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THE WEDDING DINNER.
While the fighting is going on, when the small stock of store goods brought from the older settlements has been exhausted, and there are no stores, before the home-made looms can be put in operation, the women are obliged to fall back upon the material employed by their husbands and sons, and thus manufacture their garments from deerskin. You can readily conceive that when a lady has been thoroughly drenched in a hard shower, and is drying herself before a blazing fire, her garments shall be a very tight fit. But now the spinning-jenny and the loom are in daily use, and they are dressed in cloth of their own making. Copperas, madder, and the other dyes, have not yet been introduced, wherefore, they say, by poetic licence, white cloth; in sooth, it is only a dirty brown. Mantuamaking has not been imported from Paris, and in consequence, the cut and make are of the most primitive description. The sleeves resemble miniature corn-sacks, through which the hands are thrust; the dresses are gathered at the neck, but gathered nowhere else, and fall gracefully-or gracelessly around the person. But one young lady at this frolic, as at all frolics, is the cynosure of every beholder. She has prevailed upon her father to go a journey of fifty miles to the "Falls "-Louisvilleto buy her a new dress. It is bought, and she has it on, but, what catastrophes will not ensue when young ladies entrust the purchase of their wardrobe to their fathers? The dress is of calico for calico is the velvet and moire antique of the time, but it is a furniture calico, of a very large figure, and very red. But the old hunters are staring at her as if their eyes had never greeted such a vision of ravishing beauty. The old ladies are winking and nodding, and whispering to each other that " that gal's extravagance will spile the whole family." Need I say what the young ladies are doing? Or the young gentlemen? Who does
not know the power of fine dress to breed envy and win attention?
Here, then, they stand around the hospitable board, a healthy, hearty, happy set of people, without a twinge of neuralgia, or a symptom of dyspepsia in the company. This you would believe, could you see them eat. Dinner ended, the second part of the programme begins; and what can this be but a dance. Wherefore the old black fiddler is introduced, who, after making the inevitable preliminary flourishes with his bow, bids them choose partners and start. Remember that they are dancing as our English forefathers danced, on the green sward, in the checkered shade. And here I am reminded that they are a rough and unsophisticated people, for the only styles they are acquainted with are the Virginia reels, jigs, and shake-downs. If you had mentioned mazourka, polka, schottische, redowa, in connection with dancing, they would have stared as if they thought you crazy. On they caper, "till the livelong daylight fails," when, if not to "the spicy nut-brown ale," they betake themselves for recuperation to a cold cut and "black Betty." Through the thickening darkness, blazing pine-knots from firestands shed a lurid glare, affording light enough to dance by. Thus they proceed till daylight, halting in the middle watch for another "bite and swig." As the ruddy glow steals along the eastern sky, worn-out and barefooted-for moccasins will not bear everything - they hie them home to rest.
A day or two thereafter, you shall see every man who has been at the party, coming to the "infair." With his rifle on his shoulder, that, if occasion serve, he may "drop a deer in his tracks," attended by his pack of hounds, who follow him everywhere, to church and funerals, as well as to weddings, our trusty hunter bears along his axe. Reaching the site selected, he finds a group of hardy
HOMES IN THE WILDERNESS.
woodmen stripped for their work, wielding their axes with gigantic strength and dexterous aim. The great trees of the forest shiver, groan, and fall with a thunderous crash. Logs of the proper length are cut and notched; brawny arms lift them to their places; clapboards for the roof are split, and puncheons* are hewed for the floor, and in a trice the new house is raised. In the centre of the floor, four auger-holes are bored, in which are inserted stakes. On these, two puncheons are placed, which constitute the table. Four other augerholes are bored in one corner of the cabin, in which are inserted four stakes with forked tops. In these are laid saplings, on which rest strips of bark, or, in their place, buffalo skins are tightly drawn. Dried leaves are then collected as a mattress; the upper side of the tick being constituted of skin; and thus you have bed and bedstead. A rude dresser is hewn in another corner of the cabin, which shall contain the little stock of pottery, tin, and iron ware. Three or four three-legged stools to be followed in after years by a dozen or twenty more, as necessity may require-and, in course of time, a sugar-trough for a cradle, complete the furniture of the dwelling. At his leisure, the young man shall arrange a set of buckhorns over the door, as pegs whereon to rest his rifle; and construct a loom, that his wife may prosecute her weaving, for she has brought with her a spinning-jenny as her dower. The "house is warmed" by means of another party, and our newly-married pair start upon the sober jog of wedded life.
Humble indeed were these households of the first settlers. But around these cabin-homes of the wilderness, God's angels came to bestow their benedictions.
* A puncheon is made by splitting a log eighteen inches in diameter, the hewed side laid uppermost or outermost. They are used for floor, doors, benches, &c.
are health and labour, frugality and content, chastity and love. From these darkened fountains in the forest have gushed the waters which, flowing into sunshine, have combined to form the majestic river of our national life.
These men came in obedience to an instinct well nigh equivalent to a heavenly command to subdue the land and to replenish it. They came with that unerring sagacity to discover and settle choice lands, which may be taken as a characteristic of Saxondom. With stalwart strength, intrepid hearts, high resolves, and unconquerable wills, they came to dispossess the red-skins, and claim this valley world as a heritage for civilisation. With unconscious prescience, they came to win from battle, self-denial, and toil, estates for their families, and an empire for coming generations. They were here for individual freedom; but they felt with that infallible accuracy inherited from their English ancestry, that individual freedom could not be attained save by social and civil institutions. Obedience to severe, yet majestic law, must be required; else liberty would degenerate into licence, feudalism would have a new inauguration, and the garden of the world become an Alsatia. These hunter-farmers, recognised themselves as citizens, and laboured long and well to lay the foundations of coming States. Laws were passed at once and duly enforced. Oftentimes it happened that Judge Lynch occupied the bench, and that regulators were the jury. How could it be otherwise, when the nearest constable was five hundred miles away, and the only police officer in the country was the rifle at the saddle-pommel? when the only courthouse was the first tree, and the only jail was a rope thrown over the lowest branch, the culprit's neck in a noose at one end, and strong hands tugging at the other.
LAWS OF THE FIRST SETTLERS.
Some of their laws were odd enough, not a little resembling the early statutes of New England. They had one, for example, that no man should be tolerated in the commonwealth, who had not visible and honest means of support. There came to the town of Washington, Kentucky, a young man, who seemed to have nothing to do but to keep his hands warm in his pocket, and his mouth puckered for a whistle. Strolling about the town from day to day, he was spying out the settlement, that he might, with fitting opportunity, begin his nefarious scheme. In his coat-pocket was a pack of greasy cards, into the meaning and use of which he proposed to initiate the young men of the place, and having won their money, and corrupted their morals, to pass to other places as a missionary of the evil one. Some of the old gentlemen of the neighbourhood, shrewdly suspecting his intent, warned him of the prescript upon their statute book. But he, as young gentlemen are apt to do, esteemed the old men a pack of old fogies, and went as before, upon his whistling way. They gave him the notice; he disregarded it; the penalty was upon his own head. A writ was served upon him, and he was deposited for safe keeping in the jail, or, as they figuratively call it, the jug. Advertisement is made, a crowd assembles; he is carried by the sheriff into the middle of the public square, mounted on a horse-block, put up at auction, and knocked down to the highest bidder. The highest bidder is the village blacksmith, who, fastening a chain round his leg, conducts him to the forge, where he keeps him secure, and for three months, from sun to sun, inducts him into the craft of blowing and striking. The law's stern lesson taught him, our gambling gentleman is set at liberty, when he "makes tracks," his back upon Kentucky, swearing it the "meanest country a white man ever got into."