1. Letter I
THE DOCTOR'S PRESCRIPTION.
FROM PIDGIE TO HIS COUSIN BENNIE.
Marblehead, July 1st, 1846.
Do you remember, my dear cousin, how scornfully we used to look at "little crooked Massachusetts," as we called it, on the map, while comparing the other States with good old Virginia? I don't believe that we ever even noticed such a town in it as Marblehead; and yet here I am, in that very place; and though I love our noble State as well as ever, I am beginning to think that there are some other places in the world fit to live in. I don't mean, though, that I have the smallest inclination to take up my abode in this town, but I should like to have you see it, for it is the funniest place you can imagine. The old, queer-looking houses seem to be placed cornerwise on the most crooked of streets, all up hill and down, and winding around so that I begin to think they have lost themselves and will come to a stop, when out they start, from behind some red or green house which they had run around just for fun. Then there are heaps, as we Southerners say, of droll little children running about, some of them quite nicely dressed, with no servant to take care of them; and yesterday, on the rocks that look out upon the ocean, I met a little boy who could scarcely walk tottling along beside one but little older, as independent and happy as if he might not at any time fall and hit his little white head against one of the sharp stones. They say that some of our most distinguished Congressmen, and even our United States Senators, have been brought up in this way, and though I don't see how these boys can ever learn to be polished gentlemen when they mix with all sorts of children, yet some of them are as intelligent as if they had done nothing but read all their lives, and as brave as their sailor fathers.
Yesterday a fishing-vessel came in, which had been out for several months, and I spied a little fellow clambering down a ladder, placed up to one of the tall chimneys, as fast as he could go, and then, starting out the door like lightning, he was by the water-side before the boat touched the shore, and his mother was not far behind him.
But how I am carried away by what is around me! I forget that you don't even know how I came to be here, and while I am writing are perhaps wondering all the time if I am not playing a trick upon you, after all, and dating from some place where I never expect to be. But I am in real earnest, Bennie, and will try and tell you, as soberly as I can, how I happen to be here.
You remember, the day that Uncle Bob brought the horse home for me to ride to Benevenue, he said something about Master Clarendon's not being able to ride Charlie much of late, so that I would find him rather gay. When I got to the place, I found every thing in confusion, and Dr. Medway talking very earnestly with brother Clarendon, who was looking quite thin, and not at all pleased.
"I should think a voyage to Europe would be quite as beneficial," he said, turning to the Doctor, with his proudest air, as soon as he had greeted me.
"No," replied Dr. Medway, smiling at his displeased manner; "you must have work, Sir,--hard work, and hard fare. It would do you no more good to take a luxurious trip in a steamer, than to remain quietly in your fashionable lodgings at Baltimore. Your dyspepsia, Sir, can be best cured by your taking a cruise in a Yankee fishing-smack, bound for the Banks of Newfoundland."
"Then I shall die," said Clarendon; "and I had almost as lief, as to be cooped up in a dirty fishing-smack with vulgar sailors, half-starved with their miserable fare."
"It will do you good in more ways than one," observed Dr. Medway; and he gave mother a significant look. "We poor Virginians think it impossible to exist except in a certain way; but you are a young man of sense, in spite of your prejudices, and will be very much benefited by a little more familiar intercourse with your fellow-men."
As I stood by, listening to this conversation, I was not surprised at Clarendon's reluctance to follow Dr. Medway's advice, but much more astonished when, after arguing the point half an hour longer, he called for Sukey,--his old mammy, you know,--and told her to have every thing in readiness for him to leave the next day.
As soon as the Doctor was gone, Clarendon began to see more plainly than ever the disagreeabilities of the scheme to which he had consented; but he was too proud to give it up after his word had been pledged.
"I wish I could find somebody to accompany me on this horrid excursion," he exclaimed. "Miss Sukey! there's no use putting in my guitar-music. A pretty figure I should cut, strumming away on that, upon the dirty deck of a Down East schooner! I can't have the face to ask any friend to accompany me. O ho! it's a desperate case!"
All at once, as if a sudden idea had struck him, while pacing the room impatiently, he turned to me:--"What say you, Pidgie, to spending the holidays on this fishing excursion?"
You may be sure that I was ready enough to accept the proposal, for you know I have always been crazy to go on the water, and like seeing new places above every thing.
"Indeed, and double indeed, brother, I would rather go to the Banks with you, than to see Queen Victoria herself. I'll run and ask 'ma directly if she can spare me, and if she will, I won't even unpack my valise, but shall be all ready to start in the morning."
So saying, I darted into 'ma's chamber, and she declares that my eyes were almost dancing out of my head for joy, when I told her of the proposal. At first she hesitated, for it was a trial to her to part with me so soon again; but you know Clarendon is the pride of her heart, and for his sake she at last gave her consent. Sister Nannie was grieved at having both her brothers taken from her, but she is a little woman, and always ready to make sacrifices for others; so she sat down very quietly to looking over some of Clarendon's clothes, and though a tear now and then rolled down her cheek, she would look up from her work with quite a pleasant smile.
Before I had time to realize what had taken place, I was perched up in the carriage with Clarendon, and in five minutes more had taken leave of every thing at home but Uncle Jack, who was driving us to the cars, in which we were to start for Baltimore.
You have heard so much of New York and Boston, that I cannot, probably, tell you any thing new about them, though, to be sure, when there, I felt as if the half had not been told me. All the streets and houses look so nice and comfortable in the New England towns, that I cannot imagine where the poor people live. At the hotel in New York, when I rang the bell, such a nice-looking young gentleman came to our door, that I thought he was a fellow-boarder who had made a mistake in the room. I asked him, very politely, if he would have the kindness to tell me where any servants were to be found, as they did not answer the bell.
He stared at this request, and then answered, quite proudly,--"I wait on gentlemen, my young friend; but we are all free men here." I cannot get used to this new state of affairs, and should be quite out of patience, having to do so many things for myself, if brother Clarendon did not keep me laughing all the while with his perfect fits of despair. But he is calling to me to stop writing, for, since here in Marblehead they won't let him have any peace in sleeping till eleven o'clock, he insists on going to bed with the chickens, or he shall die for want of rest.
Love to all, men, women, and children, horses and dogs, from your affectionate cousin,