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NOTE: This work has been previously published in [Etext #2674]
The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 4

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By Charles Dudley Warner


"The way to mount a horse"--said the Professor.

"If you have no ladder--put in the Friend of Humanity."

The Professor had ridden through the war for the Union on the right
side, enjoying a much better view of it than if he had walked, and
knew as much about a horse as a person ought to know for the sake of
his character.  The man who can recite the tales of the Canterbury
Pilgrims, on horseback, giving the contemporary pronunciation, never
missing an accent by reason of the trot, and at the same time witch
North Carolina and a strip of East Tennessee with his noble
horsemanship, is a kind of Literary Centaur of whose double
instruction any Friend of Humanity may be glad to avail himself.

"The way to mount a horse is to grasp the mane with the left hand
holding the bridle-rein, put your left foot in the stirrup, with the
right hand on the back of the saddle, and---"

Just then the horse stepped quickly around on his hind feet, and
looked the Professor in the face.  The Superintendents of Affairs,
who occupy the flagging in front of the hotel, seated in cane-
bottomed chairs tilted back, smiled.  These useful persons appear to
have a life-lease of this portion of the city pavement, and pretty
effectually block it up nearly all day and evening.  When a lady
wishes to make her way through the blockade, it is the habit of these
observers of life to rise and make room, touching their hats, while
she picks her way through, and goes down the street with a pretty
consciousness of the flutter she has caused.  The war has not changed
the Southern habit of sitting out-of-doors, but has added a new
element of street picturesqueness in groups of colored people
lounging about the corners.  There appears to be more leisure than

The scene of this little lesson in horsemanship was the old town of
Abingdon, in southwest Virginia, on the Virginia and East Tennessee
railway; a town of ancient respectability, which gave birth to the
Johnstons and Floyds and other notable people; a town, that still
preserves the flavor of excellent tobacco and, something of the easy-
going habits of the days of slavery, and is a sort of educational
center, where the young ladies of the region add the final graces of
intellectual life in moral philosophy and the use of the globes to
their natural gifts.  The mansion of the late and left Floyd is now a
seminary, and not far from it is the Stonewall Jackson Institute, in
the midst of a grove of splendid oaks, whose stately boles and wide-
spreading branches give a dignity to educational life.  The
distinction of the region is its superb oak-trees.  As it was
vacation in these institutions of learning, the travelers did not see
any of the vines that traditionally cling to the oak.

The Professor and the Friend of Humanity were about starting on a
journey, across country southward, through regions about which the
people of Abingdon could give little useful information.  If the
travelers had known the capacities and resources of the country, they
would not have started without a supply train, or the establishment
of bases of provisions in advance.  But, as the Professor remarked,
knowledge is something that one acquires when he has no use for it.
The horses were saddled; the riders were equipped with flannel shirts
and leather leggings; the saddle-bags were stuffed with clean linen,
and novels, and sonnets of Shakespeare, and other baggage, it would
have been well if they had been stuffed with hard-tack, for in real
life meat is more than raiment.

The hotel, in front of which there is cultivated so much of what the
Germans call sitzfleisch, is a fair type of the majority of Southern
hotels, and differs from the same class in the North in being left a
little more to run itself.  The only information we obtained about it
was from its porter at the station, who replied to the question, "Is
it the best?"  "We warrant you perfect satisfaction in every
respect."  This seems to be only a formula of expression, for we
found that the statement was highly colored.  It was left to our
imagination to conjecture how the big chambers of the old house, with
their gaping fireplaces, might have looked when furnished and filled
with gay company, and we got what satisfaction we could out of a
bygone bustle and mint-julep hilarity.  In our struggles with the
porter to obtain the little items of soap, water, and towels, we were
convinced that we had arrived too late, and that for perfect
satisfaction we should have been here before the war.  It was not
always as now.  In colonial days the accommodations and prices at
inns were regulated by law.  In the old records in the court-house we
read that if we had been here in 1777, we could have had a gallon of
good rum for sixteen shillings; a quart bowl of rum toddy made with
loaf sugar for two shillings, or with brown sugar for one shilling
and sixpence.  In 1779 prices had risen.  Good rum sold for four
pounds a gallon.  It was ordered that a warm dinner should cost
twelve shillings, a cold dinner nine shillings, and a good breakfast
twelve shillings.  But the item that pleased us most, and made us
regret our late advent, was that for two shillings we could have had
a "good lodging, with clean sheets." The colonists were fastidious

