"The way to mount a horse" - said the Professor.
"If you have no ladder - put in the Friend of Humanity."
The Professor had ridden through the war for the Union on the right
side, enjoying a much better view of it than if he had walked, and
knew as much about a horse as a person ought to know for the sake of
his character. The man who can recite the tales of the Canterbury
Pilgrims, on horseback, giving the contemporary pronunciation, never
missing an accent by reason of the trot, and at the same time witch
North Carolina and a strip of East Tennessee with his noble
horsemanship, is a kind of Literary Centaur of whose double
instruction any Friend of Humanity may be glad to avail himself.
"The way to mount a horse is to grasp the mane with the left hand
holding the bridle-rein, put your left foot in the stirrup, with the
right hand on the back of the saddle, and - -"
Just then the horse stepped quickly around on his hind feet,
and looked the Professor in the face. The Superintendents of
Affairs, who occupy the flagging in front of the hotel, seated in
cane-bottomed chairs tilted back, smiled. These useful persons appear
to have a life-lease of this portion of the city pavement, and pretty
effectually block it up nearly all day and evening. When a lady wishes
to make her way through the blockade, it is the habit of these
observers of life to rise and make room, touching their hats, while she
picks her way through, and goes down the street with a pretty
consciousness of the flutter she has caused. The war has not changed
the Southern habit of sitting out-of-doors, but has added a new element
of street picturesqueness in groups of colored people lounging about
the corners. There appears to be more leisure than ever.
The scene of this little lesson in horsemanship was the old town of
Abingdon, in southwest Virginia, on the Virginia and East Tennessee
railway; a town of ancient respectability, which gave birth to the
Johnstons and Floyds and other notable people; a town, that still
preserves the flavor of excellent tobacco and, something of the
easy-going habits of the days of slavery, and is a sort of educational
center, where the young ladies of the region add the final graces of
intellectual life in moral philosophy and the use of the globes to
their natural gifts. The mansion of the late and left Floyd is now a
seminary, and not far from it is the Stonewall Jackson Institute, in
the midst of a grove of splendid oaks, whose stately boles and
wide-spreading branches give a dignity to educational life. The
distinction of the region is its superb oak-trees. As it was
vacation in these institutions of learning, the travelers did not see
any of the vines that traditionally cling to the oak.