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In My Youth by  James Baldwin
Table of Contents


 

 

NOPPLIS

[389]

S
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 [390] 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 largest [391] 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- [392] 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 astonishment.

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:


 RAYS TAVERN 

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 accosted him.

"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 both.

[393] "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 shelter."

"Well, we'll accommodate you," said the man. "Drive right in."

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; [394] 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 else.

"What's the matter with them?" I asked.

"They are drunk," said father, leading me from the room.

"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, angry.

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 great [395] 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."

[396] "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 bedcovers."

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 public conveniences.

"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 was [397] mentioned; and I noticed that, afterward, we took our chances with the city people, and no longer strolled in the roadway.

A little farther down the street my eye was attracted by a sign bearing the talismanic words:


 BOOK STORE 

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 a book."

"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 [398] about Indians and Daniel Boone and pioneer times in this country."

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 twine reposed.

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 it may [399] 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 fruits.

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 [400] that were there offered for sale; and particularly was I tempted by some very pretty things which I thought were oranges.

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 charge,

"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 [401] 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- [302] 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 Washington Street.

"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 [403] 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 the [404] 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, said:

"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 [405] 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 called George?"

"His name is George W. Julian. He is our repre- [406] sentative in Congress and a very strong Free Soiler. There is some talk of making him our next vice president."

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 Kentucky.

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 side [407] by side upon the heap of straw, and each taking his turn at reading from the book or guiding the dumb horses.

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 ditch.

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?

[408] 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 [409] 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 cellar underneath.

"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 entertainment."

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 live the [410] 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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