VALLÉE DU MISSISSIPPÍ
De Saint Louis a la Nouvelle-Orleans
(Scenes de Moeurs)
Par Prosper Jacotot
Mr. S. Fucich & Mrs. F. Peterson
Federal Writers' Project
New Orleans, La.
Book—Howard Memorial Library.
The Voyage of a Laborer in the Mississippi Valley From Saint Louis to New Orleans (Description of customs).
In September 1877, a terrible commercial crisis tightened the American Union; the important industries of Saint Louis and Carondelet were compelled to reduce the number of workers who were working for them. Two good arms and the eagerness to work did not always suffice, at this said time, to procure one's necessities: many unfortunate ones were living on a piece of bread and a glass of the disturbed waters of the Mississippi.
In the wide streets of St. Louis, seven or eight individuals landed together, individuals whose emaciated faces and whose tattered clothing revealed the most horrible misery. Mornings, I have seen, with horror, on the neighborhood of these farmers; at markets these poor wretches greedily gathered the rinds of melons, the over-ripened vegetables, and devoured them.
I tarried three months in the large city, but I was able to find work in a mill for one month only. Due to scarcity of cusiness the management found itself compelled to discharge a score of workmen, of which I was one. We knew that it was useless to expect to find work in another mill, and at the end of a few days, we took our departure coming down the Mississippi as far as Memphis, where the picking of cotton claims each year, a large number of workers. He obtained passage on an average of three dollars sach, on the deck of the Robt. E. Lee, the largest and swiftest steamboat which plied the River, at this time.
After a journey of six days and innumerable stops, the Robt. E. Lee left us on the wharf at Memphis, a large city in the State of Tennessee.
There we learned that copious rains had delayed the maturing of the cotton, so the picking would not begin before fifteen days. We had to live; each one of us plunged into the city in search of some work.
Two days later, the little band found themselves reunited in the most beautiful park of the city, on wooden benches, scattered in the shade of magnolia trees in bloom. The center of this park, elevated 30 meters above the level of the river, is embellished by an allegorical subject, in bronze, ornamenting a fountain. A legion of squirrels jumping from branch to branch, playfully made pirouettes on the backs of the promenaders, and while our insides cries out famishedly an abundant nourishment was given freely to the squirrels. For consolation, we had the magnificent panorama of the river whose muddy waters wound the wooded lowlands of Arkansas.
Our pocket-books being exhausted, and not knowing where to find a haven, during the night, we entered houses that were in the course of construction, taking unheard precautions to out-wit the vigilance of the policemen. A plank would serve as mattress, but the unfinished roof protested us but little from the cold and penetrating dew of the night.
After three days of famine, I took on my own advice, the determination to reach New Orleans by walking: it was 400 leagues to reach there; but the hope of finding work during the grinding of the sugar cane, perhaps to meet a benevolent captain who would repatriate me, gave me the necessary courage to undertake this trip. The only route laid out between Memphis and the metropolis of Louisiana is the railroad which winds the length of the river.
The first days of the trip were terrible: the temperature was from 37 to 38 degrees (centigrade): I was without food, without women, and I slept under the stars. In these inhospitable parts, one could not expect help of anyone. Whoever travels on foot is bestowed the title of trap (highwayman) and treated accordingly. It is only fair to state that the tourists in tatters are, in general, the cream of American rascals, living on the plunder that they gather on isolated farms, and not hesitating when needed, to draw a gun. Others clinging to the convoys of merchandise to rob them either en route, or at their destination.
The fields of corn or potatoes, were very scarce; the cotton plantations followed
4in succession without interruption, as far as the eye could see; hunger was making itself felt cruelly. Fortunately fresh water was in abundance; I drank frequently and only small sips, three days thus passed; I was not getting along too badly; I had unknowingly anticipated the celebrated experience of Doctor Tanner. Two ears of corn, gathered hastily from a plantation, helped to sustain me.
I arrived finally at Granada, a village situated at the branching off of two railroad roads; the war of Secession and violent epidemic have made a pile of ruins of this otherwise flourished city.
Continuing my route southward under the same conditions always, I had the occasion to meet some tramps, endowed with a mind truly very clever.
One of them would hide at the break of day at the proximity of a station, and would take advantage of the darkness to slip on the fenders which are to be found on all American locomotives: the lights being places above his body created a shade, and, as the engine was always a few yards beyond the station, he was seldom, if ever, discovered. He was a former railroad mechanic, who thus utilized his experience to travel cheaply. Another had an idea of joining together two velocipedes by means of small boards long enough to give the width of the road to this new kind of vehicle; whenever he heard a train coming, he would remove his light machine from the rails, the train would pass, and he would continue his journey.
At Jackson, the capitol of Mississippi, I found the same aspect of desolation, as at Grenada; everywhere the houses were half-way knocked down and the ruins hidden by high grass. The streets were dirty, unpaved, and filled with puddles of water and quagmire. The misery of the inhabitant, covered with clothes in tatters, could be read on their emaciated faces.
Leaving the main road to take the one that connects Jackson with Vicksburg, I had an opportunity of admiring a remarkable achievement of carpenter work. It is a gigantic bridge of fir wood, whose base rests at the bottom of a ravine about 25 metres deep; when a train passes, everything shakes, but one does not worry
5otherwise. Arriving at a bridge which crosses a rather large river, the Keeper asked me ten cents as tell and as my pockets were absolutely empty, I had to saw wood during a quarter of an hour, to obtain the right to pass on.
I finally reached Vicksburg. I had travelled one hundred and twenty five leagues in these twelve terrible days: it was not doing so badly, but I was so thin.
But on a rather high elevation, with beautiful straight streets, clean and well paved, residences of a certain elegance, a very busy port, rows of beautiful trees, this city, important at this time, presents a pleasant scene: she dominates the Mississippi, which is very large at this point, and presents a magnificent panorama. The river flows silently, the bulk of its waters and the banks of Louisiana, where wood lands alternate with cultivated fields, forming in the distance, a pleasing picture in which is framed the little town of Delta, built almost entirely on pilings, on a peninsular which forms the letter from which the town takes its name. There I had an opportunity to find work on a railroad in course of construction: they paid one dollar per day: the lodging and food cost 2 francs .56; we did not work on Sundays; on days when it rained we could not work but we had to pay our board; we could hardly make enough to pay for our food.
This work which was greater than my strength, already weakened by privations, the torrid heat, and unhealthy water of the swampy country, did not tend to improve my health; attacks of intermittent fever succeeded in undermining my health. Luckily I had been able to put aside few dollars, laboriously earned, and I was able to embark on a steam-boat which would bring me to New Orleans.
During the length of this trip, I was rejoicing at the thought of finding compatriots in this one time French city and to speak my native language which I had been compelled to give up for the dialect of John Bull.
Standing on the bridge of the boat, I was contemplating the course of the old Meschacebé, interspersed with a number of small islands covered with luxuriant vegetation. On the banks, forests and plantations of sugar cane were spread out in turn, from where could be seen the sugar house and residences, and the poetic
6description of the bards of the Natchez would be recalled to my mind.
This part of my trip was an uninterrupted pleasure which only ended the moment the steam-boat reached the wharf, at four o'clock in the morning, at the wharf of New Orleans in the midst of gigantic piles of cotton bales.
I must confess that I had hardly put foot ashore, my first thoughts were for the nectar which is dear to the disciples of Bacchus. To drink wine from France, so far from one's native place, after more than one year's privation, to secure a pleasure mixed with pride and greediness, which can only be appreciated only by travellers after a long trip.
My first search after that was to visit the city and to seek traces of the old French city separated from its mother city, by thousands of leagues. An American city has grafted itself onto our old colony; more modern, of better construction, the new city has longer streets, beautifully laid out, well paved, edged with very clean side-walks; flanked with large business houses, theatres, magnificent hotels, and has a building which we would call the Bourse, but which the American proudly call the Stock Exchange.
The French quarter, constructed with less regularity and elegance, continues in its antiquity, its cleanliness is questionable, and apart from the Catholic Cathedral and the City Hall, has no remarkable building but the Opera, the largest, the best constructed and the most comfortable theatre in New Orleans. Numerous stores, occupied mostly by merchants of French nationality, are found in Royal Street. Canal Street, the largest and most beautiful street of the city is the centre of high life. The large structures of the State House (?) built entirely of granite, dominates this street by its imposing construction. The finest products of the French industry are display in the show cases of these stores. The street cars, which flash through the city and the suburbs, which are at the great distance, have their main tracks in the centre of the street. On one of these lines the trains are started by a locomotive which receives, on leaving, its supply of steam from a stationary engine, and this dispenses with the necessity of carrying any fuel.
One of these lines leads to Lake Ponchartrain, a sojourning place for the people of New Orleans, where one may enjoy the pleasure of bathing in company with numberless crocodiles; and a singular thing, very few accidents happen in this neighborhood.
Canal Street is the separating line between the French quarter and the American section.
On the Levee is a covered market occupied by butchers, nearly all of whom are Gascons, truck gardeners; fish dealers, fruit venders, and a crowd of peddlers of all nations.
In descending the length of the river, we see very large cotton presses, distilleries, large factories for cotton seed oil (the products of which has already been mixed several years back with olive oil), and immense wood yards which receive enormous rafts of lumber descending the Mississippi and a number of saw mills.
In the eastern part of the City is located the hospital of the French Mutual Benevolent Society, very capably directed and of a cleanliness worthy of praise.
This is also a neighborhood of cemeteries, established here in an absolutely antiquated manner. The soil of the city being nearly everywhere about four meters above the level of the river, it is impossible to dig graves, and they bury the dead in a sort of oven with compartments built of brick or stone; no matter what care one takes to close them, these kinds of burial places always permit dangerous noxious odors to escape.
Seated on a bench in Jackson Square in the shade of large orange trees, loaded with fruit, I could gaze on the bronze statue of the valiant defender of the South. The flower beds of this beautiful garden are filled with quantities of flowers and rare plants; the pathways are covered with small shells, as white as snow. The square is bounded on the North South by symetrical buildings, and on the East is seen the dark mass of the City Hall and the Cathedral, while turning to the West, the sight seen may enjoy a view of part of the port. (S.M.Fucich)
This vast port presents great animation during the winter season; here the steamboats loaded with cotton, sugar and molasses, pass each other on the river, schooners bring in Louisiana fruits, enormous three-masted ships arrive from the Old World to load corn, wheat, oils, sugar and cotton.
When summer comes, all activity disappears and the ports becomes silent and deserted. At night a few rare strollers come to breathe a fresher air and to admire the Morgan's railroad depot, the ingenious mechanism of the means by which loaded cars are embarked, on flat steamboats and transported to the other river bank where a locomotive awaits them.
While visiting the Crescent City, I had knocked on many doors to ask for work, however the circles was no more cruel in the South than in the North. French and Americans invariably answered that times were hard, they had been forced to discharge a part of their laborers; briefly it was impossible for me to find employment.
I had a proposition to harvest sugar cane for the "grinding" as they say there. It is very hard work and the negroes that used to do it, cared little to return, in spite of remunerative wages, since they are no longer forced by the fear of the stick.
I found work paying a dollar a day, with a planter on the banks of Bayou Saint Jacques (Bayou St. John) a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The laborers were divided into five crews: cutters, loaders, carters, stackers, and sugarmen.
