Page images

Northamptonshire, we are told of a worthy farmer who, when engaged in threshing, was sorely puzzled at the marvellous celerity with which his sheaves vanished; much faster, indeed, than accorded with the slow strokes of his flail. Accordingly extra bolts were placed on the doors, and a man stationed in the yard to watch. In spite of these precautions the evil was unremedied, and each morning, though it found the fastenings untouched, brought with it a fresh gap in the sheaves. With a view of discovering the aggressors, Hodge determined upon a personal survey, and late one night concealed himself behind the sheaves for that purpose. Midnight soon came, and with it two tiny elves, who effected their entrance through the pike-hole, and forthwith commenced working away at the sheaves, pull-· ing out the straws and making them into minute bundles, preparatory to carrying them off. may be imagined, this was little to Hodge's taste, but, though astonished and alarmed, he interfered not. At length, apparently overcome by their exertions, they desisted from their work. "I twit; do you twit?" said one to the other; whereupon the farmer rushing out, and totally unable any longer to conceal his indignation, cried out, "I'll twit ye if ye ben't off." At which the fairies instantly vanished, and never afterwards annoyed him with their visits.*


According to another story a farmer had occasion to leave home for a week, but before doing so he gave strict orders to one of his lads to spread a certain field with manure, already on the land in the customary heaps. The farmer had no sooner gone than the boy forgot his master's orders, and made holiday all the week. On the day appointed for his return the young idler gave way to the fear of punishment, and commenced weeping. While thus employed he was accosted by a little old man. "What's the matter, my lad?" quoth he.. "I ben't done my work, zur," sobbed the child. "Never mind," said the little man. "Canst run?" "Eez, zur," was the reply. "Then off with ye to yonder stile, and, if I do your work and catch you before you're there, you're mine." This speech quickly taught the lad the real character of his visitor; but the fear of temporal chastisement prevailed over spiritual, and off he went. Instantly the soil began to fly about in all directions, and in a few minutes the work was done; hereupon the old man ran after the boy at full speed, and a desperate race took place, but the boy luckily succeeded in leaping the stile just as he felt the grasp of his adversary on his smock. At night the farmer returned, and, finding the work done, rewarded the boy; but on the following morning the manure was found collected again in heaps, and the field remained in its for

mer state.

The influence of witchcraft was much credited by our agricultural peasantry in years gone by—a superstition which has not died out. Formerly, on Hallow-c'en, the master of the family was accus

* Sternberg's "Dialect and Folklore of Northamptonshire," 1815. 134-5.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

This fire-straw was intended to ward off witchcraft, and so preserve the corn from being injured. In Scotland, on Hallow-e'en, the red end of a fiery stick is waved about in mystic figures in the air to accomplish for the purpose the same spell.

Lastly, according to an old custom in Cheshire, farmers' servants generally engage themselves. from New Year's Eve to Christmas Day, and then for six or seven days they resort to the towns to spend their holidays. On the morning after Christmas Day, we are informed by a writer of Chambers's "Book of Days" that hundreds of farm servants, dressed in holiday attire, in which all the colours of the rainbow strive for the mastery, used to throng the streets of Chester, considerably to the benefit of the tavern-keepers. At the statute fairs, too, held elsewhere at Whitsuntide and Michaelmas, and often described, one of the chief business transactions is the hiring of farmers' servants. The emblems of service are placed in the hats of the men, the ploughboy or carter having a piece of whipcord, the shepherd a lock of wool, and the milkboy a tuft of hair.


SITTING among the buttercups,
In the flowery time of May,
I listened while the noisy birds
Sang all the day,

Sang for the joys of Summer come, and Winter snows away.

One with a whistling sweetly shrill,

With silvery twittering one,

One with a many-noted trill,

Sang to the sun,

Sang loud for dreary Winter past, and Summer days begun,

Singing, singing, they filled the sky,
Blessing the sunshine, till

They sang away all bitter thoughts
Of pain and ill;

And feeling Nature's gladness, my fretful heart was still.

When all the distant fields were pale,
Beneath the empty sky,

I, waking, heard the nightingale,
Somewhere hard by,

Flooding the dawn with all-compassing quivering melody.

Like pulses of a human heart

The throbbing air did beat;

Thro' the dark world light seemed to dart,

And day's delaying feet

Came hurrying up the east, at that o'ermastering music sweet..





OR eleven years after completion in 1869 the pioneer trans-continental railroad, familiarly known throughout the United States as the U.P., enjoyed an undisturbed monopoly of freight and transport. In the spring of 1881 that great desideratum of the tourist, a trans-continental round trip, first became a possibility. The completion of the Southern Pacific marks the dawn of a new era for the South-West. It has opened up eastern and western outlets for the mining riches of Arizona, made the health resorts and cattle regions of New Mexico accessible, and knit these States closely with Colorado by means of its connections with the marvellous series of narrow-gauge railroads which have penetrated into the most elevated mountainous regions of that

[ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
[blocks in formation]

Paso in Texas with the Houston and Central Texas at Dallas, and by its more southerly extension, the snowless "Sunset Route," with San Antonio, it has given those States a port on the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston, in Texas, and brought that of New Orleans within six days' journey of San Francisco. El Paso, on the north Texan border, is also the junction of the Atchison and S. Fé with the Central Mexican, which, already carried beyond Chihuaha, is destined, when completed as projected to San Louis Potosi and the city of Mexico, to bring that republic into closer relationship with its great neighbour. From Deming a south-western branch will connect with the port of Guaymas on the Gulf of California,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Projected Extensions. U. P. Union, S. P. Southern, A. P. Atlantic Pacific.

A. T. S. Fé. Atchison and Santa Fé.

Narrow Gauge.

[ocr errors]

State Boundaries.

-Transcontinental Lines.

and considerably shorten the journey to China and Australia. Meanwhile "The Atlantic Pacific," a third trans-continental line, is being rapidly pushed on westwards from its junction with the Atchison at Albuquerque, in New Mexico, through Central Arizona. This is planned to cross the Southern above and below Los Angeles, to run up the Pacific shores to the west of the coast range, by the ancient Spanish haven of San Diego, California, up to San Francisco, and to complete this epochmaking series of South-Western railroads.

Bound west by this newly-opened southern route, we left Washington on Decoration Day (May 30th, 1881). The hotel offices and streets were thronged with holiday-makers dressed "in customary suits of solemn black," and grave middle-aged men wearing medals on their breasts. The various statues of national heroes in the beautiful squares and avenues were festooned with garlands of bright flowers, a touching tribute from so outwardly matter-of-fact a people.

The westward-bound train, in which we had secured sleeping berths, started from New York city at midnight.

The Baltimore and Ohio, a well-built double track, enjoys an unenviable notoriety for burning a soft coal of a peculiar soot-producing nature. It passes through lovely scenery of the Blue Ridge and Valley of the Potomac, having Maryland and Pennsylvania on one side and West Virginia and Virginia on the other, the grey swift-flowing river often forming the State boundary. From Point of Rocks to Harper's Ferry, where the Potomac unites with the Shenandoah, it affords a succession of lovely views, with the river rushing in the gorge. below and the mountain profiles rising boldly and in close proximity on the Virginia shore. This region was long a debatable ground, and the scene of many vicissitudes in the Civil War. After stopping for dinner at Cumberland, the ascent of the Alleghanies is commenced through a series of pleasant landscapes and forest glades, with distant ranges in the background, until the narrowing gorges end in a tunnel. At the summit of this miniature range, 2,700 feet above sea level, the air is cool and invigorating. Here commences a coal region, which stretches westwards to the Ohio river and Lake Erie. The descent is equally picturesque, giving glimpses of fertile, streamwatered valleys below. At dusk, Grafton was reached in time for supper, after ten hours' enjoyable transit through scenery as fine as the passage of the Jura. During the night we passed through the rich oil and petroleum regions of Western Virginia, and crossed a wide river, presumably the Ohio. The bull-frogs in the swamps near by croaked a loud concert, while the glowworms and fire-flies emitted a soft, luminous, starlike twinkle of a remarkable size and brilliancy.

Soon after the morning's toilet in the tiny dressing saloon-less commodious than a cabin at sea, and often more unsteady-we arrived at Cincinnati, chief city of Ohio, and were transferred in a lumbering brake and four through the rutty and dusty purlieus of the "Queen City of the West" to the depôt of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad. There breakfast was ordered, and it was

amusing to find a huge steak, weighing about two pounds, set before each of us. Wastefulness is certainly the most striking characteristic of Americans in the aggregate, who seem to think their vast food supplies, forest tracts, and general resources practically inexhaustible; but, with a multiplying basis of fifty-one millions, it behoves them to begin to take some thought for posterity.

All that day we rolled past the fertile and breezy hills of Indiana and Illinois, with their pleasant homesteads; the large fields, snake fences, an occasional row of blackened stumps in the grain, a wide stretch of well-drilled Indian corn-plants, broad-leaved and graceful, or a solitary agriculturist seated on and driving his implement through the furrow, alone to remind one that it was not a succession of English pastoral landscapes. At North Bend, the junction for Louisville, capital of Kentucky, was passed, and then the famous cave was only fifty miles distant. Later on the heat grew stifling; windows were closed, as even the gauze blinds failed to keep out the fine dust derived from the carboniferous limestone we were then traversing. Soon after entering the alluvial flats of the famous Mississippi valley the smoke of St. Louis clouded the sky, and before long we crossed the "great father of waters" by a noble bridge with three five-hundred-feet spans, which ends in a long tunnel under the city at the Grand Union depôt, and cost ten million dollars.

A thousand miles from the Atlantic seaboard, yet a busy port in the heart of the continent, with its substantial banks and stores, St. Louis is truly a wonderful city. Its wide and well-built streets are thronged with motley crowds of varied types, for it is now debatable ground between the East and that great West of two hundred million square miles of territory, of which the mighty Mississippi, here over two thousand miles from its sources in the Yellowstone region, and one thousand from its outlet into the Gulf of Mexico, is now the eastern boundary. But viewed from the splendid upper bridge, the double-rail track running below, the river, here forty miles south of the spot where it merges into the wider Missouri-the name of which it henceforth absorbs as well as its muddiness-does not impress one as it flows on, a great volume of turbid, sullen, dark-coloured water, shut in by low coal-yielding bluffs on either side. Beyond stretched a vast alluvial plain, the only object in range a horseman, with broad sombrero, long boots, Mexican spurs and stirrups, typical of the West, while rows of busy wharves, tall grainelevators, and long chimneys rose in the background.

Wishing to go through the State of Missouri by daylight, we left St. Louis early one morning by the Missouri Pacific, whereon even the ordinary cars are fitted with lounging-chairs and foot-rests. This single track runs for about two hundred miles along the low poplar-fringed shores of the wide and winding Missouri, the calm flowing. river, with its numerous broad tributaries and low wooded islets, forming a pleasing picture. Sometimes it seemed as though freshets must inevitably undermine the embankment. The soil of Missouri, rich and productive, looked roughly cultivated;

blackened stumps abounded, and when cleared out were ranged, roots and all, as a fence for the vast fields. According to some pamphlets thrown into the windows at a local depôt, "Johnson county" should be a paradise for the agriculturist, but the State of Missouri still has the reputation of being really inimical to Northern settlers and progression. A most delightfully cool and dustless run of 283 miles landed us at Kansas city, in the extreme western corner of Missouri, which claims the taxes, although it bears the name of the adjacent State id

of Kansas. Here, bent on seeing the plains by day, we left the cars and stopped

[blocks in formation]


d bollab

[ocr errors]

Union Depôt Hotel. Supper was over, so we had to content ourselves with bread-193 and-butter and milk at the railway restaurant, perched up on high stools like clerks in an office. Western prices prevailed certainly unjustifiable so far as milk, at ten cents. the glass, was concerned, for there had been plenty of cows and pasture lands en evidence.

[ocr errors]

and centre of the coal region of Kansas, and a late supper at Florence, we entered on the fertile valley of the Arkansas river, and passed through all the stages of settlers' civilisation in treeless yet wealthgiving and beautiful Kansas. First came the ordinary white frame houses with green verandahs, or a modest shanty and log hut with one small door and window. Next was the region of roughly laid stone shanties; and lastly that of the humble dug-out, the last refuge of the poor settler in timabolic mot29W-droo2 to berless Ditto2 burgo-toned degions, or the gosto по morgnides temporary


Next morning we left by the Atchison and Topeka, a single track, not "the best in the Union," which runs a thousand miles into New Mexico, with one sleeping car only, which of course is always crowded. That day it was filled with a very representative selection of passengers, whose history and destinations were proofs that neither wealth nor competence are to be secured, even in America, without much hard work, severing of home ties, and an adventurous exile far from the comforts of civilisation. The exodus from the East has many drawbacks, and for delicatelynurtured women the Western pilgrimage and mode of life are full of hardship.

It was a perfect day's travel free from dust; even the smoke was drifted athwart the track, and riding on the platform, fanned by the delicious perfumed breezes of the prairie, was as exhilarating as a galop. Between dining at Topeka, the capital


yto fotod onT 0188 home of the ssbilod di cow-boy tendace to eping the herds of FEDERATTROW domlarge-horned Beda aout red Texan cat201ntle on their rid way up to the vibranches of the For North West. The Kansas


[ocr errors]

dd" dug-outs" 510 consist merely of a square hole dug in the ground, roofed either by a canvas waggoncloth or faute de mieux, with sods of turf. Settlers here plant freely, receiving a certain free grant in proportion; otherwise there is no shelter to break the force of the summer wind-storms and blasts of winter. At intervals we halted at station towns com

posed only of the shanty hotel and depôt, saloons, and general stores, those for the sale of drugs largely predominating, even in reputed healthy localities where the liquor laws are in force; for a properly formulated request for medical comforts may result in the production of something of a more exhilarating than soothing nature, even in the temperance State of Kansas.

Each hour revealed fresh beauties, culminating when the region of the unturned prairie was reached. For then there was nothing in view save waving grass and bright flowers, with blue sky above, now and again a colony of the quaint little prairie dog, and his compatriot, the solemn owl, standing sentry over their joint ménage. On and on over the vast rolling plain, a billowy expanse of the cretaceous formation, the locomotive mounting one height to sink into another, until the sun set swiftly in his rich western glory, flooding the fleecy clouds with

bands of crimson and purple which faded into the orange-tinted afterglow; a brief space of darkness, then the stars shone out clearer and clearer; most radiant of all, the broad belt of the Milky Way and the familiar constellation of the Great Bear, or the Dipper, as it is always called in the West. The early morning is equally beautiful, and then is the best time to catch sight of a lone wolf sneaking along in the distance, and some of the wild animals of the plains. But that day was not to be one of such unmixed delight, for the scenery had changed for the worse during the night's run, and we had reached the elevated marsh-land regions of the broad full stream of the Arkansas river. A bad breakfast at Sargent did not mend matters. We were then on the confines of Colorado, and thence a desert region stretches to the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. The green grass grew coarser, scant and dusty, and the sage brush, a sickly grey shrub growing in wiry tufts resembling young lavender bushes, more and more abundant. At La Junta, locally pronounced Le Hunter, now the junction for Colorado, the southern route dips abruptly to the south. As we journeyed on to Pueblo, sixty miles distant, sand became the chief feature of the scene, with tufts of the prickly-pear cactus that we tend carefully at home blooming in their native sand with red and yellow blossoms. The surface of the smooth sand was often furrowed by shallow winding gorges where water had previously flowed. These gave a faint illustration of the methods of erosion causing the physical features of the Bad Lands of Dakota and the cañons of the Colorado river when viewed from above. The cows, of which there were hundreds, crowded into the little hollows more recently dried up, where the grass grew in fresher abundance, and emerging thence at the last minute gave the engineer a great deal of trouble. Within twelve miles of Pueblo, when all those expecting to be reunited to friends there were talking eagerly, and busy putting the best face on travelling dowdiness, all at once the desert was enlivened by a stream of white-coated individuals speeding hastily in a long line right and left of the cars. A jerk was felt in the sleeper, followed by a sudden stoppage. On looking out, it was evident the cars had "jumped the track," and that the locomotive, completely broken away and turned round, was lying on the side broken into fragments, and literally at its last gasp of breath and motion, steam escaping shrilly. The baggage cars, with front wheels wrenched off, had gone ahead and fallen in a mass of forked débris on either side, which prevented a serious disaster and the telescoping of the hindermost cars. Engineer and fireman stuck pluckily to their posts to the last, shutting off steam, and only escaped death by jumping from the tender when it broke away. The baggage- masters leapt from their wide doors, and the passengers in the smoking and ordinary cars, who felt the shock before those in the sleeper were aware of the mishap, followed their example. The coloured porter "made tracks" for Kansas city, running off to the rear. Poor fellow he was almost white from the shock; it was his first trip, and he said it should be the last. What an utter wreck it was, all in a few minutes,

and all the more impressive in the silence and solitude of the desert surroundings! Some "trekers" in a prairie schooner, as the light plain waggons are called, were moving slowly westward in the old primitive fashion. We had passed them before, and thought our mode or transit preferable; now they had the best of it, and, after a brief halt to survey the ruins, passed leisurely on their way. Five long hours we contemplated the distant Rockies and desert-blue sky, hot sun, and glittering sand the only features of the scene. With neither water, nor tree or hillside for shade, it was a merciful fact that shocks and contusions were the only injuries. The cause of our plight was the irrepressible cow, which plays such an important part in the history of American railroad accidents. One victim had been immolated earlier on the cow-catcher, but three crossing the track together were too many for that useful implement, and the engineer's usual tactics of "rushing the herd" ended for once in disaster. By the time two mounted cowboys came up the sufferings of the poor animals had been ended by bullets from the passengers' revolvers for we were now on the borders of "revolver-land," as this section of the road may be termed, those weapons being the most striking feature, and the ratio of "heeled" citizens increased at each depôt passed since daylight, the meekest-looking individuals having one projecting from their right hip pistol-pocket, while the express-men in charge of private freight-a most dangerous post-wore in addition a belt stuck full of cartridges. By law no one is permitted to carry firearms in the cities of Colorado, but as it is generally evaded, to enforce compliance would be both difficult and dangerous. Indeed, brightlooking weapons often repose on a lady's toilettable among the jewels with which so many American women will encumber their persons while travelling.

At last the relief train came up, news of the difficulty having been wired on from the track by officials prepared for such emergencies. Transferring hand-baggage, and wading ankle-deep in burning sand, we were once more en route to Pueblo. As the train backed slowly in, contemplation of the track from the front platform did not prove reassuring, for the rails were rusty, and fastened down with rough spikes, sometimes squeezed flat, peeled and splintered, and the platform bridges over the hollows but gingerly structures. But looking upwards, the bold outlines of the Rockies rose abruptly from the plains, to the south the silvery summits of the shadowy Spanish Peaks, trending northwards the Front or Colorado range-Pike's, Gray's, and Long's Peaks towering above their fellows. But the great height of this vast chain of many ranges, with eighteen summits over 14,000 feet high, is never realised from their eastern approaches, because they stand on an elevated plateau over 6,000 feet above the sea. Their real base lies a thousand miles to the eastward, whence, indeed, we had been gradually ascending them at an average grade of seven feet in a mile. Kansas city is 700 feet above sea level; Pueblo-600 miles west-4,700

« PreviousContinue »