On the Mississippi, October 15th.
TOWARD sunset on the most lovely and glorious evening, we came out of the narrow little winding Five River, and entered the grand Mississippi, which flowed broad and clear as a mirror between hills which extended into the distance, and now looked blue beneath the mild, clear blue heavens, in which the new moon and the evening star ascended, becoming brighter as the sun sank lower behind the hills. The pure misty veil of the Indian summer was thrown over the landscape; one might have believed that it was the earth's smoke of sacrifice which arose in the evening toward the gentle heavens. Not a breath of air moved, every thing was silent and still in that grand spectacle; it was indescribably beautiful. Just then a shot was fired; a smoke issued from one of the small green islands, and flocks of ducks and wild geese flew up round about, escaping from the concealed sportsman, who I hope this evening returned without game. All was again silent and still, and the Menomonie advanced with a quiet, steady course up the glorious river.
Was this, then, indeed, the Mississippi, that wild giant [p. 4] of nature, which I had imagined would be so powerful, so divine, so terrible? Here its waters were clear, of a fresh, light-green color, and within their beautiful frame of distant violet-blue mountains, they lay like a heavenly mirror, bearing on their bosom verdant, vine-covered islands, like islands of the blessed. The Mississippi was here in its youth, in its state of innocence as yet. It has not as yet advanced very far from its fountains; no crowd of steamboats muddy its waters. The Menomonie and one other, a still smaller boat, are the only ones which ascend the river above Galena; no cities cast into it their pollution; pure rivers only flow into its waters, and aborigines and primeval forests still surround it. Afterward, far below and toward the world's sea, where the Mississippi comes into the life of the states, and becomes a statesman, he has his twelve hundred steamers, and I know not how many thousand sailing-boats, gives himself up to cities and the population of cities, and is married to the Missouri: then it is quite different; then is it all over with the beauty and innocence of the Mississippi.
The Mississippi, discovered by Europeans, has two epochs, and in each a romance: the one as different to the other as day and night, as the sun-bright idyl to the gloomy tragedy, as the Mississippi here in its youth, and the Mississippi down at St. Louis, as Mississippi-Missouri. The first belongs to the northern district, the second to the southern; the former has its hero, the mild pastor, Father Marquette; the latter the Spanish soldier, Ferdinand de Soto.
France and England, equally jealous competitors for territorial acquisitions, were the first possessors of the land of North America. The French Jesuits were the first who penetrated into the wildernesses of Canada and [p. 5] to the great lakes of the West. Religious enthusiasm planted the Puritan colony on Plymouth Rock; religious enthusiasm planted the cross, together with the lilies of France, on the shores of the St. Lawrence, beside Niagara, and as far as St. Marie, among the wild Indians by Lake Superior. The noble, chivalric Champlain, full of ardor and zeal, said, "The salvation of a soul is worth more than the conquest of a kingdom."
That was at the time when the disciples of Loyola went forth over the world to conquer it as a kingdom for the Prince of Peace, and inscribed the sign of the cross in Japan, in China, in India, in Ethiopia, among the Caffirs, in California, in Paraguay. They invited the barbarian to the civilization of Christianity. The priests who penetrated from Canada to the deserts of Western America were among the noblest of their class.
"They had the faults of ascetic superstition; but the horrors of a Canadian life in the wilderness were resisted by an invincible, passive courage, and a deep internal tranquillity. Away from the amenities of life, away from the opportunities of vain-glory, they became dead to the world, and possessed their souls in unutterable peace. The few who lived to grow old, though bowed by the toils of a long mission, still kindled with the fervor of apostolic zeal. The history of their labors is connected with the origin of every celebrated town in the annals of French America: not a cape was turned, not a river entered, but a Jesuit led the way."
Bribeuf, who is said to have been the pattern of every religious virtue, lived fifteen years among the Hurons, baptizing them to the religion of Christ, and instructing them in the occupations of peace. Works of love, self- [p. 6] mortification, prayers deep into the night--such was his life. Yet all the more increased his love for the Master whom he served, and his desire to suffer in His service. He thirsted after it as others thirst after the delights of life. He made a vow never to decline the opportunity of martyrdom, and never to receive the death-blow except with joy.
Such was a faith to remove mountains; and it did more, it implanted the vitalizing love of Christ in the bloodthirsty heart of the savage. The great warrior Ahasistari said, "Before you came to this country, where I have incurred the greatest perils, and have alone escaped, have I said to myself, 'Some powerful spirit has the guardianship of my days!'" And he professed his belief in Jesus as the good Genius and Protector, whom he had before unconsciously adored. After trials of his sincerity he was baptized; and enlisting a troop of converts, savages like himself, "Let us strive," he exclaimed, "to make the whole world embrace the faith in Jesus." [1*]
Further and further still advanced the missionaries toward the West; they heard of powerful and warlike Indian races, such as the mighty Sioux, who dwelt by the great River Mississippi, of the Erie, and Chippewas, and Potawatomies, and others who dwelt by the great lakes. Dangers, fatigues, wildernesses, savages, all stood in threatening array before them, but only the more to allure them.
Hostile tribes overcame the Indians who conducted them. The savage Mohawks took the missionary Isaac Jogues prisoner, and with him the noble chief Ahasistari. Ahasistari had succeeded in finding a hiding-place; but when he saw Jogues a captive, he stepped forth to him, saying, "My brother, I made a vow to thee that I would share thy fate, whether life or death --How am I to keep my vow?"
The savages exercised their cruelty upon them for several [p. 7] days and nights. When Jogues ran the gauntlet, he consoled himself with a vision of the glory of the Queen of Heaven. One evening, after a day of torture, an ear of Indian corn was thrown to the good father, and see! upon the broad leaf there were drops of water, or of dew, sufficient to baptize two captive Christian converts!
Father Jogues had expected the same fate; but his life was spared and his liberty granted to him. Roaming through the magnificent forests of the Mohawk Valley, he wrote the name of Jesus on the bark of trees, graved the cross, and took possession of these countries in the name of God. Often lifting up his voice in thanksgiving, consoling himself in his sorrow with the thought that he alone, in that vast region, adored the true God, the God of heaven and of earth.
He returned safely to his own people in Canada, but merely, two years afterward, to set out once more to seek new perils in the same service. "I shall go, but shall never return," said he, on setting out; and soon afterward was taken prisoner by the Mohawks, who said that he, by his enchantments, had blighted their harvest. Timid by nature, yet courageous through his zeal, he received his death-blow with calmness.
The villages and settlements founded by the good fathers were burned, and the Christian converts perished by fire and sword. All the many years' labor of the Jesuits was destroyed, and the wilderness seemed once more to grow over their traces.
Such great adversities might be supposed sufficient to [p. 8] quench the ardor of the missionaries. Not at all! They pressed forward anew.
While the savage nations were carrying on cruel wars one with another, and converting all the paths through the forest of the West into paths of death, the Bishop of Quebec, Francis de Laval, was animated by the desire of conveying the doctrines of peace to the shores of the Great River. He desired to go himself; but the lot fell on René Mesnard. Every personal consideration seemed to retain him at Quebec, but powerful instincts urged him to risk his life in the enterprise. He was already old when he entered on the path still red with the blood of his predecessors. "In three or four months," wrote he to a friend, on his journey, "and you may add my name to those of the dead."
He went, never again to return. Afar off in the wilderness of the West, while his attendant was one day occupied in the transport of a boat, he entered a forest and was never more seen: his cassock and breviary were long retained as amulets among the Sioux! Another missionary was killed by the arrows of the Indians during a fight between two hostile tribes.
It is a refreshment to turn from these bloody and cruel scenes, which marked the first introduction of Christianity by Europe into the West, to the idyllian and peaceful episode of the Jesuit missionary, Marquette, and his labors amid those savage, warlike Indian tribes. It is like a sunbeam between thunder-clouds.
Already had the indefatigable Father Aloüez visited most of the Indian tribes around Lake Superior, and during two residences among them had taught the Chippewas to chant the Paternoster and Ave Maria, had been invited by the Potawatomies, the worshipers of the sun, to their huts; had smoked the pipe of peace with the Illinois tribes, who told him of their great fields overgrown with tall grass, where troops of wild deer and buffaloes grazed; [p. 9] he had even met the quarrelsome and mighty Sioux, who lived on wild rice, covered their huts with skins of animals instead of bark, and dwelt upon the prairie near the Great River, which they called Messipi.
It was from this place that Marquette, accompanied by a Frenchman named Joliet, and a young Indian of the Illinois tribe as guide, set forth on his journey of discovery. The French intendant of Canada, Talon, favored Marquette's enterprise, wishing to ascertain whether the banner of France could be carried down the Great River as far as the Pacific Ocean, or planted side by side with that of Spain on the Gulf of Mexico.
Marquette sought by his journey the honor of a higher master than an earthly sovereign: "I shall gladly lay down my life for the salvation of souls," said he, in answer to a messenger of the Potawatomies, who warned him "that these distant nations never spared strangers; that their mutual wars filled the shores with warriors; and that the Great River abounded with monsters which devoured both men and canoes and that the excessive heat was mortal." And on hearing his reply, the children of the wilderness united with him in prayer for his preservation.
"At the last village on Fox River ever visited by the French," using the words of Bancroft the historian, for I can not have a better guide, "where Kickapoos, Mascoutins, and Miamis dwelt together on a beautiful hill, in the centre of the prairies and magnificent groves that extended as far as the eye could reach, and where Aloüez had already raised the cross, which the savages ornamented with [p. 10] brilliant skins and crimson belts, a thanksgiving offering to the great Manitou, the ancients assembled in council to receive the pilgrims.
"'My companion,' said Marquette, 'is an envoy of France to discover new countries, and I am embassador from God to enlighten them with the Gospel;' and offering presents, he begged two guides for the morrow. The wild men answered courteously, and gave in return a mat, to serve as a couch during the long voyage.
"Behold then, in 1673, on the 10th of June, the meek, single-hearted, unpretending, illustrious Marquette, with Joliet for his associate, five Frenchmen as his companions, and two Algonquins as guides, lifting their canoes on their backs, and walking across the narrow portage that divides the Fox River from the Wisconsin. They reach the water-shed; uttering a special prayer to the immaculate Virgin, they leave the streams that, flowing onward, could have borne their greetings to the castle of Quebec; already they stand by the Wisconsin. 'The guides returned,' says the gentle Marquette, 'leaving us alone, in this unknown land, in the hands of Providence.'
"Embarking on the broad Wisconsin, the discoverers as they sailed west went solitarily down the stream between alternate prairies and hill-sides, beholding neither man nor the wonted beasts of the forests. No sound broke the appalling silence, but the ripple of their canoe and the lowing of the buffalo. In seven days 'they entered happily the Great River with a joy that could not be expressed;' and the two birch-bark canoes, raising their happy sails under new skies and to unknown breezes, floated down the calm magnificence of the ocean stream over the broad, clear sand-bars, the resort of innumerable water-fowl; gliding past islets that swelled from the bosom of the stream, with their tufts of massive thickets, and [p. 11] between the wide plains of Illinois and Iowa, all garlanded with majestic forests, or checkered by island groves and the open vastness of the prairie.
"About sixty leagues below the mouth of the Wisconsin, the western bank of the Mississippi bore on its sands the trail of men; a little foot-path was discerned leading into a beautiful prairie, and, leaving the canoes, Joliet and Marquette resolved alone to brave a meeting with the savages. After walking six miles they beheld a village on the banks of a river, and two others on a slope at a distance of a mile and a half from the first. The river was the Meu-in-gou-e-na, or Moingona, of which we have corrupted the name into Des Moines. Marquette and Joliet were the first white men who trod the soil of Iowa. Commending themselves to God, they uttered a loud cry. The Indians hear; four old men advance slowly to meet them, bearing the peace-pipe, brilliant with many-colored plumes.
"'We are Illinois,' said they; that is, when translated, 'we are men;' and they offered the calumet. An aged chief received them at his cabin with upraised hands, exclaiming, 'How beautiful is the sun, Frenchman, when thou comest to visit us! Our whole village awaits thee; thou shalt enter in peace into all our dwellings.'
"At the great council, Marquette published to them the one true God, their Creator. He spoke also of the great captain of the French, the governor of Canada, who had chastised the Five Nations and commanded peace; and he questioned them respecting the Mississippi, and the tribes that possessed its banks. For the messengers who announced the subjection of the Iroquois, a magnificent festival was prepared of hominy and fish, and the choicest viands from the prairies.
"After six days' festivities among these wild people, the little band proceeded onward. 'I did not fear death,' said Marquette; 'I should have esteemed it the greatest happiness to have died for the glory of God.'[p. 12]
"They passed the perpendicular rocks, which wore the appearance of monsters; they heard at a distance the noise of the waters of the Missouri, known to them by its Algonquin name of Pekitanoni; and when they came to the most beautiful confluence of rivers in the world, where the swifter Missouri rushes like a conqueror into the calmer Mississippi, dragging it, as it were, hastily to the sea, the good Marquette resolved in his heart one day to ascend the mighty river to its source; to cross the ridge that divides the oceans, and, descending a westerly flowing stream, to publish the Gospel to all the people of this New World.
"In a little less than forty leagues the canoes floated past the Ohio, which was then and long afterward called the Wabash. Its banks were tenanted by numerous villages of the peaceful Shawnees, who quailed under the incursions of the Iroquois.
"The thick canes began to appear so close and strong that the buffalo could not break through them, and the insects became intolerable. The prairies vanished, and forests of white wood, admirable for their vastness and height, crowded even to the skirts of the pebbly shore. It was also observed that, in the land of the Chickasaws, the Indians had guns.
'They reached the village of Mitchigamea, in a region which had not been visited by Europeans since the days of De Soto. 'Now.' thought Marquette, 'we must indeed ask the aid of the Virgin. Armed with bows and arrows, with clubs, axes, and bucklers, amid continual whoops, the natives, bent on war, embarked in vast canoes made out of the trunks of hollow trees; but at the sight of the mysterious peace-pipe held aloft, God touched the hearts of the old men, who checked the impetuosity of the young; and, throwing their bows and quivers into the canoes as a token of peace, they prepared a hospitable welcome.' [p. 13] "Thus had the travelers descended below the entrance of the Arkansas to the genial climes which have scarcely any winter but rains, to the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, and to tribes of Indians who had obtained arms by traffic with the Spaniards or with Virginia.
"So, having spoken of God, and the mysteries of the Catholic faith--having become certain that the Father of Rivers went not to the ocean, east of Florida, nor yet to the Gulf of California, Marquette and Joliet left Arkansea and ascended the Mississippi.
"At the thirty-eighth degree of latitude they entered the River Illinois, and discovered a country without its equal for the fertility of its beautiful prairies, covered with buffaloes and stags --for the loveliness of its rivulets, and the prodigal abundance of wild ducks and swans, and of a species of parrot and wild turkeys. The tribe of Indians that tenanted its banks entreated Marquette to come and reside among them. One of their chiefs, with their young men, conducted the party by way of Chicago to Lake Michigan; and before the end of September all were safe in Green Bay.
"Joliet returned to Quebec to announce the discovery, the fame of which, through Talon, quickened the ambition of Colbert. The unaspiring Marquette remained to preach the Gospel to the Miamis, who dwelt in the north of Illinois, round Chicago. Two years afterward, sailing from Chicago to Mackinaw, he entered a little river in Michigan. Erecting an altar, he said mass according to the ritual of the Catholic Church, and then desired the men who had conducted his canoe to leave him alone for half an hour.
"At the end of the time they went to seek him, but he was no more. The good missionary-discoverer of a world had fallen asleep on the margin of the stream that bears his name. Near its mouth the canoe-men dug his grave in the sand. Ever after, the forest-rangers, if in danger [p. 14] on Lake Michigan, would invoke his name. The people of the West will build his monument."
Thus much of Father Marquette; a short human life; but how full, how beautiful, how complete and perfect! Do you not see a ray of heavenly light shine through that misty, blood-stained valley of the Mississippi? Lower down on the Mississippi I shall tell you of Ferdinand de Soto.
Mississippi, October 16th.
Cold and chilly; but those stately hills, which rise higher and higher on each side the river, covered with forests of oak now brilliant in their golden-brown array beneath the autumnal heaven, and those prairies with their infinite stretches of view, afford a spectacle forever changing and forever beautiful. And then all is so young, so new, all as yet virgin soil! Here and there, at the foot of the hills, on the banks of the river, has the settler built his little log-house, plowed up a little field in which he has now just reaped his maize. The air is gray, but altogether calm. We proceed very leisurely, because the water is low at this time of the year, and has many shallows; at times it is narrow, and then again it is of great width, dotted over with many islands, both large and small. These islands are full of wild vines, which have thrown themselves in festoons among the trees, now for the most part leafless, though the wild vines are yet green.
We are sailing between Wisconsin on the right and Iowa on the left. We have just passed the mouth of the Wisconsin River, by which Father Marquette entered the Mississippi. How well I understand his feelings on the discovery of the Great River! I feel myself here, two hundred years later, almost as happy as he was, because I too am alone, and am on a journey of discovery, although of another kind. The Wisconsin flows into the Mississippi between shores overgrown with wood, and presents a beautiful idyllian scene.[p. 15]
Evening. It seems as if it would clear up; the sun has set and the moon risen, and the moon seems to dissipate the clouds. At sunset the Menomonie put to land to take in fuel. It was on the Iowa bank of the river. I went on shore with Mr. Sibley. A newly-erected log-house stood at the foot of the hill, about fifty paces from the river; we went into the house, and were met by a handsome young wife, with a nice little plump lad, a baby, in her arms; her husband was out in the forest. They had been at the place merely a few months, but were satisfied, and hopeful of doing well there. Two fat cows with bells were grazing in the meadow, without any tether. Every thing within the house was neat and in order, and indicated a degree of comfort. I saw some books on a shelf; these were the Bible, prayer-books, and American reading-books, containing selections from English and American literature, both verse and prose. The young wife talked sensibly and calmly about their life and condition as settlers in the West. When we left the house, and I saw her standing in the door-way with her beautiful child in her arms, she presented a picture in the soft glow of the Western heaven, a lovely picture of the new life of the West.
That young, strong, earnest mother, with her child on her arm, that little dwelling, protected by the husband, who cherished in himself the noblest treasures of thought and of love --behold in these the germ which, by degrees, will occupy the wilderness, and cause it to blossom as the rose.
16th. A glorious morning, as warm as summer! It rained in the night, but cleared up in the morning; those dense, dark masses of cloud were penetrated, rent asunder by the flashing sunbeams; and bold, abrupt shadows, and heavenly lights played among the yet bolder, more [p. 16] craggy, and more picturesque hills. What an animated scene it was! and I was once more alone with America, with my beloved, my great and beautiful sister, with the sibyl at whose knee I sat listening and glancing up to her with looks full of love. Oh what did she not communicate to me that day, that morning full of inspiration, as amid her tears she drank in the heavenly light, and flung those dark shadows, like a veil, back from her countenance, that it might be only the more fully illumined by the Divine light! Never shall I forget that morning!
They came again and again, during the morning, those dark clouds, spreading night over those deep abysses; but again they yielded, again they gave place to the sun, which finally prevailed, alone, triumphant, and shone over the Mississippi and its world in the most beautiful summer splendor; and the inner light in my soul conversed with the outward light. It was glorious!
The further we advanced, the more strangely and fantastically were the cliffs on the shore splintered and riven, representing the most astonishing imagery. Half way up, probably four or five hundred feet above the river, these hills were covered with wood now golden with the hue of autumn, and above that, rising, as if directly out of it, naked, ruin-like crags, of rich red brown, representing fortifications, towers, half-demolished walls, as of ancient, magnificent strongholds and castles. The castle ruins of the Rhine are small things in comparison with these gigantic remains of primeval ages; when men were not, but the Titans of primeval nature, Megatheriums, Mastodons, and Ichthyosaurians rose up from the waters, and wandered alone over the earth.
It was difficult to persuade one's self that many of these bold pyramids and broken temple-façades had not really been the work of human hands, so symmetrical, so architectural were these colossal erections. I saw in two places human dwellings, built upon a height; they looked like [p. 17] birds'-nests upon a lofty roof; but I was glad to see them, because they predicted that this magnificent region will soon have inhabitants, and this temple of nature worshipers in thankful and intelligent human hearts. The country on the other side of these precipitous crags is highland, glorious country, bordering the prairie-land--land for many millions of human beings! Americans will build upon these hills beautiful, hospitable homes, and will here labor, pray, love, and enjoy. An ennobled humanity will live upon these heights.
Below, in the river, at the feet of the hill-giants, the little green islands become more and more numerous. All were of the same character; all were lovely islands, all one tangle of wild vine. The wild grapes are small and sour, but are said to become sweet after they have been frosted. It is extraordinary that the wild vine is every where indigenous to America. America is of a truth Vineland, I have heard the prophecy of a time and a land where every man shall sit under his own vine, and none shall make him afraid; when the wolf and the lamb shall sport together, and the desert shall blossom as the rose, and all in the name of the Prince of Peace.
These hills, spite of their varieties of form and of their ruin-like crags, have a general resemblance; they are nearly all of the same height, not exceeding eight or nine hundred feet. Good republicans, every one of them!
Last evening, just at sunset, I saw the first trace of the Indians in an Indian grave. It was a chest of bark laid upon a couple of planks supported by four posts, standing underneath a tree golden with autumnal tints. It is thus that the Indians dispose of their dead, till the flesh is dried off the bones, when these are interred either in the earth or in caves, with funeral rites, dances, and songs. Thus a coffin beneath an autumnal tree, in the light of the pale evening sun, was the first token which I perceived of this poor, decaying people.[p. 18]
Soon after we saw Indian huts on the banks of the river. They are called by themselves "tepees" (dwellings), and by the English "lodges;" they resemble a tent in form, and are covered with buffalo hides, which are wrapped round long stakes, planted in the ground in a circle, and united at the top, where the smoke passes out through an opening something like our Laplander's huts, only on a larger scale. There is a low opening in the form of a door to each hut, and over which a piece of buffalo hide can be let down at pleasure. I saw through the open doors the fire burning on the floor in many of the huts; it had a pleasant, kindly appearance. Little savage children were leaping about the shore. It was the most beautiful moonlight evening.
17th. Sunshiny, but cold. We have Indian territory through the whole of our course on the right; it is the territory of Minnesota, and we now see Indians encamped on the banks in larger or smaller numbers. The men, standing or walking, wrapped in their red or yellow-gray blankets; the women, busied at the fires either within or without the tents, or carrying their children on their backs in the yellow blankets in which they themselves are wrapped. All are bareheaded, with their black locks hanging down like horses' tails, or sometimes plaited. A great number of children, boys especially, leap about shouting on the shores. We proceeded very slowly, and stuck fast on the shallows continually as we wound among the islands. In the mean time, little canoes of Indians glided quickly, and, as it were, shyly hither and thither along the shores and the islands, the people seeming to be looking for something among the bushes. They appeared, for the most part, to be women in the boats; but it is not easy to distinguish a man from a woman, as they sit there wrapped in their blankets, with their bare, unkemped hair. They were seeking for wild berries and herbs, which they collect among the bushes. How savage and [p. 19] like wild beasts they looked! And yet it is very entertaining to see human beings so unlike the people one sees every day, so unlike our own selves!
The Indians we see here are of the Sioux or Dacotah nation, still one of the most powerful tribes in the country, and who, together with the Chippewas, inhabit the district around the springs of the Mississippi (Minnesota). Each nation is said to amount to twenty-five thousand souls. The two tribes live in hostility with each other; but have lately held, after some bloody encounters, a peace congress at Fort Snelling, where the American authorities compelled these vengeful people, although unwillingly, to offer each other the hand of reconciliation.
Mr. Sibley, who has lived many years among the Sioux, participating in their hunting and their daily life, has related to me many characteristic traits of this people's life and disposition. There is a certain grandeur about them, but it is founded on immense pride; and their passion for revenge is carried to a savage and cruel extreme. Mr. Sibley is also very fond of the Indians, and is said to be a very great favorite with them. Sometimes, when we sail past Indian villages, he utters a kind of wild cry, which receives an exulting response from the shore.
Sometimes we see a little log-house, with two or three Indian lodges beside it. Such houses belong to half-blood Indians, that is to say, one whose father was a while man and mother an Indian, and these are his relations by the mother's side, or the relatives of his Indian wife, who have come to dwell near him. He is commonly engaged in trade, and is a link between the Indian and European.
We have now also some Indians on board, a family of the Winnebagoes, husband, wife, and daughter, a young girl of seventeen, and two young warriors of the Sioux tribe, adorned with fine feathers, and painted with red and yellow, and all colors, I fancy, so that they are splendid. They remain on the upper deck, where I also remain, on [p. 20] account of the view being so much more extensive. The Winnebago man is also painted, and lies on deck, generally on his stomach, propped on his elbows, and wrapped in his blanket. The wife looks old and worn out, but is cheerful and talkative. The girl is tall and good-looking, but has heavy features, and broad, round shoulders; she is very shy, and turns away if any one looks at her. I saw the three have their dinner: they took a piece of dark-colored meat, which I supposed to have been smoke-dried, out of a bag, and alternately tore a piece from it with their teeth. I offered them cakes and fruit, which I had with me; the wife laughed, and almost snatched them from me. They were well pleased to receive them, but expressed no thanks. The young Sioux warriors look like some kind of great cock. They strut about now and then, and look proud, and then they squat themselves down on their hams, like apes, and chatter away as volubly as any two old gossips ever did. All the men have noses like a hawk's bill, and the corners of their mouths are drawn down, which gives a disagreeable, scornful expression to the countenance. Nothing, however, about them has struck me so much as their eyes, which have a certain hard, inhuman expression. They seem to me like those of wild beasts, cold, clear, with a steady, hard, and almost cruel glance. One could fancy that they had caught sight of some object, some prey a long way off in the forest. The glance is not deficient in intelligence or acuteness, but it is deficient in feeling. There is an immense difference between their eyes and those of the negroes. The former are a cold day, the latter a warm night.
Last night we passed through Lake Pepin in the moonlight. It is an extension of the Mississippi, large enough to constitute a lake, surrounded by magnificent hills, which seem to inclose it with their almost perpendicular cliffs, one among which is particularly prominent, and is called Wenona's Cliff, from a young Indian girl who here sang [p. 21] her death-song and then threw herself into the waters below, preferring death to marriage with a young man whom she did not love.
Late last evening I noticed a tall Indian who was standing with his arms crossed, wrapped in his blanket, under a large tree. He stood as immovable as if he had grown into the tree against the boll of which he leaned. He looked very stately. All at once he gave a leap forward, and, uttering a shrill cry, bounded down to the shore; and then I saw, at no great distance, an encampment of about twenty huts in the forest near the river, where fires were burning, and there seemed to be a throng of people. Along the shore lay a considerable number of small canoes, and I imagined that the warning cry of the man had reference to these, for when our steamer swung past the place, for it was at a bend of the river where the camp stood, it occasioned a sort of earthquake to those little boats, which were hurled like nut-shells one against another, and on toward the shore. The people who were seated in the boats leaped upon the shore, others came running from the huts down to the boats; the whole encampment was in motion; there was a yelling and a barking both of men and dogs, and shrill cries which were heard long after the Menomonie had shot past on her foaming career. The camp, with its fires, its huts, and its people, was a most wild and animated scene.
At another place, during the day, we saw a large, pale red stone standing on a plain near the river. I was told that this stone, and all large stones of this kind, are regarded as sacred by the Indians, who swear by them, and around which they hold their councils, believing that they are the abiding-place of a divinity.
In the afternoon we shall reach St. Paul's, the goal of our journey, and the most northern town on the Mississippi. I am sorry to reach it so soon; I should have liked this voyage up the Mississippi to have lasted eight days [p. 22] at least. It amuses and interests me indescribably. These new shores, so new in every way, with their perpetually varying scenes; that wild people, with their camps, their fires, boats, their peculiar manners and cries--it is a continual refreshment to me. And to this must be added that I am able to enjoy it in peace and freedom, from the excellent arrangement of the American steam-boats for their passengers. They are commonly three-decked--the middle deck being principally occupied by the passengers who like to be comfortable. Round this deck runs a broad gallery or piazza, roofed in by the upper deck, within which are ranged the passengers' cabins, side by side, all round the vessel. Each cabin has a door, in which is a window opening into the gallery, so that one can either enter the gallery this way, or enjoy the scenery of the shore from the cabin itself; it has also another door, which opens into the saloon. The saloon aft is always appropriated to the ladies, and around this are their cabins; the second great saloon also, used for meals, is the assembling-place of the gentlemen. Each little apartment, called a state-room, has commonly two berths in it, the one above the other; but if the steamer is not much crowded, one can easily obtain a cabin entirely to one's self. These apartments are always painted white, and are neat, light, and charming; one could remain in them for days with the utmost pleasure. The table is generally well and amply supplied; and the fares, comparatively speaking, are low. Thus, for instance, I pay for the voyage from Galena to St. Paul's only six dollars, which seems to me quite too little in comparison with all the good things that I enjoy. I have a charming little "state-room" to myself, and the few upper-class passengers are not of the catechising order. One of them, Mr. Sibley, is a clever, kind man, and extremely interesting to me from his knowledge of the people of this region, and their circumstances. There are also some emigrant families who are on their way to [p. 23] settle on the banks of the River St. Croix and Stillwater, who do not belong to what are called the "better class," although they rank with such--a couple of ladies who smoke meerschaum-pipes now and then--and, in particular, there are two half-grown girls, who are considerably in my way sometimes--especially one of them, a tall, awkward girl in a fiery-red, brick-colored dress, with fiery-red hair as rough as a besom, and eyes that squint, and who, when she comes out, sets herself to stare at me with her arms crossed, her mouth and eyes wide open, as if I were some strange Scandinavian animal, and every now and then she rushes up to me with some unnecessary, witless question. I regard these girls as belonging to--the mythological monsters of the Great West, as daughters of its giants, and did not scruple to cut them rather short!
Ah! people may come to this hemisphere as democratic as they will, but when they have traveled about a little they will become aristocratic to a certain extent. To a certain extent --but beyond that I shall never go, even though the daughters of the giants become so numerous as to shut out my view. And this brick-colored, foolhardy girl would--of this I am certain--with a few kind and intelligent words, assume a different mode of behavior, and, if I were to be any length of time with her, she and I should become good friends. And there is in one of these emigrant families an old grandmother, and yet not so very old after all, who is so full of anxiety, so quietly active, and so thoughtful for every one who belongs to her, and who is evidently so kind and motherly in disposition, that one must willingly take in good part all her questions and her ignorance of geography, if one has any thing good in one's self. And that one has not when one gets out of temper with the manners of the giants' daughter, and wills to be at peace.[p. 24]
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