A tremendous storm brewing to windward, cut short our intended drive; and, putting the nags to their best pace, we barely succeeded in obtaining shelter ere it burst upon us; and such a pelter as it came down, who ever saw? It seemed as though the countless hosts of heaven had been mustered with barrels, not buckets, of water, and as they upset them on the poor devoted earth, a regular hurricane came to the rescue, and swept them eastward to the ocean. The sky, from time to time, was one blaze of sheet lightning, and during the intervals, forked flashes shot through the darkness like fiery serpents striking their prey. This storm, if short, was at all events magnificently grand, and we subsequently found it had been terribly destructive also; boats on the Hudson had been capsized and driven ashore, houses had been unroofed, and forest trees split like penny canes.
The inn where we had taken shelter was fortunately not touched, nor were any of the trees which surrounded it. Beautifully situated on a high bank, sloping down to the Hudson, full of fine old timber; it had belonged to some English noble—I forget his name—in the old colonial times; now, it was a favourite baiting-place for the frequenters of the Bloomingdale road, and dispensed the most undeniably good republican drinks, cobblers, cock-tails, slings, and hail-storms, with other more substantial and excellent things to match. The storm being over, we unhitched the horses, and returned to town at a more sober pace; nor were we much troubled with dust during the drive home.
Lest the reader should get wearied with so long a stay at New York, I now propose to shift the scene for his amusement, and hope he will accompany me in my wanderings. If, during the operation, he occasionally finds me tedious in any details uninteresting to him, I trust that a judicious skipping of a few leaves will bring us again into agreeable companionship.
[Footnote F: The largest boom in the Navy is 72 feet long, and 16-1/2 inches in diameter; the largest mast is 127 feet 3 inches long, and 42 inches diameter; the largest yard is 111 feet long, and 26-1/2 inches diameter.]
[Footnote G: Turbot is a good substitute for sea-bass.]
[Footnote H: A small American biscuit made of best flour.]
[Footnote I: Vide sketch of Aqueduct.]
South and West.
Being anxious to visit the southern parts of this Empire State, and having found an agreeable companion, we fixed upon an early day in November for our start; and although I anticipated much pleasure from the scenery and places of interest which my proposed trip would carry me through, I could not blind myself to the sad fact, that the gorgeous mantle of autumn had fallen from the forest, and left in its stead the dreary nakedness of winter. The time I could allot to the journey was unfortunately so short, that, except of one or two of the leading places, I could not hope to have more than literally a flying sight, and should therefore be insensibly compelled to receive many impressions from the travelling society among which the Fates threw me.
Eight o'clock in the morning found us both at the Jersey ferry, where our tickets for Baltimore—both for man and luggage—were to be obtained. It was a pelting snow-storm, and the luggage-ticketing had to be performed al fresco, which, combined with the total want of order so prevalent in the railway establishments in this country, made it anything but an agreeable operation. Our individual tickets were obtained under shelter, but in an office of such Lilliputian dimensions, that the ordinary press of passengers made it like a theatrical squeeze on a Jenny Lind night; only with this lamentable difference—that the theatrical squeeze was a prelude to all that could charm the senses, whereas the ticket squeeze was, I knew but too well, the precursor of a day of most uncomfortable travelling.
Having our tickets, we crossed the ever-glorious Hudson, and, landing at Jersey City, had the pleasure of "puddling it up" through the snow to the railway carriages. There they were, with the red-hot stove and poisonous atmosphere, as usual; so my friend and I, selecting a cushionless "smoking-car," where the windows would at all events be open, seated ourselves on the hard boards of resignation, lit the tapery weed of consolation, and shrouded ourselves in its fragrant clouds. On we went, hissing through the snow-storm, till the waters of the Delaware brought us to a stand-still; then, changing to a steamer, we crossed the broad stream, on which to save time, they served dinner, and almost before it was ended we had reached Philadelphia, where 'busses were in waiting to take us to the railway. I may as well mention here, that one of the various ways in which the glorious liberty of the country shows itself, is the deliberate manner in which 'busses and stages stop in the middle of the muddiest roads, in the worst weather, so that you may get thoroughly well muddied and soaked in effecting your entry. Equality, I suppose, requires that if the coachman is to be wet and uncomfortable, the passengers should be brought as near as possible to the same state.
The 'busses being all ready, off we started, and just reached the train in time; for, being a mail-train, it could not wait, though we had paid our fares all through to Baltimore. Soon after our departure, I heard two neighbours conversing between the intervals of the clouds of Virginia which they puffed assiduously. Says one, "I guess all the baggage is left behind." The friend, after a long draw at his weed, threw out a cloud sufficient to cover the rock of Gibraltar, and replied, with the most philosophical composure, "I guess it aint nurthin' else." My friend and I puffed vigorously, and looked inquiringly at each other, as much as to say, "Can our luggage be left behind?" Soon the conductor appeared to viser the tickets: he would solve our doubts.—"I say, conductor, is our luggage which came from New York, left behind?" "Ay, I guess it is, every stick of it; and if you had been ten minutes later, I guess you might have stayed with it; it'll come on to-night, and be at Baltimore to-morrow morning about half-past four; if you'll give me your tickets, and tell me what hotel you are going to, I'll have it sent up." Upon inquiry, we found this was a very common event, nor did anybody seem to think it a subject worth taking pains to have rectified, though the smallest amount of common sense and common arrangement might easily obviate it. And why this indifference? Because, first it would cost a few cents; secondly, it doesn't affect the majority, who travel with a small hand-bag only; thirdly, the railway across New Jersey is a monopoly, and therefore people must take that road or none; and lastly, from the observations I elicited in the course of examining my witnesses, it appeared to me that the jealousy and rivalry existing between New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia, have some little effect; at all events, it is an ignoble affair that it is suffered to remain. I have, however, no doubt that time will remedy this, as I trust it will many of the other inconveniences and wants of arrangement which the whole railway system in this country is at present subject to.—To return from my digression.
On we went, and soon crossed the Campbell-immortalized Susquehana. Whatever beauties there were, the elements effectually concealed; and after a day's journey, which, for aught we saw, might as well have been over the Shrap Falls, half-past six P.M. landed us in Baltimore, where we safely received our luggage the following morning.
A letter of introduction to a friend soon surrounded us with kindness in this hospitable city. My object in stopping here was merely to enjoy a little of the far-famed canvas-back duck shooting and eating, as I purposed revisiting these parts early in spring, when I should have more leisure. No sooner were our wishes known than one of our kind friends immediately offered to drive us down to Maxwell Point, which is part of a large property belonging to General Cadwallader, and is situated in one of the endless inlets with which Chesapeake Bay abounds. All being arranged, our friend appeared in a light waggon, with a pair of spicy trotters before it. The road out was dreary and uninteresting enough; but when we left it, and turned into a waggon way through an extensive forest, I could not but feel what a lovely ride or drive it must be in the more genial seasons of the year, when the freshness of spring and summer, or the richness of autumn, clothes the dense wood with its beauties. A short and pleasant drive brought us to a ferry, by which we crossed over to the famous Point, thereby avoiding the long round which we otherwise must have made. The waters were alive with duck in every direction; it reminded me forcibly of the Lake Menzaleh, near Damietta, the only place where I had ever before seen such a duckery.
The sporting ground is part of a property belonging to General Cadwallader, and is leased to a club of gentlemen; they have built a very snug little shooting-box, where they leave their guns and materiel for sport, running down occasionally from Baltimore for a day or two, when opportunity offers, and enjoying themselves in true pic-nic style.[J] The real time for good sport is from the middle of October to the middle of November, and what produces the sport is, the ducks shifting their feeding-ground, in performing which operation they cross over this long point. As the season gets later, the birds do not shift their ground so frequently; and, moreover, getting scared by the eternal cannonade which is kept up, they fly very high when they do cross. The best times are daybreak and just before dark; but even then, if the weather is not favourable, they pass but scantily. My friend warned me of this, as the season for good sport was already passed, though only the nineteenth of November, and he did not wish me to be disappointed. We landed on the Point about half-past four P.M., and immediately prepared for mischief, though those who had been there during the day gave us little encouragement.
The modus operandi is very simply told. You dress yourself in the most invisible colours, and, armed with a huge duck-gun—double or single, as you like—you proceed to your post, which is termed here a "blind." It is a kind of box, about four feet high, with three sides and no top; a bench is fixed inside, on which to sit and place your loading gear. These blinds are fixed in the centre line of the long point, and about fifty yards apart. One side of the point they call "Bay," and the other "River." The sportsmen look out carefully from side to side, and the moment any ducks are seen in motion, the cry is given "bay" or "river," according to the side from which they are approaching. Each sportsman, the moment he "views the ducks," crouches down in his blind as much out of sight as possible, waiting till they are nearly overhead, then, rising with his murderous weapon, lets drive at them the moment they have passed. As they usually fly very high, their thick downy coating would turn any shots directed against them, on their approach. In this way, during a favourable day in the early part of the season, a mixed "file and platoon" firing of glorious coups de roi is kept up incessantly. We were very unfortunate that evening, as but few ducks were in motion, and those few passed at so great a height, that, although the large A.A. rattled against them from a ponderous Purdey which a friend had lent me, they declined coming down. I had only succeeded in getting one during my two hours' watching, when darkness forced me to beat a retreat.
But who shall presume to attempt a description of the luscious birds as they come in by pairs, "hot and hot?" A dozen of the members of the club are assembled; a hearty and hospitable welcome greets the stranger—a welcome so warm that he cannot feel he is a stranger; every face is radiant with health, every lip moist with appetite; an unmistakeable fragrance reaches the nostrils—no further summons to the festive scene is needed. The first and minor act of soup being over, the "smoking pair" come in, and are placed before the president. In goes the fork;—gracious! how the juice spouts out. The dry dish swims; one skilful dash with the knife on each side, the victim is severed in three parts, streaming with richness, and whetting the appetite to absolute greediness. But there is an old adage which says, "All is not gold that glitters." Can this be a deception? The first piece you put in your mouth, as it melts away on the palate, dissipates the thought, and you unhesitatingly pronounce it the most delicious morsel you ever tasted. In they come, hot and hot; and, like Oliver, you ask for more, but with better success. Your host, when he sees you flagging, urges, "one" more cut. You hesitate, thinking a couple of ducks a very fair allowance. He replies,—"'Pon my word, it's such light food; you can eat a dozen!" A jovial son of Aesculapius, on whom Father Time had set his mark, though he has left his conviviality in all the freshness of youth, is appealed to. He declares, positively, that he knows nothing so easy of digestion as a canvas-back duck; and he eats away jollily up to his assertion. How very catching it is!—each fresh arrival from the kitchen brings a fresh appetite to the party. "One down, t'other come on," is the order of the day. Those who read, may say "Gormandizer!" But many such, believe me, if placed behind three, or even four, of these luscious birds, cooked with the artistic accuracy of the Maxwell Point cuisine, would leave a cat but sorry pickings, especially when the bottle passes freely, and jovial friends cheer you on. Of course, I do not allude to such people as enjoy that "soaked oakum," called "bouilli." To offer a well-cooked canvas-back duck to them, would, indeed, be casting pearls before—something. Neither would it suit the fastidious taste of those who, not being able to discern the difference between juice and blood, cook all flavour and nourishment out of their meats, and luxuriate on the chippy substance which is left.—But time rolls on; cigars and toddy have followed; and, as we must be at our posts ere dawn, to Bedfordshire we go.
Ere the day had dawned, a hasty cup of coffee prepared us for the morning's sport; and, lighting the friendly weed, we groped our way to our respective blinds, full of hope and thirsting for blood. Alas! the Fates were not propitious; but few birds crossed, and those mostly out of range. However, I managed to bag half a dozen before I was summoned to nine o'clock breakfast, a meal at which, it is needless to say, the "glorious bird" was plentifully distributed. After breakfast, I amused myself with a telescope, watching the ducks diving and fighting for the wild celery which covers the bottom of these creeks and bays, and which is generally supposed to give the birds their rich and peculiar flavour. They know the powers of a duck-gun to a T; and, keeping beyond its range, they come as close as possible to feed, the water being, of course, shallower, and the celery more easily obtained. Our time being limited, we were reluctantly constrained to bid adieu to our kind and hospitable entertainers, of whose friendly welcome and good cheer I retain the most lively recollections.
Crossing the bay in a small boat, we re-entered the light carriage, and were soon "tooling away" merrily to Baltimore. On the road, our friend amused us with accounts of two different methods adopted in these waters for getting ducks for the pot. One method is, to find a bay where the ducks are plentiful, and tolerably near the shore; and then, concealing yourself as near the water's edge as possible, you take a stick, on the end of which you tie a handkerchief, and keep waving it steadily backwards and forwards. The other method is to employ a dog in lieu of the stick and handkerchief. They have a regular breed for the purpose, about the size of a large Skye terrier, and of a sandy colour. You keep throwing pebbles to the water's edge, which the dog follows; and thus he is ever running to and fro. In either case, the ducks, having something of the woman in their composition, gradually swim in, to ascertain the meaning or cause of these mysterious movements; and, once arrived within range, the sportsman rises suddenly, and, as the scared birds get on the wing, they receive the penalty of their curiosity in a murderous discharge. These two methods they call "tolling;" and most effectual they prove for supplying the market.
Different nations exhibit different methods of ingenuity for the capture of game, &c. I remember being struck, when in Egypt, with the artful plan employed for catching ducks and flamingos, on Lake Menzaleh; which is, for the huntsman to put a gourd on his head, pierced sufficiently to see through, and by means of which,—the rest of his body being thoroughly immersed in water,—he approaches his game so easily, that the first notice they have thereof is the unpleasant sensation they experience as his hand closes upon their legs in the depths of the water.
Of the town, &c., of Baltimore, I hope to tell you something more on my return. We will therefore proceed at once to the railway station, and take our places for Pittsburg. It is a drizzly, snowy morning, a kind of moisture that laughs at so-called waterproofs, and would penetrate an air-pump. As there was no smoking-car, we were constrained to enter another; and off we started. At first, the atmosphere was bearable; but soon, alas! too soon, every window was closed; the stove glowed red-hot; the tough-hided natives gathered round it, and, deluging it with expectorated showers of real Virginian juice, the hissing and stench became insufferable. I had no resource but to open my window, and let the driving sleet drench one side of me, while the other was baking; thus, one cheek was in an ice-house, and the other in an oven. At noon we came to "a fix;" the railway bridge across to Harrisburg had broken down. There was nothing for it but patience; and, in due time, it was rewarded by the arrival of three omnibuses and a luggage-van. As there were about eighty people in the train, it became a difficult task to know how to pack, for the same wretched weather continued, and nobody courted an outside place, with drenched clothes wherein to continue the journey. At last, however, it was managed, something on the herrings-in-a-barrel principle. I had one lady in my lap, and a darling unwashed pledge of her affection on each foot. We counted twenty-six heads, in all; and we jolted away, as fast as the snow would let us, to catch the Philadelphia train, which was to pick us up here.
We managed to arrive about an hour and a half after it had passed; and, therefore, no alternative remained but to adjourn to the little inn, and fortify ourselves for the trial with such good things as mine host of the "Culverley" could produce. It had now settled down to a regular fall of snow, and we began to feel anxious about the chances of proceeding.
Harrisburg may be very pretty and interesting in fine weather, but it was a desolately dreary place to anticipate being snowed-up at in winter, although situated on the banks of the lovely Susquehana: accordingly, I asked mine host when the next train would pass. He replied, with grammatical accuracy, "It should pass about four to-morrow morning; but when it will I am puzzled to say.—What's your opinion, Colonel?" he added; and, turning round, I observed the distinguished military authority seated on one chair, and his legs gracefully pendent over the back of another. In his sword-hand, he wielded a small clasp-knife, which did the alternate duty of a toothpick and a whittler,[K] for which latter amusement he kept a small stick in his left hand to operate upon; and the floor bore testimony to his untiring zeal. When the important question was propounded to him, he ceased from his whittling labours, and, burying the blade deep between his ivories, looked out of the window with an authoritative air, apparently endeavouring, first, to ascertain what depth of snow was on the ground, and then, by an upward glance, to calculate how much more was likely to follow. Having duly weighed these points, and having perfected the channel between his ivories, he sucked the friendly blade, and replied, with a stoical indifference—which, considering my anxiety, might almost be styled heartless—"I guess, if it goes on snowing like this, you'll have no cars here to-morrow at all." Then, craning up to the heavens, as if seeking for the confirmation of a more terrible prophecy, he added, "By the looks of it, I think the gem'men may be fixed here for a week." Having delivered himself of the foregoing consolatory observation, and duly discharged a shower of Virginia juice on the floor, the military authority resumed his whittling labours with increased vigour. His occupation involuntarily carried my mind across the water to a country-house, where I had so often seen an old blind friend amusing himself, by tearing up paper into small pieces, to make pillows for the poor. If the gallant Colonel would only substitute this occupation for whittling, what good might he not do in Harrisburg!
I am happy to say that my Job's comforter turned out a false prophet; snow soon gave place to sleet, and sleet to rain, and before midnight the muck was complete. Next morning, at three, we got into the 'bus, and soon after four the cars came in, and we found ourselves once more en route for Pittsburg. I think this was about the most disagreeable day's journey I ever had. The mixture of human and metallic heat, the chorus of infantine squallers—who kept responding to one another from all parts of the car, like so many dogs in an eastern city—and the intervals filled up by the hissing on the stove of the Virginia juice, were unpleasant enough; but even the elements combined against us. The rain and the snow were fighting together, and producing that slushiness of atmosphere which obscures all scenery; added to which, the unfortunate foreknowledge that we were doomed to fifteen or sixteen hours of these combinations of misery, made it indeed a wretched day. My only resource was to open a window, which the moment I attempted, a hulking fellow, swaddled up in coats and comforters, and bursting with health, begged it might be closed as "It was so cold:" the thermometer, I am sure, was ranging, within the car, from ninety to a hundred degrees. He then tried to hector and bully, and finding that of no use, he appealed to the guard. I claimed my right, and further pleaded the necessity of fresh air, not merely for comfort, but for very life. As my friend expressed the same sentiments, the cantankerous Hector was left to sulk; and I must own to a malicious satisfaction, when, soon after, two ladies came in, and seating themselves on the bench abreast of mine, opened their window, and placed Hector in a thorough draught, which, while gall and wormwood to him, was balm of Gilead to me. As I freely criticise American habits, &c., during my travels, it is but just I should state, that Hector was the only one of his countrymen I ever met who was wilfully offensive and seemed to wish to insult.
The engineering on this road was so contrived, that we had to go through an operation, which to me was quite novel—viz., being dragged by wire ropes up one of the Alleghany hills, and eased down the other side. The extreme height is sixteen hundred feet; and it is accomplished by five different stationary engines, each placed on a separate inclined plane, the highest of which is two thousand six hundred feet above the level of the sea. The want of proper arrangement and sufficient hands made this a most dilatory and tedious operation. Upon asking why so 'cute and go-ahead a people had tolerated such bad engineering originally, and such dilatory arrangements up to the present hour, I was answered, "Oh, sir, that's easily explained; it is a government road and a monopoly, but another road is nearly completed, by which all this will be avoided; and, as it is in the hands of a company, there will be no delay then."—How curious it is, the way governments mess such things when they undertake them! I could not help thinking of the difference between our own government mails from Marseilles to Malta, &c., and the glorious steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, that carry on the same mails from Malta.—But to return from my digression.
I was astonished to see a thing like a piece of a canal-boat descending one of these inclined planes on a truck; nor was my astonishment diminished when I found that it really was part of a canal-boat, and that the remaining portions were following in the rear. The boats are made, some in three, some in five compartments; and, being merely forelocked together, are easily carried across the hill, from the canal on one side to the continuation thereof on the other.[L]
A few hours after quitting these planes, we came to the end of the railway, and had to coach it over a ten-mile break in the line. It was one of those wretched wet days which is said to make even an old inhabitant of Argyleshire look despondingly,—in which county, it will be remembered that, after six weeks' incessant wet, an English traveller, on asking a shepherd boy whether it always rained there, received the consoling reply of, "No, sir—it sometimes snaws." The ground was from eight to eighteen inches deep in filthy mud; the old nine-inside stages—of which more anon—were waiting ready; and as there were several ladies in the cars, I thought the stages might be induced to draw up close to the scantily-covered platform to take up the passengers; but no such idea entered their heads. I imagine such an indication of civilization would have been at variance with their republican notions of liberty; and the fair ones had no alternative but to pull their garments up to the altitude of those of a ballet-dancer, and to bury their neat feet and well-turned ankles deep, deep, deep in the filthy mire. But what made this conduct irresistibly ludicrous—though painful to any gentleman to witness—was the mockery of make-believe gallantry exhibited, in seating all the ladies before any gentleman was allowed to enter; the upshot of which was, that they gradually created a comparatively beaten path for the gentlemen to get in by. One pull of the rein and one grain of manners would have enabled everybody to enter clean and dry; yet so habituated do the better classes appear to have become to this phase of democracy, that no one remonstrated on behalf of the ladies or himself.
The packing completed, a jolting ride brought us again to the railway cars; and in a few hours more—amid the cries of famishing babes and sleepy children, the "hush-hushes" of affectionate mammas, the bustle of gathering packages, and the expiring heat of the poisonous stove—we reached the young Birmingham of America about 10 P.M., and soon found rest in a comfortable bed, at a comfortable hotel.
If you wish a good idea of Pittsburg, you should go to Birmingham, and reduce its size, in your imagination, to one-fourth the reality; after which, let the streets of this creation of your fancy be "top-dressed" about a foot deep with equal proportions of clay and coal-dust; then try to realize in your mind the effect which a week's violent struggle between Messrs. Snow and Sleet would produce, and you will thus be enabled to enjoy some idea of the charming scene which Pittsburg presented on the day of my visit. But if this young Birmingham has so much in common with the elder, there is one grand feature it possesses which the other wants. The Ohio and Monongahela rivers form the delta on which it is built, and on the bosom of the former the fruits of its labour are borne down to New Orleans, via the Mississippi—a distance of two thousand and twenty-five miles exactly. Coal and iron abound in the neighbourhood; they are as handy, in reality, as the Egyptian geese are in the legend, where they are stated to fly about ready roasted, crying, "Come and eat me!" Perhaps, then, you will ask, why is the town not larger, and the business not more active? The answer is simple. The price of labour is so high, that they cannot compote with the parent rival; and the ad valorem duty on iron, though it may bring in a revenue to the government, is no protection to the home trade. What changes emigration from the Old World may eventually produce, time alone can decide; but it requires no prophetic vision to foresee that the undeveloped mineral riches of this continent must some day be worked with telling effect upon England's trade. I must not deceive you into a belief that the Ohio is always navigable. So far from that being the case, I understand that, for weeks and months even, it is constantly fordable. As late as the 23rd of November, the large passage-boats were unable to make regular passages, owing to their so frequently getting aground; and the consequence was, that we were doomed to prosecute our journey to Cincinnati by railroad, to my infinite—but, as my friend said, not inexpressible—regret.
Noon found us at the station, taking the last bite of fresh air before we entered the travelling oven. Fortunately, the weather was rather finer than it had been, and more windows were open. There is something solemn and grand in traversing, with the speed of the wind, miles and miles of the desolate forest. Sometimes you pass a whole hour without any—the slightest—sign of animal life: not a bird, nor a beast, nor a being. The hissing train rattles along; the trumpet-tongued whistle—or rather horn—booms far away in the breeze, and finds no echo; the giant monarchs of the forest line the road on either side, like a guard of Titans, their nodding heads inquiring, as it were curiously, why their ranks were thinned, and what strange meteor is that which, with clatter and roar, rushes past, disturbing their peaceful solitude. Patience my noble friends; patience, I say. A few short years more, and many of you, like your deceased brethren, will bend your proud heads level with the dust, and those giant limbs, which now kiss the summer sun and dare the winter's blast, will feed that insatiate meteor's stomach, or crackle beneath some adventurous pioneer's soup-kettle. But, never mind; like good soldiers in a good cause, you will sacrifice yourselves for the public good; and possibly some of you may be carved into figures of honour, and dance triumphantly on the surge's crest in the advance post of glory on a dashing clipper's bows, girt with a band on which is inscribed, in letters of gold, the imperishable name of Washington or Franklin.
Being of a generous disposition, I have thrown out these hints in the hopes some needy American author may make his fortune, and immortalize his country, by writing "The Life and Adventures of the Forest Monarch;" or, as the public like mystery, he might make a good hit by entitling it "The Child of the Woods that danced on the Wave." Swift has immortalized a tub; other authors have endeavoured to immortalize a shilling, and a halfpenny. Let that great country which professes to be able to "whip creation" take a noble subject worthy of such high pretensions.
Here we are at Cleveland; and, "by the powers of Mercury"—this expletive originated, I believe, with a proud barometer,—it is raining cats and dogs and a host of inferior animals. Everybody seems very impatient, for all are getting out, and yet we have not reached the station,—no; and they don't mean to get there at present. Possession is nine points of the law, and another train is ensconced there. Wood, of course, is so dear in this country, and railroads give such low interest—varying from six to forty per cent.—that they can't afford to have sufficient shedding. Well, out we get. Touters from the hotels cry out lustily. We hear the name of the house to which we are bound, and prepare to follow. The touter carries a lantern of that ingenious size which helps to make the darkness more visible; two steps, and you are over the ankles in mud. "Show a light, boy." He turns round, and, placing his lantern close to the ground, you see at a glance the horrid truth revealed—you are in a perfect mud swamp; so, tuck up your trowsers, and wade away to the omnibuses, about a quarter of a mile off. Gracious me! there are two ladies, with their dresses hitched up like kilts, sliding and floundering through the slushy road. How miserable they must be, poor things! Not the least; they are both tittering and giggling merrily; they are accustomed to it, and habit is second nature. A man from the Old World of advanced civilization—in these matters of minor comforts, at least—will soon learn to conduct himself upon the principle, that where ignorance is bliss, wisdom becomes folly. Laughing, like love, is catching; so these two jolly ladies put me in a good humour, and I laughed my way to the 'bus half up to my knees in mud. After all, it made it lighter work than growling, and go I must; so thank you, ladies, for the cheering example.
Hot tea soon washes away from a thirsty and wearied soul the remembrance of muddy boots, and a good Havana soothes the wounded spirit. After enjoying both, I retired to rest, as I hoped, for we had to make an early start in the morning. Scarce was I in bed, ere the house rang again with laughing and romping just outside my door; black and white, old and young, male and female, all seemed chorusing together—feet clattered, passages echoed—it was a very Babel of noise and confusion. What strange beings we are! Not two hours before, I had said and felt that laughing was catching; now, although the merry chirp of youth mingled with it, I wished the whole party at the residence of an old gentleman whose name I care not to mention. May we not truly say of ourselves what the housemaid says of the missing article—"Really, sir, I don't know nothing at all about it?" A few hours before, I was joining in the laugh as I waded nearly knee-deep in mud, and now I was lying in a comfortable bed grinding my teeth at the same joyous sounds.
It took three messages to the proprietor, before order was restored and I was asleep. In the morning, I found that the cause of all the rumpus was a marriage that had taken place in the hotel; and the master and mistress being happy, the servants caught the joyous infection, and got the children to share it with them. I must not be understood to cast any reflections upon the happy pair, when I say that the marriage took place in the morning, and that the children were laughing at night, for remember, I never inquired into the parentage of the little ducks. On learning the truth, I was rejoiced to feel that they had not gone to the residence of the old gentleman before alluded to, and I made resolutions to restrain my temper in future. After a night's rest, with a cup of hot cafe au lait before you, how easy and pleasant good resolutions are.
Having finished a hasty breakfast, we tumbled into an omnibus, packed like herrings in a barrel, for our number was "Legion," and the omnibus was "Zoar." Off we went to the railway; such a mass of mud I never saw. Is it from this peculiarity that the city takes its name? This, however, does not prevent it from being a very thriving place, and destined, I believe, to be a town of considerable importance, as soon as the grain and mineral wealth of Michigan, Wisconsin, &c., get more fully developed, and when the new canal pours the commerce of Lake Superior into Lake Erie. Cleveland is situated on the slope of a hill commanding a beautiful and extensive view; the latter I was told, for as it rained incessantly, I had no opportunity of judging. Here we are at the station, i.e., two hundred yards off it, which we are allowed to walk, so as to damp ourselves pleasantly before we start. Places taken, in we get; we move a few hundred yards, and come to a stand-still, waiting for another train, which allows us the excitement of suspense for nearly an hour and a half, and then we really start for Cincinnati. The cars have the usual attractions formerly enumerated: grin and bear it is the order of the day; scenery is shrouded in mist, night closes in with her sable mantle, and about eleven we reach the hotel, where, by the blessing of a happy contrast, we soon forget the wretched day's work we have gone through.
Here we are in the "Queen City of the West," the rapid rise whereof is astounding. By a statistical work, I find that in 1800 it numbered only 750 inhabitants; in 1840, 46,338—1850, 115,438: these calculations merely include its corporate limits. If the suburbs be added, the population will reach 150,000: of which number only about 3000 are coloured. The Americans constitute 54 per cent.; Germans, 28; English, 16; other foreigners, 2 per cent. of the population. They have 102 schools, and 357 teachers, and 20,737 pupils are yearly instructed by these means. Of these schools 19 are free, instructing 12,240 pupils, not in mere writing and reading, but rising in the scale to "algebra, grammar, history, composition, declamation, music, drawing," &c. The annual cost of these schools is between 13,000l. and 14,000l. There is also a "Central School," where the higher branches of literature and science are taught to those who have time and talent; in short, a "Free College."
According to the ordinance for the North-Western territory of 1787, "religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall for ever be encouraged." Congress, in pursuance of this laudable object, "has reserved one thirty-sixth part of all public lands for the support of education in the States in which the lands lie; besides which, it has added endowments for numerous universities, &c." We have seen that the public schools in this city cost 13,500l., of which sum they receive from the State fund above alluded to 1500l., the remainder being raised by a direct tax upon the property of the city, and increased from time to time in proportion to the wants of the schools. One of the schools is for coloured children, and contains 360 pupils. There are 91 churches and 4 synagogues, and the population is thus classed—Jews, 3 per cent.; Roman Catholics, 35; Protestant, 62. The Press is represented by 12 daily and 20 weekly papers. From these statistics, dry though they may appear, one must confess that the means of education and religious instruction are provided for in a manner that reflects the highest credit on this "Queen City of the West."
It is chiefly owing to the untiring perseverance of Mr. Longworth, that they have partially succeeded in producing wine. As far as I could ascertain, they made about fifty thousand gallons a year. The wine is called "Catawba," from the grape, and is made both still and sparkling. Thanks to the kind hospitality of a friend, I was enabled to taste the best of each. I found the still wine rather thin and tart, but, as the weather was very cold, that need not affect the truth of my friend's assertion, that in summer it was a very pleasant beverage. The sparkling wine was much more palatable, and reminded me of a very superior kind of perry. They cannot afford to sell it on the spot under four shillings a bottle, and of course the hotels double that price immediately. I think there can be no doubt that a decided improvement must be made in it before it can become valuable enough to find its way into the European market; although I must confess that, as it is, I should be most happy to see it supplant the poisonous liquids called champagne which appear at our "suppers," and at many of our hotels.
The "Burnet House" is the principal hotel here, and afforded me every comfort I could have expected, not the least being the satisfaction I derived from the sight of the proprietor, who, in the spotless cleanliness of his person and his "dimity," and surrounded by hosts of his travelling inmates—myself among the number—stood forth in bold relief, like a snowball in a coal-hole.
But we must now visit the great lion of the place, whence the city obtains the sobriquet of "Porkopolis," i.e., the auto da fe of the unclean animal. We will stroll down and begin at the beginning; but first let me warn you, if your nerves are at all delicate, to pass this description over, for, though perfectly true, it is very horrid. "Poor piggy must die" is a very old saying; whence it came I cannot tell; but were it not for its great antiquity, Cincinnati might claim the honour. Let us however to the deadly work!
The post of slaughter is at the outskirts of the town, and as you approach it, the squeaking of endless droves proceeding to their doom fills the air, and in wet weather the muck they make is beyond description, as the roads and streets are carelessly made, and as carelessly left to fate. When we were within a couple of hundred yards of the slaughter-house, they were absolutely knee-deep, and, there being no trottoir, we were compelled to wait till an empty cart came by, when, for a small consideration, Jonathan ferried us through the mud-pond. Behind the house is the large pen in which the pigs are first gathered, and hence they are driven up an inclined plane into a small partition about twelve feet square, capable of containing from ten to fifteen pigs at once. In this inclosure stands the executioner, armed with a hammer,—something in shape like that used to break stones for the roads in England—his shirt-sleeves turned up, so that nothing may impede the free use of his brawny arms. The time arrived, down comes the hammer with deadly accuracy on the forehead of poor piggy, generally killing but sometimes only stunning him, in which case, as he awakes to consciousness in the scalding caldron, his struggles are frightful to look at, but happily very short. A trap-hatch opens at the side of this enclosure, through which the corpses are thrust into the sticking-room, whence the blood flows into tanks beneath, to be sold, together with the hoofs and hair, to the manufacturers of prussiate of potash and Prussian blue. Thence they are pushed down an inclined plane into a trough containing a thousand gallons of boiling water, and broad enough to take in piggy lengthways. By the time they have passed down this caldron, they are ready for scraping, for which purpose a large table is joined on to the lower end of the caldron, and on which they are artistically thrown. Five men stand in a row on each side of the table, armed with scrapers, and, as piggy passes down, he gets scraped cleaner and cleaner, till the last polishes him as smooth as a yearling baby. Having thus reached the lower end of the table, there are a quantity of hooks fitted to strong wooden arms, which revolve round a stout pillar, and which, in describing the circle, plumb the lower end of the table. On these piggy is hooked, and the operation of cutting open and cleansing is performed—at the rate of three a minute—by operators steeped in blood, and standing in an ocean of the same, despite the eternal buckets of water with which a host of boys keep deluging the floor. These operations finished, piggy is hung up on hooks to cool, and, when sufficiently so, he is removed thence to the other end of the building, ready for sending to the preparing-houses, whither he and his defunct brethren are convoyed in carts, open at the side, and containing about thirty pigs each.
The whole of this part of the town during porking season is alive with these carts, and we will now follow one, so that we may see how piggy is finally disposed of. The cart ascends the hill till it comes to a line of buildings with the canal running at the back thereof; a huge and solid block lies ready for the corpse, and at each side appear a pair of brawny arms grasping a long cleaver made scimitar-shape; smaller tables are around, and artists with sharp knives attend thereat. Piggy is brought in from the cart, and laid on the solid block; one blow of the scimitar-shaped cleaver severs his head, which is thrown aside and sold in the town, chiefly, I believe, to Germans, though of course a Hebrew might purchase if he had a fancy therefor. The head off, two blows sever him lengthways; the hams, the shoulders, and the rib-pieces fly off at a blow each, and it has been stated that "two hands, in less than thirteen hours, cut up eight hundred and fifty hogs, averaging over two hundred pounds each, two others placing them on the blocks for the purpose. All these hogs were weighed singly on the scales, in the course of eleven hours. Another hand trimmed the hams—seventeen hundred pieces—as fast as they were separated from the carcasses. The hogs were thus cut up and disposed of at the rate of more than one to the minute." Knifemen then come into play, cutting out the inner fat, and trimming the hams neatly, to send across the way for careful curing; the other parts are put in the pickle-barrels, except the fat, which, after carefully removing all the small pieces of meat that the first hasty cutting may have left, is thrown into a boiling caldron to be melted down into lard. Barring the time taken up in the transit from the slaughter-house to these cutting-up stores, and the time he hangs to cool, it may be safely asserted, that from the moment piggy gets his first blow till his carcass is curing and his fat boiling into lard, not more than five minutes elapse.
A table of piggy statistics for one year may not be uninteresting to my reader, or, at all events, to an Irish pig-driver:—
180,000 Barrels of Pork, 196 lbs. each 35,280,000 lbs. Bacon 25,000,000 No. 1 Lard 16,500,000 Star Candles, made by Hydraulic pressure. 2,500,000 Bar Soap 6,200,000 Fancy Soap, &c. 8,800,000 ————— 94,280,000 Besides Lard Oil, 1,200,000 gallons.
Some idea of the activity exhibited may be formed, when I tell you that the season for these labours averages only ten weeks, beginning with the second week in November and closing in January; and that the annual number cured at Cincinnati is about 500,000 head, and the value of these animals when cured, &c., was estimated in 1851 at about 1,155,000l. What touching statistics the foregoing would be for a Hebrew or a Mussulman! The wonder to me is, that the former can locate in such an unclean atmosphere; at all events, I hold it as a sure sign that there is money to be made.
They are very proud of their beef here, and it is very good; for they possess all the best English breeds, both here and across the river in Kentucky. They stall-feed very fat, no doubt; but though generally very good, I have never, in any part of the States, tasted beef equal to the best in England. All the fat is on the outside; it is never marbled as the best beef is with us. The price is very moderate, being about fourpence a pound.
Monongahela whisky is a most important article of manufacture in the neighbourhood, being produced annually to the value of 560,000l. There are forty-four foundries, one-third of which are employed in the stove-trade; as many as a thousand stoves have been made in one day. The value of foundry products is estimated at 725,000l. annually.
If commerce be the true wealth and prosperity of a nation, there never was a nation in the history of the world that possessed by nature the advantages which this country enjoys. Take the map, and look at the position of this city; nay, go two hundred miles higher up, to Marietta. From that port, which is nearly two thousand miles from the ocean, the "Muskingum," a barque of three hundred and fifty tons, went laden with provisions, direct to Liverpool, in 1845, and various other vessels have since that time been built at Cincinnati; one, a vessel of eight hundred and fifty tons, called the "Minnesota:" in short, there is quite an active business going on; shipbuilders from Maine coming here to carry on their trade—wood, labour, and lodging being much cheaper than on the Eastern coast.
It is now time to continue our journey, and as the water is high enough, we will embark on the "Ohio," and steam away to Louisville. The place you embark from is called the levee: and as all the large towns on the river have a levee, I may as well explain the term at once. It is nothing more nor less than the sloping off of the banks of a river, and then paving them, by which operation two objects are gained:—first, the banks are secured from the inroads of the stream; secondly, the boats are thereby enabled at all times to land passengers and cargo with perfect facility. These levees extend the whole length of the town, and are lined with steamers of all kinds and classes, but all built on a similar plan; and the number of them gives sure indication of the commercial activity of Cincinnati. When a steamer is about to start, book-pedlers crowd on board with baskets full of their—generally speaking—trashy ware. Sometimes these pedlers are grown-up men, but generally boys about twelve or fourteen years of age. On going up to one of these latter, what was my astonishment to find in his basket, volume after volume of publications such as Holywell-street scarce ever dared to exhibit; these he offered and commended with the most unblushing effrontery. The first lad having such a collection, I thought I would look at the others, to see if their baskets were similarly supplied; I found them all alike without exception, I then became curious to know if these debauched little urchins found any purchasers, and, to ascertain the fact, I ensconced myself among some of the freight, and watched one of them. Presently a passenger came up, and these books were brought to his notice: he looked cautiously round, and, thinking himself unobserved, he began to examine them. The lad, finding the bait had taken, then looked cautiously round on his side, and stealthily drew two more books from his breast, evidently of the same kind, and it is reasonable to suppose infinitely worse. After a careful examination of the various volumes, the passenger pulled out his purse, paid his money, and walked off with eight of these Holywell-street publications, taking them immediately into his cabin. I saw one or two more purchasers, before I left my concealment. And now I may as well observe, that the sale of those works is not confined to one place; wherever I went on board a steamer, I was sure to find boys with baskets of books, and among them many of the kind above alluded to. In talking to an American gentleman on this subject, he told me that it was indeed but too common a practice, although by law nominally prohibited; and he further added, that once asking a vendor why he had such blackguard books which nobody would buy, he took up one of the worst, and said, "Why, sir, this book is so eagerly sought after, that I have the utmost difficulty in keeping up the requisite supply." It is a melancholy reflection, that in a country where education is at every one's door, and poverty at no one's, such unblushing exhibitions of immorality should exist.
We embarked in the "Lady Franklin," and were soon "floating down the river of the O-hi-o." The banks are undulating, and prettily interspersed with cottage villas, which peep out from the woods, and are clotted about the more cultivated parts; but, despite this, the dreary mantle of winter threw a cold churlishness over everything. The boat I shall describe hereafter, when I have seen more of them, for their general features are the same; but there was a specimen of the fair sex on board, to whom I must introduce you, as I may never see her like again.
The main piece was the counterpart of a large steamer's funnel cut off at about four feet two inches high, a most perfect cylinder, and of a dark greyish hue: a sombre coloured riband supported a ditto coloured apron. If asked where this was fastened, I suppose she would have replied, "Round the waist, to be sure;" yet, if Lord Rosse's telescope had been applied, no such break in the smooth surface of the cylinder could have been descried. The arms hung down on either side like the funnel of a cabin stove, exciting the greatest wonder and the liveliest curiosity to know how the skin of the shoulder obtained the elasticity requisite to exhibit such a phenomenon. On the top of the cylinder was a beautifully polished ebony pedestal, about two inches high on one side, tapering away to nothing at the other, so that whatever might be placed thereon, would lie at an angle of forty-five degrees. This pedestal did duty for a neck; and upon it was placed a thing which, viewed as a whole, resembled a demijohn. The lower part was pillowed on the cylinder, no gleam of light ever penetrating between the two. Upon the upper surface, at a proper distance from the extremity, two lips appeared, very like two pieces of raw beefsteak picked up off a dusty road.
While wrapt in admiration of this interesting spot, the owner thereof was seized with a desire to yawn, to obtain which luxury it was requisite to throw back the demijohn into nearly a horizontal line, so as to relieve the lower end from its pressure on the cylinder. The aid of both hands was called in to assist in supporting her intellectual depository. This feat accomplished, a roseate gulf was revealed, which would have made the stout heart of Quintus Curtius quail ere he took the awful plunge. Time or contest had removed the ivory obstructions in the centre, but the shores on each side of the gulf were terrifically iron-bound, and appeared equal to crushing the hardest granite; the shinbone of an ox would have been to her like an oyster to ordinary mortals. She revelled in this luxurious operation so long, that I began to fear she was suffering from the antipodes to a lockjaw, and that she was unable to close the chasm; but at last the demijohn rose slowly and solemnly from the horizontal, the gulf gradually closed until, obtaining the old angle of forty-five degrees, the two dusty pieces of beefsteak once more stood sentry over the abyss. Prosecuting my observations along the upper surface, I next came to the proboscis, which suggested the idea of a Bologna sausage after a passage through a cotton-press. Along the upper part, the limits were invisible, so beautifully did it blend with the sable cheek on each side; but the lower part seemed to have been outside the press during the process, and therefore to have obtained unusual rotundity, thanks to which two nostrils appeared, which would, for size, have excited the envy of the best bred Arab that was ever foaled; and the division between them was nearly equal to that of the horse. I longed to hear her sneeze; it must have been something quite appallingly grand. Continuing my examination, I was forced to the conclusion that the poor delicate creature was bilious; for the dark eyes gleamed from their round yellow beds like pieces of cannel-coal set in a gum-cistus. The forehead was a splendid prairie of flat table-land, beyond which stretched a jungle of curly locks, like horse-hair ready picked for stuffing sofas, and being tied tightly round near the apex, the neck of the bottle was formed, and the demijohn complete.
I was very curious to see this twenty-five stone sylph in motion, and especially anxious to have an opportunity of examining the pedestals by which she was supported and set in motion. After a little patience, I was gratified to a certain extent, as the stately mass was summoned to her duties. By careful observation, I discovered the pedestals resembled flounders, out of which grew, from their centre, two cylinders, the ankles deeply imbedded therein, and in no way disturbing the smooth surface. All higher information was of course wrapt in the mystery of conjecture; but from the waddling gait and the shoulders working to and fro at every step, the concealed cylinders doubtless increased in size to such an extent, that the passing one before the other was a task of considerable difficulty; and if the motion was not dignified, it was imposingly slow, and seemed to call all the energies of the various members into action to accomplish its end. Even the demijohn rolled as if it were on a pivot, nodding grandly as the mighty stewardess of the "Franklin" proceeded to obey the summons. I watched her receding form, and felt that I had never before thoroughly realized the meaning of an "armsful of joy," and I could not but wonder who was the happy possessor of this great blessing.
Ibrahim Pacha, when in England, was said to have had an intense desire to purchase two ladies, one aristocratic, the other horticultural, the solidity of these ladies being their great point of attraction in his estimation. Had he but seen my lovely stewardess, I am sure he would instantly have given up negotiations for both, could he thereby have hoped to obtain such a massive treasure as the "Sylph of the 'Franklin.'"
[Footnote J: Since I was there, General Cadwallader has taken the place into his own hands.]
[Footnote K: In case the expression is new to the reader, I beg to inform him that to "whittle" is to cut little chips of wood—if, when the fit comes on, no stick is available, the table is sometimes operated on.]
[Footnote L: I believe the plan of making the canal-boats in sections is original; but the idea of dragging them up inclines to avoid expenses of lockage, &c., is of old date, having been practised as far back as 1792, upon a canal in the neighbourhood of Colebrook Dale, where the boats were raised by stationary engines up two inclines, one of 207 feet, and the other of 126 feet. I believe this is the first instance of the adoption of this plan, and the engineers were Messrs. Reynolds and Williams. The American inclines being so much greater, the dividing the boat into sections appears to me an improvement.]
Scenes Ashore and Afloat.
A trip on a muddy river, whose banks are fringed with a leafless forest resembling a huge store of Brobdignagian stable brooms, may be favourable to reflection; but, if description be attempted, there is danger lest the brooms sweep the ideas into the muddy water of dulness. Out of consideration therefore to the reader, we will suppose ourselves disembarked at Louisville, with the intention of travelling inland to visit the leviathan wonder—the would-be rival to Niagara,—yclept "The Mammoth Cave." Its distance from Louisville is ninety-five miles. There is no such thing as a relay of horses to be met with—at all events, it is problematical; therefore, as the roads were execrable, we were informed it would take us two long days, and our informant strongly advised us to go by the mail, which only employs twenty-one hours to make the ninety-five miles' journey. There was no help for it; so, with a sigh of sad expectation, I resigned myself to my fate, of which I had experienced a short foretaste on my way to Pittsburg. I then inquired what lions the town offered to interest a traveller. I found there was little in that way, unless I wished to go through the pig-killing, scalding, and cutting process again; but stomach and imagination rebelled at the bare thought of a second edition of the bloody scene, so I was fain to content myself with the novelty of the tobacco pressing; and, as tobacco is the favourite bonbon of the country, I may as well describe the process which the precious vegetable goes through ere it mingles with the human saliva.
A due admixture of whites and blacks assemble together, and, damping the tobacco, extract all the large stems and fibres, which are then carefully laid aside ready for export to Europe, there to be cooked up for the noses of monarchs, old maids, and all others who aspire to the honour and glory of carrying a box—not forgetting those who carry it in the waistcoat-pocket, and funnel it up the nose with a goose-quill. How beautifully simple and unanswerable is the oft-told tale, of the reply of a testy old gentleman who hated snuff as much as a certain elderly person is said to hate holy-water—when offered a pinch by an "extensive" young man with an elaborate gold-box. "Sir," said the indignant patriarch, "I never take the filthy stuff! If the Almighty had intended my nostrils for a dust-pan, he would have turned them the other way."—But I wander from the subject. We will leave the fibre to find its way to Europe and its noses, and follow the leaf to America and its mouths. In another apartment niggers and whites re-pick the fibres out more carefully, and then roll up the pure loaf in a cylindrical shape, according to the measure provided for the purpose. It is then taken to another apartment, and placed in duly prepared compartments under a strong screw-press, by which operation it is transformed from a loose cylinder to a well squashed parallelogram. It is hard work, and the swarthy descendants of Ham look as if they were in a vapour-bath, and doubtless bedew the leaf with superfluous heat.
After the first pressing, it goes to a more artistic old negro, who, with two buckets of water—one like pea-soup, the other as dark as if some of his children had been boiled down in it—and armed with a sponge of most uninviting appearance, applies these liquids with most scientific touch, thereby managing to change the colour, and marble it, darken it, or lighten it, so as to suit the various tastes. This operation completed, and perspiring negroes screwing down frantically, it is forced into the box prepared for its reception, which is imbedded in a strong iron-bound outer case during the process, to prevent the more fragile one from bursting under the pressure. All this over, and the top fixed, a master-painter covers it with red and black paint, recording its virtues and its charms. What a pity it could not lie in its snug bed for ever! But, alas! fate and the transatlantic Anglo-Saxon have decreed otherwise. Too short are its slumbers, too soon it bursts again, to suffer fresh pressure under the molars of the free and enlightened, and to fall in filthy showers over the length and breadth of the land, deluging every house and every vehicle to a degree that must be seen to be believed, and filling the stranger with much wonder, but far more disgust. I really think it must be chewing tobacco which makes the Americans so much more restless, so much more like armadillos than any other nation. It often has excited my wonder, how the more intelligent and civilized portion of the community, who do not generally indulge in the loathsome practice, can reconcile themselves to the annoyance of it as kindly as they do. Habit and necessity are powerful masters.
Having finished this exhibition—which, by the way, kept me sneezing all the time—I went next to see a steam sawing, planing, and fitting mill. Labour being very expensive, these establishments are invaluable here; such an establishment as I saw could supply, from the raw wood in logs, all the doors and window-frames of "Stafford House" in three days, barring the polish and paint. If Mr. Cubitt is not up to this machinery, this hint may be the means of making his fortune double itself in "quarter-less no time."[M] As we knew that our journey to-morrow must be inexpressibly tedious, we beat an early retreat, requesting a cup of hot tea or coffee might be ready for us half an hour before our departure. Poor simple creatures that we were, to expect such a thing! The free and enlightened get their breakfast after being two hours en route, and can do without anything before starting—ergo, we must do the same: thus, though there were literally servants enough in the house to form a substantial militia regiment, a cup of tea was impossible to be obtained for love or money. All we had for it was to bury our disappointment in sleep.
Soon after three the next morning we were roused from our slumbers, and, finishing our toilet, cheered our insides with an unadulterated draught from the Ohio. All outside the door was dark, cheerless, solitary, and still. Presently the silence was broken by some violent puffs from a penny trumpet. "Dat's de mayle, massa," said a nigger in the hall, accompanying his observation with a mysterious grin, evidently meant to convey the idea, "You'll have enough of her before you've done." Up she came to the door—I believe, by custom if not by grammar, a man-of-war and a mail-coach are shes—a heavy, lumbering machine, with springs, &c., apparently intended for scaling the Rocky Mountains. The inside was about three feet broad and five feet long, and was intended for the convenience (?) of nine people, the three who occupied the centre seat having a moveable leather strap to support their backs. Outside, there was one seat by the coachman; and if the correspondence was not great, three more might sit behind the coachman, in all the full enjoyment of a splendidly cramped position. The sides of the carriage were made of leather, and fitted with buttons, for the purpose of opening in summer. Being a nasty drizzling morning, we got inside, with our two servants, and found we had it all to ourselves. "I am sure this is comfortable enough," observed my companion, who was one of the mildest and most contented of human beings. "Too good to last long," thought I.
The penny trumpet sounds, and off we go—not on our journey, but all over the town to the different hotels, to pick up live freight. I heartily hoped they might all oversleep themselves that morning. Alas! no such luck. Jonathan and a weasel are two animals that are very rarely caught napping. Passengers kept coming in until we were six, and "comfortable enough" became a misnomer. A furious blast of the tin tube, with a few spicy impromptu variations, portended something important, and, as we pulled up, we saw it was the post-office; but, murder of murders! we saw four more passengers! One got up outside; another was following; Jarvey stopped him, with—"I guess there aint no room up here for you; the mail's a-coming here." The door opened,—the three damp bodkins in line commenced their assault,—the last came between my companion and myself, I could not see much of him, it was so dark; but—woe is me!—there are other senses besides sight, and my unfortunate nostrils drank in a most foetid polecatty odour, ever increasing as he drew nearer and nearer. Room to sit there was none; but, at the blast of the tube, the rattle over the pitty pavement soon shook the obnoxious animal down between us, squeezing the poisonous exhalation out of him at each successive jolt. As dawn rose, we saw he was a German, and doubtless the poor fellow was very hard-up for money, and had been feeding for some time past on putrid pork. As for his hide and his linen, it would have been an unwarrantable tax upon his memory to have asked him when they had last come in contact with soap and water. My stomach felt like the Bay of Biscay in an equinoctial gale, and I heartily wished I could have dispensed with the two holes at the bottom of my nose. I dreaded asking how far he was going; but another passenger—under the influence of the human nosegay he was constrained to inhale—summed up the courage to pop the question, and received a reply which extinguished in my breast the last flickering ray of Hope's dim taper—"Sair, I vosh go to Nashveele." Only conceive the horror of being squashed into such a neighbour for twenty-one long hours, and over a road that necessarily kept jerking the unwashed and polecatty head into your face ten times in a minute! Who that has bowels of compassion but must commiserate me in such "untoward circumstances?"
Although we had left the hotel at four, it was five before we left the town, and about seven before we unpacked for breakfast, nine miles out of town. The stench of my neighbour had effectually banished all idea of eating or drinking from my mind; so I walked up and down outside, smoking my cigar, and thinking "What can I do?" At last, the bright idea struck me—I will get in next time with my cigar; what if we are nine herrings in the barrel?—everybody smokes in this country—they won't object—and I think, by keeping the steam well up, I can neutralize a little of the polecat. So when the time came for starting, I got my big cigar-case, &c., out on my knees—as getting at your pockets, when once packed, was impossible—and entering boldly with my weed at high pressure, down I sat. We all gradually shook into our places. Very soon a passenger looked me steadily in the face; he evidently was going to speak; I quailed inwardly, dreading he was going to object to the smell of smoke. Oh, joyous sight! a cigar appeared between his fingers, and the re-assuring words came forth—"A light, sir, if you please." I never gave one more readily in my life. Gradually, passenger after passenger produced cigars; the aroma filled the coach, and the fragrance of the weed triumphed over the foetor of the polecat. Six insides out of nine hard at it, and four of them with knock-me-down Virginia tobacco, the single human odour could not contend against such powerful odds; as well might a musquito sneeze against thunder. I always loved a cigar; but here I learnt its true value in a desperate emergency.
On we went, puffing, pumping, and jolting, till at last we came to a stand on the banks of a river. As there was a reasonable probability of the mail shooting into the stream on its descent, we were told to get out, on doing which we found ourselves pleasantly situated about a foot deep in mud; the mail got down safe into an open ferry-boat with two oars, and space for passengers before the horses or behind the coach. The ferry was but for a few minutes, and we then had to ascend another bank of mud, at the top of which we retook our seats in the mail, bringing with us in the aggregate, about a hundredweight of fine clay soil, with which additional cargo we continued our journey. One o'clock brought us to Elizabeth Town, and dinner; the latter was very primitive, tough, and greasy.
Once more we entered our cells, and continued our route, the bad road getting worse and worse, rarely allowing us to go out of a walk. Two of our fellow-passengers managed to make themselves as offensive as possible. They seemed to be travelling bagmen of the lowest class. Conversation they had none, but by way of appearing witty, they kept repeating over and over again some four or five stories, laughing at one another's tales, which were either blasphemous or beastly—so much so, that I would most willingly have compounded for two more human polecats in lieu of them. I must say, that although all classes mix together in public conveyances, this was the first time I had ever found people conduct themselves in so disgusting a manner. We soon came to another river, and getting out, enjoyed a second mud walk, bringing in with us as before a rich cargo of clay soil; and after a continuous and increasing jolting, which threatened momentary and universal dislocation, we arrived, after a drive of twenty-one hours, at our journey's end—i.e., at "Old Bell's," so called from the proprietor of the inn. Here we were to pass the night, or rather the remainder of it, the mail going on to Nashville, and taking our foetid bodkin on with it. But, alas! the two more disagreeable passengers before alluded to remained, as they had suddenly made up their minds to stay and visit the Mammoth Cave.
Old Bell is a venerable specimen of seventy odd years of age, and has been here, I believe, half a century nearly. One of his daughters, I am told, is very pretty. She is married to a senator of the United States, and keeps one of the most agreeable houses in Washington. The old gentleman is said to be worth some money, but he evidently is determined to die in harness. As regularly as the mail arrives, about one in the morning, so regularly does he turn out and welcome the passengers with a glass of mixed honey, brandy, and water. The beverage and the donor reminded me forcibly of "Old Crerer," and the "Athole Brose," with which he always welcomed those who visited him in his Highland cottage. Having got beds to ourselves—after repeated requests to roost two in a nest, as the house was small—I soon tumbled into my lair, and in the blessed forgetfulness of sleep the miseries of the day became mingled with the things that were. The next morning, after breakfast, we got a conveyance to take the party over to the Cave, a distance of seven miles. One may really say there is no road. For at least one half of the way there is nothing but a rugged track of rock and roots of trees, ever threatening the springs of the carriage and the limbs of the passenger with frightful fractures. However, by walking over the worst of it, you protect the latter and save the former, thus rendering accidents of rare occurrence.
The hotel is a straggling building, chiefly ground floor, and with a verandah all round. The air is deliriously pure, and in summer it must be lovely. It is situated on a plateau, from the extremity of which the bank descends to the Green River. On both sides is the wild forest, and round the giant trunks the enamoured vine twines itself with the affectionate pertinacity of a hungry boa-constrictor, and boars its head in triumph to the topmost branches. But vegetable life is not like a Venus who, "when unadorned, is adorned the most;" and, the forest having cast off its summer attire, presents an uninviting aspect in the cold nudity of winter. When the virgin foliage of spring appears, and ripens into the full verdure of summer, the shade of these banks must be delicious; the broad-leaved and loving vine extending its matrimonial embrace as freely and universally through the forest as Joe Smith and his brethren do theirs among the ladies at the Salt Lake; and when autumn arrives, with those gorgeous glowing tints unknown to the Old World, the scene must be altogether lovely; then the admirer of nature, floating between the banks on the light-green bosom of the stream below, and watching the ever-changing tints, as the sun dropped softly into his couch in the west, would enjoy a feast that memory might in vain try to exhaust itself in recalling.
There are guides appointed who provide lanterns and torches for visitors who wish to examine the Mammoth Cave; and its interior is such a labyrinth, that, without their aid, the task would be a dangerous one. Rough clothing is provided at the hotel, the excursion being one of scramble and difficulty.
Thus prepared, we started on our exploring expedition, passing at the entry the remnants of old saltpetre works, which were established here during the struggle at New Orleans. The extent of this cave would render a detail tedious, as there are comparatively few objects of interest. The greatest marvel is a breed of small white fish without eyes, several of which are always to be seen. Like all similar places, it varies in size in the most arbitrary manner. At one minute you are struggling for space, and suddenly you emerge upon a Gothic-looking hall, full of gracefully pendent stalactites. Again you proceed along corridors, at one time lofty, at another threatening your head, if pride do not give way to humility. Then you come to rivers, of which there are two. At one time you are rowing under a magnificent vault, and then, anon, you are forced to lie flat down in the boat, or leave your head behind you, as you float through a passage, the roof whereof grazes the gunwale of the boat. My guide informed me that there was a peculiarity in these rivers nobody could satisfactorily account for, viz., that the more it rained, the lower these waters fell. I expect the problem resembled that which is attributed to King Charles, viz., "How it was, that if a dead fish was put into a vessel full of water it immediately overflowed, but that, if a live fish was put in, it did not do so;" and I have some suspicion the solution is the same in both cases. Among other strange places, is one which rejoices in the name of "Fat Man's Misery." At one minute the feet get fixed as in the stocks; at another, the upper portion of the body is called upon to make a right angle with the lower; even then, a projecting point of the rock above will sometimes prod you upon the upturned angle, in endeavouring to save which, by a too rapid act of humility, you knock all the skin off the more vulnerable knee. Emerging from this difficulty, and, perhaps, rising too hastily, a crack on the head closes your eyes, filling them with a vision of forked lightning. Recovering from this agreeable sensation, you find a gap like the edge of a razor, in going through which, you feel the buttons of your waistcoat rubbing against your backbone. It certainly would be no bad half-hour's recreation to watch a rotund Lord Mayor, followed by a court of aldermen to match, forcing their way through this pass after a turtle dinner.
The last place I shall mention is the one which, to me, afforded the greatest pleasure: it is a large hall, in which, after being placed in a particular position, the guide retires to a distance, taking with him all the lights; and knowing by experience what portion of them to conceal, bids you, when he is ready, look overhead. In a few seconds it has the appearance of the sky upon a dark night; but, as the eye becomes accustomed to the darkness, small spots are seen like stars; and they keep increasing till the vaulted roof has the appearance of a lovely star-light night. I never saw a more pleasing or perfect illusion. It would be difficult to estimate correctly the size of the Mammoth Cave. The American gazetteers say it extends ten or twelve miles, and has lateral branches, which, altogether, amount to forty miles. It is, I imagine, second in size only to the Cacuhuainilpa, in Mexico, which, if the accounts given are accurate, would take half a dozen such as the Mammoth inside. I fear it is almost superfluous to inform the reader, that the Anglo-Saxon keeps up his unenviable character for disfiguring every place he visits; and you consequently see the names of Smith, Brown, Snooks, &c., smoked on the rocks in all directions—an appropriate sooty record of a barbarous practice.[N]
Having enjoyed two days in exploring this "gigantic freak of Nature," we commenced our return about half-past four in the afternoon, so as to get over the break-neck track before dark. Old Bell[O] welcomed us as usual with his honey, brandy, and water. He then prepared us some dinner, as we wished to snatch a few hours' sleep before commencing our return to Louisville, with its twenty-one hours of pleasure. About half-past ten at night, a blast in the breeze, mixed with a confused slushy sound, as sixteen hoofs plashed in the mud, rang the knell in our ears, "Your time has come!" I anxiously looked as the mail pulled up in the middle of the road opposite to the door—they always allow the passengers the privilege of wading through the mud to the door of the inn—to see if by any chance it was empty, having been told that but few people comparatively travelled the back route—no wonder, if they could help it. Alas! the steam on the window announced, with fatal certainty, some humanities inside. The door opened; out they came, one, two, three, four. It was a small coach, with three seats, having only space for two persons on each, thus leaving places inside for my friend and myself. "Any room outside, there?"
"Room for one, sir!"
There was no help for it, and we were therefore obliged to leave one servant behind, to follow next night.
Horses changed, honey-toddy all drank, in we got into the centre seat. "What is this all round?" "Thick drugget, sir; they nail it round in winter to keep the cold out."—Thank Heaven, it is only nailed at the bottom. Suffocation began; down goes my window. Presently a sixteen-stone kind of overgrown Pickwickian "Fat Boy," sitting opposite me, exclaims aloud, with a polar shudder, "Ugh! it's very cold!" and finding I was inattentive, he added, "Don't you find it very cold?" "Me, sir? I'm nearly fainting from heat," I replied; and then, in charity, I lent him a heavy full-sized Inverness plaid, in which he speedily enveloped his fat carcass. What with the plaids, and his five inches deep of fat, his bones must have been in a vapour bath. The other vis-a-vis was a source of uneasiness to me on a different score. He kept up a perpetual expectorating discharge; and, as my open window was the only outlet, and it did not come that way, I naturally felt anxious for my clothes. Daylight gradually dawned upon the scene, and then the ingenuity of my friend was made manifest in a way calculated to move any stomach not hardened by American travelling. Whenever he had expressed the maximum quantity of juice from the tobacco, the drugget lining was moved sufficiently for him to discharge his cargo against the inside of the carriage; after which, the drugget was replaced, and the effect of the discharge concealed thereby. This drugget lining must have been invaluable to him; for upon another occasion, it did duty for a pocket-handkerchief. I must say, that when I saw the otherwise respectable appearance of the culprit, his filthy practices astounded me. Behind us were two gentlemen who were returning to Louisville, and whom we found very agreeable.
We stopped for breakfast at a wayside pot-house sort of place; but, before feasting, we wanted to wash ourselves. The conveniences for that purpose were a jug, a basin, and a piece of soap, on a bench in the open court, which, as it was raining pretty smartly, was a very ingenious method of dissuasion, particularly as your pocket-handkerchief, or the sleeve of your shirt, had to supply the place of a towel. The meal was as dissuasive as the washing arrangements, and I was glad when the trumpet summoned us to coach. I made an effort to sleep, for which purpose I closed my eyes, but in vain; however, the expectorating vis-a-vis, who was also a chilly bird, thought he had caught me napping, and said to his fat neighbour,—"I say, the old gentleman's asleep, pull up the window." The fat 'un did so, and I kept perfectly quiet. In a few minutes I began to breathe heavily, and then, awaking as it were with a groan, I complained of suffocation, and, dashing down the window, poked out my head and panted for fresh air: they were very civil all the rest of the journey, and never asked for the window to be shut again. In the course of the day, I found out that the fat boy opposite was connected with a circus company, and from him I gleaned something of their history, which I hope may not be uninteresting to the reader.
Each company has a puffer, or advertiser, who is sent on a week before the company, to get bills printed, and see them posted up and distributed to the best advantage, in the places at which the company intend to perform. This was the fat boy's occupation, and for it he received eight pounds a month and his travelling expenses.
His company consisted of seventy-five bipeds and one hundred and twenty-five quadrupeds. Of the bipeds, twelve were performers, two being women; the pay varied from sixteen pounds a month to the chief Amazonian lady, down as low as five pounds a month to the least efficient of the corps. They work all the year round, sucking their cents from the North in summer, and from the South in winter. They carry everything with them, except it may be fuel and provisions. Each has his special duty appointed. After acting at night they retire to their tents to sleep, and the proper people take the circus-tent down, and start at once for the next place they are to appear at; the performers and their tent-men rise early in the morning, and start so as to reach the ground about eleven; they then rest and prepare, so as to be ready, after the people of the village have dined, to give their first performance; then they rest and refresh ready for their evening repetition. Some companies used to make their own gas, but experience has proved that wax-lights are sweeter and cheaper in the long run, so gas making is nearly exploded. After this second performance they retire to rest; the circus tent-men strike and pack the tent, then start off for the next place of exhibition, the actors and their tents following as before mentioned: thus they go on throughout the year, bipeds and quadrupeds scarcely ever entering a house.
There are numbers of these circus companies in the States, of which the largest is the one to which Van Amburgh is attached, and which, the fat boy told me, is about three times the size of his own—Van Amburgh taking always upwards of a dozen cages of his wild beasts. The work, he says, is very hard, but the money comes in pretty freely, which I can readily believe, as the bump of Inquisitiveness grows here with a luxuriance unknown elsewhere, and is only exceeded by its sister bump of Acquisitiveness, which two organs constitute audience and actors.
I give you no account of scenery on the road for two reasons: first, because there are no striking features to relieve the alternations of rude cultivation and ruder forest; and secondly, because in winter, Nature being despoiled of the life-giving lines of herbage and foliage, a sketch of dreariness would be all that truth could permit. I will therefore beg you to consider the twenty-one hours past, and Louisville reached in safety, where hot tea and "trimmings"—as the astute young Samivel hath it—soon restored us from the fatigues of a snail-paced journey, over the most abominable road a man can imagine, although it is the mail route between the flourishing towns of Louisville and Nashville. Should any ambitious spirit feel a burning desire to visit the Mammoth Cave, let me advise him to slake the said flame with the waters of Patience, and take for his motto—"I bide my time." Snoring has been the order of the day in these parts for many years; but the kettle-screaming roads of the North have at last disturbed the Southern slumberers, and, like giants refreshed, they are now working vigorously at their own kettle, which will soon hiss all the way from Louisville to Nashville. Till then, I say, Patience.—One of our companions in the stage very kindly offered to take us to the club, which is newly formed here, and which, if not large, is very comfortable. I mention this as one among the many instances which have occurred to me while travelling in this country, of the desire exhibited by the better classes to show civility and attention to any gentleman who they observe is a stranger among them.
The following morning we were obliged to continue our route, for which purpose it was necessary to embark two miles below the town, as the river was not high enough to allow the steamers to pass over a kind of bar called "The Falls." The road was one continuous bog of foot-deep mud, but that difficulty concerned the horses, and they got over it with perfect ease, despite the heavy drag. Once more we were floating down the Ohio, and, curiously enough, in, another "Franklin;" but she could not boast of such a massive cylindrical stewardess as her sister possessed. A host of people, as usual, were gathered round the bar, drinking, smoking, and arguing. Jonathan is "first-chop" at an argument. Two of them were hard at it as I walked up.
Says the Colonel—"I tell you, Major, it is more than a hundred miles."
Major—"Well, but I tell you, Colonel, it aint not no such thing."
Colonel—"But, sir'ree, I know it is."
Judge—"Well, Colonel, I tell you what it is; I reckon you're wrong."
Colonel—getting evidently excited—"No, sir'ree, I aint, and,"—holding out a brawny hand capable of scrunching a nine-pound shot into infant pap—"darned if I wont lay you, or any other gentleman, six Kentucky niggers to a julep I'm right."
After offering these tremendous odds, he travelled his fiery eagle eyes from the major to the judge, and from the judge to the major, to ascertain which of them would have it; and as they were silent, he extended the radius of his glance to the company around, chucking his head, and looking out of the corner of his eye, from time to time, towards major and judge with a triumphant sneer, as much as to say, "I've fixed you, anyhow." The argument was over; whether the major and the judge were right about the distance, or not, I cannot decide; but if the bet, when accepted, had to be ratified in the grasp of the muscular hand which the colonel extended, they were decidedly right in not accepting it, as some painful surgical operation must have followed such a crushing and dislocation as his gripe inevitably portended. I would as soon have put my hand between the rollers of a cane-press.
The feeding arrangements for the humanities on board were, if disagreeable, sufficiently amusing once in a way. A table extends nearly the whole length of the gentlemen's saloon; on each side are ranged low wooden straight-back arm-chairs, of a breadth well suited for the ghost qui n'avait pas de quoi. But the unfortunate man who happened to be very well supplied therewith, ran considerable risk of finding the chair a permanent appendage. At the sound of the bell, all the seats being arranged opposite the respective places, the men rush forward and place themselves behind the said chairs, and, like true cavaliers, stand there till the ladies are seated. I was standing waiting among the rest, and getting impatient as time flew on. One lady had not yet arrived. At last the steward came with the said article on his arm, and having deposited her in the seat nearly opposite mine, at a knowing wink from him, a second steward sounded another bell, and the men dropped into their seats like magic. Soup having been already served, the spoons rattled away furiously. I was wondering who the lady—all females are ladies here—could be, for whom we had been so long waiting, and who had eventually come in with the steward, or gentleman—all men are gentlemen here—in so friendly a manner. She did not appear burdened with any refined manners, but, judge of my astonishment when, after she had got quit of her soup-plate and was waiting for her next helping, I observed the lady poking the point of her knife into a sweet dish near her, and sucking off the precious morsel she had captured, which interesting operation she kept repeating till her roast turkey arrived. There was an air of such perfect innocence about her, as she was employed in the sucking process, that you could not help feeling she was unconscious any eye fixed upon her could find her occupation offensive or extraordinary.
A gentleman seated near me next attracted my attention. They had helped him to a piece of meat the size and shape of a Holborn-hill paving-stone. How insulted he must be at having his plate filled in that way. Look! look! how he seizes vegetable after vegetable, building his plate all round, like a fortification, the junk of beef in the middle forming the citadel. It would have taken Napoleon a whole day to have captured such a fortress; but, remember, poor Napoleon did not belong to the nation that can "whip creation." See how Jonathan batters down bastion after bastion! Now he stops!—his piercing eye scrutinizes around!—a pie is seen! With raised body and lengthened arm, he pounces on it, and drags it under the guns of his fortress. Knives and forks are scarce—his own will do very well. A breach is made—the pastry parapet is thrown at the foot of the half-demolished citadel; spoons are not at hand, the knife plunges into the abyss, the fork follows—'tis a chicken pie—pillage ensues; all the white meat is captured, the dish is raised on high, from the horizontal it is turned to the "slantindicular," and the citadel is deluged in the shower. "Catch who can," is not confined to school-boys, I see. I was curious to witness the end of this attack, and, as he had enough to occupy his ivories for half an hour—if they did not give in before—I turned quietly to my own affairs, and began eating my dinner; but, curiosity is impatient. In a few minutes, I turned back to gaze on the fortress. By Jupiter Tonans! the plate lay before him, clean as if a cat had licked it; and, having succeeded in capturing another plate, he was organizing on this new plateau various battalions of sweets, for which he skirmished around with incomparable skill.