Pictures and Illustrations.
The music of the laughing lip, the lustre of the eye;
The childish faith in fairies, and Aladdin's magic ring,
The simple, soul-reposing, glad belief in everything:
When life was like a story, holding neither sob nor sigh,
In the golden olden glory of the days gone by.
—James Whitcomb Riley.
This bunch of memorabilia has been assembled solely for the entertainment of friends and old comrades who are not addicted to criticism of composition or literary style. The perusal of these jottings is to be indulged in only when the baby is quiet, the house still, and the musical clink of the ice in the highball is the only disturbing sound on the premises.
The rapidity with which the sands shift and the oases flit in the Sahara of life is in the following sketches illustrated by the numerous "ups and downs" of one who, per aspera ad astra, has ever striven to follow the ways of "the simple life."
Boredom, Schopenhauer says, drives the unemployed to dissipation, society, extravagance, gaming, drinking and the like. As an idler I have of late suffered from boredom, the leaden-footed enemy of man; but rather than be driven to drink, or what is worse, society, I have striven by spinning yarns of the
2"tempi passati" to kill ennui and thus help the lazy foot of time to amble along.
An Irishman, when dying, was asked by the priest who confessed him, if he could not, among his many transgressions, call to mind something he had done that was meritorious. "Yes, your Riverince," he replied, "I once killed a gauger!"
While I admire the Irishman and the patriotic impulse that drove him to it, I unluckily can not, for the interest of this narrative, recall having perpetrated anything so picturesque and laudable; and the bumptious reader who expects to be regaled with literary "hot tomales" will, I fear, have to content himself with turnip-tops and bacon. When disenchanted, let him lay aside these leaves and bear disappointment with equanimity, as did "during the war" the inmates of a military hospital at Memphis.
One morning one of the wards of this hospital, which contained many convalescents, was entered by a lady of benevolent mien, who had hanging on her arm a large basket temptingly covered with a snow-white napkin. To the expectant fancy of the convalescing and hungry "boys in blue" the innermost depths of the capacious basket promised no end of good things to eat, and with watering mouths they impatiently awaited the unpacking of the expected "chicken-fixins'"; but when the napkin was removed, the basket, empty of "vittels," to their sore disappointment, contained religious TRACTS, and nothing else.
From the Sassafras Log Behind the Barn in Posey County to Broader Fields.
Early Days in Posey County. —To conquer and bring under subjection to the needs of man the wilderness of a new continent, as has been done by the American people, the ax and the plow in this western hemisphere outrank the rifle and the tomahawk. The hardest work for the pioneer in a timbered country is clearing the land of its tree growth. The magnificent forests covering a great portion of the state of Indiana, up to the days when I was a boy, have, by this time, well nigh disappeared from the face of the earth. I remember the time when the southern end of our state was so heavily timbered that the early settler, after having secured a supply of rails for his fences and logs with which to build the cabin, found himself embarrassed by what was then not only valueless, but sorely burdensome. Magnificent white oaks, yellow poplars of wondrous size, and black walnut trees, tall and straight as the Indian they had sheltered, one after another had to be cut down and the wood burned that the soil might be tilled for grain and grass, to feed man and his domestic animals. I shall not forget how in the springtime, after the winter's clearing work, when the
4logs had been rolled into large heaps and fired, the neighboring clearings in Posey county, where we lived, night after night were aglow with a golden hue from burning timber, to-day of more money value than the land upon which it grew, and the possession of which now would make many of our farmers rich men.
The hardest of hard work was in those days unremitting, not for the men alone, but for their wives as well; nor did we "kids," as soon as big enough, escape the hard grind. Broiled lobster and burgundy had not then displaced corndodgers and fat pork, but the dear girls, though not tailor-made, were sugar-cured just the same. A shooting match on Saturday for beef or turkey, which always wound up with fist-fights for the championship of the neighborhood, was the acme of enjoyment for the men; and an occasional quilting frolic brought together the women. We youngsters with our dogs would, of nights, slip out through the underbrush to hunt coons. The sale of the skins captured, together with proceeds from pelts of minks trapped, furnished the wherewithal for a squirrel rifle and the means for "laying in" at "the store" cinnamon-drops, which on Sunday, after "meetin'," would flavor gallant attentions to our "best girl."
Lightning Lingered by His Side.—Charley Burns was continually swapping horses; he once upon a time, with much ado, brought out a "yearlin'" bull calf, trained to trot. He had him rigged with martingales, boots, pads, and surcingle; and Charley enthusiastically proclaimed him so speedy that "lightning
5lingered by his side." When he matched the calf against a stump-tailed mule the country turned out from New Harmony to Cynthiana, and from West Franklin to Blairsville, and all Posey made a holiday. I was unluckily kept away from that rare show, because on the day previous I had tried to kill a skunk with a club, and the little perfumer with his Gatling gun had made me retire to the barn, where for more than a week I lingered in solitary confinement, hating myself.
In the early forties, Uncle William, with whom I lived up to the winter of fifty-one, had built himself a two-story frame house, covered by a roof of pine shingles. The house was painted white, and with green shutters made a rare sight in the days of log cabins. This, in a democratic neighborhood, denoted that the owner, an aristocrat of course, voted the whig ticket.
Not Accustomed to Farm Work.—Fresh from school in Hamburg, one of the large cities of the old world, about the age when boys begin to lose faith in the fable of the stork, I had come to the settlement in the spring of eighteen hundred and forty-six, to be forthwith projected into the hardest kind of farm labor. My "store clothes," soon frayed by the affectionately clinging cockleburs, were worn out in the cornrows of the clearing, and it was but a short time when the city-made garments had given way to butternut jeans of home manufacture.
Farm work in the outset was not at all to my liking. In the springtime the plow furrows were too
6long, and did not "lead straight up to Paradise." Chattering blackbirds, which should have been in the pie, were entirely too numerous for the sprouting young corn, and during harvest time the hot sun burned and blistered my tender cuticle so cruelly that anointing with the Balm of Gilead even would have failed of relief.
Log-Rolling and Quilting Bees.—The woods, full of squirrels, turkeys, and other game, and with a wild pigeon-roost not far away, furnished plenty of sport, and as "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," permission to hunt was now and then given. Then, by and by, as muscle developed, I was delegated by my uncle to take his place at log-rollings, house and barn raisings and corn-shuckings. I greatly delighted in gatherings of this sort, especially when there was a quilting bee attachment, and after working hours, as Riley says, there was temptingly spread,
With big pound cakes and chops and steaks,
And roasts and stews and stomachaches,
Of every fashion, form and size,
From twisters up to pumpkin pies.
After supper we boys and girls danced to the tune of "Old Dan Tucker," scraped out on a hoarse fiddle; or played kissing games, in which hands were held in a circling march, while the company joined in the song, "Go choose your east, go choose your west, go choose the one that you love best," etc., and the young lady, falling five or six feet deep into the well, would
7call on "the one that she loved best" to pull her out, when his reward never failed to be as many kisses as the well was deep. Usually Copenhagen and other highly intellectual pastimes wound up the evening's entertainment.
Then, after having taken the girls home, we boys, in restful slumber, would dream of the good-night kiss received:
I think it must be reckoned by its length,
says Byron; and so it lingered upon our ardent lips, until at dawn the cock proclaimed his hallelujah to the coming morn.
With its limitations and narrow margin, the strenuous conditions of backwoods life in the early days chastened a hardy and vigorous race of people and developed in them many admirable characteristics, foremost among which was the neighborly disposition of helpfulness toward each other. In sickness and in health, in sunshine or in rain, no matter if, over impassable roads, the neighbor's clearing was miles away, the helping hand by night and day was always willingly extended and never withdrawn.
Much chills and fever then lurked in the virgin soil. A swelled and hardened milt, known among the denizens of the creek and river bottoms as "ague cake," afflicted many; quinine, calomel and Smith's Tonic were found in every household, and the black bottle of cholagogue on the mantel-shelf filled the shaking children with bitter draughts and sore tribulations.
Withal, the native songbirds in these woods were so numerous, and their blithe and joyful warble on bright mornings in early June filled the dense forests with such a chorus of sweet music, that the tinkle of bells on the necks of straying cows browsing in the woods became inaudible to the boy searching for the missing Bossy.
These recollections revive the lines of the poet, where he says:
And the old-time pioneers,
Sompin a poor man understands
With his feelin's 's well as his ears.
Tell of the old log house—about
The loft and the punchin floor,
The big fireplace with the crane swung out,
And the latchstring through the door.
Robert Dale Owen and His Brothers.—People from the village of New Harmony, fifteen miles to the northwest, frequently passed on the public highway on which we lived. Some of them, to break the journey to and from Evansville, stayed all night. And I well remember how, on such occasions, I would, after supper, quietly sit in the corner and attentively listen to the conversation between my uncle, who was a scholarly man, and such visitors as Robert Dale Owen, representative in congress from our district, and afterwards father of the Smithsonian Institute; his brother, David Dale Owen, who, as head of the geological department of the United States up to eighteen fifty-six,
9maintained national headquarters of the department at the little town on the Wabash; Colonel Richard Dale Owen, another brother, many years professor of natural sciences at Bloomington University, and Alexander McClure, brother of William McClure, the father of American geology. Such presence as theirs, whenever they came, brightened our fireside, and the instructive and entertaining converse that passed between them stimulated in my boyish breast the desire for knowledge and learning.
Horse Stealing.—It is true that sporadic depredations by horse thieves required that the rifle should be kept in a handy place and ready primed. One gang of outlaws then operated from Missouri and Illinois, through our county and crossed the Ohio, by way of Diamond Island, into the state of Kentucky; but a party of regulators soon put a stop to their raids, and, breaking up their headquarters near the mouth of the Wabash, put a quietus on the whisky orgies and poker games there indulged in.
Unrest.—After an apprenticeship of four years I had gradually evolved into a hardy farmhand and an all-round handy boy. I was now eighteen, and a lively rooster of unrest and enterprise, about this time, began to crow within me. The first three years of my stay on the farm I had received no wages, and when the fourth and last year I got four dollars a month, or forty-eight dollars a year, investments in bank stocks and railway debentures were out of the question.
The countryside had now grown tame and stale, and
10a craving for adventure and a wider field of action gave me no peace, and, agreeing with Pope that,
Can never be a mouse of any soul,
I determined to try my luck in town and be a city "gent."
Had not great financiers and railroad magnates been born and bred in the clearing? Did not statesmen and senators now and then break in from the oat-stubble and potato patch? Should smartweed and dog-fennel satisfy when roses and carnations were within reach?
So, with hope, which "springs eternal in the human breast," an extra pair of socks, and a clean shirt in a bundle, but without sheckles in my purse, I departed for the city.
A Useful Lad.—It was not unnatural that the childless couple I left behind should mourn and be loath to part with a handy boy, who, never idle, began at daylight with milking the cows, and before breakfast had fed the stock and chopped an armful of wood; and who, during the day, when not at work in the field or the clearing, kept up repairs on the barn and farming implements of the place; patched the harness of the horses; half-soled the shoes of the family; did the hog killing at Christmas time; pickled the hams and smoked them, and made the sausage and souse; watched the ash-hopper and boiled the soap; and who on Saturday nights helped Aunt Hannah darn the stockings of the family. In the store, for the old gentleman kept a prosperous country store, I knew that a
11lady's gown required six yards of calico, with thread and hooks and eyes thrown in; and that Uncle Jimmy Dyehouse was too good a customer to let leave the store without treating him to a glass of so-called Malaga wine, concocted in town, of rectified whisky, molasses and rainwater; and last, but not least, who prepared and packed all the eggs, butter, feathers, beeswax, ginseng, and mink and coon skins (which constituted the legal tender of the neighborhood at that day), and, when ready for shipment to New Orleans, hauled them to town.
The City.—On my advent in Evansville, I served as general utility boy and shuttlecock in a retail dry goods store. Then with night lessons in bookkeeping, I advanced myself to a clerkship in a grain and grocery store; when, however, "Granmaw" Wilson proposed that I should saw a wagonload of wood for the stove while snow in the back yard lay six inches deep I slipped my moorings and entered the employ of a wholesale dry goods firm. The wind, however, then did not "sit in the shoulder of my sail."
Here we boys, under the lash of the managing partner, a non-conductor, and a very much insulated Yankee, were made to work hard all day long, never allowed to sit down, and were kept out of bed so late at night that we all came to dislike him cordially.
In the office there was a large book and money safe, recently brought from New York; it had what was then a new and strange contraption of a lock. Of this curious lock Mr. Keen was very proud, and continually tinkering, would exhibit it to every customer and
12visitor at the store. The key, of peculiar construction, one day fell into my hands, and on examination by us clerks, was judged easily imitated. We were eager to perpetrate a practical joke on our unpopular boss, and prove the unreliability of the so highly-prized lock.
Boys' Foolhardiness.—I, the most foolhardy and venturesome of the conspirators, undertook the hazardous task, and, unassisted, went to work after bedtime one night, to fashion out of lead and knitting-needles a counterfeit key. When done I inserted it into the lock, but on turning the knob the fool thing became jammed, never, I feared, again to be released. No twisting, turning, coaxing, anointing with oil or spit, nor cussing did any good.
As the anxious hours of the night wore on I began to fancy myself in stripes behind the bars of the state's prison, with a big cannon ball chained to my leg. At last, near the break of day, in response to a frantic effort, which nearly broke my back, the knob suddenly yielded and the counterfeit key, in broken bits, flew from the lock onto the floor. This happy denouement saved me from our vindictive boss, from whose vengeful inclination "to take the law on me" I should certainly not have escaped. When, the next day, on opening the safe, a piece of battered knitting-needle fell from the lock of the safe our irate Mr. Keen was badgered and blamed for "eternally tinkering with something he did not understand." To this proposition, "with gratifying emotions of no common order, and tremulous with pathos," I gave my hearty assent. Thus early in my career had I foolishly failed to heed
13Solomon's warning, "On sliding down the bannister of life beware of splinters."
After a service with this firm of less than a year I concluded that lifting bales and nailing boxes was not the best and only way to become a future Rothschild. I then took a change of venue and entered "a life on the ocean wave," to make a "home on the rolling deep." This opened to my optimistic gaze a vista of unbounded scope and limitless possibilities.
One-Horse Steamboating.—Possessed of an active liver and buoyant spirits, I now shipped for the Wabash and east fork of White river. The stars at that time did not presage that my first attempt at steamboating should end with but a single trip and the boat's career ingloriously terminate in the hands of the United States marshal; but such ending envious fate had decreed. The ill-fated craft, the "H. M. Summers," was a single-engine, wheezy old clatterbox; her owner and captain, a jack-leg carpenter, was bossed by his little earwig of a wife, while I became the clerk or purser of the scow, with never a purse to hold. Of this, and my subsequent winter campaign on horseback through the White River country and over the frozen creek bottoms of Pike and Dubois counties, in vain attempts to sell the salt pile, unloaded by the "Summers" in an uncommercial locality, I have "narrated" more at length in another place.
A Trip to New Orleans.—Along in July of the next year there came down the Ohio on her way to New Orleans the large passenger steamer "Indiana," and, being shorthanded in the office, I was shipped up for the
14round trip as receiving clerk. At this rare opportunity to visit the far-famed "Paris of America" and see its attractions, I grasped eagerly. Five days, however, under the ardent rays of a broiling midsummer sun, standing on the New Orleans levee, discharging and receiving cargo, well-nigh used me up and left no time and less inclination for sightseeing.
Green River in Kentucky.—No sooner had I again set foot in Evansville than a sick friend, the owner of a country store on the banks of Green river in Kentucky, asked my aid and assistance in running his business. Near the store the Spottsville lock and dam forms a deep pool, teeming with fine fish; and the dense, leafy woods then harbored turkeys and deer in abundance. The fishing, in company with Dave McBay, part fisherman, part trapper,
Half of one order, half of another,
was followed through the late autumn so persistently that by November the ague had me in its clutches, and in spite of calomel and quinine held me captive all winter.
Armed with torch and harpoon, Mac and I every night had entered the transparent waters of the stream, while
Slept in their dew, where by the primrose gap in
Darkness hedge, St. Ruth hath dropped her sickle.
After bringing the catch to shore and roasting the
15beauties at a blazing log heap for lunch, and while the fire's heat dried the clothes on our backs, old Mac would, until midnight, reel off fabulous yarns and entertaining lies, of which the following is a sample brick:
A big snake which one evening, by his friend Cy Ross, had been released from the weight of a piece of timber that had fallen upon the reptile's back and held it pinned down, followed its benefactor into the house unobserved, where, in an empty room, it lay quiet and unnoticed until after midnight. When, at that hour, a burglar broke into the house, the grateful worm, stealthily, in the dark, coiled itself around the robber's legs, and holding him captive, stuck its tail out of the window and frantically rattled for the police.
From this specimen it is to be seen that my friend, unreliable at all times in his assertion that brutes show gratitude, was to be taken cum grano salis.
Green river, one of the sylvan streams of Kentucky, is navigable for two hundred miles upward from its confluence with the Ohio. From Evansville, by way of Bowling Green, it forms a charming route to the Mammoth Cave, one of the wonders of America. Bowling Green is an attractive little city in the blue-grass region of Kentucky, where handsome women abound and fine horses are bred. Green river, made navigable by the aid of locks and dams, flows between densely wooded banks, from whence the pendant foliage drops into quiet, crystalline pools and gives it the color from which it derives its name. The upper part of the stream has high, rocky and picturesque
16shores, covered with a growth of cedar, which gives variety to the landscape. Above its confluence with the "Barren," Green river runs through the great cave, where it is inhabited by sightless amphibiae and fish without eyes.
Twenty Miles of River on a Plank.—In the early autumn of that year the water in both Green and Ohio rivers fell so low that navigation by steamer was suspended. Then urgent business called me to Evansville, and, as no practical "all land" route existed, I determined to make the trip on anything that would float. I procured from a sawmill above the dam a poplar slab of sufficient buoyancy; and then, to the great delight of several small boys, in the early morning hours, after paying a quarter lockage, Rube, the lockkeeper, passed me through the gates of the lock, and I started on my twenty-mile floating voyage to Evansville. This, on account of sluggish currents in both rivers, lasted until late into the night, and required such hard and continued paddling that when at last I arrived at my destination the overworked muscles of the arms, chest and back gave so much pain that it kept me tossing on my cornshuck mattress in misery the balance of the night.
Ice Bridge in One Night.—On another occasion during the following severe winter the thermometer dropped so low that ice for a time impeded navigation; and it was then again necessary that I should, on a certain day, be in Evansville. This time I had a companion with whom, through deep snow and over a rough country, the twenty-mile trip was made per
17pedes apostelorem. Singing and whistling we followed Green river to its mouth, and then, through the roadless bottom lands of the Ohio, continued through underbrush and over fallen timber until, late at night, we arrived at a farmhouse opposite Evansville. Crossing the river being of course out of the question, we gratefully accepted supper and a bed from the hospitable family on the farm. The roar and grinding rumble of the big blocks of ice, as they tumbled over each other, kept us, in spite of utter exhaustion, awake until after midnight. The cold then became so intense that before day the ice gorged and formed a complete bridge, by which, after breakfast, we were enabled to cross, on foot and dry shod, into Indiana, a river nearly a mile wide.
Railroading. —It now came about, after having had a taste of steamboating on "the catfish inhabited deep," that I should also try my hand at railroading. Late in the winter of eighteen fifty-two, when the Evansville and Terre Haute railroad was in course of construction, and had, from Evansville north, progressed twenty-five miles, a station agent was needed at Kings, the then northern terminus of the road; and Mr. Ingle, the secretary of the railway, appointed me to the place. I here found, by the side of the track, a temporary arrangement, made up of nothing better than the body of a dismantled box-car. Its furnishings consisted of a rusty cannon stove, without peristaltic action, a deal table, a low bunk of rough boards, two soap boxes instead of chairs, and a water bucket with tin cup. Here in the dark and unbroken forest,
18nightly huddled up with my Newfoundland dog, I spent the dreary winter and sloppy spring in solitude.
Love-Purr Switched Off.—I had my meals at a farmhouse a mile down the road. There were two daughters in the Jackson family. Ellen the younger of the two, a sixteen-year-old, dark-haired sweet gosling, with dreamy blue eyes, to whom I tried to give the low entrancing love-purr, was too timid to reciprocate my amorous gaze, and, retiring early, would leave me with Nancy, the elder sister, for company. She, more receptive, but artificial, with city airs, taken on at a neighboring village, left me absolutely indifferent. One night, when conversation got to a point where, like David Harum's horse, it would stand without hitching, and gumdrops had given out, Nancy brought out a hymn-book, called the Missouri Harmony, from which, in an unmusical voice, she sang tune after tune. When at last I got away, it was with the determination to get myself to the nunnery of my lonely shanty, with gunnybag and hay-bale decorations, and find contentment in dreams of sweet Ellen, to whom I never had the courage to reveal the microbe gnawing at my vitals.
Tough Ducks.—As city gent and honored guest, I was one night made to preside at a quilting and corn-shucking supper in the next township. "The women folks" at the long table ranged from "giggling girls with corkscrew curls" to grandmothers with iron-rimmed spectacles. The job of carving duck was too much for me, however, as I had nothing better to operate with than a pot-metal table-knife, with an edge
19so thick that I could safely have ridden upon it to "Banbury Cross" without splitting my trousers. An ugly situation was relieved only when, after wrestling a tough old web-footed drake off the table on to the floor, the kitchen tomahawk was brought into requisition.
Songs of the Long Ago.—On the whole, life at the station was tedious and uneventful, and the nights were inexpressibly lonesome and dreary. With the advance of spring and the extension of the road into Princeton my station was moved up on high ground near the town. This, with a roomier shanty, very much bettered the situation, and here during the early summer the village girls and their beaux visited, to hear me tinkle the melodious guitar and to listen to my songs, which were then of the "Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming," "Thou, Thou, Who Rests in This Bosom," and "Smile Once Again" sort.
The "Glorious Fourth" Proves Disastrous.—With the advent of "the glorious" Fourth of July came its inevitable celebration. The two second-hand passenger coaches and a number of "bebuntined" cattle and construction cars carried, between Evansville and Princeton, on that sweltering summer day, many a perspiring excursionist over the wavy and undulating rails of the unballasted piece of new railroad. Orders from the president had that morning assigned me, at the Princeton end of the road, to the duties of yard-master and train dispatcher. When, however, one of the two conductors then in the employ of the road suddenly fell ill, and Mr. Ingle, the secretary, who
20happened to be near, asked me to take the sick man's train half way down the road, I, in my zeal to be useful, deserted for the time the post assigned me by the president. Here is "where I dropped my molasses jug," as Uncle Remus would have said. On the return to Princeton it was all up with me. In spite of the fact that I had, in an emergency, acted at the request of a high officer of the corporation, and although I had returned my train on time and avoided irregularity or accident, Judge Hall, the president, discharged me for disobedience of orders promptly and without viaticum. Thus I found myself on the nation's glorious birthday suddenly kissed off and frozen to the cushion; and the princely income of four hundred dollars per annum "gone where the woodbine twineth."
Jap Miller's Experience.—Here was a how d'y do, here was a state of things. I took my guitar, packed up the few locks of hair and daguerreotype gallery of rural beauties, and returned to the fresh water seaport on the Ohio. I have since then often thought of my democratic friend Jap Miller's experience, who once upon a time aspired to the postmastership at Martinsville. Application, in proper form and due time, had been sent to the department at Washington and receipt duly acknowledged. After a season of weary waiting and anxiety friends suggested to Jap that Mr. Cleveland might be holding back on account of Miller's whisky-drinking and poker-playing habits; and he was advised to reform and go to work to build up a character, without which he would be certain to lose the appointment. "I then," Jap told me, "promptly went to
21work to build up an ‘A number one’ character; but when I had it (I mean the character) ready done, the postoffice went to another fellow, and I was left with a character on hand and no use for it." Excepting the whisky and poker trimmings, mine was a similar case. I had, while working for the railroad company, striven hard to make for myself a character; and here I was with a character on my hands for which now I had no use.
Cigar Making to Bridge Over.—The Frenchman says, "sans six sous is to be sans souci." Nevertheless, while waiting for reinstatement and being informed by one of AEsop's fables "that a sitting hen gathers no moss," I employed the idle hours making cigars, a handiwork which I had, during leisure moments, picked up while sojourning in Kentucky.
Cigar making, as an art, does not appeal to my best aspirations; but as an honorable means of "bridging over," proved helpful. Like Riley's philosopher,
Who does about the best he can,
Is plenty good enough to suit
This lower mundane institute.
Steamboating on Green River.—This improvised industrial pursuit kept me square with my two-dollars-and-a-half-per-week boarding-house until later on I obtained a berth as clerk on the Green river packet "Olive." Then, once more, did I enter the honorable guild of steamboatmen.
This employment lasted until the autumn only, when,
22on account of low water, the boat had to go to "the bank," and I once more was out of commission.
Weevily Wheat and Frozen Potatoes.—Along about this time it occurred to me that the only sure road to opulence lay in the direction of merchandizing; and when I had successfully talked Uncle William into the humor of making me a small loan of money there was established in the lower end of town a trading post where grain and country produce formed the staples of traffic. This enterprise, for an insufficiency of the nervus rerum, was only of long enough duration to prove that a gimlet will not bore a bunghole and that youthful enthusiasm is not cash. On winding up the venture I was, however, gratified at being able to return to my uncle the stake he had furnished to finance the enterprise, and quit, owing no man a cent.
Strutted as Don Casar de Bazan.—Once during that time I was worried by the fear that I, to speak in the language of Mrs. Malaprop, had forfeited the old gentleman's malevolence. It was when at nine o'clock A. M., after having of a cold morning driven his ten miles to town, he found me in bed asleep, and nobody but a little "sawed-off" "tom-tit" of a boy on watch, wrestling with customers over frozen potatoes and weevily wheat. The night before, in a billy-cock hat, I had, as a member and leading man of a Thespian society at Mozart Hall, strutted and impersonated Don Caesar de Bazan; and as "early to bed and early to rise," as Dr. Franklin taught, is "the root of all evil," I managed to devote the wee sma' hours to "the mazy," and had made a night of it lingering "over the ruby."
23In those halcyon days of youth there was, as I now can see, entirely too much "fun" injected into business. With mandolin and banjo we boys would often make night hideous, and by serenading enter into competition with lovesick tomcats in the back yard.
In the Forks of Big Creek.—The year eighteen hundred and fifty-three brought my brother Alexander to America. In Hamburg, the most important commercial city and seaport on the continent of Europe, which was our home and birthplace, he had served his apprenticeship as clerk in one of the old tea importing houses of the city. Like many others, full of expectations, he came to the new world to pursue Dame Fortune, and make for himself a future home.
In eighteen forty-eight, two years after my departure for America, our father had died. He had been in the civil service of the city, and left mother with a small pension only. With limited resources, but courage and determination, aided by exemplary management, she had succeeded in bringing up her four girls and two boys under precepts of industry and frugality and fairly well educated. She encouraged the boys to honestly strive for independence, and used to quote Voltaire's retort to his criticizing friends, "J'aime l'argent beaucoup, parce que j'aime la liberté." After parting with the second son it was not long until mother, with the girls, followed. It now became necessary for brother and myself to look about for an anchorage and snug harbor for the family.
"Milt" Blackburn.—"Milt" Blackburn, very popular with himself, was a pious psalm-singing hypocrite,
24who pretended to be on familiar terms with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but who in reality maintained intimate relations with the Goddess Venus only. He had, during a season of hot religious revivals, been caught in flagrante delictu by his betrayed wife, and in consequence had been churched by his Baptist brethren. Blackburn owned a country store on the Black-ford road in the "Forks of Big Creek," Posey county; and when the neighborhood began to get too hot for him he concluded to sell out, go west, and "grow up with the country." Now, Uncle William once more came to the rescue, and helped us to buy out Mr. Blackburn.
Crossroads Wanamaker.—Thus, a dozen miles from Mt. Vernon, the county seat of Posey, in partnership with my brother, I became a crossroads Wanamaker and joint owner of ten acres of land, with its log cabins and the miscellaneous contents and business of a country store; and when, after a while, we had adjusted ourselves to the new situation of living under a clapboard roof and on puncheon floors, and the gourds began to hang on the back fence, and the morning-glories over the front door, contentment crept into the cabin unawares, and the proverbial goose hung at an encouraging altitude.
Aunt Katie Mills.—The people hereabouts proved to be kindly disposed Hoosiers. "Aunt" Katie Mills, our nearest neighbor, a handsome elderly woman of commanding presence, resourceful and always ready to help with decoctions and remedies of her own brewing, gave much comfort to our "women folks" in their
25new and unaccustomed surroundings. Aunt Katie's "old man," "Uncle" Nick, a shrewd and clear-headed old codger, had been, before he fell from grace, a circuit-riding preacher of the Methodist persuasion.
When at a sanctification meeting the congregation was asked to stand up, that it might be shown "who loved Jesus," he made the statement that "he was paired" with Joe Oliver, well known as a heterodox old sinner, and refused to budge from his seat. For trimming up his hair now and then he always regaled me with interesting stories of the early settlement days. In a retrospective mood he once quoted the following not to be forgotten sentiment:
We go through the world with sorrow and care,
We go out of the world God knows where,
But if we are thoroughbreds here we shall be thoroughbreds there.
Of nights the two Mills boys, both strapping fellows, were always ready with their dogs to take me with them coon hunting. Jim, the younger one of the two, sported for a time the belt as champion fist-fighter of the county, and was by me looked upon as a sort of protective Monroe Doctrine.
Sanctification.—Among the people in the "Forks" there was a parcel of religious enthusiasts, who kept up a great racket with their camp and protracted meetings. When they prayed for sanctification the straw around the mourners' bench was pawed into little bits, and would frequently get into the sisters' hair and all over their backs. Brother Jimmie Dyehouse, better
26known as Old Leather Lungs, when he preached could be heard over in the next county. He was a mighty terror to sinners; and the Devil, it was firmly asserted, stood in awe and dread of his blustering prowess.
Priscilla Perry, a ripe and warm little widow, was the leader and main push of this bunch of cranks. When she got sanctification she sold her gold-plated watch and gave away her husband's rifle with the globe sight to a worldly nephew of his'n. She was very much like Melissy Allgood, in Lucy Furman's stories of a sanctified town, who spent her days in fighting sin and her nights in chasing fleas. Melissy says, "When I got sanctification I gave up vanity for my own self, and sold my new four-dollar spring hat with the roses on it to old Aunt Bundy for a dollar and thirty cents, and ripped the ruffles and velvet off my black alpaca, and give my green merino to an unregenerate niece of pa's, and slicked back my bangs and tried to live godly;" and when a friend informs her that she is bound to have "some of them new-fashioned big puffed sleeves that was all the style," she says, "Paul says, that women ought rather to clothe themselves in shamefacedness and sobriety;" and while talking, she says, "I careless like opened the Bible, and the first words my eyes fell on was Ezekiel xiii: 18, 'Thus saith the Lord, Woe to the women that sew pillows in arm-holes, to hunt the souls of my people!"
Brother Dyehouse, at one of his meetings which I attended, preached against tobacco. He said that no man that chawed tobacco could hope to get "the blessin'." Somewhere in Corinthians it said, "Having therefore
27these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh;" and if chawin' tobacco wasn't filthiness of the flesh, he'd like to know what it was. "A hog wouldn't chaw tobacco!" They had "Bible" for everything they did and said; took its language literally, and were narrower than the eye of the needle in the parable.
I Become Auctioneer.—The "Star of Empire," with many of the people in the Forks and surrounding country about this time, began to point "westward." They sold out to German immigrants and other "newcomers," who now flocked into Posey and Vanderburgh counties. Then there would usually be an auction sale of wagons, plows, harness, horses, cattle and hogs, and as I conducted these sales, the fees as auctioneer thus earned and the writing of deeds and mortgages added a few dollars to our revenues.
Roan Stallion.—In order to still further help the returns on the right side of the ledger I established a business branch at Grafton Mills, some distance further down the creek towards the Wabash river. Here once a week I would take in what eggs, feathers, beeswax and other produce was offered, and haul them home, there to be prepared for shipment to market in New Orleans and elsewhere. One day, however, I came in violent contact with the south end of my fractious little roan stallion while he was going north. The sudden collision with his heels made me, at the time, forget whether he was a Late Rambo or an Early Rose, and compelled me for some time thereafter to eat my "vittels" from the top of the mantel-piece.
