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In My Youth by  James Baldwin
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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
554 pages $18.95   





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 his intelligence.

"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."

[430] 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 their admiration.

"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 it:

"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 eyes."

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 other—for he [432] 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 thee mean?"

"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?"

[433] "Lochinvar."

"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 and [434] 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 house."

"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 [435] 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 encouragement.

"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 meeting together?"

"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 then?"

[436] "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' consent."

"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 shepherd."

"Well, I hain't a-hankerin' after no shepherd. I'm a-hankerin' after a Lamb, and I reckon I'm a-goin' to [437] 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 away.

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.

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