roaring yonder! Tlu' wind increases, the elements 
seem to grow madder as the flame approaches, and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 273 

aggravate its fury. "With every blast, it towers 
and curls, and then, as if enraged at its own im- 
potence, sinks a moment sullenly, to gather strength 
for a fresh effort. 

There is a large creek about four miles away, 
and on this the lone woman hangs her last faint 
hope. The wind will" not befriend her, and she 
can only hope that the waters may arrest the 
flame. Hapless woman ! she little knew the 
strength of the devastating demon that was let 
loose that night ! A slender thread of water to 
separate her from such a surging sea of flame ! 
But if it did not protect her ! What then ! If the 
last extremity came ! what should she do ] She 
could have but few moments to deliberate, after 
the dreadful foe crossed this line. Bewildered, 
almost stupified, by the terrors of her condition, 
she had not waked her children. She had con- 
templated their dreadful fate alone, almost in 
silence, and with little action, after she opened 
the door and was overpowered by the conviction 
that to leave the house was even more certain 
death than to remain. 

Now, when the time grew short, and the hot 
breath of her relentless foe rushed fiercely around 
her, she addressed herself rapidly to the care of 
her little ones ; she woke them with much diffi- 
culty, and with much more brought them to compre- 
hend the danger that awaited them. One lively boy 
enjoyed the spectacle, and clapped his hands, and 
almost maddened his mother, by rushing out to 
get a fairer view of the wonderful scene. But 
where was the dog ] the noble dog who was her 
only intelligent friend in this fearful time % Her 
quick mind had counted on his protection, in case 
she should escape and were shelterless. But 
where was he 1 She stepped to the door ; the 
13 



274 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND, 

light was now strong and revealed distinctly every 
object. He was nowhere to be seen ! She made 
the wood ring with his name, and presently a low 
supplicating bark was borne to her ears on the 
hot wind. 

The fire had crossed the creek, and was tearing 
its way, like an infuriated demon, up the plain, 
A few minutes must decide her fate — she fell on 
her knees, and commended herself and her help- 
less babes to the mercy of her God ; and then 
rose, calm and collected for the event. She had 
not, hitherto, contemplated the wonderful scene 
apart from the dangers with which it was fraught; 
but now, for the first time, she was struck with its 
grandeur and sublimity. It was an unbroken line 
of flame, wide as the eye could reach, mounting, 
roaring, crackling, and sending up columns of black 
smoke which, as they rose, became rarer, and, 
rising still higher, were reilluminated so as to ap- 
pear another devouring demon sweeping the 
heavens. Mercy and hope seemed alike cut off 
by its angry glare. The fiery wall shut out the 
world behind, except occasionally, when a blast 
cleft it, it opened upon a black chasm that looked 
like the funeral vault of nature. 

Scarcely had she taken this brief survey, and 
noted the nearer approach of the flame, when the 
dog came bounding to her side, and, with the 
most earnest petitions, sought her attention with- 
out the door. She followed him a few steps, 
scarcely thinking what she did, but, finding nothing, 
and seeing him making rapidly for some distant 
point, she turned back, closed the door, and sat 
down before the window to watch the progress of 
the fire. In an instant he was there, pawing, 
whining, bowling, and, by every means in his 
power, soliciting her attention. Before she could 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 275 

open the door to admit him he bounded through 
the window. 

" Merciful God ! what have you done ! we shall 
all be consumed — there is no hope now !" He stood 
at her feet; the strong intelligence of his face fas- 
cinated her eye in spite of the danger. What 
could he mean] In an instant the sagacity of 
his instinct flashed upon her. To the ploughed 
field ! Yes, there was hope, and there alone. 
She seized the two younger children in one arm, 
and almost lifting the other by her hand, she fled 
along the trodden path, the delighted dog going 
before, and manifesting his joy by every sign in 
his power. They gain the fence — the fire is at their 
heels, it almost blisters their unprotected faces ! 
One or two more leaps, and the herbless ground is 
gained. The fire has nothing now to feed on, and 
almost faint with the sudden and certain safety, the 
exhausted mother drops on the ground among her 
helpless infants. 

" Merciful Savior, what an escape !" In a few 
minutes the flames are besieging the house, the logs 
covered with dry bark are but a morsel in their 
fierce jaws, the hay-stack takes fire and communi- 
cates to the rest of the cabin, and while the great 
volume of the fire sweeps among the trees and over 
the plain, it leaves the heavier materials to be con- 
sumed more slowly. Long did the light of the 
burning home, therefore, blight the eye of the lone 
woman after the " prairie fire" had done its worst 
around her and gone, bearing ruin and devastation 
to the northern plains and groves. Worn out by 
the terrors of the night, she sank into the sem- 
blance of sleep, on the naked earth, among her 
babes, with her faithful protector crouched at her 
feet. 



276 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 



CHAPTER IV. 

She woke in the morning to the dread reality 
which had been briefly forgotten ; but which now 
broke with stunning force upon her senses. Her 
children were chilled and hungry. The spot 
where late their pleasant hearthside shone was a 
heap of mouldering brands and blackened ashes, 
with which the morning winds were toying in 
merry pastime. There was neither food nor shel- 
ter ! and when she rose to her feet and looked 
out upon the plain, its strange appearance startled 
her. It seemed more boundless than ever, and the 
blackness of desolation brooded over every foot 
of it. It was clean shorn of every blade of vegeta- 
tion, and appeared, within the last few hours, to 
have been blighted with a curse from which the 
smiles of heaven could scarcely redeem it. 

With faltering steps the unhappy woman gath- 
ered her little ones, and prepared to leave their 
cheerless bed. But whither should they go ! there 
was no house within many miles. Beside her own 
little roof she had not seen another since they left 
the last settlement. To seek shelter or bread, 
therefore, from others was impossible. Her only 
resource was to search the wasted wood and 
plain for roots or nuts, or whatever might be left 
to support life, till her husband's return. The lire 
of her cabin would warm the shivering babes for 
one or two days at least, and if help came not 
then, she must trust herself to the mercies of a 
journey over the bleak desert. 

Bending her steps, therefore, towards the smoul- 
dering ruins, she soothed and wanned her children, 
and set out with the generous dog to search the 
grove for food. It was a desperate pilgrimage : 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 277 

most of the nuts and fruits in the vicinity of the 
house, had been gathered and deposited in the 
loft for winter use ; and of those that were left 
upon the ground, few had escaped the consuming 
flames of the previous night. Occasionally she 
found one sheltered by a decayed log or a heavy 
clump of grass, which the fire in its haste had not 
stopped to devour. But they were rare, and she 
had three mouths to feed beside her own ! A 
scanty meal was, however, obtained, and she re- 
turned to the fire. The warmth relieved their 
sufferings more effectually than the coarse morsel 
they had eaten. The little ones wondered where 
the house was, but rejoiced in the great pile of 
burning logs, and after a little time, the mother 
had the happiness of seeing them forget their hun- 
ger in some merry games. 

Long and intensely this day did her eyes dwell 
on the wide, black plain ! She had no need to 
look so earnestly, for the most careless glance would 
have revealed the white cover of the waggon if it 
had been moving over the dark surface. Noon 
passed, and brought no signal of mercy. She 
could see the brown deer leaping timidly over the 
scorched waste, and the grouse wheeling his short, 
swift flight from place to place ; but this was all. 
Another night of dreadful solitude ! exposed to 
cold and hunger, and to the starved wolf ! shelter- 
less, weaponless — the dog their only defence. 

During the day she had found a few of the 
ground-nuts, which grow quite abundantly in the 
edge of the grove ; with these she fed her little 
ones ; and parting with nearly all her clothing, 
wrapped them in the scant covering ; and with 
pleasant words, while her heart was bursting, 
soothed them to sleep, and laid them on the charred 
turf to the windward of the smoking pile, while, 

Aa 



278 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

with her noble dog, she sat down to watch their 
slumbers. At intervals, for several hours, the 
winds bore to her aching ears the short, queru- 
lous barking of the small prairie wolf, and once or 
twice her very blood curdled when the shrill, dis- 
mal howl, by which the large, grey wolf summons 
his neighbors for an attack, resounded over the 
bleak waste ! The night was utterly black. Be- 
yond the little circle, faintly lighted by the wasting 
embers, nothing could be discerned. Her eyes 
would not warn her of an enemy within three 
yards ; and as often as she peered into the dark- 
ness at every new sound, the faithful dog would 
nestle to her side and lick her hand, and turn his 
intelligent eyes toward hers with an expression of 
sympathy and confidence that cheered her solitary 
vigil more than she could tell. 

The cold winds howled around her thinly clad 
frame and chilled it to the core. The noises one 
by one died away, and, spite of the horrors of her 
condition, a drowsiness stole over her which she 
could scarcely resist. Her eyelids drooped, and 
her shivering body swayed slightly to and fro, 
when the smouldering ends of the logs tumbled 
into a new position, and sent upward a volume of 
shining, crackling sparks, which roused her sinking 
energies and braced her for another hour's watch- 
ing. At last the darkness became profoundly 
silent ! Save the steady pressure of the wind, not 
a sound was heard. The nocturnal wanderers 
6eemed to have withdrawn to their haunts, and left 
nature to the undisputed reign of night. Chilled, 
and faint with fatigue and fasting, the lonely 
watcher could no longer preserve her wakefulness ; 
she curled her shivering form close to the sleeping 
babes, and left the vigil to the faithful dog. 

It was stupor rather than sleep that locked her 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 279 

faculties till the cry for food recalled tnem. The 
fire was diminishing; the sun was up, but he 
looked coldly through a mass of leaden vapor that 
was crowding up the south-eastern sky. The 
whole heavens were curtained with the still, sul- 
len mass which threatened every moment to de- 
scend in rain. A fewhours before, she had thought 
her condition could scarcely be aggravated. But 
the impending storm was little less to be dreaded, 
in their feeble state, than the terrible foe which 
had exposed them to it. Her limbs were stiff and 
full of pain ; her brain reeled, and her sight became 
dim, as she rose to her feet and prepared to search 
the grove once more for something to sustain life 
in her hungry children. 

Her own desire for food was gone ; she would 
have loathed the most tempting viands. But when 
the little ones hung upon her garments and begged 
for bread, she summoned her fainting limbs to one 
more effort ; and, taking a direction which had not 
been tried before, she found, after a long and pain- 
ful search, a few stalks of the ground-nut, which 
her feeble hands with difficulty removed from their 
firm hold upon the soiL The roots of these afforded 
a morsel wherewith to still the cries that pierced her 
heart. And when there was no farther hope, and 
her limbs tottered beneath her, and strange rack- 
ing pains wrung her worn body, she hastened back 
to the spot which still seemed home, though nought 
of home was there, and felt, if her hour were come, 
it were better to lie down and perish by those 
consecrated ashes, than in the cheerless wood. A 
drizzling rain was falling when she reached the 
spot, and threatened to increase. It would be im- 
possible to preserve the fire long ; but pushing the 
brands together, she gathered her trembling little 
ones about her knees, and, between her periods of 



280 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

agony, sought to impress their memories with the 
terrible events that had befallen them. She en- 
deavored to make the eldest boy comprehend that 
he might be the only narrator whom his father 
would find, should he ever return ; and left many 
tender messages for him and for her first-born. 
With pallid, tearful face he promised to do as she 
desired; but urged her to tell him where she 
would be when his father came, and whether his 
little brothers were going with her, to leave him 
all alone. 

The rain increased, and their drenched gar- 
ments gave the chilling blast redoubled power. 
The embers hissed and blackened, and soon re- 
fused to warm the shaking group. Like the pangs 
of death grew the mother's agony ! — as certain and 
relentless ! And there, beside the reeking ruins of 
her home, the black earth beneath, and the pitiless 
storm above, there alone, her only attendants the 
helpless children and the dog, who sat at her head, 
and seemed almost to weep over her writhing 
form, the hapless woman gave birth to a little be- 
ing, whose eyes never opened to the desolation of 
its natal hour ! 

Long did the mother lie unconscious alike of 
the terror-stricken cries of the children, and the 
moaning caresses of her dumb friend. The day 
was far advanced when her eyes opened on the 
dreadful scene. The cold rain was pouring stead- 
ily down, and twilight seemed to her faint eyes to 
be creeping over the earth. A pleasant sound was 
ringing in her ears, but it was either a dream, or 
its import had faded from her mind before it was 
fully grasped. She made an effort to rise, but fell 
senseless. Once again, her eyes opened, and this 
time it was no illusion. The eldest of her little 
watchers was shouting in her ear, " Mother, I see 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 281 

father's waggon;" and there indeed it was, close 
at hand before his untrained eye had discovered 
it. All day it had been toiling across the black 
prairie ! The rain had softened the turf, and the 
wheels sank without cutting it ; so that the last 
few miles had been inconceivably tedious. The 
mourning garb of the plain had struck the hearts 
of both father and son with indescribable terror. 
The former would have left his slow team and 
flown across it, but his son had charge of the cow, 
and this was impossible. More alarmed and ex- 
cited as he advanced, he was still obliged to restrain 
his intense feelings, and accommodate his progress 
to the slow motion of the tired cattle. Night drew 
on before the desolation of his home was revealed 
to him. When within about a mile he should, have 
discovered the house, but all was a level waste! 
Unable longer to endure the torture, he sprang 
forward, leaving the animals to follow as they chose. 
He flew, he shouted, and the dog bounded to meet 
the well-known voice. When the boy saw the 
waggon, the father had just left it, so that even as 
he repeated the joyful tidings, the stricken man 
stood over them, half-stupified by the effort to 
comprehend the nature and extent of his calami- 
ties. 

A group of perishing children, an infant corpse, 
a dying wife ! and all, all gone, wherewith to 
minister even the decent ceremonies of such a 
period. Oh, how bitterly his heart cursed the day 
when he trusted the treacherous beauty that in- 
vited him there. He raised the dying woman in 
his arms ; the seal was on her glazing eye, and the 
faint fluttering at her wrist foretold the last and 
worst that could befall him ! Slowly, word by 
word, she told her agonizing tale. He threw his 
garments over her, and wiped the rain-drops from 
aa2 



282 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

her face, and drew her to his heart. But the cold 
dew returned, and told that storm or shelter would 
be soon the same to her ! He prayed her for- 
giveness, and with wild, incoherent words, accused 
himself of her cruel murder. She vindicated him 
from these accusations with all her little strength, 
and with many messages for her absent son, and 
many prayers for her dear children and their father, 
she resigned her breath, just as the last light was 
fading from the western sky. 

She had begged that her tomb might be made 
on the site of the burned cabin. And there, when 
he had watched two days and nights by her un- 
sheltered corpse, and hewn a rough coffin to 
receive her and her untimely babe, she was de- 
posited. The grave was a rude hollow, scooped 
with sticks and the hands of the widowed husband 
and his sons. The preparations were completed 
and the dead lowered on the afternoon of the 
second day. At midnight a troop of famished 
wolves attacked the holy spot, and but for the rifle 
of the husband, would have torn its sacred con- 
tents from their rude repose. The next day he 
felled the nearest trees, and laid them in the form 
of a vault on the spot. And this it is which greets 
the traveler's eye so many miles away on the 
untenanted prairie ! 

The grove has since retired and left the tomb 
alone ! a bold and solitary mark on the high line of 
the horizon. The plain below is still unchanged. 
It is the same rich, green expanse in summer ; the 
same bleak, howling waste in winter. It is now 
skirted with farms under the edge of the wood- 
lands. 

One cabin has sprung up in its midst, on the 
bank of the stream. But it is forsaken and dilap- 
idated. Its door is gone, and the rough planks 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 283 

which made the floor have been used as fuel, by 
emigrants who have encamped near it. Its small 
cellar yawns dismally in the face of the curious 
traveler who looks within. 



CHAPTER V. 

Such were some of the incidents of early life on 
the frontiers of prairie land! Yet the hardy set- 
tlers came and dotted the little groves with their 
cabins and inclosures ; their domestic animals in- 
creased rapidly on these rich pastures ; and in a 
few years from the time the first dwelling was built 
on the border of a prairie, considerable herds of 
cattle and large droves of horses might be seen 
frolicking and feeding on it. The early settlers 
were particularly fond of the latter animal. Living 
as they did, in the vicinity of abundant and deli- 
cious game, they cared comparatively little for the 
flesh of domestic animals. They used the ox less 
for draught too, than the agriculturist of the east- 
tern states do. The turf of their fields once broken, 
they have little further use for them. Their motion 
is too slow to suit the quick and changing desires of 
the frontiersman. His work must be done quickly, 
and at brief periods. He is not the steady, pa- 
tient laborer of twelve or fifteen hours. If his 
seed is to be put in the earth, he plants a few 
acres, then mounts his fleetest horse, and rides to 
the neighboring town to address his fellow citizens 
in behalf of his own or his friend's claim to some 
political office ; or he takes his rifle and pursues 
the deer, or hunts the grouse or quail. 

Thus swift horses are the most valuable stock of 
these people. Beauty, however, is rarely combined 
with fleetness, and the best are generally short- 



284 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

lived. This is attributed to the early period at 
which they are trained to service, to the random, 
uncertain character of their labors, and perhaps 
not less than either, to the exposures they endure 
for want of shelter and proper care. 

For a western settler will live many years on 
his farm, without ever having a bam, or other out- 
building of any kind, except a very small corn 
crib, and sometimes a stable, the dimensions of 
which correspond better to those of a poultry 
house, than anything else. If barns are built, they 
come along after many years, under the head of 
admissible luxuries. The threshing is done in 
the open air upon a piece of ground made hard 
by repeated treading, in the vicinity where the 
grain is usually stacked. The horses and horned 
cattle run out all winter ; and from the little care 
that is taken of them, look miserably, long before 
the spring herbage comes to their relief. The 
coats of the latter, particularly, stand up like the 
hairs of the caterpillar, and shake in the wind, 
making their poor owners look as if suffering under 
fever and ague. 



The country bordering on Rock River, in 
nearly its whole length, is one of the most beauti- 
ful that can be imagined. The stream itself is a 
clear and generally rapid current, running over 
ledges of lime rock or beds of fine gravel and 
sand. Its banks are beautifully diversified with 
grove and lawn, which sometimes form natural 
parks of many miles in extent. The trees of 
these lands are principally the white, black, and 
red oak, interspersed with the elm, hickory, and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 285 

biltternut in small numbers. There is rarely any 
undergrowth, unless it be of wild flowers, or fruit- 
bearing shrubs and vines. The blackberry is very 
abundant in some, and in others the mandrake is 
found in great profusion. . The grass is of sparser 
growth among the trees than on the prairies, and. 
the clean turf, spread beneath the lightly woven 
boughs, is a charming spectacle to the eye, and 
still more tempting to feet that love to stray amid, 
beautiful solitude. When I visited this region, it 
was the heyday of nature. Midsummer among 
these cool copses, green lawns, and swift streams, 
is a joyous season, and if to these one adds a 
small cabin filled with the pleasantest friends, 
books and pictures, and surrounded with a few 
families of the choicest society, it will not be dif- 
ficult to understand why I often wish that the 
eastern potentate could have made his ten days' 
experiment without his august retinue in the little 

town of C . But no paradise is ever entered 

without some previous struggles which serve to 
heighten its enjoyments. Perhaps they could not 
be complete without these preparatory contrasts. 
Theologians so affirm, and the assertion is not desti- 
tute of a strong resemblance to truth, in my own ex- 
perience on this occasion. Certain it is, that if the 
strength of the one is proportioned to the intensity 
of the other, I had a just claim to all the delights 

which surrounded me at C . To reach them, 

I had endured a solitary ride of three long summer 
days, (think of that, for a lady with a tongue !) over 
scorching plains on which not a drop of rain had 
fallen for many weeks. The feet of four horses 
and the wheels of a heavy coach consequently kept 
a dense cloud of dust afloat, which, although it 
may have seemed to the lookers-on very majestic, 
marching over the prairie, to lend a sort of halo to 



286 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

our progress, by no means contributed to the com- 
fort either of the outward or inward person. 

Our dining place on the first day was at the 
principal hotel in the flourishing town of North- 
ampton. It (the town I mean, and the hotel may 
as well be included, for it is the only building in 
it) is nestled pleasantly among some hazels and 
scrub oaks, on a little elevation, which you ap- 
proach by a winding road from below. The 
face of the hill is quite bold as you come up 
from the south ; and on its brow are perched the 
remains of a windmill, which some speculating 
settler, not having the fear of Don Quixote before 
his eyes, had erected there, in the hope, which ap- 
pears to have been vain, of realizing filthy lucre or 
corn meal from its labors. You ascend the hill, 
and, at the same instant, are quite astonished to 
find yourself before the piazza of a house, which 
a tall sign-post points out as the " Northampton 
Hotel." 

If sign-boards were, like title-pages, any indica- 
tion of the fare to which they direct, the table of 
this house would afford you fewer delicacies than 
most of its guests find upon it. The artist seems 
to have been been a severe lover of the useful, 
and to have told his story in the plainest of all 
possible black letters, upon the dirtiest of all 
white surfaces. I did not notice whether any of 
the characters were inverted, or had turned their 
backs upon their neighbors, a thing not uncommon 
in that country of large freedom; but I think I am 
safe in saying, that the title-page of this house was 
not an illuminated one. The same cannot be said 
of the room to which the guests are ushered. 
There is nothing very striking in its furniture, 
finish, or proportions, on first entering; but its 
beauties grow upon the eye ; and you experience 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 287 

some astonishment, on looking about, to find your- 
self in a sort of stereotyped picture gallery. I 
scarcely know to what school these efforts belong. 
That they are original does not admit of question, 
but whether the artist excelled in coloring or com- 
position, whether his pictures are allegorical, his- 
torical, or merely representatives of nature in her 
ornithological, zoological, and floral creations, I 
must leave to virtuosi to determine. It was a 
problem with me, after I had spent a considerable 
part of two hours in examining them, and it still 
remains so. They are executed in red, green, 
and blue, on a plaster surface, and consist of a 
great variety of vines, curiously interwoven and 
knotted, on which are perched as various a collec- 
tion of birds. I judge of the variety of the former 
from the different colors of the leaves only, for 
none of them seemed to be in flower. Some 
gloried in green stalks and blue leaves, while 
others donned the extraordinary altogether, and 
sported leaves "done in" Spanish brown, from 
stems " done in" blue; others combined all these 
colors, and, twined and grouped as they were, 
presented a lively and pleasing effect. There was 
but one point in the room where the artist con- 
descended to enlighten his admirers ; this was on 
the lower face of the stairway. Two heavy cir- 
cular lines, the outer red, the inner blue, inclosed 
a large sanguinary figure, which more resembled 
the beeve's hearts, without the appendages, as 
they are exposed in market, than anything else in 
nature with which I am acquainted. On its upper 
surface were perched a pair of birds, apparently 
young eagles, in hot combat, for their ferocious 
talons were lacerating the heart, and their beaks 
interlocked, with such amazing fierceness, that if 
the hold of one had yielded, his antagonist must 



288 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

have been precipitated, in terrible disorder, to the 
ground. Eight letters were delineated between 
the concentric lines; they were at equal distances 
from each other, and a full period of most vivid 
green succeeded each. These letters were an 
immense puzzle. I read them from all points ; 
from above, from below, from the sides, from the 
points forty-five degrees from the horizontal and 
vertical lines ; but all to no purpose. I was about 
abandoning the enterprise in despair, and had 
taken my pencil to copy the curiosity, for the 
benefit of learned societies, both native and foreign, 
when I found that the letters L. O. V. E., written 
on a straight line, spelled a word with which I 
was tolerably familiar ; and, a key once obtained, 
I was not long in unlocking the ring which con- 
tained the mystery. It was a beautiful solution, 
and the performance of it raised no trifling degree 
of complacency in my own mind, as well as res- 
pect in that of the host for my sagacity. He con- 
sidered the Love Ring one of the best jokes that 
could be enjoyed at the expense of his guests, and 
laughed as heartily at each explanation of the 
mystical letters as if they were perfectly new and 
contained the essence of all wit. 

I could start no reasonable supposition, explan- 
atory of this artistical phenomenon, except that 
some impoverished Titian had wandered thither, 
and being unable to defray in money the expense 
of a sojourn, had at the instance of the thrifty land- 
lord turned his genius to account upon the walls 
of the reception room. 

The hostess meanwhile plied her vocation in the 
neatest of all kitchens, directly back of this room. 
Three or four sturdy children shared the apart- 
ment with her, and from time to time engaged in 
the discussion of various questions of authority and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 289 

domestic polity, on which they appeared to have 
adopted opposite opinions. The warmth of their 
arguments occasionally brought the maternal palm 
somewhat smartly over the meatus auditorius, and 
led the parties to abandon their respective points ; 
but always with a look which said plainly, " See 
if I don't give it you next time." 

Opposite the hotel stood — and I presume still 
stands — the skeleton of a large house which had 
been erected some two years before, and had pro- 
gressed in a most singular manner to a state of 
partial completion. It was partly roofed, partly 
inclosed at the sides, partly plastered ; some of 
the floor was laid, one chimney almost finished, 
some of the windows were in; the cellar was 
partly excavated, one or two doors were swinging 
on their hinges ; a picket fence extended two- 
thirds the length of the yard, and the climax was 
crowned by a gate that stood agape about midway 
between the extremities. The enterprising owner 
had abandoned it at this stage of its erection, and 
offered it for sale as " a large house in the beauti- 
ful and flourishing town of Northampton." I trust, 
for the credit of the place, it has found a purchaser. 



CHAPTER VI. 

