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pistols and singing hymns.

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

A fine broad river always, but in some parts much wider than
in others : and then there is usually a green island, covered
with trees, dividing it into two streams. Occasionally, we
stop for a few minutes, maybe to take in wood, maybe for
passengers, at some small town or village (I ought to say
city,, every place is a city here) ; but the banks are for the
most part deep solitudes, overgrown with trees, which, here-
abouts, are already in leaf and very green. For miles, and
miles, and miles, these solitudes are unbroken by any sign of
human life or trace of human footstep ; nor is anything seen
to move about them but the blue jay, whose colour is so
bright, and yet so delicate, that it looks like a flying flower.
At lengthened intervals a log cabin, with its little space of
cleared land about it, nestles under a rising ground, and
sends its thread of blue smoke curling up into the sky. It
stands in the comer of the poor field of wheat, which is full
of great unsightly stumps, like earthy butchers'-blocks.
Sometimes the ground is only just now cleared : the felled
trees lying yet upon the soil : and the log-house only this
morning begun. As we pass this clearing, the settler leans
upon his axe or hammer, and looks wistfully at the people
from the world. The children creep out of the temporary
hut, which is like a gipsy tent upon the ground, and clap



190 AMERICAN NOTES.

their hands and shout. The dog only glances round at us,
and then looks up into his master's face again, as if he were
rendered uneasy by any suspension of the common business,
and had nothing more to do with pleasurers. And still
there is the same, eternal foreground. The river has washed
away its banks, and stately trees have fallen down into the
stream. Some have been there so long, that they are mere
dry grizzly skeletons. Some have just toppled over, and
having earth yet about their roots, are bathing their green
heads in the river, and putting forth new shoots and branches.
Some are almost sliding down, as you look at them. And
some were drowned so long ago, that their bleached arms
start out from the middle of the current, and seem to try to
grasp the boat, and drag it under water.

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

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

Five men, as many women, and a little girl. All their
worldly goods are a bag, a large chest and an old chair : one,
old, high-backed, rush-bottomed chair: a solitary settler in
itself. They are rowed ashore in the boat, while the vessel
stands a little off awaiting its return, the water being shalloAv.



EMIGRANTS. 191

They are landed at the foot of a high bank, on the summit of
which are a few log cabins, attainable only by a long winding
path. It is growing dusk ; but the sun is very red, and
shines in the water and on some of the tree-tops, like fire.

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

The night is dark, and we proceed within the shadow of
the wooded bank, which makes it darker. After gliding past
the sombre maze of boughs for a long time, we come upon
an open space where the tall trees are burning. The shape
of every branch and twig is expressed in a deep red glow, and
as the light wind stirs and ruffles it, they seem to vegetate in
fire. It is such a sight as we read of in legends of enchanted
forests : saving that it is sad to see these noble works wasting
away so awfully, alone ; and to think how many years must
come and go before the magic that created them will rear
their like upon this ground again. But the time will come;
and when, in their changed ashes, the growth of centuries
unborn has struck its roots, the restless men of distant ages



192 AMERICAN NOTES.

will repair to these again unpeopled solitudes ; and their
fellows, in cities far away, that slumber now, perhaps, beneath
the rolling sea, will read in language strange to any ears in
being now, but very old to them, of primeval forests where
the axe was never heard, and where the jungled ground was
never trodden by a human foot.

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

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

There happened to be a great Temperance Convention held
here on the day after our arrival ; and as the order of march
brought the procession under the windows of the hotel in



GRAND TEMPERANCE PROCESSION. 193

which we lodged, when they started in the morning, I had a
good opportunity of seeing it. It comprised several thousand
men ; the members of various " Washington Auxiliary
Temperance Societies ; " and was marshalled by officers on
horseback, who cantered briskly up and down the line, with
scarves and ribbons of bright colours fluttering out behind
them gaily. There were bands of music too, and banners
out of number : and it was a fresh, holiday-looking concourse
altogether.

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

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

After going round the town, the procession repaired to a
certain appointed place, where, as the printed programme
set forth, it would be received by the children of the different
free schools, "singing Temperance Songs." I was prevented
from getting there, in time to hear these Little Warblers, or
to report upon this novel kind of vocal entertainment : novel,

o



194 AMERICAN NOTES.

at least, to me : but I found in a large open space, each
society gathered round its own banners, and listening in
silent attention to its own orator. The speeches, judging
from the little I could hear of them, were certainly adapted
to the occasion, as having that degree of relationship to cold
water which wet blankets may claim : but the main thing was
the conduct and appearance of the audience throughout the
day ; and that was admirable and full of promise.

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

As in every other place I visited, the Judges here were
gentlemen of high character and attainments. I was in one



A BEAUTIFUL CITY. 195

of the courts for a few minutes, and found it like those to
which I have already referred. A nuisance cause was trying ;
there were not many spectators ; and the witnesses, counsel,
and jury, formed a sort of family circle, sufficiently jocose
and snug.

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



CHAPTER XII.

FROM CINCINNATI TO LOUISVILLE IN ANOTHER WESTERN STEAM-
BOAT ; AND FROM LOUISVILLE TO ST. LOUIS IN ANOTHER.
ST. LOUIS.

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

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

He spoke English perfectly well, though he had not begun
to learn the language, he told me, until he was a young man
grown. He had read many books ; and Scott's poetry appeared
to have left a strong impression on his mind : especially the
opening of The Lady of the Lake, and the great battle scene
in Marmion, in which, no doubt from the congeniality of the
subjects to his own pursuits and tastes, he had great interest
and delight. He appeared to understand correctly all he had
read; and whatever fiction had enlisted his sympathy in its
belief, had done so keenly and earnestly. I might almost



AN INDIAN CHIEF. 197

say fiercely. He was dressed in our ordinary every-day
costume, which hung about his fine figure loosely, and with
indifferent grace. On my telling him that I regretted not
to see him in his own attire, he threw up his right arm,
for a moment, as though he were brandishing some heavy
weapon, and answered, as he let it fall again, that his race
were losing many things besides their dress, and would soon
be seen upon the earth no more : but he wore it at home,
he added proudly.

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

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

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

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



198 AMERICAN NOTES.

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

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

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

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

The city presenting no objects of sufficient interest to
detain us on our way, we resolved to proceed next day by
another steamboat, the Fujton, and to join it, about noon,



A COMICAL LITTLE INCIDENT. 199

at a suburb called Portland, where it would be delayed some
time in passing through a canal.

The interval, after breakfast, we devoted to riding through
the town, which is regular and cheerful : the streets being
laid out at right angles, and planted with young trees. The
buildings are smoky and blackened, from the use of bituminous
coal, but an Englishman is well used to that appearance, and
indisposed to quarrel with it. There did not appear to be
much business stirring ; and some unfinished buildings and
improvements seemed to intimate that the city had been
overbuilt in the ardour of " going-a-head, 11 and was suffering
under the re-action consequent upon such feverish forcing of
its powers.

On our way to Portland, we passed a "' Magistrate's office, 11
which amused me, as looking far more like a dame school
than any police establishment : for this awful Institution was
nothing but a little lazy, good-for-nothing front parlour,
open to the street; wherein two or three figures (I presume
the magistrate and his myrmidons) were basking in the sun-
shine, the very effigies of languor and repose. It was a
perfect picture of Justice retired from business for want of
customers ; her sword and scales sold off; napping comfortably
with her legs upon the table.

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

One young gentleman (a very delicate porker with several
straws sticking about his nose, betokening recent investiga-
tions in a dunghill) was walking deliberately on, profoundly



200 AMERICAN NOTES.

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

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

There never was a race of people who so completely gave
the lie to history as these giants, or whom all the chroniclers
have so cruelly libelled. Instead of roaring and ravaging
about the world, constantly catering for their cannibal larders,
and perpetually going to market in an unlawful manner, they
are the meekest people in any man's acquaintance: rather
inclining to milk and vegetable diet, and bearing anything
for a quiet life. So decidedly are amiability and mildness
their characteristics, that I confess I look upon that youth
who distinguished himself by the slaughter of these inoffen-
sive persons, as a false-hearted brigand, who, pretending to



THE KENTUCKY GIANT. 201

philanthropic motives, was secretly influenced only by the
wealth stored up within their castles, and the hope of plunder.
And I lean the more to this opinion from finding that even
the historian of those exploits, with all his partiality for his
hero, is fain to admit that the slaughtered monsters in
question were of a very innocent and simple turn ; extremely
guileless and ready of belief; lending a credulous ear to the
most improbable tales ; suffering themselves to be easily
entrapped into pits ; and even (as in the case of the Welsh
Giant) with an excess of the hospitable politeness of a land-
lord, ripping themselves open, rather than hint at the possi-
bility of their guests being versed in the vagabond arts of
sleight-of-hand and hocus-pocus.

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

I understand he drives a hackney-coach, though how he
does it, unless he stands on the footboard behind, and lies
along the roof upon his chest, with his chin in the box, it
would be difficult to comprehend. He brought his gun with
him, as a curiosity. Christened "The Little Rifle," and
displayed outside a shop-window, it would make the fortune
of any retail business in Holborn. When he had shown
himself and talked a little while, he withdrew with his pocket-
instrument, and went bobbing down the cabin, among men



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 17 of 43)