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Life On The Mississippi, Part 9. by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

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Chapter 52 A Burning Brand

ALL at once the thought came into my mind, 'I have not sought out Mr.

Upon that text I desire to depart from the direct line of my subject,
and make a little excursion. I wish to reveal a secret which I have
carried with me nine years, and which has become burdensome.

Upon a certain occasion, nine years ago, I had said, with strong
feeling, 'If ever I see St. Louis again, I will seek out Mr. Brown, the
great grain merchant, and ask of him the privilege of shaking him by the

The occasion and the circumstances were as follows. A friend of mine, a
clergyman, came one evening and said--

'I have a most remarkable letter here, which I want to read to you,
if I can do it without breaking down. I must preface it with some
explanations, however. The letter is written by an ex-thief and
ex-vagabond of the lowest origin and basest rearing, a man all stained with
crime and steeped in ignorance; but, thank God, with a mine of pure gold
hidden away in him, as you shall see. His letter is written to a burglar
named Williams, who is serving a nine-year term in a certain State
prison, for burglary. Williams was a particularly daring burglar, and
plied that trade during a number of years; but he was caught at last and
jailed, to await trial in a town where he had broken into a house at
night, pistol in hand, and forced the owner to hand over to him $8,000
in government bonds. Williams was not a common sort of person, by any
means; he was a graduate of Harvard College, and came of good New
England stock. His father was a clergyman. While lying in jail, his
health began to fail, and he was threatened with consumption. This fact,
together with the opportunity for reflection afforded by solitary
confinement, had its effect--its natural effect. He fell into serious
thought; his early training asserted itself with power, and wrought with
strong influence upon his mind and heart. He put his old life behind
him, and became an earnest Christian. Some ladies in the town heard of
this, visited him, and by their encouraging words supported him in his
good resolutions and strengthened him to continue in his new life. The
trial ended in his conviction and sentence to the State prison for the
term of nine years, as I have before said. In the prison he became
acquainted with the poor wretch referred to in the beginning of my talk,
Jack Hunt, the writer of the letter which I am going to read. You will
see that the acquaintanceship bore fruit for Hunt. When Hunt's time was
out, he wandered to St. Louis; and from that place he wrote his letter
to Williams. The letter got no further than the office of the prison
warden, of course; prisoners are not often allowed to receive letters
from outside. The prison authorities read this letter, but did not
destroy it. They had not the heart to do it. They read it to several
persons, and eventually it fell into the hands of those ladies of whom I
spoke a while ago. The other day I came across an old friend of mine--a
clergyman--who had seen this letter, and was full of it. The mere
remembrance of it so moved him that he could not talk of it without his
voice breaking. He promised to get a copy of it for me; and here it is
--an exact copy, with all the imperfections of the original preserved. It
has many slang expressions in it--thieves' argot--but their meaning has
been interlined, in parentheses, by the prison authorities'--

St. Louis, June 9th 1872.

Mr. W---- friend Charlie if i may call you so: i no you are surprised
to get a letter from me, but i hope you won't be mad at my writing to
you. i want to tell you my thanks for the way you talked to me when i
was in prison--it has led me to try and be a better man; i guess you
thought i did not cair for what you said, & at the first go off I
didn't, but i noed you was a man who had don big work with good men &
want no sucker, nor want gasing & all the boys knod it.

I used to think at nite what you said, & for it i nocked off swearing
months before my time was up, for i saw it want no good, nohow--the day
my time was up you told me if i would shake the cross (QUIT STEALING) &
live on the square for months, it would be the best job i ever done in
my life. The state agent give me a ticket to here, & on the car i
thought more of what you said to me, but didn't make up my mind. When
we got to Chicago on the cars from there to here, I pulled off an old
woman's leather; (ROBBED HER OF HER POCKETBOOK) i hadn't no more than
got it off when i wished i hadn't done it, for awhile before that i made
up my mind to be a square bloke, for months on your word, but forgot it
when i saw the leather was a grip (EASY TO GET)--but i kept clos to her
& when she got out of the cars at a way place i said, marm have you lost
anything. & she tumbled (DISCOVERED) her leather was off (GONE)--is this
it says i, giving it to her--well if you aint honest, says she, but i
hadn't got cheak enough to stand that sort of talk, so i left her in a
hurry. When i got here i had $1 and 25 cents left & i didn't get no work
for 3 days as i aint strong enough for roust about on a steam bote (FOR
A DECK HAND)--The afternoon of the 3rd day I spent my last 10 cts for
moons (LARGE, ROUND SEA-BISCUIT) & cheese & i felt pretty rough & was
thinking i would have to go on the dipe (PICKING POCKETS) again, when i
thought of what you once said about a fellows calling on the Lord when
he was in hard luck, & i thought i would try it once anyhow, but when i
tryed it i got stuck on the start, & all i could get off wos, Lord give
a poor fellow a chance to square it for 3 months for Christ's sake,
amen; & i kept a thinking, of it over and over as i went along--about an
hour after that i was in 4th St. & this is what happened & is the cause
of my being where i am now & about which i will tell you before i get
done writing. As i was walking along herd a big noise & saw a horse
running away with a carriage with 2 children in it, & I grabed up a
peace of box cover from the side walk & run in the middle of the street,
& when the horse came up i smashed him over the head as hard as i could
drive--the bord split to peces & the horse checked up a little & I
grabbed the reigns & pulled his head down until he stopped--the
gentleman what owned him came running up & soon as he saw the children
were all rite, he shook hands with me and gave me a $50 green back, & my
asking the Lord to help me come into my head, & i was so thunderstruck i
couldn't drop the reigns nor say nothing--he saw something was up, &
coming back to me said, my boy are you hurt? & the thought come into my
head just then to ask him for work; & i asked him to take back the bill
and give me a job--says he, jump in here & lets talk about it, but keep
the money--he asked me if i could take care of horses & i said yes, for
i used to hang round livery stables & often would help clean & drive
horses, he told me he wanted a man for that work, & would give me $16 a
month & bord me. You bet i took that chance at once. that nite in my
little room over the stable i sat a long time thinking over my past life
& of what had just happened & i just got down on my nees & thanked the
Lord for the job & to help me to square it, & to bless you for putting
me up to it, & the next morning i done it again & got me some new togs
(CLOTHES) & a bible for i made up my mind after what the Lord had done
for me i would read the bible every nite and morning, & ask him to keep
an eye on me. When I had been there about a week Mr. Brown (that's his
name) came in my room one nite and saw me reading the bible--he asked me
if i was a Christian & i told him no--he asked me how it was i read the
bible instead of papers & books--Well Charlie i thought i had better
give him a square deal in the start, so i told him all about my being in
prison & about you, & how i had almost done give up looking for work &
how the Lord got me the job when I asked him; & the only way i had to
pay him back was to read the bible & square it, & i asked him to give me
a chance for 3 months--he talked to me like a father for a long time, &
told me i could stay & then i felt better than ever i had done in my
life, for i had given Mr. Brown a fair start with me & now i didn't fear
no one giving me a back cap (EXPOSING HIS PAST LIFE) & running me off
the job--the next morning he called me into the library & gave me
another square talk, & advised me to study some every day, & he would
help me one or 2 hours every nite, & he gave me a Arithmetic, a spelling
book, a Geography & a writing book, & he hers me every nite--he lets me
come into the house to prayers every morning, & got me put in a bible
class in the Sunday School which i likes very much for it helps me to
understand my bible better.

Now, Charlie the 3 months on the square are up 2 months ago, & as you
said, it is the best job i ever did in my life, & i commenced another of
the same sort right away, only it is to God helping me to last a
lifetime Charlie--i wrote this letter to tell you I do think God has
forgiven my sins & herd your prayers, for you told me you should pray
for me--i no i love to read his word & tell him all my troubles & he
helps me i know for i have plenty of chances to steal but i don't feel
to as i once did & now i take more pleasure in going to church than to
the theater & that wasnt so once--our minister and others often talk
with me & a month ago they wanted me to join the church, but I said no,
not now, i may be mistaken in my feelings, i will wait awhile, but now i
feel that God has called me & on the first Sunday in July i will join
the church--dear friend i wish i could write to you as i feel, but i
cant do it yet--you no i learned to read and write while prisons & i
aint got well enough along to write as i would talk; i no i aint spelled
all the words rite in this & lots of other mistakes but you will excuse
it i no, for you no i was brought up in a poor house until i run away, &
that i never new who my father and mother was & i dont no my right name,
& i hope you wont be mad at me, but i have as much rite to one name as
another & i have taken your name, for you wont use it when you get out i
no, & you are the man i think most of in the world; so i hope you wont
be mad--I am doing well, i put $10 a month in bank with $25 of the $50--
if you ever want any or all of it let me know, & it is yours. i wish you
would let me send you some now. I send you with this a receipt for a
year of Littles Living Age, i didn't know what you would like & i told
Mr. Brown & he said he thought you would like it--i wish i was nere you
so i could send you chuck (REFRESHMENTS) on holidays; it would spoil
this weather from here, but i will send you a box next thanksgiving any
way--next week Mr. Brown takes me into his store as lite porter & will
advance me as soon as i know a little more--he keeps a big granary
store, wholesale--i forgot to tell you of my mission school, sunday
school class--the school is in the sunday afternoon, i went out two
sunday afternoons, and picked up seven kids (LITTLE BOYS) & got them to
come in. two of them new as much as i did & i had them put in a class
where they could learn something. i dont no much myself, but as these
kids cant read i get on nicely with them. i make sure of them by going
after them every Sunday hour before school time, I also got 4 girls to
come. tell Mack and Harry about me, if they will come out here when
their time is up i will get them jobs at once. i hope you will excuse
this long letter & all mistakes, i wish i could see you for i cant write
as i would talk--i hope the warm weather is doing your lungs good--i was
afraid when you was bleeding you would die--give my respects to all the
boys and tell them how i am doing--i am doing well and every one here
treats me as kind as they can--Mr. Brown is going to write to you
sometime--i hope some day you will write to me, this letter is from your
very true friend

C---- W----

who you know as Jack Hunt.

I send you Mr. Brown's card. Send my letter to him.

Here was true eloquence; irresistible eloquence; and without a single
grace or ornament to help it out. I have seldom been so deeply stirred
by any piece of writing. The reader of it halted, all the way through,
on a lame and broken voice; yet he had tried to fortify his feelings by
several private readings of the letter before venturing into company
with it. He was practising upon me to see if there was any hope of his
being able to read the document to his prayer-meeting with anything like
a decent command over his feelings. The result was not promising.
However, he determined to risk it; and did. He got through tolerably
well; but his audience broke down early, and stayed in that condition to
the end.

The fame of the letter spread through the town. A brother minister came
and borrowed the manuscript, put it bodily into a sermon, preached the
sermon to twelve hundred people on a Sunday morning, and the letter
drowned them in their own tears. Then my friend put it into a sermon and
went before his Sunday morning congregation with it. It scored another
triumph. The house wept as one individual.

My friend went on summer vacation up into the fishing regions of our
northern British neighbors, and carried this sermon with him, since he
might possibly chance to need a sermon. He was asked to preach, one day.
The little church was full. Among the people present were the late Dr.
J. G. Holland, the late Mr. Seymour of the 'New York Times,' Mr. Page,
the philanthropist and temperance advocate, and, I think, Senator Frye,
of Maine. The marvelous letter did its wonted work; all the people were
moved, all the people wept; the tears flowed in a steady stream down Dr.
Holland's cheeks, and nearly the same can be said with regard to all who
were there. Mr. Page was so full of enthusiasm over the letter that he
said he would not rest until he made pilgrimage to that prison, and had
speech with the man who had been able to inspire a fellow-unfortunate to
write so priceless a tract.

Ah, that unlucky Page!--and another man. If they had only been in
Jericho, that letter would have rung through the world and stirred all
the hearts of all the nations for a thousand years to come, and nobody
might ever have found out that it was the confoundedest, brazenest,
ingeniousest piece of fraud and humbuggery that was ever concocted to
fool poor confiding mortals with!

The letter was a pure swindle, and that is the truth. And take it by and
large, it was without a compeer among swindles. It was perfect, it was
rounded, symmetrical, complete, colossal!

The reader learns it at this point; but we didn't learn it till some
miles and weeks beyond this stage of the affair. My friend came back
from the woods, and he and other clergymen and lay missionaries began
once more to inundate audiences with their tears and the tears of said
audiences; I begged hard for permission to print the letter in a
magazine and tell the watery story of its triumphs; numbers of people
got copies of the letter, with permission to circulate them in writing,
but not in print; copies were sent to the Sandwich Islands and other far

Charles Dudley Warner was at church, one day, when the worn letter was
read and wept over. At the church door, afterward, he dropped a
peculiarly cold iceberg down the clergyman's back with the question--

'Do you know that letter to be genuine?'

It was the first suspicion that had ever been voiced; but it had that
sickening effect which first-uttered suspicions against one's idol
always have. Some talk followed--

'Why--what should make you suspect that it isn't genuine?'

'Nothing that I know of, except that it is too neat, and compact, and
fluent, and nicely put together for an ignorant person, an unpractised
hand. I think it was done by an educated man.'

The literary artist had detected the literary machinery. If you will
look at the letter now, you will detect it yourself--it is observable in
every line.

Straightway the clergyman went off, with this seed of suspicion
sprouting in him, and wrote to a minister residing in that town where
Williams had been jailed and converted; asked for light; and also asked
if a person in the literary line (meaning me) might be allowed to print
the letter and tell its history. He presently received this answer--

Rev. ---- ----

MY DEAR FRIEND,--In regard to that 'convict's letter' there can be no
doubt as to its genuineness. 'Williams,' to whom it was written, lay in
our jail and professed to have been converted, and Rev. Mr. ----, the
chaplain, had great faith in the genuineness of the change--as much as
one can have in any such case.

The letter was sent to one of our ladies, who is a Sunday-school
teacher,--sent either by Williams himself, or the chaplain of the
State's prison, probably. She has been greatly annoyed in having so
much publicity, lest it might seem a breach of confidence, or be an
injury to Williams. In regard to its publication, I can give no
permission; though if the names and places were omitted, and especially
if sent out of the country, I think you might take the responsibility
and do it.

It is a wonderful letter, which no Christian genius, much less one
unsanctified, could ever have written. As showing the work of grace in
a human heart, and in a very degraded and wicked one, it proves its own
origin and reproves our weak faith in its power to cope with any form of

'Mr. Brown' of St. Louis, some one said, was a Hartford man. Do all whom
you send from Hartford serve their Master as well?

P.S.--Williams is still in the State's prison, serving out a long
sentence--of nine years, I think. He has been sick and threatened with
consumption, but I have not inquired after him lately. This lady that I
speak of corresponds with him, I presume, and will be quite sure to look
after him.

This letter arrived a few days after it was written--and up went Mr.
Williams's stock again. Mr. Warner's low-down suspicion was laid in the
cold, cold grave, where it apparently belonged. It was a suspicion based
upon mere internal evidence, anyway; and when you come to internal
evidence, it's a big field and a game that two can play at: as witness
this other internal evidence, discovered by the writer of the note above
quoted, that 'it is a wonderful letter--which no Christian genius, much
less one unsanctified, could ever have written.'

I had permission now to print--provided I suppressed names and places
and sent my narrative out of the country. So I chose an Australian
magazine for vehicle, as being far enough out of the country, and set
myself to work on my article. And the ministers set the pumps going
again, with the letter to work the handles.

But meantime Brother Page had been agitating. He had not visited the
penitentiary, but he had sent a copy of the illustrious letter to the
chaplain of that institution, and accompanied it with--apparently
inquiries. He got an answer, dated four days later than that other
Brother's reassuring epistle; and before my article was complete, it
wandered into my hands. The original is before me, now, and I here
append it. It is pretty well loaded with internal evidence of the most
solid description--


DEAR BRO. PAGE,--Herewith please find the letter kindly loaned me. I am
afraid its genuineness cannot be established. It purports to be
addressed to some prisoner here. No such letter ever came to a prisoner
here. All letters received are carefully read by officers of the prison
before they go into the hands of the convicts, and any such letter could
not be forgotten. Again, Charles Williams is not a Christian man, but a
dissolute, cunning prodigal, whose father is a minister of the gospel.
His name is an assumed one. I am glad to have made your acquaintance. I
am preparing a lecture upon life seen through prison bars, and should
like to deliver the same in your vicinity.

And so ended that little drama. My poor article went into the fire; for
whereas the materials for it were now more abundant and infinitely
richer than they had previously been, there were parties all around me,
who, although longing for the publication before, were a unit for
suppression at this stage and complexion of the game. They said: 'Wait
--the wound is too fresh, yet.' All the copies of the famous letter
except mine disappeared suddenly; and from that time onward, the
aforetime same old drought set in in the churches. As a rule, the town
was on a spacious grin for a while, but there were places in it where
the grin did not appear, and where it was dangerous to refer to the
ex-convict's letter.

A word of explanation. 'Jack Hunt,' the professed writer of the letter,
was an imaginary person. The burglar Williams--Harvard graduate, son of
a minister--wrote the letter himself, to himself: got it smuggled out
of the prison; got it conveyed to persons who had supported and
encouraged him in his conversion--where he knew two things would happen:
the genuineness of the letter would not be doubted or inquired into; and
the nub of it would be noticed, and would have valuable effect--the
effect, indeed, of starting a movement to get Mr. Williams pardoned out
of prison.

That 'nub' is so ingeniously, so casually, flung in, and immediately
left there in the tail of the letter, undwelt upon, that an indifferent
reader would never suspect that it was the heart and core of the
epistle, if he even took note of it at all, This is the 'nub'--

'i hope the warm weather is doing your lungs good--I WAS AFRAID WHEN YOU
WAS BLEEDING YOU WOULD DIE--give my respects,' etc.

That is all there is of it--simply touch and go--no dwelling upon it.
Nevertheless it was intended for an eye that would be swift to see it;
and it was meant to move a kind heart to try to effect the liberation of
a poor reformed and purified fellow lying in the fell grip of

When I for the first time heard that letter read, nine years ago, I felt
that it was the most remarkable one I had ever encountered. And it so
warmed me toward Mr. Brown of St. Louis that I said that if ever I
visited that city again, I would seek out that excellent man and kiss
the hem of his garment if it was a new one. Well, I visited St. Louis,
but I did not hunt for Mr. Brown; for, alas! the investigations of long
ago had proved that the benevolent Brown, like 'Jack Hunt,' was not a
real person, but a sheer invention of that gifted rascal, Williams--
burglar, Harvard graduate, son of a clergyman.

Chapter 53 My Boyhood's Home

WE took passage in one of the fast boats of the St. Louis and St. Paul
Packet Company, and started up the river.

When I, as a boy, first saw the mouth of the Missouri River, it was
twenty-two or twenty-three miles above St. Louis, according to the
estimate of pilots; the wear and tear of the banks have moved it down
eight miles since then; and the pilots say that within five years the
river will cut through and move the mouth down five miles more, which
will bring it within ten miles of St. Louis.

About nightfall we passed the large and flourishing town of Alton,
Illinois; and before daylight next morning the town of Louisiana,
Missouri, a sleepy village in my day, but a brisk railway center now;
however, all the towns out there are railway centers now. I could not
clearly recognize the place. This seemed odd to me, for when I retired
from the rebel army in '61 I retired upon Louisiana in good order; at
least in good enough order for a person who had not yet learned how to
retreat according to the rules of war, and had to trust to native
genius. It seemed to me that for a first attempt at a retreat it was not
badly done. I had done no advancing in all that campaign that was at
all equal to it.

There was a railway bridge across the river here well sprinkled with
glowing lights, and a very beautiful sight it was.

At seven in the morning we reached Hannibal, Missouri, where my boyhood
was spent. I had had a glimpse of it fifteen years ago, and another
glimpse six years earlier, but both were so brief that they hardly
counted. The only notion of the town that remained in my mind was the
memory of it as I had known it when I first quitted it twenty-nine years
ago. That picture of it was still as clear and vivid to me as a
photograph. I stepped ashore with the feeling of one who returns out of
a dead-and-gone generation. I had a sort of realizing sense of what the
Bastille prisoners must have felt when they used to come out and look
upon Paris after years of captivity, and note how curiously the familiar
and the strange were mixed together before them. I saw the new houses--
saw them plainly enough--but they did not affect the older picture in my
mind, for through their solid bricks and mortar I saw the vanished
houses, which had formerly stood there, with perfect distinctness.

It was Sunday morning, and everybody was abed yet. So I passed through
the vacant streets, still seeing the town as it was, and not as it is,
and recognizing and metaphorically shaking hands with a hundred familiar
objects which no longer exist; and finally climbed Holiday's Hill to get
a comprehensive view. The whole town lay spread out below me then, and I
could mark and fix every locality, every detail. Naturally, I was a
good deal moved. I said, 'Many of the people I once knew in this
tranquil refuge of my childhood are now in heaven; some, I trust, are in
the other place.' The things about me and before me made me feel like a
boy again--convinced me that I was a boy again, and that I had simply
been dreaming an unusually long dream; but my reflections spoiled all
that; for they forced me to say, 'I see fifty old houses down yonder,
into each of which I could enter and find either a man or a woman who
was a baby or unborn when I noticed those houses last, or a grandmother
who was a plump young bride at that time.'

From this vantage ground the extensive view up and down the river, and
wide over the wooded expanses of Illinois, is very beautiful--one of the
most beautiful on the Mississippi, I think; which is a hazardous remark
to make, for the eight hundred miles of river between St. Louis and St.
Paul afford an unbroken succession of lovely pictures. It may be that
my affection for the one in question biases my judgment in its favor; I
cannot say as to that. No matter, it was satisfyingly beautiful to me,
and it had this advantage over all the other friends whom I was about to
greet again: it had suffered no change; it was as young and fresh and
comely and gracious as ever it had been; whereas, the faces of the
others would be old, and scarred with the campaigns of life, and marked
with their griefs and defeats, and would give me no upliftings of

An old gentleman, out on an early morning walk, came along, and we
discussed the weather, and then drifted into other matters. I could not
remember his face. He said he had been living here twenty-eight years.
So he had come after my time, and I had never seen him before. I asked
him various questions; first about a mate of mine in Sunday school--what
became of him?

