網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

tion; and when I have seen the possessor of such great gifts, turn them to a bad account. I grieved that they should have been so ill bestowed, but without harbouring any feeling of disrespect for the real value of the treasure.

Too often the fame and estimation of the art hangs on the conduct of the Artist. In all our worldly pleasures we should consider that it is the abuse, not the use of them that brings their condemnation. And now my young friends, if ye bave listened with kind complacency to my fire-side chat, we will meet again, and I will recount to you many a Winter's tale, and many a Summer's ramble ;-till then-Farewell!

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A WEEK IN THE PRAIRIES.

No. I. IMPORTANT business obliged me, in the close of the winter of 1822, to leave Lexington on a journey to a small settlement near the head of the Illinois river. I had hoped to have crossed the White and Wabash rivers before the flood which follows the vernal equinox would bave rendered them impassable; but the difficulties of the road and the thousand petty accidents that befall travellers in a thinly settled country, particularly at that season, detained me so long, that when I reached the N. and S. branches of the former stream, the flood was so great that myself and companions were obliged to take up our residence in a a small Inn in the neighbourhood, and wait till a boat could be procured for us at another settlement several miles further down. As this could not be obtained for some days, and probably a week (for there was no certainty that the waters had spared one even there) the whole party was compelled to postpone all hopes of a speedy departure; and in the mean time, we resolved to amuse ourselves in the best manner that the nature of the place would admit.

However it is surely time for me to inform the reader, as he may be likely to enjoy their company for a month or two longer,

who these fellow-travellers were. I therefore beg leave to introduce to his particular favour, Mr. Alexander M'Farland and his Lady, and Mr. Isaac Donne, an elderly New Jersey Farmer-all three of whom were travelling in company to a post west of the Mississippi-Mynbeer Heltzenspacker on a scientific tour, by order of a German University, to the head waters of the same river; and Monsieur St. Faux, a personage whom you would have known from bis dress and manners, to be of the old regime. These with myself and servant, were now detained at a vile Inn, in a viler country, by the accident of the loss of a boat.

The accomodations of our residence were far from being of the first order. The whole tenement consisted of but two rooms on the ground floor, and a loft, in which, and in the stable, the family of our host took refuge during our stay. But the faults of the establishment, numerous as they were, were abundantly atoned for, in the opinion of the owner, by a large patriotic sign of Gen. Montgomery, suspended over the road, which creaked so on a windy evening, that all the wolves within a mile fled for fear. In the lower rooms the guests were lodged, the smaller of the two being allotted to the Scottish couple, and the larger to the rest of the company,” though Monsieur at first observed that being the cousin of a Marquis, he was entitled to “de room to himsell," yet he good naturedly dispensed with this mark of respect, on being allowed the only bedstead in the apartment.

Thus being made undisputed master of one room, in a sevenhoused village, unknown to geographers, we soon became familiar, every one indulging hinself without ceremony in his own manner. No one yawned when Monsieur dilated upon the Palace of Versailes as it was in his "youthful days;" and Mynheer told interminable stories about Leipsic without interruption, and then giving two deep sighs, turned to hear Mr. M'Farland describe the prospect from that “ braw place Arthur's seat." The second day to our great delight commenced clear, the clouds of the preceding had totally disappeared, and the bright sun shone with vernal magnificence upon the prairies. We testified our joy at this fortunate circumstance, by leaving Gen. Montgomery and our landlord to their meditations, and traversing all the country on our side of the river. Monsieur and myself trying our skill as marks-men; whilst Mynheer led another detachment on a botanical expedition into the forests. We might by these excursions have succeeded in putting a whole army of megrims to flight, if the state of the weather had been answerable to that of our spirits; but on Day the Third, a drizzle and fog commenced, which becoming still more serious on the following, threw us all into despair. A few books. which Mr. Landlord (I forget his name, though it shone in yellow letters over the door) found with Vou. No.

51

[ocr errors]

infinite research, in a dusty corner, served for three or four hours; but when the finis of these came in view, our looks asked how we were to kill time for a few days longer.

The son of Germany brought to light from the recesses of his portmanteau a fresh pipe and a paper of tobacco, which he used so vehemently, that in a few minutes we were all in the same predicament as Achetes and Eneus when they saw Venus on the mountain. Monsieur St. Faux, whistled all the cotillions fashiionable in the time of Louis XVI., and Isaac of New Jersey grumbled excessively that he could not procure an extra bottle of cider on this trying occasion. But when all were tired of these important avocations, we were once more at a dead stand, and more than one of us recollected at the moment Thomson's two lines,

“Their only labour was to kill their time,

“ And labour dire it was, and weary wo.Fresh wood was added to the fire, more as a defence against the damp than the cold; and with melancholy faces we sat round the hearth, with whose every brick we were become familiar! When we bad remained in silence (the silence of the tongue only, for our looks too plainly told what our feelings were) for some time, the Scot having given a loud hem! broke forth as follows: “ Weel, here we are, gentlemen, and without doubt, bere will we be much longer; and we have read all the literary productions in the tenement, and hae tried hard and lang to amuse ourselves. But we must do something new, I fear, to make our sojourn here agreeable and pleasant; and therefore I propose that we, each of us, relate some tale, adventure or story, either of himself or others, which, however indifferent in itself, may be tolerably amusing or interesting to us at present.” “With all my heart, with the greatest pleasure imaginable," cried the polite M. St. Faux, “provided my very good friend, Monsieur M'Farland, set the example." “ Ya, ya," (said the German) “it is put proper he Shoot!” to which we all assented ; and accordingly Mr. M'Farland having seen that his wife, who was indisposed, was sleeping, and prefaced his narration by laying another log on the fire, and informing us that he feared he could tell us little worthy of our attention, began as follows:

THE SCOTCHMAN'S STORY,

OR THE TALE OF SANDIE M'FARLAND. “I think it really needless, to trouble you, gentlemen, with a long account of my progenitors, seeing, as Deacon M'Bride was wont to say, we are all, after all, but heirs of Adam, yet I must

abserve, and with truth too, that Dumfrieshire could not boast of a better man than Allan M'Farland, when alive, poor man. When it pleased God to take him to himself from all the vanities of this world, I had just reached my twenty-first year; yet I trust that young as I was, no one can say that I neglected my father's affairs when too weak to attend to them himselfwithout boasting or vain glory be it spoken.

“When my father was decently laid in the kirk-yard, I found myself and two sisters somewhat younger than myself, left with but a little farm, and less money to support us, yet I felt not dispirited, for with God's blessing and my own industry, I believed we should be able to maintain ourselves on our paternal estate as my father and his did before us. We had been five years on the farm, our pecuniary matters bettering gradually, when we received a visit from a distant relation whom we had not seen since our infaney, who arrived barely in time to witness the marriage of my sisters to twa respectable farmers, who knew how to prefer modest usefu' lasses to those fantastic girls who had their heads turned giddy with visiting at Edinbo’ro', or London, maybe. The old gentleman, our guest, was thought poor, and now that my sisters were settled, I thought it my duty to maintain him during the remainder of his pilgrimage, which, poor man, was not long, for he was thrown from his horse a few months after, and lived but to squceze my hand, and tell mo where I should find bis will.

“I thought nothing of the will until his funeral was over, and then you may think how surprised I was when I found myself left heir to £1000, in a banker's hands at Edinbo'ro', upon condition that if his nephew should ever return, it should be relinquished to him. This was an impossible event, as he had not been heard of since his departure for Canada, many years bcfore, and having been from his brutal manners very unpopular, was little regretted, and soon nearly forgotten. Being after my return from the capital master of a sum which would with industry render me and mine independent, I made no delay in marrying my present wife, then a Miss Davies, whom I had long loved in the days of my poverty, and set out with her for a farm, I had purchased in the southern part of Ayreshire.

“What an immense difference a little gold makes in the opinion of men! I who had for years came unnoticed into G- kirk, was now received with bonfires and bell-ringing, in all the villages where the fame of my heirship had reached. “Wha is it? wha is it?" cried all the gossips to their neighbours at the next window! “Haugh! but the braw new gig,” cried the patriarchs at the door sills." And do ye see the bonnie laddie in it,” yelled the youngsters farther out on the road, But when we arrived

تی

at D-, the nearest village to our new residence, the climax of honour appeared in the shape o' half a score o' broken heads owned by the unsuccessful champions for opening the turnpike gate-old fiddles of primitive construction, were brought out from behind old presses where they had lain in peace for at least three generations, and the price of rosin rose three per cent at the universal store of Donald M'Clenaghen.

“When we had got settled in our new farm, had visited all the visitable people in three parishes, attended balls and feasts without number, had driven the new gig through all the lanes and roads in the neighbourhood, and had spent a month at the watering-places of our desires and habits of living sunk nearly to their former level, though as Mr. Pope humourously and wittily observes,

“Now two puddings smoaked upon the board."

“We had lived thus for seven years in the quiet enjoyment of our prosperity, when the dark side of our picture turned up. believe that I have not as yet mentioned to you, that we lived within sight of the ocean, just at a sufficient distance to enjoy its advantages without feeling our farm injured by the cold air which passes from it. There had not occurred a wreck on the coast since we had resided near it, when abor the middle of November, 1810, a storm unequalled in the memory of the oldest resident, commenced. At sun-set the wind was heard in low moanings through the whole country. At midnight it increased to a tempest, accompanied with severe and continued lightning; and when the blasts bore tall oaks before it, and their crashing was heard, mothers thought of, and sighed for their own sons at sea, perhaps at that moment, perishing. When the day dawned, which was only known by the succession of a twilight to darkness, for the clouds obscured the whole Heavens and the Sun, numerous inhabitants rushed to the beach, some to render assistance to those whose fate it might be to be cast ashore on the coast, others for the hope of possessing the fragments of cargoes which the tide might cast on shore.

“On the cliffs and dryest rocks of the coast impervious to the dashing of the surf, the old fishermen were collected, each relating to his halo of listeners his own perils and dangers ; yet it was universally owned that the present tempest was the severest that had happened in that part of the country since the memory of man.

“The Lord forbid,” suddenly cried old Davie Cameron, with whose group I was standing in a sheltered recess, but unless these old eyes deceive me greatly, yonder to the right comes an ill fated vessel ;” and instantly the cry of the mariners

« 上一頁繼續 »