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THE PRAIRIE AND THE SVAMP,
AN ADVENTURE IN LOUISIANA.
It was a sultry September after- on the edge of one of those pine forests noon in the year 18–. My friend that extend, almost without interrupCarleton and myself had been three tion, from the hills of the Côte Gelée days wandering about the prairies, and to the Opelousa mountains, and of a had nearly filled our tin boxes and vast prairie, sprinkled here and there other receptacles with specimens of with palmetto fields, clumps of trees, rare and curious plants. But we had and broad patches of brushwood, not escaped paying the penalty of our which appeared mere dark speeks on zeal as naturalists, in the shape of a the immense extent of plain that lay perfect roasting from the sun, which before us, covered with grass of the had shot down its rays during the brightest green, and so long, as to whole time of our ramble, with an ar- reach up to our horses' shoulders. To dour only to be appreciated by those the right was a plantation of palmetwho have visited the Louisianian tos, half a mile wide, and bounded by prairies. What made matters worse, a sort of creek or gully, the banks of our little store of wine had been early which were covered with gigantic cyexpended; some Taffia, with which we press trees. Beyond this, more praihad replenished our flasks, had also rie and a wood of evergreen oak. To disappeared; and the water we met the east, an impenetrable thicket of with, besides being rare, contained so magnolias, papaws, oak and bean trees much vegetable and animal matter, as -to the porth, the pine wood before to be undrinkable unless qualified in mentioned.
In this dilemma, we Such was the rich landscape we had came to a halt under a clump of hick- been surrounded by a short hour beory trees, and dispatched Martin, fore. But now, on looking around, Carleton's Acadian servant, upon a we found the scene changed; and our voyage of discovery. He had assured horizon became far more limited by us that we must erelong fall in with rising clouds of bluish grey vapour, some party of Americans-or Cochon which approached us rapidly from the Yankees, as he called them—who, in
Each moment this fog spite of the hatred borne them by the appeared to become thicker; the sun Acadians and Creoles, were daily be- no longer dazzled our eyes when we coming more numerous in the coun- gazed on it, but showed through the try.
mist like a pale red moon; the outAfter waiting, in anxious expecta. lines of the forest disappeared, veiled tion of Martin's return, for a full hour, from our sight by masses of vapour; during which the air seemed to get and the air, which, during the mornmore and more sultry, my companion ing, had been light and elastic, albegan to wax impatient.
r. What can
though hot, became each moment the fellow be about?” cried he. “Give heavier and more difficult to inhale a blast on the horn,” he added, hand- The part of the prairie that remained ing me the instrument;“I cannot sound visible, presented the appearance of a it myself, for my tongue cleaves to my narrow, misty valley, enclosed between palate from heat and drought.” two mighty ranges of grey mountains,
I put the horn to my mouth, and which the fog represented. As we gave a blast. But the tones emitted gazed around us and beheld these were not the clear echo-awakening strange phenomena, our eyes met, and sounds that cheer and strengthen the we read in each other's countenance hunter. They were dull and short, as that embarrassment which the bravest though the air had lost all elasticity and most light-hearted are apt to feel, and vibration, and by its weight crush- when hemmed in by perils of which ed back the sounds into the horn. It they cannot conjecture the nature.
a warning of some inscrutable Fire off your gun," said I to Carledanger. We gazed around us, and ton. I started as I spoke at the alsaw that others were not wanting. teration in my own voice. The spot where we had halted was went off, but the report was, as it were,
stifled by the compressed atmosphere. same time we heard a sort of distant It did not even alarm some water-fowl crackling, like a heavy running-fire of that were plashing and foundering in musketry, and which was repeated at the creek a few hundred paces from us. short intervals. Each time it was
"Look at our horses !” exclaimed heard, our horses appeared scared and Carleton. “ They are surely going trembling. mad." The animals were evidently The creek was getting rapidly wider, uneasy at something. They pricked and the ground so swampy that it was up their ears, turned half round, and impossible to proceed further. Seeing gazed with startled eye behind them; this, we agreed to return to the prairie, then strained with their heads and and to try if it were not cooler among vecks in the opposite direction to the the palmettos. But when we came to vapour, snorting violently, and at last the place where we had crossed the trying to break away from the trees to creek, our horses refused to take the which they were tied. A short time leap again, and it was with the greatpreviously they had appeared much est difficulty we at length forced them fatigued, but now they were all fire over. All this time the redness in the and impatience.
horizon was getting brighter, and the "It is impossible to remain here," atmosphere hotter and drier; the said Carleton.
