“Who loves to live at home, yet looke abroad,
And know both passen and unpassen road,
The wonders of a faire and goodlie land,
Of antres, rivers, rocks, and mountaines grande
MISS FANNY CRAYON had just finished reading the foregoing narrative to a brace of attentive and delighted cousins, when, throwing the book upon the table with a pouting air, she put forth the following reflections on men and things: “It is really neither generous nor just that men should arrogate to themselves all the privileges, while we poor girls are condemned to eternal needlework and housekeeping, or, what is still worse, a dull round of insipid amusements - dancing, dressing, and thrumming the piano. What opportunities have we of seeing the world, or of making heroines of ourselves ? Instead of planning pleasant jaunts and inviting us to grace their parties, no sooner does the summer weather set in, than away they go with their guns, and such quantities of provision that one might think they were going to Oregon. Then in two or three weeks they are back again, with their clothes all torn and appetites that are a disgrace to civilization. To see them at table, you would suppose they had eaten nothing during their absence; and then such bragging all among themselves, they don’t even give us a chance to talk; and if occasionally we manage to slip in a word edgeways, it receives no more consideration than the whistle of my Canary bird.”
“Indeed, Cousin Fanny,” said Dora Dimple, “I think with you entirely. It would be so romantic and delightful for us to take such a trip. But then, with the rains and the wild animals, we should be so drenched and frightened.”
“Well! I want to be drenched and frightened!” replied Fanny, with spirit; “I am tired of this humdrum life.”
“Good graciouth! what is to prevent uth from going if we choothe ?” lisped Miss Mignionette, or, as she was generally called for short, Minnie May. “Let’s make Porte Crayon take uth traveling or bear-hunting with him.”
“Pshaw !” replied Fanny, pettishly; “Brother Porte used to be very kind and obliging, but of late he has become such a bear in his manners, and such a sloven, it’s shameful! You might really suppose, from his talk, that he thought women had no souls; and as to listening to any thing they say whew! he’s entirely too high for that. The fact is, he got to reading the Koran some few years ago, and I don’t think he has been quite right since.”
“Nonsense! it’s all affectation; he listens to me always,” rejoined Minnie, with confidence; “and I’ll go now directly and make him promise to take us somewhere. I can coax and flatter him into any thing.” And, without more ado, she started on her embassy, while her companions followed on tiptoe to hear the result.
Porte Crayon sat with his legs comfortably stretched on a bench in the veranda which shades the front of the family mansion. Aroused from an apparently deep reverie by the rustling of a silk dress, he acknowledged Cousin Minnie’s presence with a nod, and his hard face lit up with a smile.
“Cousin Porte,” said she, abruptly, “we want you to take us somewhere.” Mr. Crayon’s only reply was a slight elevation of the eyebrows. “Yes,” continued she, resolutely, “Fanny, Dora, and myself want you to take us traveling somewhere with you in search of adventures.” Mr. Crayon’s eyebrows disappeared under the visor of his cap, and his mouth puckered up as if about to whistle. “Indeed, Cousin Porte,” continued Minnie, coaxingly, seating herself beside him, “we’ve been reading the Blackwater Sketches, and we’re all crazy to see some wild life. I don’t mean exactly that we wish to live in the woods like gipsies, or be starved, or exposed to the rain or wild beasts, or - Indeed, I don’t know precisely what we want, but you are so clever you may plan us a pleasant trip yourself. Besides, it would be such a privilege for us girls to have you as an escort -you are such a genius, you know. Come, you can’t refuse; it will be so delightful; we won’t give you a bit of trouble.” Mr. Crayon’s countenance had by this time relaxed considerably. “With any ordinary person we would not wish to go,” pursued the embassadrice; “but you know you are so talented, it would afford us such rare opportunities of improvement.”
At this point Crayon heard some giggling inside of the hall-door. “Stop, Minnie, that will answer; I’m sufficiently buttered. Now just ask specifically for what you want.”
Minnie clapped her hands exultingly. “Come, girls, come; we’ve got him; he has promised; it’s all arranged!”
Here the listeners made their appearance, and all three were so vociferous in their thanks that Crayon was fain to affect an air of sternness. “What’s arranged? I’ve promised nothing.”
“Why, Cousin Porte, didn’t you promise to take us a jaunt, and to plan it all yourself? Didn’t he, Fanny ?”
