Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Joscelyn: A Tale of the Revolution >> Chapter III: Stephen Joscelyn >> Page 27

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Page 27

Novel (Romance) | The Reprint Company | 1975, 1976
Transcription JOSCELYN27
Court-House, at sale days, and during the sessions; and their con-
vivialities were rarely limited within the rules of prudence and
propriety. Generally well mounted, on fast horses, which they well
knew how to manage, they rode through the forests without need-
ing a well-beaten pathway. They were thus the very sort of people
to constitute an irregular cavalry; to scout, skirmish, purvey, and
explore. They belonged, in brief, to that class of pioneers who
were the first in our country to penetrate the domain of the red
man and the wild beast, and to prepare the wilderness, the swamp
and forest, for the advent of civilization. They had their uses.
Here, then, in all this precinct especially, as in a large part of
the contiguous country, were associated, but not assimilated, the
antagonist forces of a wild nature and a refined society. On one
hand rose the beautiful domain of the wealthy planter, who had
brought the highest culture from the schools of Europe; on the
other hand was the low hovel of the wild man, where no flower
grew, where all was coarse and savage, the chief possessions of
which were bear and deer meat in abundance, hanging from the
rafters, and a rude hospitality which freely shared with the stranger
the small physical comforts of the humble cabin.
Gradually these people were in training for the advent of a
superior civilization. Their wives and daughters had just begun,
following the example of wealthier neighbors, to plant the rose and
the shrub-tree at the porch, and to. appreciate that education for
their young the benefits of which they had not themselves enjoyed.
And so rose in this, as must be the_ case in- every sparsely settled
agricultural region, what was long known, in our interior, as the
"Old Field School."
An old field, denuded of its soil by long cultivation, was aban-
doned to the waste. Possibly an ancient log-cabin still remained
upon it. This was repaired, or a new one built, and this always in
some spot sufficiently contiguous to the more populous settlements.
The children, girls and boys, were frequently taught together, in
the same low edifice, and might be seen daily, trudging to their
tasks, bearing in their satchels bread and meat rather than books.
Books were scarce. A few will always suffice where the school-
master himself is competent, and has the judgment to perceive how
superior to every other was the ancient system of oral instruction.