A New Home: Who'll Follow
Life in the Clearings
First published in 1839
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I have not said a single word as yet of our neighbor Tinkerville; a village whose rising fortunes have given occasion for more discussion in the select circles of Montacute than anything but the plan of the new school-house. I know this rambling gossiping style, this going back to take up dropped stitches, is not the orthodox way of telling one's story; and if I thought I could do any better, I would certainly go back and begin at the very beginning; but I feel conscious that the truly feminine sin of talking "about it and about it," the unconquerable partiality for wandering wordiness would cleave to me still; so I proceed in despair of improvement to touch upon such points in the history of Tinkerville as have seemed of vital and absorbing interest to the citizens of Montacute.
Tinkerville was originally one of the many speculations of the enterprising Mr. Mazard, and it differed from most of his landed property, in having been purchased at second hand. This fact was often mentioned in his proffers of sale, as a reason why the tract could not be afforded quite so low as was his general practice. He omitted to state, that he bought of a person who, having purchased at the land -office without viewing, was so entirely discouraged when he saw the woody swamp in which he was to pitch his tent, that he was glad to sell out to our speculator at a large discount, and try elsewhere on the old and sound principle of "look before you leap." The tract contained, as Mr. Mazard's advertisment fairly set forth, "almost every variety of land;" and as he did not say which kind predominated, nobody could complain if imagination played tricks, as is sometimes the case in land-purchases.
An old gentleman of some property in Massachusetts became the fortunate owner of the emblazoned chart, which Mr. Mazard had caused to set forth the advantages of his choice location. There were canals and rail-roads, with boats and cars at full speed. There was a steam-mill, a wind-mill or two; for even a land-shark did not dare to put a stream where there was scarce running water for the cattle; and a state-road, which had at least been talked of, and a court-house and other county buildings, "all very grand;" for, as the spot was not more than ten miles from the centre of the county, it might some day become the county-seat. Besides all this, there was a large and elegantly-decorated space for the name of the happy purchaser, if he chose thus to dignify his future capital.
Mr. Tinker was easily persuaded that the cherished surname of his ancestors would blend most musically with the modern and very genteel termination in which so many of our western villages glory; so Tinkerville was appointed to fill the trump of fame and the blank on the chart; and Mr. Mazard furnished with full powers, took out the charter, staked out the streets, where he could get them, and peddled out the lots, and laid out the money, all very much to his own satisfaction; Mr. Tinker rejoicing that he had happened to obtain so "enterprising" an agent.
We were not informed what were the internal sensations of the lot-holders, when they brought their families, and came to take possession of their various "stands for business." they were wise men; and having no money to carry them back they set about making the best of what they could find. And it is to be doubted whether Mr. Mazard's multifarious avocations permitted him to visit Tinkerville after the settlers began to come in. Many of them expressed themselves quite satisfied that there was an abundance of water there to duck a land-shark, if they could catch him near it; and Mr. Mazard was a wise man, too.
While the little settlement was gradually increasing, and a store had been, as we were told, added to its many advantages and attractions, we heard that the padrone of Tinkerville had sold out; but whether from the fear that the income from his Michigan property would scarce become tangible before his great grandson's time, or whether some Bangor Mr. Mazard had offered him a tempting bargain nearer home, remains to us unknown. It was enough for Montacute to discover that the new owners were "enterprising men." This put us all upon the alert.
The Tinkervillians, who were obliged to come to us for grinding until their wind-mills could be erected, talked much of a new hotel, a school-house, and a tannery; all which, they averred, were "going up" immediately. They turned up their noses at our squint-eyed "Montacute house," expressing themselves certain of getting the county honors, and ended by trying to entice away our blacksmith. But our Mr. Porter, who "had a soul above buttons," scorned their arts, and would have none of their counsel. Mr. Simeon Jenkins did, I fear, favorably incline to their side; but on its being whispered to him that Montacute had determined upon employing a singing-master next winter; he informed the ambassadors, who were no doubt spies in disguise, that he would never be so selfish as to prefer his own interest to the public good. No one thought of analyzing so patriotic a sentiment, or it might have been doubted whether Mr. Jenkins sacrificed so much in remaining to exercise his many trades, where there were twice as many people to profit by them as he would find at Tinkerville.
The Grandeur that was Tinkerville
Mrs. Rivers and I had long been planning a ride on horseback; and when the good stars were in conjunction, so that two horses and two saddles were to be had at one time, we determined to wend our resolute way as far as Tinkerville, to judge for ourselves of the state of the enemy's preparations. We set out soon after breakfast in high style; my Eclipse being Mr. Jenkins's "old Governor," seventeen last grass; and my fair companion's a twenty-dollar Indian pony, age undecided—men's saddles of course, for the settlement boasts no other as yet; and, by way of luxury, a large long-woolled sheepskin strapped over each.
We jogged on charmingly, now through woods cool and moist as the grotto of Undine, and carpeted everywhere with strawberry vines and thousands of flowers; now across strips of open land where you could look through the straight-stemmed and scattered groves for miles on each side. A marsh or two were to be passed, so said our most minute directions, and then we should come to the trail through deep woods, which would lead us in a short time to the emerging glories of our boastful neighbor.
We found the marshes, without difficulty, and soon afterwards the trail, and D'Orsay's joyous bark, as he ran far before us, told that he had made some discovery. "Deer, perhaps," said I. It was only an Indian, and when I stopped and tried to inquire whether we were in the right track, he could not be made to understand but gave the usual assenting grunt and passed on.
When I turned to speak to my companion she was so ashy pale that I feared she must fall from her horse.
"What is the matter, my dearest madam!" said I, going as near her as I could coax old Governor.
"The Indian! the Indian!" was all she could utter. I was terribly puzzled. It had never occurred to me that the Indians would naturally be objects of terror to a young lady who had scarcely ever seen one; and I knew we should prob ably meet dozens of them in the course of our short ride.
I said all I could, and she tried her best to seem courageous, and, after she had rallied her spirits a little, we proceeded, thinking the end of our journey could not be distant, especially as we saw several log-houses at intervals which we supposed were the outskirts of Tinkerville.
But we were disappointed in this; for the road led through a marsh, and then through woods again, and such tangled woods, that I began to fear, in my secret soul, that we had wandered far from our track, betrayed by D'Orsay's frolics.
I was at length constrained to hint to my pale companion my misgivings, and to propose a return to the nearest log hut for information. Without a word she wheeled her shaggy pony, and, in a few minutes, we found ourselves at the bars belonging to the last log-house we had passed.
A wretched looking woman was washing at the door.
"Can you tell us which is the road to Tinkerville?"
"Well, I guess you can't miss it if you follow your own tracks. It a'n't long since you came through it. That big stump is the middle of the public square."
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