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Life On The Mississippi, Complete by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The laughing stopped.

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

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

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

'Somebody must go down and see!'

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

'Draw straws!'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 55 A Vendetta and Other Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

I eagerly said I could.

'A dark and dreadful one?'

I satisfied him on that point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 56 A Question of Law

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

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

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

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

'What is the matter?'

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

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

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

'Nothing much.'

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

'Everything about what?'

'You know well enough. About THAT.'

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

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

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

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

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

'How could you load a tomahawk?'

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

'What! in this town?'

'Yes, in this town.'

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

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


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

After deep thought came this answer--

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

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

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


'Haven't you the least idea?'

'Not the least.'

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

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

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

'Is that so?'

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

'Let me see. The man was drunk?'

'Yes, he was drunk.'

'Very drunk?'


'And the boy knew it?'

'Yes, he knew it.'

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

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

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

'I know the boy.'

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

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

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

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

'You told it in your sleep.'

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

My brother rattled innocently on--

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

I praised his sagacity effusively. Presently he asked--

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

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

'How good you are!'

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 57 An Archangel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 58 On the Upper River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Captain says--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 59 Legends and Scenery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Have you ever traveled with a panorama?'

'I have formerly served in that capacity.'

My suspicion was confirmed.

'Do you still travel with it?'

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

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

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

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

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

'Dashed who in pieces--her parents?'


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 60 Speculations and Conclusions

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

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

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

He has a custom-house, and is building a costly capitol to replace the
one recently burned--for he is the capital of the State. He has churches
without end; and not the cheap poor kind, but the kind that the rich
Protestant puts up, the kind that the poor Irish 'hired-girl' delights
to erect. What a passion for building majestic churches the Irish
hired-girl has. It is a fine thing for our architecture but too often we
enjoy her stately fanes without giving her a grateful thought. In fact,
instead of reflecting that 'every brick and every stone in this
beautiful edifice represents an ache or a pain, and a handful of sweat,
and hours of heavy fatigue, contributed by the back and forehead and
bones of poverty,' it is our habit to forget these things entirely, and
merely glorify the mighty temple itself, without vouchsafing one
praiseful thought to its humble builder, whose rich heart and withered
purse it symbolizes.

This is a land of libraries and schools. St. Paul has three public
libraries, and they contain, in the aggregate, some forty thousand
books. He has one hundred and sixteen school-houses, and pays out more
than seventy thousand dollars a year in teachers' salaries.

There is an unusually fine railway station; so large is it, in fact,
that it seemed somewhat overdone, in the matter of size, at first; but
at the end of a few months it was perceived that the mistake was
distinctly the other way. The error is to be corrected.

The town stands on high ground; it is about seven hundred feet above the
sea level. It is so high that a wide view of river and lowland is
offered from its streets.

It is a very wonderful town indeed, and is not finished yet. All the
streets are obstructed with building material, and this is being
compacted into houses as fast as possible, to make room for more--for
other people are anxious to build, as soon as they can get the use of
the streets to pile up their bricks and stuff in.

How solemn and beautiful is the thought, that the earliest pioneer of
civilization, the van-leader of civilization, is never the steamboat,
never the railroad, never the newspaper, never the Sabbath-school, never
the missionary--but always whiskey! Such is the case. Look history
over; you will see. The missionary comes after the whiskey--I mean he
arrives after the whiskey has arrived; next comes the poor immigrant,
with ax and hoe and rifle; next, the trader; next, the miscellaneous
rush; next, the gambler, the desperado, the highwayman, and all their
kindred in sin of both sexes; and next, the smart chap who has bought up
an old grant that covers all the land; this brings the lawyer tribe; the
vigilance committee brings the undertaker. All these interests bring the
newspaper; the newspaper starts up politics and a railroad; all hands
turn to and build a church and a jail--and behold, civilization is
established for ever in the land. But whiskey, you see, was the van-
leader in this beneficent work. It always is. It was like a foreigner--
and excusable in a foreigner--to be ignorant of this great truth, and
wander off into astronomy to borrow a symbol. But if he had been
conversant with the facts, he would have said--

Westward the Jug of Empire takes its way.

This great van-leader arrived upon the ground which St. Paul now
occupies, in June 1837. Yes, at that date, Pierre Parrant, a Canadian,
built the first cabin, uncorked his jug, and began to sell whiskey to
the Indians. The result is before us.

