If it be true, as some have said, that a secret is safer in a preface than elsewhere, it would be worse than folly for me to waste the “midnight oil,” in the manufacture of an article which no one would read, and which would serve no purpose, save the adding of a page or so to a volume perhaps already too large. But I do not think so. I wot of a few who, with a horror of anything savoring of humbug, wade industriously through a preface, be it never so lengthy, hoping therein to find the moral, without which the story would, of course, be valueless. To such I would say, seek no further, for though I claim for “’Lena Rivers,” a moral—yes, half a dozen morals, if you please—I shall not put them in the preface, as I prefer having them sought after, for what I have written I wish to have read.
Reared among the rugged hills of the Bay State, and for a time constantly associated with a class of people known the wide world over as Yankees, it is no more than natural that I should often write of the places and scenes with which I have been the most familiar. In my delineations of New England character I have aimed to copy from memory, and in no one instance, I believe, have I overdrawn the pictures; for among the New England mountains there lives many a “Grandma Nichols,” a “Joel Slocum,” or a “Nancy Scovandyke,” while the wide world holds more than one ’Lena, with her high temper, extreme beauty, and rare combination of those qualities which make the female character so lovely.
Nearly the same remarks will also apply to my portraitures of Kentucky life and character, for it has been my good fortune to spend a year and a half in that state, and in my descriptions of country lanes and country life, I have with a few exceptions copied from what I saw. Mrs. Livingstone and Mrs. Graham are characters found everywhere, while the impulsive John Jr., and the generous-hearted Durward, represent a class of individuals who belong more exclusively to the “sunny south.”
I have endeavored to make this book both a good and an interesting one, and if I have failed in my attempt, it is too late to remedy it now; and, such as it is, I give it to the world, trusting that the same favor and forbearance which have been awarded to my other works, will also be extended to this.
M. J. H.
Brockport, N. Y., October, 1856.
For many days the storm continued. Highways were blocked up, while roads less frequented were rendered wholly impassable. The oldest inhabitants of Oakland had “never seen the like before,” and they shook their gray heads ominously as over and adown the New England mountains the howling wind swept furiously, now shrieking exultingly as one by one the huge forest trees bent before its power, and again dying away in a low, sad wail, as it shook the casement of some low-roofed cottage, where the blazing fire, “high piled upon the hearth,” danced merrily to the sound of the storm-wind, and then, whirling in fantastic circles, disappeared up the broad-mouthed chimney.