« AnteriorContinuar »
usually arrived there at eleven. I glanced at my watch ; it was not yet ten. We had an hour and fourteen minutes.
Mrs. Preston, I will take you to the boat in time.' "Can you?' and she stopped short in her career.
Yes; but you must leave your baggage.'
She glanced at the band-boxes, and hesitated a moment; then, just as I had lightened my vehicle, by pitching out the birds almost into Hertezoff's lap, she leaped into the wagon without waiting for me to bias the front axle and make room for her.
Hold fast, Mrs. Preston. Partridges, with Mr. Van Horne's compliments. Ke-ip, Charley! Good-bye, Mr. Hertezoff!' and away we rattled down the lane and out at the gate, leaving the old gentleman more bewildered than ever; his daughter whisked away, he had hardly time to see by whom, and three brace of birds left in exchange for her.
Though our road descended most of the way, (else would our chance have been small indeed,) it rose at first, soon after emerging from the Hertezoff place, for nearly a mile, and pretty stiffly too. To press the borse up this hill would have been suicidal; we were obliged to mount at any easy pace. By way of keeping up my companion's spirits during this delay, I extemporized some most apocryphal stories of my nag's performances against time. HEAVEN forgive me for Munchausenizing! I am not sure but I made Charley distance Trustee in a ten-mile heat. However, this romance served to keep Mrs. Preston quiet till we had climbed the ascent. A lovely view it was from the top, and a lovely day to see it in. Every variety of hill and valley and wood and water in sight; and far away below, the blue Hudson and the white sails gliding over it; and far away above, the blue sky and the white clouds sailing on it. But I had no eyes save for my horse's ears and the road straight before me. Straight enough it lay, descending for miles, the few occasional elevations being not more than the velocity due to the previous descent would carry us over without trouble. I drew up the reins : Hold fast, Mrs. Preston ; do n't mind the dust. Ke-ip, Charley!' The gallant bay made a hop forward, and then took hold of the bit and settled down to a tearing trot, making the dust eddy and the pebbles spin around us. *He-e, boy! g'lang!' and away goes Charley!
And first we overtook the hopeless messenger. Sam, a diminutivo black, was bobbing up and down on big Ploughboy at a hobby-horse canter. We shot by him like a steamer past a liner when there is no wind, and my hind-wheel nearly took off the top of one of bis boots. Wbether he saw that his services were no longer needed, I do n't know, for he was instantly lost to sight in our self-raised cloud of dust. 'Here, boy! be-eh!' and away goes Charley!
What's this? A flock of geese spread over the road. We take no notice, Charley and I, but go right at them; Mrs. Preston cannot suppress a scream. I understand geese; I have seen a great many in Rhode Island, (no arrière pensée against the inhabitants of that good state, though they have adopted the M-e L-w;) it is a physical impossibility to run over them. Right and left they vanish, as by magic, from under our wheels, and the wagon speeds on smoothly without a jar. 'That's right; he-e, old fellow !' and away goes Charley!
Some minutes --- that is to say, a mile or so-farther on, a huge haycart is drawn diagonally across the road, while the careless driver stands on one side of it, gossipping with a crony. 'Hey! Hallo there! Those men ought to hear us : I'm sure we make noise enough; but they won't take the trouble to. Ah, my fine fellows! We have n't driven on the Bloomingdale-road for nothing. We know where there is just room to get through, and where there is n't. There is just room on the right side, exactly where you are standing. Without a moment's hesitation, we dash at the opening. Our wheels shave the ponderous orbs of the hay-cart
, and the two natives, tardily bestirring themselves to escape Charley's onslaught, are precipitated into the ditch. We hear the beginning of some tall swearing behind us, but the half-formed anathemas die away on the breeze. ‘All right; get along!' and away goes Charley !
The pace continued so good that I began to be afraid, not that we should miss the boat, but a more important loss to me) that I should kill my horse. To be sure, I had once performed a similar feat, about the same amount of road in the same time, with a mare belonging to old Bacchus. (It was to escape a thunder-shower when driving a young lady home from a dinner-party.) But Dolly never was altogether herself
again after it, and Bacchus, who was then worth only one hundred and eighty thousand dollars a year, never forgave me for the injury done his property. Well, we are not so mean as Bacchus, thank God! and if Charley dies in a lady's service, his tomb shall be honored for it. Think of ihat, old fellow, and step out more than ever. 'Hey, get along!' and away goes Charley!
O gioja! potamos ! potamos! We are close on the river. Terribly blown, and puffing like a steam-engine, but with something left in him yet, Charley rushes into the little village of Vienna; (the smaller a place is in our state, the bigger name it is sure to have.) For the first time since starting, I dare look at my watch. Three minutes to spare! Hurrah ! go it, old fellow! this is the last spirt.' Horse and man making noise enough to startle all the inhabitants, we rattle through the village slap to the end of the wharf. Just in time! The red flag is flying from the staff; the good boat Swallow is making her landing. The disembarking passengers have 'toted out their plunder,' and a goodly pile of trunks is going on board. Watching them and smoking a cigar, a tall gentleman leans against a post. It is Sinclair Preston.
'Hallo, Preston! here's your wife!' I shouted with such voice as I had left, for my throat was hoarse and dry between the dust that had gone into it and the yells that had come out of it. By way of supplementary emphasis, I nearly ran Charley's head into his face.
By Jove !' ejaculated the Louisianian, stepping forward just in time to catch his bride as the jerk with which I pulled up threw her into his arms, 'I thought I had forgotten something.'
They have finished the grave and plumped the poor old horse into it. Franký has been scooping out a little grave with sticks in imitation. He has found a chicken's head, and is interring it with much care and ceremony. Dear Franky! how near we were both going to the grave together, though you never knev: it, all by reason of Charley. No— let us be just to the departed; it was my fault more than his.
One fine April day - we lived in town then, and Franky was just beginning to talk - I took him and his nurse on a drive. We had a comfortable top-wagon-not exactly the thing to trot - and an old harness rather too light for the wagon. But not having the least intention to go fast, I started in the middle of the day, when the roads were empty. So we had a nice time of it till, as we were returning through Yorkville and climbing a hill, evil destiny sent a couple of b'hoys in a wagon behind us. I heard them yelling, and drew Charley in, not without some demonstration of reluctance on his part. All would have been well, but as they passed us on the top of the hill, one of them made some contemptuous allusion to my horse. Piqued into a forgetfulness of prudence, I gave my pet his head, and started him down the descent. We were just lapping the other wagon when he broke. Vexed at the occurrence, I did not attempt to stop him until he had run past the b'boys, and then tried to catch him into his trot. But the pull on the reins had no effect; he continued to gallop; and I then saw, to my consternation, that his breaking was only the consequence of the breaking of something else. The breeching Happed loose about his flanks. He could n't stop if he wanted to. And Franky, delighted at the rapid motion, claps his little hands in childish glee, and exclaims: We beat, papa ! faster, faster!'
The old horse is going fast enough now. We spin through the village. My coach-maker is standing in front of his shop, gossipping with some neighbors. I hear him say, “There's a runaway; and another answer, "Oh, he'll stop when he gets to the bottom of the hill.' It is an incident of great variety in their morning, a decided case of suave mari magno. How provokingly cool their observations sound!
Yes, when we got to the bottom! But what might happen in that half mile! The horse might kick or fall
, and in either case we should be thrown in a heap together; or a wheel might come off, or a jolt upset us. One consolation—there was no fear of our running foul of another vehicle; the road lay perfectly open. After all, the greatest danger was that the nurse might be frightened, and attempt to jump out with the child. I dared not even say, 'Sit still
, Jane;' but changing the now useless reins into my right hand, kept firm hold of the boy with my left.
