Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

singing out sharply, while the great flat and wound himself up in the net, hoping clumsy fish wabbles and “flops” this way to be hidden, is hauled up, and turned, and that way, nearly hauling his captor kicking and kicked, out from the twisted over upon his nose among the fish, “Jab meshes, to share the fate of those he had the boat-hook into him, quick, will ye?” desired to destroy. It is pitiful to see the Chunk! it goes, fairly into the creature's little whitefish gape and tumble and back; four men seize the hook-staff, and bounce about in innocent agony.

The walk the big sting-ray bodily out ashore, clumsy ray never troubles any body exhis first friend steering him behind by cept in self-defence, and gets some symthe tail. Poor old ray! he lies wounded pathy; but nobody sympathizes with the and bleeding on the dry, hot sand, gug pig-eyed, shovel-nosed villain who now gling and choking, helpless and doomed. spats the sand, and winks and nips with I run and jump up before him, whereupon his three rows of thorny teeth, as he feels he unexpectedly gives a strange loud his thievish life slipping away from him. watery snort, and wallops almost off the I sarcastically hint that he must be hunground, as if, like Mr. Briggs' pickerel (see gry, since he opens his mouth so wide; London Punch), he were going to "fly at and I cautiously insert therein a whiteme, and bark like a dog.” It scares me, fish or two, and set them well down with until I reflect upon his locomotive disad a stick. LÍc has no appetite, after all, vantages, and so I repeat my irritating and spits them out; and, as I renew my gambadoes, until the monster is too dead attentions, he gathers himself up in a to notice them. He weighs at least five rage, and springs at me so strongly that hundred pounds; and is long enough and the grinning jaws snap together within broad enough to cover a table for six. an inch of my fist. A little more strength His three “stings” are cut off and given in the old scoundrel's tail, and I should me to scrape, wash and preserve, with have repented me of catering for the strict cautions from the friendly fisher shark. I recommend nobody to feed men against allowing the sharp points or sharks from his fingers. barbs, or the poisonous black slime ad The net is empty—all but sundry nonhering to them, to get through my skin. descripts of the sea which stick here and These “stings” are tapering two-edged there upon the meshes. A “sea-spider” daggers of hard white bone, set flatwise or two, like a large mouldy acorn with one over the other upon the upper side of six long legs; red starfish ; varieties of the ray's tail, and so jointed on that they seaweed; a stick and a fragment of old can be erected and made to stand out like rope, are all. Half the hands count the three fingers stretched apart. The ends, fish, putting them in piles of four or five and the barbs that point backwards along thousand each, and the rest replace the the sides, are as sharp as needles, and seine upon the boat, in readiness for anowill inflict a frightful ragged cut. No ther haul. wound is more dangerous or more dreaded. Dinner is cooked in a great iron pot. The slimy black venom which sticks all It is a chowder, of course-fisherman's over the stings lodges in the lesion, and food; what should it be?-Not the "old, the unlucky recipient of the ray's blow is original" chowder, the codfish aristocrat in imminent danger of lock-jaw. A friend of chowders, whose idea is consecrated by of mine was hit by one of these ugly the masterly manipulations and majestic things in the ancle. The barbed blade name of the mighty man of Marshfieldcaught among the sinews, and drew one the Republican King ”—but still a of them fairly out from the leg—a red chowder, a delicious dish to appetites and white string a foot long.

sharpened by sea air and sea water: It is laid up long with the consequent inflam a many-sided dish; of pork and fish, pomation and fever; had lock-jaw; almost tatoes and bread, and onions and turnips died; and halts yet upon the leg which

"all compact

chequits” and seathe " stinger” stung. Of the three stings bass, blackfish, long clams, “pumpkinwhich the fishermen gave me, I send one seeds,” and an accidental eel, all contrito the Editor of Putnam's Monthly with bute. Pepper and salt, but especially these sheets.

hunger, are the seasoning: and I firmly The whitefish are all deposited upon believe that no such flavorous food ever the beach, in silvery, sliddering heaps ; slid tickling down mortal throat, as choking, gasping and jumping; or curling plopped out from the canted chowderinto shuddering, agonized rings for a mo kettle in the solitary fish-house by the ment, and then quietly straightening out to die. Last of all, the sneaking shark, Late at night we returned home; the who had nosed off to the furthest corner gain to the fishers being about a hundred

He was

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sea.

the sea.

thousand fish, worth some forty or fifty dollars, and the gain to me being a store of happy memories; not so salable, perhaps, as the fish, but lasting longer and fresher, neither by me willingly to be exchanged for any ordinary tangible commodity. Such was my life with the farmers by

The time and space fail me to tell of the rockweeding expeditions; the wanderings after lost cattle in the woods; the wood-cutting in the same; the whortleberry parties; the numberless delightful and adventurous occupations in which my farming summers passed.

It was pleasure unspeakable. And not that only, but I gained a store of strength, and hardy habits to keep it good, which subsequent years of study and confinement have not hitherto exhausted. I never can see a thin, white-faced schoolboy of twelve or fifteen, that I do not long to exile him ; to expatriate him for a year or two from the pie and cake, the coddling and cookery of home, the weary, brain

baking of his school, out into the healthy world of the workers in the soil. His parents would be glad, however indignant or sorrowful at the parting, when he should return, as brown as a berry, straight, strong and hearty, almost able to eat his former self, if he were forthcoming

I also gained an invaluable agricultural bias; so that I am ready, when my expected competence shall have been accumulated, to betake myself to the shadow of my trees and vines, and to the sunshine of my tilled land, and there in peace to end my days, living in the world of God, among the trees, the plants, the dumb beasts, the earth, the infinitude of beauty and vigor and youth, designed by him; as much superior to architectural and artistic parrotries of stone and canvas, as the pure, mystic beauty of Mont Blanc, the glories of the sea, of storms, and of the evening clouds, are superior to the gorgeous drapery and gilt gingerbread of a hotel bridal-chamber.

SEHNSUCHT.
COME, beauteous day !
Never did lover on his bridal night
So chide thine over-eager light

As I thy long delay !

Bring me my rest!
Never can these sweet thorny roses
Whereon my heart reposes

Be into slumber pressed !

Day be my night!
Night hath no stars to rival with her eyes,
Night hath no peace like his who lies

Upon her bosom white.

She did transmute This my poor cell into a paradise, Gorgeous with blossoming lips and dewy eyes

And all her beauty's fruit.

Nor dull nor gray Seems to mine eyes this dim and wintry morn. Ne'er did the rosy banners of the Dawn

Herald a brighter day!

Come, beauteous day! Come, or in sunny light, or storm eclipse ! Bring me to the immortal summer of her lips,

Then have thy way!

NOTES FROM MY KNAPSACK.

NUMBER III.

NAMES SOAP PLANT-JUNCTION WITII THE ADVANCE-MIDNIGHT CRY-MILITARY ENGINEERINGOWLS-CAMP

ON THE NUECES-PERILOUS PASSAGE-PRICKLY PEAR--VEGETABLE MONSTERS-OUR FLAG-TARANTULABEST-RACE—THE RIO GRANDE-WHITE FLAG-THE PRESID10—WOMEN AND CHILDREN-PROBLEM IN POLITICAL ECONOMY-MILITARY FUNERAL-FORDING—MEXICAN EMBASSY-TIE ALCALDE-THIE PADRE-NEW CAMP -TRAFFIO POPULATION-ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE FALSE ALARM,

AT
T six o'clock on the morning of the 1st

of October, we took our last look at the lofty precipices, giant boulders, and crystal fountains which are the ministering spirits of the Hondo. After emerging from the long grass amid which our tents were pitched, we entered upon an open prairie, partaking of the genuine “hogwallow” characteristics, and in wet weather doubtless offering to the traveller the most cogently cohesive arguments against progress.

An interval of about seven miles separates the Hondo from the Seco. Apropos of Rio Seco, it is said that these words constitute the original name of that great battle-field, known as Resaca de la Palma, but that the Mexican who first communicated the name was not understood, and that "Resaca” was as near the truth—Mexican truth—as the translator could come. This explanation-whether accurate or not-does not appear improbable, inasmuch as the position taken by General Arista, when driven from Palo Alto, was in the rear of the bed of a defunct rivulet, the banks of which formed a natural semi-circular parapet, with the concavity towards the Americans.

This day we first observed a few specimens of the “soap plant”—a bulbous root extensively used among the Mexicans as a substitute for soap. The plant, it is said, seldom grows more than a foot high; the stalk and leaves drop off in the spring, though the bulbs, it is said, remain in the ground an entire season without decaying. The mode of using it is to peel off the skin or exterior coating, then immerse the root in water until it is somewhat softened, and apply to clothes in the same manner as soap. Woollen fabrics alone, we are told, are washed with it, the colors of which when but slightly faded, are restored to nearly their original brightness.

We arrived at the Sabinal between twelve and one o'clock, on the banks of which the advance troops were comfortably encamped. The highest and hottest points in the vicinity,

succeeded in finding, for pitching the tents of the new arrivals and also the furthest, or as

says, the furtherest, from wood and water.

A blast from the bugles of the 2d Dragoons, which drew forth a universal tremor of disgust from the whole camp, and which was answered from the lungs of a hundred echoes, rang out clear and shrill the next morning about three o'clock. In a few minutes the entire body was in motion: mules snorting, horses snickering, harness rattling, teamsters cursing, cooks growling, men grunting, and officers grumbling, shivering, and dressing. Venus was the solitary sovereign of the firmament, as we filed into the road at half-past five o'clock. When the sun rose upon the column, as it appeared for the first time after the junction, the spectacle was spirited and attractive. At the head of the army, the bright barrels and bayonets of the regular infantry, under the veteran Bonneville, of Rocky Mountain memory, gave proudly back the glancing rays of the morning sun: then followed the battalion baggage wagons, and to these succeeded the bronzed corsairish visages and heavy armor of the 1st Dragoons. Next came thundering on Washington's artillery, officers and men in full uniform, their red horse-hair plumes waving like crescent flags in the eastern breeze, and their polished pieces reflecting the passing images of the surrounding landscape. Immediately behind, the heavy clattering of horses' hoofs, and the clangor of mounted troops, indicated the approach of the 2d Dragoons, the rear being marked by a long line of white—the covers of the principal train of wagons, amounting to one hundred and fifty, and stretching over an extent of nearly two miles. Last of all came the rear-guard-itself no mean epitome of army variety-rivalling in costumes and appointments the platoons of Falstaff.

We arrived at Stony Creek, after a march of seven miles, about eight o'clock. The intervening country presents very little novelty. There is a sort of wild luxuriance abroad over the prairie, which exhausts the energy of the soil by a spe

cies of prolific unproductiveness. The of War) "are confined to the more elevated grass is of sickly growth, and almost branches of military science.” It must parched to a cinder; amid which, how be confessed that our friends of the shovel ever, several new varieties of plants made and pick-axe did, in their first experitheir appearance. The wild sage may be ment, very forcibly illustrate their familmentioned as found here, and the abolo, iarity with the “elevated branches,” and or buffalo herb. The latter derives its have acted with becoming regard to all name from the resemblance of its odor to the requirements of science," particu- ' that of a herd of buffaloes. A variety of larly in reference to the Cæsarean maxim the mimosa sensitiva has also been no festina lente. Fording a river is doubtticed, but, like other occupants of this less a serious business, and the resources region, not very sensitive. About a mile of science ought, of course, to be made east of the stream stood a stately elm, available in its accomplishment. Should and as the largest tree yet seen in Texas any of the streams ahead of us, however, and strikingly conspicuous from its isola require bridging, the problem was sugtion, this passing notice seems to be due gested whether it would be necessary to to the legitimate monarch of the prairies. make drawings and specifications, and adLike Napoleon, according to orator Phil vertise for “sealed proposals”—as that is lips, it stands “grand, gloomy, and pecu the usual method—which, under the cirliar;” and as no well-bred man ought to cumstances, would be exceedingly inconpass under the shadow of a full-grown venient. survivor of a forest that has passed away, It has been asserted on the authority without dofling his hat, so few were dis of “Deaf Sinith”—the celebrated Texan posed to withhold proper homage and re spy—that eighteen years since, there was spect in presence of its venerable and ma no water in the channel of the Leona, and jestic form.

that he had frequently slept upon it-then The approach to the Rio Frio was dry ground. According to this tradition, by a gradual slope, with a natural pave it burst forth at once with a depth of ment of snow-white gravel. The water three or four feet, which it very nearly is clear, cool, and delicious, and flows preserves throughout the year. Others over a bed rivalling the whiteness of affirm that it consisted at that time of a Parian marble. The fish sporting in series of basins, subterraneously connected, such a medium would have driven old and that the rotten limestone has since Izaak Walton into ecstacies, and the fine crumbled away from above, and united practical and praticable stone which lines the whole into a running stream. the shores so abundantly, would have The pure water and shaded borders of made Mr. McAdam sigh that nature had this little river, seduced many into the here made her own turnpikes.

luxury of a thorough ablution this evenAt this point a portion of the dragoons ing, and while enjoying a solitary bath and infantry were halted, while the Gen just before tattoo, two huge owls perched eral with the remaining detachments and upon a tree overhanging the water, gave artillery, pushed on to the Leona, where several most unmistakable hints, in the they arrived about noon. Nearly the en way of unearthly and unmusical sounds, tire distance between the Rio Frio and that I was an intruder on forbidden regions. the Leona, the road passes over a lime The artillery and dragoons resumed stone formation, with a very superficial their march at sunrise, but owing to the covering of soil. The growth of timber problem to be solved, to wit, whether or is scattering and scraggy. The pioneers not the principal wagon train could cross who, from bringing up the rear, have the Leona without a bridge, the commandfinally floundered into their appropriate ing general remained until the arrival of position, reached here in the morning. the troops in rear, which was about eight Owing, however, it is said, to a difference o'clock. After felling a couple of trees of opinion as to the best method of arran across the stream, the men were all enabled ging the approaches so as to be able to ford to pass over dryshod, but the wagons the stream with the train, nothing had were not so easily disposed of. It was been done on our arrival, and it therefore found necessary to cut down the banks became necessary for the troops themselves still more, throwing the gravel into the to cut down the banks on either side so as river, so as to form slopes of easy declivity, to fit them for the passage of the artillery before the crossing could be commenced. and baggage-wagons. This operation was Very precise instructions touching the conducted under the immediate super mode of locking wheels; the proper method vision of Captain - Corps of Engineers, of addressing the mules; the number of whose " functions” (vide the 63d Article "gees," "haws," "ups," " zips," &c., &c., to

be given in a minute; how to hold the reins; Texas, poor as we have found it thus far, when to start and when to stop, and other becomes worse as it approaches Mexico. details, to be thoroughly comprehended One may travel from Dan to Beersheba, only by those vehicular quadrupeds and or from the Sabine to the Nueces, and their drivers, in the service of Uncle Sam, exclaim with a great deal of truth as well were next given with great energy and as sorrow, All is barren. The country is effect, after which the whole body moved a great thorn in the side of the body poliforward. As soon as the immediate valley tic, and nearly every vine, or shrub, or of the river is left behind the country bush, or plant, that draws its nourishagain becomes prairie, and continues to ment from the soil is a subdued image of the Nueces, of the same sterile, stony its mother; and at the same time almost texture, with the exception of a narrow every insect, reptile, or animal, that is belt of red clay, indicating the probable found within its borders, is venomous and proximity of iron ore.

vindictive. At noon we came in sight of the Nueces, Another innovation upon the constituits winding course beautifully outlined by tion and habits of man, horse and mule, the mass of foliage with which its western was perpetrated the ensuing morning, by bank is embroidered. Beyond it, the rousing the camp from its slumbers at ground rises, so that the towering elms three o'clock. There is no surety for along the shore are overtopped by the nocturnal rest in the vicinity of Major less ambitious growth of the distant As we marched from camp the fires prairie. In the foreground of the lovely were still blazing; a smoky vapor from landscape were the white tents of the the Nueces, hung like a veil over the troops, the horses and mules grazing plain; many tents were not yet struck; lazily around, the men engaged in their ap mule drivers were running about, yelling propriate duties, and a solitary sentinel at and cursing, in pursuit of lost animals ; his post, and just life enough visible in all, teams half harnessed and but half made to relieve the repose of inanimate nature. up, on account of the strays, were standing Behind us a cloud of dust distinctly in confusion along the path, and a perfect marked the sinuous road-way we had

Babel of sounds and kaleidoscope of sights, just passed over, beneath which the re assailed us at every point. The scene at mainder of the troops then “ dragged their the ford was fertile in materials of the slow length along," while the distant hill

grotesque and ridiculous.

The regular tops before us were shaded with a misty infantry passed into the water with the curtain, so clear, and soft, and ethereal, it counterfeit presentment of a grin, and went seemed as if torn from the azure drapery over without much hesitation. The volunof heaven with which its hues were ming- teers, however, though ainiable enough in ling. The scene might well remind one of the abstract, did not take it so kindly. A Byron's beautiful and inimitable descrip very few of them seemed to think à cold tion, in that sad and sombrous picture- bath by starlight a most felicitous congallery of the “Dream."

ception, but the larger portion entered the “There was a mass of many images

stream with as much suspicious reluctance Crowded like waves upon me.

as if about to take passage with old Charon Reposing from the noontide sultriness

across the impalpable Styx.

A German captain, not satisfied with Stood camels grazing, and somo goodly steeds

his observations upon the depth of the Were fastened near a fountain; and a man Clad in a flowing garb did watch tho wbile,

water, after seeing two or three companies While many of his tribe slumbered around, effect a crossing, began his own perilous And they were canopied by the blue sky, passage, by probing or sounding with his So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,

sword.

This idea had probably been That God alone was to be seen in Heaven."

suggested by hearing many of those who The different corps and detachments were had preceded him, and who had doubtless in camp by four o'clock, except the strag been Mississippi - deckers” before they glers, who, as usual, kept coming until became soldiers, singing with the genuine sunset.

twang as they strided through the river, The position of our camp, though highly quarter less twain ;"

“no bottom; creditable to the artistic eye of

“by the mark three," &c., &c. The caphad little to recommend it practically. tain made the first plunge with admirable The grazing was scanty and burnt up, coolness and perfect military caution. He the fuel not abundant, and the water, had evidently determined to "feel his though good and plenty of it, when reach way," and had resolved not to put himself ed, was rather too far from our tents, to knowingly in the power of the enemy. please the cooks. Indeed, it appears that His legs were as bare—though perhaps not

*

*

[ocr errors]

*

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »