Here to return to
A WORLD OF GREEN HILLS
A DAY’S DRIVE IN THREE STATES
IN a day and a night I had come from early May to middle June; from a world of bare boughs to a forest clad in all the verdure of summer. Such a shine as the big, lusty leaves of the black-jack oaks had put on! I could have raised a shout. In the day “when all the trees of the field shall clap their hands,” may I be somewhere in the black-jack’s neighborhood. Hour after hour we sped along, out of North Carolina into South Carolina: now through miles and miles of forest; now past a lonely cabin, with roses before the door, white honeysuckle covering the fence, and acres of sunny ploughed land on either side. Here a river ran between close green hills, and there the hills parted and disclosed the revolving horizon set with blue mountains. Then, at a little past noon, the porter appeared with his brush. “Seneca is next,” he said. I alighted in lonely state, was escorted to the hotel, did my best with a luncheon, — gleaned bit by bit out of an outlying wilderness of small dishes, — and at the earliest moment took my seat in a “buggy” beside a colored boy who was to drive me to Walhalla, nine miles away. At that point I was to be met, the next morning, by the carriage that should convey me into the mountains.
Seneca is a smallish place, but my colored driver was no countryman. “Boston?” Yes, yes; he had lived there once himself. He had been a Pullman porter. “But you don’t get to learn anything in that way,” he added, a little disdainfully; “just running back and forth.” He had “waited” in Florida, and had been to Jamaica and I forget where else, though he was only twenty-three years old. He liked to go round and see the world. “Married?” No; a man who didn’t live anywhere had no business with a wife and children. Still he was not oblivious to feminine charms, as became evident when we passed a pair of dusky beauties. “Oh, I will look at ‘em,” he said, with the tone of a man who had broken his full share of hearts. He was one of the fortunates who are born with their eyes open. I quizzed him about birds. Yes, he had noticed them; he had been hunting a good deal. This and the other were named, — partridges, pheasants, doves, meadow larks, chewinks, chats, night-hawks. Yes, he knew them; if not by the names I called them by, then from my descriptions, to which in most cases he proceeded to add some convincing touches of his own. The chat he did not recognize under that title, but when I tried to hit off some of the bird’s odd characteristics he began to laugh. “Oh yes, sir, I know that fellow.” As for whippoorwills, the whole country was full of them. “You can’t hear your ears for ‘em at night,” he declared. “No, sir, you can’t hear your ears.” With all the rest he was a “silverite.” At the end of the drive I handed him a dollar bill, one of Uncle Sam’s handsomest, as it happened, fresh from the bank. He looked at it dubiously, fumbled it a moment, and passed it back. “Say, boss,” he said, can’t you give me a silver dollar? It might rain.” In a land of thunder-showers and thin clothing, he meant to say, what we need is an insoluble currency. That, as such things go, was a pretty substantial argument for “free silver,” or so it seemed to me; and I spoke of it, accordingly, a week or two afterward, to an advocate of the “white metal.” He was impressed by it just as I had been, and begged me to make use of the argument when I got back to Boston; as I now do, with all cheerfulness, feeling that, whatever a man’s own opinions may be, he is bound to keep an ear open for the best that can be put forward against them. At the same time, I am constrained to add that I have never been quite sure whether my driver’s plea was anything better than a polite subterfuge. It would have been nothing wonderful, surely, if he had questioned the genuineness of a kind of money to which he was so little accustomed. Small bills — “ones and twos,” as we familiarly call them — have but a limited circulation at the South, as all travelers must have noticed. On my present trip, for instance, I bought a railway ticket at a rural station, and proffered the agent a two-dollar bill. He gave it a glance of surprise, looked at me, — “Ah, a Northern man,” so I read his thoughts, — and incontinently slipped the bill into his pocket. A rarity like that was not for the cash drawer and the daily course of business. I might almost as well have given him a two-dollar gold coin; like the pious heroine of a Sunday-school story I was reading the other day, who dropped into the contribution-box a “fifty-dollar gold piece “
The rain, concerning whose destructive power my colored boy had been so apprehensive, very soon set in, and left me nothing to do but to make the best of an afternoon upon the hotel piazza, with its outlook up and down the village street, and its gossip and politics. As to the latter I played the part of listener, in spite of sundry courteous attempts to draw me out. Tillman and the silver question were discussed with a welcome coolness of spirit, while I looked at an occasional passing horseman (it is the one advantage of poor roads that they keep an entire community in the saddle), or admired the evolutions of the chimney swifts and the martins. Roses and honeysuckles would have made the dooryards beautiful, had that result fallen within the bounds of possibility, and a chinaberry-tree, full of purple blossoms, was not only a thing of beauty in itself, but to me was also a sweet remembrancer of Florida.
