THE EARLY EXPERIENCES OF RALPH RINGWOOD By: Washington IrvingNOTED DOWN FROM HIS CONVERSATIONS"I am a Kentuckian by residence and choice, but a Virginian by birth. The cause of my first leaving the 'Ancient Dominion,' and emigrating to Kentucky was a jackass! You stare, but have a little patience,and I'll soon show you how it came to pass. My father, who was of one of the old Virginian families, resided in Richmond. He was a widower, and his domestic affairs were managed by a housekeeper of the old school, such as used to administer the concerns of opulent Virginian households. She was a dignitary that almost rivaled my father in importance, and seemed to think everything belonged to her; in fact, she was so considerate in her economy, and so careful of expense, as sometimes to vex my father, who would swear she was disgracing him by her meanness. She always appeared with that ancient insignia of housekeeping trust and authority, a great bunch of keys jingling at her girdle. She superintended the arrangement of the table at every meal, and saw that the dishes were all placed according to her primitive notions of symmetry. In the evening she took her stand and served out tea with a mingled respectfulness and pride of station, truly exemplary. Her great ambition was to have everything in order, and that the establishment under her sway should be cited as a model of good housekeeping. If anything went wrong, poor old Barbara would take it to heart, and sit in her room and cry; until a few chapters in the Bible would quiet her spirits, and make all calm again. The Bible, in fact, was her constant resort in time of trouble. She opened it indiscriminately, and whether she chanced among the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the Canticles of Solomon, or the rough enumeration of the tribes in Deuteronomy, a chapter was a chapter, and operated like balm to her soul. Such was our good old housekeeper Barbara, who was destined, unwittingly, to have a most important effect upon my destiny."It came to pass, during the days of my juvenility, while I was yet what is termed 'an unlucky boy,' that a gentleman of our neighborhood, a great advocate for experiments and improvements of all kinds, took it into his head that it would be an immense public advantage to introduce a breed of mules, and accordingly imported three jacks to stock the neighborhood. This in a part of the country where the people cared for nothing but blood horses! Why, sir! they would have considered their mares disgraced and their whole stud dishonored by such a misalliance. The whole matter was a town talk and a town scandal. The worthy amalgamator of quadrupeds found himself in a dismal scrape: so he backed out in time, abjured the whole doctrine of amalgamation, and turned his jacks loose to shift for themselves upon the town common. There they used to run about and lead an idle, good-for-nothing, holiday life, the happiest animals in the country."It so happened that my way to school lay across this common. The first time that I saw one of these animals it set up a braying and frightened me confoundedly. However, I soon got over my fright, and seeing that it had something of a horse look, my Virginian love for anything of the equestrian species predominated, and I determined to back it. I accordingly applied at a grocer's shop, procured a cord that had been round a loaf of sugar, and made a kind of halter; then summoning some of my schoolfellows, we drove master Jack about the common until we hemmed him in an angle of a 'worm fence.' After some difficulty, we fixed the halter round his muzzle, and I mounted. Up flew his heels, away I went over his head, and off he scampered. However, I was on my legs in a twinkling, gave chase, caught him and remounted. By dint of repeated tumbles I soon learned to stick to his back, so that he could no more cast me than he could his own skin. From that time, master Jack and his companions had a scampering life of it, for we all rode them between school hours, and on holiday afternoons; and you may be sure schoolboys' nags are never permitted to suffer the grass to grow under their feet. They soon became so knowing that they took to their heels at the very sight of a schoolboy; and we were generally much longer in chasing than we were in riding them."Sunday approached, on which I projected an equestrian excursion on one of these long-eared steeds. As I knew the jacks would be in great demand on Sunday morning, I secured one overnight, and conducted him home, to be ready for an early outset. But where was I to quarter him for the night? I could not put him in the stable; our old black groom George was as absolute in that domain as Barbara was within doors, and would have thought his stable, his horses, and himself disgraced, by the introduction of a jackass. I recollected the smoke-house; an out-building appended to all Virginian establishments for the smoking of hams, and other kinds of meat. So I got the key, put master Jack in, locked the door, returned the key to its place, and went to bed, intending to release my prisoner at an early hour, before any of the family were awake. I was so tired, however, by the exertions I had made in catching the donkey, that I fell into a sound sleep, and the morning broke without my awaking."Not so with dame Barbara, the housekeeper. As usual, to use her own phrase, 'she was up before the crow put his shoes on,' and bustled about to get things in order for breakfast. Her first resort was to the smoke-house. Scarce had she opened the door, when master Jack, tired of his confinement, and glad to be released from darkness, gave a loud bray, and rushed forth. Down dropped old Barbara; the animal trampled over her, and made off for the common. Poor Barbara! She had never before seen a donkey, and having read in the Bible that the devil went about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour, she took it for granted that this was Beelzebub himself. The kitchen was soon in a hubbub; the servants hurried to the spot. There lay old Barbara in fits; as fast as she got out of one, the thoughts of the devil came over her, and she fell into another, for the good soul was devoutly superstitious. "As ill luck would have it, among those attracted by the noise was a little, cursed, fidgety, crabbed uncle of mine; one of those uneasy spirits that cannot rest quietly in their beds in the morning, but must be up early, to bother the household. He was only a kind of half-uncle, after all, for he had married my father's sister; yet be assumed great authority on the strength of this left-handed relationship, and was a universal intermeddler and family pest. This prying little busybody soon ferreted out the truth of the story, and discovered, by hook and by crook, that I was at the bottom of the affair, and had locked up the donkey in the smoke-house. He stopped to inquire no further, for he was one of those testy curmudgeons with whom unlucky boys are always in the wrong. Leaving old Barbara to wrestle in imagination with the devil, he made for my bedchamber, where I still lay wrapped in rosy slumbers, little dreaming of the mischief I had done, and the storm about to break over me."In an instant I was awakened by a shower of thwacks, and started up in wild amazement, I demanded the meaning of this attack, but received no other reply than that I had murdered the housekeeper; while my uncle continued whacking away during my confusion. I seized a poker, and put myself on the defensive. I was a stout boy for my years, while my uncle was a little wiffet of a man; one that in Kentucky we would not call even an 'individual'; nothing more than a 'remote circumstance.' I soon, therefore, brought him to a parley, and learned the whole extent of the charge brought against me. I confessed to the donkey and the smoke-house, but pleaded not guilty of the murder of the housekeeper. I soon found out that old Barbara was still alive. She continued under the doctor's hands, however, for several days; and whenever she had an ill turn my uncle would seek to give me another flogging. I appealed to my father, but got no redress. I was considered an 'unlucky boy,' prone to all kinds of mischief; so that prepossessions were against me in all cases of appeal."I felt stung to the soul at all this. I had been beaten, degraded, and treated with slighting when I complained. I lost my usual good spirits and good humor; and, being out of temper with everybody, fancied everybody out of temper with me. A certain wild, roving spirit of freedom, which I believe is as inherent in me as it is in the partridge, was brought into sudden activity by the checks and restraints I suffered. 