By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Life on the Mississippi, Part 10.
Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life on the Mississippi, Part 10." ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                    LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI

                        BY MARK TWAIN

                           Part 10.

Chapter 46 Enchantments and Enchanters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 47 Uncle Remus and Mr. Cable

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

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

'Why, he 's white!'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 48 Sugar and Postage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION.  Where are you?

ANSWER.  In the spirit world.

Q. Are you happy?

A. Very happy.  Perfectly happy.

Q. How do you amuse yourself?

A. Conversation with friends, and other spirits.

Q. What else?

A. Nothing else.  Nothing else is necessary.

Q. What do you talk about?

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

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

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

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

No reply.

Q. Would you like to come back?

A. No.

Q. Would you say that under oath?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you eat there?

A. We do not eat.

Q. What do you drink?

A. We do not drink.

Q. What do you smoke?

A. We do not smoke.

Q. What do you read?

A. We do not read.

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

A. Yes.

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

A. No reply.

Q. When did you die?

A. I did not die, I passed away.

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

A. We have no measurements of time here.

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

A. Yes.

Q. Then name the day of the month.

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

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

This was granted to be the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 49 Episodes in Pilot Life

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

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

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

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

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

The history of Mississippi piloting affords six or seven instances of
this sort of martyrdom, and half a hundred instances of escapes from a
like fate which came within a second or two of being fatally too late;
DESTRUCTION. It is well worth while to set down this noble fact, and
well worth while to put it in italics, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 50 The 'Original Jacobs'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'In 1831 the Red River cut-off formed.

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

'In 1839 Great Horseshoe cut-off formed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

VICKSBURG May 4, 1859.

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

'I. Sellers.']}

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

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

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

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

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

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life on the Mississippi, Part 10." ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.