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Title: On Horseback
Author: Warner, Charles Dudley
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Charles Dudley Warner


“The way to mount a horse”--said the Professor.

“If you have no ladder--put in the Friend of Humanity.”

The Professor had ridden through the war for the Union on the right
side, enjoying a much better view of it than if he had walked, and knew
as much about a horse as a person ought to know for the sake of his
character. The man who can recite the tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims,
on horseback, giving the contemporary pronunciation, never missing an
accent by reason of the trot, and at the same time witch North Carolina
and a strip of East Tennessee with his noble horsemanship, is a kind of
Literary Centaur of whose double instruction any Friend of Humanity may
be glad to avail himself.

“The way to mount a horse is to grasp the mane with the left hand
holding the bridle-rein, put your left foot in the stirrup, with the
right hand on the back of the saddle, and---”

Just then the horse stepped quickly around on his hind feet, and looked
the Professor in the face. The Superintendents of Affairs, who occupy
the flagging in front of the hotel, seated in cane-bottomed chairs
tilted back, smiled. These useful persons appear to have a life-lease
of this portion of the city pavement, and pretty effectually block it up
nearly all day and evening. When a lady wishes to make her way through
the blockade, it is the habit of these observers of life to rise and
make room, touching their hats, while she picks her way through, and
goes down the street with a pretty consciousness of the flutter she
has caused. The war has not changed the Southern habit of sitting
out-of-doors, but has added a new element of street picturesqueness in
groups of colored people lounging about the corners. There appears to be
more leisure than ever.

The scene of this little lesson in horsemanship was the old town of
Abingdon, in southwest Virginia, on the Virginia and East Tennessee
railway; a town of ancient respectability, which gave birth to the
Johnstons and Floyds and other notable people; a town, that still
preserves the flavor of excellent tobacco and, something of the
easy-going habits of the days of slavery, and is a sort of educational
center, where the young ladies of the region add the final graces of
intellectual life in moral philosophy and the use of the globes to their
natural gifts. The mansion of the late and left Floyd is now a seminary,
and not far from it is the Stonewall Jackson Institute, in the midst
of a grove of splendid oaks, whose stately boles and wide-spreading
branches give a dignity to educational life. The distinction of the
region is its superb oak-trees. As it was vacation in these institutions
of learning, the travelers did not see any of the vines that
traditionally cling to the oak.

The Professor and the Friend of Humanity were about starting on a
journey, across country southward, through regions about which the
people of Abingdon could give little useful information. If the
travelers had known the capacities and resources of the country, they
would not have started without a supply train, or the establishment
of bases of provisions in advance. But, as the Professor remarked,
knowledge is something that one acquires when he has no use for it. The
horses were saddled; the riders were equipped with flannel shirts and
leather leggings; the saddle-bags were stuffed with clean linen, and
novels, and sonnets of Shakespeare, and other baggage, it would have
been well if they had been stuffed with hard-tack, for in real life meat
is more than raiment.

The hotel, in front of which there is cultivated so much of what the
Germans call sitzfleisch, is a fair type of the majority of Southern
hotels, and differs from the same class in the North in being left a
little more to run itself. The only information we obtained about it was
from its porter at the station, who replied to the question, “Is it
the best?” “We warrant you perfect satisfaction in every respect.”
 This seems to be only a formula of expression, for we found that
the statement was highly colored. It was left to our imagination to
conjecture how the big chambers of the old house, with their gaping
fireplaces, might have looked when furnished and filled with gay
company, and we got what satisfaction we could out of a bygone bustle
and mint-julep hilarity. In our struggles with the porter to obtain the
little items of soap, water, and towels, we were convinced that we had
arrived too late, and that for perfect satisfaction we should have been
here before the war. It was not always as now. In colonial days the
accommodations and prices at inns were regulated by law. In the old
records in the court-house we read that if we had been here in 1777, we
could have had a gallon of good rum for sixteen shillings; a quart bowl
of rum toddy made with loaf sugar for two shillings, or with brown sugar
for one shilling and sixpence. In 1779 prices had risen. Good rum sold
for four pounds a gallon. It was ordered that a warm dinner should cost
twelve shillings, a cold dinner nine shillings, and a good breakfast
twelve shillings. But the item that pleased us most, and made us regret
our late advent, was that for two shillings we could have had a “good
lodging, with clean sheets.” The colonists were fastidious people.

Abingdon, prettily situated on rolling hills, and a couple of thousand
feet above the sea, with views of mountain peaks to the south, is a
cheerful and not too exciting place for a brief sojourn, and hospitable
and helpful to the stranger. We had dined--so much, at least, the public
would expect of us--with a descendant of Pocahontas; we had assisted on
Sunday morning at the dedication of a new brick Methodist church, the
finest edifice in the region--a dedication that took a long time, since
the bishop would not proceed with it until money enough was raised in
open meeting to pay the balance due on it: a religious act, though it
did give a business aspect to the place at the time; and we had been the
light spots in the evening service at the most aristocratic church of
color. The irresponsibility of this amiable race was exhibited in the
tardiness with which they assembled: at the appointed time nobody was
there except the sexton; it was three quarters of an hour before the
congregation began to saunter in, and the sermon was nearly over before
the pews were at all filled. Perhaps the sermon was not new, but it was
fervid, and at times the able preacher roared so that articulate sounds
were lost in the general effect. It was precisely these passages of
cataracts of sound and hard breathing which excited the liveliest
responses,--“Yes, Lord,” and “Glory to God.” Most of these responses
came from the “Amen corner.” The sermon contained the usual vivid
description of the last judgment--ah, and I fancied that the
congregation did not get the ordinary satisfaction out of it. Fashion
had entered the fold, and the singing was mostly executed by a choir in
the dusky gallery, who thinly and harshly warbled the emotional hymns.
It occupied the minister a long time to give out the notices of the
week, and there was not an evening or afternoon that had not its
meetings, its literary or social gathering, its picnic or fair for the
benefit of the church, its Dorcas society, or some occasion of religious
sociability. The raising of funds appeared to be the burden on the
preacher’s mind. Two collections were taken up. At the first, the boxes
appeared to get no supply except from the two white trash present. But
the second was more successful. After the sermon was over, an elder
took his place at a table within the rails, and the real business of the
evening began. Somebody in the Amen corner struck up a tune that had
no end, but a mighty power of setting the congregation in motion. The
leader had a voice like the pleasant droning of a bag-pipe, and the
faculty of emitting a continuous note like that instrument, without
stopping to breathe. It went on and on like a Bach fugue, winding and
whining its way, turning the corners of the lines of the catch without a
break. The effect was soon visible in the emotional crowd: feet began
to move in a regular cadence and voices to join in, with spurts of
ejaculation; and soon, with an air of martyrdom, the members began
to leave their seats and pass before the table and deposit their
contributions. It was a cent contribution, and we found it very
difficult, under the contagious influence of the hum from the Amen
corner, not to rise and go forward and deposit a cent. If anything could
extract the pennies from a reluctant worldling, it would be the buzzing
of this tune. It went on and on, until the house appeared to be drained
dry of its cash; and we inferred by the stopping of the melody that
the preacher’s salary was secure for the time being. On inquiring,
we ascertained that the pecuniary flood that evening had risen to the
height of a dollar and sixty cents.

All was ready for the start. It should have been early in the morning,
but it was not; for Virginia is not only one of the blessed regions
where one can get a late breakfast, but where it is almost impossible to
get an early one. At ten A. M. the two horsemen rode away out of sight
of the Abingdon spectators, down the eastern turnpike. The day was warm,
but the air was full of vitality and the spirit of adventure. It was
the 22d of July. The horses were not ambitious, but went on at an easy
fox-trot that permits observation and encourages conversation. It
had been stipulated that the horses should be good walkers, the one
essential thing in a horseback journey. Few horses, even in a country
where riding is general, are trained to walk fast. We hear much of
horses that can walk five miles an hour, but they are as rare as white
elephants. Our horses were only fair walkers. We realized how necessary
this accomplishment is, for between the Tennessee line and Asheville,
North Carolina, there is scarcely a mile of trotting-ground.

We soon turned southward and descended into the Holston River Valley.
Beyond lay the Tennessee hills and conspicuous White-Top Mountain (5530
feet), which has a good deal of local celebrity (standing where the
States of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina corner), and had been
pointed out to us at Abingdon. We had been urged, personally and
by letter, to ascend this mountain, without fail. People recommend
mountains to their friends as they do patent medicines. As we leisurely
jogged along we discussed this, and endeavored to arrive at some rule of
conduct for the journey. The Professor expressed at once a feeling about
mountain-climbing that amounted to hostility,--he would go nowhere that
he could not ride. Climbing was the most unsatisfactory use to which a
mountain could be put. As to White-Top, it was a small mountain, and
not worth ascending. The Friend of Humanity, who believes in
mountain-climbing as a theory, and for other people, and knows the value
of being able to say, without detection, that he has ascended any high
mountain about which he is questioned,--since this question is the first
one asked about an exploration in a new country,--saw that he should
have to use a good deal of diplomacy to get the Professor over any
considerable elevation on the trip. And he had to confess also that a
view from a mountain is never so satisfactory as a view of a mountain,
from a moderate height. The Professor, however, did not argue the matter
on any such reasonable ground, but took his stand on his right as a
man not to ascend a mountain. With this appeal to first principles,--a
position that could not be confuted on account of its vagueness
(although it might probably be demonstrated that in society man has no
such right), there was no way of agreement except by a compromise. It
was accordingly agreed that no mountain under six thousand feet is worth
ascending; that disposed of White-Top. It was further agreed that any
mountain that is over six thousand feet high is too high to ascend on

With this amicable adjustment we forded the Holston, crossing it twice
within a few miles. This upper branch of the Tennessee is a noble
stream, broad, with a rocky bed and a swift current. Fording it is
ticklish business except at comparatively low water, and as it
is subject to sudden rises, there must be times when it seriously
interrupts travel. This whole region, full of swift streams, is without
a bridge, and, as a consequence, getting over rivers and brooks and
the dangers of ferries occupy a prominent place in the thoughts of
the inhabitants. The life necessarily had the “frontier” quality all
through, for there can be little solid advance in civilization in the
uncertainties of a bridgeless condition. An open, pleasant valley, the
Holston, but cultivation is more and more negligent and houses are few
and poorer as we advance.

We had left behind the hotels of “perfect satisfaction,” and expected
to live on the country, trusting to the infrequent but remunerated
hospitality of the widely scattered inhabitants. We were to dine at
Ramsey’s. Ramsey’s had been recommended to us as a royal place of
entertainment the best in all that region; and as the sun grew hot in
the sandy valley, and the weariness of noon fell upon us, we magnified
Ramsey’s in our imagination,--the nobility of its situation, its
cuisine, its inviting restfulness,--and half decided to pass the night
there in the true abandon of plantation life. Long before we reached
it, the Holston River which we followed had become the Laurel, a most
lovely, rocky, winding stream, which we forded continually, for the
valley became too narrow much of the way to accommodate a road and
a river. Eagerly as we were looking out for it, we passed the great
Ramsey’s without knowing it, for it was the first of a little settlement
of two houses and a saw-mill and barn. It was a neat log house of two
lower rooms and a summer kitchen, quite the best of the class that we
saw, and the pleasant mistress of it made us welcome. Across the road
and close, to the Laurel was the spring-house, the invariable adjunct
to every well-to-do house in the region, and on the stony margin of
the stream was set up the big caldron for the family washing; and
here, paddling in the shallow stream, while dinner was preparing, we
established an intimacy with the children and exchanged philosophical
observations on life with the old negress who was dabbling the clothes.
What impressed this woman was the inequality in life. She jumped to the
unwarranted conclusion that the Professor and the Friend were very rich,
and spoke with asperity of the difficulty she experienced in getting
shoes and tobacco. It was useless to point out to her that her alfresco
life was singularly blessed and free from care, and the happy lot of
any one who could loiter all day by this laughing stream, undisturbed by
debt or ambition. Everybody about the place was barefooted, except the
mistress, including the comely daughter of eighteen, who served our
dinner in the kitchen. The dinner was abundant, and though it seemed
to us incongruous at the time, we were not twelve hours older when we
looked back upon it with longing. On the table were hot biscuit, ham,
pork, and green beans, apple-sauce, blackberry preserves, cucumbers,
coffee, plenty of milk, honey, and apple and blackberry pie. Here we had
our first experience, and I may say new sensation, of “honey on pie.” It
has a cloying sound as it is written, but the handmaiden recommended it
with enthusiasm, and we evidently fell in her esteem, as persons from
an uncultivated society, when we declared our inexperience of “honey on
pie.” “Where be you from?” It turned out to be very good, and we have
tried to introduce it in families since our return, with indifferent
success. There did not seem to be in this family much curiosity about
the world at large, nor much stir of social life. The gayety of madame
appeared to consist in an occasional visit to paw and maw and grandmaw,
up the river a few miles, where she was raised.

Refreshed by the honey and fodder at Ramsey’s, the pilgrims went gayly
along the musical Laurel, in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun,
which played upon the rapids and illumined all the woody way. Inspired
by the misapprehension of the colored philosopher and the dainties of
the dinner, the Professor soliloquized:

  “So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
   Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
   The which he will not every hour survey,
   For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
   Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
   Since seldom coming, in the long year set,
   Like stones of wealth they thinly placed are,
   Or captain jewels in the carcanet.”

Five miles beyond Ramsey’s the Tennessee line was crossed. The Laurel
became more rocky, swift, full of rapids, and the valley narrowed down
to the riverway, with standing room, however, for stately trees along
the banks. The oaks, both black and white, were, as they had been
all day, gigantic in size and splendid in foliage. There is a certain
dignity in riding in such stately company, and the travelers clattered
along over the stony road under the impression of possible high
adventure in a new world of such freshness. Nor was beauty wanting. The
rhododendrons had, perhaps, a week ago reached their climax, and now
began to strew the water and the ground with their brilliant petals,
dashing all the way with color; but they were still matchlessly
beautiful. Great banks of pink and white covered the steep hillsides;
the bending stems, ten to twenty feet high, hung their rich clusters
over the river; avenues of glory opened away in the glade of the stream;
and at every turn of the winding way vistas glowing with the hues
of romance wrenched exclamations of delight and wonder from the
Shakespearean sonneteer and his humble Friend. In the deep recesses of
the forest suddenly flamed to the view, like the splashes of splendor
on the somber canvas of an old Venetian, these wonders of color,--the
glowing summer-heart of the woods.

It was difficult to say, meantime, whether the road was laid out in the
river, or the river in the road. In the few miles to Egger’s (this was
the destination of our great expectations for the night) the stream was
crossed twenty-seven times,--or perhaps it would be more proper to say
that the road was crossed twenty-seven times. Where the road did not
run in the river, its bed was washed out and as stony as the bed of the
stream. This is a general and accurate description of all the roads
in this region, which wind along and in the streams, through narrow
valleys, shut in by low and steep hills. The country is full of springs
and streams, and between Abingdon and Egger’s is only one (small)
bridge. In a region with scarcely any level land or intervale, farmers
are at a disadvantage. All along the road we saw nothing but mean
shanties, generally of logs, with now and then a decent one-story frame,
and the people looked miserably poor.

As we picked our way along up the Laurel, obliged for the most part to
ride single-file, or as the Professor expressed it,

  “Let me confess that we two must be twain,
   Although our undivided loves are one,”

we gathered information about Egger’s from the infrequent hovels on the
road, which inflamed our imaginations. Egger was the thriving man of
the region, and lived in style in a big brick house. We began to feel
a doubt that Egger would take us in, and so much did his brick
magnificence impress us that we regretted we had not brought apparel fit
for the society we were about to enter.

It was half-past six, and we were tired and hungry, when the domain
of Egger towered in sight,--a gaunt, two-story structure of raw brick,
unfinished, standing in a narrow intervale. We rode up to the gate, and
asked a man who sat in the front-door porch if this was Egger’s, and if
we could be accommodated for the night. The man, without moving, allowed
that it was Egger’s, and that we could probably stay there. This person,
however, exhibited so much indifference to our company, he was such a
hairy, unkempt man, and carried on face, hands, and clothes so much more
of the soil of the region than a prudent proprietor would divert from
raising corn, that we set him aside as a poor relation, and asked
for Mr. Egger. But the man, still without the least hospitable stir,
admitted that that was the name he went by, and at length advised us to
“lite” and hitch our horses, and sit on the porch with him and enjoy the
cool of the evening. The horses would be put up by and by, and in fact
things generally would come round some time. This turned out to be the
easy way of the country. Mr. Egger was far from being inhospitable, but
was in no hurry, and never had been in a hurry. He was not exactly a
gentleman of the old school. He was better than that. He dated from
the time when there were no schools at all, and he lived in that placid
world which is without information and ideas. Mr. Egger showed his
superiority by a total lack of curiosity about any other world.

This brick house, magnificent by comparison with other dwellings in this
country, seemed to us, on nearer acquaintance, only a thin, crude shell
of a house, half unfinished, with bare rooms, the plastering already
discolored. In point of furnishing it had not yet reached the “God bless
our Home” stage in crewel. In the narrow meadow, a strip of vivid green
south of the house, ran a little stream, fed by a copious spring, and
over it was built the inevitable spring-house. A post, driven into the
bank by the stream, supported a tin wash-basin, and here we performed
our ablutions. The traveler gets to like this freedom and primitive

The farm of Egger produces corn, wheat, grass, and sheep; it is a good
enough farm, but most of it lies at an angle of thirty-five to forty
degrees. The ridge back of the house, planted in corn, was as steep as
the roof of his dwelling. It seemed incredible that it ever could have
been plowed, but the proprietor assured us that it was plowed with
mules, and I judged that the harvesting must be done by squirrels. The
soil is good enough, if it would stay in place, but all the hillsides
are seamed with gullies. The discolored state of the streams was
accounted for as soon as we saw this cultivated land. No sooner is the
land cleared of trees and broken up than it begins to wash. We saw more
of this later, especially in North Carolina, where we encountered no
stream of water that was not muddy, and saw no cultivated ground that
was not washed. The process of denudation is going on rapidly wherever
the original forests are girdled (a common way of preparing for crops),
or cut away.

As the time passed and there was no sign of supper, the question became
a burning one, and we went to explore the kitchen. No sign of it there.
No fire in the stove, nothing cooked in the house, of course. Mrs. Egger
and her comely young barefooted daughter had still the milking to attend
to, and supper must wait for the other chores. It seemed easier to be
Mr. Egger, in this state of existence, and sit on the front porch and
meditate on the price of mules and the prospect of a crop, than to be
Mrs. Egger, whose work was not limited from sun to sun; who had, in
fact, a day’s work to do after the men-folks had knocked off; whose
chances of neighborhood gossip were scanty, whose amusements were
confined to a religious meeting once a fortnight. Good, honest people
these, not unduly puffed up by the brick house, grubbing away year in
and year out. Yes, the young girl said, there was a neighborhood party,
now and then, in the winter. What a price to pay for mere life!

