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American Notes for General Circulation by Charles Dickens

Part 4 out of 6

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walked out, after breakfast the next morning, to look about me; and
was duly shown a model prison on the solitary system, just erected,
and as yet without an inmate; the trunk of an old tree to which
Harris, the first settler here (afterwards buried under it), was
tied by hostile Indians, with his funeral pile about him, when he
was saved by the timely appearance of a friendly party on the
opposite shore of the river; the local legislature (for there was
another of those bodies here again, in full debate); and the other
curiosities of the town.

I was very much interested in looking over a number of treaties
made from time to time with the poor Indians, signed by the
different chiefs at the period of their ratification, and preserved
in the office of the Secretary to the Commonwealth. These
signatures, traced of course by their own hands, are rough drawings
of the creatures or weapons they were called after. Thus, the
Great Turtle makes a crooked pen-and-ink outline of a great turtle;
the Buffalo sketches a buffalo; the War Hatchet sets a rough image
of that weapon for his mark. So with the Arrow, the Fish, the
Scalp, the Big Canoe, and all of them.

I could not but think - as I looked at these feeble and tremulous
productions of hands which could draw the longest arrow to the head
in a stout elk-horn bow, or split a bead or feather with a rifle-
ball - of Crabbe's musings over the Parish Register, and the
irregular scratches made with a pen, by men who would plough a
lengthy furrow straight from end to end. Nor could I help
bestowing many sorrowful thoughts upon the simple warriors whose
hands and hearts were set there, in all truth and honesty; and who
only learned in course of time from white men how to break their
faith, and quibble out of forms and bonds. I wonder, too, how many
times the credulous Big Turtle, or trusting Little Hatchet, had put
his mark to treaties which were falsely read to him; and had signed
away, he knew not what, until it went and cast him loose upon the
new possessors of the land, a savage indeed.

Our host announced, before our early dinner, that some members of
the legislative body proposed to do us the honour of calling. He
had kindly yielded up to us his wife's own little parlour, and when
I begged that he would show them in, I saw him look with painful
apprehension at its pretty carpet; though, being otherwise occupied
at the time, the cause of his uneasiness did not occur to me.

It certainly would have been more pleasant to all parties
concerned, and would not, I think, have compromised their
independence in any material degree, if some of these gentlemen had
not only yielded to the prejudice in favour of spittoons, but had
abandoned themselves, for the moment, even to the conventional
absurdity of pocket-handkerchiefs.

It still continued to rain heavily, and when we went down to the
Canal Boat (for that was the mode of conveyance by which we were to
proceed) after dinner, the weather was as unpromising and
obstinately wet as one would desire to see. Nor was the sight of
this canal boat, in which we were to spend three or four days, by
any means a cheerful one; as it involved some uneasy speculations
concerning the disposal of the passengers at night, and opened a
wide field of inquiry touching the other domestic arrangements of
the establishment, which was sufficiently disconcerting.

However, there it was - a barge with a little house in it, viewed
from the outside; and a caravan at a fair, viewed from within: the
gentlemen being accommodated, as the spectators usually are, in one
of those locomotive museums of penny wonders; and the ladies being
partitioned off by a red curtain, after the manner of the dwarfs
and giants in the same establishments, whose private lives are
passed in rather close exclusiveness.

We sat here, looking silently at the row of little tables, which
extended down both sides of the cabin, and listening to the rain as
it dripped and pattered on the boat, and plashed with a dismal
merriment in the water, until the arrival of the railway train, for
whose final contribution to our stock of passengers, our departure
was alone deferred. It brought a great many boxes, which were
bumped and tossed upon the roof, almost as painfully as if they had
been deposited on one's own head, without the intervention of a
porter's knot; and several damp gentlemen, whose clothes, on their
drawing round the stove, began to steam again. No doubt it would
have been a thought more comfortable if the driving rain, which now
poured down more soakingly than ever, had admitted of a window
being opened, or if our number had been something less than thirty;
but there was scarcely time to think as much, when a train of three
horses was attached to the tow-rope, the boy upon the leader
smacked his whip, the rudder creaked and groaned complainingly, and
we had begun our journey.


AS it continued to rain most perseveringly, we all remained below:
the damp gentlemen round the stove, gradually becoming mildewed by
the action of the fire; and the dry gentlemen lying at full length
upon the seats, or slumbering uneasily with their faces on the
tables, or walking up and down the cabin, which it was barely
possible for a man of the middle height to do, without making bald
places on his head by scraping it against the roof. At about six
o'clock, all the small tables were put together to form one long
table, and everybody sat down to tea, coffee, bread, butter,
salmon, shad, liver, steaks, potatoes, pickles, ham, chops, black-
puddings, and sausages.

'Will you try,' said my opposite neighbour, handing me a dish of
potatoes, broken up in milk and butter, 'will you try some of these

There are few words which perform such various duties as this word
'fix.' It is the Caleb Quotem of the American vocabulary. You
call upon a gentleman in a country town, and his help informs you
that he is 'fixing himself' just now, but will be down directly:
by which you are to understand that he is dressing. You inquire,
on board a steamboat, of a fellow-passenger, whether breakfast will
be ready soon, and he tells you he should think so, for when he was
last below, they were 'fixing the tables:' in other words, laying
the cloth. You beg a porter to collect your luggage, and he
entreats you not to be uneasy, for he'll 'fix it presently:' and if
you complain of indisposition, you are advised to have recourse to
Doctor So-and-so, who will 'fix you' in no time.

One night, I ordered a bottle of mulled wine at an hotel where I
was staying, and waited a long time for it; at length it was put
upon the table with an apology from the landlord that he feared it
wasn't 'fixed properly.' And I recollect once, at a stage-coach
dinner, overhearing a very stern gentleman demand of a waiter who
presented him with a plate of underdone roast-beef, 'whether he
called THAT, fixing God A'mighty's vittles?'

There is no doubt that the meal, at which the invitation was
tendered to me which has occasioned this digression, was disposed
of somewhat ravenously; and that the gentlemen thrust the broad-
bladed knives and the two-pronged forks further down their throats
than I ever saw the same weapons go before, except in the hands of
a skilful juggler: but no man sat down until the ladies were
seated; or omitted any little act of politeness which could
contribute to their comfort. Nor did I ever once, on any occasion,
anywhere, during my rambles in America, see a woman exposed to the
slightest act of rudeness, incivility, or even inattention.

By the time the meal was over, the rain, which seemed to have worn
itself out by coming down so fast, was nearly over too; and it
became feasible to go on deck: which was a great relief,
notwithstanding its being a very small deck, and being rendered
still smaller by the luggage, which was heaped together in the
middle under a tarpaulin covering; leaving, on either side, a path
so narrow, that it became a science to walk to and fro without
tumbling overboard into the canal. It was somewhat embarrassing at
first, too, to have to duck nimbly every five minutes whenever the
man at the helm cried 'Bridge!' and sometimes, when the cry was
'Low Bridge,' to lie down nearly flat. But custom familiarises one
to anything, and there were so many bridges that it took a very
short time to get used to this.

As night came on, and we drew in sight of the first range of hills,
which are the outposts of the Alleghany Mountains, the scenery,
which had been uninteresting hitherto, became more bold and
striking. The wet ground reeked and smoked, after the heavy fall
of rain, and the croaking of the frogs (whose noise in these parts
is almost incredible) sounded as though a million of fairy teams
with bells were travelling through the air, and keeping pace with
us. The night was cloudy yet, but moonlight too: and when we
crossed the Susquehanna river - over which there is an
extraordinary wooden bridge with two galleries, one above the
other, so that even there, two boat teams meeting, may pass without
confusion - it was wild and grand.

I have mentioned my having been in some uncertainty and doubt, at
first, relative to the sleeping arrangements on board this boat. I
remained in the same vague state of mind until ten o'clock or
thereabouts, when going below, I found suspended on either side of
the cabin, three long tiers of hanging bookshelves, designed
apparently for volumes of the small octavo size. Looking with
greater attention at these contrivances (wondering to find such
literary preparations in such a place), I descried on each shelf a
sort of microscopic sheet and blanket; then I began dimly to
comprehend that the passengers were the library, and that they were
to be arranged, edge-wise, on these shelves, till morning.

I was assisted to this conclusion by seeing some of them gathered
round the master of the boat, at one of the tables, drawing lots
with all the anxieties and passions of gamesters depicted in their
countenances; while others, with small pieces of cardboard in their
hands, were groping among the shelves in search of numbers
corresponding with those they had drawn. As soon as any gentleman
found his number, he took possession of it by immediately
undressing himself and crawling into bed. The rapidity with which
an agitated gambler subsided into a snoring slumberer, was one of
the most singular effects I have ever witnessed. As to the ladies,
they were already abed, behind the red curtain, which was carefully
drawn and pinned up the centre; though as every cough, or sneeze,
or whisper, behind this curtain, was perfectly audible before it,
we had still a lively consciousness of their society.

The politeness of the person in authority had secured to me a shelf
in a nook near this red curtain, in some degree removed from the
great body of sleepers: to which place I retired, with many
acknowledgments to him for his attention. I found it, on after-
measurement, just the width of an ordinary sheet of Bath post
letter-paper; and I was at first in some uncertainty as to the best
means of getting into it. But the shelf being a bottom one, I
finally determined on lying upon the floor, rolling gently in,
stopping immediately I touched the mattress, and remaining for the
night with that side uppermost, whatever it might be. Luckily, I
came upon my back at exactly the right moment. I was much alarmed
on looking upward, to see, by the shape of his half-yard of sacking
(which his weight had bent into an exceedingly tight bag), that
there was a very heavy gentleman above me, whom the slender cords
seemed quite incapable of holding; and I could not help reflecting
upon the grief of my wife and family in the event of his coming
down in the night. But as I could not have got up again without a
severe bodily struggle, which might have alarmed the ladies; and as
I had nowhere to go to, even if I had; I shut my eyes upon the
danger, and remained there.

One of two remarkable circumstances is indisputably a fact, with
reference to that class of society who travel in these boats.
Either they carry their restlessness to such a pitch that they
never sleep at all; or they expectorate in dreams, which would be a
remarkable mingling of the real and ideal. All night long, and
every night, on this canal, there was a perfect storm and tempest
of spitting; and once my coat, being in the very centre of the
hurricane sustained by five gentlemen (which moved vertically,
strictly carrying out Reid's Theory of the Law of Storms), I was
fain the next morning to lay it on the deck, and rub it down with
fair water before it was in a condition to be worn again.

Between five and six o'clock in the morning we got up, and some of
us went on deck, to give them an opportunity of taking the shelves
down; while others, the morning being very cold, crowded round the
rusty stove, cherishing the newly kindled fire, and filling the
grate with those voluntary contributions of which they had been so
liberal all night. The washing accommodations were primitive.
There was a tin ladle chained to the deck, with which every
gentleman who thought it necessary to cleanse himself (many were
superior to this weakness), fished the dirty water out of the
canal, and poured it into a tin basin, secured in like manner.
There was also a jack-towel. And, hanging up before a little
looking-glass in the bar, in the immediate vicinity of the bread
and cheese and biscuits, were a public comb and hair-brush.

At eight o'clock, the shelves being taken down and put away and the
tables joined together, everybody sat down to the tea, coffee,
bread, butter, salmon, shad, liver, steak, potatoes, pickles, ham,
chops, black-puddings, and sausages, all over again. Some were
fond of compounding this variety, and having it all on their plates
at once. As each gentleman got through his own personal amount of
tea, coffee, bread, butter, salmon, shad, liver, steak, potatoes,
pickles, ham, chops, black-puddings, and sausages, he rose up and
walked off. When everybody had done with everything, the fragments
were cleared away: and one of the waiters appearing anew in the
character of a barber, shaved such of the company as desired to be
shaved; while the remainder looked on, or yawned over their
newspapers. Dinner was breakfast again, without the tea and
coffee; and supper and breakfast were identical.

There was a man on board this boat, with a light fresh-coloured
face, and a pepper-and-salt suit of clothes, who was the most
inquisitive fellow that can possibly be imagined. He never spoke
otherwise than interrogatively. He was an embodied inquiry.
Sitting down or standing up, still or moving, walking the deck or
taking his meals, there he was, with a great note of interrogation
in each eye, two in his cocked ears, two more in his turned-up nose
and chin, at least half a dozen more about the corners of his
mouth, and the largest one of all in his hair, which was brushed
pertly off his forehead in a flaxen clump. Every button in his
clothes said, 'Eh? What's that? Did you speak? Say that again,
will you?' He was always wide awake, like the enchanted bride who
drove her husband frantic; always restless; always thirsting for
answers; perpetually seeking and never finding. There never was
such a curious man.

I wore a fur great-coat at that time, and before we were well clear
of the wharf, he questioned me concerning it, and its price, and
where I bought it, and when, and what fur it was, and what it
weighed, and what it cost. Then he took notice of my watch, and
asked me what THAT cost, and whether it was a French watch, and
where I got it, and how I got it, and whether I bought it or had it
given me, and how it went, and where the key-hole was, and when I
wound it, every night or every morning, and whether I ever forgot
to wind it at all, and if I did, what then? Where had I been to
last, and where was I going next, and where was I going after that,
and had I seen the President, and what did he say, and what did I
say, and what did he say when I had said that? Eh? Lor now! do

Finding that nothing would satisfy him, I evaded his questions
after the first score or two, and in particular pleaded ignorance
respecting the name of the fur whereof the coat was made. I am
unable to say whether this was the reason, but that coat fascinated
him afterwards; he usually kept close behind me as I walked, and
moved as I moved, that he might look at it the better; and he
frequently dived into narrow places after me at the risk of his
life, that he might have the satisfaction of passing his hand up
the back, and rubbing it the wrong way.

We had another odd specimen on board, of a different kind. This
was a thin-faced, spare-figured man of middle age and stature,
dressed in a dusty drabbish-coloured suit, such as I never saw
before. He was perfectly quiet during the first part of the
journey: indeed I don't remember having so much as seen him until
he was brought out by circumstances, as great men often are. The
conjunction of events which made him famous, happened, briefly,

The canal extends to the foot of the mountain, and there, of
course, it stops; the passengers being conveyed across it by land
carriage, and taken on afterwards by another canal boat, the
counterpart of the first, which awaits them on the other side.
There are two canal lines of passage-boats; one is called The
Express, and one (a cheaper one) The Pioneer. The Pioneer gets
first to the mountain, and waits for the Express people to come up;
both sets of passengers being conveyed across it at the same time.
We were the Express company; but when we had crossed the mountain,
and had come to the second boat, the proprietors took it into their
beads to draft all the Pioneers into it likewise, so that we were
five-and-forty at least, and the accession of passengers was not at
all of that kind which improved the prospect of sleeping at night.
Our people grumbled at this, as people do in such cases; but
suffered the boat to be towed off with the whole freight aboard
nevertheless; and away we went down the canal. At home, I should
have protested lustily, but being a foreigner here, I held my
peace. Not so this passenger. He cleft a path among the people on
deck (we were nearly all on deck), and without addressing anybody
whomsoever, soliloquised as follows:

'This may suit YOU, this may, but it don't suit ME. This may be
all very well with Down Easters, and men of Boston raising, but it
won't suit my figure nohow; and no two ways about THAT; and so I
tell you. Now! I'm from the brown forests of Mississippi, I am,
and when the sun shines on me, it does shine - a little. It don't
glimmer where I live, the sun don't. No. I'm a brown forester, I
am. I an't a Johnny Cake. There are no smooth skins where I live.
We're rough men there. Rather. If Down Easters and men of Boston
raising like this, I'm glad of it, but I'm none of that raising nor
of that breed. No. This company wants a little fixing, IT does.
I'm the wrong sort of man for 'em, I am. They won't like me, THEY
won't. This is piling of it up, a little too mountainous, this
is.' At the end of every one of these short sentences he turned
upon his heel, and walked the other way; checking himself abruptly
when he had finished another short sentence, and turning back

It is impossible for me to say what terrific meaning was hidden in
the words of this brown forester, but I know that the other
passengers looked on in a sort of admiring horror, and that
presently the boat was put back to the wharf, and as many of the
Pioneers as could be coaxed or bullied into going away, were got
rid of.

When we started again, some of the boldest spirits on board, made
bold to say to the obvious occasion of this improvement in our
prospects, 'Much obliged to you, sir;' whereunto the brown forester
(waving his hand, and still walking up and down as before),
replied, 'No you an't. You're none o' my raising. You may act for
yourselves, YOU may. I have pinted out the way. Down Easters and
Johnny Cakes can follow if they please. I an't a Johnny Cake, I
an't. I am from the brown forests of the Mississippi, I am' - and
so on, as before. He was unanimously voted one of the tables for
his bed at night - there is a great contest for the tables - in
consideration for his public services: and he had the warmest
corner by the stove throughout the rest of the journey. But I
never could find out that he did anything except sit there; nor did
I hear him speak again until, in the midst of the bustle and
turmoil of getting the luggage ashore in the dark at Pittsburg, I
stumbled over him as he sat smoking a cigar on the cabin steps, and
heard him muttering to himself, with a short laugh of defiance, 'I
an't a Johnny Cake, - I an't. I'm from the brown forests of the
Mississippi, I am, damme!' I am inclined to argue from this, that
he had never left off saying so; but I could not make an affidavit
of that part of the story, if required to do so by my Queen and

As we have not reached Pittsburg yet, however, in the order of our
narrative, I may go on to remark that breakfast was perhaps the
least desirable meal of the day, as in addition to the many savoury
odours arising from the eatables already mentioned, there were
whiffs of gin, whiskey, brandy, and rum, from the little bar hard
by, and a decided seasoning of stale tobacco. Many of the
gentlemen passengers were far from particular in respect of their
linen, which was in some cases as yellow as the little rivulets
that had trickled from the corners of their mouths in chewing, and
dried there. Nor was the atmosphere quite free from zephyr
whisperings of the thirty beds which had just been cleared away,
and of which we were further and more pressingly reminded by the
occasional appearance on the table-cloth of a kind of Game, not
mentioned in the Bill of Fare.

And yet despite these oddities - and even they had, for me at
least, a humour of their own - there was much in this mode of
travelling which I heartily enjoyed at the time, and look back upon
with great pleasure. Even the running up, bare-necked, at five
o'clock in the morning, from the tainted cabin to the dirty deck;
scooping up the icy water, plunging one's head into it, and drawing
it out, all fresh and glowing with the cold; was a good thing. The
fast, brisk walk upon the towing-path, between that time and
breakfast, when every vein and artery seemed to tingle with health;
the exquisite beauty of the opening day, when light came gleaming
off from everything; the lazy motion of the boat, when one lay idly
on the deck, looking through, rather than at, the deep blue sky;
the gliding on at night, so noiselessly, past frowning hills,
sullen with dark trees, and sometimes angry in one red, burning
spot high up, where unseen men lay crouching round a fire; the
shining out of the bright stars undisturbed by noise of wheels or
steam, or any other sound than the limpid rippling of the water as
the boat went on: all these were pure delights.

Then there were new settlements and detached log-cabins and frame-
houses, full of interest for strangers from an old country: cabins
with simple ovens, outside, made of clay; and lodgings for the pigs
nearly as good as many of the human quarters; broken windows,
patched with worn-out hats, old clothes, old boards, fragments of
blankets and paper; and home-made dressers standing in the open air
without the door, whereon was ranged the household store, not hard
to count, of earthen jars and pots. The eye was pained to see the
stumps of great trees thickly strewn in every field of wheat, and
seldom to lose the eternal swamp and dull morass, with hundreds of
rotten trunks and twisted branches steeped in its unwholesome
water. It was quite sad and oppressive, to come upon great tracts
where settlers had been burning down the trees, and where their
wounded bodies lay about, like those of murdered creatures, while
here and there some charred and blackened giant reared aloft two
withered arms, and seemed to call down curses on his foes.
Sometimes, at night, the way wound through some lonely gorge, like
a mountain pass in Scotland, shining and coldly glittering in the
light of the moon, and so closed in by high steep hills all round,
that there seemed to be no egress save through the narrower path by
which we had come, until one rugged hill-side seemed to open, and
shutting out the moonlight as we passed into its gloomy throat,
wrapped our new course in shade and darkness.

We had left Harrisburg on Friday. On Sunday morning we arrived at
the foot of the mountain, which is crossed by railroad. There are
ten inclined planes; five ascending, and five descending; the
carriages are dragged up the former, and let slowly down the
latter, by means of stationary engines; the comparatively level
spaces between, being traversed, sometimes by horse, and sometimes
by engine power, as the case demands. Occasionally the rails are
laid upon the extreme verge of a giddy precipice; and looking from
the carriage window, the traveller gazes sheer down, without a
stone or scrap of fence between, into the mountain depths below.
The journey is very carefully made, however; only two carriages
travelling together; and while proper precautions are taken, is not
to be dreaded for its dangers.

It was very pretty travelling thus, at a rapid pace along the
heights of the mountain in a keen wind, to look down into a valley
full of light and softness; catching glimpses, through the tree-
tops, of scattered cabins; children running to the doors; dogs
bursting out to bark, whom we could see without hearing: terrified
pigs scampering homewards; families sitting out in their rude
gardens; cows gazing upward with a stupid indifference; men in
their shirt-sleeves looking on at their unfinished houses, planning
out to-morrow's work; and we riding onward, high above them, like a
whirlwind. It was amusing, too, when we had dined, and rattled
down a steep pass, having no other moving power than the weight of
the carriages themselves, to see the engine released, long after
us, come buzzing down alone, like a great insect, its back of green
and gold so shining in the sun, that if it had spread a pair of
wings and soared away, no one would have had occasion, as I
fancied, for the least surprise. But it stopped short of us in a
very business-like manner when we reached the canal: and, before
we left the wharf, went panting up this hill again, with the
passengers who had waited our arrival for the means of traversing
the road by which we had come.

