2 OCTOBER 1880, Page 13



Rugby, Tennessee.

THERE are few more interesting experiences than a ride through these southern forests. The scrub is so low and thin, that you can almost always see away for long distances amongst pine, white oak, and chestnut-trees; and every now and then at ridges where the timber is thin, or where a clump of trees has been ruthlessly "girdled," and the bare, gaunt skeletons only remain standing, you may catch glimpses of mountain ranges of different shades of blue and green, stretching far away to the horizon. You can't live many days up here with- out getting to love the trees even more, I think, than we do in well-kempt England ; and this outrage of "girdling," as they call it—stripping the bark from the lower part of the trunk, so that the trees wither and die as they stand—strikes one as a kind of household cruelty, as if a man should cut off or disfigure all his wife's hair. If he wants a tree for lumber or firewood, very good. He should have it. But he should cut it down like a man, and take it clean away for some reasonable use, not leave it as a scarecrow to bear witness of his recklessness and laziness. Happily not much mischief of this kind has been done yet in the neighbourhood of Rugby, and a stop will now be put to the wretched practice. There is another, too, almost as ghastly, but which, no doubt, has more to be said for it. At least half of the largest pines alongside of the sandy tracts which do duty for roads have a long, gaping wound in their sides, about a yard from the ground. This was the native way of col- lecting turpentine, which oozed down and accumulated at the bottom of the gash; but I rejoice to say it no longer pays, and the custom is in disuse. It must be suppressed altogether, but -carefully and gently. It seems that if not persisted in too long, the poor, dear, long-suffering trees will close up their wounds, and not be much the worse ; so I trust that many of the scored pines, springing forty or fifty feet into the air before throwing out a branch, which I passed in sorrow and anger on my first long ride, may yet outlive those who outraged them. Having got rid of my spleen, excited by these two diabolic customs, I can return to our ride, which had otherwise nothing but delight in it.

The Manager, an invaluable guest from New York, a doctor, who had served on the Sanitary Commission through the war, and I, formed the party. The manager drove the light buggy, which held one of us also, and the hand-bags ; while the other rode by the side, where the road allowed, or before or behind, as the fancy seized him. We were bound for a solitary guest-house in the forest, some seventeen miles away, in the neighbourhood of a cave and waterfall which even here have a reputation, and are sometimes visited. We allowed three and a half hours for the journey, and it took all the time. About five miles an hour on wheels is all you can reckon on, for the country roads, sandy tracks about 10 ft. broad, are just left to take care of themselves, and wherever there is a sufficient de- clivity to give the rain a chance of washing all the surface off them, are just a heap of boulders of different sizes. But, after till, five miles an hour is as fast as you care to go, for the play of the sunlight amongst the varied foliage, and the new flora and fauna, keep you constantly interested and amused. I never regretted so much my ignorance of botany, for I counted some fourteen sorts -of flowers in bloom, of which golden-rod and Michaelmas-daisy were the only ones I was quite sure I knew, —and by the way, the daisy of Parnassus, of which I found a single flower growing by a spring. The rest were like home flowers, but yet not identical with them—at least, I think not— and the doubt whether one had ever seen them before or not was provoking. The birds—few in number—were all strangers to me ; buzzards, of which we saw five at one time, quite within shot, and several kinds of hawk and woodpecker, were the most common ; but at one point, quite a number of what rlooked like very big swifts, but without the dash in their flight of our bird, and with wings more like curlews', were skimming over the tree-tops. I only heard one note, and that rather sweet, a cat-bird's, the Doctor thought ; but he was almost as much a stranger in these woods as I. Happily, however, he was an old acquaintance of that delightful insect, the "tumble- bug," to which he introduced me on a sandy bit of road. The gentleman in question took no notice of me, but went on rolling his lump of accumulated dirt three times his own size back- wards with his hind legs, as if his life depended on it. Presently his lump came right up against a stone, and stopped dead. It was a " caution " to see that bug strain to push it further, but it wouldn't budge, all he could do. Then he stopped for a moment or two, and evidently made up his small mind that something must be wrong behind, for no bug could have pushed harder than he. So he quitted hold with his hind legs, and turned round to take a good look at the situation, in order, I suppose, to see what must be done next. At any rate, he presently caught hold again on a different side, and so steered successfully past the obstacle. There were a number of them working about, some single and some in pairs, and so full of humour are their doings that I should have liked to watch for hours.

