| 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 |
CARCELY a day passed now without something being done
to push the horizon farther and farther away from the
spot which I still regarded as the center of the world.
The habit which I had of omnivorous reading, the
diligent study of current news as set forth weekly in
the columns of the Era, the occasional contact
with movers passing through the Settlement, or with
newcomers who had lately made their homes in our
neighborhood—all these were educative influences
that were daily enlarging my vision and strengthening
my mental faculties. The universe was expanding, and
the tree of knowledge was fast overshadowing and
smothering the tender flower of innocence.
One evening father said to me quite abruptly: "Robert,
I am going to Nopplis to-morrow, to take some wheat and
do a little trading. How would thee like to go along
with me and see the big city?"
"Oh, father! May I?" This was spoken with an explosive
earnestness, which however was inadequate to express a
tithe of the pleasure I felt.
"Yes, if thee thinks thee can stand the journey," he
answered. "But thee must be up with the birds, for we
shall have to start bright and early."
Stand the journey? Well, I could stand a good deal more
than that. The very thought of it made my heart
 thump and my fingers tingle; and it seemed an age until
morning came, and the twittering of the swallows
heralded the first appearance of dawn.
It was a day long to be remembered—that day when
with the rising of the sun we set out for the
world-famous capital of the only state worth living in.
Father was seated in the front part of the wagon,
guiding the horses and wearing upon his face that
expression of dignity and distinction which was so
peculiarly becoming to him. I sat a little way behind,
on one of the ten bags of wheat that we were taking to
market, silent and self-satisfied. My eyes were wide
open, my ears were pricked forward, every sense was
alert, as of a discoverer just entering into regions
hitherto unknown and unexplored.
We traveled slowly; for twelve hundred pounds of wheat,
to say nothing of the two passengers and various other
articles of freight, made no small load for a pair of
old horses on roads where mudholes were a hundred times
more numerous than mile posts. But the slower our
progress, the better chance there was for observation;
and a snail's pace was therefore fast enough for me.
At about noon we arrived on the bank of the historic
White River, so famed in the poetry and song of the
Hoosier Country. Here, beneath the spreading branches
of a white sycamore tree, we ate our luncheon, not
forgetting to provide also for the patient beasts that
had brought us thither. Then we drove boldly into the
stream, which at this particular point was very wide
and shallow. The water, which scarcely reached the
horses' knees even in the deepest places, rippled
gently over smooth pebbles of various sizes, the
 not larger than goose eggs; and looking down into the
crystal-clear stream, I could see great numbers of
fishes disporting themselves—a sight which to me
was most novel and interesting.
Once across the river, we noticed that the houses along
the road were much closer together, and soon many
unmistakable signs told us we were approaching the
city. Indeed, it seemed but a very little while until
we were right in the thick of it, there being houses on
both sides of us, some of them quite pretentious
buildings of two stories set far back among shade trees
and well-cultivated truck patches.
Late in the afternoon, we drove into a very wide road,
where there were stores and other buildings—small
and large, but mostly small—standing quite close
together on both sides, just as in some of the cities
that were pictured in my Parley Book.
"This is Washington Street," said father. "It is a part
of the great National Road that is to run from
Baltimore in Maryland to St. Louis in Missouri. When
this road is finished it will be the longest and finest
highway in all the world."
I looked at it with awe and admiration, for here, I
thought to myself, was something so long that one end
of it dipped into Chesapeake Bay and the other into the
Mississippi River. The street, which formed so
honorable a part of the great highway and bore the
revered name of the father of his country, was of
indefinite length, the houses continuing along it for
perhaps half a mile. The roadway itself had been
"graded" by digging a shallow ditch on each side and
scraping the loose earth up toward the middle. Our
wagon wound its way irregularly from one side to the
other, while the
numer-  ous mudholes and chuck-holes and ruts gave variety to
the scene and made overspeeding impossible. Pigs and
geese wandered at will along the street, and the number
of vehicles and horses that we met filled my mind with
Father knew exactly where to dispose of his
cargo—at a long low house, as I remember, on the
banks of a straight and narrow stream which I learned
was the famous Central Canal that had bankrupted the
state. And there, to my great wonder and satisfaction,
I saw three or four canal-boats of enormous size lying
close to the banks and apparently empty and deserted.
Having obtained a good price for his wheat and put the
money safely in his pocket, father's next care was to
find a lodging place for the night. We drove out upon
Washington Street again, and soon, where the stores
were most numerous and the houses stood closest
together, we came opposite a large, ramshackle,
rusty-looking frame building at the front of which was
suspended a huge signboard bearing the words:
The signboard was old and in need of paint, and a
general air of decay and happy neglect rested upon the
entire place. A fat ruddy-faced man in his shirtsleeves
was standing by the door, and father dew up and
"How's thee, James? Has thee plenty of room in thy
tavern for us to-night?"
The tavern-keeper, for so I understood him to be, came
leisurely out to the wagon and shook hands with us
 "How many do you have with you, Stephen?"
"Just myself and the boy and the two horses," answered
father. "We would like to get supper and breakfast and
lodging and a place for the team to stand under
"Well, we'll accommodate you," said the man. "Drive
Near the middle of the tavern building there was a
broad passageway for wagons, and through this we drove
into a kind of courtyard in the rear. This yard was
surrounded by a variety of stables and sheds, and was
cluttered up with old wagons and store boxes and manure
heaps in great profusion; and in the very center was a
big wooden pump and a watering trough for the horses.
The tavern-keeper came through the passageway after us,
and very kindly assisted father in taking the horses
from the wagon and putting them in an open stall at the
rear of the yard.
The day was near its close, and I was very tired.
Everything was so strange and new to my experience that
I felt bewildered and oppressed with that sort of
unreasoning timidity that so often took hold of me. I
hung close to father's coat tail and trembled lest
someone should notice me and speak to me. Very
naturally, therefore, my recollection of what occurred
during our stay at the hostelry is somewhat confused
and indistinct, like that of a dream.
I remember, however, of sitting down to eat at a long
table where there were a number of bearded men talking
and laughing and rattling dishes; and, later on, I
observed these same men standing with others at a high
counter and drinking what I supposed to be sweet cider,
as though they actually thought it was good for them;
 and two or three of the fellows were noisy and
ill-behaved and scarcely able to stand on their
feet—a fact that gave me great concern until
father attempted to direct my attention to something
"What's the matter with them?" I asked.
"They are drunk," said father, leading me from the
"I should think they would be ashamed of themselves," I
said. "Won't they be put I jail for it?"
I had read about drunkenness and the drink habit, and I
had heard a great deal of talk about temperance; but
this was the first time that I had ever seen an
intoxicated person, and I was frightened, disgusted,
Father led me out into the open air. It was already
quite dark, and he directed my attention to the lights
by which the great street of Washington was
illuminated. On the top of wooden posts, at intervals
of a "square" or two, there were a number of lard-oil
lamps—perhaps a score or more—flickering
feebly in the darkness. Not one of the them glowed with
more brilliancy than a good dip candle, but the sight
of so many lights in a long row on each side of the
street was well worth seeing. Few other cities, in
those middle ages, were better illuminated; for the era
of kerosene had not yet begun, and gas and electricity
had scarcely been dreamed of.
These public lamps, however, were not all that
contributed to the illumination of the great highway.
In the windows of nearly every store a candle was
glimmering, and in some of the larger establishments
four or five such lights might be seen, attesting the
 prosperity of the proprietors. Thus it was possible for
people to walk with safety up and down the street even
on the darkest nights. But pedestrians from the
outlying districts, where there were no such lights,
were obliged to carry little lanterns, like our own at
home, consisting of a short tallow candle set in the
center of a hollow cylinder of perforated tin. Oh! it
was a wonderful experience to be in a city where people
moved about at might as well as in the daytime.
Upon returning into the tavern, father selected a
candle from a number that were ranged on the barroom
counter, lighted it, and the landlord's boy showed us
to our room. It was a large dingy apartment containing
three beds besides our own; and as I was disrobing, I
noticed that nearly every bed was already occupied.
