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Till I got
if one might judge from their faces. They should not have been there handling sticks, and moving their unaccustomed legs in cramped paces. They were as razors, for which no better purpose could be found than the cutting of blocks. When such attempts are made the block is not cut, but the razor is spoilt. Most unfit for the commencement of a soldier's life were some that I saw there, but I do not doubt that they had been attracted to the work by the one idea of doing something for their country in its trouble.
From Fort Snelling we went on to the Falls of Minnehaha. Minnehaba, laughing water. Such I believe is the interpretation. The name in this case is more imposing than the fall. It is a pretty little cascade, and might do for a picnic in fine weather, but it is not a waterfall of which a man can make much when found so far away from home. Going on from Minnehaha we came to Minneapolis, at which place there is a fine suspension bridge across the river, just above the falls of St. Anthony and leading to the town of that name. there I could hardly believe that in these days there should be a living village called Minneapolis by living men. I presume I should describe it as a town, for it has a municipality, and a post-office, and, of course, a large hotel. The interest of the place however is in the saw-mills. On the opposite side of the water, at St. Anthony, is another very large hotel-and also a smaller one. The smaller one may be about the size of the first-class hotels at Cheltenham or Leamington. They were both closed, and there seemed to be but little prospect that either would be opened till the war should be over.
The sawmills, however, were at full work, and to my eyes were extremely picturesque. I had been told that the beauty of the falls had been destroyed by the mills. Indeed all who had spoken to me about St. Anthony had said so. But I did not agree with them. Here, as at Ottawa, the charm in fact consists, not in an uninterrupted shoot of water, but in a succession of rapids over a bed of broken rocks. Among these rocks logs of loose timber are caught, which have escaped from their proper courses, and here they lie, heaped up in some places, and constructing themselves into bridges in others, till the freshets of the spring carry them off. The timber is generally brought down in logs to St. Anthony, is sawn there, and then sent down the Mississippi in large rafts. These rafts on other rivers are I think generally made of unsawn timber. Such logs as have escaped in the manner above described are recognized on their passage down the river by their marks, and are made up sepa
rately, the original owners receiving the value, or not receiving it as the case may be. “There is quite a trade going on with the loose lumber," my informant told me. And from his tone I was led to suppose that he regarded the trade as sufficiently lucrative if not peculiarly honest.
There is very much in the mode of life adopted by the settlers in these regions which creates admiration. The people are all intelligent. They are energetic and speculative, conceiving grand ideas, and carrying them out almost with the rapidity of magic. A suspension bridge half a mile long is erected, while in England we should be fastening together a few planks for a foot passage. Progress, mental as well as material, is the demand of the people generally. Everybody understands everything, and everybody intends sooner or later to do everything. All this is very grand ;-but then there is a terrible drawback. One hears on every side of intelligence, but one hears also on every side of dishonesty. Talk to whom you will, of whom you will, and you will hear some tale of successful or unsuccessful swindling. It seems to be the recognized rule of commerce in the Far West that men shall go into the world's markets prepared to cheat and to be cheated. It may be said that as long as this is acknowledged and understood on all sides, no harm will be done. It is equally fair for all. When I was a child there used to be certain games at which it was agreed in beginning either that there should be cheating or that there should not. It may be said that out there in the western States, men agree to play the cheating game; and that the cheating game has more of interest in it than the other. Unfortunately, however, they who agree to play this game on a large scale, do not keep outsiders altogether out of the playground. Indeed outsiders become very welcome to them; and then it is not pleasant to hear the tone in which such outsiders speak of the peculiarities of the sport to which they have been introduced. When a beginner in trade finds himself furnished with a barrel of wooden nutmegs, the joke is not so good to him as to the experienced merchant who supplies him. This dealing in wooden nutmegs, this selling of things which do not exist, and buying of goods for which no price is ever to be given, is an institution which is much honored in the West. We call it swindling;—and so do they. But it seemed to me that in the western States the word hardly seemed to leave the same impress on the mind that it does elsewhere.
On our return down the river we passed La Crosse, at which we had embarked, and went down as far as Dubuque in Iowa.
On our way down we came to grief and broke one of our paddle-wheels to pieces. We had no special accident. We struck against nothing above or below water. But the wheel went to pieces, and we lay-to on the river side for the greater part of a day while the necessary repairs were being made. Delay in travelling is usually an annoyance, because it causes the unsettlement of a settled purpose. But the loss of the day did us no harm, and our accident had happened at a very pretty spot. I climbed
up to the top of the nearest bluff, and walked back till I came to the open country, and also went up and down the river banks, visiting the cabins of two settlers who live there by supplying wood to the river steamers. One of these was close to the spot at which we were lying; and yet though most of our passengers came on shore, I was the only one who spoke to the inmates of the cabin. These people must live there almost in desolation from one year's end to another. Once in a fortnight or so they go up to a market town in their small boats, but beyond that they can have little intercourse with their fellow-creatures. Nevertheless none of these dwellers by the river side came out to speak to the men and women who were lounging about from eleven in the morning till four in the afternoon; nor did one of the passengers except myself knock at the door or enter the cabin, or exchange a word with those who lived there.
I spoke to the master of the house, whom I met outside, and he at once asked me to come in and sit down. I found his father there and his mother, his wife, his brother, and two young
children. The wife, who was cooking, was a very pretty, pale young woman, who, however, could have circulated round her stove more conveniently had her crinoline been of less dimensions. She bade me welcome very prettily, and went on with her cooking, talking the while, as though she were in the habit of entertaining guests in that way daily. The old woman sat in a corner knitting—as old women always do. The old man lounged with a grandchild on his knee, and the master of the house threw himself on the floor while the other child crawled over him. There was no stiffness or uneasiness in their manners, nor was there any thing approaching to that republican roughness which so often operates upon a poor, well-intending Englishman like a slap on the cheek. I sat there for about an hour, and when I had discussed with them English politics and the bearing of English politics upon the American war, they told me of their own affairs. Food was very plenty, but life was very hard. Take the year through
" It cuts up
each man could not earn above half a dollar a day by cutting wood. This, however, they owned, did not take up all their time. Working on favourable wood on favourable days they could each earn two dollars a day; but these favourable circumstances did not come together very often. They did not deal with the boats themselves, and the profits were eaten up by the middleman. He, the middleman, had a good thing of it, because he could cheat the captains of the boats in the measurement of the wood. The chopper was obliged to supply a genuine cord of logs,-true measure. But the man who took it off in the barge to the steamer could so pack it that fifteen true cords would make twenty-two false cords. into a fine trade, you see, sir," said the young man, as he stroked back the little girl's hair from her forehead. “But the captains of course must find it out,” said I. This he acknowledged, but argued that the captains on this account insisted on buying the wood so much cheaper, and that the loss all came upon the chopper. I tried to teach him that the remedy lay in his own hands, and the three men listened to me quite patient, ly while I explained to them how they should carry on their own trade. But the young father had the last word. we don't get above the fifty cents a day any way.” He knew at least where the shoe pinched him. He was a handsome, manly, noble-looking fellow, tall and thin, with black hair and bright eyes. But he had the hollow look about his jaws, and so had his wife, and so had his brother. They all owned to fever and ague. They had a touch of it most years, and sometimes pretty sharply. “It was a coarse place to live in,” the old woman said, “but there was no one to meddle with them, and she guessed that it suited.” They had books and newspapers, tidy delf, and clean glass upon their shelves, and undoubtedly provisions in plenty. Whether fever and ague yearly, and cords of wood stretched from fifteen to twenty-two are more than a set-off for these good things, I will leave every one to decide according
to his own taste. In another cabin I found women and children only, and one of the children was in the last stage of illness. But nevertheless the woman of the house seemed glad to see me, and talked cheerfully as long as I would remain. She inquired what had happened to the vessel, but it had never occurred to her to go out and see. Her cabin was neat and well furnished, and there also I saw newspapers and Harper's everlasting magazine. She said it was a coarse, desolate place for living, but that she could raise almost any thing in her garden.
I could not then understand, nor can I now understand, why none of the numerous passengers out of the boat should have entered those cabins except myself; and why the inmates of the cabins should not have come out to speak to any one. Had they been surly, morose people, made silent by the specialities of their life, it would have been explicable; but they were delighted to talk and to listen. The fact, I take it, is, that the people are all harsh to each other. They do not care to go out of their way to speak to any one unless something is to be gained. They say that two Englishmen meeting in the desert would not speak unless they were introduced. The further I travel, the less true do I find this of Englishmen, and the more true of other people.
We stopped at the Julien House, Dubuque. Dubuque is a city in Iowa on the western shore of the Mississippi, and as the names both of the town and of the hotel sounded French in my ears, I asked for an explanation. I was then told that Julien Dubuque, a Canadian Frenchman, had been buried on one of the bluffs of the river within the precincts of the present town, that he had been the first white settler in Iowa, and had been the only man who had ever prevailed upon the Indians to work. Among them he had become a great “Medicine,” and seems for a while to have had absolute power over them. He died I think in 1800, and was buried on one of the hills over the river: “He was a bold bad man," my informant told me, “and committed every sin under heaven. But he made the Indians work."
Lead mines are the glory of Dubuque, and very large sums of money have been made from them. I was taken out to see one of them, and to go down it; but we found, not altogether to my sorrow, that the works had been stopped on account of the water. No effort has been made in any of these mines to subdue the
water, nor has steam been applied to the working of them. The lodes have been so rich with lead that the speculators have been content to take out the metal that was easily reached, and to go off in search of fresh ground when disturbed by water. “And are wages here paid pretty punctually ?" I asked. “Well; a man has to be smart, you know.” And then my friend went on to acknowledge that it would be better for the country if smartness were not so essential.