All that I have said of the newness, briskness, swift progress, wealth,
intelligence, fine and substantial architecture, and general slash and
go, and energy of St. Paul, will apply to his near neighbor,
Minneapolis--with the addition that the latter is the bigger of the two

These extraordinary towns were ten miles apart, a few months ago, but
were growing so fast that they may possibly be joined now, and getting
along under a single mayor. At any rate, within five years from now
there will be at least such a substantial ligament of buildings
stretching between them and uniting them that a stranger will not be
able to tell where the one Siamese twin leaves off and the other begins.
Combined, they will then number a population of two hundred and fifty
thousand, if they continue to grow as they are now growing. Thus, this
center of population at the head of Mississippi navigation, will then
begin a rivalry as to numbers, with that center of population at the
foot of it--New Orleans.

Minneapolis is situated at the falls of St. Anthony, which stretch
across the river, fifteen hundred feet, and have a fall of eighty-two
feet--a waterpower which, by art, has been made of inestimable value,
business-wise, though somewhat to the damage of the Falls as a
spectacle, or as a background against which to get your photograph

Thirty flouring-mills turn out two million barrels of the very choicest
of flour every year; twenty sawmills produce two hundred million feet of
lumber annually; then there are woolen mills, cotton mills, paper and
oil mills; and sash, nail, furniture, barrel, and other factories,
without number, so to speak. The great flouring-mills here and at St.
Paul use the 'new process' and mash the wheat by rolling, instead of
grinding it.

Sixteen railroads meet in Minneapolis, and sixty-five passenger trains
arrive and depart daily. In this place, as in St. Paul, journalism
thrives. Here there are three great dailies, ten weeklies, and three

There is a university, with four hundred students--and, better still,
its good efforts are not confined to enlightening the one sex. There are
sixteen public schools, with buildings which cost $500,000; there are
six thousand pupils and one hundred and twenty-eight teachers. There are
also seventy churches existing, and a lot more projected. The banks
aggregate a capital of $3,000,000, and the wholesale jobbing trade of
the town amounts to $50,000,000 a year.

Near St. Paul and Minneapolis are several points of interest--Fort
Snelling, a fortress occupying a river-bluff a hundred feet high; the
falls of Minnehaha, White-bear Lake, and so forth. The beautiful falls
of Minnehaha are sufficiently celebrated--they do not need a lift from
me, in that direction. The White-bear Lake is less known. It is a
lovely sheet of water, and is being utilized as a summer resort by the
wealth and fashion of the State. It has its club-house, and its hotel,
with the modern improvements and conveniences; its fine summer
residences; and plenty of fishing, hunting, and pleasant drives. There
are a dozen minor summer resorts around about St. Paul and Minneapolis,
but the White-bear Lake is the resort. Connected with White-bear Lake is
a most idiotic Indian legend. I would resist the temptation to print it
here, if I could, but the task is beyond my strength. The guide-book
names the preserver of the legend, and compliments his 'facile pen.'
Without further comment or delay then, let us turn the said facile pen
loose upon the reader--


Every spring, for perhaps a century, or as long as there has been a
nation of red men, an island in the middle of White-bear Lake has been
visited by a band of Indians for the purpose of making maple sugar.

Tradition says that many springs ago, while upon this island, a young
warrior loved and wooed the daughter of his chief, and it is said, also,
the maiden loved the warrior. He had again and again been refused her
hand by her parents, the old chief alleging that he was no brave, and
his old consort called him a woman!