For a couple of years brother and I successfully bartered and traded with the people in "the Forks." We then sold out, and with the net proceeds, which to us represented quite an encouraging little sum, removed to Evansville, where there was fitted up a home, modest but comfortable, which, with better surroundings, proved vastly more congenial to the ladies of the family.
Back to the City—Teller in Canal Bank.—I now obtained a situation as bookkeeper and teller in the Canal Bank, one of the free banks of the state, popularly known as "wildcat banks;" my brother at the same time became secretary of the gas company; while the eldest sister gave piano lessons, using an instrument the family had brought with it from the old country. Much time in my new occupation was spent standing behind the bank's counter to redeem its notes, as in those days they were presented for coin. It was the practice then in all the banks of the state that the man who presented himself with the conventional black carpet-bag filled with our bills for redemption, demanding coin, should, in a spirit of hostility, be annoyed. To waste his time I doled out for each five-dollar note, separately, ten silver half dollars, and a dray often was required to haul the stuff to where the poor devil, pistol in hand, had to spend sleepless nights to guard it.
Fremont Campaign.—When, that autumn, a vacation was accorded me, this being 1856, the year of the Fremont campaign, I, with consent of the bank directors,
29determined to join a "spouting" friend on a political bushwhacking expedition in the country. We were billed by the free-soil element to speak at various points in some of the rural counties of southern Indiana, then almost unbrokenly democratic. Like little Gullivers we valiantly sallied forth in quest of the democratic Brobdingnag. We readily found him, but after a week's campaigning, playing hide and seek with the giant, we left some of our ordnance and ammunition in the enemy's hands and were lucky to get back home with nothing worse than a smell, foul, funky and fuliginous, in our hair. The tally-sheets at the following election did not bear perceptible evidence of our daring effort. The details of how, like Hudibras, we were balked, overcome and cudgeled by Trulla, according to Samuel Butler's delectable history, is told in another place.
Evansville's Four Hundred.—The winter season following opened up to me some of the pleasures which in the "Forks of Big Creek" had been left out of the curriculum. The daughters of the cashier of our bank, young society ladies of refinement, soon came to the aid of the susceptible young man from the country; and it was not long before he began to part his hair in the middle and show skill in the handling of a partner in the dance. This successfully opened to me the charmed circle of the "four hundred," where soon I was chagrined to learn the fact, that on entering the fashionable salon of society, you have to leave outside not only hat, cane and overcoat, but candor as well.
Evansville society then, with its intermixture of Kentucky dash and southern grace, had many attractions
30for a young man susceptible to social allurements and gaiety. With the assurance of a thoroughbred I boldly shied my castor into the arena, and found myself ere long playing "eenee-meenee-mynee-mo" with the young princess and enjoying a full measure of protection from Madame la Duchesse, the mother.
The bank's rigid rules for exactitude, punctuality and mathematical precision began to have a salutary effect on my, up to then, want of method in business matters, and established in me habits and practices, orderly and thorough, which have served to this day and have largely contributed to whatever business success I achieved in after years.
Flatboating.—Then gradually an irresistible desire to tease fickle fortune with ambitious ventures seized upon me, and the thought often recurred that if "one could look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not," the road to fortune would be made quite easy. But with all mankind, I long since then have realized that "the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee." As time went on, the regular round of office work grew tame and tasteless, and as "no Calypso barred the way to Ithaca," I concluded to try my luck "by flood and field," and seek both adventure and dollars in the timber lands of southern Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri, and in flatboating on the Mississippi river. The incidents and outcome of this enterprise I have related in another paper, together with some exciting episodes and interesting happenings on the Tennessee river.
Return Home "Busted."—When, after a while,
31impecunious but full of experience, I returned disenchanted from the unprofitable flatboating and timber enterprise to Evansville, I for the first time fully realized that "the wings of a sparrow will not support the ideas and aspirations of an eagle." Then the Canal Bank again willingly opened its doors to me, and cheerfully heeding 'Squire Hawkins's advice to his friend John, "to wipe his eyes, blow his nose and start again," I, with alacrity, once more entered upon the duties of my accustomed place in the bank.
City Clerk.—At the spring election of 1858, Wellman Walker, a young man of good family and well qualified, who for several consecutive terms had held the office of city clerk, was again the democratic candidate. But as he and Major Smith Gavitt, the democratic boss, had quarreled, the latter was determined to defeat Walker's election. The boss failing to find among his partisans a man eligible and sufficiently well known to promise success, without asking "by your leave," put me up, and announced my name for the place; and the election, without the slightest effort on my part, went my way. It was thus that without "shriving" or by the aid of clergy, I was projected into politics, received my sentence and for the term of one year became city clerk of Evansville.
I thereupon managed to arrange affairs in such manner as to continue in my place at the bank and attend to the duties of the office at the same time. I hired a superannuated little old shrimp of an "Irish gintleman" for a small stipend, and paid for his services out of the magnificent city clerk's salary of six hundred
32dollars. I then managed to give my time during business hours to the bank; and the most important duties of the clerk's office, such as attending council meetings, making up the minutes, keeping the records and drawing warrants on the city treasurer, with constant aid from the midnight oil, were satisfactorily performed when other people slept. I thus served two masters at the same time, and satisfied both to such a degree that at the end of the political year I barely escaped a second term in office.
Wholesale Grocer.—Then another vista of the road to wealth opened to my enchanted view. An interest on easy terms offered itself in a wholesale grocery house with the promise of my name in the firm, and
on the bills and letterheads. Now, when I had quit the bank once more, I became a merchant—this time a wholesaler with a great big W. I was sure then that I plainly saw ready-made success on the other side of the fence of adversity, scratching and pawing to get at and capture me. It did not, however, take long to discover that ten cents profit on a barrel of flour and ha'penny a pound on coffee, with dried apples getting weevily and molasses running out of leaky sugar hogsheads, and thus reducing weight, did not leave much butter on the bread of commerce for S., L. & Co., and unless sales could be made by the shipload, and in our own ships at that, no headway was to be expected.
Then one day I had to haul a customer twenty-three miles to sell him a three-hundred-dollar bill of goods,
33and foundered the horse in the attempt, while the drunken old Plesiosaurus broke down the easy-back of the buggy in which we rode, I began to realize that once more I had embarked in the wrong ship. It was evident that slow and antiquated business methods and an insufficiency of capital made loss instead of profits inevitable.
Then the disquieting phantom of a business breakdown and bankruptcy arose and gave me no peace by day nor rest at night, but "upon the heat and flame of my distemper I sprinkled cool patience," and from this time on strove with might and main for an honorable disentanglement from the disheartening situation. When at last I succeeded, it was without a cent, and shorn once more of the money paid in and all my savings. It now dawned upon me that I was getting more than my share of bad luck, but perhaps David Harum is right when he says, "a reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog—they keep him from broodin' on bein' a dog." A year afterward the "krach" came, it left the remaining partners, both old men, with a load of indebtedness from which there was no escape until death came to their relief.
Hotel Scheme.—Always stirring, never idle, I did not, however, sit up with my trouble long; but with the aid of influential citizens and the newspapers of the city, I assembled and engineered public meetings, aiming at a scheme to build a hotel, of which Evansville, with steadily growing population and increasing commerce, had sore need. But as out of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars stock, after persistent drumming,
34one-third only could be placed, the project at that time had to be abandoned. Several years later I renewed the proposition in modified form, and succeeded in giving the city a first-class hotel, which to this day is a necessary and integral part of it and has proven itself a profitable investment.
Steamer "Autocrat."—About this time some of our Evansville steamboatmen were engaged in the construction of the "Autocrat," a boat of large dimensions, designed for the New Orleans trade. Conditionally upon my buying into the stock of the company I was offered the situation of first clerk of the steamer. I was poor, very poor. My last faux pas had stripped me to the buff. Encouraged, however, by the spirit of the old lady with two teeth only, who pluckily cried, "Thank God, they hits!" I braced up and called upon my remaining teeth in the shape of an unimpaired credit, and succeeded once more "in putting on the gloves and coming to time." But as work on the boat progressed and bills accumulated, it soon developed that the nervus rerum was beginning to run low, and that with the assets at our command and in perspectu, the boat could not be finished. "Here was a pretty mess; here was an ugly pickle."
Steamer "Fanny Bullitt."—Then, fortunately, with "the flowers that bloom in the spring tra la," there came relief in negotiations with the Benedict Brothers of Louisville, who were the owners of a number of large boats. In a trade agreed upon, they took the "Autocrat" and her indebtedness off our hands, and gave us the side-wheel steamer "Fanny Bullitt" in
35exchange. The latter boat, a well-appointed passenger steamer, and a carrier of good capacity and fair speed, was an altogether stanch and seaworthy craft then running as a regular packet between Louisville and New Orleans. From this dicker I emerged with a one-third interest in the boat and the head clerkship.
We had now only been fairly organized when Captain Greer, a joint owner and the boat's commander, fell sick, and on the way up the Mississippi died of the then prevailing cholera. In this new misfortune, I was forced with the poet to exclaim,
Stolpert im Grase;
Fallt auf den Rucken
Und bricht sich die Nase.
Abandon Race for County Clerk to go on the River.—Greer's death made it necessary that I should assume the management of affairs immediately. But as the republican county convention that summer had, against my earnest protest, nominated me for clerk of the courts of Vanderburgh county, another trouble arose which was finally settled, when, with consent of the county committee, I abandoned the race for office. Election day was then but a few weeks off, and as our party in the county that fall, against an overwhelming democratic majority, had no prospects whatever, the opposition candidate was left in undisputed possession of the field and race.
Captain Greer being dead, and I not having had sufficient experience at seamanship to assume command
36of the boat, necessitated that I should find a competent man to fill the place of captain. In this I succeeded admirably when I found Captain Henry W. Smith of Louisville, who was not only an expert navigator and good business man, but a person of probity and excellent character as well. When he assumed command of the boat he also bought our dead partner's interest, and became an owner equally interested. In pursuit of the business during the following winter he, as captain, and I, as head clerk, worked harmoniously to the same end.
The War Breaks Out.—When in the spring of sixty-one the war broke out it stopped steamboating and nearly all other business of the country as well. "I hain't never had no luck with nothin' nohow," old Aunt Nan said one day, when she complained that her Johnny-jumpups and gillyflowers wouldn't do well. This plaintive note of despair uttered by the old lady, repeatedly ran through the cells of my brain, as I sat disconsolately on the forecastle of the boat the day after her wheels had stopped revolving. "Yes," said I to myself, "up to this time Dame Fortune has certainly been hostile. A heavy indebtedness against a property now worthless makes the future look gloomy. Verily, with the old lady I did say, "I hain't never had no luck with nothin' nohow!"
The Stern-Wheeler "Charley Bowen."—A few local "packets" only, on the great river's tributaries, struggled to carry the mails, and keep their crews from starving and the machinery from rusting. Among these Captain Henry T. Dexter, with the stern-wheeler
37"Charley Bowen," a fast and gamy little clipper, coming from the Muskingum river, continued that summer to run regularly two trips each week in the lower Ohio between Evansville, Paducah and Cairo. During this time, with the "Fanny" out of commission, and while she lay idle below the falls of the Ohio at Portland wharf, I lent Dexter a helping hand by taking charge of the clerk's office on the "Bowen," where, singly and alone, I performed the work which in ordinary times on both day and night watches required three men. Mail landings were close together; too close to permit of going to bed, and frequent hails from shore prevented sleep.
Paducah and War.—One morning, at Paducah, when, for want of closing a lid the dust on my eyeballs had accumulated an inch thick, a rebel mob attempted to capture us, which shook not only the dust clean and clear from the eyes, but the desire for sleep also. The delectable details of this picnic are to be found on another page of this truthful chronicle.
Captain Dexter and His Race-Horse.—Among river men, many of whom at the outbreak of the war were southern sympathizers, Dexter, a sturdy old fellow, and an uncompromising union man, steadily upheld the flag, and bid defiance to the secessionists on the Kentucky shore,
And least of all to chivalry.
After the Paducah affair, from which we had escaped with flying colors, Captain D. and I became good
38friends, and for several years I had the management of the old man's finances in my custody. Of his spare means, amounting at one time to fifty thousand dollars in United States Sixes, there was unfortunately not a cent left when he got through with a fast trotter which, in admiration for one of our gallant generals, whose friendship Dexter enjoyed, he had christened John A. Logan. His love and admiration for the horse, stimulated by crafty trainers and treacherous jockeys, who made him believe that the two-minute gait of the other fellow's nag was a mere funeral procession, amounted to infatuation and eventually stripped him of much of his wealth.
Prepare to Go to War—First Illinois Cavalry and Shawneetown.—The gigantic eruption of the Civil War now began to spread its dark cloud of death-dealing carnage over the land; it shattered fortunes; destroyed men's occupations and support; and disastrously affected nearly every citizen of the republic. It found me with a piece of property which for the time was absolutely without value and easily perishable, deeply involved in debt. This state of affairs thus forbade that I should throw up my hand and shoulder a musket. During the summer, however, I diligently watched the course of events, and when, early in November, information came that the Illinois border on the lower Ohio needed protection against threatened raids from the south side of the river, I promptly untied the hawser of my boat from the ringbolt on Portland wharf, hove her ancher, and laying the "Fanny Bullitt's" course southward, made my way to Shawneetown,
39Illinois, where, in co-operation with the first Illinois cavalry, I took a hand in the fray as best I could.
Fort Donaldson, Good Mother Bickerdyke and an Eminent Surgeon Who Was a Brute.—For want of letters of marque, or other power from lawful authority, either federal or state, I entered the lists of my own volition and risk as a free lance. The most important events of this raid, together with a detailed account of the "Fanny's" subsequent trip from Fort Donaldson down the Cumberland and up the Ohio, with two hundred wounded and dying men, the Tennessee river campaign, and other interesting matter, I have recounted in another paper, the perusal of which I can recommend to him who has patience, and in whom "increase of appetite grows by what it feeds on."
War, General Sherman says, is hell. This savage pastime, instead of being glorified, should be abhorred as too brutal for civilized man to engage in. "The offense is rank, it smells to heaven."
I have told, in my account of the trip from Fort Donaldson, how good Mrs. Bickerdyke accompanied us part of the way. I have neglected, however, to tell how there turned up on board, the same night, a celebrated surgeon. He hailed from Cincinnati, and was not in the service. During that doleful night I learned to know and detest this skillful man cordially. With several students in his wake he was on a hunt for wounds of rare occurrence upon which to demonstrate; but callously refused, in the face of death even, to give relief, however cruel the suffering, in cases other than
40the ones he specially sought. When, during the night, he found a victim with the lower jaw shattered by a ragged edged shrapnel, this heartless butcher, with much gusto, had him dragged to a table in the barbershop, where, without the balm of anaesthetics, he tormented the poor fellow by deliberately and cruelly delving and rooting for half an hour in the quivering flesh and living gore of the sufferer.
A Shrapnel and a Crushed Jaw.—The sight of crushed and splintered bone, minced flesh, shattered teeth, and shreds of the tongue, filled me with horror as I stood helplessly by. When I could endure the torture no longer I ordered the butcher to desist and let the boy die in peace. The fancied glories of war, with flowing plumes, shining brass, alarums from drum and trumpet, and the waving of colored bunting, had no charm for me thenceforth. And when years afterward, during the Cuban war, I was induced to make a flag presentation speech to an Indiana regiment, my talk was as empty of enthusiasm as the soldier's canteen is of refreshment after a day's march in summer heat.
Sale of the "Fanny Bullitt."—When, late in 1863, it became apparent that extensive repairs to the steamer, the cost of which much exceeded the length of my purse, were imperative, I sold the "Fanny Bullitt," and with part of the proceeds paid accumulated indebtedness. On casting up accounts, I found to my great delight that for the first time in life I was free from debt and possessed of several thousand dollars in hard cash. This discovery was as soothing as flannel is to bruises.
41With a sigh of relief I could not help but cry out, "The night is long that never finds the day." And like Rosalind, in my joy would have kissed all who have a sweet breath.
I now started in afresh to wrestle with stubborn fate, over which I had thus gained the first victory; and which, with industry, perseverance, and fresh chalk on my cue, I hoped in time to further bend to my purposes.
E. P. & C. Packet Co.—To get a footing in the lower Ohio transportation business I bought an interest in the steamer "Bowen," and also joined Captain Dexter in the purchase of the fine new steamer "Courier," a powerful and elegantly appointed big boat; and soon thereafter the fast side-wheeler "Superior" and other craft came into our possession; and when the business of the Evansville, Paducah and Cairo Packet Company continued to increase, we incorporated with our competitors, and assembled quite a respectable little navy, of which Dexter became president, I the superintendent and manager, and such first-class navigators and business men as Grammer, Fowler, De-Souchet, Throop, Gilbert and others, directors and commanders. These, my erstwhile associates, have all but one gone to "that undiscover'd country from whose bourne no traveler returns." Captain Grammer alone is living, and has, by superior ability, become a prominent official in one of the leading railroads of the country.
Trip to Italy.—In the winter of 1866, to gratify a wish ardently cherished from boyhood days, I visited
42"Sunny Italy," where, much interested in painting and sculpture, I remained six months enjoying to the full the attractions of nature and art in that interesting country. Then, in early spring, on receipt of disquieting news from home, I recrossed the Alps by stagecoach and snow-sled, and from Liverpool sailed for America.
Packet Company Disrupted.—On my return to Evansville I found the packet company disrupted and its property divided out in severalty among the owners of the stock. This contretemps had been brought on by an irrepressible conflict, instigated and pugnaciously persisted in by "old man" Dexter, whose antlers, always obstructive, became seriously entangled with the horns of other members of the corporation.
Steamer "Mayflower."—Here again envious fortune had dealt me a blow in the solar plexus. The loss on stock in the company amounted to over half of my investment; and when later on I succeeded in selling the "Mayflower," in which boat my remaining interest had been cast, she had made such additional losses that the Katzenjammer this produced determined me to abandon steamboating permanently.
Steamer "Idlewild."—The next year, nevertheless, once more I joined some of the old associates, and we built the side-wheel steamer "Idlewild." She was a beautiful clipper of faultless proportions, proud and jaunty appearance, and as speedy as she was handsome. This boat paid for herself in just two years, and then sold for what she had cost to build, namely, sixty thousand dollars. An investment of several thousand
43dollars, made at the same time, in the "Robert Mitchel," a large Cincinnati and New Orleans freight steamer, proved, however, a total loss.
Other Steamboat Losses.—From this time on I abandoned steamboat investments. Those of my associates who continued in the business were eventually routed, or gradually starved out by the iron horse. One of these unfortunates, my venerable friend Captain Stutt Neal, a few years after the war, built the magnificent steamer "Richmond" and lost in less than two seasons a quarter of a million dollars by the investment, which loss consumed the accumulations of a lifetime. When railroads began to parallel our waterways the days of prosperity on the rivers were numbered; and most men who stuck to the business in course of time lost all they had made.
The heaviest investment of capital in western steamboat stock during flush times was that of the Atlantic Steamship Company of St. Louis. In the late sixties its losses and the destruction of life became enormous; much of it from explosion of boilers. The ante-bellum practice of racing and criminally crowding the boilers had been by this time measurably abandoned and had little to do with these disastrous occurrences. The cause was mainly found in the use of tubular boilers, which, as substitutes for the old kind with large return flues, were not fitted to the heavily silt-laden and muddy waters of the Mississippi. One explosion, that of the side-wheel steamer "Pat Claybourn," a fifty-thousand-dollar packet, fell to the lot of our company. It killed Captain Dick Fowler, her able and popular
44commander, and a number of her crew. We also, in course of time, sustained the loss of two more boats—one of them by fire and the other in a storm. Some of this property was partially covered by insurance, on which the premium rate in those days was so extravagant that it consumed much of the earnings.
Explosion of the "Missouri."—During the period of these disastrous occurrences the "Missouri," one of the St. Louis Company's largest steamers, while ascending the Ohio one night, blew up and sank a few miles above Evansville. The next morning early, with one of our packet boats, just in from Cairo, I went to the wreck, which was submerged to the hurricane deck and deserted. A steamer which had passed the wreck in the night had taken off the survivors, including the disabled captain, and continued its voyage to Cincinnati. In the wreck we found, lying on her bed and submerged in the water, the steam-scalded body of the captain's wife, which we properly cared for, and from under the debris of the office the safe containing a large amount of money was secured; all else was abandoned to the waves. The boat, aside from her cargo, valued at over one hundred thousand dollars, had been so badly shattered that no attempt was ever made to raise the wreck.
Life on the River Was Pleasant.—Travel on the packet line was liberally patronized, and counted among its patrons many of the best people from towns and cities of Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois. This made life socially quite attractive, and as our boats always carried musical cabin crews, dancing, in which the
45officers of the boat frequently joined, was popular and much indulged in.
Winter of Seventy-one in New Orleans.—The winter of seventy-one and two I spent quietly in the city of New Orleans feasting on oysters and teal duck, and enjoying Mardi Gras and its festivities at the French opera. A lucky turn in sugar made me even with my three months' expense account. In early spring, while there, I accepted an invitation to visit the Bayou Teche country. The president of the navigation company, on one of its boats, made this visit into Evangeline's Acadia very pleasant to Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune and his family, who were of the party, and myself.
At a season when the upper country is yet held in icy bonds, and ear-muffs are desirable, a vista of southwestern Louisiana is charming. Here the umbrageous live oaks, with wide spreading limbs and dark succulent foliage, stud verdant meadows and green fields. Red roses and creamy lilies cluster around the stately white plantation residences surrounded by spacious galleries, and make charming pictures for the hungry gaze of the visitor from the north.
Savannah, Ga.—On the way south by rail, via Washington and Richmond, I had visited my friend Farrill at Savannah. He and his chum, a rich young Cuban from Havana, made my stay in the charming Georgia city of ever verdant parks very pleasant. A unique spot near the town is the old cemetery of Bonaventura. Here gigantic live oaks, with their sturdy far-reaching limbs, extend back into past and bygone ages.
46They stand in somber ranks, draped with Spanish moss, and resemble a mysteriously veiled misericordia, ever weeping tears which in copious streams flow silently to the sunless earth beneath.
Negro Rule in the South.—In the reconstruction days, when in the southland the negro for a time was very much to the fore, ebony-hued and tan-colored statesmen of Louisiana, in the legislative halls at New Orleans, used to maintain a regular bargain counter, where franchises and privileges of all sorts were kept for sale.
During my stay in the Crescent City there came one day a St. Louis acquaintance, a sort of pelican in gum shoes. He stepped so softly that he could have walked on the keyboard of a piano from St. Paul to New York without striking a chord. He tempted me with a proposition made him by members of the negro legislature then in session. The "niggers" offered a steamship charter and a body of valuable public land worth a good many hundred thousand for the paltry sum of thirty thousand dollars in cash. The charter was a mere blind and make-believe. It did not stipulate the termini of the line nor the number of sailings, and was criminally vague and flimsy. Tunstal (that was the St. Louis man's name) and I had much amusing chaff with the boodlers, who, eager for graft, were kept nibbling until we gave them the ha, ha, and backed ourselves away from their royal presence and out of the city.
Serious mistakes in reconstructing the seceded states were undoubtedly made by congress after the war.
47Charles Sumner in the senate, and Thad Stevens in the house, led in making such laws as were demanded by the implacable and fierce spirit of resentment then prevalent in the north. The assassin's bullet which ended Lincoln's life and laid low that comprehensive mind and tender heart had destroyed the south's best friend.
The rapacious carpet-bagger and ravenous scalawag, together with bad men in the Freedmen's Bureau, managed affairs in such manner as completely to disfranchise the whites, turn over all political power to the ignorant black fieldhands just out of slavery, and subject the taxpayers to the mercy of hungry and piratical buzzards from the north.
The dark-brown legislatures, of which the Louisiana General Assembly then sitting in New Orleans was a fair specimen, taxed the war-impoverished and bankrupt white people up to the point of confiscation; and in addition loaded their respective states with mountains of indebtedness, the proceeds of which were foolishly squandered and shamelessly stolen. None of the loot ever found its way to the relief of the poverty and distress then prevailing and left behind in the wake of a destructive war.
A Hurricane.—In the progress of this narrative I have neglected to relate an experience in a summer night's hurricane on the catfish-inhabited waters of the Ohio, which came near destroying the fine steamer "Courier," of which I was part owner and at that time the commander, and which endangered the lives of nearly one hundred passengers and the crew. The
48rough and blustery weather had kept me from going off watch at midnight. Too cautious to risk a landing on the exposed Illinois shore at Cave in Rock, I had, at two in the morning, just sent the mail-bags ashore in the yawl, when a blast, roaring like a charge from heavy cavalry, struck the boat with mighty power on the starboard bow and laid her over on her "beam ends." The tremendous blow, when it hit the rudder, parted the iron tiller-chain, and, unmanageable as the boat thus became, gave her over helplessly to the storm.
At least nine-tenths of the bulk of a steamer navigating our western rivers, obstructed as they are by bars and shoals, necessarily must be above and out of the water, and consequently such a boat is hard to handle in a storm. The current in the river also must be reckoned with, and altogether the management of a craft thus topheavy in rough weather requires much skill, nerve and judgment on the part of the pilot.
On the hurricane deck, where I stood unprotected, one of the stays of the smoke stacks caught and saved me from being blown overboard. Then a signal tap on the big bell, which, amidst the roaring noise of the storm sounded like a muffled explosion, called me to the pilot house, which I could reach only by crawling on all fours up the exposed ladder way and over the blast-swept roof of the texas. Here I had great difficulty to hear the pilot's words, but learned that, the steering gear crippled, the boat was completely out of his control. With tight clutching, and in much danger of being ballooned like an airship, I crawled back, and slid on down to the lower deck, where quickly I
49ordered the anchor cast, which fortunately caught and held fast as the boat drifted over the bar. She now swung to the wind, and was thus saved from being blown into the overhanging timber on shore; and when she righted up and the strain on her upper works was relieved, the cabin, already toppling, settled back and was thus saved from going overboard.
Panic among the passengers had by this time become uncontrollable. The women, squirming and wriggling on the cabin floor, shrieked, and in agonized tones begged to be saved. In their fright, the whole mourners' bench "confessed the Lamb" and prayed for salvation. The men, frightened out of their wits, mostly cowards, sought safety in the hold of the boat and in the engine-room on the lower deck. One only of all the passengers, a little shrimp of a man by the name of Smith, from Caseyville, Kentucky, kept his wits about him. When the storm had blown out all the lights and darkness reigned everywhere the old man lit up the candle in a lantern he happened to carry with him, and by its dim glimmer strove to comfort and reassure the moaning women and whimpering children. He also saw to it that every cabin door was kept closed and locked. Had the doors been allowed to swing open the cabin surely would have gone overboard and its inmates with it, and many lives have been lost by drowning in the maddened waters of the storm-swept river.
Passing on the return trip in daylight the locality of the hurricane's devastation, we followed with our eyes its trace up a sloping hillside through the woods on the
50Kentucky shore. The track was swept clean of every standing tree, and their mighty trunks lay flat upon the ground, like the swath of a mower in a field of grain.
Wreck of the "Belmont" in a Storm.—The destructive violence and consequent loss of life on a river craft caught in one of these fierce blows was brought to my special notice, when, many years afterward, on a hot Sunday in August, I assisted in wrecking the steamer "Belmont," which had turned turtle in the Ohio between Evansville and Henderson, Kentucky, also caused by a hurricane. I shall never forget when the tearing away of the cabin bulkheads released the imprisoned dead, how their bodies, black with decomposition and swelled like balloons, shot up out of the water as if they were rockets. They came head foremost, as do furies and specters out of traps on the stage of a theater; and foul gases from decomposition tainted the air on that hot summer day. The reflection that our erstwhile impending fate at Cave in Rock might have been the same horrified me, and with Falstaff I exclaimed, not "how would I look," but how would I smell, if I were swollen in the water.
The victims of this wreck were mostly people I had known as near neighbors in Evansville, and with whom I had held intimate social relations; but their immersion for a couple of days in the tepid waters of the river, under the ardent rays of an August sun, affected such radical changes that I could look upon them, men and women alike, with loathing only. Your fleshless skeleton is a veritable Chesterfield in comparison with the swollen carcass as it exhales foul putrefaction and
51stares upon you with eyes wide open, set in an inflated face black as depair itself.
Steamer "Superior" High and Dry.—At another time the "Superior," a large side-wheeler, while under my command, came to grief one night. A little below Caseyville, shortly after eight bells,
Rules all the sea and half the land,
Was then declining to the west
To go to bed and take her rest.
and had, just below the shallow crossing, with slanting rays, lighted up the smoothly-shelving rocks on the Kentucky shore and made them and the glassy surface of the river appear as one.
Pilot Barney Seals.—Barney Seals, one of the pilots, when, after supper, he came on watch, was under the influence of liquor and had, in spite of contrary orders, insisted on taking the wheel. In his dazed condition he mistook the wet glistening reef for the channel's surface, and in spite of my warning, held the boat's course so as to run her, under a full head of steam, amidst volleys from snapping stanchions and cracking timbers, full length on to the rocks.
Under the federal navigation laws pilots are entrusted with much authority, and when on duty at the wheel rank the captain of the vessel. When sober Barney used to be one of the best pilots on the river; but when drunk he, like most men, would make mistakes, and mistakes of this sort are dangerous and expensive affairs. This one cost Barney his job, which
52at the time paid a hundred and fifty per month, and cost the company a large dock and repair bill and loss of the boat's service for a time. The locality where this happened serves me as a reminder of an interesting episode.
Clemens and Warner, in "The Gilded Age" Have Trouble with a Name.—Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain) tells how he and Warner, when they wrote the book called "The Gilded Age," had an experience with a certain Mr. Sellers. The fact is that, in connection with the very same person, I also, later on, had an experience. Mr. Clemens says: "There is a character in the book called ‘Sellers.’ I do not remember what his first name was in the beginning; but any way Mr. Warner did not like it, and wanted it improved. He asked me if I was able to imagine a person named ‘Eschol Sellers.’ Of course I said I could not, without stimulants. He said that way out west once he had met, and contemplated, and actually shaken hands with a man bearing that impossible name, ‘Eschol Sellers.’ He added: ‘It was twenty years ago; his name has probably carried him off before this; and if it hasn't he will never see the book anyhow. We will confiscate his name. The name you are using is common, and therefore dangerous; there are probably a thousand Sellerses bearing it, and the whole horde will come after us; but Eschol Sellers is a safe name. It is a rock.’ So we borrowed that name; and when the book had been out about a week one of the stateliest and handsomest and most aristocratic looking white men that ever lived called around, with the most formidable libel suit in
53his pocket that ever—well, in brief, we got his permission to suppress an edition of ten million (or thereabouts) copies of the book, and change that name to ‘Mulberry Sellers’ in future editions." Thus far, Mark Twain.
How I got into Trouble with the same Colonel Sellers.—Caseyville, on the lower Ohio, where, as related above, the "Superior" was wrecked is, or rather was, the home of my friend Mr. Sam Casey, a brother-in-law of General Grant. Just opposite and across the river from this Kentucky town, in the knobs of Hardin county, Illinois, is "Sellers' Landing." Here lives, or did live, when alive, Mr. Sellers, the Eschol Sellers of Mark Twain's book. He was, as described by Mr. Clemens, a very handsome man of aristocratic bearing and appearance, kind-hearted and very courteous. Sprung from a distinguished old Philadelphia family, he had been educated in mechanical engineering, and, as an inventor of a process of making paper from cane, had selected this locality for the erection of a hundred-thousand-dollar paper mill. When the government established a postoffice at his place, our line of boats served it regularly, and it was thus that I came to know the silver-haired, genial old gentleman, who was the embodiment of the milk of human kindness in its condensed form.
It was the comical sound only of the unusual front name of Mr. Sellers which attracted the authors; but had they known the peculiarities of the man as well as I knew them they would not have given up that name without a struggle. No better pattern for their hero
54could have been found anywhere. The one-hundred-thousand-dollar paper mill, with "millions in it," that he had erected, in which the cane from the near-by river bottoms was to be shot out of big guns to tear asunder its fiber, proved it. The mill, idle and abandoned, for many years stood on the hillside above the river, a monument to impracticability and failure.
Some years later, at the suggestion of my friend Gil Shanklin, the owner and editor of the Evansville Courier, I wrote up for his paper one day, in a rollicking editorial, the foregoing facts, and embellished the skit by referring to the passage in "The Gilded Age," in which Colonel Sellers tells his young friend Hawkins that he and the Rothschilds are going to buy up one hundred and thirteen wildcat banks in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri, and make forty millions by it; and also touched on the well-known eyewater scheme.
This editorial, with its thinly-veiled allusions, naturally gave offense to Mr. Sellers, who much disliked that kind of notoriety. When in time it leaked out from the sanctum of the paper that I had been the perpetrator, I also, like Clemens and Warner, was threatened with a lawsuit, which I am now satisfied I richly deserved. It was averted only by sand-papered apologies and friendly intercessions from others.
Postmaster's Daughter.—On the Illinois shore below Golconda there was in those days a postoffice and mail landing called Breckenridge. The little garden of the postmaster's family was full of flowers and the house bright with pictures. The people had come there from
55Cincinnati and had seen better days. When, now and then, I stepped ashore from my boat to give Molly, the postmaster's daughter, a late magazine or piece of new music, I never failed to receive a sweet smile from her large brown eyes shaded with long lashes, or a rose from the pretty garden. When, after a while, the mail schedules changed and the family left for other parts, I grieved. Since then "the mill has gone to decay, Ben Bolt," the postoffice long years ago was discontinued, but as the echo of sweet symphonies like a faint zephyr floats out from the lamp-lighted cottage, through the dusky shadows of the trees on a summer's night, so the vision of the maiden with the brown, liquid eyes on the banks of la belle riviere yet trips lightly through the halls of memory and resurrects in me blissful recollections of youth.
Cashier of a National Bank.—On returning from the south to Indiana I became cashier of the Merchants' National of Evansville, in which bank I was then a stockholder and director; and following the advice of my friend Heilman to get into manufacturing, I bought an interest in a woolen factory. This was between thirty and forty years ago. Then the little mill had one set of cards. In the course of the years it grew to many times its original dimensions, and, under good management, made money. Since then over-building, reverses and incompetent management wrecked the business; and as individual endorser on the paper, much of the indebtedness, amounting to a very large sum of money, fell to me, which, when paid, left me sore and disgruntled.
Nominated for the Legislature—My Victorious Opponent Ruined by Poker.—One summer, it was in the year 1870, I paid a visit to my friend Haines, who lived at that time on the Maine coast, but who since then has married an Italian lady and gone to live in her villa on Lake Como, Italy. It was while in Maine eating lobster and dancing attendance upon the fair sex that I was, without my knowledge or consent, nominated by a Vanderburgh county republican convention for member of the Indiana legislature. Afterward in the race, however, I was defeated at the polls by Welborn, my democratic opponent. Welborn, a man of good family and fine presence, was newly married to an estimable and cultured lady, a cousin of Secretary of State John Hay. On his advent at the state capital he fell headlong into a poker game, butted wildly against Capricornus, and straddled antes and opened jack-pots so recklessly that he was soon stripped of all he had. After the close of the session he left the state and never returned. Let us, however, not forget that "men differ so in their virtues, and are so alike in their transgressions," and not judge harshly.
"Citizens'" Fire Insurance Company.—Under one of the old Indiana charters a dozen of us Evansvillians now organized the Citizens' Fire and Marine Insurance Company. I was made treasurer, and when, several years afterward, we reinsured our risks and disbanded the company, I paid its stockholders four for one.
Evansville Land Association and President of Street Car Line.—After that, when the Evansville Land Association, the owner of much land and many lots, had constructed
57and opened for traffic the Evansville street railway, I bought a block of the land company's stock and became its secretary and treasurer, and later on president of the mule line. But when, in a couple of years, the demand for corner lots began to ebb and the mules became windbroken and wheezy, I embraced the first opportunity to dispose of my forty-thousand-dollar share in the company without loss, rang the bell and took a transfer. Business with the company afterward, when times grew dull, began to languish. The street cars made no money; the lands and lots did not sell; and in course of time the company's property was well-nigh consumed by taxes, assessments and interest on the investment.
Taxes and interest, the only real perpetuum mobile ever invented, are never at rest; and "like the little busy bees, improve each shining hour" incessantly. "All that glitters is not gold," and corner lots frequently are no better than Chicago options or Wall street stocks. "When offered to be let in on a deal at the ground floor, and in doubt," John Graham says, "take the elevator to the roof garden at once."
Ohio River Commission.—While yet on the river, Governor Conrad Baker appointed me member of an Ohio river commission, selected from the following seven states bordering on or near that river: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee. Ex-Governor Moorhead of Pennsylvania became its president, and General Laz Noble, myself and three other Hoosiers served for Indiana. After years of persistent lobbying with congress for
58appropriation of funds, and by harmonious cooperation with the United States Engineering Corps, we gradually succeeded in committing the general government to the present policy of progressive improvement of the Ohio and its navigation. Colonel Merrill, of the United States engineers, a man of ability and resource, then in charge of the river, initiated the Chanoine system of movable dams largely used in France, and built the first one of that class at Davis Island near Pittsburg.
I and my associates on this commission for a dozen years industriously preached the gospel of internal improvement, in river conventions from Pittsburg and Cincinnati to Cairo and Memphis, and traveled back and forth to and from Washington for the purpose of lobbying with congress and its committees. We gave time and spent our money on railroad fare and hotel bills, but we Indianians received not one cent in reimbursement for outlay nor compensation for work done. Indiana legislatures had no money to spend for the betterment of the extensive river coast of the state. Pennsylvania, Ohio and most of the other states made compensation, or restitution at least, to their representatives on the commission. Though poorer in purse, I have small regrets, and find much satisfaction in the consciousness of having lent a helpful hand in the effort to improve navigation on that great river upon whose bosom I spent so many years of my young life, hard at work and happy under the cheering smiles of Dame Prosperity.
A broken jaw, the result of a runaway, did not long
59keep me incapacitated and away from the realization of a long-cherished project.
St. George Hotel.—As the Spanish manana (to-morrow) never satisfied me for what could be done to-day, I again took up the subject of the erection of a hotel. The city of Evansville had long suffered from the want of adequate hotel accommodations, and stood in sore need of a hostelry with up-to-date comforts and appointments. Mr. Mackey, the man who later on became owner of many railroads, joined me in the enterprise; and when our citizens in a patriotic spirit had subscribed a bonus of between forty and fifty thousand dollars, we, commensurate with their liberality, enlarged our scheme from the original plan to an expenditure of a quarter of a million.
I Take Unto Myself a Wife.—The opening days of the year 1874 found the St. George Hotel, containing one hundred and twenty guest chambers, completed for the accommodation of the public. On New Year's day, simultaneously with the completion of this enterprise, and in fulfillment of the Scriptural injunction, I took unto myself "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer," a rib. And for the first time learned
Came from her closet in his side,
and began to appreciate Butler's lines,
Beyond the wild in hedgerows grows!
Though Paradise were e'er so fair
It was not kept so without care.
My wife and I were the first to occupy the big house, yet unfurnished. She, a tiny bird in a mighty cage, enjoyed the contrast greatly, and I, lord of the manor, felt important as "monarch of all I surveyed."
The usual opening festivities, with profuse decorations, music, feasting and flamboyant toasts, took place the following month, when a brilliant company of "gallant men and beautiful women" (as the country editor puts it), from Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and other neighboring states disported themselves within the walls of the new hostelry. The good cheer of the feast, where the rum in the punch was not aniline dye, and the gaiety of the night's fun was such that its flavor, like the aroma of a choice old vintage, lingered with our guests far beyond our portal.
A Murderous Cook.—The chef de cuisine, a handsome fellow, tall and stately, with the easy self-assurance of vaudeville actor, wore his "Hyperion curls," adorned by a cap of Persian lamb's wool, with much pretense. As Monsieur La Pierre, he claimed to hail from the Hotel Continental in Paris; but later on I proved him to be not a Parisian, but a Bulgarian with the cut-throat, piratical name of Dematrakopolos. He, nevertheless, like Vatel, the great Condé's cook, was a master of his art, and could, when occasion required, prepare and serve dishes ornamental and dainty to the queen's taste. But when after a time he learned that, in consequence of neglecting the daily menu, and getting sloppy over his maccaroni, he was about to lose the place, he, behind locked doors in the carving-room one day, while in a drunken rage, and kicking like a crazy
61kangaroo, came very near cutting my throat with a long and glittering carving-knife, and only the softest of fur-lined speech and the promise of a cool bottle released my ear from the stocks.
Bloody War between the Kitchen Crew and Dining-room Men.—It was not long after this that, with his successor, a German by the name of Jake Meyer, from Chicago, who claimed to be the original Delmonico himself, I fared worse. At one time when the house was full of guests and I was serving a swell banquet to a distinguished party, he stole my wine and floated his cookhouse crew and all the scullions of the kitchen in champagne. A lively ruction thereupon resulted between the drunken "Dutch" and the "nigger" dining-room battalion. The darkies were commanded by Mr. George Washington, an Ethiopian with lots of sand in his craw, whom I encouraged with the Latin slogan "Soc-et-tuum." In this scrimmage the Prussian forces came off with bloody noses and their tetes carrées sorely battered, while the guests of the house had to do without their Wiener Schnitzel and go to bed hungry that night.
I Sell My Interest in the Hotel.—I was now a married man and longed for that peaceful life which matrimony promises, when the baby hasn't the colic. I had chopped logic with the philosophers in the porticos of the baths (Hot Springs, Arkansas); had discussed bad eggs on the stump with politicians; had been in midnight rows with lunatics; fought "Riley the wrecker" and his crew of wild Irishmen on the banks of the Tennessee; been shot at by Confederates and guerillas
62and had run the gauntlet of mobs and mutineers. Then, when my partner, Mr. Mackey, at the end of six months, finding me tired of the business of hotel keeping and worn out, consented to buy my half interest in the hotel, which was now becoming profitable; and when Mr. Perry Huston assumed the management and direction of drunken and murderous cooks, I retired gleefully and with alacrity from the roasting-spit and the broiler, and, in embroidered slippers and satin-lined smoking jacket, took to reading "Huckleberry Fin" and the "Ingoldsby Legends."
During the succeeding two or three years, having now abandoned the roses and raptures of free and easy bachelordom and devoted myself to the lilies and languor of virtuous married bliss, as with us time ambled withal, and the lazy foot of time stole on apace, the birth of the first child opened up a fresh interest in life. I now began to give some of my time to the fireside and the barnyard, and as gradually the bank account had been sufficiently reinforced and parapeted to keep the wolf from the door, and the stork continued to busy himself, my head began to lay quite easy on its pillow of contentment.
Decline Offer of a Distillery.—Just antedating the prosecutions by the government of the nefarious Whisky Ring, which ruined a number of distillers and under President Grant cost many an employe and government official his freedom, I one day followed the tempter of avarice up into the mountain, to be shown the glittering promises of the whisky business. Fortunately, however, by bringing my helm hard
63a port and luffing the jib in time, I turned aside the offer of an interest in a distillery, and with Solomon determined, that "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." The friend from whom came the tempting offer was subsequently drawn into the destructive maelstrom and, after barely escaping state's prison, died a paralytic and in poverty.
Into and Out of a Grain Elevator—Successor Drops Hundred Thousand Dollars.—Having in fancied righteousness escaped from Scylla, I now, by blindly buying into a grain elevator, fell into danger of being swallowed by Charybdis. It was not, however, long before the disturbing conviction dawned upon me that Baker, the managing partner of the business, was a frenzied operator in options, who continually, in the Chicago grain pit, fought the tiger. The historic cow that started the Chicago fire which had burned up a consignment of oats I was carrying at the time, had cost me so much money that caution was thereafter constantly on the qui vive. So when, at a small concession, a victim was found willing to swallow the lobster alive without tying his claws, and release me from dreaded risk and complications in the elevator, I stepped out and retired from "the dead line." A big wheat deal subsequently cost my successor in the elevator business the snug sum of one hundred thousand dollars, and ere long he quit, "a shorn lamb," and it was thus that he "came by the loss" of his fortune, and I, like Foxy Quiller, having taken down my ante, escaped with but a small contribution to that plate
64which never ceases to pass. "Some must watch while some must sleep. Thus runs the world away."
City Treasurer of Evansville.—I now found spare time and inclination to make the race for city treasurer of Evansville, a place of moderate emolument and big bond, and was in the spring of 1876 elected for one year, but at the end of the term declined a renomination, and discouraged the proposition of some republican friends to put me up for mayor. The refusal on my part to run for mayor was sorely disappointing to my good mother, who remembered pleasantly, from her childhood days, a Lord Mayor's show in London, where she was born. She, motherlike, had in a dream one night long years ago seen "her eldest" wear the robes of a lord mayor, which vision she firmly believed would some day become a reality.
Receiver in Bankruptcy.—The year following, one of the wholesale dry goods houses of the city failed in business for a couple of hundred thousand. At the request of the banks interested I was appointed assignee by the court. The sale and distribution of the large stock of goods, the collection of outstandings, and the distribution of the proceeds among creditors consumed over a year and required my undivided attention during that time.
Nomination for Sheriff of Vanderburg County Forced Upon Me.—One day in the summer of seventy-eight as I was passing Lawyers' Row on Third street, Colonel Buchanan called me into an inner room of his office. Within I found in caucus assembled a number of representative republicans, who stunned me with
65the information that I had been selected to stand for sheriff of the county in the approaching autumn election. Vanderburg county was then very close. Both parties claimed it, and upon the careful selection of the candidates was to depend the outcome of a hard and laborious political fight. In spite of an ardent desire to escape I was thus once more at the bidding of the party to be harnessed to the galley of politics. Protestations on my part, that as hangman and lord high executioner I would be a dismal failure, did not serve as an excuse. Failing by this argument to win the gentlemen to my way of thinking I was reminded of the ruse of Madame de Maintenon's butler, who, when during dinner the meat ran short, whispered to the mistress of Louis XIV, "Give them another story." With this anecdote in my mind and hoping to create a favorable diversion, I told the caucus with appropriate frills how once upon a time my friend, the Honorable Edward G., had on the occasion of a visit to his children living in Arkansas, taken them, as contribution to a Thanksgiving dinner, a two-bushel basket full of fried oysters, and how this allopathic dose had made them all sick. Everybody present knew the Honorable Mr. G., and this anecdote created much merriment. "This nomination, gentlemen," I said, "is like my friend's mountain of fried oysters, cold, clammy and cadaverous, hard to swallow and difficult of assimilation. I have no liking for the mess, nor stomach for its digestion. Unhand me and let me go in peace." But the jury's eyes "were sot," the verdict rendered, and there was no getting away from the decision.
I found this race, much more than any former one, a bitterly contested fight and no comfortably padded Pullman sleeping-car job. Through the out townships, over rough and muddy roads, in buggy and on horseback, day and night, I beat the bush. And all the time there rang in my ears the professional office-seeker's chant:
And kisses the baby's dirty face,
He calls to the fence the farmer at work
And bores the merchant and bores the clerk.
The blacksmith while his anvil rings,
He greets. And this is the song he sings:
‘Howdy, howdy, howdy do?
How is your wife and how are you?
Ah! it fits my fist as no other can,
The horny hand of the workingman.’"
One day when riding along a country road looking for voters, I spied a dilapidated old Reuben plowing in a field. No sooner had I tied my horse than the intelligent agriculturist left his plow and came over to the fence. After shaking his gnarly claw in the hearty manner that candidates have, and asking after the health of the "old woman," I began my spiel. He listened patiently until I got through, and then with hums and haws, said:
"Wall, Cap, I'd like to vote for you; but the other fellow is sort o' kin to me, and I don't like to vote agin him."
Rather taken aback, I queried what relationship he claimed with my opponent, when he, with subdued pride, drawled out:
"Wall, I got an idee that he's the father of my oldest boy."
Speechmaking in the country, unless accompanied by kegs of beer, was not much attended and of little effect, and in town I discovered places where thirsty hordes of rolling-mill hands and bibulous swarms from nearby cooper shops, were, at the approach of the candidate, notified by the little push button of the electric call-bell from the ever alert saloon-keeper, to drink at the candidate's expense, and where the absent-minded barkeeper forgets to hand out the change for your ten-dollar bill.
Sheriff.—When elected and installed as executive officer of the courts I found it necessary that with my family I should live in the sheriff's official residence, under the same roof with criminals in the jail. Here our third child was born and, in commemoration of his birthplace, we called him "the jail bird."
As most of the lawyers at the bar of Vanderburg county were old friends, I had easy enough sailing, and it was not long before I was on comfortable terms with the judges of both courts. Good fellowship generally prevailed, and when the proceedings were of more than ordinary interest or consequence the sheriff was admitted as a participant.
Obituary Resolutions.—Luke R., a short skate lawyer, was noted less for cases in the Vanderburg county courts than for his devotion to the classic game of poker. Usually "busted," he, like Jack Chinn, was always ready to give his note, and like him would say the next morning, "Lost a couple of hundred last night,
68but thank fortune there wasn't more than a dollar and a half of it in cash!"
A good-natured soul was Luke, lanky and inoffensive; and when he died, Mose, who washes buggies at Ford's livery stable on Third street, said there could be "nothin' more patheticer than to think of lanky Luke among the angels in his stove-pipe hat and long, limp linen duster."
Now lawyers never fail to resolute when one of their number dies. So on the day following this, their brother's demise, Dan Kumler, who, at the little saloon around the corner, had fortified against grief, presided in the court room over the meeting of sorrowing barristers.
Clay Wilkensen, a burly strawberry blond, had prepared the resolutions, and when he introduced them he said:
"I do not, if your honor please, propose an eulogistic obituary nor a biographical panegyric. It has been my aim simply to commemorate our departed brother's worth and virtues. Never known to fail a friend, he was always ready to take just one more—J. W. M., as he so tersely, and yet so eloquently, used to express it."
Just then Colonel Cy Drew, an insurance agent, who, from the little saloon around the corner, had slipped into the meeting, arose in his place on an unsteady pair of hind legs, and asked to be allowed to mingle his tears with those of the sorrowing members at the bar.
Riled at the unwarranted intrusion of an unprofessional,
69the chair, in milk-souring tones of thunder, demanded:
"What interest, sir, have you in our defunct brother?"
"Five thousand on his life, your honor," replied the colonel.
"Have you brought the money with you?" queried the chair.
"No, your honor; but I have brought my tears to mingle with the salty brine of your grief," drawled the abashed interloper.
"Then dry your tears and shut up, you sniveling hypocrite. The court orders you into the custody of the sheriff for contempt!" roared Dan.
And when the solemnities came to an end, after unanimous adoption of Clay's resolutions, the chair ordered me, the sheriff, with the prisoner in charge, to lead the way to the little place around the corner, where, at the expense of the colonel, we drank our departed friend out of purgatory and into paradise.
Mob Wanted to Hang a "Nigger."—Near the close of the two years' term it so happened that I should add to my many other experiences a quite serious tussle with a mob bent upon hanging a "nigger" who, one night at two o'clock, was delivered into my custody by the city police. The particulars of the affair I have given in another paper, and described how, before day, I removed my family uptown to safe quarters, how I swore in a posse comitatus and armed them from a nearby gun store, and how, to escape the necessity of shedding blood, I afterwards spirited the culprit out of the county, and thereby ended peaceably what in the
70outset had threatened to become a bloody and disastrous riot.
Once, a great many years ago, I witnessed a judicial hanging. I have ever since avoided matinees of this sort. I desire no more such spectacles and am to this day thankful that taking life did not fall to my share while sheriff of Vanderburg county.
A Railroad Wreck.—This experience was no more attractive than another, one night during the war, when I had the misfortune to be in a wreck on the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, where we survivors picked up arms and legs in our pocket handkerchiefs. James B. Elmore, the bard (unknown) of Alamo, has, in his handmade poem, "The Monon Wreck," given to an admiring public a well-seasoned picture of the horrors of such a catastrophe. With breathless interest shiveringly we read
Their hearts have ceased to ebb and flow;
Quite as cold as a frozen chunk,
With a lady's heart upon a stump.
A man that's pinioned down by the knee,
And hear him calmly for to say:
"Cut, oh, cut my leg away!"
Member of Police Commission.—Under the metropolitan police law, enacted in 1883, by appointment of Governor Gray, I now became for three years the minority member on the metropolitan police board of the city of Evansville, and was reappointed in eighty-six
71for three years more. The statute provided for bipartisan division of the force, and by firmly planting myself on the provisions of the law I successfully, but not without some wrangle, managed to get and maintain an equal division politically on the force as the law contemplated.
Blame Campaign.—When in the autumn of 1884 James G. Blaine, "the plumed knight" of the republican party, made his memorable swing around the circle, he was chaperoned through Indiana by my friend Williams of Lafayette, On its arrival, Evansville had given the party, which consisted of Mr. Blaine, his son Walker, William McKinley, General Harrison, Fred Douglas, Bob Pierce, Will Cumback, John M. Butler, and its genial leader George B. Williams, together with other notabilities of the party, a magnificent reception, and enlivened it at night after a dinner at my residence with a great torchlight procession.
The next morning a special train with this party on board left for the north, and I, by invitation, joined it to enjoy for a day the companionship and interesting converse of men, two of whom subsequently became presidents of the United States, a distinction which the third one, namely the great commoner Blaine, failed to achieve by a few hundred votes only.
Fred Douglas, the well-known colored man, was on this occasion an object of especial interest to me. I have not forgotten how, when told that his appearance denoted him a well contented and thoroughly happy man, the weatherbeaten features of that intellectual countenance lighted up as by a ray of sunshine from
72within, and he said to Mr. McKinley and myself, "I am thoroughly happy and more than content with my lot in life. Did not the people of this enlightened nation unbind my shackles and make me a man? My condition as a slave was such that neither soul nor body were my own, but absolutely belonged to another. I could set children into the world and rear them only to make slaves of them like myself. I should be an ingrate to my Maker if I were not both thankful and happy, and did not, by my appearance and behavior, proclaim it to all the world."
During the day's progress north through Vincennes, Terre Haute and other towns on the way, addresses were delivered to large and enthusiastic assemblies by Mr. Blaine and other statesmen on board. At nightfall we arrived at Lafayette, and some of our party, by invitation, repaired to the Williams home, where a warm and hearty reception to a hospitable board awaited us at the hands of the cultured wife of our leader. Being a disciple of the French epicure Brilliat Savarin, my friend Williams knew, as did Alexandre Dumas aine and the late Sam Ward, how to compose a dinner of good things, seductively dainty as well as substantially comforting. At her dinner table, tastily decorated with the national colors and rare flowers from the conservatory, Mrs. Williams presided with the grace which is her own, and ably participated in the animated converse, humorous sallies and ready repartee of her distinguished guests. The wine from France, of a mellow old vintage, helped to raise the fagged cockles of our hearts, while the gravy with the
73roast was much like the famous sauce which La Costa offered to Sir Thomas Dundas at the Duke of York's table while he whispered to him with unctious fervor:
"Avec cette sauce-lÅ, on pourrait manger son grandpÄre."
The next morning Mr. Blaine, much against his inclination, was bowled off to Chicago by Uncle Joe Cannon and a delegation of Illinois politicians, while General Harrison, Mr. McKinley and we other guests of the Williams' returned to our homes.
Nomination for Treasurer of State.—It then came to pass that in the summer of eighty-six the republican state convention at Indianapolis honored me by putting my name on the ticket for treasurer of state. One sunny afternoon, while lounging in front of the St. George Hotel, my friend Tom Byrnes, returning from Indianapolis, where he had just received the democratic nomination for state treasurer, suggested that I make an attempt to be equally honored by the republicans who were to convene in Indianapolis shortly thereafter.
Politics by this time had begun to pall upon me, but with a prospect of my name on the state ticket, vanity speedily overcame all apathy and determined me to adopt friend Tom's suggestion. When I announced my name there was less than two weeks' time to the day of the convention, but it proved ample to secure for me the nomination on the third ballot and the defeat of my two competitors, who, as candidates, had canvassed the state the whole summer long. An editorial in one of the republican dailies said: "A
74few days before the nominating convention, with the aid of some of his friends, Captain Lemcke commenced a campaign for the nomination such as has never yet been excelled for energy and celerity. It was accomplished in an incredibly short time."
My reputation as a business man and having had experience in banking, together with geographical considerations, combined to smooth and clear the way in the contest. When the pack of my Evansville partizans, enthusiastically led by "Sawney" MacPherson, a Scot "wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled," under the chief command of that forceful and diplomatic friend General George B. Williams of Lafayette, took the trail, the chase was a short one, and the game easily captured.
The ready victory stunned me, and made my speech of acceptance sound as idiotic as the libretto of a comic opera. Nevertheless this failure at oratory detracted nothing from the good feeling which prevailed toward the winner, and it stimulated genuine hilarity among the crowd of Hoosier statesmen and made me friends.
The election for state officers in 1886 went republican by less than three thousand majority, but as a miss is as good as a mile, we got there just the same. The newly completed statehouse was in the following spring taken possession of by the new administrative officers under a democratic governor, whose term of office continued for two more years.
I moved my family from Evansville to Indianapolis, and the deserted old homestead, formerly the home of Governor Conrad Baker, with its shady maples and
75stately elms, was abandoned, but not without a twinge of mournful regret.
Legislature Fails to Make Appropriation.—When the democrats and republicans composing the legislature of 1887 locked horns over the disputed lieutenant governorship and failed to make appropriations to carry on the financial concerns and public business of the state, I found myself as treasurer in an anomalously embarrassing position. Fortunately the revenues, inadequate as they were, continued to flow with wonted regularity treasuryward. The trouble came with the question of how, without specific authority from appropriation bills, the money should be disbursed. The judiciary had to be supported; the insane, the deaf and dumb, the blind, and other beneficiaries of the benevolent institutions, could not be turned out-of-doors and abandoned to their fate; the criminals in the prisons should not be set free; the interest on the public debt had to be met; and all other departments of the state government must be kept running and effective. But the legislature failed absolutely to authorize expenditures for any of these purposes.
The finance board, of which the treasurer is exofficio a member, then determined, in the absence of specific legislative provisions, to apply to the situation continuing appropriation laws embodied in the statutes. And where the statutes failed and necessity demanded, I personally assumed the risk, drew for needful disbursements, without sanction of law, upon the general fund, and trusted to future legislation to legalize such
76action; all of which was promptly done by the succeeding general assembly of 1889.
The State a Borrower.—All this time the state treasury was chronically short, and the days of my first term were debt-making days. But with an unimpaired credit of the state in Wall street and amongst the savings banks of New York and Brooklyn, I seldom failed to borrow all the money needed at three, and at no time did I pay more than three and a half per cent interest. Under this condition of the money market it was determined, as previously authorized by a former legislature, to refund the school loan of the state then bearing six per cent, reduce the interest to three, and distribute the three million nine hundred thousand dollars among the ninety-two counties in severally. After thoroughly, and in person, canvassing all the savings institutions and some of the banks and trust companies of New York and Brooklyn, while making headquarters at the banking house of Winslow, Lanier and Company, I had no difficulty in promptly placing the whole three per cent loan at par, and additionally turn into the state treasury a premium amounting in the aggregate to eighty thousand dollars.
Did Not Want a Second Term.—Although I had in the summer of eighty-eight made public declaration in a republican newspaper that I would not be a candidate that year for reflection, the nomination was again given me, and was followed that autumn by reflection of the entire republican ticket. The same election made my friend General Hovey governor of the state, and now when the administration had become republican
77and the legislature remained democratic, it was to be expected that friction frequently should occur between the lawmakers and the executive of the state.
Investigation of the State Treasury.—An investigation of the treasury by a committee of the general assembly (partizan and hostile) then followed, of course. When it was found that my books and accounts were in proper order and condition, and that all the funds as prescribed by law lay snugly stacked up in the vaults of the treasury, the committee grudgingly had to report in accordance with the facts; but in the language of an old English rhyme it can safely be assumed, that
Is of his own opinion still.
Decline Appointment to the United States Treasuryship.—The month following the end of the second term my successor in office asked me to lend a helping hand in the work of negotiating a loan to pay interest on the state debt. While in New York on this errand President Harrison sent for me. Together with Colonel Ransdell, the then Marshal of the District of Columbia, who had brought the summons, and in company with ex-Governor Charley Foster of Ohio, who was on his way to enter on the vacant secretaryship of the treasury, I journeyed to Washington, lamed as I was by gout and on crutches. I here received at the hands of the President an offer of appointment to the vacant post of United States treasurer. Unsolicited and entirely unexpected as this nattering proposition
78came, I was, in my then uncertain state of health, compelled to ask for time to consider.
The prospect of life in the beautiful capital of the nation; to be persona grata at court; chief of a great bureau, and custodian of hundreds of millions of the country's treasure, were the alluring visions with which my friend the President had surprised and dazzled my mental optics. The thought of turning my back under such nattering conditions upon a distinction coveted by men of ability and reputation far beyond my worth and deserts, was a sore perplexity and disappointment; but my state of health demanded that I should decline. So, after a week's deliberation, I returned to Washington to thank the President for the honor of having been selected out of a population of seventy-five millions as custodian of the nation's treasure, and regretfully tendered him my "Non possumus."
The newspapers of the day, as was to be expected, poked some good-natured fun at me; Frank Leslie, among others, published my picture with the humorously satirical remark: "This is the portrait of a man who refused office, and he from Indiana." Our state at that time, was, at the hands of the Harrison administration, the recipient of a liberal share of political plums, not one of which up to then had been declined.
A voyage over seas, much needed for the restoration of my health, had for some time been planned by the family and found its realization soon thereafter.
Review.—When I look back over the intermittent phases of my political career, I am at a loss to account for the many winnings which have fallen to my lot. I
79was seldom eager enough to systematically set up the situation; never dealt in "Blocks of Five;" nor was I ever, in order to gain popularity, "a joiner," not even of a church choir or confraternity of any sort. While always an active republican, I endeavored to give offense on unreasonable partizan lines to no one, and avoided wherever practicable, political quarrels. Free of speech, but always courteous to high and low alike, I scarcely ever failed for friendly greetings offered to receive fair consideration in return; nor did I often allow differences growing out of politics to stand in the way of good fellowship, and as a result was happy in the enjoyment of warm personal friendships in both political camps.
"Be sure you are right and then go ahead," is a safe and commendable rule which I have seldom neglected to follow. An Italian proverb says
Qui va sano va lontano.
and knowing full well that "ignorance and carelessness are two pillows of ease" which lull the self-indulgent into false security, I never failed to keep watchfully on the alert, and thus, in the many trusts imposed, both public and private, usually acquitted myself to the satisfaction of constituents and supporters. In this way I safeguarded my credit, and was able at all times to command from friends the ready financial aid so helpful to success in business and their willing endorsement on official and other bonds, which frequently amounted to large sums.
The perpetrating of this sketch, which has helped to while away a few leisure hours, has given me more pleasure than I matter myself its perusal will afford the friendly reader. It has been a practicing exercise for my prancing Pegasus, and reminds me of the story where the boy is engaged in the training of the bull-pup on his father. When the old man gets his nose between the pup's teeth, the boy cries, "Hold still, dad, it's the making of the pup." Like the boy, I, too, am doing some training. My Pegasus, lame as he is, has fallen upon you, and I also shout, "Hold still and endure, patient reader!"
The writer, never idle, always active, in an ambitious chase after the attainable, has climbed many steep and rocky cliffs, to be frequently thrown back in disappointment. Life with him, however, both processional and recessional, has in the main been a bright and happy one. In early youth my tastes were literary and artistic, and the embers of these tendencies still glow with undiminished warmth, but as adverse conditions were stronger than the inclinations the necessity of bread winning made me a Jack of many trades.
Dame Fortune would often compel me "to go way back and sit down," but could not prevent my "bobbing up serenely" in some other service or occupation. Railroading, flatboating, steamboating, merchandizing, farming, public warehousing, the timber trade, manufacturing, banking, insurance, hotel keeping, running a country store, politics, and war were all, with varying success, essayed in their time. School-teaching and preaching are about the only callings that I have never
81worked at; and the roster of my activities here shows a gap which it is now too late to fill. Had a collegiate education been mine, I might at one time, in Gibson county, have secured a three months country school with the munificent pay of forty dollars for the term, with hog and hominy among the scholars thrown in.
During the early days, though the wheels of progress were often reversed, the motor of energy with me rarely stood still; I never ate my breakfast in bed, nor did I at any time have to go gunning for work.
I may be permitted to point with pride to the fact that I never failed to pay one hundred cents on the dollar in spite of numerous setbacks, some of which might possibly have been avoided if, like the fellow who had concocted a new cough medicine, I had "tried it on the hired girl first;" or if I had been as hard to deceive as the shrewd Arab, who was captured by the British in the Soudan. An English officer with a glass eye, desiring to disabuse the mind of this superstitious native prisoner and destroy his blind faith in the fake miracle-performing Mahdi, one day took from its socket his glass eye, flipped it high in the air, caught it as it came down, and putting it back in its place asked, "Can your Mahdi do that?" For a space the man preserved his stolidly unimpassioned manner, then, without changing a feature, quietly said, "Now the other."
Confiding friends, who underwrote my paper in bank or went on official bonds for me, always came off whole; and a suit at law was never brought against me except when in Kentucky during the war I was
82made to pay for two slaves which one of my steamboats had on a stormy night carried oft from Union-town.
In jotting down these varied experiences I don't mean to strain modesty, nor do I ask the orchestra to play slow music as I rehearse. Simplicity and truth have been my aim throughout, and whenever I have "plowed with borrowed ox" it has been simply to better illustrate a point.
To light a taper at a neighbor's fire.
I am aware that "a rolling stone gathers no moss." It should, however, not be overlooked that varied employment aids versatility. Professor Mommsen, the eminent historian, says: "Every man must specialize, but must not imprison himself within the narrow confines of his specialty. It is variety of interests alone that can keep the mind well balanced, the judgment sane, the viewpoint liberal, and the heart still young."
My Sassafras Log.—Educational preparation for life's struggle fell to my lot only when a child. At twelve, when attending the Lutheran parish school of St. Catherine in Hamburg, my birthplace, I carried off a silver medal for studiousness and diligence. An ever lively thirst for knowledge out of books and enlightenment from literature could thenceforth only be gratified during leisure moments when sitting astraddle of my sassafras log behind the barn on the Posey county farm of my uncle, or while burning the mid-night
83oil on winter nights. I can, with Buerger's charcoal burner, nevertheless say:
So weiss ich den Hund doch vom Ofen zu locken.
Theology and Physics.—Immanuel Kant says, "Metaphysics is a systematic exposition of those notions and truths, the knowledge of which is altogether independent of experience." Metaphysical speculations have with me lost their wonted interest. I never could distinguish the Athanasian creed of Nicaea from the Arian "heresy," and shall ever be unable to sort up the Homoiousian from the Homoousian doctrine. Forms, creeds and dogma in theology, to me, have always been phantoms, elusive and without substance. I confess to be destitute of the sixth sense, which Father Tom designates as "the sense of the church."
The capsule containing the story of the creation, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, and all the innumerable miracles, so eagerly swallowed by the faithful, will not go down with me; I prefer the conclusions evolved from the study of nature's secrets by scientific methods, to the dicta of religious soothsayers and dogmatic ex-pounders of the unknown and the unknowable.
Notwithstanding the destructive wars and murderous persecutions instigated by faith-blinded priests and fanatical theologians over forms, creed and dogma, which in Christian Europe alone, according to Voltaire, sacrificed nine and a half million lives, I
84do not dispute that every one has an undeniable right of way on the road to heaven, and cheerfully grant that his right to comforting faith in misty miracles and prayer-invoked special providences is unassailable. But for this faith the lives of the masses, the poor and the afflicted, would be cheerless, gloomy and without promise.
The devil in theology has my greatest admiration; without the threat of eternal punishment the control of destructive tendencies in the masses would be impossible, and it is only when the aid of his Satanic Majesty is invoked by the clergy that pandemonium on earth can be averted.
Endowed by nature with a lively temperament, I was never so wild that I did not know "a hawk from a handsaw." While seldom running away from fun or frolic, I could not often find time to attend conventions at the town pump, nor did I ever play tin soldier on the governor's staff and wear "gold lace and trimmin's." Never as a Sublime Prince or Grand Gyascutus did I climb to castle halls, wigwams or eyries, or allow myself to be put into a coffin, sit on an iron-bottomed chair with a blazing lamp underneath, or was blindfolded and branded with a chunk of ice.
I must not, however, deny that once upon a time I held membership in the "Baldheaded" or "Gum Arabic" club, and for two weeks was its honored president. Without constitution, by-laws, rules or regulations, this really was not a club, but an aggregation only of jolly spirits, gentlemen with tuneful voices and a love for fun.
The Baldheaded Club.—Soon after removal from Evansville to Indianapolis, and before I knew much of the capital city and many of the philosophers in the porticos of her baths, Dan Ransdell, now sergeant-at-arms of the United States Senate, one evening captured and conducted me to Postmaster Ed Thompson's residence on Central avenue, where, hobbled and handcuffed, paregorically speaking, I fell into the arms of eighteen or twenty of the clubbists who in the dark sat silently around the walls of the drawing-room.
The unceremonious ceremonies of initiation were soon ended, after which a small cocktail flavored with pennyroyal (to fool Carrie Nation) was passed around. Now, at a sudden burst of light from the chandeliers, the mystic forms in the rooms became visible, and at the same time the silvery tenor of Doctor Woodward rang out in the romantic ditty:
Where my true lover sets him down,
And drinks his wine with laughter free;
And never, never thinks of me,—etc.
And when the rank and file lustily joined in the chorus, the house became filled with tuneful song, harmoniously modulated and finely tempered.
Clarion-voiced William Tarkington, the Brignoli of the club, then followed with the well-known Italian epic, "A little peach in the orchard grew," which tells of the sad fate of Johnny Jones and his sister Sue.
Then came from other throats such songs as Tom Moore's
How calm could I rest,
And a bright gold ring on her wand she bore,
And so, with more songs, time ambled pleasantly along until in the dining-room a "Dutch lunch" claimed our attention. After that Captain Harry New, the chairman of the Republican national committee at Washington, trotted out an Irish intermezzo, which was redolent with Hibernian wit and green as the shamrock itself.
Old Burgess Brown, now fairly "warm under the collar," in his deepest basso profundo, then intoned "Columbia," and when he had recovered his wind, recited in the vernacular ‘"Squire Hawkins’ Story," which is James Whitcomb Riley's best Hoosier piece in rhyme.
The Squire's account of the scene where the old farmer, all wet and dripping, appears among the expectant wedding guests, from an unsuccessful chase in the rain after his daughter, who has run away with her sweetheart John, "the hired man," to escape marrying her father's choice, "the old man, with a farm or two, and a few gray hairs," caused great merriment, and when Patience and John suddenly come from the kitchen, where clandestinely they have been married by the aforesaid Squire, who is their friend,
87and the same Squire describes the avaricious, disgruntled and sloppy old father as "the wettest man you ever saw to have so dry a son-in-law!" the hilarity among us knew no bounds.
Later in the evening Comrade Harry Adams, the raconteur of humorous stories and witty comedian, aided by Professor David Wallace and Deacon Butler, regaled us with a laughable scene from the Greek drama of Villikins and his Dinah, while Slawson, on a pair of tall hind legs, furnished aerial soda water, which he drew fizzing from an imaginary fountain. And so, with good fellowship and the muses, time went on apace.
At midnight the one-armed veteran, Col. Dan Ransdell, announced that the time for the annual election of a president had now arrived, and thereupon, after everybody was seated and the lights turned low, the club went into an election. When, amidst a fathomless hush, two or three nominations had been announced, there came from out of the gloom a bald-headed voice, which nominated Captain Lemcke, the hardy navigator from the banks of the Wabash. Surprised and stunned, I, with promptness but modestly, declined the honor. This was responded to by a chorus of voices with a thundering Indeed! Thereupon opposition to the nomination became audible. A first voice objected because Lemcke was a dude who wore red socks, sported a goatee and didn't pay his washerwoman! A second one said that he had been known to rake down jack-pots with a four-card flush, and that his name was not Lemcke, but Holmes, whose picture is
88in the rogues' gallery; while still another one asserted that the nominee had too long followed the plow, when he should, like other horned cattle, have been in the front of it.
When at last the debate came to a close I was lying stunned under my chair on the floor, in a comatose condition, from which a great noise aroused me with the boisterous acclaim that the Honorable Mr. Lemcke, the noblest Roman of them all, an incomparable statesman from the forks of Big creek in Posey county, had been elected to the presidency of the club by a unanimous vote.
After I had been properly rubbed down, drenched and blanketed, and my right arm had been jerked out of place and in again by congratulatory handshakes, the retiring president announced that the new presiding officer of the club, the Honorable J. Augustus Lemcke, would, in two weeks from the day of his election, namely, on the evening of the twenty-fourth of the current month (at early candle-light), tender his brethren of the club and their friends, at his residence on North Pennsylvania street, a jamboree with Dutch-lunch attachment; and that then and there another annual election for president of the club would take place.
Then, and not until then, did there flare up within my dull brain a great big flashlight, by the glare of which I discovered that "there was method in their madness."
The foregoing recital may serve as descriptive of many subsequent reunions held by this bunch of jolly
89good fellows. They were always in demand at banquets, meetings of the Loyal League, inaugurations, installations and other festivities, public and private.
When Professor Bruno Schmitz, of Berlin, Germany, who designed and constructed the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in the circle at Indianapolis (the noblest work of art in the United States), was my guest, the club one night was bidden to General Kneffler's residence. With new songs added and fresh stories on tap, the evening bloomed out into one of special brilliance. Professor Bruno Schmitz, whom I had taken with me, entered heartily into the fun, and when in the course of the evening he was called upon for a speech he responded readily in German, his humorous remarks were full of good hits and very bright, but as not one in ten of the club members nor many of the visiting company understood the language, I was pressed for a translation; but as a verbatim rendition from one language into another on such an occasion is a job of no little difficulty, I, in a spirit of deviltry, substituted all kinds of incongruities, humorous quirks and fanciful soarings for the polished words of the genial professor, and brought down the house with boisterous hilarity, but earned great applause for my friend, the great monument builder of Germany.
In my former home on the banks of the Ohio I frequently acted as secretary, and now and then presided over meetings where matters concerning public interest were discussed and resoluted upon. In my "song and dance" clothes, on social occasions, I was
90looked to as a handy man, who could arrange a banquet or engineer a hop, where over-ripe maiden ladies were not entirely ignored, and where "wall-flowers," through polite attention, became participants in the fun; and of late years I have come in demand as pallbearer and advisory councilor to the funeral director.
One of these funeral directors, a popular undertaker,—"I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy,"—while shooting embalming fluid into the corpse, used to whistle to himself tunes like "Come, rise up, William Riley, and go along with me," and other irrelevant airs. Once upon a time he was toying with a bald-headed "stiff," whose inanimate cocoanut was so round and smooth that no bump could be found upon which to anchor the accustomed wig. In spite of all he could do the wig would slide to one side and give the dead man an air of being drunk and disorderly. When the undertaker appealed to the bereaved widow she recommended mucilage, and he adopted the suggestion. On returning from the drug store with the mucilage, he reentered the death chamber and spent another half-hour trying to make the wig stick. At last, on coming out very much exhausted, he replied to the widow's anxious inquiry as to his success, "Holy Moses! Couldn't do a thing with the stickin' stuff." Then throwing out his chest until the rhinestone pin on his shirt bosom fairly sparkled, and smiling a radiant smile of victory, he whispered, "But I found a tack."
The only excuse I can make for interlarding the foregoing story is that it points a very valuable moral,
91which on more than one occasion has helped me out of difficulties as no other ever has—"Where there's a will there's a way." Catherine the Second, the Semi-ramis of the north, proved it with satisfaction to herself, more than once.
Nothing can improve her
But to see the Tuileries
And waddle through the Louvre.
Europe.—A visit to Europe is the "ultima thule" of most Americans. Soon after declining office in Washington I sailed with wife and four children from New York, and, when we had landed on the other side, proceeded directly to Wiesbaden, where, at the celebrated waters of its hot springs, I sought relief from rheumatic gout, which had kept me crippled and on, crutches for a considerable time. Here we became stationary until the following spring. That part of the summer not consumed by "the cure" was devoted to travel in the Swiss mountains and the south of Germany. A visit to the imperial city of Berlin was also indulged in, where we were entertained by my genial friend, Professor Bruno Schmitz, widely known as the monument builder par excellence of Germany.
Citizens of Wiesbaden.—The season's gaiety and entertainments soon brought us into social contact with some of the citizens and their families residing in the attractive city of Wiesbaden, and established pleasant relations and friendships which last to this
92day. The winter following, when not on the shores of the Mediterranean or in Spain, we lived in the city of Paris; and the third and last season of our wanderings, when not in Rome, Florence or Naples, our sojourn was made in the atmosphere of cultured Geneva, the intellectual capital of French Switzerland. The children during our stay abroad in Bonn, Wiesbaden and Geneva, attended school, and in addition, under good masters, studied music and the languages.
Traveling and Sightseeing.—The protracted stay abroad permitted us to see many countries and the cities therein. Sightseeing became a regular occupation. Attractive landscapes and beautiful views of nature gave the greatest pleasure. While we delighted in clambering up mountains and elevations, we never tired of visiting palaces, parks, monuments and public buildings; and, last but not least, picture galleries were haunted until we got on familiar terms with all the saints in the calendar, and many a Madonna as well. To do all this, beside a trip to northern Africa, western and middle Europe was traversed from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, and from the Bay of Biscay to the Adriatic; through Spain, France, Savoy, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark and many of the thirty and odd kingdoms, principalities and duchies of Germany. At the wind-up we crossed the Channel into the countries of Milton and Burns, and paid homage at the tomb of Shakespeare. Then, when after another return to the boiling waters of Wiesbaden, the squeaking in my joints had been subdued, we returned
93in the autumn of '94 to our home in the United States.
To the tourist who is blessed with ball-bearing joints, an active liver and buoyant spirits, nature on every hand offers inexhaustible sources of pleasure. The brook, as it babbles over pebbly shoals between the mossy banks of its cradle, pictures happy and careless childhood.
The rush of the heroic waterfall, leaping boldly from ledge to ledge, with its ascending spray and mist pierced by rays of the sun into bewildering brilliancy, is the sparkling poetry of nature.
Ripening grain in the field, fringed with the bright red of the poppy, as it sways and waves under the south breeze, is a visional symphony, and the purple hue of the distant hills make it a pastoral poem sweet and soothing.
The giants of the forests pointing impressively to heaven inspire the soul with reverence, while the unbounded expanse of the ocean leaves upon the beholder a sense of awe at the limitless majesty of nature.
Above all other glories of this earth, the sights from mountain tops cause in the human breast exhilarating emotions of exquisite pleasure. The Rockies, the Alps, the Apenines and other elevations on the broken and upheaved crust of our globe liberally reward the climbing and clambering traveler with panoramas which elevate him above the common concerns of life, and soaring on the wings of fancy into the infinite we forget that there is human vermin creeping in cracks and
94crevices on the lower levels. On crossing the Apenines long years ago from Florence and Pistoja to Bologna, I had on high mountain altitudes my first delights. Switzerland, on subsequent visits to Europe, offered among its wilderness of grand peaks, on visits to elevated points, rare opportunities for soul-stirring and entrancing sights of beautiful nature. Vividly do I remember a climbing from where the Viege, a wild mountain stream, falls into the river Rhone, when our way lay along the narrow margin of that roistering and foaming little rill up to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. The ascent through such a canon or crack in and among lofty mountains proves intensely interesting; it offers to the sentimental tourist pleasures of no common description and fills his bosom with emotions of wonder and admiration, and as he scales a point here in quest of the elusive Edelweiss, clambers up a crag there after a bunch of the luscious Alpenrose, or timidly peers into caves and fissures for dear little goblins and brownies, fatigue is overcome by enjoyment which never slacks.
Professor von Bodenstedt.—Professor von Bodenstedt, a man of great renown, during our stay in Wiesbaden endeared himself to us by many acts of kindness. As poet and philologist he ranked with the most brilliant and intellectual men of Germany, and the renown of his name extends far beyond the confines of his own country. When a young man he lived in what is now southern Russia, where, in the city of Tiflis, he wrote, under the nom de plume of "Mirza Shaffy," poems and aphorisms of wisdom, which for
95poetic fervor rank with the best of Persian and other Oriental writings; translated into numerous languages, they are read and highly prized in many lands.
Bodenstedt Creates a Language.—During his lengthy stay among the Caucasian tribes, with the use of the Persian characters and alphabet, he constructed and gave the Georgians a written language—a blessing which, up to that time, neither they nor their neighbors the Circassians had possessed. A great linguist, he knew half a score of languages, both Oriental and Occidental. His mastery, and the versatile handling of English, enabled him to make a translation into German, highly poetic, of Shakespeare's poems.
Bodenstedt Discovers a Literary Gold Brick.—While at work among the Egyptian mummies and Assyrian monuments in the British Museum in London, and at a time when engaged in the study of the Elizabethan era, Bodenstedt uncovered an ingeniously contrived literary fraud, perpetrated some years previously by an adroit swindler of literary reputation on the Duke of Devonshire. The credulous Duke, a recluse who disdained the counsel and advice of others, had been imposed upon by this conscienceless impostor named Collier. He had paid fifty thousand pounds sterling for imitation and counterfeit manuscripts, documents and signatures of and about Queen Elizabeth, Bacon, Shakespeare and contemporaries. This startling discovery by a foreign savant at the time stirred up the literary world of Great Britain greatly and gave Bodenstedt much renown in England.
As royal councilor at the court of Bavaria under
96Maximilian II, and later on as intendant of the Grand Ducal Theater at Weimar, this eminent man's capabilities were appropriately honored.
Of commanding presence, kind and gentle disposition, he attracted to himself, not only the mature, but the young as well. Our children, on his frequent visits, always greeted him with joy. Kate, the eldest, after reciting from Whitcomb Riley and Bret Harte, was usually rewarded by him with recitations, rendered in purest English and with dramatic fervor, from Byron, Shakespeare and Tom Moore.
Mohammedan Morals.—As characteristic of Mohammedan customs and morals, Bodenstedt, one day in his study, related to Lord Campbell and myself the following character picture of Asiatic customs. He said that after taking leave of his friend Schamyl, the then heroic leader of the mountain tribes of the Caucasus against the Russians, accompanied by a servant, he traveled on horseback to the shores of the Black Sea, where he intended to take ship for Constantinople. The Musselman, a well-to-do landed proprietor, who, while they waited for the boat, gave them shelter, took a fancy to Bodenstedt's two Arabian steeds and proposed to take them off his hands. As the man, however, was short of cash, he offered in exchange his two young daughters. The girls were respectively eighteen and twenty, and both good looking. On declining to make this kind of a "swap," my friend had to explain that he was only a "dog of a Christian;" did not maintain a harem, and would not know what to do with the fair charmers. Hereupon Fatima and her sister begged
97and implored to be taken to Constantinople, where the father gave assurance that they would bring the top of the market. As Bodenstedt, however, was not inclined to become a slave trader, nothing, to the great chagrin of the father and daughters, came of the negotiations.
Monument to Bodenstedt.—When Professor Bodenstedt died we buried him near where lies Franz Abt, the composer of "When the Swallows Homeward Fly;" and a few friends, including myself, erected to his memory, in the leafy Kurpark at Wiesbaden, a monument supporting his portrait bust in bronze.
There hangs in my library at home a large photograph of him under which, in the last year of his life, he wrote for me the following citation from his Mirza Shaffy:
Doch ihrer Spruche giebt es viele.
Herr Auferman.—Next to the friendship of the venerable author of Mirza Shaffy, I delighted in a close intimacy with Herr Auferman, one of the wealthy residents of Wiesbaden, who for many years had been a prominent business man in New York. His two charming daughters are highly cultured ladies, whose bonhomie and kind offices my family and I shall never forget. At the wedding of the elder one of the sisters to Captain von Bismarck I met a cousin of the erstwhile Iron Chancellor, he, the father of the groom, as Royal Councilor to the Court of Prussia and Curator of the University of Wittenberg, had in charge the home of Martin Luther and its belongings. Herr Ernst von
98Bismarck proved to be a lovable old gentleman and genial companion, of whom I grew very fond; and it was not long before our acquaintance ripened into a warm friendship. In spite of his lifelong service as a bureaucrat, I found him to be broad, liberal, and exceptionally free from that overbearing and opinionated egoism which pervades German officialdom.
These, my genial Wiesbaden friends, together with another of the same sort, an old soldier, His Excellency, Major-General von Gehbauer, are no more. The green sod which serves "as carpet for the infant, and blanket for the dead," covers them all. And here Riley's words recur to me,
Than their weight in solid gold,
Slip their grip....
Herr E. von Bismarck and a Martin Luther Relic.—Herr von Bismarck, when last we parted, gave me a Luther memento. It consists of the skeletons of three leaves which, over fifty years ago, he took from between the lids of the Bible which Martin Luther, during his lifetime, always had close at hand and in daily use, and which, on the margins of its pages, is profusely annotated by the hand of the great reformer. One of the leaves given me is from an oak. The others are, respectively, a sprig of arbor vita and a frond of fern. These, with my friend's good wishes, I brought to America and have kept ever since, preserved in a little mahogany case specially made for that purpose. The donor, when he handed me the little parcel, said:
"I have no doubt but what this waif was by Luther's own hands placed where I found it, between the leaves of the book which, from the day of his death has, under lock and key, been closely guarded and seldom ever left its place of safety. And may we not assume, and claim credibility for the belief, that this oak leaf grew upon the very tree which stood in front of Luther's cell, and under which the then monk burned the Pope's Bull on December 10, 1520."
A Swell Wedding.—The wedding of Captain von Bismarck and Miss Auferman above referred to, in which we took part, a notable affair, was attended by guests from far and near, and the festivities continued for three days. Champagne, during that time, did not cease to flow in steady rills, and the great bowls of iced ananas punch were never allowed to go dry. Fat oysters from Ostend whetted the appetite; langoustes (the Mediterranean lobster), in their shells of cardinal red, ornamented great dishes; while grouse and partridges from Siberia, pheasants from Bohemia, and fat venison from the neighboring forests in the Taunus, served with artichokes and crisp salad romaine, made these feasts fit for a king.
The large conservatories had given up all their orchids; and roses in great abundance were found everywhere. Luscious fruits from Italy and huge bunches of grapes from Spain garnished the long tables set out with a profusion of silver and crystal. During the grand ball which wound up the festivities the dancers in the graceful minuet were frequently refreshed by cooling ices, and the enchanting music of a large orchestra
100kept up the fun all night, until, at sunrise, the ladies, led by flute and mandolin, trooped off to the lake to feed the swans with bonbons and cake.
The concluding days of this princely festival were enlivened by many gay parties on horseback, visiting the neighboring Taunus range and some of its ruined castles; while other guests, more soberly inclined, navigated old Father Rhine as far down as Bingen and the National Monument, which overlooks the town of Ruedesheim, and penetrated into the cool vaults of Schloss Johannisberg, where they drank its far-famed wine.
Geneva and its University.—The last winter of the stay in Europe our home was made in Geneva, Switzerland, where, at the university daily, I heard lectures on national economy, and became acquainted with several professors of the faculty, whose society I enjoyed, and from whose learning I profited. Mr. Corning, a rich New Yorker, who for thirty years had been a resident of Switzerland, became a highly-esteemed friend of the family. We valued his society and that of his wife greatly. They were hospitable in their fine chateau and large park at Morrilion, and he, as amateur musician of finished culture and brilliant execution, used to seek at the piano our eldest daughter, whose singing he greatly admired.
The Grave of Emma, von Bismarck.—With the advance of the spring of ninety-four in Geneva I bethought myself of a promise made Herr von Bismarck while a guest at the Bismarck-Auferman wedding in Wiesbaden. "When on the banks of Lake Leman," the
101old father of the bridegroom said to me, "you must, in the cemetery at Territtet, look up the grave of my daughter, Emma, long since dead, and buried in Swiss soil by her friend the Princess Sylvia."
In order to redeem the promise, my wife and I, one bright morning in May, at Geneva quay, took passage on the steamer for Montreux, which is situated on the north or Swiss bank above Vevay, and a short distance below the head of the lake. Under a brilliant sky, over the sparkling blue waters, while white-capped Mont Blanc smiled through a crisp crystalline atmosphere across the lake out of France, the voyage was a highly enjoyable one.
Territtet, from the landing at Montreux, was reached by a short and pleasant walk. We here found the ancient little graveyard, covered by a profusion of ornamental shrubbery, nestling in a cove on the shores of the placid lake. A heavy dew covered the tangle of ivy, jasmine and roses which hid monuments and tombstones, while thickets of rhododendron made our efforts at investigation laborious and tiresome. After an hour of painstaking search we became convinced that the grave we were looking for could not be found. As a last resort I then climbed to the little church on the hillside to look for the sexton. When I found him, the white-haired old man informed me that many years ago the railroad had cut a corner off the cemetery, which had necessitated the transfer of a number of bodies to other graves.
Returning with him we found in another part of the enclosure a sunny spot where, against an ancient stone
102wall, there leaned a number of monuments, urns and memorial slabs, one of which bore the following inscription:
Morte le 12 avril, 1857.
When, on the return trip in the evening, we repassed Mont Blanc, its top now in the sunset glow blushing like a rose, nodded to us across the tranquil bosom of the placid lake its approval. We passed Lausanne, Rolle and Nyon on the north shore, bathed in a purple haze, pierced here and there by a starlike speck of electric light from shore. And when the pale sickle of a new moon became visible floating near the horizon directly over the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor of Geneva, our souls were filled with delight over the day and its exquisite beauties.
My genial old friend Domainerath von Bismarck gratefully acknowledged to his dying day this visit paid his dead child in the cozy little graveyard on the banks of that beautiful lake in French Switzerland.
Paris.—The winter of ninety-two and three had been spent in Paris. This city was no terra incognita to me, for I had been there years before. We went to the banks of the Seine because all the world goes to Paris. Gaiety and glitter attract men and women as the candle does the moth. For the idler and the sightseer, if he be diligent, there is no end of opportunity, either artistic, aesthetic, trivially amusing, or sensually debasing.
The husband in love with his young bride, who can
103not imagine that the universe extends beyond the circumference of her skirts, is in Paris a rara avis. More numerous are the "married men who live like bachelors, and the bachelors who live like married men." Life here, however, is what we make it; nothing more, nothing less! The middle class, "la bourgeoisie" besides being thrifty, leads the well-regulated life that people do elsewhere. Its members are frugal, so that they may have for their daughter a "dot," without which the young lady seldom ever attracts a husband.
Much time in Paris can be spent among the artistic wealth of its numerous public and private galleries, at antiquarian shops, and at exhibitions and auction sales of art collections.
In Paris.—The musically inclined at the opera can find delight in the works of Meyerbeer, Mascagni and Verdi, while the masterpieces of Moliere, Corneille, Scribe and other dramatists, as interpreted by the Coquelins, Bernhardt and Rejane, nightly offer alluring entertainment at the theaters. One of the most daring but exquisitely artistic plays I remember ever to have witnessed (with Rejane in the title role) had a long run before full houses the winter we spent in the gay city. It was Lysistrata, which is one of Aristophanes' best known comedies; but it would require to be much expurgated before a manager in New York or Boston could have the hardihood to put the likes on a stage in this country.
The galleries, public and private, filled with creations in marble by disciples of Praxiteles and the Greek masters; the great collections of canvases signed by such
104names as Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Murillo, Corot, Meissonier, Detaille and innumerable other wizards of the brush, delight the lover of art, while the museums filled with the goldsmiths' handiwork, the gems, the ivory carvings, and the curios and bric-a-brac, ancient and modern, from Assyria down to the present day, furnish inexhaustible entertainment to the appreciative visitor of this great art center.
In the environs of the city interest, with him who is appreciative, need never flag. From royal St. Germain, the Palace of Versailles with its park and numerous fountains, all the way to the forest of Fontainebleau, Paris is surrounded by localities teeming with reminiscences of a romantic past, and the history of generations that have passed has left its indelible footprints everywhere.
In a locality which was once the great forest of Montmorency I was shown the place where Robespierre, at the height of "the Terror," in the pale uncertain light, under the flitting mist of early mornings in June, prepared himself daily, by filling his soul to the full with "the infinite sweetness of nature's magic charms," to go forth thence to the diurnal slaughter of his fellow men under the guillotine.
Much interest attaches to the last resting places of those dead in whose life-work we feel concerned. Many of the tombs in and around Paris are sentimentally fascinating. Follow me from Napoleon's magnificent sarcophagus in the Invalides past Marie Bashkirtseff's tomb near the Trocadero, then let us pass through the venerable cemetery of Pere la Chaise, up to that
105unpretentious grave on the heights of Montmartre of the great poet and philosopher Heinrich Heine, and I will read you his last words as engraven on his tomb.
Keinen Kadosch wird man sagen,
Nichts gesagt und nichts gesungen
Wird an meinem Sterbetage.
Carnival Ball of the Artists.—I frequently loafed with artists in their studios and at the various art schools, and it was in February, 1893, at the Atelier Laloux, that a student friend procured for me an invitation to the artists' carnival fancy-dress ball, the most phenomenal which ever happened in "Gay Paree." The members of "les quatres arts" sculptors, painters, architects, engravers and their guests, together numbering nearly four thousand men and women, found ample room for their season of fun and frolic in the immense hall of the Moulin Rouge, where, with good-natured hilarity, the best of order and decorum was maintained. When I use the word decorum it is not to be taken in the sense of a religious class-meeting, but should be qualified by the prefix "artistic." Nature here, in a number of cases, was unadorned; but unadorned nature, blended with the refinement of the artistic, appeared as we see it reflected on the canvas of a Beaugereau or Lefebre, very lovely and charmingly attractive. The scant attire of the ladies gave me a cold, but I would not have been away if it had given me pneumonia.
One tableau only shall be dwelt upon and described.
106It was the most ravishingly beautiful among a great number which, at two o'clock in the morning, blazed forth in a brilliant procession parading the immense hall. The pageant was led by M. Gilliaume, a celebrated Parisian journalist, who's tall and stately, with beard black as the wing of a raven, represented an Assyrian magistrate. In this procession, under a canopy ablaze with colored fabrics of Oriental splendor, on a gorgeous satin couch, carried by Ethiopians who were black as polished ebony, reclined, entirely nude, one of the most perfectly shaped female models of the Parisian art studios. She was a blond Venus of re splendent charms—such a one as only the reverie of a Delacroix or a Hans Marquart, in their happiest moments of inspiration, could have conceived or their brush created. The delicately undulating lines and soft flesh tints of the body were relieved, or accentuated rather, by a net of silken cords which was lightly spread over her lower limbs, and the meshes of which, two inches square, created a dainty contrast with the rosy cuticle beneath. The only ornament she wore was a strand of large lustrous pearls, which encircled her supple neck. "Modesty," said M. Jules Roque, in the Courrier Francaise the next morning, "modesty, when the springtime of youth has sown red roses over the white flesh of nude female loveliness, should not hide the human form divine under the toggery of envious prudery." To properly understand the composition of this Olympian feast it must be remembered that its attractions and allurements were provided for the entertainment of artists solely, and that the public was
107strictly excluded from participation, as there were no admissions sold.
The variety of ingenious disguises at the Moulin Rouge that memorable night was endless. The nudeness of the affair, tempered as it was by the artistic, served to add to its attractiveness. Decollete did not become offensive, nor did it at any time degenerate into familiarity or unseemliness.
The next morning at the American consulate, where I described to my friend General Adam King and a number of other gentlemen the feast of the previous night, a newspaper man in sore disappointment said, "I have for eighteen long years lived in Paris, representing American newspapers, and ought to be posted; but here comes ‘a raw hand from the Wabash,’ and scoops me out of the biggest and the liveliest saturnalia that ever happened."
The carnival ends on Shrove Tuesday at midnight. Up to that time its merry-makings are indulged in by the people of all the Catholic countries of southern Europe. Its origin undoubtedly is to be sought for in the days of paganism, antedating the Christian era. The church and many of the Popes encouraged, and the Italian cities never failed to celebrate its follies. When, during the carnival week of sixty-seven, I visited Rome for the first time, the flowers, the novelty of confetti-throwing, and the races of the riderless horses in the Corso, gave me much pleasure.
It is true that morals among some people in Paris are held in small esteem. It must not be forgotten, however, that this city is the metropole where, regardless
108of form or favor, tout le monde meets in quest of pleasure and amusement. The temperament of the Gaul is lively in the extreme and readily lends itself to light-hearted pastimes and practices, in which teachings of the Christian Endeavorers may at times be overlooked, and the practices of an austere monastic life is ignored. But he who goes through life with his eyes open has occasion frequently to observe that the deacon himself who, amidst his Sunday-school surroundings, obeys the biblical injunction strictly, and scorns to look upon "the wine that is red," when away from home, while floating in the, to him, novel atmosphere of the large city, occasionally succumbs to the tempting highball or sparkling fizz, which is not red, and under its exhilarating effect may also be tempted at midnight to look in upon Mabille or the Casino de Paris to take a glimpse at the much-vaunted cancan and wild abandon of its capering dancers. "When in Rome do as the Romans do," is an adage which finds frequent application in practice; to avoid inoculation from foreign heterodox ways and practices, we should not go to Paris, but stay under the protection of our own village pastor.
