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little cottages at some of our fashionable springs, that you would never guess their use, unless you were acquainted with the character, pursuits, and history (and of course you are not, for we have not yet given you an introduction) of the owner of the premises, or if you had not, like ourself, heard proceeding therefrom the shrill -neigh of the “ thorough-bred” proclaiming their purpose.
There now, grumbling reader, we are happy to say, we are through with our description of “Forest Home" and appurtenances; and if you will now only fancy to yourself this quiet farm, buried in the solitude of a boundless waste of woods—a spring morning in April, and all the enclosures, buildings, and fences we have had so much trouble in describing, brilliant and pure as whitewash could make them, and not a sound to be heard save the chattering of the martin, and the rich, melodious notes of the negro as he lazily prepared for his daily labour, then will you have the entire panorama surveyed, laid out, and plotted in your mind's eye, and have a faint idea of the comfortable loneliness of a Kentucky farm, and more especially of the home of Mr. Powers, to whom we now beg the honour of giving you an introduction.
In the wide open passage of the mansion, which, by the by, was decorated with many trophies of the chase and rifle, interspersed with numerous nets, fishing poles, hunting horns, and other instruments for the destruction and taking of game, sat the owner of this lovely place, lolling with easy abandonment in a capacious arm-chair, with his feet resting lightly upon the back of a huge crouching mastiff, enjoying with listless, half-dreamy beatitude, the bracing breezes of the young spring, along with the rich flavour of an aromatic cigar, which he now and then puffed, and in a manner and with a zest that proved that he had long been accustomed to the enjoyment of the fragrant weed. From his appearance, one would judge he had not long arisen from his. slumbers, for he was yet undressed, and his shirt-bosom, unbuttoned, was thrown carelessly open, exposing a brawny, hirsute chest and throat, while he needed not only a neckcloth but a coat and vest to complete his daily toilet. Indeed, if it had not been for the little curl of smoke floating away from his lips, one might
have been easily deceived into believing the old man still asleep, and but then finishing his morning nap. Mr. Powers, for such was the name of him who now occupied the arm-chair, might have been-yes, might have been (had we seen .proper) riding one of James's celebrated horses, and might have been, had he been born in time and lived as long—as old as old Methuselah ; or if his birth had been twenty years sooner, might have been threescore and ten, and ready to wind up his mortal coil. But as it was, taking his own words for it, and the family record, and the say-so of the old woman who had some hand in aiding his first debut upon this sublunary globe, and who should know something about these matters—if anybody did—he was now, on the day of his introduction to the reader, just fifty years old; and we may add that it was not his fault that he was no older or younger; for he, like ourselves, was a man, and could not (a great misfortune) add or take one hour from his existence.
To look upon his athletic and almost giant frame, just six feet two in his stockings, with his broad, full, and powerful bust-his majestic face-his dark hair, slightly tinged with gray, cut short, and curling over a massive brow and head that Lavater or Spurzheim might have worshipped—you would have thought him at least ten years younger, and have wondered much at his manly beauty and at the strength and vigour of his limbs and person, after a life of half a century. Resting there in his old arm-chair, with his stalwart frame looming out like a Hercules, and his lordly face a little ruddy with the slanting rays of the rising sun, along with his noble footstool, the gallant mastiff, a fit companion for such a master, and surrounded as he was on every side, by the fox-hound, the pointer, and the cur, he presented a picture well worthy of the brush of a painter, and filling out such a scene as would have enchanted the eye of the inimitable Landseer.
He was a Virginia gentleman of the old school, not one of your first families, for at that period there was no necessity to set up such faint claims to gentility—but a noble-hearted, open-handed, generous, and hospitable man; brave to a fault, glorying in manly sports, unsurpassed in devotion to his country—or the ladies-and withal, what was termed in Kentucky (at that period when it was considered the duty of every man to “swap horses?') “a sporting gentleman”—not one of your travelling gamblers, who are at this age of improvement to be found at every hotel and watering-place, and who carry about with them mean-looking, short-tailed dogs and double-barrelled guns, dubbing themselves “sporting men”—for he scorned all such—but a gentleman of the highest honour, fond of the turf, fox-hunting, and every other species of manly sport, calling into play the daring heart, ready eye, and steady hand. His life and fortune had both been wellnigh spent in his devotion to the course—his horses had always been his hobby—he loved them with an affection somewhat similar to that he bore his children and sported, not so much with the desire of gain as for wild excitement, and because racing with him had become a passion, or perhaps even a stronger characteristic, verging (as we often see in the case of gamblers) upon madness, or rather (as that is now fashionable, especially in criminal courts) monomania.
The low cunning of jockeys, added to a heavy loss brought upon him by endorsing for a sporting friend, along with his own reckless habits and expenditures, had in a manner shattered his large and ample patrimony; and in a moment of remorse, he departed from the home of his infancy and manhood, moving, like many others before him, to Kentucky, vainly hoping to build up his wrecked fortunes in a new land. As he now sat in seeming comfort and contentment, surrounded by his canine friends, enjoying his high-scented cigar-fanned by the bracing atmosphere of this lovely morning, with the whole scene around him, gay, happy, and filled with new life, the life of a new spring—a casual observer would have written him down as a joyous, well-contented, and satisfied man. But alas ! it was with him as is too often the case when men seem most happy and contented,—dark cares and sadness are at work far down in the concealed and troubled heart -and thought, laden with heaviness, leads the struggling soul through many a weary and thorny path.
And thus it was with this seemingly calm and indifferent muser. For at that very moment, he was wandering in thought back through his eventful life, treading again the paths of other days, remembering with many a bitter sigh, his infancy_his manhood passed in wild sports and thoughtlessness—his stately home in a distant state—his ample fortune wrecked, and the proud old halls of his ancestors sold, and now in the hands of strangers.
As these sad memories pressed heavily upon his soul, he looked mournfully around, murmuring not audibly or with his tongue, but with the rapid movement of mind communing with itself.
“ Ay, this is indeed a lovely spot, and might almost console me for the loss of my ancestral home. But I fear, it too must go—and I sink still a step lower. My wife and children-my lovely daughter and my gallant sons—they little know the fate now threatening, or the heavy cares pressing upon the heart of their old father. My sons in their studies have cost me heavy sums—my family are expensive, and I know not how to retrench. I have ever been ignorant of the value of money, and have spent freely-ah! too freely the ample fortune descending to me from my father. Had I not this love, or rather madness for the turf, I might yet be saved.”
Here the old man becoming more deeply excited and aroused by bis communings and the busy workings of remorse, covered his face with his hands, muttering in an audible and impassioned voice
“O had I the nerve to sell my horses, and turn my mind to business, I might yet save this beautiful home for my children. But how can I part with my proud favourites ?” He murmured, after a moment of silence : “There is my lovely White Cloud and my gallant Thunder, both as fleet and as beautiful as the bounding stag—and have I not reared and nursed them from the foal ? It would be like parting from my daughter or one of my gallant sons to part with them; and I would feel desolate and lonely if they were gone, and I could look no longer upon their flashing eyes, their flowing mane, and sinewy, polished limbs. I must see them once struggling for the goal, and stretching their strong limbs along the course, and then”—
But at this moment a light laugh was hcard upon the stairsand the old man turning his head was in the unexpected presence of his sons.
“Ah father, you are still dreaming of your young favourites
Whitecloud and Thunder, for I heard you but now, murmuring their names," laughed the youngest of the brothers, hurrying down the steps and seizing his father's hand. “Well, we too have been dreaming of your beauties, and yesterday, after supper, Lonz and myself, determined to drop our books for the nonce surprise you all at home—and try these same young coursers in the great fox-hunt to come off this morning down in the bottom. Like dutiful sons that we are, and modest young gentlemen loth to leave their books, save for the necessity of a little recreation, purely to keep up strength and health, you know; we deserted our studies and the great attractions of town, and during the shades of . last night, while you were all enjoying your peaceful slumber, found our way to · Forest Home.' We did not arrive until you were all fairly asleep; so stirring up Old Ned in his den over the stable, we surrendered our weary steeds to his grumbling majesty, and stole, without disturbing any of you—not even Ellen herself—(thanks to your having no locks and bars) to our own
How now, Lion! are you growling at your old friend and playmate ?” rattled on the young madcap, turning to the old mastiff; “I suppose you think I have not treated you with all the respect and deference due your age and station, and wish to remind me of my neglect. But how are you, father; you and mother and Ellen ? I need not ask about my canine friends, for they are all here to speak for themselves."
The old man, whose sorrows seemed to have fled at the sight of his
sons, and who had set with a merry twinkle playing around the corners of his mouth during this hurried explanation of the youngest, answered his last inquiry :
“Well! well! my boys, we are all well and most glad to see you; though we fear much this scampering twenty miles after supper, and fox-hunting in the morning, will not make you better lawyers or doctors."
"Never fear, father; remember this night-ride is a prescription of your learned son there, the disciple of Esculapius. We keep ourselves, when in town, as closely confined to our studies monks to their monastery, and you may take my word for it (and no one has a better chance of knowing, or better right of saying it), I will soon become a famous lawyer, and will yet save