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strokes the tender notes of love in the evening. Every house has its group, and every group its guitar, fiddler, or singer.” III. 118.
Mr. Ashe made no considerable stay, on his voyage down the Mississippi, till he reached Natchez. He represents this river as exhibiting, in its scenery and current, an almost continued succession of beauty, richness and grandeur. Some of his descriptions, though by no means in good taste, recall to our recollection these lines of Virgil—
Hic ver purpureum: varios hic flumina curcunn
Fundit humus flores: hic candida populus antro
Imminet, et lentæ texunt umbracula vites.
, The navigation, like that of the Ohio, is interrupted with islands of which the number is increasing. During its floods, which are periodical, a “first rate man of war may descend with safety.” Above the territory of the Natchez, the banks exhibit an almost complete vacuity of man and his works. Natchez, including the negroes, who are numerous, has 2,500 inhabitants; and their success in the cultivation of cotton, , enables them to give full scope to those dissolute and luxurious propensities for which they have become proverbial. Below this place, the navigation to New Orleans is
easy; the banks are occupied by a merry and hospitable race of planters, of French descent; and the whole prospect is eminently beautiful. New Orleans is situated on the east bank of the river, a hundred miles from its mouth, in a country where the rarest productions of the finest climate of Europe grow in spontaneous abundance; and, including slaves, it contains near 15,000, inhabitants. The climate, however, is unhealthy, and particularly fatal to newcomers. But situated as it is, within a few days’ sail of the Spanish dominions, and the whole West Indies, and receiving, by the Mississippi and its far spreading tributaries, the productions of so many climates and soils, it bids fair to rival the most prosperous marts of the New World. Since its acquisition, with the rest of Louisiana, by the United States, its commerce has very considerably increased. The inhabitants are a mixture from all nations, but chiefly France and Spain. Those from the other American states constitute, according to Mr. Ashe, “by far the worst part of the population.” But for further details of their manners and pursuits, we must refer such of our readers, as do not think they have enough of his lucubrations, to the book itself, the narrative of which closes at this point.
Theodore and Blanche, or the Victims of Love. A Novel, in 2 vols. From the French of Madame Cotin. 12mo. 9s. 1809.
THE French are certainly our masters in productions of this kind, their ideas are souncircumscribed; for when a poor Englishman, as Sterne has observed for us, would be satisfied with plunging his wig in a pail of water, to determine whether the buckle would stand, a Frenchman would be for immersing it in the ocean.
Madame Cotin has obtained some celebrity as a writer of these sort of things in her own country, to which limits we heartily wish it were confined. It is so well translated, that we wish the translator had been otherwise and better employed.
SPIRIT OF THE MAGAZINES.
Interesting Narrative, addressed to Cambacérès, by Dorvo Soulastre, Ex-Commissary of St. Domingo, who with a few Companions in a small Passage-Boat, had been taken by an English Privateer on the Coast of Cuba.
[Lately Published at Paris.]
THE English kept us on board about a fortnight. At the end of that term the scarcity of water made them wish to get rid of us. Captain William Cropp, the commander, intimated this resolution to me in Latin, which he spoke extremely well. As neither myself nor my companions had found any cause not to be thankful for the good treatment we had experienced, I cannot believe that this man was voluntarily the cause of the severe extremities to which we were reduced during the nine days which followed our quitting the vessel.
