This is part three of a twelve-part series.
Read part one here, part two here, part four here, part five here,
part six here, part seven here, part eight here, part nine here,
part ten here, part eleven here, and part twelve here.
Maine, Thursday, July 20, 1837. — A drive, yesterday afternoon, to a pond in the vicinity of Augusta, about nine miles off, to fish for white perch. Remarkables: the steering of the boat through the crooked, labyrinthine brook, into the open pond, — the man who acted as pilot, — his talking with B—— about politics, the bank, the iron money of “a king who came to reign, in Greece, over a city called Sparta,” — his advice to B—— to come amongst the laborers on the mill-dam, because it stimulated them “to see a man grinning amongst them.” The man took hearty tugs at a bottle of good Scotch whiskey, and became pretty merry. The fish caught were the yellow perch, which are not esteemed for eating; the white perch, a beautiful, silvery, round-backed fish, which bites eagerly, runs about with the line while being pulled up, makes good sport for the angler, and an admirable dish; a great chub; and three horned pouts, which swallow the hook into their lowest entrails. Several dozen fish were taken in an hour or two, and then we returned to the shop where we had left our horse and wagon, the pilot very eccentric behind us. It was a small, dingy shop, dimly lighted by a single inch of candle, faintly disclosing various boxes, barrels standing on end, articles hanging from the ceiling; the proprietor at the counter, whereon appear gin and brandy, respectively contained in a tin pint-measure and an earthenware jug, with two or three tumblers beside them, out of which nearly all the party drank; some coming up to the counter frankly, others lingering in the background, waiting to be pressed, two paying for their own liquor and withdrawing. B—— treated them twice round. The pilot, after drinking his brandy, gave a history of our fishing expedition, and how many and how large fish we caught. B—— making acquaintances and renewing them, and gaining great credit for liberality and free-heartedness, — two or three boys looking on and listening to the talk, — the shopkeeper smiling behind his counter, with the tarnished tin scales beside him, — the inch of candle burned down almost to extinction. So we got into our wagon, with the fish, and drove to Robinson’s tavern, almost five miles off, where we supped and passed the night. In the bar-room was a fat old countryman on a journey, and a quack doctor of the vicinity, and an English-man with a peculiar accent. Seeing B——’s jointed and brass-mounted fishing-pole, he took it for a theodolite, and supposed that we had been on a surveying expedition. At supper, which consisted of bread, butter, cheese, cake, doughnuts, and gooseberry-pie, we were waited upon by a tall, very tall woman, young and maiden-looking, yet with a strongly outlined and determined face. Afterwards we found her to be the wife of mine host. She poured out our tea, came in when we rang the table-bell to refill our cups, and again retired. While at supper, the fat old traveller was ushered through the room into a contiguous bedroom. My own chamber, apparently the best in the house, had its walls ornamented with a small, gilt-framed, foot-square looking-glass, with a hair-brush hanging beneath it; a record of the deaths of the family, written on a black tomb, in an engraving, where a father, mother, and child were represented in a graveyard, weeping over said tomb; the mourners dressed in black, country-cut clothes; the engraving executed in Vermont. There was also a wood engraving of the Declaration of Independence, with fac-similes of the autographs; a portrait of the Empress Josephine, and another of Spring. In the two closets of this chamber were mine hostess’s cloak, best bonnet, and go-to-meeting apparel. There was a good bed, in which I slept tolerably well, and, rising betimes, ate breakfast, consisting of some of our own fish, and then started for Augusta. The fat old traveller had gone off with the harness of our wagon, which the hostler had put on to his horse by mistake. The tavern-keeper gave us his own harness, and started in pursuit of the old man, who was probably aware of the exchange, and well satisfied with it.