'I'll go from home,' thought I, 'and shift for myself.' Perhaps this notion was quickened by the rage for emigrating to Kentucky, which was at that time prevalent in Virginia. I had heard such stories of the romantic beauties of the country; of the abundance of game of all kinds, and of the glorious independent life of the hunters who ranged its noble forests, and lived by the rifle; that I was as much agog to get there as boys who live in seaports are to launch themselves among the wonders and adventures of the ocean."After a time old Barbara got better in mind and body, and matters were explained to her; and she became gradually convinced that it was not the devil she had encountered. When she heard how harshly I had been treated on her account, the good old soul was extremely grieved, and spoke warmly to my father in my behalf. He had himself remarked the change in my behavior, and thought punishment might have been carried too far. He sought, therefore, to have some conversation with me, and to soothe my feelings; but it was too late. I frankly told him the course of mortification that I had experienced, and the fixed determination I had made to go from home."'And where do you mean to go?'"'To Kentucky.'"'To Kentucky! Why, you know nobody there.'"'No matter: I can soon make acquaintances.'"'And what will you do when you get there?'"'Hunt!'"My father gave a long, low whistle, and looked in my face with a serio-comic expression. I was not far in my teens, and to talk of setting off alone for Kentucky, to turn hunter, seemed doubtless the idle prattle of a boy. He was little aware of the dogged resolution of my character; and his smile of incredulity but fixed me more obstinately in my purpose. I assured him I was serious in what I said, and would certainly set off for Kentucky in the spring."Month after month passed away. My father now and then adverted slightly to what had passed between us; doubtless for the purpose of sounding me. I always expressed the same grave and fixed determination. By degrees he spoke to me more directly on the subject, endeavoring earnestly but kindly to dissuade me. My only reply was, 'I had made up my mind.'"Accordingly, as soon as the spring had fairly opened, I sought him one day in his study, and informed him I was about to set out for Kentucky, and had come to take my leave. He made no objection, for he had exhausted persuasion and remonstrance, and doubtless thought it best to give way to my humor, trusting that a little rough experience would soon bring me home again. I asked money for my journey. He went to a chest, took out a long green silk purse, well filled, and laid it on the table. I now asked for a horse and servant."'A horse!' said my father, sneeringly: 'why, you would not go a mile without racing him, and breaking your neck; and, as to a servant, you cannot take care of yourself much less of him.'"'How am I to travel, then?'"'Why, I suppose you are man enough to travel on foot.'"He spoke jestingly, little thinking I would take him at his word; but I was thoroughly piqued in respect to my enterprise; so I pocketed the purse, went to my room, tied up three or four shirts in a pocket-handkerchief, put a dirk in my bosom, girt a couple of pistols round my waist, and felt like a knight errant armed cap a-pie, and ready to rove the world in quest of adventures."My sister (I had but one) hung round me and wept, and entreated me to stay. I felt my heart swell in my throat; but I gulped it back to its place, and straightened myself up; I would not suffer myself to cry. I at length disengaged myself from her, and got to the door."'When will you come back?' cried she."'Never, by heavens!' cried I, 'until I come back a member of Congress from Kentucky. I am determined to show that I am not the tail-end of the family.'"Such was my first outset from home. You may suppose what a greenhorn I was, and how little I knew of the world I was launching into."I do not recollect any incident of importance until I reached the borders of Pennsylvania. I had stopped at an inn to get some refreshment; and as I was eating in the back room, I overheard two men in the barroom conjecture who and what I could be. One determined, at length, that I was a runaway apprentice, and ought to be stopped, to which the other assented. When I had finished my meal, and paid for it, I went out at the back door, lest I should be stopped by my supervisors. Scorning, however, to steal off like a culprit, I walked round to the front of the house. One of the men advanced to the front door. He wore his hat on one side, and had a consequential air that nettled me."'Where are you going, youngster?' demanded he."'That's none of your business!' replied I, rather pertly."'Yes, but it is, though! You have run away from home, and must give an account of yourself.'"He advanced to seize me, when I drew forth a pistol. 'If you advance another step, I'll shoot you!'"He sprang back as if he had trodden upon a rattlesnake, and his hat fell off in the movement."'Let him alone!' cried his companion; 'he's a foolish, mad-headed boy, and don't know what he's about. He'll shoot you, you may rely on it.'"He did not need any caution in the matter; he was afraid even to pick up his hat: so I pushed forward on my way, without molestation. This incident, however, had its effect upon me. I became fearful of sleeping in any house at night, lest I should be stopped. I took my meals in the houses, in the course of the day, but would turn aside at night into some wood or ravine, make a fire, and sleep before it. This I considered was true hunter's style, and I wished to inure myself to it."At length I arrived at Brownsville, leg-weary and wayworn, and in a shabby plight, as you may suppose, having been 'camping out' for some nights past. I applied at some of the inferior inns, but could gain no admission. I was regarded for a moment with a dubious eye, and then informed they did not receive foot-passengers. At last I went boldly to the principal inn. The landlord appeared as unwilling as the rest to receive a vagrant boy beneath his roof; but his wife interfered in the midst of his excuses, and half elbowing him aside:"'Where are you going, my lad?' said she."'To Kentucky.'"'What are you going there for?'"'To hunt.'"She looked earnestly at me for a moment or two. 'Have you a mother living?' said she at length."'No, madam: she has been dead for some time.'"'I thought so!' cried she warmly. 'I knew if you had a mother living you would not be here.' From that moment the good woman treated me with a mother's kindness."I remained several days beneath her roof recovering from the fatigue of my journey. While here I purchased a rifle and practiced daily at a mark to prepare myself for a hunter's life. When sufficiently recruited in strength I took leave of my kind host and hostess and resumed my journey."At Wheeling I embarked in a flat bottomed family boat, technically called a broad-horn, a prime river conveyance in those days. In this ark for two weeks I floated down the Ohio. The river was as yet in all its wild beauty. Its loftiest trees had not been thinned out. The forest overhung the water's edge and was occasionally skirted by immense cane-brakes. Wild animals of all kinds abounded. We heard them rushing through the thickets and plashing in the water. Deer and bears would frequently swim across the river; others would come down to the bank and gaze at the boat as it passed. I was incessantly on the alert with my rifle; but somehow or other the game was never within shot. Sometimes I got a chance to land and try my skill on shore. I shot squirrels and small birds and even wild turkeys; but though I caught glimpses of deer bounding away through the woods, I never could get a fair shot at them."In this way we glided in our broad-horn past Cincinnati, the 'Queen of the West' as she is now called, then a mere group of log cabins; and the site of the bustling city of Louisville, then designated by a solitary house. As I said before, the Ohio was as yet a wild river; all was forest, forest, forest! Near the confluence of Green River with the Ohio, I landed, bade adieu to the broad-horn, and struck for the interior of Kentucky. I had no precise plan; my only idea was to make for one of the wildest parts of the country. I had relatives in Lexington and other settled places, to whom I thought it probable my father would write concerning me: so as I was full of manhood and independence, and re-solutely bent on making my way in the world without assistance or control, I resolved to keep clear of them all."In the course of my first day's trudge, I shot a wild turkey, and slung it on my back for provisions. The forest was open and clear from underwood. I saw deer in abundance, but always running, running. It seemed to me as if these animals never stood still."At length I came to where a gang of half-starved wolves were feasting on the carcass of a deer which they had run down; and snarling and snapping and fighting like so many dogs. They were all so ravenous and intent upon their prey that they did not notice me, and I had time to make my observations. One, larger and fiercer than the rest, seemed to claim the larger share, and to keep the others in awe. If any one came too near him while eating, he would fly off, seize and shake him, and then return to his repast. 