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THE DEAD HUSBAND
MORE than one half of the inhabitants of the globe have an imperfect idea of the sufferings that are endured by their kindred, even in the vicinity of their own dwellings. The same laudable sentiment that induces display of the elegances of life, causes concealment of our miseries or humiliating misfortunes. The social feeling which induces us to lend a neighbour aid in peril, or in the full tide of prosperous action, tends to the exhibition of our good fortune--it is sympathy in both instances. It is the sufferer who seeks concealment, having no flattering prospects to offer for the congratulations of the sympathetic. It is the jealous distrust of our natures that induces the footman, who is toiling onward with a humid brow, to cast a nervous and discontented glance at the tenants of the post-coach, as it darts onward; and he welcomes the cloud of dust that ensures concealment of his woes, only created by contrast. It is only when crime brings suffering on the innocent kindred of the criminal, that there exists serious cause of discontent.
Joseph Joplin was one of half a dozen sons of a tavern-keeper in the county of Buncombe, North Carolina ; and consequently he became initiated in early life into the ways of the world ; by which general expression it may be in this case understood, an acquaintance with whiskey and tar-kilns, long rifles, and quarter
When this younger son of the publican of the “Piny woods” had nearly attained the stature of the family standard, six feet three inches, and a few months before he had reached his twentieth year, he led up before the township justice of peace a hope-inspired damsel. She vowed herself his partner, in weal
and wo, in life and death. His circumstances at the time were only middling. He owned “a likely young nag, a dollar bell, and a good rifle-gun."
A few months after the festivities of the nuptials had left the sober realities of life in bold relief, the young couple began to look beyond the precincts of the paternal double cabins, in order to fix the trace leading to the most inviting region. Their departure was accelerated by “a small scrimmage,” in which Mr. Joplin was unfortunately a principal actor, at a shooting-match. His antagonist had darkened the manly disk of our hero a little ; but, then, the young bridegroom boasted that he had taken an “under bit out of his left ear, and stove two of the front teeth of his antagonist down his throat."
The young couple departed with the buoyancy of hope, that flattering endorser of accommodation paper, for the western district, the husband on foot, leading in the devious pathway of his bride, who was mounted on the nag. This animal was well laden with household stuffs, consisting principally of quilts and “kiverlids."
The adventurers reached the point of destination, six miles from the last cabin, on the borders of the Indian country, in season to make a crop. When the corn was gathered in, the fall hunt half finished, the venison drying, and the “bear bacon" cured, the Indian summer, with its mild haze, lent a soft and cheering influence upon the new-beginners.
On one of the quiet evenings, made more interesting by the tranquillity of the day of rest, the settlers were entertaining a neighbouring family with a happy display of the best the house could afford, with “a streak of fat and a streak of lean.” While the children of their guests were playing antic gambols about the door, a scream of infantile alarm arrested the attention and deep interest of the settlers. As the three males of the party snatched their arms, the anticipated war-cry rang responsive in the precincts of the cabin. The foremost of the assailants fell, and another shot wounded and arrested the advance of the leading warrior, while the affrighted mothers drew in their fugitive infants. As the cabin door was closed against the foe, a distracted mother
saw her youngest child snatched up by a retreating brave, while his comrades dragged off their dead leader. A gun had been hastily charged, and the fearless Joplin, having thrown open the door, drew it to his face; but the wary savage held up, to shield his person,
the little captive. “ Fire !" screamed the distracted mother; “better dead than a prisoner !” At the critical instant when the little sufferer parted asunder its legs, the sharp report of the rifle of the white man was heard, and the crimson current of a deeper hue than the painted skin of the savage rippled down his naked trunk. He reeled, and hesitated, and, ere the smoke of the rifle had blown away, the frantic mother, with knife in hand, was seen flying to the rescue. The savage, cool and collected even in the agonies of death, interposed the infant between the thrust of the Amazon and his person, and the unhappy mother plunged her weapon into the bosom of her own child !
The warrior's knife closed the scene as he fell, and was bathed in the heart's blood of the fearless woman, the wife of Joplin's nearest neighbour. The Indians fled without a single scalp.
After the funeral obsequies of the mother and child had been hastily performed, and they were consigned to the same unostentatious grave, the neighbouring settlers assembled and forted at Joplin's cabin. They elected him their captain. Here they continued during the autumn and winter, with various fortune in sharp skirmishes with their unrelenting and always vigilant enemy.
Early in the spring they broke up their little settlement, and retired back to the more populous part of the country. Captain Joplin returned to the paternal mansion in the Piny woods, to exhibit the beginning of the third generation, in the person of young Buckeye Joplin. After lingering a while in his old haunts, and recounting the perils he had cheerfully met and overcome, he looked out again upon the land of promise, the western expanse, for another channel of enterprise. The second expedition of our hero was undertaken by water. Having packed his family across to the Tennessee river, and exchanged his "nag" for a canoe, or “ dug out,” he embarked in his long and devious