“I didn’t hear precisely,” said Fanny.
“Didn’t he, Dora ?”
“Indeed,” replied Dora, ” it seemed to me he did; or, at least, he was just going to promise, and that’s the same thing.”
“To be sure,” said Minnie. “Didn’t you both hear him say, `Just ask specifically for any thing you want, and I’ll do it ?“′
“Certainly,” cried both girls, eagerly, ” we heard him say `specifically.′ We did indeed.”
“You did ! Then my case is a bad one. It is proved by three credible witnesses, supposed by courtesy to be sane and in their right minds, that I said `specifically;′ and, being duly convicted of the same, it is in your judgments fairly deducible from the premises that I promised to take you somewhere on a pleasure excursion.”
“There!” cried Minnie,“didn’t I tell you? Bless me! what a lawyer Cousin Porte would have made if he had taken to the bar instead of the fine arts. But come on, girls; let us go and get our traveling-dresses ready. Cousin Porte is the soul of honor; he never broke a promise, especially one made to a lady.” And with the sweetest and most gracious courtesies the young ladies took their leave.
“Begone, you pests, and leave me to reflect on the absurd scrape I’ve got into.”
A voice from the hall replied with a couplet from “Tom Bowline”:
“Tom never from his word departed, His virtues were so rare.” “Hum!” soliliquized Porte, reseating himself; “what the deuce have I done? Promised to take three women traveling. Ha! ha! they want to go to the Blackwater, do they ? ho! ho! by all that’s preposterous! Kid slippers - lace collars - silk dresses! If the sun shines, they’re broiling; if the wind blows, they’re freezing; never hungry except when every thing eatable is out of their reach; always dying of thirst when they’re on top of a mountain; afraid of caterpillars, and lizards, and grasshoppers! Let me see; the first of October; snakes are about going into winter-quarters; well, that’s one comfort, at least. And then their baggage? Each of them, to my knowledge, has a trunk as big as a powder-car. Finikin, frivolous, whimsical creatures, where do they learn the art of coaxing ? They don’t acquire it at all it is a natural gift. If any man had approached me in that way, I should have felt bound to pull his nose; but that little lisping minx makes me promise what she pleases.
“Tis an old maxim of the schools, That flattery’s the food of fools, Yet now and then your men of wit Will condescend to take a bit.” “No, no, it was not that -I’m too old for that-but it was a piece of the most barefaced wheedling and imposture, and now they’re doubtless giggling over their success.” Mr. Crayon shook for some minutes with silent laughter, and it was long before his countenance settled into its accustomed gravity.
While he is thus sitting, let us sketch him. In person Mr. Crayon is about the middle height, of slender make, but well knit and tough. His face is what would be usually termed “a hard one,” angular and sunburnt, the lower features covered with a beard, bushy, and
“Brode as though it were a spade.” This beard he has worn from time immemorial. Old-fashioned ladies who can’t endure this savage taste, frequently tell Mr. Crayon he would be remarkably handsome if he would cut off that hor- rid beard. He laughs, however, sotto i baffi, in such a manner as to encourage the delusion, and modestly disclaims any desire to be remarked for his personal beauty. Crayon is neither old nor young
“But on his forehead middle age Has slightly pressed its signet sage.” His dress is usually so little a matter of concern to himself, that it is, in consequence, the oftener remarked by others. At present his wardrobe in active service consists of a double-frilled shirt, a sack of Weidenfeldt’s cut, stained corduroys, and a pair of stringless shoes, which exhibit to advantage his socks of gray yarn, darned with white and blue. This careless incongruity of dress is not altogether an eccentricity or individualism of Mr. Crayon, but belongs to the State to which he owes birth and allegiance. Nothing is more rare than to find a Virginian solicitous about his dress; and although he may sometimes affect the sloven, he is never a dandy.
An itinerant phrenologist, who had the faculty of discovering the springs of human action by feeling the bumps on people’s heads, ascertained, while traveling through the State, that this characteristic is the offspring of a noble aristocratic pride, a lofty disdain of trivialities; and the candid expression of this opinion gave much individual as well as public satisfaction, and brought the shrewd man of science many a dollar. Indeed, in one instance we were personally cognizant of the dollar. A remarkably dirty gentleman of the legal profession, who, it was confidently believed, hadn’t a second shirt to his back, borrowed a dollar of us to pay the aforesaid itinerant for saying the same of him and putting it in writing.