'This,' thought I, 'must be the captain; if I can kill him, I shall defeat the whole army.' I accordingly took aim, fired, and down dropped the old fellow. He might be only shamming dead; so I loaded and put a second ball through him. He never budged; all the rest ran off, and my victory was complete."It would not be easy to describe my triumphant feelings on this great achievement. I marched on with renovated spirit, regarding myself as absolute lord of the forest. As night drew near, I prepared for camping. My first care was to collect dry wood and make a roaring fire to cook and sleep by, and to frighten off wolves, and bears, and panthers. I then began to pluck my turkey for supper. I had camped out several times in the early part of my expedition; but that was in comparatively more settled and civilized regions, where there were no wild animals of consequence in the forest. This was my first camping out in the real wilderness; and I was soon made sensible of the loneliness and wildness of my situation."In a little while a concert of wolves commenced: there might have been a dozen or two, but it seemed to me as if there were thousands. I never heard such howling and whining. Having prepared my turkey, I divided it into two parts, thrust two sticks into one of the halves, and planted them on end before the fire, the hunter's mode of roasting. The smell of roast meat quickened the appetites of the wolves, and their concert became truly infernal. They seemed to be all around me, but I could only now and then get a glimpse of one of them, as he came within the glare of the light."I did not much care for the wolves, who I knew to be a cowardly race, but I had heard terrible stories of panthers, and began to fear their stealthy prowlings in the surrounding darkness. I was thirsty, and heard a brook bubbling and tinkling along at no great distance, but absolutely dared not go there, lest some panther might lie in wait, and spring upon me. By-and-by a deer whistled. I had never heard one before, and thought it must be a panther. I now felt uneasy lest he might climb the trees, crawl along the branches overhead, and plump down upon me; so I kept my eyes fixed on the branches, until my head ached. I more than once thought I saw fiery eyes glaring down from-- among the leaves. At length I thought of my supper and turned to see if my half-turkey was cooked. In crowding so near the fire I had pressed the meat into the flames, and it was consumed. I had nothing to do but toast the other half, and take better care of it. On that half I made my supper, without salt or bread. I was still so possessed with the dread of panthers that I could not close my eyes all night, but lay watching the trees until daybreak, when all my fears were dispelled with the darkness; and as I saw the morning sun sparkling down through the branches of the trees, I smiled to think how I had suffered myself to be dismayed by sounds and shadows; but I was a young woodsman, and a stranger in Kentucky."Having breakfasted on the remainder of my turkey, and slaked my thirst at the bubbling stream, without further dread of panthers, I resumed my wayfaring with buoyant feelings. I again saw deer, but as usual running, running! I tried in vain to get a shot at them, and began to fear I never should. I was gazing with vexation after a herd in full scamper, when I was startled by a human voice. Turning round, I saw a man at a short distance from me in a hunting dress."'What are you after, my lad?' cried he."'Those deer,' replied I, pettishly: 'but it seems as if they never stand still.'"Upon that he burst out laughing. 'Where are you from?' said he."'From Richmond.'"'What! In old Virginny?'"'The same.'"'And how on earth did you get here?'"'I landed at Green River from a broad-horn."'And where are your companions?'"' I have none.'"'What?--all alone!""'Yes.'"'Where are you going?'"'Anywhere.'"'And what have you come here for?'"'To hunt.'"'Well,' said he, laughingly, 'you'll make a real hunter; there's no mistaking that! Have you killed anything?'"'Nothing but a turkey; I can't get within shot of a deer: they are always running.'"'Oh, I'll tell you the secret of that. You're always pushing forward, and starting the deer at a distance, and gazing at those that are scampering; but you must step as slow, and silent, and cautious as a cat, and keep your eyes close around you, and lurk from tree to tree, if you wish to get a chance at deer. But come, go home with me. My name is Bill Smithers; I live not far off: stay with me a little while, and I'll teach you how to hunt.'"I gladly accepted the invitation of honest Bill Smithers. We soon reached his habitation; a mere log hut, with a square hole for a window and a chimney made of sticks and clay. Here he lived with a wife and child. He had 'girdled' the trees for an acre or two around, preparatory to clearing a space for corn and potatoes. In the meantime he maintained his family entirely by his rifle, and I soon found him to be a first-rate huntsman. Under his tutelage I received my first effective lessons in 'woodcraft.'"The more I knew of a hunter's life, the more I relished it. The country, too, which had been the promised land of my boyhood, did not, like most promised lands, disappoint me. No wilderness could be more beautiful than this part of Kentucky in those times. The forests were open and spacious, with noble trees, some of which looked as if they had stood for centuries. There were beautiful prairies, too, diversified with groves and clumps of trees, which looked like vast parks, and in which you could see the deer running, at a great distance. In the proper season these prairies would be covered in many places with wild strawberries, where your horses' hoofs would be dyed to the fetlock. I thought there could not be another place in the world equal to Kentucky--and I think so still."After I had passed ten or twelve days with Bill Smithers, I thought it time to shift my quarters, for his house was scarce large enough for his own family, and I had no idea of being an encumbrance to any one. I accordingly made up my bundle, shouldered my rifle, took a friendly leave of Smithers and his wife, and set out in quest of a Nimrod of the wilderness, one John Miller, who lived alone, nearly forty miles off, and who I hoped would be well pleased to have a hunting companion."I soon found out that one of the most important items in woodcraft in a new country was the skill to find one's way in the wilderness. There were no regular roads in the forests, but they were cut up and perplexed by paths leading in all directions. Some of these were made by the cattle of the settlers, and were called 'stock-tracks,' but others had been made by the immense droves of buffaloes which roamed about the country, from the flood until recent times. These were called buffalo-tracks, and traversed Kentucky from end to end, like highways. Traces of them may still be seen in uncultivated parts, or deeply worn in the rocks where they crossed the mountains. I was a young woodman, and sorely puzzled to distinguish one kind of track from the other, or to make out my course through this tangled labyrinth. While thus perplexed, I heard a distant roaring and rushing sound; a gloom stole over the forest: on looking up, when I could catch a stray glimpse of the sky, I beheld the clouds rolled up like balls, the lower parts as black as ink. There was now and then an explosion, like a burst of cannonry afar off, and the crash of a falling tree. I had heard of hurricanes in the woods, and surmised that one was at hand. It soon came crashing its way; the forest writhing, and twisting, and groaning before it. The hurricane did not extend far on either side, but in a manner plowed a furrow through the woodland; snapping off or uprooting trees that had stood for centuries, and filling the air with whirling branches. I was directly in its course, and took my stand behind an immense poplar, six feet in diameter. It bore for a time the full fury of the blast, but at length began to yield. Seeing it falling, I scrambled nimbly round the trunk like a squirrel. Down it went, bearing down another tree with it. I crept under the trunk as a shelter, and was protected from other trees which fell around me, but was sore all over from the twigs and branches driven against me by the blast."This was the only incident of consequence that occurred on my way to John Miller's, where I arrived on the following day, and was received by the veteran with the rough kindness of a backwoodsman. He was a gray-haired man, hardy and weather-beaten, with a blue wart, like a great beard, over one eye, whence he was nicknamed by the hunters 'Bluebeard Miller.' He had been in these parts from the earliest settlements, and had signalized himself in the hard conflicts with the Indians, which gained Kentucky the appellation of 'the Bloody Ground.' In one of these fights he had had an arm broken; in another he had narrowly escaped, when hotly pursued, by jumping from a precipice thirty feet high into a river."Miller willingly received me into his house as an inmate, and seemed pleased with the idea of making a hunter of me. His dwelling was a small log-house, with a loft or garret of boards, so that there was ample room for both of us. Under his instruction I soon made a tolerable proficiency in hunting. My first exploit, of any consequence, was killing a bear. I was hunting in company with two brothers, when we came upon the track of bruin, in a wood where there was an undergrowth of canes and grapevines. He was scrambling up a tree, when I shot him through the breast: he fell to the ground and lay motionless. The brothers sent in their dog, who seized the bear by the throat. Bruin raised one arm and gave the dog a hug that crushed his ribs. One yell, and all was over. I don't know which was first dead, the dog or the bear. The two brothers sat down and cried like children over their unfortunate dog. Yet they were mere rough huntsmen, almost as wild and untamable as Indians; but they were fine fellows."By degrees I became known, and somewhat of a favorite among the hunters of the neighborhood; that is to say, men who lived within a circle of thirty or forty miles, and came occasionally to see John Miller, who was a patriarch among them. They lived widely apart, in log huts and wigwams, almost with the simplicity of Indians, and wellnigh as destitute of the comforts and inventions of civilized life. They seldom saw each other; weeks, and even months, would elapse, without their visiting. When they did meet, it was very much after the manner of Indians; loitering about all day, without having much to say, but becoming communicative as evening advanced, and sitting up half the night before the fire, telling hunting stories, and terrible tales of the fights of the Bloody Ground."Sometimes several would join in a distant hunting expedition, or rather campaign. Expeditions of this kind lasted from November until April; during which we laid up our stock of summer provisions. We shifted our hunting camps from place to place, according as we found the game. They were generally pitched near a run of water, and close by a cane-brake, to screen us from the wind. One side of our lodge was open toward the fire. Our horses were hoppled and turned loose in the cane-brakes, with bells round their necks. One of the party stayed at home to watch the camp, prepare the meals and keep off the wolves; the others hunted. When a hunter killed a deer at a distance from the camp, he would open it and take out the entrails; then climbing a sapling he would bend it down, tie the deer to the top, and let it spring up again, so as to suspend the carcass out of reach of the wolves. At night he would return to the camp and give an account of his luck. The next morning early he would get a horse out of the canebrake and bring home his game. That day he would stay at home to cut up the carcass, while the others hunted."Our days were thus spent in silent and lonely occupations. It was only at night that we would gather together before the fire and be sociable. I was a novice, and used to listen with open eyes and ears to the strange and wild stories told by the old hunters, and believed everything I heard. Some of their stories bordered upon the supernatural. They believed that their rifles might be spellbound, so as not to be able to kill a buffalo, even at arms-length. This superstition they had derived from the Indians, who often think the white hunters have laid a spell upon their rifles. Miller partook of this superstition, and used to tell of his rifle's having a spell upon it; but it often seemed to me to be a shuffling way of accounting for a bad shot. If a hunter grossly missed his aim he would ask, 'Who shot last with this rifle?'--and hint that he must have charmed it. The sure mode to disenchant the gun was to shoot a silver bullet out of it."By the opening of spring we would generally have quantities of bears'-meat and venison salted, dried, and smoked, and numerous packs of skins. We would then make the best of our way home from our distant hunting-grounds; transporting our spoils, sometimes in canoes along the rivers, sometimes on horseback over land, and our return would often be celebrated by feasting and dancing, in true backwoods style. I have given you some idea of our hunting; let me now give you a sketch of our frolicking."It was on our return from a winter's hunting in the neighborhood of Green River, when we received notice that there was to be a grand frolic at Bob Mosely's, to greet the hunters. This Bob Mosely was a prime fellow throughout the country. He was an indifferent hunter, it is true, and rather lazy to boot; but then he could play the fiddle, and that was enough to make him of consequence. There was no other man within a hundred miles that could play the fiddle, so there was no having a regular frolic without Bob Mosely. The hunters, therefore, were always ready to give him a share of their game in exchange for his music, and Bob was always ready to get up a carousal, whenever there was a party returning from a hunting expedition. The present frolic was to take place at Bob Mosely's own house, which was on the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy, which is a branch of Rough Creek, which is a branch of Green River."Everybody was agog for the revel at Bob Mosely's; and as all the fashion of the neighborhood was to be there, I thought I must brush up for the occasion. My leathern hunting-dress, which was the only one I had, was somewhat the worse for wear, it is true, and considerably japanned with blood and grease; but I was up to hunting expedients. Getting into a periogue, I paddled off to a part of the Green River where there was sand and clay, that might serve for soap; then taking off my dress, I scrubbed and scoured it, until I thought it looked very well. I then put it on the end of a stick, and hung it out of the periogue to dry, while I stretched myself very comfortably on the green bank of the river. Unluckily a flaw struck the periogue, and tipped over the stick: down went my dress to the bottom of the river, and I never saw it more. Here was I, left almost in a state of nature. I managed to make a kind of Robinson Crusoe garb of undressed skins, with the hair on, which enabled me to get home with decency; but my dream of gayety and fashion was at an end; for how could I think of figuring in high life at the Pigeon Roost, equipped like a mere Orson?"Old Miller, who really began to take some pride in me, was confounded when he understood that I did not intend to go to Bob Mosely's; but when I told him my mis-fortune, and that I had no dress: 'By the powers,' cried he, 'but you shall go, and you shall be the best dressed and the best mounted lad there!'"He immediately set to work to cut out and make up a hunting-shirt of dressed deer-skin, gaily fringed at the shoulders, with leggings of the same, fringed from hip to heel. He then made me a rakish raccoon-cap, with a flaunting tail to it; mounted me on his best horse; and I may say, without vanity, that I was one of the smartest fellows that figured on that occasion at the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy."It was no small occasion, either, let me tell you. Bob Mosely's house was a tolerably large bark shanty, with a clap-board roof; and there were assembled all the young hunters and pretty girls of the country, for many a mile round. The young men were in their best hunting-dresses, but not one could compare with mine; and my raccoon-cap, with its flowing tail, was the admiration of everybody. The girls were mostly in doe-skin dresses; for there was no spinning and weaving as yet in the woods; nor any need of it. I never saw girls that seemed to me better dressed; and I was somewhat of a judge, having seen fashions at Richmond. We had a hearty dinner, and a merry one; for there was Jemmy Kiel, famous for raccoon-hunting, and Bob Tarleton, and Wesley Pigman,and Joe Taylor, and several other prime fellows for a frolic, that made all ring again, and laughed that you might have heard them a mile."After dinner we began dancing, and were hard at it, when, about three o'clock in the afternoon, there was a new arrival--the two daughters of old Simon Schultz; two young ladies that affected fashion and late hours. Their arrival had nearly put an end to all our merriment. I must go a little roundabout in my story to explain to you how that happened."As old Schultz, the father, was one day looking in the cane-brakes for his cattle, he came upon the track of horses. He knew they were none of his, and that none of his neighbors had horses about that place. They must be stray horses; or must belong to some traveler who had lost his way, as the track led nowhere. He accordingly followed it up, until he came to an unlucky peddler, with two or three pack-horses, who had been bewildered among the cattle-tracks, and had wandered for two or three days among woods and cane-brakes, until he was almost famished."Old Schultz brought him to his house; fed him on venison, bear's-meat, and hominy, and at the end of a week put him in prime condition. The peddler could not sufficiently express his thankfulness; and when about to depart inquired what he had to pay? Old Schultz stepped back with surprise. 'Stranger,' said he, 'you have been welcome under my roof. I've given you nothing but wild meat and hominy, because I had no better, but have been glad of your company. You are welcome to stay as long as you please; but, by Zounds! if any one offers to pay Simon Schultz for food he affronts him!' So saying, he walked out in a huff."The peddler admired the hospitality of his host, but could not reconcile it to his conscience to go away without making some recompense. There were honest Simon's two daughters, two strapping, red-haired girls. He opened his packs and displayed riches before them of which they had no conception; for in those days there were no country stores in those parts, with their artificial finery and trinketry; and this was the first peddler that had wandered into that part of the wilderness. The girls were for a time completely dazzled, and knew not what to choose: but what caught their eyes most were two looking-glasses, about the size of a dollar, set in gilt tin. They had never seen the like before, having used no other mirror than a pail of water. The peddler presented them these jewels, without the least hesitation; nay, he gallantly hung them round their necks by red ribbons, almost as fine as the glasses themselves. This done, he took his departure, leaving them as much astonished as two princesses in a fairy tale that have received a magic gift from an enchanter."It was with these looking-glasses, hung round their necks as lockets, by red ribbons, that old Schultz's daughters made their appearance at three o'clock in the afternoon, at the frolic at Bob Mosely's, on the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy."By the powers, but it was an event! Such a thing had never before been seen in Kentucky. Bob Tarleton, a strapping fellow, with a head like a chestnut-burr and a look like a boar in an apple orchard, stepped up, caught hold of the looking-glass of one of the girls, and gazing at it for a moment, cried out: 'Joe Taylor, come here! come here! I'll be darn'd if Patty Schultz ain't got a locket that you can see your face in, as clear as in a spring of water!'"In a twinkling all the young hunters gathered round old Schultz's daughters. I, who knew what looking-glasses were, did not budge. Some of the girls who sat near me were excessively mortified at finding themselves thus deserted. I heard Peggy Pugh say to Sally Pigman, 'Goodness knows, it's well Schultz's daughters is got them things round their necks, for it's the first time the young men crowded round them!'"I saw immediately the danger of the case. We were a small community, and could not afford to be split up by feuds. So I stepped up to the girls, and whispered to them: 'Polly,' said I, 'those lockets are powerful fine, and become you amazingly; but you don't consider that the country is not advanced enough in these parts for such things. You and I understand these matters, but these people don't. Fine things like these may do very well in the old settlements, but they won't answer at the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy. You had better lay them aside for the present, or we shall have no peace.'"Polly and her sister luckily saw their error; they took off the lockets, laid them aside, and harmony was restored: otherwise, I verily believe there would have been an end of our community. Indeed, notwithstanding the great sacrifice they made on this occasion, I do not think old Schultz's daughters were ever much liked afterward among the young women."This was the first time that looking-glasses were ever seen in the Green River part of Kentucky. "I had now lived some time with old Miller, and had become a tolerably expert hunter. Game, however, began to grow scarce. The buffalo had gathered together, as if by universal understanding, and had crossed the Mississippi, never to return. Strangers kept pouring into the country, clearing away the forests and building in all directions. The hunters began to grow restive. Jemmy Kiel, the same of whom I have already spoken for his skill in raccoon catching, came to me one day: 'I can't stand this any longer,' said he; 'we're getting too thick here. Simon Schultz crowds me so that I have no comfort of my life.'"'Why, how you talk!' said I; 'Simon Schultz lives twelve miles off.'"'No matter; his cattle run with mine, and I've no idea of living where another man's cattle can run with mine. That's too close neighborhood; I want elbow-room. This country, too, is growing too poor to live in; there's no game; so two or three of us have made up our minds to follow the buffalo to the Missouri, and we should like to have you of the party.' Other hunters of my acquaintance talked in the same manner. This set me thinking; but the more I thought the more I was perplexed. I had no one to advise with; old Miller and his associates knew but of one mode of life, and I had had no experience in any other; but I had a wide scope of thought. When out hunting alone I used to forget the sport, and sit for hours together on the trunk of a tree, with rifle in hand, buried in thought, and debating with myself: 'Shall I go with Jemmy Kiel and his company, or shall I remain here? If I remain here there will soon be nothing left to hunt; but am I to be a hunter all my life? Have not I something more in me than to be carrying a rifle on my shoulder, day after day, and dodging about after bears, and deer, and other brute beasts?' My vanity told me I had; and I called to mind my boyish boast to my sister, that I would never return home until I returned a member of Congress from Kentucky; but was this the way to fit myself for such a station?"Various plans passed through my mind, but they were abandoned almost as soon as formed. At length I determined on becoming a lawyer. True it is, I knew almost nothing. I had left school before I had learned beyond the 'rule of three.' 