On the Monday evening, furnace fires and clanking hammers on the
banks of the canal, warned us that we approached the termination of
this part of our journey. After going through another dreamy place
- a long aqueduct across the Alleghany River, which was stranger
than the bridge at Harrisburg, being a vast, low, wooden chamber
full of water - we emerged upon that ugly confusion of backs of
buildings and crazy galleries and stairs, which always abuts on
water, whether it be river, sea, canal, or ditch: and were at

Pittsburg is like Birmingham in England; at least its townspeople
say so. Setting aside the streets, the shops, the houses, waggons,
factories, public buildings, and population, perhaps it may be. It
certainly has a great quantity of smoke hanging about it, and is
famous for its iron-works. Besides the prison to which I have
already referred, this town contains a pretty arsenal and other
institutions. It is very beautifully situated on the Alleghany
River, over which there are two bridges; and the villas of the
wealthier citizens sprinkled about the high grounds in the
neighbourhood, are pretty enough. We lodged at a most excellent
hotel, and were admirably served. As usual it was full of
boarders, was very large, and had a broad colonnade to every story
of the house.

We tarried here three days. Our next point was Cincinnati: and as
this was a steamboat journey, and western steamboats usually blow
up one or two a week in the season, it was advisable to collect
opinions in reference to the comparative safety of the vessels
bound that way, then lying in the river. One called the Messenger
was the best recommended. She had been advertised to start
positively, every day for a fortnight or so, and had not gone yet,
nor did her captain seem to have any very fixed intention on the
subject. But this is the custom: for if the law were to bind down
a free and independent citizen to keep his word with the public,
what would become of the liberty of the subject? Besides, it is in
the way of trade. And if passengers be decoyed in the way of
trade, and people be inconvenienced in the way of trade, what man,
who is a sharp tradesman himself, shall say, 'We must put a stop to

Impressed by the deep solemnity of the public announcement, I
(being then ignorant of these usages) was for hurrying on board in
a breathless state, immediately; but receiving private and
confidential information that the boat would certainly not start
until Friday, April the First, we made ourselves very comfortable
in the mean while, and went on board at noon that day.


THE Messenger was one among a crowd of high-pressure steamboats,
clustered together by a wharf-side, which, looked down upon from
the rising ground that forms the landing-place, and backed by the
lofty bank on the opposite side of the river, appeared no larger
than so many floating models. She had some forty passengers on
board, exclusive of the poorer persons on the lower deck; and in
half an hour, or less, proceeded on her way.

We had, for ourselves, a tiny state-room with two berths in it,
opening out of the ladies' cabin. There was, undoubtedly,
something satisfactory in this 'location,' inasmuch as it was in
the stern, and we had been a great many times very gravely
recommended to keep as far aft as possible, 'because the steamboats
generally blew up forward.' Nor was this an unnecessary caution,
as the occurrence and circumstances of more than one such fatality
during our stay sufficiently testified. Apart from this source of
self-congratulation, it was an unspeakable relief to have any
place, no matter how confined, where one could be alone: and as
the row of little chambers of which this was one, had each a second
glass-door besides that in the ladies' cabin, which opened on a
narrow gallery outside the vessel, where the other passengers
seldom came, and where one could sit in peace and gaze upon the
shifting prospect, we took possession of our new quarters with much

If the native packets I have already described be unlike anything
we are in the habit of seeing on water, these western vessels are
still more foreign to all the ideas we are accustomed to entertain
of boats. I hardly know what to liken them to, or how to describe

In the first place, they have no mast, cordage, tackle, rigging, or
other such boat-like gear; nor have they anything in their shape at
all calculated to remind one of a boat's head, stem, sides, or
keel. Except that they are in the water, and display a couple of
paddle-boxes, they might be intended, for anything that appears to
the contrary, to perform some unknown service, high and dry, upon a
mountain top. There is no visible deck, even: nothing but a long,
black, ugly roof covered with burnt-out feathery sparks; above
which tower two iron chimneys, and a hoarse escape valve, and a
glass steerage-house. Then, in order as the eye descends towards
the water, are the sides, and doors, and windows of the state-
rooms, jumbled as oddly together as though they formed a small
street, built by the varying tastes of a dozen men: the whole is
supported on beams and pillars resting on a dirty barge, but a few
inches above the water's edge: and in the narrow space between
this upper structure and this barge's deck, are the furnace fires
and machinery, open at the sides to every wind that blows, and
every storm of rain it drives along its path.

Passing one of these boats at night, and seeing the great body of
fire, exposed as I have just described, that rages and roars
beneath the frail pile of painted wood: the machinery, not warded
off or guarded in any way, but doing its work in the midst of the
crowd of idlers and emigrants and children, who throng the lower
deck: under the management, too, of reckless men whose
acquaintance with its mysteries may have been of six months'
standing: one feels directly that the wonder is, not that there
should be so many fatal accidents, but that any journey should be
safely made.

Within, there is one long narrow cabin, the whole length of the
boat; from which the state-rooms open, on both sides. A small
portion of it at the stern is partitioned off for the ladies; and
the bar is at the opposite extreme. There is a long table down the
centre, and at either end a stove. The washing apparatus is
forward, on the deck. It is a little better than on board the
canal boat, but not much. In all modes of travelling, the American
customs, with reference to the means of personal cleanliness and
wholesome ablution, are extremely negligent and filthy; and I
strongly incline to the belief that a considerable amount of
illness is referable to this cause.

We are to be on board the Messenger three days: arriving at
Cincinnati (barring accidents) on Monday morning. There are three
meals a day. Breakfast at seven, dinner at half-past twelve,
supper about six. At each, there are a great many small dishes and
plates upon the table, with very little in them; so that although
there is every appearance of a mighty 'spread,' there is seldom
really more than a joint: except for those who fancy slices of
beet-root, shreds of dried beef, complicated entanglements of
yellow pickle; maize, Indian corn, apple-sauce, and pumpkin.

Some people fancy all these little dainties together (and sweet
preserves beside), by way of relish to their roast pig. They are
generally those dyspeptic ladies and gentlemen who eat unheard-of
quantities of hot corn bread (almost as good for the digestion as a
kneaded pin-cushion), for breakfast, and for supper. Those who do
not observe this custom, and who help themselves several times
instead, usually suck their knives and forks meditatively, until
they have decided what to take next: then pull them out of their
mouths: put them in the dish; help themselves; and fall to work
again. At dinner, there is nothing to drink upon the table, but
great jugs full of cold water. Nobody says anything, at any meal,
to anybody. All the passengers are very dismal, and seem to have
tremendous secrets weighing on their minds. There is no
conversation, no laughter, no cheerfulness, no sociality, except in
spitting; and that is done in silent fellowship round the stove,
when the meal is over. Every man sits down, dull and languid;
swallows his fare as if breakfasts, dinners, and suppers, were
necessities of nature never to be coupled with recreation or
enjoyment; and having bolted his food in a gloomy silence, bolts
himself, in the same state. But for these animal observances, you
might suppose the whole male portion of the company to be the
melancholy ghosts of departed book-keepers, who had fallen dead at
the desk: such is their weary air of business and calculation.
Undertakers on duty would be sprightly beside them; and a collation
of funeral-baked meats, in comparison with these meals, would be a
sparkling festivity.

The people are all alike, too. There is no diversity of character.
They travel about on the same errands, say and do the same things
in exactly the same manner, and follow in the same dull cheerless
round. All down the long table, there is scarcely a man who is in
anything different from his neighbour. It is quite a relief to
have, sitting opposite, that little girl of fifteen with the
loquacious chin: who, to do her justice, acts up to it, and fully
identifies nature's handwriting, for of all the small chatterboxes
that ever invaded the repose of drowsy ladies' cabin, she is the
first and foremost. The beautiful girl, who sits a little beyond
her - farther down the table there - married the young man with the
dark whiskers, who sits beyond HER, only last month. They are
going to settle in the very Far West, where he has lived four
years, but where she has never been. They were both overturned in
a stage-coach the other day (a bad omen anywhere else, where
overturns are not so common), and his head, which bears the marks
of a recent wound, is bound up still. She was hurt too, at the
same time, and lay insensible for some days; bright as her eyes
are, now.

Further down still, sits a man who is going some miles beyond their
place of destination, to 'improve' a newly-discovered copper mine.
He carries the village - that is to be - with him: a few frame
cottages, and an apparatus for smelting the copper. He carries its
people too. They are partly American and partly Irish, and herd
together on the lower deck; where they amused themselves last
evening till the night was pretty far advanced, by alternately
firing off pistols and singing hymns.

They, and the very few who have been left at table twenty minutes,
rise, and go away. We do so too; and passing through our little
state-room, resume our seats in the quiet gallery without.

A fine broad river always, but in some parts much wider than in
others: and then there is usually a green island, covered with
trees, dividing it into two streams. Occasionally, we stop for a
few minutes, maybe to take in wood, maybe for passengers, at some
small town or village (I ought to say city, every place is a city
here); but the banks are for the most part deep solitudes,
overgrown with trees, which, hereabouts, are already in leaf and
very green. For miles, and miles, and miles, these solitudes are
unbroken by any sign of human life or trace of human footstep; nor
is anything seen to move about them but the blue jay, whose colour
is so bright, and yet so delicate, that it looks like a flying
flower. At lengthened intervals a log cabin, with its little space
of cleared land about it, nestles under a rising ground, and sends
its thread of blue smoke curling up into the sky. It stands in the
corner of the poor field of wheat, which is full of great unsightly
stumps, like earthy butchers'-blocks. Sometimes the ground is only
just now cleared: the felled trees lying yet upon the soil: and
the log-house only this morning begun. As we pass this clearing,
the settler leans upon his axe or hammer, and looks wistfully at
the people from the world. The children creep out of the temporary
hut, which is like a gipsy tent upon the ground, and clap their
hands and shout. The dog only glances round at us, and then looks
up into his master's face again, as if he were rendered uneasy by
any suspension of the common business, and had nothing more to do
with pleasurers. And still there is the same, eternal foreground.
The river has washed away its banks, and stately trees have fallen
down into the stream. Some have been there so long, that they are
mere dry, grizzly skeletons. Some have just toppled over, and
having earth yet about their roots, are bathing their green heads
in the river, and putting forth new shoots and branches. Some are
almost sliding down, as you look at them. And some were drowned so
long ago, that their bleached arms start out from the middle of the
current, and seem to try to grasp the boat, and drag it under

Through such a scene as this, the unwieldy machine takes its
hoarse, sullen way: venting, at every revolution of the paddles, a
loud high-pressure blast; enough, one would think, to waken up the
host of Indians who lie buried in a great mound yonder: so old,
that mighty oaks and other forest trees have struck their roots
into its earth; and so high, that it is a hill, even among the
hills that Nature planted round it. The very river, as though it
shared one's feelings of compassion for the extinct tribes who
lived so pleasantly here, in their blessed ignorance of white
existence, hundreds of years ago, steals out of its way to ripple
near this mound: and there are few places where the Ohio sparkles
more brightly than in the Big Grave Creek.

All this I see as I sit in the little stern-gallery mentioned just
now. Evening slowly steals upon the landscape and changes it
before me, when we stop to set some emigrants ashore.

Five men, as many women, and a little girl. All their worldly
goods are a bag, a large chest and an old chair: one, old, high-
backed, rush-bottomed chair: a solitary settler in itself. They
are rowed ashore in the boat, while the vessel stands a little off
awaiting its return, the water being shallow. They are landed at
the foot of a high bank, on the summit of which are a few log
cabins, attainable only by a long winding path. It is growing
dusk; but the sun is very red, and shines in the water and on some
of the tree-tops, like fire.

