“SOMETHING new under the sun!” exclaimed Porte Crayon, on the morning of the 8th of October, 1853. “A new era is about to commence in the history of women. The carriage has scarcely driven up to the door when all three are ready, cappie, to jump into it! I thought the last wonder was achieved when they got all their baggage into one trunk and two carpet-bags; but this latest development surpasses every thing that has gone before. Now fire away with your kissing and leave-taking, and let us be off.”
Considering the number of grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, babies, etc., who had assembled to see the party off, and who had each and severally to give and receive from each and several of our travelers from one to half a dozen kisses, it will scarcely be credited that the carriage got fairly underway in something less than an hour from the time of its first appearance.
But not so fast. “Stop! stop!” screamed a dozen voices from the house.
“Something important has been forgotten, surely.”
“Of course,” said Porte Crayon. “Whose head is left behind? “Feel in your bonnets, girls.”
A negro girl is seen running after them with a large bundle in her arms, and holding up a great dumpling of a baby to the carriage window.
“Miss say you forgot to kiss little mass’ Bobby.”
“True! it was an oversight. Kiss him, girls. And, hark ye! Molly, tell them at the house, if any one else has been omitted, to telegraph us at Winchester, and we’ll come back.”
“Bad to turn back now, Mass’ Porte, specially sence Aunt Patty done flung her shoe arter us for good luck.”
“Oh, if that ceremony has been performed, we must go on at all hazards.”
As the roan and sorrel patted the Winchester pike, making the stones ring again with their wellshod hoofs, plowman and wayfarer turned aside to see, housewife and maiden hastened to the windows to stare and admire. Mark them well, good people, for it will be many a long day ere you look upon their like again. Little Mice was so sleeked and buttoned up that he did not appear more than half his usual size; but his hands, encased in a pair of buckskin gloves, which at a moderate computation would hold half a peck each, did not seem to have undergone a corresponding diminution. His head upon his ponderous shoulders looked no larger than a good-sized apple, and was surmounted by a tiny Dutch cap, the effect of which was to increase, in appearance, the disproportion between the head and shoulders. His little bead-like eyes twinkled with delight, while his broad lips were forcibly puckered into an expression of respectful gravity; but, upon the slightest inattention on the part of their owner, and even in spite of his endeavors, occasionally they would relapse into their natural position that of a broad grin. Beside this model of a driver and valet sat Porte Crayon - quite a secondary personage, by the way in a substantial suit of gray cassimere, a black oil-cloth cap, hunting belt, leathern gaiters, and a short German rifle, which usually hung upon the dash-board of the carriage.
The three ladies occupied the interior. A spirited and accurate description of their dresses was promised the editor of these papers by one of the ladies, but that having failed to appear, he excuses himself from attempting any thing of the sort on his own responsibility. Men are generally bunglers when they undertake to write upon subjects they know nothing about. That their costumes were appropriate and becoming we can vouch, as also for the fact that they made them all with their own pretty hands during the week preceding their departure. Porte Crayon has drawn Fanny in a black velvet jacket and a skirt of blue mousseline. Minnie he sketches in a dress of some lighter material, fashioned with a basque, and loose sleeves trimmed with ruffles. Dora wore a plain, close-fitting gown, with a row of buttons in front. All three had neat little straw bonnets, which they generally wore hanging on their shoulders, with the green veils attached to them streaming down their backs, thus giving the sun and wind a long- coveted opportunity of kissing their rosy cheeks at pleasure. Porte Crayon says this mode of wearing bonnets reminds him of a story told by some missionaries, who, zealous in the cause of civilization, distributed among certain savage tribes a quantity of axes, mattocks, hoes, and spades. On revisiting their friends the following year, they found them promenading in all pomp and dignity with these useful and not at all cumbersome implements hung about their necks by thongs of deer-skin.
Having disposed of the dresses and millinery, let us go on to the equally puzzling but far more agreeable task of picturing the ladies themselves.
Fanny Crayon has a remarkable face. A nose slightly aquiline, full chiseled lips, dark-blue eyes, dark brows, and fair hair. She is about the middle height, straight as an arrow, perfectly moulded, round and full, but active and graceful as a fawn. Her complexion is very fair, with cheeks of the richest rose. The characteristic expression of her face is earnest and serious, easily provoked to merriment, and not quite so easily provoked to wrath. In this we are aware she differs from most of her sex, and especially from all heroines of love-stories. But she has, nevertheless, what the world calls a temper of her own. Those blue eyes of hers will sometimes flash, and the rose in her cheek so predominate that the lily is entirely lost for a time. Well, well! her native spirit is so well regulated by good sense and good feeling that it rarely shows itself amiss. Fanny, at the age of five-and-twenty, is considered the most accomplished young woman of her neighborhood; for, besides her skill in millinery and mantua-making, she is already a famous housekeeper. Every thing goes on like clock-work under her management, and she not unfrequently condescends to do up the more elegant branches of this department with her own hands.
