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FIRST VIEW OF NORTH AMERICA.
on the deck swallowing their garlic and oil, and pouring a rill of water into their greasy mouths, from the spout of the porron, a large earthenware vessel held at arm's length. Looking from the vessel, there was nought but sea and sky, but then what glorious sunsets, and how different every evening! What studies for a painter a series of these; and how strange would the forms of the clouds appear to an eye accustomed only to the sky in temperate climes! Between the Tropics, the evening sky frequently puts on an awful and portentous aspect, apparently the forerunner of some nightly war of the elements.
As we approached the low shore of Louisiana, we had light baffling breezes, and the thermometer rose to 86°; we anxiously looked out for land, when, one evening at sunset, under two mighty and dark pillars of clouds, which rose from the horizon to the zenith, connected like the bastions of a fortress with a fiery curtain, we descried the twinkling star of the lighthouse at one of the mouths of the great Mississippi, and a rapid and muddy current set against us occasionally, bearing along with it a huge log. The moon, "round as the shield of my fathers," shone brightly, opposite to the pillars of clouds, and revealed the white sails of two vessels in the distance before us.
A pilot schooner approached, and from her a lanky and light-haired New-Englander jumped on board of us, who immediately called for gin; he
then told us of many wrecks in the late hurricanes, not a few of which we found out afterwards to be inventions of his own. He next commenced guessing and asking questions in the usual way. “What news can you tell us,
stranger?" said he to me. "News! why they talk of a general war in Europe." "" War in Europe!" cried he with an oath, "what do we care for a war in Europe in our fine, free, flourishing country? but I calculate, we'll soon have a war with the Mexicans."-"They won't be able to face you," I said, " without a fleet." "Oh! tarnation, no," answered he, "nothing under high heaven; we will knock h-ll out of them." He then called for more gin, and, thrusting his hand into his breeches pocket, took out a paper, and holding it out to me, said, "Read that, I don't care a curse for anybody." It was a certificate from Antonio De Silva, a master pilot at the Belize, setting forth that "William Stevens was competent to take vessels over the Bar ;" so, in order to enable this worthy to prove his competency, I told the captain to stop his grog, but he had finished a bottle before we came to an anchor outside the Bar.
In the morning, we observed the black and lowlying shore stretching from north-east to southwest before us, and the turbid waters of the mighty river pouring into the sea between islands formed by layers of logs, covered and imbedded in mud, and appearing like bones of the mammoth. We
MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI:
weighed anchor, and made for an opening where the water was only one foot deeper than what we drew, and the wind only sufficient to enable us with difficulty to stem the tide. It was a trying situation; the pilot stood at the bows to indicate how the helmsman ought to steer, and I stood a-midships to interpret the conning. The river water rushed and roared past us; black aquatic birds flew round us; and porpoises preceded us, tumbling over and shaking their tails, as if in derision. Several snags, or large logs, firmly fixed in the mud, and pointing down the stream, were passed very close; and sawyers rose and fell above the surface, as they were acted on by the current. At last we got into smoother water, in a branch of the Mississippi, and anchored off the lighthouse, a tall white pillar, with a house beside it surrounded with peach trees. The wind blew down the river, and I proposed to the captain to take the boat, and row up to the pilot-station, the Balize.
As we were leaving the vessel, a large alligator was seen descending the stream; as he approached us he sunk his body, and nothing appeared but his malignant eyes, gleaming from under the pent-house and wart-like eyebrows seated on the top of his head. When he had fairly passed the vessel, the long tail slowly moved again on the surface like the appendage of Milton's Sin, which formidable shape
"Ended foul in many a scaly fold,
THE BALIZE PILOT-STATION.
We rowed up to the station, avoiding the thread of the current; and found the Balize a collection of some twenty-five wooden houses, inhabited by about fifty pilots, of all countries. Log causeways communicated between the houses, which were literally built on soft mud, and faced a bayou, or small creek, communicating with the Great River. Our friend Stevens came up to us as we stepped on a sinking log, and holding out his hand to me, said, "Halloo, man! are you here? Which are you for, cocktail or gin-sling? Here is the Bar, you must liquorise." I begged to be excused, as I seldom drank spirits, but asked him to allow me to ascend the wooden look-out house, in the centre of the wretched village. We mounted to the top of it, and one of the most desolate and dreary prospects appeared that I ever beheld. On the east and west there was a boundless swamp, covered with reeds; a few sluggish creeks appeared to the south, where also was seen a strip of the sea; to the north, the land rose a little, and seemed in the far distance to be covered with wood. Thus we saw the Great River depositing its slime, and logs of trees forming what are termed rafts, among which reeds spring up and connect the mass; the reed decaying forms a soil, on which grow shrubs, eventually succeeded by trees, which are cleared by the sugar-planters, and the soil yields abundantly like that of Guiana. Thus the Mississippi is fast advancing the promontory of new land at its
PROSPECT OF A SICKLY SEASON.
mouth into the Gulf of Mexico, and increasing the length of its course,, which is computed at three thousand miles from near Lake Superior to the dreary Balize.
"We were all flooded here the other day," said the pilot : "our billiard-table was carried away, and some of our houses, but the Bar escaped. We're afraid of a very sickly season, for the water has been above the reeds; but you Spaniards from the Vanah are accustomed to the
yellows,-acclimated, eh? We buried a poor
fellow here last week."-" What was his complaint ?"" Why, he used to sling considerable heavy."
We dropped down in the evening to the Aurora, and though the breeze blew fair in the night, the captain and crew smoked and slept very comfortably, like the Dutch captains descending the Hudson, who, when they got on a sandbank, puffed away quietly till the tide took them off. On the following afternoon the anchor was leisurely weighed, and we slowly stemmed
As a contrast to the indifference of our Spanish captain to our progress, the anxiety of some English skippers to make quick voyages was recalled to mind. I made a month's voyage with one who was hardly ever off the deck, but taking a short to-and-fro walk beside the steersman, he would continually call out, "Now mind your helm, boy. Keep a lively helm. Don't let her