An Englishman's Travels in America eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 184 pages of information about An Englishman's Travels in America.
was lined with black, and having a broad black ribbon round the crown.  As the poor woman got down, she cast a furtive glance at her children, who, although the auctioneer certainly tried to prevent it, were sold to two individuals, neither of whom was the purchaser of the parent.  The poor woman looked about in great despair while the bidding was going on.  It was in vain I sought one sympathizing look in that company; but how could it be expected, when it consisted of men long inured to such heartless scenes—­men whose hearts were case-hardened by the impious traffic they were now engaged in.  I was, however, pleased to hear afterwards that the purchasers all resided in St. Louis, and that the woman would often see her children—­poor amends it is true for a cruel separation, but more satisfactory than such cases generally are.

CHAPTER IV.

  “Where Will-o’-the-wisps and glow-worms shine,
    In bulrush and in brake;
  Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
  And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine
    Is spotted like the snake.”—­LONGFELLOW.

From St. Louis, on the Missouri river, I took passage to New Orleans, in one of those magnificent steamers that crowd the inland waters of the American continent, and which, sumptuously furnished as they are, have not inaptly been termed “floating palaces.”  We had a prosperous passage as far as the junction of the Ohio with the Mississippi, where the boat struck the branches of a large tree, that had been washed into the bed of the stream, and was there stuck fast, root downwards.  This formidable chevaux-de-frise (or snag, as it was termed by the captain) fortunately did not do much damage to the vessel, although at first an alarm was raised that she was sinking, and much confusion ensued.  This apprehension was, however, soon dissipated by the report of the carpenter, whose account of the damage was so far favourable, that after extrication by backing the vessel, and a few temporary repairs, she was again got under headway.

The pellucid waters of the Ohio, as they enter the turbid rushing current of the Mississippi, which is swollen by the Illinois and other tributaries, has a remarkable effect, the clear current of the former river refusing, for a considerable distance, to mingle with the murky stream of the latter, and forming a visible blue channel in its centre—­a phenomenon I thought allegorical of the slave-stained condition of the one state, and the free soil of the other, for while Ohio is free from the curse of slavery, the banks of the Mississippi have for centuries been deep dyed in the life’s blood of the oppressed African.

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