We left our artistical landlord, and the next 
stopping-place was twenty-two miles away. There 
the night was to be spent, in case any amicable 
arrangement to that effect could be made with the 
muskitos who had previous possession. The land- 
lady too, as I had learned, was rather testy, and 
on my arrival, I found it even so. She had come 
originally from New York ; but twenty-five years 
of frontier life had sharpened many points of a 
19 Bb 



290 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

character originally salient, and the absolute do- 
minion which she held over the comfort of those 
who sought her roof, the only one for twenty-seven 
miles of road, had made her capricious and impe- 
rious in the extreme. Nothing, she asseverated, 
could give her greater pleasure than to entertain a 
lady or gentleman ; and who should know such 
better than she, who had come from the city of 
New York ! Having learned therefore the cue, 
it was not difficult to stimulate the good woman's 
love of pleasing, so as to secure her most courteous 
hospitality. Her own room was tendered me, with 
a flowing bowl of water and an ample brown 
towel, for making a toilet, after the dusty ride. 
Just as this was completed, we were all summoned 
to the tea table, which was laid with a snowy cloth, 
under an open shed attached to the rear of the 
house, and looking directly into the grove. 

The sun was just setting, and the long shadows 
falling aslant the grass would have made a delight- 
ful accompaniment to our delicious supper, had 
not certain admonitory twinges about one's feet 
and ankles put sentiment to flight, and given warn- 
ing of more serious troubles yet to come. 

It was very warm ; and how we were to exist 
during the night with the sleeping rooms closed so 
as to exclude these marauders, was a problem 
which I could solve on no other supposition than 
that muskito-bars surrounded* our beds. To as- 
certain whether this item should enter into the 
anticipations of the evening, I put the proposition 
to our hostess in a general and abstract form, that 
where these insects were so numerous, it was a 
great luxury to sloep under the bars and listen to 
their wailings, while you were perfectly secure 
from attack. She assented heartily, and added 
that she wished all her beds were thus provided ; 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 291 

but that, from one cause and another, she had de- 
layed furnishing any but her own ! This announce- 
ment effectually quieted all my hopes of rest for 
that night. 

" How long have you lived here, madam %\[ I 
ventured to ask. 

" Twenty-one years." 

" And how long have you kept a public-house V 

" Ever since we came." 

" And the muskitos have divided the spoils with 
you all that time V 

" Yes." 

" How far is it to the nearest town V 

" Eight miles." 

" How often do you go there 1" 

" Once or twice a week." 

" How much does the muskito-bar cost a yard ]" 

" Two bits and a pic, or three bits." 

I made no comment at the close of this conver- 
sation, and may add here, that at every step I felt 
as if I were walking over a mine that might spring 
at the next, and add a discordant bass to the mus- 
kito tenor that by this time had gathered its full 
strength for the night. The good woman, how- 
ever, in respect, as Captain Dalgetty would say, 
I had resided in her favorite city and should prob- 
ably return to it ; and in respect, moreover, of the 
assurance of the driver, given aside, that I was "a 
right smart lady," for my husband had gone a very 
long journey to the west (though how this fact 
demonstrated his friendly assertion I could never 
clearly perceive), bore the questioning with the 
most obtuse good nature. I almost wished, when 
I saw how pleasantly she took it, and felt my face, 
neck, hands, and feet swelling and burning under 
the stings of the rapacious legions, that she had 
warmed a little. She remained cool, however, and 



292 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

offered me the choice of two rooms, one on the 
upper floor, under the western slope of the roof, 
which had been closed all day, and consequently 
afforded about as rational a prospect of repose on 
a July night as the engine-room of a steamboat. 
It contained three beds and not over a million of 
muskitos. Each of the former she pledged her- 
self to have occupied by the females of the house, 
who would, she reasoned, share the depletion to 
which otherwise I alone should be doomed. The 
apartment beneath this contained one bed, a post- 
office, and, as nearly as I could guess after escaping 
from it, something more than ten times the number 
of muskitos that had tendered their services in 
the one above. The bed was curtained with thick 
chintz, from which she argued the muskitos could 
be expelled by the smoke of a few chips laid 
upon a shovel of coals, after which, nothing could 
be more easy than to fasten the curtains with pins, 
and so enjoy uninterrupted repose. 

The circumstance on which she most congrat- 
ulated me in this case was, that I could make the 
little apartment within so tight that the muskitos and 
even the air would be effectually excluded. The 
good lady, therefore, stood quite aghast, when at the 
close of her harangue I asked, with a kind of des- 
perate resignation, to be lighted to the upper room ! 

Here I did service, turning, smiting, and groan- 
ing, until a rap at the door, just as the clock struck 
one, announced that some fellow-sufferer had 
grown desperate, and abandoned the attempt to 
sleep. 

" Is the lady kyur" cried the voice at the door, 
in a tone by no means indicative of the tranquillity 
essential to rest on a summer night, " who is going 
north in the stage 1" 

" Yes." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 293 

" Well, it will be ready in fifteen minutes." 
" But you were not to start till daylight." 
" '1 I shouldn't, but I reckon we may as well be 
going, as to stay here and be bled to death by 

these muskitos." 

It would be superfluous to add that the closing 
substantive was preceded by one of the strongest 
compound adjectives which the language affords. 
In fifteen minutes, therefore, we were on our way 
from the residence of the New York landlady. 
I had almost forgotten to add that she had a hus- 
band — an intelligent, but very quiet, good-natured 
man, whom one would almost expect to find set 
down among the fixtures, if the premises were 
offered for sale. He had evidently preserved his 
thrift and industry, notwithstanding his early res- 
idence in the country ; for his fields were well 
fenced, his crops luxuriant, and a fine growino- 
orchard lay in front of the house. 

At eight o'clock we arrived at the beautiful little 
village of Princeton. Here we breakfasted, at the 
first really filthy house I had seen on the route, 
and this was unequivocally so. There was no 
disguising the table-cloths, the soiled dishes, the 
buried floor, or the untouchable towel ! that was 
handed me to make my morning ablutions. The 
court was in session here ; and amono- those sum- 
moned to the breakfast-table, I recognized several 
legal gentlemen from different parts of the state. 
Some of these had many inquiries to make in 
reference to the Oregon expedition ; the answers 
to which made me known as connected with one 
of those who had accompanied it. 

I afterwards experienced the benefit of this in- 
direct introduction to the company, in the loquacity 
of the new driver, whose first greeting after we 
left the town was delivered from a face inverted 

bb2 



294 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

beneath the right-hand corner of the coach roof, 
" I reckon now you'd be right glad to see your 
gentleman this morning." 

As I was looking out in an opposite direction 
at the time, the familiarity of the address startled 
me rather suddenly from my contemplations ; a 
fact which led him to " allow that it would not do 
for me to go such a journey, if I was as easy scar'd 
as that." On my assuring him that I was only a 
little surprised, and could not conceive how a lady 
should be alarmed while she enjoyed his protec- 
tion ; he said he " expected I was about right," 
and expressed a warm desire to see the man or 
men who would offer any harm to a passenger of 
his, more especially if that passenger were a lady. 
As no one appeared to brave this defiance, he 
resumed his upright position, and in a moment 
more the horses dashed off at full speed down the 
long " bluff" which borders the valley of the Bureau 
Creek. Occasionally in our rapid progress, I 
caught a glimpse of the precipice, on the brow of 
which the road winds; but on we went, sometimes 
hanging over it, at others, bounding against the 
bank on the opposite side. When we gained the 
level ground, the inverted face again appeared 
beneath the roof. 

" I expect you're from the east V 

" Possibly." 

" I allowed you was, 'cause no western woman 
would ever a rode down that bluff at that rate 
without screamin like thunder. I druv ten years 
in Kentucky, and four here, and I never carried a 
western woman that didn't holler like a painter 
every time I jolted her a little, or put the horses 
up faster than a trot." 

" Then you prefer, I suppose, to have eastern 
ladies ride with you ?" 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 295 

" Yes, that's just what I do : if there's anything 
on airth I hate, it's hearin a woman scream." 
Having expressed his choice in these gentle terms, 
he returned to the perpendicular and drove on. 

We soon mounted the opposite bluff, emerged 
from the beautiful grove which crowns it, and 
entered on the prairie, over which the remaining 
sixteen miles of this stage lay. It is a high swell- 
ing plain, large tracts of which were covered with 
the rosin weed, then in full flower; this plant is 
well known to the inhabitants of the prairies as 
affording a very pure white gum of a delicate 
flavor when chewed. Its leaves are very long, and 
about the width of a hand ; they are cut in narrow 
scallops from the edge almost to the centre. They 
all spring from the root just where it rises above 
the turf, and the stalk shoots out from their centre 
to the height of four or six feet, and then it unfolds 
from one to three flowers of a bright yellow hue, 
very similar in form to the common elecampane 
of the eastern states. This plant used to be the 
Indians' compass and dial. It was now just begin- 
ning to deposit its gum in little, pure, transparent 
globules on the stalk, and my friend on the box 
proposed to halt a few moments, and give me an 
opportunity to test its excellence. Deferring my 
desire, however, to accept his proffered indulgence 
to the requisitions of the government, whose agent 
he was, I prevailed on him to proceed, expressing 
at the same time an intention to make the experi- 
ment at a more fitting time. 



CHAPTER VII. 

One hour more brought us to the point of wood- 
land where stood the next " stage-house." It had 



296 LIFE IN PHAIRIE LAND. 

consisted originally of one small cabin of rough 
logs, which in due time increased to two. They 
stood in friendly contiguity, and were united by 
their roofs. In the shady passage between, at the 
time of our arrival, the hostess was seated, with 
an apron full of green peas, which she was ejecting 
from their lawful premises, with one of the most 
forbidding scowls I ever beheld on the face of 
woman. What could have happened ] I was very 
thirsty, but who could ask even a cup of water 
from the owner of such a face 1 She kept her eyes 
studiously fixed upon her task, apparently deter- 
mined to afford me no opportunity to express my 
wants, or exchange a word of conversation with 
her. I was quite chilled, and began to feel ex- 
ceedingly uncomfortable at the prospect of the 
half-hour's stay which I had been informed would 
be made here. I revolved in my mind every pos- 
sible form of address which could act as an emol- 
lient to her excited feelings, and at last was about 
to make a desperate onset, with my humble peti- 
tion, when a couple of children came rushing 
around the corner of the lower cabin, full of glee 
and merriment. I knew not if she were their 
mother, but her face made them shrink back 
and hold their breath. It was evident they had 
some experience, and that, whatever the cause of 
the phenomenon before us, the person who pre- 
sented it was not to be tampered with. I spoke 
softly to the elder of the two, a little girl of five 
years, and asked her to get me a bowl of water. 
She was gone a moment and crept back, whisper- 
ing, " There ain't no water in the pail, but I've got 
the dipper, and I'll show you where the spring is." 
I followed her down a path that led to the foot of 
a little eminence on which the house stood, and 
having slaked my thirst, and gathered both curi- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 297 

osity and courage during my absence, I determined 
to make an assault on the icy fortifications of the 
pea-sheller. The whole affair began to wear rather 
a ludicrous aspect after my doubts about the drink 
were removed, and now, when I had no favor to 
solicit, I perceived that the countenance, instead 
of being that of a dangerous woman, was expres- 
sive only of vulgar and animal rage, which propri- 
ety had not taught her to suppress in the presence 
of strangers. 

" Madam," said I, " are you the landlady of this 
house V. 

" Yes, I am." 

" Your situation here between two large unset- 
tled prairies enables you to make a great many 
people comfortable V 

" Yes, but I don't allow it's my business to look 
after other folks' comfort, when they don't care 
anything about mine." 

" That depends upon circumstances," I replied. 
" If you keep a public-house, you make it your 
business to attend to the comfort of people who 
visit it, and all well-bred persons will certainly 
return your kindness, by consulting yours as far 
as possible." 

" Well, I don't want to keep tavern. Folks will 
stop here to suit themselves, I don't want 'em." 

" But, my dear madam, you live in such a place 
that people must stop with you, or suffer all the 
inconveniences of traveling through an uninhabited 
country. One of the greatest comforts known among 
civilized people is that of finding a pleasant substi- 
tute for your own home, when abroad. You have 
traveled enough, surely, to estimate this your- 
self]" 

11 No ! I never traveled only when we come 
hyur, and then we camped and slep' in our wag- 



298 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

gons. If other folks 'lid stay at home, as I do, 
there wouldn't be no need of having every other 
house a tavern!" This was bordering on the 
personal. 

" But, my dear madam, people cannot always 
stay at home. Suppose now, your husband were 
to leave you for a few days on business, and to be 
taken sick during his absence, and send for you ; 
you would wish to go to him. But you could not 
encamp on the way, if you were alone, and then 
you would want to see kind faces where you 
stopped." 

"I allow that's a different case," said she, eyeing 
me sharply. " Is your husband sick 1 ?" 

" My husband is a very long way from home," I 
replied. 

" Well, that's another thing. If I could know 
when folks stopt hyur, that they was obleeged to 
go about the country on any such account, I 
shouldn't hate to wait on 'em so ; — but I reckon 
there's very few that don't go to spec'late or see 
the country, as if there wasn't any about their own 
homes, or 'cause they're too lazy to do anything 
else but ride about." 

Just at this moment the horn sounded, and I 
was obliged to bid the inhospitable woman a hasty 
good morning. She had risen from the task I 
found her engaged on, and was standing, pail in 
hand, ready for the spring. 

" Good morning," said she, " when you come 
back this way, may be I'll be looking better than 
I am to-day. I had four gentlemen here last 
night, and it rained on their beds ; they found fault 
with me, and I told 'em they might go farther and 
do better if they could. I didn't want 'em Injur. 
I had a right smart blow up with one of 'em. Ho 
told me we ought to be ashamed to live here five 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 299 

years, with a roof leaking, and I told him we'd 
live here ten years longer without mending it, if we 
chose, and he might go somewhere else for a dry 
bed if he wanted one ; for he shouldn't have one 
here asrain ! But I see John's team is at the 
fence. Good morning, ma'am. I hope you'll 
find your husband well." With these words she 
suffered me to depart, and went her own way. 

About four miles on, we were stopped by a man 
emerging from a pleasant-looking cabin to deliver 
some message to the driver, who, I had forgotten 
to say, was a tall, sardonic-looking, half or quarter 
Indian, as silent as the other had been communicative. 
The man who hailed him, announced that the day 
was very warm ; he nodded assent : that his hoi'ses 
sweated ; another nod : that his wife was sick ; he 
nodded again : that she had been sick several days; 
another nod : and didn't get any better ; still an- 
other nod : and that he wanted to send for some 
lemons. This time the assent was accompanied by 
an abrupt offer to get them. " I reckon you may 
get three," said the prudent husband, depositing a 

shilling in his palm. " Tell to send me good 

ones." Another nod, and we drove off, leaving 
the farmer gazing after us with his hand over his 
eyes, his teeth entirely exposed, yet still wearing 
an expression of profound admiration at the man- 
ner in which his silent friend executed a right an- 
gle at the corner of his garden. 

It was twenty miles from this house to the near- 
est settlement, where medical advice or necessaries 
in sickness could be procured ; and several miles 
to the nearest house where common aid, in case 
of accident or death, could be expected. This 
good man, however, seemed as nonchalant while 
sending for his three lemons, as if he had but to 
-dispatch a boy across the street ! So much indif- 



300 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ference do people acquire by living in the wilder- 
ness. He had come from the east about eight 
years before. 



CHAPTERVIII. 

At four o'clock we reached the southern bank 
of Rock River, at a place called, indiscriminately, 
Dixon's Ferry, Dixon, and Dixonville. By the 
first of these names it has been known many years, 
as corresponding on Rock River, to Fort Clark, 
now Peoria, on the Illinois. There is much natural 
beauty about the upper part of the town. The 
bank of the river is broken, and a bold bluff of 
lime-rock rises abruptly to a considerable height 
above the lower level, the summit of which is 
wooded with open, beautiful barrens. The trees 
hang on the brow of the ledge, and wave their arms 
pleasantly to those below. A fine spring issues 
from the foot of the rock, but I did not visit it. 
Opposite this portion of the town is a beautiful 
plot of table-land, smooth as a summer lake, which 
its owner had converted into eastern capital and 
western promises, by consenting to divide it into 
town lots. He had paid liberally for an engraved 
map, on which the streets were adorned with 
trees, and the public grounds with churches and 
other lofty edifices. Neither the trees nor churches, 
however, seemed to have any very fair prospect 
of becoming distinguished elsewhere. 

The old part of Dixonville, that around the ferry, 
is built upon a bed of cream-colored sand, abound- 
ing in fleas. The banks of the river are dotted 
with little copses and slightly broken. The north- 
ern one rises into a high bluff, which, just below 
the ferry, crowds up to the water's edge, and 



LIFE IN TRAIRIE LAND. 301 

bears upon its face an occasional tree or shrub. 
On the southern side, the bluff bends away from 
the termination of the ledge, and sweeping inland, 
leaves a low track, the rear of which is broken by 
bushy gullies that come down from the height 
above, and terminate in the sand-bed before spo- 
ken of. 

I was set down here, at another very filthy 
house. But that which so disgusted me on first 
entering, I soon found to be one of the least ob- 
jectionable features of the establishment. The 
landlord was one of that class of people in whom 
all national and other distinctions are lost in the 
ineffaceable brand of villany that is stamped upon 
them. One would never pause to inquire whether 
he were American, English, Irish, or Dutch. 
You felt conscious of the presence of a villain ; one 
of those universal prowlers, whose business it is to 
prey upon society, and who, when it will be most 
advantageous, prosecute their schemes alone, and 
when otherwise, surround themselves with a gang 
of ruffians, whose less disguised vices form a bar- 
rier between their leader and public indignation. 
He had a calm, imperturbable face, which, when- 
ever he saw that his designs were detected, as- 
sumed an expression of the most profound meek- 
ness and resignation, as if its owner would say, I 
know your thoughts wrong me, but what then ? I 
can bear even that ! 

I asked to be shown at once to a private room, 
and furnished with water and other things neces- 
sary to comfort, after a very warm and dusty ride. 
He escorted me to one adjoining the parlor. "But 
sir," said I, observing boots, hats, et cet., standing 
about, " this appears to be a gentleman's room." 

"Yes, it is occupied by a gentleman, but he's 
out, and won't be here till night." 

C c 



302 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

"Have you no room unoccupied?" I inquired. 
" Beside, there is no lock on the door!" 

" You need not fear interruption," he replied ; 
" I would give you the parlor, but we shall want 
to pass through there, and you can spend an hour 
here without any fear of being disturbed." 

" Very well, sir. Be so good as to send me the 
water and towels immediately." 

They were brought at the expiration of ten 
minutes, by a gross creature, who united the 
characters of mistress, housekeeper, and servant, 
to the miscreant landlord. Her whole person and 
manner were of the most disgusting description. 
She deposited her burthen, and then placing a 
hand on each side of her ungainly person, posted 
herself against the door, and commenced taking a 
deliberate survey of myself and my proceedings. 
I waited a moment, and finding that she intended 
to remain as long as her convenience or pleasure 
would permit, inquired if it formed any part of 
her orders to remain ] " No ; but didn't I want 
some help ?" 

" Not at all ; the most effectual way of serving 
me will be to remove yourself as quickly as pos- 
sible from my sight." 

She disappeared, and I barricaded the door 
with trunks, chairs, and whatever else I could 
place against it. I had scarcely completed the 
task, when some person came rapidly up-stairs 
and through the hall, and seized the handle of the 
door with a violent push. 

"Open this door," exclaimed a harsh voice, ac- 
companying the words with another push, that 
made the fortifications tremble. I now added my 
own strength to the other securities, and informed 
the person that a lady and stranger was occupying 
the room for a very short period only, and that she 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 303 

presumed he would, as a gentleman, only require 
to be informed of this to be induced to leave her 
in peaceable possession ; or, if anything were 
wrong, to seek the landlord, who had placed her 
there. To this he replied, that any person who 
was in his room must leave it in a shorter space of 
time than it would be proper to describe ; and 
that he would see the landlord where it was sup- 
posed to be much hotter than it was there, before 
he would go after him on any such business. I 
now saw that I had done him great wrong, in sup- 
posing him accessible to any arguments that would 
touch a man or a gentleman, and, therefore, 
changed my ground. 

" Sir," said I, " I shall not leave this room until 
I am ready, which will be a much longer time 
than you name. If you retire, and permit me, 
unmolested, to accomplish what I came here for, 
your room shall be vacated in fifteen minutes. If 
you remain there, I remain here ; and I have, be- 
side my personal strength, the aid of two very 
heavy trunks, and a rifle, placed against the door 
at about the height of a man's head. If you are 
not already acquainted with its contents, there is 
every chance that you will become so, if you open 
this door by violence." Muttering some terrific 
curses, he retreated down the stairs, and I pro- 
ceeded to make my toilet, in a trepidation which 
shamefully belied my stout words. It was com- 
pleted in a very short time, but even before it was 
done the door was again rudely assailed, and the 
inquiry made whether I " was not yet ready." I 
replied, that I should leave the room the first 
moment after I was ready, and that these visits, 
so far from facilitating my preparations, interrupted 
them entirely. Again the steps retreated, and, in 
a few moments, I removed the trunks and rifle, 



304 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

and walked into the parlor. At the same moment 
the wretch came up-stairs, and entered his room. 
He was a well-dressed, gentlemanly-looking per- 
son, and, strange to say, wore a wide crape band 
on his hat ! He peered sharply into the parlor as 
he passed, remained in his room about the fourth 
of a minute without closing the door, and then 
disappeared down the stairs, and lounged away the 
evening about the bar-room and door of the house. 
Everything I now saw convinced me that I was 
in a den of the foulest iniquity ; but imagination, 
stimulated as it was by fear, did not conceive the 
half of what I afterward learnt to be true of the 
vile people who consorted there. This place is 
the Vicksburg of Illinois, and the enterprising 
proprietors of the mail line had chosen the head- 
quarters of the gamblers, counterfeiters, horse 
thieves, et cet., as the most fitting place of enter- 
tainment for their passengers. I afterward learned 
that there was an excellent house kept in the upper 
part of the town, remote from the pestiferous at»> 
mosphere of these wretches, but, being a stranger, 
I had no opportunity of profiting by it. The 
people who live here are persons whose daily 
business is the stealing of horses, the manufacture 
of counterfeit money, et cet.; and such was their 
strength at the period spoken of, that although the 
better population of the place, of which I was in- 
formed there was a highly respectable body, held 
them in the abhorrence which their acts merited, 
they could make no demonstration against them 
without endangering their own and the lives of 
their families. Sometimes, exasperated beyond all 
forbearance by their enormities, the citizens were 
driven to some feeble measure of self-defence ; 
and, at this time, there was a set of counterfeiter's 
tools under execution. But these movements 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 305 

generally ended in some tacit compromise, by 
which the villains were left to pursue their iniquity 
as before. 



CHAPTER IX. 

One instance of the recklessness in crime, ex- 
hibited by the wretches referred to in the last 
chapter, was related to me. A settler, who had 
opened a prairie farm some miles below the town, 
became the owner of a very beautiful pair of 
horses. One morning they were both missing. 
He at once started in pursuit, went directly up to 
the town, and, a few miles on his way, discovered 
one of them lying dead by the road-side. It ap- 
peared that, for some reason, the robbers wanted 
but one, and, as the other followed his companion, 
they had shot him down to relieve themselves of 
his presence. These, and many more incidents, 
evincing the most shocking depravity, were related 
to me after I had escaped. 

But meantime my desire to reach the resi- 
dence of my friends that night, increased every 
moment. I therefore sent for the landlord, and 

inquired the distance to C . By the way I 

should observe that he added to the various call- 
ings already specified, some pretensions to the 
practice of medicine, and that I had accidentally 
heard him speak to one of his comrades in the 
passage, of having but recently returned from a 
visit to one of his patients, about four miles above 
the place for which I inquired. The name, how- 
ever, when I mentioned it, seemed entirely new to 
him. He mused a moment, and said that really 
he could not tell. It might be between twenty 
and thirty miles down the river. There had been 
20 c c 2 



306 LIFE IX PRAIRIE LAND. 

a little place settled down there somewhere, about 
a year before, perhaps he could find some gentle- 
man about the house who could inform me. 

" Let the distance be what it may," I said, " I 
wish to go there to-night." 

" To-night ! that is impossible. We could not 
send you there to-night on any terms. In the 
morning I may find it possible to take you, or pro- 
cure an opportunity for you to go with some per- 
son that is traveling that way." 

"As you are ignorant of the distance," I said, 
" you cannot name your charge until you ascer- 
tain it." 

" No, though I think it would be reasonable to 
say five dollars." 

I had paid but six dollars for the previous one 
hundred miles. " Do you know the distance to 

," naming the place which he had visited that 

day. 

" Not exactly, but I think it is about — " 

" You mean to say that you have never meas- 
urecl it with the chain, but having been there to- 
day, you could doubtless form a tolerably correct 
estimate." 

He said that he had spoken of visiting a patient 
somewhere in the neighborhood of that place, it 
might be within half a dozen miles or so. I replied 
that " it was useless to attempt deception in so 
small and obvious a matter ; that I would willingly 
pay an exorbitant charge to get from his house 
that moment ; but as it was impossible, I should 
make up my mind to endure a night in it. Let 
me hear from you," I said, " at the earliest hour 
in the morning, in reference to my departure; 
and now, if you will oMnjv me by showing me the 
room I am to occupy to-night, I shall reipiiiv 
nothing more." 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 307 

" You are to sleep here," he replied, " there is 
no other room unoccupied." 

" But this door has no lock, and if I am to judge 
of my security, from that which you promised in 
the first instance, I shall sit up all night." 

Oh, there would not be the least necessity for 
anything of the kind. This was the parlor — it was 
never entered but by transient guests, and if any 
came, they could be shown to another room. He 
begged I would feel perfectly assured, and apolo- 
gized in the humblest manner for the interruption 
I had experienced in the other room. The gentle- 
man who occupied it had not seen him, and he did 
not know who might be in it or what they were 
doing. He regretted, et cet. 