My only other recollection of the afternoon seems almost too trivial for record. Yet who knows? What has interested one man may perchance do as much for another. In the midst of the talk, a man with an axe came along, and said to the proprietor of the hotel, “Have you got a grinding-rock here?” “Yes, round behind the house,” was the answer. “Grinding-rock”! — that was a new name for my old back-breaking acquaintance of the haying season, and good as it was new. I adopted it on the instant. With its rasping, gritty sound, it seemed a plain case of onomatopoetic justice. No more “grindstone “for me, if I live a thousand years.
I mentioned the subject some days afterward to a citizen of Highlands. “Oh yes,” he answered, “they always say ‘rock;’ not only ‘grinding-rock,’ but ‘whet-rock.’ “Then he added something that pleased me still more. He had just been to the county seat as a member of the grand jury, and among the cases before him and his colleagues was one of alleged assault by “rocking,” that word being used in the legal document, whatever its name, in which the complaint was set forth. This point was of special interest to me, I say. In my boyhood, which, so far as I know, was not exceptionally belligerent, it was an every-day occurrence to “fire rocks “at an enemy, or “rock him; “whereas an editorial brother, himself of New England birth, with whom it is often my privilege to compare notes, affirms that he never heard such expressions, though he has sometimes met with them —and presumably corrected them — in manuscript stories. It was no small satisfaction to find this bit of my own Massachusetts — Old Colony — dialect still surviving, and in common use, in the Carolinas.
Walhalla itself, with an elevation of a thousand feet, and mountains visible not far off, lays some not unnatural claims to a “climate,” and in a small way is a health resort, I believe, in spite of its rather sinister name, both summer and winter. To me, indeed, it seemed a place to stop at rather than to stay in; but, as the reader knows, I saw it only from the main street on a muddy afternoon, and was likely to do it but foul-weather justice. Even its merits as a necessary lodging station were lightly appreciated, till on my return I made my exit from the mountains on the other side of them, and put up for the night in another village, and especially at another hotel. Compared with that, Walhalla was, in deed as in name, a kind of heavenly place. Is it well, or not, that what is worse makes us half contented with what is simply bad? I was more than ready, at any rate, when a Walhalla boy brought me word the next morning, “Your carriage has done come.”1
The sky was fair, and shortly after seven o’clock we were on the road, the driver and his one passenger, in a heavy three-seated mountain wagon, locally known as a “hack,” drawn by two horses. Our destination was said to be thirty-two miles distant, — so much I knew; but the figures had given me little idea of the length of the journey. It was an agreeable surprise, also, when the driver informed me that we were not only going from South Carolina to North Carolina, but on the way were to spend some hours in Georgia, the mountainous northeastern corner of that State being wedged in between the two Carolinas. In short, to accomplish our ascent of twenty-eight hundred feet we were out for a day’s ride in three States and over four mountains, — an exhilarating prospect in that perfect May weather.
My recollections of the day run together, as it were, till the route, as memory tries to picture it forth, turns all to one hopeless blur: an interminable alternation of ups and downs, largely over shaded forest roads, but with occasional sunny stretches, especially, as it seemed, whenever I essayed to take the cramp out of my legs by a half-hour’s climb on foot. A turn or two in the road, and we had left the village behind us, and then, almost before I knew it, we were among the hills: now aloft on the shoulder of one of them, with innumerable mountains crowding the horizon; now shut in some narrow, winding valley, our “distance and horizon gone,” with a bird singing from the bushes, and likely enough a stream playing hide-and-seek behind a tangle of rhododendron and laurel. Wild as the country was, we never traveled many miles without coming in sight of a building of some kind: a rude mill, it might be, or more probably a cabin. Once at least, in a very wilderness of a place, we passed a schoolhouse; as to which it puzzled me to guess, first where the pupils came from, and then how they got light to read by, unless, happy children, they took their books out of doors and studied their lessons under the trees, and so went to school with the birds.
Little by little -- very little — we continued to ascend, gaining something more than we lost as the road seesawed from valley to hill, and from hill to valley. So it finally appeared, I mean to say; the changes in the vegetation serving eventually to establish a point which for hours together had been mainly an article of faith. As to another point, the four mountains over which our course was supposed to run, that remains a question of faith to this day. There might have been two, or thrice two, for aught I could tell. The road avoided summits, as a matter of course, and, if I can make myself understood, we were so lost in the hills that we could not see them. When we had left one and had come to another, I knew it only as the driver told me. So far as any sense of upward progress was concerned, we might almost as well have been marking time.
“What mountain are we on now?” This was a stock question with me.
“And why is it called Stumphouse?”
“Because a good many years ago a man lived here in a hollow stump.”
“And in what State are we?”
“But aren’t we near the North Carolina line?”
“No, sir; we have to go through Georgy first.”
Till now I had been quite unaware of what I may call the interstate character of our day’s ride.
“Indeed! And how soon shall we get into Georgia?”
“When we cross the Chattoogy River.”
“The Chattooga? What is that? A branch of the Savannah?”
“How do you spell it?”
“I do not know, sir.”
My driver had certain verbal niceties of his own; he never said “don’t.” As for his inability to spell “Chattooga,” or “Chatuga,” he was little to be blamed for that. The atlas-makers are no better off.
By and by we forded a sizeable stream.
“Now, then, we are crossing into Georgia?” I began again.
“No, sir; this is not the Chattoogy, but one of its prongs.”
Finally, at high noon, we dropped into a hot and breezeless valley, with the Chattooga running through it in the sun. Here was a farm. Mr.----- lived here, and kept a kind of half-way house for travelers. But we would not stop at it, the driver said, if it was all the same to me. There was another house just across the river. He had given the people notice of our coming, on his way down the day before, and the woman would have dinner ready for me. Both houses were very nice places to eat at, he added for my encouragement. So it happened that I breakfasted in South Carolina, dined in Georgia, and supped in North Carolina. The dinner, to which I sat down alone, was bountiful after its kind. If the table did not “groan,” it must have been because it was ignorant of a table’s duty; and if I did not make a feast, let the failure be laid to the idiosyncrasy of a man who once cut short his stay at one of the most inviting places in all Virginia because he was pampered monotonously for five consecutive meals with nothing but fried ham, fried eggs, and soda biscuits. “It is never too late to give up our prejudices,” says Thoreau, in one of his lofty moods. Wisdom uttered in that tone is not to be disputed; but if it is never “too late,” I for one have sometimes found it too early. My bill of fare here in Georgia was by no means confined to the three Southern staples just now enumerated (let so much be said in simple justice), but they held the place of honor, as a matter of course, and for the rest — well, there is a kind of variety that is only another kind of sameness. “An excellent dinner,” said a facetious fellow-traveler of mine on a similar occasion, as, knife and fork in hand, he hovered doubtfully over the table, and, like Emerson’s snowflake, “seemed nowhere to alight,” — “a most excellent dinner; but then, you see, it is nothing but ham and eggs with variations.” If this sounds like grumbling, it is only against a “system,” as we say in these days, not against a person. My generous hostess had spared no pains, and from any point of view had given me far more than my money’s worth; stinting herself only when it came to setting a price upon her bounty. That unavoidable business she approached, in response to the usual overtures on my part, with all manner of delicate indirections, holding back the decisive word till the very last moment, as if her tongue could not bring itself to utter a figure so extortionate. The truth was, she said, she had made nothing by giving dinners the year previous, and so felt obliged to charge five cents more the present season!2
The noon hour brought a sudden change in the day’s programme. All the forenoon I had been asking questions, presuming upon my double right as a traveler and a Yankee; now I was to take my turn in the witness-box. My landlady’s brother sat on the veranda mending a fishing-tackle, and we had hardly passed the time of day before it became apparent that he possessed one of nature’s best intellectual gifts, an appetite for knowledge. With admirable civility, yet with no waste of time or breath, he went about his work, and long before dinner was announced I had given him my name, my residence (my age, perhaps, but here recollection becomes hazy), my occupation, the object of my present journey and its probable duration, some account of my previous visits South, my notion of New England weather, my impressions of Washington, especially of the height of the Washington monument as compared with other similar structures (a question of peculiar moment to him, for some reason now past recall), and Heaven knows what else; while on a thousand or two of other topics I had confessed ignorance. I had never been to Chautauqua; that was perhaps my examiner’s most serious disappointment. He was at present engaged on a Chautauquan course of reading, as it appeared, — the best course of reading that lie had ever seen, he was inclined to think. Here again he had me playing second fiddle, or rather no fiddle at all.
His was a wholesome catholicity of mind, but it pleased me to notice that he too had felt the touch of the modern spirit, and was something of a specialist. Geography, or perhaps I should say climatology, seemed to lie uppermost in his thoughts. Once, I remember, he brought out a ponderous atlas of the world, a book of really astonishing proportions when the size of the house was taken into account, though it may not have been absolutely necessary for him to bring it out of doors in order to open it. On the subject of comparative climatology, be it said without reserve, it did not take him long to come to the end of my resources. It is possible, of course, that his own concern about it was but temporary, — the result of his before-mentioned course of reading. There is no better — nor better understood — rule for conversation than to choose the subject of the book you happen to have had last in hand. Two to one the other man will know less about it than you do. Then you are in clover. But should it turn out that he is at home where you have but recently peeped in at the window, and so is bound to have you at a disadvantage, you have only to be beforehand with him by acknowledging with becoming modesty that you really know nothing about the matter, but happen to have just been looking over with some interest Mr. So-and-So’s recent book. In other words, you may pass for a special student or a discursive reader, honorable characters both of them, according as the way opens.
I am not saying that my noonday acquaintance had practiced any such stratagem. His attitude throughout was that of a learner; nor did he set himself to shine even in that humble capacity, as one may easily do (and there are few safer methods) in this day of multifarious discovery, when the ability to ask intelligent questions has become of itself a badge of scholarship. His inquiries followed one another with perfect naturalness and simplicity; he simply wanted to know. As for the more strictly personal among them, they were only such as the most conventional of us instinctively feel like asking. “As soon as a stranger is introduced into any company,” says Emerson, “one of the first questions which all wish to have answered is, ‘How does that man get his living?’” There was no thought of taking offense. On the contrary, it was a pleasure to be angled for by so true an artist. If any newspaper should be in want of an “interviewer,” — a remote contingency so far as any newspaper that I know anything about is concerned, — I could recommend a likely hand. A candidate for the presidency might balk him, but nobody else. My own conversation with him is still an agreeable memory; a man’s mind is like a well, all the better for being once in a while pumped dry. And yet, while I speak of him in this tone of sincere appreciation, it must be acknowledged that in one respect he did me an ill turn. He robbed me of an illusion. The Yankee is second where I had supposed him an undisputed first.
Though we were at the half-way house, and in fact had made more than half of our day’s journey, the valley of the Chattooga at this point lay so warmly in the sun that the aspect of things remained decidedly southern. Roses and snowballs were in bloom in the dooryard, and as I came out from dinner a blue-gray gnatcatcher, the only one seen on my entire trip, was complaining from a persimmon-tree beside the gate. My attention to it, and to sundry other birds of the smaller sorts, — a blue golden-winged warbler, for example, — was matter of surprise to the men of the house, both of whom were now on the veranda. My seeker after knowledge, indeed, asked me plainly, but not without a word of apology, what object I had in view in such studies; in short, — when I stumbled a bit in my explanation, — whether there was “any money in them.” In that form the question presented less difficulty, and in my turn I asked him and his brother-in-law how often they were accustomed to see ravens thereabout. Their reply was little to the comfort of an enthusiast who had come a thousand miles, more or less, with ravens in his eye. Neither of them had seen one in the last five years. Something had happened to the birds, they could not say what. Formerly it was nothing uncommon to notice one or two flying over. Alas, this was not the first time it had been borne in upon me that, ornithologically, my portion was among the belated.
I have said nothing about it hitherto, but I had not driven five or six hours through strange woods and into the midst of strange hills without an ear open for bird notes. Even the rumbling of the heavy wagon and the uneasy creaking of the harness could not drown such music altogether, and once in a while, as I have said, I spelled myself on foot. At short intervals, too, when we came to some promising spot, — a swampy thicket, perhaps, or a patch of evergreens, — I called a halt to listen; the driver making no objection, and the horses less than none. The voices, to my regret rather than to my surprise, were every one familiar, and the single unexpected thing about it all was the dearth of northern species. The date was May 6, and the woods might properly enough have been alive with homeward-bound migrants; but the only bird that I could positively rank under that head was a Swainson thrush, — a free-hearted singer, whose cheery White Mountain tune I never hear at the South without an inward refreshment. From the evergreens, none too common, and mostly too far from the road, came the voices of a pine warbler and one or two black-throated. greens; and once, as we skirted a bushy hillside, I caught the sliding ditty of a prairie warbler. Here, too, I think it was that I heard the distinctive, loquacious call of a summer tanager, — four happy chances, as but for them, and the single gnatcatcher by the half way house gate, my vacation bird list would have been shorter by five species.
After all, the principal ornithological event of the forenoon was, not the singing of the Swainson thrush, but the discovery of a humming-bird’s nest. This happened on the side of Stumphouse Mountain. I had taken a short cut by myself, and had come out of the woods into the road again some distance ahead of the wagon, when suddenly I heard the buzz and squeak of a hummer, and, glancing upward, put my eye instantly upon the nest, which might have been two thirds done from its appearance, and then upon its owner, whose reiterated squeakings, I have no doubt, expressed her annoyance at my intrusion. In truth, both owners were present, and in that lay the exceptional interest of the story.
Some years ago I had proved, as I thought, that the male ruby-throat habitually takes no part in the hatching and rearing of its young, and, for that matter, is never to be seen about the nest in the five or six weeks during which that most laborious and nerve-trying work is going on. As to why this should be I could only confess ignorance; and subsequent observations, both by myself and by others,3 while confirming the fact of the male’s absence, had done nothing to bring to light the reason for it. Is the female herself responsible for such a state of things? I should hate to believe, as I have heard it maintained, that female birds in general cherish little or no real affection for their mates, regarding them simply as necessities of the hour; but it is certain that widows among them waste no time in mourning, and it appears to me likely enough, if I am to say what I think, that the lady hummer, a fussy and capable body (we all know the human type), having her nest done and the eggs laid, prefers her mate’s room to his company, and gives him his walking ticket.
So much for a bit of half-serious speculation. The interest of the nest found here on Stumphouse Mountain lay, as I have said, in the fact that it was unfinished, and the male owner of it — if he is to be called an owner — was still present. Whether he was actually assisting in the construction of the family house, I am unable to tell. For the few minutes that I remained the female alone entered it, doing something or other to the wall or rim, and then flying away. With so long a journey before us there was no tarrying for further investigations, glad as I should have been to see the ruby-throat for once conducting himself with something like Christian propriety. For to-day, at all events, he was neither a deserter nor an exile.
We rested for an hour or more at the half-way house, and then resumed our journey: the morning story over again, — upward and downward and roundabout, with woods and hills everywhere, and two mountains still to put behind us. We should be in Highlands before dark, the driver said; but one contingency had been left out of his calculation. When we had been under way an hour, or some such matter, he began to worry about one of the horses. My own eyes had been occupied elsewhere, but now it was plain enough, my attention having been called to it, that Doc “was leaving his mate to do the work. And Doc was never known to play the shirk, the driver said, with a jealousy for his favorite’s reputation pleasant to see and honorable to both parties. The poor fellow must be sick. “Didn’t he eat his dinner?” I asked. “Yes; there was no sign of anything wrong at that time.” Then it could be no very killing matter, I said to myself; a touch of laziness, probably; who could blame him? — and I continued to enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest. But my seatmate, better experienced and more charitable, was not to be misled. Little by little his anxiety increased, till he could do nothing but talk about it (so it happened that we crossed the North Carolina line, and I was none the wiser); and before long it became evident, even to me, that whatever ailed the horse, sickness, laziness, discouragement, or exhaustion, he must be carefully humored, or we should find ourselves stranded for the night on a lonesome mountain road. Slower and slower we went, — both men on foot, of course, up all the ascents, — and worse and worse grew Doe’s behavior. I was sorry for him, and sorrier still for the driver, who was thinking not only of his horse and his passenger, but of himself and his own standing with the owner of the team. He was sure it was none of his fault, he kept protesting; nothing of the kind had ever happened to him before. Finally, seeing him so miserably depressed (for the time being every misfortune is as bad as it looks), so quite at the end of his wit, and almost at the end of his courage, I said, “Why not take advice at the next house we come to? Two heads are better than one.” That was a word in season. To take advice would be a kind of division of responsibility. It is what doctors do when the patient is dying on their hands. The man brightened at once.
A mile or two more of halting and painful progress, then, and we approached a clearing, on the farther side of which two men were busy with a plough. The driver hailed one of them by name, and made known our difficulty. Wouldn’t he please come to the road and see if he could make out what was the matter? He responded in the most neighborly spirit (he would have been a queer farmer, neighborly or not, not to feel interested in a question about a horse); but after looking into the animal’s mouth, and disclaiming any special right to speak in such a case, he could only say that he saw no sign of anything worse than fatigue. Hadn’t the horse been worked hard lately? Yes, the driver answered, he had been in the harness pretty steadily for some time past. At this I put in my oar. Couldn’t another horse be borrowed somewhere, and the tired one left to rest? — a suggestion, I need hardly say, that squinted hard toward the horse in sight before us across the field. The farmer approved of the idea; only where was the horse to come from? Mountain farmers, as I was to learn afterward, — and a strange state of things it seemed to a pilgrim from Yankee land, — are mostly too poor to support a horse, or even a mule. The man would let us have his, of course, but it was a young thing that had never been hitched up. But I tell you,” he broke out, after a minute’s reflection. You know So-and-So, don’t you? He has a pair of mules. Perhaps you could get one of them.” “Good!” said I, and we drove on a mile or two farther, — and by this time it was driving, — till we came to a cross-road, the only one that I recall on the whole day’s route, though there must have been others, I suppose. The owner of the mules — whose exceptional opulence should have kept his name remembered — lived down that road a piece, the driver said. If I would stay by the wagon, he would go down there, and be back as quickly as possible.
He was gone half an hour or more, while the horses browsed upon the bushes (if a good appetite signified anything, Doc was not yet on his way to the buzzards), and I, after listening awhile to the masterly improvisations of a brown thrasher, went spying about to see what birds might be hiding in the underbrush. The hobbyist, say what you please about him, is a lucky fellow. All sorts of untoward accidents bring grist to his mill; and so it was this time. I heard a sparrow’s tseep, and soon called into sight two or three white-throats, — ordinary birds enough, but of value here as being the only ones found on the whole journey. I should have missed them infallibly but for Doe’s misadventure.
