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respect: it was shaded by the native trees of the forest. The owner thereof was early left a widow with a large family. Her masculine intellect imbued with extraordinary industry, prudence, and economy, carried her bravely through her trials, and she succeeded not only in educating her children, but in giving to each a good start in the world.
The room which Prentiss occupied was a cottage house in the northwest corner of the yard; it is still standing, and is now a double object of interest from the associations with which it is connected, for not only is it hallowed from its having been the room of Prentiss, but it now holds the archives of the history of Mississippi, from which Colonel J. F. H. Claiborne has there written his " Mississippi as a State and Territory.”
The “Dunbarton" school-house was about three-quarters of a mile from the dwelling, on the spot a short distance from the western side of Second Creek; the dwelling being upon the other side, the creek had to be crossed in going and in returning from school. It was a clear running brook, and the crossing was easy in low water, but during freshets became a serious matter; there was no bridge, and to supply the want a large tree was cut down and fell across the stream, from bank to bank, and thus made a safe log bridge. The crossing of such a bridge, in Western parlance, is styled cooning, therefore, in times of freshets, Prentiss and his scholars had to coon it over Second Creek.
It was at“ Dunbarton” that Prentiss first met and was thrown into contact with one who was afterwards to be his distinguished political antagonist in many a field, --Colonel J. F. H. Claiborne, who, during the time that Prentiss was teaching at “Dunbarton,” married a daughter of Mrs. Dunbar.
Notwithstanding all efforts to draw Prentiss out while at "Dunbarton,” he lived the life of a recluse. The school was much larger and of a different type from the one at “Rokeby.” There is a floating tradition that on a certain day one of the boys became unruly, that Prentiss undertook to correct him, and that a regular tussle ensued, in which the powerful arm of Prentiss was brought into full play before he could conquer him.
This school was more remunerative but far more troublesome
than the other, and Prentiss only continued there one session. Not a vestige of the old school-house remains; thick bushes and undergrowth now cover the spot, and only the song of birds now and then wakes the melody of the site where once was heard the murmur of the studying school-boy.
Prentiss saved enough from the profits of this school to enable him to cease teaching and float until he could be ready to make a living by his profession. Never a man more joyfully laid down the ferule of the pedagogue than he; school-teaching, while his temporary avocation, was not his vocution. To confine a brilliant genius like his down to the humdrum daily repetition of the same studies was like piping the fires from the crater of a volcano to light a street lamp. And yet, though teaching was irksome to him, he was unconsciously experiencing therefrom the benefits of the discipline which enabled him to achieve such marvellous success. Judge Bullard, in his eulogy on Prentiss, thus alludes to this:
“And here let me say to you, gentlemen, that the schoolmaster is, as it were, the chrysalis form of the great men, the eminent lawyers and statesmen of New England. Before they expand their wings and develop their full powers and energies they, for the most part, have passed through that condition,-imparting instruction, while at the same time they are drawing in those copious stores of knowledge and practising that patient and laborious system of research which renders them great in after-life.
“Need I mention names? I would rather ask, Who has not been at some period of his life a schoolmaster, from the time of John Adams down to the present day? I myself learned the first rudiments of letters from a man who afterwards became chief justice of New llampshire, and my younger brothers were taught at one time by no less a man than the present distinguished Judge Woodbury of the Supreme Court of the United States. Prentiss passed through this severe mental ordeal, and soon emerged into active life a brilliant genius and an accomplished scholar."
That the ordeal was severe we had positive evidence. While at“Rokeby” he would have deep fits of gloom lasting for weeks. Wrapt in the solitude of his own feelings, I have known him to walk for hours, at night, back and forth upon the gallery. At such times he was treated with great tenderness, and none sought to intrude upon his hidden sorrow. These moods can easily be explained: he was far from home in the land of strangers; although he was a master, he was yet the servant. The contrast between his home and the present abode, too, was great. There was the merry jingle of the sleigh-bells, here the mildness of summer in mid-winter; there freedom, here slavery; there the affections of life-long association, here the acquaintance of an hour; there was his doting mother and family, and who could fill their place ? Besides all these mournful feelings of the soul, he was anxious to begin his true career, and not be “cabined, cribbed, and confined” to the humble rôle of the country pedagogue.