Long before supper was ready, nearly nine o’clock, we had almost lost
interest in it. Meantime two other guests had arrived, a couple of
drovers from North Carolina, who brought into the circle--by this time
a wood-fire had been kindled in the sitting-room, which contained a bed,
an almanac, and some old copies of a newspaper--a rich flavor of cattle,
and talk of the price of steers. As to politics, although a presidential
campaign was raging, there was scarcely an echo of it here. This was
Johnson County, Tennessee, a strong Republican county but dog-gone it,
says Mr. Egger, it’s no use to vote; our votes are overborne by the rest
of the State. Yes, they’d got a Republican member of Congress,--he’d
heard his name, but he’d forgotten it. The drover said he’d heard it
also, but he didn’t take much interest in such things, though he wasn’t
any Republican. Parties is pretty much all for office, both agreed. Even
the Professor, who was traveling in the interest of Reform, couldn’t
wake up a discussion out of such a state of mind.

Alas! the supper, served in a room dimly lighted with a smoky lamp, on
a long table covered with oilcloth, was not of the sort to arouse the
delayed and now gone appetite of a Reformer, and yet it did not
lack variety: cornpone (Indian meal stirred up with water and heated
through), hot biscuit, slack-baked and livid, fried salt-pork swimming
in grease, apple-butter, pickled beets, onions and cucumbers raw, coffee
(so-called), buttermilk, and sweet milk when specially asked for (the
correct taste, however, is for buttermilk), and pie. This was not the
pie of commerce, but the pie of the country,--two thick slabs of
dough, with a squeezing of apple between. The profusion of this supper
staggered the novices, but the drovers attacked it as if such cooking
were a common occurrence and did justice to the weary labors of Mrs.

Egger is well prepared to entertain strangers, having several rooms and
several beds in each room. Upon consultation with the drovers, they said
they’d just as soon occupy an apartment by themselves, and we gave up
their society for the night. The beds in our chamber had each one sheet,
and the room otherwise gave evidence of the modern spirit; for in one
corner stood the fashionable aesthetic decoration of our Queen Anne
drawing-rooms,--the spinning-wheel. Soothed by this concession to taste,
we crowded in between the straw and the home-made blanket and sheet, and
soon ceased to hear the barking of dogs and the horned encounters of the
drovers’ herd.

We parted with Mr. Egger after breakfast (which was a close copy of
the supper) with more respect than regret. His total charge for
the entertainment of two men and two horses--supper, lodging, and
breakfast--was high or low, as the traveler chose to estimate it. It was
$1.20: that is, thirty cents for each individual, or ten cents for each
meal and lodging.

Our road was a sort of by-way up Gentry Creek and over the Cut Laurel
Gap to Worth’s, at Creston Post Office, in North Carolina,--the next
available halting place, said to be fifteen miles distant, and turning
out to be twenty-two, and a rough road. There is a little settlement
about Egger’s, and the first half mile of our way we had the company of
the schoolmistress, a modest, pleasant-spoken girl. Neither she nor
any other people we encountered had any dialect or local peculiarity of
speech. Indeed, those we encountered that morning had nothing in manner
or accent to distinguish them. The novelists had led us to expect
something different; and the modest and pretty young lady with frank and
open blue eyes, who wore gloves and used the common English speech, had
never figured in the fiction of the region. Cherished illusions vanish
often on near approach. The day gave no peculiarity of speech to note,
except the occasional use of “hit” for “it.”

The road over Cut Laurel Gap was very steep and stony, the thermometer
mounted up to 80 deg., and, notwithstanding the beauty of the way, the
ride became tedious before we reached the summit. On the summit is the
dwelling and distillery of a colonel famous in these parts. We stopped
at the house for a glass of milk; the colonel was absent, and while the
woman in charge went after it, we sat on the veranda and conversed with
a young lady, tall, gent, well favored, and communicative, who leaned in
the doorway.

“Yes, this house stands on the line. Where you sit, you are in
Tennessee; I’m in North Carolina.”

“Do you live here?”

“Law, no; I’m just staying a little while at the colonel’s. I live over
the mountain here, three miles from Taylorsville. I thought I’d be where
I could step into North Carolina easy.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, they wanted me to go before the grand jury and testify about
some pistol-shooting down by our house, some friends of mine got into
a little difficulty,--and I did n’t want to. I never has no difficulty
with nobody, never says nothing about nobody, has nothing against
nobody, and I reckon nobody has nothing against me.”

“Did you come alone?”

“Why, of course. I come across the mountain by a path through the woods.
That’s nothing.”

A discreet, pleasant, pretty girl. This surely must be the Esmeralda who
lives in these mountains, and adorns low life by her virgin purity
and sentiment. As she talked on, she turned from time to time to the
fireplace behind her, and discharged a dark fluid from her pretty lips,
with accuracy of aim, and with a nonchalance that was not assumed, but
belongs to our free-born American girls. I cannot tell why this habit of
hers (which is no worse than the sister habit of “dipping”) should take
her out of the romantic setting that her face and figure had placed her
in; but somehow we felt inclined to ride on farther for our heroine.

“And yet,” said the Professor, as we left the site of the colonel’s
thriving distillery, and by a winding, picturesque road through a rough
farming country descended into the valley,--“and yet, why fling aside
so readily a character and situation so full of romance, on account of
a habit of this mountain Helen, which one of our best poets has almost
made poetical, in the case of the pioneer taking his westward way, with
ox-goad pointing to the sky:

  “‘He’s leaving on the pictured rock
   His fresh tobacco stain.’

“To my mind the incident has Homeric elements. The Greeks would have
looked at it in a large, legendary way. Here is Helen, strong and lithe
of limb, ox-eyed, courageous, but woman-hearted and love-inspiring,
contended for by all the braves and daring moonshiners of Cut Laurel
Gap, pursued by the gallants of two States, the prize of a border
warfare of bowie knives and revolvers. This Helen, magnanimous as
attractive, is the witness of a pistol difficulty on her behalf, and
when wanted by the areopagus, that she may neither implicate a lover
nor punish an enemy (having nothing, this noble type of her sex against
nobody), skips away to Mount Ida, and there, under the aegis of the flag
of her country, in a Licensed Distillery, stands with one slender foot
in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina...”

“Like the figure of the Republic itself, superior to state sovereignty,”
 interposed the Friend.

“I beg your pardon,” said the Professor, urging up Laura Matilda (for
so he called the nervous mare, who fretted herself into a fever in the
stony path), “I was quite able to get the woman out of that position
without the aid of a metaphor. It is a large and Greek idea, that of
standing in two mighty States, superior to the law, looking east and
looking west, ready to transfer her agile body to either State on the
approach of messengers of the court; and I’ll be hanged if I didn’t
think that her nonchalant rumination of the weed, combined with her
lofty moral attitude, added something to the picture.”

The Friend said that he was quite willing to join in the extremest
defense of the privileges of beauty,--that he even held in abeyance
judgment on the practice of dipping; but when it came to chewing, gum
was as far as he could go as an allowance for the fair sex.

  “When I consider everything that grows
   Holds in perfection but a little moment...”

The rest of the stanza was lost, for the Professor was splashing through
the stream. No sooner had we descended than the fording of streams
began again. The Friend had been obliged to stipulate that the Professor
should go ahead at these crossings, to keep the impetuous nag of the
latter from throwing half the contents of the stream upon his slower and
uncomplaining companion.

What a lovely country, but for the heat of noon and the long
wearisomeness of the way!--not that the distance was great, but miles
and miles more than expected. How charming the open glades of the
river, how refreshing the great forests of oak and chestnut, and what a
panorama of beauty the banks of rhododendrons, now intermingled with the
lighter pink and white of the laurel! In this region the rhododendron is
called laurel and the laurel (the sheep-laurel of New England) is called

At Worth’s, well on in the afternoon, we emerged into a wide, open
farming intervale, a pleasant place of meadows and streams and decent
dwellings. Worth’s is the trading center of the region, has a post
office and a saw-mill and a big country store; and the dwelling of the
proprietor is not unlike a roomy New England country house. Worth’s
has been immemorially a stopping-place in a region where places of
accommodation are few. The proprietor, now an elderly man, whose
reminiscences are long ante bellum, has seen the world grow up about
him, he the honored, just center of it, and a family come up into the
modern notions of life, with a boarding-school education and glimpses of
city life and foreign travel. I fancy that nothing but tradition and
a remaining Southern hospitality could induce this private family to
suffer the incursions of this wayfaring man. Our travelers are not apt
to be surprised at anything in American life, but they did not expect to
find a house in this region with two pianos and a bevy of young ladies,
whose clothes were certainly not made on Cut Laurel Gap, and to read
in the books scattered about the house the evidences of the finishing
schools with which our country is blessed, nor to find here pupils
of the Stonewall Jackson Institute at Abingdon. With a flush of local
pride, the Professor took up, in the roomy, pleasant chamber set apart
for the guests, a copy of Porter’s “Elements of Moral Science.”

“Where you see the ‘Elements of Moral Science,’” the Friend generalized,
“there’ll be plenty of water and towels;” and the sign did not fail. The
friends intended to read this book in the cool of the day; but as they
sat on the long veranda, the voice of a maiden reading the latest novel
to a sewing group behind the blinds in the drawing-room; and the antics
of a mule and a boy in front of the store opposite; and the arrival of
a spruce young man, who had just ridden over from somewhere, a matter
of ten miles’ gallop, to get a medicinal potion for his sick mother, and
lingered chatting with the young ladies until we began to fear that his
mother would recover before his return; the coming and going of lean
women in shackly wagons to trade at the store; the coming home of the
cows, splashing through the stream, hooking right and left, and lowing
for the hand of the milker,--all these interruptions, together with the
generally drowsy quiet of the approach of evening, interfered with the
study of the Elements. And when the travelers, after a refreshing rest,
went on their way next morning, considering the Elements and the pianos
and the refinement, to say nothing of the cuisine, which is not treated
of in the text-book referred to, they were content with a bill double
that of brother Egger, in his brick magnificence.

The simple truth is, that the traveler in this region must be content
to feed on natural beauties. And it is an unfortunate truth in natural
history that the appetite for this sort of diet fails after a time,
if the inner man is not supplied with other sort of food. There is no
landscape in the world that is agreeable after two days of rusty-bacon
and slack biscuit.

“How lovely this would be,” exclaimed the Professor, if it had a
background of beefsteak and coffee!

We were riding along the west fork of the Laurel, distinguished locally
as Three Top Creek,--or, rather, we were riding in it, crossing it
thirty-one times within six miles; a charming wood (and water) road,
under the shade of fine trees with the rhododendron illuminating the
way, gleaming in the forest and reflected in the stream, all the ten
miles to Elk Cross Roads, our next destination. We had heard a great
deal about Elk Cross Roads; it was on the map, it was down in the
itinerary furnished by a member of the Coast Survey. We looked forward
to it as a sweet place of repose from the noontide heat. Alas! Elk
Cross Roads is a dirty grocery store, encumbered with dry-goods boxes,
fly-blown goods, flies, loafers. In reply to our inquiry we were told
that they had nothing to eat, for us, and not a grain of feed for the
horses. But there was a man a mile farther on, who was well to do and
had stores of food,--old man Tatern would treat us in bang-up style. The
difficulty of getting feed for the horses was chronic all through the
journey. The last corn crop had failed, the new oats and corn had not
come in, and the country was literally barren. We had noticed all along
that the hens were taking a vacation, and that chickens were not put
forward as an article of diet.

We were unable, when we reached the residence of old man Tatem, to
imagine how the local superstition of his wealth arose. His house is
of logs, with two rooms, a kitchen and a spare room, with a low loft
accessible by a ladder at the side of the chimney. The chimney is a huge
construction of stone, separating the two parts of the house; in fact,
the chimney was built first, apparently, and the two rooms were then
built against it. The proprietor sat in a little railed veranda. These
Southern verandas give an air to the meanest dwelling, and they are much
used; the family sit here, and here are the washbasin and pail (which is
filled from the neighboring spring-house), and the row of milk-pans.
The old man Tatern did not welcome us with enthusiasm; he had no
corn,--these were hard times. He looked like hard times, grizzled times,
dirty times. It seemed time out of mind since he had seen comb or razor,
and although the lovely New River, along which we had ridden to his
house,--a broad, inviting stream,--was in sight across the meadow, there
was no evidence that he had ever made acquaintance with its cleansing
waters. As to corn, the necessities of the case and pay being dwelt on,
perhaps he could find a dozen ears. A dozen small cars he did find, and
we trust that the horses found them.

We took a family dinner with old man Tatern in the kitchen, where there
was a bed and a stove,--a meal that the host seemed to enjoy, but which
we could not make much of, except the milk; that was good. A painful
meal, on the whole, owing to the presence in the room of a grown-up
daughter with a graveyard cough, without physician or medicine, or
comforts. Poor girl! just dying of “a misery.”

In the spare room were two beds; the walls were decorated with the
gay-colored pictures of patent-medicine advertisements--a favorite art
adornment of the region; and a pile of ancient illustrated papers with
the usual patent-office report, the thoughtful gift of the member for
the district. The old man takes in the “Blue Ridge Baptist,” a journal
which we found largely taken up with the experiences of its editor on
his journeys roundabout in search of subscribers. This newspaper was the
sole communication of the family with the world at large, but the old
man thought he should stop it,--he did n’t seem to get the worth of his
money out of it. And old man Tatem was a thrifty and provident man. On
the hearth in this best room--as ornaments or memento mori were a couple
of marble gravestones, a short headstone and foot-stone, mounted on
bases and ready for use, except the lettering. These may not have been
so mournful and significant as they looked, nor the evidence of simple,
humble faith; they may have been taken for debt. But as parlor ornaments
they had a fascination which we could not escape.

It was while we were bathing in the New River, that afternoon, and
meditating on the grim, unrelieved sort of life of our host, that the
Professor said, “judging by the face of the ‘Blue Ridge Baptist,’ he
will charge us smartly for the few nubbins of corn and the milk.” The
face did not deceive us; the charge was one dollar. At this rate it
would have broken us to have tarried with old man Tatem (perhaps he is
not old, but that is the name he goes by) over night.

It was a hot afternoon, and it needed some courage to mount and climb
the sandy hill leading us away from the corn-crib of Tatem. But we
entered almost immediately into fine stretches of forest, and rode under
the shade of great oaks. The way, which began by the New River, soon led
us over the hills to the higher levels of Watauga County. So far on our
journey we had been hemmed in by low hills, and without any distant
or mountain outlooks. The excessive heat seemed out of place at the
elevation of over two thousand feet, on which we were traveling. Boone,
the county seat of Watauga County, was our destination, and, ever since
morning, the guideboards and the trend of the roads had notified us that
everything in this region tends towards Boone as a center of interest.
The simple ingenuity of some of the guide-boards impressed us. If, on
coming to a fork, the traveler was to turn to the right, the sign read,

   To BOONE 10 M.
If he was to go to the left, it read, .M 01 ENOOB oT

A short ride of nine miles, on an ascending road, through an open,
unfenced forest region, brought us long before sundown to this capital.
When we had ridden into its single street, which wanders over gentle
hills, and landed at the most promising of the taverns, the Friend
informed his comrade that Boone was 3250 feet above Albemarle Sound, and
believed by its inhabitants to be the highest village east of the
Rocky Mountains. The Professor said that it might be so, but it was a
God-forsaken place. Its inhabitants numbered perhaps two hundred and
fifty, a few of them colored. It had a gaunt, shaky court-house and
jail, a store or two, and two taverns. The two taverns are needed to
accommodate the judges and lawyers and their clients during the session
of the court. The court is the only excitement and the only amusement.
It is the event from which other events date. Everybody in the county
knows exactly when court sits, and when court breaks. During the session
the whole county is practically in Boone, men, women, and children.
They camp there, they attend the trials, they take sides; half of
them, perhaps, are witnesses, for the region is litigious, and the
neighborhood quarrels are entered into with spirit. To be fond of
lawsuits seems a characteristic of an isolated people in new conditions.
The early settlers of New England were.

Notwithstanding the elevation of Boone, which insured a pure air, the
thermometer that afternoon stood at from 85 to 89 deg. The flies enjoyed
it. How they swarmed in this tavern! They would have carried off all
the food from the dining-room table (for flies do not mind eating
off oilcloth, and are not particular how food is cooked), but for the
machine with hanging flappers that swept the length of it; and they
destroy all possibility of sleep except in the dark. The mountain
regions of North Carolina are free from mosquitoes, but the fly has
settled there, and is the universal scourge. This tavern, one end of
which was a store, had a veranda in front, and a back gallery, where
there were evidences of female refinement in pots of plants and flowers.
The landlord himself kept tavern very much as a hostler would, but we
had to make a note in his favor that he had never heard of a milk punch.
And it might as well be said here, for it will have to be insisted on
later, that the traveler, who has read about the illicit stills till
his imagination dwells upon the indulgence of his vitiated tastes in the
mountains of North Carolina, is doomed to disappointment. If he wants
to make himself an exception to the sober people whose cooking will make
him long for the maddening bowl, he must bring his poison with him.
We had found no bread since we left Virginia; we had seen cornmeal and
water, slack-baked; we had seen potatoes fried in grease, and bacon
incrusted with salt (all thirst-provokers), but nothing to drink
stronger than buttermilk. And we can say that, so far as our example
is concerned, we left the country as temperate as we found it. How can
there be mint juleps (to go into details) without ice? and in the summer
there is probably not a pound of ice in all the State north of Buncombe

There is nothing special to be said about Boone. We were anxious to
reach it, we were glad to leave it; we note as to all these places
that our joy at departing always exceeds that on arriving, which is
a merciful provision of nature for people who must keep moving. This
country is settled by genuine Americans, who have the aboriginal
primitive traits of the universal Yankee nation. The front porch in the
morning resembled a carpenter’s shop; it was literally covered with the
whittlings of the row of natives who had spent the evening there in the
sedative occupation of whittling.

We took that morning a forest road to Valle Crusis, seven miles, through
noble growths of oaks, chestnuts, hemlocks, rhododendrons,--a charming
wood road, leading to a place that, as usual, did not keep the promise
of its name. Valle Crusis has a blacksmith shop and a dirty, flyblown
store. While the Professor consulted the blacksmith about a loose shoe,
the Friend carried his weariness of life without provisions up to a
white house on the hill, and negotiated for boiled milk. This house was
occupied by flies. They must have numbered millions, settled in black
swarms, covering tables, beds, walls, the veranda; the kitchen was
simply a hive of them. The only book in sight, Whewell’s--“Elements of
Morality,” seemed to attract flies. Query, Why should this have such a
different effect from Porter’s? A white house,--a pleasant-looking
house at a distance,--amiable, kindly people in it,--why should we have
arrived there on its dirty day? Alas! if we had been starving, Valle
Crusis had nothing to offer us.

