Life On The Mississippi, Part 7.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Produced by David Widger



Part 7.

Chapter 31 A Thumb-print and What Came of It

WE were approaching Napoleon, Arkansas. So I began to think about my
errand there. Time, noonday; and bright and sunny. This was bad--not
best, anyway; for mine was not (preferably) a noonday kind of errand.
The more I thought, the more that fact pushed itself upon me--now in one
form, now in another. Finally, it took the form of a distinct question:
is it good common sense to do the errand in daytime, when, by a little
sacrifice of comfort and inclination, you can have night for it, and no
inquisitive eyes around. This settled it. Plain question and plain
answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.

I got my friends into my stateroom, and said I was sorry to create
annoyance and disappointment, but that upon reflection it really seemed
best that we put our luggage ashore and stop over at Napoleon. Their
disapproval was prompt and loud; their language mutinous. Their main
argument was one which has always been the first to come to the surface,
in such cases, since the beginning of time: 'But you decided and AGREED
to stick to this boat, etc.; as if, having determined to do an unwise
thing, one is thereby bound to go ahead and make TWO unwise things of
it, by carrying out that determination.

I tried various mollifying tactics upon them, with reasonably good
success: under which encouragement, I increased my efforts; and, to show
them that I had not created this annoying errand, and was in no way to
blame for it, I presently drifted into its history--substantially as

Toward the end of last year, I spent a few months in Munich, Bavaria. In
November I was living in Fraulein Dahlweiner's PENSION, 1a, Karlstrasse;
but my working quarters were a mile from there, in the house of a widow
who supported herself by taking lodgers. She and her two young children
used to drop in every morning and talk German to me--by request. One
day, during a ramble about the city, I visited one of the two
establishments where the Government keeps and watches corpses until the
doctors decide that they are permanently dead, and not in a trance
state. It was a grisly place, that spacious room. There were thirty-six
corpses of adults in sight, stretched on their backs on slightly slanted
boards, in three long rows--all of them with wax-white, rigid faces, and
all of them wrapped in white shrouds. Along the sides of the room were
deep alcoves, like bay windows; and in each of these lay several marble-
visaged babes, utterly hidden and buried under banks of fresh flowers,
all but their faces and crossed hands. Around a finger of each of these
fifty still forms, both great and small, was a ring; and from the ring a
wire led to the ceiling, and thence to a bell in a watch-room yonder,
where, day and night, a watchman sits always alert and ready to spring
to the aid of any of that pallid company who, waking out of death, shall
make a movement--for any, even the slightest, movement will twitch the
wire and ring that fearful bell. I imagined myself a death-sentinel
drowsing there alone, far in the dragging watches of some wailing, gusty
night, and having in a twinkling all my body stricken to quivering jelly
by the sudden clamor of that awful summons! So I inquired about this
thing; asked what resulted usually? if the watchman died, and the
restored corpse came and did what it could to make his last moments
easy. But I was rebuked for trying to feed an idle and frivolous
curiosity in so solemn and so mournful a place; and went my way with a
humbled crest.

Next morning I was telling the widow my adventure, when she exclaimed--

'Come with me! I have a lodger who shall tell you all you want to know.
He has been a night-watchman there.'

He was a living man, but he did not look it. He was abed, and had his
head propped high on pillows; his face was wasted and colorless, his
deep-sunken eyes were shut; his hand, lying on his breast, was talon-
like, it was so bony and long-fingered. The widow began her introduction
of me. The man's eyes opened slowly, and glittered wickedly out from
the twilight of their caverns; he frowned a black frown; he lifted his
lean hand and waved us peremptorily away. But the widow kept straight
on, till she had got out the fact that I was a stranger and an American.
The man's face changed at once; brightened, became even eager--and the
next moment he and I were alone together.

I opened up in cast-iron German; he responded in quite flexible English;
thereafter we gave the German language a permanent rest.

This consumptive and I became good friends. I visited him every day,
and we talked about everything. At least, about everything but wives
and children. Let anybody's wife or anybody's child be mentioned, and
three things always followed: the most gracious and loving and tender
light glimmered in the man's eyes for a moment; faded out the next, and
in its place came that deadly look which had flamed there the first time
I ever saw his lids unclose; thirdly, he ceased from speech, there and
then for that day; lay silent, abstracted, and absorbed; apparently
heard nothing that I said; took no notice of my good-byes, and plainly
did not know, by either sight or hearing, when I left the room.

When I had been this Karl Ritter's daily and sole intimate during two
months, he one day said, abruptly--

'I will tell you my story.'


Then he went on as follows:--

I have never given up, until now. But now I have given up. I am going
to die. I made up my mind last night that it must be, and very soon,
too. You say you are going to revisit your river, by-and-bye, when you
find opportunity. Very well; that, together with a certain strange
experience which fell to my lot last night, determines me to tell you my
history--for you will see Napoleon, Arkansas; and for my sake you will
stop there, and do a certain thing for me--a thing which you will
willingly undertake after you shall have heard my narrative.

Let us shorten the story wherever we can, for it will need it, being
long. You already know how I came to go to America, and how I came to
settle in that lonely region in the South. But you do not know that I
had a wife. My wife was young, beautiful, loving, and oh, so divinely
good and blameless and gentle! And our little girl was her mother in
miniature. It was the happiest of happy households.

One night--it was toward the close of the war--I woke up out of a sodden
lethargy, and found myself bound and gagged, and the air tainted with
chloroform! I saw two men in the room, and one was saying to the other,
in a hoarse whisper, 'I told her I would, if she made a noise, and as
for the child--'

The other man interrupted in a low, half-crying voice--

'You said we'd only gag them and rob them, not hurt them; or I wouldn't
have come.'

'Shut up your whining; had to change the plan when they waked up; you
done all you could to protect them, now let that satisfy you; come, help

Both men were masked, and wore coarse, ragged 'nigger' clothes; they had
a bull's-eye lantern, and by its light I noticed that the gentler robber
had no thumb on his right hand. They rummaged around my poor cabin for a
moment; the head bandit then said, in his stage whisper--

'It's a waste of time--he shall tell where it's hid. Undo his gag, and
revive him up.'

The other said--

'All right--provided no clubbing.'

'No clubbing it is, then--provided he keeps still.'

They approached me; just then there was a sound outside; a sound of
voices and trampling hoofs; the robbers held their breath and listened;
the sounds came slowly nearer and nearer; then came a shout--

'HELLO, the house! Show a light, we want water.'

'The captain's voice, by G--!' said the stage-whispering ruffian, and
both robbers fled by the way of the back door, shutting off their
bull's-eye as they ran.

The strangers shouted several times more, then rode by--there seemed to
be a dozen of the horses--and I heard nothing more.

I struggled, but could not free myself from my bonds. I tried to speak,
but the gag was effective; I could not make a sound. I listened for my
wife's voice and my child's--listened long and intently, but no sound
came from the other end of the room where their bed was. This silence
became more and more awful, more and more ominous, every moment. Could
you have endured an hour of it, do you think? Pity me, then, who had to
endure three. Three hours--? it was three ages! Whenever the clock
struck, it seemed as if years had gone by since I had heard it last.
All this time I was struggling in my bonds; and at last, about dawn, I
got myself free, and rose up and stretched my stiff limbs. I was able
to distinguish details pretty well. The floor was littered with things
thrown there by the robbers during their search for my savings. The
first object that caught my particular attention was a document of mine
which I had seen the rougher of the two ruffians glance at and then cast
away. It had blood on it! I staggered to the other end of the room. Oh,
poor unoffending, helpless ones, there they lay, their troubles ended,
mine begun!

Did I appeal to the law--I? Does it quench the pauper's thirst if the
King drink for him? Oh, no, no, no--I wanted no impertinent
interference of the law. Laws and the gallows could not pay the debt
that was owing to me! Let the laws leave the matter in my hands, and
have no fears: I would find the debtor and collect the debt. How
accomplish this, do you say? How accomplish it, and feel so sure about
it, when I had neither seen the robbers' faces, nor heard their natural
voices, nor had any idea who they might be? Nevertheless, I WAS sure--
quite sure, quite confident. I had a clue--a clue which you would not
have valued--a clue which would not have greatly helped even a
detective, since he would lack the secret of how to apply it. I shall
come to that, presently--you shall see. Let us go on, now, taking things
in their due order. There was one circumstance which gave me a slant in
a definite direction to begin with: Those two robbers were manifestly
soldiers in tramp disguise; and not new to military service, but old in
it--regulars, perhaps; they did not acquire their soldierly attitude,
gestures, carriage, in a day, nor a month, nor yet in a year. So I
thought, but said nothing. And one of them had said, 'the captain's
voice, by G--!'--the one whose life I would have. Two miles away,
several regiments were in camp, and two companies of U.S. cavalry. When
I learned that Captain Blakely, of Company C had passed our way, that
night, with an escort, I said nothing, but in that company I resolved to
seek my man. In conversation I studiously and persistently described
the robbers as tramps, camp followers; and among this class the people
made useless search, none suspecting the soldiers but me.

Working patiently, by night, in my desolated home, I made a disguise for
myself out of various odds and ends of clothing; in the nearest village
I bought a pair of blue goggles. By-and-bye, when the military camp
broke up, and Company C was ordered a hundred miles north, to Napoleon,
I secreted my small hoard of money in my belt, and took my departure in
the night. When Company C arrived in Napoleon, I was already there. Yes,
I was there, with a new trade--fortune-teller. Not to seem partial, I
made friends and told fortunes among all the companies garrisoned there;
but I gave Company C the great bulk of my attentions. I made myself
limitlessly obliging to these particular men; they could ask me no
favor, put upon me no risk, which I would decline. I became the willing
butt of their jokes; this perfected my popularity; I became a favorite.

I early found a private who lacked a thumb--what joy it was to me! And
when I found that he alone, of all the company, had lost a thumb, my
last misgiving vanished; I was SURE I was on the right track. This
man's name was Kruger, a German. There were nine Germans in the company.
I watched, to see who might be his intimates; but he seemed to have no
especial intimates. But I was his intimate; and I took care to make the
intimacy grow. Sometimes I so hungered for my revenge that I could
hardly restrain myself from going on my knees and begging him to point
out the man who had murdered my wife and child; but I managed to bridle
my tongue. I bided my time, and went on telling fortunes, as
opportunity offered.

My apparatus was simple: a little red paint and a bit of white paper. I
painted the ball of the client's thumb, took a print of it on the paper,
studied it that night, and revealed his fortune to him next day. What
was my idea in this nonsense? It was this: When I was a youth, I knew
an old Frenchman who had been a prison-keeper for thirty years, and he
told me that there was one thing about a person which never changed,
from the cradle to the grave--the lines in the ball of the thumb; and he
said that these lines were never exactly alike in the thumbs of any two
human beings. In these days, we photograph the new criminal, and hang
his picture in the Rogues' Gallery for future reference; but that
Frenchman, in his day, used to take a print of the ball of a new
prisoner's thumb and put that away for future reference. He always said
that pictures were no good--future disguises could make them useless;
'The thumb's the only sure thing,' said he; 'you can't disguise that.'
And he used to prove his theory, too, on my friends and acquaintances;
it always succeeded.

I went on telling fortunes. Every night I shut myself in, all alone,
and studied the day's thumb-prints with a magnifying-glass. Imagine the
devouring eagerness with which I pored over those mazy red spirals, with
that document by my side which bore the right-hand thumb-and-finger-
marks of that unknown murderer, printed with the dearest blood--to me--
that was ever shed on this earth! And many and many a time I had to
repeat the same old disappointed remark, 'will they NEVER correspond!'

But my reward came at last. It was the print of the thumb of the forty-
third man of Company C whom I had experimented on--Private Franz Adler.
An hour before, I did not know the murderer's name, or voice, or figure,
or face, or nationality; but now I knew all these things! I believed I
might feel sure; the Frenchman's repeated demonstrations being so good a
warranty. Still, there was a way to MAKE sure. I had an impression of
Kruger's left thumb. In the morning I took him aside when he was off
duty; and when we were out of sight and hearing of witnesses, I said,

'A part of your fortune is so grave, that I thought it would be better
for you if I did not tell it in public. You and another man, whose
fortune I was studying last night,--Private Adler,--have been murdering
a woman and a child! You are being dogged: within five days both of you
will be assassinated.'

He dropped on his knees, frightened out of his wits; and for five
minutes he kept pouring out the same set of words, like a demented
person, and in the same half-crying way which was one of my memories of
that murderous night in my cabin--

'I didn't do it; upon my soul I didn't do it; and I tried to keep HIM
from doing it; I did, as God is my witness. He did it alone.'

This was all I wanted. And I tried to get rid of the fool; but no, he
clung to me, imploring me to save him from the assassin. He said--

'I have money--ten thousand dollars--hid away, the fruit of loot and
thievery; save me--tell me what to do, and you shall have it, every
penny. Two-thirds of it is my cousin Adler's; but you can take it all.
We hid it when we first came here. But I hid it in a new place
yesterday, and have not told him--shall not tell him. I was going to
desert, and get away with it all. It is gold, and too heavy to carry
when one is running and dodging; but a woman who has been gone over the
river two days to prepare my way for me is going to follow me with it;
and if I got no chance to describe the hiding-place to her I was going
to slip my silver watch into her hand, or send it to her, and she would
understand. There's a piece of paper in the back of the case, which
tells it all. Here, take the watch--tell me what to do!'

He was trying to press his watch upon me, and was exposing the paper and
explaining it to me, when Adler appeared on the scene, about a dozen
yards away. I said to poor Kruger--

'Put up your watch, I don't want it. You shan't come to any harm. Go,
now; I must tell Adler his fortune. Presently I will tell you how to
escape the assassin; meantime I shall have to examine your thumbmark
again. Say nothing to Adler about this thing--say nothing to anybody.'

He went away filled with fright and gratitude, poor devil. I told Adler
a long fortune--purposely so long that I could not finish it; promised
to come to him on guard, that night, and tell him the really important
part of it--the tragical part of it, I said--so must be out of reach of
eavesdroppers. They always kept a picket-watch outside the town--mere
discipline and ceremony--no occasion for it, no enemy around.

Toward midnight I set out, equipped with the countersign, and picked my
way toward the lonely region where Adler was to keep his watch. It was
so dark that I stumbled right on a dim figure almost before I could get
out a protecting word. The sentinel hailed and I answered, both at the
same moment. I added, 'It's only me--the fortune-teller.' Then I slipped
to the poor devil's side, and without a word I drove my dirk into his
heart! YA WOHL, laughed I, it WAS the tragedy part of his fortune,
indeed! As he fell from his horse, he clutched at me, and my blue
goggles remained in his hand; and away plunged the beast dragging him,
with his foot in the stirrup.

I fled through the woods, and made good my escape, leaving the accusing
goggles behind me in that dead man's hand.

This was fifteen or sixteen years ago. Since then I have wandered
aimlessly about the earth, sometimes at work, sometimes idle; sometimes
with money, sometimes with none; but always tired of life, and wishing
it was done, for my mission here was finished, with the act of that
night; and the only pleasure, solace, satisfaction I had, in all those
tedious years, was in the daily reflection, 'I have killed him!'

Four years ago, my health began to fail. I had wandered into Munich, in
my purposeless way. Being out of money, I sought work, and got it; did
my duty faithfully about a year, and was then given the berth of night
watchman yonder in that dead-house which you visited lately. The place
suited my mood. I liked it. I liked being with the dead--liked being
alone with them. I used to wander among those rigid corpses, and peer
into their austere faces, by the hour. The later the time, the more
impressive it was; I preferred the late time. Sometimes I turned the
lights low: this gave perspective, you see; and the imagination could
play; always, the dim receding ranks of the dead inspired one with weird
and fascinating fancies. Two years ago--I had been there a year then--I
was sitting all alone in the watch-room, one gusty winter's night,
chilled, numb, comfortless; drowsing gradually into unconsciousness; the
sobbing of the wind and the slamming of distant shutters falling fainter
and fainter upon my dulling ear each moment, when sharp and suddenly
that dead-bell rang out a blood-curdling alarum over my head! The shock
of it nearly paralyzed me; for it was the first time I had ever heard

I gathered myself together and flew to the corpse-room. About midway
down the outside rank, a shrouded figure was sitting upright, wagging
its head slowly from one side to the other--a grisly spectacle! Its side
was toward me. I hurried to it and peered into its face. Heavens, it
was Adler!

Can you divine what my first thought was? Put into words, it was this:
'It seems, then, you escaped me once: there will be a different result
this time!'

Evidently this creature was suffering unimaginable terrors. Think what
it must have been to wake up in the midst of that voiceless hush, and,
look out over that grim congregation of the dead! What gratitude shone
in his skinny white face when he saw a living form before him! And how
the fervency of this mute gratitude was augmented when his eyes fell
upon the life-giving cordials which I carried in my hands! Then imagine
the horror which came into this pinched face when I put the cordials
behind me, and said mockingly--

'Speak up, Franz Adler--call upon these dead. Doubtless they will
listen and have pity; but here there is none else that will.'

He tried to speak, but that part of the shroud which bound his jaws,
held firm and would not let him. He tried to lift imploring hands, but
they were crossed upon his breast and tied. I said--

'Shout, Franz Adler; make the sleepers in the distant streets hear you
and bring help. Shout--and lose no time, for there is little to lose.
What, you cannot? That is a pity; but it is no matter--it does not
always bring help. When you and your cousin murdered a helpless woman
and child in a cabin in Arkansas--my wife, it was, and my child!--they
shrieked for help, you remember; but it did no good; you remember that
it did no good, is it not so? Your teeth chatter--then why cannot you
shout? Loosen the bandages with your hands--then you can. Ah, I see--
your hands are tied, they cannot aid you. How strangely things repeat
themselves, after long years; for MY hands were tied, that night, you
remember? Yes, tied much as yours are now--how odd that is. I could
not pull free. It did not occur to you to untie me; it does not occur to
me to untie you. Sh--! there's a late footstep. It is coming this way.
Hark, how near it is! One can count the footfalls--one--two--three.
There--it is just outside. Now is the time! Shout, man, shout!--it is
the one sole chance between you and eternity! Ah, you see you have
delayed too long--it is gone by. There--it is dying out. It is gone!
Think of it--reflect upon it--you have heard a human footstep for the
last time. How curious it must be, to listen to so common a sound as
that, and know that one will never hear the fellow to it again.'

Oh, my friend, the agony in that shrouded face was ecstasy to see! I
thought of a new torture, and applied it--assisting myself with a trifle
of lying invention--

'That poor Kruger tried to save my wife and child, and I did him a
grateful good turn for it when the time came. I persuaded him to rob
you; and I and a woman helped him to desert, and got him away in
safety.' A look as of surprise and triumph shone out dimly through the
anguish in my victim's face. I was disturbed, disquieted. I said--

'What, then--didn't he escape?'

A negative shake of the head.

'No? What happened, then?'

The satisfaction in the shrouded face was still plainer. The man tried
to mumble out some words--could not succeed; tried to express something
with his obstructed hands--failed; paused a moment, then feebly tilted
his head, in a meaning way, toward the corpse that lay nearest him.

'Dead?' I asked. 'Failed to escape?--caught in the act and shot?'

Negative shake of the head.

'How, then?'

Again the man tried to do something with his hands. I watched closely,
but could not guess the intent. I bent over and watched still more
intently. He had twisted a thumb around and was weakly punching at his
breast with it. 'Ah--stabbed, do you mean?'

Affirmative nod, accompanied by a spectral smile of such peculiar
devilishness, that it struck an awakening light through my dull brain,
and I cried--

'Did I stab him, mistaking him for you?--for that stroke was meant for
none but you.'

The affirmative nod of the re-dying rascal was as joyous as his failing
strength was able to put into its expression.

'O, miserable, miserable me, to slaughter the pitying soul that, stood a
friend to my darlings when they were helpless, and would have saved them
if he could! miserable, oh, miserable, miserable me!'

I fancied I heard the muffled gurgle of a, mocking laugh. I took my face
out of my hands, and saw my enemy sinking back upon his inclined board.

He was a satisfactory long time dying. He had a wonderful vitality, an
astonishing constitution. Yes, he was a pleasant long time at it. I got
a chair and a newspaper, and sat down by him and read. Occasionally I
took a sip of brandy. This was necessary, on account of the cold. But
I did it partly because I saw, that along at first, whenever I reached
for the bottle, he thought I was going to give him some. I read aloud:
mainly imaginary accounts of people snatched from the grave's threshold
and restored to life and vigor by a few spoonsful of liquor and a warm
bath. Yes, he had a long, hard death of it--three hours and six
minutes, from the time he rang his bell.

It is believed that in all these eighteen years that have elapsed since
the institution of the corpse-watch, no shrouded occupant of the
Bavarian dead-houses has ever rung its bell. Well, it is a harmless
belief. Let it stand at that.

The chill of that death-room had penetrated my bones. It revived and
fastened upon me the disease which had been afflicting me, but which, up
to that night, had been steadily disappearing. That man murdered my
wife and my child; and in three days hence he will have added me to his
list. No matter--God! how delicious the memory of it!--I caught him
escaping from his grave, and thrust him back into it.

After that night, I was confined to my bed for a week; but as soon as I
could get about, I went to the dead-house books and got the number of
the house which Adler had died in. A wretched lodging-house, it was. It
was my idea that he would naturally have gotten hold of Kruger's
effects, being his cousin; and I wanted to get Kruger's watch, if I
could. But while I was sick, Adler's things had been sold and
scattered, all except a few old letters, and some odds and ends of no
value. However, through those letters, I traced out a son of Kruger's,
the only relative left. He is a man of thirty now, a shoemaker by trade,
and living at No. 14 Konigstrasse, Mannheim--widower, with several small
children. Without explaining to him why, I have furnished two-thirds of
his support, ever since.

Now, as to that watch--see how strangely things happen! I traced it
around and about Germany for more than a year, at considerable cost in
money and vexation; and at last I got it. Got it, and was unspeakably
glad; opened it, and found nothing in it! Why, I might have known that
that bit of paper was not going to stay there all this time. Of course
I gave up that ten thousand dollars then; gave it up, and dropped it out
of my mind: and most sorrowfully, for I had wanted it for Kruger's son.

Last night, when I consented at last that I must die, I began to make
ready. I proceeded to burn all useless papers; and sure enough, from a
batch of Adler's, not previously examined with thoroughness, out dropped
that long-desired scrap! I recognized it in a moment. Here it is--I
will translate it:

'Brick livery stable, stone foundation, middle of town, corner of
Orleans and Market. Corner toward Court-house. Third stone, fourth row.
Stick notice there, saying how many are to come.'

There--take it, and preserve it. Kruger explained that that stone was
removable; and that it was in the north wall of the foundation, fourth
row from the top, and third stone from the west. The money is secreted
behind it. He said the closing sentence was a blind, to mislead in case
the paper should fall into wrong hands. It probably performed that
office for Adler.

Now I want to beg that when you make your intended journey down the
river, you will hunt out that hidden money, and send it to Adam Kruger,
care of the Mannheim address which I have mentioned. It will make a
rich man of him, and I shall sleep the sounder in my grave for knowing
that I have done what I could for the son of the man who tried to save
my wife and child--albeit my hand ignorantly struck him down, whereas
the impulse of my heart would have been to shield and serve him.

Chapter 32 The Disposal of a Bonanza

'SUCH was Ritter's narrative,' said I to my two friends. There was a
profound and impressive silence, which lasted a considerable time; then
both men broke into a fusillade of exciting and admiring ejaculations
over the strange incidents of the tale; and this, along with a rattling
fire of questions, was kept up until all hands were about out of breath.
Then my friends began to cool down, and draw off, under shelter of
occasional volleys, into silence and abysmal reverie. For ten minutes
now, there was stillness. Then Rogers said dreamily--

'Ten thousand dollars.'

Adding, after a considerable pause--

'Ten thousand. It is a heap of money.'

Presently the poet inquired--

'Are you going to send it to him right away?'

'Yes,' I said. 'It is a queer question.'

No reply. After a little, Rogers asked, hesitatingly:

'ALL of it?--That is--I mean--'

'Certainly, all of it.'

I was going to say more, but stopped--was stopped by a train of thought
which started up in me. Thompson spoke, but my mind was absent, and I
did not catch what he said. But I heard Rogers answer--

'Yes, it seems so to me. It ought to be quite sufficient; for I don't
see that he has done anything.'

Presently the poet said--

'When you come to look at it, it is more than sufficient. Just look at
it--five thousand dollars! Why, he couldn't spend it in a lifetime! And
it would injure him, too; perhaps ruin him--you want to look at that. In
a little while he would throw his last away, shut up his shop, maybe
take to drinking, maltreat his motherless children, drift into other
evil courses, go steadily from bad to worse--'

'Yes, that's it,' interrupted Rogers, fervently, 'I've seen it a hundred
times--yes, more than a hundred. You put money into the hands of a man
like that, if you want to destroy him, that's all; just put money into
his hands, it's all you've got to do; and if it don't pull him down, and
take all the usefulness out of him, and all the self-respect and
everything, then I don't know human nature--ain't that so, Thompson?
And even if we were to give him a THIRD of it; why, in less than six

'Less than six WEEKS, you'd better say!' said I, warming up and breaking
in. 'Unless he had that three thousand dollars in safe hands where he
couldn't touch it, he would no more last you six weeks than--'

'Of COURSE he wouldn't,' said Thompson; 'I've edited books for that kind
of people; and the moment they get their hands on the royalty--maybe
it's three thousand, maybe it's two thousand--'

'What business has that shoemaker with two thousand dollars, I should
like to know?' broke in Rogers, earnestly. 'A man perhaps perfectly
contented now, there in Mannheim, surrounded by his own class, eating
his bread with the appetite which laborious industry alone can give,
enjoying his humble life, honest, upright, pure in heart; and BLEST!--
yes, I say blest! blest above all the myriads that go in silk attire and
walk the empty artificial round of social folly--but just you put that
temptation before him once! just you lay fifteen hundred dollars before
a man like that, and say--'

'Fifteen hundred devils!' cried I, 'FIVE hundred would rot his
principles, paralyze his industry, drag him to the rumshop, thence to
the gutter, thence to the almshouse, thence to ----'

'WHY put upon ourselves this crime, gentlemen?' interrupted the poet
earnestly and appealingly. 'He is happy where he is, and AS he is.
Every sentiment of honor, every sentiment of charity, every sentiment of
high and sacred benevolence warns us, beseeches us, commands us to leave
him undisturbed. That is real friendship, that is true friendship. We
could follow other courses that would be more showy; but none that would
be so truly kind and wise, depend upon it.'

After some further talk, it became evident that each of us, down in his
heart, felt some misgivings over this settlement of the matter. It was
manifest that we all felt that we ought to send the poor shoemaker
SOMETHING. There was long and thoughtful discussion of this point; and
we finally decided to send him a chromo.

Well, now that everything seemed to be arranged satisfactorily to
everybody concerned, a new trouble broke out: it transpired that these
two men were expecting to share equally in the money with me. That was
not my idea. I said that if they got half of it between them they might
consider themselves lucky. Rogers said--

'Who would have had ANY if it hadn't been for me? I flung out the first
hint--but for that it would all have gone to the shoemaker.'

Thompson said that he was thinking of the thing himself at the very
moment that Rogers had originally spoken.

I retorted that the idea would have occurred to me plenty soon enough,
and without anybody's help. I was slow about thinking, maybe, but I was

This matter warmed up into a quarrel; then into a fight; and each man
got pretty badly battered. As soon as I had got myself mended up after
a fashion, I ascended to the hurricane deck in a pretty sour humor. I
found Captain McCord there, and said, as pleasantly as my humor would

'I have come to say good-bye, captain. I wish to go ashore at

'Go ashore where?'


The captain laughed; but seeing that I was not in a jovial mood, stopped
that and said--

'But are you serious?'

'Serious? I certainly am.'

The captain glanced up at the pilot-house and said--

'He wants to get off at Napoleon!'

'Napoleon ?'

'That's what he says.'

'Great Caesar's ghost!'

Uncle Mumford approached along the deck. The captain said--

'Uncle, here's a friend of yours wants to get off at Napoleon!'

'Well, by ---?'

I said--

'Come, what is all this about? Can't a man go ashore at Napoleon if he
wants to?'

'Why, hang it, don't you know? There ISN'T any Napoleon any more.
Hasn't been for years and years. The Arkansas River burst through it,
tore it all to rags, and emptied it into the Mississippi!'

'Carried the WHOLE town away?-banks, churches, jails, newspaper-offices,
court-house, theater, fire department, livery stable EVERYTHING ?'

'Everything. just a fifteen-minute job.' or such a matter. Didn't
leave hide nor hair, shred nor shingle of it, except the fag-end of a
shanty and one brick chimney. This boat is paddling along right now,
where the dead-center of that town used to be; yonder is the brick
chimney-all that's left of Napoleon. These dense woods on the right used
to be a mile back of the town. Take a look behind you--up-stream--now
you begin to recognize this country, don't you?'

'Yes, I do recognize it now. It is the most wonderful thing I ever
heard of; by a long shot the most wonderful--and unexpected.'

Mr. Thompson and Mr. Rogers had arrived, meantime, with satchels and
umbrellas, and had silently listened to the captain's news. Thompson put
a half-dollar in my hand and said softly--

'For my share of the chromo.'

Rogers followed suit.

Yes, it was an astonishing thing to see the Mississippi rolling between
unpeopled shores and straight over the spot where I used to see a good
big self-complacent town twenty years ago. Town that was county-seat of
a great and important county; town with a big United States marine
hospital; town of innumerable fights--an inquest every day; town where I
had used to know the prettiest girl, and the most accomplished in the
whole Mississippi Valley; town where we were handed the first printed
news of the 'Pennsylvania's' mournful disaster a quarter of a century
ago; a town no more--swallowed up, vanished, gone to feed the fishes;
nothing left but a fragment of a shanty and a crumbling brick chimney!

Chapter 33 Refreshments and Ethics

IN regard to Island 74, which is situated not far from the former
Napoleon, a freak of the river here has sorely perplexed the laws of men
and made them a vanity and a jest. When the State of Arkansas was
chartered, she controlled 'to the center of the river'--a most unstable
line. The State of Mississippi claimed 'to the channel'--another shifty
and unstable line. No. 74 belonged to Arkansas. By and by a cut-off
threw this big island out of Arkansas, and yet not within Mississippi.
'Middle of the river' on one side of it, 'channel' on the other. That
is as I understand the problem. Whether I have got the details right or
wrong, this FACT remains: that here is this big and exceedingly valuable
island of four thousand acres, thrust out in the cold, and belonging to
neither the one State nor the other; paying taxes to neither, owing
allegiance to neither. One man owns the whole island, and of right is
'the man without a country.'

Island 92 belongs to Arkansas. The river moved it over and joined it to
Mississippi. A chap established a whiskey shop there, without a
Mississippi license, and enriched himself upon Mississippi custom under
Arkansas protection (where no license was in those days required).

We glided steadily down the river in the usual privacy--steamboat or
other moving thing seldom seen. Scenery as always: stretch upon stretch
of almost unbroken forest, on both sides of the river; soundless
solitude. Here and there a cabin or two, standing in small openings on
the gray and grassless banks--cabins which had formerly stood a quarter
or half-mile farther to the front, and gradually been pulled farther and
farther back as the shores caved in. As at Pilcher's Point, for
instance, where the cabins had been moved back three hundred yards in
three months, so we were told; but the caving banks had already caught
up with them, and they were being conveyed rearward once more.

Napoleon had but small opinion of Greenville, Mississippi, in the old
times; but behold, Napoleon is gone to the cat-fishes, and here is
Greenville full of life and activity, and making a considerable flourish
in the Valley; having three thousand inhabitants, it is said, and doing
a gross trade of $2,500,000 annually. A growing town.

There was much talk on the boat about the Calhoun Land Company, an
enterprise which is expected to work wholesome results. Colonel Calhoun,
a grandson of the statesman, went to Boston and formed a syndicate which
purchased a large tract of land on the river, in Chicot County,
Arkansas--some ten thousand acres--for cotton-growing. The purpose is to
work on a cash basis: buy at first hands, and handle their own product;
supply their negro laborers with provisions and necessaries at a
trifling profit, say 8 or 10 per cent.; furnish them comfortable
quarters, etc., and encourage them to save money and remain on the
place. If this proves a financial success, as seems quite certain, they
propose to establish a banking-house in Greenville, and lend money at an
unburdensome rate of interest--6 per cent. is spoken of.

The trouble heretofore has been--I am quoting remarks of planters and
steamboatmen--that the planters, although owning the land, were without
cash capital; had to hypothecate both land and crop to carry on the
business. Consequently, the commission dealer who furnishes the money
takes some risk and demands big interest--usually 10 per cent., and
2{half} per cent. for negotiating the loan. The planter has also to buy
his supplies through the same dealer, paying commissions and profits.
Then when he ships his crop, the dealer adds his commissions, insurance,
etc. So, taking it by and large, and first and last, the dealer's share
of that crop is about 25 per cent.'{footnote ['But what can the State do
where the people are under subjection to rates of interest ranging from
18 to 30 per cent., and are also under the necessity of purchasing their
crops in advance even of planting, at these rates, for the privilege of
purchasing all their supplies at 100 per cent. profit?'--EDWARD

A cotton-planter's estimate of the average margin of profit on planting,
in his section: One man and mule will raise ten acres of cotton, giving
ten bales cotton, worth, say, $500; cost of producing, say $350; net
profit, $150, or $15 per acre. There is also a profit now from the
cotton-seed, which formerly had little value--none where much
transportation was necessary. In sixteen hundred pounds crude cotton
four hundred are lint, worth, say, ten cents a pound; and twelve hundred
pounds of seed, worth $12 or $13 per ton. Maybe in future even the
stems will not be thrown away. Mr. Edward Atkinson says that for each
bale of cotton there are fifteen hundred pounds of stems, and that these
are very rich in phosphate of lime and potash; that when ground and
mixed with ensilage or cotton-seed meal (which is too rich for use as
fodder in large quantities), the stem mixture makes a superior food,
rich in all the elements needed for the production of milk, meat, and
bone. Heretofore the stems have been considered a nuisance.

Complaint is made that the planter remains grouty toward the former
slave, since the war; will have nothing but a chill business relation
with him, no sentiment permitted to intrude, will not keep a 'store'
himself, and supply the negro's wants and thus protect the negro's
pocket and make him able and willing to stay on the place and an
advantage to him to do it, but lets that privilege to some thrifty
Israelite, who encourages the thoughtless negro and wife to buy all
sorts of things which they could do without--buy on credit, at big
prices, month after month, credit based on the negro's share of the
growing crop; and at the end of the season, the negro's share belongs to
the Israelite,' the negro is in debt besides, is discouraged,
dissatisfied, restless, and both he and the planter are injured; for he
will take steamboat and migrate, and the planter must get a stranger in
his place who does not know him, does not care for him, will fatten the
Israelite a season, and follow his predecessor per steamboat.

It is hoped that the Calhoun Company will show, by its humane and
protective treatment of its laborers, that its method is the most
profitable for both planter and negro; and it is believed that a general
adoption of that method will then follow.

And where so many are saying their say, shall not the barkeeper testify?
He is thoughtful, observant, never drinks; endeavors to earn his salary,
and WOULD earn it if there were custom enough. He says the people along
here in Mississippi and Louisiana will send up the river to buy
vegetables rather than raise them, and they will come aboard at the
landings and buy fruits of the barkeeper. Thinks they 'don't know
anything but cotton;' believes they don't know how to raise vegetables
and fruit--'at least the most of them.' Says 'a nigger will go to H for
a watermelon' ('H' is all I find in the stenographer's report--means
Halifax probably, though that seems a good way to go for a watermelon).
Barkeeper buys watermelons for five cents up the river, brings them down
and sells them for fifty. 'Why does he mix such elaborate and
picturesque drinks for the nigger hands on the boat?' Because they
won't have any other. 'They want a big drink; don't make any difference
what you make it of, they want the worth of their money. You give a
nigger a plain gill of half-a-dollar brandy for five cents--will he
touch it? No. Ain't size enough to it. But you put up a pint of all
kinds of worthless rubbish, and heave in some red stuff to make it
beautiful--red's the main thing--and he wouldn't put down that glass to
go to a circus.' All the bars on this Anchor Line are rented and owned
by one firm. They furnish the liquors from their own establishment, and
hire the barkeepers 'on salary.' Good liquors? Yes, on some of the
boats, where there are the kind of passengers that want it and can pay
for it. On the other boats? No. Nobody but the deck hands and firemen
to drink it. 'Brandy? Yes, I've got brandy, plenty of it; but you
don't want any of it unless you've made your will.' It isn't as it used
to be in the old times. Then everybody traveled by steamboat, everybody
drank, and everybody treated everybody else. 'Now most everybody goes by
railroad, and the rest don't drink.' In the old times the barkeeper
owned the bar himself, 'and was gay and smarty and talky and all jeweled
up, and was the toniest aristocrat on the boat; used to make $2,000 on a
trip. A father who left his son a steamboat bar, left him a fortune. Now
he leaves him board and lodging; yes, and washing, if a shirt a trip
will do. Yes, indeedy, times are changed. Why, do you know, on the
principal line of boats on the Upper Mississippi, they don't have any
bar at all! Sounds like poetry, but it's the petrified truth.'

Chapter 34 Tough Yarns

STACK ISLAND. I remembered Stack Island; also Lake Providence,
Louisiana--which is the first distinctly Southern-looking town you come
to, downward-bound; lies level and low, shade-trees hung with venerable
gray beards of Spanish moss; 'restful, pensive, Sunday aspect about the
place,' comments Uncle Mumford, with feeling--also with truth.

A Mr. H. furnished some minor details of fact concerning this region
which I would have hesitated to believe if I had not known him to be a
steamboat mate. He was a passenger of ours, a resident of Arkansas
City, and bound to Vicksburg to join his boat, a little Sunflower
packet. He was an austere man, and had the reputation of being
singularly unworldly, for a river man. Among other things, he said that
Arkansas had been injured and kept back by generations of exaggerations
concerning the mosquitoes here. One may smile, said he, and turn the
matter off as being a small thing; but when you come to look at the
effects produced, in the way of discouragement of immigration, and
diminished values of property, it was quite the opposite of a small
thing, or thing in any wise to be coughed down or sneered at. These
mosquitoes had been persistently represented as being formidable and
lawless; whereas 'the truth is, they are feeble, insignificant in size,
diffident to a fault, sensitive'--and so on, and so on; you would have
supposed he was talking about his family. But if he was soft on the
Arkansas mosquitoes, he was hard enough on the mosquitoes of Lake
Providence to make up for it--'those Lake Providence colossi,' as he
finely called them. He said that two of them could whip a dog, and that
four of them could hold a man down; and except help come, they would
kill him--'butcher him,' as he expressed it. Referred in a sort of
casual way--and yet significant way--to 'the fact that the life policy
in its simplest form is unknown in Lake Providence--they take out a
mosquito policy besides.' He told many remarkable things about those
lawless insects. Among others, said he had seen them try to vote.
Noticing that this statement seemed to be a good deal of a strain on us,
he modified it a little: said he might have been mistaken, as to that
particular, but knew he had seen them around the polls 'canvassing.'

There was another passenger--friend of H.'s--who backed up the harsh
evidence against those mosquitoes, and detailed some stirring adventures
which he had had with them. The stories were pretty sizable, merely
pretty sizable; yet Mr. H. was continually interrupting with a cold,
inexorable 'Wait--knock off twenty-five per cent. of that; now go on;'
or, 'Wait--you are getting that too strong; cut it down, cut it down--
you get a leetle too much costumery on to your statements: always dress
a fact in tights, never in an ulster;' or, 'Pardon, once more: if you
are going to load anything more on to that statement, you want to get a
couple of lighters and tow the rest, because it's drawing all the water
there is in the river already; stick to facts--just stick to the cold
facts; what these gentlemen want for a book is the frozen truth--ain't
that so, gentlemen?' He explained privately that it was necessary to
watch this man all the time, and keep him within bounds; it would not do
to neglect this precaution, as he, Mr. H., 'knew to his sorrow.' Said
he, 'I will not deceive you; he told me such a monstrous lie once, that
it swelled my left ear up, and spread it so that I was actually not able
to see out around it; it remained so for months, and people came miles
to see me fan myself with it.'

Chapter 35 Vicksburg During the Trouble

WE used to plow past the lofty hill-city, Vicksburg, down-stream; but we
cannot do that now. A cut-off has made a country town of it, like
Osceola, St. Genevieve, and several others. There is currentless water
--also a big island--in front of Vicksburg now. You come down the river
the other side of the island, then turn and come up to the town; that
is, in high water: in low water you can't come up, but must land some
distance below it.

Signs and scars still remain, as reminders of Vicksburg's tremendous war
experiences; earthworks, trees crippled by the cannon balls, cave-
refuges in the clay precipices, etc. The caves did good service during
the six weeks' bombardment of the city--May 8 to July 4, 1863. They
were used by the non-combatants--mainly by the women and children; not
to live in constantly, but to fly to for safety on occasion. They were
mere holes, tunnels, driven into the perpendicular clay bank, then
branched Y shape, within the hill. Life in Vicksburg, during the six
weeks was perhaps--but wait; here are some materials out of which to
reproduce it:--

Population, twenty-seven thousand soldiers and three thousand non-
combatants; the city utterly cut off from the world--walled solidly in,
the frontage by gunboats, the rear by soldiers and batteries; hence, no
buying and selling with the outside; no passing to and fro; no God-
speeding a parting guest, no welcoming a coming one; no printed acres of
world-wide news to be read at breakfast, mornings--a tedious dull
absence of such matter, instead; hence, also, no running to see
steamboats smoking into view in the distance up or down, and plowing
toward the town--for none came, the river lay vacant and undisturbed; no
rush and turmoil around the railway station, no struggling over
bewildered swarms of passengers by noisy mobs of hackmen--all quiet
there; flour two hundred dollars a barrel, sugar thirty, corn ten
dollars a bushel, bacon five dollars a pound, rum a hundred dollars a
gallon; other things in proportion: consequently, no roar and racket of
drays and carriages tearing along the streets; nothing for them to do,
among that handful of non-combatants of exhausted means; at three
o'clock in the morning, silence; silence so dead that the measured tramp
of a sentinel can be heard a seemingly impossible distance; out of
hearing of this lonely sound, perhaps the stillness is absolute: all in
a moment come ground-shaking thunder-crashes of artillery, the sky is
cobwebbed with the crisscrossing red lines streaming from soaring bomb-
shells, and a rain of iron fragments descends upon the city; descends
upon the empty streets: streets which are not empty a moment later, but
mottled with dim figures of frantic women and children scurrying from
home and bed toward the cave dungeons--encouraged by the humorous grim
soldiery, who shout 'Rats, to your holes!' and laugh.

The cannon-thunder rages, shells scream and crash overhead, the iron
rain pours down, one hour, two hours, three, possibly six, then stops;
silence follows, but the streets are still empty; the silence continues;
by-and-bye a head projects from a cave here and there and yonder, and
reconnoitres, cautiously; the silence still continuing, bodies follow
heads, and jaded, half smothered creatures group themselves about,
stretch their cramped limbs, draw in deep draughts of the grateful fresh
air, gossip with the neighbors from the next cave; maybe straggle off
home presently, or take a lounge through the town, if the stillness
continues; and will scurry to the holes again, by-and-bye, when the war-
tempest breaks forth once more.

There being but three thousand of these cave-dwellers--merely the
population of a village--would they not come to know each other, after a
week or two, and familiarly; insomuch that the fortunate or unfortunate
experiences of one would be of interest to all?

Those are the materials furnished by history. From them might not
almost anybody reproduce for himself the life of that time in Vicksburg?
Could you, who did not experience it, come nearer to reproducing it to
the imagination of another non-participant than could a Vicksburger who
did experience it? It seems impossible; and yet there are reasons why
it might not really be. When one makes his first voyage in a ship, it
is an experience which multitudinously bristles with striking novelties;
novelties which are in such sharp contrast with all this person's former
experiences that they take a seemingly deathless grip upon his
imagination and memory. By tongue or pen he can make a landsman live
that strange and stirring voyage over with him; make him see it all and
feel it all. But if he wait? If he make ten voyages in succession--what
then? Why, the thing has lost color, snap, surprise; and has become
commonplace. The man would have nothing to tell that would quicken a
landsman's pulse.

Years ago, I talked with a couple of the Vicksburg non-combatants--a man
and his wife. Left to tell their story in their own way, those people
told it without fire, almost without interest.

A week of their wonderful life there would have made their tongues
eloquent for ever perhaps; but they had six weeks of it, and that wore
the novelty all out; they got used to being bomb-shelled out of home and
into the ground; the matter became commonplace. After that, the
possibility of their ever being startlingly interesting in their talks
about it was gone. What the man said was to this effect:--

'It got to be Sunday all the time. Seven Sundays in the week--to us,
anyway. We hadn't anything to do, and time hung heavy. Seven Sundays,
and all of them broken up at one time or another, in the day or in the
night, by a few hours of the awful storm of fire and thunder and iron.
At first we used to shin for the holes a good deal faster than we did
afterwards. The first time, I forgot the children, and Maria fetched
them both along. When she was all safe in the cave she fainted. Two or
three weeks afterwards, when she was running for the holes, one morning,
through a shell-shower, a big shell burst near her, and covered her all
over with dirt, and a piece of the iron carried away her game-bag of
false hair from the back of her head. Well, she stopped to get that
game-bag before she shoved along again! Was getting used to things
already, you see. We all got so that we could tell a good deal about
shells; and after that we didn't always go under shelter if it was a
light shower. Us men would loaf around and talk; and a man would say,
'There she goes!' and name the kind of shell it was from the sound of
it, and go on talking--if there wasn't any danger from it. If a shell
was bursting close over us, we stopped talking and stood still;--
uncomfortable, yes, but it wasn't safe to move. When it let go, we went
on talking again, if nobody hurt--maybe saying, 'That was a ripper!' or
some such commonplace comment before we resumed; or, maybe, we would see
a shell poising itself away high in the air overhead. In that case,
every fellow just whipped out a sudden, 'See you again, gents!' and
shoved. Often and often I saw gangs of ladies promenading the streets,
looking as cheerful as you please, and keeping an eye canted up watching
the shells; and I've seen them stop still when they were uncertain about
what a shell was going to do, and wait and make certain; and after that
they sa'ntered along again, or lit out for shelter, according to the
verdict. Streets in some towns have a litter of pieces of paper, and
odds and ends of one sort or another lying around. Ours hadn't; they
had IRON litter. Sometimes a man would gather up all the iron fragments
and unbursted shells in his neighborhood, and pile them into a kind of
monument in his front yard--a ton of it, sometimes. No glass left;
glass couldn't stand such a bombardment; it was all shivered out.
Windows of the houses vacant--looked like eye-holes in a skull. WHOLE
panes were as scarce as news.

'We had church Sundays. Not many there, along at first; but by-and-bye
pretty good turnouts. I've seen service stop a minute, and everybody
sit quiet--no voice heard, pretty funeral-like then--and all the more so
on account of the awful boom and crash going on outside and overhead;
and pretty soon, when a body could be heard, service would go on again.
Organs and church-music mixed up with a bombardment is a powerful queer
combination--along at first. Coming out of church, one morning, we had
an accident--the only one that happened around me on a Sunday. I was
just having a hearty handshake with a friend I hadn't seen for a while,
and saying, 'Drop into our cave to-night, after bombardment; we've got
hold of a pint of prime wh--.' Whiskey, I was going to say, you know,
but a shell interrupted. A chunk of it cut the man's arm off, and left
it dangling in my hand. And do you know the thing that is going to
stick the longest in my memory, and outlast everything else, little and
big, I reckon, is the mean thought I had then? It was 'the whiskey IS
SAVED.' And yet, don't you know, it was kind of excusable; because it
was as scarce as diamonds, and we had only just that little; never had
another taste during the siege.

'Sometimes the caves were desperately crowded, and always hot and close.
Sometimes a cave had twenty or twenty-five people packed into it; no
turning-room for anybody; air so foul, sometimes, you couldn't have made
a candle burn in it. A child was born in one of those caves one night,
Think of that; why, it was like having it born in a trunk.

'Twice we had sixteen people in our cave; and a number of times we had a
dozen. Pretty suffocating in there. We always had eight; eight
belonged there. Hunger and misery and sickness and fright and sorrow,
and I don't know what all, got so loaded into them that none of them
were ever rightly their old selves after the siege. They all died but
three of us within a couple of years. One night a shell burst in front
of the hole and caved it in and stopped it up. It was lively times, for
a while, digging out. Some of us came near smothering. After that we
made two openings--ought to have thought of it at first.

'Mule meat. No, we only got down to that the last day or two. Of course
it was good; anything is good when you are starving.

This man had kept a diary during--six weeks? No, only the first six
days. The first day, eight close pages; the second, five; the third,
one--loosely written; the fourth, three or four lines; a line or two the
fifth and sixth days; seventh day, diary abandoned; life in terrific
Vicksburg having now become commonplace and matter of course.

The war history of Vicksburg has more about it to interest the general
reader than that of any other of the river-towns. It is full of variety,
full of incident, full of the picturesque. Vicksburg held out longer
than any other important river-town, and saw warfare in all its phases,
both land and water--the siege, the mine, the assault, the repulse, the
bombardment, sickness, captivity, famine.

The most beautiful of all the national cemeteries is here. Over the
great gateway is this inscription:--

TO 1865"

The grounds are nobly situated; being very high and commanding a wide
prospect of land and river. They are tastefully laid out in broad
terraces, with winding roads and paths; and there is profuse adornment
in the way of semi-tropical shrubs and flowers,' and in one part is a
piece of native wild-wood, left just as it grew, and, therefore, perfect
in its charm. Everything about this cemetery suggests the hand of the
national Government. The Government's work is always conspicuous for
excellence, solidity, thoroughness, neatness. The Government does its
work well in the first place, and then takes care of it.

By winding-roads--which were often cut to so great a depth between
perpendicular walls that they were mere roofless tunnels--we drove out a
mile or two and visited the monument which stands upon the scene of the
surrender of Vicksburg to General Grant by General Pemberton. Its metal
will preserve it from the hackings and chippings which so defaced its
predecessor, which was of marble; but the brick foundations are
crumbling, and it will tumble down by-and-bye. It overlooks a
picturesque region of wooded hills and ravines; and is not unpicturesque
itself, being well smothered in flowering weeds. The battered remnant of
the marble monument has been removed to the National Cemetery.

On the road, a quarter of a mile townward, an aged colored man showed
us, with pride, an unexploded bomb-shell which has lain in his yard
since the day it fell there during the siege.

'I was a-stannin' heah, an' de dog was a-stannin' heah; de dog he went
for de shell, gwine to pick a fuss wid it; but I didn't; I says, "Jes'
make you'seff at home heah; lay still whah you is, or bust up de place,
jes' as you's a mind to, but I's got business out in de woods, I has!"'

Vicksburg is a town of substantial business streets and pleasant
residences; it commands the commerce of the Yazoo and Sunflower Rivers;
is pushing railways in several directions, through rich agricultural
regions, and has a promising future of prosperity and importance.

Apparently, nearly all the river towns, big and little, have made up
their minds that they must look mainly to railroads for wealth and
upbuilding, henceforth. They are acting upon this idea. The signs are,
that the next twenty years will bring about some noteworthy changes in
the Valley, in the direction of increased population and wealth, and in
the intellectual advancement and the liberalizing of opinion which go
naturally with these. And yet, if one may judge by the past, the river
towns will manage to find and use a chance, here and there, to cripple
and retard their progress. They kept themselves back in the days of
steamboating supremacy, by a system of wharfage-dues so stupidly graded
as to prohibit what may be called small RETAIL traffic in freights and
passengers. Boats were charged such heavy wharfage that they could not
afford to land for one or two passengers or a light lot of freight.
Instead of encouraging the bringing of trade to their doors, the towns
diligently and effectively discouraged it. They could have had many
boats and low rates; but their policy rendered few boats and high rates
compulsory. It was a policy which extended--and extends--from New
Orleans to St. Paul.

We had a strong desire to make a trip up the Yazoo and the Sunflower--an
interesting region at any time, but additionally interesting at this
time, because up there the great inundation was still to be seen in
force--but we were nearly sure to have to wait a day or more for a New
Orleans boat on our return; so we were obliged to give up the project.

Here is a story which I picked up on board the boat that night. I insert
it in this place merely because it is a good story, not because it
belongs here--for it doesn't. It was told by a passenger--a college
professor--and was called to the surface in the course of a general
conversation which began with talk about horses, drifted into talk about
astronomy, then into talk about the lynching of the gamblers in
Vicksburg half a century ago, then into talk about dreams and
superstitions; and ended, after midnight, in a dispute over free trade
and protection.


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