smoke had spread itself over prairie, “ But whither shall we go ?” forest, and plantations. We continued “Wherever our horses choose to retracing our steps as well as we could take us."
to the spot where we had halted. We untied the animals and sprang “ See there," said Carleton; " not half upon them. But scarcely were we in an hour ago those reeds were as fresh the saddle when they started off at a and green as if they had just sprung pace as frantic as if a pack of wolves out of the earth, and now look at had been at their heels; and taking the them—the leaves are banging down, direction of the creek, which ran be- parched and curled up by the heat." tween the palmetto plantation and a The whole prairie, the whole hocypress wood, continued along its rizon to the south-west, was now one banks at the same wild gallop. As mass of dense smoke, through which we advanced, the creek began to widen; the sun's disc looked scarcely brighter in place of palmettos, clumps of marsh than a paper-lantern. Behind the thick reeds, and rushes showed themselves curtain which thus concealed every here and there. An unearthly still- thing from our view, we heard a loud ness prevailed, only broken now and hissing, like that of a multitude of then by the cry of a wild-goose; and snakes. The smoke was stifling and uneven that appeared strange and unna- bearable; our horses again turned panttural in its sound.
ing round, and tore madly towards the “What can be the meaning of this?" creek. On reaching it we dismounted, cried Carleton. “I am burning with but had the greatest difficulty to preheat, and yet I have not the slightest vent them from leaping into the water. moisture on my skin. All these signs The streaks of red to our right beare incomprehensible. For God's came brighter and brighter, and gleamsake, sound the horn again."
ed through the huge, dark trunks of I did so, but this time the sound the cypress-trees. The crackling and seemed to be forced back through the hissing grew louder than ever. Sudhorn, and to die away upon my lips. denly the frightful truth flashed upon The air was so hot and parching, that us, and at the very same moment Carleour horses' coats, which a short time ton and exclaimed, “ The prairie is previously had been dripping with on fire!" sweat, were now perfectly dry, and the As we uttered the words, there was hair plastered upon them; the animals' a loud rustling behind us, and a herd tongues hung out of their mouths, of deer broke headlong through a and they seemed panting for cooler thicket of tall reeds and bulrushes, and air. “ Look yonder!" cried Carleton, dashed up to their necks into the waand he pointed to the line of the hori. ter. There they remained, not fifty zon, which had hitherto been of grey, paces from us, little more than their lead-coloured vapour. It was now heads above the surface, gazing at us, becoming reddish in the south-west as though imploring our help and quarter, and the vapour had taken compassion. We fancied we could see the appearance of smoke. At the tears in the poor beasts' eyes.
We looked behind us. On came the and the bullets whistled about our pillars of flame, flickering and threat- ears. It was getting past a joke. ening through the smoke, licking up 66 Halt!" shouted we, “ stop firing till all before them; and, at times, a gust you see what you are firing at.” There of so hot and blasting a wind as seem- was a dead silence for a moment, then ed to dry the very marrow in our a burst of savage laughter. “ Fire! bones. The roaring of the fire was fire!" cried two or three voices. now distinctly audible, mingled with If you fire,” cried I, “look out for hissing, whistling sounds, and crack- yourselves, for we shall do the same. ing noises, as of mighty trees falling. Have a care what you are about." Suddenly a bright flame shot up “ Morbleu! Sacre!" roared half through the stifling smoke, and imme- a score of voices. " Who is that who diately afterwards a sea of fire burst dares to give us orders ? Fire on the upon our aching eyeballs. The whole dogs !" palmetto field was in flames.
“ If you do, we return it." The heat was so great, that we every
- Sacre !" screamed the savages. moment expected to see our clothes They are gentlemen from the towns. take fire. Our horses dragged us still Their speech betrays them. Shoot nearer to the creek, sprang into the them—the dogs, the spies! What do water, and drew us down the bank they want in the prairie ?" after them. Another rustling and • Your blood be on your own heads," noise in the thicket of reeds. A she- cried I. And, with the feelings of bear, with her cubs at her heels, came desperate men, we levelled our guns towards us; and at the same time a in the direction in which we had seen second herd of deer rushed into the the flashes of the last volley. At that water not twenty
yards from where we moment—"Halt! What is here ?" were standing. We pointed our guns shouted a stentorian voice close to us. at the bears; they moved off towards “Stop firing, or you are dead men,' the deer, who remained undisturbed at cried five or six other voices. their approach ; and there they stood, “Sacre! ce sont des Americains," bears and deer, not five paces apart, muttered the Acadians. but taking no more notice of each “ Monsieur Carleton!” cried a voice. other than if they had been animals of “Here!” replied my friend. A boat the same species. More beasts now shot out of the smoke, between us came flocking to the river. Deer, and our antagonists. Carleton's serwolves, foxes, horses—all came in vant was in it. The next moment we crowds to seek shelter in one element were surrounded by a score of Acafrom the fury of another. Most of dians and half-a-dozen Americans. them, however, went further up the It appeared that the Acadians, so creek, where it took a north-easterly soon as they perceived the prairie to direction, and widened into a sort of be on fire, had got into a boat and lake. Those that had first arrived be descended a creek that flowed into the gan to follow the new-comers, and we Chicot creek, on which we now were. did the same.
The beasts of the forest and prairie, Suddenly the baying of hounds was flying to the water, found themselves heard. “Hurra! there are dogs; men inclosed in the angle formed by the must be near.” A volley from a do- two creeks, and their retreat being cut zen rifles was the answer to our expla- off by the fire, they fell an easy prey nation. The shots were fired not two to the Acadians, wild, half savage felhundred yards from us, yet we saw lows, who slaughtered them in a pronothing of the persons who fired them. fusion and with a brutality that exciThe wild beasts around us trembled ted our disgust, a feeling which the and crouched before this new danger, Americans seemed to share. but did not attempt to move a step. “Well, stranger !” said one of the We ourselves were standing in the latter, an old man, to Carleton, “ do midst of them up to our waists in wa- you go with them Acadians or come ter. “Who goes there?” we shouted. with us?" Another volley, and this time not one “Who are you, my friends ? " hundred yards off. We saw the flashes “ Friends !" repeated the Yankee, of the pieces, and heard voices talking shaking his head, “your friendships in a dialect compounded of French are soon made. Friends, indeed! We and Indian. We perceived that we had ain't that yet; but if you be minded to to do with Acadians. A third volley, come with us, well and good."
or disapprove. Many simple, perhaps, creation among the working classes but beautiful and refined, character- of these districts, and its influence is istics of the composer or performer, of the most salutary kind." We can may pass unnoticed; but some com- ourselves bear witness to the truth of mon-place embellishmerit, which is many of these remarks. In some of considered safe, will command the the more rural portions of tho manuexpression of approbation which the facturing districts of Lancashire, we trait of real genius had failed to elicit. have often listened to the voices of After a few representations, the fear little bands of happy children, who, of applauding unwisely is diminished, while returning home after the labours but still, as
was once said of the of the day were over, were singing French under similar circumstances, psalms and hymns to tunes learned at “they affirm with the lips, but with the national or Sunday schools. A the eye they interrogate;" and it is highly interesting example of the sunot till a sort of prescription has been perior musical capacity of the inhabiestablished in favour of certain airs tants of this county, came under our and passages, that the Englishman observation a few years ago, at a large banishes doubt and distrust, and claps and populous village situated on the his hands, and shouts bravo-accent- borders of one of the extensive fields ing the word strongly on the first syl- of industry of which we speak. On lable-with an air of confidence and the anniversary of the opening of the decision. We would, nevertheless, school, the children frequenting it-in entertain the hope, that our national number nearly 300-bad been long reserve, or the mauvaise hunte, which accustomed to march in procession up our countrymen contrive to exhibit to the mansion of the neighbouring on every possible occasion, is one squire, the founder and endower of cause of this apparent dulness; at all the school. Ranged upon the lawn events, it would seem highly probable in the presence of their aged benefacthat a people among whom music is tor and bis family-children, granda necessity, should, in the unbiassed children, and great-grandchildren, judgment of contemporary nations, be were among them-led by no instruour superiors in the art.
ment, and guided only by the voices In the north of England, musical of their teachers, they performed an taste is much more widely iffused anthem, in parts, with an accuracy than in the south. The Committee of and precision which was truly wonthe Privy Council on Education, re- derful. As their young voices rose in port favourably also of the musical simple beauty to the skies, tears attainments of the people of Norfolk. coursed down the old man's cheek, Mr Hogarth, in his excellent and able and though already bowed by the work, observes, that “in the densely weight of nearly ninety years, he bent peopled manufacturing districts of still lower, to hide the emotion which Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Derby- overcame him. Six months after ibis shire, music is cultivated among the occurrence, those children were drawn working classes to an extent unparal. up to pay their last tribute of respect leled in any other part of the kingdom. to their benefactor, as his remains Every town has its choral society, passed to their final resting-place. In supported by the amateurs of the the churches of the north, the schoolplace and its neighbourhood, where children may be seen singing wih the sacred works of Handel and the evident delight, not the mere passive more modern masters are performed, instruments of the masters or teachers, with precision and effect, by a vocal but joining heart and soul with the and instrumental orchestra, consisting congregation. The Lancashire choof mechanics and work.people; and rus singers have long enjoyed an exevery village church has its occasional tended reputation; at the last festival oratorio, where a well-chosen and at Westminster Abbey, they proved well-performed selection of sacred the principal strength of the choral music is listened to by a decent and band. In other parts of the kingdom, attentive audience, of the same class far less aptitude for music is shown as the performers, mingled with among the working classes. The their employers and their families. singing in the churches is, for the Hence, the practice of this music is most part, of the lowest order. In an ordinary domestic and social re- many parishes considerable pains have, of late, been taken in order to improve In the midst of such a host of bitter the psalmody, but no corresponding rivals, the imperfections and defects effect has been produced. In the of this all-engrossing system are sure agricultural districts of the south of of exposure. Many grave and seriEngland, no songs are heard lighten- ous charges have been advanced ing the daily toil of the labourer, and against the mode in which a superfi. the very plough-boys can hardly raise cial and deceprive success has been a whistle. It is impossible to account made to appear real, sound, and for this ; but the fact will be acknow healthy. These charges have been ledged by all who have had the oppor reiterated in a pamphlet, recently pubtunity of observation.
lished by one who is, perhaps, the In speculating upon the future pro- first of our native living masters— Mr spects of music and musical taste and
Barnett. Those great exbibitions at science in England, the two rival Exeter Hall, in the presence of the systems of teaching which have been magnates of the land, at which none recently introduced, must necessarily but the pupils of Mr Hullah were become the subjects of remark and stated to be allowed to attend, have observation. The names of the teach. been declared to be “packed" meeters of these systems are no doubt well ings. There is an equivoque in the known to all our readers. Mainzer, terms pupil and classes ; with the who is himself the author, as well as public they would naturally be taken the teacher, of one system, and Hullah, to mean those persons, and those only, the teacher of the system of Wilhelm. who had commenced their musical caWilhelm's method has been stamped reer in the classes taught by Mr Hulby authority, and the Committee of lah: but according to the official inthe Council on Education, after terpretation of the terms, they appear “carefully examining" manuals of to mean, all who now are or ever vocal music collected in Switzerland, have been receiving instruction in Holland, the German States, Russia, Wilhelm's method. Now, it must be Austria, and France, in order to as- remembered, that Mr Hullah has incertain the characteristic differences structed in Wilhela's method many and general tendency of the respective who had, for years, gained their bread methods adopted in these countries, by teaching music ; who, having been at length decided in favour of Wil. induced to abandon their old system, helm. The accounts received of the and to adopt the new method from the success of this system in Paris, induced superior remuneration it affords, were the Council to secure the assistance of probably all able to take as efficient a Mr Hullah, who was koown to have part in the performance, when they given much attention to the subject, commenced the nine lessons which and to have been already engaged in entitle them to the certificate of commaking trials of the method. The petency, as when their course of insystem of Wilhelm has, therefore, struction was concluded. Hundreds acquired the ascendency, and Mr of such pupils may, for aught we know, Hullah has been invested with the bave been judiciously disposed among character or office of national instruc- the remainder of the 1700 who perlor, in which capacity he is said to formed on the grand occasions to realize upwards of L.5000 per annum which we allude. But to enable us to --almost as many pounds, according to judge of the efficiency of a system of Mr Barnett, as Wilhelm, the inventor instruction, we must not only witness of the system, received francs. The the performance of the pupil, but we prominent station and the large in- must also know the point from which come realized by a junior in the pro- he started. Now, these demonstrations fession, has naturally roused the jeal- baving been got up expressly for the ousy and excited the envy of his elder purpose of exhibiting the skill and brethren, many of whom, perhaps, progress of Mr Hullah's classes, all, found “ their occupation" almost therefore, that was necessary in order “ gone." The vast amount of the to form judgment upon the quesbitterness thus engendered, may be tion thus submitted to the public, conceived, when the reader is in- though not directly, asserted, formed, that, in London alone, it has, nevertheless necessarily implied. At all been computed that music affords a events, the public were simple enough livelihood to more than 5000 persons.
so to understand the matter. But when