So we rode away, in the blazing heat, no poetry exuding from the
Professor, eight miles to Banner’s Elk, crossing a mountain and passing
under Hanging Rock, a conspicuous feature in the landscape, and the only
outcropping of rock we had seen: the face of a ledge, rounded up into
the sky, with a green hood on it. From the summit we had the first
extensive prospect during our journey. The road can be described as
awful,--steep, stony, the horses unable to make two miles an hour on it.
Now and then we encountered a rude log cabin without barns or outhouses,
and a little patch of feeble corn. The women who regarded the passers
from their cabin doors were frowzy and looked tired. What with the heat
and the road and this discouraged appearance of humanity, we reached
the residence of Dugger, at Banner’s Elk, to which we had been directed,
nearly exhausted. It is no use to represent this as a dash across
country on impatient steeds. It was not so. The love of truth is
stronger than the desire of display. And for this reason it is
impossible to say that Mr. Dugger, who is an excellent man, lives in
a clean and attractive house, or that he offers much that the pampered
child of civilization can eat. But we shall not forget the two eggs,
fresh from the hens, whose temperature must have been above the normal,
nor the spring-house in the glen, where we found a refuge from the flies
and the heat. The higher we go, the hotter it is. Banner’s Elk boasts an
elevation of thirty-five to thirty-seven hundred feet.

We were not sorry, towards sunset, to descend along the Elk River
towards Cranberry Forge. The Elk is a lovely stream, and, though not
very clear, has a reputation for trout; but all this region was under
operation of a three-years game law, to give the trout a chance to
multiply, and we had no opportunity to test the value of its reputation.
Yet a boy whom we encountered had a good string of quarter-pound trout,
which he had taken out with a hook and a feather rudely tied on it, to
resemble a fly. The road, though not to be commended, was much better
than that of the morning, the forests grew charming in the cool of the
evening, the whippoorwill sang, and as night fell the wanderers, in
want of nearly everything that makes life desirable, stopped at the Iron
Company’s hotel, under the impression that it was the only comfortable
hotel in North Carolina.


Cranberry Forge is the first wedge of civilization fairly driven into
the northwest mountains of North Carolina. A narrow-gauge railway,
starting from Johnson City, follows up the narrow gorge of the Doe
River, and pushes into the heart of the iron mines at Cranberry,
where there is a blast furnace; and where a big company store, rows of
tenement houses, heaps of slag and refuse ore, interlacing tracks, raw
embankments, denuded hillsides, and a blackened landscape, are the signs
of a great devastating American enterprise. The Cranberry iron is in
great esteem, as it has the peculiar quality of the Swedish iron. There
are remains of old furnaces lower down the stream, which we passed on
our way. The present “plant” is that of a Philadelphia company,
whose enterprise has infused new life into all this region, made it
accessible, and spoiled some pretty scenery.

When we alighted, weary, at the gate of the pretty hotel, which crowns
a gentle hill and commands a pleasing, evergreen prospect of many gentle
hills, a mile or so below the works, and wholly removed from all sordid
associations, we were at the point of willingness that the whole country
should be devastated by civilization. In the local imagination this
hotel of the company is a palace of unequaled magnificence, but probably
its good taste, comfort, and quiet elegance are not appreciated after
all. There is this to be said about Philadelphia,--and it will go far
in pleading for it in the Last Day against its monotonous rectangularity
and the babel-like ambition of its Public Building,--that wherever its
influence extends, there will be found comfortable lodgings and the
luxury of an undeniably excellent cuisine. The visible seal that
Philadelphia sets on its enterprise all through the South is a good

This Cottage Beautiful has on two sides a wide veranda, set about with
easy chairs; cheerful parlors and pretty chambers, finished in
native woods, among which are conspicuous the satin stripes of the
cucumber-tree; luxurious beds, and an inviting table ordered by a
Philadelphia landlady, who knows a beefsteak from a boot-tap. Is it
“low” to dwell upon these things of the senses, when one is on a tour in
search of the picturesque? Let the reader ride from Abingdon through a
wilderness of cornpone and rusty bacon, and then judge. There were,
to be sure, novels lying about, and newspapers, and fragments of
information to be picked up about a world into which the travelers
seemed to emerge. They, at least, were satisfied, and went off to their
rooms with the restful feeling that they had arrived somewhere and no
unquiet spirit at morn would say “to horse.” To sleep, perchance to
dream of Tatem and his household cemetery; and the Professor was heard
muttering in his chamber,

  “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
   The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
   But then begins a journey in my head,
   To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d.”

The morning was warm (the elevation of the hotel must be between
twenty-five hundred and three thousand feet), rainy, mildly rainy; and
the travelers had nothing better to do than lounge upon the veranda,
read feeble ten-cent fictions, and admire the stems of the white
birches, glistening in the moisture, and the rhododendron--trees, twenty
feet high, which were shaking off their last pink blossoms, and look
down into the valley of the Doe. It is not an exciting landscape,
nothing bold or specially wild in it, but restful with the monotony of
some of the wooded Pennsylvania hills.

Sunday came up smiling, a lovely day, but offering no church privileges,
for the ordinance of preaching is only occasional in this region.
The ladies of the hotel have, however, gathered in the valley a
Sunday-school of fifty children from the mountain cabins. A couple
of rainy days, with the thermometer rising to 80 deg., combined with
natural laziness to detain the travelers in this cottage of ease. They
enjoyed this the more because it was on their consciences that they
should visit Linville Falls, some twenty-five miles eastward, long held
up before them as the most magnificent feature of this region, and on no
account to be omitted. Hence, naturally, a strong desire to omit it. The
Professor takes bold ground against these abnormal freaks of nature, and
it was nothing to him that the public would demand that we should see
Linville Falls. In the first place, we could find no one who had ever
seen them, and we spent two days in catechizing natives and strangers.
The nearest we came to information was from a workman at the furnace,
who was born and raised within three miles of the Falls. He had heard
of people going there. He had never seen them himself. It was a good
twenty-five miles there, over the worst road in the State we’d think it
thirty before we got there. Fifty miles of such travel to see a little
water run down-hill! The travelers reflected. Every country has a local
waterfall of which it boasts; they had seen a great many. One more would
add little to the experience of life. The vagueness of information,
to be sure, lured the travelers to undertake the journey; but the
temptation was resisted--something ought to be left for the next
explorer--and so Linville remains a thing of the imagination.

Towards evening, July 29, between showers, the Professor and the Friend
rode along the narrow-gauge road, down Johnson’s Creek, to Roan Station,
the point of departure for ascending Roan Mountain. It was a ride of
an hour and a half over a fair road, fringed with rhododendrons, nearly
blossomless; but at a point on the stream this sturdy shrub had formed
a long bower where under a table might have been set for a temperance
picnic, completely overgrown with wild grape, and still gay with bloom.
The habitations on the way are mostly board shanties and mean frame
cabins, but the railway is introducing ambitious architecture here
and there in the form of ornamental filigree work on flimsy houses;
ornamentation is apt to precede comfort in our civilization.

Roan Station is on the Doe River (which flows down from Roan Mountain),
and is marked at 1265 feet above the sea. The visitor will find here a
good hotel, with open wood fires (not ungrateful in a July evening), and
obliging people. This railway from Johnson City, hanging on the edge of
the precipices that wall the gorge of the Doe, is counted in this region
by the inhabitants one of the engineering wonders of the world. The
tourist is urged by all means to see both it and Linville Falls.

The tourist on horseback, in search of exercise and recreation, is not
probably expected to take stock of moral conditions. But this Mitchell
County, although it was a Union county during the war and is Republican
in politics (the Southern reader will perhaps prefer another adverb to
“although”), has had the worst possible reputation. The mountains
were hiding-places of illicit distilleries; the woods were full of
grog-shanties, where the inflaming fluid was sold as “native brandy,”
 quarrels and neighborhood difficulties were frequent, and the knife
and pistol were used on the slightest provocation. Fights arose about
boundaries and the title to mica mines, and with the revenue officers;
and force was the arbiter of all disputes. Within the year four murders
were committed in the sparsely settled county. Travel on any of the
roads was unsafe. The tone of morals was what might be expected with
such lawlessness. A lady who came up on the road on the 4th of July,
when an excursion party of country people took possession of the cars,
witnessed a scene and heard language past belief. Men, women, and
children drank from whisky bottles that continually circulated, and a
wild orgy resulted. Profanity, indecent talk on topics that even the
license of the sixteenth century would not have tolerated, and freedom
of manners that even Teniers would have shrunk from putting on canvas,
made the journey horrible.

The unrestrained license of whisky and assault and murder had produced a
reaction a few months previous to our visit. The people had risen up in
their indignation and broken up the groggeries. So far as we observed
temperance prevailed, backed by public-opinion. In our whole ride
through the mountain region we saw only one or two places where liquor
was sold.

It is called twelve miles from Roan Station to Roan Summit. The distance
is probably nearer fourteen, and our horses were five hours in walking
it. For six miles the road runs by Doe River, here a pretty brook shaded
with laurel and rhododendron, and a few cultivated patches of ground,
and infrequent houses. It was a blithe morning, and the horsemen would
have given full indulgence to the spirit of adventure but for the
attitude of the Professor towards mountains. It was not with him a
matter of feeling, but of principle, not to ascend them. But here lay
Roan, a long, sprawling ridge, lifting itself 6250 feet up into the
sky. Impossible to go around it, and the other side must be reached. The
Professor was obliged to surrender, and surmount a difficulty which he
could not philosophize out of his mind.

From the base of the mountain a road is very well engineered, in easy
grades for carriages, to the top; but it was in poor repair and stony.
We mounted slowly through splendid forests, specially of fine chestnuts
and hemlocks. This big timber continues till within a mile and a half
of the summit by the winding road, really within a short distance of the
top. Then there is a narrow belt of scrubby hardwood, moss-grown, and
then large balsams, which crown the mountain. As soon as we came
out upon the southern slope we found great open spaces, covered with
succulent grass, and giving excellent pasturage to cattle. These rich
mountain meadows are found on all the heights of this region. The
surface of Roan is uneven, and has no one culminating peak that commands
the country, like the peak of Mount Washington, but several eminences
within its range of probably a mile and a half, where various views can
be had. Near the highest point, sheltered from the north by balsams,
stands a house of entertainment, with a detached cottage, looking
across the great valley to the Black Mountain range. The surface of the
mountain is pebbly, but few rocks crop out; no ledges of any size are
seen except at a distance from the hotel, on the north side, and the
mountain consequently lacks that savage, unsubduable aspect which
the White Hills of New Hampshire have. It would, in fact, have been
difficult to realize that we were over six thousand feet above the sea,
except for that pallor in the sunlight, that atmospheric thinness and
want of color which is an unpleasant characteristic of high altitudes.
To be sure, there is a certain brilliancy in the high air,--it is apt to
be foggy on Roan,--and objects appear in sharp outline, but I have often
experienced on such places that feeling of melancholy, which would,
of course, deepen upon us all if we were sensible that the sun was
gradually withdrawing its power of warmth and light. The black balsam is
neither a cheerful nor a picturesque tree; the frequent rains and mists
on Roan keep the grass and mosses green, but the ground damp. Doubtless
a high mountain covered with vegetation has its compensation, but for me
the naked granite rocks in sun and shower are more cheerful.

The advantage of Roan is that one can live there and be occupied for a
long time in mineral and botanical study. Its mild climate, moisture,
and great elevation make it unique in this country for the botanist. The
variety of plants assembled there is very large, and there are many, we
were told, never or rarely found elsewhere in the United States. At any
rate, the botanists rave about Roan Mountain, and spend weeks at a time
on it. We found there ladies who could draw for us Grey’s lily (then
passed), and had kept specimens of the rhododendron (not growing
elsewhere in this region) which has a deep red, almost purple color.

The hotel (since replaced by a good house) was a rude mountain
structure, with a couple of comfortable rooms for office and
sitting-room, in which big wood fires were blazing; for though the
thermometer might record 60 deg., as it did when we arrived, fire was
welcome. Sleeping-places partitioned off in the loft above gave
the occupants a feeling of camping out, all the conveniences being
primitive; and when the wind rose in the night and darkness, and the
loose boards rattled and the timbers creaked, the sensation was not
unlike that of being at sea. The hotel was satisfactorily kept, and
Southern guests, from as far south as New Orleans, were spending the
season there, and not finding time hang heavy on their hands. This
statement is perhaps worth more than pages of description as to the
character of Roan, and its contrast to Mount Washington.

The summer weather is exceedingly uncertain on all these North Carolina
mountains; they are apt at any moment to be enveloped in mist; and it
would rather rain on them than not. On the afternoon of our arrival
there was fine air and fair weather, but not a clear sky. The distance
was hazy, but the outlines were preserved. We could see White Top, in
Virginia; Grandfather Mountain, a long serrated range; the twin towers
of Linville; and the entire range of the Black Mountains, rising from
the valley, and apparently lower than we were. They get the name of
Black from the balsams which cover the summits.

The rain on Roan was of less annoyance by reason of the delightful
company assembled at the hotel, which was in a manner at home there,
and, thrown upon its own resources, came out uncommonly strong in
agreeableness. There was a fiddle in the house, which had some of the
virtues of that celebrated in the history of old Mark Langston; the
Professor was enabled to produce anything desired out of the literature
of the eighteenth century; and what with the repartee of bright women,
big wood fires, reading, and chat, there was no dull day or evening on
Roan. I can fancy, however, that it might tire in time, if one were not
a botanist, without the resource of women’s society. The ladies staying
here were probably all accomplished botanists, and the writer is
indebted to one of them for a list of plants found on Roan, among which
is an interesting weed, catalogued as Humana, perplexia negligens. The
species is, however, common elsewhere.

The second morning opened, after a night of high wind, with a
thunder-shower. After it passed, the visitors tried to reach Eagle
Cliff, two miles off, whence an extensive western prospect is had, but
were driven back by a tempest, and rain practically occupied the
day. Now and then through the parted clouds we got a glimpse of a
mountain-side, or the gleam of a valley. On the lower mountains, at wide
intervals apart, were isolated settlements, commonly a wretched cabin
and a spot of girdled trees. A clergyman here, not long ago, undertook
to visit some of these cabins and carry his message to them. In
one wretched hut of logs he found a poor woman, with whom, after
conversation on serious subjects, he desired to pray. She offered no
objection, and he kneeled down and prayed. The woman heard him, and
watched him for some moments with curiosity, in an effort to ascertain
what he was doing, and then said:

“Why, a man did that when he put my girl in a hole.”

Towards night the wind hauled round from the south to the northwest, and
we went to High Bluff, a point on the north edge, where some rocks are
piled up above the evergreens, to get a view of the sunset. In every
direction the mountains were clear, and a view was obtained of the vast
horizon and the hills and lowlands of several States--a continental
prospect, scarcely anywhere else equaled for variety or distance. The
grandeur of mountains depends mostly on the state of the atmosphere.
Grandfather loomed up much more loftily than the day before, the giant
range of the Blacks asserted itself in grim inaccessibility, and we
could see, a small pyramid on the southwest horizon, King’s Mountain in
South Carolina, estimated to be distant one hundred and fifty miles. To
the north Roan falls from this point abruptly, and we had, like a map
below us, the low country all the way into Virginia. The clouds lay like
lakes in the valleys of the lower hills, and in every direction were
ranges of mountains wooded to the summits. Off to the west by south lay
the Great Smoky Mountains, disputing eminence with the Blacks.

Magnificent and impressive as the spectacle was, we were obliged to
contrast it unfavorably with that of the White Hills. The rock here is a
sort of sand or pudding stone; there is no limestone or granite. And
all the hills are tree-covered. To many this clothing of verdure is most
restful and pleasing. I missed the sharp outlines, the delicate artistic
sky lines, sharply defined in uplifted bare granite peaks and ridges,
with the purple and violet color of the northern mountains, and which it
seems to me that limestone and granite formations give. There are none
of the great gorges and awful abysses of the White Mountains, both
valleys and mountains here being more uniform in outline. There are few
precipices and jutting crags, and less is visible of the giant ribs and
bones of the planet.

Yet Roan is a noble mountain. A lady from Tennessee asked me if I
had ever seen anything to compare with it--she thought there could be
nothing in the world. One has to dodge this sort of question in the
South occasionally, not to offend a just local pride. It is certainly
one of the most habitable of big mountains. It is roomy on top, there is
space to move about without too great fatigue, and one might pleasantly
spend a season there, if he had agreeable company and natural tastes.

Getting down from Roan on the south side is not as easy as ascending on
the north; the road for five miles to the foot of the mountain is merely
a river of pebbles, gullied by the heavy rains, down which the horses
picked their way painfully. The travelers endeavored to present a
dashing and cavalier appearance to the group of ladies who waved good-by
from the hotel, as they took their way over the waste and wind-blown
declivities, but it was only a show, for the horses would neither
caracole nor champ the bit (at a dollar a day) down-hill over the
slippery stones, and, truth to tell, the wanderers turned with regret
from the society of leisure and persiflage to face the wilderness of
Mitchell County.

“How heavy,” exclaimed the Professor, pricking Laura Matilda to call her
attention sharply to her footing--

  “How heavy do I journey on the way,
   When what I seek--my weary travel’s end
   Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
   Thus far the miles are measur’d from thy friend!
   The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
   Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
   As if by some instinct the wretch did know
   His rider loved not speed, being made from thee:
   The bloody spur cannot provoke him on
   That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
   Which heavily he answers with a groan,
   More sharp to me than spurring to his side;
   For that same groan doth put this in my mind;
   My grief lies onward and my joy behind.”

This was not spoken to the group who fluttered their farewells,
but poured out to the uncomplaining forest, which rose up in
ever statelier--and grander ranks to greet the travelers as they
descended--the silent, vast forest, without note of bird or chip of
squirrel, only the wind tossing the great branches high overhead in
response to the sonnet. Is there any region or circumstance of life that
the poet did not forecast and provide for? But what would have been his
feelings if he could have known that almost three centuries after these
lines were penned, they would be used to express the emotion of an
unsentimental traveler in the primeval forests of the New World? At any
rate, he peopled the New World with the children of his imagination.
And, thought the Friend, whose attention to his horse did not permit him
to drop into poetry, Shakespeare might have had a vision of this vast
continent, though he did not refer to it, when he exclaimed:

  “What is your substance, whereof are you made,
   That millions of strange shadows on you tend?”

Bakersville, the capital of Mitchell County, is eight miles from the
top of Roan, and the last three miles of the way the horsemen found
tolerable going, over which the horses could show their paces. The
valley looked fairly thrifty and bright, and was a pleasing introduction
to Bakersville, a pretty place in the hills, of some six hundred
inhabitants, with two churches, three indifferent hotels, and a
court-house. This mountain town, 2550 feet above the sea, is said
to have a decent winter climate, with little snow, favorable to
fruit-growing, and, by contrast with New England, encouraging to people
with weak lungs.

This is the center of the mica mining, and of considerable excitement
about minerals. All around, the hills are spotted with “diggings.” Most
of the mines which yield well show signs of having been worked before,
a very long time ago, no doubt by the occupants before the Indians. The
mica is of excellent quality and easily mined. It is got out in large
irregular-shaped blocks and transported to the factories, where it is
carefully split by hand, and the laminae, of as large size as can be
obtained, are trimmed with shears and tied up in packages for market.
The quantity of refuse, broken, and rotten mica piled up about the
factories is immense, and all the roads round about glisten with its
scales. Garnets are often found imbedded in the laminae, flattened by
the extreme pressure to which the mass was subjected. It is fascinating
material, this mica, to handle, and we amused ourselves by experimenting
on the thinness to which its scales could be reduced by splitting. It
was at Bakersville that we saw specimens of mica that resembled the
delicate tracery in the moss-agate and had the iridescent sheen of the
rainbow colors--the most delicate greens, reds, blues, purples, and
gold, changing from one to the other in the reflected light. In
the texture were the tracings of fossil forms of ferns and the most
exquisite and delicate vegetable beauty of the coal age. But the
magnet shows this tracery to be iron. We were shown also emeralds and
“diamonds,” picked up in this region, and there is a mild expectation in
all the inhabitants of great mineral treasure. A singular product of the
region is the flexible sandstone. It is a most uncanny stone. A slip of
it a couple of feet long and an inch in diameter each way bends in the
hand like a half-frozen snake. This conduct of a substance that we have
been taught to regard as inflexible impairs one’s confidence in the
stability of nature and affects him as an earthquake does.

This excitement over mica and other minerals has the usual effect of
starting up business and creating bad blood. Fortunes have been
made, and lost in riotous living; scores of visionary men have been
disappointed; lawsuits about titles and claims have multiplied, and
quarrels ending in murder have been frequent in the past few years. The
mica and the illicit whisky have worked together to make this region one
of lawlessness and violence. The travelers were told stories of the lack
of common morality and decency in the region, but they made no note of
them. And, perhaps fortunately, they were not there during court week
to witness the scenes of license that were described. This court week,
which draws hither the whole population, is a sort of Saturnalia.
Perhaps the worst of this is already a thing of the past; for the
outrages a year before had reached such a pass that by a common movement
the sale of whisky was stopped (not interdicted, but stopped), and not a
drop of liquor could be bought in Bakersville nor within three miles of

The jail at Bakersville is a very simple residence. The main building is
brick, two stories high and about twelve feet square. The walls are so
loosely laid up that it seems as if a colored prisoner might butt his
head through. Attached to this is a room for the jailer. In the lower
room is a wooden cage, made of logs bolted together and filled with
spikes, nine feet by ten feet square and perhaps seven or eight feet
high. Between this cage and the wall is a space of eighteen inches in
width. It has a narrow door, and an opening through which the food is
passed to the prisoners, and a conduit leading out of it. Of course it
soon becomes foul, and in warm weather somewhat warm. A recent prisoner,
who wanted more ventilation than the State allowed him, found some
means, by a loose plank, I think, to batter a hole in the outer wall
opposite the window in the cage, and this ragged opening, seeming to the
jailer a good sanitary arrangement, remains. Two murderers occupied this
apartment at the time of our visit. During the recent session of court,
ten men had been confined in this narrow space, without room enough for
them to lie down together. The cage in the room above, a little larger,
had for tenant a person who was jailed for some misunderstanding about
an account, and who was probably innocent--from the jailer’s statement.
This box is a wretched residence, month after month, while awaiting

We learned on inquiry that it is practically impossible to get a jury to
convict of murder in this region, and that these admitted felons would
undoubtedly escape. We even heard that juries were purchasable here,
and that a man’s success in court depended upon the length of his purse.
This is such an unheard-of thing that we refused to credit it. When the
Friend attempted to arouse the indignation of the Professor about the
barbarity of this jail, the latter defended it on the ground that
as confinement was the only punishment that murderers were likely to
receive in this region, it was well to make their detention disagreeable
to them. But the Friend did not like this wild-beast cage for men, and
could only exclaim,

“Oh, murder! what crimes are done in thy name.”

If the comrades wished an adventure, they had a small one, more
interesting to them than to the public, the morning they left
Bakersville to ride to Burnsville, which sets itself up as the capital
of Yancey. The way for the first three miles lay down a small creek and
in a valley fairly settled, the houses, a store, and a grist-mill
giving evidence of the new enterprise of the region. When Toe River was
reached, there was a choice of routes. We might ford the Toe at that
point, where the river was wide, but shallow, and the crossing safe,
and climb over the mountain by a rough but sightly road, or descend the
stream by a better road and ford the river at a place rather dangerous
to those unfamiliar with it. The danger attracted us, but we promptly
chose the hill road on account of the views, for we were weary of the
limited valley prospects.

The Toe River, even here, where it bears westward, is a very respectable
stream in size, and not to be trifled with after a shower. It gradually
turns northward, and, joining the Nollechucky, becomes part of the
Tennessee system. We crossed it by a long, diagonal ford, slipping and
sliding about on the round stones, and began the ascent of a steep hill.
The sun beat down unmercifully, the way was stony, and the horses did
not relish the weary climbing. The Professor, who led the way, not for
the sake of leadership, but to be the discoverer of laden blackberry
bushes, which began to offer occasional refreshment, discouraged by the
inhospitable road and perhaps oppressed by the moral backwardness of
things in general, cried out:

  “Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,--
   As, to behold desert a beggar born,
   And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
   And purest faith unhappily foresworn,
   And gilded honor shamefully misplaced,
   And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
   And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
   And strength by limping sway disabled,
   And art made tongue-tied by authority,
   And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
   And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
   And captive good attending captain ill:
   Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
   Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.”

In the midst of a lively discussion of this pessimistic view of the
inequalities of life, in which desert and capacity are so often put
at disadvantage by birth in beggarly conditions, and brazen assumption
raises the dust from its chariot wheels for modest merit to plod along
in, the Professor swung himself off his horse to attack a blackberry
bush, and the Friend, representing simple truth, and desirous of getting
a wider prospect, urged his horse up the hill. At the top he encountered
a stranger, on a sorrel horse, with whom he entered into conversation
and extracted all the discouragement the man had as to the road to

Nevertheless, the view opened finely and extensively. There are few
exhilarations comparable to that of riding or walking along a high
ridge, and the spirits of the traveler rose many degrees above the point
of restful death, for which the Professor was crying when he encountered
the blackberry bushes. Luckily the Friend soon fell in with a like
temptation, and dismounted. He discovered something that spoiled his
appetite for berries. His coat, strapped on behind the saddle, had
worked loose, the pocket was open, and the pocket-book was gone. This
was serious business. For while the Professor was the cashier, and
traveled like a Rothschild, with large drafts, the Friend represented
the sub-treasury. That very morning, in response to inquiry as to the
sinews of travel, the Friend had displayed, without counting, a roll of
bills. These bills had now disappeared, and when the Friend turned back
to communicate his loss, in the character of needy nothing not trimm’d
in jollity, he had a sympathetic listener to the tale of woe.

Going back on such a journey is the woefulest experience, but retrace
our steps we must. Perhaps the pocket-book lay in the road not half a
mile back. But not in half a mile, or a mile, was it found. Probably,
then, the man on the sorrel horse had picked it up. But who was the man
on the sorrel horse, and where had he gone? Probably the coat worked
loose in crossing Toe River and the pocket-book had gone down-stream.
The number of probabilities was infinite, and each more plausible than
the others as it occurred to us. We inquired at every house we had
passed on the way, we questioned every one we met. At length it began
to seem improbable that any one would remember if he had picked up a
pocketbook that morning. This is just the sort of thing that slips an
untrained memory.

At a post office or doctor’s shop, or inn for drovers, it might be
either or neither, where several horses were tied to the fence, and a
group of men were tilted back in cane chairs on the veranda, we unfolded
our misfortune and made particular inquiries for a man on a sorrel
horse. Yes, such a man, David Thomas by name, had just ridden towards
Bakersville. If he had found the pocket-book, we would recover it. He
was an honest man. It might, however, fall into hands that would freeze
to it.

Upon consultation, it was the general verdict that there were men in
the county who would keep it if they had picked it up. But the assembly
manifested the liveliest interest in the incident. One suggested Toe
River. Another thought it risky to drop a purse on any road. But there
was a chorus of desire expressed that we should find it, and in this
anxiety was exhibited a decided sensitiveness about the honor of
Mitchell County. It seemed too bad that a stranger should go away with
the impression that it was not safe to leave money anywhere in it. We
felt very much obliged for this genuine sympathy, and we told them that
if a pocket-book were lost in this way on a Connecticut road, there
would be felt no neighborhood responsibility for it, and that nobody
would take any interest in the incident except the man who lost, and the
man who found.

By the time the travelers pulled up at a store in Bakersville they
had lost all expectation of recovering the missing article, and were
discussing the investment of more money in an advertisement in the
weekly newspaper of the capital. The Professor, whose reform sentiments
agreed with those of the newspaper, advised it. There was a group of
idlers, mica acquaintances of the morning, and philosophers in front of
the store, and the Friend opened the colloquy by asking if a man named
David Thomas had been seen in town. He was in town, had ridden in within
an hour, and his brother, who was in the group, would go in search of
him. The information was then given of the loss, and that the rider had
met David Thomas just before it was discovered, on the mountain beyond
the Toe. The news made a sensation, and by the time David Thomas
appeared a crowd of a hundred had drawn around the horsemen eager for
further developments. Mr. Thomas was the least excited of the group as
he took his position on the sidewalk, conscious of the dignity of the
occasion and that he was about to begin a duel in which both reputation
and profit were concerned. He recollected meeting the travelers in the

The Friend said, “I discovered that I had lost my purse just after
meeting you; it may have been dropped in Toe River, but I was told back
here that if David Thomas had picked it up, it was as safe as if it were
in the bank.”

“What sort of a pocket-book was it?” asked Mr. Thomas.

“It was of crocodile skin, or what is sold for that, very likely it is
an imitation, and about so large indicating the size.”

“What had it in it?”

“Various things. Some specimens of mica; some bank checks, some money.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, a photograph. And, oh, something that I presume is not in another
pocket-book in North Carolina,--in an envelope, a lock of the hair of
George Washington, the Father of his Country.” Sensation mixed with
incredulity. Washington’s hair did seem such an odd part of an outfit
for a journey of this kind.

“How much money was in it?”

“That I cannot say, exactly. I happen to remember four twenty-dollar
United States notes, and a roll of small bills, perhaps something over a
hundred dollars.”

“Is that the pocket-book?” asked David Thomas, slowly pulling the loved
and lost out of his trousers pocket.

“It is.”

“You’d be willing to take your oath on it?”

“I should be delighted to.”

“Well, I guess there ain’t so much money in it. You can count it
[handing it over]; there hain’t been nothing taken out. I can’t read,
but my friend here counted it over, and he says there ain’t as much as

Intense interest in the result of the counting. One hundred and ten
dollars! The Friend selected one of the best engraved of the notes, and
appealed to the crowd if they thought that was the square thing to do.
They did so think, and David Thomas said it was abundant. And then said
the Friend:

“I’m exceedingly grateful to you besides. Washington’s hair is getting
scarce, and I did not want to lose these few hairs, gray as they are.
You’ve done the honest thing, Mr. Thomas, as was expected of you. You
might have kept the whole. But I reckon if there had been five hundred
dollars in the book and you had kept it, it wouldn’t have done you half
as much good as giving it up has done; and your reputation as an honest
man is worth a good deal more than this pocket-book. [The Professor
was delighted with this sentiment, because it reminded him of a
Sunday-school.] I shall go away with a high opinion of the honesty of
Mitchell County.”

“Oh, he lives in Yancey,” cried two or three voices. At which there was
a great laugh.

“Well, I wondered where he came from.” And the Mitchell County people
laughed again at their own expense, and the levee broke up. It was
exceedingly gratifying, as we spread the news of the recovered property
that afternoon at every house on our way to the Toe, to see what
pleasure it gave. Every man appeared to feel that the honor of the
region had been on trial--and had stood the test.

The eighteen miles to Burnsville had now to be added to the morning
excursion, but the travelers were in high spirits, feeling the truth of
the adage that it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have
lost at all. They decided, on reflection, to join company with the
mail-rider, who was going to Burnsville by the shorter route, and could
pilot them over the dangerous ford of the Toe.

The mail-rider was a lean, sallow, sinewy man, mounted on a sorry sorrel
nag, who proved, however, to have blood in her, and to be a fast walker
and full of endurance. The mail-rider was taciturn, a natural habit
for a man who rides alone the year round, over a lonely road, and has
nothing whatever to think of. He had been in the war sixteen months, in
Hugh White’s regiment,--reckon you’ve heerd of him?



“Was he on the Union or Confederate side?”

“Oh, Union.”

“Were you in any engagements?”


“Did you have any fighting?”

“Not reg’lar.”

“What did you do?”


“What did you do in Hugh White’s regiment?”

“Oh, just cavorted round the mountains.”

“You lived on the country?”


“Picked up what you could find, corn, bacon, horses?”

“That’s about so. Did n’t make much difference which side was round, the
country got cleaned out.”

“Plunder seems to have been the object?”


“You got a living out of the farmers?”

“You bet.”

Our friend and guide seemed to have been a jayhawker and mountain
marauder--on the right side. His attachment to the word “which”
 prevented any lively flow of conversation, and there seemed to be only
two trains of ideas running in his mind: one was the subject of horses
and saddles, and the other was the danger of the ford we were coming to,
and he exhibited a good deal of ingenuity in endeavoring to excite
our alarm. He returned to the ford from every other conversational
excursion, and after every silence.

“I do’ know’s there ‘s any great danger; not if you know the ford. Folks
is carried away there. The Toe gits up sudden. There’s been right smart
rain lately.

“If you’re afraid, you can git set over in a dugout, and I’ll take your
horses across. Mebbe you’re used to fording? It’s a pretty bad ford
for them as don’t know it. But you’ll get along if you mind your eye.
There’s some rocks you’ll have to look out for. But you’ll be all right
if you follow me.”

Not being very successful in raising an interest in the dangers of his
ford, although he could not forego indulging a malicious pleasure
in trying to make the strangers uncomfortable, he finally turned his
attention to a trade. “This hoss of mine,” he said, “is just the kind of
brute-beast you want for this country. Your hosses is too heavy. How’ll
you swap for that one o’ yourn?” The reiterated assertion that the
horses were not ours, that they were hired, made little impression on
him. All the way to Burnsville he kept referring to the subject of a
trade. The instinct of “swap” was strong in him. When we met a yoke of
steers, he turned round and bantered the owner for a trade. Our saddles
took his fancy. They were of the army pattern, and he allowed that one
of them would just suit him. He rode a small flat English pad, across
which was flung the United States mail pouch, apparently empty. He
dwelt upon the fact that his saddle was new and ours were old, and the
advantages that would accrue to us from the exchange. He did n’t care
if they had been through the war, as they had, for he fancied an army
saddle. The Friend answered for himself that the saddle he rode belonged
to a distinguished Union general, and had a bullet in it that was put
there by a careless Confederate in the first battle of Bull Run, and the
owner would not part with it for money. But the mail-rider said he did
n’t mind that. He would n’t mind swapping his new saddle for my old one
and the rubber coat and leggings. Long before we reached the ford we
thought we would like to swap the guide, even at the risk of drowning.
The ford was passed, in due time, with no inconvenience save that of wet
feet, for the stream was breast high to the horses; but being broad and
swift and full of sunken rocks and slippery stones, and the crossing
tortuous, it is not a ford to be commended. There is a curious delusion
that a rider has in crossing a swift broad stream. It is that he is
rapidly drifting up-stream, while in fact the tendency of the horse is
to go with the current.

The road in the afternoon was not unpicturesque, owing to the streams
and the ever noble forests, but the prospect was always very limited.
Agriculturally, the country was mostly undeveloped. The travelers
endeavored to get from the rider an estimate of the price of land. Not
much sold, he said. “There was one sale of a big piece last year; the
owner enthorited Big Tom Wilson to sell it, but I d’know what he got for

All the way along, the habitations were small log cabins, with one room,
chinked with mud, and these were far between; and only occasionally
thereby a similar log structure, unchinked, laid up like a cob house,
that served for a stable. Not much cultivation, except now and then
a little patch of poor corn on a steep hillside, occasionally a few
apple-trees, and a peach-tree without fruit. Here and there was a house
that had been half finished and then abandoned, or a shanty in which a
couple of young married people were just beginning life. Generally the
cabins (confirming the accuracy of the census of 1880) swarmed with
children, and nearly all the women were thin and sickly.

In the day’s ride we did not see a wheeled vehicle, and only now
and then a horse. We met on the road small sleds, drawn by a steer,
sometimes by a cow, on which a bag of grist was being hauled to the
mill, and boys mounted on steers gave us good-evening with as much pride
as if they were bestriding fiery horses.

In a house of the better class, which was a post-house, and where the
rider and the woman of the house had a long consultation over a letter
to be registered, we found the rooms decorated with patent-medicine
pictures, which were often framed in strips of mica, an evidence of
culture that was worth noting. Mica was the rage. Every one with whom
we talked, except the rider, had more or less the mineral fever. The
impression was general that the mountain region of North Carolina was
entering upon a career of wonderful mineral development, and the most
extravagant expectations were entertained. Mica was the shining object
of most “prospecting,” but gold was also on the cards.

The country about Burnsville is not only mildly picturesque, but very
pleasing. Burnsville, the county-seat of Yancey, at an elevation of 2840
feet, is more like a New England village than any hitherto seen. Most of
the houses stand about a square, which contains the shabby court-house;
around it are two small churches, a jail, an inviting tavern with a long
veranda, and a couple of stores. On an overlooking hill is the seminary.
Mica mining is the exciting industry, but it is agriculturally a good
country. The tavern had recently been enlarged to meet the new demands
for entertainment and is a roomy structure, fresh with paint and
only partially organized. The travelers were much impressed with the
brilliant chambers, the floors of which were painted in alternate
stripes of vivid green and red. The proprietor, a very intelligent
and enterprising man, who had traveled often in the North, was full
of projects for the development of his region and foremost in its
enterprises, and had formed a considerable collection of minerals.
Besides, more than any one else we met, he appreciated the beauty of his
country, and took us to a neighboring hill, where we had a view of
Table Mountain to the east and the nearer giant Blacks. The elevation of
Burnsville gives it a delightful summer climate, the gentle undulations
of the country are agreeable, the views noble, the air is good, and
it is altogether a “livable” and attractive place. With facilities of
communication, it would be a favorite summer resort. Its nearness to the
great mountains (the whole Black range is in Yancey County), its fine
pure air, its opportunity for fishing and hunting, commend it to those
in search of an interesting and restful retreat in summer.

But it should be said that before the country can attract and retain
travelers, its inhabitants must learn something about the preparation of
food. If, for instance, the landlord’s wife at Burnsville had traveled
with her husband, her table would probably have been more on a level
with his knowledge of the world, and it would have contained something
that the wayfaring man, though a Northerner, could eat. We have been on
the point several times in this journey of making the observation, but
have been restrained by a reluctance to touch upon politics, that it was
no wonder that a people with such a cuisine should have rebelled. The
travelers were in a rebellious mood most of the time.

The evidences of enterprise in this region were pleasant to see, but
the observers could not but regret, after all, the intrusion of the
money-making spirit, which is certain to destroy much of the present
simplicity. It is as yet, to a degree, tempered by a philosophic spirit.
The other guest of the house was a sedate, long-bearded traveler for
some Philadelphia house, and in the evening he and the landlord fell
into a conversation upon what Socrates calls the disadvantage of the
pursuit of wealth to the exclusion of all noble objects, and they let
their fancy play about Vanderbilt, who was agreed to be the richest man
in the world, or that ever lived.

“All I want,” said the long-bearded man, “is enough to be comfortable. I
would n’t have Vanderbilt’s wealth if he’d give it to me.”

“Nor I,” said the landlord. “Give me just enough to be comfortable.”
 [The tourist couldn’t but note that his ideas of enough to be
comfortable had changed a good deal since he had left his little farm
and gone into the mica business, and visited New York, and enlarged and
painted his tavern.] “I should like to know what more Vanderbilt gets
out of his money than I get out of mine. I heard tell of a young man who
went to Vanderbilt to get employment. Vanderbilt finally offered to give
the young man, if he would work for him, just what he got himself. The
young man jumped at that--he’d be perfectly satisfied with that pay.
And Vanderbilt said that all he got was what he could eat and wear, and
offered to give the young man his board and clothes.”

“I declare” said the long-bearded man. “That’s just it. Did you ever see
Vanderbilt’s house? Neither did I, but I heard he had a vault built in
it five feet thick, solid. He put in it two hundred millions of dollars,
in gold. After a year, he opened it and put in twelve millions more,
and called that a poor year. They say his house has gold shutters to the
windows, so I’ve heard.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” said the landlord. “I heard he had one door in
his house cost forty thousand dollars. I don’t know what it is made of,
unless it’s made of gold.”

Sunday was a hot and quiet day. The stores were closed and the two
churches also, this not being the Sunday for the itinerant preacher. The
jail also showed no sign of life, and when we asked about it, we learned
that it was empty, and had been for some time. No liquor is sold in the
place, nor within at least three miles of it. It is not much use to try
to run a jail without liquor.

In the course of the morning a couple of stout fellows arrived, leading
between them a young man whom they had arrested,--it didn’t appear on
any warrant, but they wanted to get him committed and locked up. The
offense charged was carrying a pistol; the boy had not used it against
anybody, but he had flourished it about and threatened, and the
neighbors wouldn’t stand that; they were bound to enforce the law
against carrying concealed weapons.

The captors were perfectly good-natured and on friendly enough terms
with the young man, who offered no resistance, and seemed not unwilling
to go to jail. But a practical difficulty arose. The jail was locked
up, the sheriff had gone away into the country with the key, and no
one could get in. It did not appear that there was any provision for
boarding the man in jail; no one in fact kept it. The sheriff was sent
for, but was not to be found, and the prisoner and his captors loafed
about the square all day, sitting on the fence, rolling on the grass,
all of them sustained by a simple trust that the jail would be open some

Late in the afternoon we left them there, trying to get into the
jail. But we took a personal leaf out of this experience. Our Virginia
friends, solicitous for our safety in this wild country, had urged us
not to venture into it without arms--take at least, they insisted, a
revolver each. And now we had to congratulate ourselves that we had
not done so. If we had, we should doubtless on that Sunday have been
waiting, with the other law-breaker, for admission into the Yancey
County jail.


From Burnsville the next point in our route was Asheville, the most
considerable city in western North Carolina, a resort of fashion, and
the capital of Buncombe County. It is distant some forty to forty-five
miles, too long a journey for one day over such roads. The easier
and common route is by the Ford of Big Ivy, eighteen miles, the first
stopping-place; and that was a long ride for the late afternoon when we
were in condition to move.

The landlord suggested that we take another route, stay that night on
Caney River with Big Tom Wilson, only eight miles from Burnsville, cross
Mount Mitchell, and go down the valley of the Swannanoa to Asheville. He
represented this route as shorter and infinitely more picturesque. There
was nothing worth seeing on the Big Ivy way. With scarcely a moment’s
reflection and while the horses were saddling, we decided to ride to Big
Tom Wilson’s. I could not at the time understand, and I cannot now, why
the Professor consented. I should hardly dare yet confess to my
fixed purpose to ascend Mount Mitchell. It was equally fixed in the
Professor’s mind not to do it. We had not discussed it much. But it is
safe to say that if he had one well-defined purpose on this trip, it was
not to climb Mitchell. “Not,” as he put it,--

  “Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
   Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,”

had suggested the possibility that he could do it.

But at the moment the easiest thing to do seemed to be to ride down
to Wilson’s. When there we could turn across country to the Big Ivy,
although, said the landlord, you can ride over Mitchell just as easy as
anywhere--a lady rode plump over the peak of it last week, and never got
off her horse. You are not obliged to go; at Big Tom’s, you can go any
way you please.

Besides, Big Tom himself weighed in the scale more than Mount
Mitchell, and not to see him was to miss one of the most characteristic
productions of the country, the typical backwoodsman, hunter, guide. So
we rode down Bolling Creek, through a pretty, broken country, crossed
the Caney River, and followed it up a few miles to Wilson’s plantation.
There are little intervales along the river, where hay is cut and corn
grown, but the region is not much cleared, and the stock browse about in
the forest. Wilson is the agent of the New York owner of a tract of
some thirteen thousand acres of forest, including the greater portion of
Mount Mitchell, a wilderness well stocked with bears and deer, and
full of streams abounding in trout. It is also the playground of the
rattlesnake. With all these attractions Big Tom’s life is made lively in
watching game poachers, and endeavoring to keep out the foraging cattle
of the few neighbors. It is not that the cattle do much injury in
the forest, but the looking after them is made a pretense for roaming
around, and the roamers are liable to have to defend themselves against
the deer, or their curiosity is excited about the bears, and lately they
have taken to exploding powder in the streams to kill the fish.

Big Tom’s plantation has an openwork stable, an ill-put-together frame
house, with two rooms and a kitchen, and a veranda in front, a loft, and
a spring-house in the rear. Chickens and other animals have free run
of the premises. Some fish-rods hung in the porch, and hunter’s gear
depended on hooks in the passage-way to the kitchen. In one room were
three beds, in the other two, only one in the kitchen. On the porch was
a loom, with a piece of cloth in process. The establishment had the
air of taking care of itself. Neither Big Tom nor his wife was at home.
Sunday seemed to be a visiting day, and the travelers had met many
parties on horseback. Mrs. Wilson was away for a visit of a day or two.
One of the sons, who was lounging on the veranda, was at last induced
to put up the horses; a very old woman, who mumbled and glared at the
visitors, was found in the kitchen, but no intelligible response could
be got out of her. Presently a bright little girl, the housekeeper in
charge, appeared. She said that her paw had gone up to her brother’s
(her brother was just married and lived up the river in the house where
Mr. Murchison stayed when he was here) to see if he could ketch a bear
that had been rootin’ round in the corn-field the night before. She
expected him back by sundown--by dark anyway. ‘Les he’d gone after the
bear, and then you could n’t tell when he would come.

It appeared that Big Tom was a thriving man in the matter of family.
More boys appeared. Only one was married, but four had “got their time.”
 As night approached, and no Wilson, there was a good deal of lively and
loud conversation about the stock and the chores, in all of which the
girl took a leading and intelligent part, showing a willingness to do
her share, but not to have all the work put upon her. It was time to go
down the road and hunt up the cows; the mule had disappeared and must
be found before dark; a couple of steers hadn’t turned up since the day
before yesterday, and in the midst of the gentle contention as to whose
business all this was, there was an alarm of cattle in the corn-patch,
and the girl started off on a run in that direction. It was due to the
executive ability of this small girl, after the cows had been milked and
the mule chased and the boys properly stirred up, that we had supper.
It was of the oilcloth, iron fork, tin spoon, bacon, hot bread and
honey variety, distinguished, however, from all meals we had endured or
enjoyed before by the introduction of fried eggs (as the breakfast next
morning was by the presence of chicken), and it was served by the active
maid with right hearty good-will and genuine hospitable intent.

While it was in progress, after nine o’clock, Big Tom arrived, and, with
a simple greeting, sat down and attacked the supper and began to tell
about the bear. There was not much to tell except that he hadn’t seen
the bear, and that, judged by his tracks and his sloshing around, he
must be a big one. But a trap had been set for him, and he judged it
wouldn’t be long before we had some bear meat. Big Tom Wilson, as he is
known all over this part of the State, would not attract attention from
his size. He is six feet and two inches tall, very spare and muscular,
with sandy hair, long gray beard, and honest blue eyes. He has a
reputation for great strength and endurance; a man of native simplicity
and mild manners. He had been rather expecting us from what Mr.
Murchison wrote; he wrote (his son had read out the letter) that Big Tom
was to take good care of us, and anybody that Mr. Murchison sent could
have the best he’d got.

Big Tom joined us in our room after supper. This apartment, with two
mighty feather-beds, was hung about with all manner of stuffy family
clothes, and had in one end a vast cavern for a fire. The floor was
uneven, and the hearthstones billowy. When the fire was lighted, the
effect of the bright light in the cavern and the heavy shadows in the
room was Rembrandtish. Big Tom sat with us before the fire and told bear
stories. Talk? Why, it was not the least effort. The stream flowed on
without a ripple. “Why, the old man,” one of the sons confided to us
next morning, “can begin and talk right over Mount Mitchell and all the
way back, and never make a break.” Though Big Tom had waged a lifelong
warfare with the bears, and taken the hide off at least a hundred of
them, I could not see that he had any vindictive feeling towards the
varmint, but simply an insatiable love of killing him, and he regarded
him in that half-humorous light in which the bear always appears to
those who study him. As to deer--he couldn’t tell how many of them he
had slain. But Big Tom was a gentleman: he never killed deer for mere
sport. With rattlesnakes, now, it was different. There was the skin of
one hanging upon a tree by the route we would take in the morning,
a buster, he skinned him yesterday. There was an entire absence, of
braggadocio in Big Tom’s talk, but somehow, as he went on, his backwoods
figure loomed larger and larger in our imagination, and he seemed
strangely familiar. At length it came over us where we had met him
before. It was in Cooper’s novels. He was the Leather-Stocking exactly.
And yet he was an original; for he assured us that he had never read the
Leather-Stocking Tales. What a figure, I was thinking, he must have
made in the late war! Such a shot, such a splendid physique, such
iron endurance! I almost dreaded to hear his tales of the havoc he had
wrought on the Union army. Yes, he was in the war, he was sixteen months
in the Confederate army, this Homeric man. In what rank? “Oh, I was a

But hunting and war did not by any means occupy the whole of Big Tom’s
life. He was also engaged in “lawin’.” He had a long-time feud with a
neighbor about a piece of land and alleged trespass, and they’d
been “lawin’” for years, with no definite result; but as a topic of
conversation it was as fully illustrative of frontier life as the

Long after we had all gone to bed, we heard Big Tom’s continuous voice,
through the thin partition that separated us from the kitchen, going on
to his little boy about the bear; every circumstance of how he tracked
him, and what corner of the field he entered, and where he went out, and
his probable size and age, and the prospect of his coming again; these
were the details of real everyday life, and worthy to be dwelt on by the
hour. The boy was never tired of pursuing them. And Big Tom was just a
big boy, also, in his delight in it all.

Perhaps it was the fascination of Big Tom, perhaps the representation
that we were already way off the Big Ivy route, and that it would, in
fact, save time to go over the mountain and we could ride all the way,
that made the Professor acquiesce, with no protest worth noticing, in
the preparations that went on, as by a natural assumption, for going
over Mitchell. At any rate, there was an early breakfast, luncheon
was put up, and by half-past seven we were riding up the Caney,--a
half-cloudy day,--Big Tom swinging along on foot ahead, talking nineteen
to the dozen. There was a delightful freshness in the air, the dew-laden
bushes, and the smell of the forest. In half an hour we called at the
hunting shanty of Mr. Murchison, wrote our names on the wall, according
to custom, and regretted that we could not stay for a day in that
retreat and try the speckled trout. Making our way through the low
growth and bushes of the valley, we came into a fine open forest,
watered by a noisy brook, and after an hour’s easy going reached the
serious ascent.

From Wilson’s to the peak of Mitchell it is seven and a half miles; we
made it in five and a half hours. A bridle path was cut years ago, but
it has been entirely neglected. It is badly washed, it is stony, muddy,
and great trees have fallen across it which wholly block the way for
horses. At these places long detours were necessary, on steep hillsides
and through gullies, over treacherous sink-holes in the rocks, through
quaggy places, heaps of brush, and rotten logs. Those who have ever
attempted to get horses over such ground will not wonder at the slow
progress we made. Before we were halfway up the ascent, we realized the
folly of attempting it on horseback; but then to go on seemed as easy as
to go back. The way was also exceedingly steep in places, and what with
roots, and logs, and slippery rocks and stones, it was a desperate climb
for the horses.

What a magnificent forest! Oaks, chestnuts, Poplars, hemlocks, the
cucumber (a species of magnolia, with a pinkish, cucumber-like cone),
and all sorts of northern and southern growths meeting here in splendid
array. And this gigantic forest, with little diminution in size of
trees, continued two thirds of the way up. We marked, as we went on, the
maple, the black walnut, the buckeye, the hickory, the locust, and the
guide pointed out in one section the largest cherry-trees we had ever
seen; splendid trunks, each worth a large sum if it could be got to
market. After the great trees were left behind, we entered a garden of
white birches, and then a plateau of swamp, thick with raspberry bushes,
and finally the ridges, densely crowded with the funereal black balsam.

Halfway up, Big Tom showed us his favorite, the biggest tree he knew. It
was a poplar, or tulip. It stands more like a column than a tree, rising
high into the air, with scarcely a perceptible taper, perhaps sixty,
more likely a hundred, feet before it puts out a limb.

Its girth six feet from the ground is thirty-two feet! I think it might
be called Big Tom. It stood here, of course, a giant, when Columbus
sailed from Spain, and perhaps some sentimental traveler will attach the
name of Columbus to it.

In the woods there was not much sign of animal life, scarcely the note
of a bird, but we noticed as we rode along in the otherwise primeval
silence a loud and continuous humming overhead, almost like the sound
of the wind in pine tops. It was the humming of bees! The upper branches
were alive with these industrious toilers, and Big Tom was always on the
alert to discover and mark a bee-gum, which he could visit afterwards.
Honey hunting is one of his occupations. Collecting spruce gum is
another, and he was continually hacking off with his hatchet knobs of
the translucent secretion. How rich and fragrant are these forests! The
rhododendron was still in occasional bloom’ and flowers of brilliant hue
gleamed here and there.

The struggle was more severe as we neared the summit, and the footing
worse for the horses. Occasionally it was safest to dismount and lead
them up slippery ascents; but this was also dangerous, for it was
difficult to keep them from treading on our heels, in their frantic
flounderings, in the steep, wet, narrow, brier-grown path. At one
uncommonly pokerish place, where the wet rock sloped into a bog, the
rider of Jack thought it prudent to dismount, but Big Tom insisted that
Jack would “make it” all right, only give him his head. The rider gave
him his head, and the next minute Jack’s four heels were in the air, and
he came down on his side in a flash. The rider fortunately extricated
his leg without losing it, Jack scrambled out with a broken shoe, and
the two limped along. It was a wonder that the horses’ legs were not
broken a dozen times.

As we approached the top, Big Tom pointed out the direction, a half mile
away, of a small pond, a little mountain tarn, overlooked by a ledge of
rock, where Professor Mitchell lost his life. Big Tom was the guide
that found his body. That day, as we sat on the summit, he gave in great
detail the story, the general outline of which is well known.

The first effort to measure the height of the Black Mountains was made
in 1835, by Professor Elisha Mitchell, professor of mathematics and
chemistry in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mr.
Mitchell was a native of Connecticut, born in Washington, Litchfield
County, in 1793; graduated at Yale, ordained a Presbyterian minister,
and was for a time state surveyor; and became a professor at Chapel
Hill in 1818. He first ascertained and published the fact that the Black
Mountains are the highest land east of the Rocky Mountains. In 1844
he visited the locality again. Measurements were subsequently made by
Professor Guyot and by Senator Clingman. One of the peaks was named for
the senator (the one next in height to Mitchell is described as Clingman
on the state map), and a dispute arose as to whether Mitchell had really
visited and measured the highest peak. Senator Clingman still maintains
that he did not, and that the peak now known as Mitchell is the one that
Clingman first described. The estimates of altitudes made by the three
explorers named differed considerably. The height now fixed for Mount
Mitchell is 6711; that of Mount Washington is 6285. There are twelve
peaks in this range higher than Mount Washington, and if we add those
in the Great Smoky Mountains which overtop it, there are some twenty in
this State higher than the granite giant of New Hampshire.

In order to verify his statement, Professor Mitchell (then in his
sixty-fourth year) made a third ascent in June, 1857. He was alone, and
went up from the Swannanoa side. He did not return. No anxiety was felt
for two or three days, as he was a good mountaineer, and it was supposed
he had crossed the mountain and made his way out by the Caney River.
But when several days passed without tidings of him, a search party was
formed. Big Tom Wilson was with it. They explored the mountain in all
directions unsuccessfully. At length Big Tom separated himself from his
companions and took a course in accordance with his notion of that which
would be pursued by a man lost in the clouds or the darkness. He
soon struck the trail of the wanderer, and, following it, discovered
Mitchell’s body lying in a pool at the foot of a rocky precipice some
thirty feet high. It was evident that Mitchell, making his way along
the ridge in darkness or fog, had fallen off. It was the ninth (or the
eleventh) day of his disappearance, but in the pure mountain air the
body had suffered no change. Big Tom brought his companions to the
place, and on consultation it was decided to leave the body undisturbed
till Mitchell’s friends could be present.

There was some talk of burying him on the mountain, but the friends
decided otherwise, and the remains, with much difficulty, were got down
to Asheville and there interred.

Some years afterwards, I believe at the instance of a society of
scientists, it was resolved to transport the body to the summit of Mount
Mitchell; for the tragic death of the explorer had forever settled in
the popular mind the name of the mountain. The task was not easy. A
road had to be cut, over which a sledge could be hauled, and the hardy
mountaineers who undertook the removal were three days in reaching the
summit with their burden. The remains were accompanied by a considerable
concourse, and the last rites on the top were participated in by a
hundred or more scientists and prominent men from different parts of
the State. Such a strange cortege had never before broken the silence
of this lonely wilderness, nor was ever burial more impressive than this
wild interment above the clouds.

We had been preceded in our climb all the way by a huge bear. That he
was huge, a lunker, a monstrous old varmint, Big Tom knew by the size of
his tracks; that he was making the ascent that morning ahead of us, Big
Tom knew by the freshness of the trail. We might come upon him at any
moment; he might be in the garden; was quite likely to be found in the
raspberry patch. That we did not encounter him I am convinced was not
the fault of Big Tom, but of the bear.

After a struggle of five hours we emerged from the balsams and briers
into a lovely open meadow, of lush clover, timothy, and blue grass. We
unsaddled the horses and turned them loose to feed in it. The meadow
sloped up to a belt of balsams and firs, a steep rocky knob, and
climbing that on foot we stood upon the summit of Mitchell at one
o’clock. We were none too soon, for already the clouds were preparing
for what appears to be a daily storm at this season.

The summit is a nearly level spot of some thirty or forty feet in extent
either way, with a floor of rock and loose stones. The stunted balsams
have been cut away so as to give a view. The sweep of prospect is vast,
and we could see the whole horizon except in the direction of Roan,
whose long bulk was enveloped in cloud. Portions of six States were in
sight, we were told, but that is merely a geographical expression. What
we saw, wherever we looked, was an inextricable tumble of mountains,
without order or leading line of direction,--domes, peaks, ridges,
endless and countless, everywhere, some in shadow, some tipped with
shafts of sunlight, all wooded and green or black, and all in more
softened contours than our Northern hills, but still wild, lonesome,
terrible. Away in the southwest, lifting themselves up in a gleam of
the western sky, the Great Smoky Mountains loomed like a frowning
continental fortress, sullen and remote. With Clingman and Gibbs and
Holdback peaks near at hand and apparently of equal height, Mitchell
seemed only a part and not separate from the mighty congregation of

In the center of the stony plot on the summit lie the remains of
Mitchell. To dig a grave in the rock was impracticable, but the loose
stones were scooped away to the depth of a foot or so, the body was
deposited, and the stones were replaced over it. It was the original
intention to erect a monument, but the enterprise of the projectors of
this royal entombment failed at that point. The grave is surrounded by
a low wall of loose stones, to which each visitor adds one, and in the
course of ages the cairn may grow to a good size. The explorer lies
there without name or headstone to mark his awful resting-place. The
mountain is his monument. He is alone with its majesty. He is there in
the clouds, in the tempests, where the lightnings play, and thunders
leap, amid the elemental tumult, in the occasional great calm and
silence and the pale sunlight. It is the most majestic, the most
lonesome grave on earth.

As we sat there, awed a little by this presence, the clouds were
gathering from various quarters and drifting towards us. We could watch
the process of thunder-storms and the manufacture of tempests. I have
often noticed on other high mountains how the clouds, forming like genii
released from the earth, mount into the upper air, and in masses of torn
fragments of mist hurry across the sky as to a rendezvous of witches.
This was a different display. These clouds came slowly sailing from the
distant horizon, like ships on an aerial voyage. Some were below us,
some on our level; they were all in well-defined, distinct masses,
molten silver on deck, below trailing rain, and attended on earth
by gigantic shadows that moved with them. This strange fleet of
battle-ships, drifted by the shifting currents, was maneuvering for an
engagement. One after another, as they came into range about our peak
of observation, they opened fire. Sharp flashes of lightning darted from
one to the other; a jet of flame from one leaped across the interval
and was buried in the bosom of its adversary; and at every discharge the
boom of great guns echoed through the mountains. It was something more
than a royal salute to the tomb of the mortal at our feet, for the
masses of cloud were rent in the fray, at every discharge the rain
was precipitated in increasing torrents, and soon the vast hulks were
trailing torn fragments and wreaths of mist, like the shot-away shrouds
and sails of ships in battle. Gradually, from this long-range practice
with single guns and exchange of broadsides, they drifted into
closer conflict, rushed together, and we lost sight of the individual
combatants in the general tumult of this aerial war.

We had barely twenty minutes for our observations, when it was time
to go; and had scarcely left the peak when the clouds enveloped it. We
hastened down under the threatening sky to the saddles and the luncheon.
Just off from the summit, amid the rocks, is a complete arbor, or
tunnel, of rhododendrons. This cavernous place a Western writer has made
the scene of a desperate encounter between Big Tom and a catamount, or
American panther, which had been caught in a trap and dragged it there,
pursued by Wilson. It is an exceedingly graphic narrative, and is
enlivened by the statement that Big Tom had the night before drunk up
all the whisky of the party which had spent the night on the summit. Now
Big Tom assured us that the whisky part of the story was an invention;
he was not (which is true) in the habit of using it; if he ever did take
any, it might be a drop on Mitchell; in fact, when he inquired if we
had a flask, he remarked that a taste of it would do him good then and
there. We regretted the lack of it in our baggage. But what inclined Big
Tom to discredit the Western writer’s story altogether was the fact that
he never in his life had had a difficulty with a catamount, and never
had seen one in these mountains.

Our lunch was eaten in haste. Big Tom refused the chicken he had
provided for us, and strengthened himself with slices of raw salt pork,
which he cut from a hunk with his clasp-knife. We caught and saddled our
horses, who were reluctant to leave the rich feed, enveloped ourselves
in waterproofs, and got into the stony path for the descent just as the
torrent came down. It did rain. It lightened, the thunder crashed, the
wind howled and twisted the treetops. It was as if we were pursued by
the avenging spirits of the mountains for our intrusion. Such a tempest
on this height had its terrors even for our hardy guide. He preferred to
be lower down while it was going on. The crash and reverberation of the
thunder did not trouble us so much as the swish of the wet branches in
our faces and the horrible road, with its mud, tripping roots, loose
stones, and slippery rocks. Progress was slow. The horses were in
momentary danger of breaking their legs. In the first hour there was not
much descent. In the clouds we were passing over Clingman, Gibbs, and
Holdback. The rain had ceased, but the mist still shut off all view, if
any had been attainable, and bushes and paths were deluged. The descent
was more uncomfortable than the ascent, and we were compelled a good
deal of the way to lead the jaded horses down the slippery rocks.

From the peak to the Widow Patten’s, where we proposed to pass the
night, is twelve miles, a distance we rode or scrambled down, every step
of the road bad, in five and a half hours. Halfway down we came out upon
a cleared place, a farm, with fruit-trees and a house in ruins. Here had
been a summer hotel much resorted to before the war, but now abandoned.
Above it we turned aside for the view from Elizabeth rock, named from
the daughter of the proprietor of the hotel, who often sat here, said
Big Tom, before she went out of this world. It is a bold rocky ledge,
and the view from it, looking south, is unquestionably the finest, the
most pleasing and picture-like, we found in these mountains. In the
foreground is the deep gorge of a branch of the Swannanoa, and opposite
is the great wall of the Blue Ridge (the Blue Ridge is the most
capricious and inexplicable system) making off to the Blacks. The depth
of the gorge, the sweep of the sky line, and the reposeful aspect of the
scene to the sunny south made this view both grand and charming.
Nature does not always put the needed dash of poetry into her extensive

Leaving this clearing and the now neglected spring, where fashion used
to slake its thirst, we zigzagged down the mountain-side through a
forest of trees growing at every step larger and nobler, and at length
struck a small stream, the North Fork of the Swannanoa, which led us to
the first settlement. Just at night,--it was nearly seven o’clock,--we
entered one of the most stately forests I have ever seen, and rode for
some distance in an alley of rhododendrons that arched overhead and made
a bower. It was like an aisle in a temple; high overhead was the somber,
leafy roof, supported by gigantic columns. Few widows have such an
avenue of approach to their domain as the Widow Patten has.

Cheering as this outcome was from the day’s struggle and storm, the
Professor seemed sunk in a profound sadness. The auguries which the
Friend drew from these signs of civilization of a charming inn and a
royal supper did not lighten the melancholy of his mind. “Alas,” he

  “Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
   And make me travel forth without my cloak,
   To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
   Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
   ‘T is not enough that through the cloud thou break,
   To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
   For no man well of such a salve can speak
   That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
   Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief:
   Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss.”

“Loss of what?” cried the Friend, as he whipped up his halting steed.

“Loss of self-respect. I feel humiliated that I consented to climb this

“Nonsense! You’ll live to thank me for it, as the best thing you ever
did. It’s over and done now, and you’ve got it to tell your friends.”

“That’s just the trouble. They’ll ask me if I went up Mitchell, and I
shall have to say I did. My character for consistency is gone. Not that
I care much what they think, but my own self-respect is gone. I never
believed I would do it. A man ca’nt afford to lower himself in his own
esteem, at my time of life.”

The Widow Patten’s was only an advanced settlement in this narrow valley
on the mountain-side, but a little group of buildings, a fence, and a
gate gave it the air of a place, and it had once been better cared
for than it is now. Few travelers pass that way, and the art of
entertaining, if it ever existed, is fallen into desuetude. We
unsaddled at the veranda, and sat down to review our adventure, make the
acquaintance of the family, and hear the last story from Big Tom. The
mountaineer, though wet, was as fresh as a daisy, and fatigue in no wise
checked the easy, cheerful flow of his talk. He was evidently a favorite
with his neighbors, and not unpleasantly conscious of the extent of
his reputation. But he encountered here another social grade. The Widow
Patten was highly connected. We were not long in discovering that she
was an Alexander. She had been a schoolmate of Senator Vance,--“Zeb
Vance” he still was to her,--and the senator and his wife had stayed at
her house. I wish I could say that the supper, for which we waited
till nine o’clock, was as “highly connected” as the landlady. It was,
however, a supper that left its memory. We were lodged in a detached
house, which we had to ourselves, where a roaring wood fire made amends
for other things lacking. It was necessary to close the doors to
keep out the wandering cows and pigs, and I am bound to say that,
notwithstanding the voices of the night, we slept there the sleep of

In the morning a genuine surprise awaited us; it seemed impossible, but
the breakfast was many degrees worse than the supper; and when we paid
our bill, large for the region, we were consoled by the thought that we
paid for the high connection as well as for the accommodations. This
is a regular place of entertainment, and one is at liberty to praise it
without violation of delicacy.

The broken shoe of Jack required attention, and we were all the morning
hunting a blacksmith, as we rode down the valley. Three blacksmith’s
shanties were found, and after long waiting to send for the operator it
turned out in each case that he had no shoes, no nails, no iron to make
either of. We made a detour of three miles to what was represented as a
regular shop. The owner had secured the service of a colored blacksmith
for a special job, and was, not inclined to accommodate us; he had no
shoes, no nails. But the colored blacksmith, who appreciated the plight
we were in, offered to make a shoe, and to crib four nails from those he
had laid aside for a couple of mules; and after a good deal of delay,
we were enabled to go on. The incident shows, as well as anything, the
barrenness and shiftlessness of the region. A horseman with whom we rode
in the morning gave us a very low estimate of the trustworthiness of
the inhabitants. The valley is wild and very pretty all the way down to
Colonel Long’s,--twelve miles,--but the wretched-looking people along
the way live in a wretched manner.

Just before reaching Colonel Long’s we forded the stream (here of
good size), the bridge having tumbled down, and encountered a party of
picnickers under the trees--signs of civilization; a railway station is
not far off. Colonel Long’s is a typical Southern establishment: a white
house, or rather three houses, all of one story, built on to each other
as beehives are set in a row, all porches and galleries. No one at home
but the cook, a rotund, broad-faced woman, with a merry eye, whose very
appearance suggested good cooking and hospitality; the Missis and the
children had gone up to the river fishing; the Colonel was somewhere
about the place; always was away when he was wanted. Guess he’d take us
in, mighty fine man the Colonel; and she dispatched a child from a cabin
in the rear to hunt him up. The Colonel was a great friend of her folks
down to Greenville; they visited here. Law, no, she didn’t live here.
Was just up here spending the summer, for her health. God-forsaken lot
of people up here, poor trash. She wouldn’t stay here a day, but the
Colonel was a friend of her folks, the firstest folks in Greenville.
Nobody round here she could ‘sociate with. She was a Presbyterian, the
folks round here mostly Baptists and Methodists. More style about the
Presbyterians. Married? No, she hoped not. She did n’t want to support
no husband. Got ‘nuff to do to take care of herself. That her little
girl? No; she’d only got one child, down to Greenville, just the
prettiest boy ever was, as white as anybody. How did she what? reconcile
this state of things with not being married and being a Presbyterian?
Sho! she liked to carry some religion along; it was mighty handy
occasionally, mebbe not all the time. Yes, indeed, she enjoyed her

The Colonel appeared and gave us a most cordial welcome. The fat and
merry cook blustered around and prepared a good dinner, memorable for
its “light” bread, the first we had seen since Cranberry Forge. The
Colonel is in some sense a public man, having been a mail agent, and
a Republican. He showed us photographs and engravings of Northern
politicians, and had the air of a man who had been in Washington. This
was a fine country for any kind of fruit,--apples, grapes, pears; it
needed a little Northern enterprise to set things going. The travelers
were indebted to the Colonel for a delightful noonday rest, and with
regret declined his pressing invitation to pass the night with him.

The ride down the Swannanoa to Asheville was pleasant, through a
cultivated region, over a good road. The Swannanoa is, however, a turbid
stream. In order to obtain the most impressive view of Asheville we
approached it by the way of Beaucatcher Hill, a sharp elevation a mile
west of the town. I suppose the name is a corruption of some descriptive
French word, but it has long been a favorite resort of the frequenters
of Asheville, and it may be traditional that it is a good place to catch
beaux. The summit is occupied by a handsome private residence, and from
this ridge the view, which has the merit of “bursting” upon the traveler
as he comes over the hill, is captivating in its extent and variety. The
pretty town of Asheville is seen to cover a number of elevations gently
rising out of the valley, and the valley, a rich agricultural region,
well watered and fruitful, is completely inclosed by picturesque hills,
some of them rising to the dignity of mountains. The most conspicuous
of these is Mount Pisgah, eighteen miles distant to the southwest, a
pyramid of the Balsam range, 5757 feet high. Mount Pisgah, from its
shape, is the most attractive mountain in this region.

The sunset light was falling upon the splendid panorama and softening
it. The windows of the town gleamed as if on fire. From the steep slope
below came the mingled sounds of children shouting, cattle driven home,
and all that hum of life that marks a thickly peopled region preparing
for the night. It was the leisure hour of an August afternoon, and
Asheville was in all its watering-place gayety, as we reined up at
the Swannanoa hotel. A band was playing on the balcony. We had reached
ice-water, barbers, waiters, civilization.


Ashville, delightful for situation, on small hills that rise above
the French Broad below its confluence with the Swannanoa, is a sort of
fourteenth cousin to Saratoga. It has no springs, but lying 2250
feet above the sea and in a lovely valley, mountain girt, it has pure
atmosphere and an equable climate; and being both a summer and winter
resort, it has acquired a watering-place air. There are Southerners who
declare that it is too hot in summer, and that the complete circuit of
mountains shuts out any lively movement of air. But the scenery is so
charming and noble, the drives are so varied, the roads so unusually
passable for a Southern country, and the facilities for excursions so
good, that Asheville is a favorite resort.

Architecturally the place is not remarkable, but its surface is
so irregular, there are so many acclivities and deep valleys that
improvements can never obliterate, that it is perforce picturesque. It
is interesting also, if not pleasing, in its contrasts--the enterprise
of taste and money-making struggling with the laissez faire of the
South. The negro, I suppose, must be regarded as a conservative element;
he has not much inclination to change his clothes or his cabin, and his
swarming presence gives a ragged aspect to the new civilization. And
to say the truth, the new element of Southern smartness lacks the
trim thrift the North is familiar with; though the visitor who needs
relaxation is not disposed to quarrel with the easy-going terms on which
life is taken.

Asheville, it is needless to say, appeared very gay and stimulating to
the riders from the wilderness. The Professor, who does not even pretend
to patronize Nature, had his revenge as we strolled about the streets
(there is but one of much consideration), immensely entertained by the
picturesque contrasts. There was more life and amusement here in
five minutes, he declared, than in five days of what people called
scenery--the present rage for scenery, anyway, being only a fashion and
a modern invention. The Friend suspected from this penchant for the city
that the Professor must have been brought up in the country.

There was a kind of predetermined and willful gayety about Asheville
however, that is apt to be present in a watering-place, and gave to it
the melancholy tone that is always present in gay places. We fancied
that the lively movement in the streets had an air of unreality. A band
of musicians on the balcony of the Swannanoa were scraping and tooting
and twanging with a hired air, and on the opposite balcony of the Eagle
a rival band echoed and redoubled the perfunctory joyousness. The gayety
was contagious: the horses felt it; those that carried light burdens
of beauty minced and pranced, the pony in the dog-cart was inclined to
dash, the few passing equipages had an air of pleasure; and the people
of color, the comely waitress and the slouching corner-loafer, responded
to the animation of the festive strains. In the late afternoon the
streets were full of people, wagons, carriages, horsemen, all with a
holiday air, dashed with African color and humor--the irresponsibility
of the most insouciant and humorous race in the world, perhaps more
comical than humorous; a mixture of recent civilization and rudeness,
peculiar and amusing; a happy coming together, it seemed, of Southern
abandon and Northern wealth, though the North was little represented at
this season.

As evening came on, the streets, though wanting gas, were still more
animated; the shops were open, some very good ones, and the white
and black throng increasing, especially the black, for the negro is
preeminently a night bird. In the hotels dancing was promised--the
german was announced; on the galleries and in the corridors were
groups of young people, a little loud in manner and voice,--the young
gentleman, with his over-elaborate manner to ladies in bowing and
hat-lifting, and the blooming girls from the lesser Southern cities,
with the slight provincial note, and yet with the frank and engaging
cordiality which is as charming as it is characteristic. I do not know
what led the Professor to query if the Southern young women were not
superior to the Southern young men, but he is always asking questions
nobody can answer. At the Swannanoa were half a dozen bridal couples,
readily recognizable by the perfect air they had of having been
married a long time. How interesting such young voyagers are, and how
interesting they are to each other! Columbus never discovered such a
large world as they have to find out and possess each in the other.

