« PreviousContinue »
6 those creatures are partakers with themselves of a common nature.
I can only wish, like other modest chroniclers, my respected prototypes, that so fertile a theme had fallen in. to worthier hands. If Miss Mitford, who has given us such charming glimpses of Aberleigh, Hilton Cross and the Loddon, had by some happy chance been translated to Michigan, what would she not have made of such materials as Tinkerville, Montacute, and the Turnip ? When
my husband purchased two hundred acres of wild land on the banks of this to-be-celebrated stream, and drew with a piece of chalk on the bar-room table at Danforth's the plan of a village, I little thought I was destined to make myself famous by handing down to posterity a faithful record of the advancing fortunes of that favoured spot.
“ The madness of the people" in those days of golden dreams took more commonly the form of city-building ; ! but there were a few who contented themselves with planning villages, on the banks of streams which cer. » tainly never could be expected to bear navies, but which might yet be turned to account in the more homely way of grinding or sawing—operations which must necessarily be performed somewhere for the wellbeing of those very cities. It is of one of these humble attempts that it is my lot to speak, and I make my confession at the outset, warning any fashionable reader who may have taken up my book, that I intend to be • decidedly low."
Whether the purchaser of our village would have been moderate under all possible circumstances, I am not prepared to say, since, never having enjoyed a situa
tion under government, his resources have not been unlimited ;—and for this reason any remark which may be hazarded in the course of these my lucubrations touching the more magnificent plans of wealthier as. pirants, must be received with some grains of allow.
“Il est plus aisé d'être sage pour les autres, que de l'être pour soi-même.”
When I made my first visit to these remote and lonely regions, the scattered woods through which we rode for many miles were gay in their first gosling.green suit of half-opened leaves, and the forest odours which exhaled with the dews of morning and evening, were beyond measure delicious to one long in populous cities pent." I desired much to be a little sentimental at the time, and feel tempted to indulge to some small extent even here—but I forbear; and shall adhere closely to matters more in keeping with my subject.
I think, to be precise, the time was the last, the very last of April, and I recollect well that even at that early season, by availing myself with sedulous application, of those times when I was fain to quit the vehicle through fear of the perilous mud-holes, or still more perilous half-bridged marshes, I picked upwards of twenty varieties of wild-flowers—some of them of rare and delicate beauty ;-and sure I am, that if I had succeeded in inspiring my companion with one spark of my own floral enthusiasm, one hundred miles of travel would have occupied a week's time.
The wild flowers of Michigan deserve a poet of their own. Shelley, who sang so quaintly of the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall,” would have found many a'fanciful comparison and deep-drawn meaning for the
of the road-side. Charles Lamb could have written charming volumes about the humblest among them. Bulwer would find means to associate the common three-leaved white lily so closely with the Past, the Present, and the Future—the Wind, the stars, and the tripod of Delphos, that all future botanists, and eke all future philosophers, might fail to unravel the “ linked sweetness." We must have a poet of our own.
Since I have casually alluded to a Michigan mud-hole, I may as well enter into a detailed memoir on the sub. ject, for the benefit of future travellers, wbo, flying over the soil on rail-roads, may look slightingly back upon the achievements of their predecessors. In the 6 settlements," a mud-hole is considered as apt to occasion an unpleasant jolt-a breaking of the thread of one's reverie—or in extreme cases, a temporary stand-still or even an overturn of the rash or the unwary. Here, on approaching one of these characteristic features of the “ West”-(How much does that expression mean to include ? I never have been able to discover its limits,--the driver stops-alights--walks up to the dark gulf—and around it if he can get round it. He then seeks a long pole and sounds it, measures it across to ascertain how its width compares with the length of his wagon-tries whether its sides are perpendicular, as is usually the case if the road is much used, If he find it not more than three feet deep, he remounts cheerily, encourages his team, and in they go, with a plunge and a shock rather apt to damp the courage of the inexperienced. If the hole be narrow the hinder wheels will be quite lifted off the ground by the depression of their precedents, and so remain until by unwearied
chirruping and some judicious touches of “ the string the horses are induced to struggle as for their lives ; and if the fates are propitious they generally emerge on the opposite side, dragging the vehicle, or at least the fore wheels after them. When I first “ penetrated the interior” (to use an indigenous phrase) all I knew of the wilds was from Hoffman's tour or Captain Hall's “ graphic” delineations : I had some floating idea of “ driving a barouche-and-four anywhere through the oak-openings”—and seeing “ the murdered Banquos of the forest” haunting the scenes of their departed strength and beauty. But I confess, these pictures, touched by the glowing pencil of fancy, gave me but in. correct notions of a real journey through Michigan.
Our vehicle was not perhaps very judiciously chosen; Lat least we have since thought so. It was a light high-hung carriage-of the description commonly known as a buggy or shandrydan-names of which I would be glad to learn the etymology. I seriously ad. vise any of my friends who are about fitting to Wisconsin or Oregon, to prefer a heavy lumber-waggon, even for the use of the ladies of the family; very little aid or consolation being derived from making a “genteel” appearance in such cases.
At the first encounter of such a mud-hole as I have attempted to describe, we stopped in utter despair. My companion indeed would fain have persuaded me that the many wheel tracks which passed through the for. midable gulf were proof positive that it might be forded. I insisted with all a woman's obstinancy that I could not and would not make the attempt, and alighted accordingly, and tried to find a path on one side or the
other. But in vain, even putting out of the question my paper-soled shoes—sensible things for the woods. The ditch on each side was filled with water and quite too wide to jump over; and we were actually contemplat. ing a return, when a man in an immense bear-skin
cap and a suit of deer's hide, sprang from behind a stump just within the edge of the forest. He “ poled” himself over the ditch in a moment, and stood beside us, rifle in hand, as wild and rough a specimen of humanity as one would wish to encounter in a strange and lonely road, just at the shadowy dusk of the evening. I did not scream, though I own I was prodigiously frightened. But our stranger said immediately, in a gentle tone and with a French accent, “ Me watch deer—you want to cross ?" On receiving an answer in the affirmative, he ran in search of a rail which he threw over the terrific mud. hole-aided me to walk across by the help of his pole -showed my husband where to plunge—waited till he had gone safely through apd“ slow circles dimpled o'er the quaking mud”—then took himself off by the way he came, declining any compensation with a most polite « rien, rien !” This instance of true and genuine and generous politeness I record for the benefit of all bearskin caps, leathern jerkins and cowhide boots, which ladies from the eastward world may hereafter encounter in Michigan.
Our journey was marked by no incident more alarm. ing than the one I have related, though one night passed in a wretched inn, deep in the 6 timbered land”-as all woods are called in Michigan-was not without its terrors, owing to the horrible drunkenness of the master of the house, whose wife and children were in constant