It happens sometimes during the mince-pie season that Fanny enters the kitchen with an apron white as morning’s milk, and her sleeves tucked up, showing a pair of arms scarcely less fair. Old Tom rises at her entrance, respectfully knocks the fire out of his pipe, and lays it in its niche in the chimney. Aunt Dilly, chief cook, and her daughter Jane, first scullion, stand on either side, attentive to the slightest sign. “Tray, Jane,” says the obsequious Dilly. “Flour, Miss rollin’-pin, Miss butter mince-meat brandy.” The pie approaches completion. Jane holds her breath in admiration. The chief cook looks on in proud humility proud of serving such a mistress, humble at seeing herself outdone by one of only half her age, and, sooth to say, not more than one third of her weight. The great bowl of egg-nog that foams at Christmas is of Fanny’s brewage; and, when she does condescend, as she occasionally does, by way of special favor to somebody, to try her hand on a mint-julep, it is said to be unrivaled.
The walls of the paternal mansion were once ornamented with neatly-framed specimens of her skill in drawing and painting. There were kittens, and squirrels, and birds, and baskets of flowers, as an old aunt used to say, “as natural as life, and all drawn out of her own head.” When Porte came home from abroad he was thoughtless enough to laugh at them, whereupon Fanny quietly took them down and hid them; nor have the united entreaties of the family, nor repeated apologies from Porte, nor Uncle Nat’s express commands, ever been potent enough to induce her to replace them. When Fanny dances (she never waltzed or polka’d), or when she rides on horseback, the negroes all declare “it is a sight to see her;” and when one of them wishes to compliment his dark-browed inamorata for her performance in a husking-reel or a kitchen hoe-down, he tells her she moves like Miss Fanny. But of all Fanny’s accomplishments, none is so universally prized by her friends as her music,
“And of hire song, it is as loud and yerne As any swallow sitting on a berne.” Then such a store of good old-fashioned songs ! she could sing for a week without ever repeating a stanza. At one time Porte undertook to teach her some French and Italian airs, and found an apt and willing pupil; but Uncle Nat positively forbade her singing the foreign trash, insisting that it would spoil her. voice and vitiate her taste.
Beside Fanny sat Minnie May, with a shower of rich golden curls, and cheeks as smooth and delicately-tinted as the lips of a sea-shell, with a slight but elastic figure, and hands so small that she never could reach an octave on the piano, and consequently never learned music. Whether she would have learned if she had been able to accomplish the octave is a problem that will never be solved, for she is nineteen years old, and her hands are not likely to grow any bigger. Indeed, Minnie is not accomplished, as the world goes, for she can’t sing except a little in concert, and is equally unskillful in fitting a dress or compounding a pudding. If she reads much she seems little the wiser for it, for most probably romances and poetry receive the principal part of her attention. Her character is an odd compound of archness and naivete, of espieglerie and sweetness. If she can’t sing, her voice in conversation is like the warble of a blue-bird, in addition to which she lisps most charmingly. Unpretending and child-like in her manners, she has a quick and original wit, and reads character by intuition. To this power, probably, and to some pretty coaxing ways, she owes the unbounded influence she exercises over every one about her. Even Porte’s proverbial obstinacy is not proof against it. He flounders and fumes like a bumble-bee stuck fast in molasses, and is sometimes hard ungallantly to wish her to the deuce; “for,” says he, “when she is about, I can’t even choose what coat I may wear.” Little Mice already begins to own her sway, when, in reply to some disparaging comments on the horses, he obsequiously takes off his rag of a cap and gently defends his cattle. ” Ah! young Mistis, some hosses is naterelly lean dat way. Now dat roan eats my two gloves full of oats every time, but he’s ribs always shows; dis sorrel, he put up different; can’t count he’s ribs indeed ! Gin I has dese creeters in my hands a week, dey’ll shine; mind dat, Mistis.”
Dora Dimple was a sweet little body with round, innocent eyes, which were, in truth, the windows of her soul, and she blushes when any one looked therein. The roses in her cheeks were ever blooming, and, when freshened by exercise or sudden excitement, they had a tendency to turn purple. Dora was but seventeen, quiet, modest, and sweet-tempered, and it never seemed to have entered her head that she lived for any thing else than to please every body and do as she was bid, like the good little girls in the Sunday-school books.
As they trotted along, chattering, giggling, and singing to the accompaniment of the wheels, no wonder that Crayon frequently looked back at his wards, and thought to himself, “After all, this looks as well as going out to the Blackwater. I dare say he’ll have a merry time!” No wonder that Mice, with a superb flourish of his whip, observed, “Mass’ Porte, dis is a very light-runnin’ instrument; seems as if it would run along of itself.”