Among the attractions of the evening it was difficult to choose. There
was a lawn-party advertised at Battery Point (where a fine hotel has
since been built) and we walked up to that round knob after dark. It is
a hill with a grove, which commands a charming view, and was fortified
during the war. We found it illuminated with Chinese lanterns; and
little tables set about under the trees, laden with cake and ice-cream,
offered a chance to the stranger to contribute money for the benefit
of the Presbyterian Church. I am afraid it was not a profitable
entertainment, for the men seemed to have business elsewhere, but the
ladies about the tables made charming groups in the lighted grove. Man
is a stupid animal at best, or he would not make it so difficult for the
womenkind to scrape together a little money for charitable purposes.
But probably the women like this method of raising money better than the
direct one.

The evening gayety of the town was well distributed. When we descended
to the Court-House Square, a great crowd had collected, black, white,
and yellow, about a high platform, upon which four glaring torches
lighted up the novel scene, and those who could read might decipher this
legend on a standard at the back of the stage:

           HAPPY JOHN.
          COME AND SEE HIM!

Happy John, who occupied the platform with Mary, a “bright” yellow girl,
took the comical view of his race, which was greatly enjoyed by his
audience. His face was blackened to the proper color of the stage-darky,
and he wore a flaming suit of calico, the trousers and coat striped
longitudinally according to Punch’s idea of “Uncle Sam,” the coat a
swallow-tail bound and faced with scarlet, and a bell-crowned white
hat. This conceit of a colored Yankee seemed to tickle all colors in
the audience amazingly. Mary, the “bright” woman (this is the universal
designation of the light mulatto), was a pleasing but bold yellow girl,
who wore a natty cap trimmed with scarlet, and had the assured or pert
manner of all traveling sawdust performers.

“Oh, yes,” exclaimed a bright woman in the crowd, “Happy John was sure
enough one of Wade Hampton’s slaves, and he’s right good looking when
he’s not blackened up.”

Happy John sustained the promise of his name by spontaneous gayety and
enjoyment of the fleeting moment; he had a glib tongue and a ready, rude
wit, and talked to his audience with a delicious mingling of impudence,
deference, and patronage, commenting upon them generally, administering
advice and correction in a strain of humor that kept his hearers in a
pleased excitement. He handled the banjo and the guitar alternately,
and talked all the time when he was not singing. Mary (how much harder
featured and brazen a woman is in such a position than a man of the
same caliber!) sang, in an untutored treble, songs of sentiment, often
risque, in solo and in company with John, but with a cold, indifferent
air, in contrast to the rollicking enjoyment of her comrade.

The favorite song, which the crowd compelled her to repeat, touched
lightly the uncertainties of love, expressed in the falsetto pathetic

  “Mary’s gone away wid de coon.”

All this, with the moon, the soft summer night, the mixed crowd of
darkies and whites, the stump eloquence of Happy John, the singing, the
laughter, the flaring torches, made a wild scene. The entertainment was
quite free, with a “collection” occasionally during the performance.

What most impressed us, however, was the turning to account by Happy
John of the “nigger” side of the black man as a means of low comedy,
and the enjoyment of it by all the people of color. They appeared to
appreciate as highly as anybody the comic element in themselves,
and Happy John had emphasized it by deepening his natural color and
exaggerating the “nigger” peculiarities. I presume none of them analyzed
the nature of his infectious gayety, nor thought of the pathos that lay
so close to it, in the fact of his recent slavery, and the distinction
of being one of Wade Hampton’s niggers, and the melancholy mirth of this
light-hearted race’s burlesque of itself.

A performance followed which called forth the appreciation of the crowd
more than the wit of Happy John or the faded songs of the yellow girl.
John took two sweet-cakes and broke each in fine pieces into a saucer,
and after sugaring and eulogizing the dry messes, called for two small
darky volunteers from the audience to come up on the platform and devour
them. He offered a prize of fifteen cents to the one who should first
eat the contents of his dish, not using his hands, and hold up the
saucer empty in token of his victory. The cake was tempting, and the
fifteen cents irresistible, and a couple of boys in ragged shirts and
short trousers and a suspender apiece came up shamefacedly to enter for
the prize. Each one grasped his saucer in both hands, and with face over
the dish awaited the word “go,” which John gave, and started off the
contest with a banjo accompaniment. To pick up with the mouth the dry
cake and choke it down was not so easy as the boys apprehended, but they
went into the task with all their might, gobbling and swallowing as
if they loved cake, occasionally rolling an eye to the saucer of the
contestant to see the relative progress, John strumming, ironically
encouraging, and the crowd roaring. As the combat deepened and the
contestants strangled and stuffed and sputtered, the crowd went into
spasms of laughter. The smallest boy won by a few seconds, holding up
his empty saucer, with mouth stuffed, vigorously trying to swallow, like
a chicken with his throat clogged with dry meal, and utterly unable to
speak. The impartial John praised the victor in mock heroics, but said
that the trial was so even that he would divide the prize, ten cents to
one and five to the other--a stroke of justice that greatly increased
his popularity. And then he dismissed the assembly, saying that he had
promised the mayor to do so early, because he did not wish to run an
opposition to the political meeting going on in the courthouse.

The scene in the large court-room was less animated than that out-doors;
a half-dozen tallow dips, hung on the wall in sconces and stuck on the
judge’s long desk, feebly illuminated the mixed crowd of black and white
who sat in, and on the backs of, the benches, and cast only a fitful
light upon the orator, who paced back and forth and pounded the rail.
It was to have been a joint discussion between the two presidential
electors running in that district, but, the Republican being absent, his
place was taken by a young man of the town. The Democratic orator took
advantage of the absence of his opponent to describe the discussion
of the night before, and to give a portrait of his adversary. He was
represented as a cross between a baboon and a jackass, who would be a
natural curiosity for Barnum. “I intend,” said the orator, “to put
him in a cage and exhibit him about the deestrict.” This political hit
called forth great applause. All his arguments were of this pointed
character, and they appeared to be unanswerable. The orator appeared
to prove that there wasn’t a respectable man in the opposite party who
wasn’t an office-holder, nor a white man of any kind in it who was not
an office-holder. If there were any issues or principles in the canvass,
he paid his audience the compliment of knowing all about them, for he
never alluded to any. In another state of society, such a speech of
personalities might have led to subsequent shootings, but no doubt his
adversary would pay him in the same coin when next they met, and
the exhibition seemed to be regarded down here as satisfactory and
enlightened political canvassing for votes. The speaker who replied,
opened his address with a noble tribute to woman (as the first speaker
had ended his), directed to a dozen of that sex who sat in the gloom of
a corner. The young man was moderate in his sarcasm, and attempted to
speak of national issues, but the crowd had small relish for that sort
of thing. At eleven o’clock, when we got away from the unsavory room
(more than half the candles had gone out), the orator was making slow
headway against the refished blackguardism of the evening. The german
was still “on” at the hotel when we ascended to our chamber, satisfied
that Asheville was a lively town.

The sojourner at Asheville can amuse himself very well by walking or
driving to the many picturesque points of view about the town; livery
stables abound, and the roads are good. The Beau-catcher Hill is always
attractive; and Connolly’s, a private place a couple of miles from
town, is ideally situated, being on a slight elevation in the valley,
commanding the entire circuit of mountains, for it has the air of repose
which is so seldom experienced in the location of a dwelling in America
whence an extensive prospect is given. Or if the visitor is disinclined
to exertion, he may lounge in the rooms of the hospitable Asheville
Club; or he may sit on the sidewalk in front of the hotels, and talk
with the colonels and judges and generals and ex-members of Congress,
the talk generally drifting to the new commercial and industrial life
of the South, and only to politics as it affects these; and he will be
pleased, if the conversation takes a reminiscent turn, with the lack of
bitterness and the tone of friendliness. The negro problem is commonly
discussed philosophically and without heat, but there is always
discovered, underneath, the determination that the negro shall never
again get the legislative upper hand. And the gentleman from South
Carolina who has an upland farm, and is heartily glad slavery is
gone, and wants the negro educated, when it comes to ascendency in
politics--such as the State once experienced--asks you what you would
do yourself. This is not the place to enter upon the politico-social
question, but the writer may note one impression gathered from much
friendly and agreeable conversation. It is that the Southern whites
misapprehend and make a scarecrow of “social equality.” When, during the
war, it was a question at the North of giving the colored people of the
Northern States the ballot, the argument against it used to be stated
in the form of a question: “Do you want your daughter to marry a negro?”
 Well, the negro has his political rights in the North, and there has
come no change in the social conditions whatever. And there is no doubt
that the social conditions would remain exactly as they are at the South
if the negro enjoyed all the civil rights which the Constitution tries
to give him. The most sensible view of this whole question was taken by
an intelligent colored man, whose brother was formerly a representative
in Congress. “Social equality,” he said in effect, “is a humbug. We do
not expect it, we do not want it. It does not exist among the blacks
themselves. We have our own social degrees, and choose our own
associates. We simply want the ordinary civil rights, under which we
can live and make our way in peace and amity. This is necessary to our
self-respect, and if we have not self-respect, it is not to be supposed
that the race can improve. I’ll tell you what I mean. My wife is a
modest, intelligent woman, of good manners, and she is always neat,
and tastefully dressed. Now, if she goes to take the cars, she is not
permitted to go into a clean car with decent people, but is ordered into
one that is repellent, and is forced into company that any refined woman
would shrink from. But along comes a flauntingly dressed woman, of known
disreputable character, whom my wife would be disgraced to know, and
she takes any place that money will buy. It is this sort of thing that

We took the eastern train one evening to Round Nob (Henry’s Station),
some thirty miles, in order to see the wonderful railway that descends,
a distance of eight miles, from the summit of Swannanoa Gap (2657 feet
elevation) to Round Nob Hotel (1607 feet). The Swannanoa Summit is the
dividing line between the waters that flow to the Atlantic and those
that go to the Gulf of Mexico. This fact was impressed upon us by the
inhabitants, who derive a good deal of comfort from it. Such divides are
always matter of local pride. Unfortunately, perhaps, it was too dark
before we reached Henry’s to enable us to see the road in all its loops
and parallels as it appears on the map, but we gained a better effect.
The hotel, when we first sighted it, all its windows blazing with light,
was at the bottom of a well. Beside it--it was sufficiently light to see
that--a column of water sprang straight into the air to the height, as
we learned afterwards from two official sources, of 225 and 265 feet;
and the information was added that it is the highest fountain in the
world. This stout column, stiff as a flagstaff, with its feathery head
of mist gleaming like silver in the failing light, had the most charming
effect. We passed out of sight of hotel and fountain, but were conscious
of being--whirled on a circular descending grade, and very soon they
were in sight again. Again and again they disappeared and came to view,
now on one side and now on the other, until our train seemed to be
bewitched, making frantic efforts by dodgings and turnings, now through
tunnels and now over high pieces of trestle, to escape the inevitable
attraction that was gravitating it down to the hospitable lights at the
bottom of the well. When we climbed back up the road in the morning, we
had an opportunity to see the marvelous engineering, but there is little
else to see, the view being nearly always very limited.

The hotel at the bottom of the ravine, on the side of Round Nob, offers
little in the way of prospect, but it is a picturesque place, and we
could understand why it was full of visitors when we came to the table.
It was probably the best-kept house of entertainment in the State,
and being in the midst of the Black Hills, it offers good chances for
fishing and mountain climbing.

In the morning the fountain, which is, of course, artificial, refused
to play, the rain in the night having washed in debris which clogged the
conduit. But it soon freed itself and sent up for a long time, like
a sulky geyser, mud and foul water. When it got freedom and tolerable
clearness, we noted that the water went up in pulsations, which were
marked at short distances by the water falling off, giving the column
the appearance of a spine. The summit, always beating the air in efforts
to rise higher, fell over in a veil of mist.

There are certain excursions that the sojourner at Asheville must make.
He must ride forty-five miles south through Henderson and Transylvania
to Caesar’s Head, on the South Carolina border, where the mountain
system abruptly breaks down into the vast southern plain; where the
observer, standing on the edge of the precipice, has behind him and
before him the greatest contrast that nature can offer. He must also
take the rail to Waynesville, and visit the much-frequented White
Sulphur Springs, among the Balsam Mountains, and penetrate the Great
Smoky range by way of Quallatown, and make the acquaintance of the
remnant of Cherokee Indians living on the north slope of Cheoah
Mountain. The Professor could have made it a matter of personal merit
that he escaped all these encounters with wild and picturesque nature,
if his horse had not been too disabled for such long jaunts. It is only
necessary, however, to explain to the public that the travelers are not
gormandizers of scenery, and were willing to leave some portions of the
State to the curiosity of future excursionists.

But so much was said about Hickory Nut Gap that a visit to it could not
be evaded. The Gap is about twenty-four miles southeast of Asheville. In
the opinion of a well-informed colonel, who urged us to make the trip,
it is the finest piece of scenery it this region. We were brought up on
the precept “get the best,” and it was with high anticipations that we
set out about eleven o’clock one warm, foggy morning. We followed a very
good road through a broken, pleasant country, gradually growing wilder
and less cultivated. There was heavy rain most of the day on the hills,
and occasionally a shower swept across our path. The conspicuous object
toward which we traveled all the morning was a shapely conical hill at
the beginning of the Gap.

At three o’clock we stopped at the Widow Sherrill’s for dinner. Her
house, only about a mile from the summit, is most picturesquely situated
on a rough slope, giving a wide valley and mountain view. The house
is old rambling, many-roomed, with wide galleries on two sides. If
one wanted a retired retreat for a few days, with good air and fair
entertainment, this could be commended. It is an excellent fruit region;
apples especially are sound and of good flavor. That may be said of all
this part of the State. The climate is adapted to apples, as the hilly
part of New England is. I fancy the fruit ripens slowly, as it does in
New England, and is not subject to quick decay like much of that grown
in the West. But the grape also can be grown in all this mountain
region. Nothing but lack of enterprise prevents any farmer from enjoying
abundance of fruit. The industry carried on at the moment at the Widow
Sherrill’s was the artificial drying of apples for the market. The
apples are pared, cored, and sliced in spirals, by machinery, and
dried on tin sheets in a patented machine. The industry appears to be a
profitable one hereabouts, and is about the only one that calls in the
aid of invention.

While our dinner was preparing, we studied the well-known pictures of
“Jane” and “Eliza,” the photographs of Confederate boys, who had
never returned from the war, and the relations, whom the traveling
photographers always like to pillory in melancholy couples, and some
stray volumes of the Sunday-school Union. Madame Sherrill, who carries
on the farm since the death of her husband, is a woman of strong and
liberal mind, who informed us that she got small comfort in the churches
in the neighborhood, and gave us, in fact, a discouraging account of the
unvital piety of the region.

The descent from the summit of the Gap to Judge Logan’s, nine miles, is
rapid, and the road is wild and occasionally picturesque, following
the Broad River, a small stream when we first overtook it, but roaring,
rocky, and muddy, owing to frequent rains, and now and then tumbling
down in rapids. The noisy stream made the ride animated, and an
occasional cabin, a poor farmhouse, a mill, a schoolhouse, a store
with an assemblage of lean horses tied to the hitching rails, gave the
Professor opportunity for remarks upon the value of life under such

The valley which we followed down probably owes its celebrity to
the uncommon phenomena of occasional naked rocks and precipices. The
inclosing mountains are from 3000 to 4000 feet high, and generally
wooded. I do not think that the ravine would be famous in a country
where exposed ledges and buttressing walls of rock are common. It is
only by comparison with the local scenery that this is remarkable. About
a mile above judge Logan’s we caught sight, through the trees, of the
famous waterfall. From the top of the high ridge on the right, a nearly
perpendicular cascade pours over the ledge of rocks and is lost in the
forest. We could see nearly the whole of it, at a great height above us,
on the opposite side of the river, and it would require an hour’s stiff
climb to reach its foot. From where we viewed it, it seemed a slender
and not very important, but certainly a very beautiful cascade, a band
of silver in the mass of green foliage. The fall is said to be 1400
feet. Our colonel insists that it is a thousand. It may be, but the
valley where we stood is at least at an elevation of 1300 feet; we could
not believe that the ridge over which the water pours is much higher
than 3000 feet, and the length of the fall certainly did not appear
to be a quarter of the height of the mountain from our point of
observation. But we had no desire to belittle this pretty cascade,
especially when we found that Judge Logan would regard a foot abated
from the 1400 as a personal grievance. Mr. Logan once performed the
functions of local judge, a Republican appointment, and he sits around
the premises now in the enjoyment of that past dignity and of the fact
that his wife is postmistress. His house of entertainment is at the
bottom of the valley, a place shut in, warm, damp, and not inviting to a
long stay, although the region boasts a good many natural curiosities.

It was here that we encountered again the political current, out of
which we had been for a month. The Judge himself was reticent, as became
a public man, but he had conspicuously posted up a monster prospectus,
sent out from Augusta, of a campaign life of Blaine and Logan, in which
the Professor read, with shaking knees, this sentence: “Sure to be the
greatest and hottest [campaign and civil battle] ever known in this
world. The thunder of the supreme struggle and its reverberations will
shake the continents for months, and will be felt from Pole to Pole.”

For this and other reasons this seemed a risky place to be in. There
was something sinister about the murky atmosphere, and a suspicion of
mosquitoes besides. Had there not been other travelers staying here, we
should have felt still more uneasy. The house faced Bald Mountain, 4000
feet high, a hill that had a very bad reputation some years ago, and
was visited by newspaper reporters. This is, in fact, the famous Shaking
Mountain. For a long time it had a habit of trembling, as if in an
earthquake spasm, but with a shivering motion very different from that
produced by an earthquake. The only good that came of it was that it
frightened all the “moonshiners,” and caused them to join the church. It
is not reported what became of the church afterwards. It is believed now
that the trembling was caused by the cracking of a great ledge on the
mountain, which slowly parted asunder. Bald Mountain is the scene of
Mrs. Burnett’s delightful story of “Louisiana,” and of the play of
“Esmeralda.” A rock is pointed out toward the summit, which the beholder
is asked to see resembles a hut, and which is called “Esmeralda’s
Cottage.” But this attractive maiden has departed, and we did
not discover any woman in the region who remotely answers to her

In the morning we rode a mile and a half through the woods and followed
up a small stream to see the celebrated pools, one of which the Judge
said was two hundred feet deep, and another bottomless. These pools, not
round, but on one side circular excavations, some twenty feet across,
worn in the rock by pebbles, are very good specimens, and perhaps
remarkable specimens, of “pot-holes.” They are, however, regarded here
as one of the wonders of the world. On the way to them we saw beautiful
wild trumpet-creepers in blossom, festooning the trees.

The stream that originates in Hickory Nut Gap is the westernmost
branch of several forks of the Broad, which unite to the southeast in
Rutherford County, flow to Columbia, and reach the Atlantic through the
channel of the Santee. It is not to be confounded with the French Broad,
which originates among the hills of Transylvania, runs northward past
Asheville, and finds its way to the Tennessee through the Warm Springs
Gap in the Bald Mountains. As the French claimed ownership of all the
affluents of the Mississippi, this latter was called the French Broad.