The men get out of the boat first; help out the women; take out the
bag, the chest, the chair; bid the rowers 'good-bye;' and shove the
boat off for them. At the first plash of the oars in the water,
the oldest woman of the party sits down in the old chair, close to
the water's edge, without speaking a word. None of the others sit
down, though the chest is large enough for many seats. They all
stand where they landed, as if stricken into stone; and look after
the boat. So they remain, quite still and silent: the old woman
and her old chair, in the centre the bag and chest upon the shore,
without anybody heeding them all eyes fixed upon the boat. It
comes alongside, is made fast, the men jump on board, the engine is
put in motion, and we go hoarsely on again. There they stand yet,
without the motion of a hand. I can see them through my glass,
when, in the distance and increasing darkness, they are mere specks
to the eye: lingering there still: the old woman in the old
chair, and all the rest about her: not stirring in the least
degree. And thus I slowly lose them.

The night is dark, and we proceed within the shadow of the wooded
bank, which makes it darker. After gliding past the sombre maze of
boughs for a long time, we come upon an open space where the tall
trees are burning. The shape of every branch and twig is expressed
in a deep red glow, and as the light wind stirs and ruffles it,
they seem to vegetate in fire. It is such a sight as we read of in
legends of enchanted forests: saving that it is sad to see these
noble works wasting away so awfully, alone; and to think how many
years must come and go before the magic that created them will rear
their like upon this ground again. But the time will come; and
when, in their changed ashes, the growth of centuries unborn has
struck its roots, the restless men of distant ages will repair to
these again unpeopled solitudes; and their fellows, in cities far
away, that slumber now, perhaps, beneath the rolling sea, will read
in language strange to any ears in being now, but very old to them,
of primeval forests where the axe was never heard, and where the
jungled ground was never trodden by a human foot.

Midnight and sleep blot out these scenes and thoughts: and when
the morning shines again, it gilds the house-tops of a lively city,
before whose broad paved wharf the boat is moored; with other
boats, and flags, and moving wheels, and hum of men around it; as
though there were not a solitary or silent rood of ground within
the compass of a thousand miles.

Cincinnati is a beautiful city; cheerful, thriving, and animated.
I have not often seen a place that commends itself so favourably
and pleasantly to a stranger at the first glance as this does:
with its clean houses of red and white, its well-paved roads, and
foot-ways of bright tile. Nor does it become less prepossessing on
a closer acquaintance. The streets are broad and airy, the shops
extremely good, the private residences remarkable for their
elegance and neatness. There is something of invention and fancy
in the varying styles of these latter erections, which, after the
dull company of the steamboat, is perfectly delightful, as
conveying an assurance that there are such qualities still in
existence. The disposition to ornament these pretty villas and
render them attractive, leads to the culture of trees and flowers,
and the laying out of well-kept gardens, the sight of which, to
those who walk along the streets, is inexpressibly refreshing and
agreeable. I was quite charmed with the appearance of the town,
and its adjoining suburb of Mount Auburn: from which the city,
lying in an amphitheatre of hills, forms a picture of remarkable
beauty, and is seen to great advantage.

There happened to be a great Temperance Convention held here on the
day after our arrival; and as the order of march brought the
procession under the windows of the hotel in which we lodged, when
they started in the morning, I had a good opportunity of seeing it.
It comprised several thousand men; the members of various
'Washington Auxiliary Temperance Societies;' and was marshalled by
officers on horseback, who cantered briskly up and down the line,
with scarves and ribbons of bright colours fluttering out behind
them gaily. There were bands of music too, and banners out of
number: and it was a fresh, holiday-looking concourse altogether.

I was particularly pleased to see the Irishmen, who formed a
distinct society among themselves, and mustered very strong with
their green scarves; carrying their national Harp and their
Portrait of Father Mathew, high above the people's heads. They
looked as jolly and good-humoured as ever; and, working (here) the
hardest for their living and doing any kind of sturdy labour that
came in their way, were the most independent fellows there, I

The banners were very well painted, and flaunted down the street
famously. There was the smiting of the rock, and the gushing forth
of the waters; and there was a temperate man with 'considerable of
a hatchet' (as the standard-bearer would probably have said),
aiming a deadly blow at a serpent which was apparently about to
spring upon him from the top of a barrel of spirits. But the chief
feature of this part of the show was a huge allegorical device,
borne among the ship-carpenters, on one side whereof the steamboat
Alcohol was represented bursting her boiler and exploding with a
great crash, while upon the other, the good ship Temperance sailed
away with a fair wind, to the heart's content of the captain, crew,
and passengers.

After going round the town, the procession repaired to a certain
appointed place, where, as the printed programme set forth, it
would be received by the children of the different free schools,
'singing Temperance Songs.' I was prevented from getting there, in
time to hear these Little Warblers, or to report upon this novel
kind of vocal entertainment: novel, at least, to me: but I found
in a large open space, each society gathered round its own banners,
and listening in silent attention to its own orator. The speeches,
judging from the little I could hear of them, were certainly
adapted to the occasion, as having that degree of relationship to
cold water which wet blankets may claim: but the main thing was
the conduct and appearance of the audience throughout the day; and
that was admirable and full of promise.

Cincinnati is honourably famous for its free schools, of which it
has so many that no person's child among its population can, by
possibility, want the means of education, which are extended, upon
an average, to four thousand pupils, annually. I was only present
in one of these establishments during the hours of instruction. In
the boys' department, which was full of little urchins (varying in
their ages, I should say, from six years old to ten or twelve), the
master offered to institute an extemporary examination of the
pupils in algebra; a proposal, which, as I was by no means
confident of my ability to detect mistakes in that science, I
declined with some alarm. In the girls' school, reading was
proposed; and as I felt tolerably equal to that art, I expressed my
willingness to hear a class. Books were distributed accordingly,
and some half-dozen girls relieved each other in reading paragraphs
from English History. But it seemed to be a dry compilation,
infinitely above their powers; and when they had blundered through
three or four dreary passages concerning the Treaty of Amiens, and
other thrilling topics of the same nature (obviously without
comprehending ten words), I expressed myself quite satisfied. It
is very possible that they only mounted to this exalted stave in
the Ladder of Learning for the astonishment of a visitor; and that
at other times they keep upon its lower rounds; but I should have
been much better pleased and satisfied if I had heard them
exercised in simpler lessons, which they understood.

As in every other place I visited, the judges here were gentlemen
of high character and attainments. I was in one of the courts for
a few minutes, and found it like those to which I have already
referred. A nuisance cause was trying; there were not many
spectators; and the witnesses, counsel, and jury, formed a sort of
family circle, sufficiently jocose and snug.

The society with which I mingled, was intelligent, courteous, and
agreeable. The inhabitants of Cincinnati are proud of their city
as one of the most interesting in America: and with good reason:
for beautiful and thriving as it is now, and containing, as it
does, a population of fifty thousand souls, but two-and-fifty years
have passed away since the ground on which it stands (bought at
that time for a few dollars) was a wild wood, and its citizens were
but a handful of dwellers in scattered log huts upon the river's


LEAVING Cincinnati at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, we embarked
for Louisville in the Pike steamboat, which, carrying the mails,
was a packet of a much better class than that in which we had come
from Pittsburg. As this passage does not occupy more than twelve
or thirteen hours, we arranged to go ashore that night: not
coveting the distinction of sleeping in a state-room, when it was
possible to sleep anywhere else.

There chanced to be on board this boat, in addition to the usual
dreary crowd of passengers, one Pitchlynn, a chief of the Choctaw
tribe of Indians, who SENT IN HIS CARD to me, and with whom I had
the pleasure of a long conversation.

He spoke English perfectly well, though he had not begun to learn
the language, he told me, until he was a young man grown. He had
read many books; and Scott's poetry appeared to have left a strong
impression on his mind: especially the opening of The Lady of the
Lake, and the great battle scene in Marmion, in which, no doubt
from the congeniality of the subjects to his own pursuits and
tastes, he had great interest and delight. He appeared to
understand correctly all he had read; and whatever fiction had
enlisted his sympathy in its belief, had done so keenly and
earnestly. I might almost say fiercely. He was dressed in our
ordinary everyday costume, which hung about his fine figure
loosely, and with indifferent grace. On my telling him that I
regretted not to see him in his own attire, he threw up his right
arm, for a moment, as though he were brandishing some heavy weapon,
and answered, as he let it fall again, that his race were losing
many things besides their dress, and would soon be seen upon the
earth no more: but he wore it at home, he added proudly.

He told me that he had been away from his home, west of the
Mississippi, seventeen months: and was now returning. He had been
chiefly at Washington on some negotiations pending between his
Tribe and the Government: which were not settled yet (he said in a
melancholy way), and he feared never would be: for what could a
few poor Indians do, against such well-skilled men of business as
the whites? He had no love for Washington; tired of towns and
cities very soon; and longed for the Forest and the Prairie.

I asked him what he thought of Congress? He answered, with a
smile, that it wanted dignity, in an Indian's eyes.

He would very much like, he said, to see England before he died;
and spoke with much interest about the great things to be seen
there. When I told him of that chamber in the British Museum
wherein are preserved household memorials of a race that ceased to
be, thousands of years ago, he was very attentive, and it was not
hard to see that he had a reference in his mind to the gradual
fading away of his own people.

This led us to speak of Mr. Catlin's gallery, which he praised
highly: observing that his own portrait was among the collection,
and that all the likenesses were 'elegant.' Mr. Cooper, he said,
had painted the Red Man well; and so would I, he knew, if I would
go home with him and hunt buffaloes, which he was quite anxious I
should do. When I told him that supposing I went, I should not be
very likely to damage the buffaloes much, he took it as a great
joke and laughed heartily.

He was a remarkably handsome man; some years past forty, I should
judge; with long black hair, an aquiline nose, broad cheek-bones, a
sunburnt complexion, and a very bright, keen, dark, and piercing
eye. There were but twenty thousand of the Choctaws left, he said,
and their number was decreasing every day. A few of his brother
chiefs had been obliged to become civilised, and to make themselves
acquainted with what the whites knew, for it was their only chance
of existence. But they were not many; and the rest were as they
always had been. He dwelt on this: and said several times that
unless they tried to assimilate themselves to their conquerors,
they must be swept away before the strides of civilised society.

When we shook hands at parting, I told him he must come to England,
as he longed to see the land so much: that I should hope to see
him there, one day: and that I could promise him he would be well
received and kindly treated. He was evidently pleased by this
assurance, though he rejoined with a good-humoured smile and an
arch shake of his head, that the English used to be very fond of
the Red Men when they wanted their help, but had not cared much for
them, since.

He took his leave; as stately and complete a gentleman of Nature's
making, as ever I beheld; and moved among the people in the boat,
another kind of being. He sent me a lithographed portrait of
himself soon afterwards; very like, though scarcely handsome
enough; which I have carefully preserved in memory of our brief

There was nothing very interesting in the scenery of this day's
journey, which brought us at midnight to Louisville. We slept at
the Galt House; a splendid hotel; and were as handsomely lodged as
though we had been in Paris, rather than hundreds of miles beyond
the Alleghanies.