'He graduated with honor in an Eastern college, wandered off into the
world somewhere, succeeded at nothing, passed out of knowledge and
memory years ago, and is supposed to have gone to the dogs.'

'He was bright, and promised well when he was a boy.'

'Yes, but the thing that happened is what became of it all.'

I asked after another lad, altogether the brightest in our village
school when I was a boy.

'He, too, was graduated with honors, from an Eastern college; but life
whipped him in every battle, straight along, and he died in one of the
Territories, years ago, a defeated man.'

I asked after another of the bright boys.

'He is a success, always has been, always will be, I think.'

I inquired after a young fellow who came to the town to study for one of
the professions when I was a boy.

'He went at something else before he got through--went from medicine to
law, or from law to medicine--then to some other new thing; went away
for a year, came back with a young wife; fell to drinking, then to
gambling behind the door; finally took his wife and two young children
to her father's, and went off to Mexico; went from bad to worse, and
finally died there, without a cent to buy a shroud, and without a friend
to attend the funeral.'

'Pity, for he was the best-natured, and most cheery and hopeful young
fellow that ever was.'

I named another boy.

'Oh, he is all right. Lives here yet; has a wife and children, and is

Same verdict concerning other boys.

I named three school-girls.

'The first two live here, are married and have children; the other is
long ago dead--never married.'

I named, with emotion, one of my early sweethearts.

'She is all right. Been married three times; buried two husbands,
divorced from the third, and I hear she is getting ready to marry an old
fellow out in Colorado somewhere. She's got children scattered around
here and there, most everywheres.'

The answer to several other inquiries was brief and simple--

'Killed in the war.'

I named another boy.

'Well, now, his case is curious! There wasn't a human being in this
town but knew that that boy was a perfect chucklehead; perfect dummy;
just a stupid ass, as you may say. Everybody knew it, and everybody said
it. Well, if that very boy isn't the first lawyer in the State of
Missouri to-day, I'm a Democrat!'

'Is that so?'

'It's actually so. I'm telling you the truth.'

'How do you account for it?'

'Account for it? There ain't any accounting for it, except that if you
send a damned fool to St. Louis, and you don't tell them he's a damned
fool they'll never find it out. There's one thing sure--if I had a
damned fool I should know what to do with him: ship him to St. Louis--
it's the noblest market in the world for that kind of property. Well,
when you come to look at it all around, and chew at it and think it
over, don't it just bang anything you ever heard of?'

'Well, yes, it does seem to. But don't you think maybe it was the
Hannibal people who were mistaken about the boy, and not the St. Louis

'Oh, nonsense! The people here have known him from the very cradle--
they knew him a hundred times better than the St. Louis idiots could
have known him. No, if you have got any damned fools that you want to
realize on, take my advice--send them to St. Louis.'

I mentioned a great number of people whom I had formerly known. Some
were dead, some were gone away, some had prospered, some had come to
naught; but as regarded a dozen or so of the lot, the answer was

'Prosperous--live here yet--town littered with their children.'

I asked about Miss ----.

Died in the insane asylum three or four years ago--never was out of it
from the time she went in; and was always suffering, too; never got a
shred of her mind back.'

If he spoke the truth, here was a heavy tragedy, indeed. Thirty-six
years in a madhouse, that some young fools might have some fun! I was a
small boy, at the time; and I saw those giddy young ladies come
tiptoeing into the room where Miss ---- sat reading at midnight by a
lamp. The girl at the head of the file wore a shroud and a doughface,
she crept behind the victim, touched her on the shoulder, and she looked
up and screamed, and then fell into convulsions. She did not recover
from the fright, but went mad. In these days it seems incredible that
people believed in ghosts so short a time ago. But they did.

After asking after such other folk as I could call to mind, I finally
inquired about MYSELF:

'Oh, he succeeded well enough--another case of damned fool. If they'd
sent him to St. Louis, he'd have succeeded sooner.'

It was with much satisfaction that I recognized the wisdom of having
told this candid gentleman, in the beginning, that my name was Smith.

Chapter 54 Past and Present

Being left to myself, up there, I went on picking out old houses in the
distant town, and calling back their former inmates out of the moldy
past. Among them I presently recognized the house of the father of Lem
Hackett (fictitious name). It carried me back more than a generation in
a moment, and landed me in the midst of a time when the happenings of
life were not the natural and logical results of great general laws, but
of special orders, and were freighted with very precise and distinct
purposes--partly punitive in intent, partly admonitory; and usually
local in application.

When I was a small boy, Lem Hackett was drowned--on a Sunday. He fell
out of an empty flat-boat, where he was playing. Being loaded with sin,
he went to the bottom like an anvil. He was the only boy in the village
who slept that night. We others all lay awake, repenting. We had not
needed the information, delivered from the pulpit that evening, that
Lem's was a case of special judgment--we knew that, already. There was
a ferocious thunder-storm, that night, and it raged continuously until
near dawn. The winds blew, the windows rattled, the rain swept along the
roof in pelting sheets, and at the briefest of intervals the inky
blackness of the night vanished, the houses over the way glared out
white and blinding for a quivering instant, then the solid darkness shut
down again and a splitting peal of thunder followed, which seemed to
rend everything in the neighborhood to shreds and splinters. I sat up in
bed quaking and shuddering, waiting for the destruction of the world,
and expecting it. To me there was nothing strange or incongruous in
heaven's making such an uproar about Lem Hackett. Apparently it was the
right and proper thing to do. Not a doubt entered my mind that all the
angels were grouped together, discussing this boy's case and observing
the awful bombardment of our beggarly little village with satisfaction
and approval. There was one thing which disturbed me in the most serious
way; that was the thought that this centering of the celestial interest
on our village could not fail to attract the attention of the observers
to people among us who might otherwise have escaped notice for years. I
felt that I was not only one of those people, but the very one most
likely to be discovered. That discovery could have but one result: I
should be in the fire with Lem before the chill of the river had been
fairly warmed out of him. I knew that this would be only just and fair.
I was increasing the chances against myself all the time, by feeling a
secret bitterness against Lem for having attracted this fatal attention
to me, but I could not help it--this sinful thought persisted in
infesting my breast in spite of me. Every time the lightning glared I
caught my breath, and judged I was gone. In my terror and misery, I
meanly began to suggest other boys, and mention acts of theirs which
were wickeder than mine, and peculiarly needed punishment--and I tried
to pretend to myself that I was simply doing this in a casual way, and
without intent to divert the heavenly attention to them for the purpose
of getting rid of it myself. With deep sagacity I put these mentions
into the form of sorrowing recollections and left-handed sham-
supplications that the sins of those boys might be allowed to pass
unnoticed--'Possibly they may repent.' 'It is true that Jim Smith broke
a window and lied about it--but maybe he did not mean any harm. And
although Tom Holmes says more bad words than any other boy in the
village, he probably intends to repent--though he has never said he
would. And whilst it is a fact that John Jones did fish a little on
Sunday, once, he didn't really catch anything but only just one small
useless mud-cat; and maybe that wouldn't have been so awful if he had
thrown it back--as he says he did, but he didn't. Pity but they would
repent of these dreadful things--and maybe they will yet.'

But while I was shamefully trying to draw attention to these poor chaps
--who were doubtless directing the celestial attention to me at the same
moment, though I never once suspected that--I had heedlessly left my
candle burning. It was not a time to neglect even trifling precautions.
There was no occasion to add anything to the facilities for attracting
notice to me--so I put the light out.

It was a long night to me, and perhaps the most distressful one I ever
spent. I endured agonies of remorse for sins which I knew I had
committed, and for others which I was not certain about, yet was sure
that they had been set down against me in a book by an angel who was
wiser than I and did not trust such important matters to memory. It
struck me, by and by, that I had been making a most foolish and
calamitous mistake, in one respect: doubtless I had not only made my own
destruction sure by directing attention to those other boys, but had
already accomplished theirs!--Doubtless the lightning had stretched them
all dead in their beds by this time! The anguish and the fright which
this thought gave me made my previous sufferings seem trifling by

Things had become truly serious. I resolved to turn over a new leaf
instantly; I also resolved to connect myself with the church the next
day, if I survived to see its sun appear. I resolved to cease from sin
in all its forms, and to lead a high and blameless life for ever after.
I would be punctual at church and Sunday-school; visit the sick; carry
baskets of victuals to the poor (simply to fulfil the regulation
conditions, although I knew we had none among us so poor but they would
smash the basket over my head for my pains); I would instruct other boys
in right ways, and take the resulting trouncings meekly; I would subsist
entirely on tracts; I would invade the rum shop and warn the drunkard--
and finally, if I escaped the fate of those who early become too good to
live, I would go for a missionary.

The storm subsided toward daybreak, and I dozed gradually to sleep with
a sense of obligation to Lem Hackett for going to eternal suffering in
that abrupt way, and thus preventing a far more dreadful disaster--my
own loss.

But when I rose refreshed, by and by, and found that those other boys
were still alive, I had a dim sense that perhaps the whole thing was a
false alarm; that the entire turmoil had been on Lem's account and
nobody's else. The world looked so bright and safe that there did not
seem to be any real occasion to turn over a new leaf. I was a little
subdued, during that day, and perhaps the next; after that, my purpose
of reforming slowly dropped out of my mind, and I had a peaceful,
comfortable time again, until the next storm.

That storm came about three weeks later; and it was the most
unaccountable one, to me, that I had ever experienced; for on the
afternoon of that day, 'Dutchy' was drowned. Dutchy belonged to our
Sunday-school. He was a German lad who did not know enough to come in
out of the rain; but he was exasperatingly good, and had a prodigious
memory. One Sunday he made himself the envy of all the youth and the
talk of all the admiring village, by reciting three thousand verses of
Scripture without missing a word; then he went off the very next day and
got drowned.

Circumstances gave to his death a peculiar impressiveness. We were all
bathing in a muddy creek which had a deep hole in it, and in this hole
the coopers had sunk a pile of green hickory hoop poles to soak, some
twelve feet under water. We were diving and 'seeing who could stay under
longest.' We managed to remain down by holding on to the hoop poles.
Dutchy made such a poor success of it that he was hailed with laughter
and derision every time his head appeared above water. At last he seemed
hurt with the taunts, and begged us to stand still on the bank and be
fair with him and give him an honest count--'be friendly and kind just
this once, and not miscount for the sake of having the fun of laughing
at him.' Treacherous winks were exchanged, and all said 'All right,
Dutchy--go ahead, we'll play fair.'

Dutchy plunged in, but the boys, instead of beginning to count, followed
the lead of one of their number and scampered to a range of blackberry
bushes close by and hid behind it. They imagined Dutchy's humiliation,
when he should rise after a superhuman effort and find the place silent
and vacant, nobody there to applaud. They were 'so full of laugh' with
the idea, that they were continually exploding into muffled cackles.
Time swept on, and presently one who was peeping through the briers,
said, with surprise--

'Why, he hasn't come up, yet!'

