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´╗┐Title: Life on the Mississippi, Part 8.
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 8." ***

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                    LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI

                        BY MARK TWAIN

                           Part 8.



Chapter 36  The Professor's Yarn

IT was in the early days.  I was not a college professor then. I was a
humble-minded young land-surveyor, with the world before me--to survey,
in case anybody wanted it done.  I had a contract to survey a route for
a great mining-ditch in California, and I was on my way thither, by sea
--a three or four weeks' voyage.  There were a good many passengers, but
I had very little to say to them; reading and dreaming were my passions,
and I avoided conversation in order to indulge these appetites. There
were three professional gamblers on board--rough, repulsive fellows. I
never had any talk with them, yet I could not help seeing them with some
frequency, for they gambled in an upper-deck stateroom every day and
night, and in my promenades I often had glimpses of them through their
door, which stood a little ajar to let out the surplus tobacco smoke and
profanity.  They were an evil and hateful presence, but I had to put up
with it, of course,

There was one other passenger who fell under my eye a good deal, for he
seemed determined to be friendly with me, and I could not have gotten
rid of him without running some chance of hurting his feelings, and I
was far from wishing to do that.  Besides, there was something engaging
in his countrified simplicity and his beaming good-nature. The first
time I saw this Mr. John Backus, I guessed, from his clothes and his
looks, that he was a grazier or farmer from the backwoods of some
western State--doubtless Ohio--and afterward when he dropped into his
personal history and I discovered that he WAS a cattle-raiser from
interior Ohio, I was so pleased with my own penetration that I warmed
toward him for verifying my instinct.

He got to dropping alongside me every day, after breakfast, to help me
make my promenade; and so, in the course of time, his easy-working jaw
had told me everything about his business, his prospects, his family,
his relatives, his politics--in fact everything that concerned a Backus,
living or dead. And meantime I think he had managed to get out of me
everything I knew about my trade, my tribe, my purposes, my prospects,
and myself.  He was a gentle and persuasive genius, and this thing
showed it; for I was not given to talking about my matters. I said
something about triangulation, once; the stately word pleased his ear;
he inquired what it meant; I explained; after that he quietly and
inoffensively ignored my name, and always called me Triangle.

What an enthusiast he was in cattle!  At the bare name of a bull or a
cow, his eye would light and his eloquent tongue would turn itself
loose.  As long as I would walk and listen, he would walk and talk; he
knew all breeds, he loved all breeds, he caressed them all with his
affectionate tongue. I tramped along in voiceless misery whilst the
cattle question was up; when I could endure it no longer, I used to
deftly insert a scientific topic into the conversation; then my eye
fired and his faded; my tongue fluttered, his stopped; life was a joy to
me, and a sadness to him.

One day he said, a little hesitatingly, and with somewhat of diffidence--

'Triangle, would you mind coming down to my stateroom a minute, and have
a little talk on a certain matter?'

I went with him at once.  Arrived there, he put his head out, glanced up
and down the saloon warily, then closed the door and locked it. He sat
down on the sofa, and he said--

'I'm a-going to make a little proposition to you, and if it strikes you
favorable, it'll be a middling good thing for both of us. You ain't
a-going out to Californy for fun, nuther am I--it's business, ain't that
so?  Well, you can do me a good turn, and so can I you, if we see fit.
I've raked and scraped and saved, a considerable many years, and I've
got it all here.' He unlocked an old hair trunk, tumbled a chaos of
shabby clothes aside, and drew a short stout bag into view for a moment,
then buried it again and relocked the trunk.  Dropping his voice to a
cautious low tone, he continued, 'She's all there--a round ten thousand
dollars in yellow-boys; now this is my little idea: What I don't know
about raising cattle, ain't worth knowing. There's mints of money in it,
in Californy.  Well, I know, and you know, that all along a line that 's
being surveyed, there 's little dabs of land that they call "gores,"
that fall to the surveyor free gratis for nothing.  All you've got to
do, on your side, is to survey in such a way that the "gores" will fall
on good fat land, then you turn 'em over to me, I stock 'em with cattle,
in rolls the cash, I plank out your share of the dollars regular, right
along, and--'

I was sorry to wither his blooming enthusiasm, but it could not be
helped. I interrupted, and said severely--

'I am not that kind of a surveyor.  Let us change the subject, Mr.
Backus.'

It was pitiful to see his confusion and hear his awkward and shamefaced
apologies.  I was as much distressed as he was--especially as he seemed
so far from having suspected that there was anything improper in his
proposition. So I hastened to console him and lead him on to forget his
mishap in a conversational orgy about cattle and butchery. We were lying
at Acapulco; and, as we went on deck, it happened luckily that the crew
were just beginning to hoist some beeves aboard in slings.  Backus's
melancholy vanished instantly, and with it the memory of his late
mistake.

'Now only look at that!' cried he; 'My goodness, Triangle, what WOULD
they say to it in OHIO.  Wouldn't their eyes bug out, to see 'em handled
like that?--wouldn't they, though?'

