Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

in his life, to a feeling somewhat his cousin; where most of society akin to insignificance creeping over call one another by their Christian him. He would hate and despise names, dine in the middle of the himself for it, but still it would day, and sit out on chairs in the make him uncomfortable, and he street after supper. Richmond is would want to get away home. A delightful, and so are its people; depressing suspicion would come but its atmosphere would tend to over our good friend that the confirm, not to shake, the Doctor's haughty squires and dames knew homely faith. no more of Virginia's history, or Perhaps the Southern States was of Pages and Randolphs, and Pen- the only part of the world where dletons and Byrds, than they knew the practice of medicine has ever of the obscure Elijahs and Hirams been looked upon as an honourand Aarons that tilled the stony able adjunct to the possession of fields of New England. I fear, considerable landed estates and moreover, that the suspicion would an aristocratic name. As in Engbe too well founded. As a Cum- land there are squire-parsons, so berland squire in the eighteenth in Virginia there were squirecentury might have been disil- doctors—men of considerable prolusioned by a visit to the capi- perty (as things go there) both in tal, so to a much greater degree land and slaves---regularly pracwould our good Virginia friend tising in their own neighbourhood. have in all probability suffered by The slaves that constituted the a similar transpoitation. Once bulk of their wealth have gone, home again, however, I can safely but the lands and the practice reaffirm of the Doctor, that these un- main—for those who still survive comfortable sensations would have and are able to sit upon a horse. vanished in no time. Once more The Doctor is one of these surin his cane-bottomed rocking-chair vivals--and may he long flourish! on the shady porch; once more He had only a moderate property within sight of the blue mountains, two farms---of which we shall the red fallows, and the yellow speak anon.

But then he was a pine-sprinkled sedge-fields of his Patton; and as everybody south native land, he would quickly re- of the Potomac knows, the Pattons cover from the temporary shocks are one of the first families in the that had irritated him. The sub- State,-none of your modern and lime faith in “the grand old self-dubbed F.F.V.'s are they, but Commonwealth "would return, and real old colonial people, whose he would thank God more fervent- names are written on almost every ly that ever he was

son of

page of their country's history. BeVirginia: not because of her pre- sides, this Judge Patton, the Docsent or her future—for he con- tor's father, was one of the greatsidered the Virginia he belonged est jurists south of Washington to died with slavery-but on ac- -“in the world,” Virginians said ; count of her people and her past. but as a compromise we will admit The Doctor, happily, had been he was one of the first in America, spared all these trials, and his faith and quite distinguished enough to remained pure and unimpaired. reflect a social halo over his imThe only capital he had ever mediate descendants, supposing visited was the charming little even they had not been Pattons. city of Richmond, where every The original Patton mansion was third man or woman he met was burnt down in 1840. Nothing

[ocr errors]

a

never

was left but the office in the yard, anything !" the ladies that somewhere in those days our friend the times accompanied them Doctor pursued his youthful medi- failed to remark. ". That's a real cal investigations and entertained old ramshackle Virginia house, by his bachelor friends. The Judge thunder! and a pretty heavy old was a busy man, and much absent. fossil inside it, you bet!” said the He was always “laying out to more observant of the gentlemen. build him a new house ; but The Doctor would have gloried death “ laid him out” while the in such criticism had he heard it. scheme was still in embryo. The He hated Yankees; he hated your Doctor, who, as only son, became new-fangled houses; he hated railproprietor, had his hands too full, roads; he hated towns; he hated what with negroes, and farming, breech-loading guns: sights and and physicking, and fox-hunting, sounds and things that he was to carry it out till the war was not familiar with at five-andupon him, and with its results twenty, he would have none of put an end, as he thought at the when he was between sixty and time, to everything which makes seventy. life sweet.

The Doctor's house was uncon. It must not, however, be sup- ventional to be sure, while weather posed that the Doctor and his and neglect of paint or whitewash father had gone

houseless or had given it an air of antiquity to camped out since 1840. Not at which it had no real claim. It all. From the old brick office, lay a hundred yards back from the whose isolation had saved it from road, and appeared to consist of that memorable conflagration, there four or five small houses of varyhad grown—I use the word advis- ing dimensions, and occupying reedly, as applicable to Virginia lationships towards one another of architecture—there had grown a a most uncertain kind. Two of rambling structure, whose design, these leaned heavily together, like rather than whose actual weight convivial old gentlemen “seeing of years, gave it an appearance one another home.”

The rest lay venerable enough to command the at respectful distances from each respect and admiration of summer other, connected only by open vertourists from New York and Phila- andahs, through which the summer delphia. It was not often such breeze blew freshly, and lovingly apparitions passed that way, and fanned the annuals that spread when they did, it was generally and twined themselves along the in pursuit of filthy lucre suppo- eaves. Almost every style of Virsitiously concealed in the fields or ginia rural architecture found the forests. Nor are mining pros- place in this homely conglomerapectors as a rule sentimental, but tion of edifices which even "old sometimes they are in America. man Jake,” the negro, who has When such rara aves came by the for twenty years looked after the Doctor's front gate, they would Doctor's horses and stolen his almost always pull up and gaze corn, described as “mighty shackthrough it with that admiration lin', and lookin' like as if they'd and respect that Northerners are bin throwed down all in a muss. inclined to pay to anything in It was, however, a real old chartheir own country that recalls the acteristic Virginia house of its past.

kind. There were squared chest“Oh, isn't that too quaint for nut-logs, black with rain and sun, against which the venetian shut- appealed to the sense of the picters of the windows banged and turesque, and to the affections of thumped in gusty spring days as those of us who were familiar with against walls of adamant. These it and with its inmate. No doubt, same logs were got out of the however, the latter had something woods and squared, the Doctor to do with this. Nor should the would tell you, in days “when surroundings be forgotten. The men had plenty of time and plenty stately oaks that towered high of force' i.e., slaves) to do those above the quaint low buildings, things properly.' Then there were and covered with leaves and débris walls of pine weather - boarding, the greater portion of that domeserected at a period when, the same tic enclosure which in those parts authority would inform you, “peo- was known as the yard. The stragple began to saw and season their gling branching acacias that grew lumber five or ten years before close to the house, and spread they started to build." There were their tall arms above the roof, roofs of wooden shingles slanting littering it in autumn with showers and sloping in every direction of small curly leaves, and choking

, black, rotting, and moss - grown the wooden gutters (for the Doctor here, white and garish there, considered tin piping as a modern where penetrating rains had forced heresy) with fragmentary twigs. the slow and reluctant hand of re- The fresh green turf that had pair. Dormer-windows glared out matted and spread for 150 years at you, patched as to their shat- around this house and the more tered panes with local newspapers stately one that preceded it. The of remote date, and speaking of aged box-trees that had once, no stuffy attics behind, where hor- doubt, in prim Dutch rows lined nets, yellow-jackets, and “mud- some well-tended gravel path, but daubers” careered about in summer- now cropped up here and there time over the apple-strewn floors. upon the turf, like beings that Then there was the old brick office had outlived their time and gen-relic of a distant past: of a eration. The clustering honeyperiod when the Virginia planters, suckles, bending their old and though surrounded by the finest rickety frames to the ground. clay, were so absorbed in tobacco The silver aspens before the door, that they sent to England for their whose light leaves shivered above bricks. It is probable, however, your head in the most breathless that these particular bricks were August days. The slender mimosa, produced upon the spot. At any through whose beautiful and frarate, their comparative antiquity gile greenery the first hummingand presumably mellow tone have birds of early June shyly fluttered ; been ruthlessly effaced, for this and the long row of straw hives is the only part of the Doctor's against the rickety fence, where mansion that he has selected for hereditary swarms of bees — let a coat of whitewash. It is used well alone — made more honey for professional purposes, and is than the Doctor and all his known by the Doctor's patients neighbours could consume. as the “sujjery."

” I know it is Yes! these objects are, and all hopeless to try, by a bald descrip- and many more are, twined around tion of timber and bricks and my heart, but the Doctor's front mortar, to give any idea of how gate occupies no such position at the Doctor's rambling homestead all. It was all very well for the

people who stopped in the road for assistance, or rode about till and looked through its bars at the some of the hands came up to the fine old oaks, the green lawn be- rescue. It must not be supposed yond, and the quaint straggling that the Doctor's establishment, structure, and then drove on their though strongly typical in a sense, way. For those, however, whose resembled to any extent the real duty or pleasure compelled them old Virginia mansion. The Pattons, to penetrate that barrier, it was it will be remembered, had been entirely another matter. It was burnt out, and the present pile a home-made gate—a real “old had been originally intended only Virginia” gate-put up at the as a makeshift; but it was such close of the war as a protest, it a makeshift as would perhaps be would almost seein, against Yankee seen nowhere out of Virginia. Of notions of hurry. To look at that the more substantial family mantremendous portal, you would have sions there were plenty crowning supposed that the Doctor was the the hills in the Doctor's neighmost defiant recluse, instead of the bourhood. Square blocks of brick, most hospitable of men. It was, some many-windowed and greenhowever, a typical Virginia gate shuttered, with huge Grecian porstrongly emphasised, just as the ticoes supported by rows of white Doctor was a typical Virginia gen- fluted pillars stretching along their tleman strongly emphasised. I face. Great big wooden barns, couldn't speak accurately as to its others with acres of roof and rows dimensions, but I have often had of dormer - windows, and crazy to jump for life as it fell, and from crumbling porches, and stacks of the way in which it hit the ground, red - brick chimneys clambering I should say that it must have up outside the white walls at the weighed nearly a thousand pounds. gable-ends, or anywhere else where Its weight would have been a matter they come handy for that matter. of no importance whatever to any There were plenty of these within one but the Doctor and the posts range of the Doctor's house and which supported it, had it been the limits of his practice, and to properly hung with two hinges the proprietor of every one the and a latch. No doubt it had Doctor was related. commenced life with these ad- of this relationship varied from vantages; but during all the the unquestioned affinity of cousins years I struggled with it, there and nephews, to that which is

