List Of Contents | Contents of On Horseback by Charles Dudley Warner
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trembling, as if in an earthquake spasm, but with a shivering motion
very different from that produced by an earthquake.  The only good
that came of it was that it frightened all the "moonshiners," and
caused them to join the church.  It is not reported what became of
the church afterwards.  It is believed now that the trembling was
caused by the cracking of a great ledge on the mountain, which slowly
parted asunder.  Bald Mountain is the scene of Mrs. Burnett's
delightful story of "Louisiana," and of the play of "Esmeralda."
A rock is pointed out toward the summit, which the beholder is asked
to see resembles a hut, and which is called "Esmeralda's Cottage."
But this attractive maiden has departed, and we did not discover any
woman in the region who remotely answers to her description.

In the morning we rode a mile and a half through the woods and
followed up a small stream to see the celebrated pools, one of which
the Judge said was two hundred feet deep, and another bottomless.
These pools, not round, but on one side circular excavations, some
twenty feet across, worn in the rock by pebbles, are very good
specimens, and perhaps remarkable specimens, of "pot-holes."  They
are, however, regarded here as one of the wonders of the world.  On
the way to them we saw beautiful wild trumpet-creepers in blossom,
festooning the trees.

The stream that originates in Hickory Nut Gap is the westernmost
branch of several forks of the Broad, which unite to the southeast in
Rutherford County, flow to Columbia, and reach the Atlantic through
the channel of the Santee.  It is not to be confounded with the
French Broad, which originates among the hills of Transylvania, runs
northward past Asheville, and finds its way to the Tennessee through
the Warm Springs Gap in the Bald Mountains.  As the French claimed
ownership of all the affluents of the Mississippi, this latter was
called the French Broad.

It was a great relief the next morning, on our return, to rise out of
the lifeless atmosphere of the Gap into the invigorating air at the
Widow Sherrill's, whose country-seat is three hundred feet higher
than Asheville.  It was a day of heavy showers, and apparently of
leisure to the scattered population; at every store and mill was a
congregation of loafers, who had hitched their scrawny horses and
mules to the fences, and had the professional air of the idler and
gossip the world over.  The vehicles met on the road were a variety
of the prairie schooner, long wagons with a top of hoops over which
is stretched a cotton cloth.  The wagons are without seats, and the
canvas is too low to admit of sitting upright, if there were.  The
occupants crawl in at either end, sit or lie on the bottom of the
wagon, and jolt along in shiftless uncomfortableness.

Riding down the French Broad was one of the original objects of our
journey.  Travelers with the same intention may be warned that the
route on horseback is impracticable.  The distance to the Warm
Springs is thirty-seven miles; to Marshall, more than halfway, the
road is clear, as it runs on the opposite side of the river from the
railway, and the valley is something more than river and rails.  But
below Marshall the valley contracts, and the rails are laid a good
portion of the way in the old stage road.  One can walk the track,
but to ride a horse over its sleepers and culverts and occasional
bridges, and dodge the trains, is neither safe nor agreeable.  We
sent our horses round--the messenger taking the risk of leading them,
between trains, over the last six or eight miles,--and took the

The railway, after crossing a mile or two of meadows, hugs the river
all the way.  The scenery is the reverse of bold.  The hills are low,
monotonous in form, and the stream winds through them, with many a
pretty turn and "reach," with scarcely a ribbon of room to spare on
either side.  The river is shallow, rapid, stony, muddy, full of
rocks, with an occasional little island covered with low bushes.  The
rock seems to be a clay formation, rotten and colored.  As we
approach Warm Springs the scenery becomes a little bolder, and we
emerge into the open space about the Springs through a narrower
defile, guarded by rocks that are really picturesque in color and
splintered decay, one of them being known, of course, as the "Lover's
Leap," a name common in every part of the modern or ancient world
where there is a settlement near a precipice, with always the same
legend attached to it.

There is a little village at Warm Springs, but the hotel--since
burned and rebuilt--(which may be briefly described as a palatial
shanty) stands by itself close to the river, which is here a deep,
rapid, turbid stream.  A bridge once connected it with the road on
the opposite bank, but it was carried away three or four years ago,
and its ragged butments stand as a monument of procrastination, while
the stream is crossed by means of a flatboat and a cable.  In front
of the hotel, on the slight slope to the river, is a meager grove of
locusts.  The famous spring, close to-the stream, is marked only by a
rough box of wood and an iron pipe, and the water, which has a
temperature of about one hundred degrees, runs to a shabby bath-house
below, in which is a pool for bathing.  The bath is very agreeable,
the tepid water being singularly soft and pleasant.  It has a
slightly sulphurous taste.  Its good effects are much certified.  The
grounds, which might be very pretty with care, are ill-kept and
slatternly, strewn with debris, as if everything was left to the
easy-going nature of the servants.  The main house is of brick, with
verandas and galleries all round, and a colonnade of thirteen huge
brick and stucco columns, in honor of the thirteen States,--a relic
of post-Revolutionary times, when the house was the resort of
Southern fashion and romance.  These columns have stood through one
fire, and perhaps the recent one, which swept away the rest of the
structure.  The house is extended in a long wooden edifice, with
galleries and outside stairs, the whole front being nearly seven
hundred feet long.  In a rear building is a vast, barrack-like
dining-room, with a noble ball-room above, for dancing is the
important occupation of visitors.

The situation is very pretty, and the establishment has a
picturesqueness of its own.  Even the ugly little brick structure
near the bath-house imposes upon one as Wade Hampton's cottage.  No
doubt we liked the place better than if it had been smart, and
enjoyed the neglige condition, and the easy terms on which life is
taken there.  There was a sense of abundance in the sight of fowls
tiptoeing about the verandas, and to meet a chicken in the parlor was
a sort of guarantee that we should meet him later on in the dining-
room.  There was nothing incongruous in the presence of pigs,
turkeys, and chickens on the grounds; they went along with the good-
natured negro-service and the general hospitality; and we had a
mental rest in the thought that all the gates would have been off the
hinges, if there had been any gates.  The guests were very well
treated indeed, and were put under no sort of restraint by
discipline.  The long colonnade made an admirable promenade and
lounging-place and point of observation.  It was interesting to watch
the groups under the locusts, to see the management of the ferry, the
mounting and dismounting of the riding-parties, and to study the
colors on the steep hill opposite, halfway up which was a neat
cottage and flower-garden.  The type of people was very pleasantly
Southern.  Colonels and politicians stand in groups and tell stories,
which are followed by explosions of laughter; retire occasionally
into the saloon, and come forth reminded of more stories, and all
lift their hats elaborately and suspend the narratives when a lady
goes past.  A company of soldiers from Richmond had pitched its tents
near the hotel, and in the evening the ball-room was enlivened with
uniforms.  Among the graceful dancers--and every one danced well, and
with spirit was pointed out the young widow of a son of Andrew
Johnson, whose pretty cottage overlooks the village.  But the
Professor, to whom this information was communicated, doubted whether
here it was not a greater distinction to be the daughter of the owner
of this region than to be connected with a President of the United

A certain air of romance and tradition hangs about the French Broad
and the Warm Springs, which the visitor must possess himself of in
order to appreciate either.  This was the great highway of trade and
travel.  At certain seasons there was an almost continuous procession
of herds of cattle and sheep passing to the Eastern markets, and of
trains of big wagons wending their way to the inviting lands watered
by the Tennessee.  Here came in the summer-time the Southern planters
in coach and four, with a great retinue of household servants, and
kept up for months that unique social life, a mixture of courtly
ceremony and entire freedom, the civilization which had the drawing-
room at one end and the negro-quarters at the other,--which has
passed away.  It was a continuation into our own restless era of the
manners and the literature of George the Third, with the accompanying
humor and happy-go-lucky decadence of the negro slaves.  On our way
down we saw on the river-bank, under the trees, the old hostelry,
Alexander's, still in decay,--an attractive tavern, that was formerly
one of the notable stopping-places on the river.  Master, and fine
lady, and obsequious, larking darky, and lumbering coach, and throng
of pompous and gay life, have all disappeared.  There was no room in
this valley for the old institutions and for the iron track.

    "When in the chronicle of wasted time
     I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
     And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
     In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
     We, which now behold these present days,
     Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise."

This perverted use of noble verse was all the response the Friend got

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