We were not long going down that hill, but it seemed to me an age. I could feel the perspiration breaking out all over me, and trickling down my face in big drops. At length we reached the level ground, and the instant Charley felt the weight drawing behind him, instead of pressing on his heels, he struck his trot, and in another second I pulled him in. Pouring sweat, and trembling in every limb, he stopped, not all at once, or motionlessly, but with an evident inclination to go on again. I was in dread lest the other wagon might come up before we were fairly disembarked, and so start him off once more. But it was far behind. I tumbled out somehow. Now, Jane, give me the baby. Thank God! Jump yourself! Keep well back out of the road; go to the stone wall.? А chill and faintness came over me with the revulsion of feeling. My head swam and my knees shook. With a last instinct to hold fast to the horse, I shortened the reins and took him by the head, and then went off into a fainting-fit just as I stood, half holding him, half supported by him; the last thing I heard, before losing consciousness, was Franky's exclamation : Oh, papa, did n't we go fast!
A gruff voice recalled me. 'Hallo, Mister : any body hurt?' It was the b'boy who had come up with us.
No body; but our breeching's broke. Have you got any thing to mend it with ?'
My off-handed manner just suited the bhoy, on whom any superfluous politeness would have been thrown away. He produced a bit of cord, and helped me to splice up the harness. You may be sure I drove home pretty carefully.
Old Charley is nearly covered up. We shall soon see the last of him. That is the worst of having a pet animal; their life is so small a fraction of yours, that the separation comes just as you are fairly attached to them. I was once assured by an acquaintance of Dr. Lingard, that the historian's decease had been visibly accelerated by the death of his favorite dog. How many griefs poor Clara has had as her King Charleses, Blenheims, &c., have been carried off by the various ills to which doghood, especially small doghood, is heir! Baby is the wisest of us; he has set up a parro quet, which (if he does n't pull its head off meantime) will probably outlive him twice over. But Charley did n't die of old age; he was only fourteen — hardly past his prime. One summer I had to go over the water, and the gardener in whose charge he had been left, not having Tom's consideration for the equine family, allowed him to catch the heaves. Next winter we nursed him our best
, and thought him fast recovering, when- this morning he died. There : they have thrown in the last shovel-ful, and smoothed the top over. He was a good friend. I feel the tears in my eyes.
'Hallo, old boy ! good-morning!' I start up and see a white bat and a brown horse and a yellow gig glancing through the trees between us and the stable-yard. It is Bleecker, who has come to lunch with us and drink some of his own wine. I go to meet him, and Franky toddles after me. 'Mamma, I shall die and be buried in the orchard with old Charley, and then papa will come and cry over me.'
Di avertite omen.
I was born in the depth of the primitive wood;
I have heard the wild beasts of the dark jungle roar;
Haunts of my youth, I behold you no more !
The new verdant landscapes are fair as the day,
And the smooth plain it fears not the sweep of the blast; Yet pensively oft through its borders ["stray,
And sigh for the grandeur of scenes that are past.
I have heard the tornado rush forth in its might,
When the great forest heaved like the waves of the sea ; I have seen the storm burst on the steep mountain-height,
And the thunder-bolt shiver the giant pine-tree.
I have spurred my wild horse through the high swollen flood;
I have shot the fleet stag from my log-cabin door;
Haunts of my youth, I behold you no more!
How art thou shorn of the crest of thy pride,
Old Shongolee bluff! could the axe and the flame
Thy once baughty form is so humbled and tame!
Yet oft may thy waving fields bloom as to-day,
Though thy primeval glory no longer be seen :
And my forefathers robed thee with mantles of green.
Weary yet glad were the days of their toil,
Till summoned the weapons of battle to wield,
They met the bold Briton on Chippewaugh field.
Anon the loud shout of their triumph was heard
High over the din of Niagara's roar;
Stainless and proud were the laurels they wore.
Then green be their tomb, which their own hands adorned,
Old Shongolee hill, with its orchard so gay;
The lance of the foeman on Chippewaugh's day.