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the four-horse coach, wherein we were to proceed to Harrisburg.
This conveyance, the box of which I was fortunate enough to secure,
had come down to meet us at the railroad station, and was as muddy
and cumbersome as usual. As more passengers were waiting for us at
the inn-door, the coachman observed under his breath, in the usual
self-communicative voice, looking the while at his mouldy harness
as if it were to that he was addressing himself,
'I expect we shall want THE BIG coach.'
I could not help wondering within myself what the size of this big
coach might be, and how many persons it might be designed to hold;
for the vehicle which was too small for our purpose was something
larger than two English heavy night coaches, and might have been
the twin-brother of a French Diligence. My speculations were
speedily set at rest, however, for as soon as we had dined, there
came rumbling up the street, shaking its sides like a corpulent
giant, a kind of barge on wheels. After much blundering and
backing, it stopped at the door: rolling heavily from side to side
when its other motion had ceased, as if it had taken cold in its
damp stable, and between that, and the having been required in its
dropsical old age to move at any faster pace than a walk, were
distressed by shortness of wind.
'If here ain't the Harrisburg mail at last, and dreadful bright and
smart to look at too,' cried an elderly gentleman in some
excitement, 'darn my mother!'
I don't know what the sensation of being darned may be, or whether
a man's mother has a keener relish or disrelish of the process than
anybody else; but if the endurance of this mysterious ceremony by
the old lady in question had depended on the accuracy of her son's
vision in respect to the abstract brightness and smartness of the
Harrisburg mail, she would certainly have undergone its infliction.
However, they booked twelve people inside; and the luggage
(including such trifles as a large rocking-chair, and a good-sized
dining-table) being at length made fast upon the roof, we started
off in great state.
At the door of another hotel, there was another passenger to be
'Any room, sir?' cries the new passenger to the coachman.
'Well, there's room enough,' replies the coachman, without getting
down, or even looking at him.
'There an't no room at all, sir,' bawls a gentleman inside. Which
another gentleman (also inside) confirms, by predicting that the
attempt to introduce any more passengers 'won't fit nohow.'
The new passenger, without any expression of anxiety, looks into
the coach, and then looks up at the coachman: 'Now, how do you
mean to fix it?' says he, after a pause: 'for I MUST go.'
The coachman employs himself in twisting the lash of his whip into
a knot, and takes no more notice of the question: clearly
signifying that it is anybody's business but his, and that the
passengers would do well to fix it, among themselves. In this
state of things, matters seem to be approximating to a fix of
another kind, when another inside passenger in a corner, who is
nearly suffocated, cries faintly, 'I'll get out.'
This is no matter of relief or self-congratulation to the driver,
for his immovable philosophy is perfectly undisturbed by anything
that happens in the coach. Of all things in the world, the coach
would seem to be the very last upon his mind. The exchange is
made, however, and then the passenger who has given up his seat
makes a third upon the box, seating himself in what he calls the
middle; that is, with half his person on my legs, and the other
half on the driver's.
'Go a-head, cap'en,' cries the colonel, who directs.
'Go-lang!' cries the cap'en to his company, the horses, and away we
We took up at a rural bar-room, after we had gone a few miles, an
intoxicated gentleman who climbed upon the roof among the luggage,
and subsequently slipping off without hurting himself, was seen in
the distant perspective reeling back to the grog-shop where we had
found him. We also parted with more of our freight at different
times, so that when we came to change horses, I was again alone
The coachmen always change with the horses, and are usually as
dirty as the coach. The first was dressed like a very shabby
English baker; the second like a Russian peasant: for he wore a
loose purple camlet robe, with a fur collar, tied round his waist
with a parti-coloured worsted sash; grey trousers; light blue
gloves: and a cap of bearskin. It had by this time come on to
rain very heavily, and there was a cold damp mist besides, which
penetrated to the skin. I was glad to take advantage of a stoppage
and get down to stretch my legs, shake the water off my great-coat,
and swallow the usual anti-temperance recipe for keeping out the
When I mounted to my seat again, I observed a new parcel lying on
the coach roof, which I took to be a rather large fiddle in a brown
bag. In the course of a few miles, however, I discovered that it
had a glazed cap at one end and a pair of muddy shoes at the other
and further observation demonstrated it to be a small boy in a
snuff-coloured coat, with his arms quite pinioned to his sides, by
deep forcing into his pockets. He was, I presume, a relative or
friend of the coachman's, as he lay a-top of the luggage with his
face towards the rain; and except when a change of position brought
his shoes in contact with my hat, he appeared to be asleep. At
last, on some occasion of our stopping, this thing slowly upreared
itself to the height of three feet six, and fixing its eyes on me,
observed in piping accents, with a complaisant yawn, half quenched
in an obliging air of friendly patronage, 'Well now, stranger, I
guess you find this a'most like an English arternoon, hey?'