Our drive to Augusta, six or seven miles, was very pleasant, a heavy rain having fallen during the night and laid the oppressive dust of the day before. The road lay parallel with the Kennebec, of which we occasionally had near glimpses. The country swells back from the river in hills and ridges, without any interval of level ground; and there were frequent woods, filling up the valleys or crowning the summits. The land is good, the farms looked neat, and the houses comfortable. The latter are generally but of one story, but with large barns; and it was a good sign, that, while we saw no houses unfinished nor out of repair, one man, at least, had found it expedient to make an addition to his dwelling. At the distance of more than two miles, we had a view of white Augusta, with its steeples, and the State-House, at the farther end of the town. Observable matters along the road were the stage, — all the dust of yesterday brushed off, and no new dust contracted, — full of passengers, inside and out; among them some gentlemanly people and pretty girls, all looking fresh and unsullied, rosy, cheerful, and curious as to the face of the country, the faces of passing travellers, and the incidents of their journey; not yet damped, in the morning sunshine, by long miles of jolting over rough and hilly roads, — to compare this with their appearance at midday, and as they drive into Bangor at dusk; — two women dashing along in a wagon, and with a child, rattling pretty speedily down hill; — people looking at us from the open doors and windows; — the children staring from the wayside; — the mowers stopping, for a moment, the sway of their scythes; — the matron of a family, indistinctly seen at some distance within the house, her head and shoulders appearing through the window, drawing her handkerchief over her bosom, which had been uncovered to give the baby its breakfast, — the said baby, or its immediate predecessor, sitting at the door, turning round to creep away on all fours; — a man building a flat-bottomed boat by the roadside he talked with B—— about the Boundary question, and swore fervently in favor of driving the British “into hell’s kitchen” by main force.
Colonel B——, the engineer of the mill-dam, is now here, after about a fortnight’s absence. He is a plain country squire, with a good figure, but with rather a ponderous brow; a rough complexion; a gait stiff, and a general rigidity of manner, something like that of a schoolmaster. He originated in a country town, and is a self-educated man. As he walked down the gravel path to-day, after dinner, he took up a scythe, which one of the mowers had left on the sward, and began to mow, with quite a scientific swing. On the coming of the mower, he laid it down, perhaps a little ashamed of his amusement. I was interested in this; to see a man, after twenty-five years of scientific occupation, thus trying whether his arms retained their strength and skill for the labors of his youth, — mindful of the day when he wore striped trousers, and toiled in his shirt-sleeves, — and now tasting again, for pastime, this drudgery beneath a fervid sun. He stood awhile, looking at the workmen, and then went to oversee the laborers at the mill-dam.
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Monday, July 24th. — I bathed in the river on Thursday evening, and in the brook at the old dam on Saturday and Sunday, — the former time at noon. The aspect of the solitude at noon was peculiarly impressive, there being a cloudless sunshine, no wind, no rustling of the forest-leaves, no waving of the boughs, no noise but the brawling and babbling of the stream, making its way among the stones, and pouring in a little cataract round one side of the mouldering dam. Looking up the brook, there was a long vista, — now ripples, now smooth and glassy spaces, now large rocks, almost blocking up the channel; while the trees stood upon either side, mostly straight, but here and there a branch thrusting itself out irregularly, and one tree, a pine, leaning over, — not bending, — but leaning at an angle over the brook, rough and ragged; birches, alders; the tallest of all the trees an old, dead, leafless pine, rising white and lonely, though closely surrounded by others. Along the brook, now the grass and herbage extended close to the water; now a small, sandy beach. The wall of rock before described, looking as if it had been hewn, but with irregular strokes of the workman, doing his job by rough and ponderous strength, — now chancing to hew it away smoothly and cleanly, now carelessly smiting, and making gaps, or piling on the slabs of rock, so as to leave vacant spaces. In the interstices grow brake and broad-leaved forest grass. The trees that spring from the top of this wall have their roots pressing close to the rock, so that there is no soil between; they cling powerfully, and grasp the crag tightly with their knotty fingers. The trees on both sides are so thick, that the sight and the thoughts are almost immediately lost among confused stems, branches, and clustering green leaves, — a narrow strip of bright blue sky above, the sunshine falling lustrously down, and making the pathway of the brook luminous below. Entering among the thickets, I find the soil strewn with old leaves of preceding seasons, through which may be seen a black or dark mould; the roots of trees stretch frequently across the path; often a moss-grown brown log lies athwart, and when you set your foot down, it sinks into the decaying substance, — into the heart of oak or pine. The leafy boughs and twigs of the underbrush enlace themselves before you, so that you must stoop your head to pass under, or thrust yourself through amain, while they sweep against your face, and perhaps knock off your hat. There are rocks mossy and slippery; sometimes you stagger, with a great rustling of branches, against a clump of bushes, and into the midst of it. From end to end of all this tangled shade goes a pathway scarcely worn, for the leaves are not trodden through, yet plain enough to the eye, winding gently to avoid tree-trunks and rocks and little hillocks. In the more open ground, the aspect of a tall, fire-blackened stump, standing alone, high up on a swell of land, that rises gradually from one side of the brook, like a monument. Yesterday, I passed a group of children in this solitary valley, — two boys, I think, and two girls. One of the little girls seemed to have suffered some wrong from her companions, for she was weeping and complaining violently. Another time, I came suddenly on a small Canadian boy, who was in a hollow place, among the ruined logs of an old causeway, picking raspberries, — lonely among hushes and gorges, far up the wild valley, — and the lonelier seemed the little boy for the bright sunshine, that showed no one else in a wide space of view except him and me.
Remarkable items: the observation of Mons. S—— when B—— was saying something against the character of the French people, “You ought not to form an unfavorable judgment of a great nation from mean fellows like me, strolling about in a foreign country.” I thought it very noble thus to protest against anything discreditable in himself personally being used against the honor of his country. He is a very singular person, with an originality in all his notions; — not that nobody has ever had such before, but that he has thought them out for himself. He told me yesterday that one of his sisters was a waiting-maid in the Rocher de Caucale. He is about the sincerest man I ever knew, never pretending to feelings that are not in him, — never flattering. His feelings do not seem to be warm, though they are kindly. He is so single-minded that he cannot understand badinage, but takes it all as if meant in earnest, — a German trait. He values himself greatly on being a Frenchman, though all his most valuable qualities come from Germany. His temperament is cool and pure, and he is greatly delighted with any attentions from the ladies. A short time since, a lady gave him a bouquet of roses and pinks ; he capered and danced and sang, put it in water, and carried it to his own chamber; but he brought it out for us to see and admire two or three times a day, bestowing on it all the epithets of admiration in the French language, — “Superbe! magnifique!” When some of the flowers began to fade, he made the rest, with others, into a new nosegay, and consulted us whether it would be fit to give to another lady. Contrast this French foppery with his solemn moods, when we sit in the twilight, or after B—— is abed, talking of Christianity and Deism, of ways of life, of marriage, of benevolence, in short, of all deep matters of this world and the next. An evening or two since, he began singing all manner of English songs, — such as Mrs. Hemans’s “Landing of the Pilgrims,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and some of Moore’s, — the singing pretty fair, but in the oddest tone and accent. Occasionally he breaks out with scraps from French tragedies, which he spouts with corresponding action. He generally gets close to me in these displays of musical and histrionic talent. Once he offered to magnetize me in the manner of Monsieur P——.
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Wednesday, July 26th. — Dined at Barker’s yesterday. Before dinner, sat with several other persons in the stoop of the tavern. There was B——, J. A. Chandler, Clerk of the Court, a man of middle age or beyond, two or three stage people, and, near by, a negro, whom they call “the Doctor,” a crafty-looking fellow, one of whose occupations is nameless. In presence of this goodly company, a man of a depressed, neglected air, a soft, simple-looking fellow, with an anxious expression, in a laborer’s dress, approached and inquired for Mr. Barker. Mine host being gone to Portland, the stranger was directed to the bar-keeper, who stood at the door. The man asked where he should find one Mary Ann Russell, — a question which excited general and hardly-suppressed mirth; for the said Mary Ann is one of a knot of women who were routed on Sunday evening by Barker and a constable. The man was told that the black fellow would give him all the information he wanted. The black fellow asked, —
“Do you want to see her?”
Others of the by-standers or by-sitters put various questions as to the nature of the man’s business with Mary Ann. One asked, —
“Is she your daughter?”
“Why, a little nearer than that, I calkilate,” said the poor devil.
Here the mirth was increased, it being evident that the woman was his wife. The man seemed too simple and obtuse to comprehend the ridicule of his situation, or to be rendered very miserable by it. Nevertheless, he made some touching points.
“A man generally places some little dependence on his wife,” said he, “whether she’s good or not.”
He meant, probably, that he rests some affection on her. He told us that she had behaved well, till committed to jail for striking a child; and I believe he was absent from home at the time, and had not seen her since. And now he was in search of her, intending, doubtless, to do his best to get her out of her troubles, and then to take her back to his home. Some advised him not to look after her; others recommended him to pay “the Doctor” aforesaid for guiding him to her; which finally “the Doctor” did, in consideration of a treat; and the fellow went off, having heard little but gibes, and not one word of sympathy! I would like to have witnessed his meeting with his wife.
There was a moral picturesqueness in the contrasts of the scene, — a man moved as deeply as his nature would admit, in the midst of hardened, gibing spectators, heartless towards him. It is worth thinking over and studying out. He seemed rather hurt and pricked by the jests thrown at him, yet bore it patiently, and sometimes almost joined in the laugh, being of an easy, unenergetic temper.
Hints for characters: — Nancy, a pretty, black-eyed, intelligent servant-girl, living in Captain H——’s family. She comes daily to make the beds in our part of the house, and exchanges a good-morning with me, in a pleasant voice, and with a glance and smile, — somewhat shy, because we are not acquainted, yet capable of being made conversable. She washes once a week, and may be seen standing over her tub, with her handkerchief somewhat displaced from her white neck, because it is hot. Often she stands with her bare arms in the water, talking with Mrs. H——, or looks through the window, perhaps, at B—— or somebody else crossing the yard, — rather thoughtfully, but soon smiling or laughing. Then goeth she for a pail of water. In the afternoon, very probably, she dresses herself in silks, looking not only pretty, but lady-like, and strolls round the house, not unconscious that some gentleman may be staring at her from behind the green blinds. After supper, she walks to the village. Morning and evening, she goes a-milking. And thus passes her life, cheerfully, usefully, virtuously, with hopes, doubtless, of a husband and children. — Mrs. H—— is a particularly plump, soft-fleshed, fair-complexioned, comely woman enough, with rather a simple countenance, not nearly so piquant as Nancy’s. Her walk has something of the roll or waddle of a fat woman, though it were too much to call her fat. She seems to be a sociable body, probably laughter-loving. Captain H—— himself has commanded a steamboat, and has a certain knowledge of life.
Query, in relation to the man’s missing wife, how much desire and resolution of doing her duty by her husband can a wife retain, while injuring him in what is deemed the most essential point?
Observation. The effect of morning sunshine on the wet grass, on sloping and swelling land, between the spectator and the sun at some distance, as across a lawn. It diffused a dim brilliancy over the whole surface of the field. The mists, slow-rising farther off, part resting on the earth, the remainder of the column already ascending so high that you doubt whether to call it a fog or a cloud.
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Friday, July 28th. — Saw my classmate and formerly intimate friend, Cilley, for the first time since we graduated. He has met with good success in life, in spite of circumstance, having struggled upward against bitter opposition, by the force of his own abilities, to be a member of Congress, after having been for some time the leader of his party in the State Legislature. We met like old friends, and conversed almost as freely as we used to do in college days, twelve years ago and more. He is a singular man, shrewd, crafty, insinuating, with wonderful tact, seizing on each man by his manageable point, and using him for his own purpose, often without the man’s suspecting that he is made a tool of; and yet, artificial as his character would seem to be, his conversation, at least to myself, was full of natural feeling, the expression of which can hardly be mistaken, and his revelations with regard to himself had really a great deal of frankness. He spoke of his ambition, of the obstacles which he had encountered, of the means by which he had overcome them, imputing great efficacy to his personal intercourse with people, and his study of their characters; then of his course as a member of the Legislature and Speaker, and his style of speaking and its effects; of the dishonorable things which had been imputed to him, and in what manner he had repelled the charges. In short, he would seem to have opened himself very freely as to his public life. Then, as to his private affairs, he spoke of his marriage, of his wife, his children, and told me, with tears in his eyes, of the death of a dear little girl, and how it affected him, and how impossible it had been for him to believe that she was really to die. A man of the most open nature might well have been more reserved to a friend, after twelve years’ separation, than Cilley was to me. Nevertheless, he is really a crafty man, concealing, like a murder-secret, anything that it is not good for him to have known. He by no means feigns the good-feeling that he professes, nor is there anything affected in the frankness of his conversation; and it is this that makes him so very fascinating. There is such a quantity of truth and kindliness and warm affections, that a man’s heart opens to him, in spite of himself; He deceives by truth. And not only is he crafty, but, when occasion demands, bold and fierce as a tiger, determined, and even straightforward and undisguised in his measures, — a daring fellow as well as a sly one. Yet, not-withstanding his consummate art, the general estimate of his character seems to be pretty just. Hardly anybody, probably, thinks him better than he is, and many think him worse. Nevertheless, if no overwhelming discovery of rascality be made, he will always possess influence; though I should hardly think that he would take any prominent part in Congress. As to any rascality, I rather believe that he has thought out for himself a much higher system of morality than any natural integrity would have prompted him to adopt; that he has seen the thorough advantage of morality and honesty; and the sentiment of these qualities has now got into his mind and spirit, and pretty well impregnated them. I believe him to be about as honest as the great run of the world, with something even approaching to high-mindedness. His person in some degree accords with his character, — thin and with a thin face, sharp features, sallow, a projecting brow not very high, deep-set eyes, an insinuating smile and look, when he meets you, and is about to address you. I should think that he would do away with this peculiar expression, for it reveals more of himself than can be detected in any other way, in personal intercourse with him. Upon the whole, I have quite a good liking for him, and mean to go to Thomaston to see him.
Observation. A steam-engine across the river, which almost continually during the day, and sometimes all night, may be heard puffing and panting, as if it uttered groans for being compelled to labor in the heat and sunshine ,and when the world is asleep also.
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Monday, July 31st. — Nothing remarkable to record. A child asleep in a young lady’s arms, — a little baby, two or three months old. Whenever anything partially disturbed the child, as, for instance, when the young lady or a by-stander patted its cheek or rubbed its chin, the child would smile; then all its dreams seemed to be of pleasure and happiness. At first the smile was so faint, that I doubted whether it were really a smile or no; but on further efforts, it brightened forth very decidedly. This, without opening its eyes. — A constable, a homely, good-natured, business-looking man, with a warrant against an Irishman’s wife for throwing a brickbat at a fellow. He gave good advice to the Irishman about the best method of coming easiest through the affair. Finally settled, — the justice agreeing to relinquish his fees, on condition that the Irishman would pay for the mending of his old boots!
I went with Monsieur S—— yesterday to pick raspberries. He fell through an old log bridge thrown over a hollow; looking back, only his head and shoulders appeared through the rotten logs and among the bushes. A shower coming on, the rapid running of a little barefooted boy, coming up unheard, and dashing swiftly past us, and showing the soles of his naked feet as he ran adown the path before us, and up the opposite rise.
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Tuesday, August 1st. — There having been a heavy rain yesterday, a nest of chimney-swallows was washed down the chimney into the fireplace of one of the front-rooms. My attention was drawn to them by a most obstreperous twittering; and looking behind the fire-board, there were three young birds, clinging with their feet against one of the jambs, looking at me, open-mouthed, and all clamoring together, so as quite to fill the room with the short, eager, frightened sound. The old birds, by certain signs upon the floor of the room, appeared to have fallen victims to the appetite of the cat. La belle Nancy provided a basket filled with cotton-wool, into which the poor little devils were put; and I tried to feed them with soaked bread, of which, however, they did not eat with much relish. Tom, the Irish boy, gave it as his opinion that they were not old enough to be weaned. I hung the basket out of the window, in the sunshine, and upon looking in, an hour or two after, found that two of the birds had escaped. The other I tried to feed, and sometimes, when a morsel of bread was thrust into its open mouth, it would swallow it. But it appeared to suffer a good deal, vociferating loudly when disturbed, and panting, in a sluggish agony, with eyes closed, or half opened, when let alone. It distressed me a good deal; and I felt relieved, though somewhat shocked, when B—— put an end to its misery by squeezing its head and throwing it out of the window. They were of a slate-color, and might, I suppose, have been able to shift for themselves. — The other day a little yellow bird flew into one of the empty rooms, of which there are half a dozen on the lower floor, and could not find his way out again, flying at the glass of the windows, instead of at the door, thumping his head against the panes or against the ceiling. I drove him into the entry and chased him from end to end, endeavoring to make him fly through one of the open doors. He would fly at the circular light over the door, clinging to the casement, sometimes alighting on one of the two glass lamps, or on the cords that suspended them, uttering an affrighted and melancholy cry whenever I came near and flapped my handkerchief, and appearing quite tired and sinking into despair. At last he happened to fly low enough to pass through the door, and immediately vanished into the gladsome sunshine. — Ludicrous situation of a man, drawing his chaise down a sloping bank, to wash in the river. The chaise got the better of him, and, rushing downward as if it were possessed, compelled him to run at full speed, and drove him up to his chin into the water. A singular instance, that a chaise may run away with a man without a horse!