We got to our journey's end about dusk, a five-roomed, single- storied, wooden house, built on supports, so as to keep it off the ground. We went up four steps to the verandah, where we sat while our hostess, a small, thin New Englander, probably seventy or upwards, but as brisk as a bee, bustled about to get supper. The table was laid in the middle room, which opened on the kitchen at the back, where we could see the stove, and hear our hostess's discourse. She boiled us two of her fine white chickens admirably, and served with hot bread, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and several preserves, of which I can speak with special praise of the huckleberry, which grows, she said, in great abundance all round. The boys, we heard, had been there to breakfast, after sleeping out, and not having had a square meal since they started. Luckily for us, her white chickens are a very numerous as well as beautiful family, or we should have fared badly. She and her husband supped: after us, and then came and sat with us in the balcony, and

talked away on all manner of topics, as if the chances of discourse were few, and to be made the most of. They had lived at Jamestown, close by, a village of some eight or ten houses, all through the war, through which the Confederate cavalry had passed again and again. They had never molested.

her or hers in any way, but had a fancy for poultry, which might have proved fatal to her white family, but for her Yankee wit. She and her husband managed to fix up a false floor in one of their rooms in which they fed the roosters, so whenever a picket came in sight, her call would bring the whole family out of the woods and clearing into the refuge, where they remained peace- fully amongst corn-cobs till the danger had passed. She had nothing but good to say of her native neighbours, except that they could make nothing of the country. The Lord had done all he could for it, she summed up, and Boston must take hold of the balance. We heard the owls all night, as well as the katydids, but they only seemed to emphasise the forest stillness. The old lady's beds, to which we retired at ten, after our long gossip in the balcony, were sweet and clean, and I escaped perfectly scatheless, a rare experience, I was assured, in these forest shanties. I was bound, however, to admit, in answer to our hostess's searching inquiries, that I had seen, and slain, though not felt, an insect suspiciously like a British B flat.

The cave which we sought out after breakfast was well worth any trouble to find. We had to leave the buggy and horses hitched up and scramble down a glen, where presently, through a tangle of great rhododendron bushes, we came on a rock, with the little iron-stained stream just below us, and opposite, at the top of a slope of perhaps fifteen or twenty feet, was the cave, like a long black eye under a red eyebrow, glaring at us. I could detect no figure in the sandstone rock (the eyebrow), which hunr! over it for its whole length. The cave is said to run back more than 300 feet, but we did not test it. There would be good sitting-room for 300 or 400 people along the front, and so obviously fitted for a conventicle, that I could not help peopling it with fugitive slaves, and fancying a black Moses preaching to them of their coming Exodus, with the rhododendrons in bloom behind. Maidenhair grow in tufts about the damp floor, and a creeping fern, with a bright red berry, the name of which the Doctor told me, but I have for- gotten, on the damp, red walls. What the nook must be when the rhododendrons are all ablaze with blossom, I hope some day to see.

We had heard of a fine spring somewhere in this part of the forest, and in aid of our search for it presently took up a boy whom we found loafing round a small clearing. He was bare- headed and bare-footed, and wore an old, brown, ragged shirt turned up to the elbows, and old, brown, ragged trowsers turned up to the knees. I was riding, and in answer to my invitation he stepped on a stump and vaulted up behind me. He never touched me, as most boys would have done, but sat up behind with perfect ease and balance as we rode along, a young centaur. We soon got intimate, and I found he had never been out of the forest, was fourteen, and still at (occasional) school. He could read a little, but couldn't write. I told him to tell his master, from me, that he ought to be ashamed of himself, which he promised to do with great glee ; also, but not so readily, to consider a proposal I made him, that if he would write to the manager within six months to ask for it, he should be paid $1. I found that he knew nothing of the flowers or butterflies, of which some dozen different kinds crossed our path. He just reckoned they were all butterflies, as indeed they were. He knew, however, a good deal about the trees and shrubs, and more about the forest beasts. Had seen several deer only yesterday, and an old opossum with nine young, a number which took the Doctor's breath away. There were lots of foxes in the woods, but he did not see them so often. His face lighted up when he was promised $2 for the first opossum he would tame and bring across to Rugby. After guiding us to the spring, and hunting out an old wooden cup amongst the bushes, he went off cheerily through the bushes, with two quarter-dollar bits in his pocket, an interesting young wild man. Will he ever bring the opossum P I doubt, but shall be sorry not see his open, wondering face again.

We got back without further incident (except flushing quite a number of quail, which must be lovely shooting in these woods), and found the boys at home, and hard at lawn-tennis and well-digging. The hogs are becoming an object of their decided animosity, and having heard of a Yankee notion, a sort of tweezers, which ring a hog by one motion, in a second, they are going to get it, and then to catch and ring every grunter who shows his nose near the asylum. Out of this there should