All the passengers were on deck to look--even the gamblers--and Backus
knew them all, and had afflicted them all with his pet topic. As I moved
away, I saw one of the gamblers approach and accost him; then another of
them; then the third.  I halted; waited; watched; the conversation
continued between the four men; it grew earnest; Backus drew gradually
away; the gamblers followed, and kept at his elbow. I was uncomfortable.
However, as they passed me presently, I heard Backus say, with a tone of
persecuted annoyance--

'But it ain't any use, gentlemen; I tell you again, as I've told you a
half a dozen times before, I warn't raised to it, and I ain't a-going to
resk it.'

I felt relieved.  'His level head will be his sufficient protection,' I
said to myself.

During the fortnight's run from Acapulco to San Francisco I several
times saw the gamblers talking earnestly with Backus, and once I threw
out a gentle warning to him.  He chuckled comfortably and said--

'Oh, yes! they tag around after me considerable--want me to play a
little, just for amusement, they say--but laws-a-me, if my folks have
told me once to look out for that sort of live-stock, they've told me a
thousand times, I reckon.'

By-and-bye, in due course, we were approaching San Francisco. It was an
ugly black night, with a strong wind blowing, but there was not much
sea.  I was on deck, alone.  Toward ten I started below. A figure issued
from the gamblers' den, and disappeared in the darkness. I experienced a
shock, for I was sure it was Backus. I flew down the companion-way,
looked about for him, could not find him, then returned to the deck just
in time to catch a glimpse of him as he re-entered that confounded nest
of rascality. Had he yielded at last?  I feared it.  What had he gone
below for?--His bag of coin?  Possibly.  I drew near the door, full of
bodings. It was a-crack, and I glanced in and saw a sight that made me
bitterly wish I had given my attention to saving my poor cattle-friend,
instead of reading and dreaming my foolish time away. He was gambling.
Worse still, he was being plied with champagne, and was already showing
some effect from it.  He praised the 'cider,' as he called it, and said
now that he had got a taste of it he almost believed he would drink it
if it was spirits, it was so good and so ahead of anything he had ever
run across before. Surreptitious smiles, at this, passed from one rascal
to another, and they filled all the glasses, and whilst Backus honestly
drained his to the bottom they pretended to do the same, but threw the
wine over their shoulders.

I could not bear the scene, so I wandered forward and tried to interest
myself in the sea and the voices of the wind. But no, my uneasy spirit
kept dragging me back at quarter-hour intervals; and always I saw Backus
drinking his wine--fairly and squarely, and the others throwing theirs
away. It was the painfullest night I ever spent.

The only hope I had was that we might reach our anchorage with speed--
that would break up the game.  I helped the ship along all I could with
my prayers.  At last we went booming through the Golden Gate, and my
pulses leaped for joy. I hurried back to that door and glanced in.
Alas, there was small room for hope--Backus's eyes were heavy and
bloodshot, his sweaty face was crimson, his speech maudlin and thick,
his body sawed drunkenly about with the weaving motion of the ship. He
drained another glass to the dregs, whilst the cards were being dealt.

He took his hand, glanced at it, and his dull eyes lit up for a moment.
The gamblers observed it, and showed their gratification by hardly
perceptible signs.

'How many cards?'

'None!' said Backus.

One villain--named Hank Wiley--discarded one card, the others three
each. The betting began.  Heretofore the bets had been trifling--a
dollar or two; but Backus started off with an eagle now, Wiley hesitated
a moment, then 'saw it' and 'went ten dollars better.' The other two
threw up their hands.

Backus went twenty better.  Wiley said--

'I see that, and go you a hundred better!' then smiled and reached for
the money.

'Let it alone,' said Backus, with drunken gravity.

'What! you mean to say you're going to cover it?'

'Cover it?  Well, I reckon I am--and lay another hundred on top of it,
too.'

He reached down inside his overcoat and produced the required sum.

'Oh, that's your little game, is it?  I see your raise, and raise it
five hundred!' said Wiley.

'Five hundred better.'  said the foolish bull-driver, and pulled out the
amount and showered it on the pile. The three conspirators hardly tried
to conceal their exultation.

All diplomacy and pretense were dropped now, and the sharp exclamations
came thick and fast, and the yellow pyramid grew higher and higher. At
last ten thousand dollars lay in view.  Wiley cast a bag of coin on the
table, and said with mocking gentleness--

'Five thousand dollars better, my friend from the rural districts--what
do you say NOW?'

'I CALL you!' said Backus, heaving his golden shot-bag on the pile.
'What have you got?'

'Four kings, you d--d fool!' and Wiley threw down his cards and
surrounded the stakes with his arms.

'Four ACES, you ass!' thundered Backus, covering his man with a cocked
revolver.  'I'M A PROFESSIONAL GAMBLER MYSELF, AND I'VE BEEN LAYING FOR
YOU DUFFERS ALL THIS VOYAGE!'

Down went the anchor, rumbledy-dum-dum! and the long trip was ended.

Well--well, it is a sad world.  One of the three gamblers was Backus's
'pal.' It was he that dealt the fateful hands.  According to an
understanding with the two victims, he was to have given Backus four
queens, but alas, he didn't.