Louis Napoleon.—At court, Eugenie, the third Napoleon's beautiful empress, in her day maintained decent conditions. It is related of her that when, before her marriage, Louis approached her with immoral proposals she repulsed him with the indignant reply, "Through the church only lies the road to my bed chamber, sire."
The emperor, in his youth a roue, was in later years
109much restrained by his Spanish wife. He, nevertheless, took a lively interest in the stray bits of "scan. mag." now and then circulating about the court, and to which he would seldom fail to add a witty sarcasm, as the following anecdote proves. When, one day in his presence, the character of a lady attached to the court was being dissected by the gossips, and some one in her defense asserted that she had never been guilty of a "faux pas" (false step), Louis smiled and maliciously whispered, "Vraiment, il n'y a pas de faux pas dans sa vie, il n'y a qu'un faux PAPA, le pere de ses enfants." This dainty play upon words, the deacon, I fear, will order placed on the Index Expurgatorius.
Man-traps.—Paris, with its many ingeniously disguised and secretly hidden man-traps, is not a good place for the inexperienced young man from the country. A cynical philosopher says that here "the deepest students in the botany of women have been able to describe so few kinds that no man walking through the perfumed, enchanted wood knows at what moment he may step upon or take hold of some unknown deadly variety." Mais, que voulez-vous? Is it not said of the venerable boys of old that,
They made themselves familiar with other men's wives;
But when they grew old their conscience got qualms,
So Solomon made Proverbs and David wrote Psalms.
Eh bien! Thus the show of life goes on with high and low alike.
The microbe of curiosity which fills up much space
110in some people's lives, has never bothered me greatly. To see kings and queens and be received at court is the biggest thing in life; at least it is so considered by most American women. The only attempt I ever made to get near the anointed of the lord ended in a miscarriage.
An Improvised Swallowtail.—It was long years ago at the Vatican in Rome, when Pope Pius IX was engaged one morning in the adoration of the arm of St. Francis Xavier, a relic venerated by the church. I presented my special card of admission in due form, but contrary to the rules of etiquette, attempted to pass the portals of the Sistine Chapel in an ordinary black frock coat, the tails of which had been pinned back by the fachino of the hotel to make it do duty in place of the prescribed conventional swallowtail, which I did not possess. But it was no go. No sooner, clad in this improvised swallowtail, had I set my foot across the threshold, than the tall and powerful Swiss guard in zebra stripes, detecting the ruse, gripped my collar and promptly set me down outside, where, much humbled, I unpinned the tails of my coat, and against an adverse wind sadly tacked my way back to the hotel.
King Louis of Bavaria.—In the spring of 1867, while traveling in Italy in company with two young American friends from the state of Maine, I met one evening at the Cercle St. Carlos in Naples, Louis I, ex-king of Bavaria, who had abdicated his throne. Unattended as he was, without special introduction from any one, he and I fell into conversation and sat together for an hour while dancing progressed in the adjoining apartments.
111The old gentleman was quite genial and talkative on subjects of art, and showed much interest in the affairs of our country. Louis, while king, had distinguished himself as a promoter of the fine arts, but had fallen short in political capacity. At one time the beautiful but notorious adventuress Lola Montez enmeshed him with intrigues and almost succeeded in embroiling Bavaria and Wurtemberg in a war with each other.
Unpretentious Royalty.—There lives in Munich, the attractive capital of Bavaria and residence of the royal house of that kingdom, a family of gifted musicians; they are citizens in ordinary circumstances, without wealth or title of nobility, who frequently of evenings receive visits from Liutpold, the prince regent, and other members of the royal family. These august individuals on such occasions come on foot, unannounced and unaccompanied by outriders or court-flunkies; they clamber up three pairs of stairs to the unpretentious apartment of the family, solely to spend a cozy evening and have a good time with music, for which this ruler of men has much fondness and of which he is no mean performer himself.
My authority for the foregoing is Counselor Max Bernstein, in whose society at Geneva in Switzerland several summers ago I spent a number of days pleasantly entertained. The doctor, a counselor at law, an author and an eminent musical and dramatic critic, is well known in art circles of the city of Munich; he is a near relative of this signally-favored family, and frequently
112participates in their highly enjoyable reunions with royalty.
Royalty in social relations with its subjects uniformly maintains haughty exclusiveness. From this practice most members of the house of Wittelsbach, the reigning family in Bavaria, make an admirable exception. It is well known all over Europe that one of the princes of this dynasty, an able and a learned man, is regularly engaged in the practice of medicine; he treats the eyes and other organs of such as are too poor to pay, and is highly esteemed in the profession for profound learning and great skill.
Voltaire.—Doctor Bernstein and I, during the stay in Geneva, together made a visit to Ferney, the chateau and park of Voltaire. This estate, for years owned and occupied by the great philosopher, is situated at a junction of the borders of Switzerland, France and the then independent republic of Geneva. Here the wily old fox, by skipping over the line from one country into the other, managed to enjoy immunity from persecution by his clerical enemies, who were numerous and envenomed.
Under the umbrageous trees in the park, looking out on a charming landscape, with the blue waters of Lake Leman in the distance, much of the day was spent in animated converse relating to Voltaire, the champion of religious liberty and forerunner of the French Revolution. My well-informed companion, a man of erudition and a poetic turn of mind, knew much that was interesting about Germany's literary, artistic and dramatic people of to-day, some of whom were old friends.
With Lenbach, the celebrated Munich artist, who painted such powerful portraits of Bismarck, "The Man of Blood and Iron," Bernstein was on intimate terms, and related of him many anecdotes, humorous and otherwise.
When, at the close of that day, we returned to Geneva, my pleasant companion made the road for me seem far too short and the trip only too speedily ended.
Prince Bismarck.—I recall with much pleasure how once, at Bad Kissingen, I had a few words of pleasant conversation with the great statesman and regenerator of Germany, Prince Bismarck. The party from Frankfort, which by appointment I had joined, made the trip by rail to Kissingen, and there, in 1892, we paid Bismarck a visit. We found the old Titan much shorn of his rugged strength, but genial and communicative. He was accompanied by the princess, his wife, his alter ego, Dr. Schweninger, and his constant companions, the two big Danish dogs.
During four visits to Europe we crossed the paths of royalty frequently. Among the majesties I remember to have seen are: two Popes, Pius IX and his successor Leo; Victor Emanuel, the grandfather of the present king, who, with the aid of Garibaldi, created a United Italy; his son Humbert, who succeeded him on the throne, and that monarch's beautiful queen, Marguarita, the present dowager; Dom Pedro, emperor of Brazil; the former Shah of Persia; the present Emperor of Germany and his empress; the late Queen Victoria and her daughter Beatrice; the King of Den
114mark, and King Edward of Great Britain, together with Alexandra, his statuesque queen.
But what is there so majestic about the royalties of this world? Take them in their pajamas, strip them of ermine and purple, and what are they but men and women? Some of them sifted a little finer, perhaps, yet of the earth earthy, as other clay-baked humanity.
But it is a farthing still.
Charles Fourier—Schopenhauer.—Charles Fourier's disparaging diagnosis of man's condition is that, "The human race has no science of disease nor of its cure, of crime nor of its reform, of morals nor its source, of life nor its object. It organizes fable-telling into bishoprics and archbishoprics, and promotes the teachers of myths to crowns and salaries, because they feed it taffy. A few philosophers have learned a little, but these the infantile mind hates. Hence, mankind is still in its infancy."
Accepting, as I do, this view of the status of the race to be in accordance with the facts, man should be happy as only infants can be, and Sir Lucius O'Trigger perpetrates but an Irish bull when he exclaims, "None but the discontented are truly happy!" Happiness, Schopenhauer holds, is "a negative condition, a state of existence free from pain and trouble." This condition very few, however, can boast of enjoying. Physical pain, caused by our own shortcomings and transgressions, heredity, and other causes, invades the life of nearly every one, and trouble mentally, as the inevitable
115result and outcome, is ever present. The leaden weight of boredom with the sluggish majority is no doubt the worst enemy to happiness and a direct source of much suffering. In order to banish it, this pessimistic philosopher says, "A man will have recourse to dissipation, society, extravagance, gaming, drinking and the like."
Boredom and Cheerfulness.—To escape this deplorable condition I have steadily endeavored and seldom failed to keep the mind active and wholesomely employed, and have thereby secured that degree of cheerfulness so essential to contentment. He who will follow my precept may, in the pursuit of happiness, with the poet say:
The laughter of the April rills;
And his are all the diamonds set
In morning's dewy coronet,
And his the dusk's first minted stars
That twinkle through the pasture bars,
And litter all the skies at night
With glittering scraps of silver light;
The rainbow's bar from rim to rim,
In beaten gold belongs to him.
When Death Comes to Young Manhood.—I have now arrived at a time in life when "the heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble and waits upon the judgment." In contemplating the past, I can look back upon quite a checkered career of ups and downs; of adversity and prosperity; of pleasure and pain, and of sunshine and sorrow. The darkest of all shadows which can fall
116across the path of man is death, and when it comes to blossoming youth, hale and hearty, the gloom is doubly deep.
At sunrise, on the morning of Thursday, June 16, 1898, the family in deep sorrow stood at the bedside of our dead son George, who on the threshold of manhood had just breathed his last. The youthful buoyancy and genial cheerfulness of the handsome young fellow had endeared him to many friends, and the untimely loss of one so much beloved cast a gloom upon all who knew him. I can never forget the bright face, as with closed eyes it lay turned up to the morning light, and the rosemary of remembrance often in dreams shows me his sunny smile through the green sod of Oak Hill, where he rests.
The snow was falling in big flakes; there was light and warmth within, when, on the first Christmas eve after his death, the clock struck the hour of midnight. His mother and I were alone, and our sad thoughts had strayed out to that solitary grave in the distant cemetery. On looking up at his picture, hanging over the mantel, garlanded with green boughs, the poor mother's aching heart burst forth in a sob; and bathed in tears she wailed in a broken voice, "The snow is falling on George's grave to-night. My boy! Oh, my boy!"
Thrill the deepest note of woe.
The next morning bright skies dispelled the gloom of
117the previous night, and the thought voiced itself in our yearning souls,
Is death the door that leads to light? We can not say.
The tongueless secret, locked in fate, we do not know,—
We hope and wait.
Wildcat Steamboating on the Wabash and its Tributaries.
My first essay at steamboating took place many years ago. This episode of my early life was not a brilliant one, but has proven an interesting reminiscence, as I shall endeavor to relate.
The single engine, side-wheel steamer, "H. M. Summers," as she lay moored at the Evansville wharf, had very much more the appearance of a floating sawmill than a steamboat; she was slow and unwieldy as a turtle, was unreliable and balky as a mule, and when moving would wheeze and clatter along as a street car does with a flat wheel. Owned by a "jackleg" carpenter, she was commanded by him, and he in turn was bossed by his wife, a veritable little vixen, with features which bore the happy expression of an academic angleworm. She made her home "on board," to manage the husband and the finances of the boat in her own sweet way, and
Could take the size of pots of ale,
Resolve by signs and tangents straight,
If bread and butter wanted weight.
The boat was loading with salt for the east fork of White river and needed a clerk, or purser, and when
119I presented myself I was shipped up at the munificent salary of $30 per month, with the understanding that I stand both watches, which meant very little or no sleep.
From Evansville to the mouth of the White river of Indiana it is fifty-five miles down the Ohio and eighty miles up the Wabash. From there it is but a short distance up White river to where the east fork unites with the west fork. On entering the east fork it was found that the water had begun to fall, and when we had proceeded as far up as "Porter's Rock," the boat grounded and stuck fast. All efforts to get her off, or go farther, failed for want of water to float her. When she struck we were still some twenty-five miles below our destination, and sorely puzzled as how to dispose of the cargo. The river was on a rapid decline, and to protect the cargo and save the heavily laden boat from breaking in two, there was but one thing to do,—lighten the vessel by discharging her freight in the woods where she lay, and get out of the river as fast as possible. The banks here are high and were deep in mud, the deck crew small and lazy, and no help was procurable in this then thinly settled part of the country. So, fully appreciative of the predicament and its consequences, everybody on board, from the captain and the clerk to the knife shiner and the chambermaid, under the ringmastership of the little old lady with the liverpad, fell to "parbuckling" heavy salt barrels up the steep, slippery river bank. After two days and nights of unremitting toil the cargo was at last discharged and the ship set afloat. Then
120we "stood not upon the order of our going," but went! Arrived at Evansville on the return, I realized that there was no money wherewith to pay the wages of the crew, the old woman was obdurate and refused to go down into her stocking or give up the sheckles hid away in the mattress of her bed, and so the boat went into the clutches of the United States marshal and was sold for debt. Thus ended my first essay at seamanship in Indiana waters.
Without money but with hope, which "springs eternal in the human breast" to get the few dollars due me from the boat, and while debating whether I should henceforth devote myself to divinity, law or physics, I agreed with the captain to make an attempt at disposing of that lonesome salt pile in the far-off wilds of Pike county which we had left there unprotected from the depredations of rabid razorback rooters and other animals. The captain then provided me with a broken-down old mousseline de laine mare and
Of Thetis taken out his nap,
And, like a lobster boil'd, the morn
From black to red began to turn,
I got, without much ado, to horse and bumptiously sallied forth through the knee-deep mud of the partly frozen roads on an overland journey of many miles. Everybody I went to see in the villages and at the crossroads of that neighborhood declined to buy salt; this elsewhere valuable commodity in that neck of the woods, at the time, seemed to be a drug on the market and not wanted.
In my wanderings over strange territory and through dense forests one dark night, following the blazings of a new cut road, I lost my way. It was a lonely ride and a drowsy one; it lacked variety and entertainment from the summer-night songs of the melodious frog or the merry chirp of the lively katydid. Their voices long ago had been stilled by the deadening frosts of winter, and not even the ghostly hootings of an owl stirred the oppressive hush of the night.
Nothing denser in the way of darkness had occurred to me up to that time, except the prospect of making sale of the salt pile slumbering innocently on the banks of the river. About midnight, lost, bewildered, worn out with fatigue and stupid from want of rest, I fell asleep in the saddle; when, suddenly awakened, I found myself lying in the mud of the road and the horse within earshot browsing in the woods. Drowsy as I was, I felt little inclination to remount, but soon the penetrating wet drove me on hands and knees in search of the old mare, which answered in the dark with a nicker, and when we found our way back into the road, with stiff knees, I once more climbed to my seat in the saddle. From this time on I gave her the reins and let her have her head, and in less than half an hour she brought me up to the bars of a small clearing. The dog fiercely "bayed" not "deep-mouth'd welcome," but under like circumstances "'tis sweet" to hear even a stump-tailed cur yelp, snarl and whet his teeth, particularly when his bark brings the barelegged squatter, as it did, to the door of the cabin with a sleepy-headed but cordial invitation to the hospitality
122of his log hut, which, with a heart full of thankfulness, I glorified into an Oriental palace out of the "Arabian Nights" tales. Tying the mare up to a sapling (for there was no stable), I without reserve threw myself into the arms of Morpheus, whose soothing embrace I stood sorely in need of, as I had not closed an eye for two nights previously. When daylight appeared I found a sore-eyed, gawky girl of twelve cooking breakfast at a log fire. I washed outdoors after breaking the ice at the horse trough, and as I feared infection from the grimy family towel I dried myself on my garments and combed my hair with my fingers. The squalor and untidiness of the cabin was appalling, and it drove my wolfish appetite clean off of the premises. I saw potatoes in their jackets the size of marbles, which had been cooked the evening before, frozen into a hard lump with the water in which they were cooked, thawed by the big fire and served for breakfast. Chunks and remnants of corn bread were fumbled over by unwashed hands on a dirty table, and the molasses jug, like Uncle Remus's tar baby, stuck wherever it was touched. I could with difficulty and in spite of an empty stomach worry down a morsel or two only, and had to decline altogether the proffered cup of lobelia tea masquerading as coffee, which latter luxury the family had not the wherewith to buy. When I left I could not, in spite of their poverty, prevail upon these people to take pay for the entertainment they had so opportunely given me, and I left them with their squalor in the proud consciousness of hospitality generously dispensed without money and without price.
At the village of Winslow, where the following night I found "entertainment for man and beast," which in this case meant a clean and a warm bed and good fare, and included fresh biscuits and hot coffee, I breakfasted before day by candle-light. The wax-bottom pie, however, was frozen so hard that the large gravel-like seeds of the wild fox grapes, of which the pie was made, and its other frozen contents almost formed an ice gorge as they slid down the gullet into my combustion chamber. Whenever on that day's travel the Rozinante swung into her favorite jolty trot my sensations were like those that I fancy disturbed Mark Twain's "jumping frog of Calaveras county," after the fellow had filled him up with shot; the weight kept him from jumping and held him close to earth and me glued to the saddle.
The salt pile, as far as I know, was never sold, and if, in the course of time, it has not melted away or been licked up by the companions of Ulysses, which Circe turned into swine, must repose on the banks of the east fork of White river yet.
Old Clawhammer, the captain of the "Summers," after the debacle, returned to the handsaw and the hatchet, and the commodore, his wife, took to doing up her hair in "follow me lads" curls, and became a spiritualist medium and successful fortune-teller. The steamboat "Summers," after being sold by the United States marshal, fell into the hands of two mudsocks named Johnson, and when in the course of time she met her fate it was in the shallow waters on "The Chain" in the
124lower Ohio. The brother who commanded her sent the other brother the following message:
"Dear Brother Philo—The ‘H. M. Summers’ am no more. She sunk in four feet and a half of water. No lives lost, thank God! Your brother, Wash."
The sentimental and at that time inexperienced purser of the ci-devant "Summers," who on that trip was without a purse to hold, continued in the profession until during the prosperous days of steamboating on the Mississippi and Ohio. In his day he successfully navigated and commanded some of the floating palaces of his time, until eventually he got on to the toboggan slide and landed in state politics and spinning yarns of the days of the long ago.
Flatboating down the Mississippi.
The primitive craft known to the people of this western country as a flatboat, is nothing more than a rough, water-tight box; it is four to five times the length of its width and is covered by a roof to keep out the rain. Its progress is determined by neither sails nor steam engine, and the long oars, called sweeps, are not so much for propulsion as to keep the craft in the current of the stream, upon which the overgrown tub depends for headway.
As an inexpensive means of freighting the more bulky products from the upper country to market in New Orleans and along the sugar coast of Louisiana, the flatboat was in its day much resorted to, and at all seasons of the year the Mississippi and its tributaries bore great numbers of them, laden with timber, hay, whisky, flour, pork and corn, to plantations on the lower Mississippi and the Crescent City.
Many years ago, when time was young and the heavens hung full of promises, I became owner and master of one of these marine makeshifts. The summer months had been spent "getting out" stave timber. This was in the "black bottoms" of the Ohio opposite Paducah, Kentucky. Here, in the dense forests of "Egypt," with the help of a gang of woodmen, I felled big trees, out of which we hewed into shape gunwales
126and timbers for a boat to be loaded with staves for export to Italy. The lumber for planking the boat came from a nearby sawmill, and the oakum and pitch I procured "up the river."
This Robinson Crusoe way of shipbuilding proved a tedious job, but when finally launched the boat floated the waves as proudly as did Lohengrin's swan. After one of the French forts nearby, a line of which in the early days had extended from Canada to Louisiana, I named her the "Massac;" but unfortunately neglected to break the conventional bottle of wine over her nose at the launching. This slight she later on resented, carrying spite so far once upon a time as to run her head, on a dark night, against a big raft of Yazoo river logs, and thereby nearly ending her existence and the life of her captain and the crew as well.
By the middle of November I had the boat ready; had shipped up a pilot and crew; and after taking on board a cargo of wine cask staves, which load was to lay the foundation for me of great wealth, we awaited at the wharf at Metropolis, Illinois, forty miles above the mouth of the Ohio, favorable weather for our departure south.
A high wind which, the first evening, had been blowing from the south, whipped around to the northwest, and soon after sunset freshened into a fierce gale. With insufficient stakes on shore for the lines it became difficult to hold the boat to her moorings, and at the same time, on a shelving beach, keep her out of the breakers. Her seams soon began to spring leaks; and when at midnight the gale rose to a sixty-mile hurricane, the
127pumps began to have a tight race with the inflowing water.
Visions of wealth and trips to sunny Italy all vanished during the anxious and toilsome hours of that hard, tempestuous night. Toward the morning hours the cold became so intense that the water-soaked clothes froze to our backs, and icicles hung in the beards of the crew. My "rich, deep, subsoil" voice of command was completely drowned by the howling of the wind and the lashings of the surf; but any voice, that of a foghorn even, would have been useless. Toward morning the men, with stiff fingers and frostbitten toes, gave out, and one by one sneaked off in search of warmth and shelter. Left all alone, I, too, was ready to give up, but managed to hold on till daylight, and when in the gray of dawn I spied on shore a thin column of smoke curling upward I made my way toward that smoking chimney as fast as frozen limbs and stiff, icy clothes would permit. There a motherly old lady thawed me out by the blazing log fire of her home and comforted me with a bowl of steaming hot coffee. This set the clockwork of the rundown machinery to ticking once more; and when, after a while, the men returned to the storm-beaten beach, my backbone had regained its wonted rigidity. We now continued to battle with the storm until the following night, and when gradually it subsided I felt gratified at the successful outcome of the stubborn fight we had put up against the enraged elements.
Severely battered as the boat was we soon had her in seaworthy condition once more. Information now
128came from all around that the storm along the line of the river had been extremely destructive, and that on "The Chain," a rocky part of the Ohio twenty miles below, seven pairs of coal barges had foundered and their crews perished; and at Mound City a steamer in midstream had been wrecked and blown to pieces. My appreciation of the hardships of river navigation had now been considerably enhanced by this experience, and I began to feel that the job ahead was anything but a Sunday-school picnic.
A few days later, after having completed repairs, we untied the lines and departed for our destination. At Cairo, where the Mississippi is entered, I had business to transact. Instead of landing the boat, I rowed myself ashore in the skiff, and the "broad horn" floated on at a pace which my friend Parkhill, who drives a hearse for Frank Blanchard, the undertaker, would call "a right smart gait." It was a frosty morning, with quite "an eager and a nipping air." After a stay on shore of a couple of hours, without breakfast, I left Cairo ravenously hungry. The boat by this time had quite a start, and led me a stern chase with ten miles of a pull at the oars. When at last I caught up my empty stomach was making loud calls for food; but as breakfast was over, the omelette soufle with mushrooms, the sweetbreads a la Delmonico, the lamb chops au gratin, all consumed, and the tin platters and pint cups washed and sandpapered, I had to content myself with raw turnips; and, in order to make them sprout properly, irrigate the turnips with water from the river, thick with mud.
New Madrid, on the Missouri side, forty miles below Cairo, would be passed without special notice if it were not that this locality, in 1811, was the center of a devastating earthquake and general upheaval of the surrounding country. The horrors of the catastrophe still lived in the memories of old river men down to the days of which this memoir treats. Reelfoot lake, which was created by the earthquake, on the opposite side of the river, in Tennessee, contains a standing forest of large trees submerged when the earth here opened and during that violent eruption gave way. Where once the mockingbird sang and the lively woodpecker disported himself the gamy bass and nimble pike now dart about in great schools among the remaining trunks of trees still standing erect in the water; and in the clear fluid of the lake the duck hunter can, from the canoe, touch with his paddle the stumps of limbs on these ci-devant giants of the forest, which erstwhile touched the clouds and were swayed by the storm.
Above Plum Point we tied up for soundings. The river at this place is very wide, and consequently at a low stage the water is very shoal. Of late years a United States River Commission, of which our fellow citizen from Indiana, Judge Taylor, is chairman, has spent large sums of money here on attempted betterments of navigation.
At Randolph, a village situated on the second Chickasaw Bluff, the river is confined in a gorge and the channel is narrow. Here on a dark night the "Virginia," a large passenger steamer, on her return trip from New Orleans, very nearly ran us down. A low
130fog lay upon the water, and our lights could not be seen by the pilot of the steamer. She came so close that her larboard wheel grazed the side of the "Massac" and carried overboard two of the long sweeps and one of the crew; and as the wide guards of the boat passed over our frail craft I anticipated nothing short of a muddy bath, caved-in ribs and a broken back from the revolving wheel. That instant there flashed across my mind an old German legend, telling of a crystal palace at the bottom of the Rhine filled with enchanting maidens, clad only in their own loveliness, where drowned boatmen are comforted and made happy by the bewitching queen.
Shudderingly I wondered whether I should find anything like it in the mud at the bottom of the Mississippi, and how the sweet things would look if they were tailor made, with long trails cut on the bias, and gored, covering their fishy tails, and—but by this time we had come out safe and sound from under the threatening shadow of the big boat's guards and were groping around in the fog to recover our lost man and the missing oars.
By and by, in the dark, a landing was effected among the willows on the bank, and we tied up for the remainder of the night. Then, as I stretched out on my pallet, the words of Heinrich Heine came to me, where he says to himself, "Everything in the world can be dispensed with except the sun and myself. Without the latter there would be no world."
The river, at that time of the year, is usually quite low, and snags in the bends, in those days, were as
131thick as in the old Indian days were the arrows shot into the old woman's bustle while in her truck-patch she stooped to pick up an apronful of potatoes for dinner. The chute behind Island Thirty-seven bristled in a terrifying manner with these dangerous obstructions. Trembling with apprehension we ran this narrow cut, full of obstructions, at midnight; but as the swish and gurgle of the rapid running water gave notice of the whereabouts of the snags, it enabled us, in the dark, to successfully dodge some and ride down others.
After passing Paddy's Hen and Chickens (Islands 42, 3, 4 and 5) we landed at the city of Memphis for the purpose of laying in provisions. A little below the city is President's Island, one of the largest in this big river. It was on this island that afterwards, during the civil war, Mother Bickerdyke kept the cows and chickens, a steamboat load of which she had bought with money collected in the north, and with the milk from the cows and the eggs produced by the hens, had nursed the sick and comforted the wounded Union soldiers in the hospitals at Memphis.
One hundred and forty miles below, after passing Helena and the mouth of the St. Francis, we came to White river, which enters the Mississippi from the west. Somewhere in this neighborhood, in the year 1541, De Soto first saw the "Father of Waters." He and his Spaniards, starting from the island of Cuba, had made their way up through the wilds of Florida, and from what is now Bolivar county, Mississippi, in hungry quest for gold, had crossed the great river, to
132starve and die in the wilderness west of that stream, without having found what they so eagerly sought for.
In three or four more hours of floating we came to the Arkansas river. Here, just below the mouth of that river, stood Napoleon, a Jim Crow sort of a town, containing a couple of thousand inhabitants. In the early sixties, during a great flood, the Arkansas broke through its banks above the town and washed it clean off the face of the earth. It was the reshipping point and entrepot for much of the country drained by the river which destroyed it, and was quite a prosperous place. It contained a court-house, churches, numerous stores and dwellings and a United States marine hospital. When I last saw the locality where the town had been there remained on the edge of the river bank nothing but a tottering brick chimney, bemoaning the sad fate of a once prosperous, whisky-drinking and poker-playing community. What became of the corner lots, the mortgages, the principal citizens, the oldest inhabitant, the Odd Fellows Hall and the jail, I have never been able to learn.
We were now approaching the latitude of Spanish moss, where cotton begins to be a profitable crop, and is raised in great abundance. Some distance farther down the river is the locality from where, early in the nineteenth century, the Murel gang of outlaws operated. Their field of enterprise extended over much of the territory of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. This band was a colossal combination of robbers, horse-thieves, negro stealers and counterfeiters. Murel, their chief, says the historian, "was bold, plucky, rapacious,
133cruel, treacherous and inexpressibly vile." He was withal a great genius in deviltry and full of comprehensive and far-reaching schemes. He planned, set on foot and nearly completed a formidable negro insurrection, intending under its cover and by its aid to burn and plunder the city of New Orleans. This man had in his command, it is reported, one thousand outlaws and vagabonds, six hundred and fifty of which were the active operators, called strikers. The others, known as heads of council, the planners and plotters, were mostly domiciled in the surrounding country as squatters and planters.
Stealing horses in one state and selling them in another was easily accomplished and profitable. The most lucrative iniquity, however, was to entice slaves to run away from their masters and make them come into the conspirators' camp. They would then sell the runaway in another neighborhood; and again the ignorant darky would be persuaded by a promise of freedom in Canada, and half the proceeds of another sale, to escape from master number two and return to his treacherous friends. Some negroes in this manner were sold and resold three and four times, and realized for their kidnapers as much as three and four thousand dollars; but, as after this the fear of detection increased, it became necessary to get rid of so dangerous a witness, and the poor wretch was knocked in the head and his carcass thrown into the Mississippi.
When Murel traveled he frequently, in the disguise of an itinerant preacher, visited camp-meetings and religious revivals, and it is said that, under the spell of
134his eloquence, his hearers would forget all about their horses, which, in the meantime, were run off by the glib-tongued exhorter's confederates. The only things absolutely safe when this Rinaldo Rinaldini was around were the stars in the firmament; they were too far off to reach. In his operations on the road Murel displayed ingenious ways in which to dispose of his victims. For instance, before he would sink the body of a murdered traveler in the nearby river, creek or bayou, after stripping it of money, clothes and valuables, he would disembowel the cadaver, so it might not rise to the surface to tell tales.
With acceleration of speed, which steam and improved machinery brought to boating on the Mississippi, the formidable array of snags became a great annoyance to navigation and menace to life and property. Soon after the close of the war, through the efforts of a commission representing seven western states, and of which I was a member, congress was induced to give financial aid for the betterment of river navigation in the west; and when the United States Engineer Corps took things in hand the snags had seen their last and best days, and a comprehensive system of light stations was established at the same time to mark the crossings, shoals and heads of bends.
Notwithstanding all this, navigation of this erratic stream is, and always will be, beset with many uncontrollable difficulties, the worst of which is the great instability of the banks and their constant disposition to crumble and cave. In an alluvium like that of the Mississippi
135this means incessant changes in the course of the river and its channel.
The pilot wheel of a Mississippi steamer, upon the handling of which depends the lives of passengers and crew, besides the safety of a valuable cargo, should be intrusted to men only who from long-continued practice have intimate acquaintance with the river and thorough knowledge of its secrets, and who, possessed of courage and self-reliance, can be depended upon to act coolly, promptly and with decision in emergencies.
For the pilot, an intimate acquaintance with the river means that he must know and remember, not only by daylight, but in the night as well, the shape of the sky-line of the timber on either side of him, the form of which is of an exasperating sameness, and does not, on dark nights, so readily yield information of one's whereabouts as does the house number in the street your friend lives in. It also means knowledge of the exact place, shape and size of each one of the one hundred and thirty islands, and their various towheads; the chutes around and behind them; the "cut-offs" and culs-de-sac; and the bars, shoals and crossings over the entire length of the river.
The caving banks and shifting channel, together with the varying level of the water (the rise and fall at the mouth of the Ohio amounts to fifty feet), complicates matters for the pilot infinitely; and I want to emphasize the fact that "to know the river," as the pilot puts it, requires close study, intelligent observation and a retentive memory. The distance from Cairo to New Orleans in round numbers is one thousand miles. Both
136banks together make this a shore line of two thousand miles to be learned by the navigator. Now, when we consider that on returning from New Orleans the river, with its shores, is seen from an entirely different angle of vision, and that a new survey has to be made, and the pilot's knowledge and memory taxed with another two thousand miles, the problem has grown into big dimensions for the memory of any ordinary man to encompass. The difficulties, of course, increase on what a river man calls "a dark and dirty night."
The Mississippi, from where the Missouri joins it, a little way above St. Louis, to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, by its windings, is something over thirteen hundred miles in length. The crow, as it flies, can make the journey in just half that distance. While the river wallows in the alluvium of its own making, it carries with it on its way out to the sea, and deposits at its mouth annually (according to Mark Twain), earth enough to make a mound two hundred and forty (240) feet high and a mile square. It writhes in snake-like convolutions; and some of its great bends have a sweeping radius of over thirty miles and form horseshoes of which the heels are frequently separated not over a half to three-quarters of a mile.
Across this separating strip of level bottom the crews of two steamers may see and almost talk to each other, and yet be three hours, running time, apart. Once there was a neck of land opposite Port Hudson, Louisiana, only half a mile wide, and it was thirty-five miles around by the channel. During a freshet many years ago the river straightened itself and broke through this
137half-mile barrier, thereby reducing its length thirty-five miles. Raccourci Cut-off, below Red River Landing, was made seventy-five or eighty years ago. It reduced the giant's length another twenty-eight miles. Many other changes of this character have taken place since the settlement of the country, and the Mississippi below Cairo since that time, geographers claim, has reduced its length over two hundred miles.
Mark Twain, in his book, "Life on the Mississippi," philosophizes on this subject in the following quaint and humorous manner: "In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person who is not blind or idiotic can see that in the old oolitic silurian period, just a million years ago next November, the lower Mississippi river was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science; one gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of fact."
Fog on a crooked river, however wide between banks, is a much dreaded dispensation of Providence. The skipper of a flatboat, proudly treading the quarter-deck
138of his unwieldly tub, overcome by a feeling of helplessness, at once becomes confused. The cockles of his heart droop and the tail of his ambition goes down. He loses all reckoning and can not tell in what direction to grope for the protecting bank, that a friendly stump or overhanging tree may be found where to tie the headline. Should the vessel drift upon a sloping beach, the receding waters will leave her high and dry a hundred thousand miles from market; or should she ground and ride a sand-bar, the restless current is sure to wash the shifting sands amidships out from underneath and leave her stranded with a broken back, or, worse than all, should a steamer, equally helpless, fail to take notice of the racket made by tin pans and shrieks of the crew, it would be finis with the flat-boat P. D. Q., and the crew as well.
One night, after crossing the line between Arkansas and Louisiana, we were fortunate enough to tie up just as a thick fog began to settle over the surface of the water. The boys, in spite of my remonstrance, insisting on going ashore, climbed the levee to reconnoitre the plantation. They had been gone but a short time when, running like hares, they returned, tumbling over each other down the bank in a panic. They were trying to escape the overseer who, mounted on a swift mule and armed with a shotgun, was close upon their heel's in hot pursuit. As he approached the edge of the bank above us he threatened to cut the lines and set us adrift in the fog. This, of course, I could not permit; and as, like Falstaff, I would give no man reasons on compulsion, if reasons were as plenty as blackberries,
139the overseer and my crew both went to shooting. When the man on the bank "in Kendal green" had enough of it he retired and left us masters of the situation. It was then found that Hawkins, the pilot, had received a couple of buckshot in his left leg, while Conny, the lively lad from Skibbereen, whose overloaded gun had kicked him in the jaw, set up a howl, lamenting that "the nigger-driving h'athen hadn't been hanged the day his grandmother was born."
By and by, on a quiet morning in December, after passing the mouth of the Yazoo river, the city of Vicksburg came in sight. It was here, in later years, during the terrible siege, John Hay tells us, that the black man, "Banty Tim," "trumped Death's ace" by carrying Sergeant Tilmon Joy from the field through "that fire-proof, gilt-edged hell" of a rebel fusillade. On the morning we floated by, wagon loads of cotton bales could be seen coming and going upon that peaceful bluff, and the carol and chant from the throats of the darkies rolled across the water, through the hazy atmosphere, in harmonious waves of sound.
One hundred miles farther down we reached the beautiful city of Natchez, which was founded in the early days of the eighteenth century by d'Iberville. That part of the city which lies on top of a high bluff overlooking the smiling expanse of highly cultivated cotton-fields in the opposite low lands of Louisiana is attractive and healthful. Nothing of the sort can be said for that section of the town known as "Natchez under the Hill." It was here that once upon a time Captain Russell hitched his boat's hawser to a gambling
140den which stood near the bank of the river, and prepared to pull the "dad-blasted shebang" with all it contained into the muddy waves of the Mississippi because the proprietor of the joint, a gambler, had refused to give back to a passenger on board the boat the money he had cheated him out of at poker. When, at the word of command from the doughty captain to "Back her strong," the first turn of the steamer's wheels tightened the rope, and the shanty began to creak and crumble, the obdurate owner weakened, gave up the swag, saved his Monte Carlo, and by so doing indorsed the truism, that "he who turns and runs away, may live to bluff another day!"
For the purpose of laying in provisions I determined to land at Natchez; but as it was after dark, we made our landing a little too high up, and by the strong current of a whirling eddy, which here sets sharply in shore, were thrown so violently against a raft of large cypress logs, that the boat's bow was badly stove in. As the gurgling sound of water rushing through broken planks became audible, my brave and death-defying crew, remembering Napoleon's words on the disastrous field of Waterloo, "Sauve qui peut," like rats, scampered over the sides of the sinking ship for shore, where they disappeared in the deep shadows of the night, to disport themselves with the twin deities, Bacchus and Venus. The pilot alone remained. As the water was flowing in fast, he and I rushed below to rescue our few belongings.
On pulling the bed clothes together, it occurred to me that the blankets and quilts, as wadding in the
141break, might be of service. With an armful of them I ran forward, and at the place of damage hung the bulk of them overboard. The suck, created by the inflow, carried the wad into the break; and while the water-pressure held it in place Hank Hawkins and I were enabled to jetson some of the cargo. Thus lightened, her bow soon rose out of the water sufficiently high to enable us, by the light of a lantern, to fit in new plank. By break of day the calking was completed, and the "Massac," once more seaworthy, after being pumped, continued her voyage as soon as the truants returned from shore. Like Aesop's two pots, one of earthenware and the other of brass, which, floating down a stream together, had come in collision, mine, the fragile one, had been smashed. Moral: The weaker should always give the stronger a wide berth and the right of the road.
Red river, on its course from the Rocky mountains near Santa Fe, fifteen hundred miles away, comes into the Mississippi seventy miles below Natchez. Some distance above Nachitoches on the Red is, or rather was, the extensive obstruction widely known as the "Raft," which blocked the shallow and divided channel of this large stream for a long distance. Farther up the river is unobstructed, and, navigable for hundreds of miles, it runs through a fertile country blest with a mild and equable climate.
From the mouth of Red river, the waters of the Mississippi no longer flow in one regular channel, but, separating into a number of branches or bayous, they wend their way through lakes and swamps to the gulf,
142in lines nearly parallel with the parent stream. On the west, among others, we have the Bayous Atchafalaya, Plaquemine, Teche, and La Fourche. The latter can best be compared to a beautiful ship canal. The sugar plantations along this bayou are so numerous that with their stately white residences surrounded by broad-pillared galleries, shaded by magnolias and ornamental shrubbery, they form a continuous town, stretching from one extremity to the other. On the east of the main river the principal outlet is the Bayou Iberville, which communicates with the gulf through Lakes Maurepas, Pontchartrain and Borgne. All this region is in the delta of the Mississippi, and its lands are subject to frequent inundations. After entering the delta we passed, one hundred and fifty miles above New Orleans, the city of Baton Rouge. The white dome on the capitol of the state of Louisiana, embowered in green foliage, and situated on a gently rolling elevation, makes an attractive picture, quite inviting as seen from the river.
We had now arrived at what is called the "Sugar Coast," where, behind substantial and well-seasoned levees, the thickly settled and highly cultivated country lies secure from overflows, serene and inviting.
The general aspect of the great river between Cairo and this point in all but its immensity is commonplace and uninteresting, and as magnitude and dreary sameness become tiresome and oppressive, the lack of incentive for the emotions disappoints the sentimental traveler.
I shall long remember the tedious bends, long
143reaches and treacherous cut-offs; the low lying islands; the ragged towheads and bristling snags; the confusing fogs; the somber density of the unbroken wall of dark forest, with impenetrable canebrakes, and the skeletons of deadened trees marking the location of a wood-yard with ranks of cordwood.
It is here we find the wretched windowless cabin, half of which is mud chimney, and the wood-chopping squatter, with his chills-and-fever-stricken family, stolidly looking forward to the desolating annual inundation of his home.
The land where the coon dog is more highly prized than the milch-cow is not an inviting habitat for civilized man.
With clear, sparkling water, grassy sloping banks and towering shores commensurate with the size of the leviathan, emotions would break their necks to get at him who is receptive; but on a turbulent sea of mud, rushing through so flat and uninteresting a landscape, emotions are about the toughest things in the world to conjure up. From such material it is easier to manufacture a dozen facts than one emotion.
It was comforting that at last we were in an open, cultivated country, where balmy breezes fan the cheeks, an unobstructed outlook cheers the heart, and merry sunshine smiles on a prosperous land adorned with roses and hedges of calla lilies. Harmonious voices broke forth from the throats of my crew in such ditties as, "Oh! Buffalo gals ain't you comin' out to-night, comin' out to-night, comin' out to-night, to dance by the light of the moon?" and we were answered on
144shore by melodious-voiced negroes at work in the fields.
The weariness of sleepless nights and anxious vigils passed from my spirit, and in the relaxation which security brought I stretched out at full length on deck, where the cooling zephyrs of the south breeze fanned my unshaven cheek. The boys having begun to feel the enlivening effect of the change, awakened from their mental torpor, became hilarious. Cy reached for his Stradivarius, and Wesley with supple joints shuffled off "The Arkansaw Traveler," until you'd have thought "the devil was in his toe," and while we floated smoothly down the long, straight reaches of the placid stream, the remaining members of the crew did not have to be "piped up" for duty.
At last, on the day before Christmas, we made port; and the good ship "Massac" safely completed her voyage by tying up at the levee of the city of New Orleans, then known as the Paris of America.
It used to be the kindly practice of up-stream steamers when passing, to throw out to flatboatmen newspapers brought from New Orleans. These welcome messengers had brought me the unwelcome message of a dull and depressed market for staves. This was disappointing, and somewhat tempered the gratification I felt at having on my maiden venture brought so frail a craft more than a thousand miles through fogs, storms and wreck, over a low, declining and snag-studded river, safely into port.
The next morning, after havinar discharged the crew, I ate my Christmas corn-dodger and drank the watery
145self-brewed coffee, without sugar or cream, alone, but with relish, and was thankful things were no worse.
The little money on hand I had divided among the crew; and with my I. O. Us for balance of wages due in their pockets, they had shipped on the steamer "Empire" for home.
Water craft, like babies and New Year's resolutions, are uncertain and require to be closely watched. As my purse was quite empty and I had no place where to borrow I could not hire help, and consequently, from this time on, had to stand both the day and night watches alone. During the tedious hours of the night, by the light of a lantern, I worked the pumps; and when, during the day, overcome by drowsiness, I would go off into the Land of Nod, it was with one eye half-cocked to watch the other.
A picayune (six and a quarter cents) at a near-by sailor's tavern, with its glass of thin beer, furnished an abundance of free lunch to satisfy hunger. When picayunes, however, got scarce, I often felt like imitating the starving Dutch defenders on the ramparts of the city of Leyden, who threatened to eat their left arms so that the right ones might retain strength wherewith to defend their city (and I my boat).
Now, as time went on and no betterment in the market became apparent, I accepted from the captain of a Dutch clipper ship, sailing for Rotterdam, an offer for my boat and cargo. This sale furnished sufficient money to satisfy creditors, and enough cash to defray the expense of my trip home. From the well-known story that Bernadotte, king of Sweden, had
146once in Paris been a penniless bootblack, and having read somewhere that Cornelius Vanderbilt had started life earning fifty cents a day only, I took comfort, commenced rebuilding my air-castles forthwith, and resolved to imitate their examples. Was not "the world mine oyster"? The only regret I felt over the financial fiasco was the loss of a friend's money, which he had invested in the venture, and which, together with my own, had vanished without leaving behind seed enough wherewith to start another crop of promising expectations.
That night, as a guest of Captain Van Houten, I dined at "Victor's" on pompano and teal duck, freely irrigated with a choice vintage from sunny France; and he and I spun yarns and lingered over our coffee and havanas until late into the night.
I was elated over the successful manner in which I had navigated my argosy to such a degree that when the burgundy began to get busy I fancied myself a second Sir Joseph Porter, a future "Ruler of the Queen's Naivee," which entertained and amused my good-natured companion so much that we closed the night's session highly elated and thoroughly satisfied with each other.
Early the next morning I visited the French market, one of the attractions of the Crescent City, and drank the coffee for which this market is duly celebrated. Under the intoxicating aroma of the Mocha I made the discovery that the palms in front of the cathedral in Jackson Square were real, and not, as with us, made
147of tin, painted green, and that the oranges were so big that it took three only to make a dozen.
On the evening of that day, swift of wing like the homing pigeon, I took flight back to my Hoosier home, where, in due time, I arrived light of purse but heavy with experience.
War Times on a Mississippi River Steamboat.
The steamer "Fanny Bullitt," a side-wheeler of good dimensions and fair speed, of which I was part owner and head clerk at the time the war broke out, cleared port under Confederate sailing papers and made her last departure from New Orleans for Louisville on April 29, 1861. At Memphis, where the rebel authorities looked on us as Yankees, and I was known to be a republican, we barely escaped arrest, and the boat confiscation. We arrived at Louisville with an empty cabin; and after discharging a scanty cargo of rosin, turpentine and a little sugar, the boat went to the "bone-yard" below the falls at Portland, where, until November of that year, she "choked a ringbolt."
Now that war had actually begun it became apparent that steamboating on the Mississippi was at an end, and that the "J. M. White," the "Shotwell" the "Adams," the "Eclipse," and other swift and luxuriously appointed steamers, once the pride of the Mississippi river valley, were doomed to be recollections of the tempi passati, to be commemorated only in pictures adorning hotel lobbies and boarding-houses.
From an early day it had been the ardent wish and nightly dream of every barefooted boy on the banks of the river to be, or to become, the commander of one
149of these fiery dragons with glittering interior. The mighty power of the president at Washington, and the transcendental glory of the man with the big horn in the village brass band, paled and faded when compared with the exalted loftiness of the captain, as with the haughty air of a "rooster's tail at sunrise" he proudly trod the hurricane deck of one of these floating palaces.
Our captain, a Kentuckian and southern sympathizer, from constant worry over the deplorable condition of the country, fell sick, and in the early summer, died of a broken heart. At his death, the care of the boat and her considerable indebtedness fell to me; and when the patriotic boys in the north, at the call of the president, shouldered their guns, and with colors flying followed the fife and drum to glory, I found my hands tied and was thus prevented from enlisting. The summer wore on in anxious and irritating inactivity, and when, in the autumn, I proposed to offer the "Fanny's" services to the Union forces then gathering on the lower Ohio, I met with determined opposition from our Kentucky owners, who would not let the boat go into service against their southern friends and kinfolks.
Restive under the situation, and determined to break the deadlock, I bestirred myself. I was fortunate enough, with the aid of a friend, to raise the money in bank wherewith to buy out the disaffected and rebellious partners and thereby increased my already heavy indebtedness. Money in those days was very hard to get, and it took a Caesarian operation to deliver the bank of sufficient cash to satisfy my demand. I thus became the owner of five-sixths of the "Fanny Bullitt,"
150and I also became her commander. The other one-sixth interest remained the property of my friend Captain Ronald Fisher, a stanch Union man, who continued second in command of the boat.
Organized bands of southern sympathizers, in the fall of that year, were operating on the shores of the lower Ohio in southwestern Kentucky. They were engaged in smuggling contraband munitions of war into the Confederacy, and in disturbing the people in the towns and villages on the Illinois side of the river. As yet, along this part of Mason and Dixon's line, no military posts had been established by the federal government.
At Shawneetown, ten miles below the mouth of the Wabash, an Illinois regiment of cavalry had gone into camp for recruiting and organizing purposes. Here I directed my steps, and to the officers of the regiment proposed to bring my man-of-war and help them put down the rebellion "in ninety days," and whip those blustering Johnnies who constantly boasted that each of them could easily whip five of us "northern mudsills." This offer of mine to volunteer was promptly accepted by the colonel and his officers. I knew full well that authority for such service vested in the war department only, and that no pay could be expected. I therefore stipulated that I should be enrolled on the roster of this horse regiment as captain of "horse marines," without shoulder straps, and should have authority to draw rations for my men from the commissary of the regiment, and that oil for the machinery, cordage and oakum should be furnished by the quarter-master;
151while the necessary fuel I engaged to requisition boldly from neighboring coal mines. These proceedings were altogether irregular, not ordered by the war department, nor authorized in army regulations, but by us hotheads were held to be highly patriotic, laudable and necessary to bring the war to an end and "hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree."
The colonel of the regiment, a pet of Governor Dick Yates, was troubled with ingrowing nerve; but he shall be nameless. I may call him "Old Liver-Pad," for in civil life he was a quack doctor.
And stood in need of a physician;
When murrain reigned in hogs or sheep,
And chickens languished of the pip,
then the colonel was always found at his best; and it was asserted, without fear of successful contradiction, that he had to a nicety figured out
Of his own length, from head to rump.
On taking the boat from her berth at Portland, where she had lain all summer and autumn, I "spared no wisdom" to induce the wharfmaster to take my I. O. U. in liquidation of accumulated port charges instead of cash, which I had not. Shrinkage during the dry summer months had opened seams of the hull above the water line, and when the caulking let go they admitted water freely. This defect had been carelessly overlooked before starting. On the way down the river
152I noticed a perceptible settling of the boat, and to keep her from sinking I hastened to turn her head to the bank at Cloverport, Kentucky. Here, while I "blowed" the bellows, I had the village blacksmith at short metre hammer out some caulking irons; and on a hastily constructed float, the engineer, the pilot and I lowered ourselves overboard, and with the oakum on hand, tightened up the leaky seams as best we could. As I had but a small complement of men, it took us all night to pump out the bilge before we could proceed and finish the two hundred and forty miles intervening between Louisville and Shawnee-town. At our arrival amidst alarums of drums and the huzzas from warriors and citizens on shore, we hoisted the stars and stripes at the jackstaff, and never lowered them again from that time on. As I had no money wherewith to pay wages, the crew patriotically went into writings with me, stipulating that unless the state of Illinois or the federal government at some future day paid the boat for her services, no claim for wages should lie against me nor the boat.
We were all of us, the captain as well as his crew, in those days so impecunious that our tobacco was begged from the boys in blue, who were well supplied; of all other delicacies only the Sunday pie remained, which, for want of fruit, was made of beans until bugs and worms were found in the beans. At the little old post of Shawneetown that winter I was looked upon as representing the navy; and feted accordingly by the patriotic dames of the town. This secured for me, now and then, a much needed "square meal," in
153return for which I never failed, in the most engaging manner, to make myself agreeable to maid and matron alike at any of their dances and evening parties.
In support of the proverb that "a sitting hen gathers no moss," we bestirred ourselves strenuously in raids and expeditions along the Kentucky shores, where, under orders from the officers of the regiment and with the aid of its men, we pursued marauders, captured needed forage for the horses of our regiment, and confiscated and destroyed ferry-boats and other watercraft used for purposes of smuggling and disturbing that portion of the people in "Egypt" on the opposite shore of the river who were loyal, and who were not out in the smartweed and dog-fennel at midnight plotting treason and drilling with the Sons of Liberty and Knights of the Golden Circle.
By the time the federal forces had established military posts at Paducah and Smithland, early in 1862, there came an order from General Grant to report with the "Fanny Bullitt" at headquarters in Cairo. On our arrival there my boat, together with other steamers, was ordered to anchor out in the middle of the Ohio and await orders. Meanwhile I kept up communication with the shore, and during my daily reports to General Grant had, when the tobacco smoke was not too dense, favorable opportunities to observe the silent commander. At Grant's boarding-house, where Charles A. Dana and George Boutwell, the latter an ex-governor of Massachusetts, then in Cairo on a war mission, and myself were the only other boarders, we found the general fairly communicative
154and genial. Captain Hillier, Colonel Clark Lago and Master of Transportation Wash Graham, of the staff, were gay and sporty, while Colonel Rawlins, who afterwards arose to eminence, was earnestly devoted to his duties as chief of staff.
After we had taken part, under General McClernand, in a reconnoisance down the Mississippi near Columbus, Kentucky, which brought no results, I was sent with artillery and ammunition to Fort Henry on the Tennessee river. Here Grant, with the aid of Commodore Foote's gunboats, made his first draw in the game which opened to him the western vitals of the Confederacy. We remained during the fight and then returned to Cairo.
Fort Donaldson on the Cumberland river surrendered on February 15, 1862. I was there with the "Fanny Bullitt" on the day of the surrender, and was ordered the next day to load up and take away from the battlefield to unknown hospital accommodations the first of our seriously wounded men, two hundred of whom completed the cargo. The season was an excessively wet one and the camp and battlefield were knee-deep in yellow clay, which, kneaded into slush, made life very sloppy and disagreeable for everybody.
The Cumberland river, out of banks, with its turbid drift-laden flood, rushed along at millrace speed. Surgeons could not be spared from the battlefield, so that I had to depart without a single doctor or nurse. As there were but few hospitals thus early in the war the "Fanny's" destination was, after reporting to General
155Sherman at Paducah, mouth of the Tennessee, left entirely to my judgment.
On leaving Donaldson we had not much more than straightened out, laying the boat in her course down stream, when night lowered her somber mantle upon us, and a stormy, dark and ugly night it proved to be. Barney Seals, the only pilot on board, was drunk; and as through Egyptian darkness with lightning speed we rushed down a bend or rounded a point of that crooked river, the strings of my heart would tighten until the blood receding, would all but leave it at a standstill. The intoxicated Barney's catlike eyes, illumined as they were by the fumes arising from the liquor within, enabled him, however, to bring us safely past all submerged banks and invisible deathdealing obstructions. He skillfully managed to keep the boat out of the woods and away from cornfields, and held her steadily in the marks.
As in the course of the night, for a short space, I left my post on the hurricane deck to look in upon the cabin, with its hospital of wounded sufferers, I stumbled over dead bodies brought, as they had died, from the cabin to the guards of the boiler deck. In the dimly lighted interior, where two hundred men lay on blood-stained straw, and feverish moans filled the air, a horrible vision came to my distressed brain. It pictured possible shipwreck. I could see the wounded men, with broken legs and maimed arms, frantically struggle and helplessly sink to their death in the merciless waves of the turbid flood.
Horrified and disheartened at my helplessness and
156turning to escape this nightmare, I suddenly came upon a woman, who had entered through one of the cabin doors. She was of middle age, broad and stanch of posture, and had a kindly but resolute face. Her sleeves were rolled up to the elbow, and the skirt of her calico gown was tucked back. She carried in one hand a pail of hot water, and in the other an armful of the boat's bed-sheets and pillow-slips, torn into strips for bandages. Following her were two deckhands, carrying additional pails of hot water from the boilers below.
Spellbound at the sight of a woman (the only one of her sex on board) who had come as a volunteer and unauthorized, I followed her every movement as she dressed wounds, washed the blood and grime from them, spoke encouraging words to the fever-racked sufferers, and took last parting messages for widowed wives and sorrowing mothers from dying men, until I could see a halo of golden light encircle and illumine the head of this veritable Mater Dolorosa.
Mrs. Bickerdyke, a woman of great administrative ability and determination, came to Cairo as a volunteer nurse at the time General Grant assumed command. She was at Donaldson when it fell, and on the evening of the "Fanny's" departure for the Ohio river, unaccompanied, she had boarded the boat without orders or asking permission from any one. In the dead of night she appeared amongst us as an angel of mercy, and quietly went to work to relieve suffering. In her efforts she appropriated everything needful, and freely called on the crew of the boat for aid, which was cheerfully
157given and never refused. From the time she left us at Paducah the next day until the close of the war I never lost trace of this remarkable woman.
In appreciation of her kindly efforts and helpful work among the boys in blue she soon became known as Mother Bickerdyke; and when General Grant discovered her eminent executive ability and courage, the lines of his army and doors of the hospitals were opened without restraint; and she was invested with such power as, from that time on, proved a menace to drunken hospital stewards and a warning to dissolute or neglectful army surgeons.
To illustrate the resourcefulness of this woman, I will relate one only of her many strategic and successful moves. While in Memphis aiding the authorities in charge of the extensive army hospitals she one day disappeared, and no one knew her whereabouts. After a time, when she returned, it was on a steamer loaded to repletion with cows and chickens, which live stock, with money collected "on change" from merchants in Milwaukee, Chicago and elsewhere, she had bought and paid for. These animals she landed on President's Island in the Mississippi river opposite the city, where, under her supervision, they were cared for by "contraband" negroes; and thus in abundance did she provide the two needful luxuries, milk and eggs, for the sick and convalescent boys in blue, whose undying gratitude thus deservedly she earned.
Mary Livermore, who admired her greatly, and who was her co-worker during the days of the war, relates that at a time later on Mrs. Bickerdyke, who had promised
158her a visit in Boston, did not ring the door-bell until ten o'clock at night, although she had arrived in town as early as eight in the morning.
"I learned," says Mrs. Livermore, "that the train had brought her to the city early enough, but that she had spent the whole day at the police court, house of correction, and similar places in Boston, searching after one of her ‘boys’ who had gone wrong. She then lived in San Francisco and the boy's family also lived there. She at that time was well-nigh eighty years old. I said in despair, ‘Mother Bickerdyke, haven't you got through with such work yet? You are too old to be running around so now. Why will you do it?’ She sprang up from the couch where she lay exhausted from the day's worry, and standing in the middle of the floor, cried, ‘Because, Mary Livermore, I am commissioned by the Lord God Almighty to help every poor, desolate, wretched man that I can. He will always have two friends, God and me.’"
A violet streak in the east, and then a luminous mist, followed by the golden chariot of Apollo, announced that day had come at last, to dispel the horrors of the night and soothe the misery of the afflicted. The blessed light was hailed with satisfaction by all on board; and those who, with closed eyes, lay stiff and stark upon the deck, appeared peaceful and submissive to their lot as their forms emerged from the gloom.
Arrived at Paducah I promptly reported at headquarters to General Sherman, only to learn that he had no place to send me and the poor sufferers in my charge; and over a glass of brandy, in which I joined
159him, he deplored the utter lack of hospital accommodations.
While taking our drink a thundering racket from the heavy footsteps of burly, giant-like General William Nelson announced the sudden arrival of that individual. Nelson, in command of a division, on his way to reinforce General Buel, had his forces on a fleet of steamers which lay at that moment out in the river opposite Paducah, awaiting the signal to proceed up the Cumberland.
It will be remembered that this officer, brother of my deceased friend, Colonel Tom Nelson of Terre Haute, was killed at the Galt House in Louisville during the war. General Jeff Davis, a gallant Indianian, dispatched the bully with a well-aimed shot of his pistol, in retribution for an uncalled-for and wanton insult offered him by Nelson.
The scanty and incomplete hospital accommodations at Cairo and Mound City, fifty miles below Paducah, had already been exhausted; and Paducah then had not a single hospital bed prepared. So General Sherman, though powerless "to order," in a kindly and helpful manner, "advised" to try Louisville, where he thought I would find relief. Without doctors or nurses, a further journey of four hundred miles, climbing a six-mile current, in a river filled with heavy drift, meant a tedious trip for the boat, and offered a dolorous outlook for the wounded and suffering men, who, from this time on, had to do without even Mother Bickerdyke. This good woman was needed in Cairo, and she reluctantly left us to our fate.
Anxious to reach sorely needed help I determined to waste no time, and having
I quick put it in execution,
by weighting down the safety valve. With steam raised to the danger point, I now strove to overcome the heavy current of the swollen river.
Arrived at Shawneetown, where everybody knew me, I sent for some of the women and leading business men of the place, and after having told my tale of woe, I was partially relieved. Under the stimulus of their charitable and patriotic impulses all the Illinois men on board were taken ashore.
At Henderson, Kentucky, forty-five miles farther up the river, those citizens of the prosperous little city who were loyal to the Union cause, took what few Kentuckians I had.
At Evansville the authorities took all my Indiana men ashore, where, at the hands of the good women of the place and other patriotic citizens, sorely needed attention was furnished in kindly abundance.
This was done by direction of Governor Morton at Indianapolis, with whom I had promptly entered into telegraphic communication. By orders from the governor we were also supplied with stores and medicines, doctors and nurses and every other thing needful to the remaining patients; and when I turned the "Fanny" loose upon the last two hundred miles of this eventful voyage it was not only under a less dangerous weight
161on the steam gauge, but with a let-up of pressure on my spirits as well.
At Louisville I found no difficulty from lack of hospital accommodations. On account of the extraordinary height of the river, however, no landing could be effected until, with much difficulty, I succeeded in sticking the boat's nose into Fourth street, a long ways up among the stores and offices of the city. Here we unloaded the last of our human freight into ambulances and upon spring wagons.
Now that the trip was ended, an inspection showed the condition of the cabin to be that of an abattoir after a hard day's killing. Every stanchion and bulkhead was smeared with human blood, and the boat's decks gave evidence of the abundant loss of the life-giving fluid on the spot where suffering humanity had breathed its last.
On returning to Cairo I was kept on waiting orders, and, like Mahomet's coffin, was hung up until the latter part of March. Then we were ordered up the Tennessee river to Pittsburg Landing with guns and ammunition. After discharging cargo, the "Fanny" was utilized by General Grant, up to the time of the battle of Shiloh, as a ferry between Pittsburg Landing and headquarters at Savannah, where Mr. White, one of my engineers, had two of his fingers shot away by the bursting of a rebel shell. During the days that the battle of Pittsburg Landing was being fought, and it rained bullets, we, under orders and in sight, lay at
162the landing sheltered from hostile shot by the protecting river bank; and there
That muster under one supreme control;
I heard the trumpet sound the signal blast,
The calling of the roll.
At about the time that Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander-in-chief of the Confederate forces, met his doom in a nearby gully close to our landing, my pilot, Barney Seals, who enjoyed a thirst that was a pippin, was caught, while drunk, stealing chickens from a coop on a neighboring steamer and put in durance vile. I did not intercede in his behalf but left him to sweat in the guardhouse until we were ordered away and the scalawag's services were again needed. Pilots at this time were much in demand, and this insured Barney, in spite of the incorrigible whisky habit, a steady and well-paid job.
Soon after our return to the mouth of the Ohio, together with other transports, and convoyed by United States gunboats, we were dispatched into the heart of the Confederacy, as far south as the mouth of the Yazoo river, just above Vicksburg, where, under a flag of truce, an exchange of prisoners was effected with Confederate States Commissioner Oulds.
During the progress of this long voyage down the Mississippi and back, I could not fail to observe the complete absence of the life and animation of antebellum days. The mighty river, under the blighting influence of a blockade at both ends, had fallen into a
163reposeful sleep, which it seemed rude to disturb with the reverberating sound of a shrill steam whistle, or the sonorous coughing of the engine's escape pipes.
By the time our mission had been completed, and the exchanged boys in blue had been brought back, landed and furloughed at Cairo, General Curtis had brought his army through Arkansas to the Mississippi river and gone into camp near Helena. Quartermasters' stores and commissary supplies for his army had accumulated in such quantity at Cairo, that the "Fanny's" share of them made her fairly stagger and drag the guards in the water as I once more turned her head down stream towards the shores of Arkansas.
After arrival at Helena and during a prolonged stay there, I spent much time with the staff and line officers of Generals Curtis and Osterhaus, some of whom I had known in civil life in St. Louis. The attendance of these warriors at my first "at home" on board the boat, made me think that the Trojan mare "in foal with Greeks" had broken loose, and that the thirsty crowd had brought with it gullets yards in length and open at both ends.
In the malaria-laden air of the camp in these Arkansas river bottoms many men fell sick. A goodly number of these I was by and by ordered to transport up the river to Keokuk, Iowa, where, on high ground in healthful surroundings, the government maintained large military hospitals.
During the operations of the Union forces in the southwest, steamboats were of great importance on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland
164rivers. While their usefulness was completely paralyzed at the beginning of the war, this large fleet of watercraft afterwards became the main factor in the transportation of troops and the carrying of ammunition, quartermasters' supplies and army stores. The "Fanny," one of this fleet, utilized for all sorts of service, was frequently sent into out-of-the-way localities, where she was exposed to ambuscades from hostile batteries and volleys from the enemy's musketry. From these dangers we strove to protect ourselves by barricading the boilers of the boat with hay and cotton bales, and by surrounding the pilot house with boiler iron; and, with the exception of slight wounds received by two of the crew, we succeeded fairly well in protecting life and limb.
My boat had now unremittingly been at work for nigh unto two years, during which time, repairing out of the question, absolutely nothing had been done to offset the heavy abuse and hard knocks she had endured. Much of the nosing around the guards and outriggers was worn off. The gallows frame supporting the starboard wheel, out of plumb, had an ominous leaning outward; and the wheel houses and bulkheads full of bullet holes, with the upper works badly dilapidated, had given her the appearance of a lopsided hobo, staggering under a heavy jag.
