Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

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

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by David Widger

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI

BY MARK TWAIN

Part 9.

Chapter 41 The Metropolis of the South

THE approaches to New Orleans were familiar; general aspects were
unchanged. When one goes flying through London along a railway propped
in the air on tall arches, he may inspect miles of upper bedrooms
through the open windows, but the lower half of the houses is under his
level and out of sight. Similarly, in high-river stage, in the New
Orleans region, the water is up to the top of the enclosing levee-rim,
the flat country behind it lies low--representing the bottom of a dish--
and as the boat swims along, high on the flood, one looks down upon the
houses and into the upper windows. There is nothing but that frail
breastwork of earth between the people and destruction.

The old brick salt-warehouses clustered at the upper end of the city
looked as they had always looked; warehouses which had had a kind of
Aladdin's lamp experience, however, since I had seen them; for when the
war broke out the proprietor went to bed one night leaving them packed
with thousands of sacks of vulgar salt, worth a couple of dollars a
sack, and got up in the morning and found his mountain of salt turned
into a mountain of gold, so to speak, so suddenly and to so dizzy a
height had the war news sent up the price of the article.

The vast reach of plank wharves remained unchanged, and there were as
many ships as ever: but the long array of steamboats had vanished; not
altogether, of course, but not much of it was left.

The city itself had not changed--to the eye. It had greatly increased
in spread and population, but the look of the town was not altered. The
dust, waste-paper-littered, was still deep in the streets; the deep,
trough-like gutters alongside the curbstones were still half full of
reposeful water with a dusty surface; the sidewalks were still--in the
sugar and bacon region--encumbered by casks and barrels and hogsheads;
the great blocks of austerely plain commercial houses were as dusty-
looking as ever.

Canal Street was finer, and more attractive and stirring than formerly,
with its drifting crowds of people, its several processions of hurrying
street-cars, and--toward evening--its broad second-story verandas
crowded with gentlemen and ladies clothed according to the latest mode.

Not that there is any 'architecture' in Canal Street: to speak in
broad, general terms, there is no architecture in New Orleans, except in
the cemeteries. It seems a strange thing to say of a wealthy, far-
seeing, and energetic city of a quarter of a million inhabitants, but it
is true. There is a huge granite U.S. Custom-house--costly enough,
genuine enough, but as a decoration it is inferior to a gasometer. It
looks like a state prison. But it was built before the war.
Architecture in America may be said to have been born since the war. New
Orleans, I believe, has had the good luck--and in a sense the bad luck--
to have had no great fire in late years. It must be so. If the
opposite had been the case, I think one would be able to tell the 'burnt
district' by the radical improvement in its architecture over the old
forms. One can do this in Boston and Chicago. The 'burnt district' of
Boston was commonplace before the fire; but now there is no commercial
district in any city in the world that can surpass it--or perhaps even
rival it--in beauty, elegance, and tastefulness.

However, New Orleans has begun--just this moment, as one may say. When
completed, the new Cotton Exchange will be a stately and beautiful
building; massive, substantial, full of architectural graces; no shams
or false pretenses or uglinesses about it anywhere. To the city, it will
be worth many times its cost, for it will breed its species. What has
been lacking hitherto, was a model to build toward; something to educate
eye and taste; a SUGGESTER, so to speak.

The city is well outfitted with progressive men--thinking, sagacious,
long-headed men. The contrast between the spirit of the city and the
city's architecture is like the contrast between waking and sleep.
Apparently there is a 'boom' in everything but that one dead feature.
The water in the gutters used to be stagnant and slimy, and a potent
disease-breeder; but the gutters are flushed now, two or three times a
day, by powerful machinery; in many of the gutters the water never
stands still, but has a steady current. Other sanitary improvements
have been made; and with such effect that New Orleans claims to be
(during the long intervals between the occasional yellow-fever assaults)
one of the healthiest cities in the Union. There's plenty of ice now
for everybody, manufactured in the town. It is a driving place
commercially, and has a great river, ocean, and railway business. At
the date of our visit, it was the best lighted city in the Union,
electrically speaking. The New Orleans electric lights were more
numerous than those of New York, and very much better. One had this
modified noonday not only in Canal and some neighboring chief streets,
but all along a stretch of five miles of river frontage. There are good
clubs in the city now--several of them but recently organized--and
inviting modern-style pleasure resorts at West End and Spanish Fort.
The telephone is everywhere. One of the most notable advances is in
journalism. The newspapers, as I remember them, were not a striking
feature. Now they are. Money is spent upon them with a free hand. They
get the news, let it cost what it may. The editorial work is not hack-
grinding, but literature. As an example of New Orleans journalistic
achievement, it may be mentioned that the 'Times-Democrat' of August 26,
1882, contained a report of the year's business of the towns of the
Mississippi Valley, from New Orleans all the way to St. Paul--two
thousand miles. That issue of the paper consisted of forty pages; seven
columns to the page; two hundred and eighty columns in all; fifteen
hundred words to the column; an aggregate of four hundred and twenty
thousand words. That is to say, not much short of three times as many
words as there are in this book. One may with sorrow contrast this with
the architecture of New Orleans.

I have been speaking of public architecture only. The domestic article
in New Orleans is reproachless, notwithstanding it remains as it always
was. All the dwellings are of wood--in the American part of the town, I
mean--and all have a comfortable look. Those in the wealthy quarter are
spacious; painted snow-white usually, and generally have wide verandas,
or double-verandas, supported by ornamental columns. These mansions
stand in the center of large grounds, and rise, garlanded with roses,
out of the midst of swelling masses of shining green foliage and many-
colored blossoms. No houses could well be in better harmony with their
surroundings, or more pleasing to the eye, or more home-like and
comfortable-looking.

One even becomes reconciled to the cistern presently; this is a mighty
cask, painted green, and sometimes a couple of stories high, which is
propped against the house-corner on stilts. There is a mansion-and-
brewery suggestion about the combination which seems very incongruous at
first. But the people cannot have wells, and so they take rain-water.
Neither can they conveniently have cellars, or graves,{footnote [The
Israelites are buried in graves--by permission, I take it, not
requirement; but none else, except the destitute, who are buried at
public expense. The graves are but three or four feet deep.]} the town
being built upon 'made' ground; so they do without both, and few of the
living complain, and none of the others.

Chapter 42 Hygiene and Sentiment

THEY bury their dead in vaults, above the ground. These vaults have a
resemblance to houses--sometimes to temples; are built of marble,
generally; are architecturally graceful and shapely; they face the walks
and driveways of the cemetery; and when one moves through the midst of a
thousand or so of them and sees their white roofs and gables stretching
into the distance on every hand, the phrase 'city of the dead' has all
at once a meaning to him. Many of the cemeteries are beautiful, and are
kept in perfect order. When one goes from the levee or the business
streets near it, to a cemetery, he observes to himself that if those
people down there would live as neatly while they are alive as they do
after they are dead, they would find many advantages in it; and besides,
their quarter would be the wonder and admiration of the business world.
Fresh flowers, in vases of water, are to be seen at the portals of many
of the vaults: placed there by the pious hands of bereaved parents and
children, husbands and wives, and renewed daily. A milder form of
sorrow finds its inexpensive and lasting remembrancer in the coarse and
ugly but indestructible 'immortelle'--which is a wreath or cross or some
such emblem, made of rosettes of black linen, with sometimes a yellow
rosette at the conjunction of the cross's bars--kind of sorrowful
breast-pin, so to say. The immortelle requires no attention: you just
hang it up, and there you are; just leave it alone, it will take care of
your grief for you, and keep it in mind better than you can; stands
weather first-rate, and lasts like boiler-iron.

On sunny days, pretty little chameleons--gracefullest of legged
reptiles--creep along the marble fronts of the vaults, and catch flies.
Their changes of color--as to variety--are not up to the creature's
reputation. They change color when a person comes along and hangs up an
immortelle; but that is nothing: any right-feeling reptile would do
that.

I will gradually drop this subject of graveyards. I have been trying
all I could to get down to the sentimental part of it, but I cannot
accomplish it. I think there is no genuinely sentimental part to it.
It is all grotesque, ghastly, horrible. Graveyards may have been
justifiable in the bygone ages, when nobody knew that for every dead
body put into the ground, to glut the earth and the plant-roots, and the
air with disease-germs, five or fifty, or maybe a hundred persons must
die before their proper time; but they are hardly justifiable now, when
even the children know that a dead saint enters upon a century-long
career of assassination the moment the earth closes over his corpse. It
is a grim sort of a thought. The relics of St. Anne, up in Canada, have
now, after nineteen hundred years, gone to curing the sick by the dozen.
But it is merest matter-of-course that these same relics, within a
generation after St. Anne's death and burial, MADE several thousand
people sick. Therefore these miracle-performances are simply
compensation, nothing more. St. Anne is somewhat slow pay, for a Saint,
it is true; but better a debt paid after nineteen hundred years, and
outlawed by the statute of limitations, than not paid at all; and most
of the knights of the halo do not pay at all. Where you find one that
pays--like St. Anne--you find a hundred and fifty that take the benefit
of the statute. And none of them pay any more than the principal of what
they owe--they pay none of the interest either simple or compound. A
Saint can never QUITE return the principal, however; for his dead body
KILLS people, whereas his relics HEAL only--they never restore the dead
to life. That part of the account is always left unsettled.

'Dr. F. Julius Le Moyne, after fifty years of medical practice, wrote:
"The inhumation of human bodies, dead from infectious diseases, results
in constantly loading the atmosphere, and polluting the waters, with not
only the germs that rise from simply putrefaction, but also with the
SPECIFIC germs of the diseases from which death resulted."

'The gases (from buried corpses) will rise to the surface through eight
or ten feet of gravel, just as coal-gas will do, and there is
practically no limit to their power of escape.

'During the epidemic in New Orleans in 1853, Dr. E. H. Barton reported
that in the Fourth District the mortality was four hundred and fifty-two
per thousand--more than double that of any other. In this district were
three large cemeteries, in which during the previous year more than
three thousand bodies had been buried. In other districts the proximity
of cemeteries seemed to aggravate the disease.

'In 1828 Professor Bianchi demonstrated how the fearful reappearance of
the plague at Modena was caused by excavations in ground where, THREE
HUNDRED YEARS PREVIOUSLY, the victims of the pestilence had been buried.
Mr. Cooper, in explaining the causes of some epidemics, remarks that the
opening of the plague burial-grounds at Eyam resulted in an immediate
outbreak of disease.'--NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, NO. 3, VOL. 135.

In an address before the Chicago Medical Society, in advocacy of
cremation, Dr. Charles W. Purdy made some striking comparisons to show
what a burden is laid upon society by the burial of the dead:--

'One and one-fourth times more money is expended annually in funerals in
the United States than the Government expends for public-school
purposes. Funerals cost this country in 1880 enough money to pay the
liabilities of all the commercial failures in the United States during
the same year, and give each bankrupt a capital of $8,630 with which to
resume business. Funerals cost annually more money than the value of the
combined gold and silver yield of the United States in the year 1880!
These figures do not include the sums invested in burial-grounds and
expended in tombs and monuments, nor the loss from depreciation of
property in the vicinity of cemeteries.'

For the rich, cremation would answer as well as burial; for the
ceremonies connected with it could be made as costly and ostentatious as
a Hindu suttee; while for the poor, cremation would be better than
burial, because so cheap {footnote [Four or five dollars is the minimum
cost.]}--so cheap until the poor got to imitating the rich, which they
would do by-and-bye. The adoption of cremation would relieve us of a
muck of threadbare burial-witticisms; but, on the other hand, it would
resurrect a lot of mildewed old cremation-jokes that have had a rest for
two thousand years.

I have a colored acquaintance who earns his living by odd jobs and heavy
manual labor. He never earns above four hundred dollars in a year, and
as he has a wife and several young children, the closest scrimping is
necessary to get him through to the end of the twelve months debtless.
To such a man a funeral is a colossal financial disaster. While I was
writing one of the preceding chapters, this man lost a little child. He
walked the town over with a friend, trying to find a coffin that was
within his means. He bought the very cheapest one he could find, plain
wood, stained. It cost him twenty-six dollars. It would have cost less
than four, probably, if it had been built to put something useful into.
He and his family will feel that outlay a good many months.

Chapter 43 The Art of Inhumation

ABOUT the same time, I encountered a man in the street, whom I had not
seen for six or seven years; and something like this talk followed. I
said--

'But you used to look sad and oldish; you don't now. Where did you get
all this youth and bubbling cheerfulness? Give me the address.'

He chuckled blithely, took off his shining tile, pointed to a notched
pink circlet of paper pasted into its crown, with something lettered on
it, and went on chuckling while I read, 'J. B----, UNDERTAKER.' Then he
clapped his hat on, gave it an irreverent tilt to leeward, and cried
out--

'That's what's the matter! It used to be rough times with me when you
knew me--insurance-agency business, you know; mighty irregular. Big
fire, all right--brisk trade for ten days while people scared; after
that, dull policy-business till next fire. Town like this don't have
fires often enough--a fellow strikes so many dull weeks in a row that he
gets discouraged. But you bet you, this is the business! People don't
wait for examples to die. No, sir, they drop off right along--there
ain't any dull spots in the undertaker line. I just started in with two
or three little old coffins and a hired hearse, and now look at the
thing! I've worked up a business here that would satisfy any man, don't
care who he is. Five years ago, lodged in an attic; live in a swell
house now, with a mansard roof, and all the modern inconveniences.'

'Does a coffin pay so well. Is there much profit on a coffin?'

'Go-way! How you talk!' Then, with a confidential wink, a dropping of
the voice, and an impressive laying of his hand on my arm; 'Look here;
there's one thing in this world which isn't ever cheap. That's a coffin.
There's one thing in this world which a person don't ever try to jew you
down on. That's a coffin. There's one thing in this world which a
person don't say--"I'll look around a little, and if I find I can't do
better I'll come back and take it." That's a coffin. There's one thing
in this world which a person won't take in pine if he can go walnut; and
won't take in walnut if he can go mahogany; and won't take in mahogany
if he can go an iron casket with silver door-plate and bronze handles.
That's a coffin. And there's one thing in this world which you don't
have to worry around after a person to get him to pay for. And that's a
coffin. Undertaking?--why it's the dead-surest business in Christendom,
and the nobbiest.

'Why, just look at it. A rich man won't have anything but your very
best; and you can just pile it on, too--pile it on and sock it to him--
he won't ever holler. And you take in a poor man, and if you work him
right he'll bust himself on a single lay-out. Or especially a woman.
F'r instance: Mrs. O'Flaherty comes in--widow--wiping her eyes and kind
of moaning. Unhandkerchiefs one eye, bats it around tearfully over the
stock; says--

'"And fhat might ye ask for that wan?"

'"Thirty-nine dollars, madam," says I.

'"It 's a foine big price, sure, but Pat shall be buried like a
gintleman, as he was, if I have to work me fingers off for it. I'll have
that wan, sor."

'"Yes, madam," says I, "and it is a very good one, too; not costly, to
be sure, but in this life we must cut our garment to our clothes, as the
saying is." And as she starts out, I heave in, kind of casually, "This
one with the white satin lining is a beauty, but I am afraid--well,
sixty-five dollars is a rather--rather--but no matter, I felt obliged to
say to Mrs. O'Shaughnessy--"

'"D'ye mane to soy that Bridget O'Shaughnessy bought the mate to that
joo-ul box to ship that dhrunken divil to Purgatory in?"

'"Yes, madam."

'"Then Pat shall go to heaven in the twin to it, if it takes the last
rap the O'Flaherties can raise; and moind you, stick on some extras,
too, and I'll give ye another dollar."

'And as I lay-in with the livery stables, of course I don't forget to
mention that Mrs. O'Shaughnessy hired fifty-four dollars' worth of hacks
and flung as much style into Dennis's funeral as if he had been a duke
or an assassin. And of course she sails in and goes the O'Shaughnessy
about four hacks and an omnibus better. That used to be, but that's all
played now; that is, in this particular town. The Irish got to piling
up hacks so, on their funerals, that a funeral left them ragged and
hungry for two years afterward; so the priest pitched in and broke it
all up. He don't allow them to have but two hacks now, and sometimes
only one.'

'Well,' said I, 'if you are so light-hearted and jolly in ordinary
times, what must you be in an epidemic?'

He shook his head.

'No, you're off, there. We don't like to see an epidemic. An epidemic
don't pay. Well, of course I don't mean that, exactly; but it don't pay
in proportion to the regular thing. Don't it occur to you, why?'

No.

'Think.'

'I can't imagine. What is it?'

'It's just two things.'

'Well, what are they?'

'One's Embamming.'

'And what's the other?'

'Ice.'

'How is that?'

'Well, in ordinary times, a person dies, and we lay him up in ice; one
day two days, maybe three, to wait for friends to come. Takes a lot of
it--melts fast. We charge jewelry rates for that ice, and war-prices
for attendance. Well, don't you know, when there's an epidemic, they
rush 'em to the cemetery the minute the breath's out. No market for ice
in an epidemic. Same with Embamming. You take a family that's able to
embam, and you've got a soft thing. You can mention sixteen different
ways to do it--though there AIN'T only one or two ways, when you come
down to the bottom facts of it--and they'll take the highest-priced way,
every time. It's human nature--human nature in grief. It don't reason,
you see. Time being, it don't care a dam. All it wants is physical
immortality for deceased, and they're willing to pay for it. All you've
got to do is to just be ca'm and stack it up--they'll stand the racket.
Why, man, you can take a defunct that you couldn't GIVE away; and get
your embamming traps around you and go to work; and in a couple of hours
he is worth a cool six hundred--that's what HE'S worth. There ain't
anything equal to it but trading rats for di'monds in time of famine.
Well, don't you see, when there's an epidemic, people don't wait to
embam. No, indeed they don't; and it hurts the business like hell-th, as
we say--hurts it like hell-th, HEALTH, see?--Our little joke in the
trade. Well, I must be going. Give me a call whenever you need any--I
mean, when you're going by, sometime.'

In his joyful high spirits, he did the exaggerating himself, if any has
been done. I have not enlarged on him.

With the above brief references to inhumation, let us leave the subject.
As for me, I hope to be cremated. I made that remark to my pastor once,
who said, with what he seemed to think was an impressive manner--

'I wouldn't worry about that, if I had your chances.' Much he knew about
it--the family all so opposed to it.

Chapter 44 City Sights

THE old French part of New Orleans--anciently the Spanish part--bears no
resemblance to the American end of the city: the American end which lies
beyond the intervening brick business-center. The houses are massed in
blocks; are austerely plain and dignified; uniform of pattern, with here
and there a departure from it with pleasant effect; all are plastered on
the outside, and nearly all have long, iron-railed verandas running
along the several stories. Their chief beauty is the deep, warm,
varicolored stain with which time and the weather have enriched the
plaster. It harmonizes with all the surroundings, and has as natural a
look of belonging there as has the flush upon sunset clouds. This
charming decoration cannot be successfully imitated; neither is it to be
found elsewhere in America.

The iron railings are a specialty, also. The pattern is often
exceedingly light and dainty, and airy and graceful--with a large cipher
or monogram in the center, a delicate cobweb of baffling, intricate
forms, wrought in steel. The ancient railings are hand-made, and are
now comparatively rare and proportionately valuable. They are become
BRIC-A-BRAC.

The party had the privilege of idling through this ancient quarter of
New Orleans with the South's finest literary genius, the author of 'the
Grandissimes.' In him the South has found a masterly delineator of its
interior life and its history. In truth, I find by experience, that the
untrained eye and vacant mind can inspect it, and learn of it, and judge
of it, more clearly and profitably in his books than by personal contact
with it.

With Mr. Cable along to see for you, and describe and explain and
illuminate, a jog through that old quarter is a vivid pleasure. And you
have a vivid sense as of unseen or dimly seen things--vivid, and yet
fitful and darkling; you glimpse salient features, but lose the fine
shades or catch them imperfectly through the vision of the imagination:
a case, as it were, of ignorant near-sighted stranger traversing the rim
of wide vague horizons of Alps with an inspired and enlightened long-
sighted native.

We visited the old St. Louis Hotel, now occupied by municipal offices.
There is nothing strikingly remarkable about it; but one can say of it
as of the Academy of Music in New York, that if a broom or a shovel has
ever been used in it there is no circumstantial evidence to back up the
fact. It is curious that cabbages and hay and things do not grow in the
Academy of Music; but no doubt it is on account of the interruption of
the light by the benches, and the impossibility of hoeing the crop
except in the aisles. The fact that the ushers grow their buttonhole-
bouquets on the premises shows what might be done if they had the right
kind of an agricultural head to the establishment.

We visited also the venerable Cathedral, and the pretty square in front
of it; the one dim with religious light, the other brilliant with the
worldly sort, and lovely with orange-trees and blossomy shrubs; then we
drove in the hot sun through the wilderness of houses and out on to the
wide dead level beyond, where the villas are, and the water wheels to
drain the town, and the commons populous with cows and children; passing
by an old cemetery where we were told lie the ashes of an early pirate;
but we took him on trust, and did not visit him. He was a pirate with a
tremendous and sanguinary history; and as long as he preserved
unspotted, in retirement, the dignity of his name and the grandeur of
his ancient calling, homage and reverence were his from high and low;
but when at last he descended into politics and became a paltry
alderman, the public 'shook' him, and turned aside and wept. When he
died, they set up a monument over him; and little by little he has come
into respect again; but it is respect for the pirate, not the alderman.
To-day the loyal and generous remember only what he was, and charitably
forget what he became.

Thence, we drove a few miles across a swamp, along a raised shell road,
with a canal on one hand and a dense wood on the other; and here and
there, in the distance, a ragged and angular-limbed and moss-bearded
cypress, top standing out, clear cut against the sky, and as quaint of
form as the apple-trees in Japanese pictures--such was our course and
the surroundings of it. There was an occasional alligator swimming
comfortably along in the canal, and an occasional picturesque colored
person on the bank, flinging his statue-rigid reflection upon the still
water and watching for a bite.

And by-and-bye we reached the West End, a collection of hotels of the
usual light summer-resort pattern, with broad verandas all around, and
the waves of the wide and blue Lake Pontchartrain lapping the
thresholds. We had dinner on a ground-veranda over the water--the chief
dish the renowned fish called the pompano, delicious as the less
criminal forms of sin.

Thousands of people come by rail and carriage to West End and to Spanish
Fort every evening, and dine, listen to the bands, take strolls in the
open air under the electric lights, go sailing on the lake, and
entertain themselves in various and sundry other ways.

We had opportunities on other days and in other places to test the
pompano. Notably, at an editorial dinner at one of the clubs in the
city. He was in his last possible perfection there, and justified his
fame. In his suite was a tall pyramid of scarlet cray-fish--large ones;
as large as one's thumb--delicate, palatable, appetizing. Also deviled
whitebait; also shrimps of choice quality; and a platter of small soft-
shell crabs of a most superior breed. The other dishes were what one
might get at Delmonico's, or Buckingham Palace; those I have spoken of
can be had in similar perfection in New Orleans only, I suppose.

In the West and South they have a new institution--the Broom Brigade. It
is composed of young ladies who dress in a uniform costume, and go
through the infantry drill, with broom in place of musket. It is a very
pretty sight, on private view. When they perform on the stage of a
theater, in the blaze of colored fires, it must be a fine and
fascinating spectacle. I saw them go through their complex manual with
grace, spirit, and admirable precision. I saw them do everything which a
human being can possibly do with a broom, except sweep. I did not see
them sweep. But I know they could learn. What they have already learned
proves that. And if they ever should learn, and should go on the war-
path down Tchoupitoulas or some of those other streets around there,
those thoroughfares would bear a greatly improved aspect in a very few
minutes. But the girls themselves wouldn't; so nothing would be really
gained, after all.

The drill was in the Washington Artillery building. In this building we
saw many interesting relics of the war. Also a fine oil-painting
representing Stonewall Jackson's last interview with General Lee. Both
men are on horseback. Jackson has just ridden up, and is accosting Lee.
The picture is very valuable, on account of the portraits, which are
authentic. But, like many another historical picture, it means nothing
without its label. And one label will fit it as well as another--

First Interview between Lee and Jackson.

Last Interview between Lee and Jackson.

Jackson Introducing Himself to Lee.

Jackson Accepting Lee's Invitation to Dinner.

Jackson Declining Lee's Invitation to Dinner--with Thanks.

Jackson Apologizing for a Heavy Defeat.

Jackson Reporting a Great Victory.

Jackson Asking Lee for a Match.

It tells ONE story, and a sufficient one; for it says quite plainly and
satisfactorily, 'Here are Lee and Jackson together.' The artist would
have made it tell that this is Lee and Jackson's last interview if he
could have done it. But he couldn't, for there wasn't any way to do it.
A good legible label is usually worth, for information, a ton of
significant attitude and expression in a historical picture. In Rome,
people with fine sympathetic natures stand up and weep in front of the
celebrated 'Beatrice Cenci the Day before her Execution.' It shows what
a label can do. If they did not know the picture, they would inspect it
unmoved, and say, 'Young girl with hay fever; young girl with her head
in a bag.'

I found the half-forgotten Southern intonations and elisions as pleasing
to my ear as they had formerly been. A Southerner talks music. At least
it is music to me, but then I was born in the South. The educated
Southerner has no use for an r, except at the beginning of a word. He
says 'honah,' and 'dinnah,' and 'Gove'nuh,' and 'befo' the waw,' and so
on. The words may lack charm to the eye, in print, but they have it to
the ear. When did the r disappear from Southern speech, and how did it
come to disappear? The custom of dropping it was not borrowed from the
North, nor inherited from England. Many Southerners--most Southerners--
put a y into occasional words that begin with the k sound. For instance,
they say Mr. K'yahtah (Carter) and speak of playing k'yahds or of riding
in the k'yahs. And they have the pleasant custom--long ago fallen into
decay in the North--of frequently employing the respectful 'Sir.'
Instead of the curt Yes, and the abrupt No, they say 'Yes, Suh', 'No,
Suh.'

But there are some infelicities. Such as 'like' for 'as,' and the
addition of an 'at' where it isn't needed. I heard an educated gentleman
say, 'Like the flag-officer did.' His cook or his butler would have
said, 'Like the flag-officer done.' You hear gentlemen say, 'Where have
you been at?' And here is the aggravated form--heard a ragged street
Arab say it to a comrade: 'I was a-ask'n' Tom whah you was a-sett'n'
at.' The very elect carelessly say 'will' when they mean 'shall'; and
many of them say, 'I didn't go to do it,' meaning 'I didn't mean to do
it.' The Northern word 'guess'--imported from England, where it used to
be common, and now regarded by satirical Englishmen as a Yankee
original--is but little used among Southerners. They say 'reckon.' They
haven't any 'doesn't' in their language; they say 'don't' instead. The
unpolished often use 'went' for 'gone.' It is nearly as bad as the
Northern 'hadn't ought.' This reminds me that a remark of a very
peculiar nature was made here in my neighborhood (in the North) a few
days ago: 'He hadn't ought to have went.' How is that? Isn't that a
good deal of a triumph? One knows the orders combined in this half-
breed's architecture without inquiring: one parent Northern, the other
Southern. To-day I heard a schoolmistress ask, 'Where is John gone?'
This form is so common--so nearly universal, in fact--that if she had
used 'whither' instead of 'where,' I think it would have sounded like an
affectation.

We picked up one excellent word--a word worth traveling to New Orleans
to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word--'lagniappe.' They
pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish--so they said. We discovered it at
the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day;
heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third;
adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a
restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when
they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a 'baker's
dozen.' It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom
originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant
buys something in a shop--or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I
know--he finishes the operation by saying--

'Give me something for lagniappe.'

The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root,
gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the
governor--I don't know what he gives the governor; support, likely.

When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New
Orleans--and you say, 'What, again?--no, I've had enough;' the other
party says, 'But just this one time more--this is for lagniappe.' When
the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too
high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the edifice would
have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his 'I beg
pardon--no harm intended,' into the briefer form of 'Oh, that's for
lagniappe.' If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill
of coffee down the back of your neck, he says 'For lagniappe, sah,' and
gets you another cup without extra charge.

Chapter 45 Southern Sports

IN the North one hears the war mentioned, in social conversation, once a
month; sometimes as often as once a week; but as a distinct subject for
talk, it has long ago been relieved of duty. There are sufficient
reasons for this. Given a dinner company of six gentlemen to-day, it
can easily happen that four of them--and possibly five--were not in the
field at all. So the chances are four to two, or five to one, that the
war will at no time during the evening become the topic of conversation;
and the chances are still greater that if it become the topic it will
remain so but a little while. If you add six ladies to the company, you
have added six people who saw so little of the dread realities of the
war that they ran out of talk concerning them years ago, and now would
soon weary of the war topic if you brought it up.

The case is very different in the South. There, every man you meet was
in the war; and every lady you meet saw the war. The war is the great
chief topic of conversation. The interest in it is vivid and constant;
the interest in other topics is fleeting. Mention of the war will wake
up a dull company and set their tongues going, when nearly any other
topic would fail. In the South, the war is what A.D. is elsewhere: they
date from it. All day long you hear things 'placed' as having happened
since the waw; or du'in' the waw; or befo' the waw; or right aftah the
waw; or 'bout two yeahs or five yeahs or ten yeahs befo' the waw or
aftah the waw. It shows how intimately every individual was visited, in
his own person, by that tremendous episode. It gives the inexperienced
stranger a better idea of what a vast and comprehensive calamity
invasion is than he can ever get by reading books at the fireside.

At a club one evening, a gentleman turned to me and said, in an aside--

'You notice, of course, that we are nearly always talking about the war.
It isn't because we haven't anything else to talk about, but because
nothing else has so strong an interest for us. And there is another
reason: In the war, each of us, in his own person, seems to have sampled
all the different varieties of human experience; as a consequence, you
can't mention an outside matter of any sort but it will certainly remind
some listener of something that happened during the war--and out he
comes with it. Of course that brings the talk back to the war. You may
try all you want to, to keep other subjects before the house, and we may
all join in and help, but there can be but one result: the most random
topic would load every man up with war reminiscences, and shut him up,
too; and talk would be likely to stop presently, because you can't talk
pale inconsequentialities when you've got a crimson fact or fancy in
your head that you are burning to fetch out.'

The poet was sitting some little distance away; and presently he began
to speak--about the moon.

The gentleman who had been talking to me remarked in an 'aside:' 'There,
the moon is far enough from the seat of war, but you will see that it
will suggest something to somebody about the war; in ten minutes from
now the moon, as a topic, will be shelved.'

The poet was saying he had noticed something which was a surprise to
him; had had the impression that down here, toward the equator, the
moonlight was much stronger and brighter than up North; had had the
impression that when he visited New Orleans, many years ago, the moon--

Interruption from the other end of the room--

'Let me explain that. Reminds me of an anecdote. Everything is changed
since the war, for better or for worse; but you'll find people down here
born grumblers, who see no change except the change for the worse.
There was an old negro woman of this sort. A young New-Yorker said in
her presence, "What a wonderful moon you have down here!" She sighed
and said, "Ah, bless yo' heart, honey, you ought to seen dat moon befo'
de waw!"'

The new topic was dead already. But the poet resurrected it, and gave
it a new start.

A brief dispute followed, as to whether the difference between Northern
and Southern moonlight really existed or was only imagined. Moonlight
talk drifted easily into talk about artificial methods of dispelling
darkness. Then somebody remembered that when Farragut advanced upon
Port Hudson on a dark night--and did not wish to assist the aim of the
Confederate gunners--he carried no battle-lanterns, but painted the
decks of his ships white, and thus created a dim but valuable light,
which enabled his own men to grope their way around with considerable
facility. At this point the war got the floor again--the ten minutes not
quite up yet.

I was not sorry, for war talk by men who have been in a war is always
interesting; whereas moon talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is
likely to be dull.

We went to a cockpit in New Orleans on a Saturday afternoon. I had never
seen a cock-fight before. There were men and boys there of all ages and
all colors, and of many languages and nationalities. But I noticed one
quite conspicuous and surprising absence: the traditional brutal faces.
There were no brutal faces. With no cock-fighting going on, you could
have played the gathering on a stranger for a prayer-meeting; and after
it began, for a revival--provided you blindfolded your stranger--for the
shouting was something prodigious.

A negro and a white man were in the ring; everybody else outside. The
cocks were brought in in sacks; and when time was called, they were
taken out by the two bottle-holders, stroked, caressed, poked toward
each other, and finally liberated. The big black cock plunged instantly
at the little gray one and struck him on the head with his spur. The
gray responded with spirit. Then the Babel of many-tongued shoutings
broke out, and ceased not thenceforth. When the cocks had been fighting
some little time, I was expecting them momently to drop dead, for both
were blind, red with blood, and so exhausted that they frequently fell
down. Yet they would not give up, neither would they die. The negro and
the white man would pick them up every few seconds, wipe them off, blow
cold water on them in a fine spray, and take their heads in their mouths
and hold them there a moment--to warm back the perishing life perhaps; I
do not know. Then, being set down again, the dying creatures would
totter gropingly about, with dragging wings, find each other, strike a
guesswork blow or two, and fall exhausted once more.

I did not see the end of the battle. I forced myself to endure it as
long as I could, but it was too pitiful a sight; so I made frank
confession to that effect, and we retired. We heard afterward that the
black cock died in the ring, and fighting to the last.

Evidently there is abundant fascination about this 'sport' for such as
have had a degree of familiarity with it. I never saw people enjoy
anything more than this gathering enjoyed this fight. The case was the
same with old gray-heads and with boys of ten. They lost themselves in
frenzies of delight. The 'cocking-main' is an inhuman sort of
entertainment, there is no question about that; still, it seems a much
more respectable and far less cruel sport than fox-hunting--for the
cocks like it; they experience, as well as confer enjoyment; which is
not the fox's case.

We assisted--in the French sense--at a mule race, one day. I believe I
enjoyed this contest more than any other mule there. I enjoyed it more
than I remember having enjoyed any other animal race I ever saw. The
grand-stand was well filled with the beauty and the chivalry of New
Orleans. That phrase is not original with me. It is the Southern
reporter's. He has used it for two generations. He uses it twenty times
a day, or twenty thousand times a day; or a million times a day--
according to the exigencies. He is obliged to use it a million times a
day, if he have occasion to speak of respectable men and women that
often; for he has no other phrase for such service except that single
one. He never tires of it; it always has a fine sound to him. There is a
kind of swell medieval bulliness and tinsel about it that pleases his
gaudy barbaric soul. If he had been in Palestine in the early times, we
should have had no references to 'much people' out of him. No, he would
have said 'the beauty and the chivalry of Galilee' assembled to hear the
Sermon on the Mount. It is likely that the men and women of the South
are sick enough of that phrase by this time, and would like a change,
but there is no immediate prospect of their getting it.

The New Orleans editor has a strong, compact, direct, unflowery style;
wastes no words, and does not gush. Not so with his average
correspondent. In the Appendix I have quoted a good letter, penned by a
trained hand; but the average correspondent hurls a style which differs
from that. For instance--

The 'Times-Democrat' sent a relief-steamer up one of the bayous, last
April. This steamer landed at a village, up there somewhere, and the
Captain invited some of the ladies of the village to make a short trip
with him. They accepted and came aboard, and the steamboat shoved out up
the creek. That was all there was 'to it.' And that is all that the
editor of the 'Times-Democrat' would have got out of it. There was
nothing in the thing but statistics, and he would have got nothing else
out of it. He would probably have even tabulated them, partly to secure
perfect clearness of statement, and partly to save space. But his
special correspondent knows other methods of handling statistics. He
just throws off all restraint and wallows in them--

'On Saturday, early in the morning, the beauty of the place graced our
cabin, and proud of her fair freight the gallant little boat glided up
the bayou.'

Twenty-two words to say the ladies came aboard and the boat shoved out
up the creek, is a clean waste of ten good words, and is also
destructive of compactness of statement.

The trouble with the Southern reporter is--Women. They unsettle him;
they throw him off his balance. He is plain, and sensible, and
satisfactory, until a woman heaves in sight. Then he goes all to
pieces; his mind totters, he becomes flowery and idiotic. From reading
the above extract, you would imagine that this student of Sir Walter
Scott is an apprentice, and knows next to nothing about handling a pen.
On the contrary, he furnishes plenty of proofs, in his long letter, that
he knows well enough how to handle it when the women are not around to
give him the artificial-flower complaint. For instance--

'At 4 o'clock ominous clouds began to gather in the south-east, and
presently from the Gulf there came a blow which increased in severity
every moment. It was not safe to leave the landing then, and there was a
delay. The oaks shook off long tresses of their mossy beards to the
tugging of the wind, and the bayou in its ambition put on miniature
waves in mocking of much larger bodies of water. A lull permitted a
start, and homewards we steamed, an inky sky overhead and a heavy wind
blowing. As darkness crept on, there were few on board who did not wish
themselves nearer home.'

There is nothing the matter with that. It is good description,
compactly put. Yet there was great temptation, there, to drop into
lurid writing.

But let us return to the mule. Since I left him, I have rummaged around
and found a full report of the race. In it I find confirmation of the
theory which I broached just now--namely, that the trouble with the
Southern reporter is Women: Women, supplemented by Walter Scott and his
knights and beauty and chivalry, and so on. This is an excellent report,
as long as the women stay out of it. But when they intrude, we have this
frantic result--

'It will be probably a long time before the ladies' stand presents such
a sea of foam-like loveliness as it did yesterday. The New Orleans
women are always charming, but never so much so as at this time of the
year, when in their dainty spring costumes they bring with them a
breath of balmy freshness and an odor of sanctity unspeakable. The stand
was so crowded with them that, walking at their feet and seeing no
possibility of approach, many a man appreciated as he never did before
the Peri's feeling at the Gates of Paradise, and wondered what was the
priceless boon that would admit him to their sacred presence. Sparkling
on their white-robed breasts or shoulders were the colors of their
favorite knights, and were it not for the fact that the doughty heroes
appeared on unromantic mules, it would have been easy to imagine one of
King Arthur's gala-days.'

There were thirteen mules in the first heat; all sorts of mules, they
were; all sorts of complexions, gaits, dispositions, aspects. Some were
handsome creatures, some were not; some were sleek, some hadn't had
their fur brushed lately; some were innocently gay and frisky; some were
full of malice and all unrighteousness; guessing from looks, some of
them thought the matter on hand was war, some thought it was a lark, the
rest took it for a religious occasion. And each mule acted according to
his convictions. The result was an absence of harmony well compensated
by a conspicuous presence of variety--variety of a picturesque and
entertaining sort.

All the riders were young gentlemen in fashionable society. If the
reader has been wondering why it is that the ladies of New Orleans
attend so humble an orgy as a mule-race, the thing is explained now. It
is a fashion-freak; all connected with it are people of fashion.

It is great fun, and cordially liked. The mule-race is one of the
marked occasions of the year. It has brought some pretty fast mules to
the front. One of these had to be ruled out, because he was so fast that
he turned the thing into a one-mule contest, and robbed it of one of its
best features--variety. But every now and then somebody disguises him
with a new name and a new complexion, and rings him in again.

The riders dress in full jockey costumes of bright-colored silks,
satins, and velvets.

The thirteen mules got away in a body, after a couple of false starts,
and scampered off with prodigious spirit. As each mule and each rider
had a distinct opinion of his own as to how the race ought to be run,
and which side of the track was best in certain circumstances, and how
often the track ought to be crossed, and when a collision ought to be
accomplished, and when it ought to be avoided, these twenty-six
conflicting opinions created a most fantastic and picturesque confusion,
and the resulting spectacle was killingly comical.

Mile heat; time 2:22. Eight of the thirteen mules distanced. I had a bet
on a mule which would have won if the procession had been reversed. The
second heat was good fun; and so was the 'consolation race for beaten
mules,' which followed later; but the first heat was the best in that
respect.

I think that much the most enjoyable of all races is a steamboat race;
but, next to that, I prefer the gay and joyous mule-rush. Two red-hot
steamboats raging along, neck-and-neck, straining every nerve--that is
to say, every rivet in the boilers--quaking and shaking and groaning
from stem to stern, spouting white steam from the pipes, pouring black
smoke from the chimneys, raining down sparks, parting the river into
long breaks of hissing foam--this is sport that makes a body's very
liver curl with enjoyment. A horse-race is pretty tame and colorless in
comparison. Still, a horse-race might be well enough, in its way,
perhaps, if it were not for the tiresome false starts. But then, nobody
is ever killed. At least, nobody was ever killed when I was at a
horse-race. They have been crippled, it is true; but this is little
to the purpose.

===10

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI

BY MARK TWAIN

Part 10.

Chapter 46 Enchantments and Enchanters

THE largest annual event in New Orleans is a something which we arrived
too late to sample--the Mardi-Gras festivities. I saw the procession of
the Mystic Crew of Comus there, twenty-four years ago--with knights and
nobles and so on, clothed in silken and golden Paris-made
gorgeousnesses, planned and bought for that single night's use; and in
their train all manner of giants, dwarfs, monstrosities, and other
diverting grotesquerie--a startling and wonderful sort of show, as it
filed solemnly and silently down the street in the light of its smoking
and flickering torches; but it is said that in these latter days the
spectacle is mightily augmented, as to cost, splendor, and variety.
There is a chief personage--'Rex;' and if I remember rightly, neither
this king nor any of his great following of subordinates is known to any
outsider. All these people are gentlemen of position and consequence;
and it is a proud thing to belong to the organization; so the mystery in
which they hide their personality is merely for romance's sake, and not
on account of the police.

Mardi-Gras is of course a relic of the French and Spanish occupation;
but I judge that the religious feature has been pretty well knocked out
of it now. Sir Walter has got the advantage of the gentlemen of the cowl
and rosary, and he will stay. His medieval business, supplemented by
the monsters and the oddities, and the pleasant creatures from fairy-
land, is finer to look at than the poor fantastic inventions and
performances of the reveling rabble of the priest's day, and serves
quite as well, perhaps, to emphasize the day and admonish men that the
grace-line between the worldly season and the holy one is reached.

This Mardi-Gras pageant was the exclusive possession of New Orleans
until recently. But now it has spread to Memphis and St. Louis and
Baltimore. It has probably reached its limit. It is a thing which could
hardly exist in the practical North; would certainly last but a very
brief time; as brief a time as it would last in London. For the soul of
it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take away the
romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-sounding titles, and
Mardi-Gras would die, down there in the South. The very feature that
keeps it alive in the South--girly-girly romance--would kill it in the
North or in London. Puck and Punch, and the press universal, would fall
upon it and make merciless fun of it, and its first exhibition would be
also its last.

Against the crimes of the French Revolution and of Bonaparte may be set
two compensating benefactions: the Revolution broke the chains of the
ANCIEN REGIME and of the Church, and made of a nation of abject slaves a
nation of freemen; and Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit above
birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity from royalty, that
whereas crowned heads in Europe were gods before, they are only men,
since, and can never be gods again, but only figureheads, and answerable
for their acts like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate
the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution did, and leave the
world in debt to them for these great and permanent services to liberty,
humanity, and progress.

Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single
might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the
world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms
of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the
sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham
chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did
measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other
individual that ever wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good
part of these harms, though by no means all of them; but in our South
they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully as half a
generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully. There, the genuine and
wholesome civilization of the nineteenth century is curiously confused
and commingled with the Walter Scott Middle-Age sham civilization; and
so you have practical, common-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive
works; mixed up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune
romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to
be buried. But for the Sir Walter disease, the character of the
Southerner--or Southron, according to Sir Walter's starchier way of
phrasing it--would be wholly modern, in place of modern and medieval
mixed, and the South would be fully a generation further advanced than
it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major
or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he,
also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it
was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for
rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is laid on
slavery, without fathering upon it these creations and contributions of
Sir Walter.

Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it
existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the
war. It seems a little harsh toward a dead man to say that we never
should have had any war but for Sir Walter; and yet something of a
plausible argument might, perhaps, be made in support of that wild
proposition. The Southerner of the American Revolution owned slaves; so
did the Southerner of the Civil War: but the former resembles the latter
as an Englishman resembles a Frenchman. The change of character can be
traced rather more easily to Sir Walter's influence than to that of any
other thing or person.

One may observe, by one or two signs, how deeply that influence
penetrated, and how strongly it holds. If one take up a Northern or
Southern literary periodical of forty or fifty years ago, he will find
it filled with wordy, windy, flowery 'eloquence,' romanticism,
sentimentality--all imitated from Sir Walter, and sufficiently badly
done, too--innocent travesties of his style and methods, in fact. This
sort of literature being the fashion in both sections of the country,
there was opportunity for the fairest competition; and as a consequence,
the South was able to show as many well-known literary names,
proportioned to population, as the North could.

But a change has come, and there is no opportunity now for a fair
competition between North and South. For the North has thrown out that
old inflated style, whereas the Southern writer still clings to it--
clings to it and has a restricted market for his wares, as a
consequence. There is as much literary talent in the South, now, as ever
there was, of course; but its work can gain but slight currency under
present conditions; the authors write for the past, not the present;
they use obsolete forms, and a dead language. But when a Southerner of
genius writes modern English, his book goes upon crutches no longer, but
upon wings; and they carry it swiftly all about America and England, and
through the great English reprint publishing houses of Germany--as
witness the experience of Mr. Cable and Uncle Remus, two of the very few
Southern authors who do not write in the Southern style. Instead of
three or four widely-known literary names, the South ought to have a
dozen or two--and will have them when Sir Walter's time is out.

A curious exemplification of the power of a single book for good or harm
is shown in the effects wrought by 'Don Quixote' and those wrought by
'Ivanhoe.' The first swept the world's admiration for the medieval
chivalry-silliness out of existence; and the other restored it. As far
as our South is concerned, the good work done by Cervantes is pretty
nearly a dead letter, so effectually has Scott's pernicious work
undermined it.

Chapter 47 Uncle Remus and Mr. Cable

MR. JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS ('Uncle Remus') was to arrive from Atlanta at
seven o'clock Sunday morning; so we got up and received him. We were
able to detect him among the crowd of arrivals at the hotel-counter by
his correspondence with a description of him which had been furnished us
from a trustworthy source. He was said to be undersized, red-haired, and
somewhat freckled. He was the only man in the party whose outside
tallied with this bill of particulars. He was said to be very shy. He
is a shy man. Of this there is no doubt. It may not show on the
surface, but the shyness is there. After days of intimacy one wonders
to see that it is still in about as strong force as ever. There is a
fine and beautiful nature hidden behind it, as all know who have read
the Uncle Remus book; and a fine genius, too, as all know by the same
sign. I seem to be talking quite freely about this neighbor; but in
talking to the public I am but talking to his personal friends, and
these things are permissible among friends.

He deeply disappointed a number of children who had flocked eagerly to
Mr. Cable's house to get a glimpse of the illustrious sage and oracle of
the nation's nurseries. They said--

'Why, he 's white!'

They were grieved about it. So, to console them, the book was brought,
that they might hear Uncle Remus's Tar-Baby story from the lips of Uncle
Remus himself--or what, in their outraged eyes, was left of him. But it
turned out that he had never read aloud to people, and was too shy to
venture the attempt now. Mr. Cable and I read from books of ours, to
show him what an easy trick it was; but his immortal shyness was proof
against even this sagacious strategy, so we had to read about Brer
Rabbit ourselves.

Mr. Harris ought to be able to read the negro dialect better than
anybody else, for in the matter of writing it he is the only master the
country has produced. Mr. Cable is the only master in the writing of
French dialects that the country has produced; and he reads them in
perfection. It was a great treat to hear him read about Jean-ah
Poquelin, and about Innerarity and his famous 'pigshoo' representing
'Louisihanna RIF-fusing to Hanter the Union,' along with passages of
nicely-shaded German dialect from a novel which was still in manuscript.

It came out in conversation, that in two different instances Mr. Cable
got into grotesque trouble by using, in his books, next-to-impossible
French names which nevertheless happened to be borne by living and
sensitive citizens of New Orleans. His names were either inventions or
were borrowed from the ancient and obsolete past, I do not now remember
which; but at any rate living bearers of them turned up, and were a good
deal hurt at having attention directed to themselves and their affairs
in so excessively public a manner.

Mr. Warner and I had an experience of the same sort when we wrote the
book called 'The Gilded Age.' There is a character in it called
'Sellers.' I do not remember what his first name was, in the beginning;
but anyway, Mr. Warner did not like it, and wanted it improved. He asked
me if I was able to imagine a person named 'Eschol Sellers.' Of course I
said I could not, without stimulants. He said that away out West, once,
he had met, and contemplated, and actually shaken hands with a man
bearing that impossible name--'Eschol Sellers.' He added--

'It was twenty years ago; his name has probably carried him off before
this; and if it hasn't, he will never see the book anyhow. We will
confiscate his name. The name you are using is common, and therefore
dangerous; there are probably a thousand Sellerses bearing it, and the
whole horde will come after us; but Eschol Sellers is a safe name--it is
a rock.'

So we borrowed that name; and when the book had been out about a week,
one of the stateliest and handsomest and most aristocratic looking white
men that ever lived, called around, with the most formidable libel suit
in his pocket that ever--well, in brief, we got his permission to
suppress an edition of ten million {footnote [Figures taken from memory,
and probably incorrect. Think it was more.]} copies of the book and
change that name to 'Mulberry Sellers' in future editions.

Chapter 48 Sugar and Postage

ONE day, on the street, I encountered the man whom, of all men, I most
wished to see--Horace Bixby; formerly pilot under me--or rather, over
me--now captain of the great steamer 'City of Baton Rouge,' the latest
and swiftest addition to the Anchor Line. The same slender figure, the
same tight curls, the same springy step, the same alertness, the same
decision of eye and answering decision of hand, the same erect military
bearing; not an inch gained or lost in girth, not an ounce gained or
lost in weight, not a hair turned. It is a curious thing, to leave a man
thirty-five years old, and come back at the end of twenty-one years and
find him still only thirty-five. I have not had an experience of this
kind before, I believe. There were some crow's-feet, but they counted
for next to nothing, since they were inconspicuous.

His boat was just in. I had been waiting several days for her,
purposing to return to St. Louis in her. The captain and I joined a
party of ladies and gentlemen, guests of Major Wood, and went down the
river fifty-four miles, in a swift tug, to ex-Governor Warmouth's sugar
plantation. Strung along below the city, were a number of decayed, ram-
shackly, superannuated old steamboats, not one of which had I ever seen
before. They had all been built, and worn out, and thrown aside, since I
was here last. This gives one a realizing sense of the frailness of a
Mississippi boat and the briefness of its life.

Six miles below town a fat and battered brick chimney, sticking above
the magnolias and live-oaks, was pointed out as the monument erected by
an appreciative nation to celebrate the battle of New Orleans--Jackson's
victory over the British, January 8, 1815. The war had ended, the two
nations were at peace, but the news had not yet reached New Orleans. If
we had had the cable telegraph in those days, this blood would not have
been spilt, those lives would not have been wasted; and better still,
Jackson would probably never have been president. We have gotten over
the harms done us by the war of 1812, but not over some of those done us
by Jackson's presidency.

The Warmouth plantation covers a vast deal of ground, and the
hospitality of the Warmouth mansion is graduated to the same large
scale. We saw steam-plows at work, here, for the first time. The
traction engine travels about on its own wheels, till it reaches the
required spot; then it stands still and by means of a wire rope pulls
the huge plow toward itself two or three hundred yards across the field,
between the rows of cane. The thing cuts down into the black mold a foot
and a half deep. The plow looks like a fore-and-aft brace of a Hudson
river steamer, inverted. When the negro steersman sits on one end of it,
that end tilts down near the ground, while the other sticks up high in
air. This great see-saw goes rolling and pitching like a ship at sea,
and it is not every circus rider that could stay on it.

The plantation contains two thousand six hundred acres; six hundred and
fifty are in cane; and there is a fruitful orange grove of five thousand
trees. The cane is cultivated after a modern and intricate scientific
fashion, too elaborate and complex for me to attempt to describe; but it
lost $40,000 last year. I forget the other details. However, this
year's crop will reach ten or twelve hundred tons of sugar, consequently
last year's loss will not matter. These troublesome and expensive
scientific methods achieve a yield of a ton and a half and from that to
two tons, to the acre; which is three or four times what the yield of an
acre was in my time.

The drainage-ditches were everywhere alive with little crabs--
'fiddlers.' One saw them scampering sidewise in every direction
whenever they heard a disturbing noise. Expensive pests, these crabs;
for they bore into the levees, and ruin them.

The great sugar-house was a wilderness of tubs and tanks and vats and
filters, pumps, pipes, and machinery. The process of making sugar is
exceedingly interesting. First, you heave your cane into the
centrifugals and grind out the juice; then run it through the
evaporating pan to extract the fiber; then through the bone-filter to
remove the alcohol; then through the clarifying tanks to discharge the
molasses; then through the granulating pipe to condense it; then through
the vacuum pan to extract the vacuum. It is now ready for market. I
have jotted these particulars down from memory. The thing looks simple
and easy. Do not deceive yourself. To make sugar is really one of the
most difficult things in the world. And to make it right, is next to
impossible. If you will examine your own supply every now and then for a
term of years, and tabulate the result, you will find that not two men
in twenty can make sugar without getting sand into it.

We could have gone down to the mouth of the river and visited Captain
Eads' great work, the 'jetties,' where the river has been compressed
between walls, and thus deepened to twenty-six feet; but it was voted
useless to go, since at this stage of the water everything would be
covered up and invisible.

We could have visited that ancient and singular burg, 'Pilot-town,'
which stands on stilts in the water--so they say; where nearly all
communication is by skiff and canoe, even to the attending of weddings
and funerals; and where the littlest boys and girls are as handy with
the oar as unamphibious children are with the velocipede.