A week later, I stumbled upon Backus--arrayed in the height of fashion--
in Montgomery Street.  He said, cheerily, as we were parting--

'Ah, by-the-way, you needn't mind about those gores.  I don't really
know anything about cattle, except what I was able to pick up in a
week's apprenticeship over in Jersey just before we sailed. My cattle-
culture and cattle-enthusiasm have served their turn--I shan't need them
any more.'

Next day we reluctantly parted from the 'Gold Dust' and her officers,
hoping to see that boat and all those officers again, some day. A thing
which the fates were to render tragically impossible!



Chapter 37 The End of the 'Gold Dust'

FOR, three months later, August 8, while I was writing one of these
foregoing chapters, the New York papers brought this telegram--

A TERRIBLE DISASTER.

SEVENTEEN PERSONS KILLED BY AN EXPLOSION ON THE STEAMER 'GOLD DUST.'

'NASHVILLE, Aug. 7.--A despatch from Hickman, Ky., says--

'The steamer "Gold Dust" exploded her boilers at three o'clock to-day,
just after leaving Hickman. Forty-seven persons were scalded and
seventeen are missing. The boat was landed in the eddy just above the
town, and through the exertions of the citizens the cabin passengers,
officers, and part of the crew and deck passengers were taken ashore and
removed to the hotels and residences. Twenty-four of the injured were
lying in Holcomb's dry-goods store at one time, where they received
every attention before being removed to more comfortable places.'

A list of the names followed, whereby it appeared that of the seventeen
dead, one was the barkeeper; and among the forty-seven wounded, were the
captain, chief mate, second mate, and second and third clerks; also Mr.
Lem S. Gray, pilot, and several members of the crew.

In answer to a private telegram, we learned that none of these was
severely hurt, except Mr. Gray.  Letters received afterward confirmed
this news, and said that Mr. Gray was improving and would get well.
Later letters spoke less hopefully of his case; and finally came one
announcing his death.  A good man, a most companionable and manly man,
and worthy of a kindlier fate.



Chapter 38 The House Beautiful

WE took passage in a Cincinnati boat for New Orleans; or on a Cincinnati
boat--either is correct; the former is the eastern form of putting it,
the latter the western.

Mr. Dickens declined to agree that the Mississippi steamboats were
'magnificent,' or that they were 'floating palaces,'--terms which had
always been applied to them; terms which did not over-express the
admiration with which the people viewed them.

Mr. Dickens's position was unassailable, possibly; the people's position
was certainly unassailable.  If Mr. Dickens was comparing these boats
with the crown jewels; or with the Taj, or with the Matterhorn; or with
some other priceless or wonderful thing which he had seen, they were not
magnificent--he was right. The people compared them with what they had
seen; and, thus measured, thus judged, the boats were magnificent--the
term was the correct one, it was not at all too strong.  The people were
as right as was Mr. Dickens.  The steamboats were finer than anything on
shore. Compared with superior dwelling-houses and first-class hotels in
the Valley, they were indubitably magnificent, they were 'palaces.' To a
few people living in New Orleans and St. Louis, they were not
magnificent, perhaps; not palaces; but to the great majority of those
populations, and to the entire populations spread over both banks
between Baton Rouge and St. Louis, they were palaces; they tallied with
the citizen's dream of what magnificence was, and satisfied it.

Every town and village along that vast stretch of double river-frontage
had a best dwelling, finest dwelling, mansion,--the home of its
wealthiest and most conspicuous citizen. It is easy to describe it:
large grassy yard, with paling fence painted white--in fair repair;
brick walk from gate to door; big, square, two-story 'frame' house,
painted white and porticoed like a Grecian temple--with this difference,
that the imposing fluted columns and Corinthian capitals were a pathetic
sham, being made of white pine, and painted; iron knocker; brass door
knob--discolored, for lack of polishing.  Within, an uncarpeted hall, of
planed boards; opening out of it, a parlor, fifteen feet by fifteen--in
some instances five or ten feet larger; ingrain carpet; mahogany center-
table; lamp on it, with green-paper shade--standing on a gridiron, so to
speak, made of high-colored yarns, by the young ladies of the house, and
called a lamp-mat; several books, piled and disposed, with cast-iron
exactness, according to an inherited and unchangeable plan; among them,
Tupper, much penciled; also, 'Friendship's Offering,' and 'Affection's
Wreath,' with their sappy inanities illustrated in die-away mezzotints;
also, Ossian; 'Alonzo and Melissa:' maybe 'Ivanhoe:'  also 'Album,' full
of original 'poetry' of the Thou-hast-wounded-the-spirit-that-loved-thee
breed; two or three goody-goody works--'Shepherd of Salisbury Plain,'
etc.; current number of the chaste and innocuous Godey's 'Lady's Book,'
with painted fashion-plate of wax-figure women with mouths all alike--
lips and eyelids the same size--each five-foot woman with a two-inch
wedge sticking from under her dress and letting-on to be half of her
foot. Polished air-tight stove (new and deadly invention), with pipe
passing through a board which closes up the discarded good old
fireplace.  On each end of the wooden mantel, over the fireplace, a
large basket of peaches and other fruits, natural size, all done in
plaster, rudely, or in wax, and painted to resemble the originals--which
they don't. Over middle of mantel, engraving--Washington Crossing the
Delaware; on the wall by the door, copy of it done in thunder-and-
lightning crewels by one of the young ladies--work of art which would
have made Washington hesitate about crossing, if he could have foreseen
what advantage was going to be taken of it. Piano--kettle in disguise--
with music, bound and unbound, piled on it, and on a stand near by:
Battle of Prague; Bird Waltz; Arkansas Traveler; Rosin the Bow;
Marseilles Hymn; On a Lone Barren Isle (St. Helena); The Last Link is
Broken; She wore a Wreath of Roses the Night when last we met; Go,
forget me, Why should Sorrow o'er that Brow a Shadow fling; Hours there
were to Memory Dearer; Long, Long Ago; Days of Absence; A Life on the
Ocean Wave, a Home on the Rolling Deep; Bird at Sea; and spread open on
the rack, where the plaintive singer has left it, RO-holl on, silver
MOO-hoon, guide the TRAV-el-lerr his WAY, etc. Tilted pensively against
the piano, a guitar--guitar capable of playing the Spanish Fandango by
itself, if you give it a start. Frantic work of art on the wall--pious
motto, done on the premises, sometimes in colored yarns, sometimes in
faded grasses: progenitor of the 'God Bless Our Home' of modern
commerce. Framed in black moldings on the wall, other works of arts,
conceived and committed on the premises, by the young ladies; being grim
black-and-white crayons; landscapes, mostly: lake, solitary sail-boat,
petrified clouds, pre-geological trees on shore, anthracite precipice;
name of criminal conspicuous in the corner.  Lithograph, Napoleon
Crossing the Alps. Lithograph, The Grave at St. Helena.  Steel-plates,
Trumbull's Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Sally from Gibraltar. Copper-
plates, Moses Smiting the Rock, and Return of the Prodigal Son.  In big
gilt frame, slander of the family in oil: papa holding a book
('Constitution of the United States'); guitar leaning against mamma,
blue ribbons fluttering from its neck; the young ladies, as children, in
slippers and scalloped pantelettes, one embracing toy horse, the other
beguiling kitten with ball of yarn, and both simpering up at mamma, who
simpers back. These persons all fresh, raw, and red--apparently skinned.
Opposite, in gilt frame, grandpa and grandma, at thirty and twenty-two,
stiff, old-fashioned, high-collared, puff-sleeved, glaring pallidly out
from a background of solid Egyptian night. Under a glass French clock
dome, large bouquet of stiff flowers done in corpsy-white wax.
Pyramidal what-not in the corner, the shelves occupied chiefly with
bric-a-brac of the period, disposed with an eye to best effect: shell,
with the Lord's Prayer carved on it; another shell--of the long-oval
sort, narrow, straight orifice, three inches long, running from end to
end--portrait of Washington carved on it; not well done; the shell had
Washington's mouth, originally--artist should have built to that.  These
two are memorials of the long-ago bridal trip to New Orleans and the
French Market. Other bric-a-brac: Californian 'specimens'--quartz, with
gold wart adhering; old Guinea-gold locket, with circlet of ancestral
hair in it; Indian arrow-heads, of flint; pair of bead moccasins, from
uncle who crossed the Plains; three 'alum' baskets of various colors--
being skeleton-frame of wire, clothed-on with cubes of crystallized alum
in the rock-candy style--works of art which were achieved by the young
ladies; their doubles and duplicates to be found upon all what-nots in
the land; convention of desiccated bugs and butterflies pinned to a
card; painted toy-dog, seated upon bellows-attachment--drops its under
jaw and squeaks when pressed upon; sugar-candy rabbit--limbs and
features merged together, not strongly defined; pewter presidential-
campaign medal; miniature card-board wood-sawyer, to be attached to the
stove-pipe and operated by the heat; small Napoleon, done in wax;
spread-open daguerreotypes of dim children, parents, cousins, aunts, and
friends, in all attitudes but customary ones; no templed portico at
back, and manufactured landscape stretching away in the distance--that
came in later, with the photograph; all these vague figures lavishly
chained and ringed--metal indicated and secured from doubt by stripes
and splashes of vivid gold bronze; all of them too much combed, too much
fixed up; and all of them uncomfortable in inflexible Sunday-clothes of
a pattern which the spectator cannot realize could ever have been in
fashion; husband and wife generally grouped together--husband sitting,
wife standing, with hand on his shoulder--and both preserving, all these
fading years, some traceable effect of the daguerreotypist's brisk 'Now
smile, if you please!'  Bracketed over what-not--place of special
sacredness--an outrage in water-color, done by the young niece that came
on a visit long ago, and died. Pity, too; for she might have repented of
this in time. Horse-hair chairs, horse-hair sofa which keeps sliding
from under you.  Window shades, of oil stuff, with milk-maids and ruined
castles stenciled on them in fierce colors. Lambrequins dependent from
gaudy boxings of beaten tin, gilded. Bedrooms with rag carpets;
bedsteads of the 'corded' sort, with a sag in the middle, the cords
needing tightening; snuffy feather-bed--not aired often enough; cane-
seat chairs, splint-bottomed rocker; looking-glass on wall, school-slate
size, veneered frame; inherited bureau; wash-bowl and pitcher, possibly
--but not certainly; brass candlestick, tallow candle, snuffers. Nothing
else in the room.  Not a bathroom in the house; and no visitor likely to
come along who has ever seen one.

That was the residence of the principal citizen, all the way from the
suburbs of New Orleans to the edge of St. Louis.  When he stepped aboard
a big fine steamboat, he entered a new and marvelous world: chimney-tops
cut to counterfeit a spraying crown of plumes--and maybe painted red;
pilot-house, hurricane deck, boiler-deck guards, all garnished with
white wooden filigree work of fanciful patterns; gilt acorns topping the
derricks; gilt deer-horns over the big bell; gaudy symbolical picture on
the paddle-box, possibly; big roomy boiler-deck, painted blue, and
furnished with Windsor armchairs; inside, a far-receding snow-white
'cabin;' porcelain knob and oil-picture on every stateroom door; curving
patterns of filigree-work touched up with gilding, stretching overhead
all down the converging vista; big chandeliers every little way, each an
April shower of glittering glass-drops; lovely rainbow-light falling
everywhere from the colored glazing of the skylights; the whole a long-
drawn, resplendent tunnel, a bewildering and soul-satisfying spectacle!
In the ladies' cabin a pink and white Wilton carpet, as soft as mush,
and glorified with a ravishing pattern of gigantic flowers. Then the
Bridal Chamber--the animal that invented that idea was still alive and
unhanged, at that day--Bridal Chamber whose pretentious flummery was
necessarily overawing to the now tottering intellect of that hosannahing
citizen.  Every state-room had its couple of cozy clean bunks, and
perhaps a looking-glass and a snug closet; and sometimes there was even
a washbowl and pitcher, and part of a towel which could be told from
mosquito netting by an expert--though generally these things were
absent, and the shirt-sleeved passengers cleansed themselves at a long
row of stationary bowls in the barber shop, where were also public
towels, public combs, and public soap.

Take the steamboat which I have just described, and you have her in her
highest and finest, and most pleasing, and comfortable, and satisfactory
estate.  Now cake her over with a layer of ancient and obdurate dirt,
and you have the Cincinnati steamer awhile ago referred to.  Not all
over--only inside; for she was ably officered in all departments except
the steward's.

But wash that boat and repaint her, and she would be about the
counterpart of the most complimented boat of the old flush times: for
the steamboat architecture of the West has undergone no change; neither
has steamboat furniture and ornamentation undergone any.



Chapter 39 Manufactures and Miscreants

WHERE the river, in the Vicksburg region, used to be corkscrewed, it is
now comparatively straight--made so by cut-off; a former distance of
seventy miles is reduced to thirty-five. It is a change which threw
Vicksburg's neighbor, Delta, Louisiana, out into the country and ended
its career as a river town. Its whole river-frontage is now occupied by
a vast sand-bar, thickly covered with young trees--a growth which will
magnify itself into a dense forest by-and-bye, and completely hide the
exiled town.

In due time we passed Grand Gulf and Rodney, of war fame, and reached
Natchez, the last of the beautiful hill-cities--for Baton Rouge, yet to
come, is not on a hill, but only on high ground.  Famous Natchez-under-
the-hill has not changed notably in twenty years; in outward aspect--
judging by the descriptions of the ancient procession of foreign
tourists--it has not changed in sixty; for it is still small,
straggling, and shabby. It had a desperate reputation, morally, in the
old keel-boating and early steamboating times--plenty of drinking,
carousing, fisticuffing, and killing there, among the riff-raff of the
river, in those days. But Natchez-on-top-of-the-hill is attractive; has
always been attractive. Even Mrs. Trollope (1827) had to confess its
charms:

'At one or two points the wearisome level line is relieved by bluffs, as
they call the short intervals of high ground. The town of Natchez is
beautifully situated on one of those high spots. The contrast that its
bright green hill forms with the dismal line of black forest that
stretches on every side, the abundant growth of the pawpaw, palmetto and
orange, the copious variety of sweet-scented flowers that flourish
there, all make it appear like an oasis in the desert. Natchez is the
furthest point to the north at which oranges ripen in the open air, or
endure the winter without shelter. With the exception of this sweet
spot, I thought all the little towns and villages we passed wretched-
looking in the extreme.'

Natchez, like her near and far river neighbors, has railways now, and is
adding to them--pushing them hither and thither into all rich outlying
regions that are naturally tributary to her. And like Vicksburg and New
Orleans, she has her ice-factory: she makes thirty tons of ice a day.
In Vicksburg and Natchez, in my time, ice was jewelry; none but the rich
could wear it. But anybody and everybody can have it now.  I visited one
of the ice-factories in New Orleans, to see what the polar regions might
look like when lugged into the edge of the tropics. But there was
nothing striking in the aspect of the place. It was merely a spacious
house, with some innocent steam machinery in one end of it and some big
porcelain pipes running here and there. No, not porcelain--they merely
seemed to be; they were iron, but the ammonia which was being breathed
through them had coated them to the thickness of your hand with solid
milk-white ice. It ought to have melted; for one did not require winter
clothing in that atmosphere:  but it did not melt; the inside of the
pipe was too cold.

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

The Rosalie Yarn Mill, of Natchez, has a capacity of 6,000 spindles and
160 looms, and employs 100 hands.  The Natchez Cotton Mills Company
began operations four years ago in a two-story building of 50 x 190
feet, with 4,000 spindles and 128 looms; capital $105,000, all
subscribed in the town. Two years later, the same stockholders increased
their capital to $225,000; added a third story to the mill, increased
its length to 317 feet; added machinery to increase the capacity to
10,300 spindles and 304 looms. The company now employ 250 operatives,
many of whom are citizens of Natchez. 'The mill works 5,000 bales of
cotton annually and manufactures the best standard quality of brown
shirtings and sheetings and drills, turning out 5,000,000 yards of these
goods per year.'{footnote [New Orleans Times-Democrat, 26 Aug, 1882.]} A
close corporation--stock held at $5,000 per share, but none in the
market.

The changes in the Mississippi River are great and strange, yet were to
be expected; but I was not expecting to live to see Natchez and these
other river towns become manufacturing strongholds and railway centers.

Speaking of manufactures reminds me of a talk upon that topic which I
heard--which I overheard--on board the Cincinnati boat. I awoke out of a
fretted sleep, with a dull confusion of voices in my ears. I listened--
two men were talking; subject, apparently, the great inundation. I
looked out through the open transom.  The two men were eating a late
breakfast; sitting opposite each other; nobody else around. They closed
up the inundation with a few words--having used it, evidently, as a mere
ice-breaker and acquaintanceship-breeder--then they dropped into
business.  It soon transpired that they were drummers--one belonging in
Cincinnati, the other in New Orleans. Brisk men, energetic of movement
and speech; the dollar their god, how to get it their religion.

'Now as to this article,' said Cincinnati, slashing into the ostensible
butter and holding forward a slab of it on his knife-blade, 'it's from
our house; look at it--smell of it--taste it. Put any test on it you
want to.  Take your own time--no hurry--make it thorough.  There now--
what do you say? butter, ain't it. Not by a thundering sight--it's
oleomargarine!  Yes, sir, that's what it is--oleomargarine.  You can't
tell it from butter; by George, an EXPERT can't. It's from our house.
We supply most of the boats in the West; there's hardly a pound of
butter on one of them. We are crawling right along--JUMPING right along
is the word. We are going to have that entire trade.  Yes, and the hotel
trade, too. You are going to see the day, pretty soon, when you can't
find an ounce of butter to bless yourself with, in any hotel in the
Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, outside of the biggest cities. Why, we are
turning out oleomargarine NOW by the thousands of tons. And we can sell
it so dirt-cheap that the whole country has GOT to take it--can't get
around it you see.  Butter don't stand any show--there ain't any chance
for competition. Butter's had its DAY--and from this out, butter goes to
the wall. There's more money in oleomargarine than--why, you can't
imagine the business we do.  I've stopped in every town from Cincinnati
to Natchez; and I've sent home big orders from every one of them.'

And so-forth and so-on, for ten minutes longer, in the same fervid
strain. Then New Orleans piped up and said--

Yes, it's a first-rate imitation, that's a certainty; but it ain't the
only one around that's first-rate. For instance, they make olive-oil out
of cotton-seed oil, nowadays, so that you can't tell them apart.'

'Yes, that's so,' responded Cincinnati, 'and it was a tip-top business
for a while.  They sent it over and brought it back from France and
Italy, with the United States custom-house mark on it to indorse it for
genuine, and there was no end of cash in it; but France and Italy broke
up the game--of course they naturally would. Cracked on such a rattling
impost that cotton-seed olive-oil couldn't stand the raise; had to hang
up and quit.'

'Oh, it DID, did it?  You wait here a minute.'

Goes to his state-room, brings back a couple of long bottles, and takes
out the corks--says:

'There now, smell them, taste them, examine the bottles, inspect the
labels. One of 'm's from Europe, the other's never been out of this
country. One's European olive-oil, the other's American cotton-seed
olive-oil. Tell 'm apart?  'Course you can't. Nobody can.  People that
want to, can go to the expense and trouble of shipping their oils to
Europe and back--it's their privilege; but our firm knows a trick worth
six of that. We turn out the whole thing--clean from the word go--in our
factory in New Orleans:  labels, bottles, oil, everything.  Well, no,
not labels: been buying them abroad--get them dirt-cheap there.  You
see, there's just one little wee speck, essence, or whatever it is, in a
gallon of cotton-seed oil, that give it a smell, or a flavor, or
something--get that out, and you're all right--perfectly easy then to
turn the oil into any kind of oil you want to, and there ain't anybody
that can detect the true from the false.  Well, we know how to get that
one little particle out--and we're the only firm that does. And we turn
out an olive-oil that is just simply perfect--undetectable! We are doing
a ripping trade, too--as I could easily show you by my order-book for
this trip.  Maybe you'll butter everybody's bread pretty soon, but we'll
cotton-seed his salad for him from the Gulf to Canada, and that's a
dead-certain thing.'

Cincinnati glowed and flashed with admiration. The two scoundrels
exchanged business-cards, and rose. As they left the table, Cincinnati
said--

'But you have to have custom-house marks, don't you? How do you manage
that?'

I did not catch the answer.

We passed Port Hudson, scene of two of the most terrific episodes of the
war--the night-battle there between Farragut's fleet and the Confederate
land batteries, April 14th, 1863; and the memorable land battle, two
months later, which lasted eight hours--eight hours of exceptionally
fierce and stubborn fighting--and ended, finally, in the repulse of the
Union forces with great slaughter.



Chapter 40 Castles and Culture

BATON ROUGE was clothed in flowers, like a bride--no, much more so; like
a greenhouse.  For we were in the absolute South now--no modifications,
no compromises, no half-way measures. The magnolia-trees in the Capitol
grounds were lovely and fragrant, with their dense rich foliage and huge
snow-ball blossoms. The scent of the flower is very sweet, but you want
distance on it, because it is so powerful.  They are not good bedroom
blossoms--they might suffocate one in his sleep.  We were certainly in
the South at last; for here the sugar region begins, and the
plantations--vast green levels, with sugar-mill and negro quarters
clustered together in the middle distance--were in view.  And there was
a tropical sun overhead and a tropical swelter in the air.

And at this point, also, begins the pilot's paradise: a wide river hence
to New Orleans, abundance of water from shore to shore, and no bars,
snags, sawyers, or wrecks in his road.

Sir Walter Scott is probably responsible for the Capitol building; for
it is not conceivable that this little sham castle would ever have been
built if he had not run the people mad, a couple of generations ago,
with his medieval romances.  The South has not yet recovered from the
debilitating influence of his books. Admiration of his fantastic heroes
and their grotesque 'chivalry' doings and romantic juvenilities still
survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already perceptible the
wholesome and practical nineteenth-century smell of cotton-factories and
locomotives; and traces of its inflated language and other windy
humbuggeries survive along with it.  It is pathetic enough, that a
whitewashed castle, with turrets and things--materials all ungenuine
within and without, pretending to be what they are not--should ever have
been built in this otherwise honorable place; but it is much more
pathetic to see this architectural falsehood undergoing restoration and
perpetuation in our day, when it would have been so easy to let dynamite
finish what a charitable fire began, and then devote this restoration-
money to the building of something genuine.

Baton Rouge has no patent on imitation castles, however, and no monopoly
of them.  Here is a picture from the advertisement of the 'Female
Institute' of Columbia; Tennessee.  The following remark is from the
same advertisement--

'The Institute building has long been famed as a model of striking and
beautiful architecture.  Visitors are charmed with its resemblance to
the old castles of song and story, with its towers, turreted walls, and
ivy-mantled porches.'

Keeping school in a castle is a romantic thing; as romantic as keeping
hotel in a castle.

By itself the imitation castle is doubtless harmless, and well enough;
but as a symbol and breeder and sustainer of maudlin Middle-Age
romanticism here in the midst of the plainest and sturdiest and
infinitely greatest and worthiest of all the centuries the world has
seen, it is necessarily a hurtful thing and a mistake.

Here is an extract from the prospectus of a Kentucky 'Female College.'
Female college sounds well enough; but since the phrasing it in that
unjustifiable way was done purely in the interest of brevity, it seems
to me that she-college would have been still better--because shorter,
and means the same thing:  that is, if either phrase means anything at
all--

'The president is southern by birth, by rearing, by education, and by
sentiment; the teachers are all southern in sentiment, and with the
exception of those born in Europe were born and raised in the south.
Believing the southern to be the highest type of civilization this
continent has seen, the young ladies are trained according to the
southern ideas of delicacy, refinement, womanhood, religion, and
propriety; hence we offer a first-class female college for the south and
solicit southern patronage.'

{footnote (long one) [Illustrations of it thoughtlessly omitted by the
advertiser:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., October 19.--This morning a few minutes after ten
o'clock, General Joseph A. Mabry, Thomas O'Connor, and Joseph A. Mabry,
Jr., were killed in a shooting affray. The difficulty began yesterday
afternoon by General Mabry attacking Major O'Connor and threatening to
kill him. This was at the fair grounds, and O'Connor told Mabry that it
was not the place to settle their difficulties. Mabry then told O'Connor
he should not live. It seems that Mabry was armed and O'Connor was not.
The cause of the difficulty was an old feud about the transfer of some
property from Mabry to O'Connor. Later in the afternoon Mabry sent word
to O'Connor that he would kill him on sight. This morning Major O'Connor
was standing in the door of the Mechanics' National Bank, of which he
was president. General Mabry and another gentleman walked down Gay
Street on the opposite side from the bank.  O'Connor stepped into the
bank, got a shot gun, took deliberate aim at General Mabry and fired.
Mabry fell dead, being shot in the left side.  As he fell O'Connor fired
again, the shot taking effect in Mabry's thigh. O'Connor then reached
into the bank and got another shot gun. About this time Joseph A. Mabry,
Jr., son of General Mabry, came rushing down the street, unseen by
O'Connor until within forty feet, when the young man fired a pistol, the
shot taking effect in O'Connor's right breast, passing through the body
near the heart.  The instant Mabry shot, O'Connor turned and fired, the
load taking effect in young Mabry's right breast and side. Mabry fell
pierced with twenty buckshot, and almost instantly O'Connor fell dead
without a struggle.  Mabry tried to rise, but fell back dead.  The whole
tragedy occurred within two minutes, and neither of the three spoke
after he was shot. General Mabry had about thirty buckshot in his body.
A bystander was painfully wounded in the thigh with a buckshot, and
another was wounded in the arm.  Four other men had their clothing
pierced by buckshot.  The affair caused great excitement, and Gay Street
was thronged with thousands of people. General Mabry and his son Joe
were acquitted only a few days ago of the murder of Moses Lusby and Don
Lusby, father and son, whom they killed a few weeks ago. Will Mabry was
killed by Don Lusby last Christmas.  Major Thomas O'Connor was President
of the Mechanics' National Bank here, and was the wealthiest man in the
State.--ASSOCIATED PRESS TELEGRAM.

One day last month, Professor Sharpe, of the Somerville, Tenn., Female
College, 'a quiet and gentlemanly man,' was told that his brother-in-
law, a Captain Burton, had threatened to kill him. Burton, t seems, had
already killed one man and driven his knife into another.  The Professor
armed himself with a double-barreled shot gun, started out in search of
his brother-in-law, found him playing billiards in a saloon, and blew
his brains out. The 'Memphis Avalanche' reports that the Professor's
course met with pretty general approval in the community; knowing that
the law was powerless, in the actual condition of public sentiment, to
protect him, he protected himself.

About the same time, two young men in North Carolina quarreled about a
girl, and 'hostile messages' were exchanged. Friends tried to reconcile
them, but had their labor for their pains. On the 24th the young men met
in the public highway. One of them had a heavy club in his hand, the
other an ax. The man with the club fought desperately for his life, but
it was a hopeless fight from the first.  A well-directed blow sent his
club whirling out of his grasp, and the next moment he was a dead man.

About the same time, two 'highly connected' young Virginians, clerks in
a hardware store at Charlottesville, while 'skylarking,' came to blows.
Peter Dick threw pepper in Charles Roads's eyes; Roads demanded an
apology; Dick refused to give it, and it was agreed that a duel was
inevitable, but a difficulty arose; the parties had no pistols, and it
was too late at night to procure them.  One of them suggested that
butcher-knives would answer the purpose, and the other accepted the
suggestion; the result was that Roads fell to the floor with a gash in
his abdomen that may or may not prove fatal. If Dick has been arrested,
the news has not reached us. He 'expressed deep regret,' and we are told
by a Staunton correspondent of the PHILADELPHIA PRESS that 'every effort
has been made to hush the matter up.'--EXTRACTS FROM THE PUBLIC
JOURNALS.]}


What, warder, ho! the man that can blow so complacent a blast as that,
probably blows it from a castle.

From Baton Rouge to New Orleans, the great sugar plantations border both
sides of the river all the way, and stretch their league-wide levels
back to the dim forest-walls of bearded cypress in the rear. Shores
lonely no longer.  Plenty of dwellings all the way, on both banks--
standing so close together, for long distances, that the broad river
lying between the two rows, becomes a sort of spacious street.  A most
home-like and happy-looking region. And now and then you see a pillared
and porticoed great manor-house, embowered in trees.  Here is testimony
of one or two of the procession of foreign tourists that filed along
here half a century ago. Mrs. Trollope says--

'The unbroken flatness of the banks of the Mississippi continued
unvaried for many miles above New Orleans; but the graceful and
luxuriant palmetto, the dark and noble ilex, and the bright orange, were
everywhere to be seen, and it was many days before we were weary of
looking at them.'

Captain Basil Hall--

'The district of country which lies adjacent to the Mississippi, in the
lower parts of Louisiana, is everywhere thickly peopled by sugar
planters, whose showy houses, gay piazzas, trig gardens, and numerous
slave-villages, all clean and neat, gave an exceedingly thriving air to
the river scenery.

All the procession paint the attractive picture in the same way. The
descriptions of fifty years ago do not need to have a word changed in
order to exactly describe the same region as it appears to-day--except
as to the 'trigness' of the houses. The whitewash is gone from the negro
cabins now; and many, possibly most, of the big mansions, once so
shining white, have worn out their paint and have a decayed, neglected
look. It is the blight of the war.  Twenty-one years ago everything was
trim and trig and bright along the 'coast,' just as it had been in 1827,
as described by those tourists.

Unfortunate tourists!  People humbugged them with stupid and silly lies,
and then laughed at them for believing and printing the same. They told
Mrs. Trollope that the alligators--or crocodiles, as she calls them--
were terrible creatures; and backed up the statement with a blood-
curdling account of how one of these slandered reptiles crept into a
squatter cabin one night, and ate up a woman and five children.  The
woman, by herself, would have satisfied any ordinarily-impossible
alligator; but no, these liars must make him gorge the five children
besides. One would not imagine that jokers of this robust breed would be
sensitive--but they were.  It is difficult, at this day, to understand,
and impossible to justify, the reception which the book of the grave,
honest, intelligent, gentle, manly, charitable, well-meaning Capt. Basil
Hall got.  Mrs. Trollope's account of it may perhaps entertain the
reader; therefore I have put it in the Appendix.{footnote [See Appendix
C.]}





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