Steamboats by this time had again come into demand, but the "Fanny's" scanty earnings up to then were quite insufficient to pay for docking her and cover the large expense of giving the boat and machinery the thorough overhauling they needed. I therefore
165was glad to find a party who would buy. I consequently sold, and the purchaser immediately went to work on repairs which, when completed, he found had run up to the neat little sum of forty thousand dollars.
When, after the fall of Vicksburg, I once more saw the boat at Cairo, bound from St. Louis to New Orleans, heavily laden with a valuable cargo, there came to me the last greeting I should ever receive from her decks. It was given in a cheery voice by my friend, Tom Tucker, the mate, who wished me "a light heart and a heavy purse for evermore."
The now absolutely stanch condition of the boat precluded the thought that this should be her last voyage; but fate had decreed that it should be so. A hidden snag in the lower river one foggy night on this very trip knocked a hole in her hull; and she, together with her valuable cargo, sank to the bottom, where the water is nearly a hundred feet deep. This wreck, strange to relate, occurred directly opposite the well-known Bullitt plantation in the state of Mississippi, which was then and is yet owned by the woman after whom the boat and her predecessor both were named.
A good many years ago Louisville parties built a steamer for the New Orleans trade and named her the "Fanny Smith," in honor of one of the then fashionable belles of Kentucky. In due time, when the boat became worn, her machinery was transferred to a newly-built craft which, for the same stunning leader of gay Blue Grass society, who in the meantime had become Mrs. Colonel Bullitt, was christened "Fanny Bullitt."
On reflection it occurs to me as a marvelous coincidence,
166that this vessel, after having escaped the dangers of navigation on a snag-infested river for so many years, as well as the vicissitudes of destructive war, should butt out her brains here. And the question suggests itself, why she should have chosen this particular locality, when snags in the ten hundred miles of river between the mouth of the Ohio and New Orleans used to be as plentiful as leaves in Valambrosa. Could it have been affection for her godmother that animated the boat on that dark night to hug the bend of the river in quest of the mud-imbedded snag, that she might in self-destruction find rest with "her own"? Who knows?
Some years afterward Sol Gilkey, an old steamboat-man, told me that for many years he had been well acquainted with "one-eyed Wash Johnson," the pilot who was at the wheel the night the boat sank. "Wash," he said, "had a glass eye, which at times, when its owner was ‘very dry’ and out of money, he would pawn for whisky. The eye on that particular night was missing from its socket. At Memphis, on the way down the river, Wash had pawned it for a drink, and the inference is that the absent eye, had it been in its place, would have enabled the pilot to have given the snag a wide berth and saved the steamer."
Becky Posey, the chambermaid, soon after her rescue from the sinking boat, told the mate that when at one of the landings she saw a white horse and a preacher come aboard, her "fonetic" soul told her that thar would be trouble; and when afterwards she discovered that Mars Wash's glass eye was missin' outen his head
167she know'd that the boat was bound to have bad luck. "You can't expec'," she said to the mate, "but what de want of dat er eye would make a man lopsided, and thar ain't no pilot wat's lopsided can hold no boat round no bend, and pint er right down de middle o' de chute, whisky er no whisky. No, sah, it was dat glass eye that done de whole business," she continued. "Dey say dat in New Orleans de oysters shuck off der shells and run right over you on de street, but as much as I love oysters I don't nebber want to go thar no mo'; I wanter get back to Injiana whar I was bawn, yes sah, at home in my lodge whar I is Peramound Princess ob de Order of White Doves and de Fishes of Galilee. We works for de pervention ob social purity. Dar's w'ere my heart is, Mars Tucker. You don't get Becky Posey to resk her life no mo' on boats wat's got pilots wid glass eyes."
When foreign tourists and travelers from the East failed to agree with our people that the Mississippi river steamboats were "magnificent," we used to think them prejudiced and unreasonable. Did we not spend our money freely to embellish the exterior of the boat with fancy scroll sawed and carved ornaments? Did we not put gold leaf galore on curlicues and terminals in the interior, and paint dainty landscapes in oil on the door panels of the state rooms? Were not the carpets on the floor soft and gay of color and the chandeliers immense in size and gorgeously trapped with glittering glass drops? and the bridal chamber, which we never failed to show the critical visitor, did it not flutter with lace counterpanes and embroidered "shams"
168on a couch spacious enough to reassure any timid bride fresh from the hands of the reverend executioner?
The cabin, of great width, extended over the entire length of the boat; and the wide guards which surrounded the cabin offered limitless promenading facilities; while in swinging hammocks and deep armchairs, fanned by cooling breezes, luxurious ease was found. Where was there anything in travel to surpass this, when on the placid summer surface of the Father of Waters the boat winged her way through the deep hush, between heavily wooded banks, disturbed only by the sonorous pulsations of the big engines and their echo from the forest wall on shore?
The gods have forsaken bright Olympus, and the steamboat, once the pride of our great central valley, has departed from the shining surface of this great highway. The commerce of the Mississippi, a river greater by far than the venerable Nile, has been taken captive and is held with shackles of steel by the snake-like ribbon of the iron horse. Silence and stagnation have overcast the face of the mighty stream where erstwhile bustling life covered its course and enlivened the adjacent shores.
The mutability of human concerns has nowhere been more startlingly demonstrated than in the annihilation of that rich current of the country's commerce which, in untold millions, used to float over its course down to the sea.
The seasons succeed each other in their wonted regularity; the sluggish catfish and the saurian-descended alligator fatten in the mud-laden waters; but there is
169no revival of former thrift and prosperity for the dwellers on the banks of the great river.
It were fit that a requiem should be chanted over the old leviathan by a modern Torquato Tasso, and its departed glories be celebrated by the eloquence of a Demosthenes. Those of us, the remnant of the crew of that proud armada once afloat on the river's bosom, now sit under the willows on its deserted banks, while in web-footed dreams we linger and wait for the reawakening of the mighty giant, so ignominiously held in subjection by the iron horse and flouted by the shriek of its unholy whistle.
Adventurous Times on the Tennessee River.
One summer's day antedating "the war," I landed from an Ohio river steamer, with a detachment of ax-men and wood choppers, in the "black bottoms" in Egypt (southern Illinois), to establish a stave camp. Here oak timber grew in magnificent abundance. Trees, tall and straight as altar candles in lofty cathedrals, stood in serried ranks; their limbs fairly reaching for the clouds. In this insalubrious locality it became necessary that the commissary supplies from Paducah, a town on the opposite shore in Kentucky, should be wholesome, but as Mose, my Ethiopian Mouffetish caterer and cook, could not read, Brilliat Savarin's directions and advice on cookery were unknown to him. The consequence was that his greasy compounds, together with the malaria lurking in the black, mucky soil, soon made us all, in spite of quinine in unabbreviated doses, sick and unfit for work. The straw which served for bedding before long became infested with all kinds of creeping monsters, and gallinippers nightly carried off such of the crew as had any flesh left on their bones and were not encased in football harness. By and by it dawned upon me that there was not in my original scheme any design to start a graveyard or feed the circling buzzards which frequently visited us in goodly numbers.
I consequently took my artists up the Tennessee river, where, at Belcher's Landing in Kentucky, fifty miles from the mouth of the river, on high ground, I started another camp more salubrious. Here sanitary conditions were much improved and life made more endurable; otherwise, however, I was brought to admire the wisdom of Casey the Irishman, who, when offered a release from purgatory, declined it with the retort, "Oi might go farther and fare worse." Had I imitated Casey's conservatism and not moved, I should have escaped the adventures which so nearly sent me to that hot place where Casey feared to go.
When the time came to ship some of the product of our labor to St. Louis there arrived at Belcher's landing the side-wheel steamer "Meteor," to be loaded with staves and other timber for the thriving city on the upper Mississippi. The boat was owned and commanded by a redheaded Irishman known as "Riley the Wrecker," who had a very long upper lip, and who smoked a very short pipe. It was not long after the lines had been made fast that I became aware that Riley, drunk as a lord, was seeking for somebody to "tread on the tail of his coat." He had on board a St. Louis levee gang of Irish toughs, as fine a lot as ever scuttled ship or cut a throat. On the trip out from St. Louis, Teddy McFadden, the mate, had discovered that Riley was "sweet on" the buxom chambermaid operating in the after end of the cabin. Teddy was not only mate of the steamer but he was also a brother of the captain's wife, so, in the interest of domestic felicity, and for the protection of Mrs. Riley's interest and
172that of the little Rileys, there existed on board the boat, under a momentary modus vivendi, an actual state of war.
After night had spread her mantle over the somber forest and shining river, and by the time the thirsty crew had well soaked themselves in more booze, the fires of controversy became rekindled and began to burn fiercely. Teddy, the brother-in-law, unmercifully larruped "auld" Riley, the captain, and most beautifully wiped the deck of the boat with him. This started the fun all along the line, so that the silvery little stars in the heavens ere long looked down upon as lively and joyous a shindy of blood-letting and nose-splitting as was ever indulged in on the bogs of Ireland.
As "looker-on in Vienna," after a time I conceived the idea that by waving the olive branch, with the aid and assistance of the pilot, the only sober man on board, the trouble might be stopped and peace reestablished. With this laudable desire, when the fun became fierce, the pilot and I started for the woods to where the clans had adjourned. As we passed through the underbrush on the way to the battle-ground I fell over a log and on top of a drunken tough, who, in the dark, lay on the other side of the selfsame log. In his sodden surprise, while blowing a breath upon me foul, funky and fuliginous, he pounded my head and "chawed" me vigorously, and before I could disentangle myself from his ardent embrace, he had bitten a piece out of one ear, and I had badly sprained my right wrist in an effort to punch his ill-favored mug. This unexpected rencontre put me completely hors de
173combat, and the pilot and I slunk back to the boat, having had quite enough of peacemaking.
The river now began to decline, and the boat went hard aground on a shelving beach, and as the crew deserted and did not return "auld Riley" and the buxom chambermaid were in a pickle. In the meantime I had abundant leisure to nurse my skinned knuckles and sprained wrist. The neighboring cabin of Aunt Lou Freels gave me shelter, and the kind old soul doctored and soon restored me to myself with her ointments and Indian remedies, including frog oil, roasted out of live toads over hot coals done in the dark of the moon, of which she alone claimed to have the recipe. The old lady also, when coaxed, told fortunes from coffee grounds, and had a never-failing remedy, which promptly stopped "any defluxion of rheums that distil from the head upon the stomach."
In due time, and before the "Meteor," which had now sprung a leak, could be repaired and pumped out, another boat arrived at the landing. Captain Elijah Carrol had brought the stern-wheel steamboat "Charter" from the Cumberland river to take away the accumulated stock of timber ready for shipment. Captain "Lige" had been recommended as a good and reliable man, and considering my late and disastrous experience, I naturally hailed his arrival with delight.
To enable me to be on hand bright and early for work the next morning, I determined to sleep that night on board the boat, and turned in early. For want of mosquito netting I avoided the open bunks, with which the cabin of this primitive craft was furnished,
174and lay down on the cabin floor, where stood a good-sized dining table, covered with a large table-cloth, which hung on all sides so low that it reached the floor, thus promising protection against the winged bloodsuckers, which had whetted up for a joyous banquet and were assembled in goodly numbers.
In this almost hermetically sealed enclosure, with the temperature of a midsummer's night at a hundred and upwards, perspiring at every pore, I sweltered, until finally drowsiness overcame worry.
Somewhere near midnight, my bones aching from contact with the bare floor of the cabin, I was startled from sleep by a noise, and, on lifting a corner of the table-cloth, I saw, by the dim light of the cabin lamp, Captain 'Lige, wildly raving, coming up the companion-way. He held clutched in one hand a long kitchen knife and grasped with the other a carpenter's hand ax. With the lumbering step of a drunken man he came, as if pursuing some one, on a brisk canter down the cabin to where I lay barely awake. Paralyzed with sudden fright, and being without pistol or other weapon of defense, I felt absolutely helpless. Any attempt to escape was out of the question. So I did the only thing left to do; in the hope of hiding I dropped the curtain of my boudoir and, with bated breath, awaited his coming. Fortunately, ignorant of my presence under the dining table, he stormed past muttering to himself as he went. On reaching the after end of the cabin, he examined some of the open bunks; but finding them unoccupied retraced his steps and, at the
175same pace he had come, rushed back toward the forward end of the boat. All this time
To force a passage through my side.
I held my breath, however, and waiting for the opportune moment, suddenly threw out one foot, and with the heel of the shoe hit his shin bone a splintering lick, which felled him to the floor with a thud. Like a rubber ball, I then bounced from my lair, and made for on open window at the after end of the cabin, overlooking the wheel. Before I could get through the window, however, the lunatic had scrambled to his feet and followed, and as he saw my legs disappear, he hurled the ax after them. Fortunately for me, the shot missed its aim and the ax struck a stanchion in the rear bulkhead and stuck there. Nimble as a squirrel I slid over the wheel and dropped down into the river like a ripe plum, and through mud and water made my way to shore, where some of the boat's crew were huddled together in hiding.
Here I learned that the captain, though ordinarily a sober and peaceful man, at long intervals indulged in a "high lonesome," and at these times would become possessed of a mania insanely murderous, which on at least one occasion previously had brought him uncomfortably close to the gallows.
When daylight came, the would-be man-slayer was found lying on the forecastle of the boat, his head leaning against the capstan, where he peaceably slept off
176his drunk. Various emotions, not easy to describe, agitated my bosom as I looked upon the placid face of the man, and involuntarily I conjured up a lively picture of the corpse I should have made if the captain's long snickersnee had reached my vitals, and how the girl who was then destined to be my wife would have had no husband and my children no father, and how the state of Indiana would have lost what became, later on, an orderly, well-behaved and useful citizen. However much I have tried with Mrs. Malaprop "to illiterate the past," I have never since been able to quite forget the horrible gleam of that long butcher knife and the maniac's wild ravings.
Mutiny on an Ohio River Steamboat.
"The early village cock had thrice done salutation to the morn" when we rounded the point above Golconda. This little town lies picturesquely on the right bank of the Ohio, eighty miles above the mouth of the river, in that part of Illinois known as Egypt. It is a village like others of its class. It has a wharfboat, where steamers land to load and unload freight and passengers, half a dozen stores, an Odd Fellows' Hall, bandstand, and several saloons where bad whisky is sold and old sledge and poker are en rÄgle. It is just like any other river town, but its situation is so peculiarly cozy as it nestles between two lofty hills, which, from an altitude of several hundred feet, run their spurs to the very margin of the water, that during the leafy season of the year the sentimental traveler passing this way is favorably attracted to the place and its picturesque surroundings.
In the sixties and seventies, when the E., P. & C. Packet Company was running daily mail boats past there from Evansville to Cairo, I, as superintendent of the line, had warm friends among the congenial denizens of the place. An occasional visit with them always proved inviting and agreeable.
The high crests of the twin hills had for a number of years been occupied as favorite locations for healthful and airy homes. In the sixties the hill farthest
178south, with its villa, was owned and inhabited by a Mr. Koch and his family. This Mr. Koch reminded me very much of one of Riley's sweet, venerable characters,
A hale white rose of his countrymen,
As blossomy and as pure and sweet
As the cool green glen of his calm retreat.
In beds of pansy and mignonette,
And lily and aster and columbine,
Offered in love, as yours and mine.
Yes, this description of the poet fitted very closely my silver-haired old friend who, a native of Dresden, had here in his declining years surrounded himself with flowers, fruits and vines of the choicest sorts, and in elegant ease followed scientific and literary pursuits in quiet contentment. From his library window on high he surveyed the town beneath and a goodly stretch of the shining surface of la belle riviere as well. The procession of steamers coming and going, belching forth clouds of black smoke and fleecy white steam into a sky of Italian azure, made a fine panorama; while the blowing of deep-chested whistles and ringing of clear-throated bells furnished music for the pageant.
In full view immediately below, and near the Kentucky shore, lies Golconda Island. Its blue grass meadows are studded with grazing cattle, and Captain Northern's white residence, with its broad southern
179veranda, to this day gleams in the center and peeps invitingly out from the surrounding grove of black locust trees.
Beyond this the vista fades away over an open, cultivated and level country in the state of Kentucky, where fine horses are bred and the woods are full of colonels! The other promontory just above the town, also topped off by a fine residence, was then owned by a former citizen of Louisville, wealthy, retired from business, and enjoying his otium cum dignitate.
Both hills are heavily wooded; the green mantle of the foliage on their long slopes is broken only where the turning of the winding footpath makes a nick in its soft and velvety surface. Here in spring the snowy-white blossoms of the dogwood and the purple flowers of the redbud, lend greater glory to the bright hue of the juicy green. It would be difficult to find a more romantic site on the shores of the Hudson or the banks of historic Father Rhine than this sylvan spot in unromantic "Egypt." Legendary lore, which adds charm to attractive localities, has found lodgment here also. This neighborhood, as well as the Catskills, the Adirondacks and other mountainous districts, has its traditions.
It was among these hills that once upon a time a great Manitou kept watch over and guarded the Indians of his tribe. He appeared in the guise of a monstrous bear. When in an amiable mood he would scatter wampum among them from the top of one of these knobs in great abundance, but when angry or displeased with their checaudum, or want of it, would
180strike them down with giant paws, crunch their bones between his formidable jaws, and destroy the bravest warriors of the tribe. This was long before the fire-water of the white man had debased the redskins, and previous to the time when westward the jug of empire had taken its way. By and by a medicine man with great mystic powers came from the north and caught the monster "napping," and with his charms and his philters overcame and killed him. Then, when the giant carcass had been cut up into small bits and scattered to the four winds, every one of the pieces grew into a black bear, numbers of which, down to the days of the earliest settlements, furnished sport and game to the pioneers of the country.
It was at Golconda, one morning in March, 1864, while in command of the steamer "Courier," that, in pursuit of my duties as captain of the boat and custodian of the lives of numerous passengers and crew, it fell to my lot to face an unusually serious situation, which might have terminated fatally for myself and disastrously for others, but which, thanks to the aid of a navy six-shooter and a little "sand in the craw," ended all right.
The hour was quite early, and most of the passengers were yet in their staterooms. We had made the regular mail landing and were preparing to resume the journey down stream when, in the gray morning light there came from the town, down the river bank toward the boat, a string of fifteen soldiers. They were our own boys in blue. Dirty and bedraggled, they staggered as they filed by. When they passed me near
181the gangway I saw that they were in a beastly condition of drunkenness. Heeding orders from the military authorities I dared not refuse them admission to the boat, as during the days of "the unpleasantness" strict orders from the war department at Washington were to give transportation to all soldiers on furlough coming from or returning to their commands.
A first lieutenant, who had previously come aboard, stepped up to tell me that he had lost all control over the men and that he feared they would make trouble aboard. I noticed that a number of them were pock-marked and others had red hair, which, among river deck crews is believed to bode bad luck to the boat, the same as to have on board at once a preacher and a white mare. The men appeared thoroughly brutalized, and were soaked through and through with whisky of the most quarrelsome quality. They had been drinking all night, cleaned out the town, and had demolished every saloon in it. On closely following them across the landing stage I stopped the squad from going up on boiler deck and into the cabin, already well filled with passengers, and directed them to stay below on the main deck, to which order they sullenly and grumblingly submitted. Instead of proceeding to the warm and sheltered engine room aft, they insisted on remaining forward, and squatted down in the coal bunkers before the fire doors, right in the way of the negro firemen.
When I left for the hurricane deck to back out the boat, they were getting ready to play cards. While laying the boat in her course, head down stream, the
182signal having just been given to come ahead on both wheels, I was startled by a loud tap on the big bell, alongside of which I was standing. Then a hail from the pilot informed me that a bloody riot was in progress on the lower deck. In anticipation of trouble I had previously buckled on a long navy revolver, such a one as during the days of the war everybody was provided with.
Taking the weapon in my right hand I quickly rushed down the companionway, landed among the rioters suddenly, and startled them by my abrupt appearance. Upon this coup I had counted and was not disappointed in its effect upon the liquor-crazed crowd. Up to that moment they had been faced by the mate and engineer only, who were armed with nothing more formidable than clubs. The sight of a dead fireman lying in a pool of blood with skull crushed and brain scattered over lumps of coal drove the blood back to my heart.
Stunned for the moment, I quickly perceived, however, that irresolution in an emergency like this would certainly bring dangerous consequences to the safety of every one on board, and when a quick glance informed me of a suspicious movement of the right hand toward his pistol belt of one of the soldiers nearest me, I instantly, while pointing my six-shooter at his breast, ordered "Hands up." Grim determination in the expression of my eye and tone of voice, for I had clearly and calmly agreed with myself to enforce my authority or die in the attempt, happily convinced him and his comrades that it would be best to obey orders. I
183then, in my deepest basso profundo (as we would say in Italian), gave the command, "About face, march!" and the entire squad, like whipped curs, climbed with halting and unsteady tread ahead of me up the companionway. And when they showed a disposition to tarry on boiler deck and began to cast wistful glances toward the bar with its gleaming and tempting bottles of red liquor, I had to crowd vigorously to land them on the hurricane deck above.
Here I remained with them, not daring to relax vigilance for an instant. While carelessly toying with my gun, I held up to them the enormity of their crime and the baneful effects of excessive drink upon soldiers fighting for their country. Thus gradually sobering up, and quieting down, they were held and entertained until we reached the mouth of the Cumberland river, eighteen miles below, where I turned them over to a provost guard of my friend Colonel Butterfield, then commandant of the post at Smithland; and there we buried the remains of the murdered fireman.
Had I at any time flinched or shirked my duty it might have gone hard with us all. Drunken men, at best, are careless of life and consequences. Most of them were desperate fellows, men hardened on the battlefield and in camp; they were devoid of all sense of moral responsibility, and bore the stamp of brutishness upon their faces.
The hot-water hose, always useful in emergencies of this sort, had, for want of a proper coupling, failed at the critical moment to come to the relief of my single pistol, and I lost the help of its scalding and hair-raising
184efficiency, which, at close quarters, outranks the Catling gun, and, by its hellish potency, is the terror of mutineers and rioters.
Not until I had dismissed the squad with my blessing and saw them securely under guard, marching up the river bank at Smithland, did I fully realize the seriousness of that picnic; and it took a good big yorum of Old Crow to retie the frayed ends of my nerves to their normal anchorage and ship up the disjointed links of my wabbling backbone. I was thankful for always afterward that the aforesaid backbone didn't wabble when there was need that it should hold itself steady and erect.
Fording the Ohio on a Log.
In the summer of 1859, while operating a timber camp at Belcher's Landing on the banks of the Tennessee river in Kentucky, I had with me as principal Bimbashi and general factotum, Squire John Carmichael, of Massac county, Illinois, a man past the meridian of life. Fat, florid and facetious, the squire was delightfully genial and full of quaint humor and conceits. Conscious of his own wit, he, like Jack Falstaff, could truthfully say that he was the cause that wit was in other men. The Ettrick Shepherd's invitation in Noctes Ambrosiana, to "tack a mouthfu' out of the jug to moderate the intensity of the pure water," extended to the squire, would never have been declined as long as there had remained a drop in the jug.
Carmichael lived at Metropolis, Illinois, a town on the lower Ohio, twelve miles below Paducah; and as I had business relations in that town, he and I, now and then on Sundays, would get away together from the Tennessee river stave camp and pay a visit to the Squire's lares and penates.
The steamer, which on a certain Saturday afternoon had brought us out of the Tennessee, terminated her trip at Paducah, and as there was no down-stream boat in port and none expected from above, old John and I determined to walk the twelve miles and swim
186the Ohio, so that we might spend our Sunday in Illinois.
The afternoon was sultry, and the rays of the sun stung like fiery darts. Our way down the river bank, along the Kentucky shore, through burning trackless sand, lay over logs and driftwood. After a while heavy clouds obscured the sun and somewhat tempered the heat. By three o'clock a big shower of rain descended, and lightning and the heavy peals of thunder became so appalling that we were driven to shelter under the bow of a stranded scow. From this retreat we emerged after the rain, covered by countless fleas, which had been bred by the hogs that inhabited this sand lair. The shirt of Nessus which Hercules gave to the Centaur would have been soothing compared to the bites of these little black devils; and I thought of the French proverb which says: "Lorsqu'on se couche avec les chiens, on se leve avec des puces." Salt on their tails would have done no good, as there could not have been found enough salt to go around. In my exasperation I jumped into the river, clothes and all, and the squire followed. "May my right hand cleave to the roof of my mouth," if for a little way the surface of the water wasn't black with fleas. Uncle John Bradshaw's theory was that if sheep be driven into a flea-infested barn the result of the contest will be that the sheep will drive the fleas out, but I am convinced that in a struggle with these particular fleas the sheep would have been the vanquished. Anyway fleas are much underrated animals. If fleas were to grow to the size of sheep, and the power of
187their hind legs increased in the same proportion, they would be able to jump to the height of a ten-story skyscraper. What would a sheep, which can not elevate itself high enough to clear a six-rail fence, do with such an adversary in a contest?
After we had arisen from our bath the sky again cleared. While preparing to resume the tramp we fortunately found imbedded in the sand a long piece of dry timber which once upon a time had been part of a barge or flatboat. When dug out and launched we were rejoiced to find its buoyancy sufficient to carry our combined weight. This gave assurance that the laborious tramp through loose and hot sand had come to an end, and that the rest of the journey could be made by water and the crossing of the river be easily accomplished in the same way.
The sun was then several hours high, and before we embarked to hire some men for my Tennessee river camp, I walked through the woods over to a cabin about a mile distant from the margin of the river. As I knew my companion's happy-go-lucky and careless ways, and was cocksure that during my absence he would be tempted to go to sleep, I issued explicit instructions before leaving to keep a sharp lookout on our newly acquired argosy, for its loss might mean no supper and a sleepless night among the coons and 'possums of the Kentucky river bottoms. On my return to the river bank I found that, as anticipated, sweet slumber had overcome the old Satyr. He lay at full length on top of a log fast asleep, while the sun
188with ardor splintered up his rays on the Bardolphian nose of the sleeper.
The "gunwale," washed out from the shore by the waves of an ascending steamer, meanwhile was floating down stream on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Mad as a hornet at this discovery, I uttered a frantic yell and then threw myself full force upon the startled squire, who, dazed and surprised, instantly plunged headforemost into the water. He swam like a duck, and soon reached the piece of timber. As he slowly pulled his fat body to the top of the float, a triumphant and happy smile mantled his vermilion-hued cheek. And while proudly he paddled himself to shore, the folds of his red flannel shirt bosom, full of hot benevolence, gaped wide, as if to invite the whole world fraternally to the sanctuary of its innermost recesses.
The river here is a mile wide and very deep, and as we two, with legs hanging in the water, sat astraddle of our log, it required a cool-headed balance and much laborious paddling to accomplish the crossing. Twice during the trip were we washed overboard by the waves of passing steamers, and it was late in the night when we emerged from the water and landed on the shores of "Egypt," as did Menelaus in his search for Ulysses. Thus, like Helen's husband, we escaped the Sirens and the evil-smelling, web-footed sea-horse and proved Homer's immortal epic.
Thoroughly exhausted by the labor and peril of the day, Alcinoos and I that night slept the profound sleep which brings oblivion and "knits up the ravelled sleeve of care."
A War Reminiscence.
When, at the breaking out of the civil war during the summer of 1861, steamboating on the Ohio had been almost completely abandoned, Captain Dexter, with the stern-wheeler "Charley Bowen," a well-groomed, trim and speedy little craft, which, while champing on her bit could show clean heels to any boat of her size and capacity on the river, continued to make regular bi-weekly trips covering the lower two hundred miles of the Ohio between Evansville and Cairo.
The shores of the river along this part of southwestern Kentucky were, at that time, debatable ground and largely dominated over by the fire-eating element of that much disturbed state.
My boat, the "Fanny Bullitt," a Louisville and New Orleans side-wheeler, like all other Mississippi river craft had, by the closing of the river at Columbus, Island No. 10 and Vicksburg, been put out of commission and was tied up at Portland, the Louisville harbor just below the Falls of the Ohio. I was thus idle, but being desirous to keep in touch with developments along the border, I volunteered to join Dexter by taking charge of the office of the "Bowen."
Henry T. Dexter, like most river men, was fond
190of a game of poker, but never touched drink. He would forgive his enemies, but not until after they had been hanged. He was a fearless champion of the flag, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Union,
And least of all to chivalry.
He believed with King Richard the Third, when on Bosworth field he says to my Lord of Norfolk:
Business under the then disturbed conditions was not such as to justify employing an assistant or second clerk in the office of the boat. Short-distance landings meant watchfulness and continuous and unrelenting work by day and night, and left me but little time for sleep. It proved an exhausting task, but I worried through, and, by so doing, made a good friend of "the old man," as the commanding officer, whether young or old, is always called.
At Uniontown, Caseyville, Carsville and landings below, the mails, on account of the presence of guerrilla bands and small detachments of Confederate soldiers, frequently could not be landed and had to be carried past. Dexter was known and hated by the sympathizers with the cause of the South all along the southern shores of the river, as, an outspoken and fearless Union man that he was, he kept the stars and stripes flying at the jackstaff and defended them, risking the loss of his boat, or his life if need be.
One morning early, when the "Bowen" was down
191stream bound, we were surprised to find anchored at the mouth of the Cumberland and near Stewart's Island, several large steamers which had been dispatched south for government hospital service. The captains of these boats, being without gunboat convoy or other military protection, feared to proceed, for they had information of a large hostile force at Paducah (ten miles below), and a battery of rebel guns controlling the river at that point.
This news aroused "the old man" instantly. As if sniffing the battle from afar, he forthwith, and while softly whistling, "Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun," began to busy himself making preparations and setting things to rights.
As the boat continued on her trip, the four-pounder cannon on our forecastle, loaded with slugs, was moved into place and the match lighted; the small arms, which we had obtained on a requisition from a military company at Evansville, were loaded and distributed among the crew; the hot water hose was bent on and connected to the boilers and the flag nailed to the jackstaff.
On approaching Paducah, from the upper deck of the boat we became aware that the landing was densely packed with an excited and turbulent mob. Nothing daunted, however, the "Bowen" held her course in the broad expanse of the wide, deep river to a point opposite the crowd on the wharf; then, upon a signal from the captain, her head, in a graceful circle, was swung up stream by the man at the wheel, and we began slowly to flank into shore. At this moment
192Dexter began to doubt the wisdom of giving the serving of the cannon on the forecastle out of his own hands and trust the control of it to others; he therefore determined not to leave the main deck, but ordered me aloft to the command of the boat, to make the landing. When, from the hurricane deck as we neared the shore, I looked down upon that surging and superheated rabble, I keenly appreciated that in my exposed place as an easy mark for a shot from shore I ranked every one on board. I accordingly felt proud of my position, but, I must confess, just a little bit fluffy.
As the "Bowen" slowly approached the wharfboat, which was covered from end to end by a surging, excited and armed mob, I recognized among them men well known to us as fire-eating haters of the stars and stripes, desperate and determined. Shouts went up demanding that the flag be lowered and the boat surrendered, but the plainly visible and murderous preparations on our part held the shouters in check and kept them from boarding us. As we touched the landing three or four of the leaders came forward to the edge of the wharfboat and made a demand upon Captain Dexter to lower the flag and surrender his boat. He, leaning against the capstan, retorted: "Not as long as I have one shot left," and then coolly pointed to the little cannon on the forecastle, the man with the burning fuse and the shining brass nozzle of death-dealing, hot-water hose in the hands of Baker, the engineer, and, raising his hand toward the flag at the jackstaff, shouted: "Lower it, if you dare!" While the parley was going on, to guard against a sudden
193rush of the mob, I had carefully kept the steamer in such a position that her nose barely touched the lower corner of the wharfboat, and when the word came up that the mail had been delivered and was safely in the hands of the United States mail agent, our purpose had been accomplished. We had, in the face of the enemy, landed the mail, and, in defiance of its threats, had kept the flag flying.
Instead of the usual command to "Let go," I sang out to the man who "stood by" with a sharp ax, "Cut the line." The twang and swish of it, as under the strain it rebounded, made welcome music in our ears, and when I ordered the pilot to put on all steam and "back her hard," and he passed the word down to the engine room, the throttle flew wide open and the nimble little craft shot out into the middle of the stream backward. She kept her head to the enemy and I was careful not to expose her flank until out of range of a possible fusillade from the baffled mob on shore.
The war feeling and hatred for the Union flag and its defenders, at the time of the outbreak of the rebellion, ran high in southwestern Kentucky. A detachment of Union soldiers from Cairo, III., on a raid into that state, had shortly before captured and confiscated a steamer owned by Southern sympathizers in Paducah, which was openly engaged in contraband traffic through the lines up the Tennessee river. This had exasperated the colonels, and the attack upon the "Bowen" that day was in reprisal for the loss of their boat, and in revenge upon the hated "Yankees," but the project failed. By thorough preparation and stout
194hearted defiance we successfully thwarted their design. It was lucky for them, that they did not fire on us; a single shot from shore would have let loose our cannon, musketry and hot-water batteries, and we might have committed much slaughter on the dense crowd, numbering several thousand men, packed close as they were on the wharf of the little city that day. We were ever after thankful that the affair had passed off without loss of life; for after the close of the war we again entered into friendly relations with these people, and some who were participants in the affair described became stockholders in and officers of our corporation, which, in the meantime, had increased to a daily mail line, maintaining a number of fast and elegant side-wheel steamers and doing a prosperous and profitable business.
The Fremont Campaign of Fifty-Six in a Democratic Neighborhood.
The excitement incident to the Fremont campaign in 1856, and the strife, with its warlike alarums, attending the formation of a new political party, appealed strongly to those of us who were then young and enthusiastic.
When, in October of that year, one of my friends, a disciple of Coke and Blackstone, determined to do some missionary and crusading work in the "out counties," I made up my mind to accompany him on a trip into Warrick, Spencer and Dubois, then the darkest part of the Soudan of democracy in Indiana.
At that time I was bookkeeper and teller in the Canal Bank of Evansville, one of the "free" or so-called "wildcat" monetary institutions of our state. The directors of the bank, former whigs, had, with the Le-Compton and Bleeding Kansas troubles, drifted on the current into the newly formed republican party, and in their zeal for "free soil" and its success, willingly granted a vacation.
My friend and I, provided with a wheezy old horse and the buggy stuffed full of anti-slavery tracts and free-soil literature, buoyantly made our start on this trip of knight errantry into the enemy's country. At
196Boonville, Rockport, Ferdinand and other points in the then first congressional district, we met with but sorry success. The democratic dervishes, even through the back door of their understanding, could not be reached. Expounding to them the gospel of "free soil" threw them into fits, and maddened them as the red rag does the bull. No eggs, we learned, were too old for the anointing of black republicans and abolitionists. Slavery was yet looked upon as a God-given institution, supported by the pulpit and authorized by the Bible.
When we reached Jasper, county seat of Dubois, where we had an appointment by "early candle-light," we found the rostrum in the court-room occupied by the democratic candidate for congress, holding spellbound a goodly crowd of the "unterrified." One banner among the decorations of the room, conspicuously surrounded by young ladies in white, bore in fat letters the devise, "Fathers, save us from nigger husbands!" The atmosphere within we found surcharged with protest and hostility. The heated pulpiteer "chopped logic," and by innuendo and open attacks damned all abolitionists and Yankee nigger-stealers, until it became apparent that it would not be long ere in that perspiring, superheated crowd "something would be doing." Presently, in response to an especial and personally insulting lambasting from the rostrum, my nervous companion, in a challenging manner, sprang to his feet to hurl back the lie. Then, with a thud, a big onion struck him between the eyes, while the juice
197of an aged egg trickled down his nose upon his mustache, whereupon,
As he lay upon the floor,
And the subsequent proceedings
Interested him no more.
In the meantime I also had received my share of shots from the basket of foul and funky hen fruit, and while the speaker in his arduous ranting had burst both suspenders, the crowd was in a hilarious tumult, from which we were thankful to escape without additional chromos. On reaching the security of a chamber under the clapboard roof of the Waldorf Astoria of the place, it occurred to me that the banister of the stairs to fame is full of splinters, and "he who slides down the said banister will be filled with much tribulation and great pain."
On our arrival next day at Huntingburg, where we were billed for a daylight meeting, we found a big crowd assembled—such a one as usually attends a lynching. We were advised to keep shady, but the spirit of the crusader was within and gave us no rest.
Having hurried through a dinner of jowl and greens we sallied forth toward the school-house yard, where, from the top of a dry-goods box, the speaking was to take place. The rostrum, however, had already been usurped by a man with a moth-eaten beard whom the crowd greeted as "Old Cheezum," and who at fever heat "pointed with pride and viewed with alarm." This old linsey-woolsey impostor, we afterwards learned, lay
198claim to being an astrologer and a fortune-teller, and pretended to know
For cutting corns, or letting blood;
When for anointing scabs and itches,
Or to the back applying leeches;
When sows or bitches may be spay'd,
And in what time best cider's made.
Whether the wane be, or increase,
Best to set garlic or sow peas.
It was not until after his vocabulary had been exhausted, and he had viciously basted us and our nigger-loving party, that he gave way to repeated protests from us and yielded the floor.
I had hardly unpacked the documents and mounted the box to announce that I could not, but that the gentleman in the white necktie could and would make them a speech, such a speech as had not been heard from the days of Cicero to Mirabeau, and which would throw Daniel Webster into a jaundice of yellow envy, when a suspicious commotion in the outer edge of the crowd made itself known. A fellow from behind the school-house, tricked out like a clown, led into the thickest part of the crowd, right up to the store box on which I was standing, a mule, whose hair, stiff with tar, was all standing on end. This the clown announced to be Fremont's "woolly horse." The crowd, like a newly-opened gas well, now became uncontrollable, and when some one tickled the mule under the tail, his first kick knocked the rostrum out from under my feet and sent me like a rocket flying head
199foremost into the boisterously delighted and uproarious pack. From the melee which followed we were glad to disentangle ourselves and, sans political tracts or republican platform, we hastily rang the bell and transferred to another car.
After supper, nothing daunted, we determined, notwithstanding the discouraging outlook, to make another attempt at preaching the gospel of freedom and equal rights to the democratic heathen. The school-house had been lighted for us with two tallow dips, which produced a brilliant illumination. The hilarity and frolic of the afternoon had started the unterrified to drinking, and some of the younger fellows especially had shipped up enough booze to put them in an ugly fighting temper. In this state of mind they had resolved to have a little additional fun with the two nigger-stealers from the seaport on the Ohio, and had armed themselves with clubs, ax-handles and corn-knives.
My oratorical companion, who had thus far not found an opportunity to unload any of his eloquence, had no sooner begun with a promising preamble than the door flew open with a bang, disclosing to sight a detachment of boys, closely followed by the main "ax-handle brigade," a drunken rabble of men. While antiquated eggs in one's hair and whiskers are not altogether pleasant, and contact with the heels of a kicking mule is undesirable, the possibility of having one's throat cut with gleaming corn-knives or brains scattered in a cornfield by ax-handles, could not be considered with equanimity. Therefore, unostentatiously
200abandoning hats, collars and neckties, and without ceremony, we tumbled out of the back window of the school-house into a potato patch.
Then commenced a lively race through cornfields and over stake and ridered fences, we leading and the rabble chasing like a swift pack in hot cry. We, however, fleeter of foot, outwinded them, and eventually ran to cover in a widow's house, whose door happened to be open. Mother Blemker, the charitable old lady, promptly tumbled us on to her couch, threw a feather-bed on top, locked the door and put out the light.
The next morning we bestirred ourselves uncommonly early, fished both the hind wheels of our buggy out of the mill pond, hitched up the Rosinante, and without hats, and stomachs empty, but noddles well filled with experience, we left for home. On parting with Mother Blemker she bade us forgive our persecutors. Therefore, not to appear ungrateful for the protection the good soul had so hospitably given us, we assented, but only with the mental reservation that we would not forgive them until after they were hanged! Cervantes' Knight de la Mancha in his fight with the wind-mills was badly worsted, and so were we. With grumbling gizzards, the hind wheels of the vehicle hamstrung, minus hats, neckties and collars, a buggy-rug and a whip gone, we hobbled along over a rocky road with gratifying emotions of no common description, and with Ralpho soliloquized:
Be in the bed of honor lain,
To lie in honor's trundle-bed.
The autumn coloring of the forest that season, green, intermingled with all the shades of Roman gold, ruby and burnished brass, was unusually brilliant, and the gorgeous panorama presented from elevated points along the way was so entrancingly beautiful that youthful buoyancy returned ere long, and a clearer view showed us the ridiculously quixotic situation of our past experience in a new light and afforded much amusement the rest of the way home. We, like the King of France with forty thousand men, had "marched up the hill just to march down again."
A month later election returns from Dubois brought proof that our raid in the interest of the Pathfinder had been absolutely without result. Not half a dozen votes from that county were returned for free soil and "the woolly horse."
To us two crusaders nothing gratifying was left but the satisfaction of having bearded the lion in his den and the discovery of the wisdom of Aesop, when in his fable of "The Dogs and the Hides," he points the moral: "Never attempt impossibilities."
Sheriff and a Riot.
One Saturday night during the campaign of 1880 the democrats and republicans of Evansville turned out at the same hour in separate torchlight processions. At the windup a shooting scrape occurred between a Kentucky democrat and a colored man. The Kentuckian, badly wounded, was cared for by friends, while the darky, with a bullet in his head, was taken to the lockup by the city police.
By midnight a howling mob of "law-abiding American citizens" had gathered to hang "the nigger." At two o'clock in the morning the chief of police came to the jail, where, as sheriff of Vanderburg county, I had my residence, and asked that for safety's sake I take the prisoner off his hands, and as the wounded darky feared the threats of the mob, and begged for protection from a republican official and the strong walls of the county jail, I complied with the request without waiting for a command from court. After obtaining from the chief a squad of the city force to assist me during the remainder of the night, I sent for Mr. Keller, proprietor of a nearby gun store, and provided myself with a stock of guns and ammunition.
By this time the court-house and jail were surrounded by a large and noisy crowd who, in their blind frenzy, threatened to storm the jail and take the
203prisoner from me, I therefore deemed it advisable to remove my family to a place of safety up town, in which undertaking I was aided by friends who had left their beds to come to my aid.
When, after hours of anxious vigil, daylight came and the judges of the two courts and mayor of the city had appeared on the scene, we, with the cooperation of many influential and peace-loving citizens, labored hard with the mob, counseling peace and submission to the law. But it was all in vain; the leaders wanted a hanging and they would have it.
With the crowd increasing and becoming more determined I now began to prepare for enforcing the law by assembling a posse comitatus. I swore in fifty prominent citizens, who readily responded and put themselves under my command. A number of them were members of the bar and stanch and courageous men, who stood ready to help avert a calamity which would have proven a disgraceful blot on the fair fame of the city and state.
As the day advanced reliable information reached me that there was on the road a large company of men on horseback from Mt. Vernon, Posey county, where the previous year a mob had hung five negroes on the same tree. They were cutting the wires as they advanced, and the outlook became promising for a hanging or a killing in good earnest.
While I busied myself with the strategic distribution and direction of my forces I spied a Mr. Peelar in his buggy coming around the court-house corner behind a trotter of great speed. No sooner did he come in sight
204than it occurred to me that here was a possible means of escape out of the dilemma of threatened war.
Major Mattison, a brave veteran, who, when a prisoner of war in the Confederacy, had tunneled out of Libby Prison, and who had, through the night and morning hours, given stanch and valuable support as my main lieutenant, followed as I bolted through the crowd. At a wink to Peelar he drove out of hearing of the mob into another street, where I made a demand on him for his rig. Not, however, until I gave him my personal guarantee of a thousand dollars, in case of loss or damage to the outfit, did he surrender. In an adjoining alley, and out of sight of the crowd, the major at once mounted the vehicle, while with the help of the jailor I slipped the prisoner through the sheltering gloom of a narrow cross-alley to the waiting buggy. When they were both aboard, and the darky's head and person well covered up by an apron and large splash leather, the major drove at full speed through alleys and cross-streets out of town, and by country roads reached a flag station on the E. & T. H. R. R. Then with the negro he boarded the north-going train for Terre Haute, just due, and at the latter named city, one hundred miles removed from the "dead line," he turned the prisoner over to the sheriff of Vigo county.
As soon as I knew my bird was fairly out of reach of the mob I went among the crowd and announced that the African had safely escaped their clutches; and to convince them of the truth of my statement, I invited three of their number to accompany me into the jail. When satisfied that the game had flown they announced
205it on the outside, and the crowd cursed the sheriff long and deep, and grumblingly dispersed.
The mulatto (not a negro, but nearly white), whose name was Oscar Shorter, carried in his skull, to the day of his death long years afterward, the bullet received from the white man's pistol that night; while the Kentuckian, who at the time of the shooting was supposed to have been mortally wounded, recovered his health in a short time.
Had I failed in my duty on that occasion the city of Evansville, together with the state, would have been disgraced by the commission of a dastardly murder; doubly damnable, as the mulatto, by subsequent confession of the Kentuckian, was shown to have shot in self-defense only, after an unprovoked attack from the young Hotspur.
This same man Shorter had always been known as an industrious, submissive and orderly citizen; but in the eyes of a democratic mob he was guilty of the unpardonable sin of being a nigger and deserved to be hung on a lamp-post anyhow. All of which is held to be just and logical in the great republic which stands before all the countries of the world as the splendid Pharos of equal rights.
At the time when I was preparing to repulse the mob's expected attack upon the life of my prisoner and the county's property, and while stationing the armed men under my command where they could best defend the entrance to the jail, I pictured to myself the arrival of the moment when, to check a rush attack of the mob, I should be compelled to give the command to fire. For
206one short second I closed my eyes and saw as the result of that order men staggering to the ground with ghastly bullet holes in their heads—men, moreover, whose faces I had known all my life, and as in fancied reality I heard the shriek of the widowed wife and the wail of the orphaned children, I shuddered, a sensation of indescribable horror crept through my fevered veins, and the thought that blood-stained faces of the dead should haunt my sleepless pillow from that time on made me distracted, and I have been truly thankful ever since that this bitter cup was permitted to pass my lips.
Subsequent to the above-described occurrence, and only a few years ago, a similar riot in the same county necessitated the calling out of the state militia and the shooting to death of a number of the mob. By prompt, intelligent action and manly courage of the sheriff this dire catastrophe might have been averted and the sacrifice of life avoided.
Some Sights Exceptionally Attractive and Interesting, as Observed in European Travel.
A Glimpse at Italy's Northern Lakes.
The greater part of Lake Como in Northern Italy lies in a deep indentation among steep and towering mountains, the sides of which, as well as the narrow margins near the water, are studded with white villas and shining marble porticoes.
There is, opposite Bellagio, where the banks recede from the water's edge and slant more gently, a Villa Carlotta. This is the erstwhile abode of a high-born but unhappy woman. It was to this charming spot that Empress Carlotta, the young widowed wife of Maximilian, retired to weep away her reason when the Mexicans shot to death her beloved husband, who had usurped the throne of the ancient Aztecs.
On a visit to the lake country, which occurred in early summer, we found this estate a spot of rare attractiveness and incomparable beauty. Here azalias in every shade of bright coloring spread their dazzling carpet over acres upon acres of undulating park, and the gorgeous colors of the bright flowers banked up in sunny glades and on gentle sloping hillsides as far as the eye could reach. There is nothing to compare to
208this brilliance short of the Elysian fields, where fair goddesses and Greek deities on bright Olympus disport themselves.
On this effulgent background dark and juicy bouquets of jasmine and myrtle, interspersed everywhere with towering cypresses and majestic cedars from Lebanon, lend their presence to immerse the beholder under a bright sunny vault of crisp etherial blue, in a sea of delight fascinating beyond compare.
The handsome chateau contains, among many art treasures, a marble group known to the farthest ends of the earth; here Amor and Psyche, the daintiest creation of the great Canova's chisel, finds its home.
At no great distance to the west, and in a more open country, lies Lake Maggiore. In the southeastern portion of this lake, toward the shore where stands the large statue of Saint Carolo Borromeo, the fairies have dropped into the lake's silvery surface a cluster of three little islands. Isola Bella, one of the three, on its terraced surface bears a veritable paradise of shining verdure and bright flowers, while the others remind us of the garden of the Hesperides, from where Heracles brought back the golden apples which earth had given Hera at her marriage to Zeus.
The panorama of these beauty-spots under the blue sky of Italy, their feet bathed in the pellucid waters of the tranquil lake, is seductive enough to tempt the sentimental traveler to plunge in, and among the pixies and fairies spend his days in their inviting retreat.
The Riviera from the Corniche Road.
When fortune refuses to smile upon the gamester at Monte Carlo and luck is hostile, as a cure of the mollygrubs, let him climb the steep mountain immediately in the rear and above the casino, to the elevation of the old Corniche road, which, high up over the spurs of the maritime Alps, winds its broad and smoothly-paved way toward the city of Genoa in Italy. Here, from a point twelve to fifteen hundred feet above the sea, the beholder is rewarded with a view which nowhere on earth can be excelled for comprehensiveness and entrancing beauty, and to the charm of which the most blase mortal must succumb. Far down, but immediately below our feet, lie snugly tucked away under palms and surrounded by groves of olives, Nice, Monte Carlo, Mentone, the port of Villefranche, San Remo and innumerable sparkling villas and dazzling chateaux, strung like lustrous pearls on a silver cord along the gently sloping white sands of the blue Mediterranean.
Standing on the breezy heights the mind's eye may behold, far away to the south, the cerulean waters of this great inland sea wash, what on the continent of Africa once were the realms of Queen Dido, who perpetrated
210the first known land swindle. The legend reports that "in the good old days" she cut the oxhide, the size of which was to determine the extent of her landed possessions, into long strips and with them enclosed, staked off and appropriated to her own use many times the area designated in the abstract and warranted by the deed.
The Corniche road, connecting France and Italy, follows the sinuosities of the shores of the Mediterranean; it here and there hangs out on the spurs of the maritime alps overlooking the sea, like a cornice, from which fact it derives its name.
This road for thousands of years has formed the connecting link between the east and the west of southern Europe, and its great extent enabled Cesar's Legions to conquer the Iberian peninsula and hold Gaul in subjection.
As the traveler, by diligence or private carriage, bowls along over its smooth surface, on easy grades and over airy viaducts at high altitudes above the blue waters of the sunlit sea, and observes the constantly varying panorama on the thickly populated shores, the eye is delighted beyond compare and diverted from the ills and pains that flesh is heir to.
In the winter of 1866-7 I for the first time traveled over this wonderful highway from Nice, in France, to Genoa, in Italy. We left the former city at midnight. Fumes of garlic and funky odors soon drove me from the interior of the stagecoach, and at the break of day I climbed up to the top of the diligence, where, on the
211"banquet" just behind the postilion, I found wrapped up in his cloak a man of international renown. This passenger proved to be Alexander Herzen, a Russian noble and political refugee, whose estates had been confiscated, and who in London, in the interest of Russian reform, was then making propaganda by his able writings and stirring publications against autocratic government in his native land.
Mr. Herzen received me as a compagnon de voyage cordially, and passed me as a palliative to the raw morning air his brandy flask. We were soon engaged in interesting converse, in which he developed astounding knowledge of the United States, its statesmen and leading citizens, some of whom he had met in London and elsewhere. Like most educated Russians, he had command of many languages, and altogether proved a charming companion, in whose society, while keeping a keen and hungry eye on the incomparable beauties of the landscape and the road, the hours sped uncommonly fast.
When, on arrival in Genoa in the afternoon, I clambered down from my high perch, and we exchanged farewell greetings, my newly found friend, with great cordiality, invited me to visit him in Florence, where he expected to make a prolonged visit with his son, a professor of mathematics at the university of that city. When, a month later, I arrived in Florence, then the seat of government and the residence of King Victor Emanuel, I enjoyed not one only, but several visits at the hospitable and attractive home of this Russian family,
212where I learned to admire the exquisite cultivation of the Count's daughter, a young lady of a peculiar style of rugged beauty, and, like her father, a true specimen of the Slavonic race.
The Great International Aquarium at Naples, Italy
The giant Gargantua, Rabelais relates, when eating a salad, failed to notice that he swallowed five pilgrims, staves and all, which were hidden in the salad. If this giant story is to be credited, the fact that "the briny" which surrounds our globe holds leviathans that can at one gulp swallow whole schools of the smaller denizens of the deep should not create surprise.
It is difficult, yea, impossible, said my mentor one day, to uncover all the secrets of the impenetrable deep.
The dark, unfathom'd caves of ocean bear.
"Come with me to the city of Naples," said he, "and I will show you tanks of water from the Mediterranean replete with the fauna of the sea and specimens of its flora which shall astonish and instruct you."
Here at this Italian seaport the leading nations of Europe and America maintain for scientific purposes an aquarium, the like of which does not exist anywhere else.
The numerous glass tanks of the Naples aquarium, through which a fresh supply of water from the genially-tempered sea constantly circulates, was visited again and again, and the observation of their inmates and close study of them gave me no end of pleasure.
Some dainty and etherial forms, as they floated and sailed around, light and airy, much like transparent cloudlets in a summer sky, interested me most. There was the Medusa a ombrella, with pavilion and curtains in rhythmic movement of apparent breathing, translucent and light as a flame; it was tinted much like a roseate summer cloud, and floating as does an iridescent soap-bubble it soared up and down, here and there, with the adagio movement of the inaudible music of the deep.
The Loligo vulgaris, like a transparent tube or cylinder, is slender and much the shape and double the size of an Upman Regalia cigar; both ends taper elegantly like the bow and stern of a modern racing shell. It has fore and aft motion and was as active in its movements as is the piratical pike of our northern lakes, while the astral body is of barely sufficient density to reflect the delicate pearly tints of its filmy and transparent envelope.
Elongated tape-like bodies, semi-transparent and of pale whitish hue, without navel, appendix-vermiformis or visible organs of any sort, attach and detach themselves here and there at will, and plainly denote by their movements self-sustained animation and individuality.
One of the most interesting enigmas in this class of creatures is the girdle of Venus; it consists of a pale semi-opaque film an inch and a half wide by eight to nine inches in length; a mere gossamer of slight consistency, without organs or even signs of them. And yet by a wave-like motion, as it floats, it propels itself,
215and only thereby establishes its status as a living entity. It is so frail and dainty that in order to keep it from rude contact a separate glass tube had to be placed in the tank, in which to segregate this whiff of matter from being blown upon or sneezed at by its more vigorous occupants.
There were unlooked-for surprises in the tanks. One, a small clam-like bivalve, by the force of interior powerful mechanism, would, like a rocket, shoot from the bottom up to the surface of the water, and then sink back again to the bed of sand, from where, after wiping its clammy brow, like the acrobat in a circus, it would repeat the stunt ad infinitum.
The Scorpcena porcus, the hedgehog among fishes, weighing a pound or two only, of a color resembling that of a dirty red brick, is thickly covered from end to end with misshapen warts and excrescences, and the bulging eyes would indicate a long continued "toot," with subsequently resulting Katzenjammer.
Fantastically-crippled crustaceans of most eccentric shape moseyed around aimlessly like well-paid department clerks in Washington, illustrating "how not to do it." The Hermit crab, a conservative member of that family, lies modestly withdrawn into a piece of broken molasses jug, immersed in philosophical contemplation, while the Parthenope horrida, another one of the tribe, uglier and more misshapen than a nightmare, lay in an opposite corner watching the electric eel send out shocks to the aristocratically-bred little lady fishes of "the four hundred."
Gazing into' an adjoining tank containing starfishes,
216sea urchins and other bric-a-brac of the shoals, I was mildly startled at the sight of a dear little seahorse (Hippocampus brevirostris) which was actually alive. Up to that time I had knowledge of him only as a shell or dried mummy among the dusty rubbish of cheap collections of pebbles and shells which children and old maids bring from their summer outing on the seashore, and which, in crewel-embroidered little pasteboard baskets, occupy the most favored place among the plaster-pans fruits and images on the whatnot in the corner of the parlor. While he was standing in the water proudly erect, I caught his furtive glance eying my horseshoe scarf pin; he was apparently waiting to be hitched to a basket phaeton, such as dainty little curly-headed Mary Alice drives in the park. For propulsion I could find neither legs nor fins, but by the motion of the sand under his lower end I detected a tiny turbine or propeller wheel, which, when the throttle on the steam-chest opened, sent him along, head erect, at a two-minute gait.
In several of the tanks there grew on long stems what appeared to be plants or weeds; on close investigation I however detected that their leafy tops, which periodically opened and closed, contained and regularly exposed living heads of the Vermis family, they being part and parcel of the make-belief plant.
An Acaleph or jellyfish of large size, who, when in the humor, envelops himself in a thick black slime of his own making, lay like a shapeless lump of putty peaceably in his corner; while the Octopus, known to Jack Tar as the devil-fish, was here represented by
217several specimens. As with squirming movement they slid and snaked their long prehensile tentacles, armed with sucking valves of deadly power, I was reminded of the sensation of horror which long years ago overcame me, when I read Victor Hugo's "Toilers of the Sea," and the author's description of the death-grapple between the sailor and one of these monsters.
Corals in horny splendor, of fantastic shapes and attractive coloring, abound in these tanks filled with crystalline water, and miniature meadows covering improvised rocky cliffs afford glimpses of deep-sea life, and charmed the beholder as he watched the mystic weaving motion of the slender-stemmed submarine flora. Thousands of graceful radiolaria, of pretty medusae and corals of extraordinary shape, mollusks and crabs, suddenly introduced me to a wealth of hidden organisms beyond all anticipation, the peculiar beauty and diversity of which far transcend all fancies of the human imagination.
The deeps and the shallows are replete with life; both fauna and flora exist in abundance, but where, in the green opalescent depths, animal life begins and the plant ends can only be determined by the scientist; it is beyond my ken.
The Hill of the Alhambra.
Once upon a time in southern Spain I stood on the hill where sits the great ruin of the Alhambra, the erstwhile fortress and palace of that proud race of Moorish monarchs who for seven hundred years held this fair and fruitful part of the European continent in subjection and ruled it for their own. These Moors were a handsome and a valiant race of men and women. They were far advanced in the sciences, and their people practiced the handicrafts and arts of civilization to a remarkable degree, and in many ways surpassed the natives they had displaced. The halls, apartments and patios of the Alhambra in their ruined state to this day show the exquisite taste possessed by the dark-skinned followers of the Prophet, and nothing more beautiful in design nor attractive in coloring than the dainty needlework in wood and stone can be found in the opulent Orient anywhere.
From the top of the hill, whose sides are covered with the thorny Barbary fig, among these interesting surroundings, standing upon a piece of broken wall, I looked down upon the smiling and highly-cultivated plain of Granada surrounding the beautfful city of same name, and mused upon its past, when Columbus planned his voyage into the unknown west, and how Ferdinand and Isabella, whose ashes repose in the
219crypt of one of the great churches at my feet, encouraged and aided the ambitious scheme of the daring discoverer of "a new world."
Immersed in a dreamy reverie, as I was, there also passed before my mental vision a phantom host of Saracen warriors led by the Moslem crescent, caparisoned in African splendor. In their wake came in shadowy procession an armored and picturesque swarm of the Andalusian flower of chivalry bearing aloft the standard of the Christian cross.
In this vision I philosophically realized the mutability of all things terrestrial which rules nations and individual man alike. The change, however, from the practices of Islam to that of the followers of the compassionate Jesus did not in that day tend toward betterment of morals, if the following gruesome sketch from Spanish history is considered.
In a bodega in the city of Seville one day I fell into conversation with a Spanish gentleman who spoke fairly good English. He attracted my attention to the site of the Alcazar, the palace inhabited during the fourteenth century by Don Pedro I, king of Castile and Leon, known to history as "The Cruel," and told me that according to one of the chronicles Don Diego Albuquerque relates: That while a guest at the dinner table of the cruel king, he had the good fortune to have for neighbor one of the gentlemen of the court, who, an entertaining companion over his cups, became quite communicative.
"At the last banquet here in this palace to which I was summoned," the gentleman said, "my attention
220was attracted to a vacant chair at the festive board." He pointed to a place near the upper end close to where Maria Padilla, the morganatic and beautiful wife of the king, sat. The place had on former occasions been occupied by Don Fredrego, the king's younger brother. "The last time I laid eyes on that noble and gifted prince," the relator continued, "was in the fine city of Coimbra, which he with great skill and bravery had succeeded in wresting from the Moors.
"Behind closed lattices many a Moorish maiden watched the handsome young soldier as he rode through the narrow streets of Alkanzar, his cloak embellished with the Calatrava cross lightly thrown back from the shoulder, and the plumes on his helmet fluttering gayly in the breeze. Close by his side was his ever-faithful dog Allan, a noble specimen from the Sierra, who, of great size and elegant proportions, wore a golden collar thickly studded with rubies. On account of the dog's constant companionship with his master, it was popularly believed that the collar had imbedded in it a talisman of loyalty and devotion.
"At the banquet of which I speak," said the gentleman at my side, "a somber mood brooded over the company, for the king's brow wore a sinister frown and he looked darkly upon the revelers. The signal to arise from the feast had just been given when, with great strides, into the banquet hall leaped Don Fredrego's dog Allan, showing to the horrified assembly the bloody head of his master suspended from his powerful jaws by the curly dark tresses which in life had so nobly graced that intellectual dome. The dog, with his
221gruesome burden, made straight for the vacant chair, dropped the head upon it and disappeared as quickly as he had come.
"The company, at this gruesome sight, stood aghast and silent. Maria Padilla, the first to find her voice, in accents of anguish and with vehemence condemned the foul murder which had been secretly ordered by the king in malicious envy of the increasing popularity of his handsome, cultured and valiant brother, who treacherously had been lured into the subterranean vaults of the palace, where, overpowered, he had been beheaded by orders from the king. The faithful dog, unobserved in the somber light, had followed his beloved master, and when the head fell, pounced upon and swiftly bore it to the banquet hall.
"Maria Padilla's two young and innocent sons, at the hands of Pedro II, who soon succeeded Pedro the Cruel, were viciously made to bear the revenge the mother's quaking heart had feared. The young princes were later on found starving and in filth, walled up in stone cells, as were animals in adjoining kennels, and cruelly subjected to the lash."
On the slopes of the Alban range of mountains, immediately below the picturesque falls of the river Anio, and overlooking the Roman Campagna, is situated the Villa D'Este. This extensive estate is the property of Cardinal Hohenlohe, one of the princes of the church. Near by is Tivoli, and not far distant are the ruins of the Emperor Hadrian's palace, while the dome of St. Peter's in the Eternal City, as it looms up in a purple haze twenty miles away to the east, closes the charming view.
I was profoundly moved by the rush of the waters from this mountain stream, as they leap over the rocks, break into diamond sparklets and fall back upon themselves in profuse showers of silver. Much of the crystalline flood flows through the park of the Villa D'Este, and there in babbling brooks, cascades and innumerable fountains, enlivens and embellishes this abode of the fairies.
Although I had never before entered this garden, it immediately impressed itself upon me as an old acquaintance, as if I had actually been there before, and as if I had formerly seen its hedges of laurel, its blossoming thickets, its vine-embowered old buildings, and its aged weather-beaten statues, and had breathed the air laden with an aroma of the blossom-covered shrubs
223and trees which the sparkling sunlight of a bright June morning had distilled. I could not remember where and at what time I had seen all this, and the uncertainty disquieted me as it always does when I can not unravel a mystery upon the solution of which I have set my heart. All at once I was overcome by a sensation of satisfaction. Instantly I knew where I was, and I said to myself, "I now know this garden perfectly well. Long years ago when a child I saw it. It was when, in the dusk of the evening, mother related to me the fairy story of the Sleeping Beauty of the wood. Then it was that I beheld this charmed castle with its roses, its ivy and its dark-green hedges just exactly as I see it now."
I observed the thousands of roses, from the lightest pink satin to the darkest crimson velvet, floating down from the terraces, woven as it were into a fragrant veil; how creeping and hanging clusters of roses closed the entrance to deep and cool grottoes, and how old Neptune by clouds of flowers was embowered in his watery basin as if he too were one of Dornroschen's courtiers.
Nothing disturbed the deep calm and hush of this quiet place but the soft splash of the fountains and the twitter of the birds. "Oh, if this is not fairyland, then fairyland is nowhere to be found," I exclaimed.
We seated ourselves on a stone bench in the shadow of some great dark cypresses, and our half-closed eyes dreamily followed the shaded roadway as it passed on to the castle over the rose-embowered terraces; passed by the long sweeping stairway with the maimed and broken cupids; passed the sprays of numerous fountains, and up to the projecting cornice of the towering