The city presenting no objects of sufficient interest to detain us
on our way, we resolved to proceed next day by another steamboat,
the Fulton, and to join it, about noon, at a suburb called
Portland, where it would be delayed some time in passing through a

The interval, after breakfast, we devoted to riding through the
town, which is regular and cheerful: the streets being laid out at
right angles, and planted with young trees. The buildings are
smoky and blackened, from the use of bituminous coal, but an
Englishman is well used to that appearance, and indisposed to
quarrel with it. There did not appear to be much business
stirring; and some unfinished buildings and improvements seemed to
intimate that the city had been overbuilt in the ardour of 'going-
a-head,' and was suffering under the re-action consequent upon such
feverish forcing of its powers.

On our way to Portland, we passed a 'Magistrate's office,' which
amused me, as looking far more like a dame school than any police
establishment: for this awful Institution was nothing but a little
lazy, good-for-nothing front parlour, open to the street; wherein
two or three figures (I presume the magistrate and his myrmidons)
were basking in the sunshine, the very effigies of languor and
repose. It was a perfect picture of justice retired from business
for want of customers; her sword and scales sold off; napping
comfortably with her legs upon the table.

Here, as elsewhere in these parts, the road was perfectly alive
with pigs of all ages; lying about in every direction, fast
asleep.; or grunting along in quest of hidden dainties. I had
always a sneaking kindness for these odd animals, and found a
constant source of amusement, when all others failed, in watching
their proceedings. As we were riding along this morning, I
observed a little incident between two youthful pigs, which was so
very human as to be inexpressibly comical and grotesque at the
time, though I dare say, in telling, it is tame enough.

One young gentleman (a very delicate porker with several straws
sticking about his nose, betokening recent investigations in a
dung-hill) was walking deliberately on, profoundly thinking, when
suddenly his brother, who was lying in a miry hole unseen by him,
rose up immediately before his startled eyes, ghostly with damp
mud. Never was pig's whole mass of blood so turned. He started
back at least three feet, gazed for a moment, and then shot off as
hard as he could go: his excessively little tail vibrating with
speed and terror like a distracted pendulum. But before he had
gone very far, he began to reason with himself as to the nature of
this frightful appearance; and as he reasoned, he relaxed his speed
by gradual degrees; until at last he stopped, and faced about.
There was his brother, with the mud upon him glazing in the sun,
yet staring out of the very same hole, perfectly amazed at his
proceedings! He was no sooner assured of this; and he assured
himself so carefully that one may almost say he shaded his eyes
with his hand to see the better; than he came back at a round trot,
pounced upon him, and summarily took off a piece of his tail; as a
caution to him to be careful what he was about for the future, and
never to play tricks with his family any more.

We found the steamboat in the canal, waiting for the slow process
of getting through the lock, and went on board, where we shortly
afterwards had a new kind of visitor in the person of a certain
Kentucky Giant whose name is Porter, and who is of the moderate
height of seven feet eight inches, in his stockings.

There never was a race of people who so completely gave the lie to
history as these giants, or whom all the chroniclers have so
cruelly libelled. Instead of roaring and ravaging about the world,
constantly catering for their cannibal larders, and perpetually
going to market in an unlawful manner, they are the meekest people
in any man's acquaintance: rather inclining to milk and vegetable
diet, and bearing anything for a quiet life. So decidedly are
amiability and mildness their characteristics, that I confess I
look upon that youth who distinguished himself by the slaughter of
these inoffensive persons, as a false-hearted brigand, who,
pretending to philanthropic motives, was secretly influenced only
by the wealth stored up within their castles, and the hope of
plunder. And I lean the more to this opinion from finding that
even the historian of those exploits, with all his partiality for
his hero, is fain to admit that the slaughtered monsters in
question were of a very innocent and simple turn; extremely
guileless and ready of belief; lending a credulous ear to the most
improbable tales; suffering themselves to be easily entrapped into
pits; and even (as in the case of the Welsh Giant) with an excess
of the hospitable politeness of a landlord, ripping themselves
open, rather than hint at the possibility of their guests being
versed in the vagabond arts of sleight-of-hand and hocus-pocus.

The Kentucky Giant was but another illustration of the truth of
this position. He had a weakness in the region of the knees, and a
trustfulness in his long face, which appealed even to five-feet
nine for encouragement and support. He was only twenty-five years
old, he said, and had grown recently, for it had been found
necessary to make an addition to the legs of his inexpressibles.
At fifteen he was a short boy, and in those days his English father
and his Irish mother had rather snubbed him, as being too small of
stature to sustain the credit of the family. He added that his
health had not been good, though it was better now; but short
people are not wanting who whisper that he drinks too hard.

I understand he drives a hackney-coach, though how he does it,
unless he stands on the footboard behind, and lies along the roof
upon his chest, with his chin in the box, it would be difficult to
comprehend. He brought his gun with him, as a curiosity.

Christened 'The Little Rifle,' and displayed outside a shop-window,
it would make the fortune of any retail business in Holborn. When
he had shown himself and talked a little while, he withdrew with
his pocket-instrument, and went bobbing down the cabin, among men
of six feet high and upwards, like a light-house walking among

Within a few minutes afterwards, we were out of the canal, and in
the Ohio river again.

The arrangements of the boat were like those of the Messenger, and
the passengers were of the same order of people. We fed at the
same times, on the same kind of viands, in the same dull manner,
and with the same observances. The company appeared to be
oppressed by the same tremendous concealments, and had as little
capacity of enjoyment or light-heartedness. I never in my life did
see such listless, heavy dulness as brooded over these meals: the
very recollection of it weighs me down, and makes me, for the
moment, wretched. Reading and writing on my knee, in our little
cabin, I really dreaded the coming of the hour that summoned us to
table; and was as glad to escape from it again, as if it had been a
penance or a punishment. Healthy cheerfulness and good spirits
forming a part of the banquet, I could soak my crusts in the
fountain with Le Sage's strolling player, and revel in their glad
enjoyment: but sitting down with so many fellow-animals to ward
off thirst and hunger as a business; to empty, each creature, his
Yahoo's trough as quickly as he can, and then slink sullenly away;
to have these social sacraments stripped of everything but the mere
greedy satisfaction of the natural cravings; goes so against the
grain with me, that I seriously believe the recollection of these
funeral feasts will be a waking nightmare to me all my life.

There was some relief in this boat, too, which there had not been
in the other, for the captain (a blunt, good-natured fellow) had
his handsome wife with him, who was disposed to be lively and
agreeable, as were a few other lady-passengers who had their seats
about us at the same end of the table. But nothing could have made
head against the depressing influence of the general body. There
was a magnetism of dulness in them which would have beaten down the
most facetious companion that the earth ever knew. A jest would
have been a crime, and a smile would have faded into a grinning
horror. Such deadly, leaden people; such systematic plodding,
weary, insupportable heaviness; such a mass of animated indigestion
in respect of all that was genial, jovial, frank, social, or
hearty; never, sure, was brought together elsewhere since the world

Nor was the scenery, as we approached the junction of the Ohio and
Mississippi rivers, at all inspiriting in its influence. The trees
were stunted in their growth; the banks were low and flat; the
settlements and log cabins fewer in number: their inhabitants more
wan and wretched than any we had encountered yet. No songs of
birds were in the air, no pleasant scents, no moving lights and
shadows from swift passing clouds. Hour after hour, the changeless
glare of the hot, unwinking sky, shone upon the same monotonous
objects. Hour after hour, the river rolled along, as wearily and
slowly as the time itself.

At length, upon the morning of the third day, we arrived at a spot
so much more desolate than any we had yet beheld, that the
forlornest places we had passed, were, in comparison with it, full
of interest. At the junction of the two rivers, on ground so flat
and low and marshy, that at certain seasons of the year it is
inundated to the house-tops, lies a breeding-place of fever, ague,
and death; vaunted in England as a mine of Golden Hope, and
speculated in, on the faith of monstrous representations, to many
people's ruin. A dismal swamp, on which the half-built houses rot
away: cleared here and there for the space of a few yards; and
teeming, then, with rank unwholesome vegetation, in whose baleful
shade the wretched wanderers who are tempted hither, droop, and
die, and lay their bones; the hateful Mississippi circling and
eddying before it, and turning off upon its southern course a slimy
monster hideous to behold; a hotbed of disease, an ugly sepulchre,
a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise: a place without one
single quality, in earth or air or water, to commend it: such is
this dismal Cairo.

But what words shall describe the Mississippi, great father of
rivers, who (praise be to Heaven) has no young children like him!
An enormous ditch, sometimes two or three miles wide, running
liquid mud, six miles an hour: its strong and frothy current
choked and obstructed everywhere by huge logs and whole forest
trees: now twining themselves together in great rafts, from the
interstices of which a sedgy, lazy foam works up, to float upon the
water's top; now rolling past like monstrous bodies, their tangled
roots showing like matted hair; now glancing singly by like giant
leeches; and now writhing round and round in the vortex of some
small whirlpool, like wounded snakes. The banks low, the trees
dwarfish, the marshes swarming with frogs, the wretched cabins few
and far apart, their inmates hollow-cheeked and pale, the weather
very hot, mosquitoes penetrating into every crack and crevice of
the boat, mud and slime on everything: nothing pleasant in its
aspect, but the harmless lightning which flickers every night upon
the dark horizon.

For two days we toiled up this foul stream, striking constantly
against the floating timber, or stopping to avoid those more
dangerous obstacles, the snags, or sawyers, which are the hidden
trunks of trees that have their roots below the tide. When the
nights are very dark, the look-out stationed in the head of the
boat, knows by the ripple of the water if any great impediment be
near at hand, and rings a bell beside him, which is the signal for
the engine to be stopped: but always in the night this bell has
work to do, and after every ring, there comes a blow which renders
it no easy matter to remain in bed.

The decline of day here was very gorgeous; tingeing the firmament
deeply with red and gold, up to the very keystone of the arch above
us. As the sun went down behind the bank, the slightest blades of
grass upon it seemed to become as distinctly visible as the
arteries in the skeleton of a leaf; and when, as it slowly sank,
the red and golden bars upon the water grew dimmer, and dimmer yet,
as if they were sinking too; and all the glowing colours of
departing day paled, inch by inch, before the sombre night; the
scene became a thousand times more lonesome and more dreary than
before, and all its influences darkened with the sky.

We drank the muddy water of this river while we were upon it. It
is considered wholesome by the natives, and is something more
opaque than gruel. I have seen water like it at the Filter-shops,
but nowhere else.

On the fourth night after leaving Louisville, we reached St. Louis,
and here I witnessed the conclusion of an incident, trifling enough
in itself, but very pleasant to see, which had interested me during
the whole journey.

There was a little woman on board, with a little baby; and both
little woman and little child were cheerful, good-looking, bright-
eyed, and fair to see. The little woman had been passing a long
time with her sick mother in New York, and had left her home in St.
Louis, in that condition in which ladies who truly love their lords
desire to be. The baby was born in her mother's house; and she had
not seen her husband (to whom she was now returning), for twelve
months: having left him a month or two after their marriage.

Well, to be sure, there never was a little woman so full of hope,
and tenderness, and love, and anxiety, as this little woman was:
and all day long she wondered whether 'He' would be at the wharf;
and whether 'He' had got her letter; and whether, if she sent the
baby ashore by somebody else, 'He' would know it, meeting it in the
street: which, seeing that he had never set eyes upon it in his
life, was not very likely in the abstract, but was probable enough,
to the young mother. She was such an artless little creature; and
was in such a sunny, beaming, hopeful state; and let out all this
matter clinging close about her heart, so freely; that all the
other lady passengers entered into the spirit of it as much as she;
and the captain (who heard all about it from his wife) was wondrous
sly, I promise you: inquiring, every time we met at table, as in
forgetfulness, whether she expected anybody to meet her at St.
Louis, and whether she would want to go ashore the night we reached
it (but he supposed she wouldn't), and cutting many other dry jokes
of that nature. There was one little weazen, dried-apple-faced old
woman, who took occasion to doubt the constancy of husbands in such
circumstances of bereavement; and there was another lady (with a
lap-dog) old enough to moralize on the lightness of human
affections, and yet not so old that she could help nursing the
baby, now and then, or laughing with the rest, when the little
woman called it by its father's name, and asked it all manner of
fantastic questions concerning him in the joy of her heart.

It was something of a blow to the little woman, that when we were
within twenty miles of our destination, it became clearly necessary
to put this baby to bed. But she got over it with the same good
humour; tied a handkerchief round her head; and came out into the
little gallery with the rest. Then, such an oracle as she became
in reference to the localities! and such facetiousness as was
displayed by the married ladies! and such sympathy as was shown by
the single ones! and such peals of laughter as the little woman
herself (who would just as soon have cried) greeted every jest

At last, there were the lights of St. Louis, and here was the
wharf, and those were the steps: and the little woman covering her
face with her hands, and laughing (or seeming to laugh) more than
ever, ran into her own cabin, and shut herself up. I have no doubt
that in the charming inconsistency of such excitement, she stopped
her ears, lest she should hear 'Him' asking for her: but I did not
see her do it.

Then, a great crowd of people rushed on board, though the boat was
not yet made fast, but was wandering about, among the other boats,
to find a landing-place: and everybody looked for the husband:
and nobody saw him: when, in the midst of us all - Heaven knows
how she ever got there - there was the little woman clinging with
both arms tight round the neck of a fine, good-looking, sturdy
young fellow! and in a moment afterwards, there she was again,
actually clapping her little hands for joy, as she dragged him
through the small door of her small cabin, to look at the baby as
he lay asleep!

We went to a large hotel, called the Planter's House: built like
an English hospital, with long passages and bare walls, and sky-
lights above the room-doors for the free circulation of air. There
were a great many boarders in it; and as many lights sparkled and
glistened from the windows down into the street below, when we
drove up, as if it had been illuminated on some occasion of
rejoicing. It is an excellent house, and the proprietors have most
bountiful notions of providing the creature comforts. Dining alone
with my wife in our own room, one day, I counted fourteen dishes on
the table at once.

In the old French portion of the town, the thoroughfares are narrow
and crooked, and some of the houses are very quaint and
picturesque: being built of wood, with tumble-down galleries
before the windows, approachable by stairs or rather ladders from
the street. There are queer little barbers' shops and drinking-
houses too, in this quarter; and abundance of crazy old tenements
with blinking casements, such as may be seen in Flanders. Some of
these ancient habitations, with high garret gable-windows perking
into the roofs, have a kind of French shrug about them; and being
lop-sided with age, appear to hold their heads askew, besides, as
if they were grimacing in astonishment at the American

It is hardly necessary to say, that these consist of wharfs and
warehouses, and new buildings in all directions; and of a great
many vast plans which are still 'progressing.' Already, however,
some very good houses, broad streets, and marble-fronted shops,
have gone so far ahead as to be in a state of completion; and the
town bids fair in a few years to improve considerably: though it
is not likely ever to vie, in point of elegance or beauty, with

The Roman Catholic religion, introduced here by the early French
settlers, prevails extensively. Among the public institutions are
a Jesuit college; a convent for 'the Ladies of the Sacred Heart;'
and a large chapel attached to the college, which was in course of
erection at the time of my visit, and was intended to be
consecrated on the second of December in the next year. The
architect of this building, is one of the reverend fathers of the
school, and the works proceed under his sole direction. The organ
will be sent from Belgium.

In addition to these establishments, there is a Roman Catholic
cathedral, dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier; and a hospital,
founded by the munificence of a deceased resident, who was a member
of that church. It also sends missionaries from hence among the
Indian tribes.

The Unitarian church is represented, in this remote place, as in
most other parts of America, by a gentleman of great worth and
excellence. The poor have good reason to remember and bless it;
for it befriends them, and aids the cause of rational education,
without any sectarian or selfish views. It is liberal in all its
actions; of kind construction; and of wide benevolence.

There are three free-schools already erected, and in full operation
in this city. A fourth is building, and will soon be opened.

No man ever admits the unhealthiness of the place he dwells in
(unless he is going away from it), and I shall therefore, I have no
doubt, be at issue with the inhabitants of St. Louis, in
questioning the perfect salubrity of its climate, and in hinting
that I think it must rather dispose to fever, in the summer and
autumnal seasons. Just adding, that it is very hot, lies among
great rivers, and has vast tracts of undrained swampy land around
it, I leave the reader to form his own opinion.

As I had a great desire to see a Prairie before turning back from
the furthest point of my wanderings; and as some gentlemen of the
town had, in their hospitable consideration, an equal desire to
gratify me; a day was fixed, before my departure, for an expedition
to the Looking-Glass Prairie, which is within thirty miles of the
town. Deeming it possible that my readers may not object to know
what kind of thing such a gipsy party may be at that distance from
home, and among what sort of objects it moves, I will describe the
jaunt in another chapter.


I MAY premise that the word Prairie is variously pronounced
PARAAER, PAREARER, PAROARER. The latter mode of pronunciation is
perhaps the most in favour.

We were fourteen in all, and all young men: indeed it is a
singular though very natural feature in the society of these
distant settlements, that it is mainly composed of adventurous
persons in the prime of life, and has very few grey heads among it.
There were no ladies: the trip being a fatiguing one: and we were
to start at five o'clock in the morning punctually.

I was called at four, that I might be certain of keeping nobody
waiting; and having got some bread and milk for breakfast, threw up
the window and looked down into the street, expecting to see the
whole party busily astir, and great preparations going on below.
But as everything was very quiet, and the street presented that
hopeless aspect with which five o'clock in the morning is familiar
elsewhere, I deemed it as well to go to bed again, and went

I woke again at seven o'clock, and by that time the party had
assembled, and were gathered round, one light carriage, with a very
stout axletree; one something on wheels like an amateur carrier's
cart; one double phaeton of great antiquity and unearthly
construction; one gig with a great hole in its back and a broken
head; and one rider on horseback who was to go on before. I got
into the first coach with three companions; the rest bestowed
themselves in the other vehicles; two large baskets were made fast
to the lightest; two large stone jars in wicker cases, technically
known as demi-johns, were consigned to the 'least rowdy' of the
party for safe-keeping; and the procession moved off to the
ferryboat, in which it was to cross the river bodily, men, horses,
carriages, and all, as the manner in these parts is.

We got over the river in due course, and mustered again before a
little wooden box on wheels, hove down all aslant in a morass, with
'MERCHANT TAILOR' painted in very large letters over the door.
Having settled the order of proceeding, and the road to be taken,
we started off once more and began to make our way through an ill-
favoured Black Hollow, called, less expressively, the American

The previous day had been - not to say hot, for the term is weak
and lukewarm in its power of conveying an idea of the temperature.
The town had been on fire; in a blaze. But at night it had come on
to rain in torrents, and all night long it had rained without
cessation. We had a pair of very strong horses, but travelled at
the rate of little more than a couple of miles an hour, through one
unbroken slough of black mud and water. It had no variety but in
depth. Now it was only half over the wheels, now it hid the
axletree, and now the coach sank down in it almost to the windows.
The air resounded in all directions with the loud chirping of the
frogs, who, with the pigs (a coarse, ugly breed, as unwholesome-
looking as though they were the spontaneous growth of the country),
had the whole scene to themselves. Here and there we passed a log
hut: but the wretched cabins were wide apart and thinly scattered,
for though the soil is very rich in this place, few people can
exist in such a deadly atmosphere. On either side of the track, if
it deserve the name, was the thick 'bush;' and everywhere was
stagnant, slimy, rotten, filthy water.

As it is the custom in these parts to give a horse a gallon or so
of cold water whenever he is in a foam with heat, we halted for
that purpose, at a log inn in the wood, far removed from any other
residence. It consisted of one room, bare-roofed and bare-walled
of course, with a loft above. The ministering priest was a swarthy
young savage, in a shirt of cotton print like bed-furniture, and a
pair of ragged trousers. There were a couple of young boys, too,
nearly naked, lying idle by the well; and they, and he, and THE
traveller at the inn, turned out to look at us.

The traveller was an old man with a grey gristly beard two inches
long, a shaggy moustache of the same hue, and enormous eyebrows;
which almost obscured his lazy, semi-drunken glance, as he stood
regarding us with folded arms: poising himself alternately upon
his toes and heels. On being addressed by one of the party, he
drew nearer, and said, rubbing his chin (which scraped under his
horny hand like fresh gravel beneath a nailed shoe), that he was
from Delaware, and had lately bought a farm 'down there,' pointing
into one of the marshes where the stunted trees were thickest. He
was 'going,' he added, to St. Louis, to fetch his family, whom he
had left behind; but he seemed in no great hurry to bring on these
incumbrances, for when we moved away, he loitered back into the
cabin, and was plainly bent on stopping there so long as his money
lasted. He was a great politician of course, and explained his
opinions at some length to one of our company; but I only remember
that he concluded with two sentiments, one of which was, Somebody
for ever; and the other, Blast everybody else! which is by no means
a bad abstract of the general creed in these matters.

When the horses were swollen out to about twice their natural
dimensions (there seems to be an idea here, that this kind of
inflation improves their going), we went forward again, through mud
and mire, and damp, and festering heat, and brake and bush,
attended always by the music of the frogs and pigs, until nearly
noon, when we halted at a place called Belleville.

Belleville was a small collection of wooden houses, huddled
together in the very heart of the bush and swamp. Many of them had
singularly bright doors of red and yellow; for the place had been
lately visited by a travelling painter, 'who got along,' as I was
told, 'by eating his way.' The criminal court was sitting, and was
at that moment trying some criminals for horse-stealing: with whom
it would most likely go hard: for live stock of all kinds being
necessarily very much exposed in the woods, is held by the
community in rather higher value than human life; and for this
reason, juries generally make a point of finding all men indicted
for cattle-stealing, guilty, whether or no.

The horses belonging to the bar, the judge, and witnesses, were
tied to temporary racks set up roughly in the road; by which is to
be understood, a forest path, nearly knee-deep in mud and slime.

There was an hotel in this place, which, like all hotels in
America, had its large dining-room for the public table. It was an
odd, shambling, low-roofed out-house, half-cowshed and half-
kitchen, with a coarse brown canvas table-cloth, and tin sconces
stuck against the walls, to hold candles at supper-time. The
horseman had gone forward to have coffee and some eatables
prepared, and they were by this time nearly ready. He had ordered
'wheat-bread and chicken fixings,' in preference to 'corn-bread and
common doings.' The latter kind of rejection includes only pork
and bacon. The former comprehends broiled ham, sausages, veal
cutlets, steaks, and such other viands of that nature as may be
supposed, by a tolerably wide poetical construction, 'to fix' a
chicken comfortably in the digestive organs of any lady or

On one of the door-posts at this inn, was a tin plate, whereon was
inscribed in characters of gold, 'Doctor Crocus;' and on a sheet of
paper, pasted up by the side of this plate, was a written
announcement that Dr. Crocus would that evening deliver a lecture
on Phrenology for the benefit of the Belleville public; at a
charge, for admission, of so much a head.

Straying up-stairs, during the preparation of the chicken fixings,
I happened to pass the doctor's chamber; and as the door stood wide
open, and the room was empty, I made bold to peep in.

It was a bare, unfurnished, comfortless room, with an unframed
portrait hanging up at the head of the bed; a likeness, I take it,
of the Doctor, for the forehead was fully displayed, and great
stress was laid by the artist upon its phrenological developments.
The bed itself was covered with an old patch-work counterpane. The
room was destitute of carpet or of curtain. There was a damp
fireplace without any stove, full of wood ashes; a chair, and a
very small table; and on the last-named piece of furniture was
displayed, in grand array, the doctor's library, consisting of some
half-dozen greasy old books.

Now, it certainly looked about the last apartment on the whole
earth out of which any man would be likely to get anything to do
him good. But the door, as I have said, stood coaxingly open, and
plainly said in conjunction with the chair, the portrait, the
table, and the books, 'Walk in, gentlemen, walk in! Don't be ill,
gentlemen, when you may be well in no time. Doctor Crocus is here,
gentlemen, the celebrated Dr. Crocus! Dr. Crocus has come all this
way to cure you, gentlemen. If you haven't heard of Dr. Crocus,
it's your fault, gentlemen, who live a little way out of the world
here: not Dr. Crocus's. Walk in, gentlemen, walk in!'

In the passage below, when I went down-stairs again, was Dr. Crocus
himself. A crowd had flocked in from the Court House, and a voice
from among them called out to the landlord, 'Colonel! introduce
Doctor Crocus.'

'Mr. Dickens,' says the colonel, 'Doctor Crocus.'

Upon which Doctor Crocus, who is a tall, fine-looking Scotchman,
but rather fierce and warlike in appearance for a professor of the
peaceful art of healing, bursts out of the concourse with his right
arm extended, and his chest thrown out as far as it will possibly
come, and says:

'Your countryman, sir!'

Whereupon Doctor Crocus and I shake hands; and Doctor Crocus looks
as if I didn't by any means realise his expectations, which, in a
linen blouse, and a great straw hat, with a green ribbon, and no
gloves, and my face and nose profusely ornamented with the stings
of mosquitoes and the bites of bugs, it is very likely I did not.

'Long in these parts, sir?' says I.

'Three or four months, sir,' says the Doctor.

'Do you think of soon returning to the old country?' says I.

Doctor Crocus makes no verbal answer, but gives me an imploring
look, which says so plainly 'Will you ask me that again, a little
louder, if you please?' that I repeat the question.

'Think of soon returning to the old country, sir!' repeats the

'To the old country, sir,' I rejoin.

Doctor Crocus looks round upon the crowd to observe the effect he
produces, rubs his hands, and says, in a very loud voice:

'Not yet awhile, sir, not yet. You won't catch me at that just
yet, sir. I am a little too fond of freedom for THAT, sir. Ha,
ha! It's not so easy for a man to tear himself from a free country
such as this is, sir. Ha, ha! No, no! Ha, ha! None of that till
one's obliged to do it, sir. No, no!'

As Doctor Crocus says these latter words, he shakes his head,
knowingly, and laughs again. Many of the bystanders shake their
heads in concert with the doctor, and laugh too, and look at each
other as much as to say, 'A pretty bright and first-rate sort of
chap is Crocus!' and unless I am very much mistaken, a good many
people went to the lecture that night, who never thought about
phrenology, or about Doctor Crocus either, in all their lives

From Belleville, we went on, through the same desolate kind of
waste, and constantly attended, without the interval of a moment,
by the same music; until, at three o'clock in the afternoon, we
halted once more at a village called Lebanon to inflate the horses
again, and give them some corn besides: of which they stood much
in need. Pending this ceremony, I walked into the village, where I
met a full-sized dwelling-house coming down-hill at a round trot,
drawn by a score or more of oxen.

The public-house was so very clean and good a one, that the
managers of the jaunt resolved to return to it and put up there for
the night, if possible. This course decided on, and the horses
being well refreshed, we again pushed forward, and came upon the
Prairie at sunset.

It would be difficult to say why, or how - though it was possibly
from having heard and read so much about it - but the effect on me
was disappointment. Looking towards the setting sun, there lay,
stretched out before my view, a vast expanse of level ground;
unbroken, save by one thin line of trees, which scarcely amounted
to a scratch upon the great blank; until it met the glowing sky,
wherein it seemed to dip: mingling with its rich colours, and
mellowing in its distant blue. There it lay, a tranquil sea or
lake without water, if such a simile be admissible, with the day
going down upon it: a few birds wheeling here and there: and
solitude and silence reigning paramount around. But the grass was
not yet high; there were bare black patches on the ground; and the
few wild flowers that the eye could see, were poor and scanty.
Great as the picture was, its very flatness and extent, which left
nothing to the imagination, tamed it down and cramped its interest.
I felt little of that sense of freedom and exhilaration which a
Scottish heath inspires, or even our English downs awaken. It was
lonely and wild, but oppressive in its barren monotony. I felt
that in traversing the Prairies, I could never abandon myself to
the scene, forgetful of all else; as I should do instinctively,
were the heather underneath my feet, or an iron-bound coast beyond;
but should often glance towards the distant and frequently-receding
line of the horizon, and wish it gained and passed. It is not a
scene to be forgotten, but it is scarcely one, I think (at all
events, as I saw it), to remember with much pleasure, or to covet
the looking-on again, in after-life.

We encamped near a solitary log-house, for the sake of its water,
and dined upon the plain. The baskets contained roast fowls,
buffalo's tongue (an exquisite dainty, by the way), ham, bread,
cheese, and butter; biscuits, champagne, sherry; lemons and sugar
for punch; and abundance of rough ice. The meal was delicious, and
the entertainers were the soul of kindness and good humour. I have
often recalled that cheerful party to my pleasant recollection
since, and shall not easily forget, in junketings nearer home with
friends of older date, my boon companions on the Prairie.

Returning to Lebanon that night, we lay at the little inn at which
we had halted in the afternoon. In point of cleanliness and
comfort it would have suffered by no comparison with any English
alehouse, of a homely kind, in England.

Rising at five o'clock next morning, I took a walk about the
village: none of the houses were strolling about to-day, but it
was early for them yet, perhaps: and then amused myself by
lounging in a kind of farm-yard behind the tavern, of which the
leading features were, a strange jumble of rough sheds for stables;
a rude colonnade, built as a cool place of summer resort; a deep
well; a great earthen mound for keeping vegetables in, in winter
time; and a pigeon-house, whose little apertures looked, as they do
in all pigeon-houses, very much too small for the admission of the
plump and swelling-breasted birds who were strutting about it,
though they tried to get in never so hard. That interest
exhausted, I took a survey of the inn's two parlours, which were
decorated with coloured prints of Washington, and President
Madison, and of a white-faced young lady (much speckled by the
flies), who held up her gold neck-chain for the admiration of the
spectator, and informed all admiring comers that she was 'Just
Seventeen:' although I should have thought her older. In the best
room were two oil portraits of the kit-cat size, representing the
landlord and his infant son; both looking as bold as lions, and
staring out of the canvas with an intensity that would have been
cheap at any price. They were painted, I think, by the artist who
had touched up the Belleville doors with red and gold; for I seemed
to recognise his style immediately.

After breakfast, we started to return by a different way from that
which we had taken yesterday, and coming up at ten o'clock with an
encampment of German emigrants carrying their goods in carts, who
had made a rousing fire which they were just quitting, stopped
there to refresh. And very pleasant the fire was; for, hot though
it had been yesterday, it was quite cold to-day, and the wind blew
keenly. Looming in the distance, as we rode along, was another of
the ancient Indian burial-places, called The Monks' Mound; in
memory of a body of fanatics of the order of La Trappe, who founded
a desolate convent there, many years ago, when there were no
settlers within a thousand miles, and were all swept off by the
pernicious climate: in which lamentable fatality, few rational
people will suppose, perhaps, that society experienced any very
severe deprivation.

The track of to-day had the same features as the track of
yesterday. There was the swamp, the bush, and the perpetual chorus
of frogs, the rank unseemly growth, the unwholesome steaming earth.
Here and there, and frequently too, we encountered a solitary
broken-down waggon, full of some new settler's goods. It was a
pitiful sight to see one of these vehicles deep in the mire; the
axle-tree broken; the wheel lying idly by its side; the man gone
miles away, to look for assistance; the woman seated among their
wandering household gods with a baby at her breast, a picture of
forlorn, dejected patience; the team of oxen crouching down
mournfully in the mud, and breathing forth such clouds of vapour
from their mouths and nostrils, that all the damp mist and fog
around seemed to have come direct from them.

In due time we mustered once again before the merchant tailor's,
and having done so, crossed over to the city in the ferry-boat:
passing, on the way, a spot called Bloody Island, the duelling-
ground of St. Louis, and so designated in honour of the last fatal
combat fought there, which was with pistols, breast to breast.
Both combatants fell dead upon the ground; and possibly some
rational people may think of them, as of the gloomy madmen on the
Monks' Mound, that they were no great loss to the community.


AS I had a desire to travel through the interior of the state of
Ohio, and to 'strike the lakes,' as the phrase is, at a small town
called Sandusky, to which that route would conduct us on our way to
Niagara, we had to return from St. Louis by the way we had come,
and to retrace our former track as far as Cincinnati.

The day on which we were to take leave of St. Louis being very
fine; and the steamboat, which was to have started I don't know how
early in the morning, postponing, for the third or fourth time, her
departure until the afternoon; we rode forward to an old French
village on the river, called properly Carondelet, and nicknamed
Vide Poche, and arranged that the packet should call for us there.

The place consisted of a few poor cottages, and two or three
public-houses; the state of whose larders certainly seemed to
justify the second designation of the village, for there was
nothing to eat in any of them. At length, however, by going back
some half a mile or so, we found a solitary house where ham and
coffee were procurable; and there we tarried to wait the advent of
the boat, which would come in sight from the green before the door,
a long way off.

It was a neat, unpretending village tavern, and we took our repast
in a quaint little room with a bed in it, decorated with some old
oil paintings, which in their time had probably done duty in a
Catholic chapel or monastery. The fare was very good, and served
with great cleanliness. The house was kept by a characteristic old
couple, with whom we had a long talk, and who were perhaps a very
good sample of that kind of people in the West.