The pleasant and hospitable town of Winchester, with its polished society, its flower-gardens, and famous market, savored too much of ordinary civilization to detain a party in search of the romantic and wonderful longer than was necessary to obtain the requisite supply of food and sleep. It was here that Porte Crayon first exhibited a programme of the proposed trip, which was received with such manifestations of approval and delight that he felt himself highly flattered. But our narrative must not lag by the way. Whip up, Mice ! up the Valley turnpike as fast as the horses can trot on a bright frosty morning. At midday the light- running vehicle, with its light-hearted inmates, was rapidly approaching the Massanutten Mountains. These mountains rise to a majestic height in the midst of the valley between the forks of the Shenandoah River, and about twenty miles south of Winchester. They lie principally in the counties of Page and Shenandoah, and the Eastern Massanutten forms the boundary between the two counties. They are parallel with the Blue Ridge, and run in a double range for some twenty-five or thirty miles, and then in a single range for about the same distance, terminating in Rockingham county as abruptly as they rise. The double range includes a romantic and fertile valley twenty-five miles long and about three in width, the level of which is several hundred feet above the Great Valley, and which is entered from the north at the Fortsmouth, one of the most famous passes in the Virginia mountains.
A midday lunch under the shade of some maples, the fording of the crystal river, and the approach to this imposing pass, kept the animal spirits and the expectant fancies of our adventurers keenly on the alert. Soon they were winding along the banks of a rushing stream, and there scarcely seemed room between its rugged borders and the impending cliffs for a narrow carriage-way. As they advanced they perceived the mountain barriers rising on either side, like perpendicular walls, to a stupendous height the road and stream still crowding each other as they struggled along, and the gloom of the wild defile deepened by a tall growth of shadowy hemlocks. As the difficulties increased, our friends were fain to leave the toiling carriage to its assiduous and careful governor, and bravely take to the road afoot. How wild it was! how fresh and beautiful! The joyous stream seemed rushing to meet them with a free, noisy welcome, wimpling and dimpling, tumbling in tiny waterfalls into deep pools which sparkled with foam and bubbles. The girls, like wood-nymphs, ran here and there, gathering the rich and varied plants of the mountains, and such flowers as had survived the early frosts of autumn; while Porte Crayon, in the advance, regardless of the probabilities of game, the rifle at his back, or nerves of his fair companions, rent the air with shouts that made the mountains answer again and again. Perceiving at length that he was getting a little hoarse, his enthusiasm abated, and he left off. The stream crossed and recrossed their path so often that Minnie declared it was some spiteful Undine, who, in wanton mischief, was striving to detain them. “Not so, Cousin Minnie; but, rather, the water-sprite has seen something genial in your eyes, and meets you at every turn with the hope of beguiling you to stay and be her playmate. ” But neither hinderance nor persuasion availed any thing. Here by a rustic bridge, there by an opportune drift-log, and, where neither lent their aid, by resolutely skipping from rock to rock, they kept on their way, Porte leading the troop, encouraging and giving directions, applauding each successful venture, and laughing loud when some unlucky foot dipped ankle-deep into the water. At the end of an hour’s walk, and about two miles from the mouth of the defile, they found themselves fairly in the Valley of Powell’s Fort and here the road becoming more practicable they again betook themselves to their carriage. Porte Crayon could not refrain from casting many regretful looks behind him. “What pictures!” sighed he; “what sketches! But we can’t have every thing. Burner’s is yet full twelve miles distant, and we must each there to-night by the programme.”
“Vite! vite, conducteur!” “Ya-as, sir,” replied the obsequious coachman, looking somewhat bewildered, but licking it into the horses all the while. As they went on winding their toilsome way around the spurs of the mountains a gorgeous sunset began to work its magic changes upon the extended landscape. But the sunset faded into twilight, and the twilight deepened into darkness before they reached their destination. Here a hospitable welcome, a blazing fire, and a keenly-appreciated supper were followed by a deep, unbroken sleep of some ten hours’ duration.
Burner’s Sulphur Springs, or, as they are sometimes more properly called, The Seven Fountains, are, apart from their beautiful surroundings, worthy objects of scientific curiosity. In a small bowl-like hollow, and within a circle whose radius is probably not more than a dozen paces, are these seven fountains, all differing in character. The central spring is a fine white sulphur; within a few feet are two other sulphurs, differing in temperature and chemical analysis. A few paces distant are Freestone, Slate, and Limestone Springs, each decided and unmistakable of its kind. The seventh is called the Willow Spring, but we do not know what are its virtues and qualities.
Our friends took to the open air while the frost was yet sparkling on the ground, and, after ranging the hill sides until the girls were tired, Crayon determined to amuse himself making a sketch of Mr. Burner’s premises. Having chosen his point of view on an open hill side, he found himself much annoyed by a brilliant sun which took him directly in the face. The girls, seeing his difficulty, with prompt ingenuity spread their broad shawls over some leafless bushes, and thus contrived, in a few minutes, a perfect shade and a highly-picturesque canopy. This unexpected and graceful service awakened in Crayon that grateful surprise which the Lion must have felt when delivered from the toils of the hunter by the Mouse. He laid down his sketch-book deliberately.
“‘Pon my soul, girls, this is enchanting! I’m really beginning to think that women are not such useless creatures, after all.”
“How delicately he compliments!” said Minnie; “no coarse flattery not he. It requires a shrewd refinement to extract the honey from the flower. Isn’t it worth while, girls, to make canopies, just to hear Cousin Porte speak so encouragingly of us?”
In the afternoon, the party, including Mice, went hunting, and, although they found some game, Porte Crayon, either from distraction, or over-anxiety to exhibit his address with the rifle, missed every thing he shot at. Minnie at length began to grow quizzical; at every shot she insisted that the birds were hit; she saw the feathers fly; hinted that the powder might be bad, or the sights accidentally knocked out of place. In all this she was earnestly seconded by Mice, who ran, like an over-anxious pointer, at every crack, to pick up the game. Finding nothing, he looked much perplexed and mortified, and finally suggested that the gun was bewitched; he had seen an old black woman looking at it very hard that morning before the party were up. The girls got into a titter, and Crayon bit his lips, but said nothing. A pheasant, a squirrel, and a couple of crows had already heard his bullets whistle by their ears, and had gone off in great alarm. Presently a fine rabbit sprung up, and after running about fifty yards, stood up to see who was coming. Porte took deliberate aim and fired, the rabbit disappeared, and every body but the rifleman ran to find him. On examining the spot they could see nothing; but Minnie, having slyly gathered half a dozen wild turkey feathers, which she found in the thicket, showed them triumphantly, exclaiming, “There! I was sure he was hit; look at the feathers.”
Crayon quietly reloaded his piece and commenced looking about for a lizard. Although this search was unsuccessful, he did not wait long for his revenge. As they neared the edge of the wood, a large black animal suddenly stepped out of a thicket. ” Heavens!” cried he, whipping out his knife, “a bear!”
A trio of shrieks echoed through the forest, and Porte suddenly found himself bound neck and hands by three pair of desperate arms.
“Don’t don’t choke me to death,” he gurgled. “Help, Mice!”
“Why, Mistisses,” said Mice, earnestly, “dat ain’t no bar. Mass’ Porte jis foolin’.”
“Pshaw!” said Minnie, “it’s only a great black ram. Oh, Porte, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
“Indeed,” said Fanny, recovering herself, “I do wish it had been a bear. Such an adventure!”
“Ke, he! I ’specs, Miss, if he was a sure-enough bar, den you wish he was a sheep agin.”
After this excitement, the ladies looked nervous and fatigued, and requested Porte to conduct them home by the nearest route. Like a wise man, he enjoyed his triumph moderately. He was uncommonly good-humored and polite during the rest of the evening, and was contented that no farther allusion was ever made to the shooting of that day.
In passing from Burner’s to Woodstock six miles distance on the western descent of the Massanutten Mountain, our travelers were delighted with a magnificent view of the county of Shenandoah, which lay as it were a map spread out at their feet, checkered with field and woodland, dotted with villages and farrn-houses, and watered by the north fork of the Shenandoah River, which glistened in its doublings and windings like a silver serpent, inclosing many a fair and fertile meadow in its beneficent folds.
As far the town of Woodstock, it doubtless has, like many other little towns in Virginia, the merits of a singed cat, that of being much better than it looks. At any rate, our travelers did not tarry long enough to appreciate it, but, finding themselves once more upon the turnpike, pushed on rapidly. At noon they stopped as usual to refresh. At Crayon’s request to serve something cold and without delay, the landlord looked considerably perplexed. After some circumlocution, however, he frankly acknowledged that there was nothing in the house - neither bread, nor meat, nor vegetables.
“We had a fine dinner, Sir,” said Boniface, apologetically; “but the stage-passengers were so delighted with it they left nothing. It was a splendid dinner, Sir, if your party had only got in before the stage.”
Crayon felt his curiosity piqued. “What had you?”
“A squirrel pie,” said Boniface, rubbing his hands; “a squirrel pie, and-er-ah a fine squirrel pie. The fact is, stranger, my old woman is sick, or I wouldn’t have been caught in this fix. You know young women ain’t of no account anyhow.”
This coincidence of opinion soothed Crayon’s disappointment, and the party good-humoredly lunched on ham and sugar-cakes, which they found in their carriage-box, and went on their way rejoicing.