| In My Youth|
|by James Baldwin|
|A decidedly different autobiography, originally published under the pseudonym Robert Dudley, eventually revealed to be James Baldwin. A portrayal of life in rural Indiana in the middle of the 19th century it certainly is, but it is so much more. In the words of Mr. Howland, an editor for the original publisher, 'It is difficult to describe just what there is so remarkable about this book, but it is undeniably wonderful. It is literature. It is a strange combination of autobiography and fiction, and records only the simplest happenings -- the life of people in the Indiana backwoods, the primitive life, the commonplace experiences, the visits between neighbors. To tell about it in this way does not make it sound remarkable, yet it is. The style is simple and clear; there is a quiet humor running through it, and in other places the reading brings tears to the eyes.' Ages 10-12 |
O you remember that filly of our Jonathan's?
No? Well, I must have forgotten to tell you, but, no
matter. Jonathan had obtained her from one of those
Kentucky cattle dealers, having taken her in trade for
another and quite inferior animal. Indeed, he got her
at a great bargain because of what was supposed to be a
sprained knee that would probably disable her
permanently from all useful service. Everybody laughed
at him and said that he had made a very, very bad
bargain; but he kept his own counsel, and quietly
remarked that the time might come when people would
laugh on the other side of their faces. He knew a thing
or two about horses—more, in fact, than any one
else except father—and under his wise care not
only was the "sprain" entirely healed, but the young
creature speedily developed into the handsomest and
most spirited bit of horse-flesh ever seen in the New
Settlement. Jonathan loved her with an ardor which was
scarcely second to his admiration for buxom Esther
Lamb; and the attention which he devoted to her called
forth many remarks that were not very complimentary to
"I have sympathy for thy wife, if thee ever gets her,"
remarked father very solemnly; "for I have a feeling
that thee'll be giving the greater portion of thy time
to that filly instead of to her."
 And Cousin Mandy Jane, in one of her pious moods,
mildly expostulated against his apparent idolatry:
"Thee's jist a worshipin' that there critter of thine,
that's what thee's doin'. Thee might jist as well bow
down to a golden calf, like them there Israelites done
in the wilderness."
To which David sagely added: "The tarnal animile ain't
wo'th shucks, nohow. Why, there's Towhead's two leetle
yearlin' steers—they can beat her all to flinders
when it comes to haulin' or plowin'. That there filly
ain't good for nothin' but ridin',—and what's the
good of jist ridin'?"
It was little that Jonathan cared for all this palaver.
By nature he was a fine horseman, and when he mounted
the filly and went galloping down the lane at breakneck
speed, he was so transformed that you would not have
known him. He was no longer the lean, lank, awkward
fellow that he appeared when on foot; but, conscious of
his skill and proud of his accomplishment, he was a
model of equestrian manliness and grace, a veritable
backwoods Apollo on horseback.
The first time that the twin teachers saw him astride
of his spirited and beautiful "critter" they were
unable to find words with which to give expression to
"Does thee know what that puts me in mind of?" finally
asked Patience, as they watched him riding back and
forth within the narrow limits of the barn lot.
"What that puts thee in mind of? No, sister. Tell me,"
answered Charity eagerly.
"It puts me in mind of that beautiful ballad of Walter
Scott's that I used to recite at school. Thee remembers
"Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the West,
Through all the wide Border his steed is the best."
"Oh, sister, thee's right!" and Charity clapped her
hands with delight. "It's young Lochinvar, sure as thee
lives, and he's just getting ready to come out of the
West. Suppose thee recites the whole ballad while the
young man and his steed are right here before our
Accordingly, as the rider approached, Patience began:
"Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the West—"
"Listen, Jonathan," cried Charity. "Sister is going to
recite something about thee."
And so, while the filly pirouetted through the gate and
pranced around the uppin'-block, Patience, in a most
wonderful manner, such as I have never heard surpassed,
repeated the whole of the immortal ballad, while the
rest of us stood with open mouths, listening and
enjoying. Scarcely had she finished when Jonathan, with
conscious pride, gave the word of command to his
impatient steed. She sprang forward, leaped the high
bars—a feat we had never seen performed
before—and in another minute was at the foot of
the lane, was skimming like a swallow along the dusty
big road, and was quickly lost to sight behind the
grove of trees this side of the bend.