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Saturday, August 12th. — Left Augusta a week ago this morning for Thomaston. Nothing particular in our drive across the country. Fellow-passenger, a Boston dry-goods dealer, travelling to collect bills. At many of the country shops he would get out, and show his unwelcome visage. In the tavern, prints from Scripture, varnished and on rollers, — such as the Judgment of Christ; also, a droll set of colored engravings of the story of the Prodigal Son, the figures being clad in modern costume, — or, at least, that of not more than half a century ago. The father, a grave, clerical person, with a white wig and black broadcloth suit; the son, with a cocked hat and laced clothes, drinking wine out of a glass, and caressing a woman in fashionable dress. At Thomaston, a nice, comfortable, boarding-house tavern, without a bar or any sort of wines or spirits. An old lady from Boston, with her three daughters, one of whom was teaching music, and the other two were school-mistresses. A frank, free, mirthful daughter of the landlady, about twenty-four years old, between whom and myself there immediately sprang up a flirtation, which made us both feel rather melancholy when we parted on Tuesday morning. Music in the evening, with a song by a rather pretty, fantastic little mischief of a brunette, about eighteen years old, who has married within a year, and spent the last summer in a trip to the Springs and elsewhere. Her manner of walking is by jerks, with a quiver, as if she were made of calves-feet jelly. I talk with everybody: to Mrs. Trott, good sense, — to Mary, good sense, with a mixture of fun, — to Mrs. Gleason, sentiment, romance, and nonsense.
Walked with Cilley to see General Knox’s old mansion, — a large, rusty-looking edifice of wood, with some grandeur in the architecture, standing on the banks of the river, close by the site of an old burial-ground, and near where an ancient fort had been erected for defence against the French and Indians. General Knox once owned a square of thirty miles in this part of the country; and he wished to settle it with a tenantry, after the fashion of English gentlemen. He would permit no edifice to be erected within a certain distance of his mansion. His patent covered, of course, the whole present town of Thomaston, with Waldoborough and divers other flourishing commercial and country villages, and would have been of incalculable value could it have remained unbroken to the present time. But the General lived in grand style, and received throngs of visitors from foreign parts, and was obliged to part with large tracts of his possessions, till now there is little left but the ruinous mansion and the ground immediately around it. His tomb stands near the house, — a spacious receptacle, an iron door at the end of a turf-covered mound, and surmounted by an obelisk of the Thomaston marble. There are inscriptions to the memory of several of his family; for he had many children, all of whom are now dead, except one daughter, a widow of fifty, recently married to Hon. John H——. There is a stone fence round the monument. On the outside of this are the gravestones, and large, flat tombstones of the ancient burial-ground, — the tombstones being of red freestone, with vacant spaces, formerly inlaid with slate, on which were the inscriptions, and perhaps coats-of-arms. One of these spaces was in the shape of a heart. The people of Thomaston were very wrathful that the General should have laid out his grounds over this old burial-place; and he dared never throw down the gravestones, though his wife, a haughty English lady, often teased him to do so. But when the old General was dead, Lady Knox (as they called her) caused them to be prostrated, as they now lie. She was a woman of violent passions, and so proud an aristocrat, that, as long as she lived, she would never enter any house in Thomaston except her own. When a married daughter was ill, she used to go in her carriage to the door, and send up to inquire how she did. The General was personally very popular; but his wife ruled him. The house and its vicinity, and the whole tract covered by Knox’s patent, may be taken as an illustration of what must be the result of American schemes of aristocracy. It is not forty years since this house was built, and Knox was in his glory; but now the house is all in decay, while within a stone’s throw of it there is a street of smart white edifices of one and two stories, occupied chiefly by thriving mechanics, which has been laid out where Knox meant to have forests and parks. On the banks of the river, where he intended to have only one wharf for his own West Indian vessels and yacht, there are two wharves, with stores and a lime-kiln. Little appertains to the mansion, except the tomb and the old burial-ground, and the old fort.
