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Henry Clay
by [?]

On the dresser is a pitcher of freshly clipped roses, the morning dew still upon them, and you only cease to admire as you espy your mail that lies there awaiting your hand. News from home and loved ones greets you before these new-found friends do! You have not seen the good folks who live here, only the old colored man who pretended that he was going to kill cock-robin, and didn’t. The hospitality is not gushing or effusive–the place is yours, that’s all, and you lean out of the window and look down at the flowerbeds, and wonder at the silence and the quiet and peace, and feel sorry for the folks who live in Cincinnati and Chicago. The soughing of the wind through the pines comes to you like the murmur of the sea, and breaking in on the stillness you hear the sharp sound of an ax–some Gladstone chopping, miles and miles away.

Your dreams are broken by a gentle tap at the door and your host has come to call on you. You know him at once, even though you have never before met, for men who think alike and feel alike do not have to “get acquainted.” Heart speaks to heart.

He only wishes to say that your coming is a pleasure to all the family at Ashland, the library is yours as well as the whole place, lunch is at one o’clock, and George will get you anything you wish. And back in the shadow of the hallway you catch sight of the old colored man and see him bow low when his name is mentioned.

Ashland is probably in better condition today than when Henry Clay worked and planned, and superintended its fair acres. The place has seen vicissitudes since the body of the man who gave it immortality lay in state here in July, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-two. But Major McDowell’s wife is the granddaughter of Henry Clay, and it seems meet that the descendants of the great man should possess Ashland. Major McDowell has means and taste and the fine pride that would preserve all the traditions of the former master. The six hundred acres are in a high state of cultivation, and the cattle and horses are of the kinds that would have gladdened the heart of Clay.

In the library, halls and dining-room are various portraits of the great man, and at the turn of the stairs is a fine heroic bust, in bronze, of that lean face and form. Hundreds of his books are to be seen on the shelves, all marked and dog-eared and scribbled on, thus disproving much of that old cry that “Clay was not a student.” Some men are students only in youth, but Clay’s best reading was done when he was past fifty. The book habit grew upon him with the years.

Here are his pistols, spurs, saddle and memorandum-books. Here are letters, faded and yellow, dusted with black powder on ink that has been dry a hundred years, asking for office, or words of gracious thanks in token of benefits not forgot.

Off to the south stretches away a great forest of walnut, oak and chestnut trees–reminders of the vast forest that Daniel Boone knew. Many of these trees were here then, and here let them remain, said Henry Clay. And so today at Ashland, as at Hawarden, no tree is felled until it has been duly tried by the entire family and all has been said for and against the sentence of death. I heard Miss McDowell make an eloquent plea for an old oak that had been rather recklessly harboring mistletoe and many squirrels, until it was thought probable that, like our first parents, it might have a fall. It was a plea more eloquent than “O Woodman, spare that tree.” A reprieve for a year was granted; and I thought, as I cast my vote on the side of mercy, that the jury that could not be won by such a young woman as that was hopelessly dead at the top and more hollow at the heart than the old oak under whose boughs we sat.