« AnteriorContinuar »
UPON a cold winter evening, when seated by a cheerful fire, in the humble domicil of the subject of this sketch, and talking with him over the various news of the times, some sentence perchance escaped my lips, which, with the fleetness of a shooting star, carried the old man's thoughts away back to the earliest scenes of his life; and making this his starting-point, he began to detail them with so much feeling of interest, that we at once determined to sacrifice all other topics, until he should narrate to us the events of his past career; but after holding our attention for an hour, he came to a sudden pause, and with the same modesty which has marked his character through life, said, “I expect the stories which I have been giving you all this while seem more eloquent to myself than to you, who have never experienced the realities whence they originated.” We told him that we might call to mind examples going to show where and when we had been imposed upon, even bored to intolerance, by fools who attempted to look wise, and presume upon our ignorance by relating falsehoods, or spinning out to a thread which would pass through the eye of a lady's cambric needle, some unconnected, uninteresting yarn, of which they most commonly made themselves the hero; but that this was not our present lot. “If you will only proceed,” continued we, “you shall have an audience until the cock's shrill clarion shall ring out on the morning air, and if you then have not finished, we will hear you again, and still again, until you have done.” Here the old man thanked us for what he feared was an unmerited compliment, and said, “I am now too old to labor with my hands, and since the mind is a piece of machinery, the continued motion of which God never designed should stop during life, it is evident that I must have employment, and I, therefore, agree to tax your patience for the period I propose to occupy in relating my story.” We told him such a tale would be to us a delightful burden.
“ Then,” said he, “you must transport yourself in imagination with me back through a space of nearly a hundred years, to a period that dates some five years beyond the bursting forth of the American Revolution, to a time when our cannons had never boomed upon the bloody fields of Lexington and Concord, to a time when the first Congress of the Colonies had never assembled, and when the burning of the Gaspee had not taken place: to be brief, you must go with me far beyond.” Here we interrupted him, and desired him to begin with his earliest childhood, the morning of his existence, and we were ready to start and come down with him to the evening in which his sun was so clearly setting; and he began as may be seen in the succeeding chapter.
THE 30th of July, 1770, at night, when the stars, for all I know, were shining bright, and the crystal dews were being distilled plentifully upon the earth's green herbage around the small habitation of my parents, I made my advent into this world, and I am unable to determine at this remote period of my life whether I was born with a caul over my face or not, but am disposed to regard it more as a fact than a mere probability, for it is evident that I have enjoyed many privileges debarred others, and have seen many sights upon which other eyes than mine have never gazed, and superstition informs us that this is the fate of all who enter this existence under such strange auspices. But be this as it may, superstition has sustained her reputation so far as to have allowed me the privilege of spring
ing from Virginia, the Ancient Dominion, which gave birth to Washington, the saviour of his country, and Jefferson, the great author of the Declaration of Independence, and Patrick Henry, the famous revolutionary orator, and since permitted me to live in Tennessee, where I shall doubtless die, which can boast of her generals, her statesmen, and presidents.
At the time of my birth, to say nothing about superstition—a thing which, after all, is very unpopular with me—my parents resided near Cabin Point, in Prince George county, Eastern Virginia, and their names were respectively Benjamin and Caroline, both of English descent, members of the Baptist Church, and had seven children, two sons and five daughters. They were both very pious, and it is a vast source of pride and happiness to me, in this the evening of my existence, to reflect on the life they led, and to think with what vigilance they watched over their offspring, endeavoring all the while to train the twig in a manner that it would shoot direct toward heaven.
I remember that I was a very mischievous boy, and that my father told me that I would be hung; but if you will look at these white locks you will