It was a great relief the next morning, on our return, to rise out of
the lifeless atmosphere of the Gap into the invigorating air at the
Widow Sherrill’s, whose country-seat is three hundred feet higher than
Asheville. It was a day of heavy showers, and apparently of leisure to
the scattered population; at every store and mill was a congregation of
loafers, who had hitched their scrawny horses and mules to the fences,
and had the professional air of the idler and gossip the world over. The
vehicles met on the road were a variety of the prairie schooner, long
wagons with a top of hoops over which is stretched a cotton cloth. The
wagons are without seats, and the canvas is too low to admit of sitting
upright, if there were. The occupants crawl in at either end, sit or
lie on the bottom of the wagon, and jolt along in shiftless

Riding down the French Broad was one of the original objects of our
journey. Travelers with the same intention may be warned that the route
on horseback is impracticable. The distance to the Warm Springs is
thirty-seven miles; to Marshall, more than halfway, the road is clear,
as it runs on the opposite side of the river from the railway, and the
valley is something more than river and rails. But below Marshall the
valley contracts, and the rails are laid a good portion of the way in
the old stage road. One can walk the track, but to ride a horse over its
sleepers and culverts and occasional bridges, and dodge the trains,
is neither safe nor agreeable. We sent our horses round--the messenger
taking the risk of leading them, between trains, over the last six or
eight miles,--and took the train.

The railway, after crossing a mile or two of meadows, hugs the river
all the way. The scenery is the reverse of bold. The hills are low,
monotonous in form, and the stream winds through them, with many a
pretty turn and “reach,” with scarcely a ribbon of room to spare on
either side. The river is shallow, rapid, stony, muddy, full of rocks,
with an occasional little island covered with low bushes. The rock seems
to be a clay formation, rotten and colored. As we approach Warm Springs
the scenery becomes a little bolder, and we emerge into the open space
about the Springs through a narrower defile, guarded by rocks that are
really picturesque in color and splintered decay, one of them being
known, of course, as the “Lover’s Leap,” a name common in every part
of the modern or ancient world where there is a settlement near a
precipice, with always the same legend attached to it.

There is a little village at Warm Springs, but the hotel--since burned
and rebuilt--(which may be briefly described as a palatial shanty)
stands by itself close to the river, which is here a deep, rapid, turbid
stream. A bridge once connected it with the road on the opposite bank,
but it was carried away three or four years ago, and its ragged butments
stand as a monument of procrastination, while the stream is crossed by
means of a flatboat and a cable. In front of the hotel, on the slight
slope to the river, is a meager grove of locusts. The famous spring,
close to-the stream, is marked only by a rough box of wood and an
iron pipe, and the water, which has a temperature of about one hundred
degrees, runs to a shabby bath-house below, in which is a pool for
bathing. The bath is very agreeable, the tepid water being singularly
soft and pleasant. It has a slightly sulphurous taste. Its good effects
are much certified. The grounds, which might be very pretty with care,
are ill-kept and slatternly, strewn with debris, as if everything was
left to the easy-going nature of the servants. The main house is
of brick, with verandas and galleries all round, and a colonnade
of thirteen huge brick and stucco columns, in honor of the thirteen
States,--a relic of post-Revolutionary times, when the house was the
resort of Southern fashion and romance. These columns have stood through
one fire, and perhaps the recent one, which swept away the rest of
the structure. The house is extended in a long wooden edifice, with
galleries and outside stairs, the whole front being nearly seven hundred
feet long. In a rear building is a vast, barrack-like dining-room, with
a noble ball-room above, for dancing is the important occupation of

The situation is very pretty, and the establishment has a
picturesqueness of its own. Even the ugly little brick structure near
the bath-house imposes upon one as Wade Hampton’s cottage. No doubt
we liked the place better than if it had been smart, and enjoyed the
neglige condition, and the easy terms on which life is taken there.
There was a sense of abundance in the sight of fowls tiptoeing about the
verandas, and to meet a chicken in the parlor was a sort of guarantee
that we should meet him later on in the dining-room. There was nothing
incongruous in the presence of pigs, turkeys, and chickens on the
grounds; they went along with the good-natured negro-service and the
general hospitality; and we had a mental rest in the thought that all
the gates would have been off the hinges, if there had been any gates.
The guests were very well treated indeed, and were put under no sort of
restraint by discipline. The long colonnade made an admirable promenade
and lounging-place and point of observation. It was interesting to watch
the groups under the locusts, to see the management of the ferry, the
mounting and dismounting of the riding-parties, and to study the colors
on the steep hill opposite, halfway up which was a neat cottage and
flower-garden. The type of people was very pleasantly Southern. Colonels
and politicians stand in groups and tell stories, which are followed by
explosions of laughter; retire occasionally into the saloon, and come
forth reminded of more stories, and all lift their hats elaborately and
suspend the narratives when a lady goes past. A company of soldiers from
Richmond had pitched its tents near the hotel, and in the evening the
ball-room was enlivened with uniforms. Among the graceful dancers--and
every one danced well, and with spirit was pointed out the young widow
of a son of Andrew Johnson, whose pretty cottage overlooks the village.
But the Professor, to whom this information was communicated, doubted
whether here it was not a greater distinction to be the daughter of the
owner of this region than to be connected with a President of the United

A certain air of romance and tradition hangs about the French Broad and
the Warm Springs, which the visitor must possess himself of in order to
appreciate either. This was the great highway of trade and travel. At
certain seasons there was an almost continuous procession of herds of
cattle and sheep passing to the Eastern markets, and of trains of big
wagons wending their way to the inviting lands watered by the Tennessee.
Here came in the summer-time the Southern planters in coach and four,
with a great retinue of household servants, and kept up for months that
unique social life, a mixture of courtly ceremony and entire freedom,
the civilization which had the drawing-room at one end and the
negro-quarters at the other,--which has passed away. It was a
continuation into our own restless era of the manners and the literature
of George the Third, with the accompanying humor and happy-go-lucky
decadence of the negro slaves. On our way down we saw on the river-bank,
under the trees, the old hostelry, Alexander’s, still in decay,--an
attractive tavern, that was formerly one of the notable stopping-places
on the river. Master, and fine lady, and obsequious, larking darky,
and lumbering coach, and throng of pompous and gay life, have all
disappeared. There was no room in this valley for the old institutions
and for the iron track.

  “When in the chronicle of wasted time
   I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
   And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
   In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
   We, which now behold these present days,
   Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.”

This perverted use of noble verse was all the response the Friend got
in his attempt to drop into the sentimental vein over the past of the
French Broad.

The reader must not think there is no enterprise in this sedative and
idle resort. The conceited Yankee has to learn that it is not he alone
who can be accused of the thrift of craft. There is at the Warm Springs
a thriving mill for crushing and pulverizing barites, known vulgarly as
heavy-spar. It is the weight of this heaviest of minerals, and not
its lovely crystals, that gives it value. The rock is crushed, washed,
sorted out by hand, to remove the foreign substances, then ground and
subjected to acids, and at the end of the process it is as white and
fine as the best bolted flour. This heavy adulterant is shipped to the
North in large quantities,--the manager said he had recently an order
for a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of it. What is the use of this
powder? Well, it is of use to the dealer who sells white lead for paint,
to increase the weight of the lead, and it is the belief hereabouts that
it is mixed with powdered sugar. The industry is profitable to those
engaged in it.

It was impossible to get much information about our route into
Tennessee, except that we should go by Paint Rock, and cross
Paint Mountain. Late one morning,--a late start is inevitable
here,--accompanied by a cavalcade, we crossed the river by the rope
ferry, and trotted down the pretty road, elevated above the stream
and tree-shaded, offering always charming glimpses of swift water and
overhanging foliage (the railway obligingly taking the other side of the
river), to Paint Rock,--six miles. This Paint Rock is a naked precipice
by the roadside, perhaps sixty feet high, which has a large local
reputation. It is said that its face shows painting done by the Indians,
and hieroglyphics which nobody can read. On this bold, crumbling cliff,
innumerable visitors have written their names. We stared at it a good
while to discover the paint and hieroglyphics, but could see nothing
except iron stains. Round the corner is a farmhouse and place of call
for visitors, a neat cottage, with a display of shells and minerals and
flower-pots; and here we turned north crossed the little stream called
Paint River, the only clear water we had seen in a month, passed into
the State of Tennessee, and by a gentle ascent climbed Paint Mountain.
The open forest road, with the murmur of the stream below, was
delightfully exhilarating, and as we rose the prospect opened,--the
lovely valley below, Bald Mountains behind us, and the Butt Mountains
rising as we came over the ridge.

Nobody on the way, none of the frowzy women or unintelligent men, knew
anything of the route, or could give us any information of the country
beyond. But as we descended in Tennessee the country and the farms
decidedly improved,--apple-trees and a grapevine now and then.

A ride of eight miles brought us to Waddle’s, hungry and disposed
to receive hospitality. We passed by an old farm building to a new
two-storied, gayly painted house on a hill. We were deceived by
appearances. The new house, with a new couple in it, had nothing to
offer us except some buttermilk. Why should anybody be obliged to feed
roving strangers? As to our horses, the young woman with a baby in her
arms declared,

“We’ve got nothing for stock but roughness; perhaps you can get
something at the other house.”

“Roughness,” we found out at the other house, meant hay in this region.
We procured for the horses a light meal of green oats, and for our own
dinner we drank at the brook and the Professor produced a few sonnets.
On this sustaining repast we fared on nearly twelve miles farther,
through a rolling, good farming country, offering little for comment,
in search of a night’s lodging with one of the brothers Snap. But one
brother declined our company on the plea that his wife was sick, and the
other because his wife lived in Greenville, and we found ourselves
as dusk came on without shelter in a tavernless land. Between the two
refusals we enjoyed the most picturesque bit of scenery of the day, at
the crossing of Camp Creek, a swift little stream, that swirled round
under the ledge of bold rocks before the ford. This we learned was a
favorite camp-meeting ground. Mary was calling the cattle home at the
farm of the second Snap. It was a very peaceful scene of rural life, and
we were inclined to tarry, but Mary, instead of calling us home with the
cattle, advised us to ride on to Alexander’s before it got dark.

It is proper to say that at Alexander’s we began to see what this
pleasant and fruitful country might be, and will be, with thrift and
intelligent farming. Mr. Alexander is a well-to-do farmer, with plenty
of cattle and good barns (always an evidence of prosperity), who owes
his success to industry and an open mind to new ideas. He was a Unionist
during the war, and is a Democrat now, though his county (Greene) has
been Republican. We had been riding all the afternoon through good land,
and encountering a better class of farmers. Peach-trees abounded (though
this was an off year for fruit), and apples and grapes throve. It is
a land of honey and of milk. The persimmon flourishes; and,
sign of abundance generally, we believe, great flocks of
turkey-buzzards--majestic floaters in the high air--hovered about.
This country was ravaged during the war by Unionists and Confederates
alternately, the impartial patriots as they passed scooping in corn,
bacon, and good horses, leaving the farmers little to live on. Mr.
Alexander’s farm cost him forty dollars an acre, and yields good crops
of wheat and maize. This was the first house on our journey where at
breakfast we had grace before meat, though there had been many tables
that needed it more. From the door the noble range of the Big Bald is in
sight and not distant; and our host said he had a shanty on it, to which
he was accustomed to go with his family for a month or six weeks in the
summer and enjoy a real primitive woods life.

Refreshed by this little touch of civilization, and with horses well
fed, we rode on next morning towards Jonesboro, over a rolling, rather
unpicturesque country, but ennobled by the Big Bald and Butt ranges,
which we had on our right all day. At noon we crossed the Nollechucky
River at a ford where the water was up to the saddle girth, broad,
rapid, muddy, and with a treacherous stony bottom, and came to the
little hamlet of Boylesville, with a flour-mill, and a hospitable
old-fashioned house, where we found shelter from the heat of the hot
day, and where the daughters of the house, especially one pretty girl in
a short skirt and jaunty cap, contradicted the currently received
notion that this world is a weary pilgrimage. The big parlor, with its
photographs and stereoscope, and bits of shell and mineral, a piano and
a melodeon, and a coveted old sideboard of mahogany, recalled rural New
England. Perhaps these refinements are due to the Washington College (a
school for both sexes), which is near. We noted at the tables in this
region a singular use of the word fruit. When we were asked, Will you
have some of the fruit? and said Yes, we always got applesauce.

Ten miles more in the late afternoon brought us to Jonesboro, the oldest
town in the State, a pretty place, with a flavor of antiquity, set
picturesquely on hills, with the great mountains in sight. People from
further South find this an agreeable summering place, and a fair hotel,
with odd galleries in front and rear, did not want company. The Warren
Institute for negroes has been flourishing here ever since the war.

A ride of twenty miles next day carried us to Union. Before noon we
forded the Watauga, a stream not so large as the Nollechucky, and were
entertained at the big brick house of Mr. Devault, a prosperous and
hospitable farmer. This is a rich country. We had met in the morning
wagon-loads of watermelons and muskmelons, on the way to Jonesboro, and
Mr. Devault set abundance of these refreshing fruits before us as we
lounged on the porch before dinner.

It was here that we made the acquaintance of a colored woman, a
withered, bent old pensioner of the house, whose industry (she excelled
any modern patent apple-parer) was unabated, although she was by her own
confession (a woman, we believe, never owns her age till she has passed
this point) and the testimony of others a hundred years old. But age
had not impaired the brightness of her eyes, nor the limberness of her
tongue, nor her shrewd good sense. She talked freely about the want of
decency and morality in the young colored folks of the present day. It
was n’t so when she was a girl. Long, long time ago, she and her husband
had been sold at sheriff’s sale and separated, and she never had another
husband. Not that she blamed her master so much he could n’t help it;
he got in debt. And she expounded her philosophy about the rich, and the
danger they are in. The great trouble is that when a person is rich, he
can borrow money so easy, and he keeps drawin’ it out of the bank and
pilin’ up the debt, like rails on top of one another, till it needs a
ladder to get on to the pile, and then it all comes down in a heap, and
the man has to begin on the bottom rail again. If she’d to live her life
over again, she’d lay up money; never cared much about it till now. The
thrifty, shrewd old woman still walked about a good deal, and kept her
eye on the neighborhood. Going out that morning she had seen some fence
up the road that needed mending, and she told Mr. Devault that she
didn’t like such shiftlessness; she didn’t know as white folks was much
better than colored folks. Slavery? Yes, slavery was pretty bad--she had
seen five hundred niggers in handcuffs, all together in a field, sold to
be sent South.

About six miles from here is a beech grove of historical interest, worth
a visit if we could have spared the time. In it is the large beech (six
and a half feet around six feet from the ground) on which Daniel Boone
shot a bear, when he was a rover in this region. He himself cut
an inscription on the tree recording his prowess, and it is still
distinctly legible:


This tree is a place of pilgrimage, and names of people from all parts
of the country are cut on it, until there is scarcely room for any more
records of such devotion. The grove is ancient looking, the trees are
gnarled and moss-grown. Hundreds of people go there, and the trees are
carved all over with their immortal names.

A pleasant ride over a rich rolling country, with an occasional strip of
forest, brought us to Union in the evening, with no other adventure than
the meeting of a steam threshing-machine in the road, with steam
up, clattering along. The devil himself could not invent any machine
calculated to act on the nerves of a horse like this. Jack took one look
and then dashed into the woods, scraping off his rider’s hat but did not
succeed in getting rid of his burden or knocking down any trees.

Union, on the railway, is the forlornest of little villages, with
some three hundred inhabitants and a forlorn hotel, kept by an
ex-stage-driver. The village, which lies on the Holston, has no
drinking-water in it nor enterprise enough to bring it in; not a well
nor a spring in its limits; and for drinking-water everybody crosses the
river to a spring on the other side. A considerable part of the labor
of the town is fetching water over the bridge. On a hill overlooking the
village is a big, pretentious brick house, with a tower, the furniture
of which is an object of wonder to those who have seen it. It belonged
to the late Mrs. Stover, daughter of Andrew Johnson. The whole family of
the ex-President have departed this world, but his memory is still green
in this region, where he was almost worshiped--so the people say in
speaking of him.

Forlorn as was the hotel at Union, the landlord’s daughters were
beginning to draw the lines in rural refinement. One of them had been at
school in Abingdon. Another, a mature young lady of fifteen, who waited
on the table, in the leisure after supper asked the Friend for a light
for her cigarette, which she had deftly rolled.

“Why do you smoke?”

“So as I shan’t get into the habit of dipping. Do you think dipping is

The traveler was compelled to say that he did not, though he had seen a
good deal of it wherever he had been.

“All the girls dips round here. But me and my sisters rather smoke than
get in a habit of dipping.”

To the observation that Union seemed to be a dull place:

“Well, there’s gay times here in the winter--dancing. Like to dance?
Well, I should say! Last winter I went over to Blountsville to a dance
in the court-house; there was a trial between Union and Blountsville for
the best dancing. You bet I brought back the cake and the blue ribbon.”

The country was becoming too sophisticated, and the travelers hastened
to the end of their journey. The next morning Bristol, at first over a
hilly country with magnificent oak-trees,--happily not girdled, as these
stately monarchs were often seen along the roads in North Carolina,--and
then up Beaver Creek, a turbid stream, turning some mills. When a closed
woolen factory was pointed out to the Professor (who was still traveling
for Reform), as the result of the agitation in Congress, he said, Yes,
the effect of agitation was evident in all the decayed dams and ancient
abandoned mills we had seen in the past month.

Bristol is mainly one long street, with some good stores, but generally
shabby, and on this hot morning sleepy. One side of the street is in
Tennessee, the other in Virginia. How handy for fighting this would have
been in the war, if Tennessee had gone out and Virginia stayed in. At
the hotel--may a kind Providence wake it up to its responsibilities--we
had the pleasure of reading one of those facetious handbills which the
great railway companies of the West scatter about, the serious humor of
which is so pleasing to our English friends. This one was issued by the
accredited agents of the Ohio and Mississippi Railway, and dated April
1, 1984. One sentence will suffice:

“Allow us to thank our old traveling friends for the many favors in our
line, and if you are going on your bridal trip, or to see your girl out
West, drop in at the general office of the Ohio and Mississippi Railway
and we will fix you up in Queen Anne style. Passengers for Dakota,
Montana, or the Northwest will have an overcoat and sealskin cap thrown
in with all tickets sold on or after the above date.”

The great republic cannot yet take itself seriously. Let us hope the
humors of it will last another generation. Meditating on this, we hailed
at sundown the spires of Abingdon, and regretted the end of a journey
that seems to have been undertaken for no purpose.

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