We could have done a number of other things; but on account of limited
time, we went back home. The sail up the breezy and sparkling river was
a charming experience, and would have been satisfyingly sentimental and
romantic but for the interruptions of the tug's pet parrot, whose
tireless comments upon the scenery and the guests were always this-
worldly, and often profane. He had also a superabundance of the
discordant, ear-splitting, metallic laugh common to his breed--a
machine-made laugh, a Frankenstein laugh, with the soul left out of it.
He applied it to every sentimental remark, and to every pathetic song.
He cackled it out with hideous energy after 'Home again, home again from
a foreign shore,' and said he 'wouldn't give a damn for a tug-load of
such rot.' Romance and sentiment cannot long survive this sort of
discouragement; so the singing and talking presently ceased; which so
delighted the parrot that he cursed himself hoarse for joy.

Then the male members of the party moved to the forecastle, to smoke and
gossip. There were several old steamboatmen along, and I learned from
them a great deal of what had been happening to my former river friends
during my long absence. I learned that a pilot whom I used to steer for
is become a spiritualist, and for more than fifteen years has been
receiving a letter every week from a deceased relative, through a New
York spiritualist medium named Manchester--postage graduated by
distance: from the local post-office in Paradise to New York, five
dollars; from New York to St. Louis, three cents. I remember Mr.
Manchester very well. I called on him once, ten years ago, with a couple
of friends, one of whom wished to inquire after a deceased uncle. This
uncle had lost his life in a peculiarly violent and unusual way, half a
dozen years before: a cyclone blew him some three miles and knocked a
tree down with him which was four feet through at the butt and sixty-
five feet high. He did not survive this triumph. At the seance just
referred to, my friend questioned his late uncle, through Mr.
Manchester, and the late uncle wrote down his replies, using Mr.
Manchester's hand and pencil for that purpose. The following is a fair
example of the questions asked, and also of the sloppy twaddle in the
way of answers, furnished by Manchester under the pretense that it came
from the specter. If this man is not the paltriest fraud that lives, I
owe him an apology--

QUESTION. Where are you?

ANSWER. In the spirit world.

Q. Are you happy?

A. Very happy. Perfectly happy.

Q. How do you amuse yourself?

A. Conversation with friends, and other spirits.

Q. What else?

A. Nothing else. Nothing else is necessary.

Q. What do you talk about?

A. About how happy we are; and about friends left behind in the earth,
and how to influence them for their good.

Q. When your friends in the earth all get to the spirit land, what shall
you have to talk about then?--nothing but about how happy you all are?

No reply. It is explained that spirits will not answer frivolous
questions.

Q. How is it that spirits that are content to spend an eternity in
frivolous employments, and accept it as happiness, are so fastidious
about frivolous questions upon the subject?

No reply.

Q. Would you like to come back?

A. No.

Q. Would you say that under oath?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you eat there?

A. We do not eat.

Q. What do you drink?

A. We do not drink.

Q. What do you smoke?

A. We do not smoke.

Q. What do you read?

A. We do not read.

Q. Do all the good people go to your place?

A. Yes.

Q. You know my present way of life. Can you suggest any additions to
it, in the way of crime, that will reasonably insure my going to some
other place.

A. No reply.

Q. When did you die?

A. I did not die, I passed away.

Q. Very well, then, when did you pass away? How long have you been in
the spirit land?

A. We have no measurements of time here.

Q. Though you may be indifferent and uncertain as to dates and times in
your present condition and environment, this has nothing to do with your
former condition. You had dates then. One of these is what I ask for.
You departed on a certain day in a certain year. Is not this true?

A. Yes.

Q. Then name the day of the month.

(Much fumbling with pencil, on the part of the medium, accompanied by
violent spasmodic jerkings of his head and body, for some little time.
Finally, explanation to the effect that spirits often forget dates, such
things being without importance to them.)

Q. Then this one has actually forgotten the date of its translation to
the spirit land?

This was granted to be the case.

Q. This is very curious. Well, then, what year was it?

(More fumbling, jerking, idiotic spasms, on the part of the medium.
Finally, explanation to the effect that the spirit has forgotten the
year.)

Q. This is indeed stupendous. Let me put one more question, one last
question, to you, before we part to meet no more;--for even if I fail to
avoid your asylum, a meeting there will go for nothing as a meeting,
since by that time you will easily have forgotten me and my name: did
you die a natural death, or were you cut off by a catastrophe?

A. (After long hesitation and many throes and spasms.) NATURAL DEATH.

This ended the interview. My friend told the medium that when his
relative was in this poor world, he was endowed with an extraordinary
intellect and an absolutely defectless memory, and it seemed a great
pity that he had not been allowed to keep some shred of these for his
amusement in the realms of everlasting contentment, and for the
amazement and admiration of the rest of the population there.

This man had plenty of clients--has plenty yet. He receives letters
from spirits located in every part of the spirit world, and delivers
them all over this country through the United States mail. These letters
are filled with advice--advice from 'spirits' who don't know as much as
a tadpole--and this advice is religiously followed by the receivers.
One of these clients was a man whom the spirits (if one may thus
plurally describe the ingenious Manchester) were teaching how to
contrive an improved railway car-wheel. It is coarse employment for a
spirit, but it is higher and wholesomer activity than talking for ever
about 'how happy we are.'

Chapter 49 Episodes in Pilot Life

IN the course of the tug-boat gossip, it came out that out of every five
of my former friends who had quitted the river, four had chosen farming
as an occupation. Of course this was not because they were peculiarly
gifted, agriculturally, and thus more likely to succeed as farmers than
in other industries: the reason for their choice must be traced to some
other source. Doubtless they chose farming because that life is private
and secluded from irruptions of undesirable strangers--like the pilot-
house hermitage. And doubtless they also chose it because on a thousand
nights of black storm and danger they had noted the twinkling lights of
solitary farm-houses, as the boat swung by, and pictured to themselves
the serenity and security and coziness of such refuges at such times,
and so had by-and-bye come to dream of that retired and peaceful life as
the one desirable thing to long for, anticipate, earn, and at last
enjoy.

But I did not learn that any of these pilot-farmers had astonished
anybody with their successes. Their farms do not support them: they
support their farms. The pilot-farmer disappears from the river
annually, about the breaking of spring, and is seen no more till next
frost. Then he appears again, in damaged homespun, combs the hayseed out
of his hair, and takes a pilot-house berth for the winter. In this way
he pays the debts which his farming has achieved during the agricultural
season. So his river bondage is but half broken; he is still the
river's slave the hardest half of the year.

One of these men bought a farm, but did not retire to it. He knew a
trick worth two of that. He did not propose to pauperize his farm by
applying his personal ignorance to working it. No, he put the farm into
the hands of an agricultural expert to be worked on shares--out of every
three loads of corn the expert to have two and the pilot the third. But
at the end of the season the pilot received no corn. The expert
explained that his share was not reached. The farm produced only two
loads.

Some of the pilots whom I had known had had adventures--the outcome
fortunate, sometimes, but not in all cases. Captain Montgomery, whom I
had steered for when he was a pilot, commanded the Confederate fleet in
the great battle before Memphis; when his vessel went down, he swam
ashore, fought his way through a squad of soldiers, and made a gallant
and narrow escape. He was always a cool man; nothing could disturb his
serenity. Once when he was captain of the 'Crescent City,' I was
bringing the boat into port at New Orleans, and momently expecting
orders from the hurricane deck, but received none. I had stopped the
wheels, and there my authority and responsibility ceased. It was
evening--dim twilight--the captain's hat was perched upon the big bell,
and I supposed the intellectual end of the captain was in it, but such
was not the case. The captain was very strict; therefore I knew better
than to touch a bell without orders. My duty was to hold the boat
steadily on her calamitous course, and leave the consequences to take
care of themselves--which I did. So we went plowing past the sterns of
steamboats and getting closer and closer--the crash was bound to come
very soon--and still that hat never budged; for alas, the captain was
napping in the texas.... Things were becoming exceedingly nervous and
uncomfortable. It seemed to me that the captain was not going to appear
in time to see the entertainment. But he did. Just as we were walking
into the stern of a steamboat, he stepped out on deck, and said, with
heavenly serenity, 'Set her back on both'--which I did; but a trifle
late, however, for the next moment we went smashing through that other
boat's flimsy outer works with a most prodigious racket. The captain
never said a word to me about the matter afterwards, except to remark
that I had done right, and that he hoped I would not hesitate to act in
the same way again in like circumstances.

One of the pilots whom I had known when I was on the river had died a
very honorable death. His boat caught fire, and he remained at the
wheel until he got her safe to land. Then he went out over the breast-
board with his clothing in flames, and was the last person to get
ashore. He died from his injuries in the course of two or three hours,
and his was the only life lost.

The history of Mississippi piloting affords six or seven instances of
this sort of martyrdom, and half a hundred instances of escapes from a
like fate which came within a second or two of being fatally too late;
BUT THERE IS NO INSTANCE OF A PILOT DESERTING HIS POST TO SAVE HIS LIFE
WHILE BY REMAINING AND SACRIFICING IT HE MIGHT SECURE OTHER LIVES FROM
DESTRUCTION. It is well worth while to set down this noble fact, and
well worth while to put it in italics, too.

The 'cub' pilot is early admonished to despise all perils connected with
a pilot's calling, and to prefer any sort of death to the deep dishonor
of deserting his post while there is any possibility of his being useful
in it. And so effectively are these admonitions inculcated, that even
young and but half-tried pilots can be depended upon to stick to the
wheel, and die there when occasion requires. In a Memphis graveyard is
buried a young fellow who perished at the wheel a great many years ago,
in White River, to save the lives of other men. He said to the captain
that if the fire would give him time to reach a sand bar, some distance
away, all could be saved, but that to land against the bluff bank of the
river would be to insure the loss of many lives. He reached the bar and
grounded the boat in shallow water; but by that time the flames had
closed around him, and in escaping through them he was fatally burned.
He had been urged to fly sooner, but had replied as became a pilot to
reply--

'I will not go. If I go, nobody will be saved; if I stay, no one will
be lost but me. I will stay.'

There were two hundred persons on board, and no life was lost but the
pilot's. There used to be a monument to this young fellow, in that
Memphis graveyard. While we tarried in Memphis on our down trip, I
started out to look for it, but our time was so brief that I was obliged
to turn back before my object was accomplished.