There was one thing, however, that helped to buoy him up, and that was what Vice-President King, of Alabama, spoke of in his farewell address to his brother senators as “that best of all blessings, good health.” Prentiss seemed to luxuriate in our clime. There was one feat in which he could beat all-comers, and that was the drawing himself up by his arms, putting his chin over a limb, then letting his body drop arm's length, and repeating again and again. I have seen him do this twentyfour or five times, and he always " beat the beater.” If any young reader (the old ones I know cannot) thinks this a little job just let him try it, and if he can beat the score made by Prentiss I should be pleased to hear from him.
PRENTISS left the "Dunbarton" school after the 1st of January, 1829, and entered the law-office of Robert J. Walker as a student of law. It seems somewhat singular that these two men who were thus early linked together, in after-years should have been so radically opposed to each other.
It is needless to touch upon the character of Walker, for his reputation is already national. A comparative pigmy in size, he was a giant in intellect, subtle as Macchiavelli, ambitious as Cæsar; he rose from the bar to the Senate, from the Senate to the Treasury bench, and proved himself to be not only one of the most honest, but the most competent financier that had ever sat as Secretary. Handling millions, he came out of office as poor as he went in, and left the country in a prosperous condition. But for our civil war, it is more than probable that Mississippi might have had the honor of furnishing the President of the republic.
At the time Prentiss became his student Walker stood high in the profession, in common parlance, at the head of the bar. The candidate now had six months before him in which to prepare himself for his final examination preparatory to his obtaining license. It will be remembered that he had already studied ten months with Judge Pierce, two or three months with Wright, and some six months at "Rokeby,” probably, too, some at “Dunbarton.” He was still anxious to return to Maine, but with him time was so precious that he could not afford to do so. Here he could get his license in six months, there it would take him a year longer; thus, by an irresistible necessity, he was forced to locate in the South and forego his cherished hope of going home. He made good use of his brief time, but ad interim, about the 1st of March, he took the trip in the flat-boat with his friend, Tom Shields, who, with all his worldly goods, moved down to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
The amusing incidents of that trip have already been detailed in the “Memoirs” by his brother, and need not here be repeated. Prentiss was the life and soul of that jolly crew. Like Noah, the captain had housed his all in an ark, called in our Western language a flat-boat. This craft, I believe, is peculiar to our great river. It is not exactly a floating-palace, but it is a floatinghouse of transportation, and, like a politician, always floats with the current. Huge side-pieces, sometimes hewn out of solid sticks of timber, three or four feet deep in the clear and from sixty to ninety feet long, form the gunwales; two of these are firmly joined together by stringers twenty or thirty feet long, according to the width of the boat, and upon them is laid the keel properly calked, and thus made impervious to water ; upon the inside is laid the keelson, also water-tight. The cabin, so to speak, is from six to ten feet high, made of stout scantling, at proper distances mortised into the gunwales, and water-tight sealed to the top with planks. The roofing is oval, after the pattern of the turtle's back, made with jointed plank thin enough to bend with the curve. The inside is sealed with jointed plank. . The bow and the stern, like those of the leech, are so much alike you can only tell one from the other by the adjunct of the rudder. On the hurricane-roof are fixed huge rowlocks, on whose pivots rest in equilibrium the long oars called “sweeps.” One of the rowlocks is at the stern for the rudder. The sweeps and rudder are made of huge single sticks of timber, with broad flanges at the water end for paddles. The fireplaces are of brick daubed together for a hearth, and the smoke escapes “ in aere” (this was before the day of stoves). The berths are bunks in the rear cabin. The plunder was stowed in the capacious inside. Equally broad at the bow and the stern, it was but natural that these unique crafts went by the name of “broad-horns."
It was in such a bark as this that the young emigrant started on his exodus, about the 1st of March, 1839, to the lowlands of Louisiana via the Mississippi River. He placed in it all his worldly goods,—his slaves, horned cattle, horses, mules, sheep, hogs, dogs, and cats; also his books and other inanimate plunder.
Prentiss was at the upper landing "under the hill” at Natchez, and got on the boat as she swung out, intending only