The sun had again set upon the 'sugar-bush,' and the bright moon rose
high in the bright blue heavens, when the young warrior took down his
flute and went out alone, once more to sing the story of his love, the
mild breeze gently moved the two gay feathers in his head-dress, and as
he mounted on the trunk of a leaning tree, the damp snow fell from his
feet heavily. As he raised his flute to his lips, his blanket slipped
from his well-formed shoulders, and lay partly on the snow beneath. He
began his weird, wild love-song, but soon felt that he was cold, and as
he reached back for his blanket, some unseen hand laid it gently on his
shoulders; it was the hand of his love, his guardian angel. She took her
place beside him, and for the present they were happy; for the Indian
has a heart to love, and in this pride he is as noble as in his own
freedom, which makes him the child of the forest. As the legend runs, a
large white-bear, thinking, perhaps, that polar snows and dismal winter
weather extended everywhere, took up his journey southward. He at length
approached the northern shore of the lake which now bears his name,
walked down the bank and made his way noiselessly through the deep heavy
snow toward the island. It was the same spring ensuing that the lovers
met. They had left their first retreat, and were now seated among the
branches of a large elm which hung far over the lake. (The same tree is
still standing, and excites universal curiosity and interest.) For fear
of being detected, they talked almost in a whisper, and now, that they
might get back to camp in good time and thereby avoid suspicion, they
were just rising to return, when the maiden uttered a shriek which was
heard at the camp, and bounding toward the young brave, she caught his
blanket, but missed the direction of her foot and fell, bearing the
blanket with her into the great arms of the ferocious monster. Instantly
every man, woman, and child of the band were upon the bank, but all
unarmed. Cries and wailings went up from every mouth. What was to be
done'? In the meantime this white and savage beast held the breathless
maiden in his huge grasp, and fondled with his precious prey as if he
were used to scenes like this. One deafening yell from the lover
warrior is heard above the cries of hundreds of his tribe, and dashing
away to his wigwam he grasps his faithful knife, returns almost at a
single bound to the scene of fear and fright, rushes out along the
leaning tree to the spot where his treasure fell, and springing with the
fury of a mad panther, pounced upon his prey. The animal turned, and
with one stroke of his huge paw brought the lovers heart to heart, but
the next moment the warrior, with one plunge of the blade of his knife,
opened the crimson sluices of death, and the dying bear relaxed his

That night there was no more sleep for the band or the lovers, and as
the young and the old danced about the carcass of the dead monster, the
gallant warrior was presented with another plume, and ere another moon
had set he had a living treasure added to his heart. Their children for
many years played upon the skin of the white-bear--from which the lake
derives its name--and the maiden and the brave remembered long the
fearful scene and rescue that made them one, for Kis-se-me-pa and Ka-go-
ka could never forget their fearful encounter with the huge monster that
came so near sending them to the happy hunting-ground.

It is a perplexing business. First, she fell down out of the tree--she
and the blanket; and the bear caught her and fondled her--her and the
blanket; then she fell up into the tree again--leaving the blanket;
meantime the lover goes war-whooping home and comes back 'heeled,'
climbs the tree, jumps down on the bear, the girl jumps down after him--
apparently, for she was up the tree--resumes her place in the bear's
arms along with the blanket, the lover rams his knife into the bear, and
saves--whom, the blanket? No--nothing of the sort. You get yourself all
worked up and excited about that blanket, and then all of a sudden, just
when a happy climax seems imminent you are let down flat--nothing saved
but the girl. Whereas, one is not interested in the girl; she is not the
prominent feature of the legend. Nevertheless, there you are left, and
there you must remain; for if you live a thousand years you will never
know who got the blanket. A dead man could get up a better legend than
this one. I don't mean a fresh dead man either; I mean a man that's been
dead weeks and weeks.

We struck the home-trail now, and in a few hours were in that
astonishing Chicago--a city where they are always rubbing the lamp, and
fetching up the genii, and contriving and achieving new impossibilities.
It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with
Chicago--she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She
is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you
passed through the last time. The Pennsylvania road rushed us to New
York without missing schedule time ten minutes anywhere on the route;
and there ended one of the most enjoyable five-thousand-mile journeys I
have ever had the good fortune to make.




IT was nine o'clock Thursday morning when the 'Susie' left the
Mississippi and entered Old River, or what is now called the mouth of
the Red. Ascending on the left, a flood was pouring in through and over
the levees on the Chandler plantation, the most northern point in Pointe
Coupee parish. The water completely covered the place, although the
levees had given way but a short time before. The stock had been
gathered in a large flat-boat, where, without food, as we passed, the
animals were huddled together, waiting for a boat to tow them off. On
the right-hand side of the river is Turnbull's Island, and on it is a
large plantation which formerly was pronounced one of the most fertile
in the State. The water has hitherto allowed it to go scot-free in usual
floods, but now broad sheets of water told only where fields were. The
top of the protecting levee could be seen here and there, but nearly all
of it was submerged.

The trees have put on a greener foliage since the water has poured in,
and the woods look bright and fresh, but this pleasant aspect to the eye
is neutralized by the interminable waste of water. We pass mile after
mile, and it is nothing but trees standing up to their branches in
water. A water-turkey now and again rises and flies ahead into the long
avenue of silence. A pirogue sometimes flits from the bushes and
crosses the Red River on its way out to the Mississippi, but the sad-
faced paddlers never turn their heads to look at our boat. The puffing
of the boat is music in this gloom, which affects one most curiously. It
is not the gloom of deep forests or dark caverns, but a peculiar kind of
solemn silence and impressive awe that holds one perforce to its
recognition. We passed two negro families on a raft tied up in the
willows this morning. They were evidently of the well-to-do class, as
they had a supply of meal and three or four hogs with them. Their rafts
were about twenty feet square, and in front of an improvised shelter
earth had been placed, on which they built their fire.

The current running down the Atchafalaya was very swift, the Mississippi
showing a predilection in that direction, which needs only to be seen to
enforce the opinion of that river's desperate endeavors to find a short
way to the Gulf. Small boats, skiffs, pirogues, etc., are in great
demand, and many have been stolen by piratical negroes, who take them
where they will bring the greatest price. From what was told me by Mr.
C. P. Ferguson, a planter near Red River Landing, whose place has just
gone under, there is much suffering in the rear of that place. The
negroes had given up all thoughts of a crevasse there, as the upper
levee had stood so long, and when it did come they were at its mercy.
On Thursday a number were taken out of trees and off of cabin roofs and
brought in, many yet remaining.

One does not appreciate the sight of earth until he has traveled through
a flood. At sea one does not expect or look for it, but here, with
fluttering leaves, shadowy forest aisles, house-tops barely visible, it
is expected. In fact a grave-yard, if the mounds were above water,
would be appreciated. The river here is known only because there is an
opening in the trees, and that is all. It is in width, from Fort Adams
on the left bank of the Mississippi to the bank of Rapides Parish, a
distance of about sixty miles. A large portion of this was under
cultivation, particularly along the Mississippi and back of the Red.
When Red River proper was entered, a strong current was running directly
across it, pursuing the same direction as that of the Mississippi.

After a run of some hours, Black River was reached. Hardly was it
entered before signs of suffering became visible. All the willows along
the banks were stripped of their leaves. One man, whom your
correspondent spoke to, said that he had had one hundred and fifty head
of cattle and one hundred head of hogs. At the first appearance of water
he had started to drive them to the high lands of Avoyelles, thirty-five
miles off, but he lost fifty head of the beef cattle and sixty hogs.
Black River is quite picturesque, even if its shores are under water. A
dense growth of ash, oak, gum, and hickory make the shores almost
impenetrable, and where one can get a view down some avenue in the
trees, only the dim outlines of distant trunks can be barely
distinguished in the gloom.

A few miles up this river, the depth of water on the banks was fully
eight feet, and on all sides could be seen, still holding against the
strong current, the tops of cabins. Here and there one overturned was
surrounded by drift-wood, forming the nucleus of possibly some future

In order to save coal, as it was impossible to get that fuel at any
point to be touched during the expedition, a look-out was kept for a
wood-pile. On rounding a point a pirogue, skilfully paddled by a youth,
shot out, and in its bow was a girl of fifteen, of fair face, beautiful
black eyes, and demure manners. The boy asked for a paper, which was
thrown to him, and the couple pushed their tiny craft out into the swell
of the boat.

Presently a little girl, not certainly over twelve years, paddled out in
the smallest little canoe and handled it with all the deftness of an old
voyageur. The little one looked more like an Indian than a white child,
and laughed when asked if she were afraid. She had been raised in a
pirogue and could go anywhere. She was bound out to pick willow leaves
for the stock, and she pointed to a house near by with water three
inches deep on the floors. At its back door was moored a raft about
thirty feet square, with a sort of fence built upon it, and inside of
this some sixteen cows and twenty hogs were standing. The family did
not complain, except on account of losing their stock, and promptly
brought a supply of wood in a flat.

From this point to the Mississippi River, fifteen miles, there is not a
spot of earth above water, and to the westward for thirty-five miles
there is nothing but the river's flood. Black River had risen during
Thursday, the 23rd, 1{three-quarters} inches, and was going up at night
still. As we progress up the river habitations become more frequent, but
are yet still miles apart. Nearly all of them are deserted, and the
out-houses floated off. To add to the gloom, almost every living thing
seems to have departed, and not a whistle of a bird nor the bark of the
squirrel can be heard in this solitude. Sometimes a morose gar will
throw his tail aloft and disappear in the river, but beyond this
everything is quiet--the quiet of dissolution. Down the river floats now
a neatly whitewashed hen-house, then a cluster of neatly split fence-
rails, or a door and a bloated carcass, solemnly guarded by a pair of
buzzards, the only bird to be seen, which feast on the carcass as it
bears them along. A picture-frame in which there was a cheap lithograph
of a soldier on horseback, as it floated on told of some hearth invaded
by the water and despoiled of this ornament.

At dark, as it was not prudent to run, a place alongside the woods was
hunted and to a tall gum-tree the boat was made fast for the night.

A pretty quarter of the moon threw a pleasant light over forest and
river, making a picture that would be a delightful piece of landscape
study, could an artist only hold it down to his canvas. The motion of
the engines had ceased, the puffing of the escaping steam was stilled,
and the enveloping silence closed upon us, and such silence it was!
Usually in a forest at night one can hear the piping of frogs, the hum
of insects, or the dropping of limbs; but here nature was dumb. The dark
recesses, those aisles into this cathedral, gave forth no sound, and
even the ripplings of the current die away.

At daylight Friday morning all hands were up, and up the Black we
started. The morning was a beautiful one, and the river, which is
remarkably straight, put on its loveliest garb. The blossoms of the haw
perfumed the air deliciously, and a few birds whistled blithely along
the banks. The trees were larger, and the forest seemed of older growth
than below. More fields were passed than nearer the mouth, but the same
scene presented itself--smoke-houses drifting out in the pastures, negro
quarters anchored in confusion against some oak, and the modest
residence just showing its eaves above water. The sun came up in a
glory of carmine, and the trees were brilliant in their varied shades of
green. Not a foot of soil is to be seen anywhere, and the water is
apparently growing deeper and deeper, for it reaches up to the branches
of the largest trees. All along, the bordering willows have been denuded
of leaves, showing how long the people have been at work gathering this
fodder for their animals. An old man in a pirogue was asked how the
willow leaves agreed with his cattle. He stopped in his work, and with
an ominous shake of his head replied: 'Well, sir, it 's enough to keep
warmth in their bodies and that's all we expect, but it's hard on the
hogs, particularly the small ones. They is dropping off powerful fast.
But what can you do? It 's all we've got.'

At thirty miles above the mouth of Black River the water extends from
Natchez on the Mississippi across to the pine hills of Louisiana, a
distance of seventy-three miles, and there is hardly a spot that is not
ten feet under it. The tendency of the current up the Black is toward
the west. In fact, so much is this the case, the waters of Red River
have been driven down from toward the Calcasieu country, and the waters
of the Black enter the Red some fifteen miles above the mouth of the
former, a thing never before seen by even the oldest steamboatmen. The
water now in sight of us is entirely from the Mississippi.

Up to Trinity, or rather Troy, which is but a short distance below, the
people have nearly all moved out, those remaining having enough for
their present personal needs. Their cattle, though, are suffering and
dying off quite fast, as the confinement on rafts and the food they get
breeds disease.

After a short stop we started, and soon came to a section where there
were many open fields and cabins thickly scattered about. Here were seen
more pictures of distress. On the inside of the houses the inmates had
built on boxes a scaffold on which they placed the furniture. The bed-
posts were sawed off on top, as the ceiling was not more than four feet
from the improvised floor. The buildings looked very insecure, and
threatened every moment to float off. Near the houses were cattle
standing breast high in the water, perfectly impassive. They did not
move in their places, but stood patiently waiting for help to come. The
sight was a distressing one, and the poor creatures will be sure to die
unless speedily rescued. Cattle differ from horses in this peculiar
quality. A horse, after finding no relief comes, will swim off in
search of food, whereas a beef will stand in its tracks until with
exhaustion it drops in the water and drowns.