On putting us ashore, the English told us we were not more than six or seven leagues from a Spanish corfs de garde, at which we might easily arrive before sunset, by following the sea shore, and thence we should, with facility, reach the interiour of the country and the royal road which leads to St. Jago, or even to Havanna. Relying on this assurance, we considered that half a dozen thick biscuits and a flagon of rum, which those who conducted us ashore bestowed on us, were even more than sufficient for our sustenance for the short journey we were to make; and, therefore, although we were all half naked, we walked on cheerfully, having no other arms than a dirk, a sort of small sabre or poignard, much used by the English
grass that we chewed now and then with the expectation of cooling the parching thirst we experienced; but it possessed an acidity which the palate could not bear, occasioned, no doubt, by the waters of the sea, which, during the continuance of the south winds and the winter floods, inundate the lands, which are extremely low, and even on that account produced nothing except reeds, and plants common to swampy grounds; some mango trees and some other trees, mis-shapen and branchless, which were scattered here and there, and seemed to vegetate only to attest the infertility of the soil. The heat had by this time overpowered us; and, though we had not made more than two leagues, on account of the difficulty of the march, we were constrained to sit down under the shadow of a clump of mangoes which rose by the side of a little creek. Here we had scarcely begun to repose ourselves, or to yield to reflections more or less melancholy, the presages of the misfortunes that were preparing to overtake us, when our packet master, Pierre, who had gone a little distance inland, ran towards us as fast as he was able, calling out to us, to take care of ourselves. We knew not the occasion of his fears, nor the danger we were in, until he had rejoined us. Thinking he heard a noise on the opposite side of a stagnant pool which was surrounded by mangoes, he had been desirous of seeing from what it proceeded, and to shorten the way, endeavoured to wade across the pool, assisted by some branches of the mango. Unhappily for him he disturbed the repose of five or six alligators, who, during the oppressive heat of the day, had chosen this spot to wallow in. This visit had so much displeased two of them, that they pursued him through the mud; and he would probably have become their prey, had he not been well acquainted with the usual method of cluding them. After an excellent retreat, he ran towards us; and at the moment in which he rejoined us, was apparently more dead than alive. Disagreeable as this adventure seemed to us, still the conviction of not being far from the corfs de garde, mentioned by the English, revived our courage and we recommenced our journey in good spirits, persuaded that we should arrive there before night. We therefore continued our march for about three hours longer, at the end of which, the excessive fatigue and heat, and still more the uncertainty of the route, made us determine to stop and deliberate on what was to be done. After a short consultation, which was held at the foot of a tree that very much resembled a cherry tree, but was almost entirely without leaves, we determined to pass the night in the place where we were, since, being elevated, it offered us most security; and we consoled ourselves with the hope that on the next day we should certainly arrive at our promised corps de garde.
We therefore laid ourselves at our Iength on the earth, at about a musket shot from the beach, and each of us taking a biscuit, we made our repast, which might have appeared delicious if we had not been in want of fresh water. La Prudence, whom we had despatched to seek for some, brought us nothing but a kind of wild artichoke, which, having the form of a parasol reversed, easily retained the dews, so abundant under the tropick. The heat of the day had, however, absorbed the water it had received during the night. Nevertheless, we cooled our mouths a little, by sucking the leaves. We were still reduced to the necessity of supplying the want of water by our rum, and we drank, in turns, half the contents of our flagon. The biscuits were all consumed; La Prudence only reserved a couple on account of his excessive thirst, and could eat no more than the half of his share. Our supper was concluded, and it was still day. We rose to examine the environs, and to contrive how we might most easily escape the sea flies and other insects that incommoded us very much during our repast. Each of us went immediately to the right and left, as fancy directed, agreeing not to lose sight of one another, and not to go out of call. La Prudence and I followed captain Durand, and directed our steps towards a savanna, which was skirted by the sea, and interspersed with clumps of mangoes. We were close to one of these clumps when we heard a plaintive cry that proceeded from it. The noise resembled that of a dog endeavouring to disengage himself from a snare. I was advancing to see what occasioncd it, when captain Durand stopped me, telling me not to approach, for the voice was not that of a dog, but of an alligator, and that we were not strong enough to defend ourselves from so ferocious an animal: The pale visage of the captain, which, from a full red, became at this moment, as white as a shirt, terrified me so effectually, that I had hardly strength to retreat. We returned to our place of rendezvous, whence it was easy for us to perceive that the whole coast was covered with these monsters, by the numerous tracks which they left in the savannas, as they traversed them to betake themselves to the morasses, where they concealed themselves, and avoided the heat of the day. When we were reassembled we could not but communicate to each other our dread of the alligators, and to secure ourselves from being attacked by them, we saw no other resource but to climb the tree, at the foot of which we then stood, and to pass the night among the branches. At that moment how preferable would a flint and a little tinder have appeared, in our eyes, to all the riches of the earth ! Oh night of many terrours, thou wert but the forerunner of miseries—of the manifold miseries which we were about to endure : The island, for such we discovered the spot to be, on which either ignorance or treachery had landed us was, as I have already said, so low, that, in some places, beside which the Sand had been washed up in ridges, we were forced to walk through pools of water. We had traversed it, both in length and breadth, without having met with a pebble of the weight of an ounce. The whole was mud and sand. The ocean which, elsewhere, deposits the sources of fecundity upon its shores, displays here the most tenacious avarice and terrifick sterility. It seems to roll round these desolate coasts for no other purpose but to give birth to the monsters which inhabit them, which it receives and conceals in its bosom, while it participates in their ferocity. It was out of our power to make any fire that evening. We climed
