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Literature Discussion - Lit-Talk.com
By Una Howell (USA - 1876-1949)
Chapter 6 - Arrival
Copyright Scott Dunbar 2010
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With the coming of vacation, Humphrey Howell had returned to Newark and he and Sally danced and played together. They had known one another from the first day of Grandfather’s entrance into the Welsh church, and though they had been separated through the school years, they had found that out of sight was not out of mind. Ambition which had seized Humphrey with a stranglehold was quietly undergoing a siege at the hands of the fair, red-haired damsel. With difficulty he set his thoughts of marriage aside and in autumn departed for the Michigan campus.
When Sally’s face began to appear on the margins of his text books, he found it difficult to combat. He thought long and arduously on the subject. Marrying her, he decided would lessen the strain of legal training and facilitate his graduation from law school. He put his proposal to Sally and found her more than eager. The following fall in September [2 September 1864], in the little church they had always known, they repeated their vows and said goodbye forever to the group that had witnessed their flowering.
Humphrey still had two years’ work ahead before he could acquire his degree and Sally and he found a cheerful room and settled down to a new and delightful experience. Women were not admitted to the law school at Michigan. Those were the days when women’s brains were thought to be inferior to the males, so Sally had lots of idle time. She was animated and attractive, and the young couple were quickly taken under the wings of the seasoned faculty group. Humphrey’s professors liked her for her youth and enthusiasm, and she was invited to attend classes as a guest whenever she wished. She accepted their invitations and also every day occupied a chair beside Humphrey.
Through two semesters the pair were absorbed in planning their future. They were eager to start life in a new community and Missouri caught their attention. Then a new and consuming interest announced itself and financial security for their baby became of paramount importance. Humphrey worked with renewed determination, consulted his professors and friends, and charted his career with care.
The long summer gave them time to complete their plans and prepare for the momentous event. Ann Arbor’s doors had barely opened in the fall when the stork express delivered a small blonde son, and Mother’s gratuitous law course was ended. That winter was packed with new-baby interests, with chores, and disturbed nights. They kept their domestic keel straight however, and before Humphrey’s scroll was safe in his grasp, their fate was definitely tied to Springfield, Missouri. In June  they packed their belongings, bundled up the baby and set out for the Ozarks and adventure.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The civil war had seriously disrupted the pursuits of the people and it had definitely interfered with the completion of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad to Springfield. Tracks were laid only as far as Rolla and from there travel had to be by stage or team. Father’s farm life had accustomed him to horses. Driving a good team lifted his spirits so when the little engine that had chugged them from St. Louis to Rolla had blown off steam, and the conductor had cleared out the coaches of passengers and luggage, Mother huddled beside the bags and baskets on the depot platform while Father went in search of a livery stable for a team with which to complete their journey.
The livery stable, like the barber shop of the corner grocery in winter, was at that time a clearing-house for information. In summer a group of men sat about the stable chewing tobacco and exchanging yarns. If a newcomer asked for road directions, he could be sure that one of the none-too-kindly gossipers would be able to offers a suggestion at least.
The stable across the street furnished a new picture to Mother as she paced back and forth with the baby in her arms. She began to wonder what living in the wilds of Missouri would be like. Her family in Ohio had been sure that she would have to pick off a stray Indian or two a day in order to keep them from stealing her baby.
“Well, if she had to, she would,” was her conclusion, for in her own words she was ‘so in love with Humphrey she’d have gone to sit on the horn of the moon with him.’
Father was not gone a great while and, well provided with free advice given by the tobacco-chewing sitters around the livery stable, he drew the buggy in beside the station platform and ‘cramped’ the buggy so Mother could get in. Once she and the baby were comfortably settled on the seat, he stowed the luggage wherever he could and they set out slowly and painstakingly. They were not only unfamiliar with the roads but the people were unlike the men and women of their acquaintance. Father had had the route charted by the livery stable owner, but he was determined not to lose his way. He was a great one to ask questions anyway, and the people of whom he asked them were usually drivers of wagons loaded with one thing or another. The directions were not always lucid.
“You go a right smart piece down yonder road till you come to a broken down fence, then turn right and foller acrost the creek till you see a pasture with cows a’grazin’. Them’s the Titcomb’s and ef they aint plum full up they’ll keep ye overnight.”
Sometimes he abandoned directions altogether and let the horses guide them. Now, coming on a cabin in a clearing as the sun was setting, they decided to ask for shelter.
Tales about the undesirable inhabitants who had sought protection in the uncleared timber of this region were not uncommon. Outlaws and counterfeiters were plentiful. Mother was tired, and the baby, though good needed food and care, so Father pulled up the team and went over to the door of the rude log cabin. A woman answered the knock.
Father doffed his hat in his best style and begged to learn if by any chance it would be possible to find shelter for his family and himself for the night. The woman was somewhat taken aback, looked him over and said:
“I’ll ask him.”
The ‘him’ meaning her man, and disappeared. She was gone for some moments and when she returned she said:
“He says ye kin come in ef ye can put up with what we was.”
Father thanked her and hurried out to get Mother and see to his horses. The outlook was not calculated to put them in the best of spirits. However Father and Mother were both very warm-hearted and any critical attitude they might have shown would have been decried by themselves as unworthy. The living provisions inside the cabin were crude. One large room, and a loft above reached by a wall ladder, comprised the entire lay-out. Outside there was a barn with a lean-to, a shed and a corn-crib. Those were the days when a bedstead had but one leg, a corner being utilized for the other three. The first Mother saw on entering was a large woman supported by a huge pillow, sitting upright in a bed in the corner. Her hair was stringy and her color sallow but she said: “Howdy,” as they entered.
At the opposite end of the room and against the outer wall a younger woman was preparing supper on a stove. Father and Mother were hungry and had timed their visit well for the meal was almost ready. In the center of the floor a long table was set with places for eight or ten people, and benches were placed on either side. The odor of the food after a long day’s driving seemed good but the provisions for cleaning up were crude. Father washed at the bench the men used outdoors and Mother’s washcloth did yeoman service for her and the baby.
She was genuinely startled when the horn announcing ‘grub’ was blown and the men filed in and sat at either side of the table. Conversation was scant, Mother was busy with the baby, and it seemed kinder to be quiet.
“You don’t look as if you’re used to doin’ your own reaching,” the woman said to Mother, “but you’d better set, and we’ll do what we kin by ye.”
Mother wasn’t sure she understood the implications of the comment so she smiled and followed Father to the table.
Neither Father nor Mother was familiar with the fare of Missouri. They served themselves the fried salt pork and hominy and tasted it gingerly. After all one could always fall back on bread and butter. The food was piled on the table in huge dishes and the hired help made quick work of eating. Curiously there was no bread on the table. One of the hungrier males asked for some. The woman who had prepared the meal rose and went to the cupboard but her search was unsuccessful. She paused and then the voice of the sick woman drawled:
“Sary, remember you put hit to my feet when hit come out the oven?”
Strangely enough Sary hadn’t remembered but now she hurried over to the bed and rummaging under the covers brought out the lost loaf and carried it to the table. The boarders ate heartily, they were not squeamish, but there were two whose appetites had suffered a setback and they were unable to enjoy the ‘light bread.’
Father and Mother studied the faces of the people about the table. They were new at this business of pioneering and would gladly have gone to bed at once but they hesitated to ask where they were to sleep. As soon as the meal was over the younger men filed outdoors again and the head of the family lighted his pipe and settled down for a smoke. Occasionally he asked a question in a dialect not too easy to understand.
“Where was they bound fer, where was their kin?” father answered courteously.
The dishes were washed and put away and an air of restlessness seem to pervade the room. One by one the men returned and stood awkwardly by the door. Fantastic tales of mountain families that disposed of their victims by means of a trap door in the floor, flashed through the minds of the two visitors. Just when they were wondering what they could do, the older man rose and said,
“Strangers, we usually mind to have a prayer before we turn in. If you keer to jine us you kin.”
With that he went to the cupboard and from the top shelf reached for a worn Bible. In a quiet voice he read a few passages from Psalms, offered a simple prayer, and returned the book to its shelf. Grateful and humbled at having suspected their simple-hearted host, the young couple climbed the ladder and spent the night between uninviting feather beds with the baby between them.
It was next to impossible to sleep. New experiences were crowding too fast to be properly assimilated and evaluated. From sheer exhaustion Mother finally drifted off to dream that Indians came each day to shoot at them with poisoned arrows and the house took fire, and she awoke to the smell of Missouri “sow-belly” frying in a skillet.
Day begins early on a farm and the young pair were soon on the road resuming their journey. They were thoroughly tired when on the third day as the sun was about to set, they rumbled into Springfield and rented a room at a board-house on Booneville street, there to begin a long-hoped-for and adventurous life.
Cymric Strain, by Una Howell (USA - 1876-1949)
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 - Father
Chapter 3 - Dartmouth
Chapter 4 - Killolog
Chapter 5 - America
Chapter 6 - Arrival
Chapter 7 - Gracious Living
Chapter 8 - I Am Born
Chapter 9 - My Name
Chapter 10 - Neighbors
Chapter 11 - The Cyclone
Chapter 12 - The Old cemetery
Chapter 13 - Music
Chapter 14 - Religion
Chapter 15 - The Circuit
Chapter 16 - Hero No. 1
Chapter 17 - Pageantry
Chapter 18 - Mommy
Chapter 19 - Mental Quirks
Chapter 20 - Decoration
Chapter 21 - Domestic Animals
Chapter 22 - Episode
Chapter 23 - Barn Life
Chapter 24 - Vanities
Chapter 25 - Happy Hollow
Chapter 26 - New Horizons
Chapter 27 - Disciplines
Chapter 28 - An Experimenter
Chapter 29 - Health
Chapter 30 - Murder
Chapter 31 - Misunderstandings
Chapter 32 - Charm
Chapter 33 - Problems
Chapter 34 -Coming Events, Etc.
Chapter 35 - The Wedding
Chapter 36 - At Home
Chapter 37 - Cross Currents
Chapter 38 - A Baby
Chapter 39 - Dr. Winston
Chapter 40 - The Visitor
Chapter 41 - Buffetings
Chapter 42 - Agenda
Chapter 43 - David
Chapter 44 - Exit