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length discovered that they were cray-fish (Astacus Americanus), closely resembling those of our own rivers.
In the waste places around the city, and especially near the shore, the prickly pear (Opuntia) grows in large impenetrable thickets. Every one knows the flat, oval, fleshy joints of which this plant is composed, each growing out of the edge of another, and each studded with tufts of bristling spines. Flowers and fruit were both numerous ; the latter unripe indeed, yet sufficiently attractive, from their plump contour and purple hue, to tempt me to essay the taste of one. In a moment I regretted my rashness, for my tongue and lips were filled with fine barbed spines, which continually worked farther in, and gave great pain. One by one, however, I contrived to tear them out, or break them off, but not till I had thoroughly learned the need of caution in eating prickly pears.
As I had no acquaintance in Mobile, I took the first opportunity of proceeding to the mountainous part of the State, to which I had introductions. The same day, therefore, I took passage on board one of the fine high-pressure steamers that throng the Mobile wharves, to go up the Alabama river.
It was evening when we left the city; from which the course of the river wind3 for many miles through a flat marshy country, and is bordered on each side by a broad belt of reeds, which grow thick and strong out of the very water. By day I suppose this appearance would be unpleasing ; but the gloom of night, limiting the view to a few yards around us, and making visible the beautiful fireflies which danced and crawled about the reeds in myriads, or made interrupted lines of radiance as they flew like shooting stars through the air, made the scene one of romantic and high gratification. By and by, we come into more uneven ground, where the high banks reflect a black shadow on the smooth water, seeming to contract the broad river to a brook; the calm, mirror-like surface, unruffled by a zephyr, gives back the light of each individual star ; and now and then, as wę round some point, a bright red glare, with its watery reflection, suddenly and unexpectedly bursts upon our gaze from the beacon-fire of some wood-yard, casting a broad illumination on the opposite bank, which has a startling and poetic effect; while the hoarse and hollow booming of the steam, occurring at regularly-measured intervals, seems not out of keeping with the general solemnity of the scene.
The busy hum and bustle of the vessel gradually subsided into quietness ; but long after all the rest of the passengers had retired to rest, to whom I suppose the scene presented not the charm of novelty, I continued on deck with unabated delight; and when I retired, it was not to sleep, for I could not avoid sitting up in bed, and gazing, through the open window of my berth, on the placid beauty of the night.
At early day, too, I found it delightful to stand alone on the upper deck, and watch the opening morning. It was yet dawn; stillness and quiet prevailed, the decks were yet untrodden, the noise of the day was yet hushed, the bats and the whip-poor-wills were still sweeping over the stream in tortuous flight, both engaged in the same vocation, the pursuit of crepuscular insects. The breadth of wing and rushing flight of the latter deceived me for some time into the notion that they were large swallows; the bat, though of swift wing, had no chance whatever in a race with them. As the eastern sky began to glow and brighten into fiery red, they gradually disappeared, the bats being the first to retire. Soon the sun, with dilated face, peeped over the horizon in cloudless majesty, and flushed with golden light the hills and cultivated fields that surrounded us; but as yet the air was delightfully cool and refreshing, and perfumed with the breath of flowers, which after a while was dissipated by the increasing heat. The river was smooth, and shone like silver, until its surface was broken and swollen by the rushing steamer ; before us we had a polished surface, reflecting a cloudless sky; behind us we left a rolling sea, enshrouded beneath a long sable cloud of dense smoke.
Nor was the day without pleasure, though we passed no towns, and very few settlements, at least during the daylight : occasionally we stopped to replenish our stock of wood, which is cut, split, and corded, at certain stations by negroes residing at them; these stations are called wood-yards. The moment the steamer stops, the crew begin to bring the wood on board on their shoulders, and it is astonishing to observe how quickly the great piles are transferred, and we are again on our roaring and rushing course. Here and there we open on some large cleared estate, and fields planted with corn or cotton, as yet scarcely appearing above ground, and perhaps a single negro-lut; but the planters' houses and the general buildings of the farm do not appear, they being situated at a considerable distance from the margin. Every spring the river overflows its banks, and inundates the surrounding country to a wide extent. Of this I saw sufficient traces, though the water had now returned to its wonted channel : high up, on the trees which overhang the water, the branches were incumbered with rubbish that had been left there by the spring flood, and which showed the great extent to which the river had been swollen. In one tree was the carcase of a cow that had probably been drowned in the freshets, and having become entangled among the forked boughs, had been deposited in the odd situation in which I saw it. In general the banks are clothed with tall forests to the water's edge; trees arrayed in all shades of green, of various height and form, some covered with glorious flowers, suddenly appeared and as swiftly vanished—a constantly-shifting panorama. Many trees had their tangled roots all exposed by the washing away of the soil from beneath them, others were prostrate in the stream from the operation of the same cause ; sometimes a pretty wooded island appeared, cleaving the stream with its shore of bright yellow sand; now the river expanded into a silvery lake, then narrowed to a gorge, between beetling precipices of limestone rising perpendicularly to the height of several hundred feet.
I was surprised to observe so exceedingly little of animal life: scarcely a single insect (except the fireflies) was to be seen during the whole voyage up, and very few birds. The depth of the forest is not favourable to the development of animal existence ; the edges of the woods, or open plains, where light is abundant, where flowers bloom, and herbs seed, are the resort of birds and insects; and on this account, these charming visitants are found to swarm when man has made a clearing, even in the spot where before scarcely an individual could have been found. A few I saw: the blue heron (Ardea coerulea), with double neck and stretched-out legs, slowly flapped his great wings, in his heavy flagging flight from shore to shore ; the belted kingfisher (Alcedo alcyon) shot along with a harsh rattling laugh, or sitting on some low projecting branch, suddenly plunged headlong into the water beneath, and instantly emerged with his prey; the wood-duck (Anas sponsa) flew shyly along the margin, close to the water, beneath the overhanging bushes; now and then we overtook a water-tortoise (Emys) swimming at the surface, his body submerged, poking up his head at intervals with a timid curiosity, to see what all the noise was about.
There is perhaps no river so winding as the Alabama. The boat's head is turned towards every point of the compass, and that often within the space of a few minutes : sometimes we may make a run of fifty miles, and be then within three miles of where we were at first. Indeed, at the place where I am now residing, which is about six miles in a direct line from the river, I have
been assured that the booming of a steamer's engine will some times be heard in the morning, and continue to be audible at intervals for a great part of the day; the vessel having been, perhaps, at no time more than twenty miles distant, in a course of many hours.
It is pleasant to meet another boat in the river, especially in a part of the low country where the course is very tortuous : to catch the faint black line of smoke upon the sky, across the fields and marshes ; after an interval to see it again, and faintly hear the roaring of the steam; then again to lose both sight and sound, and again and again to perceive both, gradually becoming more and more plainly perceptible; till at length she bursts into open view round some wooded point, rushes by in her majesty with her freight of human life, and, scarcely giving time to read her name broadly painted on her wheel-boxes, is instantly hidden beneath the black cloud of her own smoke.
Owing to the great number of turns which the river makes, it was not until the second morning that we arrived at King's Landing, having been two nights and one day performing a distance which, in a direct line, is not more than a hundred and twenty miles. Every extensive planter, whose estate borders on the river, has what is called a landing ; that is, a large building to contain bales of cotton; and if the bank be precipitous, as it is in this instance, flights of wide steps leading to the summit, and a slide formed of planks reaching from the warehouse above to the water beneath. When cotton is to be shipped, the steamer is moored beneath the slide, the bale is rolled to the top, and down it shoots with an impetus that would send it across the deck far into the river, were not its impulse deadened by bales already on the deck ; and even thus, when a row of bales receives the communicated force, I have seen the outmost one shot into the water, on the same principle that a billiardball in motion will impinge upon one at rest, and send it spinning along, while itself ceases to move. Here, then, was I landed an hour before dawn; my trunks placed on the lowest steps ; and away went the vessel to her destination further up the river.
I was quite alone, knowing neither the place nor the inhabitants ; but I was told that I should find a path on the top of the cliff, which would lead me to the manager's house, and that the estate of a gentleman with whom I had some acquaintance lay about ten miles distant. I have said that I was alone, and it was quite dark; but I groped my way for about a quarter of a mile through the lofty forest, and came upon a clearing like a farm-yard, in which were several houses close together. I made my way to the door of one (while a rascally cur kept up a most pertinacious barking), and knocked and shouted loudly to no purpose. I shouted again, the echoes died away, and ayain all was still. I then tried another house, and was at length answered by the cracked voice of a negro woman within. I told my business, that I had landed from the steamer, and was on my way to Pleasant-hill, and requested her to get up. I had been informed that lodging and refreshment were to be obtained here. A few minutes passed, and no sign of getting up, when again I shouted, and received the same answer,—“Sar? Iss, sar." At last, after much exercise of patience, the old woman got up, and went to another house, and began to call “ Mas' James ! Mas' James !” but Master James was still less inclined to turn out than the sable lady herself had been, and for a long time either could not or would not understand what was desired of him. All this, everything being so perfectly new to me, was more amusing than vexatious; it was not at all cold, and no inconvenience arose from remaining in the balmy air. When Master James tardily opened his castle door, rubbing his eyes, yet not half awake, I found that this lad, a boy of twelve years, son of the manager, was, with the exception of the negro maid, the only person on the premises. He tumbled into bed again, while she raked among the ashes and got me some breakfast, by which time it was daylight. My luggage remained all this time on the steps at the river's marge, perfectly free from risk, so lonely was the spot, until at daylight Master blew his conch long and loudly to call the people; and soon a dozen “black fellers " appeared with their mules, to whom having given orders about my trunks, I set out for the country,
In the yard were some towering oaks, on which several fox squirrels (Sciurus capistratus) were frisking and leaping from bough to bough with great animation. A pair of the beautiful summer red-bird (Tanagra estiva) were also chasing each other about the same trees. Though this is a gaily-dressed little fellow, I don't think him so handsome as his congener, the Scarlet Tanager (Tanagra rubra); the fine contrast between the vermilion body and the jet black wings and tail of the latter pleases me more than the uniform scarlet coat of the former. Both, however, look very beautiful, as they play in the sun, among the quivering green leaves. With the day before me, I was not disposed to hurry on my journey, especially as so many charming