The laughing stopped.

'Boys, it 's a splendid dive,' said one.

'Never mind that,' said another, 'the joke on him is all the better for

There was a remark or two more, and then a pause. Talking ceased, and
all began to peer through the vines. Before long, the boys' faces began
to look uneasy, then anxious, then terrified. Still there was no
movement of the placid water. Hearts began to beat fast, and faces to
turn pale. We all glided out, silently, and stood on the bank, our
horrified eyes wandering back and forth from each other's countenances
to the water.

'Somebody must go down and see!'

Yes, that was plain; but nobody wanted that grisly task.

'Draw straws!'

So we did--with hands which shook so, that we hardly knew what we were
about. The lot fell to me, and I went down. The water was so muddy I
could not see anything, but I felt around among the hoop poles, and
presently grasped a limp wrist which gave me no response--and if it had
I should not have known it, I let it go with such a frightened

The boy had been caught among the hoop poles and entangled there,
helplessly. I fled to the surface and told the awful news. Some of us
knew that if the boy were dragged out at once he might possibly be
resuscitated, but we never thought of that. We did not think of
anything; we did not know what to do, so we did nothing--except that the
smaller lads cried, piteously, and we all struggled frantically into our
clothes, putting on anybody's that came handy, and getting them wrong-
side-out and upside-down, as a rule. Then we scurried away and gave the
alarm, but none of us went back to see the end of the tragedy. We had a
more important thing to attend to: we all flew home, and lost not a
moment in getting ready to lead a better life.

The night presently closed down. Then came on that tremendous and
utterly unaccountable storm. I was perfectly dazed; I could not
understand it. It seemed to me that there must be some mistake. The
elements were turned loose, and they rattled and banged and blazed away
in the most blind and frantic manner. All heart and hope went out of
me, and the dismal thought kept floating through my brain, 'If a boy who
knows three thousand verses by heart is not satisfactory, what chance is
there for anybody else?'

Of course I never questioned for a moment that the storm was on Dutchy's
account, or that he or any other inconsequential animal was worthy of
such a majestic demonstration from on high; the lesson of it was the
only thing that troubled me; for it convinced me that if Dutchy, with
all his perfections, was not a delight, it would be vain for me to turn
over a new leaf, for I must infallibly fall hopelessly short of that
boy, no matter how hard I might try. Nevertheless I did turn it over--a
highly educated fear compelled me to do that--but succeeding days of
cheerfulness and sunshine came bothering around, and within a month I
had so drifted backward that again I was as lost and comfortable as

Breakfast time approached while I mused these musings and called these
ancient happenings back to mind; so I got me back into the present and
went down the hill.

On my way through town to the hotel, I saw the house which was my home
when I was a boy. At present rates, the people who now occupy it are of
no more value than I am; but in my time they would have been worth not
less than five hundred dollars apiece. They are colored folk.

After breakfast, I went out alone again, intending to hunt up some of
the Sunday-schools and see how this generation of pupils might compare
with their progenitors who had sat with me in those places and had
probably taken me as a model--though I do not remember as to that now.
By the public square there had been in my day a shabby little brick
church called the 'Old Ship of Zion,' which I had attended as a Sunday-
school scholar; and I found the locality easily enough, but not the old
church; it was gone, and a trig and rather hilarious new edifice was in
its place. The pupils were better dressed and better looking than were
those of my time; consequently they did not resemble their ancestors;
and consequently there was nothing familiar to me in their faces. Still,
I contemplated them with a deep interest and a yearning wistfulness, and
if I had been a girl I would have cried; for they were the offspring,
and represented, and occupied the places, of boys and girls some of whom
I had loved to love, and some of whom I had loved to hate, but all of
whom were dear to me for the one reason or the other, so many years gone
by--and, Lord, where be they now!

I was mightily stirred, and would have been grateful to be allowed to
remain unmolested and look my fill; but a bald-summited superintendent
who had been a tow-headed Sunday-school mate of mine on that spot in the
early ages, recognized me, and I talked a flutter of wild nonsense to
those children to hide the thoughts which were in me, and which could
not have been spoken without a betrayal of feeling that would have been
recognized as out of character with me.

Making speeches without preparation is no gift of mine; and I was
resolved to shirk any new opportunity, but in the next and larger
Sunday-school I found myself in the rear of the assemblage; so I was
very willing to go on the platform a moment for the sake of getting a
good look at the scholars. On the spur of the moment I could not recall
any of the old idiotic talks which visitors used to insult me with when
I was a pupil there; and I was sorry for this, since it would have given
me time and excuse to dawdle there and take a long and satisfying look
at what I feel at liberty to say was an array of fresh young comeliness
not matchable in another Sunday-school of the same size. As I talked
merely to get a chance to inspect; and as I strung out the random
rubbish solely to prolong the inspection, I judged it but decent to
confess these low motives, and I did so.

If the Model Boy was in either of these Sunday-schools, I did not see
him. The Model Boy of my time--we never had but the one--was perfect:
perfect in manners, perfect in dress, perfect in conduct, perfect in
filial piety, perfect in exterior godliness; but at bottom he was a
prig; and as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed
place with the contents of a pie and nobody would have been the worse
off for it but the pie. This fellow's reproachlessness was a standing
reproach to every lad in the village. He was the admiration of all the
mothers, and the detestation of all their sons. I was told what became
of him, but as it was a disappointment to me, I will not enter into
details. He succeeded in life.

Chapter 55 A Vendetta and Other Things

DURING my three days' stay in the town, I woke up every morning with the
impression that I was a boy--for in my dreams the faces were all young
again, and looked as they had looked in the old times--but I went to bed
a hundred years old, every night--for meantime I had been seeing those
faces as they are now.

Of course I suffered some surprises, along at first, before I had become
adjusted to the changed state of things. I met young ladies who did not
seem to have changed at all; but they turned out to be the daughters of
the young ladies I had in mind--sometimes their grand-daughters. When
you are told that a stranger of fifty is a grandmother, there is nothing
surprising about it; but if, on the contrary, she is a person whom you
knew as a little girl, it seems impossible. You say to yourself, 'How
can a little girl be a grandmother.' It takes some little time to accept
and realize the fact that while you have been growing old, your friends
have not been standing still, in that matter.

I noticed that the greatest changes observable were with the women, not
the men. I saw men whom thirty years had changed but slightly; but
their wives had grown old. These were good women; it is very wearing to
be good.

There was a saddler whom I wished to see; but he was gone. Dead, these
many years, they said. Once or twice a day, the saddler used to go
tearing down the street, putting on his coat as he went; and then
everybody knew a steamboat was coming. Everybody knew, also, that John
Stavely was not expecting anybody by the boat--or any freight, either;
and Stavely must have known that everybody knew this, still it made no
difference to him; he liked to seem to himself to be expecting a hundred
thousand tons of saddles by this boat, and so he went on all his life,
enjoying being faithfully on hand to receive and receipt for those
saddles, in case by any miracle they should come. A malicious Quincy
paper used always to refer to this town, in derision as 'Stavely's
Landing.' Stavely was one of my earliest admirations; I envied him his
rush of imaginary business, and the display he was able to make of it,
before strangers, as he went flying down the street struggling with his
fluttering coat.

But there was a carpenter who was my chiefest hero. He was a mighty
liar, but I did not know that; I believed everything he said. He was a
romantic, sentimental, melodramatic fraud, and his bearing impressed me
with awe. I vividly remember the first time he took me into his
confidence. He was planing a board, and every now and then he would
pause and heave a deep sigh; and occasionally mutter broken sentences--
confused and not intelligible--but out of their midst an ejaculation
sometimes escaped which made me shiver and did me good: one was, 'O
God, it is his blood!' I sat on the tool-chest and humbly and
shudderingly admired him; for I judged he was full of crime. At last he
said in a low voice--

'My little friend, can you keep a secret?'

I eagerly said I could.

'A dark and dreadful one?'

I satisfied him on that point.

'Then I will tell you some passages in my history; for oh, I MUST
relieve my burdened soul, or I shall die!'

He cautioned me once more to be 'as silent as the grave;' then he told
me he was a 'red-handed murderer.' He put down his plane, held his hands
out before him, contemplated them sadly, and said--

'Look--with these hands I have taken the lives of thirty human beings!'

The effect which this had upon me was an inspiration to him, and he
turned himself loose upon his subject with interest and energy. He left
generalizing, and went into details,--began with his first murder;
described it, told what measures he had taken to avert suspicion; then
passed to his second homicide, his third, his fourth, and so on. He had
always done his murders with a bowie-knife, and he made all my hairs
rise by suddenly snatching it out and showing it to me.

At the end of this first seance I went home with six of his fearful
secrets among my freightage, and found them a great help to my dreams,
which had been sluggish for a while back. I sought him again and again,
on my Saturday holidays; in fact I spent the summer with him--all of it
which was valuable to me. His fascinations never diminished, for he
threw something fresh and stirring, in the way of horror, into each
successive murder. He always gave names, dates, places--everything.
This by and by enabled me to note two things: that he had killed his
victims in every quarter of the globe, and that these victims were
always named Lynch. The destruction of the Lynches went serenely on,
Saturday after Saturday, until the original thirty had multiplied to
sixty--and more to be heard from yet; then my curiosity got the better
of my timidity, and I asked how it happened that these justly punished
persons all bore the same name.

My hero said he had never divulged that dark secret to any living being;
but felt that he could trust me, and therefore he would lay bare before
me the story of his sad and blighted life. He had loved one 'too fair
for earth,' and she had reciprocated 'with all the sweet affection of
her pure and noble nature.' But he had a rival, a 'base hireling' named
Archibald Lynch, who said the girl should be his, or he would 'dye his
hands in her heart's best blood.' The carpenter, 'innocent and happy in
love's young dream,' gave no weight to the threat, but led his 'golden-
haired darling to the altar,' and there, the two were made one; there
also, just as the minister's hands were stretched in blessing over their
heads, the fell deed was done--with a knife--and the bride fell a corpse
at her husband's feet. And what did the husband do? He plucked forth
that knife, and kneeling by the body of his lost one, swore to
'consecrate his life to the extermination of all the human scum that
bear the hated name of Lynch.'

That was it. He had been hunting down the Lynches and slaughtering
them, from that day to this--twenty years. He had always used that same
consecrated knife; with it he had murdered his long array of Lynches,
and with it he had left upon the forehead of each victim a peculiar
mark--a cross, deeply incised. Said he--

'The cross of the Mysterious Avenger is known in Europe, in America, in
China, in Siam, in the Tropics, in the Polar Seas, in the deserts of
Asia, in all the earth. Wherever in the uttermost parts of the globe, a
Lynch has penetrated, there has the Mysterious Cross been seen, and
those who have seen it have shuddered and said, "It is his mark, he has
been here." You have heard of the Mysterious Avenger--look upon him, for
before you stands no less a person! But beware--breathe not a word to
any soul. Be silent, and wait. Some morning this town will flock aghast
to view a gory corpse; on its brow will be seen the awful sign, and men
will tremble and whisper, "He has been here--it is the Mysterious
Avenger's mark!" You will come here, but I shall have vanished; you will
see me no more.'

This ass had been reading the 'Jibbenainosay,' no doubt, and had had his
poor romantic head turned by it; but as I had not yet seen the book
then, I took his inventions for truth, and did not suspect that he was a

However, we had a Lynch living in the town; and the more I reflected
upon his impending doom, the more I could not sleep. It seemed my plain
duty to save him, and a still plainer and more important duty to get
some sleep for myself, so at last I ventured to go to Mr. Lynch and tell
him what was about to happen to him--under strict secrecy. I advised him
to 'fly,' and certainly expected him to do it. But he laughed at me; and
he did not stop there; he led me down to the carpenter's shop, gave the
carpenter a jeering and scornful lecture upon his silly pretensions,
slapped his face, made him get down on his knees and beg--then went off
and left me to contemplate the cheap and pitiful ruin of what, in my
eyes, had so lately been a majestic and incomparable hero. The carpenter
blustered, flourished his knife, and doomed this Lynch in his usual
volcanic style, the size of his fateful words undiminished; but it was
all wasted upon me; he was a hero to me no longer, but only a poor,
foolish, exposed humbug. I was ashamed of him, and ashamed of myself; I
took no further interest in him, and never went to his shop any more.
He was a heavy loss to me, for he was the greatest hero I had ever
known. The fellow must have had some talent; for some of his imaginary
murders were so vividly and dramatically described that I remember all
their details yet.

The people of Hannibal are not more changed than is the town. It is no
longer a village; it is a city, with a mayor, and a council, and water-
works, and probably a debt. It has fifteen thousand people, is a
thriving and energetic place, and is paved like the rest of the west and
south--where a well-paved street and a good sidewalk are things so
seldom seen, that one doubts them when he does see them. The customary
half-dozen railways center in Hannibal now, and there is a new depot
which cost a hundred thousand dollars. In my time the town had no
specialty, and no commercial grandeur; the daily packet usually landed a
passenger and bought a catfish, and took away another passenger and a
hatful of freight; but now a huge commerce in lumber has grown up and a
large miscellaneous commerce is one of the results. A deal of money
changes hands there now.

Bear Creek--so called, perhaps, because it was always so particularly
bare of bears--is hidden out of sight now, under islands and continents
of piled lumber, and nobody but an expert can find it. I used to get
drowned in it every summer regularly, and be drained out, and inflated
and set going again by some chance enemy; but not enough of it is
unoccupied now to drown a person in. It was a famous breeder of chills
and fever in its day. I remember one summer when everybody in town had
this disease at once. Many chimneys were shaken down, and all the
houses were so racked that the town had to be rebuilt. The chasm or
gorge between Lover's Leap and the hill west of it is supposed by
scientists to have been caused by glacial action. This is a mistake.

There is an interesting cave a mile or two below Hannibal, among the
bluffs. I would have liked to revisit it, but had not time. In my time
the person who then owned it turned it into a mausoleum for his
daughter, aged fourteen. The body of this poor child was put into a
copper cylinder filled with alcohol, and this was suspended in one of
the dismal avenues of the cave. The top of the cylinder was removable;
and it was said to be a common thing for the baser order of tourists to
drag the dead face into view and examine it and comment upon it.




Part 12.

Chapter 56 A Question of Law

THE slaughter-house is gone from the mouth of Bear Creek and so is the
small jail (or 'calaboose') which once stood in its neighborhood. A
citizen asked, 'Do you remember when Jimmy Finn, the town drunkard, was
burned to death in the calaboose?'

Observe, now, how history becomes defiled, through lapse of time and the
help of the bad memories of men. Jimmy Finn was not burned in the
calaboose, but died a natural death in a tan vat, of a combination of
delirium tremens and spontaneous combustion. When I say natural death, I
mean it was a natural death for Jimmy Finn to die. The calaboose victim
was not a citizen; he was a poor stranger, a harmless whiskey-sodden
tramp. I know more about his case than anybody else; I knew too much of
it, in that bygone day, to relish speaking of it. That tramp was
wandering about the streets one chilly evening, with a pipe in his
mouth, and begging for a match; he got neither matches nor courtesy; on
the contrary, a troop of bad little boys followed him around and amused
themselves with nagging and annoying him. I assisted; but at last, some
appeal which the wayfarer made for forbearance, accompanying it with a
pathetic reference to his forlorn and friendless condition, touched such
sense of shame and remnant of right feeling as were left in me, and I
went away and got him some matches, and then hied me home and to bed,
heavily weighted as to conscience, and unbuoyant in spirit. An hour or
two afterward, the man was arrested and locked up in the calaboose by
the marshal--large name for a constable, but that was his title. At two
in the morning, the church bells rang for fire, and everybody turned
out, of course--I with the rest. The tramp had used his matches
disastrously: he had set his straw bed on fire, and the oaken sheathing
of the room had caught. When I reached the ground, two hundred men,
women, and children stood massed together, transfixed with horror, and
staring at the grated windows of the jail. Behind the iron bars, and
tugging frantically at them, and screaming for help, stood the tramp; he
seemed like a black object set against a sun, so white and intense was
the light at his back. That marshal could not be found, and he had the
only key. A battering-ram was quickly improvised, and the thunder of its
blows upon the door had so encouraging a sound that the spectators broke
into wild cheering, and believed the merciful battle won. But it was not
so. The timbers were too strong; they did not yield. It was said that
the man's death-grip still held fast to the bars after he was dead; and
that in this position the fires wrapped him about and consumed him. As
to this, I do not know. What was seen after I recognized the face that
was pleading through the bars was seen by others, not by me.

I saw that face, so situated, every night for a long time afterward; and
I believed myself as guilty of the man's death as if I had given him the
matches purposely that he might burn himself up with them. I had not a
doubt that I should be hanged if my connection with this tragedy were
found out. The happenings and the impressions of that time are burnt
into my memory, and the study of them entertains me as much now as they
themselves distressed me then. If anybody spoke of that grisly matter, I
was all ears in a moment, and alert to hear what might be said, for I
was always dreading and expecting to find out that I was suspected; and
so fine and so delicate was the perception of my guilty conscience, that
it often detected suspicion in the most purposeless remarks, and in
looks, gestures, glances of the eye which had no significance, but which
sent me shivering away in a panic of fright, just the same. And how sick
it made me when somebody dropped, howsoever carelessly and barren of
intent, the remark that 'murder will out!' For a boy of ten years, I was
carrying a pretty weighty cargo.

All this time I was blessedly forgetting one thing--the fact that I was
an inveterate talker in my sleep. But one night I awoke and found my
bed-mate--my younger brother--sitting up in bed and contemplating me by
the light of the moon. I said--

'What is the matter?'

'You talk so much I can't sleep.'

I came to a sitting posture in an instant, with my kidneys in my throat
and my hair on end.

'What did I say. Quick--out with it--what did I say?'

'Nothing much.'

'It's a lie--you know everything.'

'Everything about what?'

'You know well enough. About THAT.'

'About WHAT?--I don't know what you are talking about. I think you are
sick or crazy or something. But anyway, you're awake, and I'll get to
sleep while I've got a chance.'

He fell asleep and I lay there in a cold sweat, turning this new terror
over in the whirling chaos which did duty as my mind. The burden of my
thought was, How much did I divulge? How much does he know?--what a
distress is this uncertainty! But by and by I evolved an idea--I would
wake my brother and probe him with a supposititious case. I shook him
up, and said--

'Suppose a man should come to you drunk--'

'This is foolish--I never get drunk.'

'I don't mean you, idiot--I mean the man. Suppose a MAN should come to
you drunk, and borrow a knife, or a tomahawk, or a pistol, and you
forgot to tell him it was loaded, and--'

'How could you load a tomahawk?'

'I don't mean the tomahawk, and I didn't say the tomahawk; I said the
pistol. Now don't you keep breaking in that way, because this is
serious. There's been a man killed.'

'What! in this town?'

'Yes, in this town.'

'Well, go on--I won't say a single word.'

'Well, then, suppose you forgot to tell him to be careful with it,
because it was loaded, and he went off and shot himself with that
pistol--fooling with it, you know, and probably doing it by accident,
being drunk. Well, would it be murder?'


'No, no. I don't mean HIS act, I mean yours: would you be a murderer
for letting him have that pistol?'

After deep thought came this answer--

'Well, I should think I was guilty of something--maybe murder--yes,
probably murder, but I don't quite know.'

This made me very uncomfortable. However, it was not a decisive
verdict. I should have to set out the real case--there seemed to be no
other way. But I would do it cautiously, and keep a watch out for
suspicious effects. I said--

'I was supposing a case, but I am coming to the real one now. Do you
know how the man came to be burned up in the calaboose?'


'Haven't you the least idea?'

'Not the least.'

'Wish you may die in your tracks if you have?'

'Yes, wish I may die in my tracks.'

'Well, the way of it was this. The man wanted some matches to light his
pipe. A boy got him some. The man set fire to the calaboose with those
very matches, and burnt himself up.'

'Is that so?'

'Yes, it is. Now, is that boy a murderer, do you think?'

'Let me see. The man was drunk?'

'Yes, he was drunk.'

'Very drunk?'


'And the boy knew it?'

'Yes, he knew it.'

There was a long pause. Then came this heavy verdict--

'If the man was drunk, and the boy knew it, the boy murdered that man.
This is certain.'

Faint, sickening sensations crept along all the fibers of my body, and I
seemed to know how a person feels who hears his death sentence
pronounced from the bench. I waited to hear what my brother would say
next. I believed I knew what it would be, and I was right. He said--

'I know the boy.'

I had nothing to say; so I said nothing. I simply shuddered. Then he

'Yes, before you got half through telling about the thing, I knew
perfectly well who the boy was; it was Ben Coontz!'

I came out of my collapse as one who rises from the dead. I said, with

'Why, how in the world did you ever guess it?'

'You told it in your sleep.'

I said to myself, 'How splendid that is! This is a habit which must be

My brother rattled innocently on--

'When you were talking in your sleep, you kept mumbling something about
"matches," which I couldn't make anything out of; but just now, when you
began to tell me about the man and the calaboose and the matches, I
remembered that in your sleep you mentioned Ben Coontz two or three
times; so I put this and that together, you see, and right away I knew
it was Ben that burnt that man up.'

I praised his sagacity effusively. Presently he asked--

'Are you going to give him up to the law?'

'No,' I said; 'I believe that this will be a lesson to him. I shall keep
an eye on him, of course, for that is but right; but if he stops where
he is and reforms, it shall never be said that I betrayed him.'

'How good you are!'

'Well, I try to be. It is all a person can do in a world like this.'

And now, my burden being shifted to other shoulders, my terrors soon
faded away.