The descendants are all poor, and the inheritance was merely sufficient to make a dissipated and drunken fellow of the only one of the old General’s sons who survived to middle age. The man’s habits were as bad as possible as long as he had any money; but when quite ruined, he reformed. The daughter, the only survivor among Knox’s children, (herself childless,) is a mild, amiable woman, therein totally differing from her mother. Knox, when he first visited his estate, arriving in a vessel, was waited upon by a deputation of the squatters, who had resolved to resist him to the death. He received them with genial courtesy, made them dine with him aboard the vessel, and sent them back to their constituents in great love and admiration of him. He used to have a vessel running to Philadelphia, I think, and bringing him all sorts of delicacies. His way of raising money was to give a mortgage on his estate of a hundred thousand dollars at a time, and receive that nominal amount in goods, which he would immediately sell at auction for perhaps thirty thousand. He died by a chicken-bone. Near the house are the remains of a covered way, by which the French once attempted to gain admittance into the fort; but the work caved in and buried a good many of them, and the rest gave up the siege. There was recently an old inhabitant living, who remembered when the people used to reside in the fort.
Owl’s Head, — a watering-place, terminating a point of land, six or seven miles from Thomaston. A long island shuts out the prospect of the sea. Hither coasters and fishing-smacks run in when a storm is anticipated. Two fat landlords, both young men, with something of a contrast in their dispositions; — one of them being a brisk, lively, active, jesting fat man; the other more heavy and inert, making jests sluggishly, if at all. Aboard the steamboat, Professor Stuart of Andover, sitting on a sofa in the saloon, generally in conversation with some person, resolving their doubts on one point or another, speaking in a very audible voice; and strangers standing or sitting around to hear him, as if he were an ancient apostle or philosopher. He is a bulky man, with a large, massive face, particularly calm in its expression, and mild enough to be pleasing. When not otherwise occupied, he reads, without much notice of what is going on around him. He speaks without effort, yet thoughtfully.
We got lost in a fog the morning after leaving Owl’s Head. Fired a brass cannon, rang bell, blew steam like a whale snorting. After one of the reports of the cannon, we heard a horn blown at no great distance, the sound coming soon after the report. Doubtful whether it came from the shore or a vessel. Continued our ringing and snorting; and by and by something was seen to mingle with the fog that obscured everything beyond fifty yards from us. At first it seemed only like a denser wreath of fog; it darkened still more, till it took the aspect of sails; then the hull of a small schooner came beating down towards us, the wind laying her over towards us, so that her gunwale was almost in the water, and we could see the whole of her sloping deck.
“Schooner ahoy!” say we. “Halloo! Have you seen Boston Light this morning?”
“Yes; it hears north-northwest, two miles distant.”
“Very much obliged to you,” cries our captain.
So the schooner vanishes into the mist behind. We get up our steam, and soon enter the harbor, meeting vessels of every rig; and the fog, clearing away, shows a cloudy sky. Aboard, an old one-eyed sailor, who had lost one of his feet, and had walked on the stump from Eastport to Bangor, thereby making a shocking ulcer.
Penobscot Bay is full of islands, close to which the steamboat is continually passing. Some are large, with portions of forest and portions of cleared land; some are mere rocks, with a little green or none, and inhabited by sea-birds, which fly and flap about hoarsely. Their eggs may be gathered by the bushel, and are good to eat. Other islands have one house and barn on them, this sole family being lords and rulers of all the land which the sea girds. The owner of such an island must have a peculiar sense of property and lordship; he must feel more like his own master and his own man than other people can. Other islands, perhaps high, precipitous, black bluffs, are crowned with a white light-house, whence, as evening comes on, twinkles a star across the melancholy deep, — seen by vessels coming on the coast, seen from the mainland, seen from island to island. Darkness descending, and looking down at the broad wake left by the wheels of the steamboat, we may see sparkles of sea-fire glittering through the gloom.
This is part three of a twelve-part series.
Read part one here, part two here, part four here, part five here,
part six here, part seven here, part eight here, part nine here,
part ten here, part eleven here, and part twelve here.
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