To this I replied, I should place no reliance on 
his promise, having found it worthy of none, but 
take good care to secure myself, and thus we 
parted. 

It should be remarked here as evidence of a 
degree of civilized feeling among these ruffians, 
that they felt themselves wholly unworthy the 
presence of a virtuous woman, and never expected 
one to appear at table with them. It was not the 
custom of the house, so the female before referred 
to informed me, for ladies to appear at the first 
table. 

" And pray where do ladies take their meals," I 
inquired, " when they are so unfortunate as to be 
obliged to eat here V' 

"If they are in a hurry to go, we tote it up hyur 
to 'em ; if they ain't, they wait and go to the sec- 
ond table !" 

" And who sits at the second table T" 

" Mr. , the landlord, and I, and the drivers 

and so on." 

A delightful circle, truly ! I made no attempt 



308 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

to get a meal that day, though I had eaten nothing 
since early breakfast at P. 

Making the best security I could, by placing 
the bedstead against the door, I prepared to retire. 

The room was excessively warm, and had a 
stench which rendered it intolerable, except the 
window were thrown wide open. The bed itself 
would have been pronounced soiled by a jury of 
Irish landladies ; I resolved, however, to make the 
best of the necessity which held me there, and 
addressed myself to rest with an earnestness which 
was well rewarded by seven hours of uninterrupted 
oblivion. 



CHAPTER X. 

In the morning I learned that the good spirits 
had sent to my relief an excellent old New Eng- 
land farmer, who resided some miles below the 
place to which I was bound. He was in a tidy 
farm waggon, carpeted with an abundance of new 
mown hay, drawn by a pair of fleet horses ; and 
more than all, he was an intelligent, honest, high- 
minded man, and a pleasant companion on the 
ride, which proved to be but twelve miles. 

Before I saw him, however, the landlord in- 
formed me that he had made the necessary ar- 
rangements, and paid the charge, one dollar and 
fifty cents. He remarked that it was reasonable, 
though more than he should have charged for that 
distance, if he had been going alone, and directly 
past the place. I paid it, together with his own 
bill, which was about the same as one pays at the 
Astor House for the same length of time, and told 
him that I never paid money more freely for any 
purpose than for leaving his house ; that I pre- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 309 

sumed, in fixing his first charge he had a just ap- 
preciation of my condition, and of the ransom 
which any person would pay to be released from 
it ; and that, considering the relief which I should 
purchase by it, it was a very moderate sum. 

Some remarks from my companion, on the way 
down, led me to inquire what he had received for 
my fare, and on his mentioning half the sum which 
I paid, I remarked that the fellow succeeded in 
robbing me of seventy-five cents at last ! 

"Only that!" said he, "you may consider yourself 
very fortunate ; that is a small sum for him to let 
any stranger escape for;" he added, by way of 
vindicating himself, that if he had known it was 
a stranger whom he was to convey, he should have 
refused any compensation, but that the miscreant 
represented me as a woman belonging to the 
house, whose fare he was to pay, and, continued 
the indignant old gentleman, " I considered any 
price too low to induce me to take one of the gang 
into my waggon, but it is not safe to come to any 
open quarrel with them, so I told them I would 
take you for seventy-five cents !" 

I hope the beautiful country has been purged 
of such a population before this. It was appre- 
hended that the town would at some time be 
made the theatre of such a scene as was enacted 
at Vicksburg. I rejoiced heartily to escape from 
it, and still more to reach the hospitable and 
pleasant abode of my friend Mrs. P . We ar- 
rived opposite the town, or rather the town site, a 
little after noon. The southern bank of the river 
is low and covered with very tall grass ; but it 
rises gradually as it retreats, and finally swells into 
a high, rolling prairie, which divides Rock River 
from Winnebago Swamp. The northern bank, on 
which the town is laid out, rises boldly up from 



310 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND- 

the water's edge to the height of seventy feet, and is 
crowned with a few scattered trees. Two cabins 
on contiguous lots, fronting the river, and an unfin- 
ished framed house, which will, when the street is 
built, be several doors above them, were all the 
evidences of town life which I beheld when we 
stopped and hallooed for some one to row across 
the little canoe which lay moored under the oppo- 
site bank, for myself and baggage. 



In due time the passage was effected ; and after 
a scramble up the steep bank, I found my friends in 
one of the aforesaid cabins, and a snug, cheerful, 
social little home it was, as any the country af- 
forded. 

Here, also, were two other ladies visiting — one a 
magnificent woman, whose beauty had won her the 
title of Queen of the West ; the other, her younger 
sister, a shrinking girl, just entering upon woman- 
hood, with rare beauty of person and extraordinary 
delicacy of character. Here we were all good-na- 
tured, all friends, and all sufficiently accustomed to 
the unaccomodating necessities of western life, to 
make their exactions occasions of merriment, in- 
stead of chagrin, or ill-humor. A beautiful coun- 
try was about us, we had horses to ride, a carriage 
at our service, a boat on the river, a swing between 
two tall trees on the bank, books, pictures, &c, 
in the house, and the most ample freedom to say 
what we would, range where we would, and draw- 
amusement, pleasure, or instruction from any of 
these sources. 

Qur familiarity with these same necessities was 
no trifling advantage. When three guests were to 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 311 

be entertained in a little cabin having but one 
room, which answered the purposes of parlor, 
dining and sleeping room, and the smallest of all 
practicable kitchens, it will not be difficult for 
nice imaginations to conceive that there might 
arise certain points on which a strict adherence 
to etiquet by all parties might have kept us in 
statu quo up to this period. For instance, if we 
eould not have yielded in some cases, where guests 
in a larger mansion would think it impossible, we 
should never have gone to bed, or, once in bed, 
we should, by the same rigid construction of the 
rules, have remained there to the present day. 
There were five of us to sleep, three lady guests, 
our hostess, and her husband. There were two 
beds, and a most luxurious sofa. The debate on 
the first night was, who should take the sofa. It 
was cool, capacious, elastic, in all respects but 
one the most desirable berth of the three. But 
this one, alas ! It was fatal to all visions of dream- 
Less sleep, on the cool hair-cloth. It was no con- 
stituent part of the sofa, nor of the pillows, nor of 
the linen. It did not enter into the composition or 
construction of anything in its vicinity. It was 
not, strictly speaking, a physical difficulty; neither 
was it, whether we consider its own nature, or the 
results of its operation on ourselves, in any sense 
a moral one. One might, at first, have pro- 
nounced it atmospherical ; but this opinion fled, 
as did the patience of the sofa sleeper, before the 
tests to which he was doomed. It commenced 
with a sharp singing tone, which, continuing with- 
out the least inflection or variation, except that 
caused by the nearness or distance of the perform- 
er, grew, in a short time, decidedly monotonous. 
Thus it would have lulled one to sleep in the 
pleasantest manner, had it not, just as you were 



312 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

about dropping off into the land of dreams, sud- 
denly changed, from a phenomenon in acoustics, 
to one in that peculiar branch of hydraulics termed 
" blood sucking." In this stage it was, beyond all 
question, unpleasant ; one, two, three, four, or 
twenty songs ceased at once, and as many little 
hollow needles were instantly inserted into your 
hands, arms, or face ; foreign branches fastened, 
nolens volens, upon your circulating system, and 
drawing off its current without the offer of an 
equivalent. 

There are few persons so constituted as to 
endure, patiently, a succession of such Arab rob- 
beries during a whole night ; and hence it was a 
question of some interest, who should take this 
post. Both beds were protected against these 
merciless despoilers by bars ; but any permanent 
provision of this kind was impracticable upon the 
sofa. After due deliberation, it was resolved that 
I should make trial for that night. Accordingly, 
having gathered the veils of the company, with 
an ample array of darning needles and pins, and 
made the most effective outposts which such 
divided forces would admit of, I crept cautiously 
within, and congratulated myself upon the pros- 
pect of repose, sweetened by the war songs of 
baffled assailants ; but, alas ! how often are the 
grandest anticipations prostrated by the most 
trivial agents. My scheme and patience were 
alike blown to the winds by the entrance of one 
of these minute besiegers. He was soon followed 
by a ravenous troop, whose screams of exultation 
might, I thought, have awakened the sound 
sleepers of tho beds. There was no remedy now 
but to begin again : mending would not do. So 
I removed tho gossamer roof of my couch, and 
sat upright to deliberate on the best means of 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 313 

securing myself against these penetrating ene- 
mies. 

It was all dark, and the deep, steady breathing 
of the four sleepers somewhat warmed my temper. 
I resolved, however, to make another effort, and, 
preparatory to its execution, rose and took a few 
turns around the room by way of getting philosophy 
in the ascendant. Another array of the veils, 
another insertion of the darning needles, another 
spreading of sheets, another cautious creeping 
under, so as not to disturb the arrangement, was 
very soon proved to be equally futile, by a second 
irruption of these Lilliputian vandals. Whose 
patience could be prolonged after this ? whose 
fortitude could bear the painful effects of such a 
warfare 1 Scorning all such virtues, I determined, 
notwithstanding the heat, to adopt the only sure 
defence, that of wrapping head, face, arms, all 
but the mouth, in the sheet, and bid defiance to 
the exulting enemy. In this native vapor bath 
I napped away two or three hours, and, after 
one or two short walks, and one or two brief pe- 
riods devoted to the widest destruction I could deal 
among my untiring foes, morning at last came. 

The second night it was proposed that the sofa 
should be occupied by our host. I felt it my duty, 
notwithstanding the failure of the previous night, 
to express the opinion that the veils, et cet., might 
be made available in defence ; and accordingly 
they were put in requisition. They certainly an- 
swered the purpose of permitting us ladies to get 
into a quiet sleep. It had not lasted long, how- 
ever, when I was awoke by a dense cloud of 
smoke, which seemed to be increasing every mo- 
ment. My first impression that the house was on 
fire, was almost instantly removed; for our host 
was stalking the room in the majesty of outraged 

Dd 



314 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

patience, swinging a large iron kettle filled with 
smoking chips. This process is more briefly de- 
signated by its technical name of " smudging." It 
was performed on the present occasion with great 
vigor, and interlarded with frequent apostrophes 
to those whom it was intended to put to rout, 
and some passages of soliloquy that were very 
moving. 

" Oh you brown stinging imps, I'll give you 
enough this time to lay you up a day or two, I 
promise you. I'm not playing with you now, you'll 
find, before this smudge is over — (Another furious 
swing and a smothered cough). Yes, these women 
would sleep if the smoke was so thick you could 
cut it ; if I could sleep as they do, the muskitos 
might have carried me off into some tree-top and 
left me there — (A blow with the palm). You scoun- 
drel, come here when my head is right over the 
kettle, will you ] — I'll teach you to make game of 
me. By Jupiter, I'll smoke you till to-morrow 
night at this time, if that's what you want — (An- 
other swing). Ladies, I don't think you'll sleep 
much longer, if you do, you've got better bellows 
than I have — (Another turn or two, swinging the 
kettle vehemently). There, you blood-thirsty ras- 
cals, how are you now, eh ! all still ] You won't 
sing any more to-night, I'll warrant you. Now 
I'll see if I can't sleep a little." So saying, he re- 
sumed his couch, apparently with every expecta- 
tion of undisturbed repose for the remainder of 
the night. I was just losing the recollection of this 
amusing scene, when a violent blow with the flat 
hand again aroused me. " Here again, are you ? 
Mars ! what a set of vampires ! If that smudge 
has not laid you up, there's no way to do it." By 
this time the smoke was very much diluted with 
the air circulating through the open doors and 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 315 

windows ; the moon had burst through the clouds and 
lighted the whole scene within and without. There 
was a pause for a few moments, as if despair were 
gathering resolution, and then the suffering victim, 
enveloped in a sheet, rose and walked out of the 
door, muttering that he would try it at the water- 
side. He crossed the lawn, descended the hank 
of the river, and was absent some ten minutes, 
when he appeared again, having apparently made 
a fruitless search for a place of rest. His next 
resort was the unfinished house, but there it was 
no better ; and again the sheeted form appeared 
like an uneasy spirit walking up and down. 

The whole affair now grew so irresistibly ludi- 
crous that it seemed sheer robbery to enjoy it long- 
er alone. I awoke my companions therefore, and 
while I was endeavoring to convey some faint con- 
ception of the scene, lo, the ghostly demonstration 
strode again before our eyes. It was greeted with 
a simultaneous peal of laughter, but it passed on, 
and though our frequent bursts of merriment might 
have provoked the return of a less irascible spirit, 
it came not back. We were not a little astonished 
in the morning to see him appear looking refreshed 
and good-humored as any of us. Nor were we less 
amused when a day or two after we learned what 
resource he had finally availed himself of. Between 
the cabins stood a small sleigh with a box so high. 
that it would have served for a prison van without 
a top. Into this, the persecuted man had climbed, 
and spreading his sheet over the top, sat bolt up- 
right in one corner, bade defiance to the muski- 
tos, and enjoyed for the remainder of the night, 
as he asserted, the most luxurious repose. 

Such scenes might have lost the power to amuse, 
but our " queen" was called away a few days 
after, and the sofa was at once vacated, Yet many 



316 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

a hearty laugh afterward rang through the pleas- 
ant cabin at the memory of those nights. In sober 
truth these insects are a sad drawback to the en- 
joyment of the fine summer evenings which form 
one of the most delightful features of this region. 
The hours of sleep can be secured against them 
by the use of the bar before referred to ; but they 
are a very serious interruption to the delights of 
the cool refreshing evenings which follow the sun- 
ny days of that open country. 

It may not be amiss to remark here that the 
climate of the western states differs materially 
from that of the eastern in the coolness of the at- 
mosphere after sunset. The solar rays acting all 
day on these large tracts of level moist ground 
draw into the upper regions of the air immense 
volumes of vapor which, after the former are with- 
drawn, condense and descend in a miniature shower. 
The dews are consequently very heavy, and the 
nights so cool that nothing like the oppressive heat 
of a July or August night in the Atlantic states is 
ever known. 



CHAPTER XI. 

But let us look at the picture of this little town, 
or rather of the spot selected for it ; for no town 
is yet there. We stand beneath a large tree, just 
in the rear of our cabin. This spot commands a 
pretty complete view of the " section" on which 
the enterprising proprietors confidently hope to 
see a goodly city rise. Below us, half or three 
quarters of a mile, the river bends northwardly, 
and just at the angle a considerable stream pours 
into it, which bears the name of Klkhorn. Its 
mouth is low and fringed with tall grass and bush- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 317 

es, and a few trees, which cut off the prospect in 
that direction. At a point a short distance from 
the mouth of this creek, rises a natural terrace of 
some twenty feet, which sweeps in a crescent form 
almost to our feet. The top of this terrace is 
crowned with wood, while the semicircular am- 
phitheatre inclosed by it, is without a tree or 
shrub, and looks a fit arena for the proud savage, 
who but recently trod it. Its base rests upon the 
river, along the bank of which many dead are bu- 
ried, their heads toward the water. Occasionally, 
as the earth crumbles away, the skulls roll out and 
tumble down, till they rest in a hollow or among 
the roots of bushes and trees which fringe the 
Water. There is no under-growth in the wood 
which borders this amphitheatre, and the grass is 
shorter than that which grows on the prairies ; so 
that as you look across the surface, the tall straight 
trees seem to be set upon a smooth velvety turf, 
clean as a fairy temple. We are on the terrace 
at the upper termination, where it approaches the 
river after its graceful bend to embrace the little 
plain below. Above us the trees are more scat- 
tered, and can scarcely be called anything but strag- 
glers, except at one spot in the open plain, two 
hundred yards perhaps from the river, where they 
assemble in an oblong hollow form, completely 
interweaving their arms over a lovely little bower. 
Directly in front of us there is a winding opening 
to the prairie beyond. Along this is now a pretty 
well wrought road. On the right is the common 
field or garden, in which all the settlers have their 
crops for this year. On the left deep in the grove 
is the residence of the worthy doctor. It has grown, 
by the addition of sundry wings and arms, from 
a simple cabin to quite a complicated cottage. 
The view across the river is open : the prairie 
dd 2 



318 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

swells from the water's edge away for miles, rising 
gradually, and at last bears one solitary tree just 
on the line of vision. The stream itself is a clear, 
rapid current running over a rocky bed. It abounds 
in the finest fish, great numbers of which are easily 
taken by the spear after nightfall. The torch- 
lights glancing about on the water make a pleasant 
feature in a night view from the high banks which 
overhang it. So much for the town site ; now for 
the town and its inhabitants. It has been already 
stated that we have a next door. It is a cabin, 
and belongs to the original owner of the lands we 
have just described. When they were selected 
for a town site, he saw no good reason why he 
should not become a citizen, and so remained. 
He is a native, and the only one which the place 
can boast. But more than this, he is an extraor- 
dinary specimen even of his extraordinary genus. 
He is some forty-five years of age, was bom and 
has always lived in the west ; he possesses a mind 
of uncommon natural powers, which has been 
strengthened by his mode of life, and adds to this 
a great fund of reading. His ability to converse 
on books and other topics common in cultivated 
society, combined with that species of rudeness 
which a life so totally destitute of artificialities 
creates in the most elegant minds, makes him ap- 
pear eccentric ; but he is not really so. Place 
him, even at this age, in a city where he would 
be cut off from the free, wild influences of nature 
and subjected to the restraint of customs which 
men have agreed to pronounce elegant, and though 
he might never lose altogether the free bearing of 
a man who has communed much with nature and 
loved her, he would assume the conventional tastes 
of those with whom he mingled, and his eccentricity 
would wholly disappear. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 319 

His conversational powers are often displayed 
in remarks that would be brilliant in any circle, 
and he possesses a vast fund of knowledge, drawn 
from his fervent love and deep study of nature, 
which might well be the pride of more pretending 
minds than his. He is now a gentleman of leisure; 
the advantageous sale of his property enables him 
to spend his time as his tastes or pleasures lead 
him. He sometimes visits us, discusses poetry, 
science, and polite literature in general. One day 
he pronounced, in a very brief sentence, the most 
comprehensive and truthful criticism upon his 
three favorites, Shakspeare, Byron, and Burns, I 
ever heard. 

It is painful to add, in qualification of so much 
that is admirable, that he has the vice which 
nobler minds have not escaped, that of intemper- 
ance. Though not an habitual drinker, he some- 
times drains the cup too deeply, and then adieu to 
philosophy, poetry, and reason ; he is one of the 
veriest infants of all the stricken family of the 
demon. His home is shared by a wife and one 
child, a boy of some four years. 

In the unfinished house above, we shall find 
nothing but carpenters' benches, bits of boards, 
barrels of lime, &c, and as these three embrace 
the whole of the upper part of the town, we will 
step down the terrace and see what the amphitheatre 
contains. Here we find two tenements, one nearly 
in the centre, the other below. The latter is rather 
a queer affair, even for a new country, and would 
be pronounced decidedly so, where necessity was 
not the supreme law in architecture as well as 
other things. Its body, if it may be said to have 
one, is built of slabs in an upright position, and is 
roofed with the same material. It forms quite a 
spacious inclosure, the interior of which is par- 



320 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

titioned with quilts and blankets into several rooms, 
each of which is thickly peopled. In this fold 
there are three or four families of " Buckeyes," 
who, of themselves, would make a respectable 
colony. They came hither from Ohio, early in 
the season, and are living in this slab house till 
they complete better dwellings. Their journey 
was performed in a boat built and owned by them- 
selves, and propelled by horses. It is now lying 
just opposite the house, half out of water, its prow 
thrown up like the head of a dying alligator. It 
is constructed very much as our canal boats are, 
but seems a trifle higher. The families all bear 
one name, and are father and sons-in-law, _or 
brothers and sons, I never clearly comprehended 
which. 

When they concluded to leave the Buckeye 
state, they consulted together on the subject, and 
determined, in view of their large numbers, that 
it would be more economical, as well as more in- 
dependent, to perform the journey in some con- 
veyance of their own. Land carriage was out of 
the question, a flat boat would only float them to 
the mouth of the Ohio, a keel boat would be too 
laborious, and their last resource was to construct 
one which their horses could propel. This was 
accordingly done. The families and goods were 
shipped, and the strange craft launched upon " La 
belle Riviere." For many days she floated down 
its majestic waters, her silent way crossed occa- 
sionally by the resounding march of the high- 
pressure steamboats that crowd them. At night 
the prow was turned shoreward, and the little 
boat moored under some friendly tree, where a 
fire was kindled and supper served. The smaller 
members of the flock, who had been confined all 
day, could now range the wood, and make ample 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 321 

reparation to their ill-used muscles and lungs. 
By early daylight the refreshed animals were 
again put upon duty, and while the cool dews yet 
lay upon the silent valley, they moved onward. 

I can imagine few things more delightful than 
this primitive, untrammeled progress over these 
majestic waters. When pleasure or convenience 
led them, they could go on shore ; they could 
visit spots never before trodden by the white man, 
and sleep in the midst of silence never broken by 
sound of civilized life, save the snorting of the 
fiery steed that ploughs the water a brief moment 
and is gone. Vast, unbroken, majestic nature lay 
on either hand of them for many days. At last 
they reached the mouth of Rock River, and turned 
their little ark into its clear, bright waters. They 

landed at C ; lived in their boat till the slab 

house was built; and, in this improved condition, 
were waiting the still farther advancement of 
separate firesides within more substantial walls. 
Everything about this rude home wore an appear- 
ance of cleanliness and comfort that made even its 
plainness inviting. The paths were kept clean ; 
the bits of board before the door were well swept, 
the children looked tidy, and the old grandmother, 
of whose fat, happy face, and clean-starched cap, 
I have yet a faint vision, seemed the belle ideal 
of a bold-hearted, strong-handed western woman, 
sinking into the well-earned repose of ripened 
years. 



CHAPTER XII. 

In tne house above this we shall find a specimen 
of a very different class of people, viz., a Massa- 
chusetts sea captain. There he stands ; a man of 
fifty years ; a little above the middle height, with 
21 



322 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

a slender person, and a slight stoop which takes 
something from his stature. His black hair just 
frosted, and his small, keen, black eye dancing and 
twinkling beneath the dark brow, like the heat 
lightning of a cloudy July night. His dress is 
very neat, his motions quick, and his searching 
face always clad in smiles. He speaks much to 
the point, when he chooses, without a wander- 
ing or superfluous word ; and when he does not 
choose, will baffle a whole corps of lawyers. His 
smile is a genuine bubbling-up of sunlight, which 
bursts and is gone, to be replaced by another as 
fleeting. He is a great lover of sunshine, and 
enjoys in a high degree the ability to produce it 
for himself. The early part of his life was spent 
on the sea, but circumstances led him a few vears 
since to unite with a colony and emigrate with his 
large family to the west. His genius seems never 
to have fully expanded itself until it reached the 
prairies. Not even the briny element he so much 
loved brought out all his resources so entirely. 
There, while sailing from port to port, his mind 
was comparatively unemployed. A severe storm 
might occasionally call upon his strength, or make 
it necessary for him to assure his passengers that 
the weather was delightful, and the ocean never 
in a finer state ; but there was little room for the 
play of those faculties which find a rich and end- 
less field for speculation and thrift on the teeming 
prairies. Here he could calculate the amount of 
income which every foot of land would yield ; he 
could select town sites, lay out the lots and sell 
them too, while he was riding along on his ordinary 
business ; he could construct imaginary bridges 
where sloughs were any detriment to a fine "lo- 
cation," and make the most envious neighbor cou- 
fess that it was better than if the land were all 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 323 

smooth. If his horse was fastened in one of these 
places, and the countenances of his companions 
darkened, his admiration of everything about him 
rose to the highest pitch, and he appealed to them 
with a smiling earnestness which could not be 
resisted, to say if it were not the finest country 
ever beheld by man ! Even while he was strug- 
gling through the quagmire, burthened with some 
helpless member of his family, he would asseverate 
in the most cheerful tones, and with a smile which 
nothing could repress, that the country was incom- 
parable ; that the very sloughs themselves, with 
their deep beds of black soil and water pools, were 
one of its best features ; that nothing would be 
easier than to construct bridges " athwart" them, 
when they would be a delight instead of the trifling 
inconvenience which some might think they now 
were. 

He had already aided in building up one of the 
pleasantest little towns in the central part of the 
state, had erected a good house for himself, occu- 
pied it about three years, and then, yielding to his 
love of fresh enterprise, joined this colony, sold his 
home, and come into this newer region to begin 
again. He has selected a beautiful farm skirting 
the river adjacent to the town, on which he is 
about building, but his mind is now all absorbed 
with schemes for making the town grow into a 
large village. Of the success of these he enter- 
tains no doubt. 

The only other character in this embryo city, is 
our host. He is a son of New England, and has 
spent a considerable fortune, which was left him 
in early life, for the pleasure of beginning anew on 
his own strength. He wandered through the 
western states a few years ago, when many places 
that are now blooming with cultivation were waste 



324 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

and solitary ; he built a double cabin in the edge 
of a large grove south of the Illinois river, fur- 
nished it with a fine library, and other cherished 
household gods, and returned one morning in Jan- 
uary from a ball, to find it burned to the ground 
with everything it contained. He subsequently 
opened several farms, and after many years of 
bacheloring in the new country, became possessed 
with the idea that the presence of the absent one 
was indispensable to his happiness. Acting on 
this conviction, he left the prairies after the autumn 
frosts had fallen, and returned with the flowers the 
next spring, bringing a fair girl who had consented 
to leave the Granite State and share his prairie 
home. This is our accomplished and lady-like 
hostess, a highly educated, intelligent, affectionate, 
and truthful woman ; one who would have adorned 
the most polished circles. She is now the mistress 
of this little rude cabin, but her culture and worth, 
so far from being thrown away in this inelegant 
home, make her shine the brighter ; as genuine 
diamonds do in plain setting. She is a fair-haired, 
blue-eyed blonde, graceful in every movement, and 
only prevented by the extreme slenderness so 
universally courted among American females, from 
possessing an exquisitely symmetrical figure. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Such is the place, and such are the people, 
among whom many pleasant days were spent. Our 
everyday pursuits and amusements were varied oc- 
casionally by a ride to the store and post-office, about 
five miles up the river. There were some charm- 
ing views on this road ; the river at some points 
lay spread out before us in full width, dotted with 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 325 

its emerald islands, and notched with the rich 
woodtops that bordered it, and at others it retreated 
from the view so as to leave only a liquid thread 
here and there visible amid the waving green 
which embedded it. 