Abingdon, prettily situated on rolling hills, and a couple of
thousand feet above the sea, with views of mountain peaks to the
south, is a cheerful and not too exciting place for a brief sojourn,
and hospitable and helpful to the stranger.  We had dined--so much,
at least, the public would expect of us--with a descendant of
Pocahontas; we had assisted on Sunday morning at the dedication of a
new brick Methodist church, the finest edifice in the region--
a dedication that took a long time, since the bishop would not
proceed with it until money enough was raised in open meeting to pay
the balance due on it: a religious act, though it did give a business
aspect to the place at the time; and we had been the light spots in
the evening service at the most aristocratic church of color.  The
irresponsibility of this amiable race was exhibited in the tardiness
with which they assembled: at the appointed time nobody was there
except the sexton; it was three quarters of an hour before the
congregation began to saunter in, and the sermon was nearly over
before the pews were at all filled.  Perhaps the sermon was not new,
but it was fervid, and at times the able preacher roared so that
articulate sounds were lost in the general effect.  It was precisely
these passages of cataracts of sound and hard breathing which excited
the liveliest responses,--"Yes, Lord," and "Glory to God."  Most of
these responses came from the "Amen corner."  The sermon contained
the usual vivid description of the last judgment--ah, and I fancied
that the congregation did not get the ordinary satisfaction out of
it.  Fashion had entered the fold, and the singing was mostly
executed by a choir in the dusky gallery, who thinly and harshly
warbled the emotional hymns.  It occupied the minister a long time to
give out the notices of the week, and there was not an evening or
afternoon that had not its meetings, its literary or social
gathering, its picnic or fair for the benefit of the church, its
Dorcas society, or some occasion of religious sociability.  The
raising of funds appeared to be the burden on the preacher's mind.
Two collections were taken up.  At the first, the boxes appeared to
get no supply except from the two white trash present.  But the
second was more successful.  After the sermon was over, an elder took
his place at a table within the rails, and the real business of the
evening began.  Somebody in the Amen corner struck up a tune that had
no end, but a mighty power of setting the congregation in motion.
The leader had a voice like the pleasant droning of a bag-pipe, and
the faculty of emitting a continuous note like that instrument,
without stopping to breathe.  It went on and on like a Bach fugue,
winding and whining its way, turning the corners of the lines of the
catch without a break.  The effect was soon visible in the emotional
crowd: feet began to move in a regular cadence and voices to join in,
with spurts of ejaculation; and soon, with an air of martyrdom, the
members began to leave their seats and pass before the table and
deposit their contributions.  It was a cent contribution, and we
found it very difficult, under the contagious influence of the hum
from the Amen corner, not to rise and go forward and deposit a cent.
If anything could extract the pennies from a reluctant worldling, it
would be the buzzing of this tune.  It went on and on, until the
house appeared to be drained dry of its cash; and we inferred by the
stopping of the melody that the preacher's salary was secure for the
time being.  On inquiring, we ascertained that the pecuniary flood
that evening had risen to the height of a dollar and sixty cents.

All was ready for the start.  It should have been early in the
morning, but it was not; for Virginia is not only one of the blessed
regions where one can get a late breakfast, but where it is almost
impossible to get an early one.  At ten A. M.  the two horsemen rode
away out of sight of the Abingdon spectators, down the eastern
turnpike.  The day was warm, but the air was full of vitality and the
spirit of adventure.  It was the 22d of July.  The horses were not
ambitious, but went on at an easy fox-trot that permits observation
and encourages conversation.  It had been stipulated that the horses
should be good walkers, the one essential thing in a horseback
journey.  Few horses, even in a country where riding is general, are
trained to walk fast.  We hear much of horses that can walk five
miles an hour, but they are as rare as white elephants.  Our horses
were only fair walkers.  We realized how necessary this

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