At half-past twelve o'clock a hail was given from a flat-boat inside the
line of the bank. Rounding to we ran alongside, and General York
stepped aboard. He was just then engaged in getting off stock, and
welcomed the 'Times-Democrat' boat heartily, as he said there was much
need for her. He said that the distress was not exaggerated in the
least. People were in a condition it was difficult even for one to
imagine. The water was so high there was great danger of their houses
being swept away. It had already risen so high that it was approaching
the eaves, and when it reaches this point there is always imminent risk
of their being swept away. If this occurs, there will be great loss of
life. The General spoke of the gallant work of many of the people in
their attempts to save their stock, but thought that fully twenty-five
per cent. had perished. Already twenty-five hundred people had received
rations from Troy, on Black River, and he had towed out a great many
cattle, but a very great quantity remained and were in dire need. The
water was now eighteen inches higher than in 1874, and there was no land
between Vidalia and the hills of Catahoula.

At two o'clock the 'Susie' reached Troy, sixty-five miles above the
mouth of Black River. Here on the left comes in Little River; just
beyond that the Ouachita, and on the right the Tensas. These three
rivers form the Black River. Troy, or a portion of it, is situated on
and around three large Indian mounds, circular in shape, which rise
above the present water about twelve feet. They are about one hundred
and fifty feet in diameter, and are about two hundred yards apart. The
houses are all built between these mounds, and hence are all flooded to
a depth of eighteen inches on their floors.

These elevations, built by the aborigines, hundreds of years ago, are
the only points of refuge for miles. When we arrived we found them
crowded with stock, all of which was thin and hardly able to stand up.
They were mixed together, sheep, hogs, horses, mules, and cattle. One of
these mounds has been used for many years as the grave-yard, and to-day
we saw attenuated cows lying against the marble tomb-stones, chewing
their cud in contentment, after a meal of corn furnished by General
York. Here, as below, the remarkable skill of the women and girls in
the management of the smaller pirogues was noticed. Children were
paddling about in these most ticklish crafts with all the nonchalance of

General York has put into operation a perfect system in regard to
furnishing relief. He makes a personal inspection of the place where it
is asked, sees what is necessary to be done, and then, having two boats
chartered, with flats, sends them promptly to the place, when the cattle
are loaded and towed to the pine hills and uplands of Catahoula. He has
made Troy his headquarters, and to this point boats come for their
supply of feed for cattle. On the opposite side of Little River, which
branches to the left out of Black, and between it and the Ouachita, is
situated the town of Trinity, which is hourly threatened with
destruction. It is much lower than Troy, and the water is eight and nine
feet deep in the houses. A strong current sweeps through it, and it is
remarkable that all of its houses have not gone before. The residents of
both Troy and Trinity have been cared for, yet some of their stock have
to be furnished with food.

As soon as the 'Susie' reached Troy, she was turned over to General
York, and placed at his disposition to carry out the work of relief more
rapidly. Nearly all her supplies were landed on one of the mounds to
lighten her, and she was headed down stream to relieve those below. At
Tom Hooper's place, a few miles from Troy, a large flat, with about
fifty head of stock on board, was taken in tow. The animals were fed,
and soon regained some strength. To-day we go on Little River, where the
suffering is greatest.


Saturday Evening, March 25.

We started down Black River quite early, under the direction of General
York, to bring out what stock could be reached. Going down river a flat
in tow was left in a central locality, and from there men poled her back
in the rear of plantations, picking up the animals wherever found. In
the loft of a gin-house there were seventeen head found, and after a
gangway was built they were led down into the flat without difficulty.
Taking a skiff with the General, your reporter was pulled up to a little
house of two rooms, in which the water was standing two feet on the
floors. In one of the large rooms were huddled the horses and cows of
the place, while in the other the Widow Taylor and her son were seated
on a scaffold raised on the floor. One or two dug-outs were drifting
about in the roam ready to be put in service at any time. When the flat
was brought up, the side of the house was cut away as the only means of
getting the animals out, and the cattle were driven on board the boat.
General York, in this as in every case, inquired if the family desired
to leave, informing them that Major Burke, of 'The Times-Democrat,' has
sent the 'Susie' up for that purpose. Mrs. Taylor said she thanked
Major Burke, but she would try and hold out. The remarkable tenacity of
the people here to their homes is beyond all comprehension. Just below,
at a point sixteen miles from Troy, information was received that the
house of Mr. Tom Ellis was in danger, and his family were all in it. We
steamed there immediately, and a sad picture was presented. Looking out
of the half of the window left above water, was Mrs. Ellis, who is in
feeble health, whilst at the door were her seven children, the oldest
not fourteen years. One side of the house was given up to the work
animals, some twelve head, besides hogs. In the next room the family
lived, the water coming within two inches of the bed-rail. The stove was
below water, and the cooking was done on a fire on top of it. The house
threatened to give way at any moment: one end of it was sinking, and, in
fact, the building looked a mere shell. As the boat rounded to, Mr.
Ellis came out in a dug-out, and General York told him that he had come
to his relief; that 'The Times-Democrat' boat was at his service, and
would remove his family at once to the hills, and on Monday a flat would
take out his stock, as, until that time, they would be busy.
Notwithstanding the deplorable situation himself and family were in, Mr.
Ellis did not want to leave. He said he thought he would wait until
Monday, and take the risk of his house falling. The children around the
door looked perfectly contented, seeming to care little for the danger
they were in. These are but two instances of the many. After weeks of
privation and suffering, people still cling to their houses and leave
only when there is not room between the water and the ceiling to build a
scaffold on which to stand. It seemed to be incomprehensible, yet the
love for the old place was stronger than that for safety.

After leaving the Ellis place, the next spot touched at was the Oswald
place. Here the flat was towed alongside the gin-house where there were
fifteen head standing in water; and yet, as they stood on scaffolds,
their heads were above the top of the entrance. It was found impossible
to get them out without cutting away a portion of the front; and so axes
were brought into requisition and a gap made. After much labor the
horses and mules were securely placed on the flat.

At each place we stop there are always three, four, or more dug-outs
arriving, bringing information of stock in other places in need.
Notwithstanding the fact that a great many had driven a part of their
stock to the hills some time ago, there yet remains a large quantity,
which General York, who is working with indomitable energy, will get
landed in the pine hills by Tuesday.

All along Black River the 'Susie' has been visited by scores of
planters, whose tales are the repetition of those already heard of
suffering and loss. An old planter, who has lived on the river since
1844, said there never was such a rise, and he was satisfied more than
one quarter of the stock has been lost. Luckily the people cared first
for their work stock, and when they could find it horses and mules were
housed in a place of safety. The rise which still continues, and was two
inches last night, compels them to get them out to the hills; hence it
is that the work of General York is of such a great value. From daylight
to late at night he is going this way and that, cheering by his kindly
words and directing with calm judgment what is to be done. One
unpleasant story, of a certain merchant in New Orleans, is told all
along the river. It appears for some years past the planters have been
dealing with this individual, and many of them had balances in his
hands. When the overflow came they wrote for coffee, for meal, and, in
fact, for such little necessities as were required. No response to these
letters came, and others were written, and yet these old customers, with
plantations under water, were refused even what was necessary to sustain
life. It is needless to say he is not popular now on Back River.

The hills spoken of as the place of refuge for the people and stock on
Black River are in Catahoula parish, twenty-four miles from Black River.

After filling the flat with cattle we took on board the family of T. S.
Hooper, seven in number, who could not longer remain in their dwelling,
and we are now taking them up Little River to the hills.


Troy: March 27, 1882, noon.

The flood here is rising about three and a half inches every twenty-four
hours, and rains have set in which will increase this. General York
feels now that our efforts ought to be directed towards saving life, as
the increase of the water has jeopardized many houses. We intend to go
up the Tensas in a few minutes, and then we will return and go down
Black River to take off families. There is a lack of steam
transportation here to meet the emergency. The General has three boats
chartered, with flats in tow, but the demand for these to tow out stock
is greater than they can meet with promptness. All are working night
and day, and the 'Susie' hardly stops for more than an hour anywhere.
The rise has placed Trinity in a dangerous plight, and momentarily it is
expected that some of the houses will float off. Troy is a little
higher, yet all are in the water. Reports have come in that a woman and
child have been washed away below here, and two cabins floated off.
Their occupants are the same who refused to come off day before
yesterday. One would not believe the utter passiveness of the people.

As yet no news has been received of the steamer 'Delia,' which is
supposed to be the one sunk in yesterday's storm on Lake Catahoula. She
is due here now, but has not arrived. Even the mail here is most
uncertain, and this I send by skiff to Natchez to get it to you. It is
impossible to get accurate data as to past crops, etc., as those who
know much about the matter have gone, and those who remain are not well
versed in the production of this section.