Overseen and directed by an alternate boss on horseback, the crew of cutters armed with very long knives, large and heavy on the end, cut and leafed the cane. The loaders (I was of that crew), threw the cane into large two wheeled carts, without losing a minute. The carts were drawn by two mules that the carters conducted to a large shed adjoining the sugar house, there women, children and old people properly piled the cane at the foot of a carriers.
All of this work must be done quickly, without a moments interruption, with the temperature at 26 to 30 degrees. To quench their continuous thirst the laborers have only warm cistern water seasoned with thousands of small insects. The soil level
9was lower than the level of the streams which flowed between the high strong dikes, therefore in Louisiana they cannot have subterranean cisterns or wells; for consumption a wooden container is placed, next to the house, high up on posts, this receives the rainwater which drains off the roof. One can judge the quality of drink that these recepticules furnish the laborers, especially when it has not rained for a month or more, and the sufferances endured by a European subjected to that regime. There is always the sugar cane to suck but its agreeable juice is little refreshing, if abused, gives dyssenteries, rebellious to every treatment.
After the evening meal, the more couragious leaborers out themselves back to work for 6 hours, in the interior of the sugar house. At midnight another crew replaces the first, this supplementary work pays a half dollar (2 fr. 50) Others are employed at the "carrier", which is an endless cloth covering cross pieces of wood, on which the laborers continuously release the cane, which the machinery, moves up and down, lifts and introduces between two heavy cylinders. The bagasse falls on one side while the juice is gathered in large wooden containers communicating with each other by tin pipes. The last container placed above the sugar house slowly discharges the cane juice from a pipe from which also escape sulphur fumes, into a kettle where it receives the first treatment. There, a second crew constantly skim the boiling juice with a wooden ladel and transferred at the proper time from one kettle to another by means of buckets with long handles. This operation, which demands a certain skill, is done by a movement of the handle against the edge of the kettle. All of this work is accomplished under the supervision of the chief sugarman, an enviable and lucrative profession, which calls for sleeping on a chair, awakening from time to time to give, in a pretentious tone, a little advice.
Thus without too much fatigue, one can add a half dollar to the wages and at midnight gain the bed, which is the first plank available and sleep good heartedly unless the weather is stormy, then the large mosquitoes from the lower Mississippi beat on your body, covering it with large black pimples. Adding again another
10sufferance to the list of those that compose the dark side of the picture, in warmer climates.
In retaliation, what a pleasure to look upon a beautiful sugar plantation or a vast field of cotton resembling a plain covered with snow; golden rice fields, or large orange groves with dark green foliage through which the yellow fruit bursts and it is not without joy that one hears the language of their mother country spoken about them by both white and negroes.
Local customs have their peculiarities. The revolver plays a large role; never without it, and carried in & pocket practically especial for its usage, in the back part of the pants. The negroes consider this arm as a plaything and are frequently seen shooting at each other from one carriage to another, as a laughing matter.
The blacks form a class apart; the whites consider them as a specie of cattle. They have only scorn for those unfortunates and no sentiment of pity can soften the hereditary pride of their former masters. No doubt the negroes generally have not the subtle intelligence of the whites, however, it seems those unfortunates could, at a given time, get out of their inferior state, if the feeble amount of intelligence they possess was seriously cultivated. What can be expected of a man left without teaching or education and who is treated like a beast of burden? Bad instincts would quickly smother all their sentiments and the vices would achieve their goal.
The planter for whom worked, employed thirty Creole negroes and two young negresses; all this band were lodged pel-mel in a wooden shack containing one room. At night and sometimes before night, they assembled around one of them, possessor of a bad drum; the sonorous poundings, the hardest stick beats were applauded with frenzy, and when this musician succeeded in deafening his audience, there were hurrahs, joyous stamping, and bursts of bestial laughter coming from their strong chests. On Sunday, this tumult lasts part of the day and sometimes they introduce a few variations in the habitual pleasures. In turn a gun is loaded with
11plenty of powder and a few small grains of hard corn, then the players place themselves at 20 meters, both hands on knees, they present the fleshiest part of their bodies. If the marksman is lucky enough to hit this improvised part, they are delirious. Nothing is more arresting for a stranger than the spectacle of those large black cheerful faces, rolling their big eyes, showing two rows of white teeth, with comical contortions and noisy sneers.
One day I met an old negro who was not sure of his age, must have been approaching 84 years; his hair was hardly grey; his sight was perfect and he had all his reason. Born on a neighboring plantation, he had never left it, he never had any idea to go and see New Orleans, though it was twelve leagues away and could be traveled in a few hours on the railroad. Oh! he said, if only my old master were not dead, I would still be with him and I would be happy. This attachment does honor to servant and master; but good masters are rare enough.
The whites inspire the black populace with stark terror, which reflects its bad instincts. Upon the slightest insult, a white does not hesitate to break the skull of a negro with a revolver. If some misdeed is committed by negroes, the whites assemble, get the culprits and hang them on the first tree without any ceremony. One day I saw five negroes hanging from the same tree. All is said and justice closes her eyes. If in spite of herself, she is forced to intervene, it is to invariably give the negro wrong.
A white man who marries a negress loses the consideration of his friends; but when a negro wishes to realize his dream of possessing a white woman, all the white populace rises to stop such a union, and if he succeeds in conducting his fiance to the altar, he has good chances of passing his wedding [Unknown] night in the fresh air suspended from the branch of a tree.
However, I must say that if among these former slaves veritable brutes may be found, 1 have also met some who were well raised, learned, with good sense and kind characters and were no where lacking in comparison to many whites.
The "grinding" over, returning to New Orleans, I found the same difficulties to procure work. In vain I addressed the captains of the vessels leaving for Europe, offering my modest trade and work to pay my passage. I was condemned to remain in this inhospitable land and continue that bohemian life in a strange country. Despair threatened to envelope me: fortunately the New Orleans Carnival came as a diversion.
The carnivals of Rome and Nice have been described a hundred times but who in France knows that New Orleans, loyal to the traditions of its mother country, each year celebrates Mardi Gras in splendid style and that the costumes, decorations and accessories all come from Paris. It is with a feeling of pride and gratitude, that I was able to discern what part France was still taking in the festivities of this country which had become a stranger to it.
For a month before the big day, all the papers of the city without distinction of language or opinion, published each day an advertisement announcing that the King notifies his loyal subjects that he will arrive accompanied by all his court to visit New Orleans, on a certain day and hour.
It is the signal to "clear the decks". Seamstresses, painters, cabinet makers, and paper hangers are put to work. The musical societies rehearse well into the night. Clubs and societies of all kinds hold meetings wherein they are occupied with procuring the spirit of competition.
The theatres and ball rooms are the objects of general cleaning and take a fairyland aspect. The Grand Opera, the Industrial Palace are carefully decorated. One must receive Camus (Comus), the God of Carnival, the other gives hospitality to the King after his excursion into the city.
The hotels and restaurants also make preparations for they know that from St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, New York, neighboring plantations of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as from Texas and Mexico, shall come a hundred thousand visitors to invade the Crescent City.
On Sunday the papers announce the hour on which the King shall arrive on Monday and gives the itinerary of the procession. All the route, that is, the houses
13and public buildings are decorated and the carriage traffic therein is closed.