The tug-boat gossip informed me that Dick Kennet was dead--blown up,
near Memphis, and killed; that several others whom I had known had
fallen in the war--one or two of them shot down at the wheel; that
another and very particular friend, whom I had steered many trips for,
had stepped out of his house in New Orleans, one night years ago, to
collect some money in a remote part of the city, and had never been seen
again--was murdered and thrown into the river, it was thought; that Ben
Thornburgh was dead long ago; also his wild 'cub' whom I used to quarrel
with, all through every daylight watch. A heedless, reckless creature
he was, and always in hot water, always in mischief. An Arkansas
passenger brought an enormous bear aboard, one day, and chained him to a
life-boat on the hurricane deck. Thornburgh's 'cub' could not rest till
he had gone there and unchained the bear, to 'see what he would do.' He
was promptly gratified. The bear chased him around and around the deck,
for miles and miles, with two hundred eager faces grinning through the
railings for audience, and finally snatched off the lad's coat-tail and
went into the texas to chew it. The off-watch turned out with alacrity,
and left the bear in sole possession. He presently grew lonesome, and
started out for recreation. He ranged the whole boat--visited every part
of it, with an advance guard of fleeing people in front of him and a
voiceless vacancy behind him; and when his owner captured him at last,
those two were the only visible beings anywhere; everybody else was in
hiding, and the boat was a solitude.

I was told that one of my pilot friends fell dead at the wheel, from
heart disease, in 1869. The captain was on the roof at the time. He saw
the boat breaking for the shore; shouted, and got no answer; ran up, and
found the pilot lying dead on the floor.

Mr. Bixby had been blown up, in Madrid bend; was not injured, but the
other pilot was lost.

George Ritchie had been blown up near Memphis--blown into the river from
the wheel, and disabled. The water was very cold; he clung to a cotton
bale--mainly with his teeth--and floated until nearly exhausted, when he
was rescued by some deck hands who were on a piece of the wreck. They
tore open the bale and packed him in the cotton, and warmed the life
back into him, and got him safe to Memphis. He is one of Bixby's pilots
on the 'Baton Rouge' now.

Into the life of a steamboat clerk, now dead, had dropped a bit of
romance--somewhat grotesque romance, but romance nevertheless. When I
knew him he was a shiftless young spendthrift, boisterous, goodhearted,
full of careless generosities, and pretty conspicuously promising to
fool his possibilities away early, and come to nothing. In a Western
city lived a rich and childless old foreigner and his wife; and in their
family was a comely young girl--sort of friend, sort of servant. The
young clerk of whom I have been speaking--whose name was not George
Johnson, but who shall be called George Johnson for the purposes of this
narrative--got acquainted with this young girl, and they sinned; and the
old foreigner found them out, and rebuked them. Being ashamed, they
lied, and said they were married; that they had been privately married.
Then the old foreigner's hurt was healed, and he forgave and blessed
them. After that, they were able to continue their sin without
concealment. By-and-bye the foreigner's wife died; and presently he
followed after her. Friends of the family assembled to mourn; and among
the mourners sat the two young sinners. The will was opened and
solemnly read. It bequeathed every penny of that old man's great wealth
to MRS. GEORGE JOHNSON!

And there was no such person. The young sinners fled forth then, and
did a very foolish thing: married themselves before an obscure Justice
of the Peace, and got him to antedate the thing. That did no sort of
good. The distant relatives flocked in and exposed the fraudful date
with extreme suddenness and surprising ease, and carried off the
fortune, leaving the Johnsons very legitimately, and legally, and
irrevocably chained together in honorable marriage, but with not so much
as a penny to bless themselves withal. Such are the actual facts; and
not all novels have for a base so telling a situation.

Chapter 50 The 'Original Jacobs'

WE had some talk about Captain Isaiah Sellers, now many years dead. He
was a fine man, a high-minded man, and greatly respected both ashore and
on the river. He was very tall, well built, and handsome; and in his
old age--as I remember him--his hair was as black as an Indian's, and
his eye and hand were as strong and steady and his nerve and judgment as
firm and clear as anybody's, young or old, among the fraternity of
pilots. He was the patriarch of the craft; he had been a keelboat pilot
before the day of steamboats; and a steamboat pilot before any other
steamboat pilot, still surviving at the time I speak of, had ever turned
a wheel. Consequently his brethren held him in the sort of awe in which
illustrious survivors of a bygone age are always held by their
associates. He knew how he was regarded, and perhaps this fact added
some trifle of stiffening to his natural dignity, which had been
sufficiently stiff in its original state.

He left a diary behind him; but apparently it did not date back to his
first steamboat trip, which was said to be 1811, the year the first
steamboat disturbed the waters of the Mississippi. At the time of his
death a correspondent of the 'St. Louis Republican' culled the following
items from the diary--

'In February, 1825, he shipped on board the steamer "Rambler," at
Florence, Ala., and made during that year three trips to New Orleans and
back--this on the "Gen. Carrol," between Nashville and New Orleans. It
was during his stay on this boat that Captain Sellers introduced the tap
of the bell as a signal to heave the lead, previous to which time it was
the custom for the pilot to speak to the men below when soundings were
wanted. The proximity of the forecastle to the pilot-house, no doubt,
rendered this an easy matter; but how different on one of our palaces of
the present day.

'In 1827 we find him on board the "President," a boat of two hundred and
eighty-five tons burden, and plying between Smithland and New Orleans.
Thence he joined the "Jubilee" in 1828, and on this boat he did his
first piloting in the St. Louis trade; his first watch extending from
Herculaneum to St. Genevieve. On May 26, 1836, he completed and left
Pittsburgh in charge of the steamer "Prairie," a boat of four hundred
tons, and the first steamer with a STATE-ROOM CABIN ever seen at St.
Louis. In 1857 he introduced the signal for meeting boats, and which
has, with some slight change, been the universal custom of this day; in
fact, is rendered obligatory by act of Congress.

'As general items of river history, we quote the following marginal
notes from his general log--

'In March, 1825, Gen. Lafayette left New Orleans for St. Louis on the
low-pressure steamer "Natchez."

'In January, 1828, twenty-one steamers left the New Orleans wharf to
celebrate the occasion of Gen. Jackson's visit to that city.

'In 1830 the "North American" made the run from New Orleans to Memphis
in six days--best time on record to that date. It has since been made in
two days and ten hours.

'In 1831 the Red River cut-off formed.

'In 1832 steamer "Hudson" made the run from White River to Helena, a
distance of seventy-five miles, in twelve hours. This was the source of
much talk and speculation among parties directly interested.

'In 1839 Great Horseshoe cut-off formed.

'Up to the present time, a term of thirty-five years, we ascertain, by
reference to the diary, he has made four hundred and sixty round trips
to New Orleans, which gives a distance of one million one hundred and
four thousand miles, or an average of eighty-six miles a day.'

Whenever Captain Sellers approached a body of gossiping pilots, a chill
fell there, and talking ceased. For this reason: whenever six pilots
were gathered together, there would always be one or two newly fledged
ones in the lot, and the elder ones would be always 'showing off' before
these poor fellows; making them sorrowfully feel how callow they were,
how recent their nobility, and how humble their degree, by talking
largely and vaporously of old-time experiences on the river; always
making it a point to date everything back as far as they could, so as to
make the new men feel their newness to the sharpest degree possible, and
envy the old stagers in the like degree. And how these complacent
baldheads WOULD swell, and brag, and lie, and date back--ten, fifteen,
twenty years,--and how they did enjoy the effect produced upon the
marveling and envying youngsters!

And perhaps just at this happy stage of the proceedings, the stately
figure of Captain Isaiah Sellers, that real and only genuine Son of
Antiquity, would drift solemnly into the midst. Imagine the size of the
silence that would result on the instant. And imagine the feelings of
those bald-heads, and the exultation of their recent audience when the
ancient captain would begin to drop casual and indifferent remarks of a
reminiscent nature--about islands that had disappeared, and cutoffs that
had been made, a generation before the oldest bald-head in the company
had ever set his foot in a pilot-house!

Many and many a time did this ancient mariner appear on the scene in the
above fashion, and spread disaster and humiliation around him. If one
might believe the pilots, he always dated his islands back to the misty
dawn of river history; and he never used the same island twice; and
never did he employ an island that still existed, or give one a name
which anybody present was old enough to have heard of before. If you
might believe the pilots, he was always conscientiously particular about
little details; never spoke of 'the State of Mississippi,' for instance
--no, he would say, 'When the State of Mississippi was where Arkansas now
is,' and would never speak of Louisiana or Missouri in a general way,
and leave an incorrect impression on your mind--no, he would say, 'When
Louisiana was up the river farther,' or 'When Missouri was on the
Illinois side.'

The old gentleman was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to
jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the
river, and sign them 'MARK TWAIN,' and give them to the 'New Orleans
Picayune.' They related to the stage and condition of the river, and
were accurate and valuable; and thus far, they contained no poison. But
in speaking of the stage of the river to-day, at a given point, the
captain was pretty apt to drop in a little remark about this being the
first time he had seen the water so high or so low at that particular
point for forty-nine years; and now and then he would mention Island So-
and-so, and follow it, in parentheses, with some such observation as
'disappeared in 1807, if I remember rightly.' In these antique
interjections lay poison and bitterness for the other old pilots, and
they used to chaff the 'Mark Twain' paragraphs with unsparing mockery.

It so chanced that one of these paragraphs--{footnote [The original MS.
of it, in the captain's own hand, has been sent to me from New Orleans.
It reads as follows--

VICKSBURG May 4, 1859.

'My opinion for the benefit of the citizens of New Orleans: The water is
higher this far up than it has been since 8. My opinion is that the
water will be feet deep in Canal street before the first of next June.
Mrs. Turner's plantation at the head of Big Black Island is all under
water, and it has not been since 1815.

'I. Sellers.']}

became the text for my first newspaper article. I burlesqued it
broadly, very broadly, stringing my fantastics out to the extent of
eight hundred or a thousand words. I was a 'cub' at the time. I showed
my performance to some pilots, and they eagerly rushed it into print in
the 'New Orleans True Delta.' It was a great pity; for it did nobody
any worthy service, and it sent a pang deep into a good man's heart.
There was no malice in my rubbish; but it laughed at the captain. It
laughed at a man to whom such a thing was new and strange and dreadful.
I did not know then, though I do now, that there is no suffering
comparable with that which a private person feels when he is for the
first time pilloried in print.

Captain Sellers did me the honor to profoundly detest me from that day
forth. When I say he did me the honor, I am not using empty words. It
was a very real honor to be in the thoughts of so great a man as Captain
Sellers, and I had wit enough to appreciate it and be proud of it. It
was distinction to be loved by such a man; but it was a much greater
distinction to be hated by him, because he loved scores of people; but
he didn't sit up nights to hate anybody but me.

He never printed another paragraph while he lived, and he never again
signed 'Mark Twain' to anything. At the time that the telegraph brought
the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new
journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient
mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it
was in his hands--a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found
in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I
have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.

The captain had an honorable pride in his profession and an abiding love
for it. He ordered his monument before he died, and kept it near him
until he did die. It stands over his grave now, in Bellefontaine
cemetery, St. Louis. It is his image, in marble, standing on duty at the
pilot wheel; and worthy to stand and confront criticism, for it
represents a man who in life would have stayed there till he burned to a
cinder, if duty required it.

The finest thing we saw on our whole Mississippi trip, we saw as we
approached New Orleans in the steam-tug. This was the curving frontage
of the crescent city lit up with the white glare of five miles of
electric lights. It was a wonderful sight, and very beautiful.

