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Life on the Mississippi


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Life on the Mississippi
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Mississippi Steamboat of Fifty Years Ago.
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Copyright, ie.74 and 1875,
By H. O. Houghton and Company.
Copyright, 1883,
By Samuel L. Clemens.
All rights reserved.
S. L. CLEMENS. ) £
Mark Twain. / ^
[trade mark.}
University Press r
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.

B UT the basin of the Mississippi is the Body of the Nation.
AH the other parts are but members, important in themselves, yet
more important in their relations to this. Exclusive of the Lake basin
and of 300,000 square miles in Texas and New Mexico, which in many
aspects form a part of it, this basin contains about 1,250,000 square
miles. In extent it is the second great valley of the world, being
exceeded only by that of the Amazon. The valley of the frozen Obi
approaches it in extent; that of the La Plata comes next in space,
and probably in habitable capacity, having about of its area; then
comes that of the Yenisei, with about \; the Lena, Amoor, Hoang-ho,
Yang-tse-kiang, and Nile, f-; the Ganges, less than H the Indus,
less than the Euphrates, ; the Rhine, ^g-. It exceeds in extent
the whole of Europe, exclusive of Russia, Norway, and Sweden. It
would contain Austria four times\ Germany or Spam five times,
France six times, the British Islands or Italy ten times. Conceptions
formed from the river-basins of Western Europe are rudely shocked
when we consider the extent of the valley of the Mississippi; nor
are those formed from the sterile basins of the great rivers of Siberia,
the lofty plateaus of Central Asia, or the mighty sweep of the swampy
Amazon more adequate. Latitude, elevation, and rainfall all combine
to render every part of the Mississippi Valley capable of supporting
a dense population. Asa dwelling-place for civilized man it is by
far the first upon our globe. — Editor’s Table, Harper's Magazine,
February, 1863.

The Mississippi is Well worth Reading about. — It is Remarkable. —In
stead of Widening towards its Mouth, it grows Narrower. — It Empties
four hundred and six million Tons of Mud. — It was First Seen in 1542.
— It is Older than some Pages in European History. —De Soto has
the Pull. — Older than the Atlantic Coast. — Some Half-breeds chip
in.— La Salle Thinks he will Take a Hand 21
La Salle again Appears, and so does a Cat-fish. — Buffaloes also. —
Some Indian Paintings are Seen on the Rocks. — “The Father of
Waters ” does not Flow into the Pacific. — More History and Indians.
— Some Curious Performances—not Early English. — Natchez, or
the Site of it, is Approached 31
A little History. — Early Commerce. — Coal Fleets and Timber Rafts. —
We.start on a Voyage. — I seek Information. — Some Music.— The
Trouble begins. — Tall Talk.—-The Child of Calamity. — Ground
and lofty Tumbling. — The Wash-up.—Business and Statistics.—
Mysterious Band. — Thunder and Lightning. — The Captain speaks.
— Allbright weeps. — The Mystery settled. — Chaff. — I am Dis
covered. — Some Art-work proposed. — I give an Account of Myself. —
Released 40
The Boys’ Ambition. — Village Scenes. — Steamboat Pictures. — A
Heavy Swell. — A Runaway 62
A Traveller. — A Lively Talker. — A Wild-cat Victim ...... 70

Besieging the Pilot. — Taken along. — Spoiling a Nap. — Fishing for a
Plantation. — “ Points ” on the River. — A Gorgeous Pilot-house . . 79
River Inspectors. — CotLxiwoods and Plum Point. — Hat-Island Cross
ing. — Touch and Go. — It is a Go. — A Lightning Pilot .... 91
A Heavy-loaded Big Gun. — Sharp Sights in Darkness.— Abandoned to
his Fate. — Scraping the Banks. — Learn him or Kill him .... 102
Shake the Reef. — Reason Dethroned. — The Face of the Water. —
A Bewitching Scene. — Romance and Beauty 112
Putting on Airs. — Taken down a bit. — Learn it as it is. — The River
Rising 122
In the Tract Business.— Effects of the Rise. — Plantations gone. — A
Measureless Sea. — A Somnambulist Pilot. — Supernatural Piloting.
— Nobody there. — All Saved - 132
Low Water.—Yawl sounding. — Buoys and Lanterns. — Cubs and
Soundings. — The Boat Sunk. — Seeking the Wrecked 143
A Pilot’s Memory. — Wages soaring. — A Universal Grasp. — Skill and
Nerve. — Testing a “ Cub.” — “Back her for Life.” — A Good Les
son 152
Pilots and Captains. — Iligh-prieed Pilots. — Pilots in Demand.—A
Whistler. — A cheap Trade. — Two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar Speed . 166

New Pilots undermining the Pilots’ Association. — Crutches and Wages.
— Putting on Airs. — The Captains Weaken. — The Association
Laughs. — The Secret Sign. — An Admirable System.—Rough on
Outsiders. — A Tight Monopoly.—No Loophole. — The Railroads
and the War 176
All Aboard. — A Glorious Start. — Loaded to Win. —Bands and Bugles.
— Boats and Boats. — Racers and Racing 193
Cut-offs. — Ditching and Shooting. — Mississippi Changes. — A Wild
Night. — Swearing and Guessing. — Stephen in Debt. — He Confuses
his Creditors. — He makes a New Deal. — Will Pay them Alpha
betically 205
Sharp Schooling. — Shadows. — I am Inspected. —Where did you get
them Shoes 1 — Pull her Down. — I want to kill Brown. — I try to run
her.—lam Complimented 217
A Question of Veracity.—A Little Unpleasantness.—I have an Audi
ence with the Captain.— Mr. Brown Retires 227
I become a Passenger. — We hear the News. —A Thunderous Crash. —
They Stand to their Posts. — In the Blazing Sun. — A Grewsome
Spectacle.—His Hour has Struck 2-36
I get my License. — The War Begins. — I become a Jack-of-all-trades . 216
I try the Alias Business. —Region of Goatees.-—Boots begin to Appear.—
The River Man is Missing. — The Young Man is Discouraged. —
Specimen Water. — A Eine Qualit}' of Smoke. — A Supreme Mistake.
— We Inspect the Town. — Desolation Way-traffic. — A Wood-yard . 247

Old French Settlements. — We start for Memphis. — Young Ladies and
Russia-leather Bags 258
I receive some Information. — Alligator Boats. — Alligator Talk. — She
was a Rattler to go. — I am Found Out 204
The Devil’s Oven and Table. — A Bombshell falls. — No Whitewash.—
Thirty Years on the River. — Mississippi Uniforms.—Accidents and
Casualties’!’—Two hundred Wrecks. — A Loss to Literature. — Sunday-
Schools and Brick Masons 273
War Talk. — I Tilt over Backwards. — Fifteen Shot-holes. — A Plain
Story. — Wars and Feuds. — Darnell versus Watson. — A Gang and
a Woodpile. —Western Grammar. — River Changes. — New Madrid.
— Floods and Falls 281
Tourists and their Note-books. — Captain Hall. — Mrs. Trollope’s Emo
tions. — Hon. Charles Augustus Murray’s Sentiment. — Captain
Marryat’s Sensations. — Alexander Mackay’s Feelings. — Mr. Parlc-
. man Reports 292
Swinging down the River, -r- Named for Me. —Plum Point again.—
Lights and Snag Boats. —Infinite Changes. — A Lawless River. —
Changes and Jetties. — Uncle Mumford Testifies. — Pegging the
River. — What the Government does. — The Commission Men and
Theories. “Had them Bad.” — Jews and Prices 298
Murel’s Gang. —A Consummate Villain. —Getting Rid of Witnesses. —
Stewart turns Traitor. — I Start a Rebellion. — I get a New Suit of
Clothes.— We Cover our Tracks. — Pluck and Capacity. — A Good
Samaritan City. — The Old and the New 311
A Melancholy Picture. — On the Move. — River Gossip. — She Went By
a-Sparklin’. — Amenities of Life. — A World of Misinformation.—
Eloquence of Silence. — Striking a Snag. — Photographically Exact.
— Plank Side-walks 325

Mutinous Language. — The Dead-house. — Cast-iron German and Flex
ible English. — A Dying Man's Confession. — I am Bound and
Gagged. — I get Myself Free. — I Begin my Search. — The Man with
one Thumb. — Red Paint and White Paper. — He Dropped on his
Knees. — Fright and Gratitude. — I Fled through the Woods. — A
Grisly Spectacle. — Shout, Man, Shout. — A look of Surprise and Tri
umph.— The Muffled Gurgle of a Mocking Laugh. — How strangely
Things happen. — The Hidden Money 337
Ritter’s Narrative. — A Question of Money. — Napoleon. — Somebody
is Serious. — Where the Prettiest Girl used to Live .. 357
A Question of Division. — A Place where there was no License. — The
Calhoun Land Company. — A Cotton-planter’s Estimate. — Halifax
and Watermelons. — Jewelled-up Bar-keepers . . 361
An Austere Man. — A Mosquito Policy. —Facts dressed in Tights. —A
swelled Left Ear 372
Signs and Scars. — Cannon-tliunder Rages. — Cave-dwellers, — A Con
tinual Sunday. — A ton of Iron and no Glass. — The Ardent is Saved.
— Mule Meat — A National Cemetery. — A Dog and a Shell. — Rail
roads and Wealth. — Wharfage Economy. — Vicksburg versus The
“ Gold Dust.” — A Narrative in Anticipation 375
The Professor Spins a Yarn. — An Enthusiast in Cattle. — He makes a
Proposition. — Loading Beeves at Acapulco. — He was n’t Raised to it.
— He is Roped In. — His Dull Eyes Lit Up. — Four Aces, you Ass ! —
He does n’t Care for the Gores 387
A Terrible Disaster. — The “ Gold Dust” explodes her Boilers. — The
End of a Good Man 397

Mr. Dickens has a Word. — Best Dwellings and their Furniture. —Albums
and Music. — Pantelettes and Conch-shells. — Sugar-candy Rabbits
and Photographs.—Horse-hair Sofas and Snuffers. — Rag Carpets
and Bridal Chambers 399
Rowdies and Beauty. — Ice as Jewelry. — Ice Manufacture. — More Sta
tistics. — Some Drummers. — Oleomargarine versus Butter. — Olive
Oil versus Cotton Seed. — The Answer was not Caught. — A Terrific
Episode. — A Sulphurous Canopy. — The Demons of War. — The
Terrible Gauntlet 408
In Flowers, like a Bride. — A White-washed Castle. — A Southern Pros
pectus. — Pretty Pictures. — An Alligator’s Meal 410
The Approaches to New Orleans. — A Stirring Street. — Sanitary Im
provements. — Journalistic Achievements. — Cisterns and Wells . . 422
Beautiful Grave-yards. — Chameleons and Panaceas. — Inhumation and •
Infection. — Mortality and Epidemics. — The Cost of Funerals . . 430
I meet an Acquaintance. — Coffins and Swell Houses. — Mrs. O’Flaherty
goes One Better. — Epidemics and Embamming. — Six hundred for a
Good Case. — Joyful High Spirits 486
French and Spanish Parts of the City. — Mr. Cable and the Ancient
Quarter. — Cabbages and Bouquets. — Cows and Children. — The
Shell Road. — The West End. — A Good Square Meal. — The Pom
pano.— The Broom-Brigade. — Historical Painting.—.Southern
Speech. — Lagniappe 442
“ Wa w ” Talk. — Cock-Fighting. — Too Much to Bear. —Fine Writing.
— Mule Racing 454

Mardi-Gras. — The Mystic Crewe. — Rex and Relics. — Sir Walter Scott.
— A World Set Back. — Titles and Decorations. — A Change . . 465
Uncle Remus. — The Children Disappointed. — We Read Aloud. — Mr.
Cable and Jean ah Poquelin. — Involuntary Trespass. — The Gilded
Age. — An Impossible Combination. — The Owner Materializes —
and Protests 471
Tight Curls and Springy Steps. — Steam-plows. — “ No. I.” Sugar. — A
Erankenstein Laugh. — Spiritual Postage. — A Place where there are
no Butchers or Plumbers.—Idiotic Spasms ......... 475
Pilot-Farmers. —Working on Shares. — Consequences. — Men who Stick
to their Posts. — He saw what he would do. — A Day after the Fair . 486
A Patriarch. — Leaves from a Diary. — A Tongue-stopper. — The An
cient Mariner. — Pilloried in Print. — Petrified Truth 493
A Fresh “ Cub ” at the Wheel. — A Valley Storm. — Some Remarks on
Construction. — Sock and Buskin.'—The Man who never played
Hamlet. — I got Thirsty. — Sunday Statistics ........ 500
I Collar an Idea. —A Graduate of Harvard. — A Penitent Thief. — His
Story in the Pulpit. — Something Symmetrical. — A Literary Artist.
— A Model Epistle. — Pumps again Working. — The “ Nub ” of the
Note 509
A Masterly Retreat. — A Town at Rest. — Boyhood’s Pranks. — Friends
of my Youth. — The Refuge for Imbeciles.—I am Presented with
my Measure 523
A Special Judgment. — Celestial Interest. — A Night of Agony. — An
other Bad Attack. — I become Convalescent.—I address a Sunday-
school. — A Model Boy 5-30

A second Generation. — A hundred thousand Tons of Saddles. — A Dark
and Dreadful Secret. — A Large Family. — A Golden-haired Darling.
— The Mysterious Cross. — My Idol is Broken. — A Bad Season of
Chills and Fever. — An Interesting Cave 540
Perverted History.— A Guilty Conscience. — A Supposititious Case.— A
Habit to be Cultivated. — I Drop my Burden. — Difference in Time . 548
A Model Town. — A Town that Comes up to Blow in the Summer. — The
Scare-crow Dean. — Spouting Smoke and Flame. — An Atmosphere
that tastes good. — The Sunset Land 555
An Independent Race. — Twenty-four-hour Towns.—Enchanting Sce
nery. — The JJome of the Plow. — Black Hawk. — Fluctuating Se
curities.— A Contrast. — Electric Lights 504
Indian Traditions and Rattlesnakes. — A Three-ton Word.—Chimney
Rock. —The Panorama Man. —A Good Jump. — The Undying Head.
— Peboan and Seegwun . 573
The Head of Navigation. — From Roses to Snow. — Climatic Vaccina
tion. — A Long Ride. — Bones of Poverty. — The Pioneer of Civiliza
tion. — Jug of Empire. — Siamese Twins. — The Sugar-busli. — He
Wins his Bride. — The Mystery about the Blanket. — A City that is
always a Novelty. — Home again 582
A 595
B 605
C 608
D 612

1. The “ Baton Rouge ” Frontispiece
2. Mississippi Steamboat of Fifty Years Ago Titlepage
3. View on the River 21
4. A High-water Sketch .22
5. La Salle Canoeing 24
6. De Soto Sees It . 25
7. Classifying their Offspring 27
8. Burial of De Soto 28
9. Canadian Indians 29
10. Crossing the Lakes . . .' 32
11. Anchored in the Stream ....'. 33
12. Hospitably Received 34
13. La Salle on the Ice 36
14. Consecrating the Robbery 37
15. The Temple Wall 38
16. Early Navigation 40
17. A Lumber Raft 42
18. I Swum along the Raft 43
19. He Jumped up in the Air 45.
20. Went around in a Circle 46
.21. He Knocked them Sprawling . 48
22. An Old-fashioned Breakdown 49
23. The Mysterious Barrel 51
24. Soon there was. a Regular Storm 53
:25. The Lightning Killed Two Men . 55
26. Grabbed the Little Child * 55
27. Ed got up Mad 57
'28. Who are you ? . .58
<29. Charles William Allbright, Sir 60
30. Overboard .61
31. Our Permanent Ambition 62
32. Water-Street Clerks 63
33. All Go Hurrying to the Wharf 64
34. The Town Drunkard Asleep Once More 66
<35. A Shining Hero 68
36. Day Dreams 69
37. Bored with Travelling 71
38. Tell Me where it is — I’ll fetch it ... 73
39. Sublime in Profanity 75
40. His Tears Dripped upon the. Lantern 77
41. The Chalk Pipe • 78
42. He Easily Borrowed Six Dollars 80

43. Besieging the Pilot .81
44. This is Nine-mile Point 82
45. Come 1 torn out 83
46. A Minute Later .... 84
47. You’re a Smart One 86
48. Get a Memorandum Book . . . 87
49. A Sumptuous Temple 89
50. Kiver Inspectors . 92
51. A Tangled Knot .94
52. Insensibly they Drew Together 96
53. Stand By, now ! 98
54. Over She Goes ! 99
55. Shoulder to Shoulder 101
56. Loading and Eiring 102
57. Changing Watch 105
58. All Well but Me 107
59. Learning the River 109
60. Learn Me or Kill Me Ill
61. That’s a Reef 113
62. Set Her Back 114
63. Mr. Bixby Stepped into View 117
64. I Stood Like One Bewitched . . 120
65. Sunset Views 121
66. Wearing a Toothpick .' 123
67. Do You see that Stump? , 124
68. The Orator of the Scow 127
69. Drifting Logs 129
70. Gambling down Below 131
71. Tract Distributing 133
72. Yellow-faced Miserables 135
73. On a Shoreless Sea 137
74. The Phantom Assumed the Wheel 139
75. Nobody there 140
76. Dark Piloting 142
77. Sounding ■ . 143
78. Oh, how Awful ! '147
79. Hauled Aboard 150
80. On Soundings 151
81. A City Street ^ ’ . . 153
82. Let a Leadsman cry, “ Half ’twain ! ” 155
83. Oh, I Knew Him ! 156
84: So Pull of Laugh '. 157
85. Scared to Death 160
86. Where is Mr. Bixby ? 161
87. If You Love Me, Back Her ! 164
88. Back her, back her ! . 165
89. Very Brief Authority 167
90. Treated with Marked Deference 168
91. You Take My Boat .• . 170
92. No Poolin’! 171
93. Went to Whistling • 173
94. Burst into a Pury 177
95. Resurrected Pilots . 179
96. The Captain Stormed 182
97. The Sign of Membership 183
98. Posting His Report . 186

99. Added to the Fold 188
100. A Justifiable Advance 190
101. Tow-boat Supremacy- 192
102. Steamboat Time 195
103. Drowst Engineers . 197
104. Brass Bands Bray . .199
105. The Parting Chorus 201
106. Race of the Lee and the Natchez 204
107. Dangerous Ditching 206
108. A Scientist • • • 207
109. Deluged and Careened 209
110. The Spectre Steamer 211
111. My, What'a Race I’ve Had! 213
112. Beaming Benignantly . 215
113. The Debt-Payer . . . 216
114. Pilot Brown ,....' . 218
115. Are You Horace Bigsby’s Cub ? 219
116. Hold up Your Foot 220
117. Take That Ice-Pitcher '. . 221
118. Pull Her Down 222
119. I Killed Brown Every Night 224
120. Hurled Me Across the House 225
121. Killing Brown 220
122. I Hit Brown a Good Honest Blow 229
123. The Racket Had brought Everybody to the Deck 231
124. So You have been Fighting ! 232
125. An Emancipated Slave 234
126. Music and Games . . 235
127. Henry and I sat Chatting . . . . ‘ 237
128. Emptying the Wood-flat . 238
129. The Explosion — A Startleb Barber : 239
130. Ealer Saves His Flute 240
131. The Fire Drove the Axemen Away 242
132. The Hospital ,Ward 244
133. The Land of full Goatees 248
134. Station Loafers .249
135. Under an Alias 250
136. Do You Drink this Slush? 251
137. Sound-asleep Steamboats 254
138. Dead past Resurrection 255
139. The Wood-yard Man 257
140. Waiting for a Trip 259
141. The Electric Light 260
142. A Landing 261
143. A Close Inspection . . 262
144. Empty Wharves : Wharf Hands “ Full ” 263
145. Showing the Bells 265
146. An Alligator Boat 266
147. Alligator Pilots 267
148. The Sacred Bird . . 269
149. Counting the 270 .
150. Here, You Take Her 272
151. Grand Tower 2/3
152. A Dairy Farm 275
153. Threw the Preacher Overboard 277
154. Illinois Ground 279

,155. His Maiden Battle 281
156. Mighty Warm Times 282
157. Where did You See that Fight? 284
158. Darnell vs. Watson 285
159. They Kept on Shooting 287 '
160. Island No. 10 289
161. Flood on the River 290
162. Inundation Scenes 291
163. A Dismal Witness ' 293
164. The Lonely River 297
165. The Steamer “ Mark Twain ” ; 298
166. A Government Lamp 299
167. Snags 800
168. . Running in a Fog 301
169. Uncle Mumford 305
170. Talking over the Situation 308
171. The Tow 310
172. A Soul-moving Villain 312
173. Selling the Negro 313
174. Concealed in the Brake 314
175. A Man came in Sight 316
176. I Shot Him through the Head 317
177. Another Victim 319
178. Pleasantly Situated ; 320
179. Memphis — A Landing Stage 322
180. Natives at Dinner 324
181. A Light-keeper 325
182. Negro Travellers 327
183. Any Boat gone up? 328
184. A World of Misinformation 330
185. A Fatal Blow 332
186. Elaborate Style 333
187. Napoleon in 1871 337
188. The Man’s Eyes opened slowly 340
189. They rummaged the Cabin . . 342
190. On the Right Track 345
191. Thumb-Prints 346
192. He dropped on his Knees 347
193. The Tragedy 349
194. In the Morgue 350
195. I sat down by him 353
196. The Shadow of Doom 356
197. We began to cool off 358
198. Ain’t that so, Thompson? 359
199.. He is Happy where He is J . . . 360
200. Warmed up into a Quarrel 361
201. Napoleon as it is 363
202. Caving Banks 365
203. The Commission Dealer 367
204. The Israelite •. 368
205. The Barkeeper 369
206. A Plain Gill 370
207. A “ Watermillion ” 371
208. Mosquitoes 372
209. A Bad Ear 373
210. Fanning Himself ........ 374

211. Vicksburg . .
212. The . Biter was Undisturbed .
213. The Cave Dwellers .. .. . .
214. Bringing the Children . . .
215. Wait and Make Certain . ..
216. Mule Meat . . . . ....
217. Native Wild-woods . . . .
218. My Promenade . . . . . .
219. A Short Stout Bag ... .
220. The Door was A-crack . . .
221. Five Hundred Better . . .
222. Been Laying for you Duffers
223. A Winning Hand . ... .
224. An Explosion
225. An Interior
226. Cleansing Themselves . . .
227. Soap and Brushes . . . . .
228. Natchez . .
229. Drummers
230. Smell Them, Taste Them . .
231. Oil and Oleo ......
232. Columbia Female Institute .
233. The Graceful Palmetto . .
234. High Water .......
235. The Wharves
236. Canal Street ......
237. West End ... . . . .. .
238. The Cemetery ......
239. Immortelles . ....... . .
240. Chameleons .
241. Belics
242. Funeral Wreaths . . . . .
243. He Chuckled ......
244. Why, Just Look at it! . . .
245. Ambition .
246. An Explanation
247. The St. Charles Hotel . .
248. The Shell Bo ad . . . . .
249. Spanish Fort
250. The Broom Brigade ....
251. “ Whah You was ? ” . . . .
252. For Lagnlappe . . . .
253. Lagniappe . . . . . .
254. “Waw” Talk ......
255. Cock-pit . . . . . . . .
256. Guests . .- . . . . . . .-
257. Absence of Harmony . . .
258. Collision . . ......
259. Mardi-Gras .- . .■ . .
260. Chivalry ........
261. Uncle Bemus
262. We Bead Aloud
263. A Biver Landing
264. The Captain
265. Pilot Town
266. Smoke and Gossip

267. The Interview .;.... 484
268. Boat-teavellers 485
269. Over the Breastboard 488
270. Thornburgh’s Cub 490
271. He Clung to a Cotton-bale 491
272. A Chill Tell There 495
273. Sellers’s Monument 498
274. The Night Approach 499
275. I am Anxious About the Time 501
276. Stage-struck 504
277. Look here, Have You got that Drink yet? . . 506
278. Tools of the Trade 508
279. "Williams Plies His Trade 511
280. He Pulled some Leather 512
281. The Crisis 513
282. Mission Work 516
283. Williams 519
284. The Days of Long Ago 525
285. A Practical Joke . . 528
286. Fools for St. Louis 529
287. I sat up in Bed Quaking 531
288. All Right, Dutchy — Go Ahead 534
289. We all Flew Home 536
290. Random Rubbish 539
291. The Consecrated Knife 543
292. A Cheap and Pitiful Ruin 545
293. A Bad Case of Shakes 546
294. Shaken Down * 547
295. I Tamper with My Conscience 550
296. My Burden is Lifted 553
297. Bad Dreams 554
298. Henry Clay Dean 557
399. The House Began to Break into Applause 559
300. A Former Resident 562
301. An Independent Race 564
302. The Man With a Trade-mark 567
303. Majestic Bluffs 569
304. “ Nuth’n,” says Smith 670
305. Steamer at Night 672
306. Queen’s Bluff 573
307. Chimney Rock 575
308. The Maiden’s Rock 576
309. The Lecturer 578
810. St. Paul 582
311. An Early Postmaster 585
312. The First Arrival 587
SIS. Minneapolis and the Falls of St. Anthony 588
314. The Mixture 591
315. An Arkansas River Post Office 593
316. Indian Ornaments 624

T HE Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a
commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways
remarkable. Considering the Missouri its main branch, it is
the longest river in the world — four thousand three hundred
miles. It seems safe to say
that it is also the crookedest river in
the world, since in one part of its jour
ney it uses up one thousand three hun
dred miles to cover the same ground that the
crow would fly over in six hundred and seventy-five. It dis
charges three times as much water as the St. Lawrence,
twenty-five times as much as the Rhine, and three hundred

and thirty-eight times as much as the Thames. No other
river has so vast a drainage-basin: it draws its water supply
from twenty-eight States and Territories ; from Delaware, on
the Atlantic seaboard, and from all the country between that
and Idaho on the Pacific slope — a spread of forty-five
degrees of longitude. The Mississippi receives and carries
to the Gulf water from fifty-four subordinate rivers that are
navigable by steamboats, and from some hundreds that
are navigable by flats and keels. The area of its drainage-
basin is as great as the combined areas of England, Wales,
Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria,
Italy, and Turkey; and almost all this wide region is fertile;
the Mississippi valley, proper, is exceptionally so.
It is a remarkable
river in this: that in
stead of widening to
ward its mouth, it grows
narrower; grows narrower and deeper. From the junction
of the Ohio to a point half way down to the sea, the width
averages a mile in high water: thence to the sea the width
steadily diminishes, until, at the “ Passes,” above the mouth,

it is but little over half a mile. At the junction of the Ohio
the Mississippi’s depth is eighty-seven feet; the depth
increases gradually, reaching one hundred and twenty-
nine just above the mouth.
The difference in rise and fall is also remarkable — not in
the upper, but in the lower river. The rise is tolerably
uniform down to Natchez (three hundred and sixty miles
above the mouth) — about fifty feet. But at Bayou La
Fourclie the river rises only twenty-four feet; at New Orleans
only fifteen, and just above the mouth only two and one
An article in the New Orleans “ Times-Democrat,” based
upon reports of able engineers, states that the river annually
empties four hundred and six million tons of mud into the
Gulf of Mexico •—which brings to mind Captain Marryat’s
rude name for the Mississippi — “the Great Sewer.” This
mud, solidified, would make a mass a mile square and two
hundred and forty-one feet high.
The mud deposit gradually extends the land — but only
gradually ; it has extended it not quite a third of a mile in
the two hundred years which have elapsed since the river
took its place, in history. The belief of the scientific people
is, that the mouth used to be at Baton Rouge, where the hills
cease, and that the two hundred miles of land between there
and the Gulf was built by the river. This gives us the
age of that piece of country, without any trouble at all —
one hundred and twenty thousand years. Yet it is much
the youthfulest batch of country that lies around there
The Mississippi is remarkable in still another way — its
disposition to make prodigious jumps by cutting through
narrow necks of land, and thus straightening and shortening
itself. More than once it has shortened itself thirty miles
at a single jump ! These cut-offs have had curious effects :
they have thrown several river towns out into the rural
districts, and built up sand bars and forests in front of them.

The town of Delta used to be three miles below Vicksburg:
a recent cut-off has radically changed the position, and Delta
is now two miles above Vicksburg.
Both of these river towns have been retired to the country
by that cut-off. A cut-off plays havoc with boundary lines
and jurisdictions : for instance, a man is living in the State
of Mississippi to-day, a cut-off occurs to-night, and to-morrow
the man finds himself and his land over on the other side of
the river, within the boundaries and subject to the laws
of the State of Louisiana! Such a thing, happening in the
upper river in the old times, could have transferred a slave
from Missouri to Illinois and made a free man of him.
The Mississippi does not alter its locality by cut-offs alone :
it is always changing its habitat bodily — is always moving

bodily sidewise. At Hard Times,
La., the river is two miles west of the region it used to
occupy. As a result, the original site of that settlement is
not now in Louisiana at all, but on the other side of the

river, in the State of Mississippi. Nearly the whole of that
one thousand three hundred miles of old Mississippi River
which La Salle floated down in his canoes, two hundred years
ago, is good solid dry ground noiv. The river lies to the
right of it, in places, and to the left of it in other places.
Although the Mississippi’s mud builds land but slowly,
down at the mouth, where the Gulf’s billows interfere with
its work, it builds fast enough in better protected regions
higher up: for instance, Prophet’s Island contained one
thousand five hundred acres of land thirty years ago ; since
then the river has added seven hundred acres to it.
But enough of these examples of the mighty stream’s
eccentricities for the present—I will give a few more of
them further along in the book.
Let us drop the Mississippi’s physical history, and say
a word about its historical history — so to speak. We can
glance briefly at its
slumbrous first
epoch in a couple
s hort chapters;
^s second and
wider-awake epoch
in a couple more; at its
flushest and widest-awake epoch in a good many succeed-

ing chapters; and then talk about its comparatively
tranquil present epoch in what shall be left of the
The world and the books are so accustomed to use, and
over-use, the word “ new ” in connection with our country,
that we early get and permanently retain the impression that
there is nothing old about it. We do of course know that
there are several comparatively old dates in American his
tory, but the mere figures convey to our minds no just
idea, no distinct realization, of the stretch of time which
they represent. To say that De Soto, the first white man
who ever saw the Mississippi River, saw it in 1542, is a
remark which states a fact without interpreting it: it is
something like giving the dimensions of a sunset by astro
nomical measurements, and cataloguing the colors by their
scientific names; — as a result, you get the bald fact of the
sunset, but you don’t see the sunset. It would have been
better to paint a picture of it.
The date 1542, standing by itself, means little or nothing
to us; but when one groups a few neighboring historical
dates and facts around it, he adds perspective and color,
and then realizes that this is one of the American dates
which is quite respectable for age.
For instance, when the Mississippi was first seen by a
white man, less than a quarter of a century , had elapsed
since Francis I.’s defeat at Pavia; the death of Raphael;
the death of Bayard, sans peur et sans reproche ; the driving
out of the Knights-Hospitallers from Rhodes by the Turks;
and the placarding of the Ninety-Five Propositions, — the
act which began the Reformation. When De Soto took his
glimpse of the river, Ignatius Loyola was an obscure
name; the order of the Jesuits was not yet a year old;
Michael Angelo’s paint was not yet dry on the Last Judg
ment in the Sistine Chapel; Mary Queen of Scots was not
yet born, but would be before the year closed. Catherine
de Medici was a child; Elizabeth of England was not yet

in her teens ; Calvin, Benvenuto Cellini, and the Emperor
Charles V. were at the top of their fame, and each was
manufacturing history after his own peculiar fashion;
Margaret of Navarre was writing the “ Heptameron ” and
some religious books, —the first survives, the others are for
gotten, wit and indelicacy being sometimes better literature-
preservers than holiness; lax court morals and the absurd
chivalry business were in full feather, and the joust and the
tournament were the frequent pastime of titled fine gentle
men who could fight better than they could spell, while
religion was the passion of their ladies, and the classifying
their offspring into children of full rank and children by
brevet their pastime. In
fact, all around, religion
was in a peculiarly bloom
ing condition: the
Council of Trent
Cl 4 \\ was being
called; the Spanish Inquisition was
roasting, and racking, and burning, with a
free hand; elsewhere on the continent the nations were
being persuaded to holy living by the sword and fire ; in
England, Henry VIII. had suppressed the monasteries, burnt
Fisher and another bishop or two, and was getting his

English reformation and his harem effectively started.
When De Soto stood on the banks of the Mississippi, it
was still two years before Luther’s death; eleven years
before the burning of Servetus; thirty years before the
St. Bartholomew slaughter; Rabelais was not yet published;
“ Don Quixote ” was not yet written; Shakspeare was not
yet born; a hundred long years must still elapse before
Englishmen would hear the name of Oliver Cromwell.
Unquestionably the discovery of the Mississippi is a
datable fact which considerably mellows and modifies the
shiny newness of our country, and gives her a most respect
able outside-aspect of rustiness and antiquity.
De Soto merely glimpsed the river, then died and was
buried in it by his priests and soldiers. One would expect
the priests and the soldiers to multiply the river’s dimensions
by ten—the Spanish custom of the day — and thus move
other adventurers to go at once and explore it. On the con
trary, their narratives when they reached home, did not

excite that amount of curiosity. The Mississippi was left
unvi sited by whites during a term of years which seems
incredible in our energetic days. One may “ sense ” the
interval to his mind, after a fashion, by dividing it up in
this way: After De Soto glimpsed the river, a fraction short
of a quarter of a century elapsed, and then Shakspeare was
born; lived a trifle more than half a century, then died;
and when he had been in his grave considerably more than
half a century, the second white man saw the Mississippi.
In our day we don’t allow a hundred and thirty years to
elapse between glimpses of a marvel. If somebody should
discover a creek in the county next to the one that the North
Pole is in, Europe and America would start fifteen costly
expeditions thither: one to explore the creek, and the other
fourteen to hunt for each other.
For more than a hundred and fifty years there had been
white settlements on our Atlantic coasts. These people
were in intimate communication with the Indians : in the

south the Spaniards were robbing, slaughtering, enslaving
and converting them; higher up, the English were trading
beads and blankets to them for a consideration, and throw
ing in civilization and whiskey, “for lagniappe;” 1 and in
Canada the French were schooling them in a rudimentary
way, missionarying among them, and drawing whole popu
lations of them at a time to Quebec, and later to Montreal,
to buy furs of them. Necessarily, then, these various clus
ters of whites must have heard of the great river of the far
west; and indeed, they did hear of it vaguely, — so vaguely
and indefinitely, that its course, proportions, and locality
were hardly even guessable. The mere mysteriousness of
the matter ought to have fired curiosity and compelled
exploration; but this did not occur. Apparently nobody
happened to want such a river, nobody needed it, nobody
was curious about it; so, for a century and a half the Mis
sissippi remained out of the market and undisturbed. When
De Soto found-it, he was not hunting for a river, and had
no present occasion for one ; consequently he did not value
it or even take any particular notice of it.
But at last La Salle the Frenchman conceived the idea of
seeking out that river and exploring it. It always happens
that when a man seizes upon a neglected and important idea,
people inflamed with the same notion crop up all around.
It happened so in this instance.
Naturally the question suggests itself, Why did these people
want the river now when nobody had wanted it in the five
preceding generations ? Apparently it was because at this
late day they thought they had discovered a way to make it
useful; for it had come to be believed that the Mississippi
emptied into the Gulf of California, and therefore afforded
a short cut from Canada to China. Previously the suppo
sition had been that it emptied into the Atlantic, or Sea of
1 See page .450.

A SALLE himself sued for certain high privileges, and
they were graciously accorded him by Louis XIV. of
inflated memory. Chief among them was the privilege to
explore, far and wide, and build forts, and stake out conti
nents, and hand the same over to the king, and pay the
expenses himself; receiving, in return, some little advantages
of one sort or another; among them the monopoly of buffalo
hides. He spent several years and about all of his money,
in making perilous and painful trips between Montreal and a
fort which he had built on the Illinois, before he at last suc
ceeded in getting his expedition in such a shape that he
could strike for the Mississippi.
And meantime other parties had had better fortune. In
1673 Joliet the merchant, and Marquette the priest, crossed
the country and reached the banks of the Mississippi. They
went by way of the Great Lakes; and from Green Bay, in
canoes, by way of Fox River and the Wisconsin. Marquette
had solemnly contracted, on the feast of the Immaculate
Conception, that if the Virgin would permit him to discover
the great river, he would name it Conception, in her honor.
He kept his word. In that day, all explorers travelled with
an outfit of priests. De Soto had twenty-four with him. La
Salle had several, also. The expeditions were often out of
meat, and scant of clothes, but they always had the furniture
and other requisites for the mass; they were always pre
pared, as one of the quaint chroniclers of the time phrased
it, to “ explain hell to the salvages.”

On the 17th of June, 1673, the canoes of Joliet and Mar
quette and their five subordinates reached the junction of
the Wisconsin with the Mississippi. Mr. Parkman says:
“Before them a wide and rapid current coursed athwart
their way, by the foot of lofty heights wrapped thick in
forests.” He continues : “ Turning southward, they paddled
down the stream, through a solitude unrelieved by the faint
est trace of man.”
A big cat-fish collided with Marquette’s canoe, and startled
him ; and reasonably enough, for he had been warned by the
Indians that he was on a foolhardy journey, and even a fatal
one, for the river contained a demon “ whose roar could be
heard at a great distance, and who would engulf them in the
abyss where he dwelt.” I have seen a Mississippi cat-fish
that was more than six feet long, and weighed two hundred
and fifty pounds; and if Marquette’s fish was the fellow to

that one, he had a fair right to think the river’s roaring
demon was come.
“ At length the buffalo began to appear, grazing in herds
on the great prairies which then bordered the river; and
Marquette describes the fierce and stupid look of the old
bulls as they stared at the intruders through the tangled
mane which nearly blinded them.”
The voyagers moved cautiously: “ Landed at night and
made a fire to cook their evening meal; then extinguished
it, embarked again, paddled some way farther, and anchored
in the stream, keeping a man on the watch till morning.”
They did this day after day and night after night; and
at the end of two weeks they had not seen a human being.
The river was an awful solitude, then. And it is now, over
most of its stretch.
But at the close of the fortnight they one day came upon
the footprints of men in the mud of the western bank — a
Robinson Crusoe experience which carries an electric shiver
with it yet, when one stumbles on it in print. They had
been warned that the river Indians were as ferocious and

pitiless as the river demon, and destroyed all comers without
waiting for provocation; but no matter, Joliet and Marquette
struck into the country to hunt up the proprietors of the
tracks. They found them, by and by, and were
hospitably received and well treated — if to i be re
ceived by an Indian chief who has taken off his
last rag in order to appear at
his level best is to be received hos
pitably ; and if to be treated abundantly
to fish, porridge, and other game, including dog, and have
these things forked into one’s mouth by the ungloved fingers
of Indians is to be well treated. In the morning the chief
and six hundred of his tribesmen escorted the Frenchmen
to the river and bade them a friendly farewell.
On the rocks above the present city of Alton they found
some rude and fantastic Indian paintings, which they
describe. A short distance below “ a torrent of yellow mud
rushed furiously athwart the calm blue current of the Mis-

sissippi, boiling and surging and sweeping in its course logs,
branches, and uprooted trees.” This was the mouth of the
Missouri, “ that savage river,” which “ descending from its
mad career through a vast unknown of barbarism, poured its
turbid floods into the bosom of its gentle sister.”
By and by they passed the mouth of the Ohio; they passed .
canebrakes ; they fought mosquitoes ; they floated along, day
after day, through the deep silence and loneliness of the river,
drowsing in the scant shade of makeshift awnings, and broil
ing with the heat; they encountered and exchanged civilities
with another party of Indians ; and at last they reached the
mouth of the Arkansas (about a month out from their start
ing-point), where a tribe of war-whooping savages swarmed
out to meet and murder them; but they appealed to the Vir
gin for help; so in place of a fight there was a feast, and
plenty of pleasant palaver and fol-de-rol.
They had proved to their satisfaction, that the Missis
sippi did not empty into the Gulf of California, or into the
Atlantic. They believed it emptied into the Gulf of Mexico.
They turned back, now, and carried their great news to
But belief is not proof. It was reserved for La Salle to
furnish the proof. He was provokingly delayed, by one mis
fortune after' another, but at last got his expedition under
way at the end of the year 1681. In the dead of winter he
and Henri de Tonty, son of Lorenzo Tonty, who invented the
tontine, his lieutenant, started down the Illinois, with a fol
lowing of eighteen Indians brought from New England, and
twenty-three Frenchmen. They moved in procession down
the surface of the frozen river, on foot, and dragging their
canoes after them on sledges.
At Peoria Lake they struck open water, and paddled thence
to the Mississippi and turned their prows southward. They
ploughed through the fields of floating ice, past the mouth of
the Missouri; past the mouth of the Ohio, by and by; “ and,
gliding by the wastes of bordering swamp, landed 011 the 24th

of February near the Third Chickasaw Bluffs,” where they
halted and built Fort Prudhomme.
“ Again,” says Mr. Parkman, “ they embarked; and with
every stage of their adventurous progress, the mystery of
this vast new world was more and more unveiled. More and
more they entered the realms of spring. The hazy sunlight,
the warm and drowsy air, the tender foliage, the opening
flowers, betokened the reviving life of nature.”
Day by day they floated down the great bends, in the
shadow of the dense forests, and in time arrived at the
mouth of the Arkansas. First, they were greeted by
the natives of this locality as Marquette had before been
greeted by them — with the booming of the war drum and
the flourish of arms. The Virgin composed the difficulty in
Marquette’s case ; the pipe of peace did the same office for
La Salle. The white man and the red man struck hands and
entertained each other during three days. Then, to the

admiration of the savages, La Salle set up a cross with the
arms of France on it, and took possession of the whole coun
try for the king — the cool fashion of the time—while the
priest piously consecrated the robbery with a hymn. The
priest explained the mysteries of the faith “ by signs,” for
the saving of the savages; thus compensating them with pos-
sihle possessions in Heaven for the certain ones on earth
which they had just been robbed of. And also, by signs,
La Salle drew from these simple children of the forest
acknowledgments of fealty to Louis the Putrid, over the
water. Nobody smiled at these colossal ironies.
These performances took place on the site of the future

town of Napoleon, Arkansas, and there the first confiscation-
cross was raised on the banks of the great river. Marquette’s
and Joliet’s voyage of discovery ended at the same spot —
the site of the future town of Napoleon. When De Soto
took his fleeting glimpse of the river, away back in the
dim early days, he took it from that same spot — the site
of the future town of Napoleon,
Arkansas. Therefore, three out of the
four memorable events connected with the discovery and ex
ploration of the mighty river occurred, by accident, in one
and the same place. It is a most curious distinction, when
one comes to look at it and think about it. France stole
that vast country on that spot, the future Napoleon; and
by and by Napoleon himself was to give the country back
again! — make restitution, not to the owners, but to their
white American heirs.
The voyagers journeyed on, touching here and there;
“ passed the sites, since become historic, of Vicksburg and
Grand Gulf;” and visited an imposing Indian monarch in

the Teche country, whose capital' city was a substantial one
of sun-baked bricks mixed with straw — better houses than
many that exist there now. The chief’s house contained an
audience room forty feet square; and there he received Tonty
in State, surrounded by sixty old men clothed in white cloaks.
There was a temple in the town, with a mud wall about it
ornamented with skulls of enemies sacrificed to the sun.
The voyagers visited the Natchez Indians, near the site of
the present city of that name, where they found a “ religious
and political despotism, a privileged class descended from
the sun, a temple and a sacred fire.” It must have been like
getting home again ; it was home with an advantage, in fact,
for it lacked Louis XIV.
A few more days swept swiftly by, and La Salle stood in
the shadow of his confiscating cross, at the meeting of the
waters from Delaware, and from Itaska, and from the moun
tain ranges close upon the Pacific, with the waters of the
Gulf of Mexico, his task finished, his prodigy achieved. Mr.-
Parkman, in closing his fascinating narrative, thus sums up:
“ On that day, the realm of France received on parchment a stu
pendous accession. The fertile plains of Texas; the vast basin of
the Mississippi, from its frozen northern springs to the sultry bor
ders of the Gulf; from the woody ridges of the Alleghanies to the
bare peaks. of the Rocky Mountains — a region of savannas and
forests, sun-cracked deserts and grassy prairies, watered by a thou
sand rivers, ranged by a thousand warlike tribes, passed beneath the
sceptre of the Sultan of Versailles; and all by virtue of a feeble
human voice, inaudible at half a mile.”

A PPARENTLY the river was ready for business, now.
But no, the distribution of a population along its
banks was as calm and deliberate and time-devouring a
process as the discovery and exploration had been.
Seventy years elapsed,
after the exploration, be
fore the river’s borders had
a white population worth considering; and nearly fifty more
before the river had a commerce. Between La Salle’s open
ing of the river and the time when it may be said to have
become the vehicle of anything like a regular and active
commerce, seven sovereigns had occupied the throne of

England, America had become an independent nation, Louis
XIV. and Louis XV. had rotted and died, the French mon
archy had gone down in the red tempest of the revolution,
and Napoleon was a name that was beginning to be talked
about. Truly, there were snails in those days.
The river’s earliest commerce was in great barges — keel-
boats, broadhorns. They floated and sailed from the upper
rivers to New Orleans, changed cargoes there, and were
tediously warped and poled back by hand. A voyage down
and back sometimes occupied nine months. In time this
commerce increased until it gave employment to hordes of
rough and hardy men; rude, uneducated, brave, suffering
terrific hardships with sailor-like stoicism ; heavy drinkers,
coarse frolickers in moral sties like the Natchez-under-the-
hill of that day, heavy fighters, reckless fellows, every one,
elephantinely jolly, foul-witted, profane; prodigal of their
money, bankrupt at the end of the trip, fond of barbaric
finery, prodigious braggarts ; yet, in. tlie main, honest, trust
worthy, faithful to promises and duty, and often picturesquely
By and by the steamboat intruded. Then, for fifteen or
twenty years, these men continued to run their keelboats
down-stream, and the steamers did all of the up-stream
business, the keelboatmen selling their boats in New Orleans,
and returning home as deck passengers in the steamers.
But after a while the steamboats so increased in number
and in speed that they were able to absorb the entire com
merce ; and then keelboating died a permanent death. The
keelboatman became a deck hand, or a mate, or a pilot on
the steamer; and when steamer-berths were not open to
him, he took a berth on a Pittsburgh coal-flat, or on a pine-
raft constructed in the forests up toward the sources of the
In the heyday of the steamboating prosperity, the river
from end to end was flaked with coal-fleets and timber rafts,
all managed by hand, and employing hosts of the rough

characters whom I have been trying to describe. I remem
ber the annual processions of mighty rafts that used to glide
by Hannibal when I was a boy, — an acre or so of white,
sweet-smelling boards in each raft, a crew of two dozen men
or more, three or four wigwams scattered about the raft’s
vast level space for storm-quarters, — and I remember the
rude ways and the tremendous talk of their big crews, the
ex-keelboatmen and their admiringly patterning successors ;
for we used to swim out a quarter or third of a mile and get
on these rafts and have a ride.
By way of illustrating keelboat talk and manners, and
that now-departed and hardly-remembered raft-life, I will
throw in, in this place, a chapter from a book which I have
been working at, by fits and starts, during the past five or
six years, and may possibly finish in the course of five or six
more. The book is a story which details some passages in
the life of an ignorant village boy, Huck Finn, son of the
town drunkard of my time out west, there. He has run
away from his persecuting father, and from a persecuting
good widow who wishes to make a nice, truth-telling, respect
able boy of him ; and with him a slave of the widow’s has

also escaped. They have found a fragment of a lumber raft
(it is high water and dead summer time), and are floating
down the river by night, and hiding in the willows by day, —
bound for Cairo, — whence the negro will seek freedom in
the heart of the free States. But in a fog, they pass Cairo
without knowing it. By and by they begin to suspect the
truth, and Huck Finn is persuaded to end the dismal sus
pense by swimming down to a huge raft which they have
seen in the distance ahead of them, creeping aboard under
cover of the darkness, and gathering the needed information
by eavesdropping: —
But you know a young person can’t wait very well when he is
impatient to find a thing out. We talked it over, and by and by
Jim said it was such a black night, now, that it would n’t be no risk
to swim down to the bb
raft and crawl aboard and
listen, — they would talk about Cairo, because they would be calcu
lating to go ashore there for a spree, maybe, or anyway they would
send boats ashore to buy whiskey or fresh meat or something. .Tim
had a wonderful level head, for a nigger: he could most always
start a good plan when you wanted one.
I stood up and shook my rags off and jumped into the river, and
struck out for the raft’s light. By and by, when I got down nearly

to her, I eased up and went slow and cautious. But everything was
all right — nobody at the sweeps. So I swum down along the raft
till I was most abreast the camp fire in the middle, then I crawled
aboard and inched along and got in amongst some bundles of shin
gles on the weather side of the fire. There was thirteen men there
— they was the watch on deck of course. And a mighty rough-
looking lot, too. They had a jug, and tin cups, and they kept the
jug moving. One man was singing — roaring, you may say ; and
it wasn’t a nice song—for a parlor anyway. He roared through
his nose, and strung out the last word of every line very long.
When he was done they all fetched a kind of Injun war-whoop,
and then another was sung. It begun: —
“ There was a woman in our towdn,
In our towdn did dwed’l (dwell,)
She loved her husband dear-i-lee,
But another man twyste as wed’l.
Singing too, riloo, riloo, riloo,
Ri-too, riloo, rilay - - - e,
She loved her husband dear-i-lee,
But another man twyste as wed’l.”
And so on — fourteen verses. It was kind of poor, and when he
was going to start on the next verse one of them said it was the
tune the old cow died on; and another one said, “ Oh, give us a
rest.” And another one told him to take a walk. They made
fun of him till he got mad and jumped up and begun to cuss the
crowd, and said he could lam any thief in the lot.
They was all about to make a break for him, but the biggest
man there jumped up and says: —
“ Set whar you are, gentlemen. Leave him to me; he’s my
Then he jumped up in the air three times and cracked his heels
together every time. He flung off: a buckskin coat that was all
hung with fringes, and says, “You lay thar tell the chawin-up’s
done; ” and flung his hat down, which was all over ribbons, and
says, “You lay thar tell his sufferins is over.”
Then he jumped up in the air and cracked his heels together
again and shouted out: —
“ Whoo-oop! I’m the old original iron-jawed, brass-mounted,

copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of Arkansaw! — Look
at me ! I’m the man they call Sudden Death and General Desola
tion ! Sired by a hurricane, darn’d by an earthquake, half-brother
to the cholera, nearly related to the small-pox on the mother’s side!
Look at me! I take nineteen alligators and a bar’l of whiskey for
breakfast when I’m in ro
bust health, and a bushel of rattle
snakes and a dead body when I’m ailing!
I split the everlasting rocks with my glance,
and I squench the thunder when I speak ! Whoo-oop! Stand back
and give me room according to my strength ! Blood \s my natural
drink, and the wails of the dying is music to my ear! Cast your
eye on me, gentlemen! — and lay low and hold your breath, for
I’m bout to turn myself loose ! ”
All the time he was getting this off, he was shaking his head and
looking fierce, and kind of swelling around in a little circle, tucking
up his wrist-bands, and now and then straightening up and beating

his breast with his fist, saying, “ Look at me, gentlemen! ” When
he got through, he jumped up and cracked his heels together three
times, and let off a roaring “ whoo-oop ! I’m the bloodiest son of
a wildcat that lives! ”
Then the man that had started the row tilted his old slouch hat
down over his right eye ; then he bent stooping forward, with his back
sagged and his south end
sticking out far, and his fists
a-shoving out and drawing in
in front of him, and so went
around in a little circle about
three times, swelling himself
up and breathing hard. Then
he straightened, and jumped
up and cracked his heels to
gether three times before he
lit again (that made them
cheer), and he begun to shout
like this: —
“ tYhoo-oop! bow your neck
and spread, for the kingdom
of sorrow’s a-coming ! Hold
me down to the earth, for I
feel my powers a-working!
whoo-oop ! I’m a child of
sin, don't let me get a start!
Smoked glass, here, for all!
Don’t attempt to look at me
with the naked eye, gentle
men ! When I’m playful I
use the meridians of longi
tude and parallels of latitude
for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales ! I scratdh
my head with the lightning and purr myself to sleep with the
thunder ! When I’m cold, I bile the Gulf of Mexico and bath© in
it; when I’m hot I fan myself with an equinoctial storm; when
I’m thirsty I reach up and suck a cloud dry like a sponge ; when
I range the earth hungry, famine follows in my tracks! Whoo-

oop! Bow your neck and spread! I put my hand on the sun’s
face and make it night in the earth; I bite a piece out of the
moon and hurry the seasons; I shake myself and crumble the
mountains! ' Contemplate me through leather — don't use the naked
eye! I’m the man with a petrified heart and biler-iron bowels !
The massacre of isolated communities is the pastime of my idle
moments,- the destruction of nationalities the serious business of
my life! The boundless vastness of the great American desert is
my enclosed property, and I bury my dead on my own premises ! ”
He jumped up and cracked his heels together three times before he
lit (they cheered him again), and as he come down he shouted out:
“ Whoo-oop! bow your neck and spread, for the pet child of calam
ity ’s a-coming! ”
Then the other one went to swelling around and blowing again —
the first one —the one they called Bob; next, the Child of Calamity
chipped in again, bigger than ever; then they both got at it at the
same time, swelling round and round each other and punching their
fists most into each other’s faces, and whooping and jawing like
Injuns; then Bob called the Child names, and the Child called
him names back again: next, Bob called hinra heap rougher names
and the Child come back at him with the very worst kind of lan
guage ; next, Bob knocked the Child’s hat off, and the Child picked
it up and kicked Bob’s ribbony hat about six foot; Bob went and
got it and said never mind, this war n’t going to be the last of this
thing, because he was a man that never forgot and never forgive,
and so the Child better look out, for there was a time a-coming,
just as sure as he was a living man, that he would have to answer
to him with the best blood in his body. The Child said no man
was willinger than he was for that time to come, and he would
give Bob fair warning, now, never to cross his path again, for he
could never rest till he had waded in his blood, for such was his
nature, though he was sparing him now on account of his family,
if he had one.
Both of them was edging away in different directions, growling
and shaking their heads and going on about what they was going to
do ; but a little black-whiskered chap skipped up and says : —
“ Come back here, you couple of chicken-livered cowards, and I ’11
thrash the two of ye ! ”

And lie done it, too. He snatched them, he jerked them this
way and that, he booted them around, he knocked them sprawling
faster than they could get up. Why, it war n’t two minutes till they
begged like dogs — and how the other lot did yell and laugh and
clap their hands all the way through, and shout “ Sail in, Corpse-
“he knocked them sprawling.”
Maker! ” “ Hi! at him again, Child of Calamity! ” “ Bully for you,
little Davy ! ” Well, it was a perfect pow-wow for a while. Bob
and the Child had red noses and black eyes when they got through.
Little Davy made them own up that they was sneaks and cowards
and not fit to eat with a dog or drink with a nigger; then Bob and
the Child shook hands with each other, very solemn, and said they

had always respected each other and was willing to let bygones be
bygones. So then they washed their faces in the river; and just
then there was a loud order to stand by for a crossing, and some of
them went forward to man the sweeps there, and the rest went aft
to handle the after-sweeps.
I laid still and waited for fifteen minutes, and had a smoke out of
a pipe that one of them left in reach; then the crossing was finished,
and they stumped back and had a drink around and went to talking
and singing again. Next they got out an old fiddle, and one
played, and another patted, juba, and the* rest turned themselves
loose on a regular old-fashioned keel-boat break-down. They
couldn’t keep that up very long without getting winded, so by and
by they settled around the jug again.
They sung “ jolly, jolly raftsman’s the life for me,” with a rousing
chorus, and then they got to talking about differences betwixt hogs,
and their different kind of habits ; and next about women and their

different ways; and next about the best ways to put out houses that
was afire; and next about what ought to be done with the Injuns ;
and next about what a king had to do, and how much he got;
and next about how to make cats fight; and next about what to
do when a man has fits ; and next about differences betwixt Clear
water rivers and muddy-water ones. The man they called Ed said
the muddy Mississippi water was wholesomer to drink than the
clear water of the Ohio ; he said if you let a pint of this yaller
Mississippi water settle, you would have about a half to three
quarters of an inch of mud in the bottom, according to the stage of
the river, and then it war n’t no better then Ohio water — what
you wanted to do was to keep it stirred up — and when the river
was low, keep mud on hand to put in and thicken the water up the
way it ought to be.
The Child of Calamity said that was so ; he said there was nutri
tiousness in the mud, and a man that drunk Mississippi water could
grow corn in his stomach if he wanted to. He says : —
“ You look at the graveyards ; that tells the tale. Trees won’t
grow worth shucks in a Cincinnati graveyard, but in a Sent Louis
graveyard they grow upwards of eight hundred foot high. It’s all
on account of the water the people drunk before they laid up. A
Cincinnati corpse don’t richen a soil any.”
And they talked about how Ohio water did n’t like to mix with
Mississippi water. Ed said if you take the Mississippi on a rise
when the Ohio is low, you ’11 find a wide band of clear water all the
way down the east side of the Mississippi for a hundred mile or
more, and the minute you get out a quarter of a mile from shore
and pass the line, it is all thick and yaller the rest of the way across.
Then they talked about how to keep tobacco from getting mould}?-,
and from that they went into ghosts and told about a lot that other
folks had seen; but Ed says : —
“ Why don’t you tell something that you’ve seen yourselves ?
Now let me have a say. Five years ago I was on a raft as big as
this, and right along here it was a bright moonshiny night, and I
was on watch and boss of the stabboard oar forrard, and one of my
pards was a man named Dick Allbright, and he come along to where
I was sitting, forrard — gaping and stretching, he was — and
stooped down on the edge of the raft and washed his face in the

river, and come and set down by me and got out his pipe, and had
just got it filled, when he looks up and says, —
44 4 Why looky-here,’ he says, 4 ain’t that Buck Miller’s place, over
yander in the bend ? ’
“ ‘ Yes,’ says I, 4 it is —why ? ’ He laid his pipe down and leant
his head on his hand, and says, —
44 4 I thought we’d be furder down.’ I says, —
“ 4 1 thought it too, when I went off watch ’ — we was standing
six hours on and six off — 4 but the boys told me,’ I says, 4 that the
raft didn’t seem to hard
ly move, for the last
hour,’ — says 1, 4 though
she’s a slipping along
all right, now,’ says I.
He give a kind of a
groan, and says, —
44 4 1 ’ve seed a raft act
so before, along here,’
he says, 4 ’pears to me
the current has most
quit above the head of
this bend durin’ the last
two years,’ he says.
44 Well, he raised up
two or three times, and
looked away off and
around on the water.
That started me at it,
too. A body is always
doing what he sees
somebody else doing, though there may n’t be no sense in it.
Pretty soon I see a black something floating on the water away off
to stabboard and quartering behind us. I see he was looking at
it, too. I says, —
44 4 What’s that ? ’ He says, sort of pettish, —
44 4 Tain’t nothing but an old empty bar’l.’
44 4 An empty bar’l! ’ says I, 4 why,’ says I, 4 a spy-glass is a fool
to your eyes. How can you tell it’s an empty bar’l ? ’ He says, —

“ ‘ I don’t know ; I reckon it ain’t a bar’l, but I thought it might
be,’ says he.
“ ‘Yes,’ I says, ‘so it might be, and it might be anything else,
too ; a body can’t tell nothing about it, such a distance as that,’ I
“ We had n’t nothing else to do, so we kept on watching it. By
and by I says, —
“ ‘ Why looky-here, Dick Allbright, that thing’s a-gaining on us,
I believe.’
“ He never said nothing. The thing gained and gained, and I
judged it must be a dog that was about tired out. Well, we swung
down into the crossing, and the thing floated across the bright streak
of the moonshine, and, by George, it was a bar'l. Says I, —
“ ‘ Dick Allbright, what made you think that thing was a bar’l,
when it was a half a mile off,’ says I. Says he, —
“ ‘ I don’t know.’ Says I, —
“ ‘You tell me, Dick Allbright.’ He says,—
“ ‘Well, I knowed it was a bar’l; I’ve seen it before ; lots has
seen it; they says it’s a hanted bar’l.’
“ I called the rest of the Avatch, and they come and stood there,
and I told them what Dick said. It floated right along abreast,
now, and did n’t gain any more. It was about twenty foot off.
Some was for having it aboard, but the rest didn’t Avant to. Dick
Allbright said rafts that had fooled with it had got bad luck by it.
The captain of the Avatch said he did n’t believe in it. He said he
reckoned the bar’l gained on us because it Avas in a little better cur
rent than what we was. He said it would leave by and by.
“ So then we went to talking about other things, and we had a
song, and then a brealcdoAvn ; and after that the captain of the
watch called for another song ; but it was clouding up, now, and
the bar’l stuck right thar in the same place, and the song didn’t
seem to have much warm-up to it, somehow, and so they did n’t
finish it, and there Avar n’t any cheers, but it sort of dropped flat,
and nobody said anything for a minute. Then everybody tried to
talk at once, and one chap got off a joke, but it Avar n’t no use,
they did n’t laugh, and even the chap that made the joke did n’t
laugh at it, which ain’t usual. We all just settled down glum, and
watched the bar’l, and was oneasy and oncomfortable. Well, sir, it

shut down black and still, and then the wind begin to moan around,
and next the lightning begin to play and the thunder to grumble.
And pretty soon there was a regular storm, and in the middle of
it a man that was running aft stumbled and fell and sprained his
ankle so that he had to lay up. This made the boys shake their
heads. And every time the lightning come, there was that bar’l
with the blue lights winking around it. We was always on the
• soon there was a regular storm.”
look-out for it. But by and by, towards dawn, she was gone. When
the day come we could n’t see her anywhere, and we war n’t sorry,
“ But next night about half-past nine, when there was songs and
high jinks going on, here she comes again, and took her old roost
on the stabboard side. There war n’t no more high jinks. Every
body got solemn ; nobody talked ; you could n’t get anybody to do

anything but set around moody and look at the bar’l. It begun to
cloud up again. When the watch changed, the off watch stayed up,
’stead of turning in. The storm ripped and roared around all night,
and in the middle of it another man tripped and sprained his ankle,
and had to knock off. The bar’l left towards day, and nobody see
it go.
“ Everybody was sober and down in the mouth all day. I don’t
mean the kind of sober that comes of leaving liquor alone, — not
that. They was quiet, but they all drunk more than usual, — not
together, — but each man sidled off and took it private, by himself.
“ After dark the off watch did n’t turn in ; nobody sung, nobody
talked; the boys did n’t scatter around, neither; they sort of huddled
together, forrard; and for two hours they set there, perfectly still,
looking steady in the one direction, and heaving a sigh once in a
while. And then, here comes the bar’l again. She took up her
old place. She staid there all night; nobody turned in. The storm
come on again, after midnight. It got awful dark ; the rain poured
down ; hail, too; the thunder boomed and roared and bellowed ; the
wind blowed a hurricane ; and the lightning spread over everything
in big sheets of glare, and showed the whole raft as plain as day;
and the river lashed up white as milk as far as you could see for
miles, and there was that bar’l jiggering along, same as ever. The
captain ordered the watch to man the after sweeps for a crossing,
and nobody would go, — no more sprained ankles for them, they
said. They wouldn’t even walk aft. Well then, just then the sky
split wide open, with a crash, and the lightning killed two men of
the after watch, and crippled two more. Crippled them how, says
you ? Why, sprained their ankles !
“ The bar’l left in the dark betwixt lightnings, towards dawn.
Well, not a body eat a bite at breakfast that morning. After that
the men loafed around, in twos and threes, and talked low together.
But none of them herded with Dick Allbright. They all give him
the cold shake. If he come around where any of the men was, they
split up and sidled away. They would n’t man the sweeps with him.
The captain had all the skiffs hauled up on the raft, alongside of
his wigwam, and would n’t let the dead men be took ashore to be
planted; he did n’t believe a man that got ashore would come back;
and he was right.

“ After night come, you could see pretty plain that there was
going to be trouble if that bar’l come again ; there was such a
muttering going on, A good many wanted to kill Dick Allbright,
because he’d seen the bar’l on other trips, and that had an ugly
look. Some wanted to put him
ashore. Some said, let’s all go
ashore in a pile, if the bar’l
comes again.
“ This kind of whispers was
still going on, the men being
bunched together forrard
watching for the bar’l, when,
lo and behold you, here she
comes again. Down she comes,
slow and steady, and settles
into her old tracks. You could
a heard a pin drop. Then up
comes the captain, and says: —
“ ‘ Boys, don’t be a pack of
children and fools; I don’t
want this bar’l to be dogging
us all the way to Orleans, and
you don’t; well, then, how’s
the best way to stop it ? Burn
it up, — that’s the way. I’m
going to fetch it aboard,’ he
says. And before anybody
could say a word, in he went.
“ He swum to it, and as he
come pushing it to the raft,
the men spread to one side.
But the old man got it aboard
and busted in the head, and there was a baby in it! Yes sir, a
stark naked baby. It was Dick Allbright’s baby ; he owned up
and said so.
“ ‘ Yes,’ he says, a-leaning over it, ‘ yes, it is my own lamented
darling, my poor lost Charles William Allbright deceased,’ says he,
— for he could curl his tongue around the bulliest words in the lan-

guage when he was a mind to, and lay them before you without a
jint started, anywheres. Yes, he said he used to live up at the head
of this bend, and one night he choked his child, which was crying,
not intending to kill it, — which was prob’ly a lie, — and then he was
scared, and buried it in
a bar’l, before his wife
got home, and off he
went, and struck the
northern trail and went
to rafting ; and this was
the third year that the
bar’l had chased him.
He said the bad luck al
ways begun light, and
lasted till four men was
killed, and then the bar’l
did n’t come any more
after that. He said if
the men would stand it
one more night,—and
was a-going on like that,
— but the men had got
enough. They started to
get out a boat to take
him ashore and lynch
him, but he grabbed the
little child all of a sud
den and jumped over-
“ grabbed the little child.” board with it hugged up
to his breast and shed
ding tears, and we never see him again in this life, poor old suffer
ing soul, nor Charles William neither.”
“ Who was shedding tears ? ” says Bob ; “ was it Allbright or the
baby ? ”
“ Why, Allbright, of course; didn’t I tell you the baby was dead ?
Been dead three years —how could it cry ? ”
“Well, never mind how it could cry — how could it keep all that .
time ? ” says Davy. “ You answer me that.”

“ I don’t know how it done it,” says Ed. “ It done it though —
that’s all I know about it.”
“ Say — what did they do with the bar’l ? ” says the Child of
“Why, they hove it overboard, and it sunk like a chunk of
“ Edward, did the child look like it was choked ? ” says one.
“ Did it have its hair parted? ” says another.
“ What was the brand on that bar’l, Eddy ? ” says a fellow they
called Bill.
“Have you got the papers for
them statistics, Edmund ? ” says
“ Say, Edwin, was you one of
the men that was killed by the
lightning?” says Davy.
“ Him ? O, no, he was both of ’em,” says Bob. Then they all
“ Say, Edward, don’t you reckon you’d better take a pill ? You
look bad — don’t you feel pale ? ” says the Child of Calamity.
“ O, come, now, Eddy,” says Jimmy, “ show up; you must a kept

part of that bar’l to prove the thing by. Show us the bunghole —
do — and we ’11 all believe you.”
“ Say, boys,” says Bill, “ less divide it up. Thar’s thirteen of us.
I can swaller a thirteenth of the yarn, if you can worry down the
Ed got up mad and said
they could all go to some
place which he
ripped out pretty
savage, and then Jpg
walked off aft
cussing to himself, yS
and they yelling
f// and jeering at him, and roaring and
V laughing so you could hear them a
“ Boys, we ’11 split a watermelon
on that,” says the Child of Calamity;
and he come rummaging around in the dark amongst the shingle
bundles where I was, and put his hand on me. I was warm and
soft and naked ; so he says “ Ouch! ” and jumped back.
“ Fetch a lantern or a chunk of fire here, boys — there’s a snake
here as big as a cow! ”
So they run there with a lantern and crowded up and looked in
on me.
“ Come out of that, you beggar! ” says one.
“ Who are you ? ” says another.
“ What are you after here ? Speak up prompt, or overboard you

“ Snake liim out, boj^s. Snatch liim out by the heels.”
I began to beg, and crept out amongst them trembling. They
looked me over, wondering, and the Child of Calamity says : —
“ A cussed thief! Lend a hand and less heave him overboard ! ”
“No,” says Big Bob, “less get out the paint-pot and paint him
a sky blue all over from head to heel, and then heave him over! ”
“ Good ! that’s it. Go for the paint, Jimmy.”
When the paint come, and Bob took the brush and was just
going to begin, the others laughing and rubbing their hands, I begun
to cry, and that sort of worked on Davy, and he says : —
“ ’Vast there ! He’s nothing but a cub. I ’11 paint the man that
tetches him! ”
So I looked around on them, and some of them grumbled and
growled, and Bob put down the paint, and the others did n’t take it
“ Come here to the lire, and less see what you ’re up to here,”
says Davy. “ Now set down there and give an account of yourself.
How long have you been aboard here ? ”
“ Not over a quarter of a minute, sir,” sa} r s I.
“ How did you get dry so quick ? ”
“ I don’t know, sir. I’m always that way, mostly.”
“ Oh, you are, are you ? What’s your name ? ”
I war n’t going to tell my name. I did n’t know what to say, so
I just says :
“ Charles William Allbright, sir.”
Then they roared — the whole crowd ; and I was mighty ghul
I said that, because maybe laughing would get them in a better
When they got done laughing, Davy says : —
“It won’t hardly do, Charles 'William. \ ou could n’t have
growed this much in five year, and you was a baby when you come
out of the bar’l, you know, and dead at that. Come, now, tell a
straight story, and nobody ’11 hurt you, if you ain’t up to anything
wrong. What is your name ? ”
“Aleck Hopkins, sir. Aleck James Hopkins.”
“Well, Aleck, where did you come from, here?”
“ From a trading scow. She lays up the bend yonder. I was
born on her. Pap has traded up and down here all his life ; and he

told me to swim off here, because when you went by he said he
would like to get some of you to speak to a Mr. Jonas Turney, in
Cairo, and tell him — ”
“ Oh, come! ”
“ Yes, sir, it’s as true as the world ; Pap he says — ”
“ Oh, your grandmother! ”
They all laughed, and I tried again to talk, but they broke in on
me and stopped me.
“ Now, looky-here,” says Davy ; “ you ’re scared, and so you talk
wild. Honest, now, do you live in a scow, or is it a lie ? ”
“Yes, sir, in a trading scow. She lays up at the head of the
bend. But I war n’t born in her. It’s our first trip.”
“Now you ’re talking! What did you come aboard here, for ?
To steal ? ”

“ No, sir, I did n’t. — It was only to get a ride on the raft. All
boys does that.”
“ Well, I know that. But what did you hide for ? ”
“ Sometimes they drive the boys off.”
“ So they do. They might steal. Looky-here; if we let you off
this time, will you keep out of these kind of scrapes hereafter ? ”
“ ’Deed I will, boss. You try me.”
“ All right, then. You ain’t but little ways from shore. Over
board with you, and don’t you make a fool of yourself another time
this way. — Blast it, boy, some raftsmen would rawhide you till you
were black and blue! ”
I did n’t wait to kiss good-bye, but went overboard and broke for
shore. When Jim come along by and by, the big raft was away out
of sight around the point. I swum out and got aboard, and was
mighty glad to see home again.
The boy did not get the information he was after, but his
adventure has furnished the glimpse of the departed raftsman
and keelboatman which I desire to offer in this place.
I now come to a phase of the Mississippi River life of the
flush times of steamboating, which seems to me to warrant
full examination — the marvellous science of piloting, as dis
played there. I believe there has been nothing like it else
where in the world.

W HEN I was a boy, there was but one permanent am
bition among my comrades in our village 1 on the
west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a
steamboatman. We had transient ambitions
of other sorts, but they were only transient.
“our permanent ambition.”
When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to be
come clowns; the first negro minstrel show that came to our
section left us all suffering to try that kind of life ; now and
1 Hannibal, Missouri.

then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God
would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out,
each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman
always remained.
Once a day a cheap, gaudy packet arrived upward from
St. Louis, and another down-
Keokuk. Before
events, the day
was glorious
with expectancy;
after them, the
day was a dead
and empty thing.
Not only the
boys, but the
whole village,
felt this. After
all these years I
can picture that
old time to my
self now, just as
it was then : the
white town
drowsing in the
sunshine of a
summer’s morn
ing ; the streets
empty, or pretty
“water-street clerks.” nearly so; one or
two clerks sitting
in front of the Water Street stores, with their splint-bot
tomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breasts,
hats slouched over their faces, asleep — with shingle-shav-
ings enough around to show what broke them down; a
sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing
a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds; two or

three lonely little freight piles scattered about the “ levee; ”
a pile of “skids” on the slope of the stone-paved wharf,
and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of
them; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf,
but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets
against them; the great Mississippi, the majestic, the mag
nificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining
in the sun; the dense forest away on the other side ; the
“ point ” above the town, and the “ point ” below, bounding
“all go hurrying
the river-glimpse and turning it
into a sort of sea, and withal a
very still and brilliant and lonely one. Presently a film of
dark smoke appears above one of those remote “ points; ”
instantly a negro drayman, famous for his quick eye and
prodigious voice, lifts up the cry, “ S-t-e-a-m-boat a-comin’! ”
and the scene changes! The town drunkard stirs, the
clerks wake up, a furious clatter of drays follows, every
house and store pours out a human contribution, and all

iii a twinkling the dead town is alive and moving. Drays,
carts, men, boys, all go hurrying from' many quarters to
a common centre, the wharf. Assembled there, the peo
ple fasten their eyes upon the coming boat as upon a won
der they are seeing for the first time. And the boat is
rather a handsome sight, too. She is long and sharp and
trim and pretty; she has two tall, fancy-topped chimneys,
with a gilded device of some kind swung between them; a
fanciful pilot-house, all glass and “ gingerbread,” perched on
top of the “ texas ” deck behind them; the paddle-boxes are
gorgeous with a picture or with gilded rays above the boat’s
name; the boiler deck, the hurricane deck, and the texas
deck are fenced and Ornamented with clean white railings;
there is a flag gallantly flying from the jack-staff; the fur
nace doors are open and the fires glaring bravely; the upper
decks are black with passengers; the captain stands by the
big bell, calm, imposing, the envy of all; great volumes of
the blackest smoke are rolling and tumbling out of the
chimneys — a husbanded grandeur created with a bit of
pitch pine just before arriving at a town; the crew are
grouped on the forecastle; the broad stage is run far out
over the port bow, and an envied deck-hand stands pic
turesquely on the end of it with a coil of rope in his hand;
the pent steam is screaming through the gauge-cocks; the
captain lifts his hand, a bell rings, the wheels stop; then
they turn back, churning the water to foam, and the steamer
is at rest. Then such a scramble as there is to get aboard,
and to get ashore, and to take in freight and to discharge
freight, all at one and the same time; and such a yelling
and cursing as the mates facilitate it all with ! Ten min
utes later the steamer is under way again, with 110 flag
on the jack-staff and 110 black smoke issuing from the
chimneys. After ten more minutes the town is dead
again, and the town drunkard asleep by the skids once
My father was a justice of the peace, and I supposed he

possessed the power of life and death over all men and could
hang anybody that offended him. This was distinction
enough for me as a general thing; but the desire to be a
steamboatman kept intruding, nevertheless. I first wanted
to be a cabin-boy, so that I could come out with a white
apron on and shake a table-cloth over the side, where all my
old comrades could see me; later I thought I would rather
be the deck-hand
who stood 011 the
end of the stagc-
plank with the coil
of rope in his hand,
because he was
particularly con
spicuous. But
these were only
day-dreams,— they
were too heavenly
to be contemplated
as real possibili
ties. By and by
one of our boys
went away. He
was not heard of
for a long time.
At last he turned
up as apprentice
“ the town drunkard asleep once more.” engineer or “ strik
er ” on a steamboat.
This thing shook the bottom out of all my Sunday-school
teachings. That boy had been notoriously worldly, and I
just the reverse; yet he was exalted to this eminence, and I
left in obscurity and misery. There w'as nothing generous
about this fellow in his greatness. He would always man
age to have a rusty bolt to scrub while his boat tarried at
our town, and he would sit on the inside guard and scrub

it, where we could all see him and envy him and loathe
him. And whenever his boat was laid up he would come
home and swell around the town in his blackest and greas
iest clothes, so that nobody could help remembering that
he was a steamboatman; and he used all sorts of steam
boat technicalities in his talk, as if he were so used to
them that he forgot common people could not understand
them. He would speak of the “ labboard ” side of a horse
in an easy, natural way that would make one wish he
was dead. And he was always talking about “ St. Looy ”
like an old citizen ; he would refer casually to occasions
when he “ was coming down Fourth Street,” or when he was
“ passing by the Planter’s House,” or when there was a fire
and lie took a turn on the brakes of “ the old Big Missouri;”
and then he would go on and lie about how many towns the
size of ours were burned down there that day. Two or three
of the boys had long been persons of consideration among
us because they had been to St. Louis once and had a vague
general knowledge of its wonders, but the day of their glory
was over now. They lapsed into a humble silence, and
learned to disappear when the ruthless “ cub ”- engineer
approached. This fellow had money, too, and hair oil.
Also an ignorant silver watch and a showy brass watch
chain. He wore a leather belt and used no suspenders. If
ever a youth was cordially admired and hated by his com
rades, this one was. No girl could withstand his charms.
He “ cut out” every boy in the village. When his boat blew
up at last, it diffused a tranquil contentment among us such
as we had not known for months. But when he came home
the next week, alive, renowned, and -appeared in church
all battered up and bandaged, a shining hero, stared at and
wondered over by everybody, it seemed to us that the par
tiality of Providence for an undeserving reptile had reached
a point where it was open to criticism.
This creature’s career could produce but one result, and it
speedily followed. Boy after boy managed to get on the

river. The minister’s son became an engineer. The doctor’s
and the post-master’s sons became “ mud clerks; ” the
wholesale liquor dealer’s son became a bar-keeper on a boat;
four sons of the
chief merchant,
and two sons of
the county judge,
became pilots.
Pilot was the
grandest position
of all. The pilot,
even in those
days of trivial
wages, had a
princely salary —
from a hundred
and fifty to two
hundred and fifty
dollars a month,
and no board to
pay. Two months
of his wages
would pay a
preacher’s salary
for a year. Now
some of us were
left disconsolate.
We could not get
on the river — at
least our parents
would not let us.
So by and by I
ran away. I said I never would come home again till I was
a pilot and could come in glory. But somehow I could not
manage it. I went meekly aboard a few of the boats that
lay packed together like sardines at the long St. Louis

wharf, and very humbly inquired for the pilots, but got only
a cold shoulder and short words from mates and clerks.
I had to make the best of this sort of treatment for the
time being, but I had comforting day-dreams of a future
when I should be a great and honored pilot, with plenty of
money, and could kill some of these mates and clerks and
pay for them.

ONTHS afterward the hope within me struggled to
a reluctant death, and I found myself without an
ambition. But I was ashamed to go home. I was in Cincin
nati, and I set to work to map out a new career. I had been
reading about the recent exploration of the river Amazon by
an expedition sent out by our government. It was said that
the expedition, owing to difficulties, had not thoroughly
explored a part of the country lying about the head-waters,
some four thousand miles from the mouth of the river. It
was only about fifteen hundred miles from Cincinnati to New
Orleans, where I could doubtless get a ship. I had thirty
dollars left; I would go and complete the exploration of the
Amazon. This was all the thought I gave to the subject. I
never was great in matters of detail. I packed my valise,
and took passage on an ancient tub called the “ Paul Jones,”
for New Orleans. For the sum of sixteen dollars I had the
scarred and tarnished splendors of “ her ” main saloon prin
cipally to myself, for she was not a creature to attract the eye
of wiser travellers.
When we presently got under way and went poking down
the broad Ohio, I became a new being, and the subject of my
own admiration. I was a traveller ! A word never had tasted
so good in my mouth before. I had an exultant sense of
being bound for mysterious lands and distant climes which
1 never have felt in so uplifting a degree since. I was in such
a glorified condition that all ignoble feelings departed out of

me, and I was able to look down and pity the untravelled with
a compassion that had hardly a trace of contempt in it. Still,
when we stopped at villages and wood-yards, I coidd not
help lolling carelessly upon the railings of the boiler deck to
enjoy the envy of the country boys
on the bank. If they did not seem
to discover me, I presently sneezed
to attract their attention, or moved
to a position where they could not
help seeing me. And as soon as I
knew they saw me I
gaped and stretch
ed, and gave oth
er signs of being
mightily bored
with travelling.
I kept my hat
off all the time,
and stayed where
the wind and the
sun could strike
me, because I
wanted to get the
bronzed and wea
ther-beaten look of
an old traveller.
Before the second
day was half gone, “bored with travelling.”
I experienced a joy
which filled me with the purest gratitude; for I saw that the
skin had begun to blister and peel off my face and neck.
I wished that the boys and girls at home could see me
We reached Louisville in time — at least the neighborhood
of it. We stuck hard and fast on the rocks in the middle of
the river, and lay there four days. I was now beginning to

feel a strong sense of being a part of the boat’s family, a sort
of infant son to the captain and younger brother to the
officers. There is no estimating the pride I took in this
grandeur, or the affection that began to swell and grow in me
for those people. I could not know how the lordly steamboat-
man scorns that sort of presumption in a mere landsman.
I particularly longed to acquire the least trifle of notice from
the big stormy mate, and I was on the alert for an oppor
tunity to do him a service to that end. It came at last.
The riotous powwow of setting a spar was going on down
on the forecastle, and I went down there and stood around
in the way — or mostly skipping out of it — till the mate
suddenly roared a general order for somebody to bring him
a capstan bar. I sprang to his side and said: “Tell me
where it is — I ’11 fetch it! ”
If a rag-picker had offered to do a diplomatic service for
the Emperor of Eussia, the monarch could not have been
more astounded than the mate was. He even stopped
swearing. He stood and stared down at me. It took him
ten seconds to scrape his disjointed remains together again.
Then he said impressively : “ Well, if this don’t beat hell! ”
and turned to his work with the air of a man who had been
confronted with a problem too abstruse for solution.
I crept away, and courted solitude for the rest of the day.
I did not go to dinner; I stayed away from supper until
everybody else had finished. I did not feel so much like a
member of the boat’s family now as before. However, my
spirits returned, in instalments, as we pursued our way down
the river. I was sorry I hated the mate so, because it was
not in (young) human nature not to admire him. He was
huge and muscular, his face was bearded and whiskered all
over; he had a red woman and a blue woman tattooed on
his right arm, — one on each side of a blue anchor with
a red rope to it; and in the matter of profanity he was
sublime. When he was getting out cargo at a landing, I
was always where I could see and hear. He felt all the


majesty of his great position, and made the world feel it, too.
When he gave even the simplest order, he discharged it like
a blast of lightning, and sent a long, reverberating peal of
profanity thundering after it. I could not help contrasting
the way in which the average
landsman would give an order,
with the mate’s way of doing it.
If the landsman should wish the gang-plank moved a foot
farther forward, he would probably say: “James, or Wil
liam, one of you push that plank forward, please; ” but put
the mate in his place, and he would roar out: “ Here, now,
start that gang-plank for’ard ! Lively, now ! What’’re you
about! Snatch it! snatch it! There! there ! Aft again !

aft again! Don’t you hear me? Dash it to dash! are you
going to sleep over it! ’ Vast heaving. ’Vast heaving, I tell
you! Going to heave it clear astern ? WHERE ’re you
going with that barrel! forward with it ’fore I make you swal
low it, you dash-dash-dash-e?as/iec7 split between a tired mud-
turtle and a crippled hearse-horse ! ”
I wished I could talk like that.
When the soreness of my adventure with the mate had
somewhat worn off, I began timidly to make up to the hum
blest official connected with the boat — the night watchman.
He snubbed my advances at first, but I presently ventured
to offer him a new chalk pipe, and that softened him. So
he allowed me to sit with him by the big bell 011 the hurri
cane deck, and in time he melted into conversation. He
could not well have helped it, I hung with such homage on
his words and so plainly showed that I felt honored by his
notice. He told me the names of dim capes and shadowy
islands as we glided by them in the solemnity of the night,
under the winking stars, and by and by got to talking about
himself. He seemed over-sentimental for a man whose salary
was six dollars a week — 01* rather he might have seemed so
to an older person than I. But I drank in his words hun
grily, and with a faith that might have moved mountains if
it had been applied judiciously. What was it to me that he
was soiled and seedy and fragrant with gin ? What was it
to me that his grammar was bad, his construction worse,
and his profanity so void of art that it was an element of
'weakness rather than strength in his conversation? He was
a wronged man, a man who had seen trouble, and that was
enough for me. As he mellowed into his plaintive history
•his tears dripped upon the lantern in his lap, and I cried,
too, from sympathy. He said he was the son of an English
nobleman — either an earl or an alderman, he could not re
member which, but believed was both; his father, the noble
man, loved him, but his mother hated him from the cradle ;
and so while he was still a little boy he was sent to “ one of

them old, ancient colleges ” — he couldn’t remember which ;
and by and by his father died and his mother seized the
property and “shook” him, as he phrased it. After his
mother shook him, members of the
nobility with whom he was acquainted
used their influence to jj |L| | j get him the
position 11 j 1 ! !\ of“lob-
lolly-boy in a ship; ” and from that point my watchman
threw off all trammels of date and locality and branched out
into a narrative that bristled all along with incredible adven
tures ; a narrative that was so reeking with bloodshed and so
crammed with hair-breadth escapes and the most engaging
and unconscious personal villanies, that I sat speechless,
enjoying, shuddering, wondering, worshipping.

It was a sore blight to find out afterwards that he was a
low, vulgar, ignorant, sentimental, half-witted humbug, an
untravelled native of the wilds of Illinois, who had absorbed
wildcat literature and appropriated its marvels, until in time
he had woven odds and ends of the mess into this yarn, and
then gone on telling it to fledglings like me, until he had
come to believe it himself.

HAT with lying on the rocks four days at Louisville,
and some other delays, the poor old “ Paul Jones ”
fooled away about two weeks in making the voyage from
Cincinnati to New Orleans. This gave me a chance to get
acquainted with one of the pilots, and he taught me how to
steer the boat, and thus made the fascination of river life
more potent than ever for me.
It also gave me a chance to get acquainted with a youth
who had taken deck passage — more’s the pity; for he
easily borrowed six dollars of me on a promise to return to
the boat and pay it back to me the day after we should
arrive. But he probably died or forgot, for he never came. It
was doubtless the former, since he had said his parents were
wealthy, and he only travelled deck passage because it was
cooler. 1
I soon discovered two things. One was that a vessel would
not be likely to sail for the mouth of the Amazon under ten
• or twelve years; and the other was that the nine or ten
dollars still left in my pocket would not suffice for so impos
ing an exploration as I had planned, even if I could afford
to wait for a ship. Therefore it. followed that I must con
trive a new career. The u Paul Jones ” was now bound for
St. Louis. I planned a siege against my pilot, and at the end
of three hard days he surrendered. He agreed to teach me
the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis for five
1 “ Deck ” passage — i. e., steerage passage.

hundred dollars, payable out of the first wages I should
receive after graduating. I entered upon the small enter
prise of “ learning” twelve or thirteen hundred miles of the
great Mississippi River with the easy confidence of my time
of life. If I had really known
what I was about s' - -— to require of my
not have had
the courage to
begin. I sup
posed that all
a pilot had to
do was to keep
his boat in the
river, and I did
not consider
that that could
be much of a
trick, since it
was so wide.
The boat
backed out
from New Or
leans at four
in the after
noon, and it
was “our
watch ” until
eight. Mr.
chief, “ straight-
up,” plowed her
“he easily borrowed six dollars.” along past the sterns of
the other boats that lay at
the Levee, and then said, “ Here, take her; shave those
steamships as close as you’d peel an apple.” I took the
wheel, and my heart-beat fluttered up into the hundreds;
for it seemed to me that we were about to scrape the side
faculties, I should
W//n Bixby,my
ened her

off every ship in the line, we were so close. I held my
breath and began to claw the boat away from the danger;
and I had my own opinion of the pilot who had known no
better than to get us into such peril, but I was too wise
to express it. In half a minute I had a wide margin of
safety intervening between the “ Paul Jones ” and the ships ;
and within ten seconds more I was set aside in disgrace,
and Mr. Bixby was going into danger again and flaying me
alive with abuse
of my cowardice.
I was stung, but
I was obliged to
admire the easy
confidence with
which my chief
loafed from side
to side of his
wheel, and
trimmed the
ships so closely
that disaster
seemed cease
lessly imminent.
When he had
cooled a little he
told me that the
easy water was
close ashore and the current outside, and therefore we
must hug the bank, up-stream, to get the benefit of the
former, and stay well out, down-stream, to take advantage
of the latter. In my own mind I resolved to be a down
stream pilot and leave the up-streaming to people dead to
Now and then Mr. Bixby called my attention to certain
things. Said he, “ This is Six-Mile Point.” I assented. It
was pleasant enough information, but I could not see the
“besieging the pilot.”

bearing of it. I was not conscious that it was a matter of
any interest to me. Another time he said, “ This is Nine-
Mile Point.” Later he said, “ This is Twelve-Mile Point.”
They were all about level with the water’s edge; they all
looked about alike to me; they were monotonously unpic-
turesque. I hoped Mr. Bixby would change the subject.
But no; he would
crowd up around a
point, hugging the
k shore with affec-
i tion, and then
say: “The l!|||l|jn
slack water L ‘I
ends here,
abreast this
bunch of
China-trees ; now we cross over.”
So he crossed over. He gave me
the wheel once or twice, but I had no luck. I either came
near chipping off the edge of a sugar plantation, or I yawed
too far from shore, and so dropped back into disgrace again
and got abused.
The watch was ended at last, and we took supper and went
to bed. At midnight the glare of a lantern shone in my
eyes, and the night watchman said : —

“ Come ! turn out! ”
And then lie left. 1 could not understand this extraordi
nary procedure; so I presently gave up trying to, and dozed
off to sleep. Pretty soon the watchman was back again, and
this time he was gruff. I was annoyed. I said: —
“ What do you want to come
bothering around here in the middle
of the night for ? Now as like as not I ’11 not get to sleep
again to-night.”
The watchman said : —
“ Well, if this an’t good, I’m blest.”
The “ oflf-watch ” was just turning in, and I heard some
brutal laughter from them, and such remarks as “ Hello,
watchman! an’t the new cub turned out yet? He’s deli
cate, likely. Give him some sugar in a rag and send for
the chambermaid to sing rock-a-by-baby to him.”
About this time Hr. Bixbv appeared on the scene. Some
thing like a minute later I was climbing the pilot-house
steps with some of my clothes on and the rest in my arms.
Mr. Bixby was close behind, commenting. Here was some-

thing fresh — this thing of getting up in the middle of the
night to go to work. It was a detail in piloting that had
never occurred to me at all. I knew that boats ran all
night, but somehow I had
never happened to reflect
that somebody had to get
up out of a warm bed to
run them. I began to fear
that piloting was not quite
so romantic as I had imag
ined it was; there was
something very real and
work-like about this new
phase of it.
It was a rather dingy
night, although a fair
number of stars were out.
The big mate was at the
wheel, and he had the old
tub pointed at a star and
was holding her straight
up the middle of the river.
The shores on either hand
were not much more than
half a mile apart, but they
seemed wonderfully far
away and ever so vague
and indistinct. The mate
said: -—
“We’ve got to land at
Jones’s plantation, sir.”
The vengeful spirit in
me exulted. I said to
myself, I wish you joy of your job, Mr. Bixby; you ’11 have
a good time finding Mr.-Jones’s plantation such a night as
this; and I hope you never will find it as long as you live.

Mr. Bixby said to the mate : —
“ Upper end of the plantation, or the lower ? ”
“ Upper.”
“ I can’t do it. The stumps there are out of water at this
stage. It’s no great distance to the lower, and yon ’11 have
to get along with that.”
“All right, sir. If Jones don’t like it he ’11 have to lump
it, I reckon.”
And then the mate left. My exultation began to cool
and my wonder to come up. Here was a man who not only
proposed to find this plantation on such a night, but to find
either end of it you preferred. I dreadfully wanted to ask
a question, but I was carrying about as many short answers
as my cargo-room would admit of, so 1 held my peace.
All I desired to ask Mr. Bixby was the simple question
whether he was ass enough to really imagine he was going
to find that plantation on a night when all plantations were
exactly alike and all the same color. But I held in. I
used to have fine inspirations of prudence in those days.
Mr. Bixby made for the shore and soon was scraping it,
just the same as if it had been daylight. And not only that,
but singing —
“Eather in heaven, the day is declining,” etc.
It seemed to me that I had put my life in the keeping of a
peculiarly reckless outcast. Presently he turned on me and
said: —
“What’s the name of the first point above New Orleans?”
I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did.
I said I did n’t know.
“ Don’t know
This manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in
a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before.
“Well, you’re a smart one,” said Mr. Bixby. “What’s
the name of the next point ? ”
Once more I didn’t know.

“ Well, this beats anything. Tell me the name of any
point or place I told you.”
I studied a while and decided that I could n’t.
“ Look here ! What do you start out from, above Twelve-
Mile Point, to cross over ? ”
“I — I— don’t know.”
“You—you—don’t know?” mimicking my drawling man-
ner of speech. Wliat do you know ?
I — I — nothing, for certain.”
“By the great Caesar’s ghost, I believe you! You’re
the stupidest dunderhead I ever saw or ever heard of, so
help me Moses ! The idea of you being a pilot — you!
Why, you don’t know enough to pilot a cow down a
Oh, but his wrath was up ! He was a nervous man, and
he shuffled from one side of his wheel to the other as if the

floor was hot. He would boil a while to himself, and then
overflow and scald me again.
“ Look here ! What do you suppose I told you the names
of those points for ? ”
I tremblingly considered a moment, and then the devil of
temptation provoked me to say: —
“ Well — to — to — be entertaining, I thought.”
This was a red rag to the bull. He raged and stormed so
(he was crossing the river at the time) that I judge it made
him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading-
scow. Of course the
traders sent up a volley
of red-hot profanity.
Never was a
man so grateful
as Mr. Bixby
was: because he
was brim full,
and here were
subjects who
would talk back.
He threw open
a window, thrust
his head out,
and such an ir
ruption followed
as I never had heard before. The fainter and farther away
the scowmen’s curses drifted, the higher Mr. Bixby lifted
his voice and the weightier his adjectives grew. When he
closed the window he was empty. You could have drawn a
seine through his system and not caught curses enough to
disturb your mother with. Presently he said to me in the
gentlest way: —
“ My boy, you must get a little memorandum-book, and
every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away.
There’s only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this

entire river. by heart. You have to know it just like
That was a dismal revelation to. me ; for my memory was
never loaded with anything but blank cartridges. However,
I did not feel discouraged long. I judged that it was best to
make some allowances, for doubtless Mr. Bixby was “ stretch
ing.” Presently he pulled a rope and struck a few strokes
on the big bell. The stars were all gone now, and the night
was as black as ink. I could hear the wheels churn along
the bank, but I was not entirely certain that I could see the
shore. The voice of the invisible watchman called up from
the hurricane deck : —
“ What’s this, sir ? ”
“ Jones’s plantation.”
I said to myself, I wish I might venture to offer a small
bet that it is n’t. But I did not chirp. I only waited to see.
Mr. Bixby handled the engine bells, and in due time the
boat’s nose came to the land, a torch glowed from the fore
castle, a man skipped ashore, a darky’s voice on the bank
said, “Gimme de k’yarpet-bag, Mars’ Jones,” and the next
moment we were standing up the river again, all serene.
I reflected deeply a while, and then said, — but not aloud,
— Well, the finding of that plantation was the luckiest
accident that ever happened; but it could n’t happen again
in a hundred years. And I fully believed it was an acci-'
dent, too.
By the time we had gone seven or eight hundred miles up
the river, I had learned to be a tolerably plucky upstream
steersman, in daylight, and before we reached St. Louis I
had made a trifle of progress in night-work, but only a trifle.
I had a note-book that fairly bristled with the names of
towns, “ points,” bars, islands, bends, reaches, etc.; but the
information was to be found only in the note-book — none
of it was in my head. It made my heart ache to think I
had only got half of the river set down; for as our watch
was four hours off and four hours on, day and night, there

was a long four-hoar gap in my book for every time I had
slept since the voyage began.
My chief was presently hired to go on a big New Orleans
and I
my satchel
and went with him. She
was a grand affair. When I stood
in her pilot-house I was so far
above the water that I seemed
perched on a mountain; and her
“ a sumptuous temple.” decks stretched so far away, fore
and aft, below me, that I wondered
how I could ever have considered the little “Paul Jones” a
large craft. There were other differences, too. The “ Paul
Jones’s” pilot-house was a cheap, dingy, battered rattle-trap,

cramped for room: but here was a sumptuous glass temple;
room enough to have a dance in ; showy red and gold window-
curtains ; an imposing sofa ; leather cushions and a back to
the high bench where visiting pilots sit, to spin yarns and
“ look at the river ; ” bright, fanciful “ cuspadores ” instead
of a broad wooden box filled.with sawdust; nice new oil
cloth on the floor; a hospitable big stove for winter ; a wheel
as high as my head, costly with inlaid work ; a wire tillcr-
rope; bright brass knobs for the bells; and a tidy, white-
aproned, black “ texas-tender,” to bring up tarts and ices and
coffee during mid-watch, day and night. Now this was “ some
thing like;” and so I began to take heart once more to
believe that piloting.was a romantic sort of occupation after
all. The moment we were under way 1 began to prowl
about the great steamer and fill myself with joy. She was
as clean and as dainty as a drawing-room; when I looked
down her long, gilded saloon, it was like gazing through a
splendid tunnel; she had an oil-picturc, by some gifted sign-
painter, on every state-room door ; she glittered with no end
of prism-fringed chandeliers; the clerk’s office was elegant,
the bar was marvellous, and the bar-keepcr had been bar-
bered and upholstered at incredible cost. The boiler deck
{i.e., the second story of the boat, so to speak), was as spa
cious as a church, it seemed to me; so with the forecastle;
and there was no pitiful handful of deck-hands, firemen, and
roust-abouts down there, but a whole battalion of men. The
fires were fiercely glaring from a long row of furnaces, and
over them were eight huge boilers! This was unutterable
pomp. The mighty engines — but enough of this. I had
never felt so fine before. And when 1 found that the regi
ment of natty servants respectfully “ sir’d” me, my satisfac
tion was complete.

W HEN I returned to the pilot-liouse St. Louis was gone
and I was lost. Here was a piece of river which was
all down in my book, but I could make neither head nor tail
of it: you understand, it was turned around. I had seen it
when coming up-stream, but I had never faced about to see
how it looked when it was behind me. My heart broke
again, for it was plain that 1 had got to learn this trouble
some river both ways.
The pilot-house was full of pilots, going down to “ look at
the river.” What is called the “ upper river ” (the two
hundred miles between St. Louis and Cairo, where the Ohio
comes in) was low; and the Mississippi changes its channel
so constantly that the pilots, used to always find it necessary
to run down to Cairo to take a fresh look, when their boats
were to lie in port a week ; that is, when the water was at a
low stage. .A deal of this “ looking at the river” was done
by poor fellows who seldom had a berth, and whose only
hope of getting one lay in their being always freshly posted
and therefore ready to drop into the shoes of some reputable
pilot, for a single trip, on account of such pilot’s sudden
illness, or some other necessity. And a good many of them
constantly ran up and down inspecting the river, not because
they ever really hoped to get a berth, but because (they
being guests of the boat) it was cheaper to “ look at the
river” than stay ashore and pay board. In time these
fellows grew dainty in their tastes, and only infested boats
that had an established reputation for setting good tables.

All visiting pilots were useful, for they were always ready
and willing, winter or summer, night or day, to go out in the
yawl and help buoy the channel or assist the boat’s pilots
in any way they could. They were likewise welcome
because all pilots are tireless talk
ers, when gathered together, and
as they talk only about the river
they are always understood and are always interesting. Your
true pilot cares nothing about anything 011 earth but the river,-
and his pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings.
We had a fine company of these river-inspectors along,
this trip. There were eight or ten; and there was abun
dance of room for them in our great pilot-house. Two or
three of them wore polished silk hats, elaborate shirt-fronts,
diamond breastpins, kid gloves, and patent-leather boots.
They were choice in their English, and bore themselves with
a dignity proper to men of solid means and prodigious
reputation as pilots. The others were more or less loosely
clad, and wore upon their heads tall felt cones that were
suggestive of the days of the Commonwealth.
I was a cipher in this august company, and felt subdued,
not to say torpid. I was not even of sufficient consequence
to assist at the wheel when it was necessary to put the tiller

hard down in a hurry ; the guest that stood nearest did that
when occasion required — and this was pretty much all the
time, because of the crookedness of the channel and the
scant water. I stood in a corner; and the talk I listened
to took the hope all out of me. One visitor said to
“ Jim, how did you run Plum Point, coming up ? ”
“It was in the night, there, and I ran it the way one of
the boys on the ‘Diana’ told me; started out about fifty
yards above the wood pile on the false point, and held on the
cabin under Plum Point till I raised the reef— quarter less
twain — then straightened up for the middle bar till I got
well abreast the old one-limbed cotton-wood in the bend,
then got my stern on the cotton-wood and head on the low
place above , the point, and came through a-booming—nine
and a half.”
“ Pretty square crossing, an’t it ? ”
“ Yes, but the upper bar’s working down fast.”
Another pilot spoke up and said: —
“I had better water than that, and ran it lower down ;
started out from the false point — mark twain — raised the
second reef abreast the big snag in the bend, and had
quarter less twain.”
One of the gorgeous ones remarked:
“ I don’t want to find fault with your leadsmen, but that’s
:a good deal of water for Plum Point, it seems to me.”
There was an approving nod all around as this quiet snub
dropped on the boaster and “ settled ” him. And so they
went on talk-talk-talking. Meantime, the thing that was
running in my mind was, “ Now if my ears hear aright, I
have not only to get the names of all the towns and islands
and bends, and so 011, by heart, but I must even get up a
warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and
one-limbed cotton-wood and obscure wood pile that orna
ments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and
more than that, I must actually know where these tilings

are in the dark, unless these guests are gifted with eyes that
can pierce through two miles of solid blackness; I wish the
piloting business was in Jericho and I had never thought
of it.”
At dusk Mr. Bixby tapped the big bell three times (the
signal to land), and the captain emerged from his drawing
room in the forward end of the
texas, and looked up inquiringly.
Mr. Bixby said : —
“We will lay up here all night,
“ Very well, sir.”
That was all. The boat came
to shore and was tied up for the
night. It seemed to me a fine
thing that the pilot could do as
he pleased, without asking so
grand a captain’s permission.
I took my supper and went im
mediately to bed, discouraged by
my day’s observations and ex
periences. My late voyage’s
note-booking was but a confusion
of meaningless names. It had
tangled me all up in a knot
every time I had looked at it in the daytime. I now hoped
for respite in sleep; but no, it revelled all through my head
till sunrise again, a frantic and tireless nightmare.
Next morning I felt pretty rusty and low-spirited. We
went booming along, taking a good many chances, for we
were anxious to “ get out of the river ” (as getting out to
Cairo was called) before night should overtake us. But Mr.
Bixby’s partner, the other pilot, presently grounded the boat, *
and we lost so much time getting her off that it was plain
the darkness would overtake us a good long way above the
mouth. This was a great misfortune, especially to certain

of our visiting pilots, whose boats would have to wait for
their return, no matter how long that might be. It sobered
the pilot-house talk a good deal. Coming up-stream, pilots
did not mind low water or any kind of darkness; nothing
stopped them but fog. But down-stream work was different;
a boat was too nearly helpless, with a stiff current pushing
behind her; so it was not customary to run down-stream at
night in low water.
There seemed to be one small hope, however: if we could
get through the intricate and dangerous Hat Island crossing
before night, we could venture the rest, for we would'have
plainer sailing and better water. But it would be insanity
to attempt Hat Island at night. So there was a deal of
looking at watches all the rest of the day, and a constant
ciphering upon the speed we were making ; Hat Island was
the eternal subject; sometimes hope was high and sometimes
we were delayed in a bad crossing, and down it went again.
For hours all hands lay under the burden of this suppressed
excitement; it was even communicated to me, and I got to
feeling so solicitous about Hat Island, and under such an
awful pressure of responsibility, that I wished I might have
five minutes on shore to draw a good, full, relieving breath,
and start over again. We were standing no regular watches.
Each of our pilots ran such portions of the river as he had
run when coming up-stream, because of his greater familiar
ity with it; but both remained in the pilot-house constantly.
An hour before sunset, Mr. Bixby took the wheel and Mr.
W stepped aside. For the next thirty minutes every
man held his watch in his hand and was restless, silent, and
uneasy. At last somebody said, with a doomful sigh, —
“ Well yonder’s Hat Island — and we can’t make it.”
All the watches closed with a snap, everybody sighed and
muttered something about its being “too bad, too bad — ah,
if we could only have got here half an hour sooner! ” and
the place was thick with the atmosphere of disappointment.
Some started to go out, but loitered, hearing no bell-tap to

land. The sun dipped behind the horizon, the boat went
on. Inquiring looks passed from one guest to another; and
one who had his hand on the door-knob and had turned it,
waited, then presently took away his hand and let the knob
turn back again. We bore steadily down the bend. More
looks were exchanged, and nods
of surprised admiration — but
no words. Insensibly the men
drew together behind Mr. Bixby,as the sky darkened and one
or two dim stars came out. The dead silence and sense of
waiting became oppressive. Mr. Bixby pulled the cord, and
two deep, mellow notes from the big bell floated off on the
night. Then a pause, and one more note was struck. The
watchman’s voice followed, from the hurricane deck: —
“Labboard lead, there! Stabboard lead!”
The cries of the leadsmen began to rise out of the dis
tance, and were gruffly repeated by the word-passers on the
hurricane deck.
“M-a-r-k three! .... M-a-r-k three! .... Quarter-less-

three! .... Half twain! .... Quarter twain! .... M-a-r-k
twain! .... Quarter-less” —
Mr. Bixby pulled two bell-ropes, and was answered by
faint jinglings far below in the engine room, and our speed
slackened. The steam began to whistle through the gauge-
cocks. The cries of the leadsmen went on—and it is a
weird sound, always, in the night. Every pilot in the lot
was watching now, with fixed eyes, and talking under his
breath. Nobody was calm and easy but Mr. Bixby. He
would put his wheel down and stand on a spoke, and as the
steamer swung into her (to me) utterly invisible marks —
for we seemed to be in the midst of a wide and gloomy sea
—he would meet and fasten her there. Out of the murmur
of half-audible talk, one caught a coherent sentence now and
then — such as:
“There; she’s over the first reef all right!”
After a pause, another subdued voice: —
“Her stern’s coming down just exactly right, by Greorge!”
“Now she’s in the marks; over she goes!”
Somebody else muttered: —
“ Oh, it was done beautiful—beautiful/”
Now the engines were stopped altogether, and we drifted
with the current. Not that I could see the boat drift, for
I could not, the stars being all gone by this time. This
drifting was the dismalest work; it held one’s heart still.
Presently I discovered a blacker gloom than that which
surrounded us. It was the head of the island. We were
closing right down upon it. We entered its deeper shadow,
and so imminent seemed the peril that I was likely to suffo
cate ; and I had the strongest impulse to do something, any
thing, to save the vessel. But still Mr. Bixby stood by his
wheel, silent, intent as a cat, and all the pilots stood shoulder
to shoulder at his back.
“She’ll not make it!” somebody whispered.
The water grew shoaler and shoaler, by the leadsman’s
cries, till it was down to —

“Eight-and-a-half! .... E-i-g-h-t feet! .... E-i-g-h-t feet!
. . . . Seven-and” —
Mr. Bixby said warningly through his speaking tube to
the engineer: —
“ Stand by,
now! ”
“Aye-aye, sir!”
“ Seven-and-a-
half! Seven feet!
We touched
bottom! Instant-
ly Mr. Bixby set
a lot of bells ring-
ing, shouted
through the tube,
“Now, let lier
have it — every
ounce you’ve
got!” then to his
partner, “ Put her
hard down! snatch
her! snatch her!”
The boat rasped
and ground her
way through the
sand, hung upon the apex of disaster a single tremendous
instant, and then over she went! And such a shout as went
up at Mr. Bixby’s back never loosened the roof of a pilot
house before!
There was no more trouble after that. Mr. Bixby was a
hero that night; and it was some little time, too, before his
exploit ceased to be talked about by river men.
Fully to realize the marvellous precision required in laying
the great steamer in her marks in that murky waste of
water, one should know that not only must she pick her

intricate way through snags and blind reefs, and then shave
the head of the island so closely as to brush the overhanging
foliage with her stern, but at one place she must pass almost
within arm’s reach of a sunken and invisible wreck that
would snatch the hull timbers from under her if she should
strike it, and destroy a quarter of a million dollars’ worth
of steamboat and cargo in five minutes, and maybe a hun
dred and fifty human lives into the bargain.
The last remark I heard that night was a compliment to
Mr. Bixby, uttered in soliloquy and with unction by one of
our guests. He said : —
“ By the Shadow of Death, but he’s a lightning pilot! ”

A T the end of what seemed a tedious while, I had man
aged to pack my head full of islands, towns, bars,
“ points,” and bends; and a curiously inanimate mass of
lumber it was, too. However, inasmuch as I could shut
my eyes
and reel
off a good
long string
of these
leaving out
more than
ten miles
of river in
every fifty,
I began to
feel that I
could take
a boat
down to
New Or
leans if I
could make her skip those little gaps. But of course my
complacency could hardly get start enough to lift my nose a
trifle into the air, before Mr. Bixby would think of some-

thing to fetch it down again. One day lie turned on me
suddenly with this settler : —
“ What is the shape of Walnut Bend
He might as well have asked me my grandmother’s opin
ion of protoplasm. I reflected'respectfully, and then said I
did n’t know it had any particular shape. . My gunpowdery
chief went off with a bang, of course, and then 'went on
loading and firing until he was out of adjectives.. ..
I had learned long ago that he only carried just' so many
rounds of ammunition, and was sure to subside into a very
placable and even remorseful old smooth-bore as soon as
they were all gone. That word “old” is merely affectionate;
he was not more than thirty-four. I waited. By and by he
“ My boy, you’ve got to know the shape of the river
perfectly. It is all there is left to steer by on a very dark
night. Everything else is blotted out and gone. But mind
you, it has n’t; the same shape in the night that it has in the
“ How on earth am I ever going to learn it, then ? ”
“ How do you follow a hall at home in the dark ? Be
cause you know the shape of it. You can’t see it.”
“ Do you mean to say that I’ve got to know all the million
trifling variations of shape in the banks of this interminable
river as well as I know the shape of the front hall at home?”
“ On my honor, you’ve got to know them better than any
man ever did know the shapes of the halls in his own house.”
“ I wish I was dead ! ”
“ Now I don’t want to discourage you, but ” —
“Well, pile it on me; I might as well have it now as
another time.”
“You see, this has got to be learned; there isn’t any
getting around it. A clear starlight night throws such heavy
shadows that if you did n’t know the shape of a shore per
fectly you would claw away from every bunch of timber,
because you would take the black shadow of. it for a solid

cape; and you see you would be getting scared to death every
fifteen minutes by the watch. You would be fifty yards from
shore all the time'when you. ought to be within fifty feet of it.
You can’t see a snag in one of those shadows, but you know
exactly where it is, and the shape of the river tells you when
you are coming to it. Then there’s your pitch-dark night;
the river is a very different shape on a pitch-dark night
from what it is on a starlight night. All shores seem to be
straight lines, then, and mighty dim ones, too; and you’d
run them for straight .lines only you know better. You
boldly drive your boat right into what seems to be a solid,
straight wall (you knowing very well that in reality there is
a curve there), and that wall falls back and makes way for
you. Then there ’s your gray mist. You take a night when
there ’s one of these grisly, drizzly, gray mists, and tlien
there is n’t any particular shape to a shore. A gray mist
would tangle the head of the oldest man that ever lived.
Well, then, different kinds of moonlight change the shape of
the river in different ways. You see ” —
“ Oh, don’t say any more, please! Have I got to learn
the shape of the river according to all these five hundred
thousand different ways ? If I tried to carry all that cargo
in my head it would make me stoop-shouldered.”
“ No! you only learn the shape of the river; and you
learn it with such absolute certainty that you can always
steer by the shape that’s in your head, and never mind the
one that’s before your eyes.”
“Very well, I’ll try it; but after I have learned it can I
depend on it ? Will it keep the same form and not go fool
ing around ? ”
Before Mr. Bixby could answer, Mr. W came in to
take the watch, and he said,—
u Bixby, you ’11 have to look out for President’s Island
and all that country clear away up above the Old Hen and
Chickens. The banks are caving and the shape of the shores
changing like everything. Why, you would n’t know the

point above 40. You can go up inside the old sycamore
snag, now.” 1
“changing watch.”
So that question was answered.
Here were leagues of shore chang
ing shape. My spirits were down
in the mud again. Two things
seemed pretty apparent to me.
One was, that in order to be a
pilot a man had got to learn more
than any one man ought to be
allowed to know; and the other
was, that he must learn it all over
again in a different way every
twenty-four hours.
That night we had the watch until twelve. Now it was an
1 It may not be necessary, but still it can do no harm to explain that
“inside” means between the snag and the shore. — M. T.

ancient river custom for the two pilots to chat a bit when
the watch changed. While the relieving pilot put 011 his
gloves and lit his cigar, his partner, the retiring pilot,
would say something like this: —
“ I judge the upper bar is making down a little at Hale’s
Point; had quarter twain with the lower lead and mark
twain 1 with the other.”
“Yes, I thought it was making down a little, last trip.
Meet any boats ? ”
“ Met one abreast the head of 21, but she was away over
hugging the bar, and I could n’t make her out entirely. I
took her for the ‘ Sunny South’ — hadn’t any skylights
forward of the chimneys.”
' And so on. And as the relieving pilot took the wheel his
partner 2 would mention that we were in such-and-such a
bend, and say we were abreast of such-and-such a man’s
wood-yard or plantation. This was courtesy; I supposed it
was necessity. But Mr. W came on watch full twelve
minutes late on this particular night, — a tremendous breach
of etiquette; in fact, it is the unpardonable sin among pilots.
So Mr. Bixby gave him no greeting whatever, but simply
surrendered the wheel and marched out of the pilot-house
without a word. I was appalled; it was a villanous night
for blackness, we were in a particularly wide and blind part
of the river, where there was no shape or substance to any
thing, and it seemed incredible that Mr. Bixby should have
left that poor fellow to kill the boat trying to find out where
he was. But I resolved that I would stand by him any way.
He should find that he was not wholly friendless. So I
stood around, and waited to be asked where we were. But
Mr. W plunged on serenely through the solid firmament
of black cats that stood for an atmosphere, and never opened
his mouth. Here is a proud devil, thought I; here is a limb
1 Two fathoms. Quarter twain is 2J fathoms, feet. Mark three is
three fathoms.
- “ Partner ” is technical for “ the other pilot.”

of Satan that would rather send us all to destruction than
put himself under obligations to me, because I am not yet
one of the salt of the earth and privileged to snub captains
and lord it over everything dead and alive in a steamboat.
I presently climbed up on the bench ; I did not think it was
safe to go to sleep while this lunatic was on watch.
However, I must have gone to sleep in the course of time,
because the
next thing I
was aware
of was the
fact that
day was
Mr. W-—
gone, and
Mr. Bixby at
the wheel
again. So it
was four o’
clock and all
well — but
me; I felt
like a skin
ful of dry
bones and all
ing to ache
Mr. Bixby
what I had
there for. I
was to do
o 1 e n c e, —
It took five
p reposter-
fi 11 e r into
then I judge it filled him nearly up to the chin ; because he
of them
at once,
asked me
stayed up
confessed that it
Mr. W a benev-
tell him where he was.
minutes for the entire
ousness of the thing to
Mr. Bixby’s system, and

paid me a compliment — and not much of a one either.
He said,— •
“ Well, taking you by-and-large, you do seem to be more
different kinds of an ass than any creature I ever saw before.
What did you suppose he wanted to know for ? ”
I said I thought it might be a convenience to him.
“ Convenience ! D-nation ! Did n’t I tell you that a man’s
got to know the river in the night the same as he ’d know
his own front hall ? ”
“ Well, I can follow the front hall in the dark if I know
it is the front hall; but suppose you set me down in the
middle of it in the dark and not tell me which hall it is;
how am I to know ? ”
“ Well, you’ve got to, on the river ! ”
“All right.' Then I’m glad I never said anything to
Mr. W ”
“ I should say so. Why, he’d have slammed you through
the window and utterly ruined a hundred dollars’ worth of
window-sash and stuff.”
I was glad this damage had been saved, for it would have
made me unpopular with the owners. They always hated
anybody who had the name of being careless, and injuring
I went to work now to learn the shape of the river; and
of all the eluding and ungraspable objects that ever I tried
to get mind or hands on, that was the chief. I would fasten
my eyes upon a sharp, wooded point that projected far into
the river some miles ahead of me, and go to laboriously
photographing its shape upon my brain; and just as I was
beginning to succeed to my satisfaction, we would draw up
toward it and the exasperating thing would begin to melt
away and fold back into the bank! If there had been a
conspicuous dead tree standing upon the very point of the
cape, I would find that tree inconspicuously merged into the
general forest, and occupying the middle of a straight shore,
when I got abreast of it! No prominent hill would stick to

its shape long enough for me to make up my mind what its
form really was, but it was as dissolving and changeful as
if it had been a mountain of butter in the hottest corner of
the tropics. Nothing ever had the same shape when I was
coming down-stream that
it had borne when I went
up. I mentioned these little
difficulties to Mr. Bixby. He said,—
“ That’s the very main virtue of the thing. If the shapes
did n’t change every three seconds they would n’t be of any
use. Take this place where we are now, for instance. As
long as that hill over yonder is only one hill, I can boom
right along the way I’m going; but the moment it splits at
the top and forms a V, I know I’ve got to scratch to star
board in a hurry, or I ’11 bang this boat’s brains out against
a rock; and then the moment one of the prongs of the V

swings behind the other, I’ve got to waltz to larboard again,
or I’ll have a misunderstanding with a snag that would
snatch the keelson out of this steamboat as neatly as if it
were a sliver in your hand. If that hill did n’t. change its
shape on bad nights there would be an awful steamboat
grave-yard around here inside of a year.”
It was plain that I had got to learn the shape of the river
in all the different ways that could be thought of, — upside
down, wrong end first, inside out, fore-and-aft, and “ thort-
sliips,” — and then know what to do on gray nights when it
hadn’t any shape at all. So I set about it. In the course
of time I began to get the best of this knotty lessoii, and
my self-complacency moved to the front once more. Mr.
Bixby was all fixed, and ready to start it to the rear again.
He opened on me after this fashion: —
“ How much water did we have in the middle crossing at
Ilole-in-the-Wall, trip before last?”
I considered this an outrage. I said : —
“ Every trip, down and up, the leadsmen are singing
through that tangled place for three quarters of an hour on
a stretch. How do you reckon I can remember such a mess
as that ? ”
“My boy, you’ve got to remember it. You’ve got to
remember the exact spot and the exact marks the boat lay
in when we had the slioalest water, in every one of the five
hundred shoal places between St. Louis and New Orleans;
and you mustn’t get the shoal soundings and marks of one
trip mixed up with the shoal soundings and marks of another,
cither, for they’re not often twice alike. You must keep
them separate.”
When I came to myself again, I said,—
“ When I get so that I can do that, I ’11 be able to raise
the dead, and then I won’t have to pilot a steamboat to make
a living. I want to retire from this business. I want a
slush-bucket and a brush; I’m only fit for a roustabout. 1
haven’t got brains enough to be a pilot; and if I had 1

wouldn’t have strength enough to carry them around, unless
I went 011 crutches.”
“ Now drop that! When I say I ’11 learn 1 a man the
river, I mean it. And you can depend on it, I ’11 learn him
or kill him.”
1 “ Teach ” is not in the river vocabulary.

HERE was no use in arguing with a person like this.
I promptly put such a strain on my memory that by
and by even the shoal water and the countless crossing-marks
began to stay with me. But the result w;as just the same. I
never could more than get one knotty thing learned before
another presented itself. Now I had often seen pilots gaz
ing at the water and pretending to read it as if it were a
book; but it was a book that told me nothing. A time
came at last, however, when Mr. Bixbv seemed to think me
far enough advanced to bear a lesson on water-reading. So
he began: —
“Do you see that long slanting line on the face of the
water? Now, that’s a reef. Moreover, it’s a bluff reef.
There is a solid sand-bar under it that is nearly as straight
up and down as the side of a house. There is plenty of
water close up to it, but mighty little on top of it. If you
were to hit it you would knock the boat’s brains out. Do
you see where the line fringes out at the upper end and
begins to fade away ? ”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, that is a low place; that is the head of the reef.
You can climb over there, and not hurt anything. Cross
over, now, and follow along close under the reef — easy
water there — not much current.”
I followed the reef along till I approached the fringed end.
Then Mr. Bixby said, —
“ Now get ready. Wait till I give the word. She won’t
want to mount the reef; a boat hates shoal water. Stand

by — wait — wait — keep her well in hand. Now cramp her
down! Snatch her ! snatch her ! ”
He seized the other side of the wheel and helped to spin
it around until it was hard down, and then we held it so.
The boat resisted, and refused to answer for a while, and
next she came surging to starboard, mounted the reef, and
“that’s a reef.”
sent a long, angry ridge of water foaming away from her
“ Now watch her; watch her like a cat, or she ’11 get
away from you. When she fights strong and the tiller slips
a little, in a jerky, greasy sort of way, let up on her a trifle ;
it is the way she tells you at night that the water is too

shoal; but keep edging her up, little by little, toward the
point. You are well up on the bar, now; there is a
"SET iier back.”
out like tho ribs of a
you want to just miss
bar under every
point, because the
water that comes down around
it forms an eddy and allows
the sediment to sink. Do you
see those fine lines on the
face of the water that branch
fan ? Well, those are little reefs ;
the ends of them, but run them
pretty close. Now look out — look out ! Don’t you crowd

that slick, greasy-looking place ; there ain’t nine feet there ;
she won’t stand it. She begins to smell it; look sharp, I tell
you ! Oil blazes, there you go ! Stop the starboard wheel!
Quick ! Ship up to back ! Set her back ! ”
The engine bells jingled and the engines answered promptly,
shooting white columns of steam far aloft out of the ’scape
pipes, but it was too late. The boat had “ smelt ” the bar in
good earnest; the foamy ridges that radiated from her bows
suddenly disappeared, a great dead swell came. rolling for
ward and swept ahead of her, she careened far over to lar
board, and went tearing away toward the other shore as if
she were about scared to death. We were a good mile from
where we ought to have been, when we finally got the upper
hand of her again.
During the afternoon watch the next day, Mr. Bixby asked
me if I knew how to run the next few miles. I said : —
“ Go inside the first snag above the point, outside the next
one, start out from the lower end of Higgins’s wood-yard,
make a square crossing and ” —
“ That’s all right. I ’11 be back before you close up on
the next point.”
But he was n’t. He was still below when I rounded it and
entered upon a piece of river which I had some misgivings
about. I did not know that he was hiding behind a chimney
to see how I would perform. I went gayly along, getting
prouder and prouder, for he had never left the boat in my.
sole charge such a length of time before. I even got to
“ setting ” her and letting the wheel go, entirely, while I
vaingloriously turned my back and inspected the stern marks
and hummed a tune, a sort of easy indifference which I had
prodigiously admired in Bixby and other great pilots. Once
I inspected rather long, and when I faced to the front again
my heart flew into my mouth so suddenly that if I had n’t
clapped my teeth together I should have lost it. One of
those frightful bluff reefs was stretching its deadly length
right across our bows ! My head was gone in a moment; I

did not know which end I stood 011; I gasped and could not
get my breath; I spun the wheel down with such rapidity
that it wove itself together like a spider’s web ; the boat
answered and turned square away from the reef, but the reef
followed her! I fled, and still it followed still it kept —
right across my bows ! I never looked to see where I was
going, I only fled. The awful crash was imminent — why
did n’t that villain come ! If I committed the crime of ring
ing a bell, I might get thrown overboard. But better that
than kill the boat. So in blind desperation I started such a
rattling “ sliivaree ” down below as never had astounded an
engineer in this world before, I fancy. Amidst the'frenzy of
the bells the engines began to back and fill in a furious way,
and my reason forsook its throne — we were about to crash
into the woods on the other side of the river. Just then Mr.
Bixby stepped calmly into view on the hurricane deck. My
soul went out to him in gratitude. My distress vanished ; I
would have felt safe on the brink of Niagara, with Mr. Bixby
on the hurricane deck. He blandly and sweetly took his
tootli-pick out of his mouth between his fingers, as if it were
a cigar, — we were just in the act of climbing an overhang
ing big tree, and the passengers were scudding astern like
rats, — and lifted up these commands to me ever so
gently : —
“ Stop the starboard. Stop the larboard. Set her back
on both.”
The boat hesitated, halted, pressed her nose among the
boughs a critical instant, then reluctantly began to back
“ Stop the larboard. Come ahead 011 it. Stop the star
board. Come ahead 011 it. Point her for the bar.”
I sailed away as serenely as a summer’s morning. Mr.
Bixby came in and said, with mock simplicity,—
“ When you have a hail, my boy, you ought to tap the big
bell three times before you land, so that the engineers can
get ready.”

I blushed under the sarcasm, and said I had n’t had any hail.
“ Ah ! Then it was for wood, I suppose. The officer of
the watch will
tell you when
he wants to
wood up.”
I went on con-
suming, and
said I was n’t af
ter wood.
“ Indeed ?
Why, what could
you want over
here in the bend,
then ? Did you
ever know of a
boat following
a bend up-stream
at this stage of the river ? ”
“ No, sir, — and I was n’t try
ing to follow it. I was getting
away from a bluff reef.”
“ No, it was n’t a bluff reef;
there is n’t one within three
miles of where you were.”
“ But I saw it. It was as bluff
as that one yonder.”
“ Just about. Run over it! ”
“ Do you give it as an order ? ”
“ Yes. Run over it.”
“ If I don’t, I wish I may die.”
“ All right; I am taking the
I was just as anxious to kill the mb. b. stepped into view.
boat, now, as I had been to save
her before. I impressed my orders upon my memory, to be

used at the inquest, and niade a straight break for the reef.
As it disappeared under our bows I held my breath; but we
slid over it like oil.
a Now don’t you see the difference ? It was n’t anything
but a wind reef. The wind does that.”
“ So I see. But it is exactly like a bluff reef. How am I
ever going to tell them apart ? ”
“I can’t tell you. It is an instinct. By and by you will
just naturally knoiv one from the other, but you never will be
able to explain why or how you know them apart.”
It turned out to be true. The face of the water, in time,
became a wonderful book — a book that was a dead language
to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me
without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as
clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a
book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new
story to tell every day. Throughout the long twelve hun
dred miles there was never a page that was void of interest,
never one that you could leave unread without loss, never
one that you would want to skip, thinking you could find
higher enjoyment in some other thing. There never was so
wonderful a book written by man ; never one whose interest
was so absorbing, so unflagging, so sparklingly renewed
with every re-perusal. The passenger who could not read it
was charmed with a peculiar sort of faint dimple 011 its sur
face (on the rare occasions when he did not overlook it
altogether) ; but to the pilot that was an italicized passage ;
indeed, it was more than that, it was a legend of the largest
capitals, with a string of shouting exclamation points at the
end of it; for it meant that a wreck or a rock was buried there
that could tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever
floated. It is the faintest and simplest expression the
water ever makes, and the most hideous to a pilot’s eye.
In truth, the passenger who could not read this book saw
nothing but all manner of pretty pictures in it, painted by
the sun and shaded by the clouds, whereas to the trained eye

these were not pictures at all, but the grimmest and most
dead-earnest of reading-matter.
Now when I had mastered the language of this water and
had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the
great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alpha
bet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost
something, too. I had lost something which could never be
restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the
poetry had gone out of the majestic river ! I still keep in
mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when
steamboating Avas neAV to me. A broad expanse of the river
was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue
brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came
floating, black and conspicuous ; in one place a long, slanting
mark lay sparkling upon the Avater ; in another the surface
was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that Avere as many-
tinted as an opal; where the ruddy flush Avas faintest, Avas a
smooth spot that Avas covered Avitli graceful circles and radi
ating lines, ever so delicately traced ; the shore on our left
Avas denselj r Avooded, and the sombre shadoAv that fell from
this forest Avas broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail
that shone like silver ; and high above the forest Avail a.
clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that
gloAved like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that Avas
floAving from the sun. There Avcrc graceful curves, reflected
images, Avoody heights, soft distances ; and over the Avhole
scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily,
enriching it, every passing moment, Avith iicav marvels of
1 stood like one bcAvitched. I drank it in, in a speechless
rapture. The world Avas iicav to me, and 1 had never seen
anything like this at home. But as 1 have said, a day came
Avlicn 1 began to cease from noting the glories and the charms
Avhich the moon and the sun and the tAvilight Avroughi upon
the rivers face ; another day came Avhen I ceased altogether
to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had beecn re-

peated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and
should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion :
This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow ;
that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks
to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef
which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these
nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tum-
bling “ boils ” show a dissolving
bar and a changing channel
there ; the lines and circles in
the slick water over yonder are
a warning that that troublesome
place is shoaling up dangerously ;
that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the “ break ”
from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best
place he could have found to fish for steamboats ; that tall
dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last
long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this
blind place at night without the friendly old landmark ?
No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the
river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was

the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing
the £afe piloting of a steamboat. Since those days, I have
pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in
a beauty’s cheek mean to a doctor but a “ break ” that rip
ples above some deadly disease ? Are not all her visible
charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and sym
bols of hidden decay ? Does he ever see her beauty at all,
or does n’t he simply view her professionally, and comment
upon her unwholesome condition all to himself ? And does n’t
he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost
most by learning his trade ?

HOSOEYER has done me the courtesy to read my
chapters which have preceded this may possibly
wonder that I deal so minutely with piloting as a science.
It was the prime purpose of those chapters; and I am not
quite done yet. I wish to show, in the most patient and
painstaking way, what a wonderful science it is. Ship
channels are buoyed and lighted, and therefore it is a com
paratively easy undertaking to learn to run them ; Clear
water rivers, with gravel bottoms, change their channels
very gradually, and therefore one needs to learn them but
once; but piloting becomes another matter when you apply
it to vast streams like the Mississippi and the Missouri,
whose alluvial banks cave and change constantly, whose
snags are always hunting up new quarters, whose sand
bars are never at rest, whose channels are forever dodging
and shirking, and whose obstructions must be confronted
in all nights and all weathers without the aid of a single
light-house or a single buoy; for there is neither light nor
buoy to be found anywhere in all this three or four thousand
miles of villanous river. 1 I feel justified in enlarging upon
this great science for the reason that I feel sure no one has
ever yet written a paragraph about it who had piloted a
steamboat himself, and so had a practical knowledge of the
subject. If the -theme were hackneyed, I should be obliged
to deal gently with the reader; but since it is wholly new,
1 True at the time referred to: not true now (1882).

I have felt at liberty to take up a considerable degree of
room with it.
When I had learned the name and position of every visible
feature of the river; when I had so mastered its shape that
I could shut my eyes and trace it from St. Louis to New
Orleans; when I had learned to read the face of the water
as one would cull the news from the morning paper ; and
finally, when I had trained my dull memory to treasure up
an endless array of soundings and crossing-marks, and keep
fast hold of them, I judged that my education was complete :
so I got to tilting my cap
to the side of my head,
and wearing a toothpick
in my mouth at the
wheel. Mr. Bixby had
his eye on these airs.
One day he said,—
“ What is the height
of that bank yonder, at
Burgess’s ? ”
“ How can I tell, sir ?
It is three quarters of a
mile away.”
“ Yery poor eye —
very poor. Take the
I took the glass, and
presently said,—
“ I can’t tell. I suppose that that bank is about a loot
and a half high.”
“ Foot and a half ! That’s a six-foot bank. How high
was the bank along here last trip ? ”
u I don’t know ; I never noticed.”
“ You did n’t ? Well, you must always do it hereafter.”
“ Why ? ”
“ Because you ’11 have to know a good many things that

it tells you. For one thing, it tells you the stage of the
river — tells you whether there’s more water or less in
the river along here than there was last trip.”
“ The leads tell me that.” I rather thought I had the
advantage of him there.
“ Yes, but suppose the leads lie ? The bank would tell
you so, and then you ’d stir those leadsmen up a bit. There
was a ten-foot bank here last trip, and there is only a six-
foot bank now. What does that signify ? ”
“ That the river is four feet higher than it was last trip.”
“Verygood. Is
the river rising or
falling ? ”
“ Rising.”
“ No it ain’t.”
“ I guess I am
right, sir. Yon
der is some drift
wood floating
down the stream.”
“ A rise starts
the drift-wood, but
then it keeps on
floating a while
after the river is
done rising. Now
the bank will tell
you about this.
Wait till you come
to a place where it
shelves a little. Now here ; do you see this narrow belt of
fine sediment ? That was deposited while the water was
higher. You see the drift-wood begins to strand, too. The
bank helps in other ways. Do you see that stump on the
false point ? ”
“ Ay, ay, sir.”

“Well, the water is just up to the roots of it. You must
make a note of that.”
“ Why ? ”
“ Because that means that there V seven feet in the chute
of 103.”
“ But 103 is a long way up the river yet.”
“ That’s where the benefit of the hank comes in. There
is water enough in 103 now, yet there may not be by the
time we get there ; but the bank will keep us posted all
along. You don’t run close chutes on a falling river, up
stream, and there are precious few of them that you are
allowed to run at all down-stream. There’s a law of the
United States against it. The river may be rising by the
time we get to 103, and. in that case we ’11 run it. We are
drawing — how much ? ”
“ Six feet aft, —- six and a half forward.”,
“ Well, you do seem to know something.”
“ But what I particularly want to know is, if I have got to
keep up an everlasting measuring of the banks of this river,
twelve hundred miles, month in and month out ? ” ■
“ Of course ! ”
My emotions were too deep for words for a while. Pres
ently I said, —
“ And how about these chutes ? Are there many of
them ? ”
“ I should say so. I fancy we shan’t run any of the river
this trip as you’ve ever seen it run before — so to speak.
If the river begins to rise again, we ’11 go up behind bars
that you’ve always seen standing out of the river, high and
dry like the roof of a house ; we ’11 cut across low places
that you’ve never noticed at all, right through the middle of
bars that cover three hundred acres of river ; we ’11 creep
through cracks where you’ve always thought was solid land ;
we ’11 dart through the woods and leave twenty-five miles of
river off to one side ; we ’11 see the hind-side of every island
between New Orleans and Cairo.”

“Then I’ve got to go to work and learn just as much
more river as I already know.”
“ Just about twice as much more, as near as you. can come
at it.”
“ Well, one lives to find out. I think I was a fool when
I went into this business.”
“ Yes, that is true. And you are yet. But you ’11 not he
when you’ve learned it.”
“ Ah, I never can learn it.”
“ I will see that you do”
By and by I ventured again: —
“ Have I got to learn all this thing just as I know the rest of
the river — shapes and all — and so I can run it at night ?”.
“ Yes. And you’ve got to have good fair marks from one
end of the river to the other, that will help the bank tell you
when there is water enough in each of these countless places,
— like that stump, you know. When the river first begins
to rise, you can run half a dozen of the deepest of them ;
when it rises a foot more you can run another dozen; the
next foot will add a couple of dozen, and so on : so you see
you have to know your banks and marks to a dead moral
certainty, and never get them mixed; for when you start
through one of those cracks, there ’s no backing out again,
as there is in the big river; you’ve got to go through, or
stay there six months if you get caught on a falling river,.
There are about fifty of these cracks which you can’t run at
all except when the river is brim full and over the banks.”
“ This new lesson is a cheerful prospect.”
“ Cheerful enough. And mind what I’ve just told you ;
when you start into one of those places you’ve got to go
through. They are too narrow to turn around in, too
crooked to back out of, and the shoal water is always up
at the head; never elsewhere. And the head of them is
always likely to be filling up, little by little, so that the
marks you reckon their depth by, this season, may not
answer for next.” ‘ .


u Learn a new set, then, every year ? ”
“ Exactly. Cramp her up to the bar! What are you
standing up through the middle of the river for ? ”
The next few months showed me strange things. On the
same day that we held the conversation above narrated, we
met a great rise coming down the river. The whole vast
face of the stream was black with drifting dead logs, broken
boughs, and great trees that had caved in and been washed
away. It required the nicest steering to pick one’s way
'drifting logs. 3
through this rushing raft, even
in the day-time, when crossing
from point to point; and at night
the difficulty was mightily in
creased ; every now and then
a huge log, lying deep in the
water, would suddenly appear
right under our bows, coming head-on; no use to try to
avoid it then; we could only stop the engines, and one
wheel would walk over that log from one end to the other,
keeping up a thundering racket and careening the boat in a
way that was very uncomfortable to passengers. Now and
then we would hit one of these sunken logs a rattling bang,
dead in the centre, with a full head of steam, and it would
stun the boat as if she had hit a continent. Sometimes this
log would lodge, and stay right across our nose, and back the

Mississippi up before it; we would have to do a little craw
fishing, then, to get away from the obstruction. We often
hit white logs, in the dark, for we could not see them till
we were right on them; but a black log is a pretty dis
tinct object at night. A white snag is an ugly customer
when the daylight is gone.
Of course, on the great rise, down came a swarm of pro
digious timber-rafts from the head waters of the Missis
sippi, coal barges from Pittsburgh, little trading scows from
everywhere, and broad-liorns from “ Posey County,” Indiana,
freighted with “ fruit and furniture ” — the usual term for
describing it, though in plain English the freight thus aggran
dized was hoop-poles and pumpkins. Pilots bore a mortal
hatred to these craft; and it was returned with usury. The
law required all such helpless traders to keep a light burn
ing, but it was a law that was often broken. All of a sudden,
on a murky night, a light would hop up, right under our
bows, almost, and an agonized voice, with the backwoods
“ whang ” to it, would wail out: —
“ Whar ’n the you goin’ to ! Cain’t you see nothin’,
you dash-dashed aig-suckin’, sheep-stealin’, one-eyed son of
a stuffed monkey ! ”
Then for an instant, as we whistled by, the red glare
from our furnaces would reveal the scow and the form of
the gesticulating orator as if under a lightning-flash, and
in that instant our firemen and deck-hands would send
and receive a tempest of missiles and profanity, one of our
wheels would walk off with the crashing fragments of a
steering-oar, and down the dead blackness would shut again.
And that flatboatman would be sure to go into New Orleans
and sue our boat, swearing stoutly that he had a light burn
ing all the time, when in truth his gang had the lantern down
below to sing and lie and drink and gamble by, and no watch
on deck. Once, at night, in one of those forest-bordered
crevices (behind an island) which steamboatmen intensely
describe with the phrase “ as dark as the inside of a cow,”

we should have eaten up a Posey County family, fruit, fur
niture, and all, but that they happened to be fiddling down
below and we just caught the sound of the music in time to
“gambling down
sheer off, doing no seri
ous damage, unfortu
nately, but coming so near
it that we had good hopes
for a moment. These
people brought up their
lantern, then, of course ;
and as we backed and filled
to get away, the precious
family stood in the light of it — both sexes and various ages
— and cursed us till everything turned blue. Once a coal-
boatman sent a bullet through our pilot-house, when we bor
rowed a steering-oar of him in a very narrow place.

URING this big rise these small-fry craft were an
intolerable nuisance. We were running chute after
chute, — a new world to me,— and if there was a particu
larly cramped place in a chute, we would be pretty sure to
meet a broad-liorn there; and if he failed to be there, we
would find him in a still worse locality, namely, the head
of the chute, on the shoal water. And then there would be
no end of profane cordialities exchanged.
Sometimes, in the big river, when we would be feeling our
way cautiously along through a' fog, the deep hush would
suddenly be broken by yells and a clamor of tin pans, and
all in an instant a log raft would appear vaguely through the
webby veil, close upon us; and then we did not wait to swap
knives, but snatched our engine bells out by the roots and
piled on all the steam we had, to scramble out of the way!
One doesn’t hit a rock or a solid log raft with a steamboat
when he can get excused.
You will hardly believe it, but many steamboat clerks
always carried a large assortment of religious tracts with
them in those old departed steamboating days. Indeed they
did. Twenty times a day we would be cramping up around
a bar, while a string of these small-fry rascals wore drifting
down into the head of the bend away above and beyond us a
couple of miles. Now a skiff would dart away from one of
them, and come fighting its laborious way across the desert of
water. It would “ ease all,” in the shadow of our forecastle,

and the panting oarsmen would shout, “ Gimme a pa-a-per! ”
as the skiff drifted swiftly astern. The clerk would throw
over a file of New Orleans journals. If these were picked up
without comment, you might notice that now a dozen other
skiffs had been drifting down upon us without saying any-
“tract distributing. 5
thing. You understand, they
had been waiting to see how
No. 1 was going to fare. No. 1
making no comment, all the rest would bend to their oars
and come on, now ; and as fast as they came the clerk would
heave over neat bundles of religious tracts, tied to shingles.
The amount of hard swearing which twelve packages of reli
gious literature will command when impartially divided up
among twelve raftsmen’s crews, who have pulled a heavy skiff
two miles on a hot day to get them, is simply incredible.

As I have said, the big rise brought a new world under my
vision. By the time the river was over its banks we had
forsaken our old paths and were hourly climbing over bars
that had stood ten feet out of water before; we were shaving
stumpy shores, like that at the foot of Madrid Bend, which
I had always seen avoided before; we were clattering through
chutes like that of 82, where the opening at the foot was an
unbroken wall of timber till our nose was almost at the very
spot. Some of these chutes were utter solitudes. The dense,
untouched forest overhung both banks of the crooked little
crack, and one could believe that human creatures had never
intruded there before. The swinging grape-vines, the grassy
nooks and vistas glimpsed as we swept by, the flowering
creepers waving their red blossoms from the tops of dead
trunks, and all the spendthrift richness of the forest foliage,
were wasted and thrown away there. The chutes were lovely
places to steer in; they were deep, except at the head ; the
current was gentle; under the “points” the water was
absolutely dead, and the invisible banks so bluff that where
the tender willow thickets projected you could bury your
boat’s broadside in them as you tore along, and then you
seemed fairly to fly.
Behind other islands we found wretched little farms, and
wretcheder little log-cabins; there were crazy rail fences
sticking a foot or two above the water, with one or two jeans-
clad, chills-racked, yellow-faced male miserables roosting on
the top-rail, elbows on knees, jaws in hands, grinding tobacco
and discharging the result at floating chips through crevices
left by lost teeth; while the rest of the family and the few
farm-animals were huddled together in an empty wood-flat
riding at her moorings close at hand. In this flatboat the
family would have to cook and eat and sleep for a lesser or
greater number of days (or possibly weeks), until the river
should fall two or three feet and let them get back to their
log-cabin and their chills again — chills being a merciful
provision of an all-wise Providence to enable them to take

exercise without exertion. And this sort of watery camping
out was a thing which these people were rather liable to be
treated to a couple of times a year: by the December rise
out of the Ohio, and the June rise out of the Mississippi.
And yet these were kindly dispensations, for they at least
“yellow-faced miserables.”
enabled the poor things to rise from the dead now and then,
and look upon life when a steamboat went by. They appre
ciated the blessing, too, for they spread their mouths and
eyes wide open and made the most of these occasions. Now
what could these banished creatures find to do to keep from
dying of the blues during the low-water season!

Once, in one of these lovely island chutes, we found our
course completely bridged by a great fallen tree. This will
serve to show how narrow some of the chutes were. The
passengers had an hour’s recreation in a virgin wilderness,
while the boat-hands chopped the bridge away ; for there was
no such thing as turning back, you comprehend.
From Cairo to Baton Rouge, when the river is over its
banks, you have no particular trouble in the night, for the
thousand-mile wall of dense forest that guards the two
banks all the way is only gapped with a farm or wood-yard
opening at intervals, and so you can’t “ get out of the river ”
much easier than you could get out of a fenced lane; but
from Baton Rouge to New Orleans it is a different matter.
The river is more than a mile wide, and very deep — as much
as two hundred feet, in places. Both hanks, for a good deal
over a hundred miles, are shorn of their timber and bordered
by continuous sugar plantations, with only here and there a
scattering sapling or row of ornamental China-trees. The
timber is shorn off clear to the rear of the plantations, from
two to four miles. When the first frost threatens to come,
the planters snatch off their crops in a hurry. When they
have finished grinding the cane, they form the refuse of the
stalks (which they call bagasse) into great piles and set fire
to them, though in other sugar countries the bagasse is used
for fuel in the furnaces of the sugar mills. Now the piles of
damp bagasse burn slowly, and smoke like Satan’s own
An embankment ten or fifteen feet high guards both banks
of the Mississippi all the way down that lower end of the
river, and this embankment is set back from the edge of
the shore from ten to perhaps a hundred feet, according to
circumstances ; say thirty or forty feet, as a general thing.
Fill that whole region with an impenetrable gloom of smoke
from a hundred miles of burning bagasse piles, when the'
river is over the banks, and turn a steamboat loose along
there at midnight and see how she will feel. And see how

you will feel, too! You find yourself away out in the midst
of a vague dim sea that is shoreless, that fades out and loses
itself in the murky distances; for you cannot discern the
thin rib of embankment, and you are always imagining you
see a straggling tree when you don’t. The plantations them
selves are transformed by the smoke, and look like a part of
the sea. All through your watch you are tortured with the
exquisite misery of uncertainty. You hope you are keeping
in the river, but you do not know. All that you are sure
about is that you are likely to be within six feet of the bank
and destruction, when you think you are a good half-mile
from shore. And you are sure, also, that if you chance
suddenly to fetch up against the embankment and topple
your chimneys overboard, you will have the small comfort of
knowing that it is about what you were expecting to do.
One of the great Vicksburg packets darted out into a sugar
plantation one night, at such a time, and had to stay there
a week. But there was no novelty about it; it had often
been done before.
I thought I had finished this chapter, but I wish to add a
curious thing, while it is in my mind. It is only relevant in
that it is connected with piloting. There % used to be an
excellent pilot on the river, a Mr. X., who was a somnambu-

list. It was said that if -his mind was troubled about a bad
piece of river, lie was pretty sure to get up and walk in his
sleep and do strange things. He was once fellow-pilot for a
trip or two with George Ealer, on a great New Orleans
passenger packet. During a considerable part of the first
trip George was uneasy, but got over it by and by, as X.
seemed content to stay in his bed when asleep. Late one
night the boat was approaching Helena, Arkansas ; the water
was low, and the crossing above the town in a very blind and
tangled condition. X. had seen the crossing since Ealer
had, and as the night was particularly drizzly, sullen, and
dark, Ealer was considering whether he had not better have
X. called to assist in running the place, when the door
opened and X. walked in. Now on very dark nights, light
is a deadly enemy to piloting; you are aware that if you
stand in a lighted room, on such a night, you cannot see
things in the street to any purpose; but if you put out the
lights and stand in the gloom you can make out objects in
the street pretty well. So, on very dark nights, pilots do
not smoke ; they allow no fire in the pilot-house stove if there
is a crack which can allow the least ray to escape ; they order
the furnaces to be curtained with huge tarpaulins and the
sky-lights to be closely blinded. Then no light whatever
issues from the boat. The undefinable shape that now
entered the pilot-house had Mr. X.’s voice. This said, —
“ Let me take her, Georgo ; I’ve seen this place since you
have, and it is so crooked that I reckon I can run it myself
easier than I could tell you how to do it.”
“ It is kind of you, and I swear I am willing. I have n’t
got another drop of perspiration left in me. I have been
spinning around and around the wheel like a squirrel. It is
so dark I can’t tell which way she^ is swinging till she is
coming around like a whirligig.”
So Ealer took a seat on the bench, panting and breathless.
The black phantom assumed the wheel without saying
anything, steadied the waltzing steamer with a turn or two,

and then stood at ease, coaxing her a little to this side and
then to that, as gently and as sweetly as if the time had
been noonday. When Ealer observed this marvel of steering,
he wished he had not con
fessed ! He stared, and won
dered, and finally said, —
“ Well, I thought I knew
how to steer a steamboat, but that was another mistake of
mi ne.”
X. said nothing, but went serenely on with his work. He
rang for the leads ; he rang to slow down the steam ; he
worked the boat carefully and neatly into invisible marks,
then stood at the centre of the wheel and peered blandly out
into the blackness, fore and aft, to verify his position; as
the leads shoaled more and more, he stopped the engines

entirely, and the dead silence and suspense of “ drifting ”
followed; when the shoalest water was struck, he cracked on
the steam, carried her handsomely over, and then began to
work her warily into
the next system of
shoal marks; the
same patient, heed
ful use of leads and
engines followed,
the boat slipped
through without
touching bot
tom, and en
tered upon
the third
and last
cacy of the crossing; imperceptibly she moved through the
gloom, crept by inches into her marks, drifted tediously till

the slioalest water was cried, and then, under a tremendous
head of steam, went swinging over the reef and away into
deep water and safety!
Ealer let his long-pent breath pour out in a great, relieving
sigh, and said : —
“ That’s the sweetest piece of piloting that was ever done
on the Mississippi River! I would n’t believed it could be
done, if I had n’t seen it.”
There was no reply, and he added : —
“ Just hold her five minutes longer, partner, and let me run
down and get a cup of coffee.”
A minute later Ealer was biting into a pie, down in the
“ texas,” and comforting himself with coffee. Just then
the night watchman happened in, and was about to happen
out again, when he noticed Ealer and exclaimed,—
“ Who is at the wheel, sir ? ”
“ X.”
“ Dart for the pilot-house, quicker than lightning! ”
The next moment both men were flying up the pilot-house
companion-way, three steps at a jump ! Nobody there ! The
great steamer was whistling down the middle of the river at
her own sweet will! The watchman shot out of the place
again; Ealer seized the wheel, set an engine back with power,
and held his breath while the boat reluctantly swung away
from a “ towhead ” which she was about to knock into the
middle of the Gulf of Mexico!
By and by the watchman came back and said,—
“ Did n’t that lunatic tell you he was asleep, when he first
came up here ? ”
“ No.”
“ Well, he was. I found him walking along on top of the
railings, just as unconcerned as another man would walk a
pavement; and I put him to bed ; now just this minute there
he was again, away astern, going through that sort of tight
rope deviltry the same as before.”
“ Well, I think I ’11 stay by, next time he has one of those

fits. But I hope he’ll have them often. You just ought to
have seen him take this boat through Helena crossing. I
never saw anything so gaudy before. And if he can do such
gold-leaf, kid-glove, diamond-breastpin piloting when he is
sound asleep, what could n't he do if he was dead ! ”

\ \ '
' > ill th'- water" tfirrr in ti
or a few inclic* more, an wa* often tlic caae in the old time*.
— one muat be painfully circumafiect in hia piloting. We
aaed to hare to “ mow) ** a number of partirularir bad plica
almaa! ererr trip when the rirer waa at a ranr low iU|t.

Sounding is done in this way. The boat ties up at the
shore, just above the shoal crossing; the pilot not on watch
takes his “cub” or steersman and a picked crew of men
(sometimes an officer also), and goes out in the yawl —
provided the boat has not that rare and sumptuous luxury,
a regularly-devised “ sounding-boat ” — and proceeds to hunt
for the best water, the pilot on duty watching his movements'
through a spy-glass, meantime, and in some instances assist
ing by signals of the boat’s whistle, signifying “ try higher
up ” or “ try lower down; ” for the surface of the water,
like an oil-painting, is more expressive and intelligible when
inspected from a little distance than very close at hand.
The whistle signals are seldom necessary, however; never,
perhaps, except when the wind confuses the significant rip
ples upon the water’s surface. When the yawl has reached
the shoal place, the speed is slackened, the pilot begins to
sound the depth with a pole ten or twelve feet long, and the
steersman at the tiller obeys the order to “ hold her up to
starboard; ” or “ let her fall off to larboard; ” 1 or “ steady
— steady as you go.”
When the measurements indicate that the yawl is approach
ing the shoalest part of the reef, the command is given to
“ ease all! ” Then the men stop rowing and the yawl drifts
with the current. The next order is, “ Stand by with the
buoy ! ” The moment the shallowest point is reached, the
pilot delivers the order, “ Let go the buoy! ” and over she
goes. If the pilot is not satisfied, he sounds the place again;
if he finds better water higher up or lower down, he removes
the buoy to that place. Being finally satisfied, lie gives the
order, and all the men stand their oars straight up in the
air, in line; a blast from the boat’s whistle indicates that
the signal has been seen ; then the men “give way” on their
oars and lay the yawl alongside the buoy ; the steamer comes
creeping carefully down, is pointed straight at the buoy,
1 The term “ larboard ” is never used at sea, now, to signify the left hand;
but was always used on the river in my time.

husbands her power for the coming, struggle, and presently,
at the critical moment, turns 011 all her steam and goes
grinding and wallowing over the buoy and the sand, and
gains the deep water beyond. Or maybe she does n’t; maybe
she “ strikes and swings.” Then she has to while away sev
eral hours (or days) sparring herself off.
Sometimes a buoy is not laid at all, but the yawl goes
ahead, hunting the best water, and the steamer follows along
in its wake. Often there is a deal of fun and excitement
about sounding, especially if it is a glorious summer day(or
a blustering night. But in winter the cold and the peril
take most of the fun out of it.
A buoy is nothing but a board four or five feet long, with
one end turned up; it is a reversed school-house bench,
with one of the supports left and the other removed. It is
anchored on the shoalest part of the reef by a rope with a
heavy stone made fast to the end of it. But for the resist
ance of the turned-up end of the reversed bench, the current
would pull the buoy under water. At night, a paper lantern
with a candle in it is fastened on top of the buoy, and this
can be seen a mile or more, a little glimmering spark in the
waste of blackness.
Nothing delights a cub so much as an opportunity to go
out sounding. There is such an air of adventure about it;
often there is danger; it is so gaudy and man-of-war-like to
sit up in the stern-sheets and steer a swift yawl; there is
something fine about the exultant spring of the boat when
an experienced old sailor crew throw their souls into the
oars; it is lovely to see the white foam stream, away from
the bows; there is music in the rush of the water; it is
deliciously exhilarating, in summer, to go speeding over the
breezy expanses of the river when the world of wavelets is
dancing in the sun. It is such grandeur, too, to the cub, to
get a chance to give an order; for often the pilot will simply
say, “ Let her go about! ” and leave the rest to the cub, who
instantly cries, inliis sternest tone of command, “ Ease star-

board! Strong on tlie larboard! Starboard give way ! With
a will, men! ” The cub enjoys sounding for the further
reason that the eyes of the passengers are watching all the
yawl’s movements with absorbing interest if the time be
daylight; and if it be night he knows that those same won
dering eyes are fastened upon the yawl’s lantern as it glides
out into the gloom and dims away in the remote distance.
One trip a pretty girl of sixteen spent her time in our
pilot-house with her uncle and aunt, every day and all day
long. I fell in love with her. So did Mr. Thornburg’s cub, .
Tom O . Tom and I had been bosom friends until this
time; but now a coolness began to arise. I told the girl a
good many of my river adventures, and made myself out a
good deal of a hero; Tom tried to make himself appear to
be a hero, too, and succeeded to some extent, but then he
always had a way of embroidering. However, virtue is its
own reward, so I was a barely perceptible trifle ahead in the
contest. About this time something happened which prom
ised handsomely for me: the pilots decided to sound the
crossing at the head of 21. This would occur about nine or
ten o’clock at night, when the passengers would be still up ;
it would be Mr. Thornburg’s watch, therefore my chief would
have to do the sounding. We had a perfect love of a sound-
ing-boat — long, trim, graceful, and as fleet as a greyhound;
her thwarts were cushioned; she carried twelve oarsmen ;
one of the mates was always sent in her to transmit orders
to her crew, for ours was a steamer where no end of “ style ”
was put on.
We tied up at the shore above 21, and got ready. It
was a foul night, and the river was so wide, there, that a
landsman’s uneducated eyes could discern no opposite shore
through such a gloom. The passengers were alert and inter
ested; everything was satisfactory. As I hurried through
the engine-room, picturesquely gotten up in storm toggery,
I met Tom, and could not forbear delivering myself of a
mean speech: —

“ Ain’t you glad you don’t have to go out sounding ? ”
Tom was passing on, but lie quickly turned, and said,—
“ Now just for that, you can go and get the sounding-pole
yourself. I was going after it, but I’d see you in Halifax,
now, before I’d do it.”
“ Who wants you to get it ? I
don’t. It’s in the sounding-boat.”
“ It ain’t, either. It’s been new-
painted; and it’s been
up on the ladies cabin
guards two days, dry
I flew
back, and
the crowd of watch
ing and wondering
ladies just in time to
hear the command:
“ Give way, men! ”
I looked over, and
there was the gallant
sounding-boat boom
ing away, the unprin
cipled Tom presiding
at the tiller, and my
chief sitting by him
with the sounding-
pole which I had been sent on a fool’s errand to fetch. Then
that young girl said to me, —
“ Oh, how awful to have to go out in that little boat on
such a night! Do you think there is any danger ? ”
I would rather have been stabbed. I went off, full of
venom, to help in the pilot-house. By and by the boat’s

lantern disappeared, and after an interval a wee spark
glimmered upon the face of the water a mile away. Mr.
Thornburg blew the whistle, in acknowledgment, backed the
steamer out, and made for it. We flew along for a while,
then slackened steam and went cautiously gliding toward
the spark. Presently Mr. Thornburg exclaimed, —
“ Plello, the buoy-lantern ’s out! ”
He stopped the engines. A moment. or two later he
said,— * ......
“ Why, there it is again ! ” .... -
So he came ahead on the engines once more, and rang for
the leads. Gradually the water shoaled up, and then began
to deepen again ! Mr. Thornburg muttered : —
“Well, I don’t understand this. I believe that buoy:has'
drifted off the reef. Seems to be a little too far to the left..
No matter, it is safest to run over it, anyhow.” . ..
So, in that solid world of darkness we went creeping down
on the light. Just as our bows were in. the act _ of plowing
over it) Mr. Thornburg seized the bell-ropes, rang, a Startling.'
peal, and exclaimed, — . ; ' . .
“My soul, it’s the sounding-boat!” ; . .
A sudden chorus of wild alarms burst out far below — a
pause — and then a sound of grinding and crashing followed.
Mr. Thornburg exclaimed,—
“ There 1 the paddle-wheel has ground the sounding-boat,
to lucifer matches ! Pun ! See who is killed ! : ”
I was on the main deck in the. twinkling of an eye. My
chief and the third mate and nearly all- the men were safe.
They had discovered their danger when .it was too late to
pull out of the way; then, when the great guards overshad
owed them a moment later, they were prepared and knew
what to do; at my chief’s order they sprang at the right
instant, seized the guard, and were hauled aboard. The
next moment the sounding-yawl swept aft to the wheel and
was struck and splintered to atoms. Two of the men and
the cub Tom, were missing — a fact which spread like wild-

fire over tlie boat. The passengers came flocking to the
forward gangway, ladies and all, anxious-eyed, white-faced,
and talked in awed voices of the dreadful thing. And often
and again I heard them say, “ Poor fellows ! poor boy, poor
By this time the boat’s yawl was manned and away, to
search for the missing. Now a faint call was heard, off to
the. left. The yawl had disappeared in the other direction.
Half the people rushed to one side to encourage the swim
mer with their shouts; the other half rushed the other way
to shriek to the yawl to turn about. By the callings, the
swimmer was approaching, but some said the sound showed
failing strength. The crowd massed themselves against the
boiler-deck railings, leaning over and staring into the gloom;
and every faint and fainter cry wrung from them such words
as “ Ah, poor fellow, poor fellow! is there no way to save
him ?”
| But still the cries held out, and drew nearer, and pres
ently the voice said pluckily, —
i“ I can make it! Stand by with a rope ! ”
i What a rousing cheer they gave him ! The chief mate
took his stand in the glare of a torch-basket, a coil of rope
in his hand, and his men grouped about him. The next
moment the swimmer’s face appeared in the circle of light,
and in another one the owner of it was hauled aboard, limp
and drenched, while cheer 011 cheer went up. It was that
devil Tom.
The yawl crew searched everywhere, but found no sign of
the two men. • They probably failed to catch the guard, tum
bled back, and were struck by the wheel and killed. Tom
had never jumped for the guard at all, but had plunged
head-first into the river and dived under the wheel. It was
nothing; I could have done it easy enough, and I said so;
but everybody went on just the same, making a wonderful
to-do over that ass, as if he had done something great. That
girl could n’t seem to have enough of that pitiful “ hero ”

the rest of the trip; but little I cared; I loathed her, any
The way we came to mistake the sounding-boat’s lantern
for the buoy-light was
this. My chief said that
after laying the buoy he
fell away and watched it
till it seemed to be se
cure ; then he took up a
position a hundred yards below it and a little to one side of
the steamer’s course, headed the sounding-boat up-stream,

and waited. Having to wait some time, lie and the officer
got to talking; he looked up when he judged that the
steamer was about on the reef; saw that the buoy was gone,
but supposed that the steamer had already run over it; he
went on with his talk ; he noticed that the steamer was get
ting very close down on him, but that was the correct thing;
it was her business to shave him closely, for convenience in
taking him aboard ; he was expecting her to sheer off, until
the last moment; then it flashed upon him that she was try
ing to run him down, mistaking his lantern for the buoy-
light ; so he sang out, “ Stand by to spring for the guard,
men ! ” and the next instant the jump was made.

B UT I am wandering from what I was intending to do,
that is, make plainer than perhaps appears in the
previous chapters, some of the peculiar requirements of the
science of piloting. First of all, there is one faculty which
a pilot must incessantly cultivate until he has brought it to
absolute perfection. Nothing short of perfection will do.
That faculty is memory. He cannot stop with merely think
ing a thing is so and so; he must Icnow it; for this is emi
nently one of the “ exact ” sciences. With what scorn a
pilot was looked upon, in the old times, if he ever ventured
to deal in that feeble phrase “ I think,” instead of the vigor
ous one “ I know ! ” One cannot easily realize what a tre
mendous thing it is to know every trivial detail of twelve
hundred miles of river and know it with absolute exactness.
If you will take the longest street in New York, and travel
up and down it, conning its features patiently until you
know every house and window and door and lamp-post and
big and little sign by heart, and know them- so accurately
that you can instantly name the one you are abreast of when
you are set down at random in that street in the middle of
an inky black night, you will then have a tolerable notion of
the amount and the exactness of a pilot’s knowledge who
carries the Mississippi River in his head. And then if you
will go on until you know every street crossing, the charac
ter, size, and position of the crossing-stones, and the varying
depth of mud in each of those numberless places, you will

have some idea of what the pilot must know in order to
keep a Mississippi steamer out of trouble. Next, if you will
take half of the
signs in that long
street, and change
their places once a
month, and still
manage to know
their new positions
accurately on dark
nights, and keep up
with these repeated
changes without
makifig any mis
takes, you will un
derstand what is
required of a pilot’s
peerless memory
by the fickle Missis
I think a pilot’s
memory is about
the most wonderful
thing in the world.
To know the Old
and New Testa
ments by heart,
and be able to re
cite them glibly,
forward or back
ward, or begin at
random anywhere
in the book and
recite both ways
and never trip or
make a mistake,
“a city street.”

is no extravagant mass of knowledge, and no marvellous
facility, compared to a pilot’s massed knowledge of the Mis
sissippi and his marvellous facility in the handling of it. I
make this comparison deliberately, and believe I am not
expanding the truth when I do it. Many will think my
figure too strong, but pilots will not.
And how easily and comfortably the pilot’s memory does
its work; how placidly effortless is its way; how unconsciously
it lays up its vast stores, hour by hour, day by day, and never
loses or mislays a single valuable package of them all! Take
an instance. Let a leadsman cry, “ Half twain ! half twain!
half twain! half twain! half twain!” until it becomes as
monotonous as the ticking of a clock ; let conversation be
going on all the time, and the pilot be doing his share of the
talking, and no longer consciously listening to the leadsman;
and in the midst of this endless string of half twains let a
single “ quarter twain! ” be interjected, without emphasis,
and then the half twain cry go on again, just as before: two
or three weeks later that pilot can describe with precision
the boat’s position in the river when that quarter twain was
uttered, and give you such a lot of head-marks, stern-marks,
and side-marks to guide you, that you ought to be able to
take the boat there and put her in that same spot again your
self ! The cry of “ quarter twain ” did not really take his mind
from his talk, but his trained faculties instantly photographed
the bearings, noted the change of depth, and laid up the im
portant details for future reference without requiring any
assistance from him in the matter. If you were walking and
talking with a friend, and another friend at your side kept
up a monotonous repetition of the vowel sound A, for a
couple of blocks, and then in the midst interjected an R,
thus, A, A, A, A, A, R, A, A, A, etc., and gave the R 110
emphasis, you would not be able to state, two or three
weeks afterward, that the R had been put in, nor be able
to tell what objects you were passing at the moment it
was done. But you could if your memory had been pa-

tiently and laboriously trained to do that sort of thing
Give a man a tolerably fair memory to start with, and
piloting will develop it
into a very colossus of
capability. But only in
the matters it is daily
drilled in. A time would
come when the man’s
faculties could not help
noticing landmarks and
soundings, and his mem
ory could not help hold
ing on to them
with the grip of
a vice; but if
you asked that
same man at
noon what he
had had for
breakfast, it
would be ten
chances to one
that he could
not tell you.
things can be
done with the
human memory
if you will de
vote it faithfully
to one particu
lar line of busi- “let a leadsman cry, ‘half twain.”’
At the time that wages soared so high on the Missouri
River, my chief, Mr. Bixby, went up there and learned more

than a thousand miles of that stream with an ease and
rapidity that were astonishing. When he had seen each divi
sion once in the daytime and once at night, his education was
so nearly complete that he took out a “ daylight ” license ; a
few trips later he took out a full license, and went to piloting
day and night,— and he ranked A 1, too.
Mr. Bixby placed me as steersman for a while under a pilot
whose feats of memory were a constant marvel to me. How
ever, his memory was
born in him, I think,
not built. For instance,
somebody would men
tion a name. Instantly
Mr. Brown would break
in: —
“Oh, I knew him.
Sallow-faced, red-headed
fellow, with a little scar
on the side of his throat,
like a splinter under the
flesh. He was only in
the Southern trade six
months. That was thir
teen years ago. I made
a trip with him. There
was five feet in the upper
river then ; the ‘ Henry
Blake’ grounded at the
foot of Tower Island drawing four and a half; the 1 George
Elliott ’ unshipped her rudder on the wreck of the 4 Sun
flower ’ ” —
“ Why, the ‘ Sunflower ’ did n’t sink until ” —
“ I know when she sunk ; it was three years before that,
on the 2d of December; Asa Hardy was captain of her, and
his brother John was first clerk ; and it was his first trip in
her, too ; Tom Jones told me these things a week afterward
OH, I KNEW him.'

in New Orleans; he was first mate of the 4 Sunflower.*
Captain Hardy stuck a nail in his foot the 6th of July of
the next year, and died of the lockjaw on the 15th. His
brother John died two years after, — 3d of March, — erysip
elas. I never saw either of the Hardys, — they were Alle
ghany River men, — but people who knew them told me all
these things. And they said Captain Hardy wore yarn
socks winter and summer just the same, and his first wife’s
name was Jane Shook, — she was from New England, — and
his second one died
in a lunatic asylum.
It was in the blood.
She was from Lexing
ton, Kentucky.
Name was Horton be
fore she was mar
And so on, by the
hour, the man’s
tongue would go. He
could not forget any
thing. It was simply
impossible. The most
trivial details re
mained as distinct
and luminous in his « so rTJLL 0F LATJGH .”
head, after they had
lain there for years, as the most memorable events. His
was not simply a pilot’s memory ; its grasp was universal.
If he were talking about a trifling letter he had received
seven years before, he was pretty sure to deliver you the
entire screed from memory. And then without observing
that he was departing from the true line of his talk, he
was more than likely to hurl in a long-drawn paren
thetical biography of the writer of that letter ; and you
were lucky indeed if he did not take up that writer’s

relatives, one bj one, and give you their biographies,
Such a memory as that is a great misfortune. To it, all
occurrences are of the same,size. Its possessor cannot dis
tinguish an interesting circumstance from an uninteresting
one. As a talker, he is bound to clog his narrative with
tiresome details and make himself an insufferable bore.
Moreover, he cannot stick to his subject. He picks up
every little grain of memory he discerns in his way, and
so is led aside. Mr. Brown would start out with the honest
intention of telling you a vastly funny anecdote about a dog.
He would be “ so full of laugh ” that he could hardly begin ;■
then his memory would start with the dog’s breed and per
sonal appearance ; drift into a history of his owner; of his
owner’s family, with descriptions of weddings and burials
that had occurred in it, together with recitals of congratula
tory verses and obituary poetry provoked by the same ; then
this memory would recollect that one of these' events occurred
during the celebrated “ bard winter ” of such and such a year,
and a minute description of that winter would follow, along
with the names of people who were frozen to death, and
statistics showing the high figures which pork and hay went
up to. Pork and hay would suggest corn and fodder; corn and
fodder would suggest cows and horses; cows and horses would
suggest the circus and certain celebrated bare-back riders;
the transition from the circus to the menagerie was easy and
natural; from the elephant to equatorial Africa was but a
step; then of course the heathen savages would suggest reli
gion ; and at the end of three or four hours’ tedious jaw, the
watch would change, and Brown would go out of the pilot
house muttering extracts from sermons he had heard years
before about the efficacy of prayer as a means of grace. And
the original first mention would be all you had learned about
that dog, after all this waiting and hungering.
A pilot must have a memory; but there are two higher quali
ties which he must also have. He must have good and quick

judgment and decision, and a cool, calm courage that no peril
can shake. Give a man the merest trifle of pluck to start
with, and by the time he has become a pilot he cannot be
unmanned by any danger a steamboat can get into; but one
cannot quite say the same for judgment. Judgment is a
matter of brains, and a man must start with a good stock of
that article or he will never succeed as a pilot.
The growth of courage in the pilot-house is steady all the
time, but it does not reach a high and satisfactory condition
until some time after the young pilot has been “ standing his
own watch,” alone and under the staggering weight of all
the responsibilities connected with the position.. When an
apprentice has become pretty thoroughly acquainted with
the river, he goes clattering along so fearlessly with his
steamboat, night or day, that he presently begins to imagine
that it is his courage that animates him ; but the first time
the pilot steps out and leaves him to his own devices he finds
out it was the other man’s. He discovers that the article
has been left out of his own cargo altogether. The whole
river is bristling with exigencies in a moment; he is not
prepared for them ; he does not know how to meet them;
all his knowledge forsakes him ; and within fifteen minutes
he is as white as a sheet and scared almost to death. There
fore pilots wisely train these cubs by various strategic tricks
to look danger in the face a little more calmly. A favorite
way of theirs is to play a friendly swindle upon the can
Mr. Bixby served me in this fashion once, and for years
afterward I used to blush even in my sleep when I thought
of it. I had become a good steersman; so good, indeed,
that I had all the work to do on our watch, night and day ;
Mr. Bixby seldom made a suggestion to me; all he ever did
was to take the wheel on particularly bad nights or in par
ticularly bad crossings, land the boat when she needed to be
landed, play gentleman of leisure nine tenths of the watch,
and collect the wages. The lower river was about bank-full,

and if anybody had questioned my ability to run any cross
ing between Cairo and New Orleans without help or instruc
tion, I should have felt irreparably hurt. The idea of being
afraid of any crossing in the lot, in the day-time, was a thing
too preposterous for contemplation. Well, one matchless
summer’s day I was bowling down the bend above island 66,
brimful of self-conceit and carrying my nose as high as a
giraffe’s, when Mr. Bixby said, —
“ I am going below a while. I suppose you know the next
crossing ? ”
This was almost an affront.
It was about the plainest and
simplest crossing in the whole
river. One could n’t come to
any harm, whether he ran it
right or not; and as for depth,
there never had been any bot
tom there. I knew all this,
perfectly well.
“ Know how to run it ?
Why, I can run it with my
eyes shut.”
“How much water is there
in it ? ”
“ Well, that is an odd ques
tion. I could n’t get bottom
there with a church steeple.”
“ You think so, do you ? ”
The very tone of the question shook my confidence. That
was what Mr. Bixby was expecting. He left, without saying
anything more. I began to imagine all sorts of things. Mr.
Bixby, unknown to me, of course, sent somebody down to
the forecastle with some mysterious instructions to the
leadsmen, another messenger was sent to whisper among
the officers, and then Mr. Bixby went into hiding behind a
smoke-stack where he could observe results. Presently the


captain stepped out on the hurricane deck; next the chief
mate appeared; then a clerk. Every moment or two a
straggler was added to my audience ; and before I got to the
head of the island I had fifteen or twenty people assembled
down there under my nose. I began to wonder what the
trouble was. As I started across, the captain glanced aloft
at me and said, with a sham uneasiness in his voice, —
“ Where is Mr. Bixby ? ”
“ Gone below, sir.”
But that did the business for me. My imagination began-
to construct dangers out of nothing, and they multiplied
faster than I could keep the run of them. All at once I
imagined I saw shoal water ahead! The wave of coward
agony that surged through me then came near dislocating
every joint in me. All my confidence in that crossing van
ished. I seized the bell-rope; dropped it, ashamed; seized it
again ; dropped it once more ; clutched it tremblingly once
again, and pulled it so feebly that I could hardly hear the
stroke myself. Captain and mate sang out instantly, and
both together, —
“ Starboard lead there ! and quick about it! ”
This was another shock. I began to climb the wheel like
a squirrel; but I would hardly get the boat started to port
before I would see new dangers on that side, and away I
would spin to the other ; only to find perils accumulating to
starboard, and be crazy to get to port again. Then came the
leadsman’s sepulchral cry: —
“ D-e-e-p four ! ”
Deep four in a bottomless crossing ! The terror of it took
my breath away.
“ M-a-r-k three ! . . . M-a-r-k three . . . Quarter less
three ! . . . Half twain ! ”
This was frightful! I seized the bell-ropes and stopped
the engines.
“ Quarter twain ! Quarter twain ! Mark twain ! ”
I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do.

I was quaking from head to foot, and I could have hung my
hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far.
“ Quarter less twain ! Nine and a half! ”
We were drawing nine ! My hands were in a nerveless
flutter. I could not ring a bell intelligibly with them. I flew
to the speaking-tube and shout
ed to the engineer, —
“ Oh, Ben, if you love me, back
her ! Quick, Ben ! Oh, back the
immortal soul out of her ! ”
I heard the door close gently. I looked around, and there
stood Mr. Bixby, smiling a bland, sweet smile. Then the
audience on the hurricane deck sent up a thundergust of hu
miliating laughter. I saw it all, now, and I felt meaner than
the meanest man in human history. I laid in the lead, set the
boat in her marks, came ahead on the engines, and said: —

“ It was a fine trick to play on an orphan, was rit it ? I
suppose I ’11 never hear the last of how I was ass enough to
heave the lead at the head of 66.”
“ Well, no, you won’t, maybe. In fact I hope you won’t;
for I want you to learn something by that experience. Did n’t
you know there was no bottom in that crossing ? ”
“ Yes, sir, I did.”
“Very well, then. You shouldn’t have allowed me or
anybody else to shake your confidence in that knowledge.
Try to remember that. And another thing : when you get
into a dangerous place, don’t turn coward. That is n’t going
to help matters any.”
It was a good enough lesson, but pretty hardly learned.
Yet about the hardest part of it was that for months I so
often had to hear a phrase which I had conceived a par
ticular distaste for. It was, “ Oh, Ben, if you love me, back
her! ”

I N my preceding chapters I have tried, by going into the
minutise of the science of piloting, to carry the reader
step by step to a comprehension of what the science consists
of; and at the same time I have tried to show him that it
is a very curious and wonderful science, too, and very worthy
of his attention. If I have seemed to love my subject, it is
no surprising thing, for I loved the profession far better
than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless
pride in it. The reason is plain : a pilot, in those days,
was the only unfettered and entirely independent human
being that lived in the earth. Kings are but the hampered
servants of parliament and people ; parliaments sit in chains
forged by their constituency; the editor of a newspaper
cannot be independent, but must work with one hand tied
behind him by party and patrons, and be content to utter
only half or two thirds of his mind; no clergyman is a free
man and may speak the whole truth, regardless of his
parish’s opinions; writers of all kinds are manacled servants
of the public. We write frankly and fearlessly, but then we
“ modify ” before we print. In truth, every man and woman
and child has a master, and worries and frets in servitude;
but in the day I write of, the Mississippi pilot had none.
The captain could stand upon the hurricane deck, in the
pomp of a very brief authority, and give him five or six
orders while the vessel backed into the stream, and then that
skipper’s reign was OTer. The moment that the boat was

under way in the river, she was under the sole and unques
tioned control of the pilot. He could do with her exactly as
he pleased, run her when and whither he chose, and tie her
up to the bank whenever his judgment said that that course
was best. His movements were entirely free ; he consulted
no one, he received commands from
nobody, he promptly resented even —
the merest suggestions. Indeed, the
law of the United States forbade
him to listen to com
mands or suggestions,
rightly considering that the
pilot necessarily knew better
how to handle the boat than
“very brief authority.” anybody could tell him. So
here was the novelty of a king
without a keeper, an absolute monarch who was absolute in
sober truth and not by a fiction of words. I have seen a boy
of eighteen taking a great steamer serenely into what seemed
almost certain destruction, and the aged captain standing
mutely by, filled with apprehension but powerless to inter-

fere. His interference, in that particular instance, might
have been an excellent thing, but to permit it would have
been to establish a most pernicious precedent. It will easily
be guessed, considering the pilot’s boundless authority, that
he was a great
personage in the
old steamboat-
ing days. He
was treated with
ma r k e d
by the
c ap tain
and with
ma r ked
by all the
office r s
and serv
ants ; and this deferential
spirit was quickly communi
cated to the passengers, too.
I think pilots were about the
only people I ever knew who
failed to show, in some degree, embarrassment in the pres
ence of travelling foreign princes. But then, people in one’s
own grade of life are not usually embarrassing objects.
By long habit, pilots came to put all their wishes in the
form of commands. It “ gravels ” me, to this day, to put
my will in the weak shape of a request, instead of launch
ing it in the crisp language of an order.
In those old days, to load a steamboat at St. Louis, take
her to New Orleans and back, and discharge cargo, consumed
about twenty-five days, on an average. Seven or eight of
these days the boat spent at the wharves of St. Louis and
New Orleans, and every soul on board was hard at work,

except the two pilots ; they did nothing but play gentleman
up town, and receive the same wages for it as if they had
been on duty. The moment the boat touched the wharf at
either city, they were ashore; and they were not likely to be
seen again till the last bell was ringing and everything in
readiness for another voyage.
When a captain got hold of a pilot of particularly high
reputation, he took pains to keep him. When wages, were
four hundred dollars a month on the Upper Mississippi, I
have known a captain to keep such a pilot in idleness, under
full pay, three months at a time, while the river was frozen
up. And one must remember that in those cheap times
four hundred dollars was a salary of almost inconceivable
splendor. Few men on shore got such pay as that, and
when they did they were mightily looked up to. When
pilots from either end of the river wandered into our small
Missouri village, they were sought by the best and the fair
est, and treated with exalted respect. Lying in port under
wages was a thing which many pilots greatly enjoyed and
appreciated; especially if they belonged in the Missouri
River in the heyday of that trade (Kansas times), and got
nine hundred dollars a trip, which was equivalent to about
eighteen hundred dollars a month. Here is a conversation
of that day. A chap out of the Illinois River, with a little
stern-wheel tub, accosts a couple of ornate and gilded
Missouri River pilots : —
“ Gentlemen, I’ve got a pretty good trip for the up-country,
and shall want you about a month. How much will it be ?”
“ Eighteen hundred dollars apiece.”
“ Heavens and earth! You take my boat, let me have
your wages, and I ’11 divide! ”
I will remark, in passing, that Mississippi steamboatmen
were important in landsmen’s eyes (and in their own, too,
in a degree) according to- the dignity of the boat they were
on. For instance, it was a proud thing to be of the crew
of such stately craft as the “ Aleck Scott ” or the “ Grand

Turk.” Negro firemen, deck hands, and barbers belonging
to those boats were distinguished personages in their grade
of life, and they were well aware of that fact, too. A stal
wart darkey once gave offence at a negro ball in New Orleans
by putting
on a good
many airs.
Finally one
of the mana
gers bustled
up to him
and said,—
“ Who is
you, a n y
way ? Who
is you?
dat’s what
I wants to
know! ”
The of
fender was
not discon
certed in the
least, but
swelled him
self up and
t h rew that
into his
voice which
showed that
he knew he
was not putting on all those airs on a stinted capital.
“ Who is I ? Who is I ? I let you know mighty quick who
I is! I want you niggers to understan’ dat I fires de middle
do’ 1 on de ‘ Aleck Scott! ’ ”
1 Door.
“YOU take my boat !

That was sufficient.
The barber of the “ Grand
Turk” was a spruce young ne
gro, who aired his importance
with balmy complacency, and
was greatly courted by the
circle in which he moved. The
young colored population of
New Orleans were much given
to flirting, at twilight, on the
banquettes of the back streets.
Somebody saw and heard some
thing like the following, one
evening, in one of those locali
ties. A middle-aged negro
woman projected her head
through a broken pane and
shouted (very willing that the
neighbors should hear and
envy), “You Mary Ann, come
in de house dis min
ute ! Stannin’ out dah
foolin’ ’long wid dat
^ low trash-, an’ heah’s
de barber off ’n de
‘ Gran’ Turk ’ wants
to conwerse wid you! ”
My reference, a mo
ment ago, to the fact
£ I that a pilot’s peculiar
official position placed
him out of the reach
of criticism or com
mand, brings Stephen
'v? W naturally to

gifted pilot, a good fellow, a tireless talker, and had both
wit and humor in him. He had a most irreverent inde
pendence, too, and was deliciously easy-going and comfort
able in the presence of age, official dignity, and even the
most august wealth. He always had work, he never saved
a penny, he was a most persuasive borrower, he was in
debt to every pilot on the river, and to the majority of the
captains. He could throw a sort of splendor around a bit
of harum-scarum, devil-may-care piloting, that made it
almost fascinating — but not to everybody. He made a
trip with good old Captain Y once, and was “ relieved ”
from duty when the boat got to New Orleans. Somebody
expressed surprise at the discharge. Captain Y- shud
dered at the mere mention of Stephen. Then his poor, thin
old voice piped out something like this : —
“ Why, bless me! I would n’t have such a wild creature on
my boat for the world — not for the whole world! He
swears, he sings, he whistles, he yells — I never saw such an
Injun to yell. All times of the night — it never made any
difference to him. He would just yell that way, not for
anything in particular, but merely on account of a kind of
devilish comfort he got out of it. I never could get into a
sound sleep but he would fetch me out of bed, all in a cold
sweat, with one of those dreadful war-whoops. A queer being,
— very queer being; no respect for anything or anybody.
Sometimes he called me ‘Johnny.’ And he kept a fiddle,
and a cat. He played execrably. This seemed to distress
the cat, and so the cat would howl. Nobody could sleep
where that man — and his family — was. And reckless ?
There never was anything like it. Now you may believe it
or not, but as sure as I am sitting here, he brought my boat
a-tilting down through those awful snags at Chicot under a
rattling head of steam, and the wind a-blowing like the very
nation, at that! My officers will tell you so. They saw it.
And, sir, while he was a-tearing right down through those
snags, and I a-shaking in my shoes and praying, I wish I may

never speak again if he did n’t pucker up his mouth and go
to whistling! Yes, sir; whistling ‘Buffalo gals, can’t you
come out to-night, can’t you come out to-night, can’t you
come out to-night; ’ and doing it as calmly as if we were
attending a funeral and were n’t related to the corpse. And
when I remonstrated with him about it, he smiled down on
“went to whistling.”
me as if I was his child, and told me to run in the house and
try to be good, and not be meddling with my superiors ! ” 1
Once a pretty mean captain caught Stephen in New Orleans
out of work and as usual out of money. He laid steady
1 Considering a captain’s ostentatious but hollow chieftainship, and a pilot’s
real authority, there was something impudently apt and happy about that
way of phrasing it.

siege to Stephen, who was in a very “ close place,” and
finally persuaded him to hire with him at one hundred and
twenty-five dollars per month, just half wages, the captain
agreeing not to divulge the secret and so bring down the
contempt of all the guild upon the poor fellow. But the
boat was not more than a day out of New Orleans before
Stephen discovered that the captain was boasting of his
exploit, and that all the officers had been told. Stephen
winced, but said nothing. About the middle of the after
noon the captain stepped out on the hurricane deck, cast his
eye around, and looked a good deal surprised. He glanced
inquiringly aloft at Stephen, but Stephen was whistling
placidly, and attending to business. The captain stood
around a while in evident discomfort, and once or twice
seemed about to make a suggestion ; but the etiquette of the
river taught him to avoid that sort of rashness, and so he
managed to hold his peace. He chafed and puzzled a few
minutes longer, then retired to his apartments. But soon he
was out again, and apparently more perplexed than ever.
Presently he ventured to remark, with deference, —
“ Pretty good stage of the river now, ain’t it, sir ? ”
“ Well, I should say so ! Bank-full is a pretty liberal
“ Seems to be a good deal of current here.”
“ Good deal don’t describe it! It’s worse than a mill-
“ Is n’t it easier in toward shore than it is out here in the
middle ? ”
“ Yes, I reckon it is ; but a body can’t be too careful with
a steamboat. It’s pretty safe out here; can’t strike any
bottom here, you can depend on that.”
The captain departed, looking rueful enough. At this
rate, he would probably die of old age before his boat got to
St. Louis. Next day he appeared on deck and again found
Stephen faithfully standing up the middle of the river,
fighting the whole vast force of the Mississippi, and whistling

the same placid tune. This thing was becoming serious.
In by the shore was a slower boat clipping along in the easy
water and gaining steadily; she began to make for an island
chute; Stephen stuck to the middle of the river. Speech
was wrung from the captain. He said, —
“ Mr. W , don’t that chute cut off a good deal of
distance ? ”
“ I think it does, but I don’t know.”
“ Don’t know ! Well, isn’t there water enough in it now
to go through ? ”
“ I expect there is, but I am not certain.”
“ Upon my word this is odd! Why, those pilots on that
boat yonder are going to try it. Do you mean to say that
you don’t know as much as they do ? ”
u They ! Why, they are two-liundred-and-fifty-dollar pilots!
But don’t you he uneasy; I know as much as any man can
afford to know for a hundred and twenty-five ! ”
The captain surrendered.
Five minutes later Stephen was bowling through the chute
and showing the rival boat a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar
pair of heels.

NE day, on board the “ Aleck Scott,” my chief, Mr.
Bixby, was crawling carefully through a close place at
Cat Island, both leads going, and everybody holding his
breath. The captain, a nervous, apprehensive man, kept
still as long as he could, but finally broke down-and shouted
from the hurricane deck, —
“ For gracious’ sake, give her steam, Mr. Bixby ! give her
steam! She ’11 never raise the reef on this headway ! ”
For all the effect that was produced upon Mr. Bixby, one
would have supposed that no remark had been made. But
five minutes later, when the danger was past and the leads
laid in, he burst instantly into a consuming fury, and gave
the captain the most admirable cursing I ever listened to.
No bloodshed ensued; but that was because the captain’s
cause was weak; for ordinarily he was not a man to take
correction quietly.
Having now set forth in detail the nature of the science of
piloting, and likewise described the rank which the pilot
held among the fraternity of steamboatmen, this seems a
fitting place to say a few words about an organization which
the pilots once formed for the protection of their guild. It
was curious and noteworthy in this, that it was perhaps the
compactest, the completest, and the strongest commercial
organization ever formed among men.
For a long time wages had been two hundred and fifty
dollars a month; but curiously enough, as steamboats multi
plied and business increased, the wages began to fall little by

little. It was easy to discover the reason of this. Too many
pilots were being “ made.” It was nice to have a “ cub,” a
steersman, to do all the hard work for a couple of years,
“burst into a fury.
gratis, while his master sat
on a high bench and smoked;
all pilots and captains had
sons or nephews who wanted
to be pilots. By and by it
came to pass that nearly
every pilot on the river had a steersman. When a steersman
had made an amount of progress that was satisfactory to any
two pilots in the trade, they could get a pilot’s license for him
by signing an application directed to the United States In-

spector. Nothing further was needed ; usually no questions
were asked, no proofs of capacity required.
Very well, this growing swarm of new pilots presently
began to undermine the wages, in order to get berths. Too
late— apparently — the knights of the tiller perceived their
mistake. Plainly, something had to he done, and quickly;
but what was to be the needful thing ? A close organization. ^
Nothing else would answer. To compass this seemed an
impossibility; so it was talked, and talked, and then dropped.
It was too likely to ruin whoever ventured to move in the
matter. But at last about a dozen of the boldest — and
some of them the best — pilots on the river launched them
selves into the enterprise and took all'the chances. They
got a special charter from the legislature, with large powers,
under the name of the Pilots’ Benevolent Association;
elected their officers, completed their organization, contrib
uted capital, put “association” wages up to two hundred
and fifty dollars at once — and then retired to their homes,
for they were promptly discharged from employment. But
there were two or three unnoticed trifles in their by-laws
which had the seeds of propagation in them. For instance,
all idle members of the association, in good standing, were
entitled to a pension of twenty-five dollars per month. This
began to bring in one straggler after another from the ranks
of the new-fledged pilots, in the dull (summer) season.
Better have twenty-five dollars than starve; the initiation fee
was only twelve dollars, and no dues required from the
Also, the widows of deceased members in good standing
could draw twenty-five dollars per month, and a certain sum
for each of their children. Also, the said deceased would be
buried at the association’s expense. These things resurrected
all the superannuated and forgotten pilots in the Mississippi
Talley. They came from farms, they.came from interior vil
lages, they came from everywhere. They, came on crutches,
on drays, in ambulances, — any way, so they got there. They

paid in their twelve dollars, and straightway began to draw out
twenty-five dollars a month and calculate their burial bills.
By and by, all the useless, helpless pilots, and a dozen
first-class ones, were in the association, and nine tenths of
the best pilots out of it and laughing at it. It was the
laughing-stock of the whole river. Everybody joked about
the by-law requiring mem
bers to pay ten per cent of
their wages, every month,
into the treasury for the
support of the association,
whereas all the members
were outcast and tabooed,
and no one would employ
them. Everybody was deri
sively grateful to the asso
ciation for taking all the
worthless pilots out of the
way and leaving the whole field to the excellent and the
deserving; and everybody was not only jocularly grateful for
that, but for a result which naturally followed, namely, the
gradual advance of wages as the busy season approached.
Wages had gone up from the low figure of one hundred dol
lars a month to one hundred and twenty-five, and in some

cases to one hundred and fifty; and it was great fnn to en
large upon the. fact that this, charming thing had been ac
complished by a body of men not one of whom received
a particle of benefit from it. Some of the jokers used to
call at the association rooms and have a good time chaff
ing the members and offering them the charity of taking
them as steersmen for a trip, so that they could see what the
forgotten river looked like. However, the association was
content; or at least it gave no sign to the contrary. Now and
then it captured a pilot who was “ out of luck,” and added
him to its list; and these later additions were very valuable,
for they were good pilots ; the incompetent ones had all been
absorbed before. As business freshened, wages climbed
gradually up to two hundred and fifty dollars — the asso
ciation figure — and became firmly fixed there; and still
without benefiting a member of that body, for no member
was hired. The hilarity at the association’s expense burst
all bounds, now. There was no end to the fun which that
poor martyr had to put up with.
However, it is a long lane that has no turning. Winter
approached, business doubled and trebled, and an avalanche
of Missouri, Illinois, and Upper Mississippi River boats came
pouring down to take a chance in the New Orleans trade.
All of a sudden, pilots were in great demand, and were cor
respondingly scarce. The time for revenge was come. It
was a bitter pill to have to accept association pilots at last,
yet captains and owners agreed that there was no other way.
But none of these outcasts offered! So there was a still
bitterer pill to be swallowed: they must be sought out and
asked for their services. Captain was the first man
who found it necessary to take the dose, and he had been
the loudest derider of the organization. He hunted up one
of the best of the association pilots and said, —
“ Well, you boys have rather got the best of us for a little
while, so I ’11 give in with as good a grace as I can. I’ve come
to hire you; get your trunk aboard right away. I want to
leave at twelve o’clock.”

“ I don’t know about that. Who is your other pilot ? ”
. .“I’ve got I. S . " Why ?”
“I can’t go with him. He don’t belong to the asso
“ What! ”
“ It’s so.”
a Ho you mean to tell me that you won’t turn a wheel
with one of the very best and oldest pilots on the river
because he don’t belong to your association ? ”
“Yes, I do.”
“ Well, if this is n’t putting on airs ! I supposed I was
doing you a benevolence; but I begin to think that I am
the party that wants a favor done. Are you acting under
a law of the concern ? ”
“ Yes.”
“ Show it to me.”
- So they stepped into the association rooms, and the sec
retary soon satisfied the captain, who said, —
“ Well, what am I to do ? I have hired Mr. S for the
entire season.”
“I will provide for you,” said the secretary. “I will
detail a pilot to go with you, and he shall be on board at
twelve o’clock.”
“ But if I discharge S , he will come on me for the
whole season’s wages.”
“ Of course that is a matter between you and Mr. S ,
captain. We cannot meddle in your private affairs.”
The captain stormed, but to no purpose. In the end he
had to discharge S , pay him about a thousand dollars,
and take an association pilot in Ins place. The laugh was
beginning to turn the other way, now. Every day, thence
forward, a new victim fell; every day some outraged captain
discharged a non-association pet, with tears and profanity,
and installed a hated association man in his berth. In a
very little while, idle non-associationists began to be pretty
plenty, brisk as business was, and much as their services

were desired. The laugh was shifting to the other side of
their mouths most palpably. These victims, together with
the captains and owners, presently ceased to laugh alto
gether, and began to rage about the revenge they would
take when the passing business “ spurt ” was over.
Soon all the laughers that were left were the owners and
crews of boats that had two non-association pilots. But their
triumph was not very long-lived. For this reason: It was a
“the captain stormed.”
rigid rule of the association that its members should never,
under any circumstances whatever, give information about
the channel to any “ outsider.” By this time about half the
boats had none but association pilots, and the other half had
none but outsiders. At the first glance one would suppose

that when it came to forbidding information about the river
these two parties could play equally at that game; but this
was not so. At every good-sized town from one end of the
river to the other, there was a “ wharf-boat ” to land at,
instead of a wharf or a pier. Freight was stored in it for
transportation; waiting passengers slept in its cabins. Upon
each of these wharf-boats
the association’s officers
placed a strong box, fast
ened with a peculiar lock
which was used in no
other service but one — the United States mail service. It
was the letter-bag lock, a sacred governmental thing. By
dint of much beseeching the government had been persuaded

to allow the association to use this lock. Every association
man carried a key which would open these boxes. That key,
or rather a peculiar way of holding it in the hand when its
owner was asked for river information by a stranger, — for
the success of the St. Louis and New Orleans association
had now bred tolerably thriving branches in a dozen neigh
boring steamboat trades, — was the association man’s sign
and diploma of membership; and if the stranger did not
respond by producing a similar key and holding it in a
certain manner duly prescribed, his question was politely
ignored. From the association’s secretary each member
received a package of more or less gorgeous blanks, printed
like a bill-head, on handsome paper, properly ruled in col
umns; a bill-head worded something like this : —
r John Smith, Master.
Pilots, John Jones and Thomas Brown.
These blanks were filled up, day by day, as the voyage
progressed, and deposited in the several wharf-boat boxes.
For instance, as soon as the first crossing, out from St.
Louis, was completed, the items would be entered upon the
blank, under the appropriate headings, thus : —
“ St. Louis. Nine and a half (feet). Stern on court
house, head on dead cottonwood above wood-yard, until
you raise the first reef, then pull up square.” Then under
head of Remarks : “ Go just outside the wrecks ; this is im
portant. New snag just where you straighten down; go
above it.”
The pilot who deposited that blank in the Cairo box (af
ter adding to it the details of every crossing all the way
down from St. Louis) took out and read half a dozen fresh
reports (from upward-bound steamers) concerning the river

between Cairo and Memphis, posted himself thoroughly, re
turned them to the box, and went back aboard his boat again
so armed against accident that he could not possibly get his
boat into trouble without bringing the most ingenious care
lessness to his aid.
Imagine the benefits of so admirable a system in a piece of
river twelve or thirteen hundred miles long, whose channel
was shifting every day! The pilot who had formerly been
obliged to put up with seeing a shoal place once or possibly
twice a month, had a hundred sharp eyes to watch it for him,
now, and bushels of intelligent brains to tell him how to run
it. His information about it was seldom twenty-four hours
old. If the reports in the last box chanced to leave any mis
givings on his mind concerning a treacherous crossing, he
had his remedy; he blew his steam-whistle in a peculiar way
as soon as he saw a boat approaching; the signal was an
swered in a peculiar way if that boat’s pilots were associa
tion men; and then the two steamers ranged alongside and
all uncertainties were swept away by fresh information
furnished to the inquirer by word of mouth and in minute
The first thing a pilot did when he reached New Orleans or
St. Louis was to take his final and elaborate report to the
association parlors and hang it up there, — after which he
was free to visit his family. In these parlors a crowd was
always gathered together, discussing changes in the channel,
and the moment there was a fresh arrival, everybody stopped
talking till this witness had told the newest news and settled
the latest uncertainty. Other craftsmen can “ sink the shop,”
sometimes, and interest themselves in'other matters. Not
so with a pilot; he must devote himself wholly to his pro
fession and talk of nothing else ; for it would be small gain
to be perfect one day and imperfect the next. He has no
time or words to waste if he would keep “ posted.”
But the outsiders had a hard time of it.' No particular
place to meet and exchange information, no wharf-boat re-

ports, none but chance and unsatisfactory ways of getting
news. The consequence was that a man sometimes had to
run five hundred miles of river on information that was a
week or ten days old. At a fair stage of the river that
might have answered; but when the dead low water came it
was destructive. %
came anoth
er perfectly logi
cal result. The out
siders began to ground
steamboats, sink them, and get
into all sorts of trouble, whereas
accidents seemed to keep entirely
away from the association men. Wherefore even the owners
and captains of boats furnished exclusively with outsiders,
and previously considered to be wholly independent of the
‘posting his report.

association and free to comfort themselves with brag and
laughter, began to feel pretty uncomfortable. Still, they
made a show of keeping up the brag, until one black day
when every captain of the lot was formally ordered to imme
diately discharge his outsiders and take association pilots in
their stead. And who was it that had the dashing presump
tion to do that ? Alas, it came from a power behind the
throne that was greater than the throne itself. It was the
It was no time to “ swap knives.” Every outsider had to
take his trunk ashore at once.. Of course it was supposed
that there was collusion between the association and the un
derwriters, but this was not so. The latter had come to com
prehend the excellence of the “ report” system of the associ
ation and the safety it secured, and so they had made their
decision among themselves and upon plain business princi
There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in
the camp of the outsiders now. But no matter, there was
but one course for them to pursue, and they pursued it.
They came forward in couples and groups, and proffered their
twelve dollars and asked for membership. They were sur
prised to learn that several new by-laws had been long ago
added. For instance, the initiation fee had been raised to
fifty dollars; that sum must be tendered, and also ten per
cent of the wages which the applicant had received each and
every month since the founding of the association. In many
cases this amounted to three or four hundred dollars. Still,
the association would not entertain the application until the
money was present. Even then a single adverse vote killed
the application. Every member had to vote yes or no in per
son and before witnesses ; so it took weeks to decide a
candidacy, because many pilots were so long absent on
voyages. However, the repentant sinners scraped their sav
ings together, and one by one, by our tedious voting process,
they were added to the fold. A time came, at last, when

only about ten remained outside. They said they would
starve before they would apply. They remained idle a long
while, because of course nobody could venture to employ
By and by the association pub
lished the fact that upon a cer
tain date the wages ~h'F~
would be raised to BEKLYOLEKff
five hundred dol- . r . n „
lars per month. All A^SOCI AT! ON.
the branch associa-
tions had grown
strong, now, and the Red River
one had advanced wages to seven
hundred dollars a month. Re
luctantly the ten outsiders yield
ed, in view of these
things, and made
application. There
was another new
by-law, by this time,
which required them
to pay dues not only
on all the wages they
had received since the asso
ciation was born, but also
on what they would have
received if they had con
tinued at work up to the time
of their application, instead of
going off to pout in idleness. It
turned out to be a difficult mat
ter to elect them, but it was accomplished at last. The most
virulent sinner of this batch had stayed out and allowed “ dues ”
to accumulate against him so long that he had to send in six
hundred and twenty-five dollars with his application.

The association had a good hank account now, and was
very strong. There was no longer an outsider. A by-law
was added forbidding the reception of any more cubs or ap
prentices for five years ; after which time a limited number
would be taken, not by individuals, but by the association, upon
these terms: the applicant must not be less than eighteen
years old, and of respectable family and good character ; he
must pass an examination as to education, pay a thousand
dollars in advance for the privilege of becoming an appren
tice, and must remain under the commands of the associa
tion until a great part of the membership (more than half, I
think) should be willing to sign his application for a pilot’s
All previously-articled apprentices were now taken away
from their masters and adopted by the association. The
president and secretary detailed them for service on one boat
or another, as they chose, and changed them from boat to
boat according to certain rules. If a pilot could show that
he was in infirm health and needed assistance, one of the
cubs would be ordered to go with him.
The widow and orphan list grew, but so did the associa
tion’s financial resources. The association attended its own
funerals in state, and paid for them., When occasion de
manded, it sent members down the river upon searches for
the bodies of brethren lost by steamboat accidents ; a search
of this kind sometimes cost a thousand dollars.
The association procured a charter and went into the in
surance business, also. It not only insured the lives of its
members, but took risks on steamboats.
The organization seemed indestructible. It was the tight
est monopoly in the world. By the United States law, no
man could become a pilot unless two duly licensed pilots
signed his application; and now there was nobody outside
of the association competent to sign. Consequently the
making of pilots was at an end. Every year some would
die and others become incapacitated by age and infirmity;

there would be no new ones to take their places. In time,
the association could put wages up to any figure it chose;
and as long as it should be wise enough not to carry the
thing too far and provoke the national government into
^amending the licensing system, steamboat owners would
have to submit, since there would be no help for it.
The owners and captains were
the only obstruction that lay be
tween the association and abso
lute power; and at last this one was removed. Incredible
as it may seem, the owners and captains deliberately did it
themselves. When the pilots’ association announced, months
beforehand, that on the first day of September, 1861, wages
would be advanced to five hundred dollars per month, the

owners and captains instantly put freights up a few cents, and
explained to the farmers along the river the necessity of it,
by calling their attention to the burdensome rate of wages
about to be established. It was a rather slender argument,
but the farmers did not seem to detect it. . It looked reason
able to them that to add five cents freight on a bushel of
corn was justifiable under the circumstances, overlooking the
fact that this advance on a cargo of forty thousand sacks
was a good deal more than necessary to cover the new
So, straightway the captains and owners got up an associ
ation of their own, and proposed to put captains’ wages up to
five hundred dollars, too, and move for another advance in
freights. It was a novel idea, but of course an effect which
had been produced once could be produced again. The new
association decreed (for this was before all the outsiders had
been taken into the pilots’ association) that if any captain
employed a non-association pilot, he should be forced to dis
charge him, and also pay a fine of five hundred dollars.
Several of these heavy fines were paid before the captains’
organization grew strong enough to exercise full authority
over its membership ; but that all ceased, presently. The
captains tried to get the pilots to decree that no member of
their corporation should serve under a non-association cap
tain ; but this proposition was declined.. The pilots saw
that they would be backed up by the captain s 'and the under
writers anyhow, and so they wisely refrained from entering
into entangling alliances.
As I have remarked, the pilots’ association was now the
c'ompactest monopoly in the world, perhaps, and seemed
simply indestructible. And yet the days of its glory were
numbered. First, the new railroad stretching up through
Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, to Northern railway
centres, began to divert the passenger travel from the steam
ers ; next the war came and almost entirely annihilated the
steamboating industry during several years, leaving most of

the pilots idle, and the cost of living advancing all the time;
then the treasurer of the St. Louis association put his hand
into the till and walked off with every dollar of the ample
fund ; and finally, the railroads intruding everywhere, there
was little for steamers to do, when the war was over, but
carry freights ; so straightway some* genius from the Atlan
tic coast introduced the plan of towing a dozen steamer
cargoes down to New Orleans at the tail of a vulgar little
tug-boat; and behold, in the twinkling of an eye, as it were,
the association and the noble science of piloting were things
of the dead and pathetic past!

I T was always the custom for the boats to leave New Or
leans between four and five o’clock in the afternoon.
From three o’clock onward they would be burning rosin and
pitch pine (the sign of preparation), and so one had the
picturesque spectacle of a rank, some two or three miles
long, of tall, ascending columns of coal-black smoke ; a col
onnade which supported a sable roof of the same smoke
blended together and spreading abroad over the city. Every
outward-bound boat had its flag ftying at the jack-staff, and
sometimes a duplicate on the verge staff astern. Two or
three miles of mates were commanding and swearing with
more than usual emphasis ; countless processions of freight
barrels and boxes were spinning athwart the levee and flying
aboard the stage-pianks ; belated passengers were dodging
and skipping among these frantic things, hoping to reach
the forecastle companion way alive, but having their doubts
about it; women with reticules and bandboxes were trying
to keep up with husbands freighted with carpet-sacks and
crying babies, and making a failure of it by losing their
heads in the whirl and roar and general distraction ; drays
and baggage-vans were clattering hither and thither in a
wild hurry, every now and then getting blocked and jammed
together, and then during ten seconds one, could not see
them for the profanity, except vaguely and dimly ; every
windlass connected with every fore-hatch, from one end of
that long array of steamboats to the other, was keeping up

a deafening whiz and whir, lowering freight into the hold,
and the half-naked crews of perspiring negroes that worked
them were roaring such songs as “ De Las’ Sack ! De Las’
Sack ! ”—inspired to unimaginable exaltation by the chaos of
turmoil and racket that was driving everybody else mad. By
this time the hurricane and boiler decks of the steamers
would be packed and black with passengers. The “ last
bells” would begin to clang, all down the line, and then the
powwow seemed to double; in a moment or two the final
warning came, — a simultaneous din of Chinese gongs, with
the cry, “ All dat ain’t goin’, please to git asho’! ” — and
behold, the powwow quadrupled! People came swarming
ashore, overturning excited stragglers that were trying to
swarm aboard. One more moment later a long array of
stage-planks was being hauled in, each with its customary
latest passenger clinging to the end of it with teeth, nails,
and everything else, and the customary latest procrastina
tor making a wild spring shoreward over his head.
Now a number of the boats slide backward into the stream,
leaving wide gaps in the serried rank of steamers. Citizens
crowd the decks of boats that are not to go, in order to see
the sight. Steamer after steamer straightens herself up,
gathers all her strength, and presently comes swinging by,
under a tremendous head of steam, with flag flying, black
smoke rolling, and her entire crew of firemen and deck-hands
(usually swarthy negroes) massed together on the forecastle,
the best “ voice ” in the lot towering from the midst (being
mounted on the capstan), waving his hat or a flag, and all
roaring a mighty chorus, while the parting cannons boom
and the multitudinous spectators swing their hats and huzza!
Steamer after steamer falls into line, and the stately proces
sion goes winging its flight up the river.
In the old times, whenever two fast boats started out on a
race, with a big crowd of people looking on, it was inspiring
to hear the crews sing, especially if the time were night-fall,
and the forecastle lit up with the red glare of the torcli-baskets.


Racing was royal fun. The public always had an idea that
racing was dangerous ; whereas the opposite was the case—-
that is, after the laws were passed which restricted each
boat to just so many pounds of steam to the square inch.
No engineer was ever sleepy or careless when his heart was
in a race. He
was constantly
on the alert, try
ing gauge-cocks
and watching
things. The
dangerous place
was on slow,
plodding boats,
where the en
gineers drowsed
around and al
lowed chips to
get into the
“doctor” and
shut off the
water supply
from the boil
In the “ flush
times” of steam-
boating, a race between two notoriously fleet steamers was
an event of vast importance. The date was set for it several
weeks in advance, and from that time forward, the whole
Mississippi Yalley was in a state of consuming excitement.
Politics and the weather were dropped, and people talked
only of the coming race. As the time approached, the two
steamers “ stripped ” and got ready. Every incumbrance
that added weight, or exposed a resisting surface to wind or
water, was removed, if the boat could possibly do without it.
The “ spars,” and sometimes even their supporting derricks,

were sent ashore, and no means left to set the boat afloat in
case she got aground. When the “ Eclipse” and the “ A. L.
Shotwell ” ran their great race many years ago, it was said
that pains were taken to scrape the gilding off the fanciful
device which hung between the “ Eclipse’s ” chimneys, and
that for that one trip the captain left off his kid gloves and
had his head shaved. But I always doubted-these things.
If the boat was known to make her best speed when
drawing five and a half feet forward and five feet aft, she
was carefully loaded to that exact figure — she wouldn’t
enter a dose of homoeopathic pills on her manifest after that.
Hardly any passengers were taken, because they not only add
weight but they never will “ trim boat.” They always run
to the side when there is anything to see, whereas a conscien
tious and experienced steamboatman would stick to the
centre of the boat and part his hair in the middle with a
spirit level.
No way-freights and no way-passengers were allowed, for
the racers would stop only at the largest towns, and then it
would be only “ touch and go.” Coal flats and wood flats
were contracted for beforehand, and these were kept ready
to hitch on to the flying steamers at a moment’s warning.
Double crews were carried, so that all work could be quickly
The chosen date being come, and all things in readiness,
the two great steamers back into the stream, and lie there
jock eying a moment, and apparently watching each other’s
slightest movement, like sentient creatures ; flags drooping,
the pent steam shrieking through safety-valves, the black
smoke rolling and tumbling from the chimneys and darkening
all the air. People, people everywhere; the shores, the
house-tops, the steamboats, the ships, are packed with them,
and you know that the borders of the broad Mississippi are
going to be fringed with humanity thence northward twelve
hundred miles, to welcome these racers.
Presently tall columns of steam burst from the ’scape-

pipes of both steamers, two guns boom a good-by, two
red-shirted heroes mounted on capstans wave their small
flags above the massed crews on the forecastles, two plaintive
solos linger on
the air a few
two mighty
choruses burst
forth — and
here they come 1
Brass bands
bray Hail Co-
after huzza
thunders from the shores, and the stately creatures go
whistling by like the wind.
Those boats will never halt a moment between New Orleans

and St. Louis, except for a second 01* two at large towns, or
to hitch tliirty-cord wood-boats alongside. You should be on
hoard when they take a couple of those wood-boats in tow
and turn a swarm of men into each; by the time you have
wiped your glasses and put them on, you will be wondering
what has become of that wood.
Two nicely matched steamers will stay in sight of each
other day after day. They might even stay side by side, hut
for the fact that pilots are not all alike, and the smartest
pilots will win the race. If one of the boats has a “ light
ning ” pilot, whose “ partner ” is a trifle his inferior, you can
tell which one is on watch by noting whether that boat has
gained ground or lost some during each four-hour stretch.
The shrewdest pilot can delay a boat if he has not a fine
genius for steering. Steering is a very high art. One must
not keep a rudder dragging across a boat’s stern if he wants
to get up the river fast.
There is a great difference in boats, of course. For a long
time I was on a boat that was so slow we used to forget what
year it was we left port in. But of course this was at rare
intervals. Ferry-boats used to lose valuable trips because
their passengers grew old and died, waiting for us to get by.
This was at still rarer intervals. I had the documents for
these occurrences, but through carelessness they have been
mislaid. This boat, the “ John J. Roe,” was so slow that
when she finally sunk in Madrid Bend, it was five years
before the owners heard of it. That was always a confusing
fact to me, but it is according to the record, any way. She
was dismally slow; still, we often had pretty exciting times
racing with islands, and rafts, and such things. One trip,
however, we did rather well. We went to St. Louis in
sixteen days. But even at this rattling gait I think we
ehanged watches three times in Fort Adams reach, which is
five miles long. A “ reach ” is a piece of straight river, and
of course the current drives through such a place in a pretty
lively way.

That trip
we went to
Orand Oulf,
from New Or
leans, in four
days (three hun-
the parting chorus. dred and forty
miles); the
“Eclipse” and “ Rhotwell ” did it in one. We were nine
days out, in the chute of 68 (seven hundred miles) ; the

“ Eclipse ” and “ Shotwell ” went there in two days. Some
thing over a generation ago, a boat called the “ J. M.
White ” went from New Orleans to Cairo in three days, six
hours, and forty-four minutes. In 1853 the “Eclipse” made
the same trip in three days, three hours, and twenty
minutes. 1 In 1870 the “ R. E. Lee ” did it in three days and
one hour. This last is called the fastest trip on record. I
will try to show that it was not. For this reason: the
distance between New Orleans and Cairo, when the “ J. M.
White ” ran it, was about eleven hundred and six miles;
consequently her average speed was a trifle over fourteen
miles per hour. In the “ Eclipse’s” day the distance between
the two ports had become reduced to one thousand and eighty
miles; consequently her average speed was a shade under
fourteen and three eighths miles per hour. In the “R. E.
Lee’s ” time the distance had diminished to about one
thousand and thirty miles; consequently her average was
about fourteen and one eighth miles per hour. Therefore
the “ Eclipse’s ” was conspicuously the fastest time that has
ever been made.
[From Commodore Rollingpin’s Almanac.]
1814. Orleans made the
1814. “
Ed. Shippen
Belle of the West
1844. Sultana .
1851. Magnolia
18-53. A. L. Shotwell
1853. Southern Belle
1853. Princess (No. 4)
1853. Eclipse
1855. Princess (New)
1855. Natchez (New)
1856. Princess (New)
1870. Natchez
1870. R. E. Lee
made the run ii
1 Time disputed. Some authorities add 1 hour and 16 minutes to this.

Time Tables, t- Continued.
J. M. White made the r
Reindeer „
Eclipse „
A. L. Shotwell ,,
1869. Dexter . . .
1870. Natchez
1870. R. E. Lee
made the run in 3 6 20
1815. Enterprise made the rux
x in 25
Ed. Shippen made the run ii
l 5
1817. Washington
„ 25
Belle of the West,, ,,
1817. Shelby „
„ 20
Duke of Orleans „ ,,
1819. Paragon „
„ 18
Sultana ,, ,,
1828. Tecumseb „
„ 8
Bostona ,, ,,
1834. Tuscarora „
Belle Key „ „
1837. Gen. Brown „
Reindeer ,,
1837. Randolph „
Eclipse „ „
1837. Empress ,,
» 6
A. L. Shotwell ,, ,,
1837. Sultana ,,
Eclipse ,, ,,
1852. A. L- Shotwell inaue u
1852. Eclipse ,
1854. Sultana „
1856. Princess
i run in 5 42
1860. Atlantic . . . made the run in
1860. Gen. Quitman „ ,,
1865. Ruth „ „
1870. R. E. Lee „ ,,
1844. J. M. White made the r
1849. Missouri
1869. Dexter
. made the run ii
1819. Gen. Pike made the r
1819. Paragon ,
1822. Wheeling Packet,,
1837. Moselle
1843. Duke of Orleans „
1843. Congress . . made the ri
1846. Ben Franklin (No. 6)
1852. Allegliancy „
1852. Pittsburgh , ,,
1853. Telegraph No. 3 „
12 20
11 45
10 38
10 23
9 52
D. H. |
1850. Telegraph No. 2 made the run in 1 17 1852. Pittsburgh . . . made the ri
1851. Buckeye State ,, ,, 1 16 [
it. sr. I n.
I 35 1876. War Eagle . . . made the run in 1
1853. Altona .'. . . . made the ru
1876. Golden Eagle „ „ 1 37 |
In June, 1859, the St. Louis and Keokuk Packet, City of Louisiana, made the run from St.
Louis to Keokuk (214 iniles) in 16 hours and 20 minutes, the best time on record.
In 1868 the steamer Ilawkeye State, of the Northern Line Packet Company, made the run
from St. Louis to St. Paul (800 miles) in 2 days and 20 hours. Never was beaten.
In 1853 the steamer Polar Star made the run from St. Louis to St. Joseph, on the Missouri
River, in 64 hours. In July, 1856, the steamer Jas. H. Lucas, Andy Wineland, Master, made
the same run in 60 hours and 57 minutes. The distance between the ports is 600 miles, and
when the difficulties of navigating the turbulent Missouri are taken into consideration, the per
formance of the Lucas deserves especial mention.

Time Tables. — Continued.
The time made by the R. E. Lee from New Orleans to St. Louis in 1870, in her famous race
with the Natchez, is the best on record, and, inasmuch as the race created a national interest,
we give below her time table from port to port.
Left New Orleans, Thursday, June 30th, 1870, at 4 o’clock and 55 minutes, p. m. ; reached
Carrollton 27^
Harry Hills 1 00£
Red Church 1 39
Bonnet Carre 2 38
College Point 3 50£
Donaldsonville 4 59
Plaquemine 7 05J
Baton Rouge 8 25
Bayou Sara 10 26
Red River 12 56
Stamps 13 56
Bryaro 15 51J
Hinderson’s 16 29
Natchez 17 11
Cole’s Creek 19 21
Waterproof 18 53
Rodney 20 45
St. Joseph 21 02
Grand Cxulf 22 06
Hard Times 22 18
Half Mile Below Warrenton ... 1
The Lee landed at St. Louis at 11.25 a.m., on July 4th, 1870 —six hours and thirty-six
minutes ahead of the Natchez. The officers of the Natchez claimed seven hours and one minute
stoppage on account of fog and repairing machinery. The R. E. Lee was commanded by Captain
John W. Cannon, and the Natchez was in charge of that veteran Southern boatman, Captain
Thomas P. Leathers.
Vicksburg 1
Milliken’s Bend 1
Bailey’s 1
Lake Providence 1
Greenville 1
Napoleon 1
White River 1
Australia 1
Helena 1
Half Mile Below St. Francis ... 2
Memphis 2
Foot of Island 37 2
Foot of Island 26 2
Tow-head, Island 14 2
New Madrid 2
Dry Bar No. 10 2
Foot of Island 8 2
Upper Tow-head — Lucas Bend . 3
Cairo 3
St. Louis 3
2 37
3 48
5 47
10 55
16 22
16 56
23 25
19 50
20 37
21 25

ESE dry details are of importance in one particular.
They give me an opportunity of introducing one of
the Mississippi’s oddest peculiarities, — that of shortening
its length from time to time. If you will throw a long,
pliant apple-paring over your shoulder, it will pretty fairly
shape itself into an average section of the Mississippi River;
that is, the nine or ten hundred miles stretching from Cairo,
Illinois, southward to New Orleans, the same being wonder
fully crooked, with a brief straight bit here and there at wide
intervals. The two-hundred-mile stretch from Cairo north
ward to St. Louis is by no means so crooked, that being a
rocky country which the river cannot cut much.
The water cuts the alluvial banks of the “ lower ” river
into deep horseshoe curves; so deep, indeed, that in some
places if you were to get ashore at one extremity of the
horseshoe and walk across the neck, half or three quarters
of a mile, you could sit down and rest a couple of hours
while your steamer was coming around the long elbow, at
a speed of ten miles an hour, to take you aboard again.
When the river is rising fast, some scoundrel whose planta
tion is back in the country, and therefore of inferior value,
has only to watch his chance, cut a little gutter across the
narrow neck of land some dark night, and turn the water
into it, and in a wonderfully short time a miracle has
happened: to wit, the whole Mississippi has taken possession

of that little ditch, and placed the countryman’s plantation
on its bank (quadrupling its value), and that other party’s
formerly valuable plantation finds itself away out yonder on
a big island; the old water
course around it will soon
shoal up, boats cannot ap
proach within ten miles of
it, and down goes its value
to a fourth of its former
worth. Watches are kept
on those narrow necks, at
needful times, and if a man
happens to be caught cut
ting a ditch across them,
the chances are all against
his ever having another op
portunity to cut a ditch.
Pray observe some of the
effects of this ditching busi
ness. Once there was a
neck opposite Port Hudson,
Louisiana, which was only
half a mile across, in its
narrowest place. You could
walk across there in fifteen
minutes; but if you made
the journey around the cape
on a raft, you travelled
thirty-five miles to accomplish the same thing. In 1722
the river darted through that neck, deserted its old bed, and
thus shortened itself thirty-five miles. In the same way it
shortened itself twenty-five miles at Black Hawk Point in
1699. Below Red River Landing, Raccourci cut-off was made
(forty or fifty years ago, I think). This shortened the river
twenty-eight miles. In our day, if you travel by river from
the southernmost of these three cut-offs to the northernmost,

you go only seventy miles. To do the same thing a hundred
and seventy-six years ago, one had to go a hundred and fifty-
eight miles! — a shortening of eighty-eight miles in that
trifling distance. At some forgotten time in the past, cut
offs were made above Yidalia, Louisiana; at island 92 ; at
island 84 ; and at Hale’s Point. These shortened the river,
in the aggregate, seventy-
seven miles.
Since my own day on
the Mississippi, cut-offs
have been made at Hur
ricane Island ; at island
100 ; at Napoleon, Ar
kansas; at Walnut Bend;
and at Council Bend.
These shortened the river,
in the aggregate,
sixty - se ven miles.
In my own time
a cut-off was
made at Amer-
ican Bend,
which short
ened the river
ten miles or
the Mississippi between Cairo and J
New Orleans was twelve hundred ! .
and fifteen miles long one hun- a. scientist.
dred and seventy-six years ago.
It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut-off of 1722.
It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend
cut-off. It has lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently
its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at

Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific
people, and “ let on ” to prove what had occurred in the re
mote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent
past, or what will occur in the far future by what has oc
curred in late years, what an opportunity is here ! Geology
never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from!
Nor “ development of species,” either ! Glacial epochs are
great things, but they are vague — vague. Please observe: —
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the
Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-
two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and
a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not
blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian
Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower
Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred
thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico
like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can
see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the
Lower . Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters
long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their
streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under
a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is
something fascinating about science. One gets such whole
sale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of
When the water begins to flow through one of those
ditches I have been speaking of, it is time for the people
thereabouts to move. The water cleaves the banks away
like a knife. By the time the ditch has become twelve or
fifteen feet wide, the calamity is as good as accomplished,
for no power on earth can stop' it now. When the width has
reached a hundred yards, the banks begin to peel off in slices
half an acre wide. The current flowing around the bend
travelled formerly only five miles an hour; now it is tre
mendously increased by the shortening of the distance. I
was on board the first boat that tried to go through the

cut-off at American Bend, but we did not get through. It
was toward midnight, and a wild night it was — thunder,
lightning, and torrents of rain. It was estimated that the
current in the cut-off was making about fifteen or twenty-
miles an hour; twelve or thirteen was the best our boat
could do, even in tolerably slack water, therefore perhaps
we were foolish to try the cut-off. However, Mr. Brown
was ambitious, and he kept on trying.
The eddy running up the bank, under the
“point,” was about as swift as the current
out in the middle ; so we would go flying up
the shore like a lightning express train, get on
a big head of steam, and “ stand by for a surge ” when we
struck the current that was whirling by the point. But
all our preparations were useless. The instant the cur
rent hit us it spun us around like a top, the water deluged
the forecastle, and the boat careened so far over that one
could hardly keep his feet. The next instant we were

away down the river, clawing with might and main to
keep out of the woods. We tried the experiment four
times. I stood on the forecastle companion way to see.
It was astonishing to observe how suddenly the boat would
spin around and turn tail the moment she emerged from
the eddy and the current struck her nose. The sound
ing concussion and the. quivering would have been about
the same if she had come full speed against a sand-bank.
Under the lightning flashes one could see the plantation
cabins and the goodly acres tumble into the river; and the
crash they made was not a bad effort at thunder. Once,
when we spun around, we only missed a house about twenty
feet, that had a light burning in the window; and in the
same instant that house went overboard. Nobody could stay
on our forecastle; the water swept across it in a torrent every
time we plunged athwart the current. At the end of our
fourth effort we brought up in the woods two miles below
the cut-off ; all the country there was overflowed, of course.
A day or two later the cut-off was three quarters of a mile
wide, and boats passed up through it without much difficulty,
and so saved ten miles.
The old Kaccourci cut-off reduced the river’s length twenty-
eight miles. There used to be a tradition connected with it.
It was said that a boat came along there in the night and
went around the enormous elbow the usual way, the pilots
not knowing that the cut-off had been made. It was a grisly,
hideous night, and all shapes were vague and distorted. The
old bend had already begun to fill up, and the boat got to
running away from mysterious reefs, and occasionally hitting
one. The perplexed pilots fell to swearing, and finally uttered
the entirely unnecessary wish that they might never get out
of that place. As always happens in such cases, that par
ticular prayer was answered, and the others neglected. So
to this day that phantom steamer is still butting around in
that deserted river, trying to find her way out. More than
one grave watchman has sworn to me that on drizzly, dismal

nights, lie has glanced fear
fully down that forgotten riv
er as he passed the head of
the island, and seen the faint
glow of the spectre steamer’s
lights drifting through the
distant gloom, and heard the
muffled cough of her ’scape-
pipes and the plaintive cry
of her leads-men.
In the absence of further
statistics, I beg to close this
chapter with one more remi
niscence of “ Stephen.”
Most of the captains and
pilots held Stephen’s note
for borrowed sums, ranging
from two hundred and fifty dollars upward. Stephen never
paid one of these notes, but he was very prompt and very
zealous about renewing them every twelve month.
Of course there came a time, at last, when Stephen could
no longer borrow of his ancient creditors ; so he was obliged
to lie in wait for new men who did not know him. Such a
victim was good-hearted, simple-natured young Yates (I use

a fictitious name, but the real name began, as this one does,
with a Y). Young Yates graduated as a pilot, got a berth,
and when the month was ended and he stepped up to the
clerk’s office and received his two hundred and fifty dollars
in crisp new bills, Stephen was there! His silvery tongue
began to wag, and in a very little while Yates’s two hun
dred and fifty dollars had chatiged hands. The fact was
soon known at pilot headquarters, and the amusement and
satisfaction of the old creditors were large and generous.
But innocent Yates never suspected that Stephen’s promise
to pay promptly at the end of the week was a worthless one.
Yates called for his money at the stipulated time; Stephen
sweetened him up and put him off a week. He called then,
according to agreement, and came away sugar-coated again,
but suffering under another postponement. So the thing
went on. Yates haunted Stephen week after week, to no
purpose, and at last gave it up. And then straightway Ste
phen began to haunt Yates ! Wherever Yates appeared,
there was the inevitable Stephen. And not only there, but
beaming with affection and gushing with apologies for not
being able to pay. By and by, whenever poor Yates saw
him coming, he would turn and fly, and drag his company
with him, if he had company; but it was of no use; his
debtor would run him down and corner him. Panting and
red-faced, Stephen would come, with outstretched hands and
eager eyes, invade the conversation, shake both of Yates’s
arms loose in their sockets, and begin : —
“ My, what a race I’ve had! I saw you did n’t see me,
and so I clapped on all steam for fear I’d miss you entirely.
And. here you are! there, just stand so, and let me look at
you! Just the same old noble countenance.” [To Yates’s
friend:] “ Just look at him! Looh at him ! Ain’t it just
good to look at him ! Ain't-it now ? Ain’t he just a picture !
Some call him a picture ; I call him a panorama ! That’s
what he is — an entire panorama. And now I’m reminded !
How I do wish I could have seen you an hour earlier! For

twenty-four hours I’ve been saving up that two hundred and
fifty dollars for you; been looking for you everywhere. I
waited at the Planter’s from six yesterday evening till two
o’clock this morning, without rest or food ; my wife says,
‘ Where have you been all night ? ’ I said, ‘ This debt lies

heavy on my mind.’ She says, ‘ In all my days I never saw
a man take a debt to heart the way you do.’ I said, ‘ It’s
my nature ; how can I change it ? ’ She says, ‘ Well, do go
to bed and get some rest.’ I said, ‘Not till that poor, noble
young man has got his money.’ So I set up all night, and
this morning out I shot, and the first man I struck told me
you had shipped on the ‘ Grank Turk ’ and gone to New
Orleans. Well, sir, I had to lean up against a building and
cry. So help me goodness, I could n’t help it. The man
that owned the place come out cleaning up with a rag, and
said he did n’t like to have people cry against his building,
and then it seemed to me that the whole world had turned
against me, and it was n’t any use to live any more ; and
coming along an hour ago, suffering no man knows what
agony, I met Jim Wilson and paid him the two hundred
and fifty dollars on account; and to think that here you
are, now, and I have n’t got a cent! But as sure as I am
standing here on this ground on this particular brick, —
there, I’ve scratched a mark on the brick to remember it
by, — I ’11 borrow that money and pay it over to you at
twelve o’clock sharp, to-morrow! Now, stand so; let me
look at you just once more.”
And so on. Yates’s life became a burden to him. He
could not escape his debtor and his debtor’s awful sufferings
on account of not being able to pay. He dreaded to show
himself in the street, lest he should find Stephen lying in
wait for him at the corner.
Bogart’s billiard saloon was a great resort for pilots in
those days. They met there about as much to exchange
river news as to play. One morning Yates was there; Ste
phen was there, too, but kept out of sight. But by and
by, when about all the pilots had arrived who were in town,
Stephen suddenly appeared in the midst, and rushed for
Yates as for a long-lost brother.
“ Oh, I am so glad to see you! Oh my soul, the sight of
you is such a comfort to my eyes! Gentlemen, I owe all

of you money ; among you I owe probably forty thousand
dollars. I want to pay it; I intend to pay it — every last
cent of it. You all know, without my telling you, what
sorrow it has cost me to remain so long under such deep
obligations to such
patient and gene.r-
ous friends; but
the sharpest pang
I suffer — by far
the sharpest —
is from the debt
I owe to this
noble young man
here; and I
have come to this
place this morn
ing especially to
make the an
nouncement that
I have at last
found a method
whereby I can
pay off all my
debts ! And most
especially I wanted
him to be here
when I announced “beaming benignantly.”
it. Yes, my faith
ful friend, — my benefactor, I’ve found the method ! I ’ve
found the method to pay off all my debts, and you ’11 get
your money!” Hope dawned in Yates’s eye; then Ste
phen, beaming benignantly, and placing his hand upon
Yates’s head, added, “ I am going to pay them off in alpha
betical order!”
Then he turned and disappeared. The full significance of
Stephen’s “ method ” did not dawn upon the perplexed and

musing crowd for some two minutes ; and then Yates mur
mured with a sigh: —
“ Well, the Y’s stand a gaudy chance. He won’t get any
further than the C’s in this world, and I reckon that after a
good deal of eternity has wasted away in the next one, I ’11
still be referred to up there as 4 that poor, ragged pilot that
came here from St. Louis in the early days! ’ ”

URING- tlie two or two and a half years of my appren
ticeship, I served under many pilots, and had experi
ence of many kinds of steamboatmen and many varieties of
steamboats ; for it was not always convenient for Mr. Bixby
to have me with him, and in such cases he sent me with
somebody else. I am to this day profiting somewhat by
that experience ; for in that brief, sharp schooling, I got
personally and familiarly acquainted with about all the dif
ferent types of human nature that are to be found in fiction,
biography, or history. The fact is daily borne in upon
me, that the average sliore-employment requires as much as
forty years to equip a man with this sort of an education.
When I say I am still profiting by this thing, I do not mean
that it has constituted me a judge of men — no, it has not
done that; for judges of men are born, not made. My profit
is various in kind and degree ; but the feature of it which I
value most is the zest which that early experience has given
to my later reading. When I find a well-drawn character in
fiction or biography, I generally take a warm personal inter
est in him, for the reason that I have known him before —
met him on the river.
The figure that comes before me oftenest, out of the shad
ows of that vanished time, is that of Brown, of the steamer
“Pennsylvania” — the man referred to in a former chapter,
whose memory was so good and tiresome. He was a middle-
aged, long, slim, bony, smooth-shaven, horse-faced, ignorant,
stingy, malicious, snarling, fault-liunting, mote-magnifying

tyrant. I early got the habit of coming on watch with dread
at my heart. No matter how good a time I might have been
having with the off-watch below,
and no matter how high my spir
its might be when I started aloft,
my soul became lead in my body
the moment I approached the
I still remember the first time
I ever entered the presence of
that man. The boat had backed
out from St. Louis and was
“ straightening down; ” I ascend
ed to the pilot-house in high
feather, and very proud to be
semi-officially a member of the
executive family of so fast and
famous a boat. Brown was at
the wheel. I paused in the mid
dle of the room, all fixed to make
my bow, but Brown did not look
around. I thought he took a
furtive glance at me out of the
corner of his eye, but as not even
this notice was repeated, I judged
I had been mistaken. By this time he was picking his way
among some dangerous “ breaks ” abreast the wood-yards;
therefore it would not be proper to interrupt him ; so I
stepped softly to the high bench and took a seat.
There was silence for ten minutes ; then my new boss
turned and inspected me deliberately and painstakingly
from head to heel for about— as it seemed to me — a quar
ter of an hour. After which he removed his countenance
and I saw it no more for some seconds ; then it came around
once more, and this question greeted me : —
“ Are you Horace Bigsby’s cub ? ”

a pause and another inspection.
“Yes, sir.”
After this there was
“ What’s your name ? ”
I told him. He repeat
ed it after me. It was
probably the only
thing he ever for
got ; for although
I was with him
many months
he never ad
dressed him
self to me in
any other way
than “Here!”
and then his
“ Where
was you
born ? ”
“In Flori
da, Missouri.”
A pause.
“ Dern sight
better staid
there! ”
By means of
a dozen or so of pretty direct questions, he pumped my
family history out of me.
The leads were going now, in the first crossing. This
interrupted the inquest. When the leads had been laid in,
he resumed: —
“ How long you been on the river ? ”

I told him. After a pause : —
“ Where’d you get them shoes ? ”
I gave him the in
“ Hold up your
foot! ”
I did so. He
stepped back, ex
amined the shoe
minutely and con
temptuously, scratch
ing his head thought
fully, tilting his high
sugar-loaf hat well
forward to facilitate
the operation, then
ejaculated, “ Well,
I’ll be dod derned! ”
and returned to his
What occasion
there was to be dod
derned about it is a
thing which is still
as much of a mys
tery to me now as it
was then. It must
have been all of fifteen
minutes—fifteen min
utes of dull, home
sick silence — before
that long horse-face
swung round upon me
again—and then, what
a change! It was as red as fire, and every muscle in it was
working. Now came this shriek:

“ Here ! —You going to set there all day ? ”
I lit in the middle of the floor, shot there by the electric
suddenness of the
as I could get my
apologetically: —
orders, sir. :
all day about it! ”
surprise. As soon
voice I said,
“ I have had no
“ You’ve had
no orders I My,
what a fine bird
we are! We
must have or
ders! Our fa
ther was a
gentleman —
owned slaves
—and we ’ve
been to school.
Yes, we are a
gentleman, too,
and got to have
orders! Orders, is it? ORDERS
is what you want! Dod dern
my skin, I’ll learn you to swell
yourself up and blow around
here about your dod-derned or-
G’ way from the wheel! ”
(I had approached it without
knowing it.)
I moved back a step or two,
and stood as in a dream, all my
senses stupefied by this frantic
“ What you standing there
for ? Take that ice-pitcher down
to the texas-tender — come,
move along, and don’t you be

The moment 1 got back to the pilot-house, Brown said u—
“ Here ! What was you doing down there all this time ? ”
“ I could n’t find the texas-tender; I had to go all the way
to the pantry.”
“ Derned likely story! Fill up the stove.”
I proceeded to do so. He watched me like a cat. Presently
he shouted: —
“Put down that
est numskull I ever
got sense enough to
All through the
of thing went on. Yes,
quent watches were
during a stretch of
have said, I soon got “ pttll her down ! ”
ing on duty with
ment I was in the presence, even in the
could feel those yellow eyes upon me, and
shovel! Dernd-
saw—ain’t even
load up a stove.”
watch this sort
and the subse-
much like it,
months. As I
the habit of com-
dread. The mo-
darkest night, I
knew their owner

was watching for a pretext to spit out some venom on me.
Preliminarily he would say : —
“ Here ! Take the wheel.”
Two minutes later : —
“ Where in the nation you going to ? Pull her down!
pull her down 1 ”
After another moment: —
“ Say ! You going to hold her all day ? Let her go —
meet her! meet her! ”
Then he would jump from the bench, snatch the wheel
from me, and meet her himself, pouring out wrath upon me
all the time.
George Ritchie was the other pilot’s cub. He was having
good times now; for his boss, George Ealer, was as kind-
hearted as Brown was n’t. Ritchie had steered for Brown
the season before; consequently he knew exactly how to
entertain himself and plague me, all by the one operation.
Whenever I took the wheel for a moment on Ealer’s watch,
Ritchie would sit back 011 the bench and play Brown, with
continual ejaculations of “ Snatch her! snatch her ! Dernd-
est mud-cat I ever saw! ” “ Here ! Where you going now ?
Going to run over that snag?” “Pull her down! Don’t
you hear me? Pull her down!” “There she goes! Just
as I expected! I told you not to cramp that reef. G’ way
from the wheel! ”
So I always had a rough time of it, no matter whose
watch it was; and sometimes it seemed to me that Ritchie’s
good-natured badgering was pretty nearly as aggravating as
Brown’s dead-earnest nagging.
I often wanted to kill Brown, but this would not answer.
A cub had to take everything his boss gave, in the way of
vigorous comment and criticism; and we all believed that
there was a United States law making it a penitentiary
offence to strike or threaten a pilot who was on duty.
However, I could imagine myself killing Brown; there was
no law against that; 'and that was the thing I used always

to do the moment I was abed. Instead of going over my
river in my mind as was my duty, I threw business aside
for pleasure, and killed Brown. I killed Brown every night
for months; not in old, stale, commonplace ways, but in
new and picturesque ones, — ways that were sometimes sur
prising for freshness of design and ghastliness of situation
and environment.
Brown was always watching for a pretext to find fault;
and if he could find no plausible pretext, he would invent
one. He would scold you for shaving a shore, and for not
shaving it;
for hugging
a bar, and
for not hug
ging it; for
“ pulling down ” when not invited, and for not pulling down
when not invited; for firing up without orders, and for wait
ing for orders. In a word, it was his invariable rule to
find fault with everything you did; and another invariable
rule of his was to throw all his remarks (to you) into the
form of an insult.
One day we were approaching New Madrid, bound down
and heavily laden. Brown was at one side of the wheel,
steering; I was at the other, standing by to “ pull down ” or

“ shove up.” He cast a furtive glance at me every now and
then. I had long ago learned what that meant; viz., he
was trying to invent a trap for me. I wondered what shape
it was going to take. By and by he stepped back from the
wheel and said in his usual snarly way : —
“ Here ! — See if you ’ve got gumption enough to round
her to.”
This was simply bound to be a success; nothing could
prevent it; for he had never allowed me to round the boat
to before ; consequently, no matter
how I might do the thing, he could _. '
find free fault with it. He stood
back there with his greedy eye 011
me, and the result
was what might
have been foreseen:
I lost my head in a
quarter of a minute,
and did n’t know
what I was about;
I started too early
to bring the boat
around,but detected
a green gleam of
joy in Brown’s eye,
and corrected my
mistake; I started
around once more
while too high up,
but corrected myself
again in time; I
made other false
moves, and still managed to save myself; but at last 1 grew
so confused and anxious that I tumbled into the very
worst blunder of all — I got too far dotcn before beginning
to fetch the boat around. Brown’s chance was come.
‘hurled me across the house.

His face turned red with passion; he made one bound,
hurled me across the house with a sweep of his arm, spun
the wheel down, and began to pour out a stream of vituper
ation upon me which lasted till he was out of breath. In the
course of this speech he called me all the different kinds of
hard names he could think of, and once or twice I thought he
was even going to swear — but he had never done that, and
he did n’t this time. “ Dod dern ” was the nearest he ven
tured to the luxury of swearing, for he had been brought up
with a wholesome respect for future fire and brimstone.
That was an uncomfortable hour; for there was a big
audience on the hurricane deck. When I went to bed that
night, I killed Brown in seventeen different ways — all of
them new.

T WO trips later, I got into serious trouble. Brown was
steering; I was “pulling down.” My younger brother
appeared on the hurricane deck, and shouted to Brown to
stop at some- landing or other a mile or so below. Brown
gave no intimation that he had heard anything. But that
was his way: he never condescended to take notice of an
under clerk. The wind was blowing; Brown was deaf
(although he always pretended he was n’t), and I very much
doubted if he had heard the order. If I had had two heads,
I would have spoken; but as I had only one, it seemed- judi
cious to take care of it; so I kept still.
Presently, sure enough, we went sailing by that plantation.
Captain Klinefelter appeared on the deck, and said: —
“Let her come around, sir, let her come around. Didn’t
Henry tell you to land here ? ”
“ No, sir! ” .
- “ I sent him up to do it.”
“ He did come up; and that’s all the good it done, the
dod-derned fool. He never said anything.”
“ Did n’t you hear him ? ” asked the captain of me.
Of course I did n’t want to be mixed up in this business,
but there was no way to avoid it; so 1 said : —
“ Yes, sir.”
I knew what Brown’s next remark would be, before he
uttered it; it was : —
“Shut your, mouth! you never heard anything of the

I closed HIV mouth according to instructions. An hour
later, Henry entered the pilot-house, unaware of what had
been going on. He was a thoroughly inoffensive boy, and I
was sorry to see him come, for I knew Brown would have
no pity on him. Brown began, straightway : —
“ Here! why did n’t you tell me we’d got to land at that
plantation ? ”
“ I did tell you, Mr. Brown.”
“ It’s a lie! ”
I said: —
“ You lie, yourself. He did tell you.”
Brown glared at me in unaffected surprise; and for as
much as a moment he was entirely speechless; then he
shouted tome: —
“I’ll attend to your case in a half a minute!” then to
Henry, “ And you leave the pilot-house; out with you!”
It was pilot law, and must be obeyed. The boy started
out, and even had his foot on the upper step outside the
door, when Brown, with a sudden access of fury, picked up
a ten-pound lump of coal and sprang after him; but I was
between, with a heavy stool, and I hit Brown a good honest
blow which stretched him out.
I had committed the crime of crimes, — I had lifted my
hand against a pilot on duty ! I supposed I was booked for
the penitentiary sure, and could n’t be booked any surer if
I went on and squared my long account with this person
while I had the chance; consequently I stuck to him and
pounded him with my fists a considerable time, — I do not
know how long, the pleasure of it probably made it seem
longer than it really was; —but in the end he struggled free
and jumped up and sprang to the. wheel: a very natural
solicitude, for, all this time, here was this steamboat tearing-
down the river at the -rate of fifteen miles an hour and
nobody at the helm! However, Eagle Bend was two miles
wide at this bank-full stage, and correspondingly long and
deep; and the boat was steering herself straight down the


middle and taking no chances. Still, that was only luck —
a body might have found her charging into the woods.
Perceiving, at a glance, that the “ Pennsylvania ” was in
no danger, Brown gathered up the big spy-glass, war-club
fashion, and ordered me out of the pilot-house with more
than Comanche bluster. But I was not afraid of him now;
so, instead of going, I tarried, and criticised his grammar ; 1
reformed his ferocious speeches for him, and put them into
good English, calling his attention to the advantage of pure
English over the bastard dialect of the Pennsylvanian col
lieries whence he was extracted. He could have done his
part to admiration in a cross-fire of mere vituperation, of
course ; but he was not equipped for this species of contro
versy ; so he presently laid aside his glass and took the

wheel, muttering and shaking his head; and 1 retired to
the bench. The racket had brought everybody to the hur
ricane deck, and I trembled when I saw the old captain
looking up from the midst of the crowd. I said to myself,
“ Now I am done for ! ” — For although, as a rule, he was
so fatherly and indulgent toward the boat’s family, and so
patient of minor
shortcomings, he
could be stern
enough when the
fault was worth it.
I tried to imagine
what he would do
to a cub pilot who
had been guilty of
such a crime as
mine, committed on
a boat guard-deep
with costly freight
and alive with pas
sengers. Our watch
was nearly ended.
I thought I would
go and hide some
where till I got a
chance to slide
ashore. So I slipped
“SO YOU HAVE BEEN FIGHTING.’’ Qut Q f t J ie pQ ot .
house, and down
the steps, and around to the texas door, — and was in the
act of gliding within, when the captain confronted me!
I dropped my head, and he stood over me in silence a
moment or two, then said impressively,—
“ Follow me.”
I dropped into his wake; he led the way to his parlor in
the forward end of the texas. We were alone, now. He

closed the after door; then moved slowly to the forward one
and closed that. He sat down; I stood before him.. He
looked at me some little time, then said,—
“ So you have been fighting Mr. Brown ? ”
I answered meekly : —
“ Yes, sir.”
“ Do you know that that is a very serious matter ? ”
“ Yes, sir.”
“ Are yon aware that this boat was ploughing down the
river fully five minutes with uo one at the wheel ? ”
“Yes, sir.”
“ Did you strike him first ? ”
“Yes, sir.”
“ What with ? ”
“ A stool, sir.”
“ Hard ? ”
“ Middling, sir.”
“ Did it knock him down ? ”
“ He — he fell, sir.”
“ Did you follow it up ? Did you do anything further ? ”
“ Yes, sir.”
“ What did you do ? ” .
“ Pounded him, sir.”
“ Pounded him ? ”
■ “ Yes, sir.”
“ Did you pound him much ? — that is, severely ? ”
“ One might call it .that, sir, maybe.”
“ I’m deuced glad of it! Hark ye, never mention that I
said that. You have been guilty of a great crime; aud don’t
you ever be guilty of it again, on this boat. But—lay for
him ashore! G-ive him a good sound thrashing, do you hear ?
I ’11 pay the expenses. Now go — and mind you, not a word
of this to anybody. Clear out with you ! — you’ve been
guilty of a great crime, you whelp! ”
I slid out, happy with the sense of a close shave and
a mighty deliverance; and I heard him laughing to

himself and slapping his fat thighs after I had closed his
When Brown came off watch he went straight to the cap
tain, who was talking with some passengers on the boiler
deck, and demanded that I be put ashore in New Orleans —
and added: —
“an emancipated slave.”
“ I ’11 never turn a wheel on this boat again while that
cub stays.”
The captain said : —
“ But he need n’t come round when you are on watch,
Mr. Brown.”

“ I won’t even stay on the same boat with him. One of
us has got to go ashore.”
“ Very well,” said the captain, “let it be yourself ; ” and
resumed his talk with the passengers.
During the brief remainder of the trip, I knew how an
emancipated slave feels ; for I was an emancipated slave
myself. While we lay at landings, I listened to George
Ealer’s flute ; or to his readings from his two bibles, that
is to say, Goldsmith and Shakspeare; or I played chess
with him — and would have beaten him sometimes, only
he always took back his last move and ran the game out

E lay three days in New Orleans, but the captain did
not succeed in finding another pilot; so he proposed
that I should stand a daylight watch, and leave the night
watches to George Ealer. But I was afraid; I had never
stood a watch of any sort by myself, and I believed I should
be sure to get into trouble in the head of some chute, or
ground the boat in a near cut through some bar or other.
Brown remained in Iris place; but he would not travel with-
me. So the captain gave me an order on the captain of the
“ A. T. Lacey,” for a passage to St. Louis, and said he would
find a new pilot there and my steersman’s berth could then
be resumed. The “Lacey” was to leave a-couple of days
after the “ Pennsylvania.”
The night before the “ Pennsylvania ” left, Henry and I sat
chatting on a freight pile on the levee till midnight. The
subject of the chat, mainly, was one which I think we had
not exploited before — steamboat disasters. One was then
on its way to us, little as we suspected it; the water which
was to make the steam which should cause it, was washing
past some point fifteen hundred miles up the river while we
talked; — but it would arrive at the right time and the right
place. We doubted if persons not clothed with authority
were of mucli use in cases of disaster and attendant panic;
still, they might be of some use; so we decided that if a dis
aster ever fell within our experience we would at least stick
to the boat, and give such minor service as chance might
throw in the way. Henry remembered this, afterward, when
the disaster came, and acted accordingly.

The “Lacey” started up the river two days behind the
“Pennsylvania.” We touched at Greenville, Mississippi, a
couple of days out, and somebody shouted: —
“ The 4 Pennsylvania ’ is blown up at Ship Island, and a
hundred and fifty lives lost! ”
At Napoleon, Arkansas, the same evening, we got an
extra, issued by a Memphis paper, which gave some particu
lars. It men
tioned my broth
er, and said he
was not hurt.
Further up the
river we got a
later extra. My
brother was again
mentioned; but
this time as be
ing hurt beyond
help. We did
not get full de
tails of the catas
trophe until we
reached Mem
phis. This is the
sorrowful story: —
It was six o’clock 011
a hot summer morning.
The “ Pennsylvania ” was
creeping along, north of
Ship Island, about sixty
miles below Memphis on
a half-liead of steam, tow
ing a wood-flat which was fast being emptied. George Ealer
was in the pilot-house — alone, I think ; the second engineer
and a striker had the watch in the engine room; the second
mate had the watch 011 deck; George Black, Mr. Wood, and

my brother, clerks, were asleep, as were also Brown and the
head engineer, the carpenter, the chief mate, and one striker;
Capt. Klinefelter was in the barber’s chair, and the barber
was preparing to shave him. There were a
good many cabin passengers aboard, and
three or four hundred deck passengers —
so it was said at the time — and not very
many of them were astir. The wood being
nearly all out of the flat now, Ealer rang to “ come ahead ”
full steam, and the next moment four of the eight boilers
exploded with a thunderous crash, and the whole forward
third of the boat was hoisted toward the sky! The main

part of the mass,
with the chim
neys, dropped up
on the boat again,
a mountain of
riddled and cha
otic rubbish —
and then, after a
little, fire broke
Many people were, flung
to considerable distances,
and fell in the river;
among these were Mr.
Wood and my brother,
and the carpenter. The
carpenter was still
stretched upon his mat
tress when he struck the
water seventy-five feet
from the boat. Brown,
the pilot, and George
Black, chief clerk, were
never seen or heard of

after the explosion. The barber’s chair, with Captain Kline
felter in it and unhurt, was left with its back overhanging
vacancy — everything forward of it, floor and all, had dis
appeared ; and the stupefied barber, who was also unhurt,
stood with one toe
projecting over space,
still stirring his lath
er unconsciously, and
saying not a word.
When George
Ealer saw the chim
neys plunging aloft
in front of him, he
knew what the mat
ter was; so he muf
fled his face in the
lapels of his coat,
and pressed both
hands there tightly
to keep this protec
tion in its place so
that no steam could
get to his nose or
mouth. He had am
ple time to attend to
these details while he
was going up and
returning. He pres
ently landed 011 top
of the unexploded
boilers, forty feet be
low the former pilot
house, accompanied
by his wheel and a rain of other stuff, and enveloped in a
cloud of scalding steam. All of the many who breathed that
steam, died; none escaped. But Ealer breathed none of it.

He made his way to the free air as quickly as he could; and
when the steam cleared away he' returned and climbed up
on the boilers again, and patiently hunted out each and every
one of his chessmen and the several joints of his flute.
By this time the fire was beginning to threaten. Shrieks
and groans filled the air. A great many persons had been
.scalded, a great many crippled; the explosion had driven an
iron crowbar through one man’s body—I think they said he
was a priest. He did not die at once, and his sufferings
were very dreadful. A young French naval cadet, of fif
teen, son of a French admiral, was fearfully scalded, but
bore his tortures manfully. Both mates were badly scalded,
but they stood to their posts, nevertheless. They drew the'
wood-boat aft, and they and the captain fought back the
frantic herd of frightened immigrants till the wounded could
be brought there and placed in safety first.
When Mr. Wood and Henry fell in the water, they struck
out for shore, which was only a few hundred yards away;
but Henry presently said he believed he was not hurt, (what
an unaccountable error!) and therefore would swim back to
the boat and help save the wounded. So they parted, and
Henry returned.
By this time the fire was making fierce headway, and
several persons who were imprisoned under the ruins were
begging piteously for help. All efforts to conquer the fire
proved fruitless; so the buckets were presently thrown aside
and the officers fell-to with axes and tried to cut the pris
oners out. A striker was one of the captives; lie said he
was not injured, but could not free himself; and when
he saw that the fire was likely to drive away the workers, he
begged that some one would shoot him, and thus save him
from the more dreadful death. The fire did drive the axe
men away, and they had to listen, helpless, to this poor fel
low’s supplications till the flames ended his miseries.
The fire drove all into the wood-flat that could be accom
modated there; it was cut adrift, then, and it and the burn-

ing steamer floated down the river toward Ship Island.
They moored the flat at the head of the island, and there,
unsheltered from the blazing sun, the half-naked occupants
had to remain, without food or stimulants, or help for
their hurts, during the rest of the day. A steamer came
along, finally, and carried the unfortunates to Memphis,
and there the most lavish assistance was at once forth
coming. By this time Henry was insensible. The physi
cians examined his injuries and saw that they were fatal,

and naturally turned their main attention to patients who
could be saved.
Forty of the wounded were placed upon pallets on the
floor of a great public hall, and among these was Henry.
There the ladies of Memphis came every day, with flowers,
fruits, and dainties and delicacies of all kinds, and there
they remained and nursed the wounded. All the physicians
stood watches there, and all the medical students; and the
rest of the town furnished money, or whatever else was
wanted. And Memphis knew how to do all these things
well; for many a disaster like the “Pennsylvania’s” had hap
pened near her doors, and she was experienced, above all
other cities on the river, in the gracious office of the Good
Samaritan. v
The sight I saw when I entered that large hall was new
and strange to me. Two long rows of prostrate forms —
more than forty, in all — and every face and head a shape
less wad of loose raw cotton. It was a grewsome spectacle.
I watched there six days and nights, and a very melancholy
experience it was. There was one daily incident which was
peculiarly depressing: this was the removal of the doomed
to a chamber apart. It was done in order that the morale
of the other patients might not be injuriously affected by
seeing one of their number in the death-agony. The fated
one was always carried out with as little stir as possible,
and the stretcher was always hidden from sigh't by a wall
of assistants ; but no matter: everybody knew what that
cluster of bent forms, with its muffled step and its slow
movement meant; and all eyes watched it wistfully, and a
shudder went abreast of it like a wave.
I saw many poor fellows removed to the “ death-room,”
and saw them no more afterward. But I saw our chief mate
carried thither more than once. His hurts were frightful,
especially his scalds. He was clothed in linseed oil and raw
cotton to his waist, and resembled nothing human. He was
often out of his mind ; and then his pains would make him

rave and shout and sometimes shriek. Then, after a period
of dumb exhaustion, his disordered imagination would sud
denly transform the great apartment into a forecastle, and
the hurrying throng of nurses into the crew; and he would
come to a sitting posture
and shout, “ Hump your
selves, hump yourselves,
you petrifactions, snail-bellies, pall-bearers! going to be all
day getting that. hatful of freight out ? ” and supplement
this explosion with a firmament-obliterating irruption of
profanity which nothing could stay or stop till his crater
was empty. And now and then while these frenzies pos-

sessed Mm, he would tear off handfuls of the cotton and
expose his cooked flesh to view. It was horrible.. It
was bad for the others, of course — this noise and these
exhibitions; so the doctors tried to give him morphine to
quiet him. But, in his mind or out of it, he would not take
it. He said his wife had been killed by that treacherous
drug, and he would die before he would take it. He sus
pected that the doctors were concealing it in his ordinary
medicines and in his water — so he ceased from putting
either to his lips. Once, when he had been without water
during two sweltering days, he took the dipper in his hand,
and the sight of the limpid fluid, and the misery of his
thirst, tempted him almost beyond his strength; but he
mastered himself and threw it away, and after that he
allowed no more to be brought near him. Three times I
saw him carried to the death-room, insensible and supposed
to be dying; but each time he revived, cursed his attend
ants, and demanded to be taken back. He lived to be mate
of a steamboat again.
But he was the only one who went to the death-room and
returned alive. Dr. Peyton, a principal physician, and rich
in all the attributes that go to constitute high and flawless
character, did all that educated judgment and trained skill
could do for Henry ; but, as the newspapers had said in the
beginning, his hurts were past help. On the evening of the
sixth day his wandering mind busied itself with matters
far away, and his nerveless fingers “ picked at his coverlet.”
His hour had struck ; we bore him to the death-room, poor

I N due course I got my license. 1 was a pilot now, full
fledged. I dropped into casual employments; no mis
fortunes resulting, intermittent work gave place to steady
and protracted engagements. Time drifted smoothly and
prosperously on, and I supposed — and hoped — that I was
going to follow the river the rest of my days, and die at the
wheel when my mission was ended. But by and by the war
came, commerce was suspended, my occupation was gone.
I had to seek another livelihood. So I became a silver
miner in Nevada ; next, a newspaper reporter ; next, a gold
miner, in California; next, a reporter in San Francisco;
next, a special correspondent in the Sandwich Islands; next,
a roving correspondent in Europe and the East; next, an
instructional torch-bearer on the lecture platform; and,
finally, I became a scribbler of books, and an immovable
fixture among the other rocks of New England.
In so few words have I disposed of the twenty-one slow-
drifting years that have come and gone since I last looked
from the windows of a pilot-house.
Let us resume, now.

FTER twenty-one years’ absence, I felt a very strong
desire to see tlie river again, and the steamboats, and
such of the boys as might be left; so 1 resolved to. go out
there. I enlisted a poet for company, and a stenographer
to “ take him down,” and started westward about the middle
of April.
As I proposed to make notes, with a view to printing, I
took some thought as to methods of procedure. I reflected
that if I were recognized, on the river, I should not be as
free to go and come, talk, inquire, and spy around, as I should
.be if unknown ; I remembered that it was the custom of
steamboatmen in the old times to load up the confiding
stranger with the most picturesque and admirable lies, and
put the sophisticated friend off Avith dull and ineffectual facts:
so I concluded, that, from a business point of view, it would
be an advantage to disguise our party Avith fictitious names.
The idea Avas certainly good, but it bred infinite bother:
for although Smith, Jones, and Johnson are easy names to
remember AAdien there is no occasion to remember them, it is
next to impossible to recollect them when they are Avanted.
How do criminals manage to keep a brand-ncAv alias in
mind ? This is a great mystery. I Avas innocent; and yet
Avas seldom able to lay my hand on my new name Avhcn if
was needed ; and it seemed to me that if I had had a crime
on my conscience to further confuse me, I could never have
kept the name by me at all.

We left per Pennsylvania Railroad, at 8 a. m. April 18.
“ Evening. Speaking of dress. Grace and picturesqueness drop
gradually out of it as one travels away from New York.”
I find that among my notes. It makes no difference
which direction you take, the fact remains the same. Whether
you move north, south, east, or west, no matter: you can get
up in the morning and guess how far you have come, by
noting what degree of grace and picturesqueness is by that
time lacking in the costumes of the new passengers; — I do
not mean of the women alone, but of both sexes. It may be
that carriage is at the' bottom of this thing; and I think it
is; for there are plenty of ladies and gentlemen in the
provincial cities whose garments arc all made by the best
tailors and dressmakers of New York ; yet this has no
perceptible effect upon the grand fact: the educated eye
never mistakes those people for New-Yorkers. No, there is
a godless grace, and snap, and style about a born and bred
New-Yorker which mere clothing cannot effect.
“ April 19. This morning, struck into the region of full goatees
— sometimes accompanied by a moustache, but only occasionally.”
It was odd to come upon this thick crop of an obsolete
and uncomely fashion ; it was like running suddenly across
a forgotten acquaintance whom you had supposed dead for a

generation. The goatee extends over a wide extent of coun
try ; and is accompanied by an iron-clad belief in Adam and
the biblical history of creation, which has not suffered from
the assaults of the scientists.
“ Afternoon. At the railway stations the loafers carry both hands
in their breeches pockets ; it was observable, heretofore, that one
hand was sometimes out of doors, — here,
never. This is an important fact in geog
If the loafers determined the character
of a country, it would be still more
important, of course.
“ Heretofore, all along, the station-
loafer has been often ob
served to scratch one shin
with the other foot; here,
these remains of activity are
wanting.. This has an omi
nous look.”
By and by, we entered
the tobacco-chewing re
gion. Fifty years ago, the tobacco-
chewing region covered the Union. It
is greatly restricted now.
boots began to appear. Not in strong
however. Later —away down the Mis-
— they became the rule. They disap-
from other sections of the Union with the
no doubt they will disappear from the
villages, also, when proper pavements
come in.
We reached St. Louis at ten o’clock at night. At the
counter of the hotel I tendered a hurriedly-invented fictitious
name, with a miserable attempt at careless ease. The clerk

paused, and inspected me in the compassionate way in which
one inspects a respectable person who is found in doubtful
circumstances; then he said, —
“It’s all right; I know what sort of a room you want.
Used to clerk at the St. James, in New York.”
who could not be deceived were going to crop up at this
rate : an unpalatable disappointment, for we had hoped to
have a week in St. Louis. The Southern was a good hotel,
and we could have had a comfortable time there. It is
large, and well conducted, and its decorations do not
make one cry, as do those of the vast Palmer House, in
Chicago. True, the billiard-tables were of the Old Silurian
Period, and the cues and balls of the Post-Pliocene; but
there was refreshment in this, not discomfort; for there is
rest and healing in the contemplation of antiquities.
A n unpromising
beginning for a
fraudulent career.
We started to the
supper room, and
met two other men
whom I had known
elsewhere. How odd
and unfair it is :
wicked impostors go
around lecturing un
der my nom de guerre,
and nobody suspects
them; but when an
honest man attempts
an imposture, he is
exposed at once.
One thing seemed
plain : we must start
down the river the
next day, if people

The most notable absence observable in the billiard room,
was the absence of the river man. If he was there he had
taken in his sign, he was in disguise. I saw there none of the
swell airs and graces, and ostentatious displays of money, and
pompous squanderings of it, which used to distinguish the
steamboat crowd from the dry-land crowd in the bygone days,
in the thronged billiard-rooms of
St. Louis. In those times, the prin
cipal saloons were always populous
with river men; given fifty play
ers present, thirty or thirty-five
were likely to be from
the river. But I sus
pected that the ranks
were thin now, and
the steamboatmen no
longer an aristocracy.
Why, in my time they
used to call the “ bar-
keep ” Bill, or Joe, or
Tom, and slap him on
the shoulder; I watched
for that. But none of
these people did it. Manifestly
a glory that once was had dis
solved and vanished away in
these twenty-one years.
When I went up to my room,
I found there the young man << D0 Y0T j drink this slush?”
called Rogers, crying. Rogers
was not his name ; neither was Jones, Brown, Dexter, Fergu
son, Bascom, nor Thompson; but he answered to either of these
that a body found handy in an emergency; or to any other
name, in fact, if he perceived that you meant him. He said: —
“ What is a person to do here when he wants a drink of
water ? — drink this slush ? ”

“ Can’t you drink it ? ”
“ I could if I had some other water to wash it with.”
Here was a thing which had not changed; a score, of
years had not affected this water’s mulatto complexion in the
least; a score of centuries would succeed no better, perhaps.
It coines out of the turbulent, bank-caving Missouri, and
every tumblerful of it holds nearly an acre of land in solu
tion. I got this fact from the bishop of the diocese. If you
will let your glass stand half an hour, you can separate the
land from the water as - easy as Genesis ; and then you will
find them both good : the one good to eat, the other good to
drink. The land is very nourishing, the water is thoroughly
wholesome. The one appeases hunger; the other, thirst.
But the natives do not take them separately, but together,
as nature mixed them. When they find an inch of mud in
the bottom of a glass, they stir it up, and then take the
.draught as they would gruel. It is difficult for a stranger to
get used to this batter, but once used to it he will prefer it
to water. This is really the case. It is good for steamboat-
ing, and good to drink ; but it is worthless for all other pur
poses, except baptizing.
Next morning, we drove around town in the rain. The
city seemed but little changed. It was greatly changed, but
it did not seem so ; because in St. Louis, as in London and
Pittsburgh, you can’t persuade a new thing to look new; the
coal smoke turns it into an antiquity the moment you take
your hand off it. The place had just about doubled its size,
since I was a resident of it, and was now become a city of
400,000.inhabitants; still, in the solid business parts, it looked
about as it had looked formerly. Yet I am sure there is not
as much smoke in St. Louis now as there used to be. The
smoke used to bank itself in a dense billowy black canopy over
the town, and hide the sky from view. This shelter is very
much thinner now; still, there is a sufficiency of smoke
there, I think. I heard no complaint.
However, on the outskirts changes were apparent enough;

notably in dwelling-house arcliitectnre. The fine new homes
are noble and beautiful and modern. They stand by them
selves, too, with green lawns around them; whereas the
dwellings of a former day are packed together in blocks,
and are all of one pattern, with windows all alike, set in an
arched frame-work of twisted stone; a sort of house which
was handsome enough when it was rarer.
There was another change — the Forest Park. This was
new to me. It is beautiful and very extensive, and has the
excellent merit of having been made mainly by nature.
There are other parks, and fine ones, notably Tower Grove
and the Botanical Gardens; for St. Louis interested her
self in such improvements at an earlier day than did the
most of our cities.
The first time I ever saw St. Louis, I could have bought it
for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life
that I did not do it., It was bitter now to look abroad over
this domed and steepled metropolis, this solid expanse of
bricks and mortar stretching away on every hand into dim,
measure-defying distances, and remember that I had allowed
that opportunity to go by. "Why I should have allowed it to
go by seems, of course, foolish and inexplicable to-day, at a
first glance; yet there were reasons at the time to justify
this course.
A Scotchman, Hon. Charles Augustus Murray, writing
some forty-five or fifty years ago, said: “The streets are
narrow, ill paved and ill lighted.” Those streets are narrow
still, of course ; many of them are ill paved yet; but the re
proach of ill lighting cannot be repeated, now. The “ Catholic
New Church ” was the only notable building then, and Mr.
Murray was confidently called upon to admire it, with its
“ species of Grecian portico, surmounted by a kind of steeple,
much too diminutive in its proportions, and surmounted by
sundry ornaments’’which the unimaginative Scotchman found
himself “ quite unable to describe ; ” and therefore was grate
ful when a German tourist helped him out with the exclaina-

tion : “ By —, they look exactly like bed-posts! ” St. Louis
is well equipped with stately and noble public buildings now,
and the little church, which the people used to be so proud of,
lost its importance a long time ago. Still, this would not sur
prise Mr. Murray, if he could come back; for he prophesied
the coming greatness of St. Louis with strong confidence.
The further we drove in our inspection-tour, the more
sensibly I realized how the city had grown since I had seen
it last; changes in detail became steadily more apparent and
frequent than at first, too : changes uniformly evidencing pro
gress, energy, prosperity.
But the change of changes was on the “ levee.” This time,
a departure from the rule. Half a
dozen sound-asleep steamboats where
I used to see a solid mile of wide-awake ones ! This was
melancholy, this was woful. The absence of the pervading
and jocund steamboatman from the billiard-saloon was ex
plained. He was absent because he is no more. His occu
pation is gone, his power has passed away, he is absorbed

into the common herd, he grinds at the mill, a shorn Samson
and inconspicuous. Half a dozen lifeless steamboats, a mile
of empty wharves, a negro fatigued with whiskey stretched
asleep, in a wide and soundless vacancy, where the serried
hosts of commerce used to contend ! 1 Here was desolation,
“ The old, old sea, as one in tears,
Comes murmuring, with foamy lips,
And knocking at the vacant piers,
Calls for his long-lost multitude of ships.”
The towboat and the railroad had done their work, and
done it well and com
pletely. The mighty
bridge, stretching along
over our heads, had done
its share in the slaughter and
dead past resurrection. spoliation. Remains of former
1 Capt. Marryat, writing forty-five j'ears ago, says : “ St. Louis has 20,000
inhabitants. The river abreast of the town is crowded with steamboats, lying in two
or three tiers.”

steamboatmen told me, with wan satisfaction, that the bridge
does n’t pay. Still, it can be no sufficient compensation to
a corpse, to know that the dynamite that laid him out was
not of as good quality as it had been supposed to be.
The pavements along the river front were bad; the side
walks were rather out of repair; there was a rich abundance
of mud. All this was familiar and satisfying; but the
ancient armies of drays, and struggling throngs of men, and
mountains of freight, were gone; and Sabbath reigned in
their stead. The immemorial mile of cheap foul doggeries
remained, but business was dull with them ; the multitudes
of poison-swilling Irishmen had departed, and in their places
were a few scattering handfuls of ragged negroes, some
drinking, some drunk, some nodding, others asleep. St.
Louis is a great and prosperous and advancing city; but the
river-edge of it seems dead past resurrection.
Mississippi steamboating was born about 1812; at the end
of thirty years, it had grown to mighty proportions; and in
less than thirty more, it was dead! A strangely short life
for so majestic a creature. Of course it is not absolutely
dead; neither is a crippled octogenarian who could once
jump twenty-two feet on level ground; but as contrasted
with what it was in its prime vigor, Mississippi steamboating
may be called dead.
It killed the old-fashioned keel-boating, by reducing the
freight-trip to New Orleans to less than a week. The rail
roads have killed the steamboat passenger traffic by doing in
two or three days what the steamboats consumed a week
in doing; and the towing-fleets have killed the through-
freight traffic by dragging six or seven steamer-loads of stuff
down the river at a time, at an expense so trivial that ‘
steamboat competition was out of the question.
Freight and passenger way-traffic remains to the steamers. -
This is in the hands — along the two thousand miles of
river between St. Paul and New Orleans — of two or three
close corporations well fortified with capital; and by able

and thoroughly business-like management and system,
make a sufficiency of money out of what is left of the once
prodigious steamboating industry. I sup
pose that St. Louis and New Orleans have
not suffered materially by the change, but
alas for the
He used to fringe
the river all the
way; his close-
ranked merchan
dise stretched from
the one city to the
other, along the
banks, and he sold
uncountable cords
of it every year for
cash on the nail;
but all the scatter
ing boats that are
left burn coal now,
'" and the seldomest
the wood-yard man. spectacle on the
Mississippi to-day
is a wood-pile. Where now is the once wood-yard man ?

Y idea was, to tarry a while in every town between St.
Louis and New Orleans. To do this, it would be
necessary to go from place to place by the short packet lines.
It was an easy plan to make, and would have been an easy
one to follow, twenty years ago — but not now. There are
wide intervals between boats, these days.
I wanted to begin with the interesting old French settle
ments of St. Genevieve and Kaskaskia, sixty miles below St.
Louis. There was only one boat advertised for that section
— a Grand Tower packet. Still, one boat was enough; so
we went down to look at her. She was a venerable rack-
heap, and a fraud to boot; for she was playing herself for
personal property, whereas the good honest dirt was so
thickly caked all over her that she was righteously taxable
as real estate. There are places in New England where her
hurricane deck would be worth a hundred and fifty dollars
an acre. The soil on her forecastle was quite good — the
new crop of wheat was already springing from the cracks in
protected places. The companionway was of a dry sandy
character, and would have been well suited for grapes, with
a southern exposure and a little subsoiling. The soil of the
boiler deck was thin and rocky, but good enough for grazing
purposes. A colored boy was on watch here—nobody else
visible. We gathered from him that this calm craft would'
go, as advertised, “ if she got her trip;” if she didn’t get it,
she would wait for it.

“Has she got any of her trip ? ”•
“ Bless you, no, boss. She ain’t unloadened, yit. She
only come in dis mawnin’.”
He was uncertain as to when she might get her trip, but
thought it might be to-morrow or maybe next day. This
would not answer at
all ; so we had to
give up the novelty
of sailing down the
river on a farm.
We had one more
arrow in our quiver :
a Vicksburg packet,
the “ Gold Dust,”
was to leave at 5
p.m. We took pas
sage in her for Mem
phis, and gave up the
idea of stopping off
hero and there, as
being impracticable.
She was neat, clean,
and comfortable.
We camped on the
boiler deck, and
bought some cheap
literature to kill
time with. The ven
der was a venerable
Irishman with a benevolent face and a tongue that worked
easily in the socket, and from him we learned that he had
lived in St. Louis thirty-four years and had never been across
the river during that period. Then he wandered into a very
flowing lecture, filled with classic names and allusions,*which
was quite wonderful for fluency until the fact became rather
apparent that this was not the first time, nor perhaps the

fiftieth, that the speech had been delivered. He was a good
deal of a character, and much better company than the sappy
literature he was selling.
A random remark, con
necting Irishmen and
” beer, brought this nug
get of information out
of him: —
“ They don’t drink it,
sir. They can’t drink it,
sir. Give an Irishman
lager for a month,
and he ’s a dead
man. An Irishman
is lined with copper,
and the beer corrodes
it. But whiskey pol
ishes the copper
and is the saving
of him, sir.”
At eight o’
clock, promptly,
we backed out
and—crossed the
river. As we
crept toward the
shore, in the thick
darkness, a blind
ing glory of white
electric light
burst suddenly
the electric light. from our fore-
castle, and lit up
the water and the warehouses as with a noon-day glare.
Another big change, this, — no more flickering, smoky,
pitch-dripping, ineffectual torch-baskets, now: their day is

past. Next, instead of calling out a score of hands to
man the stage, a couple of men and a hatful of steam
lowered it from the derrick where it was suspended,
launched it, deposited it in just the right spot, and the
whole thing was over and done-witli before a mate in the
olden time could have got his profanity-mill adjusted to
begin the preparatory services. Why this new and simple
method of handling the stages was not thought of when
the first steamboat was built, is a mystery which helps
one to realize what a dull-witted slug the average human
being is.
We finally got away at two in the morning, and when I
turned out at six,
we were round
ing to at a rocky
point where there
was an old stone
warehouse — at
any rate, the
ruins of it; two
or three decayed dwel
ling-houses were near
by, in the shelter of the
a landing. leafy hills ; but there
were no evidences of
human or other animal life to be seen. I wondered if I
had forgotten the river; for I had no recollection whatever
of this place; the shape of the river, too, was unfamiliar;

there was nothing in sight, anywhere, that I could remember
ever having seen before. I was surprised, disappointed, and
We put ashore a well-dressed lady and gentleman, and two
well-dressed, lady-like young girls, together with sundry
Russia-leather bags. A strange place for such folk! No
carriage was waiting. The party moved off as if they had
not expected any, and struck down a winding country road
But the mystery was explained when we got under way
again; for these people
were evidently bound
for a large town which
lay shut in behind a
tow-head (i. e., new
island) a couple of
miles below this land
ing. I could n’t re
member that town;
1 could n’t place it,
could n’t call its name.
So 1 lost part of my
temper. I suspected
that it might be St.
Genevieve — and so it
proved to be. Observe
what this eccentric river
had been about: it had
built up this huge use
less tow-head directly in
front of this town, cut
a close inspection. off its river communi
cations, fenced it away,
completely, and made a “ country ” town of it. It is a
fine old place, too, and deserved a better fate. It was
settled by the French, and is a relic of a time when one

could travel from the mouths of the Mississippi to Quebec
and be on French territory and under French rule all the
Presently I ascended to the hurricane deck and cast a
longing glance toward the pilot-house.

PTER a close study of the face of the pilot on watch, I
was satisfied that I had never seen him before ; so
I went up there. The pilot inspected me ; I re-inspected the
pilot. These customary preliminaries over, I sat down on the
high bench, and he faced about and went on with his work.
Every detail of the pilot-house was familiar to me, with one
exception, — a large-mouthed tube under the breast-board.
I puzzled over that thing a considerable time ; then, gave up
and asked what it was for.
“ To hear the engine-bells through.”
It was another good'contrivance which ought to have been
invented half a century sooner. So I was thinking, when the
pilot asked, —
“ Do you know what this rope is for ? ”
I managed to get around this question, without committing
“ Is this the first time you were ever in a pilot-house ? ”
I crept under that one.
“ Where are you from ? ”
“ New England.”
“ First time you have ever been West ? ”
I climbed over this one.
“ If you take an interest in such things, I can tell you
what all these things are for.”
I said I should like it.
“ This,” putting his hand on a backing-bell rope, “ is to
sound the fire-alarm; this,” putting his hand on a go-a-head

bell, “ is to call the texas-tender; this one,” indicating the
whistle-lever, “ is to call the captain ” — and so he went on,
touching one object after another, and reeling off his tranquil
spool of lies.
I had never felt so like a passenger before. I thanked
him, with emotion, for each new fact, and wrote it down in
my note-book. The pilot warmed to his opportunity, and
proceeded to load me up in the good old-fashioned way. At
times I was afraid he was going to rupture his invention;
but it always stood the strain, and he pulled through all
right. He drifted, by easy stages, into revealments of the
river’s marvellous eccentricities of one sort and another, and

backed them up with some pretty gigantic illustrations. For
instance, —
“ Do you see that little bowlder sticking out of the water
yonder? well, when I first came on the river, that was a
solid ridge of rock, over sixty feet high and two miles long.
All washed away but that.” [This with a sigh.]
I had a mighty impulse to destroy him, but it seemed to
me that killing, in any ordinary way, would be too good for
Once, when an odd-looking craft, with a vast coal-scuttle
slanting aloft on the end of a beam, was steaming by in the
“ Well, not now, because the government keeps them
down. But they used to be. Not everywhere; but in
favorite places, here and there, where the river is wide and
shoal — like Plum Point, and Stack Island, and so on —
places they call alligator beds.”
“ Did they actually impede navigation ? ”
“ Years ago, yes, in very low water; there was hardly a
trip, then, that we did n’t get aground on alligators.”
distance, he indif
ferently drew atten
tion to it, as one
might to an object
grown wearisome
through familiarity,
and observed that
it was an “ alligator
“An alligator
boat ? What’s it
for ? ”
“To dredge out
alligators with.”
“an alligator boat.”
“ Are they so
thick as to be
troublesome ? ”

It seemed to me that I should certainly have to get out
my tomahawk. However, I restrained myself and said, —
“ It must have been dreadful.”
“ Yes, it was one of the main difficulties about piloting.
It was so hard to tell anything about the water; the damned
things shift around so — never lie still five minutes at a time.
You can tell a wind-reef, straight off, by the look of it; you
can tell a break; you can tell a sand-reef — that’s all easy ;
but an alligator reef does n’t show up, worth anything. Nine
times in ten you can’t tell where the water is; and when you
do see where it is, like as not it ain’t there when you get
there, the devils have swapped around so, meantime. Of
course there were some few pilots that could judge of alli
gator water nearly as well as they could of any other kind,
but they had to have natural talent for it; it was n’t a thing
a body could learn, you had to be born with it. Let me see:
there was Bon Thornburg, and Beck Jolly, and Squire Bell,
and Horace Bixby, and Major Downing, and John Stevenson,
and Billv Gordon, and Jim Brady, and George Ealer, and
Billy Youngblood — all A1 alligator pilots. They could tell
alligator water as far as another Christian could tell whiskey.
Read it ?— Ah, could n't they, though ! I only wish I had as
many dollars as they could read alligator water a mile and a

half off. Yes, and it paid them to do it, too. A good
alligator pilot could always get fifteen hundred dollars a
month. Nights, other people had to lay up for alligators, but
those fellows never laid up for alligators; they never laid up
for anything but fog. They could smell the best alligator
water — so it was said ; I don’t know whether it was so or
not, and I think a body’s got his hands full enough if he
sticks to just what he knows himself, without going around
backing up other people’s say-so’s, though there’s a plenty
that ain’t backward about doing it, as long as they can roust
out something wonderful to tell. Which is not the style of
Robert Styles, by as much as three fathom —maybe quarter
[My! Was this Rob Styles/—This moustached and
stately figure ? — A slim enough cub, in my time. How he
has improved in comeliness in five and twenty years — and
in the noble art of inflating his facts.] After these musings,
I said aloud, —
“ I should think that dredging out the alligators would n’t
have done much good, because they could com5 back again
right away.”
“If you had had as much experience of alligators as I
have, you would n’t talk like that. You dredge an alligator
once and lie’s convinced. It’s the last you hear of him;
He would n’t come back for pie. If there’s one thing that
an alligator is more down on than another, it’s being-
dredged. Besides, they were not simply shoved out of the
way; the most of the scoopful were scooped aboard; they
emptied them into the hold ; and when they had got a trip,
they took them to Orleans to the Government works.”
“ What for?”
“ Why, to make soldier-shoes out of their hides. All the
Government shoes are made of alligator hide. It makes the
best shoes in the world. They last five years, and they won’t
absorb water. The alligator fishery is a Government
monopoly. All the alligators are Government property —

just like the live-oaks. You cut down a live-oak, and Govern
ment fines you fifty dollars ; you kill an alligator, and up you
go for misprision of treason — lucky duck if they don’t hang
you, too. And they will, if you ’re
a Democrat. The buzzard is the
sacred bird of the South, and you
can’t touch him; the alligator is
the sacred bird of the Government,
and you ’ve got to let him alone.”
“ Do you ever get aground on the
alligators now ? ”
“Oh, no! it has n’t happened
for years.”
“ Well, then, why do they still
keep the alligator boats in ser
vice ? ”
“Just for police duty—nothing
more. They merely go up and
down now and then. The present
generation of alligators know them
as easy as a burglar knows a rounds
man ; when they see one coming,
they break camp and go for the
After rounding-out and finishing-
up and polishing-off the alligator
business, he dropped easily and
comfortably into the historical vein,
and told of some tremendous feats
of half a dozen old-time steamboats of his acquaintance, dwell
ing at special length upon a certain extraordinary perform
ance of his chief favorite among this distinguished fleet —
and then adding: —
“ That boat was the ‘ Cyclone,’ — last trip she ever made —
she sunk, that very trip — captain was Tom Ballou, the most
immortal liar that ever I struck. He could n’t ever seem to

tell the truth, in any kind of weather. Why, he would make
you fairly shudder. He was the most scandalous liar! I
left him, finally; I could n’t stand it. The proverb says,
‘ like master, like man; ’ and if you stay with that kind of a
man, you’ll come under suspicion by and by, just as sure
as you live. He paid first-class wages; but said I, What’s
wages when your reputation’s in danger ? So I let the
wages go, and froze to my reputation. And I’ve never
regretted it. Reputation’s worth everything, ain’t it ? That’s
the way I look at it. He had more selfish organs than any
seven men in the world — all packed in the stern-sheets of
his skull, of course, where they belonged. They weighed
down the back of his head so that it made his nose tilt up
in the air. People thought it was vanity, but it wasn’t, it

was malice. If yon only.saw his foot, you’d take him to be
nineteen feet high, but he was n’t; it was because his foot
was out of drawing. He was intended to be nineteen feet
high, no doubt, if his foot was made first, but he didn’t get
there; he was only five feet ten. That’s what he was, and
that’s what he is. You take the lies out of him, and he’ll
shrink to the size of your hat; you take the malice out of
him, and he ’11 disappear. That ‘ Cyclone ’ was a rattler to go,
and the sweetest thing to steer that ever walked the waters.
Set her amidships, in a big river, and just let her go; it was
all you had to do. She would hold herself on a star all
night, if you let her alone. You couldn’t ever feel her rud
der. It was n’t any more labor to steer her than it is to
count the Republican vote in a South Carolina election. One
morning, just at daybreak, the last trip she ever made, they
took her rudder aboard to mend it; I did n’t know anything
about it; I backed her out from the wood-yard and went
a-weaving down the river all serene. When I had gone
about twenty-three miles, and made four horribly crooked
crossings — ”
“ Without any rudder ? ”
“ Yes — old Capt. Tom appeared on the roof and began to
find fault with me for running such a dark night — ”
“ Such a dark night? — Why, you said — ”
“Never mind what I said, — ’twas as dark as Egypt now,
though pretty soon the moon began to rise, and — ”
“You mean the sun — because you started out just at
break of— look here ! Was this before you quitted the cap
tain on account of his lying, or — ”
“It was before — oh, along time before. And as I was
saying, he — ”
“ But was this the trip she sunk, or was — ”
“ Oh, no! — months afterward. And so the old man, he—”
“ Then she made two last trips, because you said — ”
He stepped back from the wheel, swabbing away his per
spiration, and said —

“Here!” (calling me by name), “you take her and lie a
while — you’re handier at it than 1 am. Trying to play
yourself for a stranger and an innocent! — why, I knew you
before you had spoken seven words; and I made up my
mind to find out what was your little game. It was to draw
me out. Well, I let you, did n’t I ?
Now take the wheel and finish the watch; and next time
play fair, and you won’t have to work your passage.”
Thus ended the fictitious-name business. And not six
hours out from St. Louis! but I had gained a privilege, any
way, for I had been itching to get my hands on the wheel,
from the beginning. I seemed to have forgotten the river,-
but I had n’t forgotten how to steer a steamboat, nor how to
enjoy it, either.

T HE scenery, from St. Louis to Cairo—two hundred
miles —is varied and beautiful. The hills were clothed
in the fresh foliage of spring now, and were a gracious and
worthy setting for the
broad river flowing be
tween. Our trip began aus
piciously, with a perfect
day, as to breeze and sun-
<} shine, and our boat threw
grand tower. the miles out behind her
with satisfactory despatch.
We found a railway intruding at Chester, Illinois; Ches
ter has also a penitentiary now, and is otherwise marching

on. At Grand Tower, too, there was a railway ; and another
. at Cape Girardeau. The former town gets its name from a
huge, squat pillar of rock, which stands up out of the water
on the Missouri side of the river—a piece of nature’s fanci
ful handiwork — and is one of the most picturesque features
of the scenery of that region. For nearer or remoter neigh
bors, the'Tower has the Devil’s Bake Oven — so called,
perhaps, because it does not powerfully resemble anybody
else’s bake oven; and the Devil’s Tea Table — this latter a
great smooth-surfaced mass of rock, with diminishing wine
glass stem, perched some fifty or sixty feet above the river,
beside a beflowered and garlanded precipice, and sufficiently
like a tea-table to answer for anybody, Devil or Christian.
Away down the river we have the Devil’s Elbow and the
Devil’s Race-course, and lots of other property of his which
I cannot now call to mind.
The Town of Grand Tower was evidently a busier place
than it had been in old times, but it seemed to need some
repairs here and there, and a new coat of whitewash all
over. Still, it was pleasant to me to see the old coat once
more. “ Uncle ” Mumford, our second officer, said the place
had been suffering from high water and consequently was
not looking its best now. But he said it was not strange
that it did n’t waste whitewash on itself, for more lime was
made there, and of a better quality, than anywhere in the
West; and added, — u On a dairy farm you never can get any
milk for your coffee, nor any sugar for it on a sugar planta
tion ; and it is against sense to go to a lime town to hunt for
whitewash.” In my own experience I knew the first two
items to be true; and also that people who sell candy don’t
care for candy; therefore there was plausibility in Uncle
Mumford’s final observation that “ people who make lime
run more to religion than whitewash.” Uncle Mumford
said, further, that Grand Tower was a great coaling centre
and a prospering place.
Cape Girardeau is situated on a hillside, and makes a

handsome appearance. There is a great Jesuit school for
boys at the foot of the town by the river. Uncle Mumford
said it had as high a reputation for thoroughness as any
similar institution in Missouri. There was another college
higher up on an airy sum
mit,— a bright new edifice,
picturesquely and peculiarly
towered and pinnacled — a
sort of gigantic casters, with
the cruets all complete.
Uncle Mumford said that
Cape Girardeau was the
Athens of Missouri, and
contained several colleges
besides those already men
tioned ; and all of them on
a religious basis of one kind
or another. He directed my
attention to what he called
the “strong and pervasive
religious look of the town,”
but I could not see that it
looked more religious than the
other hill towns with the same
slope and built of the same kind of
bricks. Partialities often make peo
ple see more than really exists.
Uncle Mumford has been thirty years
a mate on the river. He is a man of
practical sense and a level head; has observed; has had
much experience of one sort and another; has opinions;
has, also, just a perceptible dash of poetry in his compo
sition, an easy gift of speech, a thick growl in his voice,
and an oath or two where he can get at them when the
exigencies of his office require a spiritual lift. He is a
mate of the blessed old-time kind; and goes gravely damn-

ing around, when there is work to the fore, in a way to mel
low the ex-steamboatman’s heart with sweet soft longings
for the vanished • days that shall come no more. “ Grit up,
there, you ! Going to be all day ? Why d’n’t you say
you was petrified in your hind legs, before you shipped! ”
He is a steady man with his crew; kind and just, but
firm; so they like him, and stay with him. He is still in
the slouchy garb of the old generation of mates ; but next
trip the Anchor Line will have him in uniform—a natty
blue naval uniform, with brass buttons, along with all the
officers of the line — and then he will be a totally different
style of scenery from what he is now.
Uniforms on the Mississippi! It beats all the other changes
put together, for surprise. Still, there is another surprise —
that it was not made fifty years ago. It is so manifestly
sensible, that it might have been thought of earlier, one
would suppose. During fifty years, out there, the innocent
passenger in need of help and information, has been mistaking
the mate for the cook, and the captain for the barber — and
being roughly entertained for it, too. But his troubles are
ended now. And the greatly improved aspect of the boat’s
staff is another advantage achieved by the dress-reform
Steered down the bend below Cape Girardeau. They used
to call it “ Steersman’s Bend; ” plain sailing and plenty of
water in it, always; about the only place in the Upper River
that a new cub was allowed to take a boat through, in low
Thebes, at the head of the Grand Chain, and Commerce at
the foot of it, were towns easily rememberable, as they had
not undergone conspicuous alteration. Nor the Chain, either
— in the nature of things; for it is a chain of sunken rocks
admirably arranged to capture and kill steamboats on bad
nights. A good many steamboat corpses lie buried there, out
of sight; among the rest my first friend the “ Paul Jones ; ”
she knocked her bottom out, and went down like a pot, so

the historian told me — Uncle Mumford. He said she had
a gray mare aboard, and a preacher. To me, this sufficiently
accounted for
the disaster; as it did,
Mumford, who added,—
are many ignorant
would scoff at such
call it superstition. But
of course, t o
“ But there
people who
a matter, and
you will always
that they are
who have never
travelled with
a gray mare and
a preacher. I
went down
the river once
in such com-
pany. We
grounded at
Bloody Is
land ; we
at Hang
ing Dog;
we grounded
just below
this same
we jolted
Beaver Dam
Rock; we hit
one of the
worst breaks
in the ‘ Grave
yard ’ behind Goose Island; we had a roustabout killed in
a fight; we burnt a boiler ; broke a shaft; collapsed a flue ;
and went into Cairo with nine feet of water in the hold —
“THREW the preacher overboard.

may have been more, may have been less. I remcmbet it as
if it were yesterday. The men lost their heads with terror.
They painted the mare blue, in sight of town, and threw the
preacher overboard, or we should not have arrived at all.
The preacher was fished out and saved.' He acknowledged,
himself, that he had been to blame. I remember it all* as
if it. were yesterday.” ;
That this combination — of preacher and gray mare —
should breed calamity, seems strange, and at first glance
unbelievable ; but the fact is fortified by so much unassaila
ble proof that to doubt is to dishonor reason. I myself
remember a case where a captain was warned by numerous
friends against taking a gray mare and a preacher with him,
but persisted in his purpose in spite of all that could be said ;
and the same day, — it may have been the next, and some
say it was, though I think it was the same day, —he got
drunk and fell down the hatchway and was borne to his
home a corpse. This is literally true.
No vestige of Hat Island is left now; every shred of it
is washed away. I do not even remember what part of . the
river it used to be in, except that it was between St. Louis
and Cairo somewhere. It was a bad region — all around
and about Hat Island, in early days. A farmer who lived
on the Illinois shore there, said that twenty-nine steamboats
had left their bones strung along within sight from his
house. Between St. Louis and Cairo the steamboat wrecks
average one to the mile ; — two hundred wrecks, altogether.
I could recognize big changes from Commerce down.
Beaver Dam Rock was out in the middle of the river now,
and throwing a prodigious “ breakit used to be close to the
shore, and boats went down outside of it. A big island that
used to be away out in mid-river, has retired to the Missouri
shore, and boats do not go near it any more. The island
called Jacket Pattern is whittled down to a wedge now,
and is booked for early destruction. Goose Island is all
gone but a little dab the size of a steamboat. The perilous

“ Graveyard,” among whose numberless wrecks we used to
pick our way so slowly and gingerly, is far away from the
channel now, and a ter
ror to nobody. One of
the islands formerly
called the Two Sisters
is gone entirely; the
other, which used to
lie close to the Illinois
shore, is now on the
Missouri side, a mile
away ; it is joined sol
idly to the shore, and
it takes a sharp eye to
see where the seam is —
but it is Illinois ground
yet, and the people who
live on it have to ferry
themselves over and
work the Illinois roads
and pay Illinois taxes :
singular state of things !
Near the mouth of
the river several islands
were missing — washed
away. Cairo was still
there — easily visible
across the long, flat
point upon whose further
verge it stands ; but we had to steam a long way around to
get to it. Night fell as we were going out of the “ Upper
River ” and meeting the floods of the Ohio. We dashed
along without anxiety ; for the hidden rock which used to
lie right in the way has moved up stream a long distance
out of the channel; or rather, about one county has gone
into the river from the Missouri point, and the Cairo point

lias 44 made down. ” and added to its long tongue of territory
correspondingly. The Mississippi is a just and equitable
river ; it never tumbles one man’s farm overboard without
building a new farm just like it for that man’s neighbor.
This keeps down hard feelings.
Going into Cairo, we came near killing a steamboat which
paid no attention to our whistle and then tried to cross our
bows. By doing some strong backing, v r e saved him; which
was a great loss, for he would have made good literature.
Cairo is a brisk town now; and is substantially built, and
has a city look about it which is in noticeable contrast to its
former estate, as per Mr. Dickens’s portrait of it. However,
it was already building with bricks when I had seen it last
— which was when Colonel (now General) Grant was drill
ing his first command there. Uncle Mumford says the libra
ries and Sunday-schools have done a good work in Cairo, as
w r ell as the brick masons. Cairo has a heavy railroad and
river trade, and her situation at the junction of the two
great rivers is so advantageous that she cannot well help
When I turned out, in the morning, we had passed Colum
bus, Kentucky, and were approaching Hickman, a pretty
town, perched on a handsome hill. Hickman is in a rich
tobacco region, and formerly enjoyed a great and lucrative
trade in that staple, collecting it there in her warehouses
from a large area of country and shipping it by boat; but
Uncle Mumford says she built a railway to facilitate this
commerce a little more, and he thinks it facilitated it the
wrong way — took the bulk of the trade out of her hands by
44 collaring it along "the line without gathering it at her

T ALK began to run upon the war now, for we were get
ting down into the upper edge of the former battle-
stretch by this time.
Columbus was just
behind us, so there
was a good deal said
about the famous
battle of Belmont.
Several of the (
boat’s officers had
seen active service
in the Mississippi
war-fleet. I gath
ered that they
found themselves
sadly out of their
element in that
kind of business at
first, but afterward
got accustomed to
it, reconciled to it,
and more or less at
home in it. One
of our pilots had his
first war experience \
in the Belmont fight,
as a pilot on a boat
in the Confederate service. I had often had a curiosity to

know how a green hand might feel, in his maiden battle,
perched all solitary and alone on high in a pilot house, a tar
get for Tom, Dick and Harry, and nobody at his elbow to
shame him from showing
the white feather when
matters grew hot and peril
ous around him; so, to me
his story was valuable — it
filled a gap for me which all
histories had left till that
time empty.
He said: —
It was the 7th of Novem
ber. The fight began at
seven in the morning. I
was on the “ R. H. W.
Hill.” Took over a load
of troops from Columbus.
Came back, and took over
a battery of artillery. My
partner said he was going
to see the fight; wanted
me to go along. I said,
no, I was n’t anxious, I
would look at it from the
pilot-house. He said I was
a coward, and left.
That fight was an awful
sight. General Cheatham made his men strip their coats
off and throw them in a pile, and said, “ Now follow me to
hell or victory ! ” I heard him say that from the pilot-house;
and then he galloped in, at the head of his troops. Old

General Pillow, with his white hair, mounted on a . white
horse, sailed in, too, leading his troops as lively as a boy.
By and by the Federals chased the rebels back, and here
they came! tearing along, everybody for himself.and Devil
take the hindmost! and down under the bank they scram
bled, and took ! shelter. I was sitting with my legs hang
ing out of the pilot-house window. All at once I noticed
a whizzing sound passing my ear. Judged it was a bullet.
I didn’t stop to think about anything, I just tilted over
backwards and landed on the floor, and staid there. The
balls came booming around. Three cannon-balls went
through the chimney ; one ball took off the corner of the
pilot-house; shells were screaming and bursting all around.
Mighty warm times — I wished I had n’t come. I lay there
on the pilot-house floor, while the shots came faster and
faster. I crept in behind the big stove, in the middle of
the pilot-house. Presently a minie-ball came through the
stove, and just grazed my head, and cut my hat. I
judged it was time to go away from there. The captain
was on the roof with a red-headed major from Memphis —
a fine-looking man. I heard him say he wanted to leave
here, but “that pilot is killed.” I crept over to the star
board side to pull the bell to set her back; raised up and
took a look, and I saw about fifteen shot holes through the
window panes; had come so lively I had n’t noticed them.
I glanced out on the water, and the spattering shot were
like a hail-storm. I thought best to get out of that place.
I went down the pilot-house guy, head first — not feet first
but head first — slid down — before I struck the deck, the
captain said we must leave there. So I climbed up the guy
and got on the floor again. About that time, they collared
my partner and were bringing him up to the pilot-house
between two soldiers. Somebody had said I was killed.
He put his head in and saw me on the floor reaching for the
backing bells. He said, “ Oh, hell, he ain’t shot,” and jerked
away from the men who had him by the collar, and ran

below. We were there until three o’clock in the afternoon,
and then got away all right.
The next time I saw my partner, I said, “ Now, come out, be
honest, and tell me the truth. Where did you go when you
went to see that battle ? ” He says, “ I went down in the hold.”
All through that fight I was scared nearly to death. I
hardly knew anything, I was so frightened; but you see,
nobody knew that
but me. Next day
General Polk sent
for me, and praised
me for my bravery
and gallant conduct.
I never said any
thing, I let it go
at that. I judged
it was n’t so, but
it was not for me
to contradict a
general officer.
Pretty soon af-
ter that I was
sick, and used up,
and had to go
off to the Hot
Springs. When
there, I got a
“where did you'see that fight?” good many letters
from comman
ders saying they wanted me to come back. I declined,
because I was n’t well enough or strong enough; but I
kept still, and kept the reputation 1 had made.
A plain story, straightforwardly told; but Mumford told
me that that pilot had “ gilded that scare of his, in spots; ”
that his subsequent career in the war was proof of it.

We struck down through the chute of Island No. 8, and I
went below and fell into conversation with a passenger, a hand
some man, with easy carriage and an intelligent face. We
were approach
ing Island No.
10, a place so
celebrated dur
ing the war.
This gentleman’s home was on the main shore in its neigh
borhood. I had some talk with him about the war times;
but presently the discourse fell upon “ feuds,” for in no part
of the South has the vendetta flourished more briskly, or held

out longer between warring families, than in this particular
region. This gentleman said : —
“ There’s been more than one feud around here, in old
times, but I reckon the worst one was between the Darnells
and the Watsons. Nobody don’t know now what the first
quarrel was about, it’s so long ago; the Darnells and the
Watsons don’t know, if there’s any of them living, which I
don’t think there is. Some says it was about a horse or a
cow—anyway, it was a little matter; the money in it was n’t
of no consequence — none in the world — both families was
rich. The thing could have been fixed up, easy enough;
but no, that wouldn’t do. Rough words had been passed;
and so, nothing but blood could fix it up after, that. That
horse or cow, whichever it was, cost sixty years of killing
and crippling! Every year or so somebody was shot, on
one side or the other; and as fast as one generation was
laid out, their sons took up the feud and kept it a-going.
And it’s just as I say; they went 011 shooting each other,
year in and year out — making a kind of a religion of it,
yon see — till they’d done forgot, long ago, what it was all
about. Wherever a Darnell caught a Watson, or a Watson
caught a Darnell, one of ’em was going to get hurt — only
question was, which of them got the drop on the other.
They’d shoot one another down, right in the presence of
the family. They did n’t hunt for each other,' but when
they happened to meet, they pulled and begun. Men would
shoot boys, bo} r s would shoot men. A man shot a boy twelve
years old — happened 011 him in the woods, and didn’t give
him no chance. If he had ’a’ given him a chance, the boy’d
’a’ shot him. Both families belonged to the same church
(everybody around here is religious) ; through all this fifty
or sixty years’ fuss, both tribes was there every Sunday, to
worship. They lived each side of the line, and the church
was at a landing called Compromise. Half the church and-
half the aisle was in Kentucky, the other half in Tennessee.
Sundays you’d see the families drive up, all in their Sunday

clothes, men, women, and children, and file up the aisle, and
set down, quiet and orderly, one lot on the Tennessee side
of the church and the other on the Kentucky side; and the
men and boys would lean their guns up against the wall,
handy, and then all hands would join in with the prayer
and praise; though they say the man next the aisle did n’t
kneel down, along with the rest of the family; kind of stood
guard. I don’t
' r ;- r _ „ know; never
was at that
^ chmvl. in
L ^ my life ;
but I remember
that that’s what
used to be said.
“ Twenty or
twenty-five years
ago, one of the
feud families
caught a young they kept on shooting.
man of nineteen
out and killed him. Don’t remember whether it was the
Darnells and Watsons, or one of the other feuds ; but
anyway, this young man rode up — steamboat laying there
at the time — and the first thing he saw was a whole gang
of the enemy. He jumped down behind a wood-pile, but
they rode around and begun on him, he firing back, and

they galloping and cavorting and yelling and banging
away with all their might. Think he wounded a couple
of them; but they closed in on him and chased him
into the river; and as ne swum along down stream,
they followed along the bank and kept on shooting at
him; and when he struck shore he was dead. Windy
Marshall told me about it. He saw it. He was captain of
the boat.
“Years ago, the Darnells was so thinned out that the. old
man and his two sons concluded they ’d leave the country.
They started to take steamboat just above No. 10; but the
Watsons got wind of it; and they arrived just as the two
young Darnells was walking up the companion-way with
their wives on their arms. The fight begun then, and they
never got no further — both of them killed. After that, old
Darnell got into trouble with the man that run the ferry,
and the ferry-man got the worst of it—and died. But his
friends shot old Darnell through and through — filled him
full of bullets, and ended him.”
The country gentleman who told me these things had been
reared in ease and comfort, was a man of good parts, and
was college bred. His loose grammar was the fruit of care
less habit, not ignorance. This habit among educated men
in the West is not universal, but it is prevalent — prevalent
in the towns, certainly, if not in the cities; and to a degree
which one cannot help noticing, and marvelling at. I heard
a Westerner who would be accounted a highly educated man
in any country, say “ never mind, it don’t make no difference.,
anyway.” A life-long resident who was present heard it, but
it made no impression upon her. She was able to recall the
fact afterward, when reminded of it; but she confessed that
the words had not grated upon her ear at the time — a con
fession which suggests that if educated people can hear such
blasphemous grammar, from such a source, and be uncon-.
scious of the deed, the crime must be tolerably common —
so common that the general ear has become dulled by famil-

iarity with it, and is no longer alert, 110 longer sensitive to
such affronts.
No one in the world speaks blemishless grammar ; 110 one
has ever written it — 710 one, either in the world or out of it
(taking the Scriptures for evidence 011 the latter point) ;
therefore it would not be fair to exact grammatical perfection
from the peoples of the Valley ; but they and all other peo
ples may justly be required to refrain from knowingly and
purposely debauching their grammar.
1 found the river greatly changed at Island No. 10. The
island which I remembered was some three miles long and a
quarter of a mile wide, heavily timbered, and lay near the
Kentucky shore — within two hundred yards of it, I should
say. Now, however, one had to hunt for it with a spy-glass.
Nothing was left of it but an insignificant little tuft, and
this was no longer near the Kentucky shore; it was clear
over against the opposite shore, a mile away. In war times
the island had been an important place, for it commanded the
situation ; and, being heavily fortified, there was no getting
by it. It lay between the upper and lower divisions of the
Union forces, and kept them separate, until a junction was
finally effected across the Missouri neck of land ; but the
island being itself joined to that neck now, the wide river is
without obstruction.

In tliis region the river passes from Kentucky into Ten
nessee, back into Missouri, then back into Kentucky, and
thence into Tennessee again. So a mile or two of Missouri
sticks over into Tennessee.
The town of New Madrid was looking very unwell; but
otherwise unchanged from its former condition and aspect.
Its blocks of frame-houses were still grouped in the same
old flat plain, and environed by the same old forests. It was
as tranquil as formerly, and apparently had neither grown
nor diminished in size. It was said that the recent high
water had invaded it and damaged its looks. This was sur
prising news ; for in low water the river bank is very high
there (fifty feet), and in my day an overflow had always
been considered an impossibility. This present flood of 1882
will doubtless be celebrated in the river’s history for several
generations before a deluge of like magnitude shall be seen.
It put all the unprotected low lands under water, from Cairo
to the mouth ; it broke down the levees in a great many
places, on both sides of the river; and in some regions
south, when the flood was at its highest, the Mississippi was

seventy miles wide! a number of lives were lost, and the
destruction of property was fearful. The crops were
destroyed, houses washed away, and shelterless men and
cattle forced to take refuge on scattering elevations here and
there in field and forest, and wait in peril and suffering until
the boats put in commission by the national and local gov
ernments and by newspaper enterprise could come and res
cue them. The properties of multitudes of people were
under water for months, and the poorer ones must have
starved by the hundred if succor had not been promptly
afforded. 1 The water had been falling during a considerable
time now, yet as a rule we found the banks still under
1 For a detailed and interesting description of the great flood, written on
board of the New Orleans “ Times-Democrat’s ” relief-boat, see Appendix A.

W E met two steamboats at New Madrid. Two steam
boats in sight at once! an infrequent spectacle
now in the lonesome Mississippi. The loneliness of this
solemn, stupendous flood is impressive — and depressing.
League after league, and still league after league, it pours its
chocolate tide along, between its solid forest walls, its almost
untenanted shores, with seldom a sail or a moving object of
any kind to disturb the surface and break the monotony of
the blank, watery solitude; and so the day goes, the night
comes, and again the day — and still the same, night after
night and day after day, — majestic, unchanging sameness of
serenity, repose, tranquillity, lethargy, vacancy, — symbol of
eternity, realization of the heaven pictured by priest and
prophet, and longed for by the good and thoughtless !
Immediately after the war of 1812, tourists began to come
to America, from England; scattering ones at first, then a
sort of procession of them — a procession which kept up its
plodding, patient march through the land during many,
many years. Each tourist took notes, and went home and
published a book — a book which was usually calm, truthful,
reasonable, kind; but which seemed just the reverse to our
tender-footed progenitors. A glance at these tourist-books
shows us that in certain of its aspects the Mississippi has
undergone no change since those strangers visited it, but
remains to-day about as it was then. The emotions produced
in those foreign breasts by these aspects were not all formed

on one pattern, of course; they had to be various, along at
first, because the earlier tourists were obliged to originate
their emotions, whereas in older countries one can always
borrow emotions from one’s predecessors. And, mind you,
emotions are among the toughest things in the world to
manufacture out of whole cloth ; it is easier to manufacture
seven facts than one emotion. Captain Basil Hall, R. N.,
writing fifty-five years ago, says: —
“ Here I caught the first glimpse of the object I had so long
wished to behold, and felt myself amply repaid at that moment for
all the trouble I had experienced in coming so far ; and stood look
ing at the river flowing past till it was too dark to distinguish any
thing. But it was not till I had visited the
same spot a dozen times, that I
came to a right comprehension of ^ 'v'
the grandeur of the scene.”
“a dismal witness.”
Following are Mrs. Trollope’s emotions. She is writing a
few months later in the same year, 1827, and is coming in
at the mouth of the Mississippi: —
“ The first indication of our approach to land was the appearance
of this mighty river pouring forth its muddy mass of waters, and
mingling with the deep blue of the Mexican Gulf. I never beheld
a scene so utterly desolate as this entrance of the Mississippi. Had
Dante seen it, he might have drawn images of another Bolgia from

its horrors. One only object rears itself above the eddying waters;
this is the mast of a vessel long since wrecked in attempting to cross
the bar, and it still stands, a dismal witness of the destruction that
has been, and a boding prophet of that which is to come.”
Emotions of' Hon. Charles Augustus Murray (near St.
Louis), seven years later: —
“It is only when you ascend the mighty current for fifty or a
hundred miles, and use the eye of imagination as well as that of
nature, that you begin to understand all his .might and majesty.
You see him fertilizing a boundless valley, bearing along in his
course the trophies of .his thousand victories over the shattered for
est — here carrying away large masses of soil with all their growth,
and there forming islands, destined at some future period to be the
residence of man; and while indulging in this prospect, it is then
time for reflection to suggest that the current before you has flowed
through two or three thousand miles, and has yet to travel one
thousand three hundred more before reaching its ocean destination.”
Receive, now, the emotions of Captain Marryat, R. N.
author of the sea tales, writing in 1837, three years after Mr.
Murray: —
“ Never, perhaps, in the records of nations, was there an instance
of a century of such unvarying and unmitigated crime as is to be
collected from tlm history of the turbulent and blood-stained Missis
sippi. The stream itself appears as if appropriate for the deeds
which have been committed. It is not like most rivers, beautiful to
the sight, bestowing fertility in its course; not one that the eye
loves to dwell upon as it sweeps along, nor can you wander upon its
bank, or trust yourself without danger to its stream. It is a furi
ous, rapid, desolating torrent, loaded with alluvial soil; and few of
those who are received into its waters ever rise again, 1 or can sup
port themselves long upon its surface without assistance from some
friendly log. It contains the coarsest and most uneatable of fish,
such as the cat-fish and such genus, and as you descend, its banks
■ 1 There was a foolish superstition of some little prevalence in that day,
that the Mississippi would neither buoy up a swimmer, nor permit a drowned
person’s body to rise to the surface.

are occupied with the fetid alligator, while the panther basks at its
edge in the cane-brakes, almost impervious to man. Pouring its
impetuous waters through wild tracks covered with trees of little
value except for firewood, it sweeps down whole forests in its
course, which disappear in tumultuous confusion, whirled away by
the stream now loaded with the masses of soil which nourished their
roots, often blocking up and changing for a time the channel of the
river, which, as if in anger at its being opposed, inundates and dev
astates the whole country round; and as soon as it forces its way
through its former channel, plants in every direction the uprooted
monarchs of the forest (upon whose branches the bird will never
again perch, or the raccoon, the opossum, or the squirrel climb) as
traps to the adventurous navigators of its waters by steam, who,
borne down upon these concealed dangers which pierce through the
planks, very often have not time to steer for and gain the shore
before they sink to the bottom. There are no pleasing associations
connected with the great common sewer of the Western America,
which pours out its mud into the Mexican Gulf, polluting the
clear blue sea for many miles beyond its mouth. It is a river of
desolation; and instead of reminding you, like other beautiful rivers,
of an angel which has descended for the benefit of man, you imagine
it a devil, whose energies have been only overcome by the wonder
ful power of steam.”
It is pretty crude literature for a man accustomed to
handling a pen; still, as a panorama of the emotions sent
weltering through this noted visitor’s breast by the aspect
and traditions of the “ great common sewer,” it has a value.
A value, though marred in the matter of statistics by inac
curacies ; for the catfish is a plenty good enough fish for
anybody, and there are no panthers that are “ impervious to
Later still comes Alexander Mackay, of the Middle Temple,
Barrister at Law, with a better digestion, and no catfish dinner
aboard, and feels as follows : —
“ The Mississippi! It was with indescribable emotions that I first
felt myself afloat upon its waters. How often in my school-boy
dreams, and in my waking visions afterwards, had my imagination

pictured to itself the lordly stream, rolling with tumultuous current
through the boundless region to which it has given its name, and
gathering into itself, in its course to the ocean, the tributary waters
of almost every latitude in the temperate zone! .Here it was then
in its reality, and I, at length, steaming against its tide. I looked
upon it with that reverence with which every one must regard a
great feature of external nature.”
So much for the emotions. The tourists, one and all,
remark upon the deep, brooding loneliness and desolation
of the vast river. Captain Basil Hall, who saw it at flood-
stage, says: —
“ Sometimes we passed along distances of twenty or thirty miles
without seeing a single habitation. An artist, in search of hints
for a painting of the deluge, would here have found them in abun
The first shall be last, etc. Just two hundred years ago,
the old original first and gallantest of all the foreign tourists,
pioneer, head of the procession, ended his weary and tedious
discovery-voyage down the solemn stretches of the great river
— La Salle, whose name will last as long as the river itself
shall last. We quote from Mr. Parkman : —
“And now, they neared their : journey’s end. On the sixth of
April, the river divided itself into three broad channels. La Salle
followed that of the west, and D’Autray that of the east; while
Tonty took the middle passage. As he drifted down the turbid
current, between the low and marshy shores, the brackish water
changed to brine, and the breeze grew fresh with the salt breath
of the sea. Then the broad bosom of the great Gulf opened on his
sight, tossing its restless billows, limitless, voiceless, lonely as when
born of chaos, without a sail, without a sign of life.”
Then, on a spot of solid ground, La Salle reared a column
“ bearing the arms of Prance ; the Frenchmen were mustered
under arms; and while the New England Indians and their
squaws looked on in wondering silence, they chanted the Te
Deum, the JExaudictt, and the Domine salvumfac regem”

Then, whilst the musketry volleyed and rejoicing shouts
burst forth, the victorious discoverer planted the column, and
made proclamation in a loud voice, taking formal possession
of the river and the vast countries watered by it, in the name
of the King. The column bore this inscription : —
New Orleans intended to fittingly celebrate, this present
year, the bicentennial anniversary of this illustrious event;
but when the time came, all her energies and surplus money
were required in other directions, for the flood was upon the
land then, making havoc and devastation everywhere.

A LL day we swung along down the river, and had the
stream almost wholly to ourselves. Formerly, at such
a stage of the water, we should have passed acres of lumber
rafts, and dozens of big coal barges; also occasional little
trading-scows, peddling along from farm to farm, with the
pedler’s family on board; possibly, a random scow, bearing
a humble Hamlet and Co. on an itinerant dramatic trip.
But these were all absent. Far along in the day, we saw
one steamboat; just one, and no more. She was lying
at rest in the shade, within the wooded mouth of the Obion

River. The spy-glass revealed the fact that she was named
for me — or he was named for me, whichever you prefer.
As this was the first time I had ever encountered this species
of honor, it seems excusable to mention it, and at the same
time call the attention of the authorities to the tardiness of
my recognition of it.
Noted a big change in the river, at Island 21. It was a
very large island, and used to lie out toward mid-stream;
but it is joined fast to the main shore now, and has retired
from business as an island.
As we approached famous and formidable Plum Point,
darkness fell, but that was nothing to shudder about — in
these modern times. For now the
national government has turned the
Mississippi into a sort of two-thous
and-mile torch-liglit procession. In
the head of every crossing, and in
the foot of every crossing, the gov
ernment has set up a clear-burning
lamp. You are never entirely in
the dark, now; there is always a
beacon in sight, either before you,
or behind you, or abreast. One
might almost say that lamps have
been squandered there. Dozens of
crossings are lighted which were
not shoal when they were created,
and have never been shoal since; a government lamp.
crossings so plain, too, and also
so straight, that a steamboat can take herself through them
without any help, after she has been through once. Lamps
in such places are of course not wasted ; it is much more
convenient and comfortable for a pilot to hold on them than
on a spread of formless blackness that won’t stay still; and
money is saved to the boat, at the same time, for she can
of course make more miles with her rudder amidships than

she can with it squared across her stern and holding her
But this thing has knocked the romance out of piloting,
to a large extent. It and some other things together, have
knocked all the romance out of it. For instance, the peril
from snags is not now what it once was. The government’s
snag-boats go patrolling up and down, in these matter-of-fact
days, pulling the river’s teeth; they have rooted out all the
old clusters which made many localities so formidable; and
they allow 110 new ones to collect. Formerly, if your boat
got away from you, on a black night, and broke for the
woods, it was an anxious time with you; so was it also,
when you were groping your way through solidified dark
ness in a narrow chute ; but all that is changed now,—you
flash out your electric light, transform night into day in the
twinkling of an eye, and your perils and anxieties are at an
end. Horace Bixby and George Ritchie have charted the
crossings and laid out the courses by compass; they have
invented a lamp to go with the chart, and have patented the
whole. With these helps, one may run in the fog now, with
considerable security, and with a confidence unknown in the
old days.
With these abundant beacons, the banishment of snags,
plenty of daylight in a box and ready to be turned on when-

ever needed, and a chart and compass to fight the fog with,
piloting, at a good stage of water, is now nearly as safe and
simple as driving stage, and is hardly more than three times
as romantic.
And now in these new days, these days of infinite change,
the Anchor Line have raised the captain above the pilot by
giving him the bigger wages of the two. This was going
far, but they have not stopped there. They have decreed
that the pilot shall remain at his post, and stand his watch
clear through, whether the boat be under way or tied up
to the shore. We, that were once the aristocrats of the
river, can’t go to bed now, as we used to do, and sleep while
a hundred tons of freight are lugged aboard ; no, we must
sit in the pilot-house ; and keep awake, too. Verily we are
being treated like a parcel of mates and engineers. The
Government has taken away the romance of our calling ; the
Company has taken away its state and dignity.
Plum Point looked as it had always looked by night, witli
the exception that now there were beacons to mark the cross
ings, and also a lot of other lights 011 the Point and along
its shore; these latter glinting from the fleet of the United
States River Commission, and from a village which the offi
cials have built on the land for offices and for the employes
of the service. The military engineers of the Commission

have taken upon their shoulders the job of making the Mis
sissippi over again, — a job transcended in size by only the
original job of creating it. They are building wing-dams
here and there, to deflect the current; and dikes to confine
it in narrower bounds; and other dikes to make it stay
there ; and for unnumbered miles along the Mississippi, they
are. felling the timber-front for fifty yards back, with the pur
pose of shaving the bank down to low-water mark with the
slant of a house-roof, and ballasting it with stones ; and in
many places they have protected the wasting shores with
rows of piles. One who knows the Mississippi will promptly
aver — not aloud, but to himself — that ten thousand River
Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot
tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, can
not say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot
save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path
with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over,
and laugh at. But a discreet man will not put these things
into spoken words; for the West Point engineers have‘not
their superiors anywhere ; they know all that can be known
of their abstruse science; and so, since they conceive that
they can fetter and handcuff that river and boss him, it is
but wisdom for the unscientific man to keep still, lie low, and
wait till they do it. Captain Eads, with his jetties, has done
a work at the mouth of the Mississippi which seemed clearly
impossible ; so we do not feel full confidence now to prophesy
against like impossibilities. Otherwise one would pipe out
and say the Commission might as well bully the comets in
their courses and undertake to make them behave, as try to
bully the Mississippi into right and reasonable conduct.
I consulted Uncle Mumford concerning this and cognate
matters; and I give here the result, stenograpliically
reported, and therefore to be relied on as being full and cor
rect; except that I have here and there left out remarks'
which were addressed to the men, such as “ ivhere in blazes
are you going with that barrel now ? ” and which seemed to

me to break the flow of the written statement, without com
pensating by adding to its information or its clearness. Not
that I have ventured to strike out all such interjections; I
have removed only those which were obviously irrelevant;
wherever one occurred which I felt any question about, I
have judged it safest to let it remain.
Uncle Mumford said : —
“As long as I have been mate of a steamboat, — thirty
years — I have watched this river and studied it. Maybe I
could have learnt more about it at West Point, but if I
believe it I wish I may beWHAT are you sucking your fingers
there for? — Collar that hag of nails ! Pour years at West
Point, and plenty of books and schooling, will learn a man a
good deal, I reckon, but it won’t learn him the river. You turn
one of those little European rivers over to this Commission,
with its hard bottom and clear water, and it would just be a
holiday job for them to wall it, and pile it, and dike it, and
tame it down, and boss it around, and make it go wherever
they wanted it to, and stay where they put it, and do just as
they said, every time. But this ain’t that kind of a river.
They have started in here with big confidence, and the best
intentions in the world ; but they are going to get left. What
does Ecclesiastes vii. 13 say ? Says enough to knock their
little game galley-west, don’t it? Now you look at their
methods once. There at Devil’s Island, in the Upper River,
they wanted the water to go one way, the water wanted to go
another. So they put up a stone wall. But what does the
river care fora stone wall? When it got ready, it just
bulged through it. Maybe they can build another that will
stay; that is, up there — but not down here they can’t.
Down here in the Lower River, they drive some pegs to turn
the water away from the shore and stop it from slicing off
the bank; very well, don’t it go straight over and cut some-.

body else’s bank ? Certainly. Are they going to peg all the
banks ? Why, they could buy ground and build a new Mis
sissippi, cheaper. They are pegging Bulletin Tow-head now.
It won’t do any good. If the river has got a mortgage on
that island, it will foreclose, sure, pegs or no pegs. Away
down yonder, they have driven two rows of piles straight
through the middle of a dry bar half a mile long, which is
forty foot out of the water when the river is low. What do
you reckon that is for ? If I know, I wish I may land in-
HUMP yourself , you son of an undertaker ! — out with that
coal-oil, now, lively, lively ! And just look at what they are
trying to do down there at Milliken’s Bend. There’s been a
cut-off in that section, and Vicksburg is left out in the cold.
It’s a country town now. The river strikes in below it; and
a boat can’t go up to the town except in high water. Well,
they are going to build wing-dams in the bend opposite the
foot of 103, and throw the water over and cut off the foot
of the island and plow down into an old ditch where the
river used to be in ancient times; and they think they can
persuade the water around that way, and get it to strike in
above Vicksburg, as it used to do, and fetch the town back
into the world again. That is, they are going .to take this
whole Mississippi, and twist it around and make it run sev
eral miles up stream. Well, you’ve got to admire men that
deal in ideas of that size and can tote them around without
crutches; but you have n’t got to believe they can do such
miracles, have you ? And yet you ain’t absolutely obliged to
believe they can’t. I reckon the safe way, where a man can
afford it, is to copper the operation, and at the same time
buy enough, property in Vicksburg to square you up in case
they win. Government is doing a deal for the Mississippi,
now — spending loads of money on her. When there used
to be four thousand steamboats and ten'thousand acres of
coal-barges, and rafts and trading scows, there was n’t a lan
tern from St. Paul to New Orleans, and the snags were thicker
than bristles on a hog’s back ; and now when there’s three


dozen steamboats and nary barge or raft, Government has
snatched out all the snags, and lit up the shores like Broad
way, and a boat’s as safe on the river as she ’d be in heaven.
And I reckon that by the time there ain’t any boats left at all,
the Commission will have the old thing all reorganized, and
dredged out, and fenced in, and tidied up, to a degree that
will make navigation just simply perfect, and absolutely
safe and profitable; and all the days will be Sundays, and all
the mates will be Sunday-school suWliAJY-in-the-nation-you-
fooling-around-there-for, you sons of unrighteousness, heirs of
perdition ! Going to be a year getting that hogshead ashore f ”
During our trip to New Orleans and back, we had many
conversations with river men, planters, journalists, and offi
cers of the River Commission — with conflicting and confus
ing results. To wit: —
1. Some believed in the Commission’s scheme to arbitrarily
and permanently confine (and thus deepen) the channel,
preserve threatened shores, etc.
- 2. Some believed that the Commission’s money ought to
be spent only on building and repairing the great system of
3. Some believed that the higher you build your levee,
the higher the river’s bottom will rise; and that conse
quently the levee system is a mistake.
4. Some believed in the scheme to relieve the river, in
flood-time, by turning its surplus waters off into Lake
Borgne, etc.
5. Some believed in the scheme of northern lake-reservoirs
to replenish the Mississippi in low-water seasons.
Wherever you find a man down there who believes in one
of these theories you may turn to the next man and frame
your talk upon the hypothesis that he doesnot believe in that
theory; and after you have had experience, you do not take
this course doubtfully, or hesitatingly, but with the confi
dence of a dying murderer — converted one, I mean. For you

will have come to know, with a deep and restful certaintv,
that you are not going to meet two people sick of the same
theory, one right after the other. No, there will always be
one or two with the other diseases along between. And as
you proceed, you will find out one or two other things. You
will find out that there is no distemper of the lot but is con
tagious ; and you cannot go where it is without catching it.
You may vaccinate yourself with deterrent facts as much as

yon please — it will do no good ; it will seem to “ take,” but
it does n’t; the moment you rub against any one of those
theorists, make up your mind that it is time to hang out
your yellow flag.
Yes, you are his sure victim: yet his work is not all to
your hurt — only part of it; for he is like your family phy
sician, who comes and cures the mumps, and leaves the
scarlet-fever behind. If your man is a Lake-Borgne-relief
theorist, for instance, he will exhale a cloud of deadly facts
and statistics which will lay you out with that disease, sure ;
but at the same time he will cure you of any other of the
five theories that may have previously got into your system.
I have had all the five; and had them “ bad; ” but ask
me not, in mournful numbers, which one racked me hardest,
or which one numbered the biggest sick list, for I do not
know. In truth, no one can answer the latter question.
Mississippi Improvement is a mighty topic, down yonder.
Every man on the river banks, south of Cairo, talks about it
every day, during such moments as he is able to spare from
talking about the war; and each of the several chief theories
has, its host of zealous partisans; but, as I have said, it is not
possible to determine which cause numbers the most recruits.
All were agreed upon one point, however: if Congress
would make a sufficient appropriation, a colossal benefit
would result. Yery well; since then the appropriation has
been made — possibly a sufficient one, certainly not too large
a one. Let us hope that the prophecy will be amply ful
One thing:will be easily granted by the reader; that an
opinion from Mr. Edward Atkinson, upon any vast national
commercial matter, comes as near ranking as authority, as
can the opinion of any individual in the Union. What he
has to say about Mississippi River Improvement will be
found in the Appendix. 1
1 See Appendix B.

Sometimes, half a dozen figures will reveal, as with a light
ning-flash, the importance of a subject which ten thousand
labored words, with the same purpose in view, had left at
last but dim and uncertain. Here is a case of the sort —
paragraph from the “ Cincinnati Commercial: ” —
“ The towboat ‘ Jos. B. Williams ’ is on her way to New Orleans
with a tow of thirty-two barges, containing six hundred thousand
bushels (seventy-six pounds to the bushel) of coal exclusive of her
own fuel, being the largest tow ever taken to New Orleans or any
where else in the world. Her freight bill, at 3 cents a bushel,
amounts to $18,000. It would take eighteen hundred cars, of three
hundred and thirty-three bushels to the car, to transport this amount
of coal. At $10 per ton, or $100 per car, which would be a fair
price for the distance by rail, the freight bill would amount to
$180,000, or $162,000 more by rail than by river. The tow will
be taken from Pittsburg to New Orleans in fourteen or fifteen days.
It would take one hundred trains of eighteen cars to the train to
trans{>ort this one tow of six hundred thousand bushels of coal, and
even if it made the usual speed of fast freight lines, it would take
one whole summer to put it through by rail.”
When a river in good condition can enable one to save
$162,000 and a whole summer’s time, on a single cargo, the
wisdom of taking measures to keep the river in good condi
tion is made plain to even the uncommercial mind.

E passed through the Plum Point region, turned Craig
head’s Point, and glided unchallenged by what was
once the formidable Fort Pillow, memorable because of the
massacre perpetrated there during the war. Massacres are
sprinkled with some frequency through the histories of sev
eral Christian nations, but this is almost the only one that
can he found in American history; perhaps it is the only one
which rises to a size correspondent to that huge and sombre
title. We have the “ Boston Massacre,” where two or three
people were killed; but we must bunch Anglo-Saxon history
together to find the fellow to the Fort Pillow tragedy; and
doubtless even then we must travel back to the days and the
performances of Coeur de Lion, that fine “ hero,” before we
accomplish it.
More of the river’s freaks. In times past, the channel
used to strike above Island 37, by Brandywine Bar, and
down towards Island 39. Afterward, changed its course
and went from Brandywine down through Yogelman’s chute
in the Devil’s Elbow, to Island 39 — part of this course
reversing the old order; the river running up four or five
miles, instead of down, and cutting off, throughout, some
fifteen miles of distance. This in 1876. All that region
is now called Centennial Island.
There is a tradition that Island 37 was one of the
principal abiding places of the once celebrated “ Murel’s
Gang.” This was a colossal combination of robbers, horse-
thieves, negro-stealers, and counterfeiters, engaged in busi-

ness along the river some fifty or sixty years ago. While
our journey across the country towards St. Louis was in
progress we had had no end of Jesse James and his stirring
history; for he had just been assassinated by an agent of
ness and shamelessness ; and very much his superior in some
larger aspects. James was a retail rascal; Murel, whole
sale. James’s modest genius dreamed of no loftier flight
than the planning of raids upon cars, coaches, and country
banks ; Murel projected negro insurrections and the capture
of New Orleans; and furthermore, on occasion, this Murel
could go into a pulpit and edify the congregation. What
are James and his half-dozen vulgar rascals compared
with this stately old-time criminal, with his sermons, his
meditated insurrections and city-captures, and his ma
jestic following of ten hundred men, sworn to do his evil
the Governor of Mis
souri, and was in con
sequence occupying a
good deal of space in
the newspapers.
Cheap histories of
him were for sale by
train boys. Accord
ing to these, he was
the most marvellous
creature of his kind
that had ever existed.
It was a mistake.
Murel was his equal
in boldness; in pluck;
in rapacity ; in cruel
ty, brutality, heart
lessness, treachery,
and in general and
comprehensive vile-

Here is a paragraph 01* two concerning this big operator,
from a now forgotten book which was published half a cen
tury .ago : —
He appears to have been a most dexterous as well as consummate
villain. When he travelled, his usual disguise was that of an itiner-
ant preacher: and it is said that his discourses were very “ soul-
moving ” — interesting the hearers so much that they forgot to look
after their horses, which were carried awav bv his confederates while

he was preaching. But the stealing of horses in one State, and selling
them in another, was but a small portion of their business; the most
lucrative was the enticing slaves to run away from their masters,
that they might sell them in another quarter. This was arranged
as follows ; they would tell a negro that if he would run away from
his master, and allow them to sell him, he should receive a portion
of the money paid for him, and that upon his return to them a
second time they would send him to a free State, where he would
be safe. The poor wretches complied with this request, hoping to
obtain money and free
dom ; they would be
sold to another master,
and run away again to
their employers; some
times they would be
sold in this manner
three or four times, un
til they had realized
three or four thousand
dollars by them ; but as,
after this, there was
fear of detection, the
usual custom was to get
rid of the only witness
that could be produced
against them, which was
the negro himself, by
murdering him, and
throwing his body into
the Mississippi. Even
if it was established that
they had stolen a negro,
before he was murdered,
they were always prepared to evade punishment; for they con
cealed the negro who had run away, until he was advertised,
and a reward offered to any man who would catch him. An adver
tisement of this kind warrants the person to take the property, if
found. And then the negro becomes a property in trust, when,

therefore, they sold the negro, it only became a breach of trust,
not stealing; and for a breach of trust, the owner of the property
can only have redress by a civil action, which was useless, as the
damages were never paid. It may be inquired, how it was that
Murel escaped Lynch law under such circumstances ? This will be
easily understood when it is stated that he had more than a thou
sand sworn confederates, all ready at a moment’s notice to support
any of the gang who might be in trouble. The names of all the
principal confederates of Murel were obtained from himself, in a
manner which I shall presently explain. The gang was composed
of two classes: the Heads or Council, as they were called, who
planned and concerted, but seldom acted; they amounted to about
four hundred. The other class were the active agents, and were
termed strikers, and amounted to about six hundred and fifty.
These were the tools in the hands of the others; they ran all the
risk, and received but a small portion of the money; they were in
the power of the leaders of the gang, who would sacrifice them at
any time by handing them over to justice, or sinking their bodies in
the Mississippi. The general rendezvous of this gang of miscreants
was on the Arkansas side of the river, where they concealed their
negroes in the morasses and cane-brakes.
The depredations of this extensive combination were severely
felt; but so well were their plans arranged, that although Murel,
who was always active, was everywhere suspected, there was no
proof to be obtained. It so happened, however, that a young man
of the name of Stewart, who was looking after two slaves which
Murel had decoyed away, fell in with him and obtained his confi
dence, took the oath, and was admitted into the gang as one of
the General Council. By this means all was discovered ; for Stew
art turned traitor, although he had taken the oath, and having
obtained every information, exposed the whole concern, the names
of all the parties, and finally succeeded in bringing home sufficient
evidence against Murel, to procure his conviction and sentence to
the Penitentiary (Murel was sentenced to fourteen years’ imprison
ment) ; so many people who were supposed to be honest, and bore a
respectable name in the different States, were found to be among the
list of the Grand Council as published by Stewart, that every attempt
was made to throw discredit upon his assertions — his character

was vilified, and more than one attempt was made to assassinate
him. He was obliged to quit the Southern States in consequence. It
is, however, now well ascertained to have been all true; and although
some blame Mr. Stewart for having violated his oath, they no longer
attempt to deny that his revelations were correct. I will quote
one or two portions of Murel’s confessions to Mr. Stewart, made
to him when they were journeying together. I ought to have
observed, that the ul
timate intentions of
Murel and his asso
ciates were, by his
own account, on a
very extended scale;
having no less an ob
ject in view than
raising the blacks
against the whites,
taking possession of,
and plundering New
Orleans, and making
themselves possessors
of the territory. The
following are a few
extracts: —
“I collected all
my f r ie n d s about
New Orleans at one
of our friends’ hous
es in that place, and
we sat in council
three days before we
got all our plans to our notion; we then determined to undertake
the rebellion at every hazard, and make as many friends as we could
for that purpose. Every man’s business being assigned him, I
started to Natchez on foot, having sold my horse in New Orleans,
—with the intention of stealing another after I started. I walked
four days, and no opportunity offered for me to get a horse. The
fifth day, about twelve, I had become tired, and stopped at a creek

to get some water and rest a little. While I was sitting on a log,
looking down the road the way that I had come, a man came in
sight riding on a good-looking horse. The very moment I saw him,
I was determined to
have his horse, if he
was in the garb of
a traveller. He
rode up, and I saw
from his equipage
that he was a trav-
eller. I arose and drew an elegant rifle pistol on him and ordered
him to dismount. He did so, and I took his horse by the bridle
and pointed down the creek, and ordered him to walk before me.
He went a few hundred yards and stopped. I hitched his horse,
and then made him undress himself, all to his shirt and drawers,

and ordered him to turn his back to me. He said, ‘ If you are deter
mined to kill me, let me have time to pray before I die.’ I told
him I had no time to hear him pray. He turned around and
dropped on his knees, and I shot him through the back of the
head. I ripped open his belly and took out his entrails, and sunk
him in the creek. I then searched his pockets, and found four hun
dred dollars and thirty seven cents, and a number of papers that
I did not take time to examine. I sunk the pocket-book and
papers and his hat, in the creek. His boots were bran-new, and
fitted me genteelly; and I put them on and sunk my old shoes in the
creek, to atone for them. I rolled up his clothes and put them
into his portmanteau, as they were bran-new cloth of the best
quality. I mounted as line a horse as ever I straddled, and
directed my course for Natchez in much better style than I had
been for the last live days.
“ Myself and a fellow by the name of Crenshaw gathered four
good horses and started for Georgia. We got in company with a
young South Carolinian just before we got to Cumberland Moun
tain, and Crenshaw soon knew all about his business. He had been
to Tennessee to buy a drove of hogs, but when he got there pork
was dearer than he calculated, and he declined purchasing. We
concluded he was a prize. Crenshaw winked at me ; I understood
his idea. Crenshaw had travelled the road before, but I never had;
we had travelled several miles on the mountain, when lie passed near
a great precipice ; just before we passed it Crenshaw asked me for
my whip, which had a pound of lead in the butt; I handed it to him,
and he rode up by the side of the South Carolinian, and gave him a
blow on the side of the head and tumbled him from his horse ; we
lit from our horses and lingered his pockets ; we got twelve hundred
and sixty-two dollars. Crenshaw said he knew a place to hide him,
and he gathered him under his arms, and I by his feet, and con
veyed him to a deep crevice in the brow of the precipice, and
tumbled him into it, and he went out of sight; we then tumbled
in his saddle, and took his horse with us, which was worth two hun
dred dollars.
“ We were detained a few days, and during that time our friend
went to a little village in the neighborhood and saw the negro
advertised (a negro in our possession), and a description of the

two men of whom he had been purchased, and giving his sus
picions of the men. It was rather squally times, but any port in
a storm: we took
the negro that night
on the bank of
a creek which runs
by the farm of
our friend, and
Crenshaw shot him
through the head. We took out his entrails and sunk him in the
“ He had sold the other negro the third time on Arkansaw River
for upwards of five hundred dollars ; and then stole him and deliv-

ered him into the hand of his friend, who conducted him to a swamp,
and veiled the tragic scene, and got the last gleanings and sacred
pledge of secrecy; as a game of that kind will not do unless it ends
in a mystery to all but the fraternity. He sold the negro, first and
last, for nearly
two thousand dol
lars, and then
put him forever
out of the reach
of all pursuers ;
and they can
never graze him
unless they can
find the negro;
and that they
cannot do, for his
carcass has fed
many a tortoise
and catfish before
this time, and the
frogs have sung
this many a long
day to the silent
repose of his
We were ap-
Memphis, in
front of which
city, and wit
nessed by its
people, was
“pleasantly situated.” fought the
most famous of
the river battles of the Civil War. Two men whom I had
served under, in my river days, took part in that fight: Mr.
Bixby, head pilot of the Union fleet, and Montgomery, Com-

modore of the Confederate fleet. Both saw a great deal of
active service during the war, and achieved high reputations
for pluck and capacity.
As we neared Memphis, we began to cast about for an
excuse to stay with the “ Gold Dust ” to the end of her
course — Yicksburg. We were so pleasantly situated, that
we did not wish to make a change. I had an errand of
considerable importance to do at Napoleon, Arkansas, but
perhaps I could'manage it without quitting the “Gold Dust.”
I said as much; so we decided to stick to present quarters.
The boat was to tarry at Memphis till ten the next morn
ing. It is a beautiful city, nobly situated on a commanding
bluff overlooking the river. The streets are straight and
spacious, though not payed in a way to incite distempered
admiration. No, the admiration must be reserved for the
town’s sewerage system, which is called perfect; a recent
reform, however, for it was just the other way, up to a few
years ago — a reform resulting from the lesson taught by a
desolating visitation of the yellow-fever. In those awful
days the people were swept off by hundreds, by .thousands;
and so great was the reduction caused by flight and by death
together, that the population was diminished three-fourths,
and so remained for a time. Business stood nearly still, and
the streets bore an empty Sunday aspect.
Here is a picture of Memphis, at.that disastrous time,
drawn by a German tourist who seems to have been an eye
witness of the scenes which he describes. It is from Chapter
VII., of his book, just published, in Leipzig, “ Mississippi-
Eahrten, von Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg —
“In August the yellow-fever had reached its extremes! height.
Daily, hundreds fell a sacrifice to the terrible epidemic. The city
was become a mighty graveyard, two-thirds of the population had
deserted the place, and only the poor, the aged and the sick,
remained behind, a sure prey for the insidious enemy. The houses
were closed: little lamps burned in front of many — a sign that here
death had entered. Often, several lay dead in a single house ;

from the windows hung black crape. The stores were shut up, for
their owners were gone away or dead.
‘•Fearful evil! In the briefest space it struck down and swept
away even the most vigorous victim. A slight indisposition, then
an hour of fever, then the hideous delirium, then — the Yellow
Death! On the street corners, and in the squares, lay sick men,
suddenly overtaken by the disease ; and even corpses, distorted and
rigid. Food failed. Meat spoiled in a few hours in the fetid
and pestiferous air, and turned black.
“ Fearful clamors issue from many houses ; then after a season
they cease, and all is still: noble, self-sacrificing men come with the
coffin, nail it
up, and carry
it away, to
the graveyard. In
Memphis: a landing stage. the night stillness
reigns. Only the
physicians and the hearses hurry through the streets ; and out of
the distance, at intervals, comes the muffled thunder of the railway
train, which with the speed of the wind, and as if hunted by furies,
flies by the pest-ridden city without halting.”

But tliere is life enough there now. The population
exceeds forty thousand and is augmenting, and trade is in a
nourishing condition. - We drove about the city ; visited the
park and the sociable horde of squirrels there; saw the
line residences, rose-clad and in other ways enticing to
the eye; and got a good breakfast at the.hotel.
A thriving place is the Good Samaritan City of the
Mississippi: has a great wholesale jobbing trade ; foundries,
machine shops; and manufactories of wagons, carriages,
and cotton-seed oil; and is shortly to have cotton mills and
Her cotton receipts reached live hundred thousand bales
last year — an increase of sixty thousand over the .year
before. Out from her healthy commercial heart issue five
trunk lines of railway; and a sixth is being added.
This is a very different Memphis from the one which the
vanished and unremembered procession of foreign tourists
used to put into their books long time ago. In the days of
the now forgotten but once renowned and vigorously hated
Mrs. Trollope, Memphis seems to have consisted mainly of
one long street of log-houses, with some outlying cabins
sprinkled around rearward toward the woods; and now and
then a pig, and no- end of mud. That was fifty-five years
ago. She stopped at the hotel. Plainly it was not the one
which gave us our breakfast. She says : —
“ The table was laid for fifty persons, and was nearly full.
They ate in perfect silence, and with such astonishing rapidity that
their dinner was over literally before ours was begun ; the only
sounds heard were those produced by the knives and forks, with the
unceasing chorus of coughing, etc.”
“Coughing, ctcP The “etc.” stands for an unpleasant
word there, a word which she docs not always charitably
cover up, but sometimes prints. You will find it in the
following description of a steamboat dinner which she ate in
company with a lot of aristocratic planters: wealthy, well-

born, ignorant swells they were, tinselled with the usual
harmless military and judicial titles of that old day of cheap
shams and windy pretence : —
“ The total want of all the usual courtesies of the table ; the
voracious rapidity with which the viands were seized and devoured ;
the strange
phrases and
it was
f rom die contamination of
.'" ‘ absolutely impossible to protect our dresses; the
frightful manner of feeding with their knives, till
the whole blade seemed to enter into the mouth ; and the still more
frightful manner of cleaning the teeth afterward with a pocket
knife, soon forced us to feel that we were not surrounded by the
generals, colonels, and majors of the old world; and that the dinner
hour was to be anything rather than an hour of enjoyment.”

I T was a big river,below Memphis; banks brimming full,
everywhere, and very frequently more than full, the
waters pouring out over the land, flooding the woods and
fields for miles into the interior; and in places, to a depth of
fifteen feet; signs, all about, of men’s hard work gone to ruin,
and all to be
done over
again, with
means and a
courage. A
picture, and
a continuous
one; — hun
dreds of miles
of it. Some
times the bea-
con lights
stood in wa
ter three feet deep, in the edge of dense forests which
extended for miles without farm, wood-yard, clearing, or
break of any kind; which meant that the keeper of the
light must come in a skiff a great distance to discharge his
trust, — and often in desperate weather. Yet I was told that
the work is faithfully performed, in all weathers; and not

always by men, sometimes by women, if the man is sick or
absent. The Government furnishes oil, and pays ten or
fifteen dollars a month for the lighting and tending. A
Government boat distributes oil and pays wages once a
The Ship Island region was as woodsy and tenantless as
ever. The island has ceased to be an island; has joined
itself compactly to the main shore, and wagons travel, .now,
where the steamboats used to navigate. No signs left of the
wreck of the “ Pennsylvania.” Some farmer will turn up her
bones with his plow one day, no doubt, and be surprised.
We were getting down now into the migrating negro
region. These poor people could never travel when they
were slaves; so they make up for the privation now. They
stay on a plantation till the desire to travel seizes them; then
they pack up, hail a steamboat, and clear out. Not for any
particular place; no, nearly any place will answer; they only
want to be moving. The amount of money on hand will
answer the rest of the conundrum for them. If it will take
them fifty miles, very well; let it be fifty. If not,a shorter
flight will do.
During a couple of days, we frequently answered these
hails. Sometimes there was a group of liigh-water-stained,
tumble-down cabins, populous with colored folk, and no
whites visible ; with grassless patches of dry ground here and
there; a few felled trees, with skeleton cattle, mules, and
horses, eating the leaves and gnawing the bark — no other
food for them in the flood-wasted land. Sometimes there
was a single lonely landing-cabin ; near it the colored family
that had hailed us ; little and big, old and young, roosting on
the scant pile of household goods ; these consisting of a rusty
gun, some bedticks, chests, tinware, stools, a crippled looking-
glass, a venerable arm-chair, and six or eight base-born and
spiritless yellow curs, attached to the family by strings.
They must have their dogs ; can’t go without their dogs.
Yet the dogs are never willing ; they always object; so, one

after another, in ridiculous procession, they are dragged
aboard ; all four feet braced and sliding along the stage, head
likely to be pulled off; but the tugger marching determinedly
forward, bending to his work, with the rope over his shoulder
for better purchase. Sometimes a child is forgotten and
left on the bank; but never a dog.
The usual river-gossip going on in the pilot-house. Island
No. 63 — an island with a lovely “chute,” or passage,
behind it in the former
times. They said Jesse
Jamieson, in the “ Sky
lark,” had a visiting pilot
with him one trip — a
poor old broken-down, superannuated fellow — left him at
the wheel, at the foot of 63, to run off the watch. The
ancient mariner went up through the chute, and down
the river outside; and up the chute and down the river

again ; and yet again and again; and handed the boat over
to the relieving pilot, at the end of three hours of honest
endeavor, at the same old foot of the island where he had
originally taken the wheel! A darkey on shore who had
observed the boat go by, about thirteen times, said, “ ‘clar to
gracious, I would n’t be s’prised if dey’s a whole line o’ dem
Sk’ylarks! ”
Anecdote illustrative of influence of reputation in the
changing of opinion. The “ Eclipse ” was renowned for her
swiftness. One day she passed along; an old darkey on shore,
absorbed in his
own matters, did
not notice what
steamer it was.
Presently some
one asked : —
“Any boat gone
“ Yes, sah.”
“ Was she go
ing fast ? ”
“ Oh, so-so —
loafin’ along.”
“ Now, do you
know what boat
that was ? ”
“ No, sah.”
“ Why, uncle,
that was the
‘ Eclipse.’ ”
“Mo! Is dat so? Well, I bet it was — cause she jes’
went by here a-sparJclin’!”
Piece of history illustrative of the violent style of some of
the people down along here. During the early weeks of high
water, A’s fence rails washed down on B’s ground, and B’s
rails washed up in the eddy and landed on A’s ground. A said,
“any boat gone up?”

“ Let the thing remain so; I will use your rails, and you
use mine.” But JB objected — wouldn’t have it so. One
day, A came down on B’s ground to get his rails. B said.
‘‘I’ll kill you!” and proceeded for him with his revolver.
A said, “I’m not .armed.” So B, who wished to do only
what was right, threw down his revolver; then pulled a knife,
and cut A’s throat all. around, but gave his principal attention
to the front, and so failed to sever the jugular. Struggling
around, A managed to get his hands on the discarded
revolver, and shot B dead with it—and recovered from his
own injuries.
Further gossip; — after which, everybody went below to
get afternoon coffee, and left me at the wheel, alone. Some
thing presently reminded me - of our last hour in St. Louis,
part 'of which I spent on this boat’s hurricane deck, aft. I
was joiiied there by a stranger, who dropped into conversation
with me — a brisk young fellow, who said he was born in a
town in the interior of Wisconsin, and had never seen a
steamboat until a week before. Also said that on the way
down from La Crosse he had inspected and examined his boat
so diligently and with : such passionate interest that lie had
mastered the whole thing from stem to rudder-blade. Asked
me where I was from. I answered, New England. “ Oh, a
Yank ! ” said he ; and went chatting straight along, without
waiting for assent or denial. He immediately proposed to
take me all over the boat and tell me the names of her
different parts, and teach me their uses. Before I could
enter protest or excuse, he was already rattling glibly away
at his benevolent work; and when I perceived that he was
misnaming the things, and inhospitably amusing himself at
the expense of an innocent stranger from a far country, I
Held my peace, and let him have his way. He gave me a
world of misinformation ; and the further he went, the wider
his imagination expanded, and the more he enjoyed his cruel
work of deceit. Sometimes, after palming off a particularly
fantastic and outrageous lie upon me, he was so “ full of

laugh ” that he had to step aside for a minute, upon one
pretext or another, to keep me from suspecting. I staid
faithfully by him until his comedy was finished. Then he
remarked that he had undertaken to “ learn ” me all about a
steamboat, and had done it; but that if he had overlooked
anything, just ask
him and he would
supply the lack.
“ Anything about
this boat that you
don’t know the
name of or the
purpose of, you
come to me and I ’11
tell you.” I said
I would, and took
my departure; dis
appeared, and ap
proached him from
another quarter,
whence he could
not see me. There
he sat, all alone,
doubling himself
up and writhing
this way and that,
in the throes of un
appeasable laugh
ter. He must have
made himself sick;
publicly visible af
terward for several days. Meantime, the episode dropped
out of my mind.
The thing that reminded me of it now, when I was alone
at the wheel, was the spectacle of this young fellow standing

in the pilot-house door, with the knob in his hand, silently
and severely inspecting me. I don’t know when I have seen
anybody look so injured as he did. He did not say anything.
— simply stood there and looked; reproachfully looked and
pondered. Finally he shut the door, and started away;
halted on the texas a minute; came slowly back and stood
in the door again, with.thatt grieved look in his face; gazed
upon, me a while in. meek rebuke, then said: —
a You let me learn you all about a steamboat, did n't you?”
“ Yes,” I confessed.
“ Yes, you did — did n't you ? ”
“ Yes.”
“ You are the feller that — that — ”
Language failed. Pause — impotent struggle for further
words — then he gave it up, choked out a deep, strong oath,
and departed for good. Afterward I saw him several times
below during the trip; but he was cold — would not look at
me. Idiot, if he had not been in such a sweat to play his
witless practical joke upon me, in the beginning, I would have
persuaded his thoughts into some other direction, and saved
him from committing that wanton and silly impoliteness.
I had myself called with the four o’clock watch, mornings,
for one cannot see too many summer sunrises on the Missis
sippi. They are enchanting. First, there is the eloquence
of silence; for a deep hush broods everywhere. Next, there
is the haunting sense of loneliness, isolation, remoteness
from the worry and bustle of the world. The dawn creeps
in stealthily; the solid walls of black forest soften to gray,
and vast stretches of the river open up and reveal them
selves; the water is glass-smooth, gives off spectral little
wreaths of white mist, there is not the faintest breath of
wind, nor stir of leaf; the tranquillity is profound and infi
nitely satisfying. Then a bird pipes up, another follows,
and soon the pipings develop into a jubilant riot of music.
You see none of the birds; you simply move through an
atmosphere of song which, seems to sing itself. When the

light has become a little stronger, you have one of the fairest
and softest pictures imaginable. You have the intense green
of the massed and crowded foliage near by; you see it paling
shade by shade in front of you; upon the next projecting
cape, a mile off or more, the tint has lightened to the tender
young green of spring; the cape beyond that one has almost
lost color, and the furthest one, miles away under the hori-
and a purple haze where it will yield the best effect, you grant
that you have seen something that is worth remembering.
We had the Kentucky Bend country in the early morning
—scene of a strange and tragic accident in the old times.
Captain Poe had a small stern-wheel boat, for years the home
of himself and his wife. One night the boat struck a snag
in the head of Kentucky Bend, and sank with astonishing
suddenness ; water already well above the cabin floor when
the captain got aft. So he cut into his wife’s stateroom from
above with an axe; she was asleep in the upper berth, the
zon, sleeps upon the
water a mere dim
vapor, and hardly sep
arable from the sky
above it and about it.
And all this stretch of
river is a mirror, and
you have the shadowy
reflections of the leaf
age and the curving
shores and the reced
ing capes pictured in
it. Well, that is all
beautiful; soft and
rich and beautiful; and
when the sun gets well
up, and distributes a
pink flush here and a
powder of gold yonder

t /).).?, 6'J]c'72>-

roof a flimsier one than was supposed; the first blow crashed
down through the rotten boards and clove her skull.
This bend is all filled up now — result of a cut-off; and
the same agent has taken the great and once much-frequented
Walnut Bend, and set it away back in a solitude far from
the accustomed track of passing steamers.
Helena we visited, and also a town I had not-heard of
before, it being of recent birth — Arkansas City. It was
born of a railway; the Little Rock, Mississippi River and
Texas Railroad touches the river there. We asked a pas
senger who belonged there what sort of a place it was.
“ Well,” said he, after considering, and with the air of one
who wishes to take time and be accurate, “ It’s a hell of a
place.” A description which was photographic for exactness.
There were several rows and clusters of shabby frame-houses,
and a supply of mud sufficient to insure the town against a
famine in that article for a hundred years; for the overflow
had but lately subsided. There were stagnant ponds in the
streets, here and there, and a dozen rude scows were scat
tered about, lying aground wherever they happened to have
been when the waters drained offi and people could do
their visiting and shopping on foot once more. Still, it is a
thriving place, with a rich country behind it, an elevator
in front of it, and also a fine big mill for the manufacture of
cotton-seed oil. I had never seen this kind of a mill before.
Cotton-seed was comparatively valueless in my time; but
it is worth $12 or $13 a ton now, and none of it is thrown
away. The oil made from it is colorless, tasteless, and
almost if not entirety odorless. It is claimed that it can,
by proper manipulation, be made to resemble and perform
the office of any and all oils, and be produced at a cheaper
rate than the cheapest of the originals. Sagacious people
shipped it to Italy, doctored it, labelled it, and brought it
back as olive oil. This trade grew to be so formidable that
Italy was obliged to put a prohibitory impost upon it to keep
it from working serious injury to her oil industry.

Helena occupies one of the prettiest situations on the
Mississippi. ' Her perch is the last, the southernmost group
of hills which one sees on that side of the river. In its
normal condition it is a pretty town; but the flood (or
possibly the seepage) had lately been ravaging it; whole,
streets of houses had been invaded by the muddy water, and
the outsides of the buildings were still belted with a broad
stain extending upwards from the foundations. Stranded
and discarded scows lay all about; plank sidewalks on stilts
four feet high were still standing; the board sidewalks on
the ground level were loose and ruinous,— a couple of men'
trotting along them could make a blind man think a cavalry
charge was coming; everywhere the mud was "black and
deep, and in many places malarious pools of stagnant water
were standing. A Mississippi inundation is the next most
wasting and desolating infliction to a fire.
We had an enjoyable time here, on this sunny Sunday :
two full hours’ liberty ashore while the boat discharged
freight. In the back streets but few 'white, people were
visible, but there v r ere plenty of colored folk—mainly women
and girls ; and almost without exception upholstered in bright
new clothes of swell and elaborate style and cut — a glaring’
and hilarious contrast to the mournful mud and the pensive
Helena is the second town in Arkansas, in point of popu
lation — which is placed at five thousand. The country about
it is exceptionally productive. Helena lias a good cotton
trade; handles from forty to sixty thousand bales annually;
she has a large lumber and grain commerce ; has a foundry,
oil mills, machine shops and wagon factories — in brief has
$1,000,000 invested in. manufacturing industries. She has
two' railways, and is the commercial centre of a broad and
prosperous region. Her gross receipts of money, annually,
from all sources, are placed by the New Orleans “ Times-
Democrat” at $4,000,000.

E were approaching Napoleon, Arkansas. So I began
to think about my errand there. Time, noonday ;
and bright and sunny. This was bad — not best, anyway ;
for mine was not (preferably) a noonday kind of errand.
The more I thought, the more that fact pushed itself upon
me — now in one form, now in another. Finally, it took the
form of a distinct question : is it good common sense to do
the errand in daytime, when, by a little sacrifice of comfort
and inclination, you can have night for it, and no inquisitive
eyes around ? This settled it. Plain question and plain
answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.
I got my friends into my stateroom, and said I was sorry
to create annoyance and disappointment, but that upon
reflection it really seemed best that we put our luggage ashore

and stop over at Napoleon. Their disapproval was prompt
and loud; their language mutinous. Their main argument
was one which has always been the first to come to the
surface, in such cases, since the beginning of time: “But
you decided and agreed to stick to this boat, etc.; ” as if,
having determined to do an unwise thing, one is thereby
bound to go ahead' and make two unwise things of it, by
carrying out that determination.
I tried various mollifying tactics upon them, with reason
ably good success : under which encouragement, I increased
my efforts; and, to show them that/had not created this
annoying errand, and was in no way to blame for it, I
presently drifted into its history — substantially as follows :
Toward the end of last year, I spent a few months in
Munich, Bavaria. In November I was living in Fraulein
Dahlweiner’s pension, la, Karlstrasse; but my working
quarters were a mile from there, in the house of a widow
who supported herself by taking lodgers. She and her two
young children used to drop in every morning and talk
German to me — by request. One day, during a ramble
about the city, I visited one of the two establishments where
the Government keeps and watches corpses until the doctors
decide that they are permanently dead, and not in a trance
state. It was a grisly place, that spacious room. There
were thirty-six corpses of adults in sight, stretched on their
backs on slightly slanted boards, in three long rows — all
of them with wax-white, rigid faces, and all of them wrapped
in white shrouds. Along the sides of the room were deep
alcoves, like bay windows ; and in each of these lay several
marble-visaged babes, utterly hidden and buried under banks
of fresh flowers, all but their faces and crossed hands.
Around a finger of each of these fifty still forms, both
great and small, was a ring; and from the ring a wire
led to the ceiling, and thence to a bell in a watch-room
yonder, where, day and night, a watchman sits always alert
and ready to spring to the aid of any of that pallid company

who, waking out of death, shall make a movement — for any
even- the slightest movement will twitch the wire and ring
that fearful bell. I imagined myself a deatli-sentinel
drowsing there alone, far in the dragging watches of some
wailing, gusty night, and having in a twinkling all my body
stricken to quivering jelly by the sudden clamor of that
awful summons! So I inquired about this thing; asked
what resulted usually ? if the watchman died, and the
restored corpse came and did what it could to> make his last
moments easy ? But I was rebuked for trying to feed an
idle and frivolous curiosity in so solemn and so mournful a
place ; and went my way with a humbled crest.
. Next morning I was telling the widow my adventure, when
she exclaimed —
“ Come with me ! I have a lodger who shall tell you all
you want to know. He has been a night watchman there.”
He was a living man, but he did not look it. He was abed,
and had his head propped high on pillows; his face was
wasted and colorless, his deep-sunken eyes were shut; his
hand, lying on his breast, was talon-like, it was so bony and
long-fingered. The widow began her introduction of me.
The man’s eyes opened slowly, and glittered wickedly out
from the twilight of their caverns ; he frowned a black frown;
he lifted his lean hand and waved us peremptorily away.
But the widow kept straight on, till she had got out the fact
that I was a stranger and an American. The man’s face
changed at once; brightened, became even eager — and the
next moment he and I were alone together.
I opened up in cast-iron German; he responded in quite
flexible English; thereafter we gave the German language
a permanent rest.
This consumptive and I became good friends. I visited
him every day, and we talked about everything. At least,
about everything but wives and children. Let anybody’s
wife or anybody’s child be mentioned, and three things
always followed: the most gracious and loving and tender

light glimmered in the man’s eyes for a moment; faded out
the next, and in its place came that deadly look which had
flamed there the first time I ever saw his lids unclose •
thirdly, he ceased from speech, there and then for that day •
lay silent, abstracted, and absorbed; apparently heard
nothing that I said; took no notice of my good-byes, and
plainly did not know, by either sight or hearing, when I left
the room.
When I had been this Karl Ritter’s daily and sole inti
mate during two months, he one day said, abruptly, —
“ I will tell you my story.”
Then he went on as follows : —
I have never given up, until now. But now I have given
up. I am going to die. I made up my mind last night

that it must be, and very soon, too. You say you are going
to revisit your river, by and by, when you find opportunity.
Very well; that, together with a certain strange experience
which fell to my lot last night, determines me to tell you
my history — for you will see Napoleon, Arkansas; and for
my sake you will stop there, and do a certain thing for me
— a thing which you will willingly undertake after you shall
have heard my narrative.
Let us shorten the story wherever we can, for it will need it,
being long. You already know how I came to go to America,
and how I came to settle in that lonely region in the South.
But you do not know that I had a wife. My wife was young,
beautiful, loving, and oh, so divinely good and blameless and
gentle! And our little girl was her mother in miniature.
It was the happiest of happy households.
One night — it was toward the close of the war — I woke
up out of a sodden lethargy, and found myself bound and
gagged, and the air tainted with chloroform! 1' saw two
men in the room, and one was saying to the other, in a hoarse
whisper, “ I told her I would, if she made a noise, and as for
the child — ”
The other man interrupted in a low, hall-crying voice —
“You said we’d only gag them and rob them, not hurt
them ; or I would n’t have come.”
“Shut up your whining; had to change the plan when
they waked up; you done all you could to protect them, now
let that satisfy }'ou ; come, help rummage.”
Both men were masked, and wore coarse, ragged “ nigger ”
clothes; they had a bull’s-eye lantern, and by its light 1
noticed that the gentler robber had no thumb on his right
hand. They rummaged around my poor cabin for a moment;
the head bandit then said, in his stage whisper,—
“It’s a waste of time — he shall tell where it’s hid.
Undo his gag, and revive him up.”
The other said —
“All right — provided no clubbing.”

“ No clubbing it is, then — provided he keeps still.”
They approached me; just then there was a sound out
side ; a sound of voices and trampling hoofs; the robbers
held their breath and listened; the sounds came slowly
nearer and nearer; then came a shout —
“ Hello, the house! Show a light, we want water.”
“ The captain’s
voice, by G —! ”
said the stage-whis
pering ruffian, and
both robbers fled
by the way of the
back door, shutting
they rummaged the cabin. 0 ff their bull’s-eye
as they ran.
The strangers shouted several times more, then rode by —
there seemed to be a dozen of the horses — and I heard
nothing more.
I struggled, but could not free myself from my bonds. I
tried to speak, but the gag was effective ; I could not make
a sound. I listened for my wife’s voice and my child’s —
listened long and intently, but no sound came from the other
end of the room where their bed was. This silence became
more and more awful, more and more ominous, every moment.

Could you have endured an hour of it, do' you think ? Pity
me, then, who had to endure three. Three hours ? — it was
three ages! Whenever the clock struck, it seemed as if
years had gone by since I had heard it last. All this time I
was struggling in my bonds ; and at last, about dawn, I got
myself free, and rose up and stretched my stiff limbs. I
was able to distinguish details pretty well. The floor was
littered with things thrown there by the robbers during their
search for my savings. The first object that caught my par
ticular attention was a document of mine which I had seen
the rougher of the two ruffians glance at and then cast away.
It had blood on it! I staggered to the other end of the
room. Oh, poor unoffending, helpless ones, there they lay,
their troubles ended, mine begun!
Did I appeal to the law—I? Does it quench the pauper’s
thirst if the King drink for him ? Oh, no, no, no — I wanted
no impertinent interference of the law. Laws and the gal
lows could not pay the debt that was owing to me! Let the
laws leave the matter in my hands, and have no fears: I
would find the debtor and collect the debt. How accomplish
this, do you say ? How accomplish.it, and feel so sure about
it, when I had neither seen the robbers’ faces, nor heard
their natural voices, nor had any idea who they might be ?
Nevertheless, I was sure — quite sure, quite confident. I
had a clue — a clue which you would not have valued — a
clue which would not have greatly helped even a detective,
since he would lack the secret of how to apply it. I shall
come to that, presently — you shall see. Let us go on, now,
taking things in their due order. There was one circum
stance which gave me a slant in a definite direction to begin
with : Those two robbers were manifestly soldiers in tramp
disguise; and not new to military service, but old in it —
regulars, perhaps; they did not acquire their soldierly atti
tude, gestures, carriage, in a day, nor a month, nor yet in a
year. So I thought, but said nothing. And one of them
had said, “ the captain’s voice, by G —!” — the one whose

life I would have. Two miles away, several regiments were
in camp, and two companies of U. S. cavalry. When I
learned that Captain Blakely, of Company C had passed our
way, that night, with an escort, I said nothing, but in that
company I resolved to seek my man. In conversation I stu
diously and persistently described the robbers as tramps,
camp followers; and among this class the people made use
less search, none suspecting the soldiers but me.
Working patiently, by night, in my desolated home, I
made a disguise for myself out of various odds and ends
of clothing; in the nearest village I bought a pair of blue
goggles. By and by, when the military camp broke up, and
Company C was ordered a hundred miles north, to Napoleon,
I secreted my small hoard of money in my belt, and took
my departure in the night. When Company C arrived in
Napoleon, I was already there. Yes, I was there, with a new
trade — fortune-teller. Not to seem partial, I made friends
and told fortunes among all the companies garrisoned there ;
but I gave Company C the great bulk of my attentions. I
made myself limitlessly obliging to these particular men;
they could ask me no favor, put upon me no risk, which I
would decline. I became the willing butt of their jokes ; this
perfected my popularity ; I became a favorite.
I early found a private who lacked a thumb — what joy it
was to me! And when I found that he alone, of all the
company, had lost a thumb, my last misgiving vanished; I
was sure I was on the right track. This man’s name was
Kruger, a German. There were nine Germans in the com
pany. I watched, to see who might be his intimates ; but he
seemed to have no especial intimates. But I was his inti
mate ; and I took care to make the intimacy grow. Some
times I so hungered for my revenge that I could hardly
restrain myself from going on my knees and begging him
to point out the man who had murdered my wife and child;
but I managed to bridle my tongue. I bided my time, and
went on telling fortunes, as opportunity offered.

My apparatus was simple: a little red paint and a bit
of white paper. I painted the ball of the client’s thumb,
took a print of it on the
paper, studied it that
night, and revealed his
fortune to him next day.
What was my idea in this
nonsense ? It was this :
When I was a youth, I knew an
old Frenchman who had been a
prison-keeper for thirty years, and
he told me that there was one on the right track.
thing about a person which never
changed, from the cradle to the grave — the lines in the
ball of the thumb; and he said that these lines were never
exactly alike in the thumbs of any two human beings. In
these days, we photograph the new criminal, and hang his

picture in the Rogues’ Gallery for future reference; but
that Frenchman, in his day, used to take a print of the
ball of a new prisoner’s thumb and put that away for future
reference. He always said that pictures were no good —
future disguises could make them useless; “ The thumb’s
the only sure thing,” said he; “ you can’t disguise that.”
And he used to prove his theory, too, on my friends and
acquaintances; it always succeeded.
est blood — to me—that was ever shed on this earth! And
many and many a time I had to repeat the same old disap
pointed remark, “ will they never correspond ! ”
But my reward came at last. It was the print of the
thumb of the forty-third man of Company C whom I had
experimented on — private Franz Adler. An hour before, I
did not know the murderer’s name, or voice, or figure, or
face, or nationality; but now I knew all these things! I
believed I might feel sure; the Frenchman’s repeated dem
onstrations being so good a warranty. Still, there was a way
to make sure. I had an impression of Kruger’s left thumb.
In the morning I took him aside when he was off duty; and
when we were out of sight and hearing of witnesses, I said,
impressively: —
“A part of your fortune is so grave, that I thought it
would be better for you if I did not tell it in public. You
and another man, whose fortune I was studying last night,
I went on telling fortunes.
Every night I shut myself in,
all alone, and studied the day’s
thumb-prints with a magnifying-
glass. Imagine the devouring
eagerness with which I pored
over those mazy red spirals, with
that document by my side which
bore the right-hand thumb-and
finger-marks of that unknown
murderer, printed with the dear-

— private Adler, — have been murdering a woman and a
child ! You are being dogged : within five days botli of you
will be assassinated.”
He dropped on his knees, frightened out of his wits ; and
for five minutes he kept pouring out the same set of words,
like a demented person, and in the same half-crying way
which was one of my memories of that murderous night in
my cabin: —
“ I did n’t do it; upon my soul
I did n’t do it; and I tried to keep
him from doing it; I did, as
God is my wit
ness. He did
it alone.”
This was
all I wanted.
And I tried
to get rid of •*-"
the fool; but
no, he clung
to me, implor
ing me to save .
him from the
assassin. He
said, —
“ I h a v e
money — ten thousand dol
lars— hid away, the fruit
of loot and thievery ; save
me — tell me what to do,
and you shall have it, every
penny. Two thirds of it is
my cousin Adler’s; but you can take it all. We hid it when
wc first came here. But I hid it in a new place yesterday,
and have not told him — shall not tell him. I was going to
desert, and get away with it all. It is gold, and too heavy

to carry when one is running and dodging; but a woman
who has been gone over the river two days to prepare my
way for me is going to follow, me with it; and if I got no
chance to describe the hiding-place to her I was going to slip
my silver watch into her hand, or send it to her, and she
would understand. There ’s a piece of paper in the back of
the case, which tells it all. Here, take the watch — tell me
what to do ! ”
He was trying to press his watch upon me, and was ex
posing the paper and explaining it to me, when Adler ap
peared on the scene, about a dozen yards away. I said to
poor Kruger: —
“ Put up your watch, I don’t want it. You shan’t come to
any harm. Go, now; I must tell Adler his fortune. Pres
ently I will tell you how to escape the assassin; meantime
shall have to examine your thumb-mark again. Say nothing
to Adler about this thing — ^ay nothing to anybody.”
He went away filled with fright and gratitude, poor devil.
I told Adler a long fortune, — purposely so long that I could
not finish it; promised to come to him on guard, that night,
and tell him the really important part of it — the tragical
part of it, I said, — so must be out of reach of eavesdroppers.
They always kept a picket-watch outside the town, — mere dis
cipline and ceremony, — no occasion for it, no enemy around.
Toward midnight I set out, equipped with the counter
sign, and picked my way toward the lonely region where
Adler was to keep his watch. It was so dark that I stumbled
right on a dim figure almost before I could get out a pro
tecting word. The sentinel hailed and I answered, both at
the same moment. I added, “ It’s only me — the fortune
teller.” Then I slipped to the poor devil’s side, and without
a word I drove my dirk into his heart! Ja ivolil, laughed I,
it was the tragedy part of his fortune, indeed! As he fell,
from his horse, he clutched at me, and my blue goggles re
mained in his hand; and away plunged the beast dragging
him, with his foot in the stirrup.

I fled through the woods, and made good my escape,
leaving the accusing goggles behind me in that dead man’s
This was fifteen or sixteen years ago. Since then I have
wandered aimlessly about the earth, sometimes at work,
sometimes idle; sometimes with money, sometimes with
none; but always tired of life, and wishing it was done, for
my mission here was finished, with the act of that night;
and the only pleasure, solace, satisfaction I had, in all those
tedious years, was in the daily reflection, “I have killed
him! ”

Four years ago, my health began to fail. I had wandered
into Munich, in my purposeless way. Being out of money,
I sought work, and got it; did my duty faithfully about a
year, and was then given the berth of night watchman yonder
in that dead-house which you visited lately. The place suited
my mood. I liked it. I liked being with the dead — liked
being alone
with them.
I used to wan
der among
those rigid
corpses, and
peer into their
austere faces,
by the hour.
The later the
time, the more
impressive it
was; I pre
ferred the late
time. Some
times I turned
the lights low:
this gave per
spective, you
see; and the
in the morgue. imagination
could play; al
ways, the dim receding ranks of the dead inspired one with
weird and fascinating fancies. Two years ago — I had been
there a year then — I was sitting all alone in the watch-room,
one gusty winter’s night, chilled, numb, comfortless ; drowsing
gradually into unconsciousness ; the sobbing of the wind and.
the slamming of distant shutters falling fainter and fainter
upon my dulling ear each moment, when sharp and suddenly
that dead-bell rang out a blood-curdling alarum over my

liead! The shock of it nearly paralyzed me; for it was the
first time I had ever heard it.
I gathered myself together and flew to the corpse-room.
About midway down the outside rank, a shrouded figure was
sitting upright, wagging its head slowly from one side to the
other — a grisly spectacle ! Its side was toward me. I
hurried to it and peered into its face. Heavens, it was
Can you divine what my first thought was ? Put into
words, it was this : “ It seems, then, you escaped me once :
there will be a different result this time ! ”
Evidently this creature was suffering unimaginable terrors.
Think what it must have been to wake up in the midst of
that voiceless hush, and look out over that grim congregation
of the dead! What gratitude shone in his skinny white face
when he saw a living form before him! And how the fer
vency of this mute gratitude was augmented when his eyes
fell upon the life-giving cordials which I carried in my hands !
Then imagine the horror which came into this pinched face
when I put the cordials behind me, and said mockingly,—
“ Speak up, Franz Adler — call upon these dead. Doubt
less they will listen and have pity; but here there is none
else that will.”
He tried to speak, but that part of the shroud which bound
his jaws, held firm and would not let him. He tried to lift
imploring hands, but they were crossed upon his breast and
tied. I said —
“ Shout, Franz Adler; make the sleepers in the distant
streets hear you and bring help. Shout — and lose no time,
for there is little to lose. What, you cannot ? That is a
pity; but it is no matter — it does not always bring help.
When you.and your cousin murdered a helpless woman and
child in a cabin in Arkansas — my wife, it was, and my child !
— they shrieked for help, you remember ; but it did no good ;
you remember that it did no good, is it not so ? Your teeth
chatter — then why cannot you shout ? Loosen the bandages ;

with your hands — then you can. Ah, I see — your hands
are tied, they cannot aid you. How strangely things repeat
themselves, after long years; for my hands were tied, that
night, you remember ? Yes, tied much as yours are now—•
how odd that is. I could not pull free. It did not occur
to you to untie me; it does not occur to me to untie you.
Sli- ! there ’s a late footstep. It is coming this way.
Hark, how near it is ! One can count the footfalls — one —
two — three. There — it is just outside. Now is the time !
Shout, man, shout! — it is the one sole chance between you
and eternity! Ah, you see you have delayed too long — it
is gone by. There — it is dying out. It is gone! Think of
it — reflect upon it — you have heard a human footstep for
the last time. How curious it must be, to listen to so com
mon a sound as that, and know that one will never hear the
fellow to it again.”
Oh, my friend, the agony in that shrouded face was ecstasy
to see ! I thought of a new torture, and applied it — assist
ing myself with a trifle of lying invention : —
“ That poor Kruger tried to save my wife and child, and I
did him a grateful good turn for it when the time came. I
persuaded him to rob you; and I and a woman helped him
to desert, and got him away in safety.”
A look as of surprise and triumph shone out dimly through
the anguish in my victim’s face. I was disturbed, disquieted.
I said —
“ What, then, — did n’t he escape ? ” <
A negative shake of the head.
“ No ? What happened, then ? ”
The satisfaction in the shrouded face was still plainer..
The man tried to mumble out some words — could not suc
ceed ; tried to express something with his obstructed hands
— failed ; paused a moment, then feebly tilted his head, in a
meaning way, toward the corpse that lay nearest him.
“ Dead ? ” I asked. “ Failed to escape ? — caught in the
act and shot ? ”

Negative shake of the head.
“ How, then ? ”
Again the man tried to do something with his hands. I
watched closely, but could not guess the intent. I bent over
and watched still more intently. He had twisted a thumb
around and was weakly punching at his breast with it.
“ Ah — stabbed, do you mean ? ”
Affirmative nod, accompanied by a spectral smile of such
peculiar devilishness, that it struck an awakening light
through my dull brain, and I cried —
“ Did I stab him, mistaking him for you ? — for that stroke
was meant for none but you.”
The affirmative nod of the re-dying rascal was as joyous
as his failing strength was able to put into its expression.

“ 0, miserable, miserable me, to slaughter the pitying soul
that stood a friend to my darlings when they were helpless,
and would haye saved them if he could! miserable, oh, mis
erable, miserable me! ”
I fancied I heard the muffled gurgle of a mocking laugh.
I took my face out of my hands, and saw my enemy sinking
back upon his inclined board.*
He was a satisfactory long time dying. H6 had a won
derful vitality, an astonishing constitution. Yes, he was a
pleasant long time at it. I got a chair and a newspaper, and
sat down by him and read. Occasionally I took a, sip of
brandy. This was necessary, on account of the cold. But
I did it partly because I saw, that along at first, whenever I
reached for the bottle, he thought I was going to give him
some. I read aloud: mainly imaginary accounts of people
snatched from the grave’s threshold and restored to life and
vigor by a few spoonsful of liquor and a warm bath. Yes,
he had a long, hard death of it — three hours and six min
utes, from the time he rang his bell.
It is believed that in all these eighteen years that have
elapsed since the institution of the corpse-watch, no shrouded
occupant of the Bavarian dead-houses has ever rung its bell.
Well, it is a harmless belief. Let it stand at that.
The chill of that death-room had penetrated my bones. It
revived and fastened upon me the disease which had been
afflicting me, but which, up to that night, had been steadily
disappearing. That man murdered my wife and my child ;
and in three days hence he will have added me to his list.
No matter — God! how delicious the memory of it! — I
caught him escaping from his grave, and thrust him back
into it!
After that night, I was confined to my bed for a week;
but as soon as I could- get about, I went to the dead-house
books and got the number of the house which Adler had died
in. A wretched lodging-house, it was. It was my idea that
he would naturally have gotten hold of Kruger’s effects, being

his cousin; and I wanted to get Kruger’s watch, if I could.
But while I was sick, Adler’s things had been sold and
scattered, all except a few old letters, and some odds and
ends of no value. However, through those letters, I traced
out a son of Kruger’s, the only relative he left. He is a man
of thirty, now, a shoemaker by trade, and living at No. 14
Konigstrasse, Mannheim—widower, with several small chil
dren. Without explaining to him why, I have furnished two
thirds of his support, ever since.
Now, as to that watch — see how strangely things happen !
I traced it around and about Germany for more than a year,
at considerable cost in money and vexation; and at last I
got it. Got it, and was unspeakably glad; opened it, and
found nothing in it! Why, I might have known that that
bit of paper was not going to stay there all this time. Of
course I gave up that ten thousand dollars then; gave it up,
and dropped it out of my mind : and most sorrowfully, for I
had wanted it for Kruger’s son.
Last night, when I consented at last that 1 must die, I
began to make ready. I proceeded to burn all useless papers;
and sure enough, from a batch of Adler’s, not previously ex
amined with thoroughness, out dropped that long-desired
scrap ! I recognized it in a moment. Here it is — I will
translate it:
“ Brick livery stable, stone foundation, middle of town, corner of
Orleans and Market. Corner toward Court-house. Third stone,
fourth row. Stick notice there, saying how many are to come.”
There — take it, and preserve it. Kruger explained that
that stone was removable ; and that it was in the north wall
of the foundation, fourth row from the top, and third stone
from the west. The money is secreted behind it. He said
the closing sentence was a blind, to mislead in case the paper
should fall into wrong hands. It probably performed that
office for Adler.
Now I want to beg that when you make your intended

journey down the river, you will hunt out that hidden money,
and send it to Adam Kruger, care of the Mannheim address
which I have mentioned. It will make a rich man of him,
and I shall sleep the sounder in my grave for knowing that
I have done what I could for the son of the man who tried
to save my wife and child — albeit my hand ignorantly struck
him down, whereas the impulse of my heart would have been
to shield and serve him.

S UCH was Ritter’s narrative,” said I to my two friends.
There was a profound and impressive silence, which
lasted a considerable time; then both men broke into a fu
sillade of excited and admiring ejaculations over the strange
incidents of the tale; and this, along with a rattling fire
of questions, was kept up until all hands were about out of
breath. Then my friends began to cool down, and draw off,
under shelter of occasional volleys, into silence and abysmal
reverie. For ten minutes now, there was stillness. Then
Rogers said dreamily : —
“ Ten thousand dollars.”
Adding, after a considerable pause, —
“ Ten thousand. It is a heap of money.”
Presently the poet inquired, —
“ Are you going to send it to him right away ? ”
“ Yes,” I said. “ It is a queer question.”
No reply. After a little, Rogers asked, hesitatingly:
“ All of it ? — That is — I mean —”
“ Certainly, all of it.”
I was going to say more, but stopped, —was stopped by a
train of thought which started up in me. Thompson spoke,
but my mind was absent and I did not catch what he said.
But I heard Rogers answer, —
“Yes, it seems so to me. It ought to be quite sufficient;
for I don’t see that he has done anything.”
Presently the poet said,—
“ When you come to look at it, it is more than sufficient.

Just look at it — five thousand dollars ! Why, he could n’t
spend it in a lifetime ! And it would injure him, too ; per
haps ruin him — you want to look at that. In a little while he
would throw his last away, shut up his shop, maybe take to
drinking, maltreat his motherless children, drift into other
evil courses, go steadily from bad to worse — ”
u Yes, that’s it,” interrupted Rogers, fervently, u I ’ve seen
it a hundred times — yes, more than a hundred. You put
money into the hands of a man like that, if you want to de
stroy him, that’s all; just put money into his hands, it’s all

you ’ve got to do ; and if it don’t pull him down, and take all
the usefulness out of him, and all the self-respect and every
thing, then I don’t know human nature — ain’t that so, Thomp
son ? And even if we were to give him a third of it; why,
in less than six months — ”
“ Less than six weeks, you’d better say ! ” said 1, warming
up and breaking in. “Unless he had that three thousand
dollars in safe
hands where he
couldn’t touch it,
he would no more
last you six weeks
than -— ”
“ Of course he
would n’t,” said
Thompson ; “ I’ve
edited books for
that kind of peo
ple ; and the mo
ment they get their
hands on the roy
alty— maybe it’s
three thousand,
maybe it’s two
“ What business
has that shoema-
^ ker with two thousand dollars, I should
like to know?” broke in Rogers, earnestly. “A
man perhaps perfectly contented now, there in Mann
heim, surrounded by his own class, eating his bread with the
appetite which laborious industry alone can give, enjoying his
humble life, honest, upright, pure in heart; and blest ! — yes,
I say blest! blest above all the myriads that go in silk attire
and walk the empty artificial round of social folly — but
just you put that temptation before him once! just you
ain’t that so,

lay fifteen hundred dollars before a man like that, and
say — ”
“ Fifteen hundred devils!” cried I, “jfive hundred would rot
his principles, paralyze his industry, drag him to the rumshop,
thence to the gutter, thence to the almshouse, thence to — ”
“ Why put upon ourselves this crime, gentlemen?” inter
rupted the poet earnestly and appealingly. “He is happy
where he is, and as he is. Every sentiment of honor, every
sentiment of charity,
every sentiment of high
and sacred benevolence
warns us, beseeches us,
commands us to leave
him undisturbed. That
is real friendship, that
is true friendship. We
could follow other
courses that would be
more showy; but none
that would be so truly
kind and wise, depend
upon it.”
After some further
talk, it became evident
that each of us, down
in his heart, felt some misgivings over this settlement of
the matter. It was manifest that we all felt that we ought
to send the poor shoemaker something. There was long and
thoughtful discussion of this point; and we finally decided
to send him a chromo.
Well, now that everything seemed to be arranged satis
factorily to everybody concerned, a new trouble broke out:
it transpired that these two men were expecting to share
equally in the money with me. That was not my idea. I
said that if they got half of it between them they might con
sider themselves lucky. Rogers said : —

“ Who would have had any if it had n’t been for me ? I
flung out the first hint — but for that it would all have gone
to the shoemaker.”
Thompson said that he was thinking of the thing himself
at the very moment that Rogers had originally spoken.
I retorted that the idea would have occurred to me plenty
soon enough, and without anybody’s help. I was slow about
thinking, maybe, but I was sure.
This matter warmed up into a quarrel; then into a fight;
and each man got pretty badly battered. As soon as I had
warm’ed up into a quarrel.
got myself mended up after a fashion, I ascended to the hur
ricane deck in a pretty sour humor. I found Captain McCord
there, and said, as pleasantly as my humor would permit: —
“ I have come to say good-bye, captain. I wish to go ashore
at Napoleon.”

“ Go ashore where ? ”
The captain laughed ; but seeing that I was not in a jovial
mood, stopped that and said, —
“ But are you serious ? ”
“ Serious ? I certainly am.”
The captain glanced up at the pilot-house and said, —
“ He wants to get off at Napoleon! ”
“ Napoleon? ”
u That’s what he says.”
“ Great Caesar’s ghost! ”
Uncle Mumford approached along the deck. The captain
said, —
“ Uncle, here’s a friend of yours wants to get off at Napo
leon! ”
•“ Well, by — !”
I said, —
“ Come, what is all this about ? Can’t a man go ashore at
Napoleon if he wants to ? ”
“ Why, hang it, don’t you know ? There is n't any Napoleon
any more. Has n’t been for years and years. The Arkansas
River burst through it, tore it all to rags, and emptied it into
the Mississippi! ”
“ Carried the whole town away ? —banks, churches, jails,
newspaper-offices, court-house, theatre, fire department, livery
stable, — everything ? ”
“ Everything. Just a fifteen-minute job, or such a matter.
Did n’t leave hide nor hair, shred nor shingle of it, except
the fag-end of a shanty and one brick chimney. This boat is
paddling along right now, where th*e dead-centre of that
town used to be; yonder is the brick chimney, — all that’s
left of Napoleon. These dense woods on the right used
to be a mile back of the town. Take a look behind you —-
up-stream — now you begin to recognize this country, don’t
you ?”
“ Yes, I do recognize it now. It is the most wonderful

thing I ever heard of; by a long shot the most wonderful —
and unexpected.”
Mr. Thompson and Mr. Rogers had arrived, meantime, with
satchels and umbrellas, and had silently listened to the cap
tain’s news. Thompson put a half-dollar in my hand and
said softly: —
“ For my share of the chromo.”
Rogers followed suit.
Yes, it was an astonishing thing to
see the Mississippi rolling between
unpeopled shores and straight over
the spot where I used to see a good big self-complacent town
twenty years ago. Town that was county-seat of a great and
important county; town with a big United States marine
hospital; town of innumerable fights — an inquest every day;
town where I had used to know the prettiest girl, and the
most accomplished in the whole Mississippi Valley; town
where we were handed the first printed news of the “ Penn
sylvania’s” mournful disaster a quarter of a century ago; a
town no more — swallowed up, vanished, gone to feed the
fishes ; nothing left but a fragment of a shanty and a crum
bling brick chimney!

I N regard to Island 74, which is situated not far from the
former Napoleon, a freak of the river here has sorely
perplexed the laws of men and made them a vanity and a jest.
When the State of Arkansas was chartered, she controlled
“ to the centre of the river ” — a most unstable line. The
State of Mississippi claimed “ to the channel ” — another
shifty and unstable line. No. 74 belonged to Arkansas.
By and by a cut-off threw this big island out of Arkansas,
and yet not within Mississippi. “ Middle of the river ” on
one side of it, “ channel ” on the other. That is as I under
stand the problem. Whether I have got the details right or
wrong, this fact remains : that here is this big and exceed
ingly valuable island of four thousand acres, thrust out in
the cold, and belonging to neither the one State nor the
other; paying taxes to neither, owing allegiance to neither.
One man owns the whole island, and of right is “ the man
without a country.”
Island 92 belongs to Arkansas. The river moved it over
and joined it to Mississippi. A chap established a whiskey
shop there, without a Mississippi license, and enriched
himself upon Mississippi custom under Arkansas protection
(where no license was in those days required).
We glided steadily down the fiver in the usual privacy —
steamboat or other moving thing seldom seen. Scenery as
always: stretch upon stretch of almost unbroken forest, on
both sides of the river ; soundless solitude. Here and there

a cabin or two, standing in small openings on the gray and
grassless banks — cabins which had formerly stood a quarter
or half-mile farther to the front, and gradually been pulled
farther and farther back as the shores caved in. As at Pil
cher’s Point, for instance, where the cabins had been moved
back three hundred yards in three months, so we were told;
but the caving banks had already caught up with them, and
they were being conveyed rearward once more.
Napoleon had but small opinion of Greenville, Mississippi,
in the old times; but behold, Napoleon is gone to the cat-
fishes, and here is Greenville full of life and activity, and
making a considerable flourish in the Valley; having three
thousand inhabitants, it is said, and doing a gross trade of
12,500,000 annually. A growing town.
There was much talk on the boat about the Calhoun Land
Company, an enterprise which is expected to work whole-

some results. Colonel Calhoun, a grandson of the states
man, went to Boston and formed a syndicate which pur
chased a large tract of land on the river, in Chicot County,
Arkansas, — some ten thousand acres—for cotton-growing.
The purpose is to work on a cash basis: buy at first hands,
and handle their own product; supply their negro laborers
with provisions and necessaries at a trifling profit, say 8 or
10 per cent; furnish them comfortable quarters, etc., and
encourage them to save money and remain on the place.
If this proves a financial success, as seems quite certain,
they propose to establish a banking-house in Greenville, and
lend money at an unburdensome rate of interest — 6 per
cent is spoken of.
The trouble heretofore has been — I am quoting remarks
of planters and steamboatmen — that the planters, although
owning the land', were without cash capital; had to hypothe
cate both land and crop to carry on the business. Conse
quently, the commission dealer who furnishes the money
takes some risk and demands big interest — : usually 10 per
cent, and 2£ per cent for negotiating the loan. The planter
has also to buy his supplies through the same dealer, paying
commissions and profits. Then when he ships his crop, the
dealer adds his commissions, insurance, etc.> So, taking it
by and large, and first and last, the dealer’s share of that
crop is about 25 per cent. 1
A cotton-planter’s estimate of the average margin of profit
on planting, in his section: One man and mule will raise ten
acres of cotton, giving ten bales cotton, worth, say, $500;
cost of producing, say $350 ; net profit, $150, or $15 per
acre. There is also a profit now from the cotton-seed, which
formerly had little value — none where much transportation
1 “ 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 neces-'
sity of purchasing their crops in advance even of planting, at these rates, for
the privilege of purchasing all their supplies at 100 per cent profit 1 ” —Edward

wds necessary. In sixteen hundred pounds crude cotton,
four hundred are lint, worth, say, ten cents a pound; and
twelve hundred pounds of seed, worth $12 or $13 per ton.
Maybe in future even the stems will not be thrown away.
Mr. Edward Atkinson says that for each bale of cotton there
are fifteen
pounds of
stems, and
that these
are very
rich in phos
phate of lime
and potash;
that when
ground and
mixed with
ensilage or
cotton - seed
meal (which
is too rich
for use as
fodder in
large quan
tities), the stem mixture makes a superior food, rich in all
the elements needed for the production of milk, meat,
and bone. Heretofore the stems have been considered a
Complaint is made that the planter remains grouty toward
the former slave, since the war; will have nothing but a
chill business relation with him, no sentiment permitted to
intrude ; will not keep a “ store ” himself, and supply the
negro’s wants and thus protect the negro’s pocket and make
him able and willing to stay on the place and an advantage
to him to do it, but lets that privilege to some thrifty Israel
ite, who encourages the thoughtless negro and wife to buy

all sorts of things which they could do without, — buy on
credit, at big prices, month after month, credit based on the
negro’s share of the growing crop; and at the end of the
season, the negro’s share belongs to the Israelite, the negro
is in debt besides, is discouraged, dissatisfied, restless, and
both he and ^
the planter ^
are injured;
for he will take
steamboat and
migrate, and the the iskaelite.
planter must get
a stranger in his place who does not know him, does not
care for him, will fatten the Israelite a season, and follow
his predecessor per steamboat.
It is hoped that the Calhoun Company will show, by its
humane and protective treatment of its laborers, that its.
method is the most profitable for both planter and negro;
and it is believed that a general adoption of that method will
then follow.

And where so many are saying their say, shall not the bar
keeper testify? He is thoughtful, observant, never drinks;
endeavors to earn
his salary, and
would earn it if
there were cus
tom enough. He
says the people
along here in
Mississippi and
Louisiana will
send up the river
to buy vegetables
rather than raise them, and they
will come aboard at the landings
and buy fruits of the barkeeper.
Thinks they “ don’t know any
thing but cotton; ” believes they
don’t know how' to raise vegeta
bles and fruit — “ at least the
most of them.” Says “ a nigger
will go to H for a watermelon”
(“H” is all I find in the steno
grapher’s report—means Halifax
probably, though that seems a good way to go for a water
melon). Barkeeper buys watermelons for five cents up the
river, brings them down and sells them for -fifty. “ Why
does he mix such elaborate and picturesque drinks for the
nigger hands on the boat ? ” Because they won’t have any
other. “They want a big drink; don’t make any differ
ence what you make it of, they want the worth of their
money. You give a nigger a plain gill of half-a-dollar brandy
for five cents —will he touch it ? No. Ain’t size enough to
it. But you put up a pint of all kinds of worthless rubbish,
and heave in some red stuff to make it beautiful—red’s the
main thing—and he wouldn’t put down that glass to go to

a circus.” All the bars on this Anchor Line are rented and
owned by one firm. They furnish the liquors from their
own establish
ment, and hire the
barkeepers “on
salary.” G-ood
liquors? Yes, on
some of the boats,
where there are the
kind of passengers
that want it and can
pay for it. On the
other boats ? No.
Nobody but the deck
hands and firemen to
drink it. “ Brandy ?
Yes, I’ve got brandy,
plenty of it; but you
don’t want any of
it unless you’ve
made your will.” It
isn’t as it used to
be in the old times.
Then everybody trav
elled by steamboat,
everybody drank,
and everybody treat
ed everybody else.
“ Now most every
body goes by rail
road, and the rest
don’t drink.” In the
old times, the bar
keeper owned the bar himself, “ and was gay and smarty and
talky and all jewelled up, and was the toniest aristocrat on
the boat; used to make $2,000 on a trip. A father who left

his son a steamboat bar, left him a fortune. Now he leaves
him board and lodging; yes, and washing, if a shirt a trip
will do. Yes, indeedy, times are changed. Why, do you
know, on the principal line of boats on the Upper Missis- '
sippi, they don’t have any bar at all! Sounds like poetry,
but it’s the petrified truth.”

S TACK ISLAND. I remembered Stack Island; also
Lake Providence, Louisiana — which is the first dis
tinctly Southern-looking town you come to, downward-
bound ; lies level and low, shade-trees hung with venerable
gray beards of Spanish moss; “ restful, pensive, Sunday
aspect about the place,” comments Uncle Mumford, with
feeling—also with truth.
A Mr. H. furnished some minor details of fact concerning
this region which I would have hesitated to believe if I had
not known him to be a steamboat mate. He was a passenger
of ours, a resident of Arkansas
City, and bound to Vicksburg
to join his boat, a little Sun
flower packet. He was an aus
tere man, and had the reputa
tion of being singularly un
worldly, for a river man. Among
other things, he said that Ar
kansas had been injured and
kept back by generations of ex
aggerations concerning the mos
quitoes there. One may smile ?
said he, and turn the matter off as being a small thing; but
when you come to look at the effects produced, in the way of
discouragement of immigration, and diminished values of
property, it was quite the opposite of a small thing, or thing
in any wise to be coughed down or sneered at. These mos-

quitoes had been persistently represented as being formidable
and lawless; whereas “ the truth is, they are feeble, insig
nificant in size, diffident to a fault, sensitive ” — and so on,
and so on; you would have supposed he was talking about
his family. But if he was soft on the Arkansas mosquitoes,
he was hard enough on the mosquitoes of Lake Providence
to make up for it — “ those Lake Providence colossi,” as he
finely called them. He said that two of them could whip a
dog, and that four of them could hold a man down; and
except help come, they would kill him — “ butcher him,” as
he expressed it. Referred in a sort of casual way -— and yet
significant way — to “ the
fact that the life policy in
its simplest form is un
known in Lake Providence
—they take out a mosquito
policy besides.” He told
many remarkable things
about those lawless insects.
Among others, said he had
seen them try to vote. No
ticing that this statement
seemed to be a good deal
of a strain 011 us, he mod
ified it a little: said he
might have been mista
ken, as to that particular,
but knew he had seen
them around the polls
“ canvassing.”
There was another pas
senger — friend of H.’s —
who backed up the harsh
evidence against those
mosquitoes, and detailed some stirring adventures which he
had had with them. The stories were pretty sizable, merely

pretty sizable; yet Mr. H. was continually interrupting with a
cold, inexorable “ Wait — knock off twenty-five per cent of
that; now go on;” or, “Wait — you are getting that too
strong; cut it down, cut it down — you get a leetle too much
costumery on to your statements: always dress a fact in
tights, never in an ulster ; ” or, “ Pardon, once more: if you
are going to load anything more on to that statement, you
want to get a couple of lighters and tow the rest, because it’s
drawing all the water there is in the river already ; stick to
facts — just stick to the cold facts ; what these gentlemen
want for a book is the frozen truth — ain’t that so, gentle
men ? ” He explained privately that it was necessary to
watch this man all the time, and keep him within bounds ;
it would not do to neglect this precaution, as he, Mr. H.,
“knew to his sorrow.” Said he, “ I will not deceive you; he
told me such a monstrous lie once, that it swelled my left
ear up, and spread it so that I was actually not able to see
out around it; it remained so for months, and people came
miles to see me fan myself with it.”

W E used to plough past the lofty hill-city, Vicksburg,
down-stream; but we cannot do that now. A cut
off has made a country town of it, like Osceola, St. Gen
evieve, and several others. There is currentless water —
also a big
in front
of Vicks
burg; now
You come
down the
other side
of the is
land, then
turn and
come up
io the town; that
is, in high water: in
low water you can’t come
vicksbukg. up, but must land some
distance below it.
Signs and scars still remain, as reminders of Vicksburg’s
tremendous war-experiences; earthworks, trees crippled by
the cannon balls, cave-refuges in the clay precipices, etc.
The caves did good service during the six weeks’ bom-

bardment of the city — May 18 to July 4,1868. They were
used by the non-combatants — mainly by the women and
children; not to live in constantly, but to fly to for safety
on occasion. They were mere holes, tunnels, driven into
the perpendicular clay bank, then branched Y shape, within
the hill. Life in Vicksburg, during the six weeks was per
haps — but wait; here are some materials out of which to
reproduce it: —
Population, twenty-seven thousand soldiers and three thou
sand non-combatants; the city utterly cut off from the
world — walled solidly in, the frontage by gunboats, the
rear by soldiers and batteries; hence, no buying and sell
ing with the outside; no passing to and fro ; no God-speed
ing a parting guest, no welcoming a coming one; no printed
acres of world-wide news to be read at breakfast, mornings
— a tedious dull absence of such matter, instead; hence,'
also, no running to see steamboats smoking into view in
the distance up or down, and ploughing toward the town
— for none came, the river lay vacant and undisturbed ; no
rush and turmoil around the railway station, no struggling
over bewildered swarms of passengers by noisy mobs of
hackmen — all quiet there; flour two hundred dollars a
barrel, sugar thirty, corn ten dollars a bushel, bacon five
dollars a pound, rum a hundred dollars a gallon; other
things in proportion: consequently, no roar and racket of
drays and carriages tearing along the streets; nothing for
them to do, among that handful of non-combatants of
exhausted means; at three o’clock in the morning, silence;
silence so dead that the measured tramp of a sentinel
can be heard a seemingly impossible distance; out of hear
ing of this lonely sound, perhaps the- stillness is absolute:
all in a moment come ground-shaking thunder-crashes of
artillery, the sky is cobwebbed with the cris-crossing red
lines streaming from soaring bomb-shells, and a rain of
iron fragments descends upon the city; descends upon the
empty streets: streets which are not empty a moment

later, but mottled with dim figures of frantic women and
children skurrying from home and bed toward the cave
dungeons — encouraged by the humorous grim soldiery, who
shout “ Rats, to your holes! ” and laugh.
The cannon-thunder rages, shells scream and crash over
head, the iron rain pours down, one hour, two hours, three,
possibly six, then stops ; silence follows, but the streets are
still empty; the silence continues; by and by a head projects
from a cave here and there and yonder, and reconnoitres,
cautiously ; the silence still continuing, bodies follow heads,
and jaded, half-smothered creatures group themselves about,
stretch their cramped limbs, draw in deep draughts of the
grateful fresh air, gossip with the neighbors from the next

cave; maybe straggle off home presently, or take a lounge
through the town, if the stillness continues; and will skurry
to the holes again, by and by, when the war-tempest breaks
forth once more.
There being but three thousand of these cave-dwellers —
merely the population of a village — would they not come to

know each other, after a week or two, and familiarly; inso
much that the fortunate or unfortunate experiences of one
would be of interest to all ?
Those are the materials furnished by history. From them
might not almost anybody reproduce for himself the life of
that time in Yicksburg ? Could you, who did not experience
it, come nearer to reproducing it to the imagination of another
non-participant than could a Yicksburger who did experience
it ? It seems impossible ; and yet there are reasons why it
might not really be. When one makes his first voyage in a
ship, it is an experience which multitudinously bristles with
striking novelties ; novelties which are in such sharp con
trast with all this person’s former experiences that they take
a seemingly deathless grip upon his imagination and memory.
By tongue or pen he can make a landsman live that strange
and stirring voyage over with him; make him see it all and
feel it all. But if he wait ? If he make ten voyages in
succession — what then? Why, the thing has lost color,
snap, surprise; and has become commonplace. The man
would have nothing to tell that would quicken a landsman’s
Years ago, I talked with a couple of the Yicksburg non-
combatants — a man and his wife. Left to tell their story
in their own way, those people told it without fire, almost
without interest.
A week of their wonderful life there would have made
their tongues eloquent forever perhaps; but they had six
weeks of it, and that wore the novelty all out; they
got used to being bomb-shelled out of home and into the
ground; the matter became commonplace. After that, the
possibility of their ever being startlingly interesting in their
talks about it was gone. What the man said was to' this
effect: —•
“ It got to be Sunday all the time. Seven Sundays in the week—
to us, anyway. We had n’t anything to do, and time hung heavy.

Seven Sundays, and all of them broken up at one time or another, in
the day or in the night, by a few hours of the awful storm of fire
and thunder and iron. At first we used to shin for the holes a good
deal faster than we did afterwards. The first time, I forgot the chil
dren, and Maria fetched them both along. When she was all safe
in the cave she fainted. Two or three weeks afterwards, when she
was running for the holes, one morning, through a shell-showei', a
big shell burst near her and covered her all over with dirt, and a
piece of the iron carried away her game-bag of false hair from the
back of her head. Well, she stopped to get that game-bag before
she shoved along again ! Was getting used to things already, you
see. We all got so that we could tell a good deal about shells; and
after that we did n’t always go under shelter if it was a light shower.
IJs men would loaf around and talk ; and a man would say, ‘ There
she goes! ’ and name the kind of shell it was from the sound of it,

and go on talking — if there was n’t any
danger from it. If a shell was bursting
close over us, we stopped talking and
stood still; — uncomfortable, yes, but
it was n’t safe to move. When it let
go, we went on talking again, if nobody
hurt — maybe saying, ‘ That was a rip
per ! ’ or some such commonplace com
ment before we resumed ; or, maybe,
we would see a shell poising itself
away high in the air overhead. In
that case, every fellow
just whipped out a sud
den, ‘ See you again,
gents! ’ and shoved. Of
ten and often I saw
gangs of ladies prome
nading the streets, look
ing as cheerful as you
please, and keeping an
eye canted up watching
the shells; and I’ve seen
them stop still when they
were uncertain about
what a shell was going
to do, and wait and make
certain; and after that
they s’antered along
again, or lit out for
sh.elter, according to the
verdict. Streets in some
towns have a litter of
pieces of paper, and odds
and ends of one sort or
another lying around.
Ours had n’t; they had
iron litter. Sometimes a man would gather up all the iron fragments
and unbursted shells in his neighborhood, and pile them into a kind
of monument in his front yard — a ton of it, sometimes. No glass

left; glass could n’t stand such a bombardment; it was all shivered
out. Windows of the houses vacant—looked like eye-holes in a
skull. Whole panes were as scarce as news.
“We had church Sundays. Not many there, along at first; but
by and by pretty good turnouts. I’ve seen service stop a minute,
and everybody sit quiet — no voice heard, pretty funeral-like then —
and all the more so on account of the awful boom and crash going
on outside and overhead; and pretty soon, when a body could be
heard, service would go on again. Organs and church-music mixed
up with a bombardment is a powerful queer combination — along at
first. Coming out of church, one morning, we had an accident —
the only one that happened around me on a Sunday. I was just
having a hearty hand-shake with a friend I had n’t seen for a while,
and saying, ‘ Drop into our cave to-night, after bombardment; we’ve
got hold of a pint of prime wh —. ’ Whiskey, I was going to say,
you know, but a shell interrupted. A chunk of it cut the man’s arm
off, and left it dangling in my hand. And do you know the thing
that is going to stick the longest in my memory, and outlast every
thing else, little and big, I reckon, is the mean thought I had
then? It was ‘the whiskey is saved’ And yet, don’t you know,
it was kind of excusable; because it was as scarce as diamonds,
and we had only just that little ; never had another taste during
the siege.
“Sometimes the caves were desperately crowded, and always hot
and close. Sometimes a cave had twenty or twenty-five people
packed into it; no turning-room for anybody; air so foul, some
times, you could n’t have made a candle burn in it. A child was
born in one of those caves one night. Think of that; why, it was
like having it born in a trunk.
“ Twice we had sixteen people in our cave; and a number of
times we had a dozen. Pretty suffocating in there. We always had
eight; eight belonged there. Hunger and misery and sickness and
fright and sorrow, and I don’t know what all, got so loaded into
them that none of them were ever rightly their old selves after the
siege. They all died but three of us within a couple of years. One
night a shell burst in front of the hole and caved it in and stopped it
up. It was lively times, for a while, digging out. Some of us came
near smothering. After that we made two openings — ought to have
thought of it at first.

“ Mule meat ? No, we only got down to that the last day or two.
Of course it was good; anything is good when you are starving.”
This man had kept a diary during — six weeks ? No, only
the first six days. The first day, eight close pages ; the
second, five; the third, one — loosely written; the fourth,
three or four lines ; a line or two the fifth and sixth days;
seventh day, diary abandoned ; life in terrific Vicksburg
having now become commonplace and matter of course.
“mule meat?”
The war history of Vicksburg has more abotft it to interest
the general reader than that of any other of the river-towns.
It is full of variety, full of incident, full of the picturesque.
Vicksburg held out longer than any other important river-
town, and saw warfare in all its phases, both land and water
— the siege, the mine, the assault, the repulse, the bombard
ment, sickness, captivity, famine.
The most beautiful of all the national cemeteries is here
Over the great gateway is this inscription : —

IN THE YEARS 1861 TO 1865.”
The grounds are nobly situated ; being very high and com
manding a wide prospect of land and river. They are taste-
fully laid out in broad terraces, with wind
ing roads and paths; and there is profuse
adornment in the way of semi-tropical
shrubs and flowers ; and in one part is a
piece of native wild-wood, left just as it
grew, and, therefore, perfect in its charm.
Everything about this cemetery suggests
the hand of the national Government.
The Government’s work is always conspicuous for excellence,
solidity, thoroughness, neatness. The Government does its
work well in the first place, and then takes care of it.

By winding-roads— which were often cnt to so great*a
depth between perpendicular walls that they were mere roof
less tunnels — we drove out a mile or two and visited the
monument which stands upon the scene of the surrender of
Yicksburg to General Grant by General Pemberton. Its
metal will preserve it from the hackings and chippings which
so defaced its predecessor, which was of marble; but the
brick foundations are crumbling, and it will tumble down by
and by. It overlooks a picturesque region of wooded hills'
and ravines; and is not unpicturesque itself, being well
smothered in flowering weeds. The battered remnant of
the marble monument has been removed to the National
On the road, a quarter of a mile townward, an aged colored
man showed us, with pride, an unexploded bomb-shell which
has lain in his yard since the day it fell there during the
u I was a-stannin’ heah, an’ de dog was a-stannin’ heah;
de dog he went for de shell, gwine to pick a fuss wid,it; but
I.did n’t; I says, 4 Jes’ make youseff at home heah; lay still
whah you is, or bust up de place, jes’ as you’s a mind to, but
J’s.got business out in de woods, Alias ! ’ ”
Yicksburg is a town of substantial business streets and
pleasant residences; it commands the commerce of the
Y&zoo and Sunflower Rivers ; is pushing railways in several
directions, through rich agricultural regions, and has a prom
ising future of prosperity and importance.
Apparently, nearly all the river towns, big and little, have
made up their minds that they must look mainly to railroads
for wealth and upbuilding, henceforth. They are acting
upon this idea. The signs are, that the next twenty years
-will bring about some noteworthy changes in the Yalley, in
the direction of increased population and wealth, and in the
intellectual advancement and the liberalizing of opinion
which go naturally with these. And yet, if one may judge
by the past, the river towns will manage to find and use a

chance, here and there, to cripple and retard their progress.
They kept themselves back in the days of steamboating
supremacy, by a system of wharfage-dues so stupidly graded
as, to prohibit what may - be called small retail traffic in
freights and passengers. Boats were charged such heavy
wharfage that they could not afford to land for one or two
passengers or a light lot of freight. Instead of encouraging
the bringing of trade to their doors, the towns diligently
and effectively discouraged it. They could have had many
boats and low rates ; but their policy rendered few boats
and high rates compulsory. It was a policy which extended
— and extends — from New Orleans to St. Paul.
We had a strong desire to make a trip up the Yazoo and
the Sunflower — an interesting region at any time, but addi
tionally interesting at this time, because up there the
great inundation was still to be seen in force, — but we were
nearly sure to have to wait a day or more for a New Orleans
boat on our return; so we were obliged to give up the
Here is a story which I picked up on board the boat that
night. I insert it in this place merely because it is a good
story, not because it belongs here — for it does n’t. It was
told by a passenger — a college professor — and was called
to the surface in the course of a general conversation which
began with talk about horses, drifted into talk about astron
omy, then into talk about the lynching of the gamblers in
Vicksburg half a century ago, then into talk about dreams
and superstitions; and ended, after midnight, in a dispute
over free trade and protection.

I T was in the early days. I was not a college professor
then. I was a liumble-minded young land-surveyor, with
the world before me — to survey, in case anybody wanted it
done. I had a contract to survey a route for a great mining-
ditch in California, and I was on my way thither, by sea —
a three or four weeks’ voyage. There were a good many
passengers, but I had very little to say to them; reading and
dreaming were my passions, and I avoided conversation in
order to indulge these appetites. There were three profes
sional gamblers on board—rough, repulsive fellows. I never
had any talk with them, yet 1 could not help seeing them
with some frequency, for they gambled in an upper-deck
state-room every day and night, and in my promenades I
often had glimpses of them through their door, which stood
a little a,jar to let out the surplus tobacco smoke and profan
ity. They were an evil and hateful presence, but I had to
put up with it, of course.
There was one other passenger who fell under my eye a
good deal, for he seemed determined to be friendly with me,
and I could not have gotten rid of him without running some
chance of hurting his feelings, and 1 was far from wishing to
do that. Besides, there was something engaging in his coun
trified simplicity and his beaming good-nature. The first,
time I saw this Mr. John Backus, I guessed, from his clothes
and his looks, that he was a grazier or farmer from the back
woods of some western State — doubtless Ohio — and after
ward when he dropped into his personal history and I dis-

covered that .he ivas a cattl e-raiser from interior Ohio, 1 was
so pleased with my own penetration that I warmed toward
him for verifying my instinct.
He got to dropping alongside me every day, after break
fast, to help me make my promenade ; and so, in the course
of time, his easy-working jaw had told me everything about
his business,
his prospects,
his family, his
relatives, his
politics — in
fact every
thing that
concerned a
r dead. And
meantime I think he had man
aged to get out of me everything
I knew about my trade, my tribe,
my purposes, my prospects, and
myself. He was a gentle and
persuasive genius, and this thing
showed it; for I was not given
to talking about my matters. I
said something about triangula
tion, once; the stately word
pleased his ear; he inquired what
it meant; I explained; after that
he quietly and inoffensively ig
nored my name, and always
called me Triangle.
What an enthusiast he was in
cattle ! At the bare name of a
bull or a cow, his eye would light
and his eloquent tongue would
turn itself loose. As long as I
would walk and listen, he would walk and talk; he knew all
Backus, living

breeds, he loved all breeds, he caressed them all with his
affectionate tongue. I tramped along in voiceless misery
whilst the cattle question was up; when I could endure it
no longer, I used to deftly insert a scientific topic into the
conversation; then my eye fired and his faded ; my tongue
fluttered, his stopped ; life was a joy to me, and a sadness to
One day he said, a little hesitatingly, and with somewhat
of diffidence:—
“ Triangle, would you mind coming down to my state-room
a minute, and have a little talk on a certain matter ? ”
I went with him at once. Arrived there, he put his head
out, glanced up and down the saloon warily, then closed
the door and locked it. We sat down on the sofa, and he
said: —
“ I’m a-going to make a little proposition to you, and if it
strikes you favorable, it ’11 be a middling good thing for both
of us. You ain’t a-going out to Californy for fun, nuther
am I — it’s business, ain’t that so ? Well, you can do me a
good turn, and so can I you, if we see fit. I’ve raked and
scraped and saved, a considerable many j^ears, and I’ve got
it all here.” He unlocked an old hair trunk, tumbled a chaos
of shabby clothes aside, and drew a short stout bag into view
for a moment, then buried it again and relocked the trunk.
Dropping his voice to a cautious low'tone, he continued,
“ She’s all there — a round ten thousand dollars in yellow-
boys ; now this is= my little idea : What I don’t know about
raising cattle, ain’t worth knowing. There’s mints of money
in it, in Galiforny. Well, I know, and you know, that all
along a line that’s being surveyed, there’s little dabs of land
that they call ‘ gores,’ that fall to the surveyor free gratis for
nothing. All you’ve got to do, on your side, is to survey in
such a way that the ‘ gores ’ will fall on good fat land, then
you turn ’em over to me, I stock ’em with cattle, in rolls the
cash, I plank out your share of the dollars regular, right
along, and—”

I was sorry to wither his blooming enthusiasm, but it
could not be helped. I interrupted, and said severely, —
“I am not that
of a surveyor. Let us
change the subject, Mr.
It was pitiful to see his
confusion and hear his
awkward and shamefaced
apologies. I was as
much distressed as he
was — especially as he seemed so far from having suspected
that there was anything improper in his proposition. So I
hastened to console him and lead him on to forget his mishap
in a conversational orgy about cattle and butchery. We
were lying at Acapulco; and, as we went on deck, it hap-

pened luckily that the crew were just beginning to hoist
some beeves aboard in slings. Backus’s melancholy van
ished instantly, and with it the memory of his late mistake.
“Now only look at that!” cried he ; “My goodness, Tri
angle, what would they say to it in Ohio? Would n’t their
eyes bug out, to see ’em handled like that ? — would n’t they,
though ? ”
All the passengers were on deck to look — even the gam
blers — and Backus knew them all, and had afflicted them
all with his pet topic. As I moved away, I saw one of the
gamblers approach and accost him; then another of them;
then the third. I halted; waited; watched; the conversa
tion continued between the four men; it grew earnest;
Backus drew gradually away; the gamblers followed, and
kept at his elbow. I was uncomfortable. However, as they
passed me presently, I heard Backus say, with a tone of per
secuted annoyance: —
“ But it ain’t any use, gentlemen ; I tell you again, as I ’ve
told you a half a dozen times before, I wa,r n’t raised to it, and
I ain’t a-going to resk it.”
I felt relieved. “ His level head will be his sufficient pro
tection,” I said to myself.
During the fortnight’s run from Acapulco to San Fran
cisco I several times saw the gamblers talking earnestly with
Backus, and once I threw out a gentle warning to him. He
chuckled comfortably and said,—
“ Oh, yes ! they tag around after me considerable — want
me to play a little, just for amusement, they say — but laws-
a-me, if my folks have told me once to look out for that sort
of live-stock, they’ve told me a thousand times, I reckon.”
By and by, in due course, we were approaching San
Francisco. It was an ugly black night, with a strong wind
blowing, but there was not much sea. I was on deck, alone.
Toward ten I started below. A figure issued from the gam
blers’ den, and disappeared in the darkness. I experienced
a shock, for I was sure it was Backus. I flew down the

companion-way, looked about for him, could not find him,
then returned to the deck just in time to catch a glimpse
of him as he re-entered that confounded nest of rascality.
Had he yielded at last? I feared it. What had he gone
below for? — His bag of coin? Possibly. I drew near the
door, full of bodings. It was a-crack, and I glanced in and
saw a sight that made me
bitterly wish I had given
my attention to saving my
poor cattle-friend, instead
of reading and dreaming
my foolish time away. He
was gambling. Worse still,
he was being plied with
champagne, and was al
ready showing some effect
from it. He praised the
“ cider,” as he called it, and
said now that he had got a
taste of it he almost be
lieved he would drink it
if it was spirits, it was so
good and so ahead of any
thing he had ever run across
before. Surreptitious
smiles, at this, passed from
one rascal to another, and
they filled all the glasses, and whilst Backus honestly drained
his to the bottom they pretended to do the same, but threw
the wine over their shoulders.
I could not bear the scene, so I wandered forward and
tried to interest myself in the sea and the voices of the
wind. But no, my uneasy spirit kept dragging me back at
quarter-hour intervals ; and always I saw Backus drinking
his wine — fairly and squarely, and the others throwing
theirs away. It was the painfulest night I ever spent.

The only hope I had was that we might reach our anchor
age with speed — that would break up the game. I helped
the ship along all I could with my prayers. At last we went
booming through the Golden Gate, and my pulses leaped for
joy. I hurried back to that door and glanced in. Alas, there
was small room for hope — Backus’s eyes were heavy and
bloodshot, his sweaty face was
crimson, his speech maudlin
and thick, his body sawed drunk-
enly about with the weaving
motion of the ship. He drained
another glass to the dregs,
" 1,/ " y <J J whilst the cards were being dealt.
He took his hand, glanced at it, and his dull eyes lit up
for a moment. The gamblers observed it, and showed their
gratification by hardly perceptible signs.
“ How many cards ? ”
“ None ! ” said Backus.
One villain — named Hank Wiley — discarded one card,

the others three each. The betting began. Heretofore the
bets had been trifling — a dollar or two ; but Backus started
off with an eagle now, Wiley hesitated a moment, then “ saw
it” and “went ten dollars better.” The other two threw up
their hands.
Backus went twenty better. Wiley said,—
“ I see that, and go you a hundred better ! ” then smiled
and reached for the money.
“ Let it alone,” said Backus, with drunken gravity.
“ What! you mean to say you’re going to cover it ? ”
“ Cover it ? Well I reckon I am — and lay another hun
dred on top of it, too.” ^
He reached down inside his overcoat and produced the
required sum.
“ Oh, that’s your little game, is it ? I see your raise, and
raise it five hundred ! ” said Wiley.
“ Five hundred better ! ” said the foolish bull-driver, and
pulled out the amount and showered it on the pile. The
three conspirators hardly tried to conceal their exultation.
All diplomacy and pretence were dropped now, and the
sharp exclamations came thick and fast, and the yellow
pyramid grew higher and higher. At last ten thousand
dollars lay in view. Wiley cast a bag of coin on the table,
and said with mOcking gentleness, —
“ Five thousand dollars better, my friend from the rural
districts — what do you say now
“ I call you ! ” said Backus, heaving his golden shot-bag
on the pile. “ What have you got ? ”
“ Four kings, you d—d fool! ” and Wiley threw down his
cards and surrounded the stakes with his arms.
“ Four aces, you ass! ” thundered Backus, covering
his man with a cocked revolver. “I'm a professional
gambler myself, and I've been laying for you duffers all
this voyage/”
Down went the anchor, rumbledy-dum-dum ! and the long
trip was ended.

Well —well, it is a sad world. One of the three gamblers
was Backus’s “ pal.” It was he that dealt the fateful hands.
According to an understanding with the two victims, he was
to have given Backus four queens, but alas, he did n’t.
A week later, I stumbled upon Backus — arrayed in the
height of fashion—in Montgomery Street. He said, cheerily,
as we were parting, —
“ Ah, by-the-way, you need n’t mind about those gores. I
don’t really know anything about cattle, except what I was
able to pick up in a week’s apprenticeship over in Jersey just

before we sailed. My cattle-culture and cattle-enthusiasm
have served their turn — I shan’t need them any more.”
Next day we reluctantly parted from the “ Gold Dust ”
and her officers, hoping to see that boat and all those officers
again, some day. A thing which the fates were to render
tragically impossible!

F OR, tliree months later, August 8, while I was writing
one of these foregoing chapters, the New York papers
brought this telegram : —
“ Nashville, Aug. 7. — A despatch from Hickman, Ky.,
“ The steamer ‘ Gold Dust ’ exploded her boilers at three o’clock
to-day, just after leaving Hickman. Forty-seven persons were
scalded and seventeen are missing. The boat was landed in the
eddy just above the town, and through the exertions of the citizens
the cabin passengers, officers, and part of the crew and deck passen
gers were taken ashore and removed to the hotels and residences.
Twenty-four of the injured were lying in Holcomb’s dry-goods
store at one time, where they received every attention before being
removed to more comfortable places.”
A list of the names followed, whereby it appeared that of
the seventeen dead, one was the barkeeper; and among the
forty-seven wounded, were the captain, chief mate, second
mate, and second and third clerks; also Mr. Lem. S. Gray,
pilot, and several members of the crew.
In answer to a private telegram, we learned that none, of
these was severely hurt, except Mr. Gray. Letters received

afterward confirmed this news, and said that Mr. Gray was
improving and would get well. Later letters spoke less
hopefully of his case; and finally came one announcing his
death. A good man, a most companionable and manly man,
and worthy of a kindlier fate.

W E took passage in a Cincinnati boat for New Orleans ;
or on a Cincinnati boat—either is correct; the former
is the eastern form of putting it, the latter the western.
Mr. Dickens declined to agree that the Mississippi steam
boats were “ magnificent,” or that they were “ floating pala
ces,” — terms which had always been applied to them; terms
which did not over-express the admiration with which the
people viewed them.
Mr. Dickens’s position was unassailable, possibly; the
people’s position was certainly unassailable. If Mr. Dickens
was comparing these boats with the crown jewels ; or with
the Taj, or with the Matterhorn ; or with some other price
less or wonderful thing which he had seen, they were not
magnificent—he was right. The people compared them
with what they had seen; and, thus measured, thus judged,
the boats were magnificent — the term was the correct one,
it was not at all too strong. The people were as right as
was Mr. Dickens. The steamboats were finer than anything
on shore. Compared*with superior dwelling-houses and first
class hotels'in the Yalley, they were indubitably magnifi
cent, they were “ palaces.” To a few people living in New
Orleans and St. Louis, they were not magnificent, perhaps;
not palaces; but to the great majority of those populations,
and to the entire populations spread over both banks between
Baton Rouge and St. Louis, they were palaces; they tallied
with the citizen’s dream of what magnificence was, and
satisfied it.

.Every town and village along that vast stretch of double
river-frontage had a best dwelling, finest dwelling, mansion,
— the home of its wealthiest arid most conspicuous citizen.
It is easy to describe it: large grassy yard, with paling fence
painted white — in fair repair; brick walk from gate to
door; big, square, two-story “ frame house, painted white
and porticoed like a Grecian temple — with this difference,
that the imposing fluted columns and Corinthian capitals
were a pathetic sham, being made of white pine, and
painted; iron knocker; brass door knob — discolored, for
lack of polishing. Within, an uncarpeted hall, of planed
boards ; ’ opening out of it, a parlor, fifteen feet by fifteen —
in some instances five or ten feet larger; ingrain carpet;
mahogany centre-table; lamp on it, with green-paper shade
— standing on a gridiron, so to speak, made of high-colored
yarns, by the young ladies of the house, and called a lamp-
mat ; several books, piled and disposed, with . cast-iron
exactness, according to an inherited and unchangeable plan;
among them, Tupper, much pencilled; also, “ Friendship’s
Offering,” and “ Affection’s Wreath,” with their sappy
inanities illustrated in die-away mezzotints; also, Ossian;
“ Alonzo and Melissa; ” maybe “ Ivanlioe ; ” also “ Album,”
full of original “ poetry ” of the Thou-hast-wounded-the-
spirit-that-loved-thee breed; two or three goody-goody works
—“ Shepherd of Salisbury Plain,” etc. ; current number of
the chaste and innocuous Codey’s “ Lady’s Book,” with
painted fashion-plate of wax-figure women with mouths all
alike — lips and eyelids the same size—each five-foot woman
with a two-inch wedge sticking from under her dress and
letting-on to be half of her foot. . Polished air-tight stove
.(new and deadly invention), with pipe passing through a
board which closes up the discarded good old fireplace. , On
each end of the wooden mantel, over the fireplace, a large
basket of peaches and other fruits, natural size, all done in
plaster, rudely, or in wax, and painted to resemble the origi
nals — which they don’t. Over middle of mantel, engraving


— Washington Grossing the Delaware; on the wall by the
door, copy of it done in thunder-and-lightning crewels by
one of the young ladies — work of art which would have
made Washington hesitate about crossing, if he could have
foreseen what advantage was going to be taken of it. Piano
— kettle in disguise —with music, bound and unbound, piled
on it, and on a stand near by: Battle of Prague; Bird
Waltz; Arkansas Traveller; Rosin the Bow; Marseilles
Hymn; On a Lone Barren Isle (St. Helena); The Last
Link is Broken; She wore a Wreath of Roses the Night
when last we met; Go, forget me, Why should Sorrow
o’er that Brow a Shadow fling; Hours there were to
Memory Dearer; Long, Long Ago; Days of Absence; A
Life on the Ocean Wave, a Home on the Rolling Deep; Bird
at Sea; and spread open on the rack, where the plaintive
singer has left it, Ro-holl on, silver moo-hoon, guide the
imv-el-lerr his way, etc. Tilted pensively against the piano,
a guitar— guitar capable of playing the Spanish Fandango
by itself, if you give it a start. Frantic work of art on the
wall — pious motto, done on the premises, sometimes in
colored yarns, sometimes in faded grasses: progenitor of the
“ God Bless Our Home ” of modem commerce. Framed in
black mouldings on the wall,, other works of art, conceived
and committed on the premises, by the young ladies; being
grim black-and-white crayons; landscapes, mostly: lake,
solitary sail-boat, petrified clouds, pre-geological treeis on
shore, anthracite precipice; name of criminal conspicuous
in the corner. Lithograph, Napoleon Crossing the Alps.
Lithograph, The Grave at St. Helena. Steel-plates, Trum
bull’s Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Sally from Gibraltar.
Copper-plates, Moses Smiting the Rock, and Return of the
Prodigal Son. In big gilt frame, slander of the family in
oil: papa holding a book (“ Constitution of the United
States”); guitar leaning against mamma, blue ribbons flut
tering from its neck; the young ladies, as children, in slippers
and scalloped pantelettes, one embracing toy horse, the other

beguiling kitten with ball of yarn, and both simpering up at
mamma, who simpers back. These persons all fresh, raw, and
red — apparently skinned. Opposite, in gilt frame, grandpa
and grandma, at thirty and twenty-two, stiff, old-fashioned,
high-collared, puff-sleeved, glaring pallidly out from a back
ground of solid Egyptian night. Under a glass French clock
dome, large bouquet of stiff flowers done in corpsy white wax.
Pyramidal what-not in the corner, the shelves occupied
chiefly with bric-a-brac of the period, disposed with an eye
to best effect: shell, with the Lord’s Prayer carved on it;
another shell — of the long-oval sort, narrow, straight orifice,
three inches long, running from end to end — portrait of
Washington carved on it; not well done; the shell had
Washington’s mouth, originally — artist should have built to
that. These two are memorials of the long-ago bridal trip
to New Orleans and the French Market. Other bric-a-brac :
Californian “ specimens ” — quartz, with gold wart adhering;
old Guinea-gold locket, with circlet of ancestral hair in it;
Indian arrow-heads, of flint; pair of bead moccasins, from
uncle who crossed the Plains; three “ alum ” baskets of
various colors — being skeleton-frame of wire, clothed-on
with cubes of crystallized alum in the rock-candy style —
works of art which were achieved by the young ladies; their
doubles and duplicates to be found upon all what-nots in the
land; convention of desiccated bugs and butterflies pinned to
a card; painted toy-dog, seated upon bellows-attachment —
drops its under jaw and squeaks when pressed upon; sugar-
candy rabbit —limbs and features merged together, not
strongly defined; pewter presidential-campaign medal; min
iature card-board wood-sawyer, to be attached to the stove
pipe and operated by the heat; small Napoleon, done in wax;
spread-open daguerreotypes of dim children, parents, cousins,
aunts, and friends, in all attitudes but customary ones; no
templed portico at back, and manufactured landscape stretch
ing away in the distance that came in later, with the
photograph; all these vague figures lavishly chained and

ringed — metal indicated and secured from doubt by stripes
and splashes of vivid gold bronze; all of them too much
combed, too much fixed up; and all of them uncomfortable
in inflexible Sunday-clothes of a pattern which the specta
tor cannot realize could
ever have been in fash- !
ion; husband and wife I
generally grouped to-
sitting, wife standing, with
hand on his shoulder — and
both preserving, all these fad
ing years, some traceable effect
of the daguerreotypist’s brisk
“ Now smile, if you please! ”
Bracketed over what-not —
place of special sacredness—
an outrage in water-color, done
by the young niece that came
on a visit long ago, and died.
Pity, too; for she might
have repented of this in time.
Horse-hair chairs, horse-hair
sofa which keeps sliding from
under you. Window shades,
of oil stuff, with milk-maids and ruined castles stencilled on
them in fierce colors. Lambrequins dependent from gaudy

boxings of beaten tin, gilded. Bedrooms "with rag carpets;
bedsteads of the “ corded ” sort, with a sag in the middle,
the cords needing tightening; snuffy feather-bed — not aired
often enough; cane-seat chairs, splint-bottomed rocker;
looking-glass on wall, sckool-slate size, veneered frame;
inherited bureau; wash-bowl and pitcher, possibly — but not
certainly; brass candlestick, tallow candle, snuffers. Nothing
else in the room. Not a bathroom in the house; and no
visitor likely to come along who has ever seen one.
That was the residence of the principal citizen, all the
way from the suburbs of New Orleans to the edge of St.
Louis. When he stepped aboard a big fine steamboat, he
entered a new and marvellous world: chimney-tops cut to
counterfeit a spraying crown of plumes — and maybe painted
red; pilot-house, hurricane deck, boiler-deck guards, all
garnished with white wooden filagree work of fanciful pat
terns ; gilt acorns topping the derricks ; gilt deer-horns over
the big bell; gaudy symbolical picture on the paddle-box,
possibly; big roomy boiler-deck, painted blue, and furnished
with Windsor arm-chairs; inside, a far receding snow-white
“ cabin; ” porcelain knob and oil-picture on every state-room
door; curving patterns of filagree-work touched up with
gilding, stretching overhead all down the converging vista;
big chandeliers every little way, each an April shower of
glittering glass-drops; lovely rainbow-light falling every
where from the colored glazing of the skylights; the whole
a long-drawn, resplendent tunnel, a bewildering and soul-
satisfying spectacle! in the ladies’ cabin a pink and white
Wilton carpet, as soft as mush, and glorified with a ravish
ing pattern of gigantic flowers. Then the Bridal Chamber
— the animal that invented that idea was still alive and
unhanged, at that day — Bridal Chamber whose pretentious
flummery was necessarily overawing to the now tottering
intellect of that liosannahing citizen. Every state-room had
its couple of cosy clean bunks, and perhaps a looking-glass
and a snug closet; and sometimes there was even a wash-

bowl and pitcher, and part of a towel which could he told
from mosquito netting by an expert—though generally these
things were absent, and the shirt-sleeved passengers cleansed
themselves at a long row of stationary bowls in the barber
shop, where were also public towels, public combs, and public
Take the steamboat which I have just described, and you
have her in her highest and finest, and most pleasing, and
comfortable, and satisfactory estate. Now cake her over
with a layer of ancient and obdurate dirt, and you have the
Cincinnati steamer awhile ago referred to. Not all over —
onty inside; for she was ably officered in all departments
except the steward’s.
But wash that boat and repaint her, and she would be
about the counterpart of the most complimented boat of the
old flush times: for the steamboat architecture of the West
has undergone no change; neither has steamboat furniture
and ornamentation undergone any.

HERE the river, in the Vicksburg region, used to be
corkscrewed, it is now comparatively straight —
made so by cut-off; a former distance of seventy miles is
reduced to thirty-five. It is a change which threw Vicks
burg’s neighbor, Delta, Louisiana, out into the country and
ended its career as a river town. Its whole river-frontage is
now occupied by a vast sand-bar, thickly covered with young
trees — a growth which will magnify itself into a dense for
est, by and by, and completely hide the exiled town.
In due time we passed Grand Gulf and Rodney, of war
fame, and reached Natchez, the last of the beautiful hill-
cities — : for Baton Rouge, yet to come, is not on a hill, but
only on high ground. Famous Natchez-under-the-hill has
not changed notably in twenty years ; in outward aspect —
judging , by the descriptions of the ancient procession of
foreign tourists — it has not changed in sixty ; for it is still
small, straggling, and shabby. It had a desperate reputation,
morally, in the old keel-boating and early steamboating times
— plenty of drinking, carousing, fisticuffing, and killing
there, among the riff-raff of the river, in those days. But
Natcliez-on-top-of-the-hill is attractive; has always been
attractive. - Even Mrs. Trollope (1827) had to confess its
“ At one or two points the wearisome level line is relieved by
bluffs, as they call the short intervals of high ground. The town
of Natchez is beautifully situated on one of those high spots. The
contrast that its bright green hill forms with the dismal line of black

forest that stretches on every side, the abundant growth of the paw
paw, palmetto and orange, the copious variety of sweet-scented flowers
that flourish there, all make it appear like an oasis in the desert.
Natchez is the furthest point to the north at which oranges ripen in
the open air, or endure the winter without shelter. With the excep
tion of this sweet spot, I thought all the little towns and villages
we passed wretched-looking in the extreme.”
Natchez, like her near and far river neighbors, has rail
ways now, and is adding to them — pushing them hither
and thither into all rich outlying regions that are naturally
tributary to her. And like Vicksburg and New Orleans, she
has her ice-factory; she makes thirty tons of ice a day. In
Vicksburg and Natchez, in my time, ice was jewelry; none
but the rich could wear it. But anybody and everybody can
have it now. I visited one of the ice-factories in New
Orleans, to see what the polar regions might look like when
lugged into the edge of the tropics. But there was nothing

striking in the aspect of the place. It was merely a spacious
house, with some innocent steam machinery in one end of it
and some big porcelain pipes running here and there. No,
not porcelain — they merely seemed to be; they were iron,
but the ammonia which was being breathed through them
had coated them to the thickness of your hand with solid
milk-white ice. It ought to have melted; for one did not
require winter clothing in that atmosphere: but it did not
melt; the inside of the pipe was too cold.
Sunk into the floor were numberless tin boxes, a foot
square and two feet long, and open at the top end. These
were full of clear water; and around each box, salt and other
proper stuff was packed; also, the ammonia gases were
applied to the water in some way which will always remain
a secret to me, because I was not able to understand the
process. While the water in the boxes gradually froze, men
gave it a stir or two with a stick occasionally — to liberate
the air-bubbles, I think. Other men were continually lifting
out boxes whose contents had become hard frozen. They
gave the box a single dip into a vat of boiling water, to melt
the block of ice free from its tin coffin, then they shot the
block out upon a platform car, and it was ready for market.
These big blocks were hard, solid, and crystal-clear. In
certain of them, big bouquets of fresh and brilliant tropical
flowers had been frozen-in; in others, beautiful silken-clad
French dolls, and other pretty objects.. These blocks were to
be set on end in a platter, in the centre of dinner-tables, to
cool the tropical air; and also to be ornamental, for the
flowers and things imprisoned in them could be seen as
through plate glass. I was told that this factory could
retail its ice, by wagon, throughout New Orleans, in the
humblest dwelling house quantities, at six or seven dollars
a ton, and make a sufficient profit. This being the case,
there is business for ice factories in the North; for we get
ice on no such terms there, if one take less than three
hundred and fifty pounds at a delivery.

The Rosalie Yarn Mill, of Natchez, has a capacity of
6,000 spindles and 160 looms, and employs 100 hands. The
Natchez Cotton Mills Company began operations four years
ago in a two-story building of 50 X 190 feet, with 4,000
spindles and 128 looms; capital $105,000, all subscribed in
the town. Two years later, the same stockholders increased
their capital to $225,000; added a third story to the mill,
increased its length to 317 feet; added machinery to increase
the capacity to 10,300 spindles and 304 looms. The company
now employ 250
operatives, many of
whom are citizens
of Natchez. “ The
mill works 5,000
bales of cotton an
nually and manu
factures the best
standard quality of
brown shirtings and
sheetings and drills,
turning out 5,000,-
000 yards of these
goods per year.” 1
A close corporation
— stock held at
$5,000 per share,
but none in the detjmmers.
The changes in the Mississippi River are great and strange,
yet were to be expected; but I was not expecting to live to
see Natchez and these other river towns become manufactur
ing strongholds and railway centres.
Speaking of manufactures reminds me of a talk upon that
topic which I heard — which I overheard — on board the
Cincinnati boat. I awoke out of a fretted sleep, with a dull
1 “ New Orleans Times-Democrat,” Aug. 26, 1882.

confusion of voices in my ears. I listened — two men were
talking; subject, apparently, the great inundation. I looked
out through the open transom. The two men were eating a
late breakfast; sitting opposite each other; nobody else
around. They closed up the inundation with a few words —
having used it, evidently, as a mere ice-breaker and acquaint-
anceship-breeder — then they dropped into business. It
soon transpired that they were drummers —one belonging
in Cincinnati, the other in New Orleans. Brisk men, ener
getic of movement and speech; the dollar their god, how to
get it their religion.
“ Now as to this article,” said Cincinnati, slashing into the
ostensible butter and holding forward a slab of it on his knife-
blade, “ it’s from our house; look at it — smell of it — taste
it. Put any test on it you want to. Take your own time —
no hurry — make it thorough. There now — what do you
say ? butter, ain’t it? Not by a thundering sight — it’s oleo
margarine ! Yes, sir, that’s what it is — oleomargarine.
You can’t tell it from butter; by George, an expert can’t.
It’s from our house. We supply most of the boats in the
West; there’s hardly a pound of butter on one of them. We
are crawling right along—jumping right along is the word.
We are going to have that entire trade. Yes, and the hotel
trade, too. You are going to see the day, pretty soon, when
you can’t find an ounce of butter to bless yourself with, in any
hotel in the Mississippi and Ohio Yalleys, outside of the
biggest cities. Why, we are turning out oleomargarine now
by the thousands of tons. And we can sell it so dirt-cheap
that the whole country has got to take it — can’t get around
it you see. Butter don’t stand any show — there ain’t any
chance for competition. Butter’s had its day — and from
this out, butter goes to the wall. There’s more money in
oleomargarine than — why, you can’t imagine the business
we do. I’ve stopped in every town, from Cincinnati to
Natchez ; and I’ve sent home big orders from every one of

And so-forth and so-on, for ten minutes longer, in the
same fervid strain. Then New Orleans piped up and said: —
“ Yes, it’s a first-rate
imitation, that’s a cer
tainty ; but it ain’t the
only one around that’s
first-rate. For instance,
“smell them, taste them.”
they make olive-oil out of cotton-seed oil, now-a-days, so
that you can’t tell them apart.”
“ Yes, that’s so,” responded Cincinnati, “ and it was a tip
top business for a while. They sent it over and brought it
back from France and Italy, with the United States custom
house mark on it to indorse it for genuine, and there was no
end of cash in it; but France and Italy broke up the game
— of course they naturally would. Cracked on such a
rattling impost that cotton-seed olive-oil could n’t stand the
raise; had to hang up and quit.”

“ Oh, it did, did it? You wait here a minute.”
Goes to his state-room, brings back a couple of long bottles,
and takes out the corks — says : —
“ There now, smell them, taste them, examine the bottles,
inspect the labels. One of ’m’s from Europe, the other’s
never been out of this country. One’s European olive-oil,
the other’s American cotfcon-seed olive-oil. Tell’m apart ?
’Course you can’t. Nobody can. People that want to, can go
to the expense and trouble of shipping their oils to Europe
and back — it’s their privilege; but our firm knows a trick
worth six of that. We turn out the whole thing — clean
from the word go — in our factory in New Orleans: labels,
bottles, oil, everything. Well, no, not labels: been buying
them abroad — get them dirt-cheap there. You see, there’s
just one little wee speck, essence, or whatever it is, in a
gallon of cotton-seed oil, that gives it a smell, or a flavor, or
something — get that out, and you’re all right — perfectly
easy then to turn the oil into any kind of oil you want to,
and there ain’t anybody that can detect the true from the
false. Well, we know how to get that one little particle out
— and we ’re the only firm that does. And we turn out an
olive-oil that is just simply perfect — undetectable ! We are
doing a ripping trade, too—as I could easily show you by
my order-book for this trip. Maybe you ’11 butter every
body’s bread pretty soon, but we ’11 cotton-seed his salad
for him from the Gulf to Canada, and that’s a dead-certain
Cincinnati glowed and flashed with admiration. The two
scoundrels exchanged business-cards, and rose. As they
left the table, Cincinnati said,—
“ But you have to have custom-liousc marks, don’t you ?
How do you manage that?”
I did not catch the answer.
We passed Port Hudson, scene of two of the most terrific
episodes of the war — the night-battlc there between Far-
ragut’s fleet and the Confederate land batteries, April 14th,

1863; and the memorable land battle, two months later,
which lasted eight hours — eight hours of exceptionally fierce
and stubborn fighting—and ended, finally, in the repulse of
the Union forces with great slaughter.

B ATON ROUGE was clothed in flowers, like a bride—
no, much more so; like a greenhouse. For we were
in the absolute South now — no modifications, no compro
mises, no half-way measures. The magnolia-trees in the
Capitol grounds were lovely and fragrant, with their dense
rich foliage and huge snow-ball blossoms. The scent of the
flower is very sweet, but you want distance on it, because it
is so powerful. They are not good bedroom blossoms —
they might suffocate one in his sleep. We were certainly in
the South at last; for here the sugar region begins, and the
plantations — vast green levels, with sugar-mill and negro
quarters clustered together in the middle distance — were in
view. And there was a tropical sun overhead and a tropical
swelter in the air.
And at this point, also, begins the pilot’s paradise : a wide
river hence to New Orleans, abundance of water from shore
to shore, and no bars, snags, sawyers, or wrecks in his road.
Sir Walter Scott is probably responsible for the Capitol
building; for it is not conceivable that this little sham castle
would ever have been built if he had not run the people mad,
a couple of generations ago, with his mediaeval romances.
The South has not yet recovered from the debilitating influ
ence of his books. Admiration of his fantastic heroes and
their grotesque “ chivalry ” doings and romantic juvenilities
still survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already per
ceptible the wholesome and practical nineteenth-century
smell of cotton-factories and locomotives; and traces of its

inflated language and other windy humbuggeries survive
along with it. It is pathetic enough, that a whitewashed
castle, with turrets and things — materials all ungenuine
within and without, pretending to be what they are not —
should ever have been built in this otherwise honorable
place ; but it is much more pathetic to see this architectural
falsehood undergoing restoration and perpetuation in our
day, when it would have
been so easy to let dyna
mite finish what a chari
table fire began, and then
devote this restoration-
money to the building df
something genuine.
Baton Rouge has no
patent 011 imitation cas
tles, however, and no
monopoly of them. Here Columbia female institute.
is a picture from the
advertisement of the “ Female Institute ” of Columbia, Ten
nessee. The following remark is from the same advertise
ment : —
“ The Institute building has long been famed as a model of strik
ing and beautiful architecture. Visitors are charmed with its
resemblance to the old castles of song and story, with its towers,
turreted walls, and ivy-mantled porches.”
Keeping school in a castle is a romantic thing; as roman
tic as keeping hotel in a castle.
By itself the imitation castle is doubtless harmless, and
well enough; but as a symbol and breeder and sustainer of
maudlin Middle-Age romanticism here in the midst of the
plainest and sturdiest and infinitely greatest and worthiest
of all the centuries the world has seen, it is necessarily a
hurtful thing and a mistake.
Here is an extract from the prospectus of a Kentucky
“ Female College.” Female college sounds well enough ;

but since the phrasing it in that unjustifiable way was done
purely in the interest of brevity, it seems to me that slie-col-
lege would have been still better-—because shorter, and
means the same thing: that is, if either phrase means any
thing at all: —
“ The president is southern by birth, by rearing, by education,
and by sentiment; the teachers are all southern in sentiment, and
with the exception of those born in Europe were born and raised
.in the south. Believing the southern to be the highest type of
civilization this continent has seen, 1 the young ladies are trained
1 Illustrations of it thoughtlessly omitted by the advertiser:
Knoxville, Tenn., October 19. — This morning a few minutes after ten
o’clock, General Joseph A. Mabry, Thomas O’Connor, and Joseph A. Mabry,
Jr., were killed in a shooting affray. The difficulty began yesterday afternoon
by General Mabry attacking Major O’Connor and threatening to kill him.
This was at the fair grounds, and O’Connor told Mabry that it was not the
place to settle their difficulties. Mabry then told O’Connor he should not live.
It seems that Mabry was armed and O’Connor was not. The cause of the
difficulty was an old feud about the transfer of some property from Mabry to
O’Connor. Later in the afternoon Mabry sent word to O’Connor that he
would kill him on sight. This morning Major O’Connor was standing in the
door of the Mechanics’ National Bank, of which he was president. General
Mabry and, another gentleman walked down Gay Street on the opposite side
from the bank. O’Connor stepped into the bank, got a shot gun, took deliber
ate aim at General Mabry and fired. Mabry fell dead, being shot in the left
side. As he fell O’Connor fired again, the shot taking effect in Mabry’s thigh.
O’Connor then reached into the bank and got another shot gun. About this time
Joseph A. Mabry, Jr., son of General Mabry, came rushing down the street,
unseen by O’Connor until within forty feet, when the young man fired a pistol,
the shot taking effect in O’Connor’s right breast, passing through the body
near the heart. The instant Mabry shot, O’Connor turned and fired, the load
taking effect in young Mabry’s right breast and side. Mabry fell pierced with
twenty buckshot, and almost instantlv O’Connor fell dead without a struggle.
Mabry tried to rise, but fell back dead. The whole tragedy occurred within
two minutes, and neither of the three spoke after he was shot. General Mabry
had about thirty buckshot in his body. A bystander was painfully wounded in
the thigh with a buckshot, and another was wounded in the arm. Four other
men had their clothing pierced by buckshot. The affair caused great excite
ment, and Gay Street was thronged with thousands of people. General Mabry
and his son Joe were acquitted only a few days ago of the murder of Moses
Lusby and Don Lusby, father and son, whom they killed a few weeks ago.
Will Mabry was killed by Don Lusby last Christmas. Major Thomas O’Con-

according to the southern ideas of delicacy, refinement, womanhood,
religion, and propriety ; hence we offer a first-class female college
for the south and solicit southern patronage.”
What, warder, ho ! the man that can blow so complacent
a blast as that, probably blows it from a castle.
From Baton Rouge to New Orleans, the great sugar plan
tations border both sides of the river all the way, and stretch
their league-wide levels back to the dim forest-walls of-
bearded cypress in the rear. Shores lonely no longer.
Plenty of dwellings all the way, on both banks — standing
so close together, for long distances, that the broad river
nor was President of the Mechanics’ National Bank here, and was the wealthi
est man in the State. — Associated Press Telegram.
One day last month, Professor Sharpe, of the Somerville, Tenn., Female
College, “ a quiet and gentlemanly man,” was told that his brother-in-
law, a Captain Burton, had threatened to kill him. Burton, it seems, had
already killed one man and driven his knife into another. The Professor
armed himself with a double-barrelled shot gun, started out in search of his
brother-in-law, found him playing billiards in a saloon, and blew his brains out.
The “ Memphis Avalanche ” reports that the Professor’s course met with pretty
general approval in the community; knowing that the law was powerless, in
the actual condition of public sentiment, to protect him, he protected himself.
About the same time, two young men in North Carolina quarrelled about
a girl, and “hostile messages” were exchanged. Friends tried to reconcile
them, but had their labor for their pains. On the 24tli the young men met in
the public highway. One of them had a heavy club in his hand, the other an
axe. The man with the club fought desperately for his life, but it was a hope
less fight from the first. A well-directed blow sent his club whirling out of
his grasp, and the next moment he was a dead man.
About the same time, two “highly connected ” young Virginians, clerks in
a hardware store at Charlottesville, while “ skylarking,” came to blows.
Peter Dick threw pepper in Gharles Roads’s eyes ; Roads demanded an apol
ogy ; Dick refused to give it, and it was agreed that a duel was inevitable, but
a difficulty arose ; the parties had no pistols, and it was too late at night to
procure them. One of them suggested that butcher-knives would answer the
purpose, and the other accepted the suggestion; the result was that Roads fell to
the floor with a gash in his abdomen that may or may not prove fatal. If
Dick has been arrested, the news has not reached us. He “ expressed deep
regret,” and we are told by a Staunton correspondent of the “Philadelphia
Press” that “every effort has been made to hush the matter up.” — Extracts
from the Public Journals.

lying between the two rows, becomes
a sort of spacious street. A most
home-like and happy-looking region.
And now and then you see a pil
lared and porticoed great manor-house,
embowered in trees. Here is testi
mony of one or two of the procession
of foreign tourists that filed along
here half a century ago. Mrs. Trol
lope says:—
u The unbroken flatness of the banks of
the Mississippi continued unvaried for many
miles above New Orleans ; but the grace
ful and luxuriant palmetto, the dark and
noble ilex, and the bright orange, were
everywhere to be seen, and it was many
days before we were weary of looking at
Captain Basil Hall: —
“ The district of country which lies ad
jacent to the Mississippi, in the lower parts
of Louisiana, is everywhere thickly peo
pled by sugar planters, whose showy
houses, gay piazzas, trig gardens, and
numerous slave-villages, all clean and neat, gave an exceedingly
thriving air to the river scenery.”

All the procession paint the attractive picture in the same
way. The descriptions of fifty years ago do not need to
have a word changed in order to exactly describe the same
region as it appears to-day — except as to the “ trigness ” of
the houses. The whitewash is gone from the negro cabins
now; and many, possibly most, of the big mansions, once so
shining white, have worn out their paint and have a decayed,
neglected look. It is the blight of the war. Twenty-one
years ago everything was trim and trig and bright along
the “ coast,” just as it had been in 1827, as described by
those tourists.
Unfortunate tourists ! People humbugged them with stu
pid and silly lies, and then laughed at them for believing
and printing the same. They told Mrs. Trollope that the
alligators — or crocodiles, as she calls them — were terrible
creatures; and backed up the statement with a blood-cur
dling account of how one of these slandered reptiles crept
into a squatter cabin one night, and ate up a woman and
five children. The woman, by herself, would have satisfied
any ordinarily-impossible alligator; but no, these liars must
make him gorge the five ^children besides. One would not
imagine that jokers of this robust breed would be sensitive
— but they were. It is difficult, at this day, to understand,
and impossible to justify, the reception which the book of
the grave, honest, intelligent, gentle, manly, charitable, well-
meaning Capt. Basil Hall got. Mrs. Trollope’s account of it
may perhaps entertain the reader; therefore I have put it
in the Appendix. 1
1 See Appendix C.

T HE approaches to New Orleans were familiar; general
aspects were unchanged. When one goes flying
through London along a railway propped in the air on tall •
arches, he may inspect miles of upper bedrooms through
the open windows, but the lower half of the houses is under

his level and out of sight. Similarly, in high-river stage,
in the New Orleans region, the water is up to the top of the
enclosing levee-rim, the fiat country behind it lies low —
representing the bottom of a dish — and as the boat swims
along, high on the flood, one looks down upon the houses
and into the upper windows. There is nothing but that
frail breastwork of earth between the people and destruc
The old brick salt-warehouses clustered at the upper end
of the city looked as they had always looked; warehouses
which had had a kind of Aladdin’s lamp experience, how
ever, since I had seen them ; for when the war broke out
the proprietor went to bed one night leaving them packed
with thousands of sacks of vulgar salt, worth a couple of
dollars a sack, and got up in the morning and found his
mountain of salt turned into a mountain of gold, so to speak,

so suddenly and to so dizzy a height had the war news sent
up the price of the article.
The vast reach of plank wharves remained unchanged,
and there were as many ships as ever: hut the long array
of steamboats had vanished; not altogether, of course, but
not much of it Avas left.
The city itself had not changed — to the eye. It had
greatly increased in spread and population, but the look of
the town Avas not altered. The dust, Avaste-paper-littered,
Avas still deep in the streets; the deep, trough-like gutters
alongside the curb-stones were still half full of reposeful
Avater Avith a dusty surface; the sidewalks were still — in
the sugar and bacon region — incumbered by casks and bar
rels and hogsheads ; the great blocks of austerely plain com
mercial houses Avere as dusty-looldng as ever.
Canal Street Avas finer, and more attractive and stirring
than formerly, with its drifting croAvds of people, its several
processions of hurrying street-cars, and — toward evening —
its broad second-story verandas croAvded with gentlemen and
ladies clothed according to the latest mode.
Not that there is any “ architecture” in Canal Street: to
speak in broad, general terms, there is no architecture in
Ncav Orleans, except in the cemeteries. It seems a strange
thing to say of a Avealthy, far-seeing, and energetic city of a
quarter of a million inhabitants, but it is true. There is a
huge granite U. S. Custom-house — costly enough, genuine
enough, but as a decoration it is inferior to a gasometer. It
looks like a state prison. But it Avas built before the Arar.
Architecture in America may be said to ha\ r c been born since
the Avar. Ncav Orleans, I believe, has had the good luck —
and in a sense the bad luck — to have had no great fire in
late years. It must be so. If the opposite had been the case,
I think one A\ r ould be able to tell the “ burnt district ” by the
radical improvement in its architecture OA*er the old forms.
One can do this in Boston and Chicago. The “ burnt dis
trict” of Boston Avas commonplace before the fire ; but now


I. ')!
ill! 1 '
' '' ! "I j
1 i! I
; j 1 i |!
; ■ |

there is no commercial district in any city in the world that
can surpass it — or perhaps even rival it — in beauty, ele
gance, and tastefulness.
However, New Orleans has begun — just this moment, as
one may say. When completed, the new Cotton Exchange
will be a stately and beautiful building; massive, substantial,
full of architectural graces; no shams or false pretences or
uglinesses about it anywhere. To the city, it will be worth
many times its cost, for it will breed its species. What
has been lacking hitherto, was a model to build toward;
something to educate eye and taste; a suggester, so to speak.
The city is well outfitted with progressive men — thinking,
sagacious, long-headed men. The contrast between the spirit
of the city and the city’s architecture is like the contrast
between waking and sleep. Apparently there is a “ boom ”
in everything but that one dead feature. The water in the
gutters used to be stagnant and slimy, and a potent disease-
breeder; but the gutters are flushed now, two or three times
a day, by powerful machinery; in many of the gutters the
water never stands still, but has a steady current. Other san
itary improvements have been made; and with .such effect
that New Orleans claims to be (during the long intervals
between the occasional yellow-fever assaults) one of the
healthiest cities in the Union. There’s plenty of ice now
for everybody, manufactured in the town. It is a driving
place commercially, and has a great river, ocean, and rail
way business. At the date of our visit, it was the best lighted
city in the Union, electrically speaking. The New Orleans
electric lights were more numerous than those of New York,
and very much better. One had this modified noonday not
only in Canal and some neighboring chief streets, but all
along a stretch of five miles of river frontage. There are
good clubs in the city now — several of them but recently
organized — and inviting modern-style pleasure resorts at
West End and Spanish Fort. The .telephone is everywhere.
One of the most notable advances is in journalism. The

newspapers, as I remember them, were not a striking feature.
Now they are. Money is spent upon them with a free hand.
They get the news, let it cost what it may. The editorial
work is not hack-
grinding, but lit
erature. As an
example of New
Orleans journalistic achievement, it may be mentioned that
the “ Times-Democrat” of August 26, 1882, contained a
report of the year’s business of the towns of the Mississippi
Valley, from New Orleans all the way to St. Paul — two
thousand miles. That issue of the paper consisted of forty
pages; seven columns to the page ; two hundred and eighty
columns in all; fifteen hundred words to the column; an
aggregate of four hundred and twenty thousand words. That
is to say, not much short of three times as many words as
there are in this book. One may with sorrow contrast this
with the architecture of New Orleans.
I have been speaking of public architecture only. The

domestic article in New Orleans is reproacliless, notwith
standing it remains as it always was. All the dwellings are
of wood — in the American part of the town, I mean — and
all have a comfortable look. Those in the wealthy quarter
are spacious; painted snow-white usually, and generally
have wide verandas, or double-verandas, supported by orna
mental columns. These mansions stand in the centre of
large grounds, and rise, garlanded with roses, out of the
midst of swelling masses of shining green foliage and many-
colored blossoms. No houses could well be in better har
mony with their surroundings, or more pleasing to the eye,
or more home-like and comfortable-looking.
One even becomes reconciled to the cistern presently; this
is a mighty cask, painted green, and sometimes a couple of
stories high, which is propped against the house-corner on
stilts. There is a mansion-and-brewery suggestion about the
combination'which seems very incongruous at first. But
the people cannot have wells, and so they take rain-water.
Neither can they conveniently have cellars, or graves; 1 the
town being built upon “ made ” ground; so they do without
both, and few of the living complain, and none of the others.
1 The Israelites are buried in graves — by permission, I take it, not require
ment; but none else, except the destitute, who are buried at public expense.
The graves are but three or four feet deep.

