Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Joscelyn: A Tale of the Revolution >> Chapter XXIX: Fetes and Fates >> Page 253

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Page 253

Novel (Romance) | The Reprint Company | 1975, 1976
Transcription JOSCELYN253
of that race, which gradually breaks down the social barriers, and
accommodates itself to a more various convention.
Walter saw but few persons on his route, and still fewer habita-
tions. Here and there a cabin, possibly one, two or three, rarely
more, in a whole day's ride; and these were generally poor, low,
squalid habitations, indicating the very humblest beginnings of fron-
tier civilization. The inmates showing themselves at these cabins
were generally women; few men were to be seen, and these were
generally of the aged and infirm. The vigorous young men of the
country seemed generally to have disappeared. The women encoun-
tered the stranger with anxious looks, showed some reluctance to
entertain him, and were evidently relieved when he was about to
depart. The fare was very humble, being commonly nothing better
than hoecake and bacon. For this no charge was made usually, though
it was evident that something was expected. Such an extreme condi-
tion of poverty, of itself, sufficiently appeals to the liberality of the
guest.
Occasionally, as he rode, Walter encountered some wayfarer like
himself. But these all showed themselves singularly uncommunica-
tive. They passed hurriedly, at a trot mostly, sometimes at a canter,
eyeing the stranger askance, nodding, perhaps, and darting by with-
out a word. Most of them were armed, carrying the long rifle of
that day across the saddle, as if ready for immediate use.
Walter was slow to conceive the condition of the country. He could
not persuade himself that this was war; the evidence, at all events, of
that approaching conflict, which was to spread throughout the coun-
try, and cover the face of the land with blood. Surprised at the
strangeness in this conduct of the men, as well as the women, he yet
did not rise to the full appreciation of those popular moods which
needed nothing but leadership, a popular cry, some sudden outburst
of passion in the multitude, here and there, to set all the sleeping
volcanoes in a flame.
Though surprised, and somewhat wondering at what he saw, he
was not disposed to resent the rude indifference of those whom he
met, and from whom he failed, to extract a civil or satisfactory an-
swer. His own moods were of a sort too vexing to make him desirous
of much companionship, or social intercourse of any kind. He rode
on, brooding over his own melancholy experiences, preferring that he