The scenery, which had been tame enough at first, was, for the last
ten or twelve miles, beautiful. Our road wound through the
pleasant valley of the Susquehanna; the river, dotted with
innumerable green islands, lay upon our right; and on the left, a
steep ascent, craggy with broken rock, and dark with pine trees.
The mist, wreathing itself into a hundred fantastic shapes, moved
solemnly upon the water; and the gloom of evening gave to all an
air of mystery and silence which greatly enhanced its natural
We crossed this river by a wooden bridge, roofed and covered in on
all sides, and nearly a mile in length. It was profoundly dark;
perplexed, with great beams, crossing and recrossing it at every
possible angle; and through the broad chinks and crevices in the
floor, the rapid river gleamed, far down below, like a legion of
eyes. We had no lamps; and as the horses stumbled and floundered
through this place, towards the distant speck of dying light, it
seemed interminable. I really could not at first persuade myself
as we rumbled heavily on, filling the bridge with hollow noises,
and I held down my head to save it from the rafters above, but that
I was in a painful dream; for I have often dreamed of toiling
through such places, and as often argued, even at the time, 'this
cannot be reality.'
At length, however, we emerged upon the streets of Harrisburg,
whose feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did
not shine out upon a very cheerful city. We were soon established
in a snug hotel, which though smaller and far less splendid than
many we put up at, it raised above them all in my remembrance, by
having for its landlord the most obliging, considerate, and
gentlemanly person I ever had to deal with.
As we were not to proceed upon our journey until the afternoon, I
walked out, after breakfast the next morning, to look about me; and
was duly shown a model prison on the solitary system, just erected,
and as yet without an inmate; the trunk of an old tree to which
Harris, the first settler here (afterwards buried under it), was
tied by hostile Indians, with his funeral pile about him, when he
was saved by the timely appearance of a friendly party on the
opposite shore of the river; the local legislature (for there was
another of those bodies here again, in full debate); and the other
curiosities of the town.
I was very much interested in looking over a number of treaties
made from time to time with the poor Indians, signed by the
different chiefs at the period of their ratification, and preserved
in the office of the Secretary to the Commonwealth. These
signatures, traced of course by their own hands, are rough drawings
of the creatures or weapons they were called after. Thus, the
Great Turtle makes a crooked pen-and-ink outline of a great turtle;
the Buffalo sketches a buffalo; the War Hatchet sets a rough image
of that weapon for his mark. So with the Arrow, the Fish, the
Scalp, the Big Canoe, and all of them.
I could not but think - as I looked at these feeble and tremulous
productions of hands which could draw the longest arrow to the head
in a stout elk-horn bow, or split a bead or feather with a rifle-
ball - of Crabbe's musings over the Parish Register, and the
irregular scratches made with a pen, by men who would plough a
lengthy furrow straight from end to end. Nor could I help
bestowing many sorrowful thoughts upon the simple warriors whose
hands and hearts were set there, in all truth and honesty; and who
only learned in course of time from white men how to break their
faith, and quibble out of forms and bonds. I wonder, too, how many
times the credulous Big Turtle, or trusting Little Hatchet, had put
his mark to treaties which were falsely read to him; and had signed
away, he knew not what, until it went and cast him loose upon the
new possessors of the land, a savage indeed.
Our host announced, before our early dinner, that some members of
the legislative body proposed to do us the honour of calling. He
had kindly yielded up to us his wife's own little parlour, and when
I begged that he would show them in, I saw him look with painful
apprehension at its pretty carpet; though, being otherwise occupied
at the time, the cause of his uneasiness did not occur to me.
It certainly would have been more pleasant to all parties
concerned, and would not, I think, have compromised their
independence in any material degree, if some of these gentlemen had
not only yielded to the prejudice in favour of spittoons, but had
abandoned themselves, for the moment, even to the conventional
absurdity of pocket-handkerchiefs.
It still continued to rain heavily, and when we went down to the
Canal Boat (for that was the mode of conveyance by which we were to
proceed) after dinner, the weather was as unpromising and