"Wonderful! wonderful!" cried both the twins.
Half an hour later, rider and horse returned,
apparently much sobered but none the worse for the
exciting race. The filly was carefully stabled and
groomed, and then Jonathan shambled awkwardly to the
house and sought out the twins. He stood with his hands
in pockets, looking sheepishly at one, then at the
 was unable to tell which was which—and then
addressed them both in the singular:—
"Which one of thee was it that was speakin' that there
piece a bit ago?"
"Perhaps it was I," answered Patience. "What piece does
"Why, the one that thee was a-speakin'. It was about
some tarnal feller that was locked in the bars."
"Locked in the bars?"
"Yes! That's what thee said; and he rid away, with his
gal a-hangin' on ahind."
"Oh, thee means Lochinvar, don't thee?"
"Well, it was somethin' that sounded that way. I
thought I'd like to hear thee say it ag'in.
" 'Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the West,' is
that what thee means?"
"Yes, and I 'd like to hear the whole tarnal thing over
ag'in. I'm afeard I didn't quite ketch all of it, while
ago;" and Jonathan straightened himself up behind the
cookstove to listen.
With a merry zest and quaver of amusement in her voice,
Patience repeated the entire ballad, placing a peculiar
and meaningful emphasis upon the closing lines:—
"So daring in love, and so dauntless in war—
Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?"
Jonathan's face was all aglow. He rubbed his palms
together and remarked, "Well, I reckon there was right
smart punkins about that there young feller. Jist think
of him a-ridin' away with that there gal of his'n
a-hangin' on ahind, and all the rest of them fellers
a-chasin' him. What did thee say his name was?"
"I knowed there was a lock about it somewhere. Now, if
'tain't too much bother to thee, I wish thee would say
it all over ag'in. I'd kinder like to git it by heart."
Patience obligingly repeated it the second time, not
forgetting a single accent, nor omitting a single
gesture. When she had finished, Jonathan turned
abruptly about and left the room. As he was closing the
door, Charity called to him:
"We've got a new name for thee, Jonathan. How would
thee like to be called Lochinvar?"
"I wouldn't keer."
And he disappeared around the corner of the cabin.
At length the day approached for the demolition of the
dear old log cabin and the erection upon its site of
the grand new house which we had long been desiring and
anticipating. The cookstove and cooking utensils,
together with much of the furniture, were removed into
the "big-house"—thereafter to be called the
"kitchen"—and temporary sleeping apartments were
arranged in one end of the barn.
How strange was the appearance of that humble mansion,
my birthplace, when at length all the objects to sight
and memory dear were carried out and nothing remained
but he bare rough walls, the unswept hearth and the
yawning cavern which was formerly the cheer-giving
fireplace! Mother hid her face in her apron, and
despite her inherited stoicism, wept most bitterly.
Father busied himself with the moving, dissembling his
feelings, as was his habit; but I noticed that he
trembled somewhat as he took part in the last sweeping
 garnishing of the home wherein so many hopes and
ambitions had had their upspringing. But neither David
nor Cousin Mandy Jane betrayed any feelings of regret;
to them, it was only the discarding of a worn-out shoe
for a better one and they quietly accepted the change
as another step upward. As for Jonathan, however, he
was really jubilant. He whistled softly in a
self-satisfied way as he walked around the desolate
room, examining the stained old walls and the
smoke-begrimed rafters; and now and then he was heard
to chuckle as if contemplating a treasure trove.
"Well, Lochinvar," said Patience, just returned from
school, "it looks pretty bare in here, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does look kinder so," answered Jonathan. "I
never knowed the old place was so tarnal ugly. But it
won't look that way very long."
"No, not longer than till it's torn down," responded
Patience. "I suppose you will chop the old logs up and
make fire-wood of them. They must be pretty well
seasoned, and they'll burn finely in the cookstove."
"Not much they won't," and Jonathan's face was full of
decision. "Them there logs ain't a-goin' into no
cookstove jist yit a while. They're goin' into a new
"Into a new house? Why, how's that?"
"Hain't thee heerd about it? I'm goin' to haul 'em over
to my forty-acre piece, down by the Four Corners, and
put 'em up ag'in. They'll make a good enough house for
me till I can build a better one. Only I'm goin' to put
another log on top to make it a leetle higher."
"Oh, Lochinvar! How thee surprises me!" cried Patience
with innocent dissimulation. "Does thee
 really mean it? And is thee going to make thee a home
of thy own?"
Jonathan nodded his head emphatically, and grinned.
"Well, then, I s'pose it's all settled," she continued.
"I s'pose thee and Esther Lamb will be giving in at
meeting pretty soon; for of course if thee has a house,
thee'll have to have a housekeeper."
Jonathan smiled broadly, and pulled nervously at his
galluses. He was not used to talking, especially about
his own private affairs; but to-day he felt so jubilant
that his tongue was ready to wag upon the least
"Yes," he presently answered, speaking in a lower and
more confidential tone., "I kinder guess that maybe
Esther will be the housekeeper; but I'm afeared that me
and her won't do no givin' in—leastwise, it don't
look that way jist now."
"Indeed! How is that?" queried Patience, appearing to
be mystified, although she had heard the whole secret
from Cousin Mandy Jane, weeks before. "How can Esther
be thy housekeeper if she ain't thy wife? And how can
she become thy wife if thee and her don't give in
"I reckon they's more'n one way to git spliced," and
the young man gave another hitch to his galluses.
"They's a long way and they's a short way—a long
cut and a short cut."
"But there's only one right way," briskly returned the
twin teacher; "and that is to get married in meeting
according to the Discipline."
"But s'posin' thee cain't do that without a tarnal
fuss!" ejaculated Jonathan. "What's thee goin' to do
 "I tell thee, Lochinvar, there ain't any such word in
the dictionary as cain't, specially when it
comes to getting married. Thee may think it's a pretty
big word with some old maids like me and Charity, but
jist wait till we git a chance. What if that other
Lochinvar had said, "I cain't'? Does thee s'pose his
girl would have ridden away with him? Not a bit of it!"
"That jist what I've been thinkin', and I hain't never
said I cain't. I've allers said I can, and I will."
"But thee says that thee and Esther cain't get married
in meeting, and I say that you can. So there!"
"Well, I'll tell thee, Patience—or Charity, I
don't know which thee is,"—and the young man spoke
very confidentially,—"we cain't never git Old
Enick to say he is willin', and thee knows what the
Discipline says about gittin' the parents'
"Is Enick the parent of Esther?"
"No, but he's her guardeen. She's a Lamb, she hain't no
Fox! But rother'n fuss any longer with Old Enick, me
and her, we've made up our minds to take the short cut.
There's Judge Davis, over to Dashville, he'll do the
whole business for a Mexican dollar and have it over
with in a jiffy. Henry Meredith, he's fixed it all up
with him; and the county clerk, he'll have the license
ready. But thee mustn't tell nobody."
"Oh, Lochinvar!" and her tones were filled with
reproach, "does thee realized how awful it will be to
go and get married in that way? Thee will be turned out
of meeting—disowned by Our Society, as the
Discipline directs—and then what will
become of thee? Thee'll be like a sheep without any
"Well, I hain't a-hankerin' after no shepherd. I'm
a-hankerin' after a Lamb, and I reckon I'm a-goin' to
 git her in spite of Old Enick and the
Discipline, to boot."
"Bravo! bravo!" cried Charity, who had approached just
in time to hear this remark. "That's right, Lochinvar."
And Patience, her face beaming and her eyes aglow,
began to repeat the now familiar lines:
"So daring in love, and so dauntless in war—
Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?"
"Don't thee fool thyself about that there tarnal young
feller," blurted Jonathan in tones of irritation. "I
reckon some folks'll laugh on t'other side of their
heads some of these days"; and with that, he shambled
It appeared to me that he was extremely angry with the
twins, and yet, for some time afterward, I observed
that he and Patience had many secret conferences
together; and these were carried on with such energy
that I finally began to fear that the young man had
transferred his affections to the lively twin teacher
who had no "guardeen" to restrain her.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics