American Notes for General Circulation

 

by

 

Charles Dickens

 

 


CONTENTS:

 

PREFACE TO THE FIRST CHEAP EDITION OF "AMERICAN NOTES" 3

PREFACE TO THE "CHARLES DICKENS" EDITION OF "AMERICAN NOTES" 4

CHAPTER I - GOING AWAY.. 5

CHAPTER II - THE PASSAGE OUT. 11

CHAPTER III - BOSTON.. 21

CHAPTER IV - AN AMERICAN RAILROAD.  LOWELL AND ITS FACTORY SYSTEM    48

CHAPTER V - WORCESTER.  THE CONNECTICUT RIVER.  HARTFORD.  NEW  HAVEN.  TO NEW YORK   54

CHAPTER VI - NEW YORK.. 61

CHAPTER VII - PHILADELPHIA, AND ITS SOLITARY PRISON.. 75

CHAPTER VIII - WASHINGTON.  THE LEGISLATURE.  AND THE PRESIDENT'S  HOUSE  86

CHAPTER IX - A NIGHT STEAMER ON THE POTOMAC RIVER.  VIRGINIA ROAD,  AND A BLACK DRIVER.  RICHMOND.  BALTIMORE.  THE HARRISBURG MAIL,  AND A GLIMPSE OF THE CITY.  A CANAL BOAT. 98

CHAPTER X - SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE CANAL BOAT, ITS DOMESTIC  ECONOMY, AND ITS PASSENGERS.  JOURNEY TO PITTSBURG ACROSS THE  ALLEGHANY MOUNTAINS.  PITTSBURG   111

CHAPTER XI - FROM PITTSBURG TO CINCINNATI IN A WESTERN STEAMBOAT.   CINCINNATI 119

CHAPTER XII - FROM CINCINNATI TO LOUISVILLE IN ANOTHER WESTERN  STEAMBOAT; AND FROM LOUISVILLE TO ST. LOUIS IN ANOTHER.  ST. LOUIS. 126

CHAPTER XIII - A JAUNT TO THE LOOKING-GLASS PRAIRIE AND BACK.. 135

CHAPTER XIV - RETURN TO CINCINNATI.  A STAGE-COACH RIDE FROM THAT  CITY TO COLUMBUS, AND THENCE TO SANDUSKY.  SO, BY LAKE ERIE, TO THE  FALLS OF NIAGARA   141

CHAPTER XV - IN CANADA; TORONTO; KINGSTON; MONTREAL; QUEBEC; ST.  JOHN'S.  IN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN; LEBANON; THE SHAKER VILLAGE;  WEST POINT. 154

CHAPTER XVI - THE PASSAGE HOME. 167

CHAPTER XVI - SLAVERY.. 173

CHAPTER XVIII - CONCLUDING REMARKS. 186

 


PREFACE TO THE FIRST CHEAP EDITION OF "AMERICAN NOTES"

 

IT is nearly eight years since this book was first published.  I  present it, unaltered, in the Cheap Edition; and such of my  opinions as it expresses, are quite unaltered too.

 

My readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether the  influences and tendencies which I distrust in America, have any  existence not in my imagination.  They can examine for themselves  whether there has been anything in the public career of that  country during these past eight years, or whether there is anything  in its present position, at home or abroad, which suggests that  those influences and tendencies really do exist.  As they find the  fact, they will judge me.  If they discern any evidences of wrong-going in any direction that I have indicated, they will acknowledge  that I had reason in what I wrote.  If they discern no such thing,  they will consider me altogether mistaken.

 

Prejudiced, I never have been otherwise than in favour of the  United States.  No visitor can ever have set foot on those shores,  with a stronger faith in the Republic than I had, when I landed in  America.

 

I purposely abstain from extending these observations to any  length.  I have nothing to defend, or to explain away.  The truth  is the truth; and neither childish absurdities, nor unscrupulous  contradictions, can make it otherwise.  The earth would still move  round the sun, though the whole Catholic Church said No.

 

I have many friends in America, and feel a grateful interest in the  country.  To represent me as viewing it with ill-nature, animosity,  or partisanship, is merely to do a very foolish thing, which is  always a very easy one; and which I have disregarded for eight  years, and could disregard for eighty more.

 

LONDON, JUNE 22, 1850.

 


PREFACE TO THE "CHARLES DICKENS" EDITION OF "AMERICAN NOTES"

 

MY readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether the  influences and tendencies which I distrusted in America, had, at  that time, any existence but in my imagination.  They can examine  for themselves whether there has been anything in the public career  of that country since, at home or abroad, which suggests that those  influences and tendencies really did exist.  As they find the fact,  they will judge me.  If they discern any evidences of wrong-going,  in any direction that I have indicated, they will acknowledge that  I had reason in what I wrote.  If they discern no such indications,  they will consider me altogether mistaken - but not wilfully.

 

Prejudiced, I am not, and never have been, otherwise than in favour  of the United States.  I have many friends in America, I feel a  grateful interest in the country, I hope and believe it will  successfully work out a problem of the highest importance to the  whole human race.  To represent me as viewing AMERICA with ill-nature, coldness, or animosity, is merely to do a very foolish  thing:  which is always a very easy one.

 


CHAPTER I - GOING AWAY

 

I SHALL never forget the one-fourth serious and three-fourths  comical astonishment, with which, on the morning of the third of  January eighteen-hundred-and-forty-two, I opened the door of, and  put my head into, a 'state-room' on board the Britannia steam-packet, twelve hundred tons burthen per register, bound for Halifax  and Boston, and carrying Her Majesty's mails.

 

That this state-room had been specially engaged for 'Charles  Dickens, Esquire, and Lady,' was rendered sufficiently clear even  to my scared intellect by a very small manuscript, announcing the  fact, which was pinned on a very flat quilt, covering a very thin  mattress, spread like a surgical plaster on a most inaccessible  shelf.  But that this was the state-room concerning which Charles  Dickens, Esquire, and Lady, had held daily and nightly conferences  for at least four months preceding:  that this could by any  possibility be that small snug chamber of the imagination, which  Charles Dickens, Esquire, with the spirit of prophecy strong upon  him, had always foretold would contain at least one little sofa,  and which his lady, with a modest yet most magnificent sense of its  limited dimensions, had from the first opined would not hold more  than two enormous portmanteaus in some odd corner out of sight  (portmanteaus which could now no more be got in at the door, not to  say stowed away, than a giraffe could be persuaded or forced into a  flower-pot):  that this utterly impracticable, thoroughly hopeless,  and profoundly preposterous box, had the remotest reference to, or  connection with, those chaste and pretty, not to say gorgeous  little bowers, sketched by a masterly hand, in the highly varnished  lithographic plan hanging up in the agent's counting-house in the  city of London:  that this room of state, in short, could be  anything but a pleasant fiction and cheerful jest of the captain's,  invented and put in practice for the better relish and enjoyment of  the real state-room presently to be disclosed:- these were truths  which I really could not, for the moment, bring my mind at all to  bear upon or comprehend.  And I sat down upon a kind of horsehair  slab, or perch, of which there were two within; and looked, without  any expression of countenance whatever, at some friends who had  come on board with us, and who were crushing their faces into all  manner of shapes by endeavouring to squeeze them through the small  doorway.

 

We had experienced a pretty smart shock before coming below, which,  but that we were the most sanguine people living, might have  prepared us for the worst.  The imaginative artist to whom I have  already made allusion, has depicted in the same great work, a  chamber of almost interminable perspective, furnished, as Mr.  Robins would say, in a style of more than Eastern splendour, and  filled (but not inconveniently so) with groups of ladies and  gentlemen, in the very highest state of enjoyment and vivacity.   Before descending into the bowels of the ship, we had passed from  the deck into a long narrow apartment, not unlike a gigantic hearse  with windows in the sides; having at the upper end a melancholy  stove, at which three or four chilly stewards were warming their  hands; while on either side, extending down its whole dreary  length, was a long, long table, over each of which a rack, fixed to  the low roof, and stuck full of drinking-glasses and cruet-stands,  hinted dismally at rolling seas and heavy weather.  I had not at  that time seen the ideal presentment of this chamber which has  since gratified me so much, but I observed that one of our friends  who had made the arrangements for our voyage, turned pale on  entering, retreated on the friend behind him., smote his forehead  involuntarily, and said below his breath, 'Impossible! it cannot  be!' or words to that effect.  He recovered himself however by a  great effort, and after a preparatory cough or two, cried, with a  ghastly smile which is still before me, looking at the same time  round the walls, 'Ha! the breakfast-room, steward - eh?'  We all  foresaw what the answer must be:  we knew the agony he suffered.   He had often spoken of THE SALOON; had taken in and lived upon the  pictorial idea; had usually given us to understand, at home, that  to form a just conception of it, it would be necessary to multiply  the size and furniture of an ordinary drawing-room by seven, and  then fall short of the reality.  When the man in reply avowed the  truth; the blunt, remorseless, naked truth; 'This is the saloon,  sir' - he actually reeled beneath the blow.

 

In persons who were so soon to part, and interpose between their  else daily communication the formidable barrier of many thousand  miles of stormy space, and who were for that reason anxious to cast  no other cloud, not even the passing shadow of a moment's  disappointment or discomfiture, upon the short interval of happy  companionship that yet remained to them - in persons so situated,  the natural transition from these first surprises was obviously  into peals of hearty laughter, and I can report that I, for one,  being still seated upon the slab or perch before mentioned, roared  outright until the vessel rang again.  Thus, in less than two  minutes after coming upon it for the first time, we all by common  consent agreed that this state-room was the pleasantest and most  facetious and capital contrivance possible; and that to have had it  one inch larger, would have been quite a disagreeable and  deplorable state of things.  And with this; and with showing how, -  by very nearly closing the door, and twining in and out like  serpents, and by counting the little washing slab as standing-room,  - we could manage to insinuate four people into it, all at one  time; and entreating each other to observe how very airy it was (in  dock), and how there was a beautiful port-hole which could be kept  open all day (weather permitting), and how there was quite a large  bull's-eye just over the looking-glass which would render shaving a  perfectly easy and delightful process (when the ship didn't roll  too much); we arrived, at last, at the unanimous conclusion that it  was rather spacious than otherwise:  though I do verily believe  that, deducting the two berths, one above the other, than which  nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except coffins, it  was no bigger than one of those hackney cabriolets which have the  door behind, and shoot their fares out, like sacks of coals, upon  the pavement.

 

Having settled this point to the perfect satisfaction of all  parties, concerned and unconcerned, we sat down round the fire in  the ladies' cabin - just to try the effect.  It was rather dark,  certainly; but somebody said, 'of course it would be light, at  sea,' a proposition to which we all assented; echoing 'of course,  of course;' though it would be exceedingly difficult to say why we  thought so.  I remember, too, when we had discovered and exhausted  another topic of consolation in the circumstance of this ladies'  cabin adjoining our state-room, and the consequently immense  feasibility of sitting there at all times and seasons, and had  fallen into a momentary silence, leaning our faces on our hands and  looking at the fire, one of our party said, with the solemn air of  a man who had made a discovery, 'What a relish mulled claret will  have down here!' which appeared to strike us all most forcibly; as  though there were something spicy and high-flavoured in cabins,  which essentially improved that composition, and rendered it quite  incapable of perfection anywhere else.

 

There was a stewardess, too, actively engaged in producing clean  sheets and table-cloths from the very entrails of the sofas, and  from unexpected lockers, of such artful mechanism, that it made  one's head ache to see them opened one after another, and rendered  it quite a distracting circumstance to follow her proceedings, and  to find that every nook and corner and individual piece of  furniture was something else besides what it pretended to be, and  was a mere trap and deception and place of secret stowage, whose  ostensible purpose was its least useful one.

 

God bless that stewardess for her piously fraudulent account of  January voyages!  God bless her for her clear recollection of the  companion passage of last year, when nobody was ill, and everybody  dancing from morning to night, and it was 'a run' of twelve days,  and a piece of the purest frolic, and delight, and jollity!  All  happiness be with her for her bright face and her pleasant Scotch  tongue, which had sounds of old Home in it for my fellow-traveller;  and for her predictions of fair winds and fine weather (all wrong,  or I shouldn't be half so fond of her); and for the ten thousand  small fragments of genuine womanly tact, by which, without piecing  them elaborately together, and patching them up into shape and form  and case and pointed application, she nevertheless did plainly show  that all young mothers on one side of the Atlantic were near and  close at hand to their little children left upon the other; and  that what seemed to the uninitiated a serious journey, was, to  those who were in the secret, a mere frolic, to be sung about and  whistled at!  Light be her heart, and gay her merry eyes, for  years!

 

The state-room had grown pretty fast; but by this time it had  expanded into something quite bulky, and almost boasted a bay-window to view the sea from.  So we went upon deck again in high  spirits; and there, everything was in such a state of bustle and  active preparation, that the blood quickened its pace, and whirled  through one's veins on that clear frosty morning with involuntary  mirthfulness.  For every gallant ship was riding slowly up and  down, and every little boat was splashing noisily in the water; and  knots of people stood upon the wharf, gazing with a kind of 'dread  delight' on the far-famed fast American steamer; and one party of  men were 'taking in the milk,' or, in other words, getting the cow  on board; and another were filling the icehouses to the very throat  with fresh provisions; with butchers'-meat and garden-stuff, pale  sucking-pigs, calves' heads in scores, beef, veal, and pork, and  poultry out of all proportion; and others were coiling ropes and  busy with oakum yarns; and others were lowering heavy packages into  the hold; and the purser's head was barely visible as it loomed in  a state, of exquisite perplexity from the midst of a vast pile of  passengers' luggage; and there seemed to be nothing going on  anywhere, or uppermost in the mind of anybody, but preparations for  this mighty voyage.  This, with the bright cold sun, the bracing  air, the crisply-curling water, the thin white crust of morning ice  upon the decks which crackled with a sharp and cheerful sound  beneath the lightest tread, was irresistible.  And when, again upon  the shore, we turned and saw from the vessel's mast her name  signalled in flags of joyous colours, and fluttering by their side  the beautiful American banner with its stars and stripes, - the  long three thousand miles and more, and, longer still, the six  whole months of absence, so dwindled and faded, that the ship had  gone out and come home again, and it was broad spring already in  the Coburg Dock at Liverpool.

 

I have not inquired among my medical acquaintance, whether Turtle,  and cold Punch, with Hock, Champagne, and Claret, and all the  slight et cetera usually included in an unlimited order for a good  dinner - especially when it is left to the liberal construction of  my faultless friend, Mr. Radley, of the Adelphi Hotel - are  peculiarly calculated to suffer a sea-change; or whether a plain  mutton-chop, and a glass or two of sherry, would be less likely of  conversion into foreign and disconcerting material.  My own opinion  is, that whether one is discreet or indiscreet in these  particulars, on the eve of a sea-voyage, is a matter of little  consequence; and that, to use a common phrase, 'it comes to very  much the same thing in the end.'  Be this as it may, I know that  the dinner of that day was undeniably perfect; that it comprehended  all these items, and a great many more; and that we all did ample  justice to it.  And I know too, that, bating a certain tacit  avoidance of any allusion to to-morrow; such as may be supposed to  prevail between delicate-minded turnkeys, and a sensitive prisoner  who is to be hanged next morning; we got on very well, and, all  things considered, were merry enough.

 

When the morning - THE morning - came, and we met at breakfast, it  was curious to see how eager we all were to prevent a moment's  pause in the conversation, and how astoundingly gay everybody was:   the forced spirits of each member of the little party having as  much likeness to his natural mirth, as hot-house peas at five  guineas the quart, resemble in flavour the growth of the dews, and  air, and rain of Heaven.  But as one o'clock, the hour for going  aboard, drew near, this volubility dwindled away by little and  little, despite the most persevering efforts to the contrary, until  at last, the matter being now quite desperate, we threw off all  disguise; openly speculated upon where we should be this time to-morrow, this time next day, and so forth; and entrusted a vast  number of messages to those who intended returning to town that  night, which were to be delivered at home and elsewhere without  fail, within the very shortest possible space of time after the  arrival of the railway train at Euston Square.  And commissions and  remembrances do so crowd upon one at such a time, that we were  still busied with this employment when we found ourselves fused, as  it were, into a dense conglomeration of passengers and passengers'  friends and passengers' luggage, all jumbled together on the deck  of a small steamboat, and panting and snorting off to the packet,  which had worked out of dock yesterday afternoon and was now lying  at her moorings in the river.

 

And there she is! all eyes are turned to where she lies, dimly  discernible through the gathering fog of the early winter  afternoon; every finger is pointed in the same direction; and  murmurs of interest and admiration - as 'How beautiful she looks!'  'How trim she is!' - are heard on every side.  Even the lazy  gentleman with his hat on one side and his hands in his pockets,  who has dispensed so much consolation by inquiring with a yawn of  another gentleman whether he is 'going across' - as if it were a  ferry - even he condescends to look that way, and nod his head, as  who should say, 'No mistake about THAT:' and not even the sage Lord  Burleigh in his nod, included half so much as this lazy gentleman  of might who has made the passage (as everybody on board has found  out already; it's impossible to say how) thirteen times without a  single accident!  There is another passenger very much wrapped-up,  who has been frowned down by the rest, and morally trampled upon  and crushed, for presuming to inquire with a timid interest how  long it is since the poor President went down.  He is standing  close to the lazy gentleman, and says with a faint smile that he  believes She is a very strong Ship; to which the lazy gentleman,  looking first in his questioner's eye and then very hard in the  wind's, answers unexpectedly and ominously, that She need be.  Upon  this the lazy gentleman instantly falls very low in the popular  estimation, and the passengers, with looks of defiance, whisper to  each other that he is an ass, and an impostor, and clearly don't  know anything at all about it.

 

But we are made fast alongside the packet, whose huge red funnel is  smoking bravely, giving rich promise of serious intentions.   Packing-cases, portmanteaus, carpet-bags, and boxes, are already  passed from hand to hand, and hauled on board with breathless  rapidity.  The officers, smartly dressed, are at the gangway  handing the passengers up the side, and hurrying the men.  In five  minutes' time, the little steamer is utterly deserted, and the  packet is beset and over-run by its late freight, who instantly  pervade the whole ship, and are to be met with by the dozen in  every nook and corner:  swarming down below with their own baggage,  and stumbling over other people's; disposing themselves comfortably  in wrong cabins, and creating a most horrible confusion by having  to turn out again; madly bent upon opening locked doors, and on  forcing a passage into all kinds of out-of-the-way places where  there is no thoroughfare; sending wild stewards, with elfin hair,  to and fro upon the breezy decks on unintelligible errands,  impossible of execution:  and in short, creating the most  extraordinary and bewildering tumult.  In the midst of all this,  the lazy gentleman, who seems to have no luggage of any kind - not  so much as a friend, even - lounges up and down the hurricane deck,  coolly puffing a cigar; and, as this unconcerned demeanour again  exalts him in the opinion of those who have leisure to observe his  proceedings, every time he looks up at the masts, or down at the  decks, or over the side, they look there too, as wondering whether  he sees anything wrong anywhere, and hoping that, in case he  should, he will have the goodness to mention it.

 

What have we here?  The captain's boat! and yonder the captain  himself.  Now, by all our hopes and wishes, the very man he ought  to be!  A well-made, tight-built, dapper little fellow; with a  ruddy face, which is a letter of invitation to shake him by both  hands at once; and with a clear, blue honest eye, that it does one  good to see one's sparkling image in.  'Ring the bell!'  'Ding,  ding, ding!' the very bell is in a hurry.  'Now for the shore -  who's for the shore?' - 'These gentlemen, I am sorry to say.'  They  are away, and never said, Good b'ye.  Ah now they wave it from the  little boat.  'Good b'ye! Good b'ye!'  Three cheers from them;  three more from us; three more from them:  and they are gone.

 

To and fro, to and fro, to and fro again a hundred times!  This  waiting for the latest mail-bags is worse than all.  If we could  have gone off in the midst of that last burst, we should have  started triumphantly:  but to lie here, two hours and more in the  damp fog, neither staying at home nor going abroad, is letting one  gradually down into the very depths of dulness and low spirits.  A  speck in the mist, at last!  That's something.  It is the boat we  wait for!  That's more to the purpose.  The captain appears on the  paddle-box with his speaking trumpet; the officers take their  stations; all hands are on the alert; the flagging hopes of the  passengers revive; the cooks pause in their savoury work, and look  out with faces full of interest.  The boat comes alongside; the  bags are dragged in anyhow, and flung down for the moment anywhere.   Three cheers more:  and as the first one rings upon our ears, the  vessel throbs like a strong giant that has just received the breath  of life; the two great wheels turn fiercely round for the first  time; and the noble ship, with wind and tide astern, breaks proudly  through the lashed and roaming water.

 


CHAPTER II - THE PASSAGE OUT

 

WE all dined together that day; and a rather formidable party we  were:  no fewer than eighty-six strong.  The vessel being pretty  deep in the water, with all her coals on board and so many  passengers, and the weather being calm and quiet, there was but  little motion; so that before the dinner was half over, even those  passengers who were most distrustful of themselves plucked up  amazingly; and those who in the morning had returned to the  universal question, 'Are you a good sailor?' a very decided  negative, now either parried the inquiry with the evasive reply,  'Oh! I suppose I'm no worse than anybody else;' or, reckless of all  moral obligations, answered boldly 'Yes:' and with some irritation  too, as though they would add, 'I should like to know what you see  in ME, sir, particularly, to justify suspicion!'

 

Notwithstanding this high tone of courage and confidence, I could  not but observe that very few remained long over their wine; and  that everybody had an unusual love of the open air; and that the  favourite and most coveted seats were invariably those nearest to  the door.  The tea-table, too, was by no means as well attended as  the dinner-table; and there was less whist-playing than might have  been expected.  Still, with the exception of one lady, who had  retired with some precipitation at dinner-time, immediately after  being assisted to the finest cut of a very yellow boiled leg of  mutton with very green capers, there were no invalids as yet; and  walking, and smoking, and drinking of brandy-and-water (but always  in the open air), went on with unabated spirit, until eleven  o'clock or thereabouts, when 'turning in' - no sailor of seven  hours' experience talks of going to bed - became the order of the  night.  The perpetual tramp of boot-heels on the decks gave place  to a heavy silence, and the whole human freight was stowed away  below, excepting a very few stragglers, like myself, who were  probably, like me, afraid to go there.

 

To one unaccustomed to such scenes, this is a very striking time on  shipboard.  Afterwards, and when its novelty had long worn off, it  never ceased to have a peculiar interest and charm for me.  The  gloom through which the great black mass holds its direct and  certain course; the rushing water, plainly heard, but dimly seen;  the broad, white, glistening track, that follows in the vessel's  wake; the men on the look-out forward, who would be scarcely  visible against the dark sky, but for their blotting out some score  of glistening stars; the helmsman at the wheel, with the  illuminated card before him, shining, a speck of light amidst the  darkness, like something sentient and of Divine intelligence; the  melancholy sighing of the wind through block, and rope, and chain;  the gleaming forth of light from every crevice, nook, and tiny  piece of glass about the decks, as though the ship were filled with  fire in hiding, ready to burst through any outlet, wild with its  resistless power of death and ruin.  At first, too, and even when  the hour, and all the objects it exalts, have come to be familiar,  it is difficult, alone and thoughtful, to hold them to their proper  shapes and forms.  They change with the wandering fancy; assume the  semblance of things left far away; put on the well-remembered  aspect of favourite places dearly loved; and even people them with  shadows.  Streets, houses, rooms; figures so like their usual  occupants, that they have startled me by their reality, which far  exceeded, as it seemed to me, all power of mine to conjure up the  absent; have, many and many a time, at such an hour, grown suddenly  out of objects with whose real look, and use, and purpose, I was as  well acquainted as with my own two hands.

 

My own two hands, and feet likewise, being very cold, however, on  this particular occasion, I crept below at midnight.  It was not  exactly comfortable below.  It was decidedly close; and it was  impossible to be unconscious of the presence of that extraordinary  compound of strange smells, which is to be found nowhere but on  board ship, and which is such a subtle perfume that it seems to  enter at every pore of the skin, and whisper of the hold.  Two  passengers' wives (one of them my own) lay already in silent  agonies on the sofa; and one lady's maid (MY lady's) was a mere  bundle on the floor, execrating her destiny, and pounding her curl-papers among the stray boxes.  Everything sloped the wrong way:   which in itself was an aggravation scarcely to be borne.  I had  left the door open, a moment before, in the bosom of a gentle  declivity, and, when I turned to shut it, it was on the summit of a  lofty eminence.  Now every plank and timber creaked, as if the ship  were made of wicker-work; and now crackled, like an enormous fire  of the driest possible twigs.  There was nothing for it but bed; so  I went to bed.

 

It was pretty much the same for the next two days, with a tolerably  fair wind and dry weather.  I read in bed (but to this hour I don't  know what) a good deal; and reeled on deck a little; drank cold  brandy-and-water with an unspeakable disgust, and ate hard biscuit  perseveringly:  not ill, but going to be.

 

It is the third morning.  I am awakened out of my sleep by a dismal  shriek from my wife, who demands to know whether there's any  danger.  I rouse myself, and look out of bed.  The water-jug is  plunging and leaping like a lively dolphin; all the smaller  articles are afloat, except my shoes, which are stranded on a  carpet-bag, high and dry, like a couple of coal-barges.  Suddenly I  see them spring into the air, and behold the looking-glass, which  is nailed to the wall, sticking fast upon the ceiling.  At the same  time the door entirely disappears, and a new one is opened in the  floor.  Then I begin to comprehend that the state-room is standing  on its head.

 

Before it is possible to make any arrangement at all compatible  with this novel state of things, the ship rights.  Before one can  say 'Thank Heaven!' she wrongs again.  Before one can cry she IS  wrong, she seems to have started forward, and to be a creature  actually running of its own accord, with broken knees and failing  legs, through every variety of hole and pitfall, and stumbling  constantly.  Before one can so much as wonder, she takes a high  leap into the air.  Before she has well done that, she takes a deep  dive into the water.  Before she has gained the surface, she throws  a summerset.  The instant she is on her legs, she rushes backward.   And so she goes on staggering, heaving, wrestling, leaping, diving,  jumping, pitching, throbbing, rolling, and rocking:  and going  through all these movements, sometimes by turns, and sometimes  altogether:  until one feels disposed to roar for mercy.

 

A steward passes.  'Steward!'  'Sir?'  'What IS the matter? what DO  you call this?'  'Rather a heavy sea on, sir, and a head-wind.'

 

A head-wind!  Imagine a human face upon the vessel's prow, with  fifteen thousand Samsons in one bent upon driving her back, and  hitting her exactly between the eyes whenever she attempts to  advance an inch.  Imagine the ship herself, with every pulse and  artery of her huge body swollen and bursting under this  maltreatment, sworn to go on or die.  Imagine the wind howling, the  sea roaring, the rain beating:  all in furious array against her.   Picture the sky both dark and wild, and the clouds, in fearful  sympathy with the waves, making another ocean in the air.  Add to  all this, the clattering on deck and down below; the tread of  hurried feet; the loud hoarse shouts of seamen; the gurgling in and  out of water through the scuppers; with, every now and then, the  striking of a heavy sea upon the planks above, with the deep, dead,  heavy sound of thunder heard within a vault; - and there is the  head-wind of that January morning.

 

I say nothing of what may be called the domestic noises of the  ship:  such as the breaking of glass and crockery, the tumbling  down of stewards, the gambols, overhead, of loose casks and truant  dozens of bottled porter, and the very remarkable and far from  exhilarating sounds raised in their various state-rooms by the  seventy passengers who were too ill to get up to breakfast.  I say  nothing of them:  for although I lay listening to this concert for  three or four days, I don't think I heard it for more than a  quarter of a minute, at the expiration of which term, I lay down  again, excessively sea-sick.

 

Not sea-sick, be it understood, in the ordinary acceptation of the  term:  I wish I had been:  but in a form which I have never seen or  heard described, though I have no doubt it is very common.  I lay  there, all the day long, quite coolly and contentedly; with no  sense of weariness, with no desire to get up, or get better, or  take the air; with no curiosity, or care, or regret, of any sort or  degree, saving that I think I can remember, in this universal  indifference, having a kind of lazy joy - of fiendish delight, if  anything so lethargic can be dignified with the title - in the fact  of my wife being too ill to talk to me.  If I may be allowed to  illustrate my state of mind by such an example, I should say that I  was exactly in the condition of the elder Mr. Willet, after the  incursion of the rioters into his bar at Chigwell.  Nothing would  have surprised me.  If, in the momentary illumination of any ray of  intelligence that may have come upon me in the way of thoughts of  Home, a goblin postman, with a scarlet coat and bell, had come into  that little kennel before me, broad awake in broad day, and,  apologising for being damp through walking in the sea, had handed  me a letter directed to myself, in familiar characters, I am  certain I should not have felt one atom of astonishment:  I should  have been perfectly satisfied.  If Neptune himself had walked in,  with a toasted shark on his trident, I should have looked upon the  event as one of the very commonest everyday occurrences.

 

Once - once - I found myself on deck.  I don't know how I got  there, or what possessed me to go there, but there I was; and  completely dressed too, with a huge pea-coat on, and a pair of  boots such as no weak man in his senses could ever have got into.   I found myself standing, when a gleam of consciousness came upon  me, holding on to something.  I don't know what.  I think it was  the boatswain:  or it may have been the pump:  or possibly the cow.   I can't say how long I had been there; whether a day or a minute.   I recollect trying to think about something (about anything in the  whole wide world, I was not particular) without the smallest  effect.  I could not even make out which was the sea, and which the  sky, for the horizon seemed drunk, and was flying wildly about in  all directions.  Even in that incapable state, however, I  recognised the lazy gentleman standing before me:  nautically clad  in a suit of shaggy blue, with an oilskin hat.  But I was too  imbecile, although I knew it to be he, to separate him from his  dress; and tried to call him, I remember, PILOT.  After another  interval of total unconsciousness, I found he had gone, and  recognised another figure in its place.  It seemed to wave and  fluctuate before me as though I saw it reflected in an unsteady  looking-glass; but I knew it for the captain; and such was the  cheerful influence of his face, that I tried to smile:  yes, even  then I tried to smile.  I saw by his gestures that he addressed me;  but it was a long time before I could make out that he remonstrated  against my standing up to my knees in water - as I was; of course I  don't know why.  I tried to thank him, but couldn't.  I could only  point to my boots - or wherever I supposed my boots to be - and say  in a plaintive voice, 'Cork soles:' at the same time endeavouring,  I am told, to sit down in the pool.  Finding that I was quite  insensible, and for the time a maniac, he humanely conducted me  below.

 

There I remained until I got better:  suffering, whenever I was  recommended to eat anything, an amount of anguish only second to  that which is said to be endured by the apparently drowned, in the  process of restoration to life.  One gentleman on board had a  letter of introduction to me from a mutual friend in London.  He  sent it below with his card, on the morning of the head-wind; and I  was long troubled with the idea that he might be up, and well, and  a hundred times a day expecting me to call upon him in the saloon.   I imagined him one of those cast-iron images - I will not call them  men - who ask, with red faces, and lusty voices, what sea-sickness  means, and whether it really is as bad as it is represented to be.   This was very torturing indeed; and I don't think I ever felt such  perfect gratification and gratitude of heart, as I did when I heard  from the ship's doctor that he had been obliged to put a large  mustard poultice on this very gentleman's stomach.  I date my  recovery from the receipt of that intelligence.

 

It was materially assisted though, I have no doubt, by a heavy gale  of wind, which came slowly up at sunset, when we were about ten  days out, and raged with gradually increasing fury until morning,  saving that it lulled for an hour a little before midnight.  There  was something in the unnatural repose of that hour, and in the  after gathering of the storm, so inconceivably awful and  tremendous, that its bursting into full violence was almost a  relief.

 

The labouring of the ship in the troubled sea on this night I shall  never forget.  'Will it ever be worse than this?' was a question I  had often heard asked, when everything was sliding and bumping  about, and when it certainly did seem difficult to comprehend the  possibility of anything afloat being more disturbed, without  toppling over and going down.  But what the agitation of a steam-vessel is, on a bad winter's night in the wild Atlantic, it is  impossible for the most vivid imagination to conceive.  To say that  she is flung down on her side in the waves, with her masts dipping  into them, and that, springing up again, she rolls over on the  other side, until a heavy sea strikes her with the noise of a  hundred great guns, and hurls her back - that she stops, and  staggers, and shivers, as though stunned, and then, with a violent  throbbing at her heart, darts onward like a monster goaded into  madness, to be beaten down, and battered, and crushed, and leaped  on by the angry sea - that thunder, lightning, hail, and rain, and  wind, are all in fierce contention for the mastery - that every  plank has its groan, every nail its shriek, and every drop of water  in the great ocean its howling voice - is nothing.  To say that all  is grand, and all appalling and horrible in the last degree, is  nothing.  Words cannot express it.  Thoughts cannot convey it.   Only a dream can call it up again, in all its fury, rage, and  passion.

 

And yet, in the very midst of these terrors, I was placed in a  situation so exquisitely ridiculous, that even then I had as strong  a sense of its absurdity as I have now, and could no more help  laughing than I can at any other comical incident, happening under  circumstances the most favourable to its enjoyment.  About midnight  we shipped a sea, which forced its way through the skylights, burst  open the doors above, and came raging and roaring down into the  ladies' cabin, to the unspeakable consternation of my wife and a  little Scotch lady - who, by the way, had previously sent a message  to the captain by the stewardess, requesting him, with her  compliments, to have a steel conductor immediately attached to the  top of every mast, and to the chimney, in order that the ship might  not be struck by lightning.  They and the handmaid before  mentioned, being in such ecstasies of fear that I scarcely knew  what to do with them, I naturally bethought myself of some  restorative or comfortable cordial; and nothing better occurring to  me, at the moment, than hot brandy-and-water, I procured a tumbler  full without delay.  It being impossible to stand or sit without  holding on, they were all heaped together in one corner of a long  sofa - a fixture extending entirely across the cabin - where they  clung to each other in momentary expectation of being drowned.   When I approached this place with my specific, and was about to  administer it with many consolatory expressions to the nearest  sufferer, what was my dismay to see them all roll slowly down to  the other end!  And when I staggered to that end, and held out the  glass once more, how immensely baffled were my good intentions by  the ship giving another lurch, and their all rolling back again!  I  suppose I dodged them up and down this sofa for at least a quarter  of an hour, without reaching them once; and by the time I did catch  them, the brandy-and-water was diminished, by constant spilling, to  a teaspoonful.  To complete the group, it is necessary to recognise  in this disconcerted dodger, an individual very pale from sea-sickness, who had shaved his beard and brushed his hair, last, at  Liverpool:  and whose only article of dress (linen not included)  were a pair of dreadnought trousers; a blue jacket, formerly  admired upon the Thames at Richmond; no stockings; and one slipper.

 

Of the outrageous antics performed by that ship next morning; which  made bed a practical joke, and getting up, by any process short of  falling out, an impossibility; I say nothing.  But anything like  the utter dreariness and desolation that met my eyes when I  literally 'tumbled up' on deck at noon, I never saw.  Ocean and sky  were all of one dull, heavy, uniform, lead colour.  There was no  extent of prospect even over the dreary waste that lay around us,  for the sea ran high, and the horizon encompassed us like a large  black hoop.  Viewed from the air, or some tall bluff on shore, it  would have been imposing and stupendous, no doubt; but seen from  the wet and rolling decks, it only impressed one giddily and  painfully.  In the gale of last night the life-boat had been  crushed by one blow of the sea like a walnut-shell; and there it  hung dangling in the air:  a mere faggot of crazy boards.  The  planking of the paddle-boxes had been torn sheer away.  The wheels  were exposed and bare; and they whirled and dashed their spray  about the decks at random.  Chimney, white with crusted salt;  topmasts struck; storm-sails set; rigging all knotted, tangled,  wet, and drooping:  a gloomier picture it would be hard to look  upon.

 

I was now comfortably established by courtesy in the ladies' cabin,  where, besides ourselves, there were only four other passengers.   First, the little Scotch lady before mentioned, on her way to join  her husband at New York, who had settled there three years before.   Secondly and thirdly, an honest young Yorkshireman, connected with  some American house; domiciled in that same city, and carrying  thither his beautiful young wife to whom he had been married but a  fortnight, and who was the fairest specimen of a comely English  country girl I have ever seen.  Fourthy, fifthly, and lastly,  another couple:  newly married too, if one might judge from the  endearments they frequently interchanged:  of whom I know no more  than that they were rather a mysterious, run-away kind of couple;  that the lady had great personal attractions also; and that the  gentleman carried more guns with him than Robinson Crusoe, wore a  shooting-coat, and had two great dogs on board.  On further  consideration, I remember that he tried hot roast pig and bottled  ale as a cure for sea-sickness; and that he took these remedies  (usually in bed) day after day, with astonishing perseverance.  I  may add, for the information of the curious, that they decidedly  failed.

 

The weather continuing obstinately and almost unprecedentedly bad,  we usually straggled into this cabin, more or less faint and  miserable, about an hour before noon, and lay down on the sofas to  recover; during which interval, the captain would look in to  communicate the state of the wind, the moral certainty of its  changing to-morrow (the weather is always going to improve to-morrow, at sea), the vessel's rate of sailing, and so forth.   Observations there were none to tell us of, for there was no sun to  take them by.  But a description of one day will serve for all the  rest.  Here it is.

 

The captain being gone, we compose ourselves to read, if the place  be light enough; and if not, we doze and talk alternately.  At one,  a bell rings, and the stewardess comes down with a steaming dish of  baked potatoes, and another of roasted apples; and plates of pig's  face, cold ham, salt beef; or perhaps a smoking mess of rare hot  collops.  We fall to upon these dainties; eat as much as we can (we  have great appetites now); and are as long as possible about it.   If the fire will burn (it WILL sometimes) we are pretty cheerful.   If it won't, we all remark to each other that it's very cold, rub  our hands, cover ourselves with coats and cloaks, and lie down  again to doze, talk, and read (provided as aforesaid), until  dinner-time.  At five, another bell rings, and the stewardess  reappears with another dish of potatoes - boiled this time - and  store of hot meat of various kinds:  not forgetting the roast pig,  to be taken medicinally.  We sit down at table again (rather more  cheerfully than before); prolong the meal with a rather mouldy  dessert of apples, grapes, and oranges; and drink our wine and  brandy-and-water.  The bottles and glasses are still upon the  table, and the oranges and so forth are rolling about according to  their fancy and the ship's way, when the doctor comes down, by  special nightly invitation, to join our evening rubber:   immediately on whose arrival we make a party at whist, and as it is  a rough night and the cards will not lie on the cloth, we put the  tricks in our pockets as we take them.  At whist we remain with  exemplary gravity (deducting a short time for tea and toast) until  eleven o'clock, or thereabouts; when the captain comes down again,  in a sou'-wester hat tied under his chin, and a pilot-coat:  making  the ground wet where he stands.  By this time the card-playing is  over, and the bottles and glasses are again upon the table; and  after an hour's pleasant conversation about the ship, the  passengers, and things in general, the captain (who never goes to  bed, and is never out of humour) turns up his coat collar for the  deck again; shakes hands all round; and goes laughing out into the  weather as merrily as to a birthday party.

 

As to daily news, there is no dearth of that commodity.  This  passenger is reported to have lost fourteen pounds at Vingt-et-un  in the saloon yesterday; and that passenger drinks his bottle of  champagne every day, and how he does it (being only a clerk),  nobody knows.  The head engineer has distinctly said that there  never was such times - meaning weather - and four good hands are  ill, and have given in, dead beat.  Several berths are full of  water, and all the cabins are leaky.  The ship's cook, secretly  swigging damaged whiskey, has been found drunk; and has been played  upon by the fire-engine until quite sober.  All the stewards have  fallen down-stairs at various dinner-times, and go about with  plasters in various places.  The baker is ill, and so is the  pastry-cook.  A new man, horribly indisposed, has been required to  fill the place of the latter officer; and has been propped and  jammed up with empty casks in a little house upon deck, and  commanded to roll out pie-crust, which he protests (being highly  bilious) it is death to him to look at.  News!  A dozen murders on  shore would lack the interest of these slight incidents at sea.

 

Divided between our rubber and such topics as these, we were  running (as we thought) into Halifax Harbour, on the fifteenth  night, with little wind and a bright moon - indeed, we had made the  Light at its outer entrance, and put the pilot in charge - when  suddenly the ship struck upon a bank of mud.  An immediate rush on  deck took place of course; the sides were crowded in an instant;  and for a few minutes we were in as lively a state of confusion as  the greatest lover of disorder would desire to see.  The  passengers, and guns, and water-casks, and other heavy matters,  being all huddled together aft, however, to lighten her in the  head, she was soon got off; and after some driving on towards an  uncomfortable line of objects (whose vicinity had been announced  very early in the disaster by a loud cry of 'Breakers a-head!') and  much backing of paddles, and heaving of the lead into a constantly  decreasing depth of water, we dropped anchor in a strange  outlandish-looking nook which nobody on board could recognise,  although there was land all about us, and so close that we could  plainly see the waving branches of the trees.

 

It was strange enough, in the silence of midnight, and the dead  stillness that seemed to be created by the sudden and unexpected  stoppage of the engine which had been clanking and blasting in our  ears incessantly for so many days, to watch the look of blank  astonishment expressed in every face:  beginning with the officers,  tracing it through all the passengers, and descending to the very  stokers and furnacemen, who emerged from below, one by one, and  clustered together in a smoky group about the hatchway of the  engine-room, comparing notes in whispers.  After throwing up a few  rockets and firing signal guns in the hope of being hailed from the  land, or at least of seeing a light - but without any other sight  or sound presenting itself - it was determined to send a boat on  shore.  It was amusing to observe how very kind some of the  passengers were, in volunteering to go ashore in this same boat:   for the general good, of course:  not by any means because they  thought the ship in an unsafe position, or contemplated the  possibility of her heeling over in case the tide were running out.   Nor was it less amusing to remark how desperately unpopular the  poor pilot became in one short minute.  He had had his passage out  from Liverpool, and during the whole voyage had been quite a  notorious character, as a teller of anecdotes and cracker of jokes.   Yet here were the very men who had laughed the loudest at his  jests, now flourishing their fists in his face, loading him with  imprecations, and defying him to his teeth as a villain!

 

The boat soon shoved off, with a lantern and sundry blue lights on  board; and in less than an hour returned; the officer in command  bringing with him a tolerably tall young tree, which he had plucked  up by the roots, to satisfy certain distrustful passengers whose  minds misgave them that they were to be imposed upon and  shipwrecked, and who would on no other terms believe that he had  been ashore, or had done anything but fraudulently row a little way  into the mist, specially to deceive them and compass their deaths.   Our captain had foreseen from the first that we must be in a place  called the Eastern passage; and so we were.  It was about the last  place in the world in which we had any business or reason to be,  but a sudden fog, and some error on the pilot's part, were the  cause.  We were surrounded by banks, and rocks, and shoals of all  kinds, but had happily drifted, it seemed, upon the only safe speck  that was to be found thereabouts.  Eased by this report, and by the  assurance that the tide was past the ebb, we turned in at three  o'clock in the morning.

 

I was dressing about half-past nine next day, when the noise above  hurried me on deck.  When I had left it overnight, it was dark,  foggy, and damp, and there were bleak hills all round us.  Now, we  were gliding down a smooth, broad stream, at the rate of eleven  miles an hour:  our colours flying gaily; our crew rigged out in  their smartest clothes; our officers in uniform again; the sun  shining as on a brilliant April day in England; the land stretched  out on either side, streaked with light patches of snow; white  wooden houses; people at their doors; telegraphs working; flags  hoisted; wharfs appearing; ships; quays crowded with people;  distant noises; shouts; men and boys running down steep places  towards the pier:  all more bright and gay and fresh to our unused  eyes than words can paint them.  We came to a wharf, paved with  uplifted faces; got alongside, and were made fast, after some  shouting and straining of cables; darted, a score of us along the  gangway, almost as soon as it was thrust out to meet us, and before  it had reached the ship - and leaped upon the firm glad earth  again!

 

I suppose this Halifax would have appeared an Elysium, though it  had been a curiosity of ugly dulness.  But I carried away with me a  most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have  preserved it to this hour.  Nor was it without regret that I came  home, without having found an opportunity of returning thither, and  once more shaking hands with the friends I made that day.

 

It happened to be the opening of the Legislative Council and  General Assembly, at which ceremonial the forms observed on the  commencement of a new Session of Parliament in England were so  closely copied, and so gravely presented on a small scale, that it  was like looking at Westminster through the wrong end of a  telescope.  The governor, as her Majesty's representative,  delivered what may be called the Speech from the Throne.  He said  what he had to say manfully and well.  The military band outside  the building struck up "God save the Queen" with great vigour  before his Excellency had quite finished; the people shouted; the  in's rubbed their hands; the out's shook their heads; the  Government party said there never was such a good speech; the  Opposition declared there never was such a bad one; the Speaker and  members of the House of Assembly withdrew from the bar to say a  great deal among themselves and do a little:  and, in short,  everything went on, and promised to go on, just as it does at home  upon the like occasions.

 

The town is built on the side of a hill, the highest point being  commanded by a strong fortress, not yet quite finished.  Several  streets of good breadth and appearance extend from its summit to  the water-side, and are intersected by cross streets running  parallel with the river.  The houses are chiefly of wood.  The  market is abundantly supplied; and provisions are exceedingly  cheap.  The weather being unusually mild at that time for the  season of the year, there was no sleighing:  but there were plenty  of those vehicles in yards and by-places, and some of them, from  the gorgeous quality of their decorations, might have 'gone on'  without alteration as triumphal cars in a melodrama at Astley's.   The day was uncommonly fine; the air bracing and healthful; the  whole aspect of the town cheerful, thriving, and industrious.

 

We lay there seven hours, to deliver and exchange the mails.  At  length, having collected all our bags and all our passengers  (including two or three choice spirits, who, having indulged too  freely in oysters and champagne, were found lying insensible on  their backs in unfrequented streets), the engines were again put in  motion, and we stood off for Boston.

 

Encountering squally weather again in the Bay of Fundy, we tumbled  and rolled about as usual all that night and all next day.  On the  next afternoon, that is to say, on Saturday, the twenty-second of  January, an American pilot-boat came alongside, and soon afterwards  the Britannia steam-packet, from Liverpool, eighteen days out, was  telegraphed at Boston.

 

The indescribable interest with which I strained my eyes, as the  first patches of American soil peeped like molehills from the green  sea, and followed them, as they swelled, by slow and almost  imperceptible degrees, into a continuous line of coast, can hardly  be exaggerated.  A sharp keen wind blew dead against us; a hard  frost prevailed on shore; and the cold was most severe.  Yet the  air was so intensely clear, and dry, and bright, that the  temperature was not only endurable, but delicious.

 

How I remained on deck, staring about me, until we came alongside  the dock, and how, though I had had as many eyes as Argus, I should  have had them all wide open, and all employed on new objects - are  topics which I will not prolong this chapter to discuss.  Neither  will I more than hint at my foreigner-like mistake in supposing  that a party of most active persons, who scrambled on board at the  peril of their lives as we approached the wharf, were newsmen,  answering to that industrious class at home; whereas, despite the  leathern wallets of news slung about the necks of some, and the  broad sheets in the hands of all, they were Editors, who boarded  ships in person (as one gentleman in a worsted comforter informed  me), 'because they liked the excitement of it.'  Suffice it in this  place to say, that one of these invaders, with a ready courtesy for  which I thank him here most gratefully, went on before to order  rooms at the hotel; and that when I followed, as I soon did, I  found myself rolling through the long passages with an involuntary  imitation of the gait of Mr. T. P. Cooke, in a new nautical  melodrama.

 

'Dinner, if you please,' said I to the waiter.

 

'When?' said the waiter.

 

'As quick as possible,' said I.

 

'Right away?' said the waiter.

 

After a moment's hesitation, I answered 'No,' at hazard.

 

'NOT right away?' cried the waiter, with an amount of surprise that  made me start.

 

I looked at him doubtfully, and returned, 'No; I would rather have  it in this private room.  I like it very much.'

 

At this, I really thought the waiter must have gone out of his  mind:  as I believe he would have done, but for the interposition  of another man, who whispered in his ear, 'Directly.'

 

'Well! and that's a fact!' said the waiter, looking helplessly at  me:  'Right away.'

 

I saw now that 'Right away' and 'Directly' were one and the same  thing.  So I reversed my previous answer, and sat down to dinner in  ten minutes afterwards; and a capital dinner it was.

 

The hotel (a very excellent one) is called the Tremont House.  It  has more galleries, colonnades, piazzas, and passages than I can  remember, or the reader would believe.

 


CHAPTER III - BOSTON

 

IN all the public establishments of America, the utmost courtesy  prevails.  Most of our Departments are susceptible of considerable  improvement in this respect, but the Custom-house above all others  would do well to take example from the United States and render  itself somewhat less odious and offensive to foreigners.  The  servile rapacity of the French officials is sufficiently  contemptible; but there is a surly boorish incivility about our  men, alike disgusting to all persons who fall into their hands, and  discreditable to the nation that keeps such ill-conditioned curs  snarling about its gates.

 

When I landed in America, I could not help being strongly impressed  with the contrast their Custom-house presented, and the attention,  politeness and good humour with which its officers discharged their  duty.

 

As we did not land at Boston, in consequence of some detention at  the wharf, until after dark, I received my first impressions of the  city in walking down to the Custom-house on the morning after our  arrival, which was Sunday.  I am afraid to say, by the way, how  many offers of pews and seats in church for that morning were made  to us, by formal note of invitation, before we had half finished  our first dinner in America, but if I may be allowed to make a  moderate guess, without going into nicer calculation, I should say  that at least as many sittings were proffered us, as would have  accommodated a score or two of grown-up families.  The number of  creeds and forms of religion to which the pleasure of our company  was requested, was in very fair proportion.

 

Not being able, in the absence of any change of clothes, to go to  church that day, we were compelled to decline these kindnesses, one  and all; and I was reluctantly obliged to forego the delight of  hearing Dr. Channing, who happened to preach that morning for the  first time in a very long interval.  I mention the name of this  distinguished and accomplished man (with whom I soon afterwards had  the pleasure of becoming personally acquainted), that I may have  the gratification of recording my humble tribute of admiration and  respect for his high abilities and character; and for the bold  philanthropy with which he has ever opposed himself to that most  hideous blot and foul disgrace - Slavery.

 

To return to Boston.  When I got into the streets upon this Sunday  morning, the air was so clear, the houses were so bright and gay:   the signboards were painted in such gaudy colours; the gilded  letters were so very golden; the bricks were so very red, the stone  was so very white, the blinds and area railings were so very green,  the knobs and plates upon the street doors so marvellously bright  and twinkling; and all so slight and unsubstantial in appearance -  that every thoroughfare in the city looked exactly like a scene in  a pantomime.  It rarely happens in the business streets that a  tradesman, if I may venture to call anybody a tradesman, where  everybody is a merchant, resides above his store; so that many  occupations are often carried on in one house, and the whole front  is covered with boards and inscriptions.  As I walked along, I kept  glancing up at these boards, confidently expecting to see a few of  them change into something; and I never turned a corner suddenly  without looking out for the clown and pantaloon, who, I had no  doubt, were hiding in a doorway or behind some pillar close at  hand.  As to Harlequin and Columbine, I discovered immediately that  they lodged (they are always looking after lodgings in a pantomime)  at a very small clockmaker's one story high, near the hotel; which,  in addition to various symbols and devices, almost covering the  whole front, had a great dial hanging out - to be jumped through,  of course.

 

The suburbs are, if possible, even more unsubstantial-looking than  the city.  The white wooden houses (so white that it makes one wink  to look at them), with their green jalousie blinds, are so  sprinkled and dropped about in all directions, without seeming to  have any root at all in the ground; and the small churches and  chapels are so prim, and bright, and highly varnished; that I  almost believed the whole affair could be taken up piecemeal like a  child's toy, and crammed into a little box.

 

The city is a beautiful one, and cannot fail, I should imagine, to  impress all strangers very favourably.  The private dwelling-houses  are, for the most part, large and elegant; the shops extremely  good; and the public buildings handsome.  The State House is built  upon the summit of a hill, which rises gradually at first, and  afterwards by a steep ascent, almost from the water's edge.  In  front is a green enclosure, called the Common.  The site is  beautiful:  and from the top there is a charming panoramic view of  the whole town and neighbourhood.  In addition to a variety of  commodious offices, it contains two handsome chambers; in one the  House of Representatives of the State hold their meetings:  in the  other, the Senate.  Such proceedings as I saw here, were conducted  with perfect gravity and decorum; and were certainly calculated to  inspire attention and respect.

 

There is no doubt that much of the intellectual refinement and  superiority of Boston, is referable to the quiet influence of the  University of Cambridge, which is within three or four miles of the  city.  The resident professors at that university are gentlemen of  learning and varied attainments; and are, without one exception  that I can call to mind, men who would shed a grace upon, and do  honour to, any society in the civilised world.  Many of the  resident gentry in Boston and its neighbourhood, and I think I am  not mistaken in adding, a large majority of those who are attached  to the liberal professions there, have been educated at this same  school.  Whatever the defects of American universities may be, they  disseminate no prejudices; rear no bigots; dig up the buried ashes  of no old superstitions; never interpose between the people and  their improvement; exclude no man because of his religious  opinions; above all, in their whole course of study and  instruction, recognise a world, and a broad one too, lying beyond  the college walls.

 

It was a source of inexpressible pleasure to me to observe the  almost imperceptible, but not less certain effect, wrought by this  institution among the small community of Boston; and to note at  every turn the humanising tastes and desires it has engendered; the  affectionate friendships to which it has given rise; the amount of  vanity and prejudice it has dispelled.  The golden calf they  worship at Boston is a pigmy compared with the giant effigies set  up in other parts of that vast counting-house which lies beyond the  Atlantic; and the almighty dollar sinks into something  comparatively insignificant, amidst a whole Pantheon of better  gods.

 

Above all, I sincerely believe that the public institutions and  charities of this capital of Massachusetts are as nearly perfect,  as the most considerate wisdom, benevolence, and humanity, can make  them.  I never in my life was more affected by the contemplation of  happiness, under circumstances of privation and bereavement, than  in my visits to these establishments.

 

It is a great and pleasant feature of all such institutions in  America, that they are either supported by the State or assisted by  the State; or (in the event of their not needing its helping hand)  that they act in concert with it, and are emphatically the  people's.  I cannot but think, with a view to the principle and its  tendency to elevate or depress the character of the industrious  classes, that a Public Charity is immeasurably better than a  Private Foundation, no matter how munificently the latter may be  endowed.  In our own country, where it has not, until within these  later days, been a very popular fashion with governments to display  any extraordinary regard for the great mass of the people or to  recognise their existence as improvable creatures, private  charities, unexampled in the history of the earth, have arisen, to  do an incalculable amount of good among the destitute and  afflicted.  But the government of the country, having neither act  nor part in them, is not in the receipt of any portion of the  gratitude they inspire; and, offering very little shelter or relief  beyond that which is to be found in the workhouse and the jail, has  come, not unnaturally, to be looked upon by the poor rather as a  stern master, quick to correct and punish, than a kind protector,  merciful and vigilant in their hour of need.

 

The maxim that out of evil cometh good, is strongly illustrated by  these establishments at home; as the records of the Prerogative  Office in Doctors' Commons can abundantly prove.  Some immensely  rich old gentleman or lady, surrounded by needy relatives, makes,  upon a low average, a will a-week.  The old gentleman or lady,  never very remarkable in the best of times for good temper, is full  of aches and pains from head to foot; full of fancies and caprices;  full of spleen, distrust, suspicion, and dislike.  To cancel old  wills, and invent new ones, is at last the sole business of such a  testator's existence; and relations and friends (some of whom have  been bred up distinctly to inherit a large share of the property,  and have been, from their cradles, specially disqualified from  devoting themselves to any useful pursuit, on that account) are so  often and so unexpectedly and summarily cut off, and reinstated,  and cut off again, that the whole family, down to the remotest  cousin, is kept in a perpetual fever.  At length it becomes plain  that the old lady or gentleman has not long to live; and the  plainer this becomes, the more clearly the old lady or gentleman  perceives that everybody is in a conspiracy against their poor old  dying relative; wherefore the old lady or gentleman makes another  last will - positively the last this time - conceals the same in a  china teapot, and expires next day.  Then it turns out, that the  whole of the real and personal estate is divided between half-a-dozen charities; and that the dead and gone testator has in pure  spite helped to do a great deal of good, at the cost of an immense  amount of evil passion and misery.

 

The Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, at  Boston, is superintended by a body of trustees who make an annual  report to the corporation.  The indigent blind of that state are  admitted gratuitously.  Those from the adjoining state of  Connecticut, or from the states of Maine, Vermont, or New  Hampshire, are admitted by a warrant from the state to which they  respectively belong; or, failing that, must find security among  their friends, for the payment of about twenty pounds English for  their first year's board and instruction, and ten for the second.   'After the first year,' say the trustees, 'an account current will  be opened with each pupil; he will be charged with the actual cost  of his board, which will not exceed two dollars per week;' a trifle  more than eight shillings English; 'and he will be credited with  the amount paid for him by the state, or by his friends; also with  his earnings over and above the cost of the stock which he uses; so  that all his earnings over one dollar per week will be his own.  By  the third year it will be known whether his earnings will more than  pay the actual cost of his board; if they should, he will have it  at his option to remain and receive his earnings, or not.  Those  who prove unable to earn their own livelihood will not be retained;  as it is not desirable to convert the establishment into an alms-house, or to retain any but working bees in the hive.  Those who by  physical or mental imbecility are disqualified from work, are  thereby disqualified from being members of an industrious  community; and they can be better provided for in establishments  fitted for the infirm.'

 

I went to see this place one very fine winter morning:  an Italian  sky above, and the air so clear and bright on every side, that even  my eyes, which are none of the best, could follow the minute lines  and scraps of tracery in distant buildings.  Like most other public  institutions in America, of the same class, it stands a mile or two  without the town, in a cheerful healthy spot; and is an airy,  spacious, handsome edifice.  It is built upon a height, commanding  the harbour.  When I paused for a moment at the door, and marked  how fresh and free the whole scene was - what sparkling bubbles  glanced upon the waves, and welled up every moment to the surface,  as though the world below, like that above, were radiant with the  bright day, and gushing over in its fulness of light:  when I gazed  from sail to sail away upon a ship at sea, a tiny speck of shining  white, the only cloud upon the still, deep, distant blue - and,  turning, saw a blind boy with his sightless face addressed that  way, as though he too had some sense within him of the glorious  distance:  I felt a kind of sorrow that the place should be so very  light, and a strange wish that for his sake it were darker.  It was  but momentary, of course, and a mere fancy, but I felt it keenly  for all that.

 

The children were at their daily tasks in different rooms, except a  few who were already dismissed, and were at play.  Here, as in many  institutions, no uniform is worn; and I was very glad of it, for  two reasons.  Firstly, because I am sure that nothing but senseless  custom and want of thought would reconcile us to the liveries and  badges we are so fond of at home.  Secondly, because the absence of  these things presents each child to the visitor in his or her own  proper character, with its individuality unimpaired; not lost in a  dull, ugly, monotonous repetition of the same unmeaning garb:   which is really an important consideration.  The wisdom of  encouraging a little harmless pride in personal appearance even  among the blind, or the whimsical absurdity of considering charity  and leather breeches inseparable companions, as we do, requires no  comment.

 

Good order, cleanliness, and comfort, pervaded every corner of the  building.  The various classes, who were gathered round their  teachers, answered the questions put to them with readiness and  intelligence, and in a spirit of cheerful contest for precedence  which pleased me very much.  Those who were at play, were gleesome  and noisy as other children.  More spiritual and affectionate  friendships appeared to exist among them, than would be found among  other young persons suffering under no deprivation; but this I  expected and was prepared to find.  It is a part of the great  scheme of Heaven's merciful consideration for the afflicted.

 

In a portion of the building, set apart for that purpose, are work-shops for blind persons whose education is finished, and who have  acquired a trade, but who cannot pursue it in an ordinary  manufactory because of their deprivation.  Several people were at  work here; making brushes, mattresses, and so forth; and the  cheerfulness, industry, and good order discernible in every other  part of the building, extended to this department also.

 

On the ringing of a bell, the pupils all repaired, without any  guide or leader, to a spacious music-hall, where they took their  seats in an orchestra erected for that purpose, and listened with  manifest delight to a voluntary on the organ, played by one of  themselves.  At its conclusion, the performer, a boy of nineteen or  twenty, gave place to a girl; and to her accompaniment they all  sang a hymn, and afterwards a sort of chorus.  It was very sad to  look upon and hear them, happy though their condition  unquestionably was; and I saw that one blind girl, who (being for  the time deprived of the use of her limbs, by illness) sat close  beside me with her face towards them, wept silently the while she  listened.

 

It is strange to watch the faces of the blind, and see how free  they are from all concealment of what is passing in their thoughts;  observing which, a man with eyes may blush to contemplate the mask  he wears.  Allowing for one shade of anxious expression which is  never absent from their countenances, and the like of which we may  readily detect in our own faces if we try to feel our way in the  dark, every idea, as it rises within them, is expressed with the  lightning's speed and nature's truth.  If the company at a rout, or  drawing-room at court, could only for one time be as unconscious of  the eyes upon them as blind men and women are, what secrets would  come out, and what a worker of hypocrisy this sight, the loss of  which we so much pity, would appear to be!

 

The thought occurred to me as I sat down in another room, before a  girl, blind, deaf, and dumb; destitute of smell; and nearly so of  taste:  before a fair young creature with every human faculty, and  hope, and power of goodness and affection, inclosed within her  delicate frame, and but one outward sense - the sense of touch.   There she was, before me; built up, as it were, in a marble cell,  impervious to any ray of light, or particle of sound; with her poor  white hand peeping through a chink in the wall, beckoning to some  good man for help, that an Immortal soul might be awakened.

 

Long before I looked upon her, the help had come.  Her face was  radiant with intelligence and pleasure.  Her hair, braided by her  own hands, was bound about a head, whose intellectual capacity and  development were beautifully expressed in its graceful outline, and  its broad open brow; her dress, arranged by herself, was a pattern  of neatness and simplicity; the work she had knitted, lay beside  her; her writing-book was on the desk she leaned upon. - From the  mournful ruin of such bereavement, there had slowly risen up this  gentle, tender, guileless, grateful-hearted being.

 

Like other inmates of that house, she had a green ribbon bound  round her eyelids.  A doll she had dressed lay near upon the  ground.  I took it up, and saw that she had made a green fillet  such as she wore herself, and fastened it about its mimic eyes.

 

She was seated in a little enclosure, made by school-desks and  forms, writing her daily journal.  But soon finishing this pursuit,  she engaged in an animated conversation with a teacher who sat  beside her.  This was a favourite mistress with the poor pupil.  If  she could see the face of her fair instructress, she would not love  her less, I am sure.

 

I have extracted a few disjointed fragments of her history, from an  account, written by that one man who has made her what she is.  It  is a very beautiful and touching narrative; and I wish I could  present it entire.

 

Her name is Laura Bridgman.  'She was born in Hanover, New  Hampshire, on the twenty-first of December, 1829.  She is described  as having been a very sprightly and pretty infant, with bright blue  eyes.  She was, however, so puny and feeble until she was a year  and a half old, that her parents hardly hoped to rear her.  She was  subject to severe fits, which seemed to rack her frame almost  beyond her power of endurance:  and life was held by the feeblest  tenure:  but when a year and a half old, she seemed to rally; the  dangerous symptoms subsided; and at twenty months old, she was  perfectly well.

 

'Then her mental powers, hitherto stinted in their growth, rapidly  developed themselves; and during the four months of health which  she enjoyed, she appears (making due allowance for a fond mother's  account) to have displayed a considerable degree of intelligence.

 

'But suddenly she sickened again; her disease raged with great  violence during five weeks, when her eyes and ears were inflamed,  suppurated, and their contents were discharged.  But though sight  and hearing were gone for ever, the poor child's sufferings were  not ended.  The fever raged during seven weeks; for five months she  was kept in bed in a darkened room; it was a year before she could  walk unsupported, and two years before she could sit up all day.   It was now observed that her sense of smell was almost entirely  destroyed; and, consequently, that her taste was much blunted.

 

'It was not until four years of age that the poor child's bodily  health seemed restored, and she was able to enter upon her  apprenticeship of life and the world.

 

'But what a situation was hers!  The darkness and the silence of  the tomb were around her:  no mother's smile called forth her  answering smile, no father's voice taught her to imitate his  sounds:- they, brothers and sisters, were but forms of matter which  resisted her touch, but which differed not from the furniture of  the house, save in warmth, and in the power of locomotion; and not  even in these respects from the dog and the cat.

 

'But the immortal spirit which had been implanted within her could  not die, nor be maimed nor mutilated; and though most of its  avenues of communication with the world were cut off, it began to  manifest itself through the others.  As soon as she could walk, she  began to explore the room, and then the house; she became familiar  with the form, density, weight, and heat, of every article she  could lay her hands upon.  She followed her mother, and felt her  hands and arms, as she was occupied about the house; and her  disposition to imitate, led her to repeat everything herself.  She  even learned to sew a little, and to knit.'

 

The reader will scarcely need to be told, however, that the  opportunities of communicating with her, were very, very limited;  and that the moral effects of her wretched state soon began to  appear.  Those who cannot be enlightened by reason, can only be  controlled by force; and this, coupled with her great privations,  must soon have reduced her to a worse condition than that of the  beasts that perish, but for timely and unhoped-for aid.

 

'At this time, I was so fortunate as to hear of the child, and  immediately hastened to Hanover to see her.  I found her with a  well-formed figure; a strongly-marked, nervous-sanguine  temperament; a large and beautifully-shaped head; and the whole  system in healthy action.  The parents were easily induced to  consent to her coming to Boston, and on the 4th of October, 1837,  they brought her to the Institution.

 

'For a while, she was much bewildered; and after waiting about two  weeks, until she became acquainted with her new locality, and  somewhat familiar with the inmates, the attempt was made to give  her knowledge of arbitrary signs, by which she could interchange  thoughts with others.

 

'There was one of two ways to be adopted:  either to go on to build  up a language of signs on the basis of the natural language which  she had already commenced herself, or to teach her the purely  arbitrary language in common use:  that is, to give her a sign for  every individual thing, or to give her a knowledge of letters by  combination of which she might express her idea of the existence,  and the mode and condition of existence, of any thing.  The former  would have been easy, but very ineffectual; the latter seemed very  difficult, but, if accomplished, very effectual.  I determined  therefore to try the latter.

 

'The first experiments were made by taking articles in common use,  such as knives, forks, spoons, keys, &c., and pasting upon them  labels with their names printed in raised letters.  These she felt  very carefully, and soon, of course, distinguished that the crooked  lines SPOON, differed as much from the crooked lines KEY, as the  spoon differed from the key in form.

 

'Then small detached labels, with the same words printed upon them,  were put into her hands; and she soon observed that they were  similar to the ones pasted on the articles.'  She showed her  perception of this similarity by laying the label KEY upon the key,  and the label SPOON upon the spoon.  She was encouraged here by the  natural sign of approbation, patting on the head.

 

'The same process was then repeated with all the articles which she  could handle; and she very easily learned to place the proper  labels upon them.  It was evident, however, that the only  intellectual exercise was that of imitation and memory.  She  recollected that the label BOOK was placed upon a book, and she  repeated the process first from imitation, next from memory, with  only the motive of love of approbation, but apparently without the  intellectual perception of any relation between the things.

 

'After a while, instead of labels, the individual letters were  given to her on detached bits of paper:  they were arranged side by  side so as to spell BOOK, KEY, &c.; then they were mixed up in a  heap and a sign was made for her to arrange them herself so as to  express the words BOOK, KEY, &c.; and she did so.

 

'Hitherto, the process had been mechanical, and the success about  as great as teaching a very knowing dog a variety of tricks.  The  poor child had sat in mute amazement, and patiently imitated  everything her teacher did; but now the truth began to flash upon  her:  her intellect began to work:  she perceived that here was a  way by which she could herself make up a sign of anything that was  in her own mind, and show it to another mind; and at once her  countenance lighted up with a human expression:  it was no longer a  dog, or parrot:  it was an immortal spirit, eagerly seizing upon a  new link of union with other spirits!  I could almost fix upon the  moment when this truth dawned upon her mind, and spread its light  to her countenance; I saw that the great obstacle was overcome; and  that henceforward nothing but patient and persevering, but plain  and straightforward, efforts were to be used.

 

'The result thus far, is quickly related, and easily conceived; but  not so was the process; for many weeks of apparently unprofitable  labour were passed before it was effected.

 

'When it was said above that a sign was made, it was intended to  say, that the action was performed by her teacher, she feeling his  hands, and then imitating the motion.

 

'The next step was to procure a set of metal types, with the  different letters of the alphabet cast upon their ends; also a  board, in which were square holes, into which holes she could set  the types; so that the letters on their ends could alone be felt  above the surface.

 

'Then, on any article being handed to her, for instance, a pencil,  or a watch, she would select the component letters, and arrange  them on her board, and read them with apparent pleasure.

 

'She was exercised for several weeks in this way, until her  vocabulary became extensive; and then the important step was taken  of teaching her how to represent the different letters by the  position of her fingers, instead of the cumbrous apparatus of the  board and types.  She accomplished this speedily and easily, for  her intellect had begun to work in aid of her teacher, and her  progress was rapid.

 

'This was the period, about three months after she had commenced,  that the first report of her case was made, in which it was stated  that "she has just learned the manual alphabet, as used by the deaf  mutes, and it is a subject of delight and wonder to see how  rapidly, correctly, and eagerly, she goes on with her labours.  Her  teacher gives her a new object, for instance, a pencil, first lets  her examine it, and get an idea of its use, then teaches her how to  spell it by making the signs for the letters with her own fingers:   the child grasps her hand, and feels her fingers, as the different  letters are formed; she turns her head a little on one side like a  person listening closely; her lips are apart; she seems scarcely to  breathe; and her countenance, at first anxious, gradually changes  to a smile, as she comprehends the lesson.  She then holds up her  tiny fingers, and spells the word in the manual alphabet; next, she  takes her types and arranges her letters; and last, to make sure  that she is right, she takes the whole of the types composing the  word, and places them upon or in contact with the pencil, or  whatever the object may be."

 

'The whole of the succeeding year was passed in gratifying her  eager inquiries for the names of every object which she could  possibly handle; in exercising her in the use of the manual  alphabet; in extending in every possible way her knowledge of the  physical relations of things; and in proper care of her health.

 

'At the end of the year a report of her case was made, from which  the following is an extract.

 

'"It has been ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt, that she  cannot see a ray of light, cannot hear the least sound, and never  exercises her sense of smell, if she have any.  Thus her mind  dwells in darkness and stillness, as profound as that of a closed  tomb at midnight.  Of beautiful sights, and sweet sounds, and  pleasant odours, she has no conception; nevertheless, she seems as  happy and playful as a bird or a lamb; and the employment of her  intellectual faculties, or the acquirement of a new idea, gives her  a vivid pleasure, which is plainly marked in her expressive  features.  She never seems to repine, but has all the buoyancy and  gaiety of childhood.  She is fond of fun and frolic, and when  playing with the rest of the children, her shrill laugh sounds  loudest of the group.

 

'"When left alone, she seems very happy if she have her knitting or  sewing, and will busy herself for hours; if she have no occupation,  she evidently amuses herself by imaginary dialogues, or by  recalling past impressions; she counts with her fingers, or spells  out names of things which she has recently learned, in the manual  alphabet of the deaf mutes.  In this lonely self-communion she  seems to reason, reflect, and argue; if she spell a word wrong with  the fingers of her right hand, she instantly strikes it with her  left, as her teacher does, in sign of disapprobation; if right,  then she pats herself upon the head, and looks pleased.  She  sometimes purposely spells a word wrong with the left hand, looks  roguish for a moment and laughs, and then with the right hand  strikes the left, as if to correct it.

 

'"During the year she has attained great dexterity in the use of  the manual alphabet of the deaf mutes; and she spells out the words  and sentences which she knows, so fast and so deftly, that only  those accustomed to this language can follow with the eye the rapid  motions of her fingers.

 

'"But wonderful as is the rapidity with which she writes her  thoughts upon the air, still more so is the ease and accuracy with  which she reads the words thus written by another; grasping their  hands in hers, and following every movement of their fingers, as  letter after letter conveys their meaning to her mind.  It is in  this way that she converses with her blind playmates, and nothing  can more forcibly show the power of mind in forcing matter to its  purpose than a meeting between them.  For if great talent and skill  are necessary for two pantomimes to paint their thoughts and  feelings by the movements of the body, and the expression of the  countenance, how much greater the difficulty when darkness shrouds  them both, and the one can hear no sound.

 

'"When Laura is walking through a passage-way, with her hands  spread before her, she knows instantly every one she meets, and  passes them with a sign of recognition:  but if it be a girl of her  own age, and especially if it be one of her favourites, there is  instantly a bright smile of recognition, a twining of arms, a  grasping of hands, and a swift telegraphing upon the tiny fingers;  whose rapid evolutions convey the thoughts and feelings from the  outposts of one mind to those of the other.  There are questions  and answers, exchanges of joy or sorrow, there are kissings and  partings, just as between little children with all their senses."

 

'During this year, and six months after she had left home, her  mother came to visit her, and the scene of their meeting was an  interesting one.

 

'The mother stood some time, gazing with overflowing eyes upon her  unfortunate child, who, all unconscious of her presence, was  playing about the room.  Presently Laura ran against her, and at  once began feeling her hands, examining her dress, and trying to  find out if she knew her; but not succeeding in this, she turned  away as from a stranger, and the poor woman could not conceal the  pang she felt, at finding that her beloved child did not know her.

 

'She then gave Laura a string of beads which she used to wear at  home, which were recognised by the child at once, who, with much  joy, put them around her neck, and sought me eagerly to say she  understood the string was from her home.

 

'The mother now sought to caress her, but poor Laura repelled her,  preferring to be with her acquaintances.

 

'Another article from home was now given her, and she began to look  much interested; she examined the stranger much closer, and gave me  to understand that she knew she came from Hanover; she even endured  her caresses, but would leave her with indifference at the  slightest signal.  The distress of the mother was now painful to  behold; for, although she had feared that she should not be  recognised, the painful reality of being treated with cold  indifference by a darling child, was too much for woman's nature to  bear.

 

'After a while, on the mother taking hold of her again, a vague  idea seemed to flit across Laura's mind, that this could not be a  stranger; she therefore felt her hands very eagerly, while her  countenance assumed an expression of intense interest; she became  very pale; and then suddenly red; hope seemed struggling with doubt  and anxiety, and never were contending emotions more strongly  painted upon the human face:  at this moment of painful  uncertainty, the mother drew her close to her side, and kissed her  fondly, when at once the truth flashed upon the child, and all  mistrust and anxiety disappeared from her face, as with an  expression of exceeding joy she eagerly nestled to the bosom of her  parent, and yielded herself to her fond embraces.

 

'After this, the beads were all unheeded; the playthings which were  offered to her were utterly disregarded; her playmates, for whom  but a moment before she gladly left the stranger, now vainly strove  to pull her from her mother; and though she yielded her usual  instantaneous obedience to my signal to follow me, it was evidently  with painful reluctance.  She clung close to me, as if bewildered  and fearful; and when, after a moment, I took her to her mother,  she sprang to her arms, and clung to her with eager joy.

 

'The subsequent parting between them, showed alike the affection,  the intelligence, and the resolution of the child.

 

'Laura accompanied her mother to the door, clinging close to her  all the way, until they arrived at the threshold, where she paused,  and felt around, to ascertain who was near her.  Perceiving the  matron, of whom she is very fond, she grasped her with one hand,  holding on convulsively to her mother with the other; and thus she  stood for a moment:  then she dropped her mother's hand; put her  handkerchief to her eyes; and turning round, clung sobbing to the  matron; while her mother departed, with emotions as deep as those  of her child.

 

* * * * * *

 

'It has been remarked in former reports, that she can distinguish  different degrees of intellect in others, and that she soon  regarded, almost with contempt, a new-comer, when, after a few  days, she discovered her weakness of mind.  This unamiable part of  her character has been more strongly developed during the past  year.

 

'She chooses for her friends and companions, those children who are  intelligent, and can talk best with her; and she evidently dislikes  to be with those who are deficient in intellect, unless, indeed,  she can make them serve her purposes, which she is evidently  inclined to do.  She takes advantage of them, and makes them wait  upon her, in a manner that she knows she could not exact of others;  and in various ways shows her Saxon blood.

 

'She is fond of having other children noticed and caressed by the  teachers, and those whom she respects; but this must not be carried  too far, or she becomes jealous.  She wants to have her share,  which, if not the lion's, is the greater part; and if she does not  get it, she says, "MY MOTHER WILL LOVE ME."

 

'Her tendency to imitation is so strong, that it leads her to  actions which must be entirely incomprehensible to her, and which  can give her no other pleasure than the gratification of an  internal faculty.  She has been known to sit for half an hour,  holding a book before her sightless eyes, and moving her lips, as  she has observed seeing people do when reading.

 

'She one day pretended that her doll was sick; and went through all  the motions of tending it, and giving it medicine; she then put it  carefully to bed, and placed a bottle of hot water to its feet,  laughing all the time most heartily.  When I came home, she  insisted upon my going to see it, and feel its pulse; and when I  told her to put a blister on its back, she seemed to enjoy it  amazingly, and almost screamed with delight.

 

'Her social feelings, and her affections, are very strong; and when  she is sitting at work, or at her studies, by the side of one of  her little friends, she will break off from her task every few  moments, to hug and kiss them with an earnestness and warmth that  is touching to behold.

 

'When left alone, she occupies and apparently amuses herself, and  seems quite contented; and so strong seems to be the natural  tendency of thought to put on the garb of language, that she often  soliloquizes in the FINGER LANGUAGE, slow and tedious as it is.   But it is only when alone, that she is quiet:  for if she becomes  sensible of the presence of any one near her, she is restless until  she can sit close beside them, hold their hand, and converse with  them by signs.

 

'In her intellectual character it is pleasing to observe an  insatiable thirst for knowledge, and a quick perception of the  relations of things.  In her moral character, it is beautiful to  behold her continual gladness, her keen enjoyment of existence, her  expansive love, her unhesitating confidence, her sympathy with  suffering, her conscientiousness, truthfulness, and hopefulness.'

 

Such are a few fragments from the simple but most interesting and  instructive history of Laura Bridgman.  The name of her great  benefactor and friend, who writes it, is Dr. Howe.  There are not  many persons, I hope and believe, who, after reading these  passages, can ever hear that name with indifference.

 

A further account has been published by Dr. Howe, since the report  from which I have just quoted.  It describes her rapid mental  growth and improvement during twelve months more, and brings her  little history down to the end of last year.  It is very  remarkable, that as we dream in words, and carry on imaginary  conversations, in which we speak both for ourselves and for the  shadows who appear to us in those visions of the night, so she,  having no words, uses her finger alphabet in her sleep.  And it has  been ascertained that when her slumber is broken, and is much  disturbed by dreams, she expresses her thoughts in an irregular and  confused manner on her fingers:  just as we should murmur and  mutter them indistinctly, in the like circumstances.

 

I turned over the leaves of her Diary, and found it written in a  fair legible square hand, and expressed in terms which were quite  intelligible without any explanation.  On my saying that I should  like to see her write again, the teacher who sat beside her, bade  her, in their language, sign her name upon a slip of paper, twice  or thrice.  In doing so, I observed that she kept her left hand  always touching, and following up, her right, in which, of course,  she held the pen.  No line was indicated by any contrivance, but  she wrote straight and freely.

 

She had, until now, been quite unconscious of the presence of  visitors; but, having her hand placed in that of the gentleman who  accompanied me, she immediately expressed his name upon her  teacher's palm.  Indeed her sense of touch is now so exquisite,  that having been acquainted with a person once, she can recognise  him or her after almost any interval.  This gentleman had been in  her company, I believe, but very seldom, and certainly had not seen  her for many months.  My hand she rejected at once, as she does  that of any man who is a stranger to her.  But she retained my  wife's with evident pleasure, kissed her, and examed her dress with  a girl's curiosity and interest.

 

She was merry and cheerful, and showed much innocent playfulness in  her intercourse with her teacher.  Her delight on recognising a  favourite playfellow and companion - herself a blind girl - who  silently, and with an equal enjoyment of the coming surprise, took  a seat beside her, was beautiful to witness.  It elicited from her  at first, as other slight circumstances did twice or thrice during  my visit, an uncouth noise which was rather painful to hear.  But  of her teacher touching her lips, she immediately desisted, and  embraced her laughingly and affectionately.

 

I had previously been into another chamber, where a number of blind  boys were swinging, and climbing, and engaged in various sports.   They all clamoured, as we entered, to the assistant-master, who  accompanied us, 'Look at me, Mr. Hart!  Please, Mr. Hart, look at  me!' evincing, I thought, even in this, an anxiety peculiar to  their condition, that their little feats of agility should be SEEN.   Among them was a small laughing fellow, who stood aloof,  entertaining himself with a gymnastic exercise for bringing the  arms and chest into play; which he enjoyed mightily; especially  when, in thrusting out his right arm, he brought it into contact  with another boy.  Like Laura Bridgman, this young child was deaf,  and dumb, and blind.

 

Dr. Howe's account of this pupil's first instruction is so very  striking, and so intimately connected with Laura herself, that I  cannot refrain from a short extract.  I may premise that the poor  boy's name is Oliver Caswell; that he is thirteen years of age; and  that he was in full possession of all his faculties, until three  years and four months old.  He was then attacked by scarlet fever;  in four weeks became deaf; in a few weeks more, blind; in six  months, dumb.  He showed his anxious sense of this last  deprivation, by often feeling the lips of other persons when they  were talking, and then putting his hand upon his own, as if to  assure himself that he had them in the right position.

 

'His thirst for knowledge,' says Dr. Howe, 'proclaimed itself as  soon as he entered the house, by his eager examination of  everything he could feel or smell in his new location.  For  instance, treading upon the register of a furnace, he instantly  stooped down, and began to feel it, and soon discovered the way in  which the upper plate moved upon the lower one; but this was not  enough for him, so lying down upon his face, he applied his tongue  first to one, then to the other, and seemed to discover that they  were of different kinds of metal.

 

'His signs were expressive:  and the strictly natural language,  laughing, crying, sighing, kissing, embracing, &c., was perfect.

 

'Some of the analogical signs which (guided by his faculty of  imitation) he had contrived, were comprehensible; such as the  waving motion of his hand for the motion of a boat, the circular  one for a wheel, &c.

 

'The first object was to break up the use of these signs and to  substitute for them the use of purely arbitrary ones.

 

'Profiting by the experience I had gained in the other cases, I  omitted several steps of the process before employed, and commenced  at once with the finger language.  Taking, therefore, several  articles having short names, such as key, cup, mug, &c., and with  Laura for an auxiliary, I sat down, and taking his hand, placed it  upon one of them, and then with my own, made the letters KEY.  He  felt my hands eagerly with both of his, and on my repeating the  process, he evidently tried to imitate the motions of my fingers.   In a few minutes he contrived to feel the motions of my fingers  with one hand, and holding out the other he tried to imitate them,  laughing most heartily when he succeeded.  Laura was by, interested  even to agitation; and the two presented a singular sight:  her  face was flushed and anxious, and her fingers twining in among ours  so closely as to follow every motion, but so slightly as not to  embarrass them; while Oliver stood attentive, his head a little  aside, his face turned up, his left hand grasping mine, and his  right held out:  at every motion of my fingers his countenance  betokened keen attention; there was an expression of anxiety as he  tried to imitate the motions; then a smile came stealing out as he  thought he could do so, and spread into a joyous laugh the moment  he succeeded, and felt me pat his head, and Laura clap him heartily  upon the back, and jump up and down in her joy.

 

'He learned more than a half-dozen letters in half an hour, and  seemed delighted with his success, at least in gaining approbation.   His attention then began to flag, and I commenced playing with him.   It was evident that in all this he had merely been imitating the  motions of my fingers, and placing his hand upon the key, cup, &c.,  as part of the process, without any perception of the relation  between the sign and the object.

 

'When he was tired with play I took him back to the table, and he  was quite ready to begin again his process of imitation.  He soon  learned to make the letters for KEY, PEN, PIN; and by having the  object repeatedly placed in his hand, he at last perceived the  relation I wished to establish between them.  This was evident,  because, when I made the letters PIN, or PEN, or CUP, he would  select the article.

 

'The perception of this relation was not accompanied by that  radiant flash of intelligence, and that glow of joy, which marked  the delightful moment when Laura first perceived it.  I then placed  all the articles on the table, and going away a little distance  with the children, placed Oliver's fingers in the positions to  spell KEY, on which Laura went and brought the article:  the little  fellow seemed much amused by this, and looked very attentive and  smiling.  I then caused him to make the letters BREAD, and in an  instant Laura went and brought him a piece:  he smelled at it; put  it to his lips; cocked up his head with a most knowing look; seemed  to reflect a moment; and then laughed outright, as much as to say,  "Aha!  I understand now how something may be made out of this."

 

'It was now clear that he had the capacity and inclination to  learn, that he was a proper subject for instruction, and needed  only persevering attention.  I therefore put him in the hands of an  intelligent teacher, nothing doubting of his rapid progress.'

 

Well may this gentleman call that a delightful moment, in which  some distant promise of her present state first gleamed upon the  darkened mind of Laura Bridgman.  Throughout his life, the  recollection of that moment will be to him a source of pure,  unfading happiness; nor will it shine less brightly on the evening  of his days of Noble Usefulness.

 

The affection which exists between these two - the master and the  pupil - is as far removed from all ordinary care and regard, as the  circumstances in which it has had its growth, are apart from the  common occurrences of life.  He is occupied now, in devising means  of imparting to her, higher knowledge; and of conveying to her some  adequate idea of the Great Creator of that universe in which, dark  and silent and scentless though it be to her, she has such deep  delight and glad enjoyment.

 

Ye who have eyes and see not, and have ears and hear not; ye who  are as the hypocrites of sad countenances, and disfigure your faces  that ye may seem unto men to fast; learn healthy cheerfulness, and  mild contentment, from the deaf, and dumb, and blind!  Self-elected  saints with gloomy brows, this sightless, earless, voiceless child  may teach you lessons you will do well to follow.  Let that poor  hand of hers lie gently on your hearts; for there may be something  in its healing touch akin to that of the Great Master whose  precepts you misconstrue, whose lessons you pervert, of whose  charity and sympathy with all the world, not one among you in his  daily practice knows as much as many of the worst among those  fallen sinners, to whom you are liberal in nothing but the  preachment of perdition!

 

As I rose to quit the room, a pretty little child of one of the  attendants came running in to greet its father.  For the moment, a  child with eyes, among the sightless crowd, impressed me almost as  painfully as the blind boy in the porch had done, two hours ago.   Ah! how much brighter and more deeply blue, glowing and rich though  it had been before, was the scene without, contrasting with the  darkness of so many youthful lives within!

 

* * * * * *

 

At SOUTH BOSTON, as it is called, in a situation excellently  adapted for the purpose, several charitable institutions are  clustered together.  One of these, is the State Hospital for the  insane; admirably conducted on those enlightened principles of  conciliation and kindness, which twenty years ago would have been  worse than heretical, and which have been acted upon with so much  success in our own pauper Asylum at Hanwell.  'Evince a desire to  show some confidence, and repose some trust, even in mad people,'  said the resident physician, as we walked along the galleries, his  patients flocking round us unrestrained.  Of those who deny or  doubt the wisdom of this maxim after witnessing its effects, if  there be such people still alive, I can only say that I hope I may  never be summoned as a Juryman on a Commission of Lunacy whereof  they are the subjects; for I should certainly find them out of  their senses, on such evidence alone.

 

Each ward in this institution is shaped like a long gallery or  hall, with the dormitories of the patients opening from it on  either hand.  Here they work, read, play at skittles, and other  games; and when the weather does not admit of their taking exercise  out of doors, pass the day together.  In one of these rooms,  seated, calmly, and quite as a matter of course, among a throng of  mad-women, black and white, were the physician's wife and another  lady, with a couple of children.  These ladies were graceful and  handsome; and it was not difficult to perceive at a glance that  even their presence there, had a highly beneficial influence on the  patients who were grouped about them.

 

Leaning her head against the chimney-piece, with a great assumption  of dignity and refinement of manner, sat an elderly female, in as  many scraps of finery as Madge Wildfire herself.  Her head in  particular was so strewn with scraps of gauze and cotton and bits  of paper, and had so many queer odds and ends stuck all about it,  that it looked like a bird's-nest.  She was radiant with imaginary  jewels; wore a rich pair of undoubted gold spectacles; and  gracefully dropped upon her lap, as we approached, a very old  greasy newspaper, in which I dare say she had been reading an  account of her own presentation at some Foreign Court.

 

I have been thus particular in describing her, because she will  serve to exemplify the physician's manner of acquiring and  retaining the confidence of his patients.

 

'This,' he said aloud, taking me by the hand, and advancing to the  fantastic figure with great politeness - not raising her suspicions  by the slightest look or whisper, or any kind of aside, to me:   'This lady is the hostess of this mansion, sir.  It belongs to her.   Nobody else has anything whatever to do with it.  It is a large  establishment, as you see, and requires a great number of  attendants.  She lives, you observe, in the very first style.  She  is kind enough to receive my visits, and to permit my wife and  family to reside here; for which it is hardly necessary to say, we  are much indebted to her.  She is exceedingly courteous, you  perceive,' on this hint she bowed condescendingly, 'and will permit  me to have the pleasure of introducing you:  a gentleman from  England, Ma'am:  newly arrived from England, after a very  tempestuous passage:  Mr. Dickens, - the lady of the house!'

 

We exchanged the most dignified salutations with profound gravity  and respect, and so went on.  The rest of the madwomen seemed to  understand the joke perfectly (not only in this case, but in all  the others, except their own), and be highly amused by it.  The  nature of their several kinds of insanity was made known to me in  the same way, and we left each of them in high good humour.  Not  only is a thorough confidence established, by those means, between  the physician and patient, in respect of the nature and extent of  their hallucinations, but it is easy to understand that  opportunities are afforded for seizing any moment of reason, to  startle them by placing their own delusion before them in its most  incongruous and ridiculous light.

 

Every patient in this asylum sits down to dinner every day with a  knife and fork; and in the midst of them sits the gentleman, whose  manner of dealing with his charges, I have just described.  At  every meal, moral influence alone restrains the more violent among  them from cutting the throats of the rest; but the effect of that  influence is reduced to an absolute certainty, and is found, even  as a means of restraint, to say nothing of it as a means of cure, a  hundred times more efficacious than all the strait-waistcoats,  fetters, and handcuffs, that ignorance, prejudice, and cruelty have  manufactured since the creation of the world.

 

In the labour department, every patient is as freely trusted with  the tools of his trade as if he were a sane man.  In the garden,  and on the farm, they work with spades, rakes, and hoes.  For  amusement, they walk, run, fish, paint, read, and ride out to take  the air in carriages provided for the purpose.  They have among  themselves a sewing society to make clothes for the poor, which  holds meetings, passes resolutions, never comes to fisty-cuffs or  bowie-knives as sane assemblies have been known to do elsewhere;  and conducts all its proceedings with the greatest decorum.  The  irritability, which would otherwise be expended on their own flesh,  clothes, and furniture, is dissipated in these pursuits.  They are  cheerful, tranquil, and healthy.

 

Once a week they have a ball, in which the Doctor and his family,  with all the nurses and attendants, take an active part.  Dances  and marches are performed alternately, to the enlivening strains of  a piano; and now and then some gentleman or lady (whose proficiency  has been previously ascertained) obliges the company with a song:   nor does it ever degenerate, at a tender crisis, into a screech or  howl; wherein, I must confess, I should have thought the danger  lay.  At an early hour they all meet together for these festive  purposes; at eight o'clock refreshments are served; and at nine  they separate.

 

Immense politeness and good breeding are observed throughout.  They  all take their tone from the Doctor; and he moves a very  Chesterfield among the company.  Like other assemblies, these  entertainments afford a fruitful topic of conversation among the  ladies for some days; and the gentlemen are so anxious to shine on  these occasions, that they have been sometimes found 'practising  their steps' in private, to cut a more distinguished figure in the  dance.

 

It is obvious that one great feature of this system, is the  inculcation and encouragement, even among such unhappy persons, of  a decent self-respect.  Something of the same spirit pervades all  the Institutions at South Boston.

 

There is the House of Industry.  In that branch of it, which is  devoted to the reception of old or otherwise helpless paupers,  these words are painted on the walls:  'WORTHY OF NOTICE.  SELF-GOVERNMENT, QUIETUDE, AND PEACE, ARE BLESSINGS.'  It is not assumed  and taken for granted that being there they must be evil-disposed  and wicked people, before whose vicious eyes it is necessary to  flourish threats and harsh restraints.  They are met at the very  threshold with this mild appeal.  All within-doors is very plain  and simple, as it ought to be, but arranged with a view to peace  and comfort.  It costs no more than any other plan of arrangement,  but it speaks an amount of consideration for those who are reduced  to seek a shelter there, which puts them at once upon their  gratitude and good behaviour.  Instead of being parcelled out in  great, long, rambling wards, where a certain amount of weazen life  may mope, and pine, and shiver, all day long, the building is  divided into separate rooms, each with its share of light and air.   In these, the better kind of paupers live.  They have a motive for  exertion and becoming pride, in the desire to make these little  chambers comfortable and decent.

 

I do not remember one but it was clean and neat, and had its plant  or two upon the window-sill, or row of crockery upon the shelf, or  small display of coloured prints upon the whitewashed wall, or,  perhaps, its wooden clock behind the door.

 

The orphans and young children are in an adjoining building  separate from this, but a part of the same Institution.  Some are  such little creatures, that the stairs are of Lilliputian  measurement, fitted to their tiny strides.  The same consideration  for their years and weakness is expressed in their very seats,  which are perfect curiosities, and look like articles of furniture  for a pauper doll's-house.  I can imagine the glee of our Poor Law  Commissioners at the notion of these seats having arms and backs;  but small spines being of older date than their occupation of the  Board-room at Somerset House, I thought even this provision very  merciful and kind.

 

Here again, I was greatly pleased with the inscriptions on the  wall, which were scraps of plain morality, easily remembered and  understood:  such as 'Love one another' - 'God remembers the  smallest creature in his creation:' and straightforward advice of  that nature.  The books and tasks of these smallest of scholars,  were adapted, in the same judicious manner, to their childish  powers.  When we had examined these lessons, four morsels of girls  (of whom one was blind) sang a little song, about the merry month  of May, which I thought (being extremely dismal) would have suited  an English November better.  That done, we went to see their  sleeping-rooms on the floor above, in which the arrangements were  no less excellent and gentle than those we had seen below.  And  after observing that the teachers were of a class and character  well suited to the spirit of the place, I took leave of the infants  with a lighter heart than ever I have taken leave of pauper infants  yet.

 

Connected with the House of Industry, there is also an Hospital,  which was in the best order, and had, I am glad to say, many beds  unoccupied.  It had one fault, however, which is common to all  American interiors:  the presence of the eternal, accursed,  suffocating, red-hot demon of a stove, whose breath would blight  the purest air under Heaven.

 

There are two establishments for boys in this same neighbourhood.   One is called the Boylston school, and is an asylum for neglected  and indigent boys who have committed no crime, but who in the  ordinary course of things would very soon be purged of that  distinction if they were not taken from the hungry streets and sent  here.  The other is a House of Reformation for Juvenile Offenders.   They are both under the same roof, but the two classes of boys  never come in contact.

 

The Boylston boys, as may be readily supposed, have very much the  advantage of the others in point of personal appearance.  They were  in their school-room when I came upon them, and answered correctly,  without book, such questions as where was England; how far was it;  what was its population; its capital city; its form of government;  and so forth.  They sang a song too, about a farmer sowing his  seed:  with corresponding action at such parts as ''tis thus he  sows,' 'he turns him round,' 'he claps his hands;' which gave it  greater interest for them, and accustomed them to act together, in  an orderly manner.  They appeared exceedingly well-taught, and not  better taught than fed; for a more chubby-looking full-waistcoated  set of boys, I never saw.

 

The juvenile offenders had not such pleasant faces by a great deal,  and in this establishment there were many boys of colour.  I saw  them first at their work (basket-making, and the manufacture of  palm-leaf hats), afterwards in their school, where they sang a  chorus in praise of Liberty:  an odd, and, one would think, rather  aggravating, theme for prisoners.  These boys are divided into four  classes, each denoted by a numeral, worn on a badge upon the arm.   On the arrival of a new-comer, he is put into the fourth or lowest  class, and left, by good behaviour, to work his way up into the  first.  The design and object of this Institution is to reclaim the  youthful criminal by firm but kind and judicious treatment; to make  his prison a place of purification and improvement, not of  demoralisation and corruption; to impress upon him that there is  but one path, and that one sober industry, which can ever lead him  to happiness; to teach him how it may be trodden, if his footsteps  have never yet been led that way; and to lure him back to it if  they have strayed:  in a word, to snatch him from destruction, and  restore him to society a penitent and useful member.  The  importance of such an establishment, in every point of view, and  with reference to every consideration of humanity and social  policy, requires no comment.

 

One other establishment closes the catalogue.  It is the House of  Correction for the State, in which silence is strictly maintained,  but where the prisoners have the comfort and mental relief of  seeing each other, and of working together.  This is the improved  system of Prison Discipline which we have imported into England,  and which has been in successful operation among us for some years  past.

 

America, as a new and not over-populated country, has in all her  prisons, the one great advantage, of being enabled to find useful  and profitable work for the inmates; whereas, with us, the  prejudice against prison labour is naturally very strong, and  almost insurmountable, when honest men who have not offended  against the laws are frequently doomed to seek employment in vain.   Even in the United States, the principle of bringing convict labour  and free labour into a competition which must obviously be to the  disadvantage of the latter, has already found many opponents, whose  number is not likely to diminish with access of years.

 

For this very reason though, our best prisons would seem at the  first glance to be better conducted than those of America.  The  treadmill is conducted with little or no noise; five hundred men  may pick oakum in the same room, without a sound; and both kinds of  labour admit of such keen and vigilant superintendence, as will  render even a word of personal communication amongst the prisoners  almost impossible.  On the other hand, the noise of the loom, the  forge, the carpenter's hammer, or the stonemason's saw, greatly  favour those opportunities of intercourse - hurried and brief no  doubt, but opportunities still - which these several kinds of work,  by rendering it necessary for men to be employed very near to each  other, and often side by side, without any barrier or partition  between them, in their very nature present.  A visitor, too,  requires to reason and reflect a little, before the sight of a  number of men engaged in ordinary labour, such as he is accustomed  to out of doors, will impress him half as strongly as the  contemplation of the same persons in the same place and garb would,  if they were occupied in some task, marked and degraded everywhere  as belonging only to felons in jails.  In an American state prison  or house of correction, I found it difficult at first to persuade  myself that I was really in a jail:  a place of ignominious  punishment and endurance.  And to this hour I very much question  whether the humane boast that it is not like one, has its root in  the true wisdom or philosophy of the matter.

 

I hope I may not be misunderstood on this subject, for it is one in  which I take a strong and deep interest.  I incline as little to  the sickly feeling which makes every canting lie or maudlin speech  of a notorious criminal a subject of newspaper report and general  sympathy, as I do to those good old customs of the good old times  which made England, even so recently as in the reign of the Third  King George, in respect of her criminal code and her prison  regulations, one of the most bloody-minded and barbarous countries  on the earth.  If I thought it would do any good to the rising  generation, I would cheerfully give my consent to the disinterment  of the bones of any genteel highwayman (the more genteel, the more  cheerfully), and to their exposure, piecemeal, on any sign-post,  gate, or gibbet, that might be deemed a good elevation for the  purpose.  My reason is as well convinced that these gentry were as  utterly worthless and debauched villains, as it is that the laws  and jails hardened them in their evil courses, or that their  wonderful escapes were effected by the prison-turnkeys who, in  those admirable days, had always been felons themselves, and were,  to the last, their bosom-friends and pot-companions.  At the same  time I know, as all men do or should, that the subject of Prison  Discipline is one of the highest importance to any community; and  that in her sweeping reform and bright example to other countries  on this head, America has shown great wisdom, great benevolence,  and exalted policy.  In contrasting her system with that which we  have modelled upon it, I merely seek to show that with all its  drawbacks, ours has some advantages of its own.

 

The House of Correction which has led to these remarks, is not  walled, like other prisons, but is palisaded round about with tall  rough stakes, something after the manner of an enclosure for  keeping elephants in, as we see it represented in Eastern prints  and pictures.  The prisoners wear a parti-coloured dress; and those  who are sentenced to hard labour, work at nail-making, or stone-cutting.  When I was there, the latter class of labourers were  employed upon the stone for a new custom-house in course of  erection at Boston.  They appeared to shape it skilfully and with  expedition, though there were very few among them (if any) who had  not acquired the art within the prison gates.

 

The women, all in one large room, were employed in making light  clothing, for New Orleans and the Southern States.  They did their  work in silence like the men; and like them were over-looked by the  person contracting for their labour, or by some agent of his  appointment.  In addition to this, they are every moment liable to  be visited by the prison officers appointed for that purpose.

 

The arrangements for cooking, washing of clothes, and so forth, are  much upon the plan of those I have seen at home.  Their mode of  bestowing the prisoners at night (which is of general adoption)  differs from ours, and is both simple and effective.  In the centre  of a lofty area, lighted by windows in the four walls, are five  tiers of cells, one above the other; each tier having before it a  light iron gallery, attainable by stairs of the same construction  and material:  excepting the lower one, which is on the ground.   Behind these, back to back with them and facing the opposite wall,  are five corresponding rows of cells, accessible by similar means:   so that supposing the prisoners locked up in their cells, an  officer stationed on the ground, with his back to the wall, has  half their number under his eye at once; the remaining half being  equally under the observation of another officer on the opposite  side; and all in one great apartment.  Unless this watch be  corrupted or sleeping on his post, it is impossible for a man to  escape; for even in the event of his forcing the iron door of his  cell without noise (which is exceedingly improbable), the moment he  appears outside, and steps into that one of the five galleries on  which it is situated, he must be plainly and fully visible to the  officer below.  Each of these cells holds a small truckle bed, in  which one prisoner sleeps; never more.  It is small, of course; and  the door being not solid, but grated, and without blind or curtain,  the prisoner within is at all times exposed to the observation and  inspection of any guard who may pass along that tier at any hour or  minute of the night.  Every day, the prisoners receive their  dinner, singly, through a trap in the kitchen wall; and each man  carries his to his sleeping cell to eat it, where he is locked up,  alone, for that purpose, one hour.  The whole of this arrangement  struck me as being admirable; and I hope that the next new prison  we erect in England may be built on this plan.

 

I was given to understand that in this prison no swords or fire-arms, or even cudgels, are kept; nor is it probable that, so long  as its present excellent management continues, any weapon,  offensive or defensive, will ever be required within its bounds.

 

Such are the Institutions at South Boston!  In all of them, the  unfortunate or degenerate citizens of the State are carefully  instructed in their duties both to God and man; are surrounded by  all reasonable means of comfort and happiness that their condition  will admit of; are appealed to, as members of the great human  family, however afflicted, indigent, or fallen; are ruled by the  strong Heart, and not by the strong (though immeasurably weaker)  Hand.  I have described them at some length; firstly, because their  worth demanded it; and secondly, because I mean to take them for a  model, and to content myself with saying of others we may come to,  whose design and purpose are the same, that in this or that respect  they practically fail, or differ.

 

I wish by this account of them, imperfect in its execution, but in  its just intention, honest, I could hope to convey to my readers  one-hundredth part of the gratification, the sights I have  described, afforded me.

 

* * * * * *

 

To an Englishman, accustomed to the paraphernalia of Westminster  Hall, an American Court of Law is as odd a sight as, I suppose, an  English Court of Law would be to an American.  Except in the  Supreme Court at Washington (where the judges wear a plain black  robe), there is no such thing as a wig or gown connected with the  administration of justice.  The gentlemen of the bar being  barristers and attorneys too (for there is no division of those  functions as in England) are no more removed from their clients  than attorneys in our Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors  are, from theirs.  The jury are quite at home, and make themselves  as comfortable as circumstances will permit.  The witness is so  little elevated above, or put aloof from, the crowd in the court,  that a stranger entering during a pause in the proceedings would  find it difficult to pick him out from the rest.  And if it chanced  to be a criminal trial, his eyes, in nine cases out of ten, would  wander to the dock in search of the prisoner, in vain; for that  gentleman would most likely be lounging among the most  distinguished ornaments of the legal profession, whispering  suggestions in his counsel's ear, or making a toothpick out of an  old quill with his penknife.

 

I could not but notice these differences, when I visited the courts  at Boston.  I was much surprised at first, too, to observe that the  counsel who interrogated the witness under examination at the time,  did so SITTING.  But seeing that he was also occupied in writing  down the answers, and remembering that he was alone and had no  'junior,' I quickly consoled myself with the reflection that law  was not quite so expensive an article here, as at home; and that  the absence of sundry formalities which we regard as indispensable,  had doubtless a very favourable influence upon the bill of costs.

 

In every Court, ample and commodious provision is made for the  accommodation of the citizens.  This is the case all through  America.  In every Public Institution, the right of the people to  attend, and to have an interest in the proceedings, is most fully  and distinctly recognised.  There are no grim door-keepers to dole  out their tardy civility by the sixpenny-worth; nor is there, I  sincerely believe, any insolence of office of any kind.  Nothing  national is exhibited for money; and no public officer is a  showman.  We have begun of late years to imitate this good example.   I hope we shall continue to do so; and that in the fulness of time,  even deans and chapters may be converted.

 

In the civil court an action was trying, for damages sustained in  some accident upon a railway.  The witnesses had been examined, and  counsel was addressing the jury.  The learned gentleman (like a few  of his English brethren) was desperately long-winded, and had a  remarkable capacity of saying the same thing over and over again.   His great theme was 'Warren the ENGINE driver,' whom he pressed  into the service of every sentence he uttered.  I listened to him  for about a quarter of an hour; and, coming out of court at the  expiration of that time, without the faintest ray of enlightenment  as to the merits of the case, felt as if I were at home again.

 

In the prisoner's cell, waiting to be examined by the magistrate on  a charge of theft, was a boy.  This lad, instead of being committed  to a common jail, would be sent to the asylum at South Boston, and  there taught a trade; and in the course of time he would be bound  apprentice to some respectable master.  Thus, his detection in this  offence, instead of being the prelude to a life of infamy and a  miserable death, would lead, there was a reasonable hope, to his  being reclaimed from vice, and becoming a worthy member of society.

 

I am by no means a wholesale admirer of our legal solemnities, many  of which impress me as being exceedingly ludicrous.  Strange as it  may seem too, there is undoubtedly a degree of protection in the  wig and gown - a dismissal of individual responsibility in dressing  for the part - which encourages that insolent bearing and language,  and that gross perversion of the office of a pleader for The Truth,  so frequent in our courts of law.  Still, I cannot help doubting  whether America, in her desire to shake off the absurdities and  abuses of the old system, may not have gone too far into the  opposite extreme; and whether it is not desirable, especially in  the small community of a city like this, where each man knows the  other, to surround the administration of justice with some  artificial barriers against the 'Hail fellow, well met' deportment  of everyday life.  All the aid it can have in the very high  character and ability of the Bench, not only here but elsewhere, it  has, and well deserves to have; but it may need something more:   not to impress the thoughtful and the well-informed, but the  ignorant and heedless; a class which includes some prisoners and  many witnesses.  These institutions were established, no doubt,  upon the principle that those who had so large a share in making  the laws, would certainly respect them.  But experience has proved  this hope to be fallacious; for no men know better than the judges  of America, that on the occasion of any great popular excitement  the law is powerless, and cannot, for the time, assert its own  supremacy.

 

The tone of society in Boston is one of perfect politeness,  courtesy, and good breeding.  The ladies are unquestionably very  beautiful - in face:  but there I am compelled to stop.  Their  education is much as with us; neither better nor worse.  I had  heard some very marvellous stories in this respect; but not  believing them, was not disappointed.  Blue ladies there are, in  Boston; but like philosophers of that colour and sex in most other  latitudes, they rather desire to be thought superior than to be so.   Evangelical ladies there are, likewise, whose attachment to the  forms of religion, and horror of theatrical entertainments, are  most exemplary.  Ladies who have a passion for attending lectures  are to be found among all classes and all conditions.  In the kind  of provincial life which prevails in cities such as this, the  Pulpit has great influence.  The peculiar province of the Pulpit in  New England (always excepting the Unitarian Ministry) would appear  to be the denouncement of all innocent and rational amusements.   The church, the chapel, and the lecture-room, are the only means of  excitement excepted; and to the church, the chapel, and the  lecture-room, the ladies resort in crowds.

 

Wherever religion is resorted to, as a strong drink, and as an  escape from the dull monotonous round of home, those of its  ministers who pepper the highest will be the surest to please.   They who strew the Eternal Path with the greatest amount of  brimstone, and who most ruthlessly tread down the flowers and  leaves that grow by the wayside, will be voted the most righteous;  and they who enlarge with the greatest pertinacity on the  difficulty of getting into heaven, will be considered by all true  believers certain of going there:  though it would be hard to say  by what process of reasoning this conclusion is arrived at.  It is  so at home, and it is so abroad.  With regard to the other means of  excitement, the Lecture, it has at least the merit of being always  new.  One lecture treads so quickly on the heels of another, that  none are remembered; and the course of this month may be safely  repeated next, with its charm of novelty unbroken, and its interest  unabated.

 

The fruits of the earth have their growth in corruption.  Out of  the rottenness of these things, there has sprung up in Boston a  sect of philosophers known as Transcendentalists.  On inquiring  what this appellation might be supposed to signify, I was given to  understand that whatever was unintelligible would be certainly  transcendental.  Not deriving much comfort from this elucidation, I  pursued the inquiry still further, and found that the  Transcendentalists are followers of my friend Mr. Carlyle, or I  should rather say, of a follower of his, Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson.   This gentleman has written a volume of Essays, in which, among much  that is dreamy and fanciful (if he will pardon me for saying so),  there is much more that is true and manly, honest and bold.   Transcendentalism has its occasional vagaries (what school has  not?), but it has good healthful qualities in spite of them; not  least among the number a hearty disgust of Cant, and an aptitude to  detect her in all the million varieties of her everlasting  wardrobe.  And therefore if I were a Bostonian, I think I would be  a Transcendentalist.

 

The only preacher I heard in Boston was Mr. Taylor, who addresses  himself peculiarly to seamen, and who was once a mariner himself.   I found his chapel down among the shipping, in one of the narrow,  old, water-side streets, with a gay blue flag waving freely from  its roof.  In the gallery opposite to the pulpit were a little  choir of male and female singers, a violoncello, and a violin.  The  preacher already sat in the pulpit, which was raised on pillars,  and ornamented behind him with painted drapery of a lively and  somewhat theatrical appearance.  He looked a weather-beaten hard-featured man, of about six or eight and fifty; with deep lines  graven as it were into his face, dark hair, and a stern, keen eye.   Yet the general character of his countenance was pleasant and  agreeable.  The service commenced with a hymn, to which succeeded  an extemporary prayer.  It had the fault of frequent repetition,  incidental to all such prayers; but it was plain and comprehensive  in its doctrines, and breathed a tone of general sympathy and  charity, which is not so commonly a characteristic of this form of  address to the Deity as it might be.  That done he opened his  discourse, taking for his text a passage from the Song of Solomon,  laid upon the desk before the commencement of the service by some  unknown member of the congregation:  'Who is this coming up from  the wilderness, leaning on the arm of her beloved!'

 

He handled his text in all kinds of ways, and twisted it into all  manner of shapes; but always ingeniously, and with a rude  eloquence, well adapted to the comprehension of his hearers.   Indeed if I be not mistaken, he studied their sympathies and  understandings much more than the display of his own powers.  His  imagery was all drawn from the sea, and from the incidents of a  seaman's life; and was often remarkably good.  He spoke to them of  'that glorious man, Lord Nelson,' and of Collingwood; and drew  nothing in, as the saying is, by the head and shoulders, but  brought it to bear upon his purpose, naturally, and with a sharp  mind to its effect.  Sometimes, when much excited with his subject,  he had an odd way - compounded of John Bunyan, and Balfour of  Burley - of taking his great quarto Bible under his arm and pacing  up and down the pulpit with it; looking steadily down, meantime,  into the midst of the congregation.  Thus, when he applied his text  to the first assemblage of his hearers, and pictured the wonder of  the church at their presumption in forming a congregation among  themselves, he stopped short with his Bible under his arm in the  manner I have described, and pursued his discourse after this  manner:

 

'Who are these - who are they - who are these fellows? where do  they come from?  Where are they going to? - Come from!  What's the  answer?' - leaning out of the pulpit, and pointing downward with  his right hand:  'From below!' - starting back again, and looking  at the sailors before him:  'From below, my brethren.  From under  the hatches of sin, battened down above you by the evil one.   That's where you came from!' - a walk up and down the pulpit:  'and  where are you going' - stopping abruptly:  'where are you going?   Aloft!' - very softly, and pointing upward:  'Aloft!' - louder:   'aloft!' - louder still:  'That's where you are going - with a fair  wind, - all taut and trim, steering direct for Heaven in its glory,  where there are no storms or foul weather, and where the wicked  cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.' - Another walk:   'That's where you're going to, my friends.  That's it.  That's the  place.  That's the port.  That's the haven.  It's a blessed harbour  - still water there, in all changes of the winds and tides; no  driving ashore upon the rocks, or slipping your cables and running  out to sea, there:  Peace - Peace - Peace - all peace!' - Another  walk, and patting the Bible under his left arm:  'What!  These  fellows are coming from the wilderness, are they?  Yes.  From the  dreary, blighted wilderness of Iniquity, whose only crop is Death.   But do they lean upon anything - do they lean upon nothing, these  poor seamen?' - Three raps upon the Bible:  'Oh yes. - Yes. - They  lean upon the arm of their Beloved' - three more raps:  'upon the  arm of their Beloved' - three more, and a walk:  'Pilot, guiding-star, and compass, all in one, to all hands - here it is' - three  more:  'Here it is.  They can do their seaman's duty manfully, and  be easy in their minds in the utmost peril and danger, with this' -  two more:  'They can come, even these poor fellows can come, from  the wilderness leaning on the arm of their Beloved, and go up - up  - up!' - raising his hand higher, and higher, at every repetition  of the word, so that he stood with it at last stretched above his  head, regarding them in a strange, rapt manner, and pressing the  book triumphantly to his breast, until he gradually subsided into  some other portion of his discourse.

 

I have cited this, rather as an instance of the preacher's  eccentricities than his merits, though taken in connection with his  look and manner, and the character of his audience, even this was  striking.  It is possible, however, that my favourable impression  of him may have been greatly influenced and strengthened, firstly,  by his impressing upon his hearers that the true observance of  religion was not inconsistent with a cheerful deportment and an  exact discharge of the duties of their station, which, indeed, it  scrupulously required of them; and secondly, by his cautioning them  not to set up any monopoly in Paradise and its mercies.  I never  heard these two points so wisely touched (if indeed I have ever  heard them touched at all), by any preacher of that kind before.

 

Having passed the time I spent in Boston, in making myself  acquainted with these things, in settling the course I should take  in my future travels, and in mixing constantly with its society, I  am not aware that I have any occasion to prolong this chapter.   Such of its social customs as I have not mentioned, however, may be  told in a very few words.

 

The usual dinner-hour is two o'clock.  A dinner party takes place  at five; and at an evening party, they seldom sup later than  eleven; so that it goes hard but one gets home, even from a rout,  by midnight.  I never could find out any difference between a party  at Boston and a party in London, saving that at the former place  all assemblies are held at more rational hours; that the  conversation may possibly be a little louder and more cheerful; and  a guest is usually expected to ascend to the very top of the house  to take his cloak off; that he is certain to see, at every dinner,  an unusual amount of poultry on the table; and at every supper, at  least two mighty bowls of hot stewed oysters, in any one of which a  half-grown Duke of Clarence might be smothered easily.

 

There are two theatres in Boston, of good size and construction,  but sadly in want of patronage.  The few ladies who resort to them,  sit, as of right, in the front rows of the boxes.

 

The bar is a large room with a stone floor, and there people stand  and smoke, and lounge about, all the evening:  dropping in and out  as the humour takes them.  There too the stranger is initiated into  the mysteries of Gin-sling, Cock-tail, Sangaree, Mint Julep,  Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle, and other rare drinks.  The house is  full of boarders, both married and single, many of whom sleep upon  the premises, and contract by the week for their board and lodging:   the charge for which diminishes as they go nearer the sky to roost.   A public table is laid in a very handsome hall for breakfast, and  for dinner, and for supper.  The party sitting down together to  these meals will vary in number from one to two hundred:  sometimes  more.  The advent of each of these epochs in the day is proclaimed  by an awful gong, which shakes the very window-frames as it  reverberates through the house, and horribly disturbs nervous  foreigners.  There is an ordinary for ladies, and an ordinary for  gentlemen.

 

In our private room the cloth could not, for any earthly  consideration, have been laid for dinner without a huge glass dish  of cranberries in the middle of the table; and breakfast would have  been no breakfast unless the principal dish were a deformed beef-steak with a great flat bone in the centre, swimming in hot butter,  and sprinkled with the very blackest of all possible pepper.  Our  bedroom was spacious and airy, but (like every bedroom on this side  of the Atlantic) very bare of furniture, having no curtains to the  French bedstead or to the window.  It had one unusual luxury,  however, in the shape of a wardrobe of painted wood, something  smaller than an English watch-box; or if this comparison should be  insufficient to convey a just idea of its dimensions, they may be  estimated from the fact of my having lived for fourteen days and  nights in the firm belief that it was a shower-bath.

 


CHAPTER IV - AN AMERICAN RAILROAD.  LOWELL AND ITS FACTORY SYSTEM

 

BEFORE leaving Boston, I devoted one day to an excursion to Lowell.   I assign a separate chapter to this visit; not because I am about  to describe it at any great length, but because I remember it as a  thing by itself, and am desirous that my readers should do the  same.

 

I made acquaintance with an American railroad, on this occasion,  for the first time.  As these works are pretty much alike all  through the States, their general characteristics are easily  described.

 

There are no first and second class carriages as with us; but there  is a gentleman's car and a ladies' car:  the main distinction  between which is that in the first, everybody smokes; and in the  second, nobody does.  As a black man never travels with a white  one, there is also a negro car; which is a great, blundering,  clumsy chest, such as Gulliver put to sea in, from the kingdom of  Brobdingnag.  There is a great deal of jolting, a great deal of  noise, a great deal of wall, not much window, a locomotive engine,  a shriek, and a bell.

 

The cars are like shabby omnibuses, but larger:  holding thirty,  forty, fifty, people.  The seats, instead of stretching from end to  end, are placed crosswise.  Each seat holds two persons.  There is  a long row of them on each side of the caravan, a narrow passage up  the middle, and a door at both ends.  In the centre of the carriage  there is usually a stove, fed with charcoal or anthracite coal;  which is for the most part red-hot.  It is insufferably close; and  you see the hot air fluttering between yourself and any other  object you may happen to look at, like the ghost of smoke.

 

In the ladies' car, there are a great many gentlemen who have  ladies with them.  There are also a great many ladies who have  nobody with them:  for any lady may travel alone, from one end of  the United States to the other, and be certain of the most  courteous and considerate treatment everywhere.  The conductor or  check-taker, or guard, or whatever he may be, wears no uniform.  He  walks up and down the car, and in and out of it, as his fancy  dictates; leans against the door with his hands in his pockets and  stares at you, if you chance to be a stranger; or enters into  conversation with the passengers about him.  A great many  newspapers are pulled out, and a few of them are read.  Everybody  talks to you, or to anybody else who hits his fancy.  If you are an  Englishman, he expects that that railroad is pretty much like an  English railroad.  If you say 'No,' he says 'Yes?'  (interrogatively), and asks in what respect they differ.  You  enumerate the heads of difference, one by one, and he says 'Yes?'  (still interrogatively) to each.  Then he guesses that you don't  travel faster in England; and on your replying that you do, says  'Yes?' again (still interrogatively), and it is quite evident,  don't believe it.  After a long pause he remarks, partly to you,  and partly to the knob on the top of his stick, that 'Yankees are  reckoned to be considerable of a go-ahead people too;' upon which  YOU say 'Yes,' and then HE says 'Yes' again (affirmatively this  time); and upon your looking out of window, tells you that behind  that hill, and some three miles from the next station, there is a  clever town in a smart lo-ca-tion, where he expects you have  concluded to stop.  Your answer in the negative naturally leads to  more questions in reference to your intended route (always  pronounced rout); and wherever you are going, you invariably learn  that you can't get there without immense difficulty and danger, and  that all the great sights are somewhere else.

 

If a lady take a fancy to any male passenger's seat, the gentleman  who accompanies her gives him notice of the fact, and he  immediately vacates it with great politeness.  Politics are much  discussed, so are banks, so is cotton.  Quiet people avoid the  question of the Presidency, for there will be a new election in  three years and a half, and party feeling runs very high:  the  great constitutional feature of this institution being, that  directly the acrimony of the last election is over, the acrimony of  the next one begins; which is an unspeakable comfort to all strong  politicians and true lovers of their country:  that is to say, to  ninety-nine men and boys out of every ninety-nine and a quarter.

 

Except when a branch road joins the main one, there is seldom more  than one track of rails; so that the road is very narrow, and the  view, where there is a deep cutting, by no means extensive.  When  there is not, the character of the scenery is always the same.   Mile after mile of stunted trees:  some hewn down by the axe, some  blown down by the wind, some half fallen and resting on their  neighbours, many mere logs half hidden in the swamp, others  mouldered away to spongy chips.  The very soil of the earth is made  up of minute fragments such as these; each pool of stagnant water  has its crust of vegetable rottenness; on every side there are the  boughs, and trunks, and stumps of trees, in every possible stage of  decay, decomposition, and neglect.  Now you emerge for a few brief  minutes on an open country, glittering with some bright lake or  pool, broad as many an English river, but so small here that it  scarcely has a name; now catch hasty glimpses of a distant town,  with its clean white houses and their cool piazzas, its prim New  England church and school-house; when whir-r-r-r! almost before you  have seen them, comes the same dark screen:  the stunted trees, the  stumps, the logs, the stagnant water - all so like the last that  you seem to have been transported back again by magic.

 

The train calls at stations in the woods, where the wild  impossibility of anybody having the smallest reason to get out, is  only to be equalled by the apparently desperate hopelessness of  there being anybody to get in.  It rushes across the turnpike road,  where there is no gate, no policeman, no signal:  nothing but a  rough wooden arch, on which is painted 'WHEN THE BELL RINGS, LOOK  OUT FOR THE LOCOMOTIVE.'  On it whirls headlong, dives through the  woods again, emerges in the light, clatters over frail arches,  rumbles upon the heavy ground, shoots beneath a wooden bridge which  intercepts the light for a second like a wink, suddenly awakens all  the slumbering echoes in the main street of a large town, and  dashes on haphazard, pell-mell, neck-or-nothing, down the middle of  the road.  There - with mechanics working at their trades, and  people leaning from their doors and windows, and boys flying kites  and playing marbles, and men smoking, and women talking, and  children crawling, and pigs burrowing, and unaccustomed horses  plunging and rearing, close to the very rails - there - on, on, on  - tears the mad dragon of an engine with its train of cars;  scattering in all directions a shower of burning sparks from its  wood fire; screeching, hissing, yelling, panting; until at last the  thirsty monster stops beneath a covered way to drink, the people  cluster round, and you have time to breathe again.

 

I was met at the station at Lowell by a gentleman intimately  connected with the management of the factories there; and gladly  putting myself under his guidance, drove off at once to that  quarter of the town in which the works, the object of my visit,  were situated.  Although only just of age - for if my recollection  serve me, it has been a manufacturing town barely one-and-twenty  years - Lowell is a large, populous, thriving place.  Those  indications of its youth which first attract the eye, give it a  quaintness and oddity of character which, to a visitor from the old  country, is amusing enough.  It was a very dirty winter's day, and  nothing in the whole town looked old to me, except the mud, which  in some parts was almost knee-deep, and might have been deposited  there, on the subsiding of the waters after the Deluge.  In one  place, there was a new wooden church, which, having no steeple, and  being yet unpainted, looked like an enormous packing-case without  any direction upon it.  In another there was a large hotel, whose  walls and colonnades were so crisp, and thin, and slight, that it  had exactly the appearance of being built with cards.  I was  careful not to draw my breath as we passed, and trembled when I saw  a workman come out upon the roof, lest with one thoughtless stamp  of his foot he should crush the structure beneath him, and bring it  rattling down.  The very river that moves the machinery in the  mills (for they are all worked by water power), seems to acquire a  new character from the fresh buildings of bright red brick and  painted wood among which it takes its course; and to be as light-headed, thoughtless, and brisk a young river, in its murmurings and  tumblings, as one would desire to see.  One would swear that every  'Bakery,' 'Grocery,' and 'Bookbindery,' and other kind of store,  took its shutters down for the first time, and started in business  yesterday.  The golden pestles and mortars fixed as signs upon the  sun-blind frames outside the Druggists',  appear to have been just  turned out of the United States' Mint; and when I saw a baby of  some week or ten days old in a woman's arms at a street corner, I  found myself unconsciously wondering where it came from:  never  supposing for an instant that it could have been born in such a  young town as that.

 

There are several factories in Lowell, each of which belongs to  what we should term a Company of Proprietors, but what they call in  America a Corporation.  I went over several of these; such as a  woollen factory, a carpet factory, and a cotton factory:  examined  them in every part; and saw them in their ordinary working aspect,  with no preparation of any kind, or departure from their ordinary  everyday proceedings.  I may add that I am well acquainted with our  manufacturing towns in England, and have visited many mills in  Manchester and elsewhere in the same manner.

 

I happened to arrive at the first factory just as the dinner hour  was over, and the girls were returning to their work; indeed the  stairs of the mill were thronged with them as I ascended.  They  were all well dressed, but not to my thinking above their  condition; for I like to see the humbler classes of society careful  of their dress and appearance, and even, if they please, decorated  with such little trinkets as come within the compass of their  means.  Supposing it confined within reasonable limits, I would  always encourage this kind of pride, as a worthy element of self-respect, in any person I employed; and should no more be deterred  from doing so, because some wretched female referred her fall to a  love of dress, than I would allow my construction of the real  intent and meaning of the Sabbath to be influenced by any warning  to the well-disposed, founded on his backslidings on that  particular day, which might emanate from the rather doubtful  authority of a murderer in Newgate.

 

These girls, as I have said, were all well dressed:  and that  phrase necessarily includes extreme cleanliness.  They had  serviceable bonnets, good warm cloaks, and shawls; and were not  above clogs and pattens.  Moreover, there were places in the mill  in which they could deposit these things without injury; and there  were conveniences for washing.  They were healthy in appearance,  many of them remarkably so, and had the manners and deportment of  young women:  not of degraded brutes of burden.  If I had seen in  one of those mills (but I did not, though I looked for something of  this kind with a sharp eye), the most lisping, mincing, affected,  and ridiculous young creature that my imagination could suggest, I  should have thought of the careless, moping, slatternly, degraded,  dull reverse (I HAVE seen that), and should have been still well  pleased to look upon her.

 

The rooms in which they worked, were as well ordered as themselves.   In the windows of some, there were green plants, which were trained  to shade the glass; in all, there was as much fresh air,  cleanliness, and comfort, as the nature of the occupation would  possibly admit of.  Out of so large a number of females, many of  whom were only then just verging upon womanhood, it may be  reasonably supposed that some were delicate and fragile in  appearance:  no doubt there were.  But I solemnly declare, that  from all the crowd I saw in the different factories that day, I  cannot recall or separate one young face that gave me a painful  impression; not one young girl whom, assuming it to be a matter of  necessity that she should gain her daily bread by the labour of her  hands, I would have removed from those works if I had had the  power.

 

They reside in various boarding-houses near at hand.  The owners of  the mills are particularly careful to allow no persons to enter  upon the possession of these houses, whose characters have not  undergone the most searching and thorough inquiry.  Any complaint  that is made against them, by the boarders, or by any one else, is  fully investigated; and if good ground of complaint be shown to  exist against them, they are removed, and their occupation is  handed over to some more deserving person.  There are a few  children employed in these factories, but not many.  The laws of  the State forbid their working more than nine months in the year,  and require that they be educated during the other three.  For this  purpose there are schools in Lowell; and there are churches and  chapels of various persuasions, in which the young women may  observe that form of worship in which they have been educated.

 

At some distance from the factories, and on the highest and  pleasantest ground in the neighbourhood, stands their hospital, or  boarding-house for the sick:  it is the best house in those parts,  and was built by an eminent merchant for his own residence.  Like  that institution at Boston, which I have before described, it is  not parcelled out into wards, but is divided into convenient  chambers, each of which has all the comforts of a very comfortable  home.  The principal medical attendant resides under the same roof;  and were the patients members of his own family, they could not be  better cared for, or attended with greater gentleness and  consideration.  The weekly charge in this establishment for each  female patient is three dollars, or twelve shillings English; but  no girl employed by any of the corporations is ever excluded for  want of the means of payment.  That they do not very often want the  means, may be gathered from the fact, that in July, 1841, no fewer  than nine hundred and seventy-eight of these girls were depositors  in the Lowell Savings Bank:  the amount of whose joint savings was  estimated at one hundred thousand dollars, or twenty thousand  English pounds.

 

I am now going to state three facts, which will startle a large  class of readers on this side of the Atlantic, very much.

 

Firstly, there is a joint-stock piano in a great many of the  boarding-houses.  Secondly, nearly all these young ladies subscribe  to circulating libraries.  Thirdly, they have got up among  themselves a periodical called THE LOWELL OFFERING, 'A repository  of original articles, written exclusively by females actively  employed in the mills,' - which is duly printed, published, and  sold; and whereof I brought away from Lowell four hundred good  solid pages, which I have read from beginning to end.

 

The large class of readers, startled by these facts, will exclaim,  with one voice, 'How very preposterous!'  On my deferentially  inquiring why, they will answer, 'These things are above their  station.'  In reply to that objection, I would beg to ask what  their station is.

 

It is their station to work.  And they DO work.  They labour in  these mills, upon an average, twelve hours a day, which is  unquestionably work, and pretty tight work too.  Perhaps it is  above their station to indulge in such amusements, on any terms.   Are we quite sure that we in England have not formed our ideas of  the 'station' of working people, from accustoming ourselves to the  contemplation of that class as they are, and not as they might be?   I think that if we examine our own feelings, we shall find that the  pianos, and the circulating libraries, and even the Lowell  Offering, startle us by their novelty, and not by their bearing  upon any abstract question of right or wrong.

 

For myself, I know no station in which, the occupation of to-day  cheerfully done and the occupation of to-morrow cheerfully looked  to, any one of these pursuits is not most humanising and laudable.   I know no station which is rendered more endurable to the person in  it, or more safe to the person out of it, by having ignorance for  its associate.  I know no station which has a right to monopolise  the means of mutual instruction, improvement, and rational  entertainment; or which has ever continued to be a station very  long, after seeking to do so.

 

Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production, I  will only observe, putting entirely out of sight the fact of the  articles having been written by these girls after the arduous  labours of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a  great many English Annuals.  It is pleasant to find that many of  its Tales are of the Mills and of those who work in them; that they  inculcate habits of self-denial and contentment, and teach good  doctrines of enlarged benevolence.  A strong feeling for the  beauties of nature, as displayed in the solitudes the writers have  left at home, breathes through its pages like wholesome village  air; and though a circulating library is a favourable school for  the study of such topics, it has very scant allusion to fine  clothes, fine marriages, fine houses, or fine life.  Some persons  might object to the papers being signed occasionally with rather  fine names, but this is an American fashion.  One of the provinces  of the state legislature of Massachusetts is to alter ugly names  into pretty ones, as the children improve upon the tastes of their  parents.  These changes costing little or nothing, scores of Mary  Annes are solemnly converted into Bevelinas every session.

 

It is said that on the occasion of a visit from General Jackson or  General Harrison to this town (I forget which, but it is not to the  purpose), he walked through three miles and a half of these young  ladies all dressed out with parasols and silk stockings.  But as I  am not aware that any worse consequence ensued, than a sudden  looking-up of all the parasols and silk stockings in the market;  and perhaps the bankruptcy of some speculative New Englander who  bought them all up at any price, in expectation of a demand that  never came; I set no great store by the circumstance.

 

In this brief account of Lowell, and inadequate expression of the  gratification it yielded me, and cannot fail to afford to any  foreigner to whom the condition of such people at home is a subject  of interest and anxious speculation, I have carefully abstained  from drawing a comparison between these factories and those of our  own land.  Many of the circumstances whose strong influence has  been at work for years in our manufacturing towns have not arisen  here; and there is no manufacturing population in Lowell, so to  speak:  for these girls (often the daughters of small farmers) come  from other States, remain a few years in the mills, and then go  home for good.

 

The contrast would be a strong one, for it would be between the  Good and Evil, the living light and deepest shadow.  I abstain from  it, because I deem it just to do so.  But I only the more earnestly  adjure all those whose eyes may rest on these pages, to pause and  reflect upon the difference between this town and those great  haunts of desperate misery:  to call to mind, if they can in the  midst of party strife and squabble, the efforts that must be made  to purge them of their suffering and danger:  and last, and  foremost, to remember how the precious Time is rushing by.

 

I returned at night by the same railroad and in the same kind of  car.  One of the passengers being exceedingly anxious to expound at  great length to my companion (not to me, of course) the true  principles on which books of travel in America should be written by  Englishmen, I feigned to fall asleep.  But glancing all the way out  at window from the corners of my eyes, I found abundance of  entertainment for the rest of the ride in watching the effects of  the wood fire, which had been invisible in the morning but were now  brought out in full relief by the darkness:  for we were travelling  in a whirlwind of bright sparks, which showered about us like a  storm of fiery snow.

 

CHAPTER V - WORCESTER.  THE CONNECTICUT RIVER.  HARTFORD.  NEW  HAVEN.  TO NEW YORK

 

LEAVING Boston on the afternoon of Saturday the fifth of February,  we proceeded by another railroad to Worcester:  a pretty New  England town, where we had arranged to remain under the hospitable  roof of the Governor of the State, until Monday morning.

 

These towns and cities of New England (many of which would be  villages in Old England), are as favourable specimens of rural  America, as their people are of rural Americans.  The well-trimmed  lawns and green meadows of home are not there; and the grass,  compared with our ornamental plots and pastures, is rank, and  rough, and wild:  but delicate slopes of land, gently-swelling  hills, wooded valleys, and slender streams, abound.  Every little  colony of houses has its church and school-house peeping from among  the white roofs and shady trees; every house is the whitest of the  white; every Venetian blind the greenest of the green; every fine  day's sky the bluest of the blue.  A sharp dry wind and a slight  frost had so hardened the roads when we alighted at Worcester, that  their furrowed tracks were like ridges of granite.  There was the  usual aspect of newness on every object, of course.  All the  buildings looked as if they had been built and painted that  morning, and could be taken down on Monday with very little  trouble.  In the keen evening air, every sharp outline looked a  hundred times sharper than ever.  The clean cardboard colonnades  had no more perspective than a Chinese bridge on a tea-cup, and  appeared equally well calculated for use.  The razor-like edges of  the detached cottages seemed to cut the very wind as it whistled  against them, and to send it smarting on its way with a shriller  cry than before.  Those slightly-built wooden dwellings behind  which the sun was setting with a brilliant lustre, could be so  looked through and through, that the idea of any inhabitant being  able to hide himself from the public gaze, or to have any secrets  from the public eye, was not entertainable for a moment.  Even  where a blazing fire shone through the uncurtained windows of some  distant house, it had the air of being newly lighted, and of  lacking warmth; and instead of awakening thoughts of a snug  chamber, bright with faces that first saw the light round that same  hearth, and ruddy with warm hangings, it came upon one suggestive  of the smell of new mortar and damp walls.

 

So I thought, at least, that evening.  Next morning when the sun  was shining brightly, and the clear church bells were ringing, and  sedate people in their best clothes enlivened the pathway near at  hand and dotted the distant thread of road, there was a pleasant  Sabbath peacefulness on everything, which it was good to feel.  It  would have been the better for an old church; better still for some  old graves; but as it was, a wholesome repose and tranquillity  pervaded the scene, which after the restless ocean and the hurried  city, had a doubly grateful influence on the spirits.

 

We went on next morning, still by railroad, to Springfield.  From  that place to Hartford, whither we were bound, is a distance of  only five-and-twenty miles, but at that time of the year the roads  were so bad that the journey would probably have occupied ten or  twelve hours.  Fortunately, however, the winter having been  unusually mild, the Connecticut River was 'open,' or, in other  words, not frozen.  The captain of a small steamboat was going to  make his first trip for the season that day (the second February  trip, I believe, within the memory of man), and only waited for us  to go on board.  Accordingly, we went on board, with as little  delay as might be.  He was as good as his word, and started  directly.

 

It certainly was not called a small steamboat without reason.  I  omitted to ask the question, but I should think it must have been  of about half a pony power.  Mr. Paap, the celebrated Dwarf, might  have lived and died happily in the cabin, which was fitted with  common sash-windows like an ordinary dwelling-house.  These windows  had bright-red curtains, too, hung on slack strings across the  lower panes; so that it looked like the parlour of a Lilliputian  public-house, which had got afloat in a flood or some other water  accident, and was drifting nobody knew where.  But even in this  chamber there was a rocking-chair.  It would be impossible to get  on anywhere, in America, without a rocking-chair.  I am afraid to  tell how many feet short this vessel was, or how many feet narrow:   to apply the words length and width to such measurement would be a  contradiction in terms.  But I may state that we all kept the  middle of the deck, lest the boat should unexpectedly tip over; and  that the machinery, by some surprising process of condensation,  worked between it and the keel:  the whole forming a warm sandwich,  about three feet thick.

 

It rained all day as I once thought it never did rain anywhere, but  in the Highlands of Scotland.  The river was full of floating  blocks of ice, which were constantly crunching and cracking under  us; and the depth of water, in the course we took to avoid the  larger masses, carried down the middle of the river by the current,  did not exceed a few inches.  Nevertheless, we moved onward,  dexterously; and being well wrapped up, bade defiance to the  weather, and enjoyed the journey.  The Connecticut River is a fine  stream; and the banks in summer-time are, I have no doubt,  beautiful; at all events, I was told so by a young lady in the  cabin; and she should be a judge of beauty, if the possession of a  quality include the appreciation of it, for a more beautiful  creature I never looked upon.

 

After two hours and a half of this odd travelling (including a  stoppage at a small town, where we were saluted by a gun  considerably bigger than our own chimney), we reached Hartford, and  straightway repaired to an extremely comfortable hotel:  except, as  usual, in the article of bedrooms, which, in almost every place we  visited, were very conducive to early rising.

 

We tarried here, four days.  The town is beautifully situated in a  basin of green hills; the soil is rich, well-wooded, and carefully  improved.  It is the seat of the local legislature of Connecticut,  which sage body enacted, in bygone times, the renowned code of  'Blue Laws,' in virtue whereof, among other enlightened provisions,  any citizen who could be proved to have kissed his wife on Sunday,  was punishable, I believe, with the stocks.  Too much of the old  Puritan spirit exists in these parts to the present hour; but its  influence has not tended, that I know, to make the people less hard  in their bargains, or more equal in their dealings.  As I never  heard of its working that effect anywhere else, I infer that it  never will, here.  Indeed, I am accustomed, with reference to great  professions and severe faces, to judge of the goods of the other  world pretty much as I judge of the goods of this; and whenever I  see a dealer in such commodities with too great a display of them  in his window, I doubt the quality of the article within.

 

In Hartford stands the famous oak in which the charter of King  Charles was hidden.  It is now inclosed in a gentleman's garden.   In the State House is the charter itself.  I found the courts of  law here, just the same as at Boston; the public institutions  almost as good.  The Insane Asylum is admirably conducted, and so  is the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.

 

I very much questioned within myself, as I walked through the  Insane Asylum, whether I should have known the attendants from the  patients, but for the few words which passed between the former,  and the Doctor, in reference to the persons under their charge.  Of  course I limit this remark merely to their looks; for the  conversation of the mad people was mad enough.

 

There was one little, prim old lady, of very smiling and good-humoured appearance, who came sidling up to me from the end of a  long passage, and with a curtsey of inexpressible condescension,  propounded this unaccountable inquiry:

 

'Does Pontefract still flourish, sir, upon the soil of England?'

 

'He does, ma'am,' I rejoined.

 

'When you last saw him, sir, he was - '

 

'Well, ma'am,' said I, 'extremely well.  He begged me to present  his compliments.  I never saw him looking better.'

 

At this, the old lady was very much delighted.  After glancing at  me for a moment, as if to be quite sure that I was serious in my  respectful air, she sidled back some paces; sidled forward again;  made a sudden skip (at which I precipitately retreated a step or  two); and said:

 

'I am an antediluvian, sir.'

 

I thought the best thing to say was, that I had suspected as much  from the first.  Therefore I said so.

 

'It is an extremely proud and pleasant thing, sir, to be an  antediluvian,' said the old lady.

 

'I should think it was, ma'am,' I rejoined.

 

The old lady kissed her hand, gave another skip, smirked and sidled  down the gallery in a most extraordinary manner, and ambled  gracefully into her own bed-chamber.

 

In another part of the building, there was a male patient in bed;  very much flushed and heated.

 

'Well,' said he, starting up, and pulling off his night-cap:  'It's  all settled at last.  I have arranged it with Queen Victoria.'

 

'Arranged what?' asked the Doctor.

 

'Why, that business,' passing his hand wearily across his forehead,  'about the siege of New York.'

 

'Oh!' said I, like a man suddenly enlightened.  For he looked at me  for an answer.

 

'Yes.  Every house without a signal will be fired upon by the  British troops.  No harm will be done to the others.  No harm at  all.  Those that want to be safe, must hoist flags.  That's all  they'll have to do.  They must hoist flags.'

 

Even while he was speaking he seemed, I thought, to have some faint  idea that his talk was incoherent.  Directly he had said these  words, he lay down again; gave a kind of a groan; and covered his  hot head with the blankets.

 

There was another:  a young man, whose madness was love and music.   After playing on the accordion a march he had composed, he was very  anxious that I should walk into his chamber, which I immediately  did.

 

By way of being very knowing, and humouring him to the top of his  bent, I went to the window, which commanded a beautiful prospect,  and remarked, with an address upon which I greatly plumed myself:

 

'What a delicious country you have about these lodgings of yours!'

 

'Poh!' said he, moving his fingers carelessly over the notes of his  instrument:  'WELL ENOUGH FOR SUCH AN INSTITUTION AS THIS!'

 

I don't think I was ever so taken aback in all my life.

 

'I come here just for a whim,' he said coolly.  'That's all.'

 

'Oh!  That's all!' said I.

 

'Yes.  That's all.  The Doctor's a smart man.  He quite enters into  it.  It's a joke of mine.  I like it for a time.  You needn't  mention it, but I think I shall go out next Tuesday!'

 

I assured him that I would consider our interview perfectly  confidential; and rejoined the Doctor.  As we were passing through  a gallery on our way out, a well-dressed lady, of quiet and  composed manners, came up, and proffering a slip of paper and a  pen, begged that I would oblige her with an autograph, I complied,  and we parted.

 

'I think I remember having had a few interviews like that, with  ladies out of doors.  I hope SHE is not mad?'

 

'Yes.'

 

'On what subject?  Autographs?'

 

'No.  She hears voices in the air.'

 

'Well!' thought I, 'it would be well if we could shut up a few  false prophets of these later times, who have professed to do the  same; and I should like to try the experiment on a Mormonist or two  to begin with.'

 

In this place, there is the best jail for untried offenders in the  world.  There is also a very well-ordered State prison, arranged  upon the same plan as that at Boston, except that here, there is  always a sentry on the wall with a loaded gun.  It contained at  that time about two hundred prisoners.  A spot was shown me in the  sleeping ward, where a watchman was murdered some years since in  the dead of night, in a desperate attempt to escape, made by a  prisoner who had broken from his cell.  A woman, too, was pointed  out to me, who, for the murder of her husband, had been a close  prisoner for sixteen years.

 

'Do you think,' I asked of my conductor, 'that after so very long  an imprisonment, she has any thought or hope of ever regaining her  liberty?'

 

'Oh dear yes,' he answered.  'To be sure she has.'

 

'She has no chance of obtaining it, I suppose?'

 

'Well, I don't know:' which, by-the-bye, is a national answer.   'Her friends mistrust her.'

 

'What have THEY to do with it?' I naturally inquired.

 

'Well, they won't petition.'

 

'But if they did, they couldn't get her out, I suppose?'

 

'Well, not the first time, perhaps, nor yet the second, but tiring  and wearying for a few years might do it.'

 

'Does that ever do it?'

 

'Why yes, that'll do it sometimes.  Political friends'll do it  sometimes.  It's pretty often done, one way or another.'

 

I shall always entertain a very pleasant and grateful recollection  of Hartford.  It is a lovely place, and I had many friends there,  whom I can never remember with indifference.  We left it with no  little regret on the evening of Friday the 11th, and travelled that  night by railroad to New Haven.  Upon the way, the guard and I were  formally introduced to each other (as we usually were on such  occasions), and exchanged a variety of small-talk.  We reached New  Haven at about eight o'clock, after a journey of three hours, and  put up for the night at the best inn.

 

New Haven, known also as the City of Elms, is a fine town.  Many of  its streets (as its ALIAS sufficiently imports) are planted with  rows of grand old elm-trees; and the same natural ornaments  surround Yale College, an establishment of considerable eminence  and reputation.  The various departments of this Institution are  erected in a kind of park or common in the middle of the town,  where they are dimly visible among the shadowing trees.  The effect  is very like that of an old cathedral yard in England; and when  their branches are in full leaf, must be extremely picturesque.   Even in the winter time, these groups of well-grown trees,  clustering among the busy streets and houses of a thriving city,  have a very quaint appearance:  seeming to bring about a kind of  compromise between town and country; as if each had met the other  half-way, and shaken hands upon it; which is at once novel and  pleasant.

 

After a night's rest, we rose early, and in good time went down to  the wharf, and on board the packet New York FOR New York.  This was  the first American steamboat of any size that I had seen; and  certainly to an English eye it was infinitely less like a steamboat  than a huge floating bath.  I could hardly persuade myself, indeed,  but that the bathing establishment off Westminster Bridge, which I  left a baby, had suddenly grown to an enormous size; run away from  home; and set up in foreign parts as a steamer.  Being in America,  too, which our vagabonds do so particularly favour, it seemed the  more probable.

 

The great difference in appearance between these packets and ours,  is, that there is so much of them out of the water:  the main-deck  being enclosed on all sides, and filled with casks and goods, like  any second or third floor in a stack of warehouses; and the  promenade or hurricane-deck being a-top of that again.  A part of  the machinery is always above this deck; where the connecting-rod,  in a strong and lofty frame, is seen working away like an iron top-sawyer.  There is seldom any mast or tackle:  nothing aloft but two  tall black chimneys.  The man at the helm is shut up in a little  house in the fore part of the boat (the wheel being connected with  the rudder by iron chains, working the whole length of the deck);  and the passengers, unless the weather be very fine indeed, usually  congregate below.  Directly you have left the wharf, all the life,  and stir, and bustle of a packet cease.  You wonder for a long time  how she goes on, for there seems to be nobody in charge of her; and  when another of these dull machines comes splashing by, you feel  quite indignant with it, as a sullen cumbrous, ungraceful,  unshiplike leviathan:  quite forgetting that the vessel you are on  board of, is its very counterpart.

 

There is always a clerk's office on the lower deck, where you pay  your fare; a ladies' cabin; baggage and stowage rooms; engineer's  room; and in short a great variety of perplexities which render the  discovery of the gentlemen's cabin, a matter of some difficulty.   It often occupies the whole length of the boat (as it did in this  case), and has three or four tiers of berths on each side.  When I  first descended into the cabin of the New York, it looked, in my  unaccustomed eyes, about as long as the Burlington Arcade.

 

The Sound which has to be crossed on this passage, is not always a  very safe or pleasant navigation, and has been the scene of some  unfortunate accidents.  It was a wet morning, and very misty, and  we soon lost sight of land.  The day was calm, however, and  brightened towards noon.  After exhausting (with good help from a  friend) the larder, and the stock of bottled beer, I lay down to  sleep; being very much tired with the fatigues of yesterday.  But I  woke from my nap in time to hurry up, and see Hell Gate, the Hog's  Back, the Frying Pan, and other notorious localities, attractive to  all readers of famous Diedrich Knickerbocker's History.  We were  now in a narrow channel, with sloping banks on either side,  besprinkled with pleasant villas, and made refreshing to the sight  by turf and trees.  Soon we shot in quick succession, past a light-house; a madhouse (how the lunatics flung up their caps and roared  in sympathy with the headlong engine and the driving tide!); a  jail; and other buildings:  and so emerged into a noble bay, whose  waters sparkled in the now cloudless sunshine like Nature's eyes  turned up to Heaven.

 

Then there lay stretched out before us, to the right, confused  heaps of buildings, with here and there a spire or steeple, looking  down upon the herd below; and here and there, again, a cloud of  lazy smoke; and in the foreground a forest of ships' masts, cheery  with flapping sails and waving flags.  Crossing from among them to  the opposite shore, were steam ferry-boats laden with people,  coaches, horses, waggons, baskets, boxes:  crossed and recrossed by  other ferry-boats:  all travelling to and fro:  and never idle.   Stately among these restless Insects, were two or three large  ships, moving with slow majestic pace, as creatures of a prouder  kind, disdainful of their puny journeys, and making for the broad  sea.  Beyond, were shining heights, and islands in the glancing  river, and a distance scarcely less blue and bright than the sky it  seemed to meet.  The city's hum and buzz, the clinking of capstans,  the ringing of bells, the barking of dogs, the clattering of  wheels, tingled in the listening ear.  All of which life and stir,  coming across the stirring water, caught new life and animation  from its free companionship; and, sympathising with its buoyant  spirits, glistened as it seemed in sport upon its surface, and  hemmed the vessel round, and plashed the water high about her  sides, and, floating her gallantly into the dock, flew off again to  welcome other comers, and speed before them to the busy port.

 


CHAPTER VI - NEW YORK

 

THE beautiful metropolis of America is by no means so clean a city  as Boston, but many of its streets have the same characteristics;  except that the houses are not quite so fresh-coloured, the sign-boards are not quite so gaudy, the gilded letters not quite so  golden, the bricks not quite so red, the stone not quite so white,  the blinds and area railings not quite so green, the knobs and  plates upon the street doors not quite so bright and twinkling.   There are many by-streets, almost as neutral in clean colours, and  positive in dirty ones, as by-streets in London; and there is one  quarter, commonly called the Five Points, which, in respect of  filth and wretchedness, may be safely backed against Seven Dials,  or any other part of famed St. Giles's.

 

The great promenade and thoroughfare, as most people know, is  Broadway; a wide and bustling street, which, from the Battery  Gardens to its opposite termination in a country road, may be four  miles long.  Shall we sit down in an upper floor of the Carlton  House Hotel (situated in the best part of this main artery of New  York), and when we are tired of looking down upon the life below,  sally forth arm-in-arm, and mingle with the stream?

 

Warm weather!  The sun strikes upon our heads at this open window,  as though its rays were concentrated through a burning-glass; but  the day is in its zenith, and the season an unusual one.  Was there  ever such a sunny street as this Broadway!  The pavement stones are  polished with the tread of feet until they shine again; the red  bricks of the houses might be yet in the dry, hot kilns; and the  roofs of those omnibuses look as though, if water were poured on  them, they would hiss and smoke, and smell like half-quenched  fires.  No stint of omnibuses here!  Half-a-dozen have gone by  within as many minutes.  Plenty of hackney cabs and coaches too;  gigs, phaetons, large-wheeled tilburies, and private carriages -  rather of a clumsy make, and not very different from the public  vehicles, but built for the heavy roads beyond the city pavement.   Negro coachmen and white; in straw hats, black hats, white hats,  glazed caps, fur caps; in coats of drab, black, brown, green, blue,  nankeen, striped jean and linen; and there, in that one instance  (look while it passes, or it will be too late), in suits of livery.   Some southern republican that, who puts his blacks in uniform, and  swells with Sultan pomp and power.  Yonder, where that phaeton with  the well-clipped pair of grays has stopped - standing at their  heads now - is a Yorkshire groom, who has not been very long in  these parts, and looks sorrowfully round for a companion pair of  top-boots, which he may traverse the city half a year without  meeting.  Heaven save the ladies, how they dress!  We have seen  more colours in these ten minutes, than we should have seen  elsewhere, in as many days.  What various parasols! what rainbow  silks and satins! what pinking of thin stockings, and pinching of  thin shoes, and fluttering of ribbons and silk tassels, and display  of rich cloaks with gaudy hoods and linings!  The young gentlemen  are fond, you see, of turning down their shirt-collars and  cultivating their whiskers, especially under the chin; but they  cannot approach the ladies in their dress or bearing, being, to say  the truth, humanity of quite another sort.  Byrons of the desk and  counter, pass on, and let us see what kind of men those are behind  ye:  those two labourers in holiday clothes, of whom one carries in  his hand a crumpled scrap of paper from which he tries to spell out  a hard name, while the other looks about for it on all the doors  and windows.

 

Irishmen both!  You might know them, if they were masked, by their  long-tailed blue coats and bright buttons, and their drab trousers,  which they wear like men well used to working dresses, who are easy  in no others.  It would be hard to keep your model republics going,  without the countrymen and countrywomen of those two labourers.   For who else would dig, and delve, and drudge, and do domestic  work, and make canals and roads, and execute great lines of  Internal Improvement!  Irishmen both, and sorely puzzled too, to  find out what they seek.  Let us go down, and help them, for the  love of home, and that spirit of liberty which admits of honest  service to honest men, and honest work for honest bread, no matter  what it be.

 

That's well!  We have got at the right address at last, though it  is written in strange characters truly, and might have been  scrawled with the blunt handle of the spade the writer better knows  the use of, than a pen.  Their way lies yonder, but what business  takes them there?  They carry savings:  to hoard up?  No.  They are  brothers, those men.  One crossed the sea alone, and working very  hard for one half year, and living harder, saved funds enough to  bring the other out.  That done, they worked together side by side,  contentedly sharing hard labour and hard living for another term,  and then their sisters came, and then another brother, and lastly,  their old mother.  And what now?  Why, the poor old crone is  restless in a strange land, and yearns to lay her bones, she says,  among her people in the old graveyard at home:  and so they go to  pay her passage back:  and God help her and them, and every simple  heart, and all who turn to the Jerusalem of their younger days, and  have an altar-fire upon the cold hearth of their fathers.

 

This narrow thoroughfare, baking and blistering in the sun, is Wall  Street:  the Stock Exchange and Lombard Street of New York.  Many a  rapid fortune has been made in this street, and many a no less  rapid ruin.  Some of these very merchants whom you see hanging  about here now, have locked up money in their strong-boxes, like  the man in the Arabian Nights, and opening them again, have found  but withered leaves.  Below, here by the water-side, where the  bowsprits of ships stretch across the footway, and almost thrust  themselves into the windows, lie the noble American vessels which  having made their Packet Service the finest in the world.  They  have brought hither the foreigners who abound in all the streets:   not, perhaps, that there are more here, than in other commercial  cities; but elsewhere, they have particular haunts, and you must  find them out; here, they pervade the town.

 

We must cross Broadway again; gaining some refreshment from the  heat, in the sight of the great blocks of clean ice which are being  carried into shops and bar-rooms; and the pine-apples and water-melons profusely displayed for sale.  Fine streets of spacious  houses here, you see! - Wall Street has furnished and dismantled  many of them very often - and here a deep green leafy square.  Be  sure that is a hospitable house with inmates to be affectionately  remembered always, where they have the open door and pretty show of  plants within, and where the child with laughing eyes is peeping  out of window at the little dog below.  You wonder what may be the  use of this tall flagstaff in the by-street, with something like  Liberty's head-dress on its top:  so do I.  But there is a passion  for tall flagstaffs hereabout, and you may see its twin brother in  five minutes, if you have a mind.

 

Again across Broadway, and so - passing from the many-coloured  crowd and glittering shops - into another long main street, the  Bowery.  A railroad yonder, see, where two stout horses trot along,  drawing a score or two of people and a great wooden ark, with ease.   The stores are poorer here; the passengers less gay.  Clothes  ready-made, and meat ready-cooked, are to be bought in these parts;  and the lively whirl of carriages is exchanged for the deep rumble  of carts and waggons.  These signs which are so plentiful, in shape  like river buoys, or small balloons, hoisted by cords to poles, and  dangling there, announce, as you may see by looking up, 'OYSTERS IN  EVERY STYLE.'  They tempt the hungry most at night, for then dull  candles glimmering inside, illuminate these dainty words, and make  the mouths of idlers water, as they read and linger.

 

What is this dismal-fronted pile of bastard Egyptian, like an  enchanter's palace in a melodrama! - a famous prison, called The  Tombs.  Shall we go in?

 

So.  A long, narrow, lofty building, stove-heated as usual, with  four galleries, one above the other, going round it, and  communicating by stairs.  Between the two sides of each gallery,  and in its centre, a bridge, for the greater convenience of  crossing.  On each of these bridges sits a man:  dozing or reading,  or talking to an idle companion.  On each tier, are two opposite  rows of small iron doors.  They look like furnace-doors, but are  cold and black, as though the fires within had all gone out.  Some  two or three are open, and women, with drooping heads bent down,  are talking to the inmates.  The whole is lighted by a skylight,  but it is fast closed; and from the roof there dangle, limp and  drooping, two useless windsails.

 

A man with keys appears, to show us round.  A good-looking fellow,  and, in his way, civil and obliging.

 

'Are those black doors the cells?'

 

'Yes.'

 

'Are they all full?'

 

'Well, they're pretty nigh full, and that's a fact, and no two ways  about it.'

 

'Those at the bottom are unwholesome, surely?'

 

'Why, we DO only put coloured people in 'em.  That's the truth.'

 

'When do the prisoners take exercise?'

 

'Well, they do without it pretty much.'

 

'Do they never walk in the yard?'

 

'Considerable seldom.'

 

'Sometimes, I suppose?'

 

'Well, it's rare they do.  They keep pretty bright without it.'

 

'But suppose a man were here for a twelvemonth.  I know this is  only a prison for criminals who are charged with grave offences,  while they are awaiting their trial, or under remand, but the law  here affords criminals many means of delay.  What with motions for  new trials, and in arrest of judgment, and what not, a prisoner  might be here for twelve months, I take it, might he not?'

 

'Well, I guess he might.'

 

'Do you mean to say that in all that time he would never come out  at that little iron door, for exercise?'

 

'He might walk some, perhaps - not much.'

 

'Will you open one of the doors?'

 

'All, if you like.'

 

The fastenings jar and rattle, and one of the doors turns slowly on  its hinges.  Let us look in.  A small bare cell, into which the  light enters through a high chink in the wall.  There is a rude  means of washing, a table, and a bedstead.  Upon the latter, sits a  man of sixty; reading.  He looks up for a moment; gives an  impatient dogged shake; and fixes his eyes upon his book again.  As  we withdraw our heads, the door closes on him, and is fastened as  before.  This man has murdered his wife, and will probably be  hanged.

 

'How long has he been here?'

 

'A month.'

 

'When will he be tried?'

 

'Next term.'

 

'When is that?'

 

'Next month.'

 

'In England, if a man be under sentence of death, even he has air  and exercise at certain periods of the day.'

 

'Possible?'

 

With what stupendous and untranslatable coolness he says this, and  how loungingly he leads on to the women's side:  making, as he  goes, a kind of iron castanet of the key and the stair-rail!

 

Each cell door on this side has a square aperture in it.  Some of  the women peep anxiously through it at the sound of footsteps;  others shrink away in shame. - For what offence can that lonely  child, of ten or twelve years old, be shut up here?  Oh! that boy?   He is the son of the prisoner we saw just now; is a witness against  his father; and is detained here for safe keeping, until the trial;  that's all.

 

But it is a dreadful place for the child to pass the long days and  nights in.  This is rather hard treatment for a young witness, is  it not? - What says our conductor?

 

'Well, it an't a very rowdy life, and THAT'S a fact!'

 

Again he clinks his metal castanet, and leads us leisurely away.  I  have a question to ask him as we go.

 

'Pray, why do they call this place The Tombs?'

 

'Well, it's the cant name.'

 

'I know it is.  Why?'

 

'Some suicides happened here, when it was first built.  I expect it  come about from that.'

 

'I saw just now, that that man's clothes were scattered about the  floor of his cell.  Don't you oblige the prisoners to be orderly,  and put such things away?'

 

'Where should they put 'em?'

 

'Not on the ground surely.  What do you say to hanging them up?'

 

He stops and looks round to emphasise his answer:

 

'Why, I say that's just it.  When they had hooks they WOULD hang  themselves, so they're taken out of every cell, and there's only  the marks left where they used to be!'

 

The prison-yard in which he pauses now, has been the scene of  terrible performances.  Into this narrow, grave-like place, men are  brought out to die.  The wretched creature stands beneath the  gibbet on the ground; the rope about his neck; and when the sign is  given, a weight at its other end comes running down, and swings him  up into the air - a corpse.

 

The law requires that there be present at this dismal spectacle,  the judge, the jury, and citizens to the amount of twenty-five.   From the community it is hidden.  To the dissolute and bad, the  thing remains a frightful mystery.  Between the criminal and them,  the prison-wall is interposed as a thick gloomy veil.  It is the  curtain to his bed of death, his winding-sheet, and grave.  From  him it shuts out life, and all the motives to unrepenting hardihood  in that last hour, which its mere sight and presence is often all-sufficient to sustain.  There are no bold eyes to make him bold; no  ruffians to uphold a ruffian's name before.  All beyond the  pitiless stone wall, is unknown space.

 

Let us go forth again into the cheerful streets.

 

Once more in Broadway!  Here are the same ladies in bright colours,  walking to and fro, in pairs and singly; yonder the very same light  blue parasol which passed and repassed the hotel-window twenty  times while we were sitting there.  We are going to cross here.   Take care of the pigs.  Two portly sows are trotting up behind this  carriage, and a select party of half-a-dozen gentlemen hogs have  just now turned the corner.

 

Here is a solitary swine lounging homeward by himself.  He has only  one ear; having parted with the other to vagrant-dogs in the course  of his city rambles.  But he gets on very well without it; and  leads a roving, gentlemanly, vagabond kind of life, somewhat  answering to that of our club-men at home.  He leaves his lodgings  every morning at a certain hour, throws himself upon the town, gets  through his day in some manner quite satisfactory to himself, and  regularly appears at the door of his own house again at night, like  the mysterious master of Gil Blas.  He is a free-and-easy,  careless, indifferent kind of pig, having a very large acquaintance  among other pigs of the same character, whom he rather knows by  sight than conversation, as he seldom troubles himself to stop and  exchange civilities, but goes grunting down the kennel, turning up  the news and small-talk of the city in the shape of cabbage-stalks  and offal, and bearing no tails but his own:  which is a very short  one, for his old enemies, the dogs, have been at that too, and have  left him hardly enough to swear by.  He is in every respect a  republican pig, going wherever he pleases, and mingling with the  best society, on an equal, if not superior footing, for every one  makes way when he appears, and the haughtiest give him the wall, if  he prefer it.  He is a great philosopher, and seldom moved, unless  by the dogs before mentioned.  Sometimes, indeed, you may see his  small eye twinkling on a slaughtered friend, whose carcase  garnishes a butcher's door-post, but he grunts out 'Such is life:   all flesh is pork!' buries his nose in the mire again, and waddles  down the gutter:  comforting himself with the reflection that there  is one snout the less to anticipate stray cabbage-stalks, at any  rate.

 

They are the city scavengers, these pigs.  Ugly brutes they are;  having, for the most part, scanty brown backs, like the lids of old  horsehair trunks:  spotted with unwholesome black blotches.  They  have long, gaunt legs, too, and such peaked snouts, that if one of  them could be persuaded to sit for his profile, nobody would  recognise it for a pig's likeness.  They are never attended upon,  or fed, or driven, or caught, but are thrown upon their own  resources in early life, and become preternaturally knowing in  consequence.  Every pig knows where he lives, much better than  anybody could tell him.  At this hour, just as evening is closing  in, you will see them roaming towards bed by scores, eating their  way to the last.  Occasionally, some youth among them who has over-eaten himself, or has been worried by dogs, trots shrinkingly  homeward, like a prodigal son:  but this is a rare case:  perfect  self-possession and self-reliance, and immovable composure, being  their foremost attributes.

 

The streets and shops are lighted now; and as the eye travels down  the long thoroughfare, dotted with bright jets of gas, it is  reminded of Oxford Street, or Piccadilly.  Here and there a flight  of broad stone cellar-steps appears, and a painted lamp directs you  to the Bowling Saloon, or Ten-Pin alley; Ten-Pins being a game of  mingled chance and skill, invented when the legislature passed an  act forbidding Nine-Pins.  At other downward flights of steps, are  other lamps, marking the whereabouts of oyster-cellars - pleasant  retreats, say I:  not only by reason of their wonderful cookery of  oysters, pretty nigh as large as cheese-plates (or for thy dear  sake, heartiest of Greek Professors!), but because of all kinds of  caters of fish, or flesh, or fowl, in these latitudes, the  swallowers of oysters alone are not gregarious; but subduing  themselves, as it were, to the nature of what they work in, and  copying the coyness of the thing they eat, do sit apart in  curtained boxes, and consort by twos, not by two hundreds.

 

But how quiet the streets are!  Are there no itinerant bands; no  wind or stringed instruments?  No, not one.  By day, are there no  Punches, Fantoccini, Dancing-dogs, Jugglers, Conjurers,  Orchestrinas, or even Barrel-organs?  No, not one.  Yes, I remember  one.  One barrel-organ and a dancing-monkey - sportive by nature,  but fast fading into a dull, lumpish monkey, of the Utilitarian  school.  Beyond that, nothing lively; no, not so much as a white  mouse in a twirling cage.

 

Are there no amusements?  Yes.  There is a lecture-room across the  way, from which that glare of light proceeds, and there may be  evening service for the ladies thrice a week, or oftener.  For the  young gentlemen, there is the counting-house, the store, the bar-room:  the latter, as you may see through these windows, pretty  full.  Hark! to the clinking sound of hammers breaking lumps of  ice, and to the cool gurgling of the pounded bits, as, in the  process of mixing, they are poured from glass to glass!  No  amusements?  What are these suckers of cigars and swallowers of  strong drinks, whose hats and legs we see in every possible variety  of twist, doing, but amusing themselves?  What are the fifty  newspapers, which those precocious urchins are bawling down the  street, and which are kept filed within, what are they but  amusements?  Not vapid, waterish amusements, but good strong stuff;  dealing in round abuse and blackguard names; pulling off the roofs  of private houses, as the Halting Devil did in Spain; pimping and  pandering for all degrees of vicious taste, and gorging with coined  lies the most voracious maw; imputing to every man in public life  the coarsest and the vilest motives; scaring away from the stabbed  and prostrate body-politic, every Samaritan of clear conscience and  good deeds; and setting on, with yell and whistle and the clapping  of foul hands, the vilest vermin and worst birds of prey. - No  amusements!

 

Let us go on again; and passing this wilderness of an hotel with  stores about its base, like some Continental theatre, or the London  Opera House shorn of its colonnade, plunge into the Five Points.   But it is needful, first, that we take as our escort these two  heads of the police, whom you would know for sharp and well-trained  officers if you met them in the Great Desert.  So true it is, that  certain pursuits, wherever carried on, will stamp men with the same  character.  These two might have been begotten, born, and bred, in  Bow Street.

 

We have seen no beggars in the streets by night or day; but of  other kinds of strollers, plenty.  Poverty, wretchedness, and vice,  are rife enough where we are going now.

 

This is the place:  these narrow ways, diverging to the right and  left, and reeking everywhere with dirt and filth.  Such lives as  are led here, bear the same fruits here as elsewhere.  The coarse  and bloated faces at the doors, have counterparts at home, and all  the wide world over.  Debauchery has made the very houses  prematurely old.  See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and  how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes  that have been hurt in drunken frays.  Many of those pigs live  here.  Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright in lieu  of going on all-fours? and why they talk instead of grunting?

 

So far, nearly every house is a low tavern; and on the bar-room  walls, are coloured prints of Washington, and Queen Victoria of  England, and the American Eagle.  Among the pigeon-holes that hold  the bottles, are pieces of plate-glass and coloured paper, for  there is, in some sort, a taste for decoration, even here.  And as  seamen frequent these haunts, there are maritime pictures by the  dozen:  of partings between sailors and their lady-loves, portraits  of William, of the ballad, and his Black-Eyed Susan; of Will Watch,  the Bold Smuggler; of Paul Jones the Pirate, and the like:  on  which the painted eyes of Queen Victoria, and of Washington to  boot, rest in as strange companionship, as on most of the scenes  that are enacted in their wondering presence.

 

What place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us?  A  kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only  by crazy wooden stairs without.  What lies beyond this tottering  flight of steps, that creak beneath our tread? - a miserable room,  lighted by one dim candle, and destitute of all comfort, save that  which may be hidden in a wretched bed.  Beside it, sits a man:  his  elbows on his knees:  his forehead hidden in his hands.  'What ails  that man?' asks the foremost officer.  'Fever,' he sullenly  replies, without looking up.  Conceive the fancies of a feverish  brain, in such a place as this!

 

Ascend these pitch-dark stairs, heedful of a false footing on the  trembling boards, and grope your way with me into this wolfish den,  where neither ray of light nor breath of air, appears to come.  A  negro lad, startled from his sleep by the officer's voice - he  knows it well - but comforted by his assurance that he has not come  on business, officiously bestirs himself to light a candle.  The  match flickers for a moment, and shows great mounds of dusty rags  upon the ground; then dies away and leaves a denser darkness than  before, if there can be degrees in such extremes.  He stumbles down  the stairs and presently comes back, shading a flaring taper with  his hand.  Then the mounds of rags are seen to be astir, and rise  slowly up, and the floor is covered with heaps of negro women,  waking from their sleep:  their white teeth chattering, and their  bright eyes glistening and winking on all sides with surprise and  fear, like the countless repetition of one astonished African face  in some strange mirror.

 

Mount up these other stairs with no less caution (there are traps  and pitfalls here, for those who are not so well escorted as  ourselves) into the housetop; where the bare beams and rafters meet  overhead, and calm night looks down through the crevices in the  roof.  Open the door of one of these cramped hutches full of  sleeping negroes.  Pah!  They have a charcoal fire within; there is  a smell of singeing clothes, or flesh, so close they gather round  the brazier; and vapours issue forth that blind and suffocate.   From every corner, as you glance about you in these dark retreats,  some figure crawls half-awakened, as if the judgment-hour were near  at hand, and every obscene grave were giving up its dead.  Where  dogs would howl to lie, women, and men, and boys slink off to  sleep, forcing the dislodged rats to move away in quest of better  lodgings.

 

Here too are lanes and alleys, paved with mud knee-deep,  underground chambers, where they dance and game; the walls bedecked  with rough designs of ships, and forts, and flags, and American  eagles out of number:  ruined houses, open to the street, whence,  through wide gaps in the walls, other ruins loom upon the eye, as  though the world of vice and misery had nothing else to show:   hideous tenements which take their name from robbery and murder:   all that is loathsome, drooping, and decayed is here.

 

Our leader has his hand upon the latch of 'Almack's,' and calls to  us from the bottom of the steps; for the assembly-room of the Five  Point fashionables is approached by a descent.  Shall we go in?  It  is but a moment.

 

Heyday! the landlady of Almack's thrives!  A buxom fat mulatto  woman, with sparkling eyes, whose head is daintily ornamented with  a handkerchief of many colours.  Nor is the landlord much behind  her in his finery, being attired in a smart blue jacket, like a  ship's steward, with a thick gold ring upon his little finger, and  round his neck a gleaming golden watch-guard.  How glad he is to  see us!  What will we please to call for?  A dance?  It shall be  done directly, sir:  'a regular break-down.'

 

The corpulent black fiddler, and his friend who plays the  tambourine, stamp upon the boarding of the small raised orchestra  in which they sit, and play a lively measure.  Five or six couple  come upon the floor, marshalled by a lively young negro, who is the  wit of the assembly, and the greatest dancer known.  He never  leaves off making queer faces, and is the delight of all the rest,  who grin from ear to ear incessantly.  Among the dancers are two  young mulatto girls, with large, black, drooping eyes, and head-gear after the fashion of the hostess, who are as shy, or feign to  be, as though they never danced before, and so look down before the  visitors, that their partners can see nothing but the long fringed  lashes.

 

But the dance commences.  Every gentleman sets as long as he likes  to the opposite lady, and the opposite lady to him, and all are so  long about it that the sport begins to languish, when suddenly the  lively hero dashes in to the rescue.  Instantly the fiddler grins,  and goes at it tooth and nail; there is new energy in the  tambourine; new laughter in the dancers; new smiles in the  landlady; new confidence in the landlord; new brightness in the  very candles.

 

Single shuffle, double shuffle, cut and cross-cut; snapping his  fingers, rolling his eyes, turning in his knees, presenting the  backs of his legs in front, spinning about on his toes and heels  like nothing but the man's fingers on the tambourine; dancing with  two left legs, two right legs, two wooden legs, two wire legs, two  spring legs - all sorts of legs and no legs - what is this to him?   And in what walk of life, or dance of life, does man ever get such  stimulating applause as thunders about him, when, having danced his  partner off her feet, and himself too, he finishes by leaping  gloriously on the bar-counter, and calling for something to drink,  with the chuckle of a million of counterfeit Jim Crows, in one  inimitable sound!

 

The air, even in these distempered parts, is fresh after the  stifling atmosphere of the houses; and now, as we emerge into a  broader street, it blows upon us with a purer breath, and the stars  look bright again.  Here are The Tombs once more.  The city watch-house is a part of the building.  It follows naturally on the  sights we have just left.  Let us see that, and then to bed.

 

What! do you thrust your common offenders against the police  discipline of the town, into such holes as these?  Do men and  women, against whom no crime is proved, lie here all night in  perfect darkness, surrounded by the noisome vapours which encircle  that flagging lamp you light us with, and breathing this filthy and  offensive stench!  Why, such indecent and disgusting dungeons as  these cells, would bring disgrace upon the most despotic empire in  the world!  Look at them, man - you, who see them every night, and  keep the keys.  Do you see what they are?  Do you know how drains  are made below the streets, and wherein these human sewers differ,  except in being always stagnant?

 

Well, he don't know.  He has had five-and-twenty young women locked  up in this very cell at one time, and you'd hardly realise what  handsome faces there were among 'em.

 

In God's name! shut the door upon the wretched creature who is in  it now, and put its screen before a place, quite unsurpassed in all  the vice, neglect, and devilry, of the worst old town in Europe.

 

Are people really left all night, untried, in those black sties? -  Every night.  The watch is set at seven in the evening.  The  magistrate opens his court at five in the morning.  That is the  earliest hour at which the first prisoner can be released; and if  an officer appear against him, he is not taken out till nine  o'clock or ten. - But if any one among them die in the interval, as  one man did, not long ago?  Then he is half-eaten by the rats in an  hour's time; as that man was; and there an end.

 

What is this intolerable tolling of great bells, and crashing of  wheels, and shouting in the distance?  A fire.  And what that deep  red light in the opposite direction?  Another fire.  And what these  charred and blackened walls we stand before?  A dwelling where a  fire has been.  It was more than hinted, in an official report, not  long ago, that some of these conflagrations were not wholly  accidental, and that speculation and enterprise found a field of  exertion, even in flames:  but be this as it may, there was a fire  last night, there are two to-night, and you may lay an even wager  there will be at least one, to-morrow.  So, carrying that with us  for our comfort, let us say, Good night, and climb up-stairs to  bed.

 

* * * * * *

 

One day, during my stay in New York, I paid a visit to the  different public institutions on Long Island, or Rhode Island:  I  forget which.  One of them is a Lunatic Asylum.  The building is  handsome; and is remarkable for a spacious and elegant staircase.   The whole structure is not yet finished, but it is already one of  considerable size and extent, and is capable of accommodating a  very large number of patients.

 

I cannot say that I derived much comfort from the inspection of  this charity.  The different wards might have been cleaner and  better ordered; I saw nothing of that salutary system which had  impressed me so favourably elsewhere; and everything had a  lounging, listless, madhouse air, which was very painful.  The  moping idiot, cowering down with long dishevelled hair; the  gibbering maniac, with his hideous laugh and pointed finger; the  vacant eye, the fierce wild face, the gloomy picking of the hands  and lips, and munching of the nails:  there they were all, without  disguise, in naked ugliness and horror.  In the dining-room, a  bare, dull, dreary place, with nothing for the eye to rest on but  the empty walls, a woman was locked up alone.  She was bent, they  told me, on committing suicide.  If anything could have  strengthened her in her resolution, it would certainly have been  the insupportable monotony of such an existence.

 

The terrible crowd with which these halls and galleries were  filled, so shocked me, that I abridged my stay within the shortest  limits, and declined to see that portion of the building in which  the refractory and violent were under closer restraint.  I have no  doubt that the gentleman who presided over this establishment at  the time I write of, was competent to manage it, and had done all  in his power to promote its usefulness:  but will it be believed  that the miserable strife of Party feeling is carried even into  this sad refuge of afflicted and degraded humanity?  Will it be  believed that the eyes which are to watch over and control the  wanderings of minds on which the most dreadful visitation to which  our nature is exposed has fallen, must wear the glasses of some  wretched side in Politics?  Will it be believed that the governor  of such a house as this, is appointed, and deposed, and changed  perpetually, as Parties fluctuate and vary, and as their despicable  weathercocks are blown this way or that?  A hundred times in every  week, some new most paltry exhibition of that narrow-minded and  injurious Party Spirit, which is the Simoom of America, sickening  and blighting everything of wholesome life within its reach, was  forced upon my notice; but I never turned my back upon it with  feelings of such deep disgust and measureless contempt, as when I  crossed the threshold of this madhouse.

 

At a short distance from this building is another called the Alms  House, that is to say, the workhouse of New York.  This is a large  Institution also:  lodging, I believe, when I was there, nearly a  thousand poor.  It was badly ventilated, and badly lighted; was not  too clean; - and impressed me, on the whole, very uncomfortably.   But it must be remembered that New York, as a great emporium of  commerce, and as a place of general resort, not only from all parts  of the States, but from most parts of the world, has always a large  pauper population to provide for; and labours, therefore, under  peculiar difficulties in this respect.  Nor must it be forgotten  that New York is a large town, and that in all large towns a vast  amount of good and evil is intermixed and jumbled up together.

 

In the same neighbourhood is the Farm, where young orphans are  nursed and bred.  I did not see it, but I believe it is well  conducted; and I can the more easily credit it, from knowing how  mindful they usually are, in America, of that beautiful passage in  the Litany which remembers all sick persons and young children.

 

I was taken to these Institutions by water, in a boat belonging to  the Island jail, and rowed by a crew of prisoners, who were dressed  in a striped uniform of black and buff, in which they looked like  faded tigers.  They took me, by the same conveyance, to the jail  itself.

 

It is an old prison, and quite a pioneer establishment, on the plan  I have already described.  I was glad to hear this, for it is  unquestionably a very indifferent one.  The most is made, however,  of the means it possesses, and it is as well regulated as such a  place can be.

 

The women work in covered sheds, erected for that purpose.  If I  remember right, there are no shops for the men, but be that as it  may, the greater part of them labour in certain stone-quarries near  at hand.  The day being very wet indeed, this labour was suspended,  and the prisoners were in their cells.  Imagine these cells, some  two or three hundred in number, and in every one a man locked up;  this one at his door for air, with his hands thrust through the  grate; this one in bed (in the middle of the day, remember); and  this one flung down in a heap upon the ground, with his head  against the bars, like a wild beast.  Make the rain pour down,  outside, in torrents.  Put the everlasting stove in the midst; hot,  and suffocating, and vaporous, as a witch's cauldron.  Add a  collection of gentle odours, such as would arise from a thousand  mildewed umbrellas, wet through, and a thousand buck-baskets, full  of half-washed linen - and there is the prison, as it was that day.

 

The prison for the State at Sing Sing is, on the other hand, a  model jail.  That, and Auburn, are, I believe, the largest and best  examples of the silent system.

 

In another part of the city, is the Refuge for the Destitute:  an  Institution whose object is to reclaim youthful offenders, male and  female, black and white, without distinction; to teach them useful  trades, apprentice them to respectable masters, and make them  worthy members of society.  Its design, it will be seen, is similar  to that at Boston; and it is a no less meritorious and admirable  establishment.  A suspicion crossed my mind during my inspection of  this noble charity, whether the superintendent had quite sufficient  knowledge of the world and worldly characters; and whether he did  not commit a great mistake in treating some young girls, who were  to all intents and purposes, by their years and their past lives,  women, as though they were little children; which certainly had a  ludicrous effect in my eyes, and, or I am much mistaken, in theirs  also.  As the Institution, however, is always under a vigilant  examination of a body of gentlemen of great intelligence and  experience, it cannot fail to be well conducted; and whether I am  right or wrong in this slight particular, is unimportant to its  deserts and character, which it would be difficult to estimate too  highly.

 

In addition to these establishments, there are in New York,  excellent hospitals and schools, literary institutions and  libraries; an admirable fire department (as indeed it should be,  having constant practice), and charities of every sort and kind.   In the suburbs there is a spacious cemetery:  unfinished yet, but  every day improving.  The saddest tomb I saw there was 'The  Strangers' Grave.  Dedicated to the different hotels in this city.'

 

There are three principal theatres.  Two of them, the Park and the  Bowery, are large, elegant, and handsome buildings, and are, I  grieve to write it, generally deserted.  The third, the Olympic, is  a tiny show-box for vaudevilles and burlesques.  It is singularly  well conducted by Mr. Mitchell, a comic actor of great quiet humour  and originality, who is well remembered and esteemed by London  playgoers.  I am happy to report of this deserving gentleman, that  his benches are usually well filled, and that his theatre rings  with merriment every night.  I had almost forgotten a small summer  theatre, called Niblo's, with gardens and open air amusements  attached; but I believe it is not exempt from the general  depression under which Theatrical Property, or what is humorously  called by that name, unfortunately labours.

 

The country round New York is surpassingly and exquisitely  picturesque.  The climate, as I have already intimated, is somewhat  of the warmest.  What it would be, without the sea breezes which  come from its beautiful Bay in the evening time, I will not throw  myself or my readers into a fever by inquiring.

 

The tone of the best society in this city, is like that of Boston;  here and there, it may be, with a greater infusion of the  mercantile spirit, but generally polished and refined, and always  most hospitable.  The houses and tables are elegant; the hours  later and more rakish; and there is, perhaps, a greater spirit of  contention in reference to appearances, and the display of wealth  and costly living.  The ladies are singularly beautiful.

 

Before I left New York I made arrangements for securing a passage  home in the George Washington packet ship, which was advertised to  sail in June:  that being the month in which I had determined, if  prevented by no accident in the course of my ramblings, to leave  America.

 

I never thought that going back to England, returning to all who  are dear to me, and to pursuits that have insensibly grown to be a  part of my nature, I could have felt so much sorrow as I endured,  when I parted at last, on board this ship, with the friends who had  accompanied me from this city.  I never thought the name of any  place, so far away and so lately known, could ever associate itself  in my mind with the crowd of affectionate remembrances that now  cluster about it.  There are those in this city who would brighten,  to me, the darkest winter-day that ever glimmered and went out in  Lapland; and before whose presence even Home grew dim, when they  and I exchanged that painful word which mingles with our every  thought and deed; which haunts our cradle-heads in infancy, and  closes up the vista of our lives in age.

 


CHAPTER VII - PHILADELPHIA, AND ITS SOLITARY PRISON

 

THE journey from New York to Philadelphia, is made by railroad, and  two ferries; and usually occupies between five and six hours.  It  was a fine evening when we were passengers in the train:  and  watching the bright sunset from a little window near the door by  which we sat, my attention was attracted to a remarkable appearance  issuing from the windows of the gentleman's car immediately in  front of us, which I supposed for some time was occasioned by a  number of industrious persons inside, ripping open feather-beds,  and giving the feathers to the wind.  At length it occurred to me  that they were only spitting, which was indeed the case; though how  any number of passengers which it was possible for that car to  contain, could have maintained such a playful and incessant shower  of expectoration, I am still at a loss to understand:   notwithstanding the experience in all salivatory phenomena which I  afterwards acquired.

 

I made acquaintance, on this journey, with a mild and modest young  quaker, who opened the discourse by informing me, in a grave  whisper, that his grandfather was the inventor of cold-drawn castor  oil.  I mention the circumstance here, thinking it probable that  this is the first occasion on which the valuable medicine in  question was ever used as a conversational aperient.

 

We reached the city, late that night.  Looking out of my chamber-window, before going to bed, I saw, on the opposite side of the  way, a handsome building of white marble, which had a mournful  ghost-like aspect, dreary to behold.  I attributed this to the  sombre influence of the night, and on rising in the morning looked  out again, expecting to see its steps and portico thronged with  groups of people passing in and out.  The door was still tight  shut, however; the same cold cheerless air prevailed:  and the  building looked as if the marble statue of Don Guzman could alone  have any business to transact within its gloomy walls.  I hastened  to inquire its name and purpose, and then my surprise vanished.  It  was the Tomb of many fortunes; the Great Catacomb of investment;  the memorable United States Bank.

 

The stoppage of this bank, with all its ruinous consequences, had  cast (as I was told on every side) a gloom on Philadelphia, under  the depressing effect of which it yet laboured.  It certainly did  seem rather dull and out of spirits.

 

It is a handsome city, but distractingly regular.  After walking  about it for an hour or two, I felt that I would have given the  world for a crooked street.  The collar of my coat appeared to  stiffen, and the brim of my bat to expand, beneath its quakery  influence.  My hair shrunk into a sleek short crop, my hands folded  themselves upon my breast of their own calm accord, and thoughts of  taking lodgings in Mark Lane over against the Market Place, and of  making a large fortune by speculations in corn, came over me  involuntarily.

 

Philadelphia is most bountifully provided with fresh water, which  is showered and jerked about, and turned on, and poured off,  everywhere.  The Waterworks, which are on a height near the city,  are no less ornamental than useful, being tastefully laid out as a  public garden, and kept in the best and neatest order.  The river  is dammed at this point, and forced by its own power into certain  high tanks or reservoirs, whence the whole city, to the top stories  of the houses, is supplied at a very trifling expense.

 

There are various public institutions.  Among them a most excellent  Hospital - a quaker establishment, but not sectarian in the great  benefits it confers; a quiet, quaint old Library, named after  Franklin; a handsome Exchange and Post Office; and so forth.  In  connection with the quaker Hospital, there is a picture by West,  which is exhibited for the benefit of the funds of the institution.   The subject is, our Saviour healing the sick, and it is, perhaps,  as favourable a specimen of the master as can be seen anywhere.   Whether this be high or low praise, depends upon the reader's  taste.

 

In the same room, there is a very characteristic and life-like  portrait by Mr. Sully, a distinguished American artist.

 

My stay in Philadelphia was very short, but what I saw of its  society, I greatly liked.  Treating of its general characteristics,  I should be disposed to say that it is more provincial than Boston  or New York, and that there is afloat in the fair city, an  assumption of taste and criticism, savouring rather of those  genteel discussions upon the same themes, in connection with  Shakspeare and the Musical Glasses, of which we read in the Vicar  of Wakefield.  Near the city, is a most splendid unfinished marble  structure for the Girard College, founded by a deceased gentleman  of that name and of enormous wealth, which, if completed according  to the original design, will be perhaps the richest edifice of  modern times.  But the bequest is involved in legal disputes, and  pending them the work has stopped; so that like many other great  undertakings in America, even this is rather going to be done one  of these days, than doing now.

 

In the outskirts, stands a great prison, called the Eastern  Penitentiary:  conducted on a plan peculiar to the state of  Pennsylvania.  The system here, is rigid, strict, and hopeless  solitary confinement.  I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel  and wrong.

 

In its intention, I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and  meant for reformation; but I am persuaded that those who devised  this system of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentlemen  who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are  doing.  I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the  immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment,  prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing  at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon  their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I  am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible  endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom,  and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow-creature.   I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the  brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body:  and  because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye  and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are  not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can  hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment  which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.  I hesitated  once, debating with myself, whether, if I had the power of saying  'Yes' or 'No,' I would allow it to be tried in certain cases, where  the terms of imprisonment were short; but now, I solemnly declare,  that with no rewards or honours could I walk a happy man beneath  the open sky by day, or lie me down upon my bed at night, with the  consciousness that one human creature, for any length of time, no  matter what, lay suffering this unknown punishment in his silent  cell, and I the cause, or I consenting to it in the least degree.

 

I was accompanied to this prison by two gentlemen officially  connected with its management, and passed the day in going from  cell to cell, and talking with the inmates.  Every facility was  afforded me, that the utmost courtesy could suggest.  Nothing was  concealed or hidden from my view, and every piece of information  that I sought, was openly and frankly given.  The perfect order of  the building cannot be praised too highly, and of the excellent  motives of all who are immediately concerned in the administration  of the system, there can be no kind of question.

 

Between the body of the prison and the outer wall, there is a  spacious garden.  Entering it, by a wicket in the massive gate, we  pursued the path before us to its other termination, and passed  into a large chamber, from which seven long passages radiate.  On  either side of each, is a long, long row of low cell doors, with a  certain number over every one.  Above, a gallery of cells like  those below, except that they have no narrow yard attached (as  those in the ground tier have), and are somewhat smaller.  The  possession of two of these, is supposed to compensate for the  absence of so much air and exercise as can be had in the dull strip  attached to each of the others, in an hour's time every day; and  therefore every prisoner in this upper story has two cells,  adjoining and communicating with, each other.

 

Standing at the central point, and looking down these dreary  passages, the dull repose and quiet that prevails, is awful.   Occasionally, there is a drowsy sound from some lone weaver's  shuttle, or shoemaker's last, but it is stifled by the thick walls  and heavy dungeon-door, and only serves to make the general  stillness more profound.  Over the head and face of every prisoner  who comes into this melancholy house, a black hood is drawn; and in  this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and  the living world, he is led to the cell from which he never again  comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired.  He  never hears of wife and children; home or friends; the life or  death of any single creature.  He sees the prison-officers, but  with that exception he never looks upon a human countenance, or  hears a human voice.  He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in  the slow round of years; and in the mean time dead to everything  but torturing anxieties and horrible despair.

 

His name, and crime, and term of suffering, are unknown, even to  the officer who delivers him his daily food.  There is a number  over his cell-door, and in a book of which the governor of the  prison has one copy, and the moral instructor another:  this is the  index of his history.  Beyond these pages the prison has no record  of his existence:  and though he live to be in the same cell ten  weary years, he has no means of knowing, down to the very last  hour, in which part of the building it is situated; what kind of  men there are about him; whether in the long winter nights there  are living people near, or he is in some lonely corner of the great  jail, with walls, and passages, and iron doors between him and the  nearest sharer in its solitary horrors.

 

Every cell has double doors:  the outer one of sturdy oak, the  other of grated iron, wherein there is a trap through which his  food is handed.  He has a Bible, and a slate and pencil, and, under  certain restrictions, has sometimes other books, provided for the  purpose, and pen and ink and paper.  His razor, plate, and can, and  basin, hang upon the wall, or shine upon the little shelf.  Fresh  water is laid on in every cell, and he can draw it at his pleasure.   During the day, his bedstead turns up against the wall, and leaves  more space for him to work in.  His loom, or bench, or wheel, is  there; and there he labours, sleeps and wakes, and counts the  seasons as they change, and grows old.

 

The first man I saw, was seated at his loom, at work.  He had been  there six years, and was to remain, I think, three more.  He had  been convicted as a receiver of stolen goods, but even after his  long imprisonment, denied his guilt, and said he had been hardly  dealt by.  It was his second offence.

 

He stopped his work when we went in, took off his spectacles, and  answered freely to everything that was said to him, but always with  a strange kind of pause first, and in a low, thoughtful voice.  He  wore a paper hat of his own making, and was pleased to have it  noticed and commanded.  He had very ingeniously manufactured a sort  of Dutch clock from some disregarded odds and ends; and his  vinegar-bottle served for the pendulum.  Seeing me interested in  this contrivance, he looked up at it with a great deal of pride,  and said that he had been thinking of improving it, and that he  hoped the hammer and a little piece of broken glass beside it  'would play music before long.'  He had extracted some colours from  the yarn with which he worked, and painted a few poor figures on  the wall.  One, of a female, over the door, he called 'The Lady of  the Lake.'

 

He smiled as I looked at these contrivances to while away the time;  but when I looked from them to him, I saw that his lip trembled,  and could have counted the beating of his heart.  I forget how it  came about, but some allusion was made to his having a wife.  He  shook his head at the word, turned aside, and covered his face with  his hands.

 

'But you are resigned now!' said one of the gentlemen after a short  pause, during which he had resumed his former manner.  He answered  with a sigh that seemed quite reckless in its hopelessness, 'Oh  yes, oh yes!  I am resigned to it.'  'And are a better man, you  think?'  'Well, I hope so:  I'm sure I hope I may be.'  'And time  goes pretty quickly?'  'Time is very long gentlemen, within these  four walls!'

 

He gazed about him - Heaven only knows how wearily! - as he said  these words; and in the act of doing so, fell into a strange stare  as if he had forgotten something.  A moment afterwards he sighed  heavily, put on his spectacles, and went about his work again.

 

In another cell, there was a German, sentenced to five years'  imprisonment for larceny, two of which had just expired.  With  colours procured in the same manner, he had painted every inch of  the walls and ceiling quite beautifully.  He had laid out the few  feet of ground, behind, with exquisite neatness, and had made a  little bed in the centre, that looked, by-the-bye, like a grave.   The taste and ingenuity he had displayed in everything were most  extraordinary; and yet a more dejected, heart-broken, wretched  creature, it would be difficult to imagine.  I never saw such a  picture of forlorn affliction and distress of mind.  My heart bled  for him; and when the tears ran down his cheeks, and he took one of  the visitors aside, to ask, with his trembling hands nervously  clutching at his coat to detain him, whether there was no hope of  his dismal sentence being commuted, the spectacle was really too  painful to witness.  I never saw or heard of any kind of misery  that impressed me more than the wretchedness of this man.

 

In a third cell, was a tall, strong black, a burglar, working at  his proper trade of making screws and the like.  His time was  nearly out.  He was not only a very dexterous thief, but was  notorious for his boldness and hardihood, and for the number of his  previous convictions.  He entertained us with a long account of his  achievements, which he narrated with such infinite relish, that he  actually seemed to lick his lips as he told us racy anecdotes of  stolen plate, and of old ladies whom he had watched as they sat at  windows in silver spectacles (he had plainly had an eye to their  metal even from the other side of the street) and had afterwards  robbed.  This fellow, upon the slightest encouragement, would have  mingled with his professional recollections the most detestable  cant; but I am very much mistaken if he could have surpassed the  unmitigated hypocrisy with which he declared that he blessed the  day on which he came into that prison, and that he never would  commit another robbery as long as he lived.

 

There was one man who was allowed, as an indulgence, to keep  rabbits.  His room having rather a close smell in consequence, they  called to him at the door to come out into the passage.  He  complied of course, and stood shading his haggard face in the  unwonted sunlight of the great window, looking as wan and unearthly  as if he had been summoned from the grave.  He had a white rabbit  in his breast; and when the little creature, getting down upon the  ground, stole back into the cell, and he, being dismissed, crept  timidly after it, I thought it would have been very hard to say in  what respect the man was the nobler animal of the two.

 

There was an English thief, who had been there but a few days out  of seven years:  a villainous, low-browed, thin-lipped fellow, with  a white face; who had as yet no relish for visitors, and who, but  for the additional penalty, would have gladly stabbed me with his  shoemaker's knife.  There was another German who had entered the  jail but yesterday, and who started from his bed when we looked in,  and pleaded, in his broken English, very hard for work.  There was  a poet, who after doing two days' work in every four-and-twenty  hours, one for himself and one for the prison, wrote verses about  ships (he was by trade a mariner), and 'the maddening wine-cup,'  and his friends at home.  There were very many of them.  Some  reddened at the sight of visitors, and some turned very pale.  Some  two or three had prisoner nurses with them, for they were very  sick; and one, a fat old negro whose leg had been taken off within  the jail, had for his attendant a classical scholar and an  accomplished surgeon, himself a prisoner likewise.  Sitting upon  the stairs, engaged in some slight work, was a pretty coloured boy.   'Is there no refuge for young criminals in Philadelphia, then?'  said I.  'Yes, but only for white children.'  Noble aristocracy in  crime

 

There was a sailor who had been there upwards of eleven years, and  who in a few months' time would be free.  Eleven years of solitary  confinement!

 

'I am very glad to hear your time is nearly out.'  What does he  say?  Nothing.  Why does he stare at his hands, and pick the flesh  upon his fingers, and raise his eyes for an instant, every now and  then, to those bare walls which have seen his head turn grey?  It  is a way he has sometimes.

 

Does he never look men in the face, and does he always pluck at  those hands of his, as though he were bent on parting skin and  bone?  It is his humour:  nothing more.

 

It is his humour too, to say that he does not look forward to going  out; that he is not glad the time is drawing near; that he did look  forward to it once, but that was very long ago; that he has lost  all care for everything.  It is his humour to be a helpless,  crushed, and broken man.  And, Heaven be his witness that he has  his humour thoroughly gratified!

 

There were three young women in adjoining cells, all convicted at  the same time of a conspiracy to rob their prosecutor.  In the  silence and solitude of their lives they had grown to be quite  beautiful.  Their looks were very sad, and might have moved the  sternest visitor to tears, but not to that kind of sorrow which the  contemplation of the men awakens.  One was a young girl; not  twenty, as I recollect; whose snow-white room was hung with the  work of some former prisoner, and upon whose downcast face the sun  in all its splendour shone down through the high chink in the wall,  where one narrow strip of bright blue sky was visible.  She was  very penitent and quiet; had come to be resigned, she said (and I  believe her); and had a mind at peace.  'In a word, you are happy  here?' said one of my companions.  She struggled - she did struggle  very hard - to answer, Yes; but raising her eyes, and meeting that  glimpse of freedom overhead, she burst into tears, and said, 'She  tried to be; she uttered no complaint; but it was natural that she  should sometimes long to go out of that one cell:  she could not  help THAT,' she sobbed, poor thing!

 

I went from cell to cell that day; and every face I saw, or word I  heard, or incident I noted, is present to my mind in all its  painfulness.  But let me pass them by, for one, more pleasant,  glance of a prison on the same plan which I afterwards saw at  Pittsburg.

 

When I had gone over that, in the same manner, I asked the governor  if he had any person in his charge who was shortly going out.  He  had one, he said, whose time was up next day; but he had only been  a prisoner two years.

 

Two years!  I looked back through two years of my own life - out of  jail, prosperous, happy, surrounded by blessings, comforts, good  fortune - and thought how wide a gap it was, and how long those two  years passed in solitary captivity would have been.  I have the  face of this man, who was going to be released next day, before me  now.  It is almost more memorable in its happiness than the other  faces in their misery.  How easy and how natural it was for him to  say that the system was a good one; and that the time went 'pretty  quick - considering;' and that when a man once felt that he had  offended the law, and must satisfy it, 'he got along, somehow:' and  so forth!

 

'What did he call you back to say to you, in that strange flutter?'  I asked of my conductor, when he had locked the door and joined me  in the passage.

 

'Oh!  That he was afraid the soles of his boots were not fit for  walking, as they were a good deal worn when he came in; and that he  would thank me very much to have them mended, ready.'

 

Those boots had been taken off his feet, and put away with the rest  of his clothes, two years before!

 

I took that opportunity of inquiring how they conducted themselves  immediately before going out; adding that I presumed they trembled  very much.

 

'Well, it's not so much a trembling,' was the answer - 'though they  do quiver - as a complete derangement of the nervous system.  They  can't sign their names to the book; sometimes can't even hold the  pen; look about 'em without appearing to know why, or where they  are; and sometimes get up and sit down again, twenty times in a  minute.  This is when they're in the office, where they are taken  with the hood on, as they were brought in.  When they get outside  the gate, they stop, and look first one way and then the other; not  knowing which to take.  Sometimes they stagger as if they were  drunk, and sometimes are forced to lean against the fence, they're  so bad:- but they clear off in course of time.'

 

As I walked among these solitary cells, and looked at the faces of  the men within them, I tried to picture to myself the thoughts and  feelings natural to their condition.  I imagined the hood just  taken off, and the scene of their captivity disclosed to them in  all its dismal monotony.

 

At first, the man is stunned.  His confinement is a hideous vision;  and his old life a reality.  He throws himself upon his bed, and  lies there abandoned to despair.  By degrees the insupportable  solitude and barrenness of the place rouses him from this stupor,  and when the trap in his grated door is opened, he humbly begs and  prays for work.  'Give me some work to do, or I shall go raving  mad!'

 

He has it; and by fits and starts applies himself to labour; but  every now and then there comes upon him a burning sense of the  years that must be wasted in that stone coffin, and an agony so  piercing in the recollection of those who are hidden from his view  and knowledge, that he starts from his seat, and striding up and  down the narrow room with both hands clasped on his uplifted head,  hears spirits tempting him to beat his brains out on the wall.

 

Again he falls upon his bed, and lies there, moaning.  Suddenly he  starts up, wondering whether any other man is near; whether there  is another cell like that on either side of him:  and listens  keenly.

 

There is no sound, but other prisoners may be near for all that.   He remembers to have heard once, when he little thought of coming  here himself, that the cells were so constructed that the prisoners  could not hear each other, though the officers could hear them.

 

Where is the nearest man - upon the right, or on the left? or is  there one in both directions?  Where is he sitting now - with his  face to the light? or is he walking to and fro?  How is he dressed?   Has he been here long?  Is he much worn away?  Is he very white and  spectre-like?  Does HE think of his neighbour too?

 

Scarcely venturing to breathe, and listening while he thinks, he  conjures up a figure with his back towards him, and imagines it  moving about in this next cell.  He has no idea of the face, but he  is certain of the dark form of a stooping man.  In the cell upon  the other side, he puts another figure, whose face is hidden from  him also.  Day after day, and often when he wakes up in the middle  of the night, he thinks of these two men until he is almost  distracted.  He never changes them.  There they are always as he  first imagined them - an old man on the right; a younger man upon  the left - whose hidden features torture him to death, and have a  mystery that makes him tremble.

 

The weary days pass on with solemn pace, like mourners at a  funeral; and slowly he begins to feel that the white walls of the  cell have something dreadful in them:  that their colour is  horrible:  that their smooth surface chills his blood:  that there  is one hateful corner which torments him.  Every morning when he  wakes, he hides his head beneath the coverlet, and shudders to see  the ghastly ceiling looking down upon him.  The blessed light of  day itself peeps in, an ugly phantom face, through the unchangeable  crevice which is his prison window.

 

By slow but sure degrees, the terrors of that hateful corner swell  until they beset him at all times; invade his rest, make his dreams  hideous, and his nights dreadful.  At first, he took a strange  dislike to it; feeling as though it gave birth in his brain to  something of corresponding shape, which ought not to be there, and  racked his head with pains.  Then he began to fear it, then to  dream of it, and of men whispering its name and pointing to it.   Then he could not bear to look at it, nor yet to turn his back upon  it.  Now, it is every night the lurking-place of a ghost:  a  shadow:- a silent something, horrible to see, but whether bird, or  beast, or muffled human shape, he cannot tell.

 

When he is in his cell by day, he fears the little yard without.   When he is in the yard, he dreads to re-enter the cell.  When night  comes, there stands the phantom in the corner.  If he have the  courage to stand in its place, and drive it out (he had once:   being desperate), it broods upon his bed.  In the twilight, and  always at the same hour, a voice calls to him by name; as the  darkness thickens, his Loom begins to live; and even that, his  comfort, is a hideous figure, watching him till daybreak.

 

Again, by slow degrees, these horrible fancies depart from him one  by one:  returning sometimes, unexpectedly, but at longer  intervals, and in less alarming shapes.  He has talked upon  religious matters with the gentleman who visits him, and has read  his Bible, and has written a prayer upon his slate, and hung it up  as a kind of protection, and an assurance of Heavenly  companionship.  He dreams now, sometimes, of his children or his  wife, but is sure that they are dead, or have deserted him.  He is  easily moved to tears; is gentle, submissive, and broken-spirited.   Occasionally, the old agony comes back:  a very little thing will  revive it; even a familiar sound, or the scent of summer flowers in  the air; but it does not last long, now:  for the world without,  has come to be the vision, and this solitary life, the sad reality.

 

If his term of imprisonment be short - I mean comparatively, for  short it cannot be - the last half year is almost worse than all;  for then he thinks the prison will take fire and he be burnt in the  ruins, or that he is doomed to die within the walls, or that he  will be detained on some false charge and sentenced for another  term:  or that something, no matter what, must happen to prevent  his going at large.  And this is natural, and impossible to be  reasoned against, because, after his long separation from human  life, and his great suffering, any event will appear to him more  probable in the contemplation, than the being restored to liberty  and his fellow-creatures.

 

If his period of confinement have been very long, the prospect of  release bewilders and confuses him.  His broken heart may flutter  for a moment, when he thinks of the world outside, and what it  might have been to him in all those lonely years, but that is all.   The cell-door has been closed too long on all its hopes and cares.   Better to have hanged him in the beginning than bring him to this  pass, and send him forth to mingle with his kind, who are his kind  no more.

 

On the haggard face of every man among these prisoners, the same  expression sat.  I know not what to liken it to.  It had something  of that strained attention which we see upon the faces of the blind  and deaf, mingled with a kind of horror, as though they had all  been secretly terrified.  In every little chamber that I entered,  and at every grate through which I looked, I seemed to see the same  appalling countenance.  It lives in my memory, with the fascination  of a remarkable picture.  Parade before my eyes, a hundred men,  with one among them newly released from this solitary suffering,  and I would point him out.

 

The faces of the women, as I have said, it humanises and refines.   Whether this be because of their better nature, which is elicited  in solitude, or because of their being gentler creatures, of  greater patience and longer suffering, I do not know; but so it is.   That the punishment is nevertheless, to my thinking, fully as cruel  and as wrong in their case, as in that of the men, I need scarcely  add.

 

My firm conviction is that, independent of the mental anguish it  occasions - an anguish so acute and so tremendous, that all  imagination of it must fall far short of the reality - it wears the  mind into a morbid state, which renders it unfit for the rough  contact and busy action of the world.  It is my fixed opinion that  those who have undergone this punishment, MUST pass into society  again morally unhealthy and diseased.  There are many instances on  record, of men who have chosen, or have been condemned, to lives of  perfect solitude, but I scarcely remember one, even among sages of  strong and vigorous intellect, where its effect has not become  apparent, in some disordered train of thought, or some gloomy  hallucination.  What monstrous phantoms, bred of despondency and  doubt, and born and reared in solitude, have stalked upon the  earth, making creation ugly, and darkening the face of Heaven!

 

Suicides are rare among these prisoners:  are almost, indeed,  unknown.  But no argument in favour of the system, can reasonably  be deduced from this circumstance, although it is very often urged.   All men who have made diseases of the mind their study, know  perfectly well that such extreme depression and despair as will  change the whole character, and beat down all its powers of  elasticity and self-resistance, may be at work within a man, and  yet stop short of self-destruction.  This is a common case.

 

That it makes the senses dull, and by degrees impairs the bodily  faculties, I am quite sure.  I remarked to those who were with me  in this very establishment at Philadelphia, that the criminals who  had been there long, were deaf.  They, who were in the habit of  seeing these men constantly, were perfectly amazed at the idea,  which they regarded as groundless and fanciful.  And yet the very  first prisoner to whom they appealed - one of their own selection  confirmed my impression (which was unknown to him) instantly, and  said, with a genuine air it was impossible to doubt, that he  couldn't think how it happened, but he WAS growing very dull of  hearing.

 

That it is a singularly unequal punishment, and affects the worst  man least, there is no doubt.  In its superior efficiency as a  means of reformation, compared with that other code of regulations  which allows the prisoners to work in company without communicating  together, I have not the smallest faith.  All the instances of  reformation that were mentioned to me, were of a kind that might  have been - and I have no doubt whatever, in my own mind, would  have been - equally well brought about by the Silent System.  With  regard to such men as the negro burglar and the English thief, even  the most enthusiastic have scarcely any hope of their conversion.

 

It seems to me that the objection that nothing wholesome or good  has ever had its growth in such unnatural solitude, and that even a  dog or any of the more intelligent among beasts, would pine, and  mope, and rust away, beneath its influence, would be in itself a  sufficient argument against this system.  But when we recollect, in  addition, how very cruel and severe it is, and that a solitary life  is always liable to peculiar and distinct objections of a most  deplorable nature, which have arisen here, and call to mind,  moreover, that the choice is not between this system, and a bad or  ill-considered one, but between it and another which has worked  well, and is, in its whole design and practice, excellent; there is  surely more than sufficient reason for abandoning a mode of  punishment attended by so little hope or promise, and fraught,  beyond dispute, with such a host of evils.

 

As a relief to its contemplation, I will close this chapter with a  curious story arising out of the same theme, which was related to  me, on the occasion of this visit, by some of the gentlemen  concerned.

 

At one of the periodical meetings of the inspectors of this prison,  a working man of Philadelphia presented himself before the Board,  and earnestly requested to be placed in solitary confinement.  On  being asked what motive could possibly prompt him to make this  strange demand, he answered that he had an irresistible propensity  to get drunk; that he was constantly indulging it, to his great  misery and ruin; that he had no power of resistance; that he wished  to be put beyond the reach of temptation; and that he could think  of no better way than this.  It was pointed out to him, in reply,  that the prison was for criminals who had been tried and sentenced  by the law, and could not be made available for any such fanciful  purposes; he was exhorted to abstain from intoxicating drinks, as  he surely might if he would; and received other very good advice,  with which he retired, exceedingly dissatisfied with the result of  his application.

 

He came again, and again, and again, and was so very earnest and  importunate, that at last they took counsel together, and said, 'He  will certainly qualify himself for admission, if we reject him any  more.  Let us shut him up.  He will soon be glad to go away, and  then we shall get rid of him.'  So they made him sign a statement  which would prevent his ever sustaining an action for false  imprisonment, to the effect that his incarceration was voluntary,  and of his own seeking; they requested him to take notice that the  officer in attendance had orders to release him at any hour of the  day or night, when he might knock upon his door for that purpose;  but desired him to understand, that once going out, he would not be  admitted any more.  These conditions agreed upon, and he still  remaining in the same mind, he was conducted to the prison, and  shut up in one of the cells.

 

In this cell, the man, who had not the firmness to leave a glass of  liquor standing untasted on a table before him - in this cell, in  solitary confinement, and working every day at his trade of  shoemaking, this man remained nearly two years.  His health  beginning to fail at the expiration of that time, the surgeon  recommended that he should work occasionally in the garden; and as  he liked the notion very much, he went about this new occupation  with great cheerfulness.

 

He was digging here, one summer day, very industriously, when the  wicket in the outer gate chanced to be left open:  showing, beyond,  the well-remembered dusty road and sunburnt fields.  The way was as  free to him as to any man living, but he no sooner raised his head  and caught sight of it, all shining in the light, than, with the  involuntary instinct of a prisoner, he cast away his spade,  scampered off as fast as his legs would carry him, and never once  looked back.

 


CHAPTER VIII - WASHINGTON.  THE LEGISLATURE.  AND THE PRESIDENT'S  HOUSE

 

WE left Philadelphia by steamboat, at six o'clock one very cold  morning, and turned our faces towards Washington.

 

In the course of this day's journey, as on subsequent occasions, we  encountered some Englishmen (small farmers, perhaps, or country  publicans at home) who were settled in America, and were travelling  on their own affairs.  Of all grades and kinds of men that jostle  one in the public conveyances of the States, these are often the  most intolerable and the most insufferable companions.  United to  every disagreeable characteristic that the worst kind of American  travellers possess, these countrymen of ours display an amount of  insolent conceit and cool assumption of superiority, quite  monstrous to behold.  In the coarse familiarity of their approach,  and the effrontery of their inquisitiveness (which they are in  great haste to assert, as if they panted to revenge themselves upon  the decent old restraints of home), they surpass any native  specimens that came within my range of observation:  and I often  grew so patriotic when I saw and heard them, that I would  cheerfully have submitted to a reasonable fine, if I could have  given any other country in the whole world, the honour of claiming  them for its children.

 

As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured  saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise,  that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and  expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable,  and soon became most offensive and sickening.  In all the public  places of America, this filthy custom is recognised.  In the courts  of law, the judge has his spittoon, the crier his, the witness his,  and the prisoner his; while the jurymen and spectators are provided  for, as so many men who in the course of nature must desire to spit  incessantly.  In the hospitals, the students of medicine are  requested, by notices upon the wall, to eject their tobacco juice  into the boxes provided for that purpose, and not to discolour the  stairs.  In public buildings, visitors are implored, through the  same agency, to squirt the essence of their quids, or 'plugs,' as I  have heard them called by gentlemen learned in this kind of  sweetmeat, into the national spittoons, and not about the bases of  the marble columns.  But in some parts, this custom is inseparably  mixed up with every meal and morning call, and with all the  transactions of social life.  The stranger, who follows in the  track I took myself, will find it in its full bloom and glory,  luxuriant in all its alarming recklessness, at Washington.  And let  him not persuade himself (as I once did, to my shame) that previous  tourists have exaggerated its extent.  The thing itself is an  exaggeration of nastiness, which cannot be outdone.

 

On board this steamboat, there were two young gentlemen, with  shirt-collars reversed as usual, and armed with very big walking-sticks; who planted two seats in the middle of the deck, at a  distance of some four paces apart; took out their tobacco-boxes;  and sat down opposite each other, to chew.  In less than a quarter  of an hour's time, these hopeful youths had shed about them on the  clean boards, a copious shower of yellow rain; clearing, by that  means, a kind of magic circle, within whose limits no intruders  dared to come, and which they never failed to refresh and re-refresh before a spot was dry.  This being before breakfast, rather  disposed me, I confess, to nausea; but looking attentively at one  of the expectorators, I plainly saw that he was young in chewing,  and felt inwardly uneasy, himself.  A glow of delight came over me  at this discovery; and as I marked his face turn paler and paler,  and saw the ball of tobacco in his left cheek, quiver with his  suppressed agony, while yet he spat, and chewed, and spat again, in  emulation of his older friend, I could have fallen on his neck and  implored him to go on for hours.

 

We all sat down to a comfortable breakfast in the cabin below,  where there was no more hurry or confusion than at such a meal in  England, and where there was certainly greater politeness exhibited  than at most of our stage-coach banquets.  At about nine o'clock we  arrived at the railroad station, and went on by the cars.  At noon  we turned out again, to cross a wide river in another steamboat;  landed at a continuation of the railroad on the opposite shore; and  went on by other cars; in which, in the course of the next hour or  so, we crossed by wooden bridges, each a mile in length, two  creeks, called respectively Great and Little Gunpowder.  The water  in both was blackened with flights of canvas-backed ducks, which  are most delicious eating, and abound hereabouts at that season of  the year.

 

These bridges are of wood, have no parapet, and are only just wide  enough for the passage of the trains; which, in the event of the  smallest accident, wound inevitably be plunged into the river.   They are startling contrivances, and are most agreeable when  passed.

 

We stopped to dine at Baltimore, and being now in Maryland, were  waited on, for the first time, by slaves.  The sensation of  exacting any service from human creatures who are bought and sold,  and being, for the time, a party as it were to their condition, is  not an enviable one.  The institution exists, perhaps, in its least  repulsive and most mitigated form in such a town as this; but it IS  slavery; and though I was, with respect to it, an innocent man, its  presence filled me with a sense of shame and self-reproach.

 

After dinner, we went down to the railroad again, and took our  seats in the cars for Washington.  Being rather early, those men  and boys who happened to have nothing particular to do, and were  curious in foreigners, came (according to custom) round the  carriage in which I sat; let down all the windows; thrust in their  heads and shoulders; hooked themselves on conveniently, by their  elbows; and fell to comparing notes on the subject of my personal  appearance, with as much indifference as if I were a stuffed  figure.  I never gained so much uncompromising information with  reference to my own nose and eyes, and various impressions wrought  by my mouth and chin on different minds, and how my head looks when  it is viewed from behind, as on these occasions.  Some gentlemen  were only satisfied by exercising their sense of touch; and the  boys (who are surprisingly precocious in America) were seldom  satisfied, even by that, but would return to the charge over and  over again.  Many a budding president has walked into my room with  his cap on his head and his hands in his pockets, and stared at me  for two whole hours:  occasionally refreshing himself with a tweak  of his nose, or a draught from the water-jug; or by walking to the  windows and inviting other boys in the street below, to come up and  do likewise:  crying, 'Here he is!'  'Come on!'  'Bring all your  brothers!' with other hospitable entreaties of that nature.

 

We reached Washington at about half-past six that evening, and had  upon the way a beautiful view of the Capitol, which is a fine  building of the Corinthian order, placed upon a noble and  commanding eminence.  Arrived at the hotel; I saw no more of the  place that night; being very tired, and glad to get to bed.

 

Breakfast over next morning, I walk about the streets for an hour  or two, and, coming home, throw up the window in the front and  back, and look out.  Here is Washington, fresh in my mind and under  my eye.

 

Take the worst parts of the City Road and Pentonville, or the  straggling outskirts of Paris, where the houses are smallest,  preserving all their oddities, but especially the small shops and  dwellings, occupied in Pentonville (but not in Washington) by  furniture-brokers, keepers of poor eating-houses, and fanciers of  birds.  Burn the whole down; build it up again in wood and plaster;  widen it a little; throw in part of St. John's Wood; put green  blinds outside all the private houses, with a red curtain and a  white one in every window; plough up all the roads; plant a great  deal of coarse turf in every place where it ought NOT to be; erect  three handsome buildings in stone and marble, anywhere, but the  more entirely out of everybody's way the better; call one the Post  Office; one the Patent Office, and one the Treasury; make it  scorching hot in the morning, and freezing cold in the afternoon,  with an occasional tornado of wind and dust; leave a brick-field  without the bricks, in all central places where a street may  naturally be expected:  and that's Washington.

 

The hotel in which we live, is a long row of small houses fronting  on the street, and opening at the back upon a common yard, in which  hangs a great triangle.  Whenever a servant is wanted, somebody  beats on this triangle from one stroke up to seven, according to  the number of the house in which his presence is required; and as  all the servants are always being wanted, and none of them ever  come, this enlivening engine is in full performance the whole day  through.  Clothes are drying in the same yard; female slaves, with  cotton handkerchiefs twisted round their heads are running to and  fro on the hotel business; black waiters cross and recross with  dishes in their hands; two great dogs are playing upon a mound of  loose bricks in the centre of the little square; a pig is turning  up his stomach to the sun, and grunting 'that's comfortable!'; and  neither the men, nor the women, nor the dogs, nor the pig, nor any  created creature, takes the smallest notice of the triangle, which  is tingling madly all the time.

 

I walk to the front window, and look across the road upon a long,  straggling row of houses, one story high, terminating, nearly  opposite, but a little to the left, in a melancholy piece of waste  ground with frowzy grass, which looks like a small piece of country  that has taken to drinking, and has quite lost itself.  Standing  anyhow and all wrong, upon this open space, like something meteoric  that has fallen down from the moon, is an odd, lop-sided, one-eyed  kind of wooden building, that looks like a church, with a flag-staff as long as itself sticking out of a steeple something larger  than a tea-chest.  Under the window is a small stand of coaches,  whose slave-drivers are sunning themselves on the steps of our  door, and talking idly together.  The three most obtrusive houses  near at hand are the three meanest.  On one - a shop, which never  has anything in the window, and never has the door open - is  painted in large characters, 'THE CITY LUNCH.'  At another, which  looks like a backway to somewhere else, but is an independent  building in itself, oysters are procurable in every style.  At the  third, which is a very, very little tailor's shop, pants are fixed  to order; or in other words, pantaloons are made to measure.  And  that is our street in Washington.

 

It is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it  might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent  Intentions; for it is only on taking a bird's-eye view of it from  the top of the Capitol, that one can at all comprehend the vast  designs of its projector, an aspiring Frenchman.  Spacious avenues,  that begin in nothing, and lead nowhere; streets, mile-long, that  only want houses, roads and inhabitants; public buildings that need  but a public to be complete; and ornaments of great thoroughfares,  which only lack great thoroughfares to ornament - are its leading  features.  One might fancy the season over, and most of the houses  gone out of town for ever with their masters.  To the admirers of  cities it is a Barmecide Feast:  a pleasant field for the  imagination to rove in; a monument raised to a deceased project,  with not even a legible inscription to record its departed  greatness.

 

Such as it is, it is likely to remain.  It was originally chosen  for the seat of Government, as a means of averting the conflicting  jealousies and interests of the different States; and very  probably, too, as being remote from mobs:  a consideration not to  be slighted, even in America.  It has no trade or commerce of its  own:  having little or no population beyond the President and his  establishment; the members of the legislature who reside there  during the session; the Government clerks and officers employed in  the various departments; the keepers of the hotels and boarding-houses; and the tradesmen who supply their tables.  It is very  unhealthy.  Few people would live in Washington, I take it, who  were not obliged to reside there; and the tides of emigration and  speculation, those rapid and regardless currents, are little likely  to flow at any time towards such dull and sluggish water.

 

The principal features of the Capitol, are, of course, the two  houses of Assembly.  But there is, besides, in the centre of the  building, a fine rotunda, ninety-six feet in diameter, and ninety-six high, whose circular wall is divided into compartments,  ornamented by historical pictures.  Four of these have for their  subjects prominent events in the revolutionary struggle.  They were  painted by Colonel Trumbull, himself a member of Washington's staff  at the time of their occurrence; from which circumstance they  derive a peculiar interest of their own.  In this same hall Mr.  Greenough's large statue of Washington has been lately placed.  It  has great merits of course, but it struck me as being rather  strained and violent for its subject.  I could wish, however, to  have seen it in a better light than it can ever be viewed in, where  it stands.

 

There is a very pleasant and commodious library in the Capitol; and  from a balcony in front, the bird's-eye view, of which I have just  spoken, may be had, together with a beautiful prospect of the  adjacent country.  In one of the ornamented portions of the  building, there is a figure of Justice; whereunto the Guide Book  says, 'the artist at first contemplated giving more of nudity, but  he was warned that the public sentiment in this country would not  admit of it, and in his caution he has gone, perhaps, into the  opposite extreme.'  Poor Justice! she has been made to wear much  stranger garments in America than those she pines in, in the  Capitol.  Let us hope that she has changed her dress-maker since  they were fashioned, and that the public sentiment of the country  did not cut out the clothes she hides her lovely figure in, just  now.

 

The House of Representatives is a beautiful and spacious hall, of  semicircular shape, supported by handsome pillars.  One part of the  gallery is appropriated to the ladies, and there they sit in front  rows, and come in, and go out, as at a play or concert.  The chair  is canopied, and raised considerably above the floor of the House;  and every member has an easy chair and a writing desk to himself:   which is denounced by some people out of doors as a most  unfortunate and injudicious arrangement, tending to long sittings  and prosaic speeches.  It is an elegant chamber to look at, but a  singularly bad one for all purposes of hearing.  The Senate, which  is smaller, is free from this objection, and is exceedingly well  adapted to the uses for which it is designed.  The sittings, I need  hardly add, take place in the day; and the parliamentary forms are  modelled on those of the old country.

 

I was sometimes asked, in my progress through other places, whether  I had not been very much impressed by the HEADS of the lawmakers at  Washington; meaning not their chiefs and leaders, but literally  their individual and personal heads, whereon their hair grew, and  whereby the phrenological character of each legislator was  expressed:  and I almost as often struck my questioner dumb with  indignant consternation by answering 'No, that I didn't remember  being at all overcome.'  As I must, at whatever hazard, repeat the  avowal here, I will follow it up by relating my impressions on this  subject in as few words as possible.

 

In the first place - it may be from some imperfect development of  my organ of veneration - I do not remember having ever fainted  away, or having even been moved to tears of joyful pride, at sight  of any legislative body.  I have borne the House of Commons like a  man, and have yielded to no weakness, but slumber, in the House of  Lords.  I have seen elections for borough and county, and have  never been impelled (no matter which party won) to damage my hat by  throwing it up into the air in triumph, or to crack my voice by  shouting forth any reference to our Glorious Constitution, to the  noble purity of our independent voters, or, the unimpeachable  integrity of our independent members.  Having withstood such strong  attacks upon my fortitude, it is possible that I may be of a cold  and insensible temperament, amounting to iciness, in such matters;  and therefore my impressions of the live pillars of the Capitol at  Washington must be received with such grains of allowance as this  free confession may seem to demand.

 

Did I see in this public body an assemblage of men, bound together  in the sacred names of Liberty and Freedom, and so asserting the  chaste dignity of those twin goddesses, in all their discussions,  as to exalt at once the Eternal Principles to which their names are  given, and their own character and the character of their  countrymen, in the admiring eyes of the whole world?

 

It was but a week, since an aged, grey-haired man, a lasting honour  to the land that gave him birth, who has done good service to his  country, as his forefathers did, and who will be remembered scores  upon scores of years after the worms bred in its corruption, are  but so many grains of dust - it was but a week, since this old man  had stood for days upon his trial before this very body, charged  with having dared to assert the infamy of that traffic, which has  for its accursed merchandise men and women, and their unborn  children.  Yes.  And publicly exhibited in the same city all the  while; gilded, framed and glazed hung up for general admiration;  shown to strangers not with shame, but pride; its face not turned  towards the wall, itself not taken down and burned; is the  Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,  which solemnly declares that All Men are created Equal; and are  endowed by their Creator with the Inalienable Rights of Life,  Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness!

 

It was not a month, since this same body had sat calmly by, and  heard a man, one of themselves, with oaths which beggars in their  drink reject, threaten to cut another's throat from ear to ear.   There he sat, among them; not crushed by the general feeling of the  assembly, but as good a man as any.

 

There was but a week to come, and another of that body, for doing  his duty to those who sent him there; for claiming in a Republic  the Liberty and Freedom of expressing their sentiments, and making  known their prayer; would be tried, found guilty, and have strong  censure passed upon him by the rest.  His was a grave offence  indeed; for years before, he had risen up and said, 'A gang of male  and female slaves for sale, warranted to breed like cattle, linked  to each other by iron fetters, are passing now along the open  street beneath the windows of your Temple of Equality!  Look!'  But  there are many kinds of hunters engaged in the Pursuit of  Happiness, and they go variously armed.  It is the Inalienable  Right of some among them, to take the field after THEIR Happiness  equipped with cat and cartwhip, stocks, and iron collar, and to  shout their view halloa! (always in praise of Liberty) to the music  of clanking chains and bloody stripes.

 

Where sat the many legislators of coarse threats; of words and  blows such as coalheavers deal upon each other, when they forget  their breeding?  On every side.  Every session had its anecdotes of  that kind, and the actors were all there.

 

Did I recognise in this assembly, a body of men, who, applying  themselves in a new world to correct some of the falsehoods and  vices of the old, purified the avenues to Public Life, paved the  dirty ways to Place and Power, debated and made laws for the Common  Good, and had no party but their Country?

 

I saw in them, the wheels that move the meanest perversion of  virtuous Political Machinery that the worst tools ever wrought.   Despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with  public officers; cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous  newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers; shameful  trucklings to mercenary knaves, whose claim to be considered, is,  that every day and week they sow new crops of ruin with their venal  types, which are the dragon's teeth of yore, in everything but  sharpness; aidings and abettings of every bad inclination in the  popular mind, and artful suppressions of all its good influences:   such things as these, and in a word, Dishonest Faction in its most  depraved and most unblushing form, stared out from every corner of  the crowded hall.

 

Did I see among them, the intelligence and refinement:  the true,  honest, patriotic heart of America?  Here and there, were drops of  its blood and life, but they scarcely coloured the stream of  desperate adventurers which sets that way for profit and for pay.   It is the game of these men, and of their profligate organs, to  make the strife of politics so fierce and brutal, and so  destructive of all self-respect in worthy men, that sensitive and  delicate-minded persons shall be kept aloof, and they, and such as  they, be left to battle out their selfish views unchecked.  And  thus this lowest of all scrambling fights goes on, and they who in  other countries would, from their intelligence and station, most  aspire to make the laws, do here recoil the farthest from that  degradation.

 

That there are, among the representatives of the people in both  Houses, and among all parties, some men of high character and great  abilities, I need not say.  The foremost among those politicians  who are known in Europe, have been already described, and I see no  reason to depart from the rule I have laid down for my guidance, of  abstaining from all mention of individuals.  It will be sufficient  to add, that to the most favourable accounts that have been written  of them, I more than fully and most heartily subscribe; and that  personal intercourse and free communication have bred within me,  not the result predicted in the very doubtful proverb, but  increased admiration and respect.  They are striking men to look  at, hard to deceive, prompt to act, lions in energy, Crichtons in  varied accomplishments, Indians in fire of eye and gesture,  Americans in strong and generous impulse; and they as well  represent the honour and wisdom of their country at home, as the  distinguished gentleman who is now its Minister at the British  Court sustains its highest character abroad.

 

I visited both houses nearly every day, during my stay in  Washington.  On my initiatory visit to the House of  Representatives, they divided against a decision of the chair; but  the chair won.  The second time I went, the member who was  speaking, being interrupted by a laugh, mimicked it, as one child  would in quarrelling with another, and added, 'that he would make  honourable gentlemen opposite, sing out a little more on the other  side of their mouths presently.'  But interruptions are rare; the  speaker being usually heard in silence.  There are more quarrels  than with us, and more threatenings than gentlemen are accustomed  to exchange in any civilised society of which we have record:  but  farm-yard imitations have not as yet been imported from the  Parliament of the United Kingdom.  The feature in oratory which  appears to be the most practised, and most relished, is the  constant repetition of the same idea or shadow of an idea in fresh  words; and the inquiry out of doors is not, 'What did he say?' but,  'How long did he speak?'  These, however, are but enlargements of a  principle which prevails elsewhere.

 

The Senate is a dignified and decorous body, and its proceedings  are conducted with much gravity and order.  Both houses are  handsomely carpeted; but the state to which these carpets are  reduced by the universal disregard of the spittoon with which every  honourable member is accommodated, and the extraordinary  improvements on the pattern which are squirted and dabbled upon it  in every direction, do not admit of being described.  I will merely  observe, that I strongly recommend all strangers not to look at the  floor; and if they happen to drop anything, though it be their  purse, not to pick it up with an ungloved hand on any account.

 

It is somewhat remarkable too, at first, to say the least, to see  so many honourable members with swelled faces; and it is scarcely  less remarkable to discover that this appearance is caused by the  quantity of tobacco they contrive to stow within the hollow of the  cheek.  It is strange enough too, to see an honourable gentleman  leaning back in his tilted chair with his legs on the desk before  him, shaping a convenient 'plug' with his penknife, and when it is  quite ready for use, shooting the old one from his mouth, as from a  pop-gun, and clapping the new one in its place.

 

I was surprised to observe that even steady old chewers of great  experience, are not always good marksmen, which has rather inclined  me to doubt that general proficiency with the rifle, of which we  have heard so much in England.  Several gentlemen called upon me  who, in the course of conversation, frequently missed the spittoon  at five paces; and one (but he was certainly short-sighted) mistook  the closed sash for the open window, at three.  On another  occasion, when I dined out, and was sitting with two ladies and  some gentlemen round a fire before dinner, one of the company fell  short of the fireplace, six distinct times.  I am disposed to  think, however, that this was occasioned by his not aiming at that  object; as there was a white marble hearth before the fender, which  was more convenient, and may have suited his purpose better.

 

The Patent Office at Washington, furnishes an extraordinary example  of American enterprise and ingenuity; for the immense number of  models it contains are the accumulated inventions of only five  years; the whole of the previous collection having been destroyed  by fire.  The elegant structure in which they are arranged is one  of design rather than execution, for there is but one side erected  out of four, though the works are stopped.  The Post Office is a  very compact and very beautiful building.  In one of the  departments, among a collection of rare and curious articles, are  deposited the presents which have been made from time to time to  the American ambassadors at foreign courts by the various  potentates to whom they were the accredited agents of the Republic;  gifts which by the law they are not permitted to retain.  I confess  that I looked upon this as a very painful exhibition, and one by no  means flattering to the national standard of honesty and honour.   That can scarcely be a high state of moral feeling which imagines a  gentleman of repute and station, likely to be corrupted, in the  discharge of his duty, by the present of a snuff-box, or a richly-mounted sword, or an Eastern shawl; and surely the Nation who  reposes confidence in her appointed servants, is likely to be  better served, than she who makes them the subject of such very  mean and paltry suspicions.

 

At George Town, in the suburbs, there is a Jesuit College;  delightfully situated, and, so far as I had an opportunity of  seeing, well managed.  Many persons who are not members of the  Romish Church, avail themselves, I believe, of these institutions,  and of the advantageous opportunities they afford for the education  of their children.  The heights of this neighbourhood, above the  Potomac River, are very picturesque:  and are free, I should  conceive, from some of the insalubrities of Washington.  The air,  at that elevation, was quite cool and refreshing, when in the city  it was burning hot.

 

The President's mansion is more like an English club-house, both  within and without, than any other kind of establishment with which  I can compare it.  The ornamental ground about it has been laid out  in garden walks; they are pretty, and agreeable to the eye; though  they have that uncomfortable air of having been made yesterday,  which is far from favourable to the display of such beauties.

 

My first visit to this house was on the morning after my arrival,  when I was carried thither by an official gentleman, who was so  kind as to charge himself with my presentation to the President.

 

We entered a large hall, and having twice or thrice rung a bell  which nobody answered, walked without further ceremony through the  rooms on the ground floor, as divers other gentlemen (mostly with  their hats on, and their hands in their pockets) were doing very  leisurely.  Some of these had ladies with them, to whom they were  showing the premises; others were lounging on the chairs and sofas;  others, in a perfect state of exhaustion from listlessness, were  yawning drearily.  The greater portion of this assemblage were  rather asserting their supremacy than doing anything else, as they  had no particular business there, that anybody knew of.  A few were  closely eyeing the movables, as if to make quite sure that the  President (who was far from popular) had not made away with any of  the furniture, or sold the fixtures for his private benefit.

 

After glancing at these loungers; who were scattered over a pretty  drawing-room, opening upon a terrace which commanded a beautiful  prospect of the river and the adjacent country; and who were  sauntering, too, about a larger state-room called the Eastern  Drawing-room; we went up-stairs into another chamber, where were  certain visitors, waiting for audiences.  At sight of my conductor,  a black in plain clothes and yellow slippers who was gliding  noiselessly about, and whispering messages in the ears of the more  impatient, made a sign of recognition, and glided off to announce  him.

 

We had previously looked into another chamber fitted all round with  a great, bare, wooden desk or counter, whereon lay files of  newspapers, to which sundry gentlemen were referring.  But there  were no such means of beguiling the time in this apartment, which  was as unpromising and tiresome as any waiting-room in one of our  public establishments, or any physician's dining-room during his  hours of consultation at home.

 

There were some fifteen or twenty persons in the room.  One, a  tall, wiry, muscular old man, from the west; sunburnt and swarthy;  with a brown white hat on his knees, and a giant umbrella resting  between his legs; who sat bolt upright in his chair, frowning  steadily at the carpet, and twitching the hard lines about his  mouth, as if he had made up his mind 'to fix' the President on what  he had to say, and wouldn't bate him a grain.  Another, a Kentucky  farmer, six-feet-six in height, with his hat on, and his hands  under his coat-tails, who leaned against the wall and kicked the  floor with his heel, as though he had Time's head under his shoe,  and were literally 'killing' him.  A third, an oval-faced, bilious-looking man, with sleek black hair cropped close, and whiskers and  beard shaved down to blue dots, who sucked the head of a thick  stick, and from time to time took it out of his mouth, to see how  it was getting on.  A fourth did nothing but whistle.  A fifth did  nothing but spit.  And indeed all these gentlemen were so very  persevering and energetic in this latter particular, and bestowed  their favours so abundantly upon the carpet, that I take it for  granted the Presidential housemaids have high wages, or, to speak  more genteelly, an ample amount of 'compensation:' which is the  American word for salary, in the case of all public servants.

 

We had not waited in this room many minutes, before the black  messenger returned, and conducted us into another of smaller  dimensions, where, at a business-like table covered with papers,  sat the President himself.  He looked somewhat worn and anxious,  and well he might; being at war with everybody - but the expression  of his face was mild and pleasant, and his manner was remarkably  unaffected, gentlemanly, and agreeable.  I thought that in his  whole carriage and demeanour, he became his station singularly  well.

 

Being advised that the sensible etiquette of the republican court  admitted of a traveller, like myself, declining, without any  impropriety, an invitation to dinner, which did not reach me until  I had concluded my arrangements for leaving Washington some days  before that to which it referred, I only returned to this house  once.  It was on the occasion of one of those general assemblies  which are held on certain nights, between the hours of nine and  twelve o'clock, and are called, rather oddly, Levees.

 

I went, with my wife, at about ten.  There was a pretty dense crowd  of carriages and people in the court-yard, and so far as I could  make out, there were no very clear regulations for the taking up or  setting down of company.  There were certainly no policemen to  soothe startled horses, either by sawing at their bridles or  flourishing truncheons in their eyes; and I am ready to make oath  that no inoffensive persons were knocked violently on the head, or  poked acutely in their backs or stomachs; or brought to a  standstill by any such gentle means, and then taken into custody  for not moving on.  But there was no confusion or disorder.  Our  carriage reached the porch in its turn, without any blustering,  swearing, shouting, backing, or other disturbance:  and we  dismounted with as much ease and comfort as though we had been  escorted by the whole Metropolitan Force from A to Z inclusive.

 

The suite of rooms on the ground-floor were lighted up, and a  military band was playing in the hall.  In the smaller drawing-room, the centre of a circle of company, were the President and his  daughter-in-law, who acted as the lady of the mansion; and a very  interesting, graceful, and accomplished lady too.  One gentleman  who stood among this group, appeared to take upon himself the  functions of a master of the ceremonies.  I saw no other officers  or attendants, and none were needed.

 

The great drawing-room, which I have already mentioned, and the  other chambers on the ground-floor, were crowded to excess.  The  company was not, in our sense of the term, select, for it  comprehended persons of very many grades and classes; nor was there  any great display of costly attire:  indeed, some of the costumes  may have been, for aught I know, grotesque enough.  But the decorum  and propriety of behaviour which prevailed, were unbroken by any  rude or disagreeable incident; and every man, even among the  miscellaneous crowd in the hall who were admitted without any  orders or tickets to look on, appeared to feel that he was a part  of the Institution, and was responsible for its preserving a  becoming character, and appearing to the best advantage.

 

That these visitors, too, whatever their station, were not without  some refinement of taste and appreciation of intellectual gifts,  and gratitude to those men who, by the peaceful exercise of great  abilities, shed new charms and associations upon the homes of their  countrymen, and elevate their character in other lands, was most  earnestly testified by their reception of Washington Irving, my  dear friend, who had recently been appointed Minister at the court  of Spain, and who was among them that night, in his new character,  for the first and last time before going abroad.  I sincerely  believe that in all the madness of American politics, few public  men would have been so earnestly, devotedly, and affectionately  caressed, as this most charming writer:  and I have seldom  respected a public assembly more, than I did this eager throng,  when I saw them turning with one mind from noisy orators and  officers of state, and flocking with a generous and honest impulse  round the man of quiet pursuits:  proud in his promotion as  reflecting back upon their country:  and grateful to him with their  whole hearts for the store of graceful fancies he had poured out  among them.  Long may he dispense such treasures with unsparing  hand; and long may they remember him as worthily!

 

* * * * * *

 

The term we had assigned for the duration of our stay in Washington  was now at an end, and we were to begin to travel; for the railroad  distances we had traversed yet, in journeying among these older  towns, are on that great continent looked upon as nothing.

 

I had at first intended going South - to Charleston.  But when I  came to consider the length of time which this journey would  occupy, and the premature heat of the season, which even at  Washington had been often very trying; and weighed moreover, in my  own mind, the pain of living in the constant contemplation of  slavery, against the more than doubtful chances of my ever seeing  it, in the time I had to spare, stripped of the disguises in which  it would certainly be dressed, and so adding any item to the host  of facts already heaped together on the subject; I began to listen  to old whisperings which had often been present to me at home in  England, when I little thought of ever being here; and to dream  again of cities growing up, like palaces in fairy tales, among the  wilds and forests of the west.

 

The advice I received in most quarters when I began to yield to my  desire of travelling towards that point of the compass was,  according to custom, sufficiently cheerless:  my companion being  threatened with more perils, dangers, and discomforts, than I can  remember or would catalogue if I could; but of which it will be  sufficient to remark that blowings-up in steamboats and breakings-down in coaches were among the least.  But, having a western route  sketched out for me by the best and kindest authority to which I  could have resorted, and putting no great faith in these  discouragements, I soon determined on my plan of action.

 

This was to travel south, only to Richmond in Virginia; and then to  turn, and shape our course for the Far West; whither I beseech the  reader's company, in a new chapter.

 


CHAPTER IX - A NIGHT STEAMER ON THE POTOMAC RIVER.  VIRGINIA ROAD,  AND A BLACK DRIVER.  RICHMOND.  BALTIMORE.  THE HARRISBURG MAIL,  AND A GLIMPSE OF THE CITY.  A CANAL BOAT

 

WE were to proceed in the first instance by steamboat; and as it is  usual to sleep on board, in consequence of the starting-hour being  four o'clock in the morning, we went down to where she lay, at that  very uncomfortable time for such expeditions when slippers are most  valuable, and a familiar bed, in the perspective of an hour or two,  looks uncommonly pleasant.

 

It is ten o'clock at night:  say half-past ten:  moonlight, warm,  and dull enough.  The steamer (not unlike a child's Noah's ark in  form, with the machinery on the top of the roof) is riding lazily  up and down, and bumping clumsily against the wooden pier, as the  ripple of the river trifles with its unwieldy carcase.  The wharf  is some distance from the city.  There is nobody down here; and one  or two dull lamps upon the steamer's decks are the only signs of  life remaining, when our coach has driven away.  As soon as our  footsteps are heard upon the planks, a fat negress, particularly  favoured by nature in respect of bustle, emerges from some dark  stairs, and marshals my wife towards the ladies' cabin, to which  retreat she goes, followed by a mighty bale of cloaks and great-coats.  I valiantly resolve not to go to bed at all, but to walk up  and down the pier till morning.

 

I begin my promenade - thinking of all kinds of distant things and  persons, and of nothing near - and pace up and down for half-an-hour.  Then I go on board again; and getting into the light of one  of the lamps, look at my watch and think it must have stopped; and  wonder what has become of the faithful secretary whom I brought  along with me from Boston.  He is supping with our late landlord (a  Field Marshal, at least, no doubt) in honour of our departure, and  may be two hours longer.  I walk again, but it gets duller and  duller:  the moon goes down:  next June seems farther off in the  dark, and the echoes of my footsteps make me nervous.  It has  turned cold too; and walking up and down without my companion in  such lonely circumstances, is but poor amusement.  So I break my  staunch resolution, and think it may be, perhaps, as well to go to  bed.

 

I go on board again; open the door of the gentlemen's cabin and  walk in.  Somehow or other - from its being so quiet, I suppose - I  have taken it into my head that there is nobody there.  To my  horror and amazement it is full of sleepers in every stage, shape,  attitude, and variety of slumber:  in the berths, on the chairs, on  the floors, on the tables, and particularly round the stove, my  detested enemy.  I take another step forward, and slip on the  shining face of a black steward, who lies rolled in a blanket on  the floor.  He jumps up, grins, half in pain and half in  hospitality; whispers my own name in my ear; and groping among the  sleepers, leads me to my berth.  Standing beside it, I count these  slumbering passengers, and get past forty.  There is no use in  going further, so I begin to undress.  As the chairs are all  occupied, and there is nothing else to put my clothes on, I deposit  them upon the ground:  not without soiling my hands, for it is in  the same condition as the carpets in the Capitol, and from the same  cause.  Having but partially undressed, I clamber on my shelf, and  hold the curtain open for a few minutes while I look round on all  my fellow-travellers again.  That done, I let it fall on them, and  on the world:  turn round:  and go to sleep.

 

I wake, of course, when we get under weigh, for there is a good  deal of noise.  The day is then just breaking.  Everybody wakes at  the same time.  Some are self-possessed directly, and some are much  perplexed to make out where they are until they have rubbed their  eyes, and leaning on one elbow, looked about them.  Some yawn, some  groan, nearly all spit, and a few get up.  I am among the risers:   for it is easy to feel, without going into the fresh air, that the  atmosphere of the cabin is vile in the last degree.  I huddle on my  clothes, go down into the fore-cabin, get shaved by the barber, and  wash myself.  The washing and dressing apparatus for the passengers  generally, consists of two jack-towels, three small wooden basins,  a keg of water and a ladle to serve it out with, six square inches  of looking-glass, two ditto ditto of yellow soap, a comb and brush  for the head, and nothing for the teeth.  Everybody uses the comb  and brush, except myself.  Everybody stares to see me using my own;  and two or three gentlemen are strongly disposed to banter me on my  prejudices, but don't.  When I have made my toilet, I go upon the  hurricane-deck, and set in for two hours of hard walking up and  down.  The sun is rising brilliantly; we are passing Mount Vernon,  where Washington lies buried; the river is wide and rapid; and its  banks are beautiful.  All the glory and splendour of the day are  coming on, and growing brighter every minute.

 

At eight o'clock, we breakfast in the cabin where I passed the  night, but the windows and doors are all thrown open, and now it is  fresh enough.  There is no hurry or greediness apparent in the  despatch of the meal.  It is longer than a travelling breakfast  with us; more orderly, and more polite.

 

Soon after nine o'clock we come to Potomac Creek, where we are to  land; and then comes the oddest part of the journey.  Seven stage-coaches are preparing to carry us on.  Some of them are ready, some  of them are not ready.  Some of the drivers are blacks, some  whites.  There are four horses to each coach, and all the horses,  harnessed or unharnessed, are there.  The passengers are getting  out of the steamboat, and into the coaches; the luggage is being  transferred in noisy wheelbarrows; the horses are frightened, and  impatient to start; the black drivers are chattering to them like  so many monkeys; and the white ones whooping like so many drovers:   for the main thing to be done in all kinds of hostlering here, is  to make as much noise as possible.  The coaches are something like  the French coaches, but not nearly so good.  In lieu of springs,  they are hung on bands of the strongest leather.  There is very  little choice or difference between them; and they may be likened  to the car portion of the swings at an English fair, roofed, put  upon axle-trees and wheels, and curtained with painted canvas.   They are covered with mud from the roof to the wheel-tire, and have  never been cleaned since they were first built.

 

The tickets we have received on board the steamboat are marked No.  1, so we belong to coach No. 1.  I throw my coat on the box, and  hoist my wife and her maid into the inside.  It has only one step,  and that being about a yard from the ground, is usually approached  by a chair:  when there is no chair, ladies trust in Providence.   The coach holds nine inside, having a seat across from door to  door, where we in England put our legs:  so that there is only one  feat more difficult in the performance than getting in, and that  is, getting out again.  There is only one outside passenger, and he  sits upon the box.  As I am that one, I climb up; and while they  are strapping the luggage on the roof, and heaping it into a kind  of tray behind, have a good opportunity of looking at the driver.

 

He is a negro - very black indeed.  He is dressed in a coarse  pepper-and-salt suit excessively patched and darned (particularly  at the knees), grey stockings, enormous unblacked high-low shoes,  and very short trousers.  He has two odd gloves:  one of parti-coloured worsted, and one of leather.  He has a very short whip,  broken in the middle and bandaged up with string.  And yet he wears  a low-crowned, broad-brimmed, black hat:  faintly shadowing forth a  kind of insane imitation of an English coachman!  But somebody in  authority cries 'Go ahead!' as I am making these observations.  The  mail takes the lead in a four-horse waggon, and all the coaches  follow in procession:  headed by No. 1.

 

By the way, whenever an Englishman would cry 'All right!' an  American cries 'Go ahead!' which is somewhat expressive of the  national character of the two countries.

 

The first half-mile of the road is over bridges made of loose  planks laid across two parallel poles, which tilt up as the wheels  roll over them; and IN the river.  The river has a clayey bottom  and is full of holes, so that half a horse is constantly  disappearing unexpectedly, and can't be found again for some time.

 

But we get past even this, and come to the road itself, which is a  series of alternate swamps and gravel-pits.  A tremendous place is  close before us, the black driver rolls his eyes, screws his mouth  up very round, and looks straight between the two leaders, as if he  were saying to himself, 'We have done this often before, but NOW I  think we shall have a crash.'  He takes a rein in each hand; jerks  and pulls at both; and dances on the splashboard with both feet  (keeping his seat, of course) like the late lamented Ducrow on two  of his fiery coursers.  We come to the spot, sink down in the mire  nearly to the coach windows, tilt on one side at an angle of forty-five degrees, and stick there.  The insides scream dismally; the  coach stops; the horses flounder; all the other six coaches stop;  and their four-and-twenty horses flounder likewise:  but merely for  company, and in sympathy with ours.  Then the following  circumstances occur.

 

BLACK DRIVER (to the horses).  'Hi!'

 

Nothing happens.  Insides scream again.

 

BLACK DRIVER (to the horses).  'Ho!'

 

Horses plunge, and splash the black driver.

 

GENTLEMAN INSIDE (looking out).  'Why, what on airth -

 

Gentleman receives a variety of splashes and draws his head in  again, without finishing his question or waiting for an answer.

 

BLACK DRIVER (still to the horses).  'Jiddy!  Jiddy!'

 

Horses pull violently, drag the coach out of the hole, and draw it  up a bank; so steep, that the black driver's legs fly up into the  air, and he goes back among the luggage on the roof.  But he  immediately recovers himself, and cries (still to the horses),

 

'Pill!'

 

No effect.  On the contrary, the coach begins to roll back upon No.  2, which rolls back upon No. 3, which rolls back upon No. 4, and so  on, until No. 7 is heard to curse and swear, nearly a quarter of a  mile behind.

 

BLACK DRIVER (louder than before).  'Pill!'

 

Horses make another struggle to get up the bank, and again the  coach rolls backward.

 

BLACK DRIVER (louder than before).  'Pe-e-e-ill!'

 

Horses make a desperate struggle.

 

BLACK DRIVER (recovering spirits).  'Hi, Jiddy, Jiddy, Pill!'

 

Horses make another effort.

 

BLACK DRIVER (with great vigour).  'Ally Loo!  Hi.  Jiddy, Jiddy.   Pill.  Ally Loo!'

 

Horses almost do it.

 

BLACK DRIVER (with his eyes starting out of his head).  'Lee, den.   Lee, dere.  Hi.  Jiddy, Jiddy.  Pill.  Ally Loo.  Lee-e-e-e-e!'

 

They run up the bank, and go down again on the other side at a  fearful pace.  It is impossible to stop them, and at the bottom  there is a deep hollow, full of water.  The coach rolls  frightfully.  The insides scream.  The mud and water fly about us.   The black driver dances like a madman.  Suddenly we are all right  by some extraordinary means, and stop to breathe.

 

A black friend of the black driver is sitting on a fence.  The  black driver recognises him by twirling his head round and round  like a harlequin, rolling his eyes, shrugging his shoulders, and  grinning from ear to ear.  He stops short, turns to me, and says:

 

'We shall get you through sa, like a fiddle, and hope a please you  when we get you through sa.  Old 'ooman at home sa:' chuckling very  much.  'Outside gentleman sa, he often remember old 'ooman at home  sa,' grinning again.

 

'Ay ay, we'll take care of the old woman.  Don't be afraid.'

 

The black driver grins again, but there is another hole, and beyond  that, another bank, close before us.  So he stops short:  cries (to  the horses again) 'Easy.  Easy den.  Ease.  Steady.  Hi.  Jiddy.   Pill.  Ally.  Loo,' but never 'Lee!' until we are reduced to the  very last extremity, and are in the midst of difficulties,  extrication from which appears to be all but impossible.

 

And so we do the ten miles or thereabouts in two hours and a half;  breaking no bones, though bruising a great many; and in short  getting through the distance, 'like a fiddle.'

 

This singular kind of coaching terminates at Fredericksburgh,  whence there is a railway to Richmond.  The tract of country  through which it takes its course was once productive; but the soil  has been exhausted by the system of employing a great amount of  slave labour in forcing crops, without strengthening the land:  and  it is now little better than a sandy desert overgrown with trees.   Dreary and uninteresting as its aspect is, I was glad to the heart  to find anything on which one of the curses of this horrible  institution has fallen; and had greater pleasure in contemplating  the withered ground, than the richest and most thriving cultivation  in the same place could possibly have afforded me.

 

In this district, as in all others where slavery sits brooding, (I  have frequently heard this admitted, even by those who are its  warmest advocates:) there is an air of ruin and decay abroad, which  is inseparable from the system.  The barns and outhouses are  mouldering away; the sheds are patched and half roofless; the log  cabins (built in Virginia with external chimneys made of clay or  wood) are squalid in the last degree.  There is no look of decent  comfort anywhere.  The miserable stations by the railway side, the  great wild wood-yards, whence the engine is supplied with fuel; the  negro children rolling on the ground before the cabin doors, with  dogs and pigs; the biped beasts of burden slinking past:  gloom and  dejection are upon them all.

 

In the negro car belonging to the train in which we made this  journey, were a mother and her children who had just been  purchased; the husband and father being left behind with their old  owner.  The children cried the whole way, and the mother was  misery's picture.  The champion of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit  of Happiness, who had bought them, rode in the same train; and,  every time we stopped, got down to see that they were safe.  The  black in Sinbad's Travels with one eye in the middle of his  forehead which shone like a burning coal, was nature's aristocrat  compared with this white gentleman.

 

It was between six and seven o'clock in the evening, when we drove  to the hotel:  in front of which, and on the top of the broad  flight of steps leading to the door, two or three citizens were  balancing themselves on rocking-chairs, and smoking cigars.  We  found it a very large and elegant establishment, and were as well  entertained as travellers need desire to be.  The climate being a  thirsty one, there was never, at any hour of the day, a scarcity of  loungers in the spacious bar, or a cessation of the mixing of cool  liquors:  but they were a merrier people here, and had musical  instruments playing to them o' nights, which it was a treat to hear  again.

 

The next day, and the next, we rode and walked about the town,  which is delightfully situated on eight hills, overhanging James  River; a sparkling stream, studded here and there with bright  islands, or brawling over broken rocks.  Although it was yet but  the middle of March, the weather in this southern temperature was  extremely warm; the peech-trees and magnolias were in full bloom;  and the trees were green.  In a low ground among the hills, is a  valley known as 'Bloody Run,' from a terrible conflict with the  Indians which once occurred there.  It is a good place for such a  struggle, and, like every other spot I saw associated with any  legend of that wild people now so rapidly fading from the earth,  interested me very much.

 

The city is the seat of the local parliament of Virginia; and in  its shady legislative halls, some orators were drowsily holding  forth to the hot noon day.  By dint of constant repetition,  however, these constitutional sights had very little more interest  for me than so many parochial vestries; and I was glad to exchange  this one for a lounge in a well-arranged public library of some ten  thousand volumes, and a visit to a tobacco manufactory, where the  workmen are all slaves.

 

I saw in this place the whole process of picking, rolling,  pressing, drying, packing in casks, and branding.  All the tobacco  thus dealt with, was in course of manufacture for chewing; and one  would have supposed there was enough in that one storehouse to have  filled even the comprehensive jaws of America.  In this form, the  weed looks like the oil-cake on which we fatten cattle; and even  without reference to its consequences, is sufficiently uninviting.

 

Many of the workmen appeared to be strong men, and it is hardly  necessary to add that they were all labouring quietly, then.  After  two o'clock in the day, they are allowed to sing, a certain number  at a time.  The hour striking while I was there, some twenty sang a  hymn in parts, and sang it by no means ill; pursuing their work  meanwhile.  A bell rang as I was about to leave, and they all  poured forth into a building on the opposite side of the street to  dinner.  I said several times that I should like to see them at  their meal; but as the gentleman to whom I mentioned this desire  appeared to be suddenly taken rather deaf, I did not pursue the  request.  Of their appearance I shall have something to say,  presently.

 

On the following day, I visited a plantation or farm, of about  twelve hundred acres, on the opposite bank of the river.  Here  again, although I went down with the owner of the estate, to 'the  quarter,' as that part of it in which the slaves live is called, I  was not invited to enter into any of their huts.  All I saw of  them, was, that they were very crazy, wretched cabins, near to  which groups of half-naked children basked in the sun, or wallowed  on the dusty ground.  But I believe that this gentleman is a  considerate and excellent master, who inherited his fifty slaves,  and is neither a buyer nor a seller of human stock; and I am sure,  from my own observation and conviction, that he is a kind-hearted,  worthy man.

 

The planter's house was an airy, rustic dwelling, that brought  Defoe's description of such places strongly to my recollection.   The day was very warm, but the blinds being all closed, and the  windows and doors set wide open, a shady coolness rustled through  the rooms, which was exquisitely refreshing after the glare and  heat without.  Before the windows was an open piazza, where, in  what they call the hot weather - whatever that may be - they sling  hammocks, and drink and doze luxuriously.  I do not know how their  cool rejections may taste within the hammocks, but, having  experience, I can report that, out of them, the mounds of ices and  the bowls of mint-julep and sherry-cobbler they make in these  latitudes, are refreshments never to be thought of afterwards, in  summer, by those who would preserve contented minds.

 

There are two bridges across the river:  one belongs to the  railroad, and the other, which is a very crazy affair, is the  private property of some old lady in the neighbourhood, who levies  tolls upon the townspeople.  Crossing this bridge, on my way back,  I saw a notice painted on the gate, cautioning all persons to drive  slowly:  under a penalty, if the offender were a white man, of five  dollars; if a negro, fifteen stripes.

 

The same decay and gloom that overhang the way by which it is  approached, hover above the town of Richmond.  There are pretty  villas and cheerful houses in its streets, and Nature smiles upon  the country round; but jostling its handsome residences, like  slavery itself going hand in hand with many lofty virtues, are  deplorable tenements, fences unrepaired, walls crumbling into  ruinous heaps.  Hinting gloomily at things below the surface,  these, and many other tokens of the same description, force  themselves upon the notice, and are remembered with depressing  influence, when livelier features are forgotten.

 

To those who are happily unaccustomed to them, the countenances in  the streets and labouring-places, too, are shocking.  All men who  know that there are laws against instructing slaves, of which the  pains and penalties greatly exceed in their amount the fines  imposed on those who maim and torture them, must be prepared to  find their faces very low in the scale of intellectual expression.   But the darkness - not of skin, but mind - which meets the  stranger's eye at every turn; the brutalizing and blotting out of  all fairer characters traced by Nature's hand; immeasurably outdo  his worst belief.  That travelled creation of the great satirist's  brain, who fresh from living among horses, peered from a high  casement down upon his own kind with trembling horror, was scarcely  more repelled and daunted by the sight, than those who look upon  some of these faces for the first time must surely be.

 

I left the last of them behind me in the person of a wretched  drudge, who, after running to and fro all day till midnight, and  moping in his stealthy winks of sleep upon the stairs  betweenwhiles, was washing the dark passages at four o'clock in the  morning; and went upon my way with a grateful heart that I was not  doomed to live where slavery was, and had never had my senses  blunted to its wrongs and horrors in a slave-rocked cradle.

 

It had been my intention to proceed by James River and Chesapeake  Bay to Baltimore; but one of the steamboats being absent from her  station through some accident, and the means of conveyance being  consequently rendered uncertain, we returned to Washington by the  way we had come (there were two constables on board the steamboat,  in pursuit of runaway slaves), and halting there again for one  night, went on to Baltimore next afternoon.

 

The most comfortable of all the hotels of which I had any  experience in the United States, and they were not a few, is  Barnum's, in that city:  where the English traveller will find  curtains to his bed, for the first and probably the last time in  America (this is a disinterested remark, for I never use them); and  where he will be likely to have enough water for washing himself,  which is not at all a common case.