The driver returned at last, and with him came a mountain farmer, — another good neighbor, I was glad to see, — leading a mule, which was quickly put into Doe’s harness. But what to do with Doc?” Leave him,” said I. Lead him at the tail of the wagon,” said the farmer; and the latter advice prevailed. And very good advice it seemed till we came to the first steepish piece of road. Then the horse began to hold back. “Look at him! “exclaimed the driver in despairing tones; and all our tribulations were begun over again.
From this point there was only one way of getting on, and that at a snail’s pace and with continual interruptions. The passenger took the reins, and the driver walked behind with his whip, and so, using as much kindness as might be, forced the unwilling horse to follow. Even that cruel resource threatened before long to fail us; for it began to look as if the unsteady creature would drop in his tracks. There it was, as I now suspect, that he played his best card. “You must leave him at the next house, if there is another,” I said. “Yes, there is another,” the driver answered, “and only one.” We came to it presently, — a cabin far below us in a deep, wood-encircled valley, out of which rose pleasant evening sounds of a banjo and singing. The driver lifted his voice, and a woman appeared upon the piazza. The man of the house was not at home, she said; but the driver took down the Virginia fence, and with much patient coaxing and pulling got the horse down the long, steep slope and into a shed. Then, leaving word for him to be fed and cared for, he climbed back to the road, and, freed at last from our incumbrance, we quickened our pace.
By this time it was growing dark. Bird songs had ceased, and flowers had long been invisible. But indeed, for the greater part of the afternoon, we had been so taken up with working our passage that I had found small opportunity for natural history comment. I recall a lovely rose-acacia shrub, an endless display of pink azalea, — set off here and there with the flat snowy clusters of the dogwood, — thickets fringed with drooping, white, sickly sweet Leucothoë racemes (which at the time I mistook for some kind of Andromeda), the shouts of two pileated woodpeckers, — always rememberable, — a hooded warbler’s song out of a rhododendron thicket, and the sight of two or three rough-winged swallows. These last are worth mentioning, because in connection with them there came out the astonishing fact that the driver did not know what I meant by swallows. Apparently he had never heard the word, — which may help readers to understand what a scarcity of these airy birds there is in all that Alleghanian country. I should almost as soon have expected to find a man who had never heard of sparrows!
It was after eight o’clock when we turned a sharp corner in the road and saw the lights of the village shining through the forest ahead of us. In fifteen minutes more I was at supper. I had come a long way by faith, — faith in a guidebook star; and my faith had not been vain.
1 “Do come” and “did come” are proper enough; why not “done come”? And in point of fact, this common Southern use of “done” with the past participle has its warrant in at least two lines of Chaucer: in The Knightes Tale (1055): —
“Hath Theseus doon wrought in noble wise,”
and in The Tale of the Man of Lawe (171): —
“Thise marchants han doon fraught her shippes newe.”
If a ship is “done loaded,” why may not a carriage have “done come”? Idiom is long-lived. As Lowell said of the Yankee vernacular, so doubtless may we say of the Carolinian, that it “often has antiquity and very respectable literary authority on its side.”
2 If I seem to have said too much about the vulgar question of something to eat, let it be my apology that for a Northern traveler in the rural South the food question is nothing less than the health question. A few years ago, two Boston ornithologists, who had undertaken an extensive tour among the North Carolina mountains, returned before the time. Sickness had driven them home, it turned out; and when they came to publish the result of their investigations, they finished their narrative by saying, “Few Northern digestions could accomplish the feat of properly nourishing a man on native fare.” On my present trip, a resident physician assured me that the native mountaineers, living mostly out of doors and in one of the best of climates, are almost without exception dyspeptics.
3 See especially an article by Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller in The Atlantic Monthly for June, 1896.