General York desires me to say that the amount of rations formerly sent
should be duplicated and sent at once. It is impossible to make any
estimate, for the people are fleeing to the hills, so rapid is the rise.
The residents here are in a state of commotion that can only be
appreciated when seen, and complete demoralization has set in,

If rations are drawn for any particular section hereabouts, they would
not be certain to be distributed, so everything should be sent to Troy
as a center, and the General will have it properly disposed of. He has
sent for one hundred tents, and, if all go to the hills who are in
motion now, two hundred will be required.



THE condition of this rich valley of the Lower Mississippi, immediately
after and since the war, constituted one of the disastrous effects of
war most to be deplored. Fictitious property in slaves was not only
righteously destroyed, but very much of the work which had depended upon
the slave labor was also destroyed or greatly impaired, especially the
levee system.

It might have been expected by those who have not investigated the
subject, that such important improvements as the construction and
maintenance of the levees would have been assumed at once by the several
States. But what can the State do where the people are under subjection
to rates of interest ranging from 18 to 30 per cent., and are also under
the necessity of pledging their crops in advance even of planting, at
these rates, for the privilege of purchasing all of their supplies at
100 per cent. profit?

It has needed but little attention to make it perfectly obvious that the
control of the Mississippi River, if undertaken at all, must be
undertaken by the national government, and cannot be compassed by
States. The river must be treated as a unit; its control cannot be
compassed under a divided or separate system of administration.

Neither are the States especially interested competent to combine among
themselves for the necessary operations. The work must begin far up the
river; at least as far as Cairo, if not beyond; and must be conducted
upon a consistent general plan throughout the course of the river.

It does not need technical or scientific knowledge to comprehend the
elements of the case if one will give a little time and attention to the
subject, and when a Mississippi River commission has been constituted,
as the existing commission is, of thoroughly able men of different walks
in life, may it not be suggested that their verdict in the case should
be accepted as conclusive, so far as any a priori theory of construction
or control can be considered conclusive?

It should be remembered that upon this board are General Gilmore,
General Comstock, and General Suter, of the United States Engineers;
Professor Henry Mitchell (the most competent authority on the question
of hydrography), of the United States Coast Survey; B. B. Harrod, the
State Engineer of Louisiana; Jas. B. Eads, whose success with the
jetties at New Orleans is a warrant of his competency, and Judge Taylor,
of Indiana.

It would be presumption on the part of any single man, however skilled,
to contest the judgment of such a board as this.

The method of improvement proposed by the commission is at once in
accord with the results of engineering experience and with observations
of nature where meeting our wants. As in nature the growth of trees and
their proneness where undermined to fall across the slope and support
the bank secures at some points a fair depth of channel and some degree
of permanence, so in the project of the engineer the use of timber and
brush and the encouragement of forest growth are the main features. It
is proposed to reduce the width where excessive by brushwood dykes, at
first low, but raised higher and higher as the mud of the river settles
under their shelter, and finally slope them back at the angle upon which
willows will grow freely. In this work there are many details connected
with the forms of these shelter dykes, their arrangements so as to
present a series of settling basins, etc., a description of which would
only complicate the conception. Through the larger part of the river
works of contraction will not be required, but nearly all the banks on
the concave side of the beds must be held against the wear of the
stream, and much of the opposite banks defended at critical points. The
works having in view this conservative object may be generally
designated works of revetment; and these also will be largely of
brushwood, woven in continuous carpets, or twined into wire-netting.
This veneering process has been successfully employed on the Missouri
River; and in some cases they have so covered themselves with sediments,
and have become so overgrown with willows, that they may be regarded as
permanent. In securing these mats rubble-stone is to be used in small
quantities, and in some instances the dressed slope between high and low
river will have to be more or less paved with stone.

Any one who has been on the Rhine will have observed operations not
unlike those to which we have just referred; and, indeed, most of the
rivers of Europe flowing among their own alluvia have required similar
treatment in the interest of navigation and agriculture.

The levee is the crowning work of bank revetment, although not
necessarily in immediate connection. It may be set back a short
distance from the revetted bank; but it is, in effect, the requisite
parapet. The flood river and the low river cannot be brought into
register, and compelled to unite in the excavation of a single permanent
channel, without a complete control of all the stages; and even the

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