no latch, and only a bottom described in Virginia by the comhook hinge. It was kept in its prehensive and far-reaching appelplace by two ponderous fence-rails lative of “kin.” To be kin of the being leaned up against it. The Pattons, moreover, was in itself a most elementary mathematician desirable thing in Virginian eyes. will at once arrive at the result Though the Doctor lived in such which ensued on the removal of an unpretentious residence, and these rails (a herculean task in worked day in and day out as a itself) and the opening of the gate, country practitioner, there were unless extraordinary skill was exer- people in the neighbourhood holdcised. It was really a perform- ing their heads pretty high, who ance beyond a single man; so most were always pleased to remember visitors, unless they were “riding that their father's first cousin had for the Doctor"-in the most married the

Doctor's mother's serious business sense-holloaed brother.

The stages

was

With all the Doctor's quaint personal apparel was a matter of ideas and strong prejudices, I have almost no moment, and personal said that he was a thorough gen- display, such as engages the welltleman. He was of the kind to-do of other countries in mismeant for use, and not for show. chievous rivalry, was hardly known. Good heavens! what would your The general shabbiness of Virdashing British Æsculapius, in his ginia was not the temporary shabbibrougham or well-appointed dog. ness of a pioneering generation-cart, have said to my old friend's that condition everybody can unappearance when setting out for derstand-but the picturesque and a long winter's day's work? I can almost defiant tatterdemalionism see him now, riding in at the gate of quite an old and thoroughly on some wild January day, bring- self-satisfied community, unstimuing hope in his kindly face, and lated by contact with the outer good conservative time-honoured world.

It was

a mellow, timedrugs in his well-worn saddle-bags. honoured kind of shabbiness of A woollen scarf is drawn round which Virginians are almost proud, his head, and on the top of it is regarding it as a sort of mute crammed an ancient wide-awake. protest, though an extreme one, A long black cloak, fastened round against those modern innovations his throat with a clasp, and lined which their souls abhorred. The with red flannel, falls over the Doctor had been a widower since the saddle behind. His legs, good first year of the war. In accordance soul, are thickly encased in coils with local custom, he had buried of wheat-straw, wound tightly his wife in the orchard. A simple round them from his ankles up- marble shaft in that homely quarwards. In his hand, by way of ter spoke of her virtues and her a whip, he carries a bushy switch worth to the colts and calves that plucked from the nearest tree, bit the sweet May grass around and upon one heel a rusty spur her tomb, and to the inquiring that did duty at Bull's Run. swine that crunched the rotting

Now do not suppose that the apples as they fell in autumn from Doctor on such occasions was re- the untended trees. Neither had garded as a scarecrow, or that the Doctor been blessed with sons his neighbours looked upon him as or daughters. Who he would “ ar

. eccentric or even careless of attire; [heir, as a verb] his place to " was on the contrary, this was a good a common subject of discussion old Virginia costume. The Doc- among the negroes on the proptor's appearance as above described erty. The Doctor's profession, no was not the desperate expedient doubt, was his first care ; but his of a frontier and transitory con- heart was with his farms and his dition—not at all. It was a sur- fox-hounds. The Doctor had pracvival of two hundred years of a tised over, or, as we used to say peculiar civilisation ; a civilisa- there, "ridden" the south side of tion that had been wont to look the country for nearly forty years. inside the plantation fence for He had studied medicine with the almost every necessary; a patri- intention only of saving the docarchal dispensation whose sim- tor's bill in his father's household plicity was to a great extent the of eighty negroes. He had soon, outcome of exclusiveness; a social however, dropped into a regular organisation wherein each man's practice, and for the last five-andplace was so absolutely fixed, that twenty years at any rate, no birth or

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »