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Charles Dickens > American Notes > Chapter IX

American Notes

Chapter IX


WE were to proceed in the first instance by steamboat; and as it is
usual to sleep on board, in consequence of the starting-hour being
four o'clock in the morning, we went down to where she lay, at that
very uncomfortable time for such expeditions when slippers are most
valuable, and a familiar bed, in the perspective of an hour or two,
looks uncommonly pleasant.

It is ten o'clock at night: say half-past ten: moonlight, warm,
and dull enough. The steamer (not unlike a child's Noah's ark in
form, with the machinery on the top of the roof) is riding lazily
up and down, and bumping clumsily against the wooden pier, as the
ripple of the river trifles with its unwieldy carcase. The wharf
is some distance from the city. There is nobody down here; and one
or two dull lamps upon the steamer's decks are the only signs of
life remaining, when our coach has driven away. As soon as our
footsteps are heard upon the planks, a fat negress, particularly
favoured by nature in respect of bustle, emerges from some dark
stairs, and marshals my wife towards the ladies' cabin, to which
retreat she goes, followed by a mighty bale of cloaks and great-
coats. I valiantly resolve not to go to bed at all, but to walk up
and down the pier till morning.

I begin my promenade - thinking of all kinds of distant things and
persons, and of nothing near - and pace up and down for half-an-
hour. Then I go on board again; and getting into the light of one
of the lamps, look at my watch and think it must have stopped; and
wonder what has become of the faithful secretary whom I brought
along with me from Boston. He is supping with our late landlord (a
Field Marshal, at least, no doubt) in honour of our departure, and
may be two hours longer. I walk again, but it gets duller and
duller: the moon goes down: next June seems farther off in the
dark, and the echoes of my footsteps make me nervous. It has
turned cold too; and walking up and down without my companion in
such lonely circumstances, is but poor amusement. So I break my
staunch resolution, and think it may be, perhaps, as well to go to

I go on board again; open the door of the gentlemen's cabin and
walk in. Somehow or other - from its being so quiet, I suppose - I
have taken it into my head that there is nobody there. To my
horror and amazement it is full of sleepers in every stage, shape,
attitude, and variety of slumber: in the berths, on the chairs, on
the floors, on the tables, and particularly round the stove, my
detested enemy. I take another step forward, and slip on the
shining face of a black steward, who lies rolled in a blanket on
the floor. He jumps up, grins, half in pain and half in
hospitality; whispers my own name in my ear; and groping among the
sleepers, leads me to my berth. Standing beside it, I count these
slumbering passengers, and get past forty. There is no use in
going further, so I begin to undress. As the chairs are all
occupied, and there is nothing else to put my clothes on, I deposit
them upon the ground: not without soiling my hands, for it is in
the same condition as the carpets in the Capitol, and from the same
cause. Having but partially undressed, I clamber on my shelf, and
hold the curtain open for a few minutes while I look round on all
my fellow-travellers again. That done, I let it fall on them, and
on the world: turn round: and go to sleep.

I wake, of course, when we get under weigh, for there is a good
deal of noise. The day is then just breaking. Everybody wakes at
the same time. Some are self-possessed directly, and some are much
perplexed to make out where they are until they have rubbed their
eyes, and leaning on one elbow, looked about them. Some yawn, some
groan, nearly all spit, and a few get up. I am among the risers:
for it is easy to feel, without going into the fresh air, that the
atmosphere of the cabin is vile in the last degree. I huddle on my
clothes, go down into the fore-cabin, get shaved by the barber, and
wash myself. The washing and dressing apparatus for the passengers
generally, consists of two jack-towels, three small wooden basins,
a keg of water and a ladle to serve it out with, six square inches
of looking-glass, two ditto ditto of yellow soap, a comb and brush
for the head, and nothing for the teeth. Everybody uses the comb
and brush, except myself. Everybody stares to see me using my own;
and two or three gentlemen are strongly disposed to banter me on my
prejudices, but don't. When I have made my toilet, I go upon the
hurricane-deck, and set in for two hours of hard walking up and
down. The sun is rising brilliantly; we are passing Mount Vernon,
where Washington lies buried; the river is wide and rapid; and its
banks are beautiful. All the glory and splendour of the day are
coming on, and growing brighter every minute.

At eight o'clock, we breakfast in the cabin where I passed the
night, but the windows and doors are all thrown open, and now it is
fresh enough. There is no hurry or greediness apparent in the
despatch of the meal. It is longer than a travelling breakfast
with us; more orderly, and more polite.

Soon after nine o'clock we come to Potomac Creek, where we are to
land; and then comes the oddest part of the journey. Seven stage-
coaches are preparing to carry us on. Some of them are ready, some
of them are not ready. Some of the drivers are blacks, some
whites. There are four horses to each coach, and all the horses,
harnessed or unharnessed, are there. The passengers are getting
out of the steamboat, and into the coaches; the luggage is being
transferred in noisy wheelbarrows; the horses are frightened, and
impatient to start; the black drivers are chattering to them like
so many monkeys; and the white ones whooping like so many drovers:
for the main thing to be done in all kinds of hostlering here, is
to make as much noise as possible. The coaches are something like
the French coaches, but not nearly so good. In lieu of springs,
they are hung on bands of the strongest leather. There is very
little choice or difference between them; and they may be likened
to the car portion of the swings at an English fair, roofed, put
upon axle-trees and wheels, and curtained with painted canvas.
They are covered with mud from the roof to the wheel-tire, and have
never been cleaned since they were first built.

The tickets we have received on board the steamboat are marked No.
1, so we belong to coach No. 1. I throw my coat on the box, and
hoist my wife and her maid into the inside. It has only one step,
and that being about a yard from the ground, is usually approached
by a chair: when there is no chair, ladies trust in Providence.
The coach holds nine inside, having a seat across from door to
door, where we in England put our legs: so that there is only one
feat more difficult in the performance than getting in, and that
is, getting out again. There is only one outside passenger, and he
sits upon the box. As I am that one, I climb up; and while they
are strapping the luggage on the roof, and heaping it into a kind
of tray behind, have a good opportunity of looking at the driver.

He is a negro - very black indeed. He is dressed in a coarse
pepper-and-salt suit excessively patched and darned (particularly
at the knees), grey stockings, enormous unblacked high-low shoes,
and very short trousers. He has two odd gloves: one of parti-
coloured worsted, and one of leather. He has a very short whip,
broken in the middle and bandaged up with string. And yet he wears
a low-crowned, broad-brimmed, black hat: faintly shadowing forth a
kind of insane imitation of an English coachman! But somebody in
authority cries 'Go ahead!' as I am making these observations. The
mail takes the lead in a four-horse waggon, and all the coaches
follow in procession: headed by No. 1.

By the way, whenever an Englishman would cry 'All right!' an
American cries 'Go ahead!' which is somewhat expressive of the
national character of the two countries.

The first half-mile of the road is over bridges made of loose
planks laid across two parallel poles, which tilt up as the wheels
roll over them; and IN the river. The river has a clayey bottom
and is full of holes, so that half a horse is constantly
disappearing unexpectedly, and can't be found again for some time.

But we get past even this, and come to the road itself, which is a
series of alternate swamps and gravel-pits. A tremendous place is
close before us, the black driver rolls his eyes, screws his mouth
up very round, and looks straight between the two leaders, as if he
were saying to himself, 'We have done this often before, but NOW I
think we shall have a crash.' He takes a rein in each hand; jerks
and pulls at both; and dances on the splashboard with both feet
(keeping his seat, of course) like the late lamented Ducrow on two
of his fiery coursers. We come to the spot, sink down in the mire
nearly to the coach windows, tilt on one side at an angle of forty-
five degrees, and stick there. The insides scream dismally; the
coach stops; the horses flounder; all the other six coaches stop;
and their four-and-twenty horses flounder likewise: but merely for
company, and in sympathy with ours. Then the following
circumstances occur.

BLACK DRIVER (to the horses). 'Hi!'

Nothing happens. Insides scream again.

BLACK DRIVER (to the horses). 'Ho!'

Horses plunge, and splash the black driver.

GENTLEMAN INSIDE (looking out). 'Why, what on airth -

Gentleman receives a variety of splashes and draws his head in
again, without finishing his question or waiting for an answer.

BLACK DRIVER (still to the horses). 'Jiddy! Jiddy!'

Horses pull violently, drag the coach out of the hole, and draw it
up a bank; so steep, that the black driver's legs fly up into the
air, and he goes back among the luggage on the roof. But he
immediately recovers himself, and cries (still to the horses),


No effect. On the contrary, the coach begins to roll back upon No.
2, which rolls back upon No. 3, which rolls back upon No. 4, and so
on, until No. 7 is heard to curse and swear, nearly a quarter of a
mile behind.

BLACK DRIVER (louder than before). 'Pill!'

Horses make another struggle to get up the bank, and again the
coach rolls backward.

BLACK DRIVER (louder than before). 'Pe-e-e-ill!'

Horses make a desperate struggle.

BLACK DRIVER (recovering spirits). 'Hi, Jiddy, Jiddy, Pill!'

Horses make another effort.

BLACK DRIVER (with great vigour). 'Ally Loo! Hi. Jiddy, Jiddy.
Pill. Ally Loo!'

Horses almost do it.

BLACK DRIVER (with his eyes starting out of his head). 'Lee, den.
Lee, dere. Hi. Jiddy, Jiddy. Pill. Ally Loo. Lee-e-e-e-e!'

They run up the bank, and go down again on the other side at a
fearful pace. It is impossible to stop them, and at the bottom
there is a deep hollow, full of water. The coach rolls
frightfully. The insides scream. The mud and water fly about us.
The black driver dances like a madman. Suddenly we are all right
by some extraordinary means, and stop to breathe.

A black friend of the black driver is sitting on a fence. The
black driver recognises him by twirling his head round and round
like a harlequin, rolling his eyes, shrugging his shoulders, and
grinning from ear to ear. He stops short, turns to me, and says:

'We shall get you through sa, like a fiddle, and hope a please you
when we get you through sa. Old 'ooman at home sa:' chuckling very
much. 'Outside gentleman sa, he often remember old 'ooman at home
sa,' grinning again.

'Ay ay, we'll take care of the old woman. Don't be afraid.'

The black driver grins again, but there is another hole, and beyond
that, another bank, close before us. So he stops short: cries (to
the horses again) 'Easy. Easy den. Ease. Steady. Hi. Jiddy.
Pill. Ally. Loo,' but never 'Lee!' until we are reduced to the
very last extremity, and are in the midst of difficulties,
extrication from which appears to be all but impossible.

And so we do the ten miles or thereabouts in two hours and a half;
breaking no bones, though bruising a great many; and in short
getting through the distance, 'like a fiddle.'

This singular kind of coaching terminates at Fredericksburgh,
whence there is a railway to Richmond. The tract of country
through which it takes its course was once productive; but the soil
has been exhausted by the system of employing a great amount of
slave labour in forcing crops, without strengthening the land: and
it is now little better than a sandy desert overgrown with trees.
Dreary and uninteresting as its aspect is, I was glad to the heart
to find anything on which one of the curses of this horrible
institution has fallen; and had greater pleasure in contemplating
the withered ground, than the richest and most thriving cultivation
in the same place could possibly have afforded me.

In this district, as in all others where slavery sits brooding, (I
have frequently heard this admitted, even by those who are its
warmest advocates:) there is an air of ruin and decay abroad, which
is inseparable from the system. The barns and outhouses are
mouldering away; the sheds are patched and half roofless; the log
cabins (built in Virginia with external chimneys made of clay or
wood) are squalid in the last degree. There is no look of decent
comfort anywhere. The miserable stations by the railway side, the
great wild wood-yards, whence the engine is supplied with fuel; the
negro children rolling on the ground before the cabin doors, with
dogs and pigs; the biped beasts of burden slinking past: gloom and
dejection are upon them all.

In the negro car belonging to the train in which we made this
journey, were a mother and her children who had just been
purchased; the husband and father being left behind with their old
owner. The children cried the whole way, and the mother was
misery's picture. The champion of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit
of Happiness, who had bought them, rode in the same train; and,
every time we stopped, got down to see that they were safe. The
black in Sinbad's Travels with one eye in the middle of his
forehead which shone like a burning coal, was nature's aristocrat
compared with this white gentleman.

It was between six and seven o'clock in the evening, when we drove
to the hotel: in front of which, and on the top of the broad
flight of steps leading to the door, two or three citizens were
balancing themselves on rocking-chairs, and smoking cigars. We
found it a very large and elegant establishment, and were as well
entertained as travellers need desire to be. The climate being a
thirsty one, there was never, at any hour of the day, a scarcity of
loungers in the spacious bar, or a cessation of the mixing of cool
liquors: but they were a merrier people here, and had musical
instruments playing to them o' nights, which it was a treat to hear

The next day, and the next, we rode and walked about the town,
which is delightfully situated on eight hills, overhanging James
River; a sparkling stream, studded here and there with bright
islands, or brawling over broken rocks. Although it was yet but
the middle of March, the weather in this southern temperature was
extremely warm; the peech-trees and magnolias were in full bloom;
and the trees were green. In a low ground among the hills, is a
valley known as 'Bloody Run,' from a terrible conflict with the
Indians which once occurred there. It is a good place for such a
struggle, and, like every other spot I saw associated with any
legend of that wild people now so rapidly fading from the earth,
interested me very much.

The city is the seat of the local parliament of Virginia; and in
its shady legislative halls, some orators were drowsily holding
forth to the hot noon day. By dint of constant repetition,
however, these constitutional sights had very little more interest
for me than so many parochial vestries; and I was glad to exchange
this one for a lounge in a well-arranged public library of some ten
thousand volumes, and a visit to a tobacco manufactory, where the
workmen are all slaves.

I saw in this place the whole process of picking, rolling,
pressing, drying, packing in casks, and branding. All the tobacco
thus dealt with, was in course of manufacture for chewing; and one
would have supposed there was enough in that one storehouse to have
filled even the comprehensive jaws of America. In this form, the
weed looks like the oil-cake on which we fatten cattle; and even
without reference to its consequences, is sufficiently uninviting.

Many of the workmen appeared to be strong men, and it is hardly
necessary to add that they were all labouring quietly, then. After
two o'clock in the day, they are allowed to sing, a certain number
at a time. The hour striking while I was there, some twenty sang a
hymn in parts, and sang it by no means ill; pursuing their work
meanwhile. A bell rang as I was about to leave, and they all
poured forth into a building on the opposite side of the street to
dinner. I said several times that I should like to see them at
their meal; but as the gentleman to whom I mentioned this desire
appeared to be suddenly taken rather deaf, I did not pursue the
request. Of their appearance I shall have something to say,

On the following day, I visited a plantation or farm, of about
twelve hundred acres, on the opposite bank of the river. Here
again, although I went down with the owner of the estate, to 'the
quarter,' as that part of it in which the slaves live is called, I
was not invited to enter into any of their huts. All I saw of
them, was, that they were very crazy, wretched cabins, near to
which groups of half-naked children basked in the sun, or wallowed
on the dusty ground. But I believe that this gentleman is a
considerate and excellent master, who inherited his fifty slaves,
and is neither a buyer nor a seller of human stock; and I am sure,
from my own observation and conviction, that he is a kind-hearted,
worthy man.

The planter's house was an airy, rustic dwelling, that brought
Defoe's description of such places strongly to my recollection.
The day was very warm, but the blinds being all closed, and the
windows and doors set wide open, a shady coolness rustled through
the rooms, which was exquisitely refreshing after the glare and
heat without. Before the windows was an open piazza, where, in
what they call the hot weather - whatever that may be - they sling
hammocks, and drink and doze luxuriously. I do not know how their
cool rejections may taste within the hammocks, but, having
experience, I can report that, out of them, the mounds of ices and
the bowls of mint-julep and sherry-cobbler they make in these
latitudes, are refreshments never to be thought of afterwards, in
summer, by those who would preserve contented minds.

There are two bridges across the river: one belongs to the
railroad, and the other, which is a very crazy affair, is the
private property of some old lady in the neighbourhood, who levies
tolls upon the townspeople. Crossing this bridge, on my way back,
I saw a notice painted on the gate, cautioning all persons to drive
slowly: under a penalty, if the offender were a white man, of five
dollars; if a negro, fifteen stripes.

The same decay and gloom that overhang the way by which it is
approached, hover above the town of Richmond. There are pretty
villas and cheerful houses in its streets, and Nature smiles upon
the country round; but jostling its handsome residences, like
slavery itself going hand in hand with many lofty virtues, are
deplorable tenements, fences unrepaired, walls crumbling into
ruinous heaps. Hinting gloomily at things below the surface,
these, and many other tokens of the same description, force
themselves upon the notice, and are remembered with depressing
influence, when livelier features are forgotten.

To those who are happily unaccustomed to them, the countenances in
the streets and labouring-places, too, are shocking. All men who
know that there are laws against instructing slaves, of which the
pains and penalties greatly exceed in their amount the fines
imposed on those who maim and torture them, must be prepared to
find their faces very low in the scale of intellectual expression.
But the darkness - not of skin, but mind - which meets the
stranger's eye at every turn; the brutalizing and blotting out of
all fairer characters traced by Nature's hand; immeasurably outdo
his worst belief. That travelled creation of the great satirist's
brain, who fresh from living among horses, peered from a high
casement down upon his own kind with trembling horror, was scarcely
more repelled and daunted by the sight, than those who look upon
some of these faces for the first time must surely be.

I left the last of them behind me in the person of a wretched
drudge, who, after running to and fro all day till midnight, and
moping in his stealthy winks of sleep upon the stairs
betweenwhiles, was washing the dark passages at four o'clock in the
morning; and went upon my way with a grateful heart that I was not
doomed to live where slavery was, and had never had my senses
blunted to its wrongs and horrors in a slave-rocked cradle.

It had been my intention to proceed by James River and Chesapeake
Bay to Baltimore; but one of the steamboats being absent from her
station through some accident, and the means of conveyance being
consequently rendered uncertain, we returned to Washington by the
way we had come (there were two constables on board the steamboat,
in pursuit of runaway slaves), and halting there again for one
night, went on to Baltimore next afternoon.

The most comfortable of all the hotels of which I had any
experience in the United States, and they were not a few, is
Barnum's, in that city: where the English traveller will find
curtains to his bed, for the first and probably the last time in
America (this is a disinterested remark, for I never use them); and
where he will be likely to have enough water for washing himself,
which is not at all a common case.

This capital of the state of Maryland is a bustling, busy town,
with a great deal of traffic of various kinds, and in particular of
water commerce. That portion of the town which it most favours is
none of the cleanest, it is true; but the upper part is of a very
different character, and has many agreeable streets and public
buildings. The Washington Monument, which is a handsome pillar
with a statue on its summit; the Medical College; and the Battle
Monument in memory of an engagement with the British at North
Point; are the most conspicuous among them.

There is a very good prison in this city, and the State
Penitentiary is also among its institutions. In this latter
establishment there were two curious cases.

One was that of a young man, who had been tried for the murder of
his father. The evidence was entirely circumstantial, and was very
conflicting and doubtful; nor was it possible to assign any motive
which could have tempted him to the commission of so tremendous a
crime. He had been tried twice; and on the second occasion the
jury felt so much hesitation in convicting him, that they found a
verdict of manslaughter, or murder in the second degree; which it
could not possibly be, as there had, beyond all doubt, been no
quarrel or provocation, and if he were guilty at all, he was
unquestionably guilty of murder in its broadest and worst

The remarkable feature in the case was, that if the unfortunate
deceased were not really murdered by this own son of his, he must
have been murdered by his own brother. The evidence lay in a most
remarkable manner, between those two. On all the suspicious
points, the dead man's brother was the witness: all the
explanations for the prisoner (some of them extremely plausible)
went, by construction and inference, to inculcate him as plotting
to fix the guilt upon his nephew. It must have been one of them:
and the jury had to decide between two sets of suspicions, almost
equally unnatural, unaccountable, and strange.

The other case, was that of a man who once went to a certain
distiller's and stole a copper measure containing a quantity of
liquor. He was pursued and taken with the property in his
possession, and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. On
coming out of the jail, at the expiration of that term, he went
back to the same distiller's, and stole the same copper measure
containing the same quantity of liquor. There was not the
slightest reason to suppose that the man wished to return to
prison: indeed everything, but the commission of the offence, made
directly against that assumption. There are only two ways of
accounting for this extraordinary proceeding. One is, that after
undergoing so much for this copper measure he conceived he had
established a sort of claim and right to it. The other that, by
dint of long thinking about, it had become a monomania with him,
and had acquired a fascination which he found it impossible to
resist; swelling from an Earthly Copper Gallon into an Ethereal
Golden Vat.

After remaining here a couple of days I bound myself to a rigid
adherence to the plan I had laid down so recently, and resolved to
set forward on our western journey without any more delay.
Accordingly, having reduced the luggage within the smallest
possible compass (by sending back to New York, to be afterwards
forwarded to us in Canada, so much of it as was not absolutely
wanted); and having procured the necessary credentials to banking-
houses on the way; and having moreover looked for two evenings at
the setting sun, with as well-defined an idea of the country before
us as if we had been going to travel into the very centre of that
planet; we left Baltimore by another railway at half-past eight in
the morning, and reached the town of York, some sixty miles off, by
the early dinner-time of the Hotel which was the starting-place of
the four-horse coach, wherein we were to proceed to Harrisburg.

This conveyance, the box of which I was fortunate enough to secure,
had come down to meet us at the railroad station, and was as muddy
and cumbersome as usual. As more passengers were waiting for us at
the inn-door, the coachman observed under his breath, in the usual
self-communicative voice, looking the while at his mouldy harness
as if it were to that he was addressing himself,

'I expect we shall want THE BIG coach.'

I could not help wondering within myself what the size of this big
coach might be, and how many persons it might be designed to hold;
for the vehicle which was too small for our purpose was something
larger than two English heavy night coaches, and might have been
the twin-brother of a French Diligence. My speculations were
speedily set at rest, however, for as soon as we had dined, there
came rumbling up the street, shaking its sides like a corpulent
giant, a kind of barge on wheels. After much blundering and
backing, it stopped at the door: rolling heavily from side to side
when its other motion had ceased, as if it had taken cold in its
damp stable, and between that, and the having been required in its
dropsical old age to move at any faster pace than a walk, were
distressed by shortness of wind.

'If here ain't the Harrisburg mail at last, and dreadful bright and
smart to look at too,' cried an elderly gentleman in some
excitement, 'darn my mother!'

I don't know what the sensation of being darned may be, or whether
a man's mother has a keener relish or disrelish of the process than
anybody else; but if the endurance of this mysterious ceremony by
the old lady in question had depended on the accuracy of her son's
vision in respect to the abstract brightness and smartness of the
Harrisburg mail, she would certainly have undergone its infliction.
However, they booked twelve people inside; and the luggage
(including such trifles as a large rocking-chair, and a good-sized
dining-table) being at length made fast upon the roof, we started
off in great state.

At the door of another hotel, there was another passenger to be
taken up.

'Any room, sir?' cries the new passenger to the coachman.

'Well, there's room enough,' replies the coachman, without getting
down, or even looking at him.

'There an't no room at all, sir,' bawls a gentleman inside. Which
another gentleman (also inside) confirms, by predicting that the
attempt to introduce any more passengers 'won't fit nohow.'

The new passenger, without any expression of anxiety, looks into
the coach, and then looks up at the coachman: 'Now, how do you
mean to fix it?' says he, after a pause: 'for I MUST go.'

The coachman employs himself in twisting the lash of his whip into
a knot, and takes no more notice of the question: clearly
signifying that it is anybody's business but his, and that the
passengers would do well to fix it, among themselves. In this
state of things, matters seem to be approximating to a fix of
another kind, when another inside passenger in a corner, who is
nearly suffocated, cries faintly, 'I'll get out.'

This is no matter of relief or self-congratulation to the driver,
for his immovable philosophy is perfectly undisturbed by anything
that happens in the coach. Of all things in the world, the coach
would seem to be the very last upon his mind. The exchange is
made, however, and then the passenger who has given up his seat
makes a third upon the box, seating himself in what he calls the
middle; that is, with half his person on my legs, and the other
half on the driver's.

'Go a-head, cap'en,' cries the colonel, who directs.

'Go-lang!' cries the cap'en to his company, the horses, and away we

We took up at a rural bar-room, after we had gone a few miles, an
intoxicated gentleman who climbed upon the roof among the luggage,
and subsequently slipping off without hurting himself, was seen in
the distant perspective reeling back to the grog-shop where we had
found him. We also parted with more of our freight at different
times, so that when we came to change horses, I was again alone

The coachmen always change with the horses, and are usually as
dirty as the coach. The first was dressed like a very shabby
English baker; the second like a Russian peasant: for he wore a
loose purple camlet robe, with a fur collar, tied round his waist
with a parti-coloured worsted sash; grey trousers; light blue
gloves: and a cap of bearskin. It had by this time come on to
rain very heavily, and there was a cold damp mist besides, which
penetrated to the skin. I was glad to take advantage of a stoppage
and get down to stretch my legs, shake the water off my great-coat,
and swallow the usual anti-temperance recipe for keeping out the

When I mounted to my seat again, I observed a new parcel lying on
the coach roof, which I took to be a rather large fiddle in a brown
bag. In the course of a few miles, however, I discovered that it
had a glazed cap at one end and a pair of muddy shoes at the other
and further observation demonstrated it to be a small boy in a
snuff-coloured coat, with his arms quite pinioned to his sides, by
deep forcing into his pockets. He was, I presume, a relative or
friend of the coachman's, as he lay a-top of the luggage with his
face towards the rain; and except when a change of position brought
his shoes in contact with my hat, he appeared to be asleep. At
last, on some occasion of our stopping, this thing slowly upreared
itself to the height of three feet six, and fixing its eyes on me,
observed in piping accents, with a complaisant yawn, half quenched
in an obliging air of friendly patronage, 'Well now, stranger, I
guess you find this a'most like an English arternoon, hey?'

The scenery, which had been tame enough at first, was, for the last
ten or twelve miles, beautiful. Our road wound through the
pleasant valley of the Susquehanna; the river, dotted with
innumerable green islands, lay upon our right; and on the left, a
steep ascent, craggy with broken rock, and dark with pine trees.
The mist, wreathing itself into a hundred fantastic shapes, moved
solemnly upon the water; and the gloom of evening gave to all an
air of mystery and silence which greatly enhanced its natural

We crossed this river by a wooden bridge, roofed and covered in on
all sides, and nearly a mile in length. It was profoundly dark;
perplexed, with great beams, crossing and recrossing it at every
possible angle; and through the broad chinks and crevices in the
floor, the rapid river gleamed, far down below, like a legion of
eyes. We had no lamps; and as the horses stumbled and floundered
through this place, towards the distant speck of dying light, it
seemed interminable. I really could not at first persuade myself
as we rumbled heavily on, filling the bridge with hollow noises,
and I held down my head to save it from the rafters above, but that
I was in a painful dream; for I have often dreamed of toiling
through such places, and as often argued, even at the time, 'this
cannot be reality.'

At length, however, we emerged upon the streets of Harrisburg,
whose feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did
not shine out upon a very cheerful city. We were soon established
in a snug hotel, which though smaller and far less splendid than
many we put up at, it raised above them all in my remembrance, by
having for its landlord the most obliging, considerate, and
gentlemanly person I ever had to deal with.

As we were not to proceed upon our journey until the afternoon, I
walked out, after breakfast the next morning, to look about me; and
was duly shown a model prison on the solitary system, just erected,
and as yet without an inmate; the trunk of an old tree to which
Harris, the first settler here (afterwards buried under it), was
tied by hostile Indians, with his funeral pile about him, when he
was saved by the timely appearance of a friendly party on the
opposite shore of the river; the local legislature (for there was
another of those bodies here again, in full debate); and the other
curiosities of the town.

I was very much interested in looking over a number of treaties
made from time to time with the poor Indians, signed by the
different chiefs at the period of their ratification, and preserved
in the office of the Secretary to the Commonwealth. These
signatures, traced of course by their own hands, are rough drawings
of the creatures or weapons they were called after. Thus, the
Great Turtle makes a crooked pen-and-ink outline of a great turtle;
the Buffalo sketches a buffalo; the War Hatchet sets a rough image
of that weapon for his mark. So with the Arrow, the Fish, the
Scalp, the Big Canoe, and all of them.

I could not but think - as I looked at these feeble and tremulous
productions of hands which could draw the longest arrow to the head
in a stout elk-horn bow, or split a bead or feather with a rifle-
ball - of Crabbe's musings over the Parish Register, and the
irregular scratches made with a pen, by men who would plough a
lengthy furrow straight from end to end. Nor could I help
bestowing many sorrowful thoughts upon the simple warriors whose
hands and hearts were set there, in all truth and honesty; and who
only learned in course of time from white men how to break their
faith, and quibble out of forms and bonds. I wonder, too, how many
times the credulous Big Turtle, or trusting Little Hatchet, had put
his mark to treaties which were falsely read to him; and had signed
away, he knew not what, until it went and cast him loose upon the
new possessors of the land, a savage indeed.

Our host announced, before our early dinner, that some members of
the legislative body proposed to do us the honour of calling. He
had kindly yielded up to us his wife's own little parlour, and when
I begged that he would show them in, I saw him look with painful
apprehension at its pretty carpet; though, being otherwise occupied
at the time, the cause of his uneasiness did not occur to me.

It certainly would have been more pleasant to all parties
concerned, and would not, I think, have compromised their
independence in any material degree, if some of these gentlemen had
not only yielded to the prejudice in favour of spittoons, but had
abandoned themselves, for the moment, even to the conventional
absurdity of pocket-handkerchiefs.

It still continued to rain heavily, and when we went down to the
Canal Boat (for that was the mode of conveyance by which we were to
proceed) after dinner, the weather was as unpromising and
obstinately wet as one would desire to see. Nor was the sight of
this canal boat, in which we were to spend three or four days, by
any means a cheerful one; as it involved some uneasy speculations
concerning the disposal of the passengers at night, and opened a
wide field of inquiry touching the other domestic arrangements of
the establishment, which was sufficiently disconcerting.

However, there it was - a barge with a little house in it, viewed
from the outside; and a caravan at a fair, viewed from within: the
gentlemen being accommodated, as the spectators usually are, in one
of those locomotive museums of penny wonders; and the ladies being
partitioned off by a red curtain, after the manner of the dwarfs
and giants in the same establishments, whose private lives are
passed in rather close exclusiveness.

We sat here, looking silently at the row of little tables, which
extended down both sides of the cabin, and listening to the rain as
it dripped and pattered on the boat, and plashed with a dismal
merriment in the water, until the arrival of the railway train, for
whose final contribution to our stock of passengers, our departure
was alone deferred. It brought a great many boxes, which were
bumped and tossed upon the roof, almost as painfully as if they had
been deposited on one's own head, without the intervention of a
porter's knot; and several damp gentlemen, whose clothes, on their
drawing round the stove, began to steam again. No doubt it would
have been a thought more comfortable if the driving rain, which now
poured down more soakingly than ever, had admitted of a window
being opened, or if our number had been something less than thirty;
but there was scarcely time to think as much, when a train of three
horses was attached to the tow-rope, the boy upon the leader
smacked his whip, the rudder creaked and groaned complainingly, and
we had begun our journey.

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