Page images

hundred miles of travel would have occupied a week's time.

The wild flowers of Michigan deserve a poet of their own. Shelley, who sang so quaintly of “the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall," would have found many a fanciful comparison and deep-drawn meaning for the thousand gems of the road-side. Charles Lamb could have written charming volumes about the humblest among them.

Bulwer would find means to associate the common three-leaved white lily so closely with the Past, the Present and the Future—the Wind, the Stars, and the tripod of Delphos, that all future botanists, and eke all future philosophers, might fail to unravel the “ linked sweetness." We must have a poet of our own.

Since I have casually alluded to a Michigan mud-hole, I may as well enter into a detailed memoir on the subject, for the benefit of future travellers, who, flying over the soil on rail-roads, may look slightingly back upon the achievements of their predecessors. In the “settlements," a mud-hole is considered as apt to occasion an unpleasant jolt--a breaking of the thread of one's reverie-or in extreme cases, a temporary stand-still or even an overturn of the rash or the unwary. Here, on approaching one of these characteristic features of the “ West”. (How much does that expression mean to include ? I never have been able to discover its limits,—the driver stopsalights—walks up to the dark gulf—and around it if he can get round it. He then seeks a long pole and sounds it, measures it across to ascertain how its width compares with the length of his wagon—tries whether its sides are perpendicular, as is usually the case if the road is much used. If he find it not more than three feet deep, he remounts cheerily, encourages his team, and in they go, with a plunge and a shock rather apt to damp the courage of the inexperienced. If the hole be narrow the hinder wheels will be quite lifted off the ground by the depression of their precedents, and so remain until by unwearied chirruping and some judicious touches of “the string," the horses are induced to struggle as for their lives ; and if the Fates are propitious they generally emerge on the opposite side, dragging the vehicle, or at least the fore wheels after them. When I first “penetrated the interior," (to use an indigenous phrase) all I knew of the wilds was from Hoffman's tour or Captain Hall's

graphic” delineations: I had some floating idea of " driving a barouche-and-four anywhere through the oak-openings"_and seeing “the murdered Banquos of the forest” haunting the scenes of their departed strength and beauty. But I confess, these pictures, touched by the glowing pencil of fancy, gave me but incorrect notions of a real journey through Michigan.

Our vehicle was not perhaps very judiciously chosen ;-at least we have since thought so. It was a light high-hung carriage of the description commonly known as a buggy or shandrydan-names of which I would be glad to learn the etymology. I seriously advise any of my friends who are about flitting to Wisconsin

or Oregon, to prefer a heavy lumber-wagon, even for the use of the ladies of the family ; very little aid or consolation being derived from making a "genteel” appearance in such cases.

At the first encounter of such a mud-hole as I have attempted to describe, we stopped in utter despair. My companion indeed would fain have persuaded me that the many wheel tracks which passed through the formidable gulf were proof positive that it might be forded. I insisted with all a woman's obstinacy that I could not and would not make the attempt, and alighted accordingly, and tried to find a path on one side or the other. But in vain, even putting out of the question my paper-soled shoes-sensible things for the woods. The ditch on each side was filled with water and quite too wide to jump over; and we were actually contemplating a return, when a man in an immense bear-skin cap and a suit of deer's hide, sprang from behind a stump just within the edge of the forest. H н “poled” himself over the ditch in a moment, and stood beside us, rifle in hand, as wild and rough a specimen of humanity as one would wish to encounter in a strange and lonely road, just at the shadowy dusk of the evening. I did not scream, though I own I was prodigiously frightened. But our stranger said immediately, in a gentle tone and with a French accent, “Me watch deer-you want to cross ?On receiving an answer in the affirmative, he ran in search of a rail which he threw over the terrific mud-hole-aided me to walk across by the help of his pole-showed my husband

where to plunge-waited till he had gone safely through and slow circles dimpled o'er the quaking mud”--then took himself off by the way he came, declining any compensation with a most polite "rien, rien !" This instance of true and genuine and generous politeness I record for the benefit of all bearskin caps, leathern jerkins and cowhide boots, which ladies from the eastward world may hereafter encounter in Michigan.

Our journey was marked by no incident more alarming than the one I have related, though one night passed in a wretched inn, deep in the 16 timbered land”.

-as all woods are called in Michigan-was not without its terrors, owing to the horrible drunkenness of the master of the house, whose wife and children were in constant fear of their lives, from his insane fury. I can never forget the countenance of that desolate woman, sitting trembling and with white, compressed lips in the midst of her children. The father raving all night, and coming through our sleeping apartment with the earliest ray of morning, in search of more of the poison already boiling in his veins. The poor wife could not forbear telling me her story—her change of lot -from a well-stored and comfortable home in Connecticut to this wretched den in the wilderness-herself and children worn almost to shadows with the ague, and her husband such as I have described him. I may mention here, that not very long after I heard of this man in prison in Detroit, for stabbing a neighbor in a drunken brawl, and ere the year was out he died of delirium tremens, leaving his family destitute. So much for turning our fields of golden grain into “fire water"-a branch of business in which Michigan is fast improving.

Our ride being a deliberate one, I felt, after the third day, a little wearied, and began to complain of the sameness of the oak-openings and to wish we were fairly at our journey's end. We were crossing a broad expanse of what seemed at a little distance a smooth shaven lawn of the most brilliant green, but which proved on trial little better than a quaking bogembracing within its ridgy circumference all possible varieties of

“ Muirs, and mosses, slaps and styles

I had just indulged in something like a yawn, and wished that I could see our hotel. At the word, my companion's face assumed rather a comical expression, and I was preparing to inquire somewhat testily what there was so laughable—I was getting tired and cross, readerwhen down came our good horse to the very chin in a bog-hole, green as Erin on the top, but giving way on a touch, and seeming deep enough to have engulphed us entirely if its width had been proportionate. Down came the horse-and this was not all-down came the driver; and I could not do less than follow, though at a little distance-our good steed kicking and floundering—covering us with hieroglyphics, which would be readily decyphered by any Wolverine we should meet, though per

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »