« PředchozíPokračovat »
quainted. Those Americans whom we meet in our own country, or on the Continent, are generally from the North, or if not so they have that type of American manners which has become familiar to us. They are talkative, intelligent, inclined to be social, though frequently not sympathetically social with ourselves ; somewhat soi-disant, but almost invariably companionable. As the traveller goes southward into Maryland and Washington, the type is not altered to any great extent. The hard intelligence of the Yankee gives place gradually to the softer, and perhaps more polished manner of the Southern. But the change thus experienced is not so great as is that between the American of the western and the American of the Atlantic States. In the West I found the men gloomy and silent,- I might almost say sullen. A dozen of them will sit for hours round a stove, speechless. They chew tobacco and ruminate. They are not offended if you speak to them, but they are not pleased. They answer with monosyllables, or, if it be practicable, with a gesture of the head. They care nothing for the graces,--or shall I say, for the decencies of life? They are essentially a dirty people. Dirt, untidiness, and noise, seem in nowise to afflict them. Things are constantly done before your eyes, which should be done and might be done behind your back. No doubt we daily come into the closest contact with matters which, if we saw all that appertains to them, would cause us to shake and shudder. In other countries we do not see all this, but in the western States we do. I have eaten in Bedouin tents, and have been ministered to by Turks and Arabs. I have sojourned in the hotels of old Spain and of Spanish America. I have lived in Connaught, and have taken up my quarters with monks of different nations. I have, as it were, been educated to dirt, and taken out my degree in outward abominations. But my education had not reached a point which would enable me to live at my ease in the western States. A man or woman who can do that may be said to have graduated in the highest honours, and to have become absolutely invulnerable, either through the sense of touch, or by the eye, or by the nose. Indifference to appearances is there a matter of pride. A foul shirt is a flag of triumph. A craving for
soap and water is as the wail of the weak and the confession of cowardice. This indifference is carried into all their affairs, or rather this manifestation of indifference. A few pages back, I spoke of a man whose furniture had been sold to pay a heavy tax raised on him specially as a secessionist; the same man had also been refused the payment of rent due to him by the Government, unless he would take a false oath. I may presume that he was ruined in his circumstances by the strong hand of the Northern army. But he seemed in nowise to be unhappy about his ruin. He spoke with some scorn of the martial law in Missouri, but I felt that it was esteemed a small matter by him that his furniture was seized and sold. No men love money with more eager love than these western men, but they bear the loss of it as an Indian bears his torture at the stake. They are energetic in trade, speculating deeply whenever speculation is possible; but nevertheless they are slow in motion, loving to loaf about. They are slow in speech, preferring to sit in silence, with the tobacco between their teeth. They drink, but are seldom drunk to the eye; they begin it early in the morning, and take it in a solemn, sullen, ugly manner, standing always at a bar; swallowing their spirits, and saying nothing as they swallow it. They drink often, and to great excess; but they carry it off without noise, sitting down and ruminating over it with the everlasting cud within their jaws. I believe that a stranger might go into the West, and passing from hotel to hotel through a dozen of them, might sit for hours at each in the large everlasting public hall, and never have a word addressed to him. No stranger should travel in the western States, or indeed in any of the States, without letters of introduction. It is the custom of the country, and they are easily procured. Without them everything is barren; for men do not travel in the States of America as they do in Europe, to see scenery and visit the marvels of old cities which are open to all the world. The social and political life of the Americans must constitute the interest of the traveller, and to these he can hardly make his way without introductions.
I cannot part with the West without saying in its favour that there is a certain manliness about its men, which gives them a dignity of their own. It is shown in that very indifference of which I have spoken. Whatever turns up the man is still there,-still unsophisticated and still unbroken. It has seemed to me that no race of men requires less outward assistance than these pioneers of civilization. They rarely amuse themselves. Food, newspapers, and brandy-smashes suffice for life; and while these last, whatever may occur, the man is still there in his manhood. The fury of the mob does not shake him, nor the stern countenance of his present martial tyrant. Alas! I cannot stick to my text by calling him a just man. Intelligence, energy, and endurance are his virtues. Dirt, dishonesty, and morning drinks are his vices.
All native American women are intelligent. It seems to be their birthright. In the eastern cities they have, in their upper classes, superadded womanly grace to this intelligence, and consequently they are charming as companions. They are beautiful also, and, as I believe, lack nothing that a lover can desire in his love. But I cannot fancy myself much in love with a western lady, or rather with a lady in the West. They are as sharp as nails, but then they are also as hard. They know, doubtless, all that they ought to know, but then they know so much more than they ought to know. They are tyrants to their parents, and never practise the virtue of obedience till they have half-grown-up daughters of their own. They have faith in the destiny of their country, if in nothing else; but they believe that that destiny is to be worked out by the spirit and talent of the young women. I confess that for me Eve would have had no charms had she not recognized Adam as her lord. I can forgive her in that she tempted him to eat the apple. Had she come from the West country she would have ordered him to make his meal, and then I could not have forgiven her.
