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There was a good deal of trampling overhead too. Many of the deck passengers had to sleep in the open air, on the hurricane deck, from their being no room for them below; and, till they had settled themselves, sleep was out of the question for those whose staterooms were immediately beneath. At length, however, all was quiet but the rumbling
. of the engine, and we slept.
When I went on deck in the morning, before six, I was privately told by a companion that the man who had last forced his way on board had died of cholera in the night, and had been laid under a tree at the wooding-place a few minutes before. Never was there a lovelier morning for & worn wretch to lie down to his long sleep. The captain particularly desired that the event should be passed over in entire silence, as he was anxious that there should be no alarm about the disease on board the boat. The poor man had, as I have mentioned, lain down in his place as soon as he came among us.
He lay unobserved till two in the morning, when he roused the neighbour on each side of him. They saw his state at a glance, and lost not a moment in calling down the New-York physician; but, before this gentleman could get to him, the sick man died. His body was handed over to the people at the wooding-place, and buried in the cheerful morning sunshine. We sped away from that lonely grave as if we were in a hurry to forget it ; and when we met at breakfast, there was mirth and conversation, and conventional observance, just as if death had not been among us in the night. This was no more than a quickening of the process by which man drops out of life, and all seems to go on as if he had never been : only seems, however. Even in this case, where the departed had been a stranger to us all, and had sunk from amid us in eight hours, I believe there were few or no hearts untouched, either by sorrow for him or fear for themselves. We were none of us as we should have been if this his brief connexion with us had never existed.
All the morning we were passing plantations, and there were houses along both banks at short intervals ; sometimes the mansions of planters, sometimes sugarhouses, sometimes groups of slave-dwellings, painted or unpainted, standing under the shade of sycamores, magnolias, live oaks, or Pride-of-India trees. Many dusky gazing figures of men with the axe, and women with the pitcher, would have
tempted the pencil of an artist. The fields were level and rich-looking, and they were invariably bounded by the glo rious forest. Towards noon we perceived by the number of sailing-boats that we were near some settlement, and soon came upon Donaldsonville, a considerable village, with a large unfinished Statehouse, where the legislature of Louisiana once sat, which was afterward removed to NewOrleans, whence it has never come back. Its bayou boasts a steamer, by which planters in the south back-country are conveyed to their estates on leaving the Mississippi.
We now felt ourselves sufficiently at home to decide upon the arrangement of our day. The weather was too hot to let the fatigues of general conversation be endurable for many hours together; and there was little in the general society of the vessel to make us regret this. We rose at five or a little later, the early morning being delicious. Breakfast was ready at seven, and after it I apparently went to my stateroom for the morning; but this was not exactly the case. I observed that the laundresses hung their counterpanes and sheets to dry in the gallery before my window, and that, therefore, nobody came to that gallery. It struck me that this must be the coolest part of the boat, such an evaporation as was perpetually going on. I therefore stepped out of my window, with my book, work, or writing; and, sitting under the shade of a counterpane, and in full view of the river and western shore, spent in quiet some of the pleasantest mornings I have ever known. I was now and then reminded of the poor parson, pitied by Mrs. Barbauld :
“ Or crossing lines Shall mar thy musings, as the wet cold sheet
Flaps in thy face abrupt ;" and sometimes an unsympathizing laundress would hang up an impenetrable veil between me and some object on shore that I was eagerly watching ; but these litile inconveniences were nothing in the way of counterbalance to the privilege of retirement. I took no notice of the summons to luncheon at eleven, and found that dinner, at half past one, came far too soon. We all thought it our duty to be sociable in the afternoon, and, therefore, took our seats in the gallery on the other side of the boat, where we were daily introduced to members of our society who before were strangers, and spent two or three hours in conversation or at chess. It
was generally very hot, and the conversation far from lively, consisting chiefly of complaints of the heat or the glare; of the children or of the dulness of the river ; varied by mutual interrogation about where everybody was going. A remark here and there was amusing; as when a lady described Canada as the place where people row boats, and sing, “ Row, brothers, row," and all that. When the heat began to decline, we went to the hurricane deck to watch the beauty of evening stealing. on; and, as no one but ourselves and our most esteemed acquaintance seemed to care for the wider view we here obtained, we had the place to ourselves, except that some giddy boys pursued their romps here, and kept us in a perpetual panic, lest, in their racing, they should run overboard. There is no guard whatever, and the leads overhang the water. Mr. E. said he never allowed his boys to play here, but gave them the choice of playing below or sitting still on the top.
After tea we came up again on fine evenings ; walked for an hour or two, and watched the glories of the night, till the deck passengers appeared with their blankets and compelled us to go down.
Nothing surprised me more than to see that very few of the ladies looked out of the boat unless their attention was particularly called. All the morning the greater number sat in their own cabin, working collars, netting purses, or doing nothing ; all the evening they amused themselves in the other cabin dancing or talking. And such scenery as we were passing! I was in perpetual amazement that, with all that has been said of the grandeur of this mighty river, 80 little testimony has been borne to its beauty.
On the evening of our first day on the Mississippi, Mr. E. told me of the imminent danger he and his lady had twice been in on board steamboats. His stories give an idea of the perils people should make up their minds to on such excursions as ours. On their wedding journey, the E.'s; accompanied by their relative, Judge H., went down the Alabama river. One night, when Mr. E. was just concluding the watch I have described him as keeping, the boat ran foul of another, and parted in two, beginning instantly to sink. Mr. E. roused his lady from her sleep,
made hor thrust her feet into his boots, threw his cloak over her, and carried her up to the deck, not doubting that, from her being the only lady on board, she would be the first to be accommodated in the boat. But the boat had been seized by some gamblers who were wide awake and ready dressed when the accident happened, and they had got clear of the steamer. Mr. E. shouted to them to take in the lady, only the lady ; he promised that neither Judge H. nor himself should enter the boat., They might have come back for every one on board with perfect safety; but he could not move them. Judge H., meanwhile, had secured a plank, on which he hoped to seat Mrs. E., while Mr. E. and himself, both good swimmers, might push it before them to the shore if they could escape the eddy from the sinking vessel. Mr. E. heard next the voice of an old gentleman whom he knew, who was in the boat, and trying to persuade the fellows to turn back. Mr. E. shouted to him to shoot the wretches if they would not come. The old gentleman took the hint, and held a pistol (which, however, was not loaded) at the head of the man who was steering ; upon which they turned back and took in, not only Mrs. E., her party, and their luggage, but everybody else, so that no lives were lost. Mrs. E. lost nothing but the clothes she had left by her bedside. She was perfectly quiet and obedient to directions the whole time. The vessel sank within a quarter of an hour.
A few years after the E.'s went up the Mississippi with their little girl. Some fine ladies on board wondered at Mrs. E. for shaking hands with a rude farmer with whom she had some acquaintance, and it appears probable that the farmer was aware of what passed. When Mr. E. was going down to bed, near day, he heard a deck passenger say to another, in a tone of alarm," I say, John, look here !" • What's the matter ?” asked Mr. E. Nothing, sir, only the boat's sinking.” Mr. E. ran to the spot, and found the news too true. The vessel had been pierced by a snag, and the water was rushing in by hogsheads. The boat seemed likely to be at the bottom in ten minutes. Mr. E. handed the men a pole, and bade them thrust their bedding into the breach, which they did with much cleverness, till the car. penter was ready with a better plug. The horrid words,
the boat's sinking," had, however, been overheard, and the screams of the ladies were dreadful. The uproar above and below was excessive; but through it all was heard the voice of the rough farmer, saying, “Where's E.'s girl? I shall save her first.” The boat was run safely ashore, and the fright was the greatest damage sustained.
We passed Baton Rouge, on the east Louisiana bank, on the afternoon of this day. It stands on the first eminence we had seen on these shores, and the barracks have a handsome appearance from the water. A summer-house, perched on a rising ground, was full of people, amusing themselves with smoking and looking abroad upon the river ; and, truly, they had an enviable station. A few miles farther on we went ashore at the wooding-place, and I had my first walk in the untrodden forest. The height of the trees seemed incredible as we stood at their foot and looked up. It made us feel suddenly dwarfed. We stood in a crowd of locust and cottonwood trees, elm, maple, and live oak; and they were all bound together by an inextricable tangle of creepers, which seemed to forbid our penetrating many paces into the forest beyond where the woodcutters had intruded. I had a great horror of going too far, and was not sorry to find it impossible; it would be so easy for the boat to leave two or three passengers behind without finding it out, and no fate could be conceived more desolate. I looked into the woodcutters' dwelling, and hardly knew what to think of the hardihood of any one who could embrace such a mode of life for a single week on any consideration. Amid the desolation and abominable dirt, I observed a moscheto bar-a muslin curtain—suspended over the crib. Without this, the dweller in the wood would be stung almost to madness or death before morning. This curtain was nearly of a saffron colour; the floor of the hut was of damp earth, and the place so small that the wonder was how iwo men could live in it. There was a rude enclosure round it to keep off intruders, but the space was grown over with the rankest grass and yellow weeds. The ground was swampy all about, up to the wall of untouched forest which rendered this spot inaccessible except from the river. The beautiful squills-flower grew plentifully, the only relief to the eye from the vastness and rankness. Piles of wood were built up on the brink of the river, and were now rapidly disappearing under the activity of our deck-passengers, who were passing in two lines to and from the vessel. The bell from the boat tinkled through the wilderness like a foreign sound. We hastened on board, and I watched the woodcutters with deep pity as they gazed after us for a minute or two, and then turned into their forlorn abode.
We were in hopes of passing the junction of the Red