'Never mind,' said I to myself, resolutely; 'I am a terrible fellow for hanging on to anything when I've once made up my mind; and if a man has but ordinary capacity, and will set to work with heart and soul, and stick to it, he can do almost anything.' With this maxim, which has been pretty much my mainstay throughout life, I fortified myself in my determination to attempt the law. But how was I to set about it? I must quit this forest life, and go to one or other of the towns, where I might be able to study, and to attend the courts. This too required funds. I examined into the state of my finances. The purse given me by my father had remained untouched, in the bottom of an old chest up in the loft, for money was scarcely needed in these parts. I had bargained away the skins acquired in hunting for a horse and various other matters, on which in case of need I could raise funds. I therefore thought I could make shift to maintain myself until I was fitted for the bar."I informed my worthy host and patron, old Miller, of my plan. He shook his head at my turning my back upon the woods, when I was in a fair way of making a first-rate hunter; but he made no effort to dissuade me. I accordingly set off in September, on horseback, intending to visit Lexington, Frankfort, and other of the principal towns, in search of a favorable place to prosecute my studies. My choice was made sooner than I expected. I had put up one night at Bardstown, and found, on inquiry, that I could get comfortable board and accommodation in a private family for a dollar and a half a week. I liked the place, and resolved to look no further. So the next morning I prepared to turn my face homeward, and take my final leave of forest life."I had taken my breakfast, and was waiting for my horse, when, in pacing up and down the piazza, I saw a young girl seated near a window, evidently a visitor. She was very pretty; with auburn hair and blue eyes, and was dressed in white. I had seen nothing of the kind since I had left Richmond; and at that time I was too much of a boy to be much struck by female charms. She was so delicate and dainty-looking, so different from the hale, buxom, brown girls of the woods; and then her white dress!--it was perfectly dazzling! Never was poor youth more taken by surprise, and suddenly bewitched. My heart yearned to know her; but how was I to accost her? I had grown wild in the woods, and had none of the habitudes of polite life. Had she been like Peggy Pugh or Sally Pigman, or any other of my leathern-dressed belles of the Pigeon Roost, I should have approached her without dread; nay, had she been as fair as Schultz's daughters, with their looking-glass lockets, I should not have hesitated; but that white dress, and those auburn ringlets, and blue eyes, and delicate looks, quite daunted, while they fascinated me. I don't know what put it into my head, but I thought, all at once, that I would kiss her! It would take a long acquaintance to arrive at such a boon, but I might seize upon it by sheer robbery. Nobody knew me here. I would just step in, snatch a kiss, mount my horse, and ride off. She would not be the worse for it; and that kiss--oh! I should die if I did not get it!"I gave no time for the thought to cool, but entered the house, and stepped lightly into the room. She was seated with her back to the door, looking out at the window, and did not hear my approach. I tapped her chair, and as she turned and looked up, I snatched as sweet a kiss as ever was stolen, and vanished in a twinkling. The next moment I was on horseback, galloping homeward; my very ears tingling at what I had done."On my return home I sold my horse, and turned everything to cash; and found, with the remains of the paternal purse, that I had nearly four hundred dollars; a little capital which I resolved to manage with the strictest economy."It was hard parting with old Miller, who had been like a father to me; it cost me, too, something of a struggle to give up the free, independent wild-wood life I had hitherto led; but I had marked out my course, and had never been one to flinch or turn back."I footed it sturdily to Bardstown; took possession of the quarters for which I had bargained, shut myself up, and set to work with might and main to study. But what a task I had before me! I had everything to learn; not merely law, but all the elementary branches of knowledge. I read and read, for sixteen hours out of the four-and-twenty; but the more I read the more I became aware of my own ignorance, and shed bitter tears over my deficiency. It seemed as if the wilderness of knowledge expanded and grew more perplexed as I advanced. Every height gained only revealed a wider region to be traversed, and nearly filled me with despair. I grew moody, silent, and unsocial, but studied on doggedly and incessantly. The only person with whom I held any conversation was the worthy man in whose house I was quartered. He was honest and well meaning, but perfectly ignorant, and I believe would have liked me much better if I had not been so much addicted to reading. He considered all books filled with lies and impositions, and seldom could look into one without finding something to rouse his spleen. Nothing put him into a greater passion than the assertion that the world turned on its own axis every four-and-twenty hours. He swore it was an outrage upon common sense. 'Why, if it did,' said he, 'there would not be a drop of water in the well by morning, and all the milk and cream in the dairy would be turned topsy-turvy! And then to talk of the earth going round the sun! How do they know it? I've seen the sun rise every morning and set every evening for more than thirty years. They must not talk to me about the earth's going round the sun!'"At another time he was in a perfect fret at being told the distance between the sun and moon. 'How can any one tell the distance?' cried he. 'Who surveyed it? who carried the chain? By Jupiter! they only talk this way before me to annoy me. But then there's some people of sense who give in to this cursed humbug! There's Judge Broadnax, now, one of the best lawyers we have; isn't it surprising he should believe in such stuff? Why, sir, the other day I heard him talk of the distance from a star he called Mars to the sun! He must have got it out of one or other of those confounded books he's so fond of reading; a book some impudent fellow has written, who knew nobody could swear the distance was more or less.'"For my own part, feeling my own deficiency in scientific lore, I never ventured to unsettle his conviction that the sun made his daily circuit round the earth; and for aught I said to the contrary, he lived and died in that belief."I had been about a year at Bardstown, living thus studiously and reclusely, when, as I was one day walking the street, I met two young girls, in one of whom I immediately recalled the little beauty whom I had kissed so impudently. She blushed up to the eyes, and so did I; but we both passed on with further sign of recognition. This second glimpse of her, however, caused an odd fluttering about my heart. I could not get her out of my thoughts for days. She quite interfered with my studies. I tried to think of her as a mere child, but it would not do; she had improved in beauty, and was tending toward womanhood; and then I myself was but little better than a stripling. However, I did not attempt to seek after her, or even to find out who she was, but returned doggedly to my books. By degrees she faded from my thoughts, or if she did cross them occasionally, it was only to increase my despondency; for I feared that with all my exertions, I should never be able to fit myself for the bar, or enable myself to support a wife."One cold stormy evening I was seated, in dumpish mood, in the bar-room of the inn, looking into the fire, and turning over uncomfortable thoughts, when I was accosted by some one who had entered the room without my perceiving it. I looked up, and saw before me a tall and, as I thought, pompous-looking man, arrayed in small clothes and knee-buckles, with powdered head, and shoes nicely blacked and polished; a style of dress unparalleled in those days, in that rough country. I took a pique against him from the very portliness of his appearance, and stateliness of his manner, and bristled up as he accosted me. He demanded if my name was not Ringwood."I was startled, for I supposed myself perfectlyincog.; but I answered in the affirmative."'Your family, I believe, lives in Richmond?'"My gorge began to rise. 