St. Louis should be, and still will be, a town of great wealth. To no city can have been given more means of riches. I have spoken of the enormous mileage of water-communication of which she is the centre. The country around her produces Indian corn, wheat, grasses, hemp, and tobacco. Coal is dug even within the boundaries of the city, and iron-mines are worked at a distance from it of a hundred miles. The iron is so pure, that it is broken off in solid blocks, almost free from alloy; and as the metal stands up on the earth's surface in the guise almost of a gigantic metal pillar, instead of lying low within its bowels, it is worked at a cheap rate, and with great certainty. Nevertheless, at the present moment, the iron works of Pilot Knob, as the place is called, do
As far as I could learn, nothing did pay, except government contracts.
CAIRO AND CAMP WOOD. To whatever period of life my days may be prolonged, I do not think that I shall ever forget Cairo. I do not mean Grand Cairo, which is also memorable in its way, and a place not to be forgotten,-but Cairo in the State of Illinois, which by native Americans is always called Caaro. An idea is prevalent in the States, and I think I have heard the same broached in England, that a popular British author had Cairo, State of Illinois, in his eye when under the name of Eden he depicted a chosen, bappy spot on the Mississippi river, and told us how certain English emigrants fixed themselves in that locality, and there made light of those little ills of life which are incident to humanity even in the garden of the valley of the Mississippi. But I doubt whether that author ever visited Cairo in midwinter, and I am sure that he never visited Cairo when Cairo was the seat of an American army. Had he done so, his love of truth would have forbidden him to presume that even Mark Tapley could have enjoyed himself in such an Eden.
I had no wish myself to go to Cairo, having heard it but indifferently spoken of by all men; but my friend with whom I was travelling was peremptory in the matter. He had heard of gun-boats and mortar-boats, of forts built upon the river, of Columbiads, Dahlgrens, and Parrotts, of all the pomps and circumstance of glorious war, and entertained an idea that Cairo was the nucleus or pivot of all really strategetic movements in this terrible national struggle. Under such circumstances I was as it were forced to go to Cairo, and bore myself, under the circumstances, as much like Mark Tapley as my nature would permit. I was not jolly while I was there certainly, but I did not absolutely break down and perish in its mud.
Cairo is the southern terminus of the Illinois central railway. There is but one daily arrival there, namely, at half past four in the morning, and but one despatch, which is at half past three in the morning. Everything is thus done to assist that view of life which Mark Tapley took when he resolved to ascertain under what possible worst circumstances of existence he could still maintain his jovial character. Why anybody should ever arrive at Cairo at half-past four A.M., I cannot understand. The departure at any hour is easy of comprehension. The place is situated exactly at the point at which the Ohio and the Mississippi meet, and is, I should say, merely guessing on the matter, some ten or twelve feet lower than the winter level of the two rivers. This gives it naturally a depressed appearance, which must have much aided Mark Tapley in his endeavours. Who were the founders of Cairo I have never ascertained. They are probably buried fathoms deep in the mud, and their names will no doubt remain a mystery to the latest ages. They were brought thither, I presume, by the apparent water privileges of the place; but the water. privileges have been too much for them, and by the excess of their powers have succeeded in drowning all the capital of the early Cairovians, and in throwing a wet blanket of thick, moist, glutinous dirt over all their energies.
The free State of Illinois runs down far south between the slave States of Kentucky to the east, and of Missouri to the west, and is the most southern point of the continuous free-soil territory of the Northern States. This point of it is a part of a district called Egypt, which is fertile as the old country from whence it has borrowed a name; but it suffers under those afflictions which are common to all newly-settled lands which owe their fertility to the vicinity of great rivers. Fever and ague universally prevail. Men and women grow up with their lantern faces like spectres. The children are prematurely old; and the earth which is so fruitful is hideous in its fertility. Cairo and its immediate neighbourhood must, I suppose, have been subject to yearly inundation before it was " settled up.” At present it is guarded on the shores of each river by high mud banks, built so as to protect the point of land. These are called the levees, and do perform their duty by keeping out the body of the waters. The shore between the banks is, I believe, never above breast deep with the inundation; and from the circumstances of the place, and the soft, half-liquid nature of the soil, this inundation generally takes the shape of mud instead of water.
Here, at the very point, has been built a town. Whether the town existed during Mr. Tapley's time I have not been able to learn. At the period of my visit, it was falling quickly into ruin; indeed I think I may pronounce it to have been on its last legs. At that moment a galvanic motion had been pumped into it by the war movements of General Halleck, but the true bearings of the town, as a town, were not less plainly to be read on that account. Every street was absolutely impassable from mud. I mean that in walking down the middle of any street in Cairo a moderately framed man would soon stick fast and not be able to move. The houses are generally built at considerable intervals and rarely face each other, and along one side of each street a plank boarding was laid, on which the mud had accumulated only up to one's ankles. I walked all over Cairo with big boots, and with my trousers tucked up to my knees; but at the crossings I found considerable danger, and occasionally had my doubts as to the possibility of progress. I was alone in my work, and saw no one else making any such attempt. A few only were moving about, and they moved in wretched carts, each drawn by two miserable, floundering horses. These carts were always empty, but were presumed to be engaged in some way on military service. No faces looked out at the windows of the houses, no forms stood in the