 

This capital of the state of Maryland is a bustling, busy town,  with a great deal of traffic of various kinds, and in particular of  water commerce.  That portion of the town which it most favours is  none of the cleanest, it is true; but the upper part is of a very  different character, and has many agreeable streets and public  buildings.  The Washington Monument, which is a handsome pillar  with a statue on its summit; the Medical College; and the Battle  Monument in memory of an engagement with the British at North  Point; are the most conspicuous among them.

 

There is a very good prison in this city, and the State  Penitentiary is also among its institutions.  In this latter  establishment there were two curious cases.

 

One was that of a young man, who had been tried for the murder of  his father.  The evidence was entirely circumstantial, and was very  conflicting and doubtful; nor was it possible to assign any motive  which could have tempted him to the commission of so tremendous a  crime.  He had been tried twice; and on the second occasion the  jury felt so much hesitation in convicting him, that they found a  verdict of manslaughter, or murder in the second degree; which it  could not possibly be, as there had, beyond all doubt, been no  quarrel or provocation, and if he were guilty at all, he was  unquestionably guilty of murder in its broadest and worst  signification.

 

The remarkable feature in the case was, that if the unfortunate  deceased were not really murdered by this own son of his, he must  have been murdered by his own brother.  The evidence lay in a most  remarkable manner, between those two.  On all the suspicious  points, the dead man's brother was the witness:  all the  explanations for the prisoner (some of them extremely plausible)  went, by construction and inference, to inculcate him as plotting  to fix the guilt upon his nephew.  It must have been one of them:   and the jury had to decide between two sets of suspicions, almost  equally unnatural, unaccountable, and strange.

 

The other case, was that of a man who once went to a certain  distiller's and stole a copper measure containing a quantity of  liquor.  He was pursued and taken with the property in his  possession, and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.  On  coming out of the jail, at the expiration of that term, he went  back to the same distiller's, and stole the same copper measure  containing the same quantity of liquor.  There was not the  slightest reason to suppose that the man wished to return to  prison:  indeed everything, but the commission of the offence, made  directly against that assumption.  There are only two ways of  accounting for this extraordinary proceeding.  One is, that after  undergoing so much for this copper measure he conceived he had  established a sort of claim and right to it.  The other that, by  dint of long thinking about, it had become a monomania with him,  and had acquired a fascination which he found it impossible to  resist; swelling from an Earthly Copper Gallon into an Ethereal  Golden Vat.

 

After remaining here a couple of days I bound myself to a rigid  adherence to the plan I had laid down so recently, and resolved to  set forward on our western journey without any more delay.   Accordingly, having reduced the luggage within the smallest  possible compass (by sending back to New York, to be afterwards  forwarded to us in Canada, so much of it as was not absolutely  wanted); and having procured the necessary credentials to banking-houses on the way; and having moreover looked for two evenings at  the setting sun, with as well-defined an idea of the country before  us as if we had been going to travel into the very centre of that  planet; we left Baltimore by another railway at half-past eight in  the morning, and reached the town of York, some sixty miles off, by  the early dinner-time of the Hotel which was the starting-place of  the four-horse coach, wherein we were to proceed to Harrisburg.

 

This conveyance, the box of which I was fortunate enough to secure,  had come down to meet us at the railroad station, and was as muddy  and cumbersome as usual.  As more passengers were waiting for us at  the inn-door, the coachman observed under his breath, in the usual  self-communicative voice, looking the while at his mouldy harness  as if it were to that he was addressing himself,

 

'I expect we shall want THE BIG coach.'

 

I could not help wondering within myself what the size of this big  coach might be, and how many persons it might be designed to hold;  for the vehicle which was too small for our purpose was something  larger than two English heavy night coaches, and might have been  the twin-brother of a French Diligence.  My speculations were  speedily set at rest, however, for as soon as we had dined, there  came rumbling up the street, shaking its sides like a corpulent  giant, a kind of barge on wheels.  After much blundering and  backing, it stopped at the door:  rolling heavily from side to side  when its other motion had ceased, as if it had taken cold in its  damp stable, and between that, and the having been required in its  dropsical old age to move at any faster pace than a walk, were  distressed by shortness of wind.

 

'If here ain't the Harrisburg mail at last, and dreadful bright and  smart to look at too,' cried an elderly gentleman in some  excitement, 'darn my mother!'

 

I don't know what the sensation of being darned may be, or whether  a man's mother has a keener relish or disrelish of the process than  anybody else; but if the endurance of this mysterious ceremony by  the old lady in question had depended on the accuracy of her son's  vision in respect to the abstract brightness and smartness of the  Harrisburg mail, she would certainly have undergone its infliction.   However, they booked twelve people inside; and the luggage  (including such trifles as a large rocking-chair, and a good-sized  dining-table) being at length made fast upon the roof, we started  off in great state.

 

At the door of another hotel, there was another passenger to be  taken up.

 

'Any room, sir?' cries the new passenger to the coachman.

 

'Well, there's room enough,' replies the coachman, without getting  down, or even looking at him.

 

'There an't no room at all, sir,' bawls a gentleman inside.  Which  another gentleman (also inside) confirms, by predicting that the  attempt to introduce any more passengers 'won't fit nohow.'

 

The new passenger, without any expression of anxiety, looks into  the coach, and then looks up at the coachman:  'Now, how do you  mean to fix it?' says he, after a pause:  'for I MUST go.'

 

The coachman employs himself in twisting the lash of his whip into  a knot, and takes no more notice of the question:  clearly  signifying that it is anybody's business but his, and that the  passengers would do well to fix it, among themselves.  In this  state of things, matters seem to be approximating to a fix of  another kind, when another inside passenger in a corner, who is  nearly suffocated, cries faintly, 'I'll get out.'

 

This is no matter of relief or self-congratulation to the driver,  for his immovable philosophy is perfectly undisturbed by anything  that happens in the coach.  Of all things in the world, the coach  would seem to be the very last upon his mind.  The exchange is  made, however, and then the passenger who has given up his seat  makes a third upon the box, seating himself in what he calls the  middle; that is, with half his person on my legs, and the other  half on the driver's.

 

'Go a-head, cap'en,' cries the colonel, who directs.

 

'Go-lang!' cries the cap'en to his company, the horses, and away we  go.

 

We took up at a rural bar-room, after we had gone a few miles, an  intoxicated gentleman who climbed upon the roof among the luggage,  and subsequently slipping off without hurting himself, was seen in  the distant perspective reeling back to the grog-shop where we had  found him.  We also parted with more of our freight at different  times, so that when we came to change horses, I was again alone  outside.

 

The coachmen always change with the horses, and are usually as  dirty as the coach.  The first was dressed like a very shabby  English baker; the second like a Russian peasant:  for he wore a  loose purple camlet robe, with a fur collar, tied round his waist  with a parti-coloured worsted sash; grey trousers; light blue  gloves:  and a cap of bearskin.  It had by this time come on to  rain very heavily, and there was a cold damp mist besides, which  penetrated to the skin.  I was glad to take advantage of a stoppage  and get down to stretch my legs, shake the water off my great-coat,  and swallow the usual anti-temperance recipe for keeping out the  cold.

 

When I mounted to my seat again, I observed a new parcel lying on  the coach roof, which I took to be a rather large fiddle in a brown  bag.  In the course of a few miles, however, I discovered that it  had a glazed cap at one end and a pair of muddy shoes at the other  and further observation demonstrated it to be a small boy in a  snuff-coloured coat, with his arms quite pinioned to his sides, by  deep forcing into his pockets.  He was, I presume, a relative or  friend of the coachman's, as he lay a-top of the luggage with his  face towards the rain; and except when a change of position brought  his shoes in contact with my hat, he appeared to be asleep.  At  last, on some occasion of our stopping, this thing slowly upreared  itself to the height of three feet six, and fixing its eyes on me,  observed in piping accents, with a complaisant yawn, half quenched  in an obliging air of friendly patronage, 'Well now, stranger, I  guess you find this a'most like an English arternoon, hey?'

 

The scenery, which had been tame enough at first, was, for the last  ten or twelve miles, beautiful.  Our road wound through the  pleasant valley of the Susquehanna; the river, dotted with  innumerable green islands, lay upon our right; and on the left, a  steep ascent, craggy with broken rock, and dark with pine trees.   The mist, wreathing itself into a hundred fantastic shapes, moved  solemnly upon the water; and the gloom of evening gave to all an  air of mystery and silence which greatly enhanced its natural  interest.

 

We crossed this river by a wooden bridge, roofed and covered in on  all sides, and nearly a mile in length.  It was profoundly dark;  perplexed, with great beams, crossing and recrossing it at every  possible angle; and through the broad chinks and crevices in the  floor, the rapid river gleamed, far down below, like a legion of  eyes.  We had no lamps; and as the horses stumbled and floundered  through this place, towards the distant speck of dying light, it  seemed interminable.  I really could not at first persuade myself  as we rumbled heavily on, filling the bridge with hollow noises,  and I held down my head to save it from the rafters above, but that  I was in a painful dream; for I have often dreamed of toiling  through such places, and as often argued, even at the time, 'this  cannot be reality.'

 

At length, however, we emerged upon the streets of Harrisburg,  whose feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did  not shine out upon a very cheerful city.  We were soon established  in a snug hotel, which though smaller and far less splendid than  many we put up at, it raised above them all in my remembrance, by  having for its landlord the most obliging, considerate, and  gentlemanly person I ever had to deal with.

 

As we were not to proceed upon our journey until the afternoon, I  walked out, after breakfast the next morning, to look about me; and  was duly shown a model prison on the solitary system, just erected,  and as yet without an inmate; the trunk of an old tree to which  Harris, the first settler here (afterwards buried under it), was  tied by hostile Indians, with his funeral pile about him, when he  was saved by the timely appearance of a friendly party on the  opposite shore of the river; the local legislature (for there was  another of those bodies here again, in full debate); and the other  curiosities of the town.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


CHAPTER X - SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE CANAL BOAT, ITS DOMESTIC  ECONOMY, AND ITS PASSENGERS.  JOURNEY TO PITTSBURG ACROSS THE  ALLEGHANY MOUNTAINS.  PITTSBURG

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


CHAPTER XI - FROM PITTSBURG TO CINCINNATI IN A WESTERN STEAMBOAT.   CINCINNATI

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


CHAPTER XII - FROM CINCINNATI TO LOUISVILLE IN ANOTHER WESTERN  STEAMBOAT; AND FROM LOUISVILLE TO ST. LOUIS IN ANOTHER.  ST. LOUIS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

the table at once.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


CHAPTER XIII - A JAUNT TO THE LOOKING-GLASS PRAIRIE AND BACK

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

'Your countryman, sir!'

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


CHAPTER XIV - RETURN TO CINCINNATI.  A STAGE-COACH RIDE FROM THAT  CITY TO COLUMBUS, AND THENCE TO SANDUSKY.  SO, BY LAKE ERIE, TO THE  FALLS OF NIAGARA

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

and steaming down the Mississippi.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STRAW HAT.  Warm weather, Judge.

 

BROWN HAT.  Yes, sir.

 

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

 

BROWN HAT.  Yes, sir.

 

STRAW HAT.  Yes, sir.

 

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

 

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

 

BROWN HAT.  Yes, sir.

 

STRAW HAT.  How did the verdict go, sir?

 

BROWN HAT.  For the defendant, sir.

 

STRAW HAT.  (Interrogatively.)  Yes, sir?

 

BROWN HAT. (Affirmatively.)  Yes, sir.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STRAW HAT.  (Doubtingly.)  Yes, sir.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

BROWN HAT.  Yes, sir.

 

ALL THE OTHER INSIDE PASSENGERS.  Yes, sir.

 

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

 

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

 

Dinner over, we get into another vehicle which is ready at the door  (for the coach has been changed in the interval), and resume our  journey; which continues through the same kind of country until  evening, when we come to the town where we are to stop for tea and  supper; and having delivered the mail bags at the Post-office, ride  through the usual wide street, lined with the usual stores and  houses (the drapers always having hung up at their door, by way of  sign, a piece of bright red cloth), to the hotel where this meal is  prepared.  There being many boarders here, we sit down, a large  party, and a very melancholy one as usual.  But there is a buxom  hostess at the head of the table, and opposite, a simple Welsh  schoolmaster with his wife and child; who came here, on a  speculation of greater promise than performance, to teach the  classics:  and they are sufficient subjects of interest until the  meal is over, and another coach is ready.  In it we go on once  more, lighted by a bright moon, until midnight; when we stop to  change the coach again, and remain for half an hour or so in a  miserable room, with a blurred lithograph of Washington over the  smoky fire-place, and a mighty jug of cold water on the table:  to  which refreshment the moody passengers do so apply themselves that  they would seem to be, one and all, keen patients of Dr. Sangrado.   Among them is a very little boy, who chews tobacco like a very big  one; and a droning gentleman, who talks arithmetically and  statistically on all subjects, from poetry downwards; and who  always speaks in the same key, with exactly the same emphasis, and  with very grave deliberation.  He came outside just now, and told  me how that the uncle of a certain young lady who had been spirited  away and married by a certain captain, lived in these parts; and  how this uncle was so valiant and ferocious that he shouldn't  wonder if he were to follow the said captain to England, 'and shoot  him down in the street wherever he found him;' in the feasibility  of which strong measure I, being for the moment rather prone to  contradiction, from feeling half asleep and very tired, declined to  acquiesce:  assuring him that if the uncle did resort to it, or  gratified any other little whim of the like nature, he would find  himself one morning prematurely throttled at the Old Bailey:  and  that he would do well to make his will before he went, as he would  certainly want it before he had been in Britain very long.

 

On we go, all night, and by-and-by the day begins to break, and  presently the first cheerful rays of the warm sun come slanting on  us brightly.  It sheds its light upon a miserable waste of sodden  grass, and dull trees, and squalid huts, whose aspect is forlorn  and grievous in the last degree.  A very desert in the wood, whose  growth of green is dank and noxious like that upon the top of  standing water:  where poisonous fungus grows in the rare footprint  on the oozy ground, and sprouts like witches' coral, from the  crevices in the cabin wall and floor; it is a hideous thing to lie  upon the very threshold of a city.  But it was purchased years ago,  and as the owner cannot be discovered, the State has been unable to  reclaim it.  So there it remains, in the midst of cultivation and  improvement, like ground accursed, and made obscene and rank by  some great crime.

 

We reached Columbus shortly before seven o'clock, and stayed there,  to refresh, that day and night:  having excellent apartments in a  very large unfinished hotel called the Neill House, which were  richly fitted with the polished wood of the black walnut, and  opened on a handsome portico and stone verandah, like rooms in some  Italian mansion.  The town is clean and pretty, and of course is  'going to be' much larger.  It is the seat of the State legislature  of Ohio, and lays claim, in consequence, to some consideration and  importance.

 

There being no stage-coach next day, upon the road we wished to  take, I hired 'an extra,' at a reasonable charge to carry us to  Tiffin; a small town from whence there is a railroad to Sandusky.   This extra was an ordinary four-horse stage-coach, such as I have  described, changing horses and drivers, as the stage-coach would,  but was exclusively our own for the journey.  To ensure our having  horses at the proper stations, and being incommoded by no  strangers, the proprietors sent an agent on the box, who was to  accompany us the whole way through; and thus attended, and bearing  with us, besides, a hamper full of savoury cold meats, and fruit,  and wine, we started off again in high spirits, at half-past six  o'clock next morning, very much delighted to be by ourselves, and  disposed to enjoy even the roughest journey.

 

It was well for us, that we were in this humour, for the road we  went over that day, was certainly enough to have shaken tempers  that were not resolutely at Set Fair, down to some inches below  Stormy.  At one time we were all flung together in a heap at the  bottom of the coach, and at another we were crushing our heads  against the roof.  Now, one side was down deep in the mire, and we  were holding on to the other.  Now, the coach was lying on the  tails of the two wheelers; and now it was rearing up in the air, in  a frantic state, with all four horses standing on the top of an  insurmountable eminence, looking coolly back at it, as though they  would say 'Unharness us.  It can't be done.'  The drivers on these  roads, who certainly get over the ground in a manner which is quite  miraculous, so twist and turn the team about in forcing a passage,  corkscrew fashion, through the bogs and swamps, that it was quite a  common circumstance on looking out of the window, to see the  coachman with the ends of a pair of reins in his hands, apparently  driving nothing, or playing at horses, and the leaders staring at  one unexpectedly from the back of the coach, as if they had some  idea of getting up behind.  A great portion of the way was over  what is called a corduroy road, which is made by throwing trunks of  trees into a marsh, and leaving them to settle there.  The very  slightest of the jolts with which the ponderous carriage fell from  log to log, was enough, it seemed, to have dislocated all the bones  in the human body.  It would be impossible to experience a similar  set of sensations, in any other circumstances, unless perhaps in  attempting to go up to the top of St. Paul's in an omnibus.  Never,  never once, that day, was the coach in any position, attitude, or  kind of motion to which we are accustomed in coaches.  Never did it  make the smallest approach to one's experience of the proceedings  of any sort of vehicle that goes on wheels.

 

Still, it was a fine day, and the temperature was delicious, and  though we had left Summer behind us in the west, and were fast  leaving Spring, we were moving towards Niagara and home.  We  alighted in a pleasant wood towards the middle of the day, dined on  a fallen tree, and leaving our best fragments with a cottager, and  our worst with the pigs (who swarm in this part of the country like  grains of sand on the sea-shore, to the great comfort of our  commissariat in Canada), we went forward again, gaily.

 

As night came on, the track grew narrower and narrower, until at  last it so lost itself among the trees, that the driver seemed to  find his way by instinct.  We had the comfort of knowing, at least,  that there was no danger of his falling asleep, for every now and  then a wheel would strike against an unseen stump with such a jerk,  that he was fain to hold on pretty tight and pretty quick, to keep  himself upon the box.  Nor was there any reason to dread the least  danger from furious driving, inasmuch as over that broken ground  the horses had enough to do to walk; as to shying, there was no  room for that; and a herd of wild elephants could not have run away  in such a wood, with such a coach at their heels.  So we stumbled  along, quite satisfied.

 

These stumps of trees are a curious feature in American travelling.   The varying illusions they present to the unaccustomed eye as it  grows dark, are quite astonishing in their number and reality.   Now, there is a Grecian urn erected in the centre of a lonely  field; now there is a woman weeping at a tomb; now a very  commonplace old gentleman in a white waistcoat, with a thumb thrust  into each arm-hole of his coat; now a student poring on a book; now  a crouching negro; now, a horse, a dog, a cannon, an armed man; a  hunch-back throwing off his cloak and stepping forth into the  light.  They were often as entertaining to me as so many glasses in  a magic lantern, and never took their shapes at my bidding, but  seemed to force themselves upon me, whether I would or no; and  strange to say, I sometimes recognised in them counterparts of  figures once familiar to me in pictures attached to childish books,  forgotten long ago.

 

It soon became too dark, however, even for this amusement, and the  trees were so close together that their dry branches rattled  against the coach on either side, and obliged us all to keep our  heads within.  It lightened too, for three whole hours; each flash  being very bright, and blue, and long; and as the vivid streaks  came darting in among the crowded branches, and the thunder rolled  gloomily above the tree tops, one could scarcely help thinking that  there were better neighbourhoods at such a time than thick woods  afforded.

 

At length, between ten and eleven o'clock at night, a few feeble  lights appeared in the distance, and Upper Sandusky, an Indian  village, where we were to stay till morning, lay before us.

 

They were gone to bed at the log Inn, which was the only house of  entertainment in the place, but soon answered to our knocking, and  got some tea for us in a sort of kitchen or common room, tapestried  with old newspapers, pasted against the wall.  The bed-chamber to  which my wife and I were shown, was a large, low, ghostly room;  with a quantity of withered branches on the hearth, and two doors  without any fastening, opposite to each other, both opening on the  black night and wild country, and so contrived, that one of them  always blew the other open:  a novelty in domestic architecture,  which I do not remember to have seen before, and which I was  somewhat disconcerted to have forced on my attention after getting  into bed, as I had a considerable sum in gold for our travelling  expenses, in my dressing-case.  Some of the luggage, however, piled  against the panels, soon settled this difficulty, and my sleep  would not have been very much affected that night, I believe,  though it had failed to do so.

 

My Boston friend climbed up to bed, somewhere in the roof, where  another guest was already snoring hugely.  But being bitten beyond  his power of endurance, he turned out again, and fled for shelter  to the coach, which was airing itself in front of the house.  This  was not a very politic step, as it turned out; for the pigs  scenting him, and looking upon the coach as a kind of pie with some  manner of meat inside, grunted round it so hideously, that he was  afraid to come out again, and lay there shivering, till morning.   Nor was it possible to warm him, when he did come out, by means of  a glass of brandy:  for in Indian villages, the legislature, with a  very good and wise intention, forbids the sale of spirits by tavern  keepers.  The precaution, however, is quite inefficacious, for the  Indians never fail to procure liquor of a worse kind, at a dearer  price, from travelling pedlars.

 

It is a settlement of the Wyandot Indians who inhabit this place.   Among the company at breakfast was a mild old gentleman, who had  been for many years employed by the United States Government in  conducting negotiations with the Indians, and who had just  concluded a treaty with these people by which they bound  themselves, in consideration of a certain annual sum, to remove  next year to some land provided for them, west of the Mississippi,  and a little way beyond St. Louis.  He gave me a moving account of  their strong attachment to the familiar scenes of their infancy,  and in particular to the burial-places of their kindred; and of  their great reluctance to leave them.  He had witnessed many such  removals, and always with pain, though he knew that they departed  for their own good.  The question whether this tribe should go or  stay, had been discussed among them a day or two before, in a hut  erected for the purpose, the logs of which still lay upon the  ground before the inn.  When the speaking was done, the ayes and  noes were ranged on opposite sides, and every male adult voted in  his turn.  The moment the result was known, the minority (a large  one) cheerfully yielded to the rest, and withdrew all kind of  opposition.

 

We met some of these poor Indians afterwards, riding on shaggy  ponies.  They were so like the meaner sort of gipsies, that if I  could have seen any of them in England, I should have concluded, as  a matter of course, that they belonged to that wandering and  restless people.

 

Leaving this town directly after breakfast, we pushed forward  again, over a rather worse road than yesterday, if possible, and  arrived about noon at Tiffin, where we parted with the extra.  At  two o'clock we took the railroad; the travelling on which was very  slow, its construction being indifferent, and the ground wet and  marshy; and arrived at Sandusky in time to dine that evening.  We  put up at a comfortable little hotel on the brink of Lake Erie, lay  there that night, and had no choice but to wait there next day,  until a steamboat bound for Buffalo appeared.  The town, which was  sluggish and uninteresting enough, was something like the back of  an English watering-place, out of the season.

 

Our host, who was very attentive and anxious to make us  comfortable, was a handsome middle-aged man, who had come to this  town from New England, in which part of the country he was  'raised.'  When I say that he constantly walked in and out of the  room with his hat on; and stopped to converse in the same free-and-easy state; and lay down on our sofa, and pulled his newspaper out  of his pocket, and read it at his ease; I merely mention these  traits as characteristic of the country:  not at all as being  matter of complaint, or as having been disagreeable to me.  I  should undoubtedly be offended by such proceedings at home, because  there they are not the custom, and where they are not, they would  be impertinencies; but in America, the only desire of a good-natured fellow of this kind, is to treat his guests hospitably and  well; and I had no more right, and I can truly say no more  disposition, to measure his conduct by our English rule and  standard, than I had to quarrel with him for not being of the exact  stature which would qualify him for admission into the Queen's  grenadier guards.  As little inclination had I to find fault with a  funny old lady who was an upper domestic in this establishment, and  who, when she came to wait upon us at any meal, sat herself down  comfortably in the most convenient chair, and producing a large pin  to pick her teeth with, remained performing that ceremony, and  steadfastly regarding us meanwhile with much gravity and composure  (now and then pressing us to eat a little more), until it was time  to clear away.  It was enough for us, that whatever we wished done  was done with great civility and readiness, and a desire to oblige,  not only here, but everywhere else; and that all our wants were, in  general, zealously anticipated.

 

We were taking an early dinner at this house, on the day after our  arrival, which was Sunday, when a steamboat came in sight, and  presently touched at the wharf.  As she proved to be on her way to  Buffalo, we hurried on board with all speed, and soon left Sandusky  far behind us.

 

She was a large vessel of five hundred tons, and handsomely fitted  up, though with high-pressure engines; which always conveyed that  kind of feeling to me, which I should be likely to experience, I  think, if I had lodgings on the first-floor of a powder-mill.  She  was laden with flour, some casks of which commodity were stored  upon the deck.  The captain coming up to have a little  conversation, and to introduce a friend, seated himself astride of  one of these barrels, like a Bacchus of private life; and pulling a  great clasp-knife out of his pocket, began to 'whittle' it as he  talked, by paring thin slices off the edges.  And he whittled with  such industry and hearty good will, that but for his being called  away very soon, it must have disappeared bodily, and left nothing  in its place but grist and shavings.

 

After calling at one or two flat places, with low dams stretching  out into the lake, whereon were stumpy lighthouses, like windmills  without sails, the whole looking like a Dutch vignette, we came at  midnight to Cleveland, where we lay all night, and until nine  o'clock next morning.

 

I entertained quite a curiosity in reference to this place, from  having seen at Sandusky a specimen of its literature in the shape  of a newspaper, which was very strong indeed upon the subject of  Lord Ashburton's recent arrival at Washington, to adjust the points  in dispute between the United States Government and Great Britain:   informing its readers that as America had 'whipped' England in her  infancy, and whipped her again in her youth, so it was clearly  necessary that she must whip her once again in her maturity; and  pledging its credit to all True Americans, that if Mr. Webster did  his duty in the approaching negotiations, and sent the English Lord  home again in double quick time, they should, within two years,  sing 'Yankee Doodle in Hyde Park, and Hail Columbia in the scarlet  courts of Westminster!'  I found it a pretty town, and had the  satisfaction of beholding the outside of the office of the journal  from which I have just quoted.  I did not enjoy the delight of  seeing the wit who indited the paragraph in question, but I have no  doubt he is a prodigious man in his way, and held in high repute by  a select circle.

 

There was a gentleman on board, to whom, as I unintentionally  learned through the thin partition which divided our state-room  from the cabin in which he and his wife conversed together, I was  unwittingly the occasion of very great uneasiness.  I don't know  why or wherefore, but I appeared to run in his mind perpetually,  and to dissatisfy him very much.  First of all I heard him say:   and the most ludicrous part of the business was, that he said it in  my very ear, and could not have communicated more directly with me,  if he had leaned upon my shoulder, and whispered me:  'Boz is on  board still, my dear.'  After a considerable pause, he added,  complainingly, 'Boz keeps himself very close;' which was true  enough, for I was not very well, and was lying down, with a book.   I thought he had done with me after this, but I was deceived; for a  long interval having elapsed, during which I imagine him to have  been turning restlessly from side to side, and trying to go to  sleep; he broke out again, with 'I suppose THAT Boz will be writing  a book by-and-by, and putting all our names in it!' at which  imaginary consequence of being on board a boat with Boz, he  groaned, and became silent.

 

We called at the town of Erie, at eight o'clock that night, and lay  there an hour.  Between five and six next morning, we arrived at  Buffalo, where we breakfasted; and being too near the Great Falls  to wait patiently anywhere else, we set off by the train, the same  morning at nine o'clock, to Niagara.

 

It was a miserable day; chilly and raw; a damp mist falling; and  the trees in that northern region quite bare and wintry.  Whenever  the train halted, I listened for the roar; and was constantly  straining my eyes in the direction where I knew the Falls must be,  from seeing the river rolling on towards them; every moment  expecting to behold the spray.  Within a few minutes of our  stopping, not before, I saw two great white clouds rising up slowly  and majestically from the depths of the earth.  That was all.  At  length we alighted:  and then for the first time, I heard the  mighty rush of water, and felt the ground tremble underneath my  feet.

 

The bank is very steep, and was slippery with rain, and half-melted  ice.  I hardly know how I got down, but I was soon at the bottom,  and climbing, with two English officers who were crossing and had  joined me, over some broken rocks, deafened by the noise, half-blinded by the spray, and wet to the skin.  We were at the foot of  the American Fall.  I could see an immense torrent of water tearing  headlong down from some great height, but had no idea of shape, or  situation, or anything but vague immensity.

 

When we were seated in the little ferry-boat, and were crossing the  swollen river immediately before both cataracts, I began to feel  what it was:  but I was in a manner stunned, and unable to  comprehend the vastness of the scene.  It was not until I came on  Table Rock, and looked - Great Heaven, on what a fall of bright-green water! - that it came upon me in its full might and majesty.

 

Then, when I felt how near to my Creator I was standing, the first  effect, and the enduring one - instant and lasting - of the  tremendous spectacle, was Peace.  Peace of Mind, tranquillity, calm  recollections of the Dead, great thoughts of Eternal Rest and  Happiness:  nothing of gloom or terror.  Niagara was at once  stamped upon my heart, an Image of Beauty; to remain there,  changeless and indelible, until its pulses cease to beat, for ever.

 

Oh, how the strife and trouble of daily life receded from my view,  and lessened in the distance, during the ten memorable days we  passed on that Enchanted Ground!  What voices spoke from out the  thundering water; what faces, faded from the earth, looked out upon  me from its gleaming depths; what Heavenly promise glistened in  those angels' tears, the drops of many hues, that showered around,  and twined themselves about the gorgeous arches which the changing  rainbows made!

 

I never stirred in all that time from the Canadian side, whither I  had gone at first.  I never crossed the river again; for I knew  there were people on the other shore, and in such a place it is  natural to shun strange company.  To wander to and fro all day, and  see the cataracts from all points of view; to stand upon the edge  of the great Horse-Shoe Fall, marking the hurried water gathering  strength as it approached the verge, yet seeming, too, to pause  before it shot into the gulf below; to gaze from the river's level  up at the torrent as it came streaming down; to climb the  neighbouring heights and watch it through the trees, and see the  wreathing water in the rapids hurrying on to take its fearful  plunge; to linger in the shadow of the solemn rocks three miles  below; watching the river as, stirred by no visible cause, it  heaved and eddied and awoke the echoes, being troubled yet, far  down beneath the surface, by its giant leap; to have Niagara before  me, lighted by the sun and by the moon, red in the day's decline,  and grey as evening slowly fell upon it; to look upon it every day,  and wake up in the night and hear its ceaseless voice:  this was  enough.

 

I think in every quiet season now, still do those waters roll and  leap, and roar and tumble, all day long; still are the rainbows  spanning them, a hundred feet below.  Still, when the sun is on  them, do they shine and glow like molten gold.  Still, when the day  is gloomy, do they fall like snow, or seem to crumble away like the  front of a great chalk cliff, or roll down the rock like dense  white smoke.  But always does the mighty stream appear to die as it  comes down, and always from its unfathomable grave arises that  tremendous ghost of spray and mist which is never laid:  which has  haunted this place with the same dread solemnity since Darkness  brooded on the deep, and that first flood before the Deluge - Light  - came rushing on Creation at the word of God.

 


CHAPTER XV - IN CANADA; TORONTO; KINGSTON; MONTREAL; QUEBEC; ST.  JOHN'S.  IN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN; LEBANON; THE SHAKER VILLAGE;  WEST POINT

 

I wish to abstain from instituting any comparison, or drawing any  parallel whatever, between the social features of the United States  and those of the British Possessions in Canada.  For this reason, I  shall confine myself to a very brief account of our journeyings in  the latter territory.

 

But before I leave Niagara, I must advert to one disgusting  circumstance which can hardly have escaped the observation of any  decent traveller who has visited the Falls.

 

On Table Rock, there is a cottage belonging to a Guide, where  little relics of the place are sold, and where visitors register  their names in a book kept for the purpose.  On the wall of the  room in which a great many of these volumes are preserved, the  following request is posted:  'Visitors will please not copy nor  extract the remarks and poetical effusions from the registers and  albums kept here.'

 

But for this intimation, I should have let them lie upon the tables  on which they were strewn with careful negligence, like books in a  drawing-room:  being quite satisfied with the stupendous silliness  of certain stanzas with an anti-climax at the end of each, which  were framed and hung up on the wall.  Curious, however, after  reading this announcement, to see what kind of morsels were so  carefully preserved, I turned a few leaves, and found them scrawled  all over with the vilest and the filthiest ribaldry that ever human  hogs delighted in.

 

It is humiliating enough to know that there are among men brutes so  obscene and worthless, that they can delight in laying their  miserable profanations upon the very steps of Nature's greatest  altar.  But that these should be hoarded up for the delight of  their fellow-swine, and kept in a public place where any eyes may  see them, is a disgrace to the English language in which they are  written (though I hope few of these entries have been made by  Englishmen), and a reproach to the English side, on which they are  preserved.

 

The quarters of our soldiers at Niagara, are finely and airily  situated.  Some of them are large detached houses on the plain  above the Falls, which were originally designed for hotels; and in  the evening time, when the women and children were leaning over the  balconies watching the men as they played at ball and other games  upon the grass before the door, they often presented a little  picture of cheerfulness and animation which made it quite a  pleasure to pass that way.

 

At any garrisoned point where the line of demarcation between one  country and another is so very narrow as at Niagara, desertion from  the ranks can scarcely fail to be of frequent occurrence:  and it  may be reasonably supposed that when the soldiers entertain the  wildest and maddest hopes of the fortune and independence that  await them on the other side, the impulse to play traitor, which  such a place suggests to dishonest minds, is not weakened.  But it  very rarely happens that the men who do desert, are happy or  contented afterwards; and many instances have been known in which  they have confessed their grievous disappointment, and their  earnest desire to return to their old service if they could but be  assured of pardon, or lenient treatment.  Many of their comrades,  notwithstanding, do the like, from time to time; and instances of  loss of life in the effort to cross the river with this object, are  far from being uncommon.  Several men were drowned in the attempt  to swim across, not long ago; and one, who had the madness to trust  himself upon a table as a raft, was swept down to the whirlpool,  where his mangled body eddied round and round some days.

 

I am inclined to think that the noise of the Falls is very much  exaggerated; and this will appear the more probable when the depth  of the great basin in which the water is received, is taken into  account.  At no time during our stay there, was the wind at all  high or boisterous, but we never heard them, three miles off, even  at the very quiet time of sunset, though we often tried.

 

Queenston, at which place the steamboats start for Toronto (or I  should rather say at which place they call, for their wharf is at  Lewiston, on the opposite shore), is situated in a delicious  valley, through which the Niagara river, in colour a very deep  green, pursues its course.  It is approached by a road that takes  its winding way among the heights by which the town is sheltered;  and seen from this point is extremely beautiful and picturesque.   On the most conspicuous of these heights stood a monument erected  by the Provincial Legislature in memory of General Brock, who was  slain in a battle with the American forces, after having won the  victory.  Some vagabond, supposed to be a fellow of the name of  Lett, who is now, or who lately was, in prison as a felon, blew up  this monument two years ago, and it is now a melancholy ruin, with  a long fragment of iron railing hanging dejectedly from its top,  and waving to and fro like a wild ivy branch or broken vine stem.   It is of much higher importance than it may seem, that this statue  should be repaired at the public cost, as it ought to have been  long ago.  Firstly, because it is beneath the dignity of England to  allow a memorial raised in honour of one of her defenders, to  remain in this condition, on the very spot where he died.   Secondly, because the sight of it in its present state, and the  recollection of the unpunished outrage which brought it to this  pass, is not very likely to soothe down border feelings among  English subjects here, or compose their border quarrels and  dislikes.

 

I was standing on the wharf at this place, watching the passengers  embarking in a steamboat which preceded that whose coming we  awaited, and participating in the anxiety with which a sergeant's  wife was collecting her few goods together - keeping one distracted  eye hard upon the porters, who were hurrying them on board, and the  other on a hoopless washing-tub for which, as being the most  utterly worthless of all her movables, she seemed to entertain  particular affection - when three or four soldiers with a recruit  came up and went on board.

 

The recruit was a likely young fellow enough, strongly built and  well made, but by no means sober:  indeed he had all the air of a  man who had been more or less drunk for some days.  He carried a  small bundle over his shoulder, slung at the end of a walking-stick, and had a short pipe in his mouth.  He was as dusty and  dirty as recruits usually are, and his shoes betokened that he had  travelled on foot some distance, but he was in a very jocose state,  and shook hands with this soldier, and clapped that one on the  back, and talked and laughed continually, like a roaring idle dog  as he was.

 

The soldiers rather laughed at this blade than with him:  seeming  to say, as they stood straightening their canes in their hands, and  looking coolly at him over their glazed stocks, 'Go on, my boy,  while you may! you'll know better by-and-by:' when suddenly the  novice, who had been backing towards the gangway in his noisy  merriment, fell overboard before their eyes, and splashed heavily  down into the river between the vessel and the dock.

 

I never saw such a good thing as the change that came over these  soldiers in an instant.  Almost before the man was down, their  professional manner, their stiffness and constraint, were gone, and  they were filled with the most violent energy.  In less time than  is required to tell it, they had him out again, feet first, with  the tails of his coat flapping over his eyes, everything about him  hanging the wrong way, and the water streaming off at every thread  in his threadbare dress.  But the moment they set him upright and  found that he was none the worse, they were soldiers again, looking  over their glazed stocks more composedly than ever.

 

The half-sobered recruit glanced round for a moment, as if his  first impulse were to express some gratitude for his preservation,  but seeing them with this air of total unconcern, and having his  wet pipe presented to him with an oath by the soldier who had been  by far the most anxious of the party, he stuck it in his mouth,  thrust his hands into his moist pockets, and without even shaking  the water off his clothes, walked on board whistling; not to say as  if nothing had happened, but as if he had meant to do it, and it  had been a perfect success.

 

Our steamboat came up directly this had left the wharf, and soon  bore us to the mouth of the Niagara; where the stars and stripes of  America flutter on one side and the Union Jack of England on the  other:  and so narrow is the space between them that the sentinels  in either fort can often hear the watchword of the other country  given.  Thence we emerged on Lake Ontario, an inland sea; and by  half-past six o'clock were at Toronto.

 

The country round this town being very flat, is bare of scenic  interest; but the town itself is full of life and motion, bustle,  business, and improvement.  The streets are well paved, and lighted  with gas; the houses are large and good; the shops excellent.  Many  of them have a display of goods in their windows, such as may be  seen in thriving county towns in England; and there are some which  would do no discredit to the metropolis itself.  There is a good  stone prison here; and there are, besides, a handsome church, a  court-house, public offices, many commodious private residences,  and a government observatory for noting and recording the magnetic  variations.  In the College of Upper Canada, which is one of the  public establishments of the city, a sound education in every  department of polite learning can be had, at a very moderate  expense:  the annual charge for the instruction of each pupil, not  exceeding nine pounds sterling.  It has pretty good endowments in  the way of land, and is a valuable and useful institution.

 

The first stone of a new college had been laid but a few days  before, by the Governor General.  It will be a handsome, spacious  edifice, approached by a long avenue, which is already planted and  made available as a public walk.  The town is well adapted for  wholesome exercise at all seasons, for the footways in the  thoroughfares which lie beyond the principal street, are planked  like floors, and kept in very good and clean repair.

 

It is a matter of deep regret that political differences should  have run high in this place, and led to most discreditable and  disgraceful results.  It is not long since guns were discharged  from a window in this town at the successful candidates in an  election, and the coachman of one of them was actually shot in the  body, though not dangerously wounded.  But one man was killed on  the same occasion; and from the very window whence he received his  death, the very flag which shielded his murderer (not only in the  commission of his crime, but from its consequences), was displayed  again on the occasion of the public ceremony performed by the  Governor General, to which I have just adverted.  Of all the  colours in the rainbow, there is but one which could be so  employed:  I need not say that flag was orange.

 

The time of leaving Toronto for Kingston is noon.  By eight o'clock  next morning, the traveller is at the end of his journey, which is  performed by steamboat upon Lake Ontario, calling at Port Hope and  Coburg, the latter a cheerful, thriving little town.  Vast  quantities of flour form the chief item in the freight of these  vessels.  We had no fewer than one thousand and eighty barrels on  board, between Coburg and Kingston.

 

The latter place, which is now the seat of government in Canada, is  a very poor town, rendered still poorer in the appearance of its  market-place by the ravages of a recent fire.  Indeed, it may be  said of Kingston, that one half of it appears to be burnt down, and  the other half not to be built up.  The Government House is neither  elegant nor commodious, yet it is almost the only house of any  importance in the neighbourhood.

 

There is an admirable jail here, well and wisely governed, and  excellently regulated, in every respect.  The men were employed as  shoemakers, ropemakers, blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters, and  stonecutters; and in building a new prison, which was pretty far  advanced towards completion.  The female prisoners were occupied in  needlework.  Among them was a beautiful girl of twenty, who had  been there nearly three years.  She acted as bearer of secret  despatches for the self-styled Patriots on Navy Island, during the  Canadian Insurrection:  sometimes dressing as a girl, and carrying  them in her stays; sometimes attiring herself as a boy, and  secreting them in the lining of her hat.  In the latter character  she always rode as a boy would, which was nothing to her, for she  could govern any horse that any man could ride, and could drive  four-in-hand with the best whip in those parts.  Setting forth on  one of her patriotic missions, she appropriated to herself the  first horse she could lay her hands on; and this offence had  brought her where I saw her.  She had quite a lovely face, though,  as the reader may suppose from this sketch of her history, there  was a lurking devil in her bright eye, which looked out pretty  sharply from between her prison bars.

 

There is a bomb-proof fort here of great strength, which occupies a  bold position, and is capable, doubtless, of doing good service;  though the town is much too close upon the frontier to be long  held, I should imagine, for its present purpose in troubled times.   There is also a small navy-yard, where a couple of Government  steamboats were building, and getting on vigorously.

 

We left Kingston for Montreal on the tenth of May, at half-past  nine in the morning, and proceeded in a steamboat down the St.  Lawrence river.  The beauty of this noble stream at almost any  point, but especially in the commencement of this journey when it  winds its way among the thousand Islands, can hardly be imagined.   The number and constant successions of these islands, all green and  richly wooded; their fluctuating sizes, some so large that for half  an hour together one among them will appear as the opposite bank of  the river, and some so small that they are mere dimples on its  broad bosom; their infinite variety of shapes; and the numberless  combinations of beautiful forms which the trees growing on them  present:  all form a picture fraught with uncommon interest and  pleasure.

 

In the afternoon we shot down some rapids where the river boiled  and bubbled strangely, and where the force and headlong violence of  the current were tremendous.  At seven o'clock we reached  Dickenson's Landing, whence travellers proceed for two or three  hours by stage-coach:  the navigation of the river being rendered  so dangerous and difficult in the interval, by rapids, that  steamboats do not make the passage.  The number and length of those  PORTAGES, over which the roads are bad, and the travelling slow,  render the way between the towns of Montreal and Kingston, somewhat  tedious.

 

Our course lay over a wide, uninclosed tract of country at a little  distance from the river-side, whence the bright warning lights on  the dangerous parts of the St. Lawrence shone vividly.  The night  was dark and raw, and the way dreary enough.  It was nearly ten  o'clock when we reached the wharf where the next steamboat lay; and  went on board, and to bed.

 

She lay there all night, and started as soon as it was day.  The  morning was ushered in by a violent thunderstorm, and was very wet,  but gradually improved and brightened up.  Going on deck after  breakfast, I was amazed to see floating down with the stream, a  most gigantic raft, with some thirty or forty wooden houses upon  it, and at least as many flag-masts, so that it looked like a  nautical street.  I saw many of these rafts afterwards, but never  one so large.  All the timber, or 'lumber,' as it is called in  America, which is brought down the St. Lawrence, is floated down in  this manner.  When the raft reaches its place of destination, it is  broken up; the materials are sold; and the boatmen return for more.

 

At eight we landed again, and travelled by a stage-coach for four  hours through a pleasant and well-cultivated country, perfectly  French in every respect:  in the appearance of the cottages; the  air, language, and dress of the peasantry; the sign-boards on the  shops and taverns:  and the Virgin's shrines, and crosses, by the  wayside.  Nearly every common labourer and boy, though he had no  shoes to his feet, wore round his waist a sash of some bright  colour:  generally red:  and the women, who were working in the  fields and gardens, and doing all kinds of husbandry, wore, one and  all, great flat straw hats with most capacious brims.  There were  Catholic Priests and Sisters of Charity in the village streets; and  images of the Saviour at the corners of cross-roads, and in other  public places.

 

At noon we went on board another steamboat, and reached the village  of Lachine, nine miles from Montreal, by three o'clock.  There, we  left the river, and went on by land.

 

Montreal is pleasantly situated on the margin of the St. Lawrence,  and is backed by some bold heights, about which there are charming  rides and drives.  The streets are generally narrow and irregular,  as in most French towns of any age; but in the more modern parts of  the city, they are wide and airy.  They display a great variety of  very good shops; and both in the town and suburbs there are many  excellent private dwellings.  The granite quays are remarkable for  their beauty, solidity, and extent.

 

There is a very large Catholic cathedral here, recently erected  with two tall spires, of which one is yet unfinished.  In the open  space in front of this edifice, stands a solitary, grim-looking,  square brick tower, which has a quaint and remarkable appearance,  and which the wiseacres of the place have consequently determined  to pull down immediately.  The Government House is very superior to  that at Kingston, and the town is full of life and bustle.  In one  of the suburbs is a plank road - not footpath - five or six miles  long, and a famous road it is too.  All the rides in the vicinity  were made doubly interesting by the bursting out of spring, which  is here so rapid, that it is but a day's leap from barren winter,  to the blooming youth of summer.

 

The steamboats to Quebec perform the journey in the night; that is  to say, they leave Montreal at six in the evening, and arrive at  Quebec at six next morning.  We made this excursion during our stay  in Montreal (which exceeded a fortnight), and were charmed by its  interest and beauty.

 

The impression made upon the visitor by this Gibraltar of America:   its giddy heights; its citadel suspended, as it were, in the air;  its picturesque steep streets and frowning gateways; and the  splendid views which burst upon the eye at every turn:  is at once  unique and lasting.

 

It is a place not to be forgotten or mixed up in the mind with  other places, or altered for a moment in the crowd of scenes a  traveller can recall.  Apart from the realities of this most  picturesque city, there are associations clustering about it which  would make a desert rich in interest.  The dangerous precipice  along whose rocky front, Wolfe and his brave companions climbed to  glory; the Plains of Abraham, where he received his mortal wound;  the fortress so chivalrously defended by Montcalm; and his  soldier's grave, dug for him while yet alive, by the bursting of a  shell; are not the least among them, or among the gallant incidents  of history.  That is a noble Monument too, and worthy of two great  nations, which perpetuates the memory of both brave generals, and  on which their names are jointly written.

 

The city is rich in public institutions and in Catholic churches  and charities, but it is mainly in the prospect from the site of  the Old Government House, and from the Citadel, that its surpassing  beauty lies.  The exquisite expanse of country, rich in field and  forest, mountain-height and water, which lies stretched out before  the view, with miles of Canadian villages, glancing in long white  streaks, like veins along the landscape; the motley crowd of  gables, roofs, and chimney tops in the old hilly town immediately  at hand; the beautiful St. Lawrence sparkling and flashing in the  sunlight; and the tiny ships below the rock from which you gaze,  whose distant rigging looks like spiders' webs against the light,  while casks and barrels on their decks dwindle into toys, and busy  mariners become so many puppets; all this, framed by a sunken  window in the fortress and looked at from the shadowed room within,  forms one of the brightest and most enchanting pictures that the  eye can rest upon.

 

In the spring of the year, vast numbers of emigrants who have newly  arrived from England or from Ireland, pass between Quebec and  Montreal on their way to the backwoods and new settlements of  Canada.  If it be an entertaining lounge (as I very often found it)  to take a morning stroll upon the quay at Montreal, and see them  grouped in hundreds on the public wharfs about their chests and  boxes, it is matter of deep interest to be their fellow-passenger  on one of these steamboats, and mingling with the concourse, see  and hear them unobserved.

 

The vessel in which we returned from Quebec to Montreal was crowded  with them, and at night they spread their beds between decks (those  who had beds, at least), and slept so close and thick about our  cabin door, that the passage to and fro was quite blocked up.  They  were nearly all English; from Gloucestershire the greater part; and  had had a long winter-passage out; but it was wonderful to see how  clean the children had been kept, and how untiring in their love  and self-denial all the poor parents were.

 

Cant as we may, and as we shall to the end of all things, it is  very much harder for the poor to be virtuous than it is for the  rich; and the good that is in them, shines the brighter for it.  In  many a noble mansion lives a man, the best of husbands and of  fathers, whose private worth in both capacities is justly lauded to  the skies.  But bring him here, upon this crowded deck.  Strip from  his fair young wife her silken dress and jewels, unbind her braided  hair, stamp early wrinkles on her brow, pinch her pale cheek with  care and much privation, array her faded form in coarsely patched  attire, let there be nothing but his love to set her forth or deck  her out, and you shall put it to the proof indeed.  So change his  station in the world, that he shall see in those young things who  climb about his knee:  not records of his wealth and name:  but  little wrestlers with him for his daily bread; so many poachers on  his scanty meal; so many units to divide his every sum of comfort,  and farther to reduce its small amount.  In lieu of the endearments  of childhood in its sweetest aspect, heap upon him all its pains  and wants, its sicknesses and ills, its fretfulness, caprice, and  querulous endurance:  let its prattle be, not of engaging infant  fancies, but of cold, and thirst, and hunger:  and if his fatherly  affection outlive all this, and he be patient, watchful, tender;  careful of his children's lives, and mindful always of their joys  and sorrows; then send him back to Parliament, and Pulpit, and to  Quarter Sessions, and when he hears fine talk of the depravity of  those who live from hand to mouth, and labour hard to do it, let  him speak up, as one who knows, and tell those holders forth that  they, by parallel with such a class, should be High Angels in their  daily lives, and lay but humble siege to Heaven at last.

 

Which of us shall say what he would be, if such realities, with  small relief or change all through his days, were his!  Looking  round upon these people:  far from home, houseless, indigent,  wandering, weary with travel and hard living:  and seeing how  patiently they nursed and tended their young children:  how they  consulted ever their wants first, then half supplied their own;  what gentle ministers of hope and faith the women were; how the men  profited by their example; and how very, very seldom even a  moment's petulance or harsh complaint broke out among them:  I felt  a stronger love and honour of my kind come glowing on my heart, and  wished to God there had been many Atheists in the better part of  human nature there, to read this simple lesson in the book of Life.

 

* * * * * *

 

We left Montreal for New York again, on the thirtieth of May,  crossing to La Prairie, on the opposite shore of the St. Lawrence,  in a steamboat; we then took the railroad to St. John's, which is  on the brink of Lake Champlain.  Our last greeting in Canada was  from the English officers in the pleasant barracks at that place (a  class of gentlemen who had made every hour of our visit memorable  by their hospitality and friendship); and with 'Rule Britannia'  sounding in our ears, soon left it far behind.

 

But Canada has held, and always will retain, a foremost place in my  remembrance.  Few Englishmen are prepared to find it what it is.   Advancing quietly; old differences settling down, and being fast  forgotten; public feeling and private enterprise alike in a sound  and wholesome state; nothing of flush or fever in its system, but  health and vigour throbbing in its steady pulse:  it is full of  hope and promise.  To me - who had been accustomed to think of it  as something left behind in the strides of advancing society, as  something neglected and forgotten, slumbering and wasting in its  sleep - the demand for labour and the rates of wages; the busy  quays of Montreal; the vessels taking in their cargoes, and  discharging them; the amount of shipping in the different ports;  the commerce, roads, and public works, all made TO LAST; the  respectability and character of the public journals; and the amount  of rational comfort and happiness which honest industry may earn:   were very great surprises.  The steamboats on the lakes, in their  conveniences, cleanliness, and safety; in the gentlemanly character  and bearing of their captains; and in the politeness and perfect  comfort of their social regulations; are unsurpassed even by the  famous Scotch vessels, deservedly so much esteemed at home.  The  inns are usually bad; because the custom of boarding at hotels is  not so general here as in the States, and the British officers, who  form a large portion of the society of every town, live chiefly at  the regimental messes:  but in every other respect, the traveller  in Canada will find as good provision for his comfort as in any  place I know.

 

There is one American boat - the vessel which carried us on Lake  Champlain, from St. John's to Whitehall - which I praise very  highly, but no more than it deserves, when I say that it is  superior even to that in which we went from Queenston to Toronto,  or to that in which we travelled from the latter place to Kingston,  or I have no doubt I may add to any other in the world.  This  steamboat, which is called the Burlington, is a perfectly exquisite  achievement of neatness, elegance, and order.  The decks are  drawing-rooms; the cabins are boudoirs, choicely furnished and  adorned with prints, pictures, and musical instruments; every nook  and corner in the vessel is a perfect curiosity of graceful comfort  and beautiful contrivance.  Captain Sherman, her commander, to  whose ingenuity and excellent taste these results are solely  attributable, has bravely and worthily distinguished himself on  more than one trying occasion:  not least among them, in having the  moral courage to carry British troops, at a time (during the  Canadian rebellion) when no other conveyance was open to them.  He  and his vessel are held in universal respect, both by his own  countrymen and ours; and no man ever enjoyed the popular esteem,  who, in his sphere of action, won and wore it better than this  gentleman.

 

By means of this floating palace we were soon in the United States  again, and called that evening at Burlington; a pretty town, where  we lay an hour or so.  We reached Whitehall, where we were to  disembark, at six next morning; and might have done so earlier, but  that these steamboats lie by for some hours in the night, in  consequence of the lake becoming very narrow at that part of the  journey, and difficult of navigation in the dark.  Its width is so  contracted at one point, indeed, that they are obliged to warp  round by means of a rope.

 

After breakfasting at Whitehall, we took the stage-coach for  Albany:  a large and busy town, where we arrived between five and  six o'clock that afternoon; after a very hot day's journey, for we  were now in the height of summer again.  At seven we started for  New York on board a great North River steamboat, which was so  crowded with passengers that the upper deck was like the box lobby  of a theatre between the pieces, and the lower one like Tottenham  Court Road on a Saturday night.  But we slept soundly,  notwithstanding, and soon after five o'clock next morning reached  New York.

 

Tarrying here, only that day and night, to recruit after our late  fatigues, we started off once more upon our last journey in  America.  We had yet five days to spare before embarking for  England, and I had a great desire to see 'the Shaker Village,'  which is peopled by a religious sect from whom it takes its name.

 

To this end, we went up the North River again, as far as the town  of Hudson, and there hired an extra to carry us to Lebanon, thirty  miles distant:  and of course another and a different Lebanon from  that village where I slept on the night of the Prairie trip.

 

The country through which the road meandered, was rich and  beautiful; the weather very fine; and for many miles the Kaatskill  mountains, where Rip Van Winkle and the ghostly Dutchmen played at  ninepins one memorable gusty afternoon, towered in the blue  distance, like stately clouds.  At one point, as we ascended a  steep hill, athwart whose base a railroad, yet constructing, took  its course, we came upon an Irish colony.  With means at hand of  building decent cabins, it was wonderful to see how clumsy, rough,  and wretched, its hovels were.  The best were poor protection from  the weather the worst let in the wind and rain through wide  breaches in the roofs of sodden grass, and in the walls of mud;  some had neither door nor window; some had nearly fallen down, and  were imperfectly propped up by stakes and poles; all were ruinous  and filthy.  Hideously ugly old women and very buxom young ones,  pigs, dogs, men, children, babies, pots, kettles, dung-hills, vile  refuse, rank straw, and standing water, all wallowing together in  an inseparable heap, composed the furniture of every dark and dirty  hut.

 

Between nine and ten o'clock at night, we arrived at Lebanon which  is renowned for its warm baths, and for a great hotel, well  adapted, I have no doubt, to the gregarious taste of those seekers  after health or pleasure who repair here, but inexpressibly  comfortless to me.  We were shown into an immense apartment,  lighted by two dim candles, called the drawing-room:  from which  there was a descent by a flight of steps, to another vast desert,  called the dining-room:  our bed-chambers were among certain long  rows of little white-washed cells, which opened from either side of  a dreary passage; and were so like rooms in a prison that I half  expected to be locked up when I went to bed, and listened  involuntarily for the turning of the key on the outside.  There  need be baths somewhere in the neighbourhood, for the other washing  arrangements were on as limited a scale as I ever saw, even in  America:  indeed, these bedrooms were so very bare of even such  common luxuries as chairs, that I should say they were not provided  with enough of anything, but that I bethink myself of our having  been most bountifully bitten all night.

 

The house is very pleasantly situated, however, and we had a good  breakfast.  That done, we went to visit our place of destination,  which was some two miles off, and the way to which was soon  indicated by a finger-post, whereon was painted, 'To the Shaker  Village.'

 

As we rode along, we passed a party of Shakers, who were at work  upon the road; who wore the broadest of all broad-brimmed hats; and  were in all visible respects such very wooden men, that I felt  about as much sympathy for them, and as much interest in them, as  if they had been so many figure-heads of ships.  Presently we came  to the beginning of the village, and alighting at the door of a  house where the Shaker manufactures are sold, and which is the  headquarters of the elders, requested permission to see the Shaker  worship.

 

Pending the conveyance of this request to some person in authority,  we walked into a grim room, where several grim hats were hanging on  grim pegs, and the time was grimly told by a grim clock which  uttered every tick with a kind of struggle, as if it broke the grim  silence reluctantly, and under protest.  Ranged against the wall  were six or eight stiff, high-backed chairs, and they partook so  strongly of the general grimness that one would much rather have  sat on the floor than incurred the smallest obligation to any of  them.

 

Presently, there stalked into this apartment, a grim old Shaker,  with eyes as hard, and dull, and cold, as the great round metal  buttons on his coat and waistcoat; a sort of calm goblin.  Being  informed of our desire, he produced a newspaper wherein the body of  elders, whereof he was a member, had advertised but a few days  before, that in consequence of certain unseemly interruptions which  their worship had received from strangers, their chapel was closed  to the public for the space of one year.

 

As nothing was to be urged in opposition to this reasonable  arrangement, we requested leave to make some trifling purchases of  Shaker goods; which was grimly conceded.  We accordingly repaired  to a store in the same house and on the opposite side of the  passage, where the stock was presided over by something alive in a  russet case, which the elder said was a woman; and which I suppose  WAS a woman, though I should not have suspected it.

 

On the opposite side of the road was their place of worship:  a  cool, clean edifice of wood, with large windows and green blinds:   like a spacious summer-house.  As there was no getting into this  place, and nothing was to be done but walk up and down, and look at  it and the other buildings in the village (which were chiefly of  wood, painted a dark red like English barns, and composed of many  stories like English factories), I have nothing to communicate to  the reader, beyond the scanty results I gleaned the while our  purchases were making,

 

These people are called Shakers from their peculiar form of  adoration, which consists of a dance, performed by the men and  women of all ages, who arrange themselves for that purpose in  opposite parties:  the men first divesting themselves of their hats  and coats, which they gravely hang against the wall before they  begin; and tying a ribbon round their shirt-sleeves, as though they  were going to be bled.  They accompany themselves with a droning,  humming noise, and dance until they are quite exhausted,  alternately advancing and retiring in a preposterous sort of trot.   The effect is said to be unspeakably absurd:  and if I may judge  from a print of this ceremony which I have in my possession; and  which I am informed by those who have visited the chapel, is  perfectly accurate; it must be infinitely grotesque.

 

They are governed by a woman, and her rule is understood to be  absolute, though she has the assistance of a council of elders.   She lives, it is said, in strict seclusion, in certain rooms above  the chapel, and is never shown to profane eyes.  If she at all  resemble the lady who presided over the store, it is a great  charity to keep her as close as possible, and I cannot too strongly  express my perfect concurrence in this benevolent proceeding.

 

All the possessions and revenues of the settlement are thrown into  a common stock, which is managed by the elders.  As they have made  converts among people who were well to do in the world, and are  frugal and thrifty, it is understood that this fund prospers:  the  more especially as they have made large purchases of land.  Nor is  this at Lebanon the only Shaker settlement:  there are, I think, at  least, three others.

 

They are good farmers, and all their produce is eagerly purchased  and highly esteemed.  'Shaker seeds,' 'Shaker herbs,' and 'Shaker  distilled waters,' are commonly announced for sale in the shops of  towns and cities.  They are good breeders of cattle, and are kind  and merciful to the brute creation.  Consequently, Shaker beasts  seldom fail to find a ready market.

 

They eat and drink together, after the Spartan model, at a great  public table.  There is no union of the sexes, and every Shaker,  male and female, is devoted to a life of celibacy.  Rumour has been  busy upon this theme, but here again I must refer to the lady of  the store, and say, that if many of the sister Shakers resemble  her, I treat all such slander as bearing on its face the strongest  marks of wild improbability.  But that they take as proselytes,  persons so young that they cannot know their own minds, and cannot  possess much strength of resolution in this or any other respect, I  can assert from my own observation of the extreme juvenility of  certain youthful Shakers whom I saw at work among the party on the  road.

 

They are said to be good drivers of bargains, but to be honest and  just in their transactions, and even in horse-dealing to resist  those thievish tendencies which would seem, for some undiscovered  reason, to be almost inseparable from that branch of traffic.  In  all matters they hold their own course quietly, live in their  gloomy, silent commonwealth, and show little desire to interfere  with other people.

 

This is well enough, but nevertheless I cannot, I confess, incline  towards the Shakers; view them with much favour, or extend towards  them any very lenient construction.  I so abhor, and from my soul  detest that bad spirit, no matter by what class or sect it may be  entertained, which would strip life of its healthful graces, rob  youth of its innocent pleasures, pluck from maturity and age their  pleasant ornaments, and make existence but a narrow path towards  the grave:  that odious spirit which, if it could have had full  scope and sway upon the earth, must have blasted and made barren  the imaginations of the greatest men, and left them, in their power  of raising up enduring images before their fellow-creatures yet  unborn, no better than the beasts:  that, in these very broad-brimmed hats and very sombre coats - in stiff-necked, solemn-visaged piety, in short, no matter what its garb, whether it have  cropped hair as in a Shaker village, or long nails as in a Hindoo  temple - I recognise the worst among the enemies of Heaven and  Earth, who turn the water at the marriage feasts of this poor  world, not into wine, but gall.  And if there must be people vowed  to crush the harmless fancies and the love of innocent delights and  gaieties, which are a part of human nature:  as much a part of it  as any other love or hope that is our common portion:  let them,  for me, stand openly revealed among the ribald and licentious; the  very idiots know that THEY are not on the Immortal road, and will  despise them, and avoid them readily.

 

Leaving the Shaker village with a hearty dislike of the old  Shakers, and a hearty pity for the young ones:  tempered by the  strong probability of their running away as they grow older and  wiser, which they not uncommonly do:  we returned to Lebanon, and  so to Hudson, by the way we had come upon the previous day.  There,  we took the steamboat down the North River towards New York, but  stopped, some four hours' journey short of it, at West Point, where  we remained that night, and all next day, and next night too.

 

In this beautiful place:  the fairest among the fair and lovely  Highlands of the North River:  shut in by deep green heights and  ruined forts, and looking down upon the distant town of Newburgh,  along a glittering path of sunlit water, with here and there a  skiff, whose white sail often bends on some new tack as sudden  flaws of wind come down upon her from the gullies in the hills:   hemmed in, besides, all round with memories of Washington, and  events of the revolutionary war:  is the Military School of  America.

 

It could not stand on more appropriate ground, and any ground more  beautiful can hardly be.  The course of education is severe, but  well devised, and manly.  Through June, July, and August, the young  men encamp upon the spacious plain whereon the college stands; and  all the year their military exercises are performed there, daily.   The term of study at this institution, which the State requires  from all cadets, is four years; but, whether it be from the rigid  nature of the discipline, or the national impatience of restraint,  or both causes combined, not more than half the number who begin  their studies here, ever remain to finish them.

 

The number of cadets being about equal to that of the members of  Congress, one is sent here from every Congressional district:  its  member influencing the selection.  Commissions in the service are  distributed on the same principle.  The dwellings of the various

 

Professors are beautifully situated; and there is a most excellent  hotel for strangers, though it has the two drawbacks of being a  total abstinence house (wines and spirits being forbidden to the  students), and of serving the public meals at rather uncomfortable  hours:  to wit, breakfast at seven, dinner at one, and supper at  sunset.

 

The beauty and freshness of this calm retreat, in the very dawn and  greenness of summer - it was then the beginning of June - were  exquisite indeed.  Leaving it upon the sixth, and returning to New  York, to embark for England on the succeeding day, I was glad to  think that among the last memorable beauties which had glided past  us, and softened in the bright perspective, were those whose  pictures, traced by no common hand, are fresh in most men's minds;  not easily to grow old, or fade beneath the dust of Time:  the  Kaatskill Mountains, Sleepy Hollow, and the Tappaan Zee.

 


CHAPTER XVI - THE PASSAGE HOME

 

I NEVER had so much interest before, and very likely I shall never  have so much interest again, in the state of the wind, as on the  long-looked-for morning of Tuesday the Seventh of June.  Some  nautical authority had told me a day or two previous, 'anything  with west in it, will do;' so when I darted out of bed at daylight,  and throwing up the window, was saluted by a lively breeze from the  north-west which had sprung up in the night, it came upon me so  freshly, rustling with so many happy associations, that I conceived  upon the spot a special regard for all airs blowing from that  quarter of the compass, which I shall cherish, I dare say, until my  own wind has breathed its last frail puff, and withdrawn itself for  ever from the mortal calendar.

 

The pilot had not been slow to take advantage of this favourable  weather, and the ship which yesterday had been in such a crowded  dock that she might have retired from trade for good and all, for  any chance she seemed to have of going to sea, was now full sixteen  miles away.  A gallant sight she was, when we, fast gaining on her  in a steamboat, saw her in the distance riding at anchor:  her tall  masts pointing up in graceful lines against the sky, and every rope  and spar expressed in delicate and thread-like outline:  gallant,  too, when, we being all aboard, the anchor came up to the sturdy  chorus 'Cheerily men, oh cheerily!' and she followed proudly in the  towing steamboat's wake:  but bravest and most gallant of all, when  the tow-rope being cast adrift, the canvas fluttered from her  masts, and spreading her white wings she soared away upon her free  and solitary course.

 

In the after cabin we were only fifteen passengers in all, and the  greater part were from Canada, where some of us had known each  other.  The night was rough and squally, so were the next two days,  but they flew by quickly, and we were soon as cheerful and snug a  party, with an honest, manly-hearted captain at our head, as ever  came to the resolution of being mutually agreeable, on land or  water.

 

We breakfasted at eight, lunched at twelve, dined at three, and  took our tea at half-past seven.  We had abundance of amusements,  and dinner was not the least among them:  firstly, for its own  sake; secondly, because of its extraordinary length:  its duration,  inclusive of all the long pauses between the courses, being seldom  less than two hours and a half; which was a subject of never-failing entertainment.  By way of beguiling the tediousness of  these banquets, a select association was formed at the lower end of  the table, below the mast, to whose distinguished president modesty  forbids me to make any further allusion, which, being a very  hilarious and jovial institution, was (prejudice apart) in high  favour with the rest of the community, and particularly with a  black steward, who lived for three weeks in a broad grin at the  marvellous humour of these incorporated worthies.

 

Then, we had chess for those who played it, whist, cribbage, books,  backgammon, and shovelboard.  In all weathers, fair or foul, calm  or windy, we were every one on deck, walking up and down in pairs,  lying in the boats, leaning over the side, or chatting in a lazy  group together.  We had no lack of music, for one played the  accordion, another the violin, and another (who usually began at  six o'clock A.M.) the key-bugle:  the combined effect of which  instruments, when they all played different tunes in differents  parts of the ship, at the same time, and within hearing of each  other, as they sometimes did (everybody being intensely satisfied  with his own performance), was sublimely hideous.

 

When all these means of entertainment failed, a sail would heave in  sight:  looming, perhaps, the very spirit of a ship, in the misty  distance, or passing us so close that through our glasses we could  see the people on her decks, and easily make out her name, and  whither she was bound.  For hours together we could watch the  dolphins and porpoises as they rolled and leaped and dived around  the vessel; or those small creatures ever on the wing, the Mother  Carey's chickens, which had borne us company from New York bay, and  for a whole fortnight fluttered about the vessel's stern.  For some  days we had a dead calm, or very light winds, during which the crew  amused themselves with fishing, and hooked an unlucky dolphin, who  expired, in all his rainbow colours, on the deck:  an event of such  importance in our barren calendar, that afterwards we dated from  the dolphin, and made the day on which he died, an era.

 

Besides all this, when we were five or six days out, there began to  be much talk of icebergs, of which wandering islands an unusual  number had been seen by the vessels that had come into New York a  day or two before we left that port, and of whose dangerous  neighbourhood we were warned by the sudden coldness of the weather,  and the sinking of the mercury in the barometer.  While these  tokens lasted, a double look-out was kept, and many dismal tales  were whispered after dark, of ships that had struck upon the ice  and gone down in the night; but the wind obliging us to hold a  southward course, we saw none of them, and the weather soon grew  bright and warm again.

 

The observation every day at noon, and the subsequent working of  the vessel's course, was, as may be supposed, a feature in our  lives of paramount importance; nor were there wanting (as there  never are) sagacious doubters of the captain's calculations, who,  so soon as his back was turned, would, in the absence of compasses,  measure the chart with bits of string, and ends of pocket-handkerchiefs, and points of snuffers, and clearly prove him to be  wrong by an odd thousand miles or so.  It was very edifying to see  these unbelievers shake their heads and frown, and hear them hold  forth strongly upon navigation:  not that they knew anything about  it, but that they always mistrusted the captain in calm weather, or  when the wind was adverse.  Indeed, the mercury itself is not so  variable as this class of passengers, whom you will see, when the  ship is going nobly through the water, quite pale with admiration,  swearing that the captain beats all captains ever known, and even  hinting at subscriptions for a piece of plate; and who, next  morning, when the breeze has lulled, and all the sails hang useless  in the idle air, shake their despondent heads again, and say, with  screwed-up lips, they hope that captain is a sailor - but they  shrewdly doubt him.

 

It even became an occupation in the calm, to wonder when the wind  WOULD spring up in the favourable quarter, where, it was clearly  shown by all the rules and precedents, it ought to have sprung up  long ago.  The first mate, who whistled for it zealously, was much  respected for his perseverance, and was regarded even by the  unbelievers as a first-rate sailor.  Many gloomy looks would be  cast upward through the cabin skylights at the flapping sails while  dinner was in progress; and some, growing bold in ruefulness,  predicted that we should land about the middle of July.  There are  always on board ship, a Sanguine One, and a Despondent One.  The  latter character carried it hollow at this period of the voyage,  and triumphed over the Sanguine One at every meal, by inquiring  where he supposed the Great Western (which left New York a week  after us) was NOW:  and where he supposed the 'Cunard' steam-packet  was NOW:  and what he thought of sailing vessels, as compared with  steamships NOW:  and so beset his life with pestilent attacks of  that kind, that he too was obliged to affect despondency, for very  peace and quietude.

 

These were additions to the list of entertaining incidents, but  there was still another source of interest.  We carried in the  steerage nearly a hundred passengers:  a little world of poverty:   and as we came to know individuals among them by sight, from  looking down upon the deck where they took the air in the daytime,  and cooked their food, and very often ate it too, we became curious  to know their histories, and with what expectations they had gone  out to America, and on what errands they were going home, and what  their circumstances were.  The information we got on these heads  from the carpenter, who had charge of these people, was often of  the strangest kind.  Some of them had been in America but three  days, some but three months, and some had gone out in the last  voyage of that very ship in which they were now returning home.   Others had sold their clothes to raise the passage-money, and had  hardly rags to cover them; others had no food, and lived upon the  charity of the rest:  and one man, it was discovered nearly at the  end of the voyage, not before - for he kept his secret close, and  did not court compassion - had had no sustenance whatever but the  bones and scraps of fat he took from the plates used in the after-cabin dinner, when they were put out to be washed.

 

The whole system of shipping and conveying these unfortunate  persons, is one that stands in need of thorough revision.  If any  class deserve to be protected and assisted by the Government, it is  that class who are banished from their native land in search of the  bare means of subsistence.  All that could be done for these poor  people by the great compassion and humanity of the captain and  officers was done, but they require much more.  The law is bound,  at least upon the English side, to see that too many of them are  not put on board one ship:  and that their accommodations are  decent:  not demoralising, and profligate.  It is bound, too, in  common humanity, to declare that no man shall be taken on board  without his stock of provisions being previously inspected by some  proper officer, and pronounced moderately sufficient for his  support upon the voyage.  It is bound to provide, or to require  that there be provided, a medical attendant; whereas in these ships  there are none, though sickness of adults, and deaths of children,  on the passage, are matters of the very commonest occurrence.   Above all it is the duty of any Government, be it monarchy or  republic, to interpose and put an end to that system by which a  firm of traders in emigrants purchase of the owners the whole  'tween-decks of a ship, and send on board as many wretched people  as they can lay hold of, on any terms they can get, without the  smallest reference to the conveniences of the steerage, the number  of berths, the slightest separation of the sexes, or anything but  their own immediate profit.  Nor is even this the worst of the  vicious system:  for, certain crimping agents of these houses, who  have a percentage on all the passengers they inveigle, are  constantly travelling about those districts where poverty and  discontent are rife, and tempting the credulous into more misery,  by holding out monstrous inducements to emigration which can never  be realised.

 

The history of every family we had on board was pretty much the  same.  After hoarding up, and borrowing, and begging, and selling  everything to pay the passage, they had gone out to New York,  expecting to find its streets paved with gold; and had found them  paved with very hard and very real stones.  Enterprise was dull;  labourers were not wanted; jobs of work were to be got, but the  payment was not.  They were coming back, even poorer than they  went.  One of them was carrying an open letter from a young English  artisan, who had been in New York a fortnight, to a friend near  Manchester, whom he strongly urged to follow him.  One of the  officers brought it to me as a curiosity.  'This is the country,  Jem,' said the writer.  'I like America.  There is no despotism  here; that's the great thing.  Employment of all sorts is going a-begging, and wages are capital.  You have only to choose a trade,  Jem, and be it.  I haven't made choice of one yet, but I shall  soon.  AT PRESENT I HAVEN'T QUITE MADE UP MY MIND WHETHER TO BE A  CARPENTER - OR A TAILOR.'

 

There was yet another kind of passenger, and but one more, who, in  the calm and the light winds, was a constant theme of conversation  and observation among us.  This was an English sailor, a smart,  thorough-built, English man-of-war's-man from his hat to his shoes,  who was serving in the American navy, and having got leave of  absence was on his way home to see his friends.  When he presented  himself to take and pay for his passage, it had been suggested to  him that being an able seaman he might as well work it and save the  money, but this piece of advice he very indignantly rejected:   saying, 'He'd be damned but for once he'd go aboard ship, as a  gentleman.'  Accordingly, they took his money, but he no sooner  came aboard, than he stowed his kit in the forecastle, arranged to  mess with the crew, and the very first time the hands were turned  up, went aloft like a cat, before anybody.  And all through the  passage there he was, first at the braces, outermost on the yards,  perpetually lending a hand everywhere, but always with a sober  dignity in his manner, and a sober grin on his face, which plainly  said, 'I do it as a gentleman.  For my own pleasure, mind you!'

 

At length and at last, the promised wind came up in right good  earnest, and away we went before it, with every stitch of canvas  set, slashing through the water nobly.  There was a grandeur in the  motion of the splendid ship, as overshadowed by her mass of sails,  she rode at a furious pace upon the waves, which filled one with an  indescribable sense of pride and exultation.  As she plunged into a  foaming valley, how I loved to see the green waves, bordered deep  with white, come rushing on astern, to buoy her upward at their  pleasure, and curl about her as she stooped again, but always own  her for their haughty mistress still!  On, on we flew, with  changing lights upon the water, being now in the blessed region of  fleecy skies; a bright sun lighting us by day, and a bright moon by  night; the vane pointing directly homeward, alike the truthful  index to the favouring wind and to our cheerful hearts; until at  sunrise, one fair Monday morning - the twenty-seventh of June, I  shall not easily forget the day - there lay before us, old Cape  Clear, God bless it, showing, in the mist of early morning, like a  cloud:  the brightest and most welcome cloud, to us, that ever hid  the face of Heaven's fallen sister - Home.

 

Dim speck as it was in the wide prospect, it made the sunrise a  more cheerful sight, and gave to it that sort of human interest  which it seems to want at sea.  There, as elsewhere, the return of  day is inseparable from some sense of renewed hope and gladness;  but the light shining on the dreary waste of water, and showing it  in all its vast extent of loneliness, presents a solemn spectacle,  which even night, veiling it in darkness and uncertainty, does not  surpass.  The rising of the moon is more in keeping with the  solitary ocean; and has an air of melancholy grandeur, which in its  soft and gentle influence, seems to comfort while it saddens.  I  recollect when I was a very young child having a fancy that the  reflection of the moon in water was a path to Heaven, trodden by  the spirits of good people on their way to God; and this old  feeling often came over me again, when I watched it on a tranquil  night at sea.

 

The wind was very light on this same Monday morning, but it was  still in the right quarter, and so, by slow degrees, we left Cape  Clear behind, and sailed along within sight of the coast of  Ireland.  And how merry we all were, and how loyal to the George  Washington, and how full of mutual congratulations, and how  venturesome in predicting the exact hour at which we should arrive  at Liverpool, may be easily imagined and readily understood.  Also,  how heartily we drank the captain's health that day at dinner; and  how restless we became about packing up:  and how two or three of  the most sanguine spirits rejected the idea of going to bed at all  that night as something it was not worth while to do, so near the  shore, but went nevertheless, and slept soundly; and how to be so  near our journey's end, was like a pleasant dream, from which one  feared to wake.

 

The friendly breeze freshened again next day, and on we went once  more before it gallantly:  descrying now and then an English ship  going homeward under shortened sail, while we, with every inch of  canvas crowded on, dashed gaily past, and left her far behind.   Towards evening, the weather turned hazy, with a drizzling rain;  and soon became so thick, that we sailed, as it were, in a cloud.   Still we swept onward like a phantom ship, and many an eager eye  glanced up to where the Look-out on the mast kept watch for  Holyhead.

 

At length his long-expected cry was heard, and at the same moment  there shone out from the haze and mist ahead, a gleaming light,  which presently was gone, and soon returned, and soon was gone  again.  Whenever it came back, the eyes of all on board, brightened  and sparkled like itself:  and there we all stood, watching this  revolving light upon the rock at Holyhead, and praising it for its  brightness and its friendly warning, and lauding it, in short,  above all other signal lights that ever were displayed, until it  once more glimmered faintly in the distance, far behind us.

 

Then, it was time to fire a gun, for a pilot; and almost before its  smoke had cleared away, a little boat with a light at her masthead  came bearing down upon us, through the darkness, swiftly.  And  presently, our sails being backed, she ran alongside; and the  hoarse pilot, wrapped and muffled in pea-coats and shawls to the  very bridge of his weather-ploughed-up nose, stood bodily among us  on the deck.  And I think if that pilot had wanted to borrow fifty  pounds for an indefinite period on no security, we should have  engaged to lend it to him, among us, before his boat had dropped  astern, or (which is the same thing) before every scrap of news in  the paper he brought with him had become the common property of all  on board.

 

We turned in pretty late that night, and turned out pretty early  next morning.  By six o'clock we clustered on the deck, prepared to  go ashore; and looked upon the spires, and roofs, and smoke, of  Liverpool.  By eight we all sat down in one of its Hotels, to eat  and drink together for the last time.  And by nine we had shaken  hands all round, and broken up our social company for ever.

 

The country, by the railroad, seemed, as we rattled through it,  like a luxuriant garden.  The beauty of the fields (so small they  looked!), the hedge-rows, and the trees; the pretty cottages, the  beds of flowers, the old churchyards, the antique houses, and every  well-known object; the exquisite delights of that one journey,  crowding in the short compass of a summer's day, the joy of many  years, with the winding up with Home and all that makes it dear; no  tongue can tell, or pen of mine describe.

 


CHAPTER XVI - SLAVERY

 

THE upholders of slavery in America - of the atrocities of which  system, I shall not write one word for which I have not had ample  proof and warrant - may be divided into three great classes.

 

The first, are those more moderate and rational owners of human  cattle, who have come into the possession of them as so many coins  in their trading capital, but who admit the frightful nature of the  Institution in the abstract, and perceive the dangers to society  with which it is fraught:  dangers which however distant they may  be, or howsoever tardy in their coming on, are as certain to fall  upon its guilty head, as is the Day of Judgment.

 

The second, consists of all those owners, breeders, users, buyers  and sellers of slaves, who will, until the bloody chapter has a  bloody end, own, breed, use, buy, and sell them at all hazards:   who doggedly deny the horrors of the system in the teeth of such a  mass of evidence as never was brought to bear on any other subject,  and to which the experience of every day contributes its immense  amount; who would at this or any other moment, gladly involve  America in a war, civil or foreign, provided that it had for its  sole end and object the assertion of their right to perpetuate  slavery, and to whip and work and torture slaves, unquestioned by  any human authority, and unassailed by any human power; who, when  they speak of Freedom, mean the Freedom to oppress their kind, and  to be savage, merciless, and cruel; and of whom every man on his  own ground, in republican America, is a more exacting, and a  sterner, and a less responsible despot than the Caliph Haroun  Alraschid in his angry robe of scarlet.

 

The third, and not the least numerous or influential, is composed  of all that delicate gentility which cannot bear a superior, and  cannot brook an equal; of that class whose Republicanism means, 'I  will not tolerate a man above me:  and of those below, none must  approach too near;' whose pride, in a land where voluntary  servitude is shunned as a disgrace, must be ministered to by  slaves; and whose inalienable rights can only have their growth in  negro wrongs.

 

It has been sometimes urged that, in the unavailing efforts which  have been made to advance the cause of Human Freedom in the  republic of America (strange cause for history to treat of!),  sufficient regard has not been had to the existence of the first  class of persons; and it has been contended that they are hardly  used, in being confounded with the second.  This is, no doubt, the  case; noble instances of pecuniary and personal sacrifice have  already had their growth among them; and it is much to be regretted  that the gulf between them and the advocates of emancipation should  have been widened and deepened by any means:  the rather, as there  are, beyond dispute, among these slave-owners, many kind masters  who are tender in the exercise of their unnatural power.  Still, it  is to be feared that this injustice is inseparable from the state  of things with which humanity and truth are called upon to deal.   Slavery is not a whit the more endurable because some hearts are to  be found which can partially resist its hardening influences; nor  can the indignant tide of honest wrath stand still, because in its  onward course it overwhelms a few who are comparatively innocent,  among a host of guilty.

 

The ground most commonly taken by these better men among the  advocates of slavery, is this:  'It is a bad system; and for myself  I would willingly get rid of it, if I could; most willingly.  But  it is not so bad, as you in England take it to be.  You are  deceived by the representations of the emancipationists.  The  greater part of my slaves are much attached to me.  You will say  that I do not allow them to be severely treated; but I will put it  to you whether you believe that it can be a general practice to  treat them inhumanly, when it would impair their value, and would  be obviously against the interests of their masters.'

 

Is it the interest of any man to steal, to game, to waste his  health and mental faculties by drunkenness, to lie, forswear  himself, indulge hatred, seek desperate revenge, or do murder?  No.   All these are roads to ruin.  And why, then, do men tread them?   Because such inclinations are among the vicious qualities of  mankind.  Blot out, ye friends of slavery, from the catalogue of  human passions, brutal lust, cruelty, and the abuse of  irresponsible power (of all earthly temptations the most difficult  to be resisted), and when ye have done so, and not before, we will  inquire whether it be the interest of a master to lash and maim the  slaves, over whose lives and limbs he has an absolute control!

 

But again:  this class, together with that last one I have named,  the miserable aristocracy spawned of a false republic, lift up  their voices and exclaim 'Public opinion is all-sufficient to  prevent such cruelty as you denounce.'  Public opinion!  Why,  public opinion in the slave States IS slavery, is it not?  Public  opinion, in the slave States, has delivered the slaves over, to the  gentle mercies of their masters.  Public opinion has made the laws,  and denied the slaves legislative protection.  Public opinion has  knotted the lash, heated the branding-iron, loaded the rifle, and  shielded the murderer.  Public opinion threatens the abolitionist  with death, if he venture to the South; and drags him with a rope  about his middle, in broad unblushing noon, through the first city  in the East.  Public opinion has, within a few years, burned a  slave alive at a slow fire in the city of St. Louis; and public  opinion has to this day maintained upon the bench that estimable  judge who charged the jury, impanelled there to try his murderers,  that their most horrid deed was an act of public opinion, and being  so, must not be punished by the laws the public sentiment had made.   Public opinion hailed this doctrine with a howl of wild applause,  and set the prisoners free, to walk the city, men of mark, and  influence, and station, as they had been before.

 

Public opinion! what class of men have an immense preponderance  over the rest of the community, in their power of representing  public opinion in the legislature? the slave-owners.  They send  from their twelve States one hundred members, while the fourteen  free States, with a free population nearly double, return but a  hundred and forty-two.  Before whom do the presidential candidates  bow down the most humbly, on whom do they fawn the most fondly, and  for whose tastes do they cater the most assiduously in their  servile protestations?  The slave-owners always.

 

Public opinion! hear the public opinion of the free South, as  expressed by its own members in the House of Representatives at  Washington.  'I have a great respect for the chair,' quoth North  Carolina, 'I have a great respect for the chair as an officer of  the house, and a great respect for him personally; nothing but that  respect prevents me from rushing to the table and tearing that  petition which has just been presented for the abolition of slavery  in the district of Columbia, to pieces.' - 'I warn the  abolitionists,' says South Carolina, 'ignorant, infuriated  barbarians as they are, that if chance shall throw any of them into  our hands, he may expect a felon's death.' - 'Let an abolitionist  come within the borders of South Carolina,' cries a third; mild  Carolina's colleague; 'and if we can catch him, we will try him,  and notwithstanding the interference of all the governments on  earth, including the Federal government, we will HANG him.'

 

Public opinion has made this law. - It has declared that in  Washington, in that city which takes its name from the father of  American liberty, any justice of the peace may bind with fetters  any negro passing down the street and thrust him into jail:  no  offence on the black man's part is necessary.  The justice says, 'I  choose to think this man a runaway:' and locks him up.  Public  opinion impowers the man of law when this is done, to advertise the  negro in the newspapers, warning his owner to come and claim him,  or he will be sold to pay the jail fees.  But supposing he is a  free black, and has no owner, it may naturally be presumed that he  is set at liberty.  No:  HE IS SOLD TO RECOMPENSE HIS JAILER.  This  has been done again, and again, and again.  He has no means of  proving his freedom; has no adviser, messenger, or assistance of  any sort or kind; no investigation into his case is made, or  inquiry instituted.  He, a free man, who may have served for years,  and bought his liberty, is thrown into jail on no process, for no  crime, and on no pretence of crime:  and is sold to pay the jail  fees.  This seems incredible, even of America, but it is the law.

 

Public opinion is deferred to, in such cases as the following:   which is headed in the newspapers:-

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