'Yes, sir,' replied I sulkily, 'my family does live in Richmond.'"'And what, may I ask, has brought you into this part of the country?'"'Zounds, sir!' cried I, starting on my feet, 'what business is it of yours? How dare you to question me in this manner?'"The entrance of some persons prevented a reply; but I walked up and down the bar-room, fuming with conscious independence and insulted dignity, while the pompous-looking personage, who had thus trespassed upon my spleen, retired without proffering another word."The next day, while seated in my room, some one tapped at the door, and, on being bid to enter, the stranger in the powdered head, small-clothes, and shining shoes and buckles, walked in with ceremonious courtesy."My boyish pride was again in arms; but he subdued me. He was formal, but kind and friendly. He knew my family and understood my situation, and the dogged struggle I was making. A little conversation, when my jealous pride was once put to rest, drew everything from me. He was a lawyer of experience and of extensive practice, and offered at once to take me with him, and direct my studies. The offer was too advantageous and gratifying not to be immediately accepted. From that time I began to look up. I was put into a proper track, and was enabled to study to a proper purpose. I made acquaintance, too, with some of the young men of the place, who were in the same pursuit, and was encouraged at finding that I could 'hold my own' in argument with them. We instituted a debating club, in which I soon became prominent and popular. Men of talents, engaged in other pursuits, joined it, and this diversified our subjects and put me on various tracks of inquiry. Ladies, too, attended some of our discussions, and this gave them a polite tone, and had an influence on the manners of the debaters. My legal patron also may have had a favorable effect in correcting any roughness contracted in my hunter's life. He was calculated to bend me in an opposite direction, for he was of the old school; quoted Chesterfield on all occasions, and talked of Sir Charles Grandison, who was his beau ideal. It was Sir Charles Grandison, however, Kentuckyized."I had always been fond of female society. My experience, however, had hitherto been among the rough daughters of the backwoodsmen; and I felt an awe of young ladies in 'store clothes,' and delicately brought up. Two or three of the married ladies of Bardstown, who had heard me at the debating club, determined that I was a genius and undertook to bring me out. I believe I really improved under their hands; became quiet where I had been shy or sulky, and easy where I had been impudent."I called to take tea one evening with one of these ladies, when to my surprise, and somewhat to my confusion, I found with her the identical blue-eyed little beauty whom I had so audaciously kissed. I was formally introduced to her, but neither of us betrayed any sign of previous acquaintance, except by blushing to the eyes. While tea was getting ready the lady of the house went out of the room to give some directions, and left us alone."Heavens and earth, what a situation! I would have given all the pittance I was worth to have been in the deepest dell of the forest. I felt the necessity of saying something in excuse of my former rudeness, but I could not conjure up an idea, nor utter a word. Every moment matters were growing worse. I felt at one time tempted to do as I had done when I robbed her of the kiss; bolt from the room, and take to flight; but I was chained to the spot, for I really longed to gain her good-will."At length I plucked up courage, on seeing that she was equally confused with myself, and walking desperately up to her, I exclaimed:"'I have been trying to muster up something to say to you, but I cannot. I feel that I am in a horrible scrape. Do have pity on me, and help me out of it.'"A smile dimpled about her mouth, and played among the blushes of her cheek. She looked up with a shy, but arch glance of the eye, that expressed a volume of comic recollection; we both broke into a laugh, and from that moment all went on well."A few evenings afterward I met her at a dance, and prosecuted the acquaintance. I soon became deeply attached to her; paid my court regularly; and before I was nineteen years of age had engaged myself to marry her. I spoke to her mother, a widow lady, to ask her consent. She seemed to demur; upon which, with my customary haste, I told her there would be no use in opposing the match, for if her daughter chose to have me, I would take her, in defiance of her family, and the whole world."She laughed, and told me I need not give myself any uneasiness; there would be no unreasonable opposition. She knew my family and all about me. The only obstacle was that I had no means of supporting a wife, and she had nothing to give with her daughter."No matter; at that moment everything was bright before me. I was in one of my sanguine moods. I feared nothing, doubted nothing. So it was agreed that I should prosecute my studies, obtain a license, and as soon as I should be fairly launched in business we would be married."I now prosecuted my studies with redoubled ardor, and was up to my ears in law, when I received a letter from my father, who had heard of me and my whereabout. He applauded the course I had taken, but advised me to lay a foundation of general knowledge, and offered to defray my expenses, if I would go to college. I felt the want of a general education, and was staggered with this offer. It militated somewhat against the self-dependent course I had so proudly or rather conceitedly marked out for myself, but it would enable me to enter more advantageously upon my legal career. I talked over the matter with the lovely girl to whom I was engaged. She sided in opinion with my father, and talked so disinterestedly, yet tenderly, that, if possible, I loved her more than ever. I reluctantly, therefore, agreed to go to college for a couple of years, though it must necessarily postpone our union."Scarcely had I formed this resolution, when her mother was taken ill and died, leaving her without a protector. This again altered all my plans. I felt as if I could protect her. I gave up all idea of collegiate studies; persuaded myself that by dint of industry and application I might overcome the deficiencies of education, and resolved to take out a license as soon as possible."That very autumn I was admitted to the bar, and within a month afterward was married. We were a young couple, she not much above sixteen, I not quite twenty; and both almost without a dollar in the world. The establishment which we set up was suited to our circumstances: a log-house, with two small rooms; a bed, a table, a half dozen chairs, a half dozen knives and forks, a half dozen spoons; everything by half dozens; a little delf ware; everything in a small way; we were so poor, but then so happy!"We had not been married many days, when court was held at a county town, about twenty-five miles distant. It was necessary for me to go there, and put myself in the way of business; but how was I to go? I had expended all my means on our establishment; and then it was hard parting with my wife so soon after marriage. However, go I must. Money must be made, or we should soon have the wolf at the door. I accordingly borrowed a horse, and borrowed a little cash, and rode off from my door, leaving my wife standing at it, and waving her hand after me. Her last look, so sweet and beaming, went to my heart. I felt as if I could go through fire and water for her."I arrived at the county town on a cool October evening. The inn was crowded, for the court was to commence on the following day. I knew no one, and wondered how I, a stranger, and a mere youngster, was to make my way in such a crowd, and to get business. The public room was thronged with the idlers of the country, who gather together on such occasions. There was some drinking going forward, with much noise, and a little altercation. Just as I entered the room I saw a rough bully of a fellow, who was partly intoxicated, strike an old man. He came swaggering by me, and elbowed me as he passed. I immediately knocked him down, and kicked him into the street. I needed no better introduction. In a moment I had a dozen rough shakes of the hand, and invitations to drink, and found myself quite a personage in this rough assembly."The next morning the court opened. I took my seat among the lawyers, but felt as a mere spectator, not having a suit in