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Henry Clay
by [?]

The city of Lexington contains about twenty-five thousand inhabitants. In Lexington two distinct forms of civilization meet.

One is the civilization of the F.F.V., converted into that peculiar form of noblesse known the round world over as the Blue-Grass Aristocracy. Blue-Grass Society represents leisure and luxury and the generous hospitality of friendships generations old; it means broad acres, noble mansions reached by roadways that stray under wide-spreading oaks and elms where squirrels chatter and mild-eyed cows look at you curiously; it means apple-orchards, gardens lined with boxwood, capacious stables and long lines of whitewashed cottages, around which swarm a dark cloud of dependents who dance and sing and laugh–and work when they have to.

Over against these there are to be seen trolley-cars, electric lights, smart rows of new brick houses on lots thirty by one hundred, negro policemen in uniforms patterned after those worn by the Broadway Squad, streets torn up by sewers and conduits, steam-rollers with an unsavory smell of tar and asphalt, push-buttons and a Hello-Exchange.

As to which form of civilization is the more desirable is a question that is usually answered by taste and temperament. One thing sure, and that is, that a pride which swings to t’other side and becomes vanity is often an element in both. Each could learn something of the other. Lots that you can jump across, rented to families of ten, with land a mile away that can be bought for fifty dollars an acre, are not an ideal condition.

On the other hand, inside the city limits of Lexington are mansions surrounded by an even hundred acres. But at some of these, gates are off their hinges, pickets have been borrowed for kindling, creeping vines and long grass o’ertop the walls of empty stables, and a forest of weeds insolently invades the spot where once nestled milady’s flower-garden.

Slowly but surely the Blue-Grass Aristocracy is giving way to purslane or asphalt, moving into flats, and allowing the boomer to plat its fair acres–running excursion-trains to attend auction-sales where all the lots are corner lots and are to be bought on the installment plan, which plan is said by a cynic to give the bicycle face.

Just across from Ashland is a beautiful estate, recently sold at a sacrifice to a man from Massachusetts, by the name of Douglas, who I am told is bald through lack of hair and makes three-dollar shoes. The stately old mansion mourns its former masters–all are gone–and a thrifty German is plowing up the lawn, that the cows of the Douglas (tender and true) may eat early clover.

But Ashland is there today in all the beauty and loveliness that Henry Clay knew when he wrote to Benton: “I love old Ashland, and all these acres with their trees and flowers and growing grain lure me in a way that ambition never can. No, I remain at Ashland.”

The rambling old house is embowered in climbing vines and clambering rosebushes and is set thick about with cedars, so that you can scarcely see the chimney-tops above the mass of green. A lane running through locust-trees planted by Henry Clay’s own hands leads you to the hospitable, wide-open door, where a colored man, whose black face is set in a frame of wool, smiles a welcome. He relieves you of your baggage and leads the way to your room.

The summer breeze blows lazily in through the open window, and the only sound of life and activity about seems to center in two noisy robins which are making a nest in the eaves, right within reach of your hand. The colored man apologizes for them, anathematizes them mildly, and proposes to drive them away, but you restrain him. After the man has gone you bethink you that the suggestion of driving the birds away was only the white lie of society (for even black folks tell white lies), and the old man probably had no more intent of driving the birds away than of going himself.