The day before we left Hannibal, a curious thing fell under my notice--
the surprising spread which longitudinal time undergoes there. I learned
it from one of the most unostentatious of men--the colored coachman of a
friend of mine, who lives three miles from town. He was to call for me
at the Park Hotel at 7.30 P.M., and drive me out. But he missed it
considerably--did not arrive till ten. He excused himself by saying--

'De time is mos' an hour en a half slower in de country en what it is in
de town; you'll be in plenty time, boss. Sometimes we shoves out early
for church, Sunday, en fetches up dah right plum in de middle er de
sermon. Diffunce in de time. A body can't make no calculations 'bout

I had lost two hours and a half; but I had learned a fact worth four.

Chapter 57 An Archangel

FROM St. Louis northward there are all the enlivening signs of the
presence of active, energetic, intelligent, prosperous, practical
nineteenth-century populations. The people don't dream, they work. The
happy result is manifest all around in the substantial outside aspect of
things, and the suggestions of wholesome life and comfort that
everywhere appear.

Quincy is a notable example--a brisk, handsome, well-ordered city; and
now, as formerly, interested in art, letters, and other high things.

But Marion City is an exception. Marion City has gone backwards in a
most unaccountable way. This metropolis promised so well that the
projectors tacked 'city' to its name in the very beginning, with full
confidence; but it was bad prophecy. When I first saw Marion City,
thirty-five years ago, it contained one street, and nearly or quite six
houses. It contains but one house now, and this one, in a state of ruin,
is getting ready to follow the former five into the river. Doubtless
Marion City was too near to Quincy. It had another disadvantage: it
was situated in a flat mud bottom, below high-water mark, whereas Quincy
stands high up on the slope of a hill.

In the beginning Quincy had the aspect and ways of a model New England
town: and these she has yet: broad, clean streets, trim, neat dwellings
and lawns, fine mansions, stately blocks of commercial buildings. And
there are ample fair-grounds, a well kept park, and many attractive
drives; library, reading-rooms, a couple of colleges, some handsome and
costly churches, and a grand court-house, with grounds which occupy a
square. The population of the city is thirty thousand. There are some
large factories here, and manufacturing, of many sorts, is done on a
great scale.

La Grange and Canton are growing towns, but I missed Alexandria; was
told it was under water, but would come up to blow in the summer.

Keokuk was easily recognizable. I lived there in 1857--an extraordinary
year there in real-estate matters. The 'boom' was something wonderful.
Everybody bought, everybody sold--except widows and preachers; they
always hold on; and when the tide ebbs, they get left. Anything in the
semblance of a town lot, no matter how situated, was salable, and at a
figure which would still have been high if the ground had been sodded
with greenbacks.

The town has a population of fifteen thousand now, and is progressing
with a healthy growth. It was night, and we could not see details, for
which we were sorry, for Keokuk has the reputation of being a beautiful
city. It was a pleasant one to live in long ago, and doubtless has
advanced, not retrograded, in that respect.

A mighty work which was in progress there in my day is finished now.
This is the canal over the Rapids. It is eight miles long, three
hundred feet wide, and is in no place less than six feet deep. Its
masonry is of the majestic kind which the War Department usually deals
in, and will endure like a Roman aqueduct. The work cost four or five

After an hour or two spent with former friends, we started up the river
again. Keokuk, a long time ago, was an occasional loafing-place of that
erratic genius, Henry Clay Dean. I believe I never saw him but once; but
he was much talked of when I lived there. This is what was said of him--

He began life poor and without education. But he educated himself--on
the curbstones of Keokuk. He would sit down on a curbstone with his
book, careless or unconscious of the clatter of commerce and the tramp
of the passing crowds, and bury himself in his studies by the hour,
never changing his position except to draw in his knees now and then to
let a dray pass unobstructed; and when his book was finished, its
contents, however abstruse, had been burnt into his memory, and were his
permanent possession. In this way he acquired a vast hoard of all sorts
of learning, and had it pigeon-holed in his head where he could put his
intellectual hand on it whenever it was wanted.

His clothes differed in no respect from a 'wharf-rat's,' except that
they were raggeder, more ill-assorted and inharmonious (and therefore
more extravagantly picturesque), and several layers dirtier. Nobody
could infer the master-mind in the top of that edifice from the edifice

He was an orator--by nature in the first place, and later by the
training of experience and practice. When he was out on a canvass, his
name was a lodestone which drew the farmers to his stump from fifty
miles around. His theme was always politics. He used no notes, for a
volcano does not need notes. In 1862, a son of Keokuk's late
distinguished citizen, Mr. Claggett, gave me this incident concerning

The war feeling was running high in Keokuk (in '61), and a great mass
meeting was to be held on a certain day in the new Athenaeum. A
distinguished stranger was to address the house. After the building had
been packed to its utmost capacity with sweltering folk of both sexes,
the stage still remained vacant--the distinguished stranger had failed
to connect. The crowd grew impatient, and by and by indignant and
rebellious. About this time a distressed manager discovered Dean on a
curb-stone, explained the dilemma to him, took his book away from him,
rushed him into the building the back way, and told him to make for the
stage and save his country.

Presently a sudden silence fell upon the grumbling audience, and
everybody's eyes sought a single point--the wide, empty, carpetless
stage. A figure appeared there whose aspect was familiar to hardly a
dozen persons present. It was the scarecrow Dean--in foxy shoes, down at
the heels; socks of odd colors, also 'down;' damaged trousers, relics of
antiquity, and a world too short, exposing some inches of naked ankle;
an unbuttoned vest, also too short, and exposing a zone of soiled and
wrinkled linen between it and the waistband; shirt bosom open; long
black handkerchief, wound round and round the neck like a bandage; bob-
tailed blue coat, reaching down to the small of the back, with sleeves
which left four inches of forearm unprotected; small, stiff-brimmed
soldier-cap hung on a corner of the bump of--whichever bump it was.
This figure moved gravely out upon the stage and, with sedate and
measured step, down to the front, where it paused, and dreamily
inspected the house, saying no word. The silence of surprise held its
own for a moment, then was broken by a just audible ripple of merriment
which swept the sea of faces like the wash of a wave. The figure
remained as before, thoughtfully inspecting. Another wave started--
laughter, this time. It was followed by another, then a third--this
last one boisterous.

And now the stranger stepped back one pace, took off his soldier-cap,
tossed it into the wing, and began to speak, with deliberation, nobody
listening, everybody laughing and whispering. The speaker talked on
unembarrassed, and presently delivered a shot which went home, and
silence and attention resulted. He followed it quick and fast, with
other telling things; warmed to his work and began to pour his words
out, instead of dripping them; grew hotter and hotter, and fell to
discharging lightnings and thunder--and now the house began to break
into applause, to which the speaker gave no heed, but went hammering
straight on; unwound his black bandage and cast it away, still
thundering; presently discarded the bob tailed coat and flung it aside,
firing up higher and higher all the time; finally flung the vest after
the coat; and then for an untimed period stood there, like another
Vesuvius, spouting smoke and flame, lava and ashes, raining pumice-stone
and cinders, shaking the moral earth with intellectual crash upon crash,
explosion upon explosion, while the mad multitude stood upon their feet
in a solid body, answering back with a ceaseless hurricane of cheers,
through a thrashing snowstorm of waving handkerchiefs.

'When Dean came,' said Claggett, 'the people thought he was an escaped
lunatic; but when he went, they thought he was an escaped archangel.'

Burlington, home of the sparkling Burdette, is another hill city; and
also a beautiful one; unquestionably so; a fine and flourishing city,
with a population of twenty-five thousand, and belted with busy
factories of nearly every imaginable description. It was a very sober
city, too--for the moment--for a most sobering bill was pending; a bill
to forbid the manufacture, exportation, importation, purchase, sale,
borrowing, lending, stealing, drinking, smelling, or possession, by
conquest, inheritance, intent, accident, or otherwise, in the State of
Iowa, of each and every deleterious beverage known to the human race,
except water. This measure was approved by all the rational people in
the State; but not by the bench of Judges.

Burlington has the progressive modern city's full equipment of devices
for right and intelligent government; including a paid fire department,
a thing which the great city of New Orleans is without, but still
employs that relic of antiquity, the independent system.

In Burlington, as in all these Upper-River towns, one breathes a
go-ahead atmosphere which tastes good in the nostrils. An opera-house has
lately been built there which is in strong contrast with the shabby dens
which usually do duty as theaters in cities of Burlington's size.

We had not time to go ashore in Muscatine, but had a daylight view of it
from the boat. I lived there awhile, many years ago, but the place,
now, had a rather unfamiliar look; so I suppose it has clear outgrown
the town which I used to know. In fact, I know it has; for I remember it
as a small place--which it isn't now. But I remember it best for a
lunatic who caught me out in the fields, one Sunday, and extracted a
butcher-knife from his boot and proposed to carve me up with it, unless
I acknowledged him to be the only son of the Devil. I tried to
compromise on an acknowledgment that he was the only member of the
family I had met; but that did not satisfy him; he wouldn't have any
half-measures; I must say he was the sole and only son of the Devil--he
whetted his knife on his boot. It did not seem worth while to make
trouble about a little thing like that; so I swung round to his view of
the matter and saved my skin whole. Shortly afterward, he went to visit
his father; and as he has not turned up since, I trust he is there yet.

And I remember Muscatine--still more pleasantly--for its summer sunsets.
I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them.
They used the broad smooth river as a canvas, and painted on it every
imaginable dream of color, from the mottled daintinesses and delicacies
of the opal, all the way up, through cumulative intensities, to blinding
purple and crimson conflagrations which were enchanting to the eye, but
sharply tried it at the same time. All the Upper Mississippi region has
these extraordinary sunsets as a familiar spectacle. It is the true
Sunset Land: I am sure no other country can show so good a right to the
name. The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine. I do not know.

Chapter 58 On the Upper River

THE big towns drop in, thick and fast, now: and between stretch
processions of thrifty farms, not desolate solitude. Hour by hour, the
boat plows deeper and deeper into the great and populous North-west; and
with each successive section of it which is revealed, one's surprise and
respect gather emphasis and increase. Such a people, and such
achievements as theirs, compel homage. This is an independent race who
think for themselves, and who are competent to do it, because they are
educated and enlightened; they read, they keep abreast of the best and
newest thought, they fortify every weak place in their land with a
school, a college, a library, and a newspaper; and they live under law.
Solicitude for the future of a race like this is not in order.

This region is new; so new that it may be said to be still in its
babyhood. By what it has accomplished while still teething, one may
forecast what marvels it will do in the strength of its maturity. It is
so new that the foreign tourist has not heard of it yet; and has not
visited it. For sixty years, the foreign tourist has steamed up and down
the river between St. Louis and New Orleans, and then gone home and
written his book, believing he had seen all of the river that was worth
seeing or that had anything to see. In not six of all these books is
there mention of these Upper River towns--for the reason that the five
or six tourists who penetrated this region did it before these towns
were projected. The latest tourist of them all (1878) made the same old
regulation trip--he had not heard that there was anything north of St.

Yet there was. There was this amazing region, bristling with great
towns, projected day before yesterday, so to speak, and built next
morning. A score of them number from fifteen hundred to five thousand
people. Then we have Muscatine, ten thousand; Winona, ten thousand;
Moline, ten thousand; Rock Island, twelve thousand; La Crosse, twelve
thousand; Burlington, twenty-five thousand; Dubuque, twenty-five
thousand; Davenport, thirty thousand; St. Paul, fifty-eight thousand,
Minneapolis, sixty thousand and upward.

