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List Of Contents | Contents of On Horseback by Charles Dudley Warner
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porches and galleries.  No one at home but the cook, a rotund, broad-
faced woman, with a merry eye, whose very appearance suggested good
cooking and hospitality; the Missis and the children had gone up to
the river fishing; the Colonel was somewhere about the place; always
was away when he was wanted.  Guess he'd take us in, mighty fine man
the Colonel; and she dispatched a child from a cabin in the rear to
hunt him up.  The Colonel was a great friend of her folks down to
Greenville; they visited here.  Law, no, she didn't live here.  Was
just up here spending the summer, for her health.  God-forsaken lot
of people up here, poor trash.  She wouldn't stay here a day, but the
Colonel was a friend of her folks, the firstest folks in Greenville.
Nobody round here she could 'sociate with.  She was a Presbyterian,
the folks round here mostly Baptists and Methodists.  More style
about the Presbyterians.  Married?  No, she hoped not.  She did n't
want to support no husband.  Got 'nuff to do to take care of herself.
That her little girl?  No; she'd only got one child, down to
Greenville, just the prettiest boy ever was, as white as anybody.
How did she what? reconcile this state of things with not being
married and being a Presbyterian?  Sho! she liked to carry some
religion along; it was mighty handy occasionally, mebbe not all the
time.  Yes, indeed, she enjoyed her religion.

The Colonel appeared and gave us a most cordial welcome.  The fat and
merry cook blustered around and prepared a good dinner, memorable for
its "light" bread, the first we had seen since Cranberry Forge.  The
Colonel is in some sense a public man, having been a mail agent, and
a Republican.  He showed us photographs and engravings of Northern
politicians, and had the air of a man who had been in Washington.
This was a fine country for any kind of fruit,--apples, grapes,
pears; it needed a little Northern enterprise to set things going.
The travelers were indebted to the Colonel for a delightful noonday
rest, and with regret declined his pressing invitation to pass the
night with him.

The ride down the Swannanoa to Asheville was pleasant, through a
cultivated region, over a good road.  The Swannanoa is, however, a
turbid stream.  In order to obtain the most impressive view of
Asheville we approached it by the way of Beaucatcher Hill, a sharp
elevation a mile west of the town.  I suppose the name is a
corruption of some descriptive French word, but it has long been a
favorite resort of the frequenters of Asheville, and it may be
traditional that it is a good place to catch beaux.  The summit is
occupied by a handsome private residence, and from this ridge the
view, which has the merit of "bursting" upon the traveler as he comes
over the hill, is captivating in its extent and variety.  The pretty
town of Asheville is seen to cover a number of elevations gently
rising out of the valley, and the valley, a rich agricultural region,
well watered and fruitful, is completely inclosed by picturesque
hills, some of them rising to the dignity of mountains.  The most
conspicuous of these is Mount Pisgah, eighteen miles distant to the
southwest, a pyramid of the Balsam range, 5757 feet high.  Mount
Pisgah, from its shape, is the most attractive mountain in this
region.

The sunset light was falling upon the splendid panorama and softening
it.  The windows of the town gleamed as if on fire.  From the steep
slope below came the mingled sounds of children shouting, cattle
driven home, and all that hum of life that marks a thickly peopled
region preparing for the night.  It was the leisure hour of an August
afternoon, and Asheville was in all its watering-place gayety, as we
reined up at the Swannanoa hotel.  A band was playing on the balcony.
We had reached ice-water, barbers, waiters, civilization.




IV

Ashville, delightful for situation, on small hills that rise above
the French Broad below its confluence with the Swannanoa, is a sort
of fourteenth cousin to Saratoga.  It has no springs, but lying 2250
feet above the sea and in a lovely valley, mountain girt, it has pure
atmosphere and an equable climate; and being both a summer and winter
resort, it has acquired a watering-place air.  There are Southerners
who declare that it is too hot in summer, and that the complete
circuit of mountains shuts out any lively movement of air.  But the
scenery is so charming and noble, the drives are so varied, the roads
so unusually passable for a Southern country, and the facilities for
excursions so good, that Asheville is a favorite resort.

