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their sturdy families sat contentedly, watching the flames as they leaped up the chimney. But these roaring fires meant work. During the day the wood-chopper seemed to hear them forever crying “more, more," and if by illchance they went out at night, there were no matches to rekindle them. That had to be done by striking a spark with flint and steel, catching it on a bit of halfburnt rag, and then blowing that spark to a flame. If we are tempted to envy our ancestors their cozy winter evenings, probably few envy them their winter mornings in case the fire failed to keep over.
9. The cooking was done either over or before these open fires, or in huge brick ovens. The food was very simple, — often nothing more than mush and molasses for breakfast, — but there was plenty of it, and no lack of healthy appetite.
The farmer bought little at the store. He raised his own food; his sheep furnished wool, and his wife and daughters spun and wove it into stout “homespun cloth. In such households there were few idle days, but many happy ones; and for recreation the young people had sleighing parties, husking-bees, general trainings, and other merry-makings.
10. In the cities and large towns, and on the great plantations at the South, there was a good deal of luxury. The rich lived in stately mansions, furnished with solid oak and mahogany imported from England. Their tables shone with silver plate, and sparkled with costly wines. They owned their servants instead of hiring them. Gentlemen, when in full dress, wore three-cor
nered cocked hats, long velvet coats, lace ruffles at their wrists, knee breeches, white silk stockings, and shoes with silver buckles. They kept their hair long, powdered it white, and tied it back in a twist or queue with a black silk ribbon.
11. Ladies wore gowns of brocade and rich silk almost stiff enough to stand alone. They also powdered their. hair, so that all people of fashion, whether young or old, looked stately and venerable. In general, life moved in somewhat the same stately way: there was no hurrying to catch trains, no flashing of telegrams from one end of the country to the other, no newsboy shouting daily papers, no instantaneous photographs, no pushing and hustling in overcrowded streets. On Sunday every one, or practically every one, went to church; and, in New England, if a man was absent more than once without some very good reason, he was in great danger of making the acquaintance of the whipping-post.
12. People seldom traveled. When they did, they generally preferred going by water if possible, in order to avoid the bad roads. But as such traveling was wholly in sailing-vessels, the time when a man reached his destination depended altogether on the wind, and the wind made no promises. Knowing this fact, some chose to go by land. To accommodate these venturesome people a lumbering covered wagon ran once a week between New York and Philadelphia, traveling at the rate of about three miles an hour. Later (1766) an enterprising individual put on a wagon which actually made the trip of ninety miles in two days. On account of its
speed it was advertised as the “ Flying Machine”; the cheaper conveyances, which did not “fly,” took a day longer to make the journey. In the wet season of the year the passengers often worked their passage as well as paid for it, for they were frequently called on to get out and pry the wagon out of the mud with fencerails.
13. The expense of carrying the mails made postage so high that but few letters were written. These were rarely prepaid; and as a charge of twenty-five cents on a single letter was not very uncommon, most persons preferred that their friends should think of them often but write to them seldom.
14. Yet if people rarely wrote to each other and traveled but little, they were quite sure of being hospitably entertained along the way when they did venture from home. This was especially the case in Virginia. The rich planters in that section considered a guest a prize. He brought the latest news and the newest gossip. It was no strange thing for a planter to send out one of his negroes to station himself by the roadside to watch for the coming of some respectable-looking stranger on horseback. Then the servant, smiling and bowing, begged him to turn aside and stop over night at his master's mansion. There he was sure to be treated to the best there was in the house ; and as no temperance society had then come into existence, the best, both North and South, always meant plenty to drink as well as plenty to eat, followed perhaps by a fox-hunt, or some other sport, the next day.
15. But if the times were hospitable, they were also somewhat rough and even brutal. A trifling offence would often send a man to the stocks for meditation, and something more serious to the pillory, where passers-by might stop to pelt him with a handful of mud, a rotten apple, or something worse. Imprisonment for debt was an every day occurrence, and criminals who committed highway robbery or murder were first paraded through the principal streets and then hanged in public.
16. Most of the colonists, especially in New England, where free schools had long been established by law, could read and write fairly well; and a small number, particularly clergymen, were highly educated. Very few books were published, but the rich imported a stock of the best English authors, and, what is more, they read them. The two ablest American writers of that day were the Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts and Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia. Edwards wrote his great work “ On the Freedom of the Will” for that small number of readers who like a book that forces them to think as well as read. Not many can grasp Edwards's thought about the “ Will,” but we can all understand how nobly he used his own will when he made these two resolutions: 1. “To do whatever I think to be my duty.” 2. “To live with all my might while I do live.”
17. Franklin's best-known work was his Almanac, commonly called “Poor Richard's Almanac,” which he published for many years. It was full of shrewd, prac
tical wit and wisdom, and it suited a hard-working people. Men who had begun life with no help but such as they got from their own hands and their own brains liked to read such sayings as these : “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” “He that can have patience can have what he will.” “ Heaven helps those who help themselves.” Thousands of young men read these maxims, put them into practice, and found their reward in the prosperity and independence to which they led.
D. H. MONTGOMERY,
LIV. - ABRAM AND ZIMRI.
Abram and Zimri owned a field together, —
One night, before the sheaves were gathered in,