The foreign tourist has never heard of these; there is no note of them
in his books. They have sprung up in the night, while he slept. So new
is this region, that I, who am comparatively young, am yet older than it
is. When I was born, St. Paul had a population of three persons,
Minneapolis had just a third as many. The then population of Minneapolis
died two years ago; and when he died he had seen himself undergo an
increase, in forty years, of fifty-nine thousand nine hundred and
ninety-nine persons. He had a frog's fertility.

I must explain that the figures set down above, as the population of St.
Paul and Minneapolis, are several months old. These towns are far
larger now. In fact, I have just seen a newspaper estimate which gives
the former seventy-one thousand, and the latter seventy-eight thousand.
This book will not reach the public for six or seven months yet; none of
the figures will be worth much then.

We had a glimpse of Davenport, which is another beautiful city, crowning
a hill--a phrase which applies to all these towns; for they are all
comely, all well built, clean, orderly, pleasant to the eye, and
cheering to the spirit; and they are all situated upon hills. Therefore
we will give that phrase a rest. The Indians have a tradition that
Marquette and Joliet camped where Davenport now stands, in 1673. The
next white man who camped there, did it about a hundred and seventy
years later--in 1834. Davenport has gathered its thirty thousand people
within the past thirty years. She sends more children to her schools
now, than her whole population numbered twenty-three years ago. She has
the usual Upper River quota of factories, newspapers, and institutions
of learning; she has telephones, local telegraphs, an electric alarm,
and an admirable paid fire department, consisting of six hook and ladder
companies, four steam fire engines, and thirty churches. Davenport is
the official residence of two bishops--Episcopal and Catholic.

Opposite Davenport is the flourishing town of Rock Island, which lies at
the foot of the Upper Rapids. A great railroad bridge connects the two
towns--one of the thirteen which fret the Mississippi and the pilots,
between St. Louis and St. Paul.

The charming island of Rock Island, three miles long and half a mile
wide, belongs to the United States, and the Government has turned it
into a wonderful park, enhancing its natural attractions by art, and
threading its fine forests with many miles of drives. Near the center of
the island one catches glimpses, through the trees, of ten vast stone
four-story buildings, each of which covers an acre of ground. These are
the Government workshops; for the Rock Island establishment is a
national armory and arsenal.

We move up the river--always through enchanting scenery, there being no
other kind on the Upper Mississippi--and pass Moline, a center of vast
manufacturing industries; and Clinton and Lyons, great lumber centers;
and presently reach Dubuque, which is situated in a rich mineral region.
The lead mines are very productive, and of wide extent. Dubuque has a
great number of manufacturing establishments; among them a plow factory
which has for customers all Christendom in general. At least so I was
told by an agent of the concern who was on the boat. He said--

'You show me any country under the sun where they really know how to
plow, and if I don't show you our mark on the plow they use, I'll eat
that plow; and I won't ask for any Woostershyre sauce to flavor it up
with, either.'

All this part of the river is rich in Indian history and traditions.
Black Hawk's was once a puissant name hereabouts; as was Keokuk's,
further down. A few miles below Dubuque is the Tete de Mort--Death's-
head rock, or bluff--to the top of which the French drove a band of
Indians, in early times, and cooped them up there, with death for a
certainty, and only the manner of it matter of choice--to starve, or
jump off and kill themselves. Black Hawk adopted the ways of the white
people, toward the end of his life; and when he died he was buried, near
Des Moines, in Christian fashion, modified by Indian custom; that is to
say, clothed in a Christian military uniform, and with a Christian cane
in his hand, but deposited in the grave in a sitting posture. Formerly,
a horse had always been buried with a chief. The substitution of the
cane shows that Black Hawk's haughty nature was really humbled, and he
expected to walk when he got over.

We noticed that above Dubuque the water of the Mississippi was olive-
green--rich and beautiful and semi-transparent, with the sun on it. Of
course the water was nowhere as clear or of as fine a complexion as it
is in some other seasons of the year; for now it was at flood stage, and
therefore dimmed and blurred by the mud manufactured from caving banks.

The majestic bluffs that overlook the river, along through this region,
charm one with the grace and variety of their forms, and the soft beauty
of their adornment. The steep verdant slope, whose base is at the
water's edge is topped by a lofty rampart of broken, turreted rocks,
which are exquisitely rich and mellow in color--mainly dark browns and
dull greens, but splashed with other tints. And then you have the
shining river, winding here and there and yonder, its sweep interrupted
at intervals by clusters of wooded islands threaded by silver channels;
and you have glimpses of distant villages, asleep upon capes; and of
stealthy rafts slipping along in the shade of the forest walls; and of
white steamers vanishing around remote points. And it is all as tranquil
and reposeful as dreamland, and has nothing this-worldly about it--
nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.

Until the unholy train comes tearing along--which it presently does,
ripping the sacred solitude to rags and tatters with its devil's
warwhoop and the roar and thunder of its rushing wheels--and straightway
you are back in this world, and with one of its frets ready to hand for
your entertainment: for you remember that this is the very road whose
stock always goes down after you buy it, and always goes up again as
soon as you sell it. It makes me shudder to this day, to remember that
I once came near not getting rid of my stock at all. It must be an awful
thing to have a railroad left on your hands.

The locomotive is in sight from the deck of the steamboat almost the
whole way from St. Louis to St. Paul--eight hundred miles. These
railroads have made havoc with the steamboat commerce. The clerk of our
boat was a steamboat clerk before these roads were built. In that day
the influx of population was so great, and the freight business so
heavy, that the boats were not able to keep up with the demands made
upon their carrying capacity; consequently the captains were very
independent and airy--pretty 'biggity,' as Uncle Remus would say. The
clerk nut-shelled the contrast between the former time and the present,

'Boat used to land--captain on hurricane roof--mighty stiff and
straight--iron ramrod for a spine--kid gloves, plug tile, hair parted
behind--man on shore takes off hat and says--

'"Got twenty-eight tons of wheat, cap'n--be great favor if you can take

'Captain says--

'"'ll take two of them"--and don't even condescend to look at him.

'But nowadays the captain takes off his old slouch, and smiles all the
way around to the back of his ears, and gets off a bow which he hasn't
got any ramrod to interfere with, and says--

'"Glad to see you, Smith, glad to see you--you're looking well--haven't
seen you looking so well for years--what you got for us?"

'"Nuth'n", says Smith; and keeps his hat on, and just turns his back and
goes to talking with somebody else.

'Oh, yes, eight years ago, the captain was on top; but it's Smith's turn
now. Eight years ago a boat used to go up the river with every stateroom
full, and people piled five and six deep on the cabin floor; and a solid
deck-load of immigrants and harvesters down below, into the bargain. To
get a first-class stateroom, you'd got to prove sixteen quarterings of
nobility and four hundred years of descent, or be personally acquainted
with the nigger that blacked the captain's boots. But it's all changed
now; plenty staterooms above, no harvesters below--there's a patent
self-binder now, and they don't have harvesters any more; they've gone
where the woodbine twineth--and they didn't go by steamboat, either;
went by the train.'

Up in this region we met massed acres of lumber rafts coming down--but
not floating leisurely along, in the old-fashioned way, manned with
joyous and reckless crews of fiddling, song-singing, whiskey-drinking,
breakdown-dancing rapscallions; no, the whole thing was shoved swiftly
along by a powerful stern-wheeler, modern fashion, and the small crews
were quiet, orderly men, of a sedate business aspect, with not a
suggestion of romance about them anywhere.

Along here, somewhere, on a black night, we ran some exceedingly narrow
and intricate island-chutes by aid of the electric light. Behind was
solid blackness--a crackless bank of it; ahead, a narrow elbow of water,
curving between dense walls of foliage that almost touched our bows on
both sides; and here every individual leaf, and every individual ripple
stood out in its natural color, and flooded with a glare as of noonday
intensified. The effect was strange, and fine, and very striking.

We passed Prairie du Chien, another of Father Marquette's camping-
places; and after some hours of progress through varied and beautiful
scenery, reached La Crosse. Here is a town of twelve or thirteen
thousand population, with electric lighted streets, and with blocks of
buildings which are stately enough, and also architecturally fine
enough, to command respect in any city. It is a choice town, and we made
satisfactory use of the hour allowed us, in roaming it over, though the
weather was rainier than necessary.

Chapter 59 Legends and Scenery

WE added several passengers to our list, at La Crosse; among others an
old gentleman who had come to this north-western region with the early
settlers, and was familiar with every part of it. Pardonably proud of
it, too. He said--

'You'll find scenery between here and St. Paul that can give the Hudson
points. You'll have the Queen's Bluff--seven hundred feet high, and
just as imposing a spectacle as you can find anywheres; and Trempeleau
Island, which isn't like any other island in America, I believe, for it
is a gigantic mountain, with precipitous sides, and is full of Indian
traditions, and used to be full of rattlesnakes; if you catch the sun
just right there, you will have a picture that will stay with you. And
above Winona you'll have lovely prairies; and then come the Thousand
Islands, too beautiful for anything; green? why you never saw foliage so
green, nor packed so thick; it's like a thousand plush cushions afloat
on a looking-glass--when the water 's still; and then the monstrous
bluffs on both sides of the river--ragged, rugged, dark-complected--just
the frame that's wanted; you always want a strong frame, you know, to
throw up the nice points of a delicate picture and make them stand out.'

The old gentleman also told us a touching Indian legend or two--but not
very powerful ones.

After this excursion into history, he came back to the scenery, and
described it, detail by detail, from the Thousand Islands to St. Paul;
naming its names with such facility, tripping along his theme with such
nimble and confident ease, slamming in a three-ton word, here and there,
with such a complacent air of 't isn't-anything,-I-can-do-it-any-time-I-
want-to, and letting off fine surprises of lurid eloquence at such
judicious intervals, that I presently began to suspect--

But no matter what I began to suspect. Hear him--

'Ten miles above Winona we come to Fountain City, nestling sweetly at
the feet of cliffs that lift their awful fronts, Jovelike, toward the
blue depths of heaven, bathing them in virgin atmospheres that have
known no other contact save that of angels' wings.

'And next we glide through silver waters, amid lovely and stupendous
aspects of nature that attune our hearts to adoring admiration, about
twelve miles, and strike Mount Vernon, six hundred feet high, with
romantic ruins of a once first-class hotel perched far among the cloud
shadows that mottle its dizzy heights--sole remnant of once-flourishing
Mount Vernon, town of early days, now desolate and utterly deserted.

'And so we move on. Past Chimney Rock we fly--noble shaft of six
hundred feet; then just before landing at Minnieska our attention is
attracted by a most striking promontory rising over five hundred feet--
the ideal mountain pyramid. Its conic shape--thickly-wooded surface
girding its sides, and its apex like that of a cone, cause the spectator
to wonder at nature's workings. From its dizzy heights superb views of
the forests, streams, bluffs, hills and dales below and beyond for miles
are brought within its focus. What grander river scenery can be
conceived, as we gaze upon this enchanting landscape, from the uppermost
point of these bluffs upon the valleys below? The primeval wildness and
awful loneliness of these sublime creations of nature and nature's God,
excite feelings of unbounded admiration, and the recollection of which
can never be effaced from the memory, as we view them in any direction.