progress or prospect, nor having any idea where business was to come from. In the course of the morning a man was put at the bar, charged with passing counterfeit money, and was asked if he was ready for trial. He answered in the negative. He had been confined in a place where there were no lawyers, and had not had an opportunity of consulting any. He was told to choose counsel from the lawyers present, and to be ready for trial on the following day. He looked round the court and selected me. I was thunderstruck. I could not tell why he should make such a choice. I, a beardless youngster; unpracticed at the bar; perfectly unknown. I felt diffident yet delighted, and could have hugged the rascal."Before leaving the court he gave me one hundred dollars in a bag as a retaining fee. I could scarcely believe my senses; it seemed like a dream. The heaviness of the fee spoke but lightly in favor of his innocence, but that was no affair of mine. I was to be advocate, not judge nor jury. I followed him to jail, and learned from him all the particulars of his case; from thence I went to the clerk's office and took minutes of the indictment. I then examined the law on the subject, and prepared my brief in my room. All this occupied me until midnight, when I went to bed and tried to sleep. It was all in vain. Never in my life was I more wide-awake. A host of thoughts and fancies kept rushing through my mind; the shower of gold that had so unexpectedly fallen into my lap; the idea of my poor little wife at home, that I was to astonish with my good fortune! But then the awful respon-sibility I had undertaken!--to speak for the first time in a strange court; the expectations the culprit had evidently formed of my talents; all these, and a crowd of similar notions, kept whirling through my mind. I tossed about all night, fearing the morning would find me exhausted and incompetent; in a word, the day dawned on me, a miserable fellow!"I got up feverish and nervous. I walked out before breakfast, striving to collect my thoughts and tranquilize my feelings. It was a bright morning; the air was pure and frosty. I bathed my forehead and my hands in a beautiful running stream; but I could not allay the fever heat that raged within. I returned to breakfast, but could not eat. A single cup of coffee formed my repast. It was time to go to court, and I went there with a throbbing heart. I believe if it had not been for the thoughts of my little wife, in her lonely log house, I should have given back to the man his hundred dollars, and relinquished the cause. I took my seat, looking, I am convinced, more like a culprit than the rogue I was to defend."When the time came for me to speak, my heart died within me. I rose embarrassed and dismayed, and stammered in opening my cause. I went on from bad to worse, and felt as if I was going down hill. Just then the public prosecutor, a man of talents, but somewhat rough in his practice, made a sarcastic remark on something I had said. It was like an electric spark, and ran tingling through every vein in my body. In an instant my diffidence was gone. My whole spirit was in arms. I answered with promptness and bitterness, for I felt the cruelty of such an attack upon a novice in my situation. The public prosecutor made a kind of apology: this, from a man of his redoubted powers, was a vast concession. I renewed my argument with a fearless glow; carried the case through triumphantly, and the man was acquitted."This was the making of me. Everybody was curious to know who this new lawyer was, that had thus suddenly risen among them, and bearded the attorney-general at the very outset. The story of my debut at the inn on the preceding evening, when I had knocked down a bully, and kicked him out of doors for striking an old man, was circulated with favorable exaggerations. Even my very beardless chin and juvenile countenance were in my favor, for people gave me far more credit than I really deserved. The chance business which occurs in our country courts came thronging upon me. I was repeatedly employed in other causes; and by Saturday night, when the court closed, and I had paid my bill at the inn, I found myself with a hundred and fifty dollars in silver, three hundred dollars in notes, and a horse that I afterward sold for two hundred dollars more."Never did miser gloat on his money with more delight. I locked the door of my room; piled the money in a heap upon the table; walked round it; sat with my elbows on the table, and my chin upon my hands, and gazed upon it. Was I thinking of the money? No! I was thinking of my little wife at home. Another sleepless night ensued; but what a night of golden fancies, and splendid air-castle! As soon as morning dawned, I was up, mounted the borrowed horse with which I had come to court, and led the other which I had received as a fee. All the way I was delighting myself with the thoughts of the surprise I had in store for my little wife; for both of us had expected nothing but that I should spend all the money I had borrowed, and should return in debt."Our meeting was joyous, as you may suppose: but I played the part of the Indian, hunter, who, when he returns from the chase, never for a time speaks of his success. She had prepared a snug little rustic meal for me, and while it was getting ready I seated myself at an old-fashioned desk in one corner, and began to count over my money, and put it away. She came to me before I had finished, and asked who I had collected the money for."'For myself, to be sure,' replied I, with affected coolness; 'I made it at court.' "She looked me for a moment in the face, incredulously. I tried to keep my countenance, and to play Indian, but it would not do. My muscles began to twitch; my feelings all at once gave way. I caught her in my arms; laughed, cried, and danced about the room, like a crazy man. From that time forward, we never wanted for money."I had not been long in successful practice, when I was surprised one day by a visit from my woodland patron, old Miller. The tidings of my prosperity had reached him in the wilderness, and he had walked one hundred and fifty miles on foot to see me. By that time I had improved my domestic establishment, and had all things comfortable about me. He looked around him with a wondering eye, at what he considered luxuries and superfluities; but supposed they were all right in my altered circumstances. He said he did not know, upon the whole, but that I had acted for the best It is true, if game had continued plenty, it would have been a folly for me to quit a hunter's life; but hunting was pretty nigh done up in Kentucky. The buffalo had gone to Missouri; the elk were nearly gone also; deer, too, were growing scarce; they might last out his time, as he was growing old, but they were not worth setting up life upon. He had once lived on the borders of Virginia. Game grew scarce there; he followed it up across Kentucky, and now it was again giving him the slip; but he was too old to follow it further."He remained with us three days. My wife did everything in her power to make him comfortable; but at the end of that time he said he must be off again to the woods. He was tired of the village, and of having so many people about him. He accordingly returned to the wilderness and to hunting life. But I fear he did not make a good end of it; for I understand that a few years before his death he married Sukey Thomas, who lived at the White Oak Run." Footnote: Ralph Ringwood, though a fictitious name, is a real personage: the worthy original is now living and flourishing in honorable station. I have given some anecdotes of his early and eccentric career in, as nearly as I can recollect, the very words in which he related them. They certainly afforded strong temptations to the embellishments of fiction; but I thought them so strikingly characteristic of the individual, and of the scenes and society into which his peculiar humors carried him, that I preferred giving them in their original simplicity.--G. C.
People from Ohio County mentioned in this story are John Miller, Bob Mosely, Jemmy Kiel, Bob Tarleton, Wesly Pigman, Joe Taylor, Simon Schultz, Peggy Puch, and Sally Pigman. The majority of these names are found in the 1810 census for Ohio County.
The key location in the story is described as "... on the Pigeon Roost Fork of the Muddy, a branch of Rough Creek, which is a branch of the Green River." This is the exact area where my Leach ancestors lived.