===11

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI

BY MARK TWAIN

Part 11.

Chapter 51 Reminiscences

WE left for St. Louis in the 'City of Baton Rouge,' on a delightfully
hot day, but with the main purpose of my visit but lamely accomplished.
I had hoped to hunt up and talk with a hundred steamboatmen, but got so
pleasantly involved in the social life of the town that I got nothing
more than mere five-minute talks with a couple of dozen of the craft.

I was on the bench of the pilot-house when we backed out and
'straightened up' for the start--the boat pausing for a 'good ready,' in
the old-fashioned way, and the black smoke piling out of the chimneys
equally in the old-fashioned way. Then we began to gather momentum, and
presently were fairly under way and booming along. It was all as natural
and familiar--and so were the shoreward sights--as if there had been no
break in my river life. There was a 'cub,' and I judged that he would
take the wheel now; and he did. Captain Bixby stepped into the pilot-
house. Presently the cub closed up on the rank of steamships. He made
me nervous, for he allowed too much water to show between our boat and
the ships. I knew quite well what was going to happen, because I could
date back in my own life and inspect the record. The captain looked on,
during a silent half-minute, then took the wheel himself, and crowded
the boat in, till she went scraping along within a hand-breadth of the
ships. It was exactly the favor which he had done me, about a quarter
of a century before, in that same spot, the first time I ever steamed
out of the port of New Orleans. It was a very great and sincere pleasure
to me to see the thing repeated--with somebody else as victim.

We made Natchez (three hundred miles) in twenty-two hours and a half--
much the swiftest passage I have ever made over that piece of water.

The next morning I came on with the four o'clock watch, and saw Ritchie
successfully run half a dozen crossings in a fog, using for his guidance
the marked chart devised and patented by Bixby and himself. This
sufficiently evidenced the great value of the chart.

By and by, when the fog began to clear off, I noticed that the
reflection of a tree in the smooth water of an overflowed bank, six
hundred yards away, was stronger and blacker than the ghostly tree
itself. The faint spectral trees, dimly glimpsed through the shredding
fog, were very pretty things to see.

We had a heavy thunder-storm at Natchez, another at Vicksburg, and still
another about fifty miles below Memphis. They had an old-fashioned
energy which had long been unfamiliar to me. This third storm was
accompanied by a raging wind. We tied up to the bank when we saw the
tempest coming, and everybody left the pilot-house but me. The wind bent
the young trees down, exposing the pale underside of the leaves; and
gust after gust followed, in quick succession, thrashing the branches
violently up and down, and to this side and that, and creating swift
waves of alternating green and white according to the side of the leaf
that was exposed, and these waves raced after each other as do their
kind over a wind-tossed field of oats. No color that was visible
anywhere was quite natural--all tints were charged with a leaden tinge
from the solid cloud-bank overhead. The river was leaden; all distances
the same; and even the far-reaching ranks of combing white-caps were
dully shaded by the dark, rich atmosphere through which their swarming
legions marched. The thunder-peals were constant and deafening;
explosion followed explosion with but inconsequential intervals between,
and the reports grew steadily sharper and higher-keyed, and more trying
to the ear; the lightning was as diligent as the thunder, and produced
effects which enchanted the eye and sent electric ecstasies of mixed
delight and apprehension shivering along every nerve in the body in
unintermittent procession. The rain poured down in amazing volume; the
ear-splitting thunder-peals broke nearer and nearer; the wind increased
in fury and began to wrench off boughs and tree-tops and send them
sailing away through space; the pilot-house fell to rocking and
straining and cracking and surging, and I went down in the hold to see
what time it was.

People boast a good deal about Alpine thunderstorms; but the storms
which I have had the luck to see in the Alps were not the equals of some
which I have seen in the Mississippi Valley. I may not have seen the
Alps do their best, of course, and if they can beat the Mississippi, I
don't wish to.

On this up trip I saw a little towhead (infant island) half a mile long,
which had been formed during the past nineteen years. Since there was so
much time to spare that nineteen years of it could be devoted to the
construction of a mere towhead, where was the use, originally, in
rushing this whole globe through in six days? It is likely that if more
time had been taken, in the first place, the world would have been made
right, and this ceaseless improving and repairing would not be necessary
now. But if you hurry a world or a house, you are nearly sure to find
out by and by that you have left out a towhead, or a broom-closet, or
some other little convenience, here and there, which has got to be
supplied, no matter how much expense and vexation it may cost.

We had a succession of black nights, going up the river, and it was
observable that whenever we landed, and suddenly inundated the trees
with the intense sunburst of the electric light, a certain curious
effect was always produced: hundreds of birds flocked instantly out from
the masses of shining green foliage, and went careering hither and
thither through the white rays, and often a song-bird tuned up and fell
to singing. We judged that they mistook this superb artificial day for
the genuine article. We had a delightful trip in that thoroughly well-
ordered steamer, and regretted that it was accomplished so speedily. By
means of diligence and activity, we managed to hunt out nearly all the
old friends. One was missing, however; he went to his reward, whatever
it was, two years ago. But I found out all about him. His case helped
me to realize how lasting can be the effect of a very trifling
occurrence. When he was an apprentice-blacksmith in our village, and I a
schoolboy, a couple of young Englishmen came to the town and sojourned a
while; and one day they got themselves up in cheap royal finery and did
the Richard III swordfight with maniac energy and prodigious powwow, in
the presence of the village boys. This blacksmith cub was there, and
the histrionic poison entered his bones. This vast, lumbering,
ignorant, dull-witted lout was stage-struck, and irrecoverably. He
disappeared, and presently turned up in St. Louis. I ran across him
there, by and by. He was standing musing on a street corner, with his
left hand on his hip, the thumb of his right supporting his chin, face
bowed and frowning, slouch hat pulled down over his forehead--imagining
himself to be Othello or some such character, and imagining that the
passing crowd marked his tragic bearing and were awestruck.

I joined him, and tried to get him down out of the clouds, but did not
succeed. However, he casually informed me, presently, that he was a
member of the Walnut Street theater company--and he tried to say it with
indifference, but the indifference was thin, and a mighty exultation
showed through it. He said he was cast for a part in Julius Caesar, for
that night, and if I should come I would see him. IF I should come! I
said I wouldn't miss it if I were dead.

I went away stupefied with astonishment, and saying to myself, 'How
strange it is! WE always thought this fellow a fool; yet the moment he
comes to a great city, where intelligence and appreciation abound, the
talent concealed in this shabby napkin is at once discovered, and
promptly welcomed and honored.'

But I came away from the theater that night disappointed and offended;
for I had had no glimpse of my hero, and his name was not in the bills.
I met him on the street the next morning, and before I could speak, he
asked--

'Did you see me?'

'No, you weren't there.'

He looked surprised and disappointed. He said--

'Yes, I was. Indeed I was. I was a Roman soldier.'

'Which one?'

'Why didn't you see them Roman soldiers that stood back there in a rank,
and sometimes marched in procession around the stage?'

'Do you mean the Roman army?--those six sandaled roustabouts in
nightshirts, with tin shields and helmets, that marched around treading
on each other's heels, in charge of a spider-legged consumptive dressed
like themselves?'

'That's it! that's it! I was one of them Roman soldiers. I was the next
to the last one. A half a year ago I used to always be the last one;
but I've been promoted.'

Well, they told me that that poor fellow remained a Roman soldier to the
last--a matter of thirty-four years. Sometimes they cast him for a
'speaking part,' but not an elaborate one. He could be trusted to go
and say, 'My lord, the carriage waits,' but if they ventured to add a
sentence or two to this, his memory felt the strain and he was likely to
miss fire. Yet, poor devil, he had been patiently studying the part of
Hamlet for more than thirty years, and he lived and died in the belief
that some day he would be invited to play it!

And this is what came of that fleeting visit of those young Englishmen
to our village such ages and ages ago! What noble horseshoes this man
might have made, but for those Englishmen; and what an inadequate Roman
soldier he DID make!

A day or two after we reached St. Louis, I was walking along Fourth
Street when a grizzly-headed man gave a sort of start as he passed me,
then stopped, came back, inspected me narrowly, with a clouding brow,
and finally said with deep asperity--

'Look here, HAVE YOU GOT THAT DRINK YET?'

A maniac, I judged, at first. But all in a flash I recognized him. I
made an effort to blush that strained every muscle in me, and answered
as sweetly and winningly as ever I knew how--

'Been a little slow, but am just this minute closing in on the place
where they keep it. Come in and help.'

He softened, and said make it a bottle of champagne and he was
agreeable. He said he had seen my name in the papers, and had put all
his affairs aside and turned out, resolved to find me or die; and make
me answer that question satisfactorily, or kill me; though the most of
his late asperity had been rather counterfeit than otherwise.

This meeting brought back to me the St. Louis riots of about thirty
years ago. I spent a week there, at that time, in a boarding-house, and
had this young fellow for a neighbor across the hall. We saw some of
the fightings and killings; and by and by we went one night to an armory
where two hundred young men had met, upon call, to be armed and go forth
against the rioters, under command of a military man. We drilled till
about ten o'clock at night; then news came that the mob were in great
force in the lower end of the town, and were sweeping everything before
them. Our column moved at once. It was a very hot night, and my musket
was very heavy. We marched and marched; and the nearer we approached the
seat of war, the hotter I grew and the thirstier I got. I was behind my
friend; so, finally, I asked him to hold my musket while I dropped out
and got a drink. Then I branched off and went home. I was not feeling
any solicitude about him of course, because I knew he was so well armed,
now, that he could take care of himself without any trouble. If I had
had any doubts about that, I would have borrowed another musket for him.
I left the city pretty early the next morning, and if this grizzled man
had not happened to encounter my name in the papers the other day in St.
Louis, and felt moved to seek me out, I should have carried to my grave
a heart-torturing uncertainty as to whether he ever got out of the riots
all right or not. I ought to have inquired, thirty years ago; I know
that. And I would have inquired, if I had had the muskets; but, in the
circumstances, he seemed better fixed to conduct the investigations than
I was.

One Monday, near the time of our visit to St. Louis, the 'Globe-
Democrat' came out with a couple of pages of Sunday statistics, whereby
it appeared that 119,448 St. Louis people attended the morning and
evening church services the day before, and 23,102 children attended
Sunday-school. Thus 142,550 persons, out of the city's total of 400,000
population, respected the day religious-wise. I found these statistics,
in a condensed form, in a telegram of the Associated Press, and
preserved them. They made it apparent that St. Louis was in a higher
state of grace than she could have claimed to be in my time. But now
that I canvass the figures narrowly, I suspect that the telegraph
mutilated them. It cannot be that there are more than 150,000 Catholics
in the town; the other 250,000 must be classified as Protestants. Out
of these 250,000, according to this questionable telegram, only 26,362
attended church and Sunday-school, while out of the 150,000 Catholics,
116,188 went to church and Sunday-school.

Book of the day: