Page images
PDF
EPUB

MR. MANNING'S RA M B L E.

AN AUTEENTIC NARRATIVE.

• CERTAINLY, Sir, Gray was not far out of the way when he asserted that a word written on the spot is worth a cart-load of recollections ; 'a word, you will remark, Mr. Mercer. Carrying out the proposition, then, these twenty volumes of memoranda are worth the entire contents of those well-filled shelves.' And Mr. John Manning surveyed with paternal interest the splendid bindings and glittering titles of his . Tour in America.'

I am delighted,' continued he, that you did not leave England without bringing yourself and Beach's letter to Fenwick House; to say nothing of my satisfaction at hearing of the prosperity of Mr. Beach; a gentleman, let me tell you, of perfect integrity, and the best land-agent in the world. I am glad to see you as an American; a citizen of that country in which I passed the happiest ten years of my existence. If I were a married man you would suppose this was a pretty long wedding-tour. Not so, Sir; I traversed the Old Thirteen States, from the District of Maine to Savannah, and crossed the Blue Ridge to the western waters, with very different motives; namely, to afford my countrymen, whose affections two wars had almost alienated from America, a graphic idea of her resources, and to substitute for the brief stage-coach recollections of our travellers an accurate and comprehensive statement of facts, which you know is very necessary to sound induction.

· Well, Sir, what has been the result ? Why, that the lapse of twenty-six years had wrought changes so startling, and invested my notes with an interest so profound, that even in 1846, M. Dumas, with his feet on his fender at Paris, would consider them brilliant points for his imaginary travels. Therefore it was I published them, and gave them a local habitation' in this collection of American works, and works relating to America, the best library of the kind in England; I should rather say, in the world. It is my pride, my hobby; and this is the first place to which I bring my American visitors. Sit down, Mr. Mercer. I am an old man, and love to talk; in fact, I am not always so fortunate in finding persons like yourself familiar with the names and things of 1800. Your countrymen sometimes laugh at me when I talk of embarking on board the sloop Jenny, Captain Mark HARGRAVE, from New-York for Albany, and after a fortnight's passage recruiting my exhausted spirits at Lewis' table d'hôte. They know nothing of Schwartz's, at Utica, and stare incredulously when I assure them that there were only two or three huts between Onondaga-Hollow and Geneva, where Powell, a protégé of Captain WILLIAMSON, superintended the largest hotel in the State of New York. Well, Sir, I fushed partridges and quails along the line of the old Genessee road, (I was not afraid of the fever, you see, because I had a full supply of Dr. James' powders,) and stood on the very spot from which the ci-devant wanderer, Louis PPILIPPE, admired, perhaps in the identical boots presented to him by Thomas Morris, Esq., of Canadarqua, the falls of Colonel Fish's mills.

Forty-five years ago, Mr. Mercer, I could not find a stable for my horse where now stands a city of twenty-five thousand inhabitants. I rode over • Open Plain' where the grass was so high that I tied it over my head, in company with HOTBREAD, an Indian chief, who ambled along on a pony whose ears were fancifully encircled and tipped with silver, and arrived at Ganson's, the lonely · Inn of the Wilderness.' There I left my horse; and with my rifle, knife, shot-pouch and other hunting implements, I slowly crossed the mountains of Steuben, in whose narrow glens lonely lakes reflected the unbroken images of towering oaks and hemlocks. At last I reached a stone which marked the boundary-line between the great States of New York and Pennsylvania. This stone, which then stood on the bank of a streamlet, they were about removing farther west, lest the constant action of the current should corrode and destroy it. It was engraved : *1787; Lat. 42, Var. 1. 52. West.' But I fear, Sir, that these details are wearisome.'

Mr. Mercer protested that he was curious to know more of Mr. Manning's reminiscences.

It was no ordinary occurrence at that period for a solitary traveller to penetrate those fastnesses. I like well enough to hear the grouse drum and the quail chirrup; but a bear in a swamp, a wild. cat or panther ('painter;' as the settlers call it,) among the pine branches overhead, is by no means so welcome to an amateur hunter. I had an adventure about this time which may interest you, as it serves to illustrate the character of certain ancient inhabitants of those unsettled parts. It is natural to consider that which one finds exciting equally interesting to others; and I know that I shall necessarily omit, in telling you this story, a thousand minutiæ, which indeed perhaps I did not myself observe, but which powerfully contributed to produce the intense excitement of my feelings. If I relate accurately what I saw and heard, so far the portrait will be to the life ; but you cannot share the emotions I experienced unless you can become my second self; still we often feel a portrait to be true, although we have never seen its original, from a certain har. mony of peculiarities which an artist would not be likely to produce without a model.

