“We bade farewell without a single regret to the old tub Astoria, and entered the narrow streets, reeking with the horrors of a thousand and one stenches, stumbling over the prostrate forms of sleeping negroes to the hotel, where we indulged once more in the luxury of a bath, which the nasty water of North Carolina had forbidden for many weary days. Suddenly the city was aroused by the roll of drums and the shouts of hundreds, calling to a mass meeting in Court House Square. Thither we followed the crowd, listening for awhile to the blatant Southern orators roaring about the future greatness of the ’Mother of Presidents,’ deploring the reign of carpet-baggers and calling for a white man’s government amidst the shouts of the great unwashed; while the sons of Ham looked silently and sullenly on.
“We gladly responded to the steamer’s shrill call and sailed away to our home in the great and glorious North.”
I gladly returned, like a tired child, to the kindly faces and hearty greetings of my loving and much loved father, mother, brothers, green fields, and all the beautiful children of summer.
“Born where the night owl hooted
to the stars,
Cradled where sunshine crept through leafy bars;
Reared where wild roses bloomed most fair,
And songs of meadow larks made glad the summer air,
“Each dainty zephyr whispers follow
Ten thousand leaflets beckon from each tree;
All say, ’why give a life to longings vain?
Leave fame and gold: come home: come home again.’
“I hear the forest murmuring ‘he
A feathered chorus’ joyous welcome home;
Each flower that nods a greeting seems a part
Of nature’s welcome back to nature’s heart.”
The old home was much changed, and for the better. With much patient toil, the unsightly rocks and stumps had been removed from the fields which sloped gracefully to the little river and were covered with tall, waving, luxuriant grasses, starred with buttercups, clover, and daisies. The dilapidated house and barn had given place to modern buildings; apple, pear, and peach-trees, covered with fragrant blossoms were substituted for their decayed and skeleton prototypes; the narrow, crooked, muddy lane, where horses and wagons had struggled through the knee-deep, and often hub-deep sticky clay, had become a firm and fairly straight highway.
My house in the tree on the hilltop, where I had often rehearsed my orations and sermons in such stentorian tones that the amazed cows lifted their tails on high and took to their heels, welcomed me back embowered in leafy new-grown branches.
My second brother, realizing that as “unto the bow the cord is, as unto the child the mother, so unto man the woman is—useless one without the other,” had taken unto himself a good wife, the daughter of the deacon, our next neighbor. My mother thus had a much needed helper, as their farms, like their owners, were joined in wedlock.