Finally a large steamboat decorated with the colors of all nations appears descending the river. It gracefully circles around five or six times before landing at the port and being enthusiastically acclaimed by the crowd. The King disembarks, followed by his court, and escorted by military companies he is taken to the City Hall where he is greeted by the Mayor and tendered the keys of the city. After resting for a while at the St. Charles Hotel, where apartments had been prepared for him and where he receives numerous visitors, he finishes the evening at the Academy Theatre and the Vaudville Theatre which are jammed with people. On Tuesday at noon the procession gets under way with the sounds of fanfare. That year it was composed of forty-five floats, representing subjects for the most part borrowed from mythology, sometimes portrayed in a burlesque manner; each float decorated with as much taste as richness. The King's float, brilliant with gold and silver, was drawn by four white horses, as comparatively superb. The hero of the feast was costumed as Agamomnon, at his feet were chained the captured kings, surrounded by Greek and Asiatic warriors. A long line of floats doubled the official parade. Then night came, thousands of lanterns with strong reflectors carried by hand, gave a new splendor to that brilliant procession.
At midnight Camus gave a splendid ball at the Opera. The King received his subjects in the Palace of Industry. There were balls in all the larger halls of the city and the day of Mardi Gras was prolonged until six in the morning on Wednesday.
These holidays are the occasions for exhibition of feminine clothes with desperate competition among the elegants.
All of this is done in an orderly manner. The New Orleans Bee, in rendering an account the following day, stated without any unusual amazement, that there had been no fights, not one gun shot, not even a small stabbing. It is too bad that it is not Mardi Gras everyday.
The Carnival holidays close commercial season. The crops are finished, merchandise shipped to Europe, the heat commences, the city little by little is deserted.
14The gentlemen from the North, coming for a country stay, leave for a cooler climate with the business people, workers in other occupation and many others. It is the dead season.
Those whose income does not permit emigration search for some means of maintaining the battle for existence. Some go fishing and crayfishing in the bayous, others become associated with natives in hunting alligators. Game is abundant and young crocodiles are often found in the drains of New Orleans proper. This occupation is however not very lucrative because each skin can hardly make but one pair of boots. The hunt is done on foot, from, canoe, with nets or with a gun. This sport is not always without danger though the crocodiles around New Orleans are less vicious than elsewhere because as I have said before, one can conveniently bathe near them. In Havana three days distant by steam boat, an imprudent diver would be immediately snapped up and devoured. I leave it to the naturalists to find the reasons for this difference.
The crocodile can be tamed. I saw one that followed its master, an old fisherman, like a dog, waiting with mouth open for the scraps its master wished to throw it, sharing the shady roof of the shack with two formidable dogs, with whom it seemed to get along.
Fishing soft shelled crabs in Lake Pontchartrain; gathering the famous grey moss of Louisiana which is utilized for upholstering, occupy a certain number of out of work laborers.
As for myself, aided by a few comrades that knew something about a gun, I tried to earn my living at the expense of the faun, not much variety here, we departed on the waters. It was truly a pleasure to hunt through the half submerge forests in a primitive pirogue made from a dug out tree trunk and ending in a point.
Nothing is so picturesque as a hunt in those damp woods, where the hunter
15slides noiselessly under a heavy hanging of verdure, which the suns hardly penetrate. The large leaves of the water lilies form a carpet of attractive freshness, over the water. Right and left, gigantic trees, half uprooted by the water, branches covered with greyish moss, hanging like strands of hair, then suddenly a clearing where myriads of ducks and water fowls fly in a miniature lake, offering no resistance to the hunters aim. The hunter sometimes finds the occasion to exercise his skill on a sleeping crocodile, on a deer or a bull frog, whose voice imitates the roar of a bull, they sometimes weigh one to one to one and a half pounds and its flesh, very fine and delicates, is kept for the best tables; it is a profitable shot as they are worth 2 francs to 2 francs 50 apiece.
But our pleasures were short lived. A stranger does not sojourn with impunity in these countries, though the natives are born with fever, live with fever, and die with fever and where quinine becomes as necessary as bread.
We had to take the road to the hospital. This was the beginning of a miserable existence. After fifteen days, thinking myself cured, I was forced to return to the hospital, this months passed. On a certain June day a vague rumor circulated among the sick. They softly said two men in ward No. 27 were down with yellow fever. Two days later a paper stated six cases of yellow fever in the same ward which was facing ours, doors and windows constantly opened permitting the air to freely circulate from one room to the other. Terror struck all the patients. The nurses and sisters of charity tried to hide the truth and reassured us, but one fine day large vases placed at regular distances and in which burned incense and other perfumes proclaimed the sad truth. A few days later wards 27 and 28 were invaded, the papers announced that a health office had been installed, that the port was in quarantine and that the plague had made its appearance in different quarters of the city. It was the prelude of a terrible epidemic, which was to extend its ravages more than a hundred leagues from New Orleans.
16Memphis was abandoned by its inhabitants who camped in the fields and Grenada situated farther north was treated likewise.
The doctors said the best preventative against the disease was not to be afraid. I always thought that bravery does not have to go to that extent and after staying eight days in that dangerous atmosphere I was resolved, no matter of not completely well, to leave the hospital.
I placed myself with a grocer. Soon the epidemic became general. The health office was permanent, Dr. Chopin, who presided, was proving courage and energy worthy of every eulogy. During the day, tons of disinfectant sprinkling, resounded without stopping, throughout the streets; an acrid and penetrating odor caught one at the throat. They distributed printed bulletins containing instructions on preventative measures and on the care of persons already ill. Quantities of stores were closed and everyone who had the means left the city. No steamboat nor nearly any boats, touched the port. There remained only a few courageous business people, the doctors and the unfortunates who not having a cent were unable to flee. It was a good year for the undertakers so numerous there. Files of eight to ten funeral cars followed each other through the deserted streets, no relatives or friends accompanied the sinister convoy, the sanitary office recommended speed.
Next to the store where I worked, was a place occupied by batchelors, young and of diverse professions. A certain Saturday, at the break of the day, we had talked and laughed, as usual before bidding each other good night. The next day, in the afternoon, we see, with fright, nine coffins descend. I had sworn not to be afraid and I was not afraid. I slept with the windows closed; in the morning upon rising, I took a large drink of whiskey with a small bread; I only went out with a cigar in my mouth; at each meal I ate four heads of garlic and during the day I had the temperance worthy of a nun. These precautions were not superfluous because my boss sent me each day to deliver the merchandise into the contaminated houses and I could not get out of doing so.
From the 15th to the 29th of August, although the city was abandoned by the greater part of the populace, the number of dead rose to 80 or 90 a day.
It was at that time that Captain Paseal Demeurant, commander of the three masted ship, Sainte-Genevieve of Bordeaux, ready to return to France, came to board in our house. I had to employ all my eloquence, the kind captain, struck by a generous thought, consented to embark me as a head-waiter, at a salary of 150 francs, payable upon our arrival in France. It would be ungrateful of me not to testify acknowledgment here to the big hearted man who surely saved my life.
On August 21st, 1878, at five o'clock in the evening, I saluted, for the last time, the great Cresecent City. A sigh of relief dilated my chest and two big tears of joy dropped from my eyes as from the over filled bitter cup which I had drunk until then in the countries of the New World.
Fifty-five days later after we disembarked at Bordeaux, and after having stood a quarantine of two days, I ran to the post-office where I found a letter announcing the death of the last friend that clasped my hand on the bridge of the Sainte-Genevieve. He had died twenty-four hours after our departure. Another letter contained 400 francs sent by my family.
In terminating this recital, which could be entitled a storm in American, I want to say those who desire to go and find a better fate in a far away country, that my story is that of nearly every batchelor emigrant.
During my stay, I could see that American prosperity was due largely to current European immigration. That is the reason the United States government makes so many sacrifices to pay all kinds of agents, charged to draw strangers by force of claims, to them. The New World constantly drains to her profit our resources in men and money.
To all of you, young people who wish to adventure, I say, "If you have courage, health and money to spend, would that it is not for the strangers, but for our own colonies and for France." (trans. by F. Peterson).