Architecturally the place is not remarkable, but its surface is so
irregular, there are so many acclivities and deep valleys that
improvements can never obliterate, that it is perforce picturesque.
It is interesting also, if not pleasing, in its contrasts--the
enterprise of taste and money-making struggling with the laissez
faire of the South.  The negro, I suppose, must be regarded as a
conservative element; he has not much inclination to change his
clothes or his cabin, and his swarming presence gives a ragged aspect
to the new civilization.  And to say the truth, the new element of
Southern smartness lacks the trim thrift the North is familiar with;
though the visitor who needs relaxation is not disposed to quarrel
with the easy-going terms on which life is taken.

Asheville, it is needless to say, appeared very gay and stimulating
to the riders from the wilderness.  The Professor, who does not even
pretend to patronize Nature, had his revenge as we strolled about the
streets (there is but one of much consideration), immensely
entertained by the picturesque contrasts.  There was more life and
amusement here in five minutes, he declared, than in five days of
what people called scenery--the present rage for scenery, anyway,
being only a fashion and a modern invention.  The Friend suspected
from this penchant for the city that the Professor must have been
brought up in the country.

There was a kind of predetermined and willful gayety about Asheville
however, that is apt to be present in a watering-place, and gave to
it the melancholy tone that is always present in gay places.  We
fancied that the lively movement in the streets had an air of
unreality.  A band of musicians on the balcony of the Swannanoa were
scraping and tooting and twanging with a hired air, and on the
opposite balcony of the Eagle a rival band echoed and redoubled the
perfunctory joyousness.  The gayety was contagious: the horses felt
it; those that carried light burdens of beauty minced and pranced,
the pony in the dog-cart was inclined to dash, the few passing
equipages had an air of pleasure; and the people of color, the comely
waitress and the slouching corner-loafer, responded to the animation
of the festive strains.  In the late afternoon the streets were full
of people, wagons, carriages, horsemen, all with a holiday air,
dashed with African color and humor--the irresponsibility of the most
insouciant and humorous race in the world, perhaps more comical than
humorous; a mixture of recent civilization and rudeness, peculiar and
amusing; a happy coming together, it seemed, of Southern abandon and
Northern wealth, though the North was little represented at this
season.

As evening came on, the streets, though wanting gas, were still more
animated; the shops were open, some very good ones, and the white and
black throng increasing, especially the black, for the negro is
preeminently a night bird.  In the hotels dancing was promised--the
german was announced; on the galleries and in the corridors were
groups of young people, a little loud in manner and voice,--the young
gentleman, with his over-elaborate manner to ladies in bowing and
hat-lifting, and the blooming girls from the lesser Southern cities,
with the slight provincial note, and yet with the frank and engaging
cordiality which is as charming as it is characteristic.  I do not
know what led the Professor to query if the Southern young women were
not superior to the Southern young men, but he is always asking
questions nobody can answer.  At the Swannanoa were half a dozen
bridal couples, readily recognizable by the perfect air they had of
having been married a long time.  How interesting such young voyagers
are, and how interesting they are to each other!  Columbus never
discovered such a large world as they have to find out and possess
each in the other.

Among the attractions of the evening it was difficult to choose.
There was a lawn-party advertised at Battery Point (where a fine
hotel has since been built) and we walked up to that round knob after
dark.  It is a hill with a grove, which commands a charming view, and
was fortified during the war.  We found it illuminated with Chinese
lanterns; and little tables set about under the trees, laden with
cake and ice-cream, offered a chance to the stranger to contribute
money for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church.  I am afraid it was
not a profitable entertainment, for the men seemed to have business
elsewhere, but the ladies about the tables made charming groups in
the lighted grove.  Man is a stupid animal at best, or he would not
make it so difficult for the womenkind to scrape together a little
money for charitable purposes.  But probably the women like this
method of raising money better than the direct one.

The evening gayety of the town was well distributed.  When we
descended to the Court-House Square, a great crowd had collected,
black, white, and yellow, about a high platform, upon which four
glaring torches lighted up the novel scene, and those who could read
might decipher this legend on a standard at the back of the stage:

                      HAPPY JOHN.
            ONE OF THE SLAVES OF WADE HAMPTON.
                   COME AND SEE HIM!

Happy John, who occupied the platform with Mary, a "bright" yellow
girl, took the comical view of his race, which was greatly enjoyed by
his audience.  His face was blackened to the proper color of the
stage-darky, and he wore a flaming suit of calico, the trousers and

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