The landlord was a dry, tough, hard-faced old fellow (not so very
old either, for he was but just turned sixty, I should think), who
had been out with the militia in the last war with England, and had
seen all kinds of service, - except a battle; and he had been very
near seeing that, he added: very near. He had all his life been
restless and locomotive, with an irresistible desire for change;
and was still the son of his old self: for if he had nothing to
keep him at home, he said (slightly jerking his hat and his thumb
towards the window of the room in which the old lady sat, as we
stood talking in front of the house), he would clean up his musket,
and be off to Texas to-morrow morning. He was one of the very many
descendants of Cain proper to this continent, who seem destined
from their birth to serve as pioneers in the great human army: who
gladly go on from year to year extending its outposts, and leaving
home after home behind them; and die at last, utterly regardless of
their graves being left thousands of miles behind, by the wandering
generation who succeed.

His wife was a domesticated, kind-hearted old soul, who had come
with him, 'from the queen city of the world,' which, it seemed, was
Philadelphia; but had no love for this Western country, and indeed
had little reason to bear it any; having seen her children, one by
one, die here of fever, in the full prime and beauty of their
youth. Her heart was sore, she said, to think of them; and to talk
on this theme, even to strangers, in that blighted place, so far
from her old home, eased it somewhat, and became a melancholy

The boat appearing towards evening, we bade adieu to the poor old
lady and her vagrant spouse, and making for the nearest landing-
place, were soon on board The Messenger again, in our old cabin,
and steaming down the Mississippi.

If the coming up this river, slowly making head against the stream,
be an irksome journey, the shooting down it with the turbid current
is almost worse; for then the boat, proceeding at the rate of
twelve or fifteen miles an hour, has to force its passage through a
labyrinth of floating logs, which, in the dark, it is often
impossible to see beforehand or avoid. All that night, the bell
was never silent for five minutes at a time; and after every ring
the vessel reeled again, sometimes beneath a single blow, sometimes
beneath a dozen dealt in quick succession, the lightest of which
seemed more than enough to beat in her frail keel, as though it had
been pie-crust. Looking down upon the filthy river after dark, it
seemed to be alive with monsters, as these black masses rolled upon
the surface, or came starting up again, head first, when the boat,
in ploughing her way among a shoal of such obstructions, drove a
few among them for the moment under water. Sometimes the engine
stopped during a long interval, and then before her and behind, and
gathering close about her on all sides, were so many of these ill-
favoured obstacles that she was fairly hemmed in; the centre of a
floating island; and was constrained to pause until they parted,
somewhere, as dark clouds will do before the wind, and opened by
degrees a channel out.

In good time next morning, however, we came again in sight of the
detestable morass called Cairo; and stopping there to take in wood,
lay alongside a barge, whose starting timbers scarcely held
together. It was moored to the bank, and on its side was painted
'Coffee House;' that being, I suppose, the floating paradise to
which the people fly for shelter when they lose their houses for a
month or two beneath the hideous waters of the Mississippi. But
looking southward from this point, we had the satisfaction of
seeing that intolerable river dragging its slimy length and ugly
freight abruptly off towards New Orleans; and passing a yellow line
which stretched across the current, were again upon the clear Ohio,
never, I trust, to see the Mississippi more, saving in troubled
dreams and nightmares. Leaving it for the company of its sparkling
neighbour, was like the transition from pain to ease, or the
awakening from a horrible vision to cheerful realities.

We arrived at Louisville on the fourth night, and gladly availed
ourselves of its excellent hotel. Next day we went on in the Ben
Franklin, a beautiful mail steamboat, and reached Cincinnati
shortly after midnight. Being by this time nearly tired of
sleeping upon shelves, we had remained awake to go ashore
straightway; and groping a passage across the dark decks of other
boats, and among labyrinths of engine-machinery and leaking casks
of molasses, we reached the streets, knocked up the porter at the
hotel where we had stayed before, and were, to our great joy,
safely housed soon afterwards.

We rested but one day at Cincinnati, and then resumed our journey
to Sandusky. As it comprised two varieties of stage-coach
travelling, which, with those I have already glanced at, comprehend
the main characteristics of this mode of transit in America, I will
take the reader as our fellow-passenger, and pledge myself to
perform the distance with all possible despatch.

Our place of destination in the first instance is Columbus. It is
distant about a hundred and twenty miles from Cincinnati, but there
is a macadamised road (rare blessing!) the whole way, and the rate
of travelling upon it is six miles an hour.

We start at eight o'clock in the morning, in a great mail-coach,
whose huge cheeks are so very ruddy and plethoric, that it appears
to be troubled with a tendency of blood to the head. Dropsical it
certainly is, for it will hold a dozen passengers inside. But,
wonderful to add, it is very clean and bright, being nearly new;
and rattles through the streets of Cincinnati gaily.

Our way lies through a beautiful country, richly cultivated, and
luxuriant in its promise of an abundant harvest. Sometimes we pass
a field where the strong bristling stalks of Indian corn look like
a crop of walking-sticks, and sometimes an enclosure where the
green wheat is springing up among a labyrinth of stumps; the
primitive worm-fence is universal, and an ugly thing it is; but the
farms are neatly kept, and, save for these differences, one might
be travelling just now in Kent.

We often stop to water at a roadside inn, which is always dull and
silent. The coachman dismounts and fills his bucket, and holds it
to the horses' heads. There is scarcely ever any one to help him;
there are seldom any loungers standing round; and never any stable-
company with jokes to crack. Sometimes, when we have changed our
team, there is a difficulty in starting again, arising out of the
prevalent mode of breaking a young horse: which is to catch him,
harness him against his will, and put him in a stage-coach without
further notice: but we get on somehow or other, after a great many
kicks and a violent struggle; and jog on as before again.

Occasionally, when we stop to change, some two or three half-
drunken loafers will come loitering out with their hands in their
pockets, or will be seen kicking their heels in rocking-chairs, or
lounging on the window-sill, or sitting on a rail within the
colonnade: they have not often anything to say though, either to
us or to each other, but sit there idly staring at the coach and
horses. The landlord of the inn is usually among them, and seems,
of all the party, to be the least connected with the business of
the house. Indeed he is with reference to the tavern, what the
driver is in relation to the coach and passengers: whatever
happens in his sphere of action, he is quite indifferent, and
perfectly easy in his mind.

The frequent change of coachmen works no change or variety in the
coachman's character. He is always dirty, sullen, and taciturn.
If he be capable of smartness of any kind, moral or physical, he
has a faculty of concealing it which is truly marvellous. He never
speaks to you as you sit beside him on the box, and if you speak to
him, he answers (if at all) in monosyllables. He points out
nothing on the road, and seldom looks at anything: being, to all
appearance, thoroughly weary of it and of existence generally. As
to doing the honours of his coach, his business, as I have said, is
with the horses. The coach follows because it is attached to them
and goes on wheels: not because you are in it. Sometimes, towards
the end of a long stage, he suddenly breaks out into a discordant
fragment of an election song, but his face never sings along with
him: it is only his voice, and not often that.

He always chews and always spits, and never encumbers himself with
a pocket-handkerchief. The consequences to the box passenger,
especially when the wind blows towards him, are not agreeable.

Whenever the coach stops, and you can hear the voices of the inside
passengers; or whenever any bystander addresses them, or any one
among them; or they address each other; you will hear one phrase
repeated over and over and over again to the most extraordinary
extent. It is an ordinary and unpromising phrase enough, being
neither more nor less than 'Yes, sir;' but it is adapted to every
variety of circumstance, and fills up every pause in the
conversation. Thus:-

The time is one o'clock at noon. The scene, a place where we are
to stay and dine, on this journey. The coach drives up to the door
of an inn. The day is warm, and there are several idlers lingering
about the tavern, and waiting for the public dinner. Among them,
is a stout gentleman in a brown hat, swinging himself to and fro in
a rocking-chair on the pavement.

As the coach stops, a gentleman in a straw hat looks out of the

STRAW HAT. (To the stout gentleman in the rocking-chair.) I
reckon that's Judge Jefferson, an't it?

BROWN HAT. (Still swinging; speaking very slowly; and without any
emotion whatever.) Yes, sir.

STRAW HAT. Warm weather, Judge.

BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.

STRAW HAT. There was a snap of cold, last week.

BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.

STRAW HAT. Yes, sir.

A pause. They look at each other, very seriously.

STRAW HAT. I calculate you'll have got through that case of the
corporation, Judge, by this time, now?

BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.

STRAW HAT. How did the verdict go, sir?

BROWN HAT. For the defendant, sir.

STRAW HAT. (Interrogatively.) Yes, sir?

BROWN HAT. (Affirmatively.) Yes, sir.

BOTH. (Musingly, as each gazes down the street.) Yes, sir.

Another pause. They look at each other again, still more seriously
than before.

BROWN HAT. This coach is rather behind its time to-day, I guess.

STRAW HAT. (Doubtingly.) Yes, sir.

BROWN HAT. (Looking at his watch.) Yes, sir; nigh upon two hours.

STRAW HAT. (Raising his eyebrows in very great surprise.) Yes,

BROWN HAT. (Decisively, as he puts up his watch.) Yes, sir.

ALL THE OTHER INSIDE PASSENGERS. (Among themselves.) Yes, sir.

COACHMAN. (In a very surly tone.) No it an't.

STRAW HAT. (To the coachman.) Well, I don't know, sir. We were a
pretty tall time coming that last fifteen mile. That's a fact.

The coachman making no reply, and plainly declining to enter into
any controversy on a subject so far removed from his sympathies and
feelings, another passenger says, 'Yes, sir;' and the gentleman in
the straw hat in acknowledgment of his courtesy, says 'Yes, sir,'
to him, in return. The straw hat then inquires of the brown hat,
whether that coach in which he (the straw hat) then sits, is not a
new one? To which the brown hat again makes answer, 'Yes, sir.'

STRAW HAT. I thought so. Pretty loud smell of varnish, sir?

BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.


BROWN HAT. (To the company in general.) Yes, sir.

The conversational powers of the company having been by this time
pretty heavily taxed, the straw hat opens the door and gets out;
and all the rest alight also. We dine soon afterwards with the
boarders in the house, and have nothing to drink but tea and
coffee. As they are both very bad and the water is worse, I ask
for brandy; but it is a Temperance Hotel, and spirits are not to be
had for love or money. This preposterous forcing of unpleasant
drinks down the reluctant throats of travellers is not at all
uncommon in America, but I never discovered that the scruples of
such wincing landlords induced them to preserve any unusually nice
balance between the quality of their fare, and their scale of
charges: on the contrary, I rather suspected them of diminishing
the one and exalting the other, by way of recompense for the loss
of their profit on the sale of spirituous liquors. After all,
perhaps, the plainest course for persons of such tender
consciences, would be, a total abstinence from tavern-keeping.

Dinner over, we get into another vehicle which is ready at the door
(for the coach has been changed in the interval), and resume our
journey; which continues through the same kind of country until
evening, when we come to the town where we are to stop for tea and
supper; and having delivered the mail bags at the Post-office, ride
through the usual wide street, lined with the usual stores and
houses (the drapers always having hung up at their door, by way of
sign, a piece of bright red cloth), to the hotel where this meal is
prepared. There being many boarders here, we sit down, a large
party, and a very melancholy one as usual. But there is a buxom

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