Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

edifice, and the difficulties which beset the builders of Montacute.

“ No brick come yet, sir ! Dibble couldn't get no white wood lumber at I- -, (thirty miles off, so he stopt and got what lime there was at Jones's ; but they hadn't only four bushels, and they wouldn't burn again till week after next; and that 'ere sash that came from

is all of three inches too large for the window frames; and them doors was made of such green stuff, that they won't go together no how."

“ Well, you can go on with the roof surely!

“Why, so we could ; but you know, sir, oak-shingle wouldn't answer for the mill, and there's no pine shingle short of Detroit.” “ Can't the dwelling-house be raised to-day then?

Why, we calc'lated to raise to-day, sir ; but that fellow never came to dig the cellar."

6 Go on with the blacksmith's shop, then, since no. thing else can be done."

“ Yes, sir, certainly. Shall we take that best white wood siding ? for you know the oak siding never came from Tacker's mill.”

“ Send Thomson for it, then.”

6 Well, Thomson's best horse is so lame that he can't use him to-day, and the other is a-drawin' tim. ber for the dam." 6 Let John

go
with
my

horses." “ John's wife's sick, and he's got your horses and gone for the doctor.”

But if I should fill pages with these delays and disappointments, I should still fail to give any idea of the real vexations of an attempt to build on any but the smallest scale in a new country. You discover a thousand requisites that you had never thought of, and it is well if you do not come to the angry conclusion that every body is in league against you and your plans. Perhaps the very next day after you have by extra personal exertion, an offer of extra price, or a bonus in some other form, surmounted some prodi. gious obstacle, you walk down to survey operations with a comfortable feeling of self.gratulation, and find yourself in complete solitude, every soul having gone off to election or town meeting. No matter at what distance these important affairs are transacted, so fair an excuse for a ploy can never pass unimproved ; and the virtuous indignation which is called forth by any attempt at dissuading one of the sovereigns from exer. cising “ the noblest privilege of a freeman,” to forward your business and his own, is most amusingly provoking.

I once ventured to say, in my feminine capacity merely, and by way of experiment, to a man whose family I knew to be suffering for want of the ordinary comforts :

“ I should suppose it must be a great sacrifice for you, Mr. Fenwick, to spend two days in going to elec

tion."

The reply was given with the air of Forrest's Wil. liam Tell, and in a tone which would have rejoiced Miss Martineau's heart—“ Yes, to be sure ; but ought not a man to do his duty to his country ? ”

This was unanswerable, of course. I hope it consoled poor

Mrs. Fenwick, whose tattered gown would have been handsomely renewed by those two days' wages.

. As may be conjectured from the foregoing slight

sketch of our various thwartings and hinderances, the neat framed house which had been pictured on my mind's eye so minutely, and which I coveted with such enthusiasm, was not built in a month, nor in two, nor yet in three ;-but I anticipate again.

The circumstance of living all summer, in the same apartment with a cooking fire, I had never happened to see alluded to in any of the elegant sketches of western life which had fallen under my notice. It was not until I actually became the inmate of a log dwell. ing in the wilds, that I realized fully what “ living all in one room” meant. The sleeping apparatus for the children and the sociable Angeline, were in the loft ; but my own bed, with its cunning fence of curtains ; my bureau, with its " Alps on Alps” of boxes and books ; my entire cooking array ; my centre-table, which bore, sad change! the remains of to-day's dinner, and the preparations for to-morrow, all covered mysteriously under a large cloth, the only refuge from the mice: these and ten thousand other things, which a summer's day would not suffice me to enumerate, cumbered this one single apartment; and to crown the whole was the inextinguishable fire, which I had en. tirely forgotten when I magnanimously preferred living in a log-house, to remaining in Detroit till a house could be erected. I had, besides the works to which I have alluded, dwelt with delight on Chateaubriand's Atala, where no such vulgar inconvenience is once hinted at; and my floating visions of a home in the woods were full of important omissions, and always in a Floridian clime, where fruits serve for vivers.

The inexorable dinner hour, which is passed sub silentio in imaginary forests, always recurs, in real woods, with distressing iteration, once in twenty-four hours, as I found to my cost. And the provoking people for whom I had undertaken to provide, seemed to me to get hungry oftener than ever before. There was no end to the bread that the children ate from morning till night—at least it seemed so ; while a tin reflector was my only oven, and the fire required for baking drove us all out of doors.

Washing days, proverbial elsewhere for indescribable horrors, were our times of jubilee. Mrs. Jennings, who long acted as my factotum on these occasions, al. ways performed the entire operation, al fresco, by the side of the creek, with

“A kettle slung
Between two poles, upon a stick transverse.”

I feel much indebted to Cowper for having given a poetical grace to the arrangement. “The shady sha. dow of an umbrageous tree" (I quote from an anonymous author) served for a canopy, and there the bony dame generally made a pic-nic meal, which I took care to render as agreeable as possible, by sending as many different articles as the basket could be persuaded to receive, each contained in that characteristic of the country, a pint bowl.

But, oh! the ironing days! Memory shrinks from the review. Some of the ordinary household affairs could be managed by the aid of a fire made on some large stones at a little distance from the house ; and this did very well when the wind sat in the right quarter; which it did not always, as witness the remains of the pretty pink gingham which fell a sacrifice to my desire for an afternoon cup of coffee. But the ironing and the baking were imperious; and my forest Hecate, who seemed at times to belong to the salamander tribe, always made as much fire as the stick-chimney, with its crumbling clay-lining, would possibly bear. She often succeeded in bringing to a white heat the immense stone which served as a chimney-back, while the deep gaps in the stone hearth, which Alice called the Rocky Mountains, were filled with burning coals out to the very floor. I have sometimes suspected that the woman loved to torment me, but perhaps I wrong her. She was used to it, I dare say, for she looked like one exsiccated in consequence of ceaseless perspiration.

When the day declined, and its business was laid aside, it was our practice to walk to and fro before the door, till the house had been thoroughly cooled by the nightair; and these promenades, usually made pleasant by long talks about home, and laughing conjectures as to what and

would say if they could see our new way of life, were frequently prolonged to a late hour. And to this most imprudent indulgence we could not but trace the agues which soon prostrated most of us.

We had, to be sure, been warned by our eastern friends that we should certainly have the ague, do what we might, but we had seen so many persons who had been settled for years in the open country, and who were yet in perfect health, that we had learned to imagine ourselves secure. I am still of the opinion that care and rational diet will enable most persons to

« ZurückWeiter »