*I do not wish to do any injustice to the settlers on Pine Creek. I have heard that at the present day the supply of thirty or forty saw-mills is gradually denuding the thickly-wooded bills, and that even in that cold soil excellent farms are found, which amply reward the industrious husbandman. Forty-five years since it was not so.

'I descended about sun-down a precipitous mountain, from whose summit, covered with pines so densely planted that they seemed impervious to the curious tread of scene-seekers, I gazed from right to left upon the Alleghanies, bounding the view within the limit of a mile." They seemed to stretch behind each other in successive ridges, nearly of equal height. I was struck with the bare and desolate appearance of the leafless pines, springing up gaunt and naked, now like the masts of vessels, and sometimes where the foliage of the beech or oak was near, like the staves of a hundred floating green banners. Far down in the valley the swift stream wound through green glades, marked by the darker shadows of the pines almost to its banks. Huge boulders of granite lay along the mountain path; and when, fatigued and hungry, I reached the val. ley of the creek, the melancholy howl of a wolf, high up among the rocks, reminded me of hunger of a different description.

“I sat down upon a stone by the side of the road to rest myself, when I was surprised by the sudden appearance of a man and a boy from the bushes opposite. The man seemed inclined to be very civil. I permitted him to examine my rifle and accoutrements. But though smooth-spoken, he had a downcast, sinister expression of countenance, which I did not like. I asked him a number of questions. He told me that Teeples' house was about three miles up the creek, and that I had better hurry along before the old man shut down the gates. As we separated he showed me a bill upon the Bank of New York, wishing to know if it was genuine. Happening to know the bills of that bank, I told him at a glance that it was counterfeit, when he immediately put it up and walked off. When I had travelled about a mile I heard quick steps behind me, and turning, saw the boy coming up, almost out of breath.

"Don't go to Teeples'!' said he. " Why not?'

"Oh! the old man is savage when he is in liquor; you'll get into trouble.'

• Where shall I go then, my boy?'

• But he had disappeared as suddenly as he came. I walked on, and when within sight of the desolate inn was again overtaken by å man in the dress of a surveyor. He was very tall and thin. He seemed about forty-five years of age, and was very active, for I soon found it difficult to keep pace with his long strides. He wore a cloth cap closely fitting his head, and a leathern apron, fastened at the back and reaching below his knees, where it was slashed. Around his middle was wound his chain, and in his hand he carried his tri. pod and level.

“I say, friend,' said he, as he came up, looking very sharply at me, where are you bound ?'

“To Teeples' inn,' I replied.

• Ah! then we shall be fellow-travellers. A pretty bad neighborhood this is for a dark night. I suppose this Teeples ha'n't got his beat in old Potter. They do tell queer stories about him. I stopped at his house about three years ago; he was n't at home, but Old Homely,' his wife, treated me very decently; so I've got nothing to complain of.'

"You are a surveyor, I perceive.

"Oh, yes. I came from Massachusetts about ten years ago on my way to New-Orleans, for I was thought to be dying with consumption; but I got such good offers here that I took to surveying and hunting, and I found the roving life agreed so well with me that I gave up going South; and now there is n't a man in Tiog' that has set more stakes or run more lines than myself; and about all the deeds from the BINGHAMS to the settlers refer to the maps and surveys of Matthew Flint, Esquire.'

"Who are the Binghams ?

"Oh! I forgot you were a stranger here. Well, the history is this : Mr. Bingham, of Philadelphia, about the time of the revolution, became the creditor of government to a large amount, and finally took payment in wild lands, chiefly in Tiog’ County, in Pennsylvania. By the advice of their agent, his heirs, among whom was one of the Barings, of London, I believe Lord Ashburton, permitted settlers to take possession on condition of paying taxes and interest on the purchase-money, which principal they are not very strenuous in demanding. The time will come, I calculate, when these titles will make trouble ; but I ought not to complain ; for to tell the truth, I sometimes collect the payments myself, and get a pretty handsome commission for it too.'

"You must have had fine opportunities for sport, Mr. Flint.'

“Yes,' he answered, “but I soon got tired of that. I never leave the chain now unless I am afraid of getting my head combed by a painter or wild-cat; and speaking of wild-cats, you recollect the ma'sh on the other side of the hill? Well, about eight o'clock one sunset I was out along the head there; I had a cur-dog with me that had picked up many a fox, and knew how to run side by side with a deer. I saw something moving among the underwood; I took it to be a raccoon. The dog ran him up a tree; the fellow ran like the devil, I tell you. I climbed up after him and picked off a limb about the thickness of my two thumbs. I hit him with it three times over the head, and was just giving him a fourth, when he sprang to the ground. I gave chase and followed him again up an oak-sapling. He saw me, and made ready to spring at me. Says I, ‘oid fellow, it's you or I!' and was letting drivefat him again, when I saw his whole figure ; short tail, head nearly as big as my two fists, eyes as fiery as Satan - no raccoon, I tell you; a genuine wild-cat; and no doubt her kittens began to mew by that time. I thought it was none of my business, and let her go, and was very glad to get off so easy. But, thank God, there's Teeples castle ; à little later and we could n't get across the foot-bridge.'

The house really looked like a fortress. It stood in an excavation on the side of the eastern bank of the stream, which was here very lofty; it was built of boards so brown with age and storms that it could scarcely be distinguished from the dusky pines which covered the face of the rock and towered from the shelf which projected above the roof. There were only two windows to be seen, one over the narrow door, the other at its side ; but there was no light visible, nor any evidence that the building was inhabited. The stream, here hedged in by the rocks and very rapid, pours over a ledge ten feet in height. I followed my companion over the narrow and tottering plank which stretched across the stream to the door of the house. " When about the middle, where the bridge bent and sprung as if ready to break under our weight, I was startled by the sharp and clear sound of a bell very near us. It ceased as we stopped, and rang again as we advanced.

"Ha! ha!' said Flint, .old Teeples is wagging his tongue! I recollect the bell now. It is rung by a cord which connects with the bridge. We shall see Mrs. Homely's night-cap before long.'

* As he spoke, a woman holding a candle thrust out her head from the upper window, and with a shrill voice demanded :

"Who is there?

“ All right, Mrs. Teeples,' said my comrade. “Don't you remember Flint and his surveying traps ? I've got a friend here with me, and we want supper and a bed. Come, come; down with you, old girl, and let us in.

In a moment, a tall woman, in a red-flannel gown, dirty night-cap, woollen stockings and clumsy shoes, appeared at the entrance. She had small grayish-blue, crazy-looking eyes, and gray hair which fell in tangles over her shoulders.

"You had better go further on, gentlemen,' said she. “We have had bad luck here to-day; the freshet has carried away the apron of our dam, and my husband had two horses drowned in getting lumber out of the creek.'

"Further on to-night! I'll see you — Excuse me, Madam,' said Flint, pressing into the hall, · You can't expect politeness from hungry men. No, no ; there is not another house within ten miles.'

Seeing us resolved, the old woman got us supper, after which we ascended a steep pair of stairs into a room where there were three or four beds, and were soon sound asleep.

• When I awoke the next morning, which was Sunday, I found Flint's bed empty and was informed by Mrs. Teeples that he left quite early, saying that he must reach home by noon. My hostess was silent and reserved; and once, when I unexpectedly came into the room where she was sitting, I found her in tears. There were no books about the house; and feeling lonely, I strolled out along the banks of the creek, which had fallen as suddenly as it rose. I thought of old Walton's doctrine, that angling is an avocation favorable to reflection; and although I did not exactly wish to

* Bid good morning to next day,' I cut a pole and cast a fly upon the sparkling ripples. Finding pretty good sport, I fished up the creek for five or six miles until nearly evening. In the excitement of the moment, I sank up to my middle in a deep marsh, from which struggling out, I clambered along the steep bank, holding on by trees and roots, until I emerged into a space somewhat more cleared, and crossing a pine log that, borne down by the freshet, lay extended from bank to bank, I stepped upon

« PreviousContinue »