In one of these rides we were overtaken by a 
shower. It came with a violent wind, and conse- 
quently fell at an angle of about sixty degrees, so 
that if we had turned our gig and stood still, it 
would have protected us perfectly. But in the 
plenitude of our wisdom, we decided to seek refuge 
in a house about three quarters of a mile distant, 
in the precise direction of the storm. We there- 
fore faced the wind and rain, urged our noble old 
Bucephalus to his utmost speed, and after a most 
ludicrous flight of some minutes, bounding and 
springing over the knotted turf, arrived, drenched 
and starchless, at the door, just as the rain ceased. 

One of our favorite out-door amusements was 
riding on horseback ; another, sailing in our pleas- 
ure-lxrat; another, swinging on the bank of the 
river in front of the new house ; another, gathering 
mandrakes in the grove. Within, we had Shak- 
speare, Byron, Burns, Bryant, and others, in the 
poetical line ; some variety of scientific, philo- 
sophical, ami sentimental reading ; Hogarth and 
Dickens in the witty, and some fine copies of Ital- 
ian and Swiss scenery, by way of preserving our 
love of the picturesque and rugged in nature. 
With all these resources, and a country more 
charming than language can describe, it would 
have been unpardonable not to be happy. We 
were not so guilty. 

One of our aquatic excursions was undertaken 
for the purpose of spending an afternoon with Mrs. 
C, a widow lady, who with her six sons and only 
daughter resided about two miles up the river, on 

Ee 



326 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

the opposite side. They had emigrated from one 
of the principal cities of New England, and were 
altogether among the most intelligent and valuable 
families in society I ever met. Their little dwell- 
ing stood about a quarter of a mile from the river, 
and was approached by a hard-trodden, narrow 
path, through grass rising on each side almost to 
the head of an ordinary sized man. When you 
emerged within a few rods of the door, the scene 
that opened before you was unexpectedly pleasant. 
The house stood in a little open glade, on a rising 
ground which commanded a fine view of the adja- 
cent prairie and groves, and admitted one or two 
glimpses of the river, buried among the trees and 
tossing grass. An arm of timber from the water- 
side stretched up within a few rods in the rear, 
and another a little farther off in front of the house. 
The building itself had been constructed something 
more than a hundred miles from the spot where it 
now stood, had been taken apart, moved on wag- 
gons, and set up again on this spot. Its various 
pieces were nicely jointed and fitted together, so 
as to answer admirably for a summer-house. How 
it would serve when Boreas came down with his 
frost burthen, admitted of some question. 

Mrs. C. was a woman who possessed the highest 
order of mental elegance, viz., that which is native 
and unaffected by outward circumstances. The 
hospitality of her plain little home was charming 
as it could have been if sumptuous viands had been 
served on costly plates, and luxury had waited on 
every indolent desire. Elegant without art, wise 
without pedantry, amiable without vanity, she was 
the model of all that is lovely in woman. Her 
sons had inherited much of her excellence and 
talent, and were universally beloved. We left 
her little cottage at dark, and embarked for homo. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 327 

The day had been very warm ; the lightning was 
flickering around the southwestern horizon before 
we started, and there was every probability that 
we might be overtaken by a shower before we 
reached our landing-place. There was little 
wind at first, but it presently increased, and bore 
upward flying masses of black cloud, which ob- 
scured the little light given us by the stars, and 
left us in darkness, only deepened by the frequent 
lightning-flashes. Our little sails, filled by these 
gusts, bore us merrily through the rippling waters 
till they ceased, and left us to float with the cur- 
rent until another came. The banks of the river 
were involved in profound darkness, except when 
the cloud-lamp burst up for a moment, but the 
broken surface of the water reflected innumerable 
fragments of light, so faint as to be perceptible 
only to an earnest and searching eye. When you 
caught them, the water seemed to grow more and 
more luminous, till another flash came and de- 
stroyed the beautiful illusion. 

Our company were merry, notwithstanding the 
anticipated shower, and, striking up the " Bonnie 
Boat," made the silent woods echo with its cheer- 
ing strains. It was a delicious night to be abroad 
on the water ; and our spirits were so much exhil- 
arated by the scene, that we should have rather 
rejoiced than grieved had we been visited by the 
shower. We reached our landing place, however, 
just as the first large drops began to plash in the 
water and patter among the leaves. It was ten 
o'clock : the muskitos had sought shelter and 
would be harmless while the rain continued to 
fall. We opened our doors and windows, there- 
fore, and the cool air came in laden with the fra- 
grance of reviving nature ; a delightful precursor 
of the sweet sleep which was to follow. 



328 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

The country north of this section of the river is 
one of the most beautiful that can be imagined. 
Its high rolling prairies are dotted with groves 
through which clear rapid streams wind and bab- 
ble like those of the eastern states. It was at this 
period principally held by the first settlers. A 
few late emigrants from the Atlantic side were 
creeping in, however, and making claims, as they 
are called, on some choice spots ; but the " Suck- 
ers" still held the dominion. 

This process of making claims is a somewhat 
curious matter, and not unfrequently leads to se- 
rious disturbance among the settlers. It is gov- 
erned by different laws in various neighborhoods. 
In some it merely consists in erecting a house or 
something like it, in which the claimant or his 
agent shall reside for a certain length of time ; in 
others he is, in addition to this, required to break 
and plant a piece of ground, and in still others, 
the latter is alone sufficient. So that you may 
sometimes ride through a piece of corn, growing 
on the open prairie with no house or other sign of 
cultivation or ownership in sight. These claims, 
if made according to the governing customs, are 
generally as much respected when the land is 
thrown into market as a deed conveying the fee 
simple. But if the law of the neighborhood has 
been evaded in part, or if there be rival claimants, 
each of whom have set their marks upon a single 
tract, it leads to serious and often fatal strifes. The 
emigrant, however, has in all these the advantage 
over the first settlers. For as the numbers of the 
former increase, the latter retires before them as 
the Indian has retired before him. He forms the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 329 

second wave that pours itself .into the bosom of 
this wilderness. When the Yankee homes thicken 
about him, and farms are opened within two, three, 
and four miles, he begins to feel straightened, op- 
pressed ; he wants more room, and resolves to sell 
to the first Yankee that offers to buy. He does not 
wait long; and a bargain being concluded, he stows 
his plunder underneath the cover of the large wag- 
gon, harnesses his four horses before it, hangs his 
" bucket" beneath and his " feed-box" behind, starts 
his two cows on in advance, sets his eldest boy on 
the right-hand wheel horse, with a single rein in 
his hand, and commences his journey westward, 
shaking the dust of the Yankee settlements from 
his feet. He has often no place in view, but jour- 
neys on, always toward the setting sun, for he 
knows that freedom such as he seeks has retreated 
thither. He travels on, day after day, and grows 
more complacent as he gets further off. Some- 
times they sleep in the cabins by the way side, 
and at others in the waggon and again on the 
ground. The females always do their own cook- 
ing either by the camp fire, or on the hearths where 
they stop. They never complain if the jour- 
ney continues for weeks, but relieve its tedium 
by walking, driving the cows, &c. I have met 
many hundreds of these moving caravans, and 
scarcely ever saw an unhappy or anxious face 
among them. They love the large liberty of the 
wide prairie, they love its sunlight, its waving 
grass, its flowers, its lone trees, its groves, its silent 
streams. They love the anticipation of making a 
new home on the brow of the remote wilderness, 
and living there, with half the careless ease of the 
Indian and more than has happiness. Their minds 
exult in the boldness and freedom of those enter- 
prises which demand little practical detail. The 

E E 2 



330 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

dangers which hung over their early years have 
cultivated in them a certain boldness and love of 
adventure which find no proper field but on the 
wild frontier. The richness of the soil has obvi- 
ated the necessity of severe labor, and they have 
consequently grown up with habits of indolence 
and a want of practical talent, found in no other 
free states of the Union. Advancement in the 
useful or ornamental arts is a thing almost unknown 
among them. The son is content to spend his 
days in the rude and comfortless cabin that shel- 
tered his sire ; he rides in the same heavy, uncouth 
vehicle ; he never bestows any increased care upon 
his crops ; even though his eastern neighbor on 
the next farm doubles his harvest by it. 

His aspirations are equally stationary in the more 
important particular of educating his children. 
He " reckons " they should know how to write 
their names, and " allows it's a right smart thing 
to be able to read when you want to." He 
" expects " his sons may make stump speeches if 
they live ; but he don't " calculate that books and 
the sciences will do as much for a man in these 
matters as a handy use of the rifle, and a free 
range of the prairies." As for teaching, " that's 
one thing he allows the Yankees are ju6t fit for ;" 
he does not hesitate to confess, that they are a 
" power smarter" at that than the western boys. 
But they can't hold a rifle nor ride at wolf hunt 
with 'em ; and he reckons, after all, these are the 
great tests of merit. 

With all these peculiarities, and this ignorance 
of what is esteemed essential in cultivated society, 
these people have strong intellects, bold and 
vigorous ideas, and possess a vast fund of know- 
ledge, drawn from sources with which a more arti- 
ficial society is too little acquainted. They have 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 331 

an order of eloquence peculiar to themselves, 
rough, bold, and strong, and glowing with illus- 
trations drawn from nature as they know her, and 
from other sources familiar to their minds. I have 
often listened to them with delight, as well as 
amusement. They are not so witty as they are 
accredited to be ; but their thoughts and figures, 
so different from those we are accustomed to hear, 
take us by surprise, and produce an emotion of 
contrast so strong as to excite irresistible laughter. 
Their illustrations are not drawn from the lore 
of Greece and Rome, but from the infinitely truer 
teachings of nature, amid which they live. If they 
have not the artificial elegance which the mighty 
minds and associated events of centuries have 
given to the former, they have a higher intrinsic 
value, and tell more effectually on their assem- 
blages than would all the mythology of heathen- 
dom. 



CHAPTER XV. 

The hospitality of the people of the west is ex- 
haustless. Such as their homes are, the stranger 
is ever welcome to them, and to what they con- 
tain. The single room is as freely shared as if it 
were twenty, instead of one. The abundant table 
is never too small for all that are within hearing 
when it is laid. You may feel embarrassed at the 
narrow physical limits within which all this is 
confined, but your feelings are never perceived or 
appreciated by your entertainers. You rise in the 
morning and are conducted to the well or spring, 
or a bench beside the door, to perform your ab- 
lutions (necessarily scanty under such circum- 
stances) ; your host, mean while, descanting on some 
"haar" or "wolf hunt," on the approaching or past 



332 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

harvest ; on the last or the coming election, on. 
the merits of a horse, or the "chance of mast" 
for fattening pork, the sickness of the last season, 
the necessity of burning the prairies to prevent 
it, &c. 

Within, the good wife has meantime commenced 
her preparations for your -morning meal. The 
first step in this, as in all other meals, is to place 
her large, two gallon coffee-kettle at the fire. Next 
she lays the covers of two small iron ovens upon 
the blazing logs, removes some coals to the hearth 
with her large wooden shovel, and introducing its 
blazing- edge to the ashes in the comer, ascends 
the ladder with a tin or earthen vessel. Presently 
she reappears with meal for her dodger. This is 
made by wetting the meal with cold water, and 
mixing it with a little salt to the consistency of a 
thick batter. It is then taken in the hand and de- 
posited in three or more oblong cakes in the angle 
of the skillet ; the cover is put over, a few coals 
thrown upon it, and so much of breakfast is in 
progress. If you are a southern or eastern guest, 
or particularly respected for any cause, the next 
step is to make a mixture of wheaten flour, cold 
water, lard, and salt, and cut it into small cakes, 
which are deposited in the other skillet. Then come 
the meats, which, with the corn dodger and coffee, 
are the essentials of all meals among these people. 
Morning, noon, and night sees from one to three 
varieties of this article on every well-spread table. 
All this time the coffee is maintained in the most 
vigorous ebullition. The table is laid at intervals, 
the dodgers and " hot cakes" watched, and when 
all is done, the coffee is drawn back and settled 
with an egg ; the ashes are turned from the covers ; 
the cakes taken up on plates ; the meats dished ; 
the hearth brushed ; and some few little matters 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 333 

of taste about the room regulated ; and then you 
are invited to the table. The coffee, it must be 
confessed, is execrable, and can only be disposed 
of by the aid of the rich cream, which is not often 
spared. The hot cakes, as might be expected, are 
solid and of a deep leaden hue ; the dodger is in- 
comparable ; the quails delicious ; the grouse or 
deer equally so ; but the bacon insufferable. This 
is pretty nearly your bill of fare for the day. You 
have fruits or sweetmeats and pudding added at 
dinner ; and fresh baked cake at tea. But at each 
meal you have all the meats of the first, with one 
variety, replaced sometimes by the domestic fowl, 
and sometimes by fresh baked pork. All the food 
of each meal is cooked at the time it is to be eat- 
en ; and the first step of this long process is to 
place the "coffee-kettle" where it shall come to 
the boiling point as speedily as possible. The 
western people have an unconquerable aversion 
to food that is not served hot and fresh from the 
cooking vessel. They would look with contempt 
upon the most sumptuous hospitality of eastern 
tables, if one of the staple dishes had been cooked 
on the previous day. No bread is ever found in 
their houses ; they make a large loaf in their iron 
ovens which is fermented by what they call salt- 
rising ; but it must be eaten warm, and is then 
only tolerable to an eastern palate. 

As might be expected from this excessive use 
of coffee in its worst form, from the great amount 
of animal food, and some other causes belonging 
to the climate which these greatly aggravate, they, 
for the most part, wear complexions of a faint yel- 
lowish brown. Their skin has little appearance 
of life, and looks more like a soiled lemon-colored 
glove than the membrane of mingled red and white 
which of right belongs to them. 



334 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

The morals of these people partake strongly of 
the characteristics already named. They are too 
magnanimous to be often mean, too free from ava- 
rice to be often dishonest. A little fraud or shrewd 
trick played upon a Yankee they consider a com- 
mendable evidence of superior sagacity ; a thing 
to be exulted in rather than repented of. Their 
passion in trade is for the never-sufficiently-to-be- 
prized horse, and a considerable part of their petty 
litigation grows out of this class of transactions. 
Indolence is one of their worst vices ; for it leads 
to many others. This, however, I am bound to 
say, is confined to the male sex. The females can- 
not be indolent if they would, and this for a num- 
ber of reasons ; one of which is, that the females 
of all newly settled countries have many kinds of 
labor to perform of which they are relieved in older 
regions by the greater perfection of machinery 
and architecture, and the presence of a larger pro- 
portion of their own sex. Another is, that the 
western country is visited by great numbers of 
single men ; strangers, who are dependent for all 
the domestic offices on the women of the region 
or neighborhood in which they stop. This has 
been a very important item in the labors of these 
females for the last fifteen years. But the male 
population may be pronounced unequivocally in- 
dolent. On a bright day they mount their horses 
and throng the little towns in the vicinity of their 
homes, drinking and trading horses till late in the 
evening. It is not extraordinary to see two or 
more of them come to blows before these festival 
days end. 

They are prompt to redress an injury by legal 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 335 

process when the law affords it; when not, by 
personal strength. It is, however, due to them to 
say, that they are equally prompt to make repa- 
ration when it is demanded in an honorable man- 
ner. They have little love or charity for the 
vices that stain artificial society. Duelling is 
rarely defended, licentiousness is little known, and 
theft is scarcely conceived of among them. 

Respect for the Sabbath and for religious obser- 
vances generally, is not very widely spread. Few 
churches are sustained, and but little expenditure 
incurred for the support of religious institutions. 
The prevailing faiths or forms of worship are the 
Methodist and Campbellite. There are others of 
course, but these are by far the most numerous. 
Without attempting any invidious distinction be- 
tween these beliefs, it will certainly be adhering 
to truth to say that the latter are generally the 
more intelligent people, the former the more hon- 
est. The pulpit oratory of both is quite peculiar. 
I heard many of their " Circuit riders," and sev- 
eral of the settled clergy of the Methodist church, 
and am bound to say, that before I had this expe- 
rience I should have considered any true descrip- 
tion ironical or libelous. Among them all there 
were but one or two that deserve to be designated 
by any other name than that of the most arrant 
ranters. Their efforts bore no comparison with 
those of the stump orators and disputants of deba- 
ting clubs, lyceums, &c, which you may hear 
every week in the small towns settled by western 
people. Like most empty speakers, these preach- 
ers have an abundance of furious action, a bellow- 
ing utterance, and a tone which renders it extremely 
difficult for the possessor of a cultivated ear to 
preserve both gravity and patience through one of 
their interminable harangues. 



336 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

The primitive style of their meetings, and the 
motley and heterogeneous appearance of the peo- 
ple who assemble, makes them one of the most 
striking novelties to the curious observer of West- 
ern life and manners. 

The Circuit rider embraces in his field of labors 
from thirty to one hundred miles of country. His 
meetings are called in school-houses and churches, 
when held in towns or thickly populated neigh- 
borhoods, and in the cabins of the settlers in 
more primitive regions. His audience are seated 
on boards, the ends of which rest upon chairs, or, 
where these are not to be had, on blocks of wood 
of convenient height. One chair is always reserv- 
ed for the speaker, in which he sits until the con- 
gregation is assembled. He then rises, takes his 
position behind it, drops his flag handkerchief upon 
its back, and reads a hymn, repeating each couplet, 
the better to aid the memory of the singers, most of 
whom are without books. Thus commence the ex- 
ercises of the occasion. The singing is followed by 
a long incongruous prayer. After this, the text is 
announced, and the sermonizer launches at once, 
without preface, into the utterance of some of the 
many things which he intends to communicate. 

I remember becoming wearied with one of 
these harangues, which was more vapid than usual, 
and finding great relief in a study of the motley 
group around me. There were mothers present, 
with infants of all ages, from four weeks upwards. 
One of these, about four months old, was curiously 
clad. It wore a dress of coarse brown English 
merino, sleeves short, and ruffled at the elbow, 
with plain footing about a nail in width. 1 inter- 
red that it had been originally white, not from any 
evidences then visible, but from the fact that i 
never saw it colored in the shops. On the head of 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 337 

this child was a calico cap of the coarsest texture 
and colors, trimmed profusely with an orange and 
green ribbon of some antiquity. My next neigh- 
bor on the other hand was dividing her attention 
between the sarmont and an infant of some six 
weeks, dressed so grotesquely as to be irresistible. 
A light cloak of blue cotton material partially 
covered a dress of green and black calico of the 
largest stamp ; the head was covered with a cap 
of the finest cambric linen, exquisitely wrought, 
and trimmed with a faded black lutestring ribbon, 
about two inches and a half in width. The mother 
wore one of the ancient scoop bonnets, natural 
hose, a calico dress, and a cape of different color 
and figure. Directly in front, sat a young lady, 
the belle of the settlement, and withal not a little 
of a coquet, as I afterwards learned. She was 
clad in a dress which had once been printed, but 
yielding to the pressing solicitations of the rubbing- 
board, had parted with its colors, and was now 
passing for white. Each of its large threads was 
distinctly visible. Her neck was dressed in a 
very coquettish style, with a bright red bandanna 
handkerchief drawn tight over the shoulders, 
and fastened with a pin, and a long pink ribbon, 
which flowed nearly to her cowhide boots. Her 
hands were naked and empty ; a tasty calico apron 
being made to do duty in place of a pocket-hand- 
kerchief. Her head was covered with the soiled 
remnant of an ancient green calash, the bridle of 
which enabled her to play off many effective 
glances upon the stricken "fellers" in her vicinity. 
Such ludicrous varieties of dress were inexhausti- 
ble, and afforded a rich field of observation while 
the orator was floundering through his subject ; 
which on this occasion was an argument on the 
immortality of the soul. He had not approached 
22 Ff 



338 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

this abstruse question without feeling its importance, 
and making due preparation. His mind had evi- 
dently been refreshed by the recent perusal of 
some elementary treatise on the science of astron- 
omy, which has been supposed by other great 
minds to afford some evidence on this and kindred 
questions. How this evidence was borne did not 
very plainly appear from this discourse ; the prin- 
cipal use made of his knowledge being to propound 
to his audience the questions found at the bottom 
of the page ; and after a due pause, to answer 
them himself. Half an hour's exercise of this kind, 
abounding in the grossest and most ridiculous 
blunders, convinced the gaping assemblage that 

Brother A was not only " a powerful smart 

man, but one of mighty larnin." 

It was safe then to return to the original question, 
which every one had forgotten, but which, at the 
end of the lesson, he seemed fortunately to remem- 
ber. After some well-rounded sentences in his 
loudest key to prepare their minds for the tremen- 
dous question, he said, drawing himself up with a 
dignity and complacency which no words can con- 
vey, "Now, my friends — What is the Soul V 

A most impressive pause followed this interest- 
ing inteiTogatory. Every mind, save those of the 
dashing coquet and her rival admirers, was bent 
on it ; the house was awfully silent for the moment ; 
but the answer enunciated in a measured tone and 
manner, " My brethren, soul and body is enonemous 
terms," carried my gravity by storm and let down 
the rapt audience with such a sudden substitution 
of plain fact for sublime inquiry, that there was an 
instantaneous shuf lling of feet, drawing up of bent 
forms, and exchanging of smiles, which said, " That 
is it, but we could not have said it so well." 

When this sermon was over, an elderly sister, 



LIFE IN PEAIRIE LAND. 339 

who had exulted at every sentence, asked my 
opinion of it. To the reply that I thought Mr. 

A possessed a fine voice, she rejoined — " Ah ! 

he's a powerful smart man. We thought Brother 

," naming his predecessor, " was as good as 

anybody could be, but Brother A is a heap 

ahead of him. Where on airth he ever gets larnin 
to answer the questions he's always askin, I can't 
see; I reckon he must read a power of books." 

But notwithstanding the ignorance of these men 
and the often ludicrous character of their discourses, 
their presence and services are of great value to 
the communities among whom they minister. That 
most of them are honest men, there is no doubt. 
The arduous and slavish character of their duties, 
compared with the exceeding small salaries which 
they receive, are testimonies in favor of their in- 
tegrity, which no candid mind can reject. Nor can 
the value of their ministration, indifferent as it is, 
be doubted. Among the people whom they teach, 
religion is a simpler and more genuine emotion 
than in other states of society, where its rites and 
appliances constitute so much that is the subject 
of thought, envy, prejudice, and opposition. They 
have little of the vanity that poisons more refined 
Christianity. The stirring housewife sets her little 
cabin in order for the meeting, and her neighbors 
prepare to come in with far purer and more in- 
tense religious emotions, than the plumed and 
jeweled dame arrays herself to visit the splendid 
edifice thronged with the votaries of fashion and 
wealth. There is a sublimity and beauty in the 
stem simplicity of these gatherings — the rough 
cabin but one small remove from the handiwork 
of nature, whose broad and silent kingdom is 
spread around — the honest sympathetic faGes 
and hard hands that clasp each other with no 



340 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

feigned warmth, that commend their bond of 
union more strongly than magnificent piles, and 
pealing bells, and sounding organs. Theirs is the 
simplest action of the religious faculties. The 
solemn story of the Cross and the teachings of 
Him who suffered on it, bring them together to 
worship, adore, and love Him. The motives to a 
false profession of religion are also fewer here 
than in a more complicated state of society. The 
vices of this condition are not such as would be eith- 
er concealed or aided by the cloak of hypocrisy. 
They become professedly religious because they 
are, or at least think themselves, actually so ; not 
because it will enable them to cheat in trade with 
greater impunity, or rob their neighbors' widows 
and orphans, on the strength of long prayers and 
a stereotype solemnity of faces. Religion is re- 
garded by them as a source of happiness merely, 
not of gain or standing, or as a license for fraud. 

However simple and imperfect, then, the 
ministration of their wandering clergy, it must 
command the respect and complacent regard of 
every honest and reflecting mind. Its fruits are 
the budding and blossoming of Faith, Hope, and 
Love in the wilderness. Religious institutions 
and observances have greater beauty and force 
here, where man is restrained by few motives ex- 
ternal to himself, than where he is under the 
numerous obligations and restraints of a more 
artificial condition. These bold, daring people 
are brought into the church from a freedom and 
responsibility to themselves alone, scarcely more 
circumscribed than those enjoyed by the savage; 
and the strength and harmony of the christian code 
are beautifully demonstrated by the submission of 
such character to their guidances. There is be- 
sides a fitness in the relative condition of the min- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 341 

ister and his people which renders him in every 
respect an object of their highest regard, and se- 
cures to his teachings the most unbounded rever- 
ence. His ignorance is never discovered by them. 
His blunders, when he ventures beyond his usual 
aim to exhort or denounce, instead of exciting in- 
dignation, disgust, or mirth, only stamp him as a 
man of wonderful learning. There is no discrep- 
ancy between their expectations and his abilities ; 
and his position, therefore, becomes ridiculous only 
to better cultivated minds. These .he does not pro- 
fess to instruct. He is not sent for their benefit ; if 
they participate in what he has to dispense it is 
their own choice ; and the liberality with which 
he offers it should certainly secure him against 
ridicule. As the Yankees increase in the settle- 
ment where he officiates, he willingly retires and 
leaves them a minister of their own choosing. It 
must not be understood that the description I have 
given has no exceptions. There are men officia- 
ting as servants of Christ in these wild regions who 
possess an eloquence and strength that would ren- 
der them eminent anywhere ; men whose oratory 
is clothed with the richest imagery, whose every 
figure is a flash from the glowing altar of nature, 
whose fervid emotion and lofty sentiment kindle 
and elevate the soul. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

As my departure was now a fixed event, we 
began to cast about for a choice between several 
little excursions in the neighborhood, which yet 
remained to be performed. " You must go to the 
store with me once more;" said Mrs. P., " and to 
thj) council-house and burying-ground above Cap- 

FF2 



342 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

tain S's. farm ; and take another evening ride on 
horseback; and — do whatever else is possible." 

No objection being made to these propositions, 
they were allowed to stand as the order of pro- 
ceeding for the remaining five days. The next 
afternoon was devoted to the shopping. Tom was 
driven to the door at dinner time, and left at our 
service. As soon as the house was set in order, 
and dresses changed, a duty which, among west- 
ern housekeepers, belongs to the afternoon instead 
of the morning, we took our seats and drove off 
over the beautiful road already mentioned as lying 
along the river. 

Our shopping was rather incongruous, consisting 
of the entire variety usually collected in a country 
store, viz. : dry-goods, groceries, hardware, crock- 
ery, and glass-ware, et cet. Litle Nell must have 
two frocks and an apron, and Hamlet a cravat. 
There must be half a dozen new tumblers, two 
butter plates and six bowls, a tin pepper-box for 
the kitchen, a new water-pail, some darning and 
tape needles, three or four deep dishes for pump- 
kin pies, a jug of molasses, a paper of ginger, a 
pound of tea, seven of coffee, a few nails, and a 
stone pot for the winter butter. These were put 
up in the smallest possible compass, and even then 
it required no little ingenuity on the part of the 
polite and energetic shopkeeper to demonstrate 
that we could get them all home in the gig. They 
were, however, stowed in, and then it required as 
much care to finish the demonstration by keeping 
them there ; but we succeeded, by picking up one 
or two parcels when they fell, carrying the glass 
and crockery in our laps, and bracing the pail fill- 
ed with promiscuous articles between our feet. 

Our next and only remaining excursion was to 
the burial-ground and council-house of the Sauks, 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 343 

on the bank of the river, about a mile and a half 
above the town. The trail to this lay immediately 
on the margin of that beautiful section of the river 
before spoken of. Unbroken views of the entire 
stream, followed by glimpses, smiling through 
waving tree-tops or swelling grass, continually pre- 
sented themselves. The trail lay along the very 
verge of the high bank, save where the latter bent 
from a straight line. It was deep-worn, and showed 
that many a swarthy foot had trodden its narrow 
bed. Occasionally, under a clump of bushes or the 
overhanging boughs of larger trees, were two or 
three graves, their rude outlines nearly effaced by 
the storms that had beaten upon them and the lev- 
eling hand of time. Where the soil had crumbled 
from the face of the high bank, a ghastly skull, 
rolled from its dreamless slumber, lay half way 
down the descent, arrested in its fall by the roots 
of shrubs or trees. 

The council-house is simply a circular area some 
eighty feet in diameter, artificially elevated by a 
terrace, perhaps four feet in height. Its surface is 
strown with bones, the remains of feasts that have 
been celebrated here. It is in a beautiful spot. A 
fine growth of young trees secludes it from the 
river, so that those who are upon land may be 
perfectly acquainted with the movements of friends 
or enemies on the water without being seen them- 
selves. More interesting to me were the graves 
thickly strown along the verge of the bank. Some 
had fallen in and partially revealed the skeletons 
sitting upright, their decayed canoes, which had 
rudely served in place of coffins, crumbling and 
dissolving about them into the earth whence they 
had sprung. I know not that this particular spot 
has been the theatre of great events in the history 
of the people who have now disaj>p eared' forever. 



344 LIFE IN PRAIIUE LAND. 

from it, but I know that its rare beauty, in the still 
autumn day when we visited it, seemed to me fitted 
to foster the wild melancholy which so deeply 
tinctured the character of its decayed sovereigns. 
Yet many a tide of excitement had swept over this 
lovely spot, if it had not burst and spent its rage 
there. A few miles above was the principal seat 
of the Black Hawk war, the last faint struggle of 
the red men of the north to retain their ancient 
realms. A few miles below was the village of the 
Prophet — the man who communed with the Great 
Spirit, and interpreted to His children His will 
concerning them. Along this very spot had wan- 
dered excited warriors, cunning " medicine men," 
and wondering women, in all the variety of emo- 
tion inspired by their several conditions. Rage, 
hatred, love, and sorrow had been born and buried 
here, deep in the bosom of past centuries ; while 
the solitude and grandeur of the wilderness was 
unbroken by sound or sight of civilization. The 
strength and freedom of the past were in sad 
contrast with the weakness and humiliation of the 
present. Formerly thousands of proud and fear- 
less men ruled these beautiful wilds. Now how 
different ! I had seen, a few days before, the mis- 
erable, degraded remnant of their race that still 
lingered in these pleasant haunts. Drunken, poor, 
clothed in tatters, begging of those who dwelt in 
their former home the fire that had consumed their 
souls — nay, offering to barter their wives and chil- 
dren for it ; they were a painful spectacle — a sadder 
ruin than the crumbling temples and broken idols 
of Eastern lands. 

The war which a few years before had swept 
over these plains, had been the last struggle of a 
chieftain and hero, vainly seeking to infuse into his 
perishing people a spirit that would lead them to 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 345 

contend against a mighty race. But the elo- 
quence that warmed their hearts did not restore 
their brave dead, nor increase the number of their 
living warriors. A little band of savages against 
a nation of armed men ! a handful of withered 
leaves upon the tempest !' They could have but 
one path before them ; and they have trodden it. 
Westward it led them, and now their ancient coun- 
cil-houses are deserted ; their hunting-grounds 
bloom under the hand of the agriculturist ; their 
tombs crumble and sink away beneath the plow ; 
the smoke of their lodges no longer curls on the 
breath of morning ; their hunting-dances are no 
more seen at evening ! All that remains of them 
tells of a race that has dwindled from power and 
the strong majesty of freedom, to humility and 
wasting feebleness. 

The story of the Indian is a melancholy one. I 
have often pondered upon it, with a sympathy that 
would not be hushed by the voice of reason ; 
though it proclaimed that they had fulfilled their 
mission, and must pass away. A fair land abound- 
ing in all that would contribute to the highest 
condition of civilized life, was the lawful estate of 
civilized man ; and when he came to claim it, it 
was not the office of the savage to dispute his right. 
I mourn not so much the fate of the Indian, as the 
indecent, the fraudulent precipitancy with which it 
was consummated by our selfishness. We had 
room and time enough to have waited more pa- 
tiently, while Nature was finishing in her own way 
the plan she had begun. And assuredly, while we 
congratulate ourselves upon the wide extent of our 
territory, our complacency must be somewhat qual- 
ified by the reflection that, in our haste to possess 
it, we have rudely expelled the original owners 
from homes which they loved and venerated ; that 



346 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

we have chosen our own time to bid them disap- 
pear from a heritage around which the very fibres 
of their hearts were twined in love and reverence 
for the dead who were sleeping there, and for the 
living beauty and majesty that overspread it. 

We need not clothe their departure in poetical 
garb, to make it touch the heart of flesh. The In- 
dian, with all his pride and independence of char- 
acter, with all his energy and daring, with all his 
veneration for the ashes of his dead, all his keen 
sense of the great, the free, and the beautiful in 
nature, all his fond pride in the magnificent hunting 
grounds where he had been born, and where he 
hoped his dust might rest, when his spirit should 
be set free in that scarcely more beautiful region 
pictured by his imagination ; the Indian standing 
in the attitude of one who bids farewell to all these, 
and is about to flee before the superior craft and 
strength of enemies whom he despises, and yet 
cannot resist, seems to say, " All this have I loved, 
and still love ; all this did my forefathers, before 
they slept, give to be mine forever ; yet now the 
Great Spirit asks it for his pale-faced children, and 
will not be denied. The arms of our warriors are 
palsied before them ; the bow refuses to send its 
arrows to their heart ; they outnumber us like the 
sands upon the shore of the great blue waters, or 
the leaves of the summer forest ! a destiny is await- 
ing us which we cannot avert ! It bids us depart, 
and come hither no more. I hear it in the winds. 
It speaks to me from the depths of the storm, and 
whispers in the sunshine ! It tells me that this 
shall no more play around my lodge ; that I must 
meet death far hence, and be content to tell my 
children of the former glory of the red man." 

One must feel that these leave-takings were 
fearful events in the life of a being all impulsive 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 347 

and unreasoning as the Indian was. How the fierce 
heart must have wrung and resisted, while it panted 
for the wasted strength that once would have se- 
cured revenge ! And then how must it have 
refused to quail and retreat before a power unfath- 
omable, undefinable indeed, but one whose repre- 
sentatives yet commanded no respect, inspired no 
dread J 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

During the season following that in which the 
events described in the last chapters occurred, I 
visited various parts of the state. Some of my 
journeys were made alone — others, in company 
with a brother. They were always attended with 
great fatigue, but often with a novelty, either in 
the manner of accomplishing them, in the events 
that befel us, or the characters that fell in our 
way, which amply repaid the inconvenience. 

Once I remember, at two o'clock on a bitterly 
cold morning, we found ourselves with six other 
persons, exclusive of two on the outside, crowded 
into a coach originally calculated for six. Our 
progress on this occasion, beside being extremely 
uncomfortable, was attended with no little danger, 
the weather having suddenly changed during the 
night, and sheeted the whole country with ice. 
The coach, consequently, stood at all angles to the 
horses, and seemed every moment to become pos- 
sessed with a sudden fancy for exploring road-side 
slopes, or the foot of any little swell we chanced 
to pass. The horses, too, were in all positions ; 
now up — now down — now half-way between 
both ; and on each recovering, seemed more 
alarmed and uncertain than before. Under the 
excitement occasioned by all this variety, it will 



348 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

readily be credited that we did not suffer greatly 
from the intense cold or the keen winds, biting as 
they were. The morning dawned and found us 
in a deep wood, from which we emerged just as 
the sun showed his fiery disk in the stern, cold 
sky. There was an immense stretch of prairie 
before us, a great part of which had been burned 
late in the autumn ; and now its black bosom was 
covered with one entire coat of the frost-mail. 

One rarely sees a more impressive spectacle 
than was produced by the flood of strong red light 
that was poured over this immense mirror. The 
naked summits of the swells, black as ink by con- 
trast with the surrounding brilliancy, looked like 
so many sable monsters stretched upon the plain. 
These, and the color of the charred surface, per- 
fectly visible through the transparent ice where the 
light did not fall upon it, and the myriad hues of 
red and green, purple and gold, which the in- 
equalities and our uneasy motion caused to be 
reflected to the eye, made one of the most gor- 
geous displays conceivable. Fiercely, therefore, 
as the winds swept around us, no objection was 
made to throwing up the curtains, that we might 
have free view of this wonderful spectacle. 

" It will soon pass away," said a gentleman, 
whose head, covered with a woolen net cap, had 
for the last two hours been dancing in very in- 
convenient contiguity to the shoulder of my com- 
panion. 

" There will be another change in the weather, 
gentlemen ; and before night we shall have little 
ice to complain of, or I'm no prophet," he mut- 
tered, after a pause ; his head resuming its old 
motion, and his eyes fast closed again. It seemed 
suddenly to become a matter of great interest with 
each of the seven persons inside, to ascertain 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 349 

whether the alternative suggested were afterward 
to become a matter-of-fact or not ; for all eyes 
were instantly turned upon him. Apparently they 
brought their owners to very different conclusions : 
some turned away with entire indifference, as if it 
were of the least possible consequence that such a 
prophecy had been uttered ; others looked again to 
the cold glaring sky, and stretched their heads from 
the coach, as if to catch the wind anew and form 
an estimate of its character ; while others shrunk 
deprecatingly into their wrappers or buffalo robes, 
and seemed to say, " Heaven send it may be so !" 

These few words of conversation, and the 
strong light, roused the ninth inside passenger 
from his slumbers, and caused him to raise his 
head and look deliberately about, to the no small 
astonishment of those who had not seen him be- 
fore. He was not, what the reader will anticipate, 
a baby, about to announce, in the usual way, that 
his slumbers were at an end, and that other people's 
must consequently terminate too ; but a noble, great 
pointer dog, with large liver-colored ears, fine in 
texture as a French glove, lying over his white 
clean face. He had been nestled at my feet all 
night, keeping them as warm as if I had been at a 
bright fireside, or in my own bed. He became a 
favorite at once, but not so his master, who was a 
young man in a flashy dress, with the swaggering 
air of one who says, " If you talk of men who 
have seen the world, look at me." 

About an hour after daybreak we stopped to 
breakfast, on fried quail, bacon, leaden biscuit, 
dodger, and the most abominable coffee, if one 
might judge from its color and odor, and the 
rapidity with which the company followed my 
example of a glass of cold water. Our meal over, 
we journeyed on ; the prophetic gentleman settling 

Gg 



350 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

himself comfortably in the back corner, repeated 
his prophecy, in a tone clearly intended to be one 
of defiance to any who should be so presumptuous 
as to dispute him. No one seeming disposed to 
do it, however, he fell off into his old state, which 
led the owner of the pointer to remark, that " if 
he went on that way all day, the weather might 
change as many times as it liked, and he would 
not be the wiser for it." 

Notwithstanding the keenness of the winds, 
which swept over the great prairie, the warmth of 
the sun soon melted the ice from its surface ; and 
the cold abating, by slow degrees we found our- 
selves, at dinner time, thirty miles forward on our 
route, and little troubled with ice indeed ; for the 
wheels were rolling in the soft black soil, thawed 
to the depth of two or three inches. 

The morning had worn away in the discussion 
of politics, the future prospects of "the west," the 
condition of the banking system, and the Internal 
Improvement bill. On all these topics there was 
the usual diversity of opinion, — one gentleman 
holding it to have been demonstrated, that the 
party then in power was the most intelligent, 
patriotic, wise, and pure body of men who had 
ever been entrusted with the destinies of the 
state ; another, with the same sources of know- 
ledge, holding, with equal pertinacity, a directly 
opposite opinion. All agreed, however, that "the 
west" was a great country; but one thought its 
greatness would be materially enhanced, and the 
wheels of its prosperity thrown forward a century 
at least, by carrying out the liberal system of 
internal improvement already projected ; while 
another pronounced it the last evidence of folly 
which the people had to oxpect from their legis- 
lators. One regarded the destruction of banks as 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 351 

equivalent to the total extinction of all the sources 
of wealth in the nation ! Earthquakes, floods, 
tempests, conflagrations, were nothing in com- 
parison with it. Another thought it the measure, 
of all others, best calculated to secure the pros- 
perity, welfare, integrity, almost the salvation of 
the people. 

And thus they talked. My four-footed friend 
occasionally looked up and snuffed the air, while 
these discussions were going on, but he evidently 
felt that the interest of the scene was a poor com- 
pensation for the effort he was obliged to make, 
in struggling through the forest of limbs that 
hemmed him in below. When darkness came on 
we were within a few miles of the capital of the 
state. The winds blew warm from the south, the 
mud had deepened, the sky was overcast, and 
there was every promise of rain before the follow- 
ing morning. Our prophet had congratulated 
himself many times on the certainty with which 
he had foretold the coming storm ; and though, in 
this case, the " shadow cast before " had been a 
severe attack of rheumatism, nearly disabling him, 
yet he evidently would rather that its severity 
should be redoubled, than that his sagacity should 
prove to have been at fault. 

We reached the city long after nightfall. Ex- 
cept in a few public places, it was pitchy dark. 
The black streets received no light from the cloud- 
ed heavens ; and looked themselves, like a more 
dense continuation of the same darkness that reign- 
ed in mid air ! The stage drove to a large and 
well kept hotel, the name of which I now forget, 
where we stopped for the night. 

After supper I was ushered into a drawing- 
room, where three or four highly dressed ladies, 
and as many gentlemen, were sitting at cards and 



352 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

backgammon. They were evidently playing to 
wear away the evening, not from love of the games. 
In the intervals of the games, they carried on a 
desultory conversation ; and more inane or point- 
less efforts of the kind, it has seldom fallen to my 
lot to hear. The ladies were engrossed with " the 
perfectly beautiful style" of something that had 
lately made its appearance in the fashionable world ; 
and the sole theme of their thought and speech 
was how it would become them, or certain persons 
of their acquaintance ; where it could be had and 
what was its expense. 

When all possible changes had been rung upon 
these various branches of the momentous subject 
and all varieties of opinion expressed, one took 
up a Jeremiad over the loss of her piano ! She 
was " immeasurably grieved that pa should have 
thought it expedient to come west without it. Not 
that she was very fond of music (a confession, by 
the way, which was entirely superfluous, consider- 
ing that her auditors were possessed of eyes), for 
she was not, but it was an accomplishment that 
she prized very highly, and she was certain that 
now, when she was so far removed from everything 
that could confer the smallest happiness on a re- 
fined mind, she should feel the loss much more 
painfully. In short she felt quite positive that 
when they came to be settled in their new home, 
she should be very wretched in consequence of 
this loss ; to say nothing of the thousand other ele- 
gancies which she had been compelled to resign 
in coming to this dreadful country. Her com- 
panions listened with an expression of respectful 
sympathy for hor sorrows, and she was evidently 
fast working herself into tho belief, that a more 
unhappy and self-sacrificing female did not live, 
when the door opened, and an elderly lady of fine 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 353 

mien and most intelligent countenance walked into 
the room. 

She took a vacant chair near me, and, after lis- 
tening a moment to the foolish lamentation still 
pouring forth at the table, turned and addressed 
herself to me in a few commonplace remarks. I 
replied, and very soon found myself in earnest 
conversation with one of the most intellectual and 
affable women I had ever met. She was a stranger 
like myself, but her observations on the country, 
the character of its inhabitants, and the effect 
which life in it was calculated to exert upon dif- 
ferent classes of persons, evinced a mind gifted 
with strong powers of perception, keen discrimi- 
nation, and exalted feeling. 

" I have never, said she, " been more entirely 
convinced of the empty and worthless character 
of our plans of female education at the east, than 
when I have seen the subjects of them transplant- 
ed to this beautiful country. They unfit females 
for everything like a natural or useful life. AH 
things must be artificial about them. In truth they 
become, while passing through these systems, as 
nearly artificial themselves as a work of the Cre- 
ator can. Instead of preparing them for any of 
the duties and pleasures of life, they go far toward 
destroying whatever natural capacity for these 
may have been originally possessed. The more 
finished and prolonged the process, the more com- 
plete is the destruction of all power or wish to be 
useful, or to reap enjoyment from any but the 
most false and unnatural state of society." 

" You are severe," I replied, " nor can I deny 
the justness of your remarks, lamentable as is the 
truth they contain." 

" Yes ; lamentable indeed, when one considers 
the vast interests periled by it, and the ruin, dis- 
23 gg2 



354 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

honesty, and faithlessness which grow out of it. 
I never see a young female pining over the empty 
sorrows created by these artificial wants, but I 
think with pity on the stern and real griefs which 
wait to follow in their time — the sore trials sure to 
be multiplied a thousand-fold in consequence of 
this very condition of her mind — and tremble for 
the weak purpose and fainting integrity with 
which she must meet them. And what is worst of 
all," she added, after a moment's pause, " I fear 
there is in the present state of society little rational 
ground for hoping that it will be better." 

" I must be permitted to differ with you there," 
I replied. " I entertain strong hope that a remedy 
will soon be sought for this very evil." 

" Your youth will account for that," said she, 
with a smile. " When you have lived as many 
years as I have, and seen men persist in the 
wrong course when the right seemed plain as the 
path of the sun, you will have less confidence in 
signs that promise reform. If by that time you 
have lived much in society, and reflected on its 
interests, you will have seen that the reform of a 
wide-spread evil like this, is slow as the growth of 
mountains." 

** I grant it is slow, painfully slow, to those who 
see its need. But every moral movement, be it 
individual or associated, is governed by laws ; and 
once jn progress, much hope is to be entertained 
that if it be not consummated itself, it may lead to 
others that will equally effect the object. The 
first step toward the remedy of any evil, is that we 
become convinced it is such. This conviction is, 
I think, taking pretty general hold on society, in 
reference to the presont mode of educating females. 
And as more rational views of the duties and ob- 
ligations of woman get abroad, may we not expect 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 355 

that a better preparation for them will be de- 
manded %" 

" To a certain extent, but I have less confidence 
in the efficiency of reformatory doctrine, and the 
force of new truth over old prejudices and long- 
indulged habits, than your remarks betray in your 
self. Nevertheless, I am willing, nay, anxious to 
hope, could I but find that whereon to ground my 
hope. Go among the educated classes of females 
who have come hither from the east, and you will see 
and hear that which will wonderfully depress your 
sanguine expectations of reform. Daughters pining 
over the absence of the finery in which they were 
wont to decorate themselves, and interested in no- 
thing so much as what will restore them to their 
former outward estate ; mothers grieving that their 
daughters are cut off from the opportunities of 
education in fashionable schools ; from French, 
Italian, embroidery, and music ; mourning over 
the loss they will sustain in these things, when the 
volume of nature, filled to overflowing with what- 
ever is best calculated to stimulate intellect, 
strengthen the nobler feelings, in short, develope 
the true and the strong in man or woman, is dis- 
played all around them. I blush at such folly in 
my sex." 

" And grieve, I can well believe," said I, " for 
the sufferings which, folly as it is, it inevitably 
creates." 

" Yes, I cannot choose but do so," was the re- 
ply ; " though my pity is sometimes, I fear, quali- 
fied with too much indignation." 

As I was about to lead the conversation in an- 
other channel, the door opened, and my brother, 
accompanied by one of our fellow passengers, came 
in. They had evidently just come from the en- 
joyment of some rare joke, in which they seemed 



356 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

to think I might participate. It was a personal 
adventure that had just befallen a gentleman who 
had rode with us during the day. He was a 
stranger in the country, one of the corps editorial 
of the empire state, on a tour of observation through 
the prairies. He had sat all day muffled in his 
buffalo wrapper, scarcely speaking, but apparently 
having a keen eye and ear for whatever was pass- 
ing. On arriving in the city and learning that the 
stage-coach would leave before daylight the fol- 
lowing morning, he expressed a wish to see some- 
thing of the place, and. sallied forth, despite the 
storm and darkness, and the remonstrances of his 
companions, to look about. He had gone but a 
few yards from the door when by some mischance 
he fell prostrate in the black mud, not even saving 
his face from the unworthy contact. His sudden 
reappearance in such melancholy plight, and his 
determination, facetiously expressed, to go to bed 
and see no more of the city, after having left a 
pretty bold impression upon it, was very heartily 
enjoyed by his friends. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

At four o'clock we were again under weigh, 
with the rain pouring in torrents through the 
black morning upon the blacker earth. Daybreak 
found us at the breakfasting place, the first post 
from Springfield. The house was one of the bet- 
ter class of cabins, and had about it some marks of 
age and cultivation, such as fruit trees, and a few 
currant bushes. The room which we entered 
at once by the outer door, contained a great log 
fire, blazing finely, a few chairs, a table, sundry 
chests, a Yankee clock, giving the most exaggera- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 357 

ted report of time conceivable, two rifles suspend- 
ed by wooden hooks from the beams overhead, 
a variety of overcoats, et cet., upon the walls, and 
two beds, both tenanted. 

The entrance of eleven persons, two or three of 
whom, the unfortunate outsides, were dripping 
and smoking from the storm, and all cold and hun- 
gry, was a circumstance so unfavorable to the 
prolongation of slumber, that the four sleepers 
proceeded forthwith to vacate their beds, and make 
ready for the events that might follow our arrival. 
In a very brief space of time they joined the circle 
at the fire, and as it might be supposed, the new- 
. comers were more conversant with whatever was 
going on abroad than they who had slept peace- 
ably all night, proceeded to question one and an- 
other on their several places of departure and 
destination, how long they had been on the road, 
how the traveling was, whether the storm was 
likely to continue all day, and if not, when it 
would cease. All these inquiries being duly an- 
swered, and sufficient time having been taken to 
collect themselves, after being so suddenly awak- 
ened, they proceeded to complete their toilets. 
The instruments wherewithal it was accomplished, 
were a small iron skillet, on a bench beside the 
back door, certain parti-colored pocket handker- 
chiefs — their own personal property, and a small 
wooden comb, a part of the personal estate of the 
oldest member of the party. 

When the processes of washing, drying and 
combing were severally completed, they reentered, 
seated themselves at a little distance from the fire, 
and one of them drawing from his pocket a book, 
proceeded to read inaudibly, the others maintaining, 
meantime, a profound and studied silence. The 
peculiarity of the affair was explained in a mo- 



358 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ment by one of our company whispering " Mor- 
mons." 

The landlady looked aghast when she saw the 
number of guests for whom she had to prepare 
breakfast, but she nevertheless stirred about with 
a right hearty zeal, setting on her quail, chicken, 
pig, dodger, and biscuit. The table was ready 
in a short time, and our cloaks, overcoats, &c, 
being cast upon the unmade beds, we gathered 
about it. The scarcity of chairs threatened at first 
to be a very serious inconvenience ; but what with 
mustering one or two small ones, aud as many 
with broken limbs from the kitchen, and moving a 
large chest to one side of the table, we were all at 
length seated ; though at such unequal heights as 
almost caused the smile, with which each regarded 
the rest, to break into a broad lausjh. The grood 
woman — and a really good and gentle woman she 
was, notwithstanding her rude, poorly furnished 
cabin, and coarse attire — made many apologies, 
and seemed quite overwhelmed to find herself the 
entertainer of so many strangers. 

" It was a new thing," she said ; " they were not 
prepared for it; the passengers had always break- 
fasted at the next house till the day before, when 
some difficulty having occurred, she had been ap- 
plied to for accommodation. If it continued, they 
could be better prepared in a few days to make 
travelers comfortable." There was so much willing- 
ness in her manner, and such apparent truth in her 
apologies, that we all felt disposed to receive them 
with the utmost kindness. Just as she had delivered 
them, a waggish lawyer, seated on the opposite side 
of the table, in one of the small chairs, his head 
just visible above the board, looked up and asked, 
" How long have you lived here, madam V and 
when she replied ••' Seventeen years, sir," looked 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 359 

down at his low seat with an expression so sug- 
gestive of the disparity between the length of time 
and what it had produced, that several incipient 
bursts of laughter were just faintly heard, but sup- 
pressed to be indulged on a more fitting occasion. 

"I don't know," he added, when, the meal over, 
we were seating ourselves in the coach ; " I may 
err in judgment, but it seems to me that chairs 
ought to have grown taller than that, in seventeen 
years!" 

All day the rain poured dismally down, and our 
progress was very slow. Before nightfall, how- 
ever, we reached the town at which we were to 
part from our fellow passengers, and go on in an 
" extra." We had yet sixty miles to accomplish, 
and hoped by making forty the first day, to reach 
our place of destination before the second night. 

These same " extras " at the west are sometimes 
curious specimens of their genus. Ours, in this 
instance, was a farm waggon with slender bars of 
wood fastened along inside the box as substitutes 
for springs. They answered the purpose, how- 
ever, exceedingly well. The roads were now so 
heavy — and as we proceeded northward, where the 
rain had not extended, were covered with so deep a 
coat of snow — that we advanced much less speedily 
than we had hoped. Having obtained directions we 
set out about two o'clock to cross a considerable 
prairie, beyond which was a grove, and still be- 
yond, a house, at which it was proposed to 
spend the night. We went on slowly, toiling 
over the snowy plain, not a little perplexed fre- 
quently with the number and obscurity of the 
diverging tracks, and finally altogether at a loss to 
know whether we had followed the right one or not. 
But if wrong there was no remedy till we should 
meet some traveler or reach a house, of either of 



3G0 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

which there was no sign whatever. Immense flocks 
of crows screamed and cawed from the low shrubs 
and woods skirting the plain, or wheeled with a 
kind of chilled and dismal motion through the cold 
air above our heads ! Darkness began to creep 
on, and still no sign of life or human habitation ! 
Chilled and weary, our situation became at last ex- 
tremely uncomfortable. The miles seemed length- 
ened to leagues, and our uncertainty much increased 
whatever else was disagreeable in the prospect 
before us. At last we reached the grove which we 
seemed to have been an age in approaching. We 
entered, and the road still led on with nothing more 
to cheer us than the plain had offered, except a 
partial protection from the bleak winds ; and even 
this was more than counterbalanced by the in- 
creased darkness. 

At last, however, just as the night began to con- 
ceal the road from view, we found ourselves upon 
the high bluff of a small stream with a mill below, 
and a little cabin faintly visible on the opposite 
height. To our great joy we had reached the 
spot where we proposed to take up quarters for 
the night. The long hill was descended, the 
stream forded, and the opposite summit at last 
gained. When we arrived at the house, there was 
still just light enough to render visible two huge 
emigrant waggons standing; near the door. 

" Those immense waggons and the small house 
augur ill for our prospects of rest here," said my 
brother. " Nevertheless, we will try." 

The driver halted, and was about alighting to 
make inquiry, when a man appeared at the door. 
" Friend," said the last speaker, " can we find rest 
with you to-night 1 We are cold and very weary." 

The man cast his eye at us, for a moment, as if 
to assure himself of the right number, then at the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 361 

waggons, and then, turning quite around, took a 
deliberate survey of the height and general dimen- 
sions of the cabin. This done, he once more faced 
us, and rolling his quid of tobacco in his cheek 
once or twice, replied, " Wall, I reckon you'd find 
it considerable snug in thar," making a backward 
motion with his head, to signify that he meant in 
the house. " Thar's my family, besides the man 
that's runnin the mill, and a right smart one it is ;" 
(whether this was a compliment to the family, the 
mill, or the man who was running it, we were left 
to conjecture;) "then you see thar's the movers 
that come in these hyur" — pointing to the wag- 
gons — " and another man, a sort of lawyer, I reck- 
on, that come on that beast, and allowed he 
couldn't git any further, nohow, 'kase he'd had a 
shake gitting through the grove." 

Of course we had seen our fate long before this 
statement of difficulties was completed, but it would 
not do to leave the man while making it, and, 
moreover, we were desirous of getting some infor- 
mation as to the road and prospects for entertain- 
ment beyond. 

" The road," said he in reply, " I reckon you'll 
find right bad; thar hain't been much rain lately, 
but thar's a right smart of snow, and it's about half 
melted now. That makes wheelin heavy." 

" How far is it to the next house !" 

" We call it a smart three mild and a half — it's 
good that ; nearer four." 

" Is it probable we can stop there 1" 

" Wall, that's just what I can't tell you, nohow. 
The old man has got a nice place thar, but his 
woman ain't always so accommodatin as she 
mought be." 

The driver had drawn his reins and the horses 
advanced a step or two, when he called out, M You 

H H 



362 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

hain't got such a thing as a bed in the waggon, I 

reckon 1 ?" 

" You are right," replied K — " we have not." 
" I just allowed, if you had, you mought find a 

place in thar to spread it down ; the nights is so 

dark and cold, that's all." 



CHAPTER XX. 

Plunging once more into the blackness that had 
now almost become palpable, we journeyed on, 
floundering through mud pools and patches of 
half-melted snow, shivering, hungering, sometimes 
groaning and sometimes laughing, till at last a fee- 
ble light was descried in the distance, and visions 
of a bright fire and warm supper began to float in 
our despairing minds. We were favored with the 
most liberal of all opportunities to indulge these 
pleasant anticipations, for the approach to this 
cheering beacon threatened to be interminable. 

" ' A good four mild,' indeed !" said the driver; 
" he might well say that. It's nearer six. In a 
night like this, it would measure seven, with any 
chain and compass I ever saw. But they say all 
things have an end, and I s'pose this ride will, by 
and by ; I wish it would come sooner, that's all." 

It did come at length. We stopped opposite 
the light, for the outline of the house was perfectly 
lost in the thick darkness and fog. A loud halloo 
brought the " old man" to the door. 

" Can we stop with you to-night, friend ?" said 
K — . " There are three of us — my sister, and a 
driver, beside myself." 

11 1 reckon," was the laconic reply. 

We were just rising on our benumbed feet to 
avail ourselves of the privilege thus equivocally 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 363 

granted, when he darted suddenly back, and re- 
turning after an instant, said, " My woman ain't 
willin to it." 

A parley now commenced, not exactly in dero- 
gation of the "woman's" prerogative to say so, if 
she chose, but inquiring into her reasons, and 
faintly suggesting whether it was quite kind to 
refuse strangers, already so much fatigued, and in 
such a night. She presented herself to answer in 
person, and seemed, at last, to compassionate our 
condition somewhat, for she inquired again, how 
many we were, and being told, asked if any two 
could sleep together. 

" O yes," was K — 's reply, " the driver and I could 
occupy the same bed, if you have not enough for 
all. We shall none of us be over nice in such a 
night as this, after having ridden forty miles." 

" Then you'll want," said the churlish woman, 
" two beds, and — " 

" Supper," suggested the driver, in an under 
tone. 

" And some supper," added my brother. 

" I reckon you may as well go on to the next 
place," she replied, half closing the door, and 
looking out from behind it, " 'tain't but a mild 
and a half, and they often take folks there." So 
saying she latched the door and cut off all chance 
of remonstrance. 

" That is no western woman," said I, indignantly, 
as we drove slowly away. " So churlish and narrow 
a heart as that was never born on the prairies !" 

Now again we were toiling slowly onward. A 
mile and a half! It was, doubtless, true; but 
even if double that, there was no alternative but 
to go patiently toward it. Dwelling with many 
bitter denunciations on the inhospitable and even 
rude rejection we had last met, estimating the 



364 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

distance we had traveled since morning, and 
•weighing the possibility of being compelled to go 
on all night, we were quite busily employed, till 
the feeble light from the next house glimmered 
on our discouraged senses. It seemed a long way 
from the road. Two or three sharp halloos, how- 
ever, brought some one to the door, and again the 
question was put, " Can you accommodate three 
persons with supper and beds to-night ]" 

"I expect," replied a man's voice; "I'll see 
my woman, an' tell you." 

" Heaven grant that the woman may be more 
propitious this time !" I exclaimed. In a few 
seconds he appeared again at the door, with a 
cheerful " Yes," and an invitation to " come in !" 
We rose to comply with this welcome request. 
My brother had already alighted, and I had placed 
one foot on the side of the waggon, preparatory to 
launching into the unfathomable darkness below, 
when the driver suddenly cried out, " Stop a 
minute, till I see if he's got a stable. — I say, 
friend," addressing himself to the kind host, who 
was now approaching with a lantern to light our 
way, " have you a good warm stable ? My horses 
are very tired and warm." 

" Yes, I've got as good a stable, I calculate, as 
any man in these parts." 

My foot became entangled in my cloak, or I 
should have been on the ground in another in- 
stant, when he added, " 'Tain't just hyur, it's up 
to t'other place." 

" And where is the other place V said the 
driver. 

My heart misgave me ! 

" Oh, it's just up hyur, about three quarters of a 
mild through the grow." 

" Three quarters of a mile ! Pray, madam, be 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 365 

seated again, and you too, sir; we must try once 
more, if you please. Much obliged to you, sir," 
he continued, speaking for the party, " for your 
kindness, but I can't think of walking three mile 
to-night, and I can't go to bed without seeing my 
horses once after they are put up. I would rather 
drive them all night." 

The settler, whose benevolent visage was now 
faintly discernible by the light which he held 
over his head, regarded the speaker with some 
astonishment, and then replied, with a facetious 
sort of grin, that we should have been welcome if 
we'd " had a heap more !" 

" Its five mild to the next house," he added, 
" and I reckon you'll hardly find 'em up when 
you get there ; but they'es right clever, and won't 
make much account of gittin up if they can take 
you." 

We jogged on. The kind, cheerful aspect and 
demeanor of this man somewhat changed the 
complexion of our feelings, and though it was 
later than when we left the last house, and the 
distance to the next nearly five times as great, we 
had derived a courage and spirit for the task that 
made it seem comparatively easy. 

The ludicrous aspect, also, of the affair, began 
now to present itself, and, what with the recollec- 
tion of similar adventures, and the comments 
which this drew forth, we grew very pleasant, 
and had many a hearty laugh long before the five 
miles were accomplished. Suddenly, the chance 
of passing the house, in the profound darkness, it 
being too late for the quiet settlers to have a light 
still burning, checked our mirth, and made us 
peer into the surrounding gloom with a business- 
like feeling, quite in contrast with the careless 
abandonment we had just been exhibiting, 
II h 2 



366 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

" Do you watch one side of the road," said 
K — " and I will the other ; and if you see some- 
thing that looks a shade blacker than all the rest 
of creation, call out." 

Nothing could be more favorable to the indul- 
gence of fancy, and the seeing of sights, than to be 
set on such a watch as this. Darkness is ever 
more densely peopled than light, and with such 
strange objects, too ! But when you look into a 
good dense mass of it, expressly to see some- 
thing, your senses all sharpened and awake for 
that purpose, what an unlimited license your fancy 
has ! The way which had hitherto been solitary, 
became at once crowded. Cities, churches with 
towers and tall spires, shooting into the clouds ; 
fantastic clumps of trees ; farm-houses, large and 
generous-looking, like those of the east ; coaches 
with four horses ; single waggons and foot passen- 
gers ; herds feeding in the adjoining fields ; great 
overhanging piles of rock ; rivers and wooded 
hills, rose up and spread about us as if by magic. 
It was wonderful ! Many times I was on the eve 
of calling out, but a little sharper look convinced 
me that the object I was regarding was not the 
cabin, but something very different, mere foggy 
space ! 

At last ! could I be mistaken ? No ! that was 
surely a light gleaming before us, and there must 
be the home of the settler ! But what did they 
with a light at that hour ] It was certainly ten 
o'clock, and only some extraordinary emergency 
could keep them astir so late. We were beset 
with fears. Sickness, a previous arrival, com- 
pany, something which would conflict with our 
prospects, was certainly afoot. 

Wo reached the door, and called atrain. A man 
Stepped quickly out, and, as he did so, revealed a 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 367 

great blazing fire and a clean-swept wide hearth, 
that redoubled the gloom and cold of the outer 
world. " Can we get lodging here, friend ]" was 
the anxious inquiry. His first reply expressed a 
doubt ; his second a stronger one ; and his third 
the almost positive certainty that we must again go 
on. But we had been rejected too often to yield 
this last hope without some argument. Would he 
tell us the reason 1 — some other beside mere con- 
venience ; for, as to that, we could sleep almost 
anywhere, and go without supper or get it our- 
selves. We would be no trouble, if he would let 
us come under his roof and rest from our long and 
cold journey. 

"I should be right glad to 'commodate you," 
he said, in reply, " but — " and he hesitated. 

"But what, friend 1" said my brother, somewhat 
petulantly ; for, by this time, our patience was 
pretty well exhausted. 

" Why, the fact is," said the perplexed man, 
" my wife is not well ; there's a couple of the 
neighborin women hyur, and my oldest boy has 
gone for the doctor now." 

" Spoken like a man at last," said K — , unable 
to suppress the laugh which the honest man's con- 
fused and awkward manner provoked. " Drive 
on ; we will not force ourselves upon your kind- 
ness under such circumstances, if we find no shel- 
ter till morning. But how far is it to C — ?" 

" Four mild, and you'd better not stop till you 
get thar. The roads is tolerable good now, and 
you'll find poor 'commodation any whar this side." 

" Thank you." And for the fifth time we were 
on the way. 

" The fates are against us to-night, certainly," 
said K — . " I never knew the jades so perverse 
before. I shouldn't wonder now, if there were 



368 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

no rest for us till we grot to the end of our route. 
How far is it, driver, from this place ahead to — V 

" Fifteen miles, I believe, sir, and I've been 
thinking that perhaps we may as well go on." 

" We'll try our fortunes once more at C , 

and if they are not better we may perhaps think 
best to do so." 



CHAPTER XXL 

The roads proved, as the settler had told us 
they were, much better than those we had passed, 
and we soon found ourselves before a wooden 
hotel, in the principal street of the village. A 
bright fire was shining through the uncurtained 
windows, and a group of men were sitting and 
standing about it, smoking and apparently enjoy- 
ing the highest degree of comfort. We alighted, 
determined to stop here at all hazards. I followed 
K — into the room, and we seated ourselves on 
chairs that were vacated for us at the fire. The 
apartment was redolent of tobacco smoke and the 
fumes of brandy. In one corner was a little 
triangular box containing sundry bottles, glasses, 
cigar boxes, &c. ; in the opposite one a flight of 
stairs leading to the room above. The company, 
with the exception of three or four strangers like 
ourselves, seemed to consist principally of the vil- 
lagers. They were complimenting each other in 
various potations of brandy, whiskey, and other 
similar beverages, betting on horses and candi- 
dates for the county offices, and discussing a nota- 
ble wolf hunt that had recently taken place, at 
which a fine horse had broken a leg. A few were 
more rationally talking over the different methods 
of agriculture adopted in the neighborhood, ami 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 369 

speculating on the probable results of each. With 
one or two exceptions they were all western men, 
and, I suppose, they presented very much the ap- 
pearance which this class of persons always do in 
such meetings. They seemed in the bar-room a 
totally different order of beings from the same men 
at home. I was pained with the contrast. 

We were seated but a few minutes when the 
door of an adjoining room opened, a little weazen- 
faced man looked in, and after glancing at us, call- 
ed out in the strangest of all voices to some one 
in the apartment beyond, to " make a fire in the 
ladies' parlor !" I was quite astonished. The idea 
of a ladies' parlor was so remote from my anticipa- 
tions ! Nothing could be more welcome, how- 
ever, for the noise and bluster of the drinkers in- 
creased and rendered the place anything but agree- 
able. 

" If there is any other room with a fire," I whis- 
pered to my brother, " pray let me go to it." He 
followed the man with the wonderful voice, who 
returned with him in a moment and told me if I 
would just step into the kitchen till the fire was 
made in the ladies' parlor, I would find myself 
quite comfortable. " Certainly," I replied, " let me 
go to your kitchen." I followed him across a naked 
dining-room into an apartment apparently bound- 
less ; its walls, if indeed it had any, being wholly 
shrouded in darkness. Three or four filthy, ragged 
servants were crouching and chattering over an im- 
mense cooking-stove, on the top of which stood a 
tallow candle, the only source of light and heat in 
the room. There was no floor, save the black 
earth trodden into numerous little hard hills and 
hollows ; there was but one chair visible, and judg- 
ing from the general aspect of the place, I dared 
not sit upon this. The landlord had opened the 
24 



370 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

door, motioned me in, and retreated with the light, 
so that I had no alternative but to stand there in 
the black, cheerless room, till some one came to 
relieve me. I did not wait long till he returned, 
and saying that the fire was burning above, de- 
sired me to follow him. I did so, and returning 
to the bar-room was ushered up the open flight of 
stairs, through two sleeping-rooms, into a third 
containing a curtained bed, a Franklin stove in its 
centre, a large rocking-chair robbed of one arm 
and otherwise mutilated, some half-dozen wooden 
chairs of various colors and fashion, and a volume 
of dense blue smoke that quite took my breath. 

A lamp was standing, as it appeared to me, in a 
very precarious position on the stove ; but there 
was nothing else on which to place it. The door 
closed immediately after I entered the room, and 
I was again alone. 

Chilled as I had been with the long ride, I was 
still trembling with cold, and thought only of get- 
ting to the fire. I could be indifferent to every- 
thing else if there were a generous fire in the stove. 
I walked round in the front. A few blocks and 
ends of boards were lying flat upon the hearth, 
with here and there a remnant of a shaving between 
them. There were no tongs, no andirons, no fire 
— not a spark visible. Both the large windows in 
front were wide open to permit the smoke to pass 
out, the stove-pipe apparently having no connexion 
whatever with this office. I took hold of the large 
chair, and found my glove whitened with the dust 
and ashes lying upon it ! This was the last blow 
that my forbearance could endure. Walking straight 
to the bed, I took one of the yellow pillow-cases 
and rubbed every part of the chair with which my 
clothes could come in contact, and then seated my- 
self to wait the reappearance of the man who had 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 371 

brought me thither. In a few minutes he came, 
accompanied by my brother. The face of the 
latter was glowing from the warm fire he had just 
left. 

"What!" he exclaimed, "have you no fire 
here 1 What does this mean, sir ] You told me 
she had a good fire and was very comfortable. 
Do you call this comfort %" slamming the win- 
dows down with a force that made them rattle. 

" Dear me, sir," said the landlord, making a 
violent stir among the blocks on the hearth, " I 
told them to make a fire, and I supposed they 
had." 

" Supposed they had !" replied the other impa- 
tiently ; " would it not be as well, if your people 
are no more to be trusted than this, to look a little 
after the comfort of guests yourself?" 

" I try to, sir," replied the little man, meekly, 
"but I can't be everywhere at once." 

" Well, in any case attend to ladies, when they 
come in from such long cold rides as my sister has 
had ; never leave one again in such a den as this, 
without fire or light, and filled with smoke." 

" There, that will do now," the shavings having 
been coaxed by the application of the lamp and a 
world of blowing, into a feeble blaze. 

" Give us some hard wood, that will create a 
little heat, and then see if we can have a warm 
supper." 

" None for me," said I, " I shall sleep better 
without it; let me but get warm and I will re- 
tire." 

" We can give you a good supper, ma'am," 
said the obsequious host, rubbing his hands and 
bowing. 

" Well, where ] Your kitchen gives poor prom- 
ise of that," I replied. " Give me a good fire and 



372 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

show me a sleeping-chamber, and I will ask no 
more." 

" Really, ma'am, I wish — " 

" Will you get us some wood," interrupted K — , 
" and leave us to our own choice in other matters !" 

"Certainly, sir!" and he departed. 

The next morning we were off at a brisk hour, 
and breakfasted with the neat hospitable family of 
an intelligent Illinoian, about five miles from 

C . The warm, cheerful cabin, well lighted 

by a couple of windows, the bright fire, the clean 
floor, the generous table, and the frank hospitality 
of both host and hostess, were in lively contrast 
with the disappointment, churlishness, and impo- 
sition we had encountered the previous day. 

A little after noon we found ourselves at our 
place of destination, where the comforts of a hotel, 
rarely surpassed in the east or west, amply com- 
pensated for the hardshius and toil we had endured 
in reaching it. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

The opening of the following spring found me 
domiciliated for a time with one of the pleasant- 
est families in the beautiful city of Alton. I say 
beautiful, because it was never otherwise to me. 
When I first reached it from the north, where win- 
ter was still protracting his reign, the foliage of 
spring was just bursting its brief bounds. The 
days were bright and sunny, and such were wel- 
come after my tedious pilgrimages in the more 
rigorous north. 

The position of Alton is one of much beauty. 
It stands at one of the most charming points 
on the upper Mississippi ; having its clear, dark 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 373 

waters broken by two beautiful, wooded islands 
near the opposite shore, and commanding from 
the bluffs a fine view of the junction of the Mis- 
souri with the farmer stream. Immediately above 
the city, terminates a line of limestone bluffs, bold 
and towering, which wall in the Mississippi for 
near fifty miles. Immediately below, commences 
the celebrated " American bottom," which extends 
almost unbroken to the mouth of the Ohio. The 
town is divided into upper, middle, and lower Al- 
ton. The last-named lies along the water-side, and 
is the principal place of business. Middle Town 
extends back on the heights, and contains some 
very picturesque and beautiful spots; and Upper 
Town still farther back, and down the river, has 
some points that, transferred to canvas, would bear 
comparison with the boasted scenery of the old 
world. 

A considerable proportion of the houses in these 
three divisions are built of stone ; the great abund- 
ance of-it ort the river rendering it as cheap as 
any other material. The grounds are sufficiently 
old to be ornamented With well-grown trees, shrub- 
beries, &c. ; and in the season when the heights 
and broken swells are covered with verdure, few 
more beautiful spots are to be found in the country. 
In the immediate vicinity of Lower and Middle 
Town, indeed within their yet unsettled precincts, 
there is great variety of scenery. High, rolling 
ridges, divided by deep valleys or round basins, 
as perfect in finish as if constructed by rules of 
art, diversify the whole surface. The heights are 
for the most part covered with the hazel, low shrub 
oak, and forest trees. The level grounds between, 
are clad with a smooth green turf, set during the 
spring and summer with a great variety of wild 
flowers. In the vicinity of the town are many 



374 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

beautiful groves and tracts of barrens ; and farther 
back, are small prairies, divided and bordered by 
clumps of trees and clean open woodlands. 

Many a charming ride and walk had we through 
these natural parks, when they were in their per- 
fection of beauty. When the early showers were 
over, and the clouds had passed away, we used to 
ramble into the groves or barrens and return after 
an hour or two with great clusters of the phlox, 
painted cap, moccasin flower and geranium, bright 
and fresh from their pleasant homes by stream and 
tree, to adorn and perfume ours. While we were 
gathering them, the quail was running to and fro on 
the clean turf, and whistling to the merry breeze; 
the robin was singing in the tree trop, and the 
brown thrasher performing his seriocomic solo, a 
little farther off on the lower branches. The winds 
ran wild among the trees, shaking their long arms 
and making their lengthening shadows dance upon 
the bright sward with a gay motion ; as if the very 
genius of mirth were disporting itself in the uni- 
versal jubilee. 

Oh, glorious were those days ! and beautiful the 
life which they inspired in the members of our 
little circle ! I have been in many places where 
nature had lavished her charms as freely ; I have 
visited such alone, and with others, but I scarcely 
ever found that harmony between heart and heart 
that gave society the power to enhance the emo- 
tions which nature inspired. One is almost certain 
to feel that it is better to be alone or with one 
kindred spirit. We must deny ourselves the 
social to enjoy the natural. Because the former 
is false, and inharmonious ! Some selfish passion, 
some carking care, some worldly anxiety pos- 
sesses one heart or more of those you would hu\t> 
free, and strikes a jarring chord in your own. The 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 375 

flowers are less exquisite, the sunshine less bright, 
the breezes less inspiring from that moment. Thus 
much of what should be enjoyed is lost. The 
dew is first brushed from the flower, then its ex- 
quisite colors are dimmed, then it is crushed and 
at length wholly lost The plain of life is a dis- 
mal waste, on which one sees neither verdure nor 
bloom. But with us it was different. Of the few who 
knelt together around this festive shrine of nature, 
we could have spared no one without pain. All 
were free, all harmonious ! The chaste and ele- 
vated joy which nature afforded was not frittered 
away in pitiful efforts to appear other than we 
were, nor in any of the thousand petty cares and 
strifes which so degrade the spirit; but seized on 
as a boon from heaven, and enjoyed with right 
hearty zest and freedom. In such a social atmo- 
sphere, and surrounded with such objects, one 
feels that to be is a blessing, and wonders that 
life could ever have been irksome. The toils and 
vexations with which man seeks to enlarge him- 
self before his fellows sink into their true insignifi- 
cance. We suffer none of them to mislead us at 
such a season. We laugh at them, and say in our 
hearts, " See, what are all that you can bring, com- 
pared to these birds, these flowers and trees, and 
running streams, and winds, and storms, and sun- 
shine ! These are what God has provided for my 
enjoyment. But ye are born of men, toiling, strug- 
gling men, whose spirits travail all their lives, and 
bring forth monsters to brood upon their death-beds.. 
Away, we will none of ye ! The earth is a fair 
heritage ; and blessings on its Author, it is ours." 
Even the cares and anxieties for the absent were 
sweetened by the all-prevailing calmness and joy 
of the season. Beautiful indeed was life during that 
brief period. 



376 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

Indeed we almost lived out of doors. What 
with rides, walks, visits, calls on the few who made 
up our free circle, we were very much abroad. 
We could not have been too much so. A pleas- 
ant proposition was made one evening to forsake 
the abodes of men for a whole day and betake 
ourselves to the woods. It met with unanimous 
approval. We would all go, and take the chil- 
dren. It should be an informal turn out ; no- 
body should take any care beyond putting a loaf 
of bread and a few other plain refreshments into a 
basket. We would meet at the " White Cottage," 
and without any preconcerted arrangement drive 
into the woods, seeking pleasant places. An entry 
made in my diary after our return, will show how 
wise we were, and how foolish was the Ethiopian 
monarch, when he commanded preparation to be 
made for ten days' perfect happiness ! 

" We started at eleven in high spirits for our 
picnic ground ; which, by the way, was not select- 
ed. Indeed, the direction we proposed to take was 
but vaguely conjectured by most of us. As many as 

could be conveniently stowed in Mr. A 's large 

farm waggon were thus disposed of, and the rest 
followed in smaller vehicles, but all making a 
merry band, hailing each other from the foremost 
to the hindmost, and exchanging many gay chal- 
lenges to marvelous feats when we should reach 
our stopping-place. 

"Before we started, every appearance of rain, 
with which we had been threatened in the early 
morning, had vanished, and the sky, softly and 
beautifully blue, when Been, was skimmed over 
with light, feathery clouds, screening us in the 
most friendly manner from the otherwise too ar- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 377 

dent rays of the sun. The morning was breezy 
and fresh in the green, open wood, and the bright 
phlox, and dazzling painted cap, and tender gera- 
nium danced and sparkled gaily, as the winds 
went by, like careless children who had nothing to 
do but revel in the life and beauty about them. 

" We rode five miles. Our way, for the most part, 
wound along the summit of swells that divided cool, 
shadowy ravines, and then descended the height 
to the shore of the Mississippi. Here we left our 
carriages, took each a portion of the necessary ar- 
ticles, and commenced the ascent of another bluff, 

Mr. and myself preceding our friends a little, 

as a committee of selection. We climbed the hill 
for half a mile, and as we rose, that rose before 
us ; now a little opening shaded by overhanging 
oaks presented itself, and now we were bending 
beneath their sweeping branches. Gradually as 
we ascended, the prospect widened, until at length, 
when the summit was fairly attained, a prospect 
burst upon us magnificent beyond description ! 
i Eureka P exclaimed Mr. A — , and we both felt 
that further search would be vain. 

" On the very pinnacle of the bluff, the east side 
of which was thickly wooded and the west opening 
upon the river, we found a little shaded nook, just 
large enough to admit our number. Here, after 
the vines and light undergrowth had been cleared 
away, we spread our white napkins, table cloths, 
&c, and laid out our simple refreshments. Two 
or three loaves of bread, a bottle of cream, some 
golden butter, a trio of cold chickens, and a loaf 
of plain family cake of the largest size, constituted 
the whole. A committee was now appointed, and 
sent out with authority to search the neighboring 
hills and hollows for water. Their protracted in- 
vestigations had begun to give rise to some anxi- 

ii 2 



378 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

ety in the more youthful members of our party, 
when they returned with a brimming pail of the 
purest and coldest water. The thanks of the com- 
pany having been tendered them, in a neat speech 
by one of the gentlemen, we proceeded to seat 
ourselves, in true oriental style, around the cloth. 
" Stories, songs, and hymns followed the lunch, 
and when these were no more called for, one or two 
chess boards were routed from their repose at the 
bottom of the baskets, and put on duty by some, 
while others strolled out to enjoy the prospect. I 
was among the latter ; and rarely indeed had nature 
invited more irresistibly, than in the pomp and 
glory about me. Behind lay the still wood, into 
the green depths of which the younger members 
of our party had strayed, in search of flowers, and 
whatever else of rare and beautiful mi^ht be found. 
Before, and far below us the Mississippi rolled its 
majestic waters, now sleeping as placidly in the 
misty sunlight, as if they had never tumbled and 
rushed in angry floods, terrifying the hearts of be- 
holders. Away in the distance, where they shone 
and flashed like molten silver, clusters of green 
islands sat upon their bosom, the farther ones still, 
as if chiseled in emerald, the nearer ones alive with 
their tossing foliage. This river had been to our 
childish minds an almost fabled creation. A far 
away land had given us birth ; a far away clime 
had lighted our early years. We had read of the 
great rivers, and almost suspended our breath in 
wonder at thoir magnitude ; but never dreamed 
that our eyes would be favored to look upon them. 
And now one was sweeping its silent way two 
hundred feet below us, and the other rolling its 
turbid waters onward through the dense forest, 
only a mile from tho opposite shore ! It seemed 
the realization of an impressive dream ! To tho 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 379 

left, on the Illinois side, bold rocky bluffs overhung 
the waters in which they had been mirrored for 
centuries. To the right, the horizon stretched 
away in the faint sunlight, until the eye was pain- 
ed with the endeavor to define it, and the Missis- 
sippi might be seen at intervals, like a silver 
thread, shimmering through the green extent. A 
light haze rested on the distant hills, mellowing 
and softening the landscape with that peculiar tint- 
ing which only the hand of nature can impart. 
Nothing could be imagined more magnificent 
than the entire view, while in our immediate vicin- 
ity the bluffs were alternately piled into high con- 
ical hills and hollowed into deep ravines, laden 
with vegetation, which, tossed by the winds, lent a 
peculiar grace and changefulness to the landscape. 
Beneath us a precipice, two hundred feet in height, 
overhung the water — its face hollowed in so 
deeply, that it was only by a somewhat dangerous 
experiment that one of the gentlemen, laying him- 
self flat upon its summit and looking over, could 
see its entire depth ! On its very brow a deep- 
worn, narrow track told of the wanderings of the 
Indian ! Many a light-hearted troop had filed 
along that dizzy height, conscious of perfect secu- 
rity, while our tamer blood curdled in our veins if 
one of us approached its brink ! 

" As we sat and gazed from these heights, my 
thoughts reverted to the early time, when the 
light canoe skimmed those majestic waters ; when, 
from the surrounding heights, the council fires of a 
mystery-loving and sanguinary race flashed against 
the evening sky, and lithe and dusky forms trod 
with free step the unsoiled turf! Now all that 
had made the life of those scenes had departed ! 
Only the mortal evidences that they had been, 
remained. Rude graves, that had closed long 



380 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

years before over those who shared in them, were 
piled around us on the summits of the hills. On 
one of these a solitary wild rose-bud had unfolded 
its delicate petals : but a blight had fallen upon 
it, as on the mysterious race whose existence it 
shadowed forth ! The bright and glowing green 
had faded, while it was yet spring, into the sickly 
yellow. The spirit of the departed had breathed 
over it in sadness ; no kind hand was near to 
cherish it, or remove the cankering rust ; and the 
fair rose was already numbered among the fallen. 

" A beautiful tale, told that blighted bud, of a 
race that had passed away — of a people free as 
the waters beneath, and swift as the winds playing 
around, who had trodden the very spot where we 
were seated ; who had gazed upon the varying 
landscape, the bright river, and the far hills, with 
feelings we could never know — who had scaled 
the beetling cliff, and mocked the eagle in his 
flight ; whose war-shout rang through the wild 
wood, and over the water ; and whose songs, once 
heard there, were now for ever hushed ! 

" With emotions chastened and elevated by the 
scene upon which we had looked, and the recol- 
lections with which it was fraught, we reassembled 
after our devious ramblings. Conversation, music, 
and anecdotes succeeded, till the shadows began 
to lengthen on the hill side. Just as the second 
lunch was spread, the white signal of a steamer, 
far down the river, became visible, curling and 
fading on the sunny breeze. Mere speck as she 
appeared at first, she was pronounced by the 
gentlemen, on her near approach, to be a boat of 
the largest size. AVhen directly opposite us, her 
distanco was still so great, that the large black 
letters on the- whoellnmse looked like a fine lino 
drawn across it. She ran close under the oppo- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 381 

site shore, and, as the white wreaths rose from 
her iron throat, and faded away among the green 
boughs, and her hoarse breath sounded faintly 
over the waters, she formed a pleasing feature in 
a landscape which had been hitherto made up 
exclusively of natural objects. 

" We had little relish for our second meal. The 
sense of mere existence had been such a joy and 
blessing all the day, that the common pleasures of 
life had lost their power to engage our faculties. 
We were merry, but our merriment was not that 
which flashes in fitful gleams from the troubled 
heart, or breaks forth for a moment to subside on 
the recurrence of care into a deeper gravity than 
before. It was founded on the deep, full, inward 
joy which we had been all the day drawing from 
the pure and beautiful world around us. And 
when the frequent bursts of laughter, provoked by 
the wit of the moment, subsided, they were fol- 
lowed by no reproving or half-repentant visages, 
but an expression which showed that we were 
ready to enjoy the next as heartily. The deep 
old wood resounded with our mirth. 

"Another report from the water committee was 
called for, which those gentlemen very ingeniously 
relieved themselves from making, by introducing, 
with a very pompous preamble, a resolution that 
we ' were not dry.' It was passed by acclama- 
tion, and followed by one as formally introduced, 
unanimously applauding the acumen, research, 
ability, and scientific profundity evinced by this 
discovery. When the sun began to peep under 
the arch of our leafy bower, we commenced 
preparations for our return. The napkins, frag- 
ments, et cet., were repacked, and, when all was 
ready, we seated ourselves on the turf for a part- 
ing song. ' Rosin the Beau' was first sung, in 



382 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

full choir, and followed by the beautiful hymn, 
' God is good.' We then bade adieu to the fairy 
spot, and, taking up the line of march in true 
Indian style, we descended the bluff, slaked our 
thirst at a delicious spring that gushed from the 
bank into a rocky basin below, and then stowing 
ourselves into the waggons, were soon on our way 
homeward, by the same road, now bright and 
checkered with the shadows of evening. 

" It was a delightful close to a happy day. I 
believe, as we retraced our steps, we each felt that 
it was good to have spent it in communion with 
nature and our own hearts, under her divine in- 
fluences. As we were recounting our adventures 
and enjoyments in presence of a person who had 
not been of our party, he remarked that as every 
sweet had its bitter, he waited to leam what ours 
would be. But we had none. The very elements 
had conspired with the fair earth and our own 
spirits to make it an occasion of unalloyed happi- 
ness. At half-past ten we retired, just enough 
fatigued to appreciate the luxury of a quiet bed."^ 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

It will readily be credited that one could not 
leave a place and society like those I have at- 
tempted to picture, without many regrets ; but 
the happiest seasons are sometimes the briefest, 
and one may not hesitate when duty calls. With 
the ripening summer I turned my footsteps north- 
ward, and a few days after the picnic found me 
in the village which had formerly- been our home. 
It had changed little in outward aspect since I 
last saw it. I3ut one little knows, when revisit- 
ing places which are familiar and seem to the 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 383 

eye unchanged, what events may have happened 
to those who have never left it, to make olden 
haunts and long-trodden paths the entrance to a 
world all strange and new. It may be one of 
joy which fills the heart, or grief which crushes it. 
The streets may be the same, the houses, the gar- 
dens, the groves, the fields — nay, the very persons 
who dwell among them, unchanged* as to their 
identity ; and yet one may have entered a world 
of happiness while pursuing his daily ways among 
these things, while another has reached the oppo- 
site goal. While the heart of the one is rejoicing 
in its new-found possessions, and seeing brighter 
flowers, and warmer sunshine, and gladder skies, 
the other beholds all nature clad in funeral garb. 
The winds that breathe around him tell of sorrow, 
the sunshine brings no gaiety — all that was wont 
to awaken joy and rejoicing is changed. And yet 
they are the same ! 

I had not been long absent from our village ; 
yet events, clothed with power to work all these 
miracles, had befallen many of its citizens. One 
tragical occurrence, that wrapped the whole com- 
munity in gloom, had fallen with such a crushing 
weight upon the heart of a wife and mother, as 
seemed to defy all attempts to heal and raise up 
the broken spirit. A husband and father, whom I 
have before introduced to the reader, had left his 
home on a bright winter morning for a few hours' 
sporting, and never returned to it ! His last words, 
as he left the door, had been a playful invitation to 
his wife to prepare some favorite dish for his sup- 
per, for which he promised her a reward that death 
never suffered him to pay. 

As night drew on and brought him not to the 
fireside and table where his beloved presence was 
awaited, the expectant wife grew restless at the 



384 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

long delay, and often stood beside the window 
overlooking the prairie, whence he was to ap- 
proach. Twilight came and deepened into night ; 
the evening wore away, and supper was at last 
partaken without him. The mother, having ex- 
pressed some wonder that he did not return, had 
been assured by her sons that he had gone to the 
house of a neighbor, about four miles away, where 
he was wont to stop occasionally in his excursions. 

At last the family retired. The heart of the wife 
was not altogether quiet, but that, she reasoned, 
was because it was so uncommon for him to be 
from home. The mere sense of loneliness, not her 
fears, she was certain, prevented her sleeping 
well. The night was long, very long, in truth, but 
then he would doubtless walk home to breakfast. 
The morning was mild, and she thought with an 
inward smile how pleasant it would be to him, who 
so loved the activity of the outer world, to walk 
those four miles, breathing the pure air, enjoying 
uninterrupted communion with his own thoughts, 
and, above all, anticipating a social breakfast at his 
own home with those to whom his presence always 
gave delight. 

She rose early to prepare the morning meal ; 
there was no need of this, for the long walk would 
make him late ; but then it was pleasanter to be 
up and occupied, than lying in bed when she could 
not sleep ; and beside, he might rise early and be 
there before she expected, and then she should be 
prepared for him. So she had a bright fire blazing 
a welcome that would greet him a long way off, 
in case he should approach before daylight, and 
her preparations for breakfast went cheerfully and 
pleasantly forward. 

Pausing in the door once or twice, she heard at 
a distance the howling of wolves, that struck her 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 385 

ear unpleasantly, and made her rather hope that he 
would not start very early, lest he might encounter 
some of them. When they grew louder and quite 
dismayed her woman's heart, she thought with 
much comfort that there was no probability of his 
leaving the house early ; he would be fatigued 
with the chase of the previous day and would rest 
well, knowing that they would be perfectly easy 
about him. Then she wondered that she should 
have been so foolish as to think he would be there 
early — still she could not help listening whenever 
a sound from without met her ear, and once or 
twice she started to the door with a bright smile on 
her face, for she was almost certain she heard 
his footsteps in the path. But when she got there, 
the night was black and silent as ever; the low 
moaning of the wind, or the dismal howling she 
had heard, being the only sounds she could dis- 
tinguish. 

Daylight seemed long coming ; but then she had 
risen early, and being alone must expect this. At 
last a few faint streaks be^an to be visible in the 
east ; then she summoned her sons that they might 
have their cattle fed, and be ready for breakfast, 
so as not to keep him waiting a moment ; for the 
long walk would have sharpened his appetite. 

So the usual stir of the morning commenced. 
And very pleasant it seemed to her to have things 
going on in their accustomed way. The stepping 
in and out as the light gained, the milking and 
setting the pail on the table, the straining and 
placing it on the shelf where it belonged ; the 
fading of the candle, and the assurance which the 
broader light without gave her, that he would soon 
be there ; the necessity arising from this, of bid- 
ding her sons hasten to be ready, was all very 
cheerful and agreeable. 
25 Kk 



S86 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Finally everything was attended to without, and 
the young men came in to wait breakfast. Here 
all was ready too, and broad day was on the prai- 
ries — a little greyer yet, perhaps, than it would be 
half an hour hence ; but she could see a long way 
down the plain. 

There was no one yet in sight ; but the grove 
was only a mile off; he might be in that yet, or 
he might when she chanced to look out, be in one 
of the many little hollows that cut the prairie. But 
she wished now more than ever, that he would 
come, for the waiting, when there was nothing to 
do, was more tedious than before. The daylight 
too made it more wearisome than when it had 
been dark. As it wore on and the sun came up — 
the sun, that, bright and clear as it was, ought to 
have cheered her, she could not but confess to hei 
inmost soul a chilly sinking of her hopes. 

For now the day was going on as it always did, 
and yet he came not. While it was dark there 

had been a sort of excited life in her feelings 

o 

which the full day almost extinguished. 

At last she proposed faintly, hoping that her 
sons would dissent from it, that they should wait 
breakfast no longer ; she half suggested in a slow, 
hesitating tone that perhaps their father would not 
be there till late, and they would want to be at work. 
Then it occurred to one of them that ne would 
stop to breakfast where he had spent the night. 
He had taken his game there with him, and as his 
hostess had been an inmate of their family for some 
time previous to her marriage, and knew so well 
how to prepare his favorite grouse, and delighted 
so in doing it for him too, of course he would 
take breakfast with her, and afterward walk home. 
What more probable than this I Foolish woman ! 
she thought, why had it not occurred to her be- 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 387 

fore 1 She wondered at her thoughtlessness. But 
it was fortunate for them, she said with her own 
sweet, patient smile, for the favorite dish of their 
father was theirs also, and if she had not expected 
him to breakfast, she should hardly have risen 
early enough to prepare it. She had forgotten 
that she could not sleep ! 

They ate breakfast. She was a little nervous, 
and started once or twice when something like 
footsteps were heard about the door; but she 
laughed faintly each time, saying how foolish it 
was, for he would not be home till ten o'clock. 
When the meal was over she set her house in 
order, and thought, if it came on to snow, as the 
grey gathering clouds seemed to promise, how 
pleasant their fireside would be when they were 
all there, and the storm was beating without. 
Her sons left her to attend to their morning cares, 
and she fell into her ordinary state of mind, feel- 
ing quite as she did every day, when they were 
all out engaged in their various duties. 

The short morning wore away, and it was time 
to prepare dinner. She was quite surprised when 
she noted the hour — he had not come yet, and a 
faint gleam of the feeling that had, she must con- 
fess it now, dismayed her so in the morning, 
returned. But then it was probable he had 
stopped on the way for game, and, perhaps, even 
now, would be there before her meal was ready. 
So she went busily to work, and, as her labors pro- 
ceeded, she glanced occasionally from the window 
to see if he were near. No ! he was not yet ; 
and then she bethought herself, with a suddenness 
that blanched her whole face, that she had not 
heard his gun all the morning! She almost 
opened the door with the intention of communi- 
cating this to her sons, as a new and unthought-of 



388 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

evidence that they ought to be alarmed. But then 
she could hardly persuade herself to do it. They 
might laugh, and say it was not strange ; or wonder 
that she would suffer herself to be anxious; but 
she was still more deterred, though she hardly 
confessed this to herself, by her reluctance to give 
form or expression to her feelings. 

Noon came, but she did not call them to dinner; 
they had better dine half an hour later, and be all 
together. Beside, their breakfast was late, and 
she did not feel the least appetite ! Half-past 
twelve — one — and still no return ! Now the 
phantom fears that had hovered in her mind, 
would no longer be denied their hold. She was 
no longer afraid to speak, and act, as she had 
been half prompted to do all the day. With her 
better defined apprehensions for him, she acquired 
more courage over her own emotions. She called 
her sons, and requested the younger, after he had 
eaten his dinner, to ride down to Fanny's and 
see if his father were unwell, or what detained him. 
She spoke only thus; for, with all the calmness 
she had acquired, she found it impossible to name 
the alternative that was lurking in her bosom. 

And now came another long period, during 
which she must compose her feelings ; though it 
was not so easy as it had been in the morning : 
there was more expectation now ; and its termina- 
tion was clearly before her mind. Her son would 
return soon, and then — 

He came. She had seen him a long way off 
over the naked plain, and felt her blood rush 
tumultuously about her heart, when she saw him 
alone ! But a moment's reflection taught her that 
this was folly ; for, of course, his father would not 
be with him ; and then she wondered she had 
not thought to send another horse down! But 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 389 

why did he ride so fast 1 He was, perhaps, 
hastening to relieve her fears ; or — and once 
again she made a vain endeavor to supply the 
remainder of the sentence. He came on fast and 
faster yet ! His horse was almost running ! She 
could see that his face was pale ! And then she 
turned from the window, and placed one or two 
chairs in order that had been left standing — took 
up a work basket that was upon the table ; wound 
some thread on a spool ; and laid it down again. 
The same instant the swift feet stopped at the 
gate; the rider dismounted, and, rushing in, pale 
and breathless, exclaimed, " Father has not been 
there at all !" Then, seeing he had been too 
abrupt (though he had only uttered words that 
had been on his lips every step of the way home), 
he attempted, by some broken speech, to soften 
the terrible truth. He mi^ht have been led farther 
from home than he intended, in pursuit of some 
rare bird ; or he had met with some acquaintance 

and gone down to D , a neighboring town 

some ten miles distant, or — but here his bewil- 
dered tongue refused to furnish another word in 
aid of his attempt; and, when he looked mourn- 
fully at his mother, he found she had not compre- 
hended a word of what he had last said. She was 
looking at him with a stony, unmeaning gaze, as if 
she had a dim perception of his being there, and, 
uttering something which she ought to under- 
stand, but did not. He spoke to her in terms of 
affection, and, after a little, she recovered, and 
looking slowly about her, said, " Go find thy 
brother, and then, perhaps, thee had better ride 
up to the village, and — inquire," she added, in a 
tone below her breath. 

He had not been at the village, neither had any 
one seen him, but all thought, or, said at least, that 

K K 2 



390 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

perhaps he would be home that night. It was 
probable he would. If he did not they must go 
out over the country next morning in search of 
him. Meantime a few anxious individuals mount- 
ed that night and rode out in various directions, 
but neither heard, nor saw anything to report. 
Thus the day closed ! 

Night came on. Night which so much changes 
the aspect of the whole world ; which furnishes 
new images to the mind, and new energies to the 
physical powers ; which brings a cessation of care, 
and a release from the burthens we have borne 
through the busy day. 

But it brought no change to her ! She could 
not look so far over the prairie as before the dark- 
ness came on, — the prairie over which she had 
looked for many, many hours before ; though her 
eyes scarcely turned from the great waste since 
she sat down. There was but one object, indeed, 
that could have stirred the sense, now blind to all 
others, and that came not. 

I said that night brought no change ; and it did 
not. There she sat, sometimes speaking, when 
her sons, or one of the kind friends who had come 
in to be with her, addressed her ; but her lips only 
spoke. At length they persuaded her to seek 
some rest. She retired, but lying down it was 
just the same. The position and place might 
change, but these had no relation to her stricken 
soul. The connexion between the material and 
the immaterial seemed to have been suddenly sev- 
ered ; and the latter to be existing in a time long 
past. The body might suffer changes, might grow 
old, or be diseased. Bat until the spirit had re- 
leased its hold upon that point of time, it could 
take no cognizance of these. 

Morning came and then hundreds of horsemen 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 391 

might be seen, far and near, scouring the plain, 
looking carefully through the groves and copses, 
searching by the banks of streams and logs, and 
then raising themselves up, and looking all abroad, 
and then at each other, with countenances that 
rendered speech superfluous. 

Another night came and went, and no trace of 
the absent man could be found. They had looked 
for shreds of clothing, for the hat, the gun, any- 
thing that could give the faintest clue to the awful 
mystery ; but nature refused all evidence, and 
left them to conjectures made only more painful 
by every disappointment. They had thought the 
accidental discharge of his gun might have disa- 
bled him, and they should find him somewhere 
awaiting the arrival of help. A more terrible sup- 
position was, that in this state he might have been 
fallen upon by wolves ! but no traces of any such 
fearful catastrophe could anywhere be found. He 
might have fallen into the stream, but all search 
that was practicable in its then frozen state was 
made — to no purpose. Other days and nights 
passed, but all ended as they had begun ; the 
search was fruitless, and at last was gradually aban- 
doned. What more could the utmost kindness 
do 1 His fate, from the hour when he left the 
house with the gay challenge on his lips, was in- 
volved in impenetrable mystery. Hope, even won- 
der almost died in the lapse of time. But what 
were her feelings 1 She had returned at last to a 
full consciousness of what had befallen her ! She 
had passed from the doubts, fears, hopes, and 
dread of the long search, to the terrible certainty 
that she was widowed ! But how 1 That was 
the most painful of all. Had she smoothed his 
dying pillow, had she heard his last kind words, 
it were bliss compared to her present torture ! 



392 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

The most fearful conjectures thronged her agonized 
mind. Death, in his most terrible aspect, seizing 
on the helpless victim, was ever before her ! Raven- 
ing wolves, overwhelming floods, bearing away 
their prey despite the fearful struggles for life ; 
or, more terrible still, the slow death by starva- 
tion, in some possible nook that had escaped the 
eyes of those who sought to find her lost husband ! 
Oh ! who shall ever conceive the agony of that 
period, when to know that she was a widow was 
a small part of the burthen that pressed upon her 
heart, and made its agony almost palpable ! She 
had friends with her, kind, gentle, loving friends, 
who would have counted no effort too great, could 
it have assuaged her grief. But what were these ] 
They could tell her nothing. They could not an- 
swer one of the many questions which her heart 
never ceased to make everywhere and at all times. 

Weeks wore away, and though the inquiry 
ceased to be first on the lip when neighbors met, 
and was followed, when made, with less earnest 
conjectures, still it was alive there, pressing its 
cankering tooth to the very core of her being. 

The rude winds of winter at last began to be 
followed, at intervals, by the softer breath of spring. 
Nature began to dissolve her icy fetters on plain 
and stream. The season of birds and flowers, and 
universal beauty, which he had so loved, was ap- 
proaching ; the season when their happy homo 
was even happier ; when all its pleasant places 
were pleasanter. What would they be now .' 

On the stream which he had contemplated cross- 
ing, four or five miles below his house, was a mill. 
It stood in a pleasant spot — for woods and waters 
are ever pleasant in the prairie land — and when 
the winter ice had disappeared, and the fresh bur- 
then of the early spring rushed along within its 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 393 

banks, it was cheering to see it come dashing 
past the mill, leaping the dam and bearing along 
decayed logs, bits of board and fantastic branches, 
rearing, plunging, resisting, and anon hurrying 
along more madly than the waters themselves. 

Here one sunny March day stood a lad, watch- 
ing the frolic and haste of the stream as it curled 
and foamed along, when suddenly the leaping 
current deposited on the verge of the dam, a large 
object which, at the first glance, he took to be a 
log ! Then the water streaming from some de- 
pendent fragments, made him look again with 
somewhat of earnest curiosity ! He approached 
to get a nearer view ! and then ran as for life to 
the house ! In a few moments graver persons 
appeared ; took the long-lost body ; laid it rever- 
ently in a fit place ; and made preparation for the 
legal and decent ceremonies of the occasion. 
Though cruelly disfigured and changed, it could 
not be mistaken. The strongly marked head 
and face would have been recognized anywhere. 

And now once more it returned to the home, 
almost as much changed as itself. They dared 
not let the widow see it at first, and as she was 
ever patient and gentle in her grief as well as her 
happiness, she did not murmur or attempt to op- 
pose their wishes. At length, on the second day, 
when her mind was calmer than it had been, and 
she had learned to think of him as they described 
him in a few words, the gentlest they could use, 
as bloated, dark, bruised ! when they had separa- 
ted from her mind the idea of what he had been and 
brought it by the tenderest means to what he was ; 
they led her to his bier. 

There he lay, all that she had so loved in her 
early youth and sober womanhood, the father of 
her sons, the noble friend and protector of her 



394 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

past life, the tender nurse, and sympathizing friend 
of her sick years, her reliance when misfortune or 
sorrow came, her shield, her strong and patient 
friend in the adverse trials that had transplanted 
them from affluence in the east to toil and com- 
parative poverty in the west ! 

She looked at him, and the blended emotions that 
had harrowed and torn her bosom since the day of 
their parting, were now all resolved into one simple 
and overwhelming tide of grief. There was no longer 
doubt, nor fear, nor hope — all had died when she 
looked on the mute witness that lay before her. 
And a mighty grief, that seemed to strike with iron 
fangs into her very heart, took possession of her. 

They buried him, and she returned to her 
home ! And there, when I saw her several months 
after, 6he went meekly about, discharging her 
daily cares and duties to her sons, and when she 
thought no human eye was upon her, permitting, 
as the only relief her feelings could have, without 
being painful to others, tears to stream silently 
down her pale, suffering face. I never looked 
upon grief so touching. 

And this mother and her two sons were all that 
remained of the family we left on a former page 
in such happy and beautiful relation to each other, 
and the world around them. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

The return of my husband was now the event 
to which I looked forward. Sixteen months of 
perilous wanderings in the wilderness, and upon 
the ocean, were now drawing to a close. His 
arrival had been joyfully heralded by letters from 
California, and last of all, by the public prints, 



LIFE IN PRAIEIE LAND. 395 

annoucing that it had. been in his power to save the 
lives, and restore the liberties of several of his 
countrymen and Englishmen, prisoners to the au- 
thorities of that misgoverned, but beautiful coun- 
try. The period of waiting was prolonged much 
beyond what I had anticipated. Days ran into 
weeks, and summer was drawing to a close, and 
still he came not. At last the third anniversary of 
our departed boy's birth, among the last days of 
August, brought him. It was early one morning, 
just after breakfast, that he came into my friend's 
house, following one of the villagers whom he had 
met in the street, and who could not forbear play- 
ing the startling office of usher on the occasion. 

I pass over all that followed, the thousand inter- 
esting things to be heard and communicated ; the 
welcomes and congratulations of friends, and come 
to the time but a few weeks forward, when we 
were preparing to leave prairie land and sever all 
the sacred ties that bound us to those who were 
sleeping in its quiet bosom, and those who still trod 
its beautiful surface, full of life and hope. 

We visited Prairie Lodge and the resting-place 
of those who had been laid in the quiet graves 
near it, two long years before. At that distance 
of time, I could look calmly upon those hallowed 
spots, regarding them as what they really were — 
one, the tomb of a woman who had lived, loved, 
and suffered — the other, the tiny couch of an in- 
fant, whose tender bud of being scarce opened ere 
it closed again, to bloom in a more genial world. 
They were now objects of faith and hope, not of 
harrowing grief; and it was not altogether painful 
to linger over them, and train the evergreens and 
other plants which I had placed there long before. 
The foliage of the surrounding trees and shrubs 
had already faded from the high vigor and pomp 



396 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

of summer into the sober and gentle beauty of 
autumn — the season Mary had so much loved. A 
few short weeks, and the leaves would no more 
rustle to the gentle winds, the birds would no more 
dance in the boughs above, the mellow sunshine 
would no longer stream throusrh the trembling: 
canopy that softened its stronger glare into a tone 
harmonious with the hallowed character of the 
spot. All were departing ; and we were going 
too ; a few days would see us bid farewell to the 
country in which we had enjoyed and suffered so 
much; which still contained so much of life and 
death, to enchain our affections, and draw from 
our hearts in after times strong longings to behold 
it once more. 

It was late in autumn when we bade adieu to 
the little village in which our home had been, and 
to the few faithful and beloved friends it contained. 
Yet late as it was, nature was still clothed with 
the full majesty of her departing grandeur. As 
we rode slowly over the high rolling prairies of 
the north toward our point of embarkation, I 
thought I had never seen the country more mag- 
nificent. It seemed inviting us to return. Distant 
fires, scarcely kept alive by the gentle winds, crept 
lazily over the great brown meadows, curtaining 
them i'rom the flood of sunlight that filled the up- 
per air, and just veiling the line of the horizon, so 
that it seemed an interminable distance away from 
us, and from all mortal care and toil — a quiet and 
holy region, where, indeed, earth and heaven might 
meet without exalting the loveliness and peace of 
the one, or lessening those of the other. Never 
was prairie land more beautiful to us, than in her 
farewell smiles. Never were our hearts more 
deeply touched by her charms, than in those duys 
when we were passing away from them all. 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 397 

The surface of the river, till our steamer broke 
it into foam, was smooth as the skies it reflected, 
and even then its agitated waters fell off, as soon as 
we had passed away, into a soft undulating motion, 
that died upon the sleeping shore, as if the repose 
of nature were too deep to be broken by man. 
Trees, half disrobed of their trembling leaves and 
bathed in sunshine, swayed softly to and fro, their 
long arms reflected from the still waters with a 
distinctness that suggested the idea )f another 
creation slumbering beneath ! 

Myriads of wild fowl sat upon the tranquil 
stream, chattering in low tones, and lazily disport- 
ing themselves in the genial element. They had 
been arrested in their migratory flight by the won- 
drous beauty and softness of those days, and now 
lingered in the still waters, their dreamy rest bro- 
ken occasionally by the panting steamer, and the 
more cruel gun of the sportsman on the shore. At 
long intervals, these merciless sounds boomed over 
the surface, and sent thousands of geese, brant, 
and ducks screaming into the air, till the silent 
woods and long line of water reechoed to the cry. 
These were the only painful features of the scene. 
Nature would have been altogether lovely and 
gentle in her repose ; but man was there, with his 
selfishness and cruelty, to mar it ! 

Our route lay through the theatre of many of 
the most interesting scenes and events in the his- 
tory of the race that has now almost disappeared 
from these lands — the classic ground of the west ! 
Legends of mighty deeds, such as make the boast 
of prouder nations, fierce hatreds, undying loves, 
such as troubadours delighted to sing of the knights 
of olden times, float over all these beautiful realms. 

There is the " Starved Rock ;" its frowning sides 
overhanging the quiet waters — its half-naked sur- 

L L 



398 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

face strown with the bones of brave men, tender 
women, and helpless children ! The storms of 
near a century have bleached and wasted them 
into crumbling fragments ; for here, so long ago, 
a band of warriors retreating with their wives and 
little ones, took refuge from their more powerful 
enemies, thinking to make their defence good on 
the small area, which could only be approached by 
one narrow passage connecting it with the main- 
land. Here they spent many days, defying their 
besiegers, and laughing at their efforts to drive 
them from their shelter. Food they had in plenty, 
and water ran at the foot of their fort, two hun- 
dred and fifty feet below them, which they raised 
in buckets attached to bark ropes. One afternoon, 
however, a bucket was let down, but when the 
Indian would draw it up, it was strangely light! 
Twice or thrice, after shooting it a few feet, he 
returned it to the stream, wondering that it did 
not dip ! At length, weary at being thus foiled, 
he drew it hastily to the top of the rock. Con- 
sternation seized every bosom ! The rope had 
been severed, and the bucket was gone ! The 
experiment was repeated at another and another 
point with the same result ! Where now was their 
hope 1 The base of their rocky fortress was sur- 
rounded by the canoes of their enemies ! If they 
remained, a death more terrible than the toma- 
hawks and scalping knives of their foes could in- 
flict was before them. Yet, with their small num- 
bers, and their wives and children there, it were 
madness to venture a sally. A council was held, 
at which it was determined by the warriors to 
await some relaxation on the part of their besie- 
gers, or some interposition of the Great Spirit in 
their behalf. Days passed in this fearful condition. 
Mothers with their nursing infants were famishing 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 399 

of thirst. Their babes were starving for the food 
which their exhausted systems could no longer 
furnish ! Strong warriors began to look aghast, 
and tremble, as they walked about ! The Great 
Spirit was angry with them ; for clouds, charged 
with the blessing they so much craved, floated 
over them, and poured out their delicious treasures 
on the senseless plains and woods around, but 
never there. The clear river lay stretched for 
miles before them, its waters glancing in the sun, 
or maddening their thirst more fearfully when 
clouds darkened its checkered surface, making 
them look still more cool and inviting. Nay, it 
ran at their very feet. When the gusty night- wind 
swept over it, they could hear the waters faintly 
plash and chime below, and could almost in their 
madness have precipitated themselves into them, 
from the fearful height, to revel for one brief mo- 
ment in their abundance. Sometimes, at the deep- 
est hour of night, a vessel would descend the rock, 
stealthily and slowly, that no untoward contact 
might arouse their cruel watchers, if haply they 
slumbered. But vain and infuriating the hope and 
effort. It resulted only in the loss of the vessel, 
and the more dreadful aggravation of their suffer- 
ings. The terrible watch was never relaxed for a 
moment of the day or night, and the stern sufferer, 
at every failure, could hear the exulting laugh and 
the fierce congratulation of those who had caused 
it. Then they would heighten his agonies by toy- 
ing idly with the water, making it splash and leap 
till the victim could almost see the light bubbles 
dancing on its cool dark surface. Some of the fee- 
ble women and the children died. But they could 
not be buried. Their bodies were laid decently 
away on the verge of the rock, and then the friends 
sat down to wait till they should follow ! 



400 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

Oh ! what days and nights were those. Mana- 
cles on the limbs of the free, proud warrior, the 
lighted deathfire, the flashing tomahawk would 
have been his paradise, could he but have thrown 
himself upon them. To sit in miserable inaction 
all the day, he who was like the wind in swiftness 
and love of motion ; to endure the raging torments 
of thirst and hunger (for the latter had at length 
been added to their sufferings) ; to see his wives 
and his young warriors sinking and dying around 
him ; to make trial after trial for their relief, each 
ending in failure, more exasperating than before 
— was one of those fearful conditions of human 
being, which occur but once in the history of ages, 
and form in the annals of nations the proverbial evi- 
dences of bravery and fortitude, to which count- 
less ages turn back with pride and exultation. 

At length, when the exquisite torture could be 
no longer borne, and the prospect of an ignomini- 
ous death by slow degrees was the only certainty 
before them, they determined on a sally. Seizing 
an hour, when those stationed on the landward 
side would least expect a movement after their long 
repose, and causing their women and children to 
render redoubled vigilance necessary at the base 
of the rock, they armed themselves, and, strong 
in the fury which their fearful suffering had pro- 
voked, issued silently from the retreat and fell upon 
their foes. 

The contest that followed was bitter as Indian 
hatred and cruelty could make it. It resulted in 
the total route and destruction of the Illinois. 
From that day they were no more seen in council- 
house or battle field. Their name became extinct 
or was borne only by a few miserable wanderers 
from tribe to tribe. Their bones were left to 
crumble on the field, and their enfeebled women 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 401 

and children slain within the fortress, whence they 
watched the fatal struggle. 

Such is the legend of the " Starved Rock [" It 
is now, in these tamer days, a curious and inter- 
esting object to visitors. Surrounded on three 
sides by the waters of the Illinois, it rears its 
frowning summit two hundred and fifty feet above 
them. The sides are smooth in many places and 
overhang the base, looking into the dark mirrror 
below, as tranquilly as if they had never formed 
an impassable barrier between mortal agony and 
all that earth could afford to relieve it. The sum- 
mit of the rock is crowned with vegetation ; rich 
grasses and a light growth of young trees render 
its surface a more agreeable resting-place now 
than when the wretched Indian pined and famished 
there in the noonday sun. From its top it com- 
mands a view of the river for many miles, broken 
only here and there, by interposing trees or the 
gigantic vegetation that crowds its banks. One 
can imagine the unfortunate savage standing on it 
and looking out upon those waters which his light 
canoe had so often parted around him, with a des- 
peration and agony that only the strong pride of 
his race could prevent him from uttering in tones 
of inexpressible anguish. To me it was a thrilling 
and fearful spot.* 

But here is Mont Joliet with its fair proportion- 
ed valley, and swift running stream — the theatre 
where the good French pere planted the first 
cross ever reared in these sublime solitudes. The 

* This rock is about six miles below Ottawa, on the east side 
of the Illinois. It projects far into the stream, and is connected 
with the mainland by a narrow passage which could be defended 
by a few men against thousands. Thither a band of the Illinois 
retreated, after a severe engagement at the north, when pursued 
by their more powerful and numerous enemies, the Pottowata- 
mies, and then occurred the painful scene described above, 
26 l l 2 



402 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

tale is longer than I can tell, but it is a beautiful 
one — beautiful in its exhibition of exalted virtue, 
and its connexion with this lovely spot. It is one 
of the most glowing of those old legends that en- 
rich the past. The past in the prairie land ! What 
romance, what mystery, what uncounted volumes 
of thrilling interest sleep in its mighty bosom ! 
Into these majestic solitudes, ages ago, came the 
wandering trapper and the solitary, self-sacrificing 
missionary. Here they lived, alone and humbly, 
among the proud sovereigns of the land. Their 
rude cabins were constructed beneath the forests 
that bordered the streams, and there, upon the 
margin of the still waters, the former sprung his 
trap, and the latter, clad in his long, coarse gown, 
the symbol of his faith and calling pendent at his 
girdle, preached, for the first time in these vast 
domains of nature, the doctrines of the Cross. 

Seasons came and went ; tender spring, glowing 
summer, ripening autumn, stern winter; and in 
them all was wondrous beauty or impressive ma- 
jesty ! From fort to solitary fort they floated on 
streams, thousands of miles in length, winding their 
lazy ways through a country unparalleled in fer- 
tility, beauty, and grandeur. Forests, magnificent 
in their richness, sublime in their loveliness, hung 
upon the margins of these rivers, their dense foli- 
age peopled with myriads of gay, glancing birds, 
their dark mazes occasionally threaded by the 
startling catamount and panther ! Passed these ! 
and plains, not less impressive in their vastness, 
stretched out bofore the eyes of the voyageur, dot- 
ted with countless herds of the buffalo, the elk, the 
deer, and the antelope, feeding upon their peace- 
ful bosoms. Tho gaunt wolf, stealing silently 
among thorn, hiding by day, and sending his dis- 
mal howl into the silent hours of night, added a 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 403 

striking feature to the strange joyousness of such 
wanderings. 

Nor were these journeys less impressive when 
undertaken by land. Their way from post to post 
lay in the narrow trail which the Indian had trod 
from time immemoriaL Day after day they wan- 
dered over these plains, and night after night slept 
upon their bosoms, beneath soft skies and gentle 
winds. Sunset and twilight, such as Italy would 
boast, ushered in their slumbers ; and the grouse, 
with his mournful matin song, aroused them with 
the dawn, and sent them on their way with hearts 
swelling in unison with the world-wide peace and 
joy of nature ! 

What marvel, if they never wearied with telling 
the wonders of their new home ! What marvel, if 
they spread its fame to far lands, and were content 
to die, away in its deep solitudes 1 What marvel 
was all this 1 Streams, whose course was equal 
to a quarter of the diameter of the globe, were 
stretched around them ; storms, whose fearful 
wrath made the firm earth tremble, gathei-ed and 
burst over them; sunshine and winds, birds and 
animals, flowers and fruits, such as only the fairest 
regions of the old world would return to unsparing 
labor, were here spread over half a continent ! 
What marvel, if, amid these, they felt that lan- 
guage was too poor for their emotions, that fable 
could not exaggerate them ? 

Amid this magnificence they lived — alone with 
the " untutored Indian," sole lord and sovereign of 
it all. And wild and free was their life, with its 
abundance — its great untried resources — its bound- 
less variety. One may well conceive that, with 
minds such as they possessed, it was the realiza- 
tion of their highest ideal. But it was destined to 
vanish! The second era of civilization dawned 



404 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

over these majestic realms, and its light dispelled 
their dream. 

While the streams were yet unvexed by the im- 
petuous steamer, and the beaver and otter dwelt 
unscared in their early homes ; while the forest 
tracts were yet dark with the unbroken foliage, 
and wide plains, over which ages were destined to 
roll before plow or spade should mar their beauty, 
lay spread around them ; came softly, one by one, 
the white-topped waggons of the early emigrants. 
They had left the dense forests of Ohio and Penn- 
sylvania, the undulating hills of Kentucky, and the 
old homes of Virginia, for the new and more hope- 
ful country which adventurers assured them lay 
beyond. Before them the Indian would retreat, 
and his white friend must follow. The bond that 
linked him to his kind was between him and the 
red man. He had lived in his lodge, shared his 
hospitality, smoked his pipe, united in his hunts, 
scalped his enemies, and cemented still more 
strongly their bond of union, by marrying his 
daughters. What had he in common with the cul- 
tivator of the soil, though wearing a skin of the 
same color 1 What had he not in common with 
those who retired to make way for him ] 

Here nature would be herself no longer. All 
her former aspect would fade away beneath the 
despoiling hand that labor would lay upon her 
charms ; and they must flee to other regions where 
the spoilers had not come ; their old haunts by 
stream and woodside were forsaken ; the smoke 
no longer ascended from their solitary forts and 
villages ; the rank grass overgrew their well worn 
trails, and the solitude of their familiar places was 
deepened by every object which showed that man 
had been there and departed, 

Slowly, and with many regrets and painful yearn- 



LITE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 405 

ings toward the land which time and association had 
so much endeared, they wended their way to the yet 
unbroken realms between them and the setting sun. 

Scarcely less a distinct race than these, were 
their successors. Their former lives — exposed as 
some of them had been by contiguity to savage 
neighbors, reared as others were in dependence 
upon slave labor, and accustomed as all were to 
the plain subsistence afforded by only partial in- 
dustry — had begotten in them a love of ease, an 
unrestrained freedom which the new country was 
well calculated to foster. 

To labor with the steady perseverance which 
anticipates its reward — to toil for the gain which, 
slow in accumulating, smiles only on the later 
years of life, was not their mission. Why should 
freemen do this, when nature was inviting them 
by such pomp and fascination, to come abroad 
with her, and enjoy every passing hour. The 
first settler could not live far from her; a rude 
cabin and a single field were all that he could 
brook of separation ; more than these were bur- 
thensome to the spirit, and reduced freemen to 
slaves ; more was unnecessary in his new condi- 
tion. We have already beheld him living thus, 
content as if palaces rose around him. But a dark 
shadow soon fell upon his home. Files of earnest 
men, with hard hands and severe, calculating faces, 
pressed toward it from the east. Tales of its beauty, 
its grandeur, its freedom, its wondrous fertility, 
have reached their far firesides and rocky fields ; 
and they are pressing forward to see if such things 
really are. When their eyes rest upon the glori- 
ous plains and gigantic forests, they exclaim, " This 
was no dream ! Here is all that we looked for, 
and more than can be described ! We will build 
our homes here." 



406 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

They sat down beside the second son of nature. 
They fenced the plain adjacent to his field ; they 
built a cabin, more finished than his ; its smoke 
was continually ascending before him ; their axe 
"was heard in the neighboring grove, and the brave 
old trees, that had tossed their arms in the storms 
of ages, fell and were piled into lofty barns, that 
were visible wherever he went. If he chased the 
deer or hunted the grouse, or was returning from 
a visit to a neighboring settlement, there they stood, 
the first objects that greeted his vision ; a blight 
upon the fair scene whose free aspect he had never 
thus marred. They struck his sight unpleasantly. 
He liked not these crowded ways of living, nor 
the busy sounds that floated with the morning 
light from his neighbor's home, nor his earnest toil 
in field and wood, nor his large crops, nor any- 
thing, in short, pertaining to his toilsome life. The 
country was less pleasant than it used to be, when 
there were no buildings, no fences, no living things 
in sight but his own and nature's. 

He begins now to contemplate the possibility 
of following those who fled before him, and even 
while he is doing it, comes his neighbor's friend 
or brother, and proposes to bargain with him for 
his cabin and field ! Now indeed, it is time for 
him to betake himself to a land of liberty. When 
the Yankees, not content with curtailing his free- 
dom, his very breath of life — not content with 
crowding around him, and making a prison of his 
home, come and ask for that home itself — there is 
no longer any alternative. Everything admonishes 
him that the time of his departure has come ! He 
therefore gathers his few worldly goods, and these, 
except his horses and rifle, are more than he wishes 
they were, and turns from his deserted hearth- 
side to seek a more congenial spot, where industry 



LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 407 

and trade have not yet despoiled the fair earth, 
or crowded it with busy, thriving homes. 

And now in his place succeeds a permanent 
population. His old haunts and pleasant ways 
are trodden by men, who, while they cast a care- 
less eye upon the flying deer, count the resources 
of every acre which he scorns. 

Broad farms open as by magic on the blooming 
plain ; stately houses take the place of the solitary 
cabin ; and industry, that counts her gains, has 
stretched her transforming arm over all the fair 
land. The wild, the free, the mysterious, are 
fading beneath her touch. But a power is grow- 
ing up where they vanish, before whose might a 
continent may tremble. Who shall define the 
limits of its growth 1 Who shall conceive what 
intelligence and moral purpose may do, when they 
seize upon resources such as these, wherewith to 
consummate their energies. 

Lands, boundless in extent, exhaustless in fertil- 
ity, lying under every variety of climate from the 
tropical to the arctic; accessible in all their parts 
by continuous water-courses of magnitude unpar- 
alleled on the globe, containing so much to stim- 
ulate the nobler faculties and gratify the senses ; 
so much that is calculated to induce a high state 
of physical developement and fine perceptions of 
the beautiful, the grand, and the true; lands whoso 
primeval glory, when it shall have become ancient, 
will form the theme of the poet and glow on the 
page of the historian ; though too feebly sung and 
written to convey to future ages what the present 
feels. It must be the theatre of a life larger than 
human prophecy can foretell ! 

When the tide of intelligence shall have swept 
from the green barrier on the east, to the bald, 
heaven-reared wall that stretches along the west, 



408 LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND. 

and from the northern lakes to the gulf; when 
the remote tributaries of the great streams shall 
have become the commercial channels of the vast 
regions which they drain ; and territories equal in 
extent to empires renowned in history, and sur- 
passing the gardens of the old world in fertility, 
shall be overspread by a free brotherhood, united 
as to the great purposes of life, and pursuing them 
under a liberal and fostering policy — then will be 
presented the phenomenon of a life, of which we 
can have now but a faint conception. The pent-up, 
famishing legions of Europe may find room and 
abundance here, when they shall have burst the 
fetters that bind them there ! And here may future 
tyrants behold how great, and good, and strong, is 
man when left to govern himself; free from want, 
from oppression, from ignorance, from fear ! 

But we are departing from prairie land ! The 
bright waters of Lake Michigan dance around our 
steamer. Blue and dim in the distance, fades the 
mellow-tinted shore, its long faint outline trembling: 
in the golden haze of the Indian summer ! Fare- 
well ! land of majestic rivers and flowering plains 
— of fearful storms and genial sunshine — of strong 
life and glowing beauty ! Glorious in thy youth 
— great in thy maturity — mighty in thy age — thou 
shalt yet rival the eastern lands of heroism and 
song, in the worship and affection of man ! Thy 
free plains and far-reaching streams shall be the 
theatre of a power and intelligence never yet wit- 
nessed ! Thy countless acres shall glow with 
checkered beauty and hum with busy life, when 
the generations of those who love thee now, sleep 
in thy peaceful bosom ! Land of the silent past 
and stirring future, farewell ! 

THE END.