There was a good deal of talking among our
roommates—some of it unfit for the ears of a
growing boy—and while father was firmly
remonstrating with the rude fellows, I fell asleep.
My slumbers, however, were neither profound nor of long
duration. I awoke with an itching sensation and a
feeling as though a thousand "granddaddy long-legs"
were creeping over me. Father was also awake and I
could hear him in the darkness bravely combating his
numerous foes. But, judging from the various
intonations of music that issued from the other beds,
it was apparent that all the rest of the lodgers were
sleeping the sleep of the brave, indifferent to the
onslaughts of bloodthirsty legions.
"Father, I think there's a million of 'em," I said. "I
can't sleep a wink."
 "Lie still and try to go to sleep, and then thee won't
notice them," he answered; but he was unable to follow
his own advice.
So with much discomfort, I contrived to pass the night,
dozing a little now and then, and in the betweenwhiles
valiantly contending with the voracious creatures that
gave no quarter nor sought any. At last, with the first
faint peeping of the dawn, bothe father and I leaped
up, and hastily clothing ourselves, sought relief in
the open air and at the public pump in the courtyard.
A little later in the morning, as we were about to take
our departure from the tavern, father remarked to the
landlord, "James, I have no serious objection to
lodging in the same room with half a dozen other
guests, provided they are well-behaved; but I seriously
protest against furnishing entertainment to the
numerous little beasts that thee harbors between thy
Leaving the horses and wagon in the tavern sheds, we
strolled down Washington Street to see the sights and
make some purchases. In front of most of the buildings
there were narrow sidewalks, some of planks, some of
flat stones, and some of loose gravel; but father was
at first not right clear whether we ought to use these
"The city people have built them for their own
purposes," he said, "and perhaps we had better not
trespass upon them." And accordingly we went trudging
along in the middle of the road.
Presently, coming to a hardware store, we went inside,
and father laid out the greater part of his money for a
wonderful new cookstove, with utensils to match and
five joints of pipe. He had a long conversation with
the storekeeper during which the subject of sidewalks
 mentioned; and I noticed that, afterward, we took our
chances with the city people, and no longer strolled in
A little farther down the street my eye was attracted
by a sign bearing the talismanic words:
Father tried in vain to direct my attention to a pair
of goats that were browsing on the opposite side of the
street; but what were these ragged animals in
comparison with a whole store full of books?
"Let's go in and look at them," I said pleadingly.
And at that very moment a pleasant-looking man came to
the door, and seeing father, greeted him with:—
"Good morning, Stephen Dudley!"
"How's thee, Samuel Merrill?" returned father; and they
shook hands very cordially. "I couldn't get my little
boy past they door. There's nothing he loves so much as
"Well, come in a little while, and let him look at what
I have," said the storekeeper. "I have just received a
lot of new books that are very attractive."
We accepted his invitation, and thereupon followed one
of the happiest hours of my boyhood. Father sat down
beside the storekeeper's desk and the two had a long
talk about the crops and the markets and politics,
while I browsed to my heart's content among the
bookshelves. The time passed all to quickly, and
finally, when father insisted upon going, Mr. Merrill
showed him a chunky little volume that he himself had
been reading, and said:
"Here is a book that will interest the boy. It's all
 about Indians and Daniel Boone and pioneer times in
I took it in my hand. It was entitled, "Sketches of
Western Adventure, Containing an Account of the
Most Interesting Incidents Connected with the
Settlement of the West, by John A. McClung." It
contained only two pictures, but both of these were of
a character to thrill the heart of any live boy; and
the table of contents revealed a bill of fare that was
tempting to the sober literary appetite of even so
unimpressionable a man as Stephen Dudley.
"Oh, father, I wish thee would buy it!" And the
storekeeper helped my cause by an insinuating smile and
a motion toward the corner where his wrapping paper and
What man with his pocket full of money could resist
such pleading, such temptation? When we left the store,
the book was under my arm.