But to be fully impressed with Crayon’s personale, he should be seen as he sometimes appears at a masquerade, in ruff and doublet, with a slouched hat and plume. One might then swear the great Captain John Smith had reappeared to look after his government, and ready, as of yore, to do battle with “Turk or savage” - to thrust a falchion between the infidel ribs of Bonnymulgro, or kick his royal highness, Opeckancanough, in face of his whole tribe, into the payment of the three hundred bushels of corn. We shrewdly suspect Crayon of nurturing a vanity on this subject, and have several times heard him allude to the resemblance himself.
While this sketching has been going on, our sitter has been deeply philosophizing. “Man,” thought he, “occupies a queer position in civilized society. By right of superior physical and intellectual endowment, by right of a direct appointment from Holy Writ, by the advice and consent of St.Paul, he is lord of creation. But of what avail is his empty title ? He is practically no more than a nose of wax, to be modeled into any shape by women. What matters it whether he is tied with a hempen cord or a pink satin ribbon? - he’s tied. What difference whether he is bullied out of his free agency or wheedled out of it? the tyranny is equally odious, equally subversive of social order and of self-respect. Man can’t even wear the clothes he may happen to fancy” (here Crayon glanced at his coat). “Hunting-jackets have a rowdy look, so Miss Minnie thinks chick-a-dee. These Yankees are a wonderful people, full of energy and resources. They regulate the women up there; the men have the upper hand, as nature designed at least I infer it, from the bobbery and noise the women are making there about their rights. Egad! I’ll travel in that country some day to learn how they manage. But, after all,” continued Crayon, breaking into soliloquy, “che giova! siam nati a servir, we on the south side can’t help ourselves, and we might as well put the best face on matters. It is not so unendurable, neither, this bondage of the heart, nor yet so very unbecoming to a gentleman. In the days of chivalry it was the proudest boast of knighthood. What is it but the willing tribute from generosity to weakness? When a command comes disguised as a prayer, who would not obey ? When a beseeching look compels, who can resist ? O fair Southern land, long may thy daughters continue to reign, strong in their gentleness, imperious in their loveliness!”
Here Porte Crayon leaped from his seat as if electrified, and, clapping his left hand to his side, with his right he drew an imaginary glittering sword, and flourishing it about his head, went through the broadsword exercise in brilliant style.
“Cousin Porte,” cried a voice frorn the window, “what in the world are you doing ?”
“Nothing in particular,” replied Porte, looking rather sheepish.
“Then don’t do it any more. It looks too ridiculous for one of your age to be prancing and capering in that unmeaning way.”
“Look you, Miss Minnie, mind your sewing, and don’t be troubling yourself about my capers or my age. I’ll pay her for this. I’ll lead her into blackberry-thickets, stick her fast in marshes, and put lizards in her reticule. I’ll tease and frighten her into a proper appreciation of herself. She need not then visit the capitals of Christendom to see by what small people the world is governed.”
During the week that followed Porte Crayon entered into the business of preparation for the proposed jaunt with alacrity and cheerfulness. He was in frequent consultation with the maps and Gazetteer of Virginia, and made copious notes therefrom, but was very silent and mysterious withal.
“Where are you going to take us, Cousin Porte ?” Minnie often inquired.
“Never mind, child; stitch away at your traveling-dress; get yourself a pair of stout shoes, and don’t ask me any more questions.
“I’m afraid Cousin Porte doesn’t enjoy the idea of making this trip with us ?” modestly observed Dora.
“Fiddlestick!” said Minnie, in an under tone; “he’s delighted. He has been in a fever ever since I proposed it to him. Just listen to his lectures, and make believe you appreciate them, and pretend to let him have his own way in every thing, and he’s one of the kindest and most manageable creatures in existence.”
Crayon, who, with characteristic contempt of rule and order, was moulding bullets in the breakfast-room, looked up sharply.
“What was that I heard about lectures, and good, manageable creature ?”
“Eh! good gracious! did you hear? I was just complimenting you to Dora, saying how kind you were. But, cousin, let me help you to cut the necks of those bullets: I can do it so nicely.”
“No; go along. You’ll cut your fingers. I always am in a fever when I see a woman with a pen-knife in her hand.”
“Only hear! the vanity of men!” and Minnie quietly took the ladle out of Mr. Crayon’s hand, and proceeded in the most adroit and pretty manner to mould up the remainder of the lead.
He looked on at first with amazement, which soon changed into unqualified admiration.
“Doesn’t lose a particle of lead; half of them have no necks at all. They are better than mine. Cousin Minnie, you’re a wonder.”
The old carriage having been revarnished, and the roan and sorrel sleeked up to the utmost point of good looks that the nature of the case permitted, Mr. Crayon reported to the impatient trio that on his part every thing was in readiness for the expedition with the exception of a driver. This important office had not yet been filled. Old Tom, Young Tom, Peter, and a dozen others, had successively been catechised, cross-questioned, and rejected.
“And why won’t they do ?” asked Fanny; ” they are all skillful drivers.”
“Tut, Fanny, you know nothing about it. They would answer very well to drive you to church, but the selection of a driver for such a trip as I have in view requires the greatest tact and consideration. Leave the matter entirely to me. - ”
“As the only person in the world who has the requisite tact and consideration,” suggested Fanny.
Crayon gracefully bowed assent.
One morning a huge negro made his appearance in the hall, accompanied by all the negro household, and all in a broad grin. “Sarvant, master,” said the giant, saluting, hat in hand, with the grace of a hippopotamus. ” I’se a driver, sir!”
“Indeed !” said Porte, with some surprise; “what is your name?”
“Ke! hi!” snickered the applicant for office, and looked toward Old Tom.
“He’s name Little Mice,” said Tom, and there was a general laugh.
“That is a queer name, at least, and not a very suitable one. Has he no other ?” inquired Porte.
“Why, d’ye see, Mass’ Porte,” said Tom, “when dis nigga was a boy, his ole miss tuck him in de house to sarve in de dinin’-room. Well, every day she look arter her pies an’ cakes, an’ dey done gone.′ Dis is onaccountable,′ say ole miss. ′ Come here, boy. What goes wid dese pies ?′ He says, ′ I spec, missus, little mice eats ‘em.’ ′ Very well,′ says she, ′ maybe dey does.′ So one mornin’ arley she come in onexpected like, an’ dar she see dis boy, pie in he’s mouf ′ So,′ says she, ′ I cotch dem little mice at last, have I?′ An’ from dat day, sir, dey call him nothin’ but Little Mice, an’ dat been so long dey done forgot his oder name, if he ever had any.
The giant, during this narration, rolled his eyes at Old Tom, and made menacing gestrues in an underhand way; but, being un- able to stop the story, he joined in the laugh that followed, and then took up the discourse.
“Mass’ Porte, never mind dat ole possuqn. Any how I ben a-drivin’ hosses all my life, and I kin wait on a gemplum fuss rate. To be sure dat name sounds sort a foolish ‘mong strangers; but you can call me Boy, or Boss, or Pomp, or any ting dat suits; I answers all de same.”
Having exhibited a permit to hire himself; Crayon engaged him on the spot, moved thereto, we suspect, more by the fun and originality indicated in Mice’s humorous phiz than by any particular tact or consideration. The newly-appointed dignitary bowed himself out of the hall, sweeping the floor with his cap at each reverence; but no sooner was he clear of the respected precinct than his elephantine pedals spontaneously commenced a grotesque dance, making a clatter on the kitchen floor like a team of horses crossing a bridge. During this performance he shook his fists in size and color like old hams of bacon alternately at Old and Young Tom. “Ha, you ole turkey-buzzard! I take you in dar to recomend me, an’ you tell all dem lies. You want to drive yourself, heh? And you black calf, you sot up to drive gemplum’s carriage, did you? Mass’ Porte too smart to have any sich ’bout him.”
Old Tom’s indignation at this indecorous conduct knew no bounds. He pitched into Mice incontinently, and bestowed a shower of lusty cuffs and kicks upon his carcass. Tom’s honest endeavors were so little appreciated that they only served to increase the monster’s merriment.
“Yah! yah! yah! lame grasshopper kick me,” shouted he, escaping from the kitchen; and making a wry face at Tom through the window, he swung himself off toward the stable, “to look arter his critters.”
A couple of pipes,with some tobacco, and a cast-off coat, soothed the mortification of the senior and junior Toms to such an extent, that they were both seen next morning actually assisting Mice in getting out the carriage.