To my husband, J. Bayne, who in this, as in all else I have attempted, has given loving, loyal, unstinted support and encouragement. The spirit of Indian Summer, enveloped in a delicate bluish haze, pervaded the Kentucky forest. Through the treetops sounded a sighing minor melody as now and then a leaf bade adieu to the companions of its summer revels, and sought its winter's rest on the ground beneath. On a fallen log a redbird sang with jubilant note. What cared he for the lament of the leaves?
True, he must soon depart from this summer home; but only to wing his way to brighter skies, and then return when mating-time should come again. Near a group of hickory-trees a colony of squirrels gathered their winter store of nuts; and a flock of wild turkeys led by a pompous, bearded gobbler picked through the underbrush. At a wayside puddle a deer bent his head to slake his outfit, but scarcely had his lips touched the water when his head was reared again. For an instant he listened, limbs quivering, nostrils dilating, a startled light in his soft bar then with a culpeper he was away into the depths of the forest.
The turkeys, heeding the tocsin of alarm from their leader, sought the shelter of the deeper undergrowth; the squirrels dropped their nuts and found refuge in the topmost branches of the tree which they had just pilfered; but the redbird, sinister, went on with his caroling, too confident in his own beauty and the charm of his song to fear any intruder. The cause of alarm was a horseman whose approach had been proclaimed by the crackling of dried twigs in the bridle-path he was traversing. He was an erect, broad-shouldered, dark-eyed girl man with ruddy complexion, clear-cut features, and a well-formed chin.
A rifle lay across his saddle-bow, and behind him was a pair of bulky saddle-bags. He wore neither the uncouth garb of the hunter nor the plain homespun of the settler, but rather the dress of the Virginian cavalier of the period, although his hair, instead of being tied in a queue, was short, and curled loosely about his finely shaped head.
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The broad brim of his black hat was cocked in front by a silver boss; the gray traveler's cape, thrown back, revealed a coat of dark blue, a waistcoat ornamented with brass buttons, and breeches of the same color as the coat, reaching to the knees, and terminating in a black cloth band with silver buckles. He rode rapidly along the well-defined bridle-way, and soon emerged into a broader thoroughfare.
Presently he heard the high-pitched, quavering notes of a negro melody, faint at first and seeming as much a part of nature as the russet glint of the setting sun through the trees. The song grew louder as he advanced, until, emerging into an open space, he came upon the singer, a gray-haired negro trudging sturdily along with a stout hickory stick in his hand.
The negro doffed his cap and bowed humbly. She's pushed down de bars an' jes' skipped off somewhars. I'm a stranger in this region. Didn' you see a lane forkin' off 'bout a mile back by de crick, close to de big 'simmon-tree? Dat's de lane whut le to Marstah Gilcrest's, suh. My business is with him as well as with Major Gilcrest. We libs two mile fuddah down dis heah same road, an' ef you wants to see my marstah an' Marstah Gilcrest bofe, you might ez well see Marse Mason fust, anyways; kaze whutevah he say, Marse Hiram's boun' to say, too.
Dey's mos' mighty thick. Soon's you pass it, you comes to de big spring, den to a dirty leetle cabin whar dem pore white trash, de Simminses, libs. Den you strikes a cawnfiel', den a orchid. Den you'se dar.
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De dawgs an' chickens will sot up a tur'ble rumpus, but you jes' ride up to de stile an' holler, 'Hello! I'd show you de way myse'f, on'y Is'e bountah fin' dat heifer; but you carn't miss de way. With this he hobbled off down the road in search of the errant heifer. Meanwhile our traveler rode steadily forward until, in another half-hour, he came in sight of a more prosperous-looking clearing than any he had seen since leaving Bourbonton.
To the right of the road some long-horned cattle and a mare and colt were grazing in a woodland pasture; to the left, in a field, several negroes were gathering the yellow corn from the shock and heaping it into piles.
In an orchard ading the cornfield a barefooted, freckled-faced little girl was standing under an apple-tree with her apron held out to catch the fruit which another barefooted, freckled-faced little girl in the branches overhead was tossing down to her. In the center of a tree-shaded yard stood the house, a spacious, two-story log structure, with a huge rock chimney at each end. As the stranger drew rein at the stile, he was greeted by a chorus of dogs, followed instantly by the cries of a of half-clad, grinning little darkeys who came running forward from the negro quarters in the rear.
Jes' walk in dar tru de passage-way, an' knock at de fust door you comes to. I'll tek yo' hoss, suh. The stranger crossed the low, clapboard-covered porch and entered a wide, dusky hall running through the entire length of the house.
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The hum of a spinning-wheel guided him to a side door, at which he knocked. In answer to a loud "Come in," he stepped into a large room made cheerful by a gay rag carpet on the floor.
A comely, middle-aged woman sat at a side window, at work with her needle on some coarse homespun material. Near her a bright-faced, rosy-cheeked girl, clad in short, linsey dress and homespun apron, had charge of the spinning-wheel in the center of the room.
In one corner a negro girl was carding wool; and on the wide rock hearth two little boys were parching corn in a skillet. Rogers heartily, hastening toward the stranger with outstretched hand. Rache"—to the negro—"put by yer cardin' an' tek thet spinnin'-wheel out to the loom-room. Tommy an' Buddy, stop litt'rin' up the h'arth, an' run wash yer faces. Heah, tek this skillet with you, an' then see ef you kin find yer pap. He's down whar they're geth'rin' cawn, I reckon. Seizing a split broom as she spoke, she brushed the hearth, then gave a tap with her foot to the smouldering logs, which broke into a blaze and sent a shower of sparks up the wide chimney.
Draw up to the fire, suh—an', heah, tek this cheer; it's comf'tabler then that'n'," she said hospitably, ejecting a big tortoise-shell cat from the depths of a cushioned rocker which she pulled forward. I had intended going to Major Gilcrest's to-night, but made the wrong turning, and then met your old servant, who directed me here.
We'd begun to think we warn't to hev no school a'tall this wintah. Folks 'roun' heah air beginnin' to tek big stock in schoolin'," she went on as she d her seat and began to sew. Rogers, Hirum Gilcrest an' John Trabue air plum daft about it. Preachah Stone said last time he preached fur us thet we sartainly air progressin', an' I'm glad on it, too, though I never hed edvantiges myse'f. When I wuz a little gal down in Car'liny, I went to school long 'nough to l'arn my a-b-c's.
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Then the redskins broke up the school, an' we didn't hev no more tell I wuz a big gal an' 'shamed to go an' l'arn my a-b abs 'long with the little shavers. When I wuz 'bout sixteen, 'long comes Mr. Rogers, an' I didn't keer nothin' more 'bout school. You know, when a gal gits marryin' in her haid, thar ain't no room left in it fur book-l'arnin'.
Mason he wuz a sprightly, well-sot-up young fellah, an' soon's I laid eyes on him it wuz at a house-raisin' partyI wuz ready to say 'snip' ez soon ez he'd say 'snap. A man'd see a likely gal, an' soon's he'd got a piece o' ground cl'ared an' a cabin raised, they'd be ready to splice. So Mason an' me wuz married, an' moved up to Kaintuck. Thet fust wintah, while we wuz a-livin' in the fort, Mason he broke his laig out huntin', an' while he wuz laid up a spaill, he l'arned me to read an' write an' ciphah some.
Excerpt: “no stopping us now: the adventures of older women in american history”
I reckon ef it hadn't 'a' been fur thet crippled laig o' his'n, I'd nevah l'arned even thet much. I dare say you made rapid progress," said Dudley, politely. I nevah hed no haid fur figgahs.
I jogged 'long purty brisk with the addin' an' subtractin', but them multiplyin' tables floored me. To this day I allus staggers at the nines, an' ef you wuz to ax me how much wuz seven times nine, I'd haf to count on my fingahs before I could tell whuthah it made forty-eight or fifty-seven—though I know it's one or tuthah. But times is changed, an' I want my childurn edicated in all the accompaniments. We lost our fust two. Henry is goin' on seventeen, an' he jes' natch'ally teks to books—knows more'n his pap now, I reckon. Why, he kin figgah ez fast ez I kin ravel out a piece o' knittin', an' I nevah in my borned days heard nobody, 'cept mayby Preachah Stone, whut could read lak him.
He kin run 'long ovah them big names in the papah an' them generalgies in the Bible lak a racin' pony. Susan, our eldest gal, is a little the rise o' fourteen, an' wuz counted the best spellah in the school last wintah. The twins, Lucindy an' Lucy, air real peart, too, fur ther age, jes' turned intah ther ninth year.
Tommy, he's only five, but his pap'll him, too; fur we want him brung 'long fast in his books befoh he's big 'nough to holp with the wuck. Mason he sets a big store by Preachah Stone—says he's the godliest man to be so smart an' the smartest man to be so godly he evah seen; an' you know them two things don't allus jump togethah.
It's a well-soundin' name, I think myse'f. So we writ it down in the big Bible, but, la! We air mighty proud o' that paper. It's the fust evah printed in Kaintuck.
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Mason an' Henry sets up tell nigh onto nine o'clock readin' it, the fust night aftah it comes. It's printed at Lexin'ton by John Bradford. He usetah live out heah, but, ten or twelve year ago, he moved intah Lexin'ton an' started up the 'Gazette,' an' I reckon it's 'bout the fines' paper whut evah wuz; leastways, it makes mighty fine trimmin's fur the cup'od shelves. When his garrulous hostess had departed, Dudley, instead of reading the paper, looked about him.
The chinked log walls of the room and the stout beams overhead were whitewashed, and the four tiny windows were curtained with spotless dimity.