"I think that the train is advertised to arrive from
Madison at about this time," said father. "We will go
down to the depot and see it come in."
The depot, if I remember rightly, stood not very far
from the site of the present magnificent Union Station,
but it was then quite on the outer edge of the town. It
was a little one-roomed building, with a high platform
all round it and a freight shed at one end. On one side
were the railroad tracks; and at no great distance
flowed the waters of the classic stream known in
western history as Pogue's Run. At one end of the
waiting-room (I think it was called "settin'-room" in
those days) there was a counter where tickets were sold
to those who wished to buy them. But the ticket system
had not at that time been perfected; and, simple though
 seem to you, my Leonidas, the mind of man had not yet
grasped completely the intricate process of "punching
in the presence of the passenger." As a consequence,
most of the people who traveled (and there were not
very many) preferred to pay their fares on the train,
dimly hoping, no doubt, that the conductor would make a
mistake in their favor, and they would save money
thereby. Since none of the railroad officials wore
uniforms or badges, it sometimes happened that certain
zealous individuals went hastily through the cars and
collected the fares before the tardy conductor made his
appearance; and in such cases the passengers were
obliged to pay double. Some of these facts we learned
from a talkative citizen of Nopplis, as we stood with
him on the platform waiting for the train.
The "depot man," having plenty of leisure time between
the arrival of trains, notwithstanding the occasional
selling of a ticket or two, was permitted to carry on a
little business of his own behind the counter of the
waiting-room. There, on shelves and in other convenient
places, he displayed his merchandise consisting of
stick candy of various flavors, a few boxes of cigars,
twists of chewing tobacco, and a small variety of
The train being late, as was the invariable custom, and
time dragging heavily while we waited, I amused myself
by strolling alone about the depot while father
continued his conversation with the talkative citizen
above mentioned. I had in my pocket a little silver fip
which Aunt Rachel had bestowed upon me for my very own,
and now an intense desire to spend it began to take
hold of my mind. I sauntered frequently to the counter
in the waiting-room and gazed, with a longing that was
beyond my control, at the candies and fruits
 that were there offered for sale; and particularly was
I tempted by some very pretty things which I thought
Finally, by a supreme effort, I mustered sufficient
courage to lean over the counter and in confidential
tones inquire, "What is the price of the awringes?"
"I hain't got no awringes," the man in charge answered.
"Them's lemmings; they're two for a fip."
"Oh!" And I walked away.
Now, I had read about lemons, and I knew that they grew
in tropical regions just as oranges do, but this was
the first time that I had ever seen any of those
ellipsoid berries so necessary to the manufacture of
lemonade. I remembered the delicious orange which
father had brought to us from the 'Hio, and I fancied
that a lemon must be none the less sweet and palatable;
and the more I thought about it the more seriously I
was tempted. I argued that with my money I could buy
two lemons, eat one of them without anybody knowing it,
and generously carry the other one home to be divided
among the various members of our family. The idea grew,
and at length I went sheepishly back to the counter,
and laying the fip down upon it, I said to the man in
"I will take two of thy—of your lemons."
He slipped the money into his box and handed me the
fruit. I put one of the lemons in my pocket, and, with
the other hand, went out on the back platform to eat
it. I found a secluded spot among some salt barrels by
the freight shed, and there I sat down to enjoy my
treat. Impatiently, I bit a great hunk out of the lemon
as though it were an apple. Oh, the sourness of it! I
would have spit it out at once, but I thought that
doubtless this was the way with lemons and it would
 grow sweeter in a moment, and so I retained it in my
mouth. Disappointment and anger soon began to well up
in my heart. The man at the counter had cheated me; I
had heard of the wickedness and cunning of city
sharpers, and here was an example of it. The man had
taken my money and given me no equivalent for it. I
would tell him what I thought about it. I accordingly
ejected the sour thing from my mouth, and strode back
in high dudgeon to the counter where I had bought it.
"Them lemons are sour," I said with all the firmness
that I could command. "They ain't fit to eat."
"Well, how did you 'spect 'em to be?" the man retorted,
laughing uproariously. "Most lemmings is sour. That's
what they're made for."
My courage was exhausted. In great dejection I turned
away, and going outside threw the remaining lemon with
all my might into the sluggish, muddy waters of Pogue's
Run. And then—would you believe it?—my dear
playmate, Inviz, jumped out from behind the salt
barrels and laughingly shouted in my ear:
"A fool and his money are soon parted! Ha! ha!"
The next moment I heard the whistle of the approaching
train, far away toward Franklin or Shelbyville. I
hurried around to the place where father was waiting,
and stood by his side in anxious expectation. It was
long before we could see the train, although we heard
its puffing and roaring quite distinctly; and when at
last it hove in sight we had plenty of time to gaze at
the locomotive with its huge smoke pipe, and wonder
whether it was coming toward us or merely standing
still. At last it actually arrived, creeping at a
snail's pace, rattling over the think little bars of
iron called rails, and making as much noise as hundred
wagons. The train
con-  sisted of only the engine and tender, a single small
coach—but it was a sight never to be forgotten. At
each end of the coach and also of the baggage car, a
brakeman was straining at the brake wheel with all his
might in order to bring the train to a stop somewhere
within a reasonable nearness to the depot. There was a
dreadful screeching of wheels, a jerking and a bumping,
a going forward and a backing—and at last the deed
was accomplished and the dozen passengers strolled
leisurely out upon the platform.
To me the whole operation was most wonderful; for this
was my first view of a railroad train or of a steam
locomotive. Yet I need not weary you, my Leonidas, with
a description of that primitive little engine or of the
cushionless, comfortless, jolting little cars which it
dragged behind it; for of those things you may learn in
the histories of that medieval period.
"It is almost noon," said father, as the excitement on
the depot platform began to subside. "We must make
haste and get started for home."
Thereupon, with as much despatch as possible, we
proceeded to get our team out from the tavern sheds,
put the cookstove and other purchases into the wagon,
and regretfully bid good-by to the stirring scenes on
"We will go a little out of our way," said father, "for
I want to show thee one of the wonders of the city."
So, starting out by way of a somewhat narrower road,
called Meridian Street, we came almost immediately to a
small circular plot of ground with a wide avenue
running round it and as many as six or eight other
highways branching off from it, just as the spokes of
 a wheel branch off from the hub. Here father pulled up
on the lines, and we stopped short while to look,
admire, and inwardly contemplate.
"Does thee see all these streets coming to a point
right here?" he said. "Well, this little round place is
the Governor's Circle, and the big square house thee
sees in the middle of it is where the governor of the
state lives. People say that it is at the exact center
of the state; but I have some doubts about that."
Well! well! This was the governor's house, was it? Here
was the place where he sat, looking out along all these
straight, divergent highways, and keeping the people of
the state in subjection!
Now, Inviz and I had two altogether different ideas
concerning the personality of a governor. Inviz
insisted that he was a very wise, well-informed,
schoolmasterly gentleman who devoted all his time to
the duties of his office, enforcing the laws and
providing for the general welfare of the people. But my
own idea was different—it was based upon something
I had read long before in one of the volumes of the
Friends' Library—perhaps it was in the
journal of George Fox, or that of Thomas Shillito, or
of John Woolman—I can not remember. It was merely
a dream story; but it told of a supposititious governor
who had cloven feet and a forked tail and nostrils that
emitted fire and brimstone. I must have been very young
when I first read that impressive story, but it took
such fast hold upon my imagination that, even to this
day, when the word "governor" is mentioned, I
involuntarily think of the Old Feller. And so, as we
sat there, silently contemplating the Governor's
Circle, a strange picture was elaborated in my mind,
the picture of a fat spider with cloven feet sitting in
 center of his web and looking composedly out upon the
little kingdom that was his own. It was all very
foolish, and I knew it was so, yet I could not help it.
I have passed the same spot hundreds of times since,
and always the same vision is recalled.
As we were about to proceed on our way, two
well-dressed gentlemen came out through the gateway
before the governor's house, and father, seeing them,
nodded his head in friendly recognition. The younger of
the two returned his salutation, and calling to father,
"Good morning, Mr. Dudley! How are all the good people
in the New Settlement?"
Father again drew up on the lines, and brought our
wagon to a standstill right by the street crossing.
"How's thee, George?" he responded, reaching out his
hand. "I am right glad to see thee."
The gentleman shook hands with both of us very
cordially, and then returning to his companion, said:
"Governor, this is Stephen Dudley, the leading Free
Soiler in the New Settlement, over in the Wabash
district. Stephen, have you ever met Governor Wright?"
"How's thee, Joseph?" said father. "I am right glad to
see thee." And there was a hearty handshake and a
further interchange of compliments and inquiries. As
the governor took my limp and yielding hand in his own
(for his democracy knew no distinctions of age) I
looked down, weakly and sheepishly, half expecting to
see the forked tail and the cloven feet. I confess this
to my shame, for the next moment Inviz whispered to me,
"You ought to feel very much honored; for you have
shaken hands with a wise and noble person, the greatest
man in Indiana."
Of course, not one of the three men present guessed
 what was passing in my mind, nor would they have cared
in the least. They continued their conversation without
any further notice of my presence.
"I do not agree with thy politics," said father to the
governor, "but when it comes to questions of temperance
and free schools and public improvements, I think we
shall not stand very far apart."
And thus, for perhaps ten minutes, they exchanged
polite remarks on a variety of subjects of general
interest; then the two gentlemen walked on across the
street, and we resumed our humble journey.
We had gone but a short distance when I began more
fully to realize the magnitude of the honor that had
been mine—the honor of having touched the hand of
the ruler of our state. I drew a little closer to
father and, in a subdued tone of voice, asked?"
"Was that really the governor?"
"Yes, that was Governor Joseph A. Wright, and if his
politics were only right he would be a right good man.
He was the last governor under the old constitution,
and now he is the first under the new."
I didn't know much about constitutions, and so I merely
remarked, "He looks just like a common man, don't he? I
somehow thought a governor would look different."
Father smiled at my simplicity.
"Joseph A. Wright," said he, "was once a poor farmer
boy—as poor as thee is; but by diligent study and
hard work he won his way to the highest place in the
government of the state. He knows what it is to be just
a common man."
"Who was the other fellow, father—the one thee
"His name is George W. Julian. He is our
repre-  sentative in Congress and a very strong Free Soiler.
There is some talk of making him our next vice
My heart swelled up big as I mused upon the events of
the morning. Surely I had seen wonders; surely I had
brushed up against no small amount of greatness.
Indeed, I began to feel as if I myself were almost
famous. And then I thought of the precious book that
father had bought for me in Merrill's bookstore, and
leaving off all further conversation, I began nervously
to remove its wrappings. Father noticed what I was
doing, and slipping off the driver's seat, he came and
reclined on the straw beside me. It was a very
undignified procedure, of which under other
circumstances he would have been ashamed; but what did
it matter, here in this strange roadway where none of
his acquaintances would see him?
"Suppose thee reads one of those western adventures out
loud," he suggested.
Nothing could have pleased me better. I opened the
volume and began with the first chapter, the thrilling
story of the adventures of James Smith. For at least
half an hour we were both so deeply absorbed in the
story—I reading, he listening—that we were
only dimly conscious that our well-trained team was
keeping in the right road and carrying us slowly
homeward. Then, my throat becoming somewhat tired, we
exchanged places, and father became the reader and I
the listener—and he read the always entrancing
story of Daniel Boone and the first settlement of
Thus the small remnant of the morning and the whole of
the warm summer afternoon were whiled away in the
pleasantest manner imaginable—we two reclining
 by side upon the heap of straw, and each taking his
turn at reading from the book or guiding the dumb
Oh, those first Indian stories! The surprising
adventures of Robinson Crusoe seemed commonplace and
dull in comparison with them. How vividly the memory
remains of Colonel Crawford's martyrdom, of Simon
Kenton's thrilling experiences, of Adam Poe's
life-and-death struggles in the savage wilderness! My
blood began to boil with the desire for adventure, and
I fancied myself with a gun on my shoulder and a
scalping knife in my belt, going West to fight the
Indians. If father had known what thoughts were in my
mind he would have tossed the book into the first
What a truly delightful afternoon that was! Everything
else was forgotten save the joyousness of existence and
the overpowering interest of the book. It was not until
the sun went down and the approach of darkness made
reading impossible, that we reluctantly closed the
volume and deferred its further enjoyment to another
time. It was very late and I was almost exhausted when
we reached the New Settlement and home, but oh, what a
red-letter day I had had!
The next day the fire in the old fireplace was allowed
to go out, and we set up the new cookstove in its
place, with the five joints of stovepipe extending up
to the very top of the chimney.
"Ring out the old, ring in the new," whispered Inviz as
the mighty change was effected; and thus was typified
the passing of the régime of the middle ages and the
dawning of another order, more modern, more civilized
if you will have it so, but whether more conducive to
happiness, who shall say?
 Mother's eyes filled with tears as the transformation
was going on. She was told that the cookstove was to
relieve her of a great deal of hard labor; there would
be no more backaches from much bending over skillets
and frying pans on the hearth; no more lifting of heavy
kettles from the crane; no more fussing over hot coals
or a superabundance of ashes. But the thing was not of
her own choosing, and she looked upon it with suspicion
and grave doubts.
"I can never learn how to cook with all them new
contraptions," she sighed, and her lips quivered as she
spoke. "I'm afraid we won't have any more hoe cakes, or
corn pones, or peach cobblers; and when it comes to
bakin' white bread, I know we'll never have anything
fit to eat."
And it happened much as she anticipated. From that day
forward, even to the present moment, all sorts of food
have tasted differently, have lacked the flavor, the
zest, the old-fashioned perfection that characterized
the open-fire cookery on the great log-cabin hearth.
Cousin Mandy Jane, anxious to float along with the
current of progress, protested that the stove was
"right smart handier" than the fireplace in every way;
and father, gazing upon it with admiration, remarked
that he did not see how we had ever lived so long
without it. As for myself, I felt that we had made a
great stride in the direction of progress, and I was
puffed up with vanity when I thought of our unfortunate
neighbors who were too poor to buy a stove; but, oh,
how I missed the bright blaze and the genial warmth of
the open fire, and how dull the evening seemed with no
light in the room save that of the flickering candle!
And poor Aunt Rachel! She still sat in her chimney
corner, but it was
 cold and dark and cheerless; and when her pipe went
out, as it often did, how hard it was to relight it
from the newfangled stove! Every day the lines on the
good woman's face deepened, her stint of knitting grew
smaller and smaller, her hold upon life became feebler.
The serpent was in the garden at last. Contentment,
that one essential of happiness, was about to take its
departure. Without the cheer of the great hearth-fire,
the cabin seemed dark, comfortless, crowded, inadequate
to our needs. We were fast becoming ashamed of it.
Father was the first to voice the thoughts of perhaps
all the rest of the family, save one.
"We must have more room," he said. "The cabin is no
longer large enough for a family of seven."
And so he immediately began to make plans for a
spacious new house of the modern kind—a two-story
house with four rooms above and three below and a
"We will then tear down the cabin and utilize the
present big-house as a kitchen. And when Friends come
to visit us, we shall have no lack of room for their
Mother protested feebly. The increase of room would
entail an increase of labor; it would add various forms
of anxiety and worry hitherto unknown; every new thing
obtained would create a want for something else. But
father's lately awakened ambition would listen to no
objections. He was anxious to have the largest and
finest house in the New Settlement. His rapidly
increasing acquaintance with men of note had filled his
mind with a desire to appear well-to-do in the
community. Moreover, the spirit of progress that was
hovering over the land, would not permit him longer to
 simple life of contentment which had hitherto given him
so much joy and peace.
Hence, active work on the new house was soon begun and
the doom of the old cabin was sealed.
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