^T^HEY bury their dead in vaults, above the ground.
-L These vaults have a resemblance to houses — some
times to temples ; are built of marble, generally; are architec-
turally graceful and shapely; they face the walks and drive
ways of the cemetery ; and when one moves through the midst
of a thousand or so of them and sees their white roofs and gables

stretching into the distance on every hand, the phrase “city
of the dead ” has all at once a meaning to him. Many of the
cemeteries are beautiful, and are kept in perfect order.
When one goes from the levee or the business streets near
it, to a cemetery, he observes to himself that if those people
down there would live as neatly while they are alive as they
do after they are dead, they would find many advantages
in it; and besides, their quarter would he the wonder and
admiration of the business world. Fresh flowers, in vases of
water, are to be seen at the portals of many of the vaults:
placed there by the pious hands of bereaved parents and
children, husbands and wives, and renewed daily. A milder
form of sorrow finds its inexpensive and lasting remembrancer
in the coarse and ugly but indestructible “immortelle” —
which is a wreath or cross or some such emblem, made of
rosettes of black linen, with sometimes a yellow rosette at the
conjunction of the cross’s bars, — kind of sorrowful breast
pin, so to say. The immortelle requires no attention : you
just hang it up, and there you are; just leave it alone, it will

take care of your grief for you, and keep it in mind better
than you can; stands weather first-rate, and lasts like
On sunny days, pretty little chameleons — gracefullest of
legged reptiles — creep along the marble fronts of the vaults,
and catch flies. Their changes of
color — as to variety — are not up
to the creature’s reputation. They
change color when a person comes
along and hangs up an immor
telle ; but that is nothing: any
riglit-feeling reptile would do that.
I will gradually drop this subject
of graveyards. I have been trying-
all I could to get down to the senti
mental part of it, but I cannot
accomplish it. I think
there is no genuinely
sentimental part
to it. It is
all gro
ghastly, horrible.
Graveyards may
have been justi
fiable in the by-
chameleons. gone ages, when
nobody knew that
for every dead body put into the ground, to glut the earth
and the plant-roots and the air with disease-germs, five or
fifty, or maybe a hundred, persons must die before their
proper time; but they are hardly justifiable now, when
even the children know that a dead saint enters upon
a century-long career of assassination the moment the

earth closes over his corpse. It is a grim sort of a thought.
The relics of St. Anne, up in Canada, have now, after
nineteen hundred years, gone to curing the sick by the
dozen. But it is merest matter-of-course that these same
relics, within a generation after St. Anne’s death and burial,
made several thousand people sick. Therefore these miracle-
performances are simply compensation, nothing more. St.
Anne is somewhat slow pay, for a Saint, it is true ; but better
a debt paid after nineteen hundred years, and outlawed by
the statute of limitations, than not paid at all; and most of
the knights of the halo do not pay at all. Where you
find one that pays — like St. Anne —you find a hundred and
fifty that take the benefit of the statute. And none of them
pay any more than the principal of what they owe — they
pay none of the interest either simple or compound. A
Saint can never quite return the principal, however; for his
dead body kills people, whereas his relics heal only — they
never restore the dead to life. That part of the account is
always left unsettled.
“ Dr. F. Julius Le Moyne, after fifty years of medical practice,
wrote: 1 The inhumation of human bodies, dead from infectious
diseases, results in constantly loading the atmosphere, and polluting
the waters, with not only the germs that rise from simply putrefac
tion, but also with the specific germs of the diseases from which
death resulted.’
“ The gases (from buried corpses) will rise to the surface through
eight or ten feet of gravel, just as coal-gas will do, and there is
practically no limit to their power of escape.
“ During the epidemic in New Orleans in 1853, Dr. E. H. Barton
reported that in the Fourth District the mortality was four hundred
and fifty-two per thousand — more than double that of any other.
In this district were three large cemeteries, in which during the
previous year more than three thousand bodies had been buried.
In other districts the proximity of cemeteries seemed to aggravate
the disease. v
“In 1828 Professor Bianchi demonstrated how the fearful reap- 9
pearance of the plague at Modena was caused by excavations in

p 1 Medical
in advocacy
of cremation,
Dr. Charles W.
Purdy made some
striking comparisons
to show what a burden is laid
upon society by the burial of
the dead: —
ground where, three hundred years previously the victims of the pes
tilence had been buried. Mr. Cooper, in explaining the causes of
some epidemics, remarks that the opening of
the plague burial-grounds at Eyam resulted
in an immediate outbreak of disease.”—North
American Review, No. 3, Vol. 135.
In an ad
dress be
fore the
relics. “ One and-one-fourth times more money is
expended annually in funerals in the United
States than the Government expends for public-school purposes.
Funerals cost this country in 1880 enough money to pay the liabil
ities of all the commercial failures in the United States during the
same year, and give each bankrupt a capital of $8,630 with which
to resume business. Funerals cost annually more money than the
value of the combined gold and silver yield of the United States
in#the year 1880! These figures do not include the sums invested
in burial-grounds and expended in tombs and monuments, nor the
loss from depreciation of property in the vicinity of cemeteries.”

For the rich, cremation would answer as well as burial;
for the ceremonies connected with it could be made as costly
and ostentatious as a Hindoo suttee; while for the poor,
cremation would be better than burial, because so cheap 1 —
so cheap until the poor got to imitating the rich, which
they would do by and by. The adoption of cremation would
relieve us of a muck of threadbare burial-witticisms ; but, on
the other hand, it would resurrect a lot of mildewed old
cremation-jokes that have had a rest for two thousand years.
I have a colored acquaintance who earns his living by odd
■jobs and heavy manual labor. ITe never earns above four
hundred dollars in a year, and as he has a wife and several
young children, the closest scrimping is necessary to get
him through to the end of- the twelve months debtless. To
such a man a funeral is a colossal financial disaster. While
I was writing one of the preceding chapters, this man lost
a little child. He walked the town over with a friend, trying
to find a coffin that was within his means. He bought the
very cheapest one he could find, plain wood, stained. It cost
him twenty-six dollars. It would have cost less than four,
probably, if it had been built to put something useful into.
He and his family will feel that outlay a good many
1 Four or five dollars is the minimum cost.

A BOUT the same time, I encountered a man in the street,
whom I had not seen for six or seven years; and
something like this talk followed. I said,—
“ But you used to look sad and oldish; you don’t now.
Where did you get all this youth and bubbling cheerfulness ?
Give me the
He chuckled
blithely, took
off his shining
tile, pointed to
a notched pink
circlet of pa-
) per pasted in
to its crown,
with something-
lettered on it,
and went on
chuckling while
I read, “ J. B—,
he chuckled. Then he clapped
his hat on, gave
it an irreverent tilt to leeward, and cried out,—
“ That’s what’s the matter! It used to be rough times
with me when you knew me — insurance-agency business,
you know; mighty irregular. Big fire, all right — brisk

trade for ten days while people scared; after that, dull
policj-business till next fire. Town like this don’t have
fires often enough — a fellow strikes so many dull weeks in
a row that he gets discouraged. But you bet you, this is the
business! People don’t wait for examples to die. No, sir,
they drop off right along — there ain’t any dull spots in the
undertaker line. 1 just started in with two or three little
old coffins and a hired hearse, and now look at the thing!
I’ve worked up a business here- that would satisfy any man,
don’t care who he is. Five years ago, lodged in an attic;
live in a swell house now, with a mansard roof, and all the
modern inconveniences.”
“ Does a coffin pay so well ? Is there much profit 011 a
coffin ?”
“6ro-way! How
you talk!” Then,
with a confiden
tial wink, a drop
ping of the voice,
and an impressive
layingof his hand
on my arm; if
“Look here;
there’s one thing
in this world
which isn’t ever
cheap. That’s a
coffin. There’s
one thing in this
world which a
person don’t ever
try to jew you “ wuy, just look at it.”
down on. That’s
a coffin. There’s one thing in this world which a person
don’t say, — ‘I’ll look around a little, and if I find I can’t
do better I ’11 come back and take it.’ That ’« a coffin.

There’s one tiling in this world which a person won’t take
in pine if he can go walnut; and won’t take in walnut if
he can go mahogany ; and won’t take in mahogany if he can
go an iron casket with silver door-plate and bronze handles.
That’s a coffin. And there’s one thing in this world which
you don’t have to worry around after a person to get him to
pay for. And that's a coffin. Undertaking? — why it’s the
dead-surest business in Christendom, and the nobbiest.
“ Why, just look at it. A rich man won’t have anything
but your very best; and you can just pile it on, too — pile it
011 and socle it to him — he won’t ever holler. And you take
in a poor man, and if you work him right he ’11 bust himself
on a single lay-out. Or especially a woman. FT instance :
Mrs. 0’Flaherty comes in — widow — wiping her eyes and
kind of moaning. Unliandkerchiefs one eye, bats it around
tearfully over the stock; says, —
“ ‘ And fhat might ye ask for that wan ? ’
“ £ Thirty-nine dollars, madam,’ says I.
“ ‘ It’s a foinc big price, sure, but Pat shall be buried like
a gintleman, as he was, if I have to work me fingers off for
it. I ’11 have that wan, sor.’
“‘Yes, madam,’ says I, ‘and it is a very good one, too;
not costly, to be sure, but in this life we must cut our gar
ment to our clothes, as the saying is.’ And as she starts
out, I heave in, kind of casually, ‘ This one with the white
satin lining.is a beauty, but I am afraid — well, sixty-live
dollars is a rather — rather — but no matter, I felt obliged
to say to Mrs. O’Shaughncssy,— ’
“‘D’ye mane to soy that Bridget O’Shaughnessy bought
the mate to that joo-ul box to ship that dhrunken divil to
Purgatory in ?’
“ ‘ Yes, madam.’
“‘Then Pat shall go to heaven in the twin to it, if it
takes the last rap the 0’ Flaherties can raise; and moind
you, stick on some extras, too, and I ’11 give ye another

“ And as I lay-in with the livery stables, of course I don’t
forget to mention that Mrs. O’Shaughnessy hired fifty-four
dollars’ worth
of hacks and
flung as much
style into Den
nis’s funeral as
if he had been
a duke or an
assassin. And
of course she
sails in and goes
the O’ Shaugh-
nessy about
four hacks and
an omnibus bet
ter. That used
to be, but that’s
all played now;
that is, in this ambition.
particular town.
The Irish got to piling up hacks so, on their funerals, that a
funeral left them ragged and hungry for two years after
ward ; so the priest pitched in and broke it all up. He don’t
allow them to have but two hacks now, and sometimes only
“ Well,” said I, “ if you are so light-hearted and jolly in
ordinary times, what must you be in an epidemic ?”
He shook his head.
“No, you’re off, there. We don’t like to see an epidemic.
An epidemic don’t pay. Well, of course 1 don’t mean that,
exactly; but it don’t pay in proportion to the regular thing.
Don’t it occur to you, why ? ”
“ Think.”
“ I can’t imagine. What is it ? ”

“ It’s just two things.”
“ Well, what are they ?”
“ One’s Embamming.”
“ And what’s the other ? ”
“ Ice.”
“ How is that ? ”
“ Well, in ordinary times, a person dies, and we lay him
up in ice ; one day, two days, maybe three, to wait for friends
it — though there ain’t only one or two ways, when you come
down to the bottom facts of it — and they ’11 take the highest-
priced way, every time. It’s human nature — human nature
in grief. It don’t reason, you see. ’Time being, it don’t care
a dam. All it wants is physical immortality for deceased,
and they ’re willing to pay for it. All you’ve got to do is to
just be ca’m and stack it up — they’ll stand the racket.
Why, man, you can take a defunct that you could n’t give
away ; and get your embamming traps around you and go to
to come. Takes a lot
of it—melts fast. We
charge jewelry rates
for that ice, and war-
prices for attendance.
Well, don’t you know,
when there’s an epi
demic, they rush ’em
to the cemetery the
minute the breath’s
out. No market for
ice in an epidemic.
Same with Embam
ming. You take a
family that’s able to
embam, and you’ve
got a soft thing. You
can mention sixteen
different ways to do

work; and in a couple of hours he is worth a cool six hun
dred — that’s what he ’* worth. There ain’t anything equal
to it but trading rats for di’monds in time of famine. Well,
don’t you see, when there’s an epidemic, people don’t wait
to embam. No, indeed they don’t; and it hurts the business
like hellth, as we say — hurts it like hell-th, health, see ? —
Our little joke in the trade. Well, I must be going. Give
me a call whenever you need any — I mean, when you’re
going by, sometime.”
In his joyful high spirits, he did the exaggerating himself,
if any has been done. 1 have not enlarged on him.
With the above brief references to inhumation, let us leave
the subject. As for me, I hope to be cremated. I made
that remark to my pastor once, who said, with what he
seemed to think was an impressive manner, —
“ I would n’t worry about that, if I had your chances.”
Much he knew about it— the family all so opposed to it.

T HE old French part of New Orleans — anciently the
Spanish part — hears no resemblance to the American
end of the city: the American end which lies beyond the
intervening brick business-centre. The houses are massed
in blocks; are austerely plain and dignified; uniform of
pattern, with here and there a departure from it with pleas
ant effect; all are plastered on the outside, and nearly all
have long, iron-railed verandas running along the several
stories. Their chief beauty is the deep, warm, varicolored
stain with which time and the weather have enriched the
plaster. It harmonizes with all the surroundings, and has
as natural a look of belonging there as has the flush upon
sunset clouds. This charming decoration cannot be suc
cessfully imitated; neither is it to be found elsewhere in
The iron railings are a specialty, also. The pattern is
often exceedingly light and dainty, and airy and graceful
— with a large cipher or monogram in the centre, a delicate
cobweb of baffling, intricate forms, wrought in steel. The
ancient railings are hand-made, and are now comparatively
rare and proportionately valuable. They are become bric-
The party had the privilege of idling through this ancient
quarter of New Orleans with the South’s finest literary genius,
the author of “ the Grandissimes.”. In him the South has
found a masterly delineator of its interior life and its his
tory. In truth, I find by experience, that the untrained eye

and vacant mind can inspect it and learn of it and judge of
it more clearly and profitably in liis books than by personal
contact with it.
With Mr. Cable along to see for you, and describe and
explain and illuminate, a jog through that old quarter is a
vivid pleasure. And you have a vivid sense as of unseen or
dimly seen things — vivid, and yet fitful and darkling; you
glimpse salient features, but lose the fine shades or catch
them imperfectly through the vision of the imagination: a
case, as it were, of ignorant near-sighted stranger traversing

the rim of wide vague horizons of Alps with an inspired and
enlightened long-sighted native.
We visited the old St. Louis Hotel, now occupied by muni
cipal offices. There is nothing strikingly remarkable about
it; but one can say of it as of the Academy of Music in New
York, that if a broom or a shovel has ever been used in it
there is no circumstantial evidence to back up the fact. It
it curious that cabbages and hay and things do not grow in
the Academy of Music; but no doubt it is on account of the
interruption of the light by the benches, and the impossi
bility of hoeing the crop except in the aisles. The fact that
the ushers grow their buttonhole-bouquets on the premises
shows what might be done if they had the right kind of an
agricultural head to the establishment.
We visited also the venerable Cathedral, and the pretty
square in front of it; the one dim with religious light, the
other brilliant with the worldly sort, and lovely with orange
trees and blossomy shrubs; then we drove in the hot sun
through the wilderness of houses and out on to the wide
dead level beyond, where the villas are, and the water wheels
to drain the town, and the commons populous with cows and
children ; passing by an old cemetery where we were told lie
the ashes of an early pirate; but we took him on trust, and
did not visit him. He was a pirate with a tremendous and
sanguinary history ; and as long as he preserved unspotted,
in retirement, the dignity of his name and the grandeur of
his ancient calling, homage and reverence were his from
high and low; but when at last he descended into politics
and became a paltry alderman, the public “ shook” him, and
turned aside and wept. When he died, they set up a monu
ment over him; and little by little he has come into respect
again ; but it is respect for the pirate, not the alderman,
To-day the loyal and generous remember only what he was,
and charitably forget what he became.
Thence, we drove a few miles across a swamp, along a
raised shell road, with a canal on one hand and a dense

wood on the other; and here and there, in the distance, a
ragged and angular-limbed and moss-bearded cypress, top
standing out, clear cut against the sky, and as quaint of
form as the apple-trees in Japanese pictures — such was our
course and the surroundings of it. There was an occasional
alligator swimming comfortably along in the canal, and an
occasional picturesque colored person on the bank, flinging
his statue-rigid reflection upon the still water and watching
for a bite.
And by and by we reached the West End, a collection of
hotels of the usual light summer-resort pattern, with broad
verandas all around, and the waves of the wide and blue
Lake Pontchartrain lapping the thresholds. We had dinner
on a ground-veranda over the water — the chief dish the
renowned fish called the pompano, delicious as the less
criminal forms of sin.
Thousands of people come by rail and carriage to West
End and to Spanish Fort every evening, and dine, listen to

the bands, take strolls in the open air under the electric
lights, go sailing on the lake, and entertain themselves in
various and sundry other ways.
We had opportunities on other days and in other places
to test the pompano. Notably, at an editorial dinner at one
of the clubs in the city. He was in his last possible per-
fection there, and justified his fame. In his suite was a
tall pyramid of scarlet cray-fish — large ones ; as large as
one’s thumb ; delicate, palatable, appetizing. Also devilled
whitebait; also shrimps of choice quality; and a platter of
small soft-shell crabs of a most superior breed. The other
dishes were what one might get at Delmonico’s, or Bucking
ham Palace ; those I have spoken of can be had in similar
perfection in New Orleans only, I suppose.
In the West and South they have a new institution, — the
Broom Brigade. It is composed of young ladies who dress
in a uniform costume, and go through the infantry drill, with
broom in place of musket. It is a very pretty sight, on pri-

vate view. When they perform on the stage of a theatre, in
the blaze of colored fires, it must be a fine and fascinating
spectacle. I saw them go through their complex manual
with grace, spirit, and admirable precision. I saw them do
everything which a human being can possibly do with a
broom, except sweep. I did not see them sweep. But I
know they could learn. What they have already learned
proves that. And if they ever should learn, and should go
on the war-path down Tchoupitoulas or some of those other
streets around there, those thoroughfares would bear a
greatly improved aspect in a very few minutes. But the

girls themselves wouldn’t; so nothing ■ would be .really
gained, after all.
The drill was in the Washington Artillery building. In
this building we saw many interesting relics of the war.
Also a line oil-painting representing Stonewall Jackson’s
last interview with General Lee. Both men are on horse
back. Jackson has just ridden up, and is accosting Lee.
The picture is very valuable, on account of the portraits,
which are authentic. But, like many another historical
picture, it means nothing without its label. And one label
will lit it as well as another : —
First Interview between Lee and Jackson.
Last Interview between Lee and Jackson.
Jackson Introducing'Himself to Lee.
Jackson Accepting Lee’s Invitation to Dinner.
Jackson Declining Lee’s Invitation to Dinner — with
Jackson Apologizing for a Heavy Defeat.
Jackson Reporting a Great Victory.
Jackson Asking Lee for a Match.
It tells one story, and a sufficient one; for it says quite
plainly and satisfactorily, “Here are Lee and Jackson to
gether.” The artist would have made it tell that, this is
Lee and Jackson’s last interview if he could have done it.
But he could n’t, for there was n’t any way to do it. A good
legible label is usually worth, for information, a ton of sig
nificant attitude and expression in a historical picture. In
Rome, people with fine sympathetic natures stand up and
weep in front of the celebrated “Beatrice Genci the Day
before her Execution.” It shows what a label can do. If
they did not know the picture, they would inspect it un
moved, and say, “Young girl with hay fever; young girl
with her head in a bag.”
I found the half-forgotten Southern intonations and elisions
as pleasing to my ear as they had formerly been. A South
erner talks music. At least it is music to me, but then I

was born in the South. The educated Southerner has no
use for an r, except at the beginning of a word. He says
“ honah,” and “ dinnah,” and “ Gove’nuh,” and “ befo’ the
waw,” and so on. The words may lack charm to the eye, in
print, but they have it to the ear. When did the r disappear
from Southern speech, and how
did it come to disappear ? The
custom of dropping it was not
borrowed from the North, nor
inherited from England. Many
Southerners — most Southern
ers— put a y into occasional
words that begin with the k
sound. For instance, they say
Mr. K’yahtah (Carter) and
speak of playing k’yahds or of
riding in the k’yahs. And they
have the pleasant custom—long
ago fallen into decay in the
North—of frequently employ
ing the respectful “ Sir.” In
stead of the curt Yes, and the
abrupt No, they say “Yes,
Suh ” ; “ No, Suh.”
But there are some infelici
ties. Such as “like” for “as,”
and the addition of an “at” “whah you was?”
where it is n’t needed. I heard
an educated gentleman say, “ Like the flag-officer did.” His
cook or his butler would have said, “ Like the flag-officer
done.” You hear gentlemen say, “ Where have you been
at ? ” And here is the aggravated form — heard a ragged
street Arab say it to a comrade : “ I was a-ask’n’ Tom whah
you was a-sett’n’ at.” The very elect carelessly say “ will ”
when they mean “ shall ” ; and many of them say, “ I did n’t
go to do it,” meaning “ I did n’t mean to do it.” The North-

ern word “ guess ” — imported from England, where it used
to be common, and now regarded by satirical Englishmen as
a Yankee original — is but little used among Southerners.
They say “ reckon.” They have n’t any “ does n’t ” in their
language; they, say “ don’t ” instead. The unpolished often
use “ went ” for “ gone.” It is nearly as bad as the Northern
“ had n’t ought.” This reminds me that a remark of a very
peculiar nature Avas made here in my neighborhood (in the
North) a few days ago: “ He had n’t ought to have went.”
How is that ? Is n’t that a good deal of a triumph ? One
knows the orders combined in this half-breed’s architecture
without inquiring: one parent Northern, the other Southern.
To-day I heard a school-mistress ask, “ Where is John gone ?”
This form, is so common — so nearly universal, in fact — that
if she had used “ whither ” instead of “ where,” I think it
would have sounded like an affectation.
We picked up one excellent .word — a word worth travel
ling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy
word — “ Lagniappe.” They pronounce it lani\j-yap. It is
Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a
column of .odds and ends • in the Picayune, the first day;
heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it
meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it
the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the
people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the
equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a “ baker’s dozen.” It
is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The
custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When
a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the
mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the
operation by saying, —
“ Give me something for lagniappe.”
The shopman always responds ; gives the child a bit of
liquorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of
thread, gives the governor — I don’t know what he gives the
governor; support, likely.


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

I N the North one hears the war mentioned, in social conver
sation, once a month; sometimes as often as once a week;
but as a distinct subject for talk, it has long ago been relieved
of duty. There are sufficient reasons for this. Given a dinner
company of six gentlemen to-day, it can easily happen that
four of them — and possibly five — were not in the field at
all. So the chances are four to two, or five to one, that the
war will at no time during the evening become the topic of
conversation ; and the chances are still greater that if it be
come the topic it will remain so but a little while. If you
add six ladies to the company, you have added six people
who saw so little of the dread realities of the war that they
ran out of talk concerning them years ago, and now would
soon weary of the war topic if you brought it up.
The case is very different in the South. There, every man
you meet was in the war ; and every lady you meet saw the
war. The war is the great chief topic of conversation. The
interest in it is vivid and constant; the interest in other topics
is fleeting. Mention of the war will wake up a dull com
pany and set their tongues going, when nearly any other
topic would fail. In the South, the war is what A.D. is else
where : they date from it. All day long you hear things
“ placed ” as having happened since the waw ; or du’in’ the
waw; or befo’ the wawor right aftali the waw; or ’bout
two yeahs or five yeahs or ten yeahs befo’ the waw or aftah
the waw. It shows how intimately every individual was
visited, in his own person, by that tremendous episode. It

gives the inexperienced stranger a better idea of what a vast
and comprehensive calamity invasion is than he can ever get
by reading books at the fireside.
At a club one evening, a gentleman turned to me and said,
in an aside : —
“You notice, of course, that we are nearly always talking
about the war. It is n’t because we have n’t anything else to
talk about, but because
nothing else has so strong
an interest for us. And
there is another reason:
In the war, each of us, in
his own person, seems to
have sampled all the dif
ferent varieties of human
experience; as a conse
quence, you can’t mention
an outside matter of any
sort but it will certainly
remind some listener of
something that happened
during the war,— and out
he comes with it. Of
course that brings the talk
back to the war. You
may try all you want to, to
keep other subjects before
the house, and we may all
join in and help, but there
can be but one result: the
most random topic would
load every man up with war
reminiscences, and shut him up, too ; and talk would be likely
to stop presently, because you can’t talk pale inconsequentiali-
ties when you’ve got a crimson fact or fancy in your head
that you are burning to fetch out.”

The poet was sitting some little distance away ; and pres
ently he began to speak — about the moon.
The gentleman who had been talking to me remarked in
an “ aside: ” a There, the moon is far enough from the seat
of war, but you will see that it will suggest something to
somebody about the war; in ten minutes. from now the
moon, as a topic, will be shelved.”
The poet was saying he had noticed something which was
a surprise to him; had had the impression that down here,
toward the equator, the moonlight was much stronger and
brighter than up North ; had had the impression that when
he visited New Orleans, many years ago, the moon —
Interruption from the other end of the room : —
“Let me explain that. Reminds me of an anecdote. Every
thing is changed since the war, for better or for worse ; but
you ’11 find people down here born grumblers, who see 110
change except the change for the worse. There was an old
negro woman of this sort. A young New-Yorker said in her
presence, ‘ What a wonderful moon you have down here! ’
She sighed and said, ‘ Ah, bless yo’ heart, honey, you ought
to seen dat moon befo’ de waw ! ’ ”
The new topic was dead already. But the poet resurrected
it, and gave it a new start.
A brief dispute followed, as to whether the difference be
tween Northern and Southern moonlight really existed or was
only imagined. Moonlight talk drifted easily into talk about
artificial methods of dispelling darkness. Then somebody
remembered that when Farragut advanced upon Port Hud
son 011 a dark night—and did not wish to assist the aim of
the Confederate gunners — he carried no battle-lanterns, but
painted the decks of his ships white, and thus created a
dim but valuable light, which, enabled his own men to
grope their way around with considerable facility. ' At. this
point the war got the floor again—the ten minutes not quite
up yet.
I was not sorry, for war talk by men who have been in a

war is always interesting ; where
as moon talk by a poet who has
not been in the moon is likely to
be dull.
We went to a cockpit in New
Orleans on a Saturday afternoon.
I had never seen a cock-fight be
fore. There were men and boys
there of all ages and all colors, and of many languages and
nationalities. But I noticed one quite conspicuous and sur
prising absence : the traditional brutal faces. There were no
brutal faces. With no cock-fighting going on, you could have
played the gathering on a stranger for a prayer-meeting ; and
after it began, for a revival, — provided you blindfolded your
stranger, — for the shouting was something prodigious.

A negro and a white man were in the ring; everybody
else outside. The cocks were brought in in sacks; and when
time was called, they were taken out by the two bottle-holders,
stroked, caressed, poked toward each other, and finally lib
erated. The big black cock plunged instantly at the little
gray one and struck him on the head with his spur. The
gray responded with spirit. Then the Babel of many-tongucd
shoutings broke out, and ceased not thenceforth. When
the cocks had been fighting some little time, I was expecting
them momently to drop dead, for both were blind, red with
blood, and so exhausted that they frequentlyfell down. Yet
they would not give up, neither would they die. The negro
and the white man would pick them up every few seconds,
wipe them off, blow cold water on them in a fine spray, and
take their heads in their mouths and hold them there a mo
ment — to warm back the perishing life perhaps; I do not
know. Then, being set down again, the dying creatures would
totter gropingly about, with dragging wings, find each other,
strike a guess-work blow or two, and fall exhausted once
I did not see the end of the battle. I forced myself to en
dure it as long as I could, but it was too pitiful a sight; so
I made frank confession to that effect, and we retired. We
heard afterward that the black cock died in the ring, and
fighting to the last.
Evidently there is abundant fascination about this “ sport ”
for such as have had a degree of familiarity with it. I never
saw people enjoy anything more than this gathering enjoyed
this fight. The case was the same with old gray-heads and
with boys of ten. They lost themselves in frenzies of
delight. The “ cocking-main ” is an inhuman sort of enter
tainment, there is no question .about that; still, it seems a
much more respectable and far less cruel sport than fox
hunting—for the cocks like it; they experience, as well as
confer enjoyment; which is not the fox’s case.
We assisted — in the French sense—at a mule race, one

day. I believe I enjoyed this contest more than any other
mnle there. I enjoyed it more than I remember having
enjoyed any other animal race I ever saw. The grand
stand was well filled with the beauty and the chivalry of
New Orleans. That phrase is not original with me. It is
the Southern reporter’s. He has used it for two generations.
He uses it twenty times a day, or twenty thousand times a
day; or a million times a day — according to the exigencies.
He is obliged to use it a million times a day, if he have
occasion to speak of respectable men and women that often ;
for he has no other phrase for such service except that sin
gle one. He never tires of it; it always has a fine sound
to him. There is a kind of swell mediseval bulliness and
tinsel about it that pleases his gaudy barbaric soul. If he
had been in Palestine in the early times, we should have
had no references to “ much people ” out of him. No, he
would have said “ the beauty and the chivalry of Galilee ”
assembled to hear the Sermon on the Mount. It is likely
that the men and women of the South are sick enough of
that phrase by this time, and would like a change, but there
is no immediate prospect of their getting it.
The New . Orleans editor has a strong, compact, direct,
unflowery style; wastes no words, and does not gush. - Not
so with his average correspondent. In the Appendix I
have quoted a good letter, penned by a trained hand; but
the average correspondent hurls a style which differs from
that. For instance : —
The “ Times-Hemocrat ” sent a relief-steamer up one of
the bayous, last April. This steamer landed at a village,
up there somewhere, and the Captain invited some of the
ladies of the village to make a short trip with him. They
accepted and came aboard, and the steamboat shoved out
up the creek. That was all there was “ to it.” And that
is all that the editor of the “ Times-Democrat ” would have
got out of it. There was nothing in the thing but statistics,
and he would have got nothing else out of it. He would

probably have even tabulated them, partly to secure perfect
clearness of statement, and partly to save space. But his
special correspond
ent knows other
methods of hand
ling statistics. He
just throws off all
restraint and wal
lows in them: —
“ On Saturday, ear
ly in the morning,
the beauty of the
place graced our cab
in, and proud of her
fair freight the gal
lant little boat glided
up the bayou.”
words to say the
ladies came aboard
and the boat shoved
out up the creek,
is a clean waste of
ten good words, and
is also destructive
of compactness of
The trouble with
guests. the Southern re
porter is—Women.
They unsettle him; they throw him off his balance. He is
plain, and sensible, and satisfactory, until a woman heaves in
sight. Then he goes all to pieces; his mind totters, he
becomes flowery and idiotic. From reading the above
extract, you would imagine that this student of Sir Walter

Scott is an apprentice, and knows next to nothing about
handling a pen. On the contrary, he furnishes plenty of
proofs, in his long letter, that he knows well enough how
to handle it when the women are not around to give him
the artificial-flower complaint. For instance : —
“ At 4 o’clock ominous clouds began to gather in the southeast,
and presently from the Gulf there came a blow which increased in
severity every moment. It was not safe to leave the landing then,
and there was a delay. The oaks shook off long tresses of their
mossy beards to the tugging of the wind, and the bayou in its ambi
tion put on miniature waves in mocking of much larger bodies of
water. A lull permitted a start, and homewards we steamed, an inky
sky overhead and a heavy wind blowing. As darkness crept on, there
were few on board who did not wish themselves nearer home.”
There is nothing the matter with that. It is good descrip
tion, compactly put. Yet there was great temptation, there,
to drop into lurid writing.
But let us return to the mule. Since I left him, I have
rummaged around and found a full report of the race. In
it I find confirmation of the theory which I broached just
now — namely, that the trouble with the Southern reporter
is Women: Women, supplemented by Walter Scott and his
knights and beauty and chivalry, and so on. This is an
excellent report, as long as the women stay out of it. But
when they intrude, we have this frantic result: —
“ It will be probably a long time before the ladies’ stand presents
such a sea of foam-like loveliness as it did yesterday. The Yew
Orleans women are always charming, but never so much so as at this
time of the year, when in their dainty spring costumes they bring
with them a breath of balmy freshness and an odor of sanctity
unspeakable. The stand was so crowded with them that, walking
at their feet and seeing no possibility of approach, many a man
appreciated as he never did before the Peri’s feeling at the Gates of
Paradise, and wondered what was the priceless boon that would
admit him to their sacred presence. Sparkling on their white-robed
breasts or shoulders were the colors of their favorite knights, and

were it not for the fact that the doughty heroes appeared on unro-
mantic mules, it would have been easy to imagine one of King
Arthur’s gala-days.”
There were thirteen mules in the first heat; all sorts of
mules, they were ; all sorts of complexions, gaits, dispositions,
aspects. Some were handsome creatures, some were not;
some were sleek, some had n’t had their fur brushed lately ;
some were innocently gay and frisky ; some were full of mal-
ice and all unrighteousness; guessing from looks, some of
them thought the matter on hand was war, some thought
it was a lark, the rest took it for a religious occasion. And
each mule acted according to his convictions. The result
was an absence of harmony well compensated by a conspic
uous presence of variety — variety of a picturesque and
entertaining sort.
All the riders were young gentlemen in fashionable soci
ety. If the reader has been wondering why it is that the
ladies of New Orleans attend so humble an orgy as a mule-

<fw >
:-■ r '<
race, the thing is explained now.
It is a fashion-freak; all con-
\ \\) nwnected with it are people of
■\V> ^ fashion.
? ' It is great fun, and cordially
liked. The mule-race is one of
the marked occasions of the year. It has brought some
pretty fast mules to the front. One of these had to be ruled
out, because he was so fast that he turned the thing into a
one-mule contest, and robbed it of one of its best features —
variety. But every now and then somebody disguises him with
a new name and a new complexion, and rings him in again
The riders dress in full jockey costumes of bright-colored
silks, satins, and velvets.

The thirteen mules got away in a body, after a couple of
false starts, and scampered off" with prodigious spirit. As
each mule and each rider had a distinct opinion of his own
as to how the race ought to be run, and which side of the
track was best in certain circumstances, and how often the
track ought to be crossed, and when a collision ought to be
accomplished, and when it ought to be avoided, these twenty-
six conflicting opinions created a most fantastic and pic
turesque confusion, and the resulting spectacle was killingly
Mile heat; time, 2:22. Eight of the thirteen mules dis
tanced. I had a bet on a mule which would have won if the
procession had been reversed. The second heat was good
fun; and so was the “ consolation race for beaten mules,”
which followed later; but the first heat was the best in that
I think that much the most enjoyable of all races is a
steamboat race; but, next to that, I prefer the gay and joy
ous mule-rush. Two red-hot steamboats raging along, neck-
and-neck, straining every nerve — that is to say, every rivet
in the boilers — quaking and shaking and groaning from
stem to stern, spouting white steam from the pipes, pouring
black smoke from the chimneys, raining down sparks, part
ing the river into long breaks of hissing foam — this is
sport that makes a body’s very liver curl with enjoyment.
A horse-race is pretty tame and colorless in comparison.
Still, a horse-race might be well enough, in its way, perhaps,
if it were not for the tiresome false starts. But then,
nobody is ever killed. At least, nobody was ever killed
when I was at a horse-race. They have been crippled, it is
true; but this is little to the purpose.

HE largest annual event in New Orleans is a something
which we arrived too late to sample — the Mardi-Gras
festivities. I saw the procession of the Mystic Crew of Comus
there, twenty-four years ago — with knights and nobles and
so on, clothed in silken and golden Paris-made gorgeous
nesses, planned and bought for that single night’s use; and
in their train all manner of giants, dwarfs, monstrosities,
and other diverting grotesquerie — a startling and wonderful
sort of show, as it filed solemnly and silently down the
street in the light of its smoking and flickering torches; but
it is said that in these latter days the spectacle is mightily
augmented, as to cost, splendor, and variety. There is a
chief personage—“ Rex; ” and if I remember rightly, neither
this king nor any of his great following of subordinates is
known-to any outsider. All these people are gentlemen of
position and consequence; and it is a proud thing to belong
to the organization; so the mystery in which they hide their
personality is merely for romance’s sake, and not on account
of the police.
Mardi-Gras is of course a relic of the French and Spanish
occupation; but I judge that the religious feature has been
pretty well knocked out of it now. Sir Walter has got the
advantage of the gentlemen of the cowl and rosary, and
he will stay. His mediaeval business, supplemented by the
monsters and the oddities, and the pleasant creatures from
fairy-land, is finer to look at than the poor fantastic inven
tions and performances of the revelling rabble of the priest’s

day, and serves quite as well, perhaps, to emphasize the day
and admonish men that the grace-line between the worldly
season and the holy one is reached.
This Mardi-Gras pageant was the exclusive possession of-
New Orleans until recently. But now it has spread to Mem
phis and St. Louis and Baltimore. It has probably reached
its limit. It is a thing which could hardly exist in the

practical North; would certainly last but a very brief time ;
as brief a time as it would last in London. For the soul of
it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take
away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-
sounding titles, and Mardi-Gras would die, down there in
the South. The very feature that keeps it alive in the South
— girly-girly romance — would kill it in the North or in
London. Puck and Punch, and the press universal, would
fall upon it and make merciless fun of it, and its first exhi
bition would be also its last.
Against the crimes of the French Revolution and of Bona
parte may be set two compensating benefactions : the Revo
lution broke the chains of the ancien rSgime and of the
Church, and made of a nation of abject slaves a nation of
freemen; and Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit
above birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity
from royalty, that whereas crowned heads in Europe were
gods before, they are only men, since, and can never be gods
again, but only figure-heads, and answerable for their acts
like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate
the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution
did, and leave the world in debt to them for these great and
permanent services to liberty, humanity, and progress.
Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and
by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even
turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phan
toms ; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with
decayed and degraded systems of government; with the
sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds,
and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-van
ished society. He did measureless harm; more real and
lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever
wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good part of
these harms, though by no means all of them; but in our
South they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully
as half a generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully. There,

the genuine and whole
some civilization of the
nineteenth century is
curiously confused and
commingled with the
Walter Scott Middle-Age
sham civilization and so
you have practical, com-
mon-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive works, mixed
up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune ro
manticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of char
ity ought to be buried. But for the Sir Walter disease,
the character of the Southerner — or Southron, accord
ing to Sir Walter’s starchier way of phrasing it — would be
wholly modern, in place of modern and mediaeval mixed,

and the South would be fully a generation further advanced
than it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in
the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge,
before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentle
men value these bogus decorations. For it was he that
created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for
rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is
laid on slavery, without fathering upon it these creations
and contributions of Sir Walter.
Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern char
acter, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure
responsible for the war. It seems a little harsh toward a
dead man to say that we never should have had any war but
for Sir Walter; and yet something of a plausible argument
might, perhaps, be made in support of that wild proposition.
The Southerner of the American revolution owned slaves; so
did the Southerner of the Civil War : but the former resem
bles the latter as an Englishman resembles a Frenchman.
The change of character can be traced rather more easily to
Sir Walter’s influence than to that of any other thing or
One may observe, by one or two signs, how deeply that
influence penetrated, and how strongly it holds. If one take
up a Northern or Southern literary periodical of forty or
fifty years ago, he will find it filled with wordy, windy, flow
ery “ eloquence,” romanticism, sentimentality — all imitated
from Sir Walter, and sufficiently badly done, too — innocent
travesties of his style and methods, in fact. This sort of lit
erature being the fashion in both sections of the country,
there was opportunity for the fairest competition; and as a
consequence, the South was able to show as many well-known
literary names, proportioned to population, as the North
But a change has come, and there is no opportunity now
for a fair competition between North and South. For the
North has thrown out that old inflated style, whereas the

Southern writer still clings to it — clings to it and has a
restricted market for his wares, as a consequence. There is
as much literary talent in the South, now, as ever there was,
of course; but its work can gain but slight currency under
present conditions; the authors write for the past, not the
present; they use obsolete forms, and a dead language. But
when a Southerner of genius writes modern English, his
book goes upon crutches no longer, but upon wings; and
they carry it .swiftly all about America and England, and
through the great English reprint publishing houses of Ger
many — as witness the experience of Mr. Cable and Uncle
Remus, two of the very few Southern authors who do not
write in the southern style. Instead of three or four widely-
known literary names, the South ought to have a dozen or
two—and will have them when Sir Walter’s time is out.
A curious exemplification of the power of a single book
for good or harm is shown in the effects wrought by Don
Quixote and those wrought by Ivanhoe. The first swept the
world’s admiration for the mediaeval chivalry-silliness out of
existence; and the other restored it. As far as our South is
concerned, the good work done by Cervantes is pretty nearly
a dead letter, so effectually lias Scott’s pernicious work
undermined it.

was to arrive from Atlanta at seven o’clock Sunday
morning ; so we got up and received liim. We were able to
detect him among the crowd of arrivals at the hotel-counter
by his correspondence with a description of him which had
been furnished us from a trustworthy, source. He was said
to be undersized, red-haired, and somewhat freckled. He
was the only man in the party whose outside tallied with this
bill of particulars. ' He was said to be very shy. He is a shy
man. Of this there is no doubt. It may not show on the
surface, but the shyness is there. After days of intimacy
one wonders to see that it is still in about as strong force as
ever. There is a fine and beautiful nature hidden behind it,
as all know who have read the Uncle Remus book; and a
fine genius, too, as all know by the same sign. I seem to
be talking quite freely about this neighbor; but in talking
to the public I am but talking to his personal friends, and
these things are permissible among friends.
He deeply disappointed a number of children who had
flocked eagerly to Mr. Cable’s house to get a glimpse of the
illustrious sage and oracle of the nation’s nurseries. They
said: —
“ Why, he’s white ! ”
They were grieved about it. So, to console them, the book
was brought, that they might hear Uncle Remus’s Tar-Baby
story from the lips of Uncle Remus himself — or what, in
their outraged eyes, was left of him. But it turned out that

he had never read aloud to people, and was too shy to venture
the attempt now. Mr. Cable and I read from books of ours,
to show him what an easy
trick it was; but his immor
tal shyness was proof against
even this sagacious strategy,
so we had to read about Brer
Rabbit ourselves.
Mr. Harris ought to be able
to read the negro dialect bet
ter than anybody else, for in
the matter of writing it he is
the only master the country
has produced. Mr. Cable is
the only master in the writing
of French dialects that the
country has produced ; and he
reads them in perfection. It
was a great treat to hear him
read about Jean-ah Poquelin,
and about Innerarity and his
famous “ pigshoo ” represent
ing “ Louisihanna Rif-iusing
to Hanter the Union,” along
with passages of nicely-shaded
German dialect from a novel
which was still in manuscript.
It came out in conversation,
uncle remus. that in two different instances
Mr. Cable got into grotesque
trouble by using, in his books, next-to-impossible French
names which nevertheless happened to be borne by living
and sensitive citizens of New-Orleans. His names were •
either inventions or were borrowed from the ancient and
obsolete past, I do not now remember which ; but at any
rate living bearers of them turned up, and were a good

deal hurt at having attention directed to themselves and
their affairs in so excessively public a manner.
Mr. Warner and I had an experience of the same sort
when we wrote the book called “ The Gilded Age.” There
is a character in it called “ Sellers.” I do not remember
what his first name was, in the beginning ; but anyway, Mr.
Warner did not like it, and wanted it improved. He asked
me if I was able to imagine a person named “ Eschol
Sellers.” Of course I said I could not, without stimulants.
He said that away out West, once, he had met, and contem
plated, and actually shaken hands with a man bearing that
impossible name — “ Eschol Sellers.” He added, —

“ It was twenty years ago; his name has probably carried
him off before this; and if it has n’t, he will never see the
book anyhow. We will confiscate his name. The name you
are using is common, and therefore dangerous; there are
probably a thousand Sellerses bearing it, and the whole
horde will come after us ; but Eschol Sellers is a safe name
— it is a rock.”
So we borrowed that name ; and when the book had been
out about a week, one of the stateliest and handsomest and
most aristocratic looking white men that ever lived, called
around, with the most formidable libel suit in his pocket
that ever — well, in brief, we got his permission to suppress
an edition of ten million 1 copies of the book and change that
name to “ Mulberry Sellers ” in future editions.
1 Figures taken from memory, and probably incorrect. Think it was more.

O NE day, on the street, I encountered the man whom, of
all men, I most wished to see—Horace Bixby; for
merly pilot under me — or rather, over me — now captain of
the great steamer “ City of Baton Rouge,” the latest and
swiftest addition to the Anchor Line. The same slender
figure, the same tight curls, the same springy step, the same
alertness, the same decision of eye and answering decision
of hand, the same erect military bearing; not an inch gained
or lost in girth, not an ounce gained or lost in weight, not
a hair turned. It is a curious thing, to leave a man thirty-
five years old, and come back at the end of twenty-one years
and find him still.only thirty-five. I have not had an' experi
ence of this kind before, I believe. There were some crow’s-
feet, but they counted for next to nothing, since they were
His boat was just in. I had been waiting several days for
her, purposing to return to St. Louis in her. The captain
and I joined a party of ladies and gentlemen, guests of Major
Wood, and went down the river fifty-four miles, in a swift
tug, to ex-Governor Warmouth’s sugar plantation. Strung
along below the city, were a number of decayed, ram-shackly,
superannuated old steamboats, not one of which had I ever
seen before. They had all been built, and worn out, and
thrown aside, since I was here last. This gives one a real
izing sense of the frailness of a Mississippi boat and the
briefness of its life.

Six miles below town a fat and battered brick chimney,
sticking above the magnolias and live-oaks, was pointed out
as the monument erected by an appreciative, nation to cele
brate the battle of New Orleans — Jackson’s victory over the
British, January 8, 1815. The war had ended, the two
nations were at peace, but the news had not yet reached
New Orleans. If we had had the cable telegraph in those
days, this blood would not have been spilt, those lives would
not have been wasted; and better still, Jackson would prob
ably never have been president. We have gotten over the
harms done us by the war of 1812, but not over some of
those done us by Jackson’s presidency.
The Warmouth plantation covers a vast deal of ground,
and the hospitality of the Warmouth mansion is graduated,
to the same large scale. We saw steam-plows at work,
here, for the first time. The traction engine travels about
on its own wheels, till it reaches the required spot; then it
stands still and by means of a wire rope pulls the huge plow
toward itself two or three hundred yards across the field,
between the rows of cane. The thing cuts down into the
black mould a foot and a half deep. The plow looks like
a fore-and-aft brace of a Hudson river steamer, inverted.
When the negro steersman sits on one end of it, that end
tilts down near the ground, while the other sticks up high in
air. This great see-saw goes rolling and pitching like a ship
at sea, and it is not every circus rider that could stay on it.
The plantation contains two thousand six hundred acres;
six hundred and fifty are in cane; and there is a fruitful
orange grove of five thousand trees. The cane is cultivated
after a modern and intricate scientific fashion, too elaborate
and complex for me to attempt to describe; but it lost
$40,000 last year. I forget the other details. However,
this year’s crop will reach ten or twelve hundred tons of
sugar, consequently last year’s loss will not matter. These
troublesome and expensive scientific methods achieve a yield
of a ton and a half, and from that to two tons, to the acre;

which is three or four times what the yield of an acre was in
my time.
The drainage-ditches were everywhere alive with little
crabs—“fiddlers.” One saw them scampering sidewise in
every direction whenever they heard a disturbing noise.
Expensive pests, these crabs; for they bore into the levees,
and ruin them.
The great sugar-house was a wilderness of tubs and
tanks and vats and filters, pumps, pipes, and machinery.
The process of making sugar is exceedingly interesting.
First, you heave your cane into the centrifugals and grind
out the juice; then run it through the evaporating pan to
extract the fibre; then through the bone-filter to remove the
alcohol; then through the clarifying tanks to discharge the
molasses; then through the granulating pipe to condense it;
then through the vacuum pan to extract the vacuum. It is
now ready for market. I have jotted these particulars down
from memory. The thing looks simple and easy. Do not
deceive yourself. To make sugar is really one of the most
difficult things in the world. And • to make it right, is next
to impossible. If you will examine your own supply every
now and' then for a term of years, and tabulate the result,
you will find that not two men in twenty can make sugar
without getting sand into it.
We could have gone down to the mouth of the river and
visited Captain Eads’ great work, the “ jetties,” where the
river has been compressed between walls, and thus deepened
to twenty-six feet; but it was voted useless to go, since at
this stage of the water everything would be covered up and
We could have visited that ancient and singular burg,
“ Pilot-town,” which stands on stilts in the water — so they
say; where neaaiy all communication is by skiff and canoe,
even to the attending of weddings and funerals ; and where
the littlest boys and girls are as handy with the oar as
unamphibious children are with the velocipede.

We could have done a number of other things; but on
account of limited time, we went back home. The sail up
the breezy and sparkling river was a charming experience,
and would have been satisfyingly sentimental and romantic
but for the interruptions of the tug’s pet parrot, whose tire
less comments upon the scenery and the guests wer^ always
this-worldly, and often profane. He had also a superabun-
dance of the discordant, ear-splitting, metallic laugh common
to his breed, — a machine-made laugh, a Frankenstein laugh,
with the soul left out of it. He applied it to every senti
mental remark, and to every pathetic song. He cackled it
out with hideous energy after “ Home again, home again,
from a foreign shore,” and said he “ wouldn’t give a damn
for a tug-load of such rot.” Romance and sentiment can
not long survive this sort of discouragement; so the singing

and talking presently ceased; which so delighted the parrot
that he cursed himself hoarse for joy.
Then the male members of the party moved to the fore
castle, to smoke and gossip. There were several old steam-
boatmen along, and 1 learned from them a great deal of what
had been happening to my r former river friends during my
long absence. I learned that a pilot whom I used to steer
for is become a spiritualist, and for more than fifteen years
has been receiving a letter every week from a deceased rela
tive, through a New York spiritualistic medium named Man
chester — postage graduated by distance: from the local
post-office in Paradise to New York, five dollars ; from New
York to St. Louis, three cents. I remember Mr. Manchester

very well. I called on him once, ten years ago, with a
couple of friends, one of whom wished to inquire after a
"deceased uncle. This uncle had lost his life in a peculiarly
violent and unusual way, half a dozen years before : a cyclone
blew him some three miles and knocked a tree down with
him which was four feet through at the butt and sixty-live
feet high. He did not survive this triumph. At the seance.
just referred to, my friend questioned his late uncle, through
Mr. Manchester, and the late uncle wrote down his replies,
using Mr. Manchester’s hand and pencil for that purpose.
The following is a fair example of the questions asked, and
also of the sloppy twaddle in the way of answers, furnished
by Manchester under the pretence that it came from the
spectre. If this man is not the paltriest fraud that lives,
I owe him an apology: —
Question. Where are you ?
Answer. In the spirit world.
Q. Are you happy ?
A. Very happy. Perfectly happy. •
Q. How do you amuse yourself ?
A. Conversation with friends, and other spirits.
Q. What else ?
A. Nothing else. Nothing else is necessary.
Q. What do you talk about ?
A. About how' happy we' are; and about friends left
behind in the earth, and how to influence them for their
Q. When your friends in the earth all get to the spirit
land, wHat shall you have to talk about then? — nothing but
about how happy you all are ?
No reply. It is explained that spirits will not answer
frivolous questions.
Q. How is it that spirits that are content to spend an
eternity in frivolous employments, and accept it as happi
ness, are so fastidious about frivolous questions upon the

reply. , ■/ ;
Would you like to come back?
Would you say that under oath?
What do you eat there ?
We do not eat.
What do you drink ?
We do not drink.
What do you smoke ?
We do not smoke.
What do you read ?
We do not read.
Do all the good people go to your place?
You know my present way of life. Can you suggest
any additions to it, in tlie way of crime, that will reasonably
insure my going to some other place ?
A. No reply.
Q. When did you die ?
A. I did not die, I passed away.
Q. Very well, then, when did you pass away ? How long
have you been in the spirit land ?
A. We have no measurements of time here.
Q. Though you may be indifferent and uncertain as to
dates and times in your present condition and environment,
this has nothing to do with your former condition. You had
dates then. One of these is what I ask for. You departed
on a certain day in a certain year. : Is not this true ?
A. Yes.
Q. : Then name the day of the month.
(Much fumbling with pencil, on the part of the medium,
accompanied by violent spasmodic jerkings of his head and
body, for some little time. Finally, explanation to the effect
that spirits often forget dates, such things being without
importance.to them.)

Q. Then this one h..s actually forgotten the date of its
translation to the spirit land't
This was granted to be the case.
Q. This is very curious. Well, then, what year was it ?
(More fumbling, jerking, idiotic spasms, on the part of the
medium. Finally, explanation to the effect that the spirit
has forgotten the year.)
Q. This is indeed stupendous. Let me put one more ques
tion, one last question, to you, before we part to meet no
more ; — for even if I fail to avoid' your asylum, a meeting
there will go for nothing as a meeting, since by that time
you will easily have forgotten me and my name: did you
die a natural death, or were you cut off by a catastrophe ?
A. (After long hesitation and many throes and spasms.)
Natural death.
This ended the interview. My friend told the medium that

when his relative was in this poor world, he was endowed
with an extraordinary intellect and an absolutely defectless
memory, and it seemed a great pity that he had not been
allowed to keep some shred of these for his amusement in
the realms of everlasting contentment, and for the amaze
ment and admiration of the rest of the population there.
This man had plenty of clients — has plenty yet. He
receives letters from spirits located in every part of the
spirit world, and delivers them all over this country through
the United States mail. These letters are filled with advice
— advice from “ spirits ” who don’t know as much as a tad
pole — and this advice is religiously followed by the receivers.
One of these clients was a man Avhom the spirits (if one may
thus plurally describe the ingenious Manchester) were teach
ing how to contrive an improved railway car-wheel. It is
coarse employment for a spirit, but it is higher and whole-
somer activity than talking forever about “ how happy we

I N the course of the tug-boat gossip, it came out that out
of every five of my former friends who.had quitted the
river, four had chosen farming as an occupation. Of course
this was not. because they were peculiarly gifted, agricultur
ally, and thus more likely to succeed as farmers than in
other industries: the. reason for their choice must be traced
to' some other source. Doubtless they chose farming because
that-life is private and secluded from irruptions of undesir
able strangers,—like the pilot-house hermitage. And doubt
less they also chose it because on a thousand nights of black
storm and danger they had noted the twinkling lights of
solitary farm-houses, as the boat swung by, and pictured to
themselves the serenity and security and cosiness of such
refuges at such times, and so had by and by come to dream
of that retired and peaceful life as the one desirable thing
to long for, anticipate, earn, and at last enjoy.
But I did not learn that any of these pilot-farmers had
astonished anybody with their successes. Their farms do
not support them: they support their farms. The pilot-
farmer disappears from the river annually, about the break
ing of spring, and is seen no more till next frost. Then he
appears again, in damaged homespun, combs the hay-seed out
of his hair, and takes a pilot-house berth for the winter. In
this way he pays the debts which his farming has achieved
during the agricultural season. So his river bondage is but
half broken; he is still the river’s slave the hardest half of
the year.

One of these men bought a farm, but did not retire to it.
He knew a trick worth two of that. He did not propose
to pauperize his farm by applying his personal ignorance to
working it. No, he put the farm into the hands of an agri
cultural expert to be worked on shares — out of every three
loads of corn the expert to have two and the pilot the third.
But at the end of the season the pilot received no corn. The
expert explained that his share was not reached. The farm
produced only two loads.
Some of the pilots whom I had known had had adventures;
—the outcome fortunate, sometimes, but not in all cases.
Captain Montgomery, whom I had steered for when he was
a pilot, commanded the Confederate fleet in the great battle
before Memphis; when his vessel went down, he swam
ashore, fought his way through a squad of soldiers, and
made a gallant and narrow escape. . He was always, a cool
man; nothing could disturb liis serenity. • Once when he was
captain of the “ Crescent City,” I was bringing the boat into
part at New Orleans, and momently expecting orders from
the hurricane deck, but received none. I had stopped the
wheels, and there my authority and responsibility ceased. It
was evening — dim twilight — the captain’s hat was perched
upon the big bell, and I supposed the intellectual end of the
captain was in it, but such was not the case. The captain
was very strict; therefore I knew better than to touch a
bell without orders. My duty was to hold the boat steadily
on her calamitous course, and leave the consequences to take
care of themselves — which I did. So we went plowing past
the sterns of steamboats and getting closer and closer — the.
crash was bound to come very soon — and still that hat never
budged ; for alas, the captain was napping in the texas. . . .
Things were. becoming exceedingly nervous and uncomfort
able. It seemed to me that the captain was not going to .
appear in time to see the entertainment. But he did. Just
as we were walking into the stern of a steamboat, he stepped
out on deck, and said, with heavenly serenity, “ Set her back

on both” — which I did; but a trifle late, however, for the
next moment we went smashing through that other boat’s
flimsy outer works with a most prodigious racket. The cap
tain never said a word to me about the matter afterwards,
except to remark that I had done right, and that he hoped
I would not hesitate to act in the same way again in like
One of the pilots
whom I had known
when I was on the
river had died a very
honorable death. His
boat caught fire, and
he remained at the
wheel until he got her
safe to land. Then
he went out over the
brcast-board with his
clothing in flames, and
was the last person to
get ashore. He died .
from his injuries in
the course of two or
three hours, and his
was the only life lost.
The history of Mis
sissippi piloting af
fords six or seven in
stances of this sort of martyrdom, and I
half a hundred instances of escapes from
a like fate which came within a second or two of being
fatally too late ; but there is no instance of a pilot desert
ing his post to save his life while by remaining and sacri
ficing it he might secure other lives from destruction. It is
well worth while to set down this noble fact, and well
worth while to put it in italics, too.

The “ cub ” pilot is early admonished to despise all perils
connected with a pilot’s calling, and to prefer any sort of
death to the deep dishonor of deserting his post while there
is any possibility of his being useful in it. And so effectively
are these admonitions inculcated, that even young and but
half-tried pilots can be depended upon to stick to the wheel,
and die there when occasion requires. In a Memphis grave
yard is buried a young fellow who perished at the wheel a
great many years ago, in White River, to save the lives of
other men. He said to the captain that if the fire would
give him time to reach a sand bar, some distance away, all
could be saved, but that to land against the bluff bank of
the river would be to insure the loss of many lives. He
reached the bar and grounded the boat in shallow water;
but by that time the flames had closed around him, and in
escaping through them he was fatally burned. He had been
urged to fly sooner, but had replied as became a pilot to
reply: —
“ I will not go. If I go, nobody will be saved ; if I stay,
no one will be lost but me. I will stay.”
There were two hundred persons on board, and no life was
lost but the pilot’s. There used to be a monument to this
young fellow, in that Memphis graveyard. While we tarried
in Memphis on our down trip, I started out to look for it,
but our time was so brief that I was obliged to turn back
before my object was accomplished.
The tug-boat gossip informed me that Dick Kennet was
dead — blown up, near Memphis, and killed ; that several
others whom I had known had fallen in the war — one or
two of them shot down at the wheel; that another and very
particular friend, whom I had steered many trips for, had
stepped out of his house in New Orleans, one night years
ago, to collect some money in a remote part of the city, and
had never been seen again, — was murdered and thrown into
the river, it was thought; that Ben Thornburgh was dead
long ago ; also his wild “ cub ” whom I used to quarrel with,

all through every daylight watch. A heedless, reckless
creature he was, and always in hot water, always in mis
chief. An Arkansas passenger brought an enormous bear
aboard, one day, and chained him to a life-boat on the hurri
cane deck. Thornburgh’s “ cub ” could not rest till he had
gone there and unchained the bear, to “ see what he would
do.” He was promptly gratified. The bear chased him
Thornburgh’s cub.
around and around the deck, for miles and miles, with two
hundred eager faces grinning through the railings for au
dience, and finally snatched off the lad’s coat-tail and went
into the texas to chew it. The off-watch turned out with
alacrity, and left the bear in sole possession. He presently
grew lonesome, and started out for recreation. He ranged

the whole boat — visited every part of it, with an advance
guard of fleeing people in front of him and a voiceless
vacancy behind him; and when his owner captured him at
last, those two were the only visible beings anywhere; every
body else was in hiding, and the boat was a solitude.
I was told that one of my pilot friends fell dead at the
wheel, from heart disease, in 1869. The captain was on the
roof at the time. He saw the boat breaking for the shore ;
"he clung to a. cotton bale.”
shouted, and got no answer; ran up, and found the pilot
lying dead on the floor.
Mr. Bixby had been blown up, in Madrid bend ; was not
injured, but the other pilot was lost.
George Ritchie had been blown up near Memphis — blown
into the river from the wheel, and disabled. The water was
very cold ; he clung to a cotton bale — mainly with his
teeth — and floated until nearly exhausted, when he was
rescued by some deck hands who were on a piece of the
wreck. They tore open the bale and packed him in the cot
ton, and warmed the life back into him, and got him safe

to Memphis. He is one of Bixby’s pilots on the “Baton
Rouge ” now.
Into the life of a steamboat clerk, now dead, had dropped
a bit of romance, — somewhat grotesque romance, but ro
mance nevertheless. When I knew him he was a shiftless
young spendthrift, boisterous, good-hearted, full of careless
generosities, and pretty conspicuously promising to fool
his possibilities away early, and come to nothing. In a
Western city lived a rich and childless old foreigner and
his wife ; and in their family was a comely young girl—sort
of friend, sort of servant. The young clerk of whom I have
been speaking, — whose name was not George Johnson, but
who shall be called George Johnson for the purposes of this
narrative, — got acquainted with this young girl, and they
sinned ; and the old foreigner found them out, and rebuked
them- Being ashamed, they lied, and said they were married;
that they had been privately married. Then the old foreign
er’s hurt was healed, and he forgave and blessed them. After
that, they were able to continue their sin without concealment.
By and by the foreigner’s wife died; and presently he followed
after her. Friends of the family assembled to mourn ; and
among the mourners sat the two young sinners. The will
was opened and solemnly read. It bequeathed every penny
of that old man’s great wealth to Mrs. G-eorge Johnson !
And there was no such person. The young sinners fled
forth then, and did a very foolish thing: married themselves
before an obscure Justice of the Peace, and got him to ante
date the thing. That did no sort of good. The distant
relatives flocked in and exposed the fraudful date with
extreme suddenness and surprising ease, and carried off the
fortune, leaving the Johnsons very legitimately, and legally,
and irrevocably chained together in'honorable marriage, but
with not so much as a penny to bless themselves withal.
Such are the actual facts; and not all novels have for a base
so telling a situation.

E had some talk about Captain Isaiah Sellers, now
many years dead. He was a line man, a high-
minded man, and greatly respected both ashore and on the
river. He was very tall, well built, and handsome ; and in
his old age — as I remember him — his hair was as black
as an Indian’s, and his eye and hand were as strong and
steady and his nerve and judgment as firm and clear as
anybody’s, young or old, among the fraternity of pilots. He
was the patriarch of the craft; he had been a keelboat pilot
before the day of steamboats ; and a steamboat pilot before
any other steamboat pilot, still surviving at the time I speak
of, had ever turned a wheel. Consequently his brethren held
him in the sort of awe in which illustrious survivors of a by
gone age are always held by their associates. He knew how
he was regarded, arid perhaps this fact added some trifle of
stiffening to his natural dignity, which had been sufficiently
stiff in its original state.
He left a diaiy behind him; but apparently it did not date
back to his first steamboat trip, which was said to be 1811,
the year the first steamboat disturbed the waters of the Mis
sissippi. At the time of his death a correspondent of the
“ St. Louis Republican ” culled the following items from the
diary: —
“ In February, 1825, he shipped on board the steamer t Rambler,’
at Florence, Ala., and made during that year three trips to New

Orleans and back, — this on the ‘ Gen. Carrol,’ between Nashville
and New Orleans. It was during his stay on this boat that Captain
Sellers introduced the tap of the bell as a signal to lieave the lead,
previous to which time it was the custom for the pilot to speak to
the men below when soundings were wanted. The proximity of
the forecastle to the pilot-house, no doubt, rendered this an easy
matter; but how different on one of our palaces of the present