'Next we have the Lion's Head and the Lioness's Head, carved by nature's
hand, to adorn and dominate the beauteous stream; and then anon the
river widens, and a most charming and magnificent view of the valley
before us suddenly bursts upon our vision; rugged hills, clad with
verdant forests from summit to base, level prairie lands, holding in
their lap the beautiful Wabasha, City of the Healing Waters, puissant
foe of Bright's disease, and that grandest conception of nature's works,
incomparable Lake Pepin--these constitute a picture whereon the
tourist's eye may gaze uncounted hours, with rapture unappeased and

'And so we glide along; in due time encountering those majestic domes,
the mighty Sugar Loaf, and the sublime Maiden's Rock--which latter,
romantic superstition has invested with a voice; and oft-times as the
birch canoe glides near, at twilight, the dusky paddler fancies he hears
the soft sweet music of the long-departed Winona, darling of Indian song
and story.

'Then Frontenac looms upon our vision, delightful resort of jaded summer
tourists; then progressive Red Wing; and Diamond Bluff, impressive and
preponderous in its lone sublimity; then Prescott and the St. Croix; and
anon we see bursting upon us the domes and steeples of St. Paul, giant
young chief of the North, marching with seven-league stride in the van
of progress, banner-bearer of the highest and newest civilization,
carving his beneficent way with the tomahawk of commercial enterprise,
sounding the warwhoop of Christian culture, tearing off the reeking
scalp of sloth and superstition to plant there the steam-plow and the
school-house--ever in his front stretch arid lawlessness, ignorance,
crime, despair; ever in his wake bloom the jail, the gallows, and the
pulpit; and ever--'

'Have you ever traveled with a panorama?'

'I have formerly served in that capacity.'

My suspicion was confirmed.

'Do you still travel with it?'

'No, she is laid up till the fall season opens. I am helping now to
work up the materials for a Tourist's Guide which the St. Louis and St.
Paul Packet Company are going to issue this summer for the benefit of
travelers who go by that line.'

'When you were talking of Maiden's Rock, you spoke of the long-departed
Winona, darling of Indian song and story. Is she the maiden of the
rock?--and are the two connected by legend?'

'Yes, and a very tragic and painful one. Perhaps the most celebrated,
as well as the most pathetic, of all the legends of the Mississippi.'

We asked him to tell it. He dropped out of his conversational vein and
back into his lecture-gait without an effort, and rolled on as follows--

'A little distance above Lake City is a famous point known as Maiden's
Rock, which is not only a picturesque spot, but is full of romantic
interest from the event which gave it its name, Not many years ago this
locality was a favorite resort for the Sioux Indians on account of the
fine fishing and hunting to be had there, and large numbers of them were
always to be found in this locality. Among the families which used to
resort here, was one belonging to the tribe of Wabasha. We-no-na
(first-born) was the name of a maiden who had plighted her troth to a
lover belonging to the same band. But her stern parents had promised
her hand to another, a famous warrior, and insisted on her wedding him.
The day was fixed by her parents, to her great grief. She appeared to
accede to the proposal and accompany them to the rock, for the purpose
of gathering flowers for the feast. On reaching the rock, We-no-na ran
to its summit and standing on its edge upbraided her parents who were
below, for their cruelty, and then singing a death-dirge, threw herself
from the precipice and dashed them in pieces on the rock below.'

'Dashed who in pieces--her parents?'


'Well, it certainly was a tragic business, as you say. And moreover,
there is a startling kind of dramatic surprise about it which I was not
looking for. It is a distinct improvement upon the threadbare form of
Indian legend. There are fifty Lover's Leaps along the Mississippi from
whose summit disappointed Indian girls have jumped, but this is the only
jump in the lot hat turned out in the right and satisfactory way. What
became of Winona?'

'She was a good deal jarred up and jolted: but she got herself together
and disappeared before the coroner reached the fatal spot; and 'tis said
she sought and married her true love, and wandered with him to some
distant clime, where she lived happy ever after, her gentle spirit
mellowed and chastened by the romantic incident which had so early
deprived her of the sweet guidance of a mother's love and a father's
protecting arm, and thrown her, all unfriended, upon the cold charity of
a censorious world.'

I was glad to hear the lecturer's description of the scenery, for it
assisted my appreciation of what I saw of it, and enabled me to imagine
such of it as we lost by the intrusion of night.

As the lecturer remarked, this whole region is blanketed with Indian
tales and traditions. But I reminded him that people usually merely
mention this fact--doing it in a way to make a body's mouth water--and
judiciously stopped there. Why? Because the impression left, was that
these tales were full of incident and imagination--a pleasant impression
which would be promptly dissipated if the tales were told. I showed him
a lot of this sort of literature which I had been collecting, and he
confessed that it was poor stuff, exceedingly sorry rubbish; and I
ventured to add that the legends which he had himself told us were of
this character, with the single exception of the admirable story of
Winona. He granted these facts, but said that if I would hunt up Mr.
Schoolcraft's book, published near fifty years ago, and now doubtless
out of print, I would find some Indian inventions in it that were very
far from being barren of incident and imagination; that the tales in
Hiawatha were of this sort, and they came from Schoolcraft's book; and
that there were others in the same book which Mr. Longfellow could have
turned into verse with good effect. For instance, there was the legend
of 'The Undying Head.' He could not tell it, for many of the details had
grown dim in his memory; but he would recommend me to find it and
enlarge my respect for the Indian imagination. He said that this tale,
and most of the others in the book, were current among the Indians along
this part of the Mississippi when he first came here; and that the
contributors to Schoolcraft's book had got them directly from Indian
lips, and had written them down with strict exactness, and without
embellishments of their own.

I have found the book. The lecturer was right. There are several
legends in it which confirm what he said. I will offer two of them--
'The Undying Head,' and 'Peboan and Seegwun, an Allegory of the
Seasons.' The latter is used in Hiawatha; but it is worth reading in the
original form, if only that one may see how effective a genuine poem can
be without the helps and graces of poetic measure and rhythm--


An old man was sitting alone in his lodge, by the side of a frozen
stream. It was the close of winter, and his fire was almost out, He
appeared very old and very desolate. His locks were white with age, and
he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed in solitude, and he
heard nothing but the sound of the tempest, sweeping before it the new-
fallen snow.

One day, as his fire was just dying, a handsome young man approached and
entered his dwelling. His cheeks were red with the blood of youth, his
eyes sparkled with animation, and a smile played upon his lips. He
walked with a light and quick step. His forehead was bound with a
wreath of sweet grass, in place of a warrior's frontlet, and he carried
a bunch of flowers in his hand.

'Ah, my son,' said the old man, 'I am happy to see you. Come in. Come
and tell me of your adventures, and what strange lands you have been to
see. Let us pass the night together. I will tell you of my prowess and
exploits, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will
amuse ourselves.'

He then drew from his sack a curiously wrought antique pipe, and having
filled it with tobacco, rendered mild by a mixture of certain leaves,
handed it to his guest. When this ceremony was concluded they began to

'I blow my breath,' said the old man, 'and the stream stands still. The
water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone.'

'I breathe,' said the young man, 'and flowers spring up over the plain.'

'I shake my locks,' retorted the old man, 'and snow covers the land. The
leaves fall from the trees at my command, and my breath blows them away.
The birds get up from the water, and fly to a distant land. The animals
hide themselves from my breath, and the very ground becomes as hard as

'I shake my ringlets,' rejoined the young man, 'and warm showers of soft
rain fall upon the earth. The plants lift up their heads out of the
earth, like the eyes of children glistening with delight. My voice
recalls the birds. The warmth of my breath unlocks the streams. Music
fills the groves wherever I walk, and all nature rejoices.'

At length the sun began to rise. A gentle warmth came over the place.
The tongue of the old man became silent. The robin and bluebird began to
sing on the top of the lodge. The stream began to murmur by the door,
and the fragrance of growing herbs and flowers came softly on the vernal

Daylight fully revealed to the young man the character of his
entertainer. When he looked upon him, he had the icy visage of
Peboan.{footnote [Winter.]} Streams began to flow from his eyes. As the
sun increased, he grew less and less in stature, and anon had melted
completely away. Nothing remained on the place of his lodge-fire but the
miskodeed,{footnote [The trailing arbutus.]} a small white flower, with
a pink border, which is one of the earliest species of northern plants.

'The Undying Head' is a rather long tale, but it makes up in weird
conceits, fairy-tale prodigies, variety of incident, and energy of
movement, for what it lacks in brevity.{footnote [See appendix D.]}

Chapter 60 Speculations and Conclusions

WE reached St. Paul, at the head of navigation of the Mississippi, and
there our voyage of two thousand miles from New Orleans ended. It is
about a ten-day trip by steamer. It can probably be done quicker by
rail. I judge so because I know that one may go by rail from St. Louis
to Hannibal--a distance of at least a hundred and twenty miles--in seven
hours. This is better than walking; unless one is in a hurry.

The season being far advanced when we were in New Orleans, the roses and
magnolia blossoms were falling; but here in St. Paul it was the snow, In
New Orleans we had caught an occasional withering breath from over a
crater, apparently; here in St. Paul we caught a frequent benumbing one
from over a glacier, apparently.

But I wander from my theme. St. Paul is a wonderful town. It is put
together in solid blocks of honest brick and stone, and has the air of
intending to stay. Its post-office was established thirty-six years
ago; and by and by, when the postmaster received a letter, he carried it
to Washington, horseback, to inquire what was to be done with it. Such
is the legend. Two frame houses were built that year, and several
persons were added to the population. A recent number of the leading St.
Paul paper, the 'Pioneer Press,' gives some statistics which furnish a
vivid contrast to that old state of things, to wit: Population, autumn
of the present year (1882), 71,000; number of letters handled, first
half of the year, 1,209,387; number of houses built during three-
quarters of the year, 989; their cost, $3,186,000. The increase of
letters over the corresponding six months of last year was fifty per
cent. Last year the new buildings added to the city cost above
$4,500,000. St. Paul's strength lies in her commerce--I mean his
commerce. He is a manufacturing city, of course--all the cities of that
region are--but he is peculiarly strong in the matter of commerce. Last
year his jobbing trade amounted to upwards of $52,000,000.

He has a custom-house, and is building a costly capitol to replace the
one recently burned--for he is the capital of the State. He has churches
without end; and not the cheap poor kind, but the kind that the rich
Protestant puts up, the kind that the poor Irish 'hired-girl' delights
to erect. What a passion for building majestic churches the Irish
hired-girl has. It is a fine thing for our architecture but too often we
enjoy her stately fanes without giving her a grateful thought. In fact,
instead of reflecting that 'every brick and every stone in this
beautiful edifice represents an ache or a pain, and a handful of sweat,

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