our tree, and each of us formed a couch amid the boughs, as well as he was able. For my own part, I tied my left arm to one of the branches, with the only handkerchief in my possession, in the apprehension that the least motion would make me lose my balance, during the sleep, which, through excessive fatigue, began to gain upon me, and to which I yielded. Notwithstanding the uneasiness of my position, I should have passed the night quietly enough, had it not been for the continued howling and cries of a great number of alligators, which, at the commencement of the night, quitted the marshy pools, and stationed themselves about ten paces from us, on the banks of the sea, where we saw them go in and out, one after another, either to bathe or in search of their prey, which their dreadful concert must, undoubtedly, have driven to a distance. This horrible harmony having lasted about two hours, the band dispersed, still keeping along the coast; although; at intervals, we heard the same cries, which we might have mistaken, sometimes, for the sudden barking of dogs, and, at other times, for the screams of children, had we not known from what sort of throats these noises proceeded. If to the
terrour which the presence of these
animals gave us, be added the tor. ture which the musquitos, and other insects of every species, with which these marshy places abound; and, moreover; the deadly chill of an abundant dew, so very cold, that it made us shiver through every member, an idea, yet still inadequate, may be obtained of the sufferings which we endured during the long twelve hours of a tropical night. At length, about six in the morning, a faint twilight announced to us the approach of day. Alas! it came but to show us more and more the whole extent of our misery. We had been fully sensible of the pain caused by the stings of the sea-flies,
gnats, and mosquitos, but we knew not the effect which they had produced upon our countenances. The moment in which we were first able to see one another was indeed a moment of horrour. We were so swelled as scarcely to be known, except by our clothes and the sound of our voices. Happily we had seawater in plenty; and after having washed ourselves we found some relief. As to the alligators, they had returned to their pools by daybreak, and since these animals never attack men unless they are disturbed by them, and seldom seek their prey except by night, we were tranquil upon that subject. While we prepared for our departure, La Prudence went in search of fresh water. He returned without having discovered any, which obliged us to have recourse to our flagon of rum, which we emptied at once, being persuaded that a walk of two hours would be sufficient to bring us to the so much desired corps de garde. We set out, and pursued our journey along the strand; but the heat of the sun, which was almost immediately over our heads, was so intense, that we were obliged to stop frequently for a little repose. We then began to feel the approaches of hunger and thirst, particularly after having walked with so much eagerness. Hope, however, still supported us, and, after having halted a third time, during which we sucked the juices of dog-grass, we continued our journey until four o’clock, or thcreabouts, when excessive fatigue compelled us to rest, and continued disappointment made us abandon our minds to all the dreadful ideas of our situation. Capt. Durand, the commander, Pierre, and La Prudence were the only persons among us who preserved any strength, either bodily or mental. The Spanish merchant, his servant, and myself, were entirely
exhausted. We threw ourselves at the root of a wild cashew tree, which, having no fruit, could only afford us its hospitable shade. Captain Durand and La Prudence went in search of water. It was at that moment the most pressing of our wants, for our breath was like a flame. In about half an hour, La Prudence returned with a smiling countenance, telling us that he had discovered water which was good to drink. Never, no, never, have the most melodious sounds produced a sensation so delightful, as that excited by these words of honest La Prudence: “Me find water, capitain drinkee it.”—At that moment, fatigue and despondency were forgotten. Water was to us every thing, and we conceived no happiness greater than the pleasure of drinking without restraint. The spot to which our guide conducted us, was nothing more than a marshy pool, situated in a hallow, about a hundred paces from the sea-side, into which the sea being driven by those frequent southern hurricanes which are the desolation and the terrour of the West India Islands, had left there its stagnant waters. These waters, having discharged a portion of their salts through the plants which they nourished, were, with the exception of a brackish taste which they still retained, palatable enough, particularly to persons in our situation. I do not imagine that the dews, abundant as they are, nor even the rain, could, of themselves, have rendered this water so fresh as it was; but to whatever cause its freshness is to be ascribed, the desire of cooling our stomachs overpowered the delicacy of taste, and rendered us inattentive to the colour of this beverage, which was a sort of yellow, tinctured with mud; by the aid of our hats, which served us instead of glasses, we drank abundantly. But as it happens, in situations like ours,
* “Moi avour trouvé de l’eau, capitaine le boire.”