CRUISE OF THE AURORA
IN WHICH OUR PROWS CUT THE WATERS OF THE GULF.
ALTHOUGH a strong wind was blowing from the southeast, we
pushed out at eight o'clock the next morning, determined to overcome by
noon the distance of seven miles that intervened between us and the
open Gulf, but on arriving at the crossing of the NO&M RR over the
Pearl River, the sweep of the wind was so strong that we took the
advice of the bridgetender and struck into a narrow bayou that led to
the east. Said he:
"Follow the largest stream you can find; it will
double back, and often you will find that you are coming back toward
your starting point; but if you will follow it for about seven miles
you will come to a live-oak hamak, the only high land between this and
the Gulf. There you will find John Campbell, who can direct you to a
smaller bayou, which will save you many miles of paddling."
We are now compelled to carry water for drinking and
culinary purposes, as the waters we are navigating, although not salt,
are much too brackish for use. The tall marsh grasses grew to such a
height that it completely shut off the wind that kept their slender
tops bent over with its force, but so great is our protection that the
water of the bayou is not even ruffled.
In the Mazes.
After having paddled until I am satisfied that we
have made at least seven miles and must be near the hamak, I stand up
in my canoe to get a view, if possible, of the surrounding country.
From the directions of the bridgekeeper the hamak ought to be to the
east of us, but as far as the eye can reach in that direction there is
nothing but one unbroken prairie-like surface. I call to Barnacle that
we must have taken the wrong thoroughfare somewhere, but I cannot
convince him of that, and he gradually pushes his six feet something up
above the floor of the Comfort and gazes about.
"Well, I don't know where we are; there is a long
line of trees away to the northward, but that must be the mainland --
it is not a hamak. Oh, here is the one we are looking for."
And turning so that I can see over the stern of my canoe,
not more than a quarter of a mile distant I see a small sand hill, on
which there is quite an extensive growth of live oaks and pines, and
beneath their shelter a frame whitewashed house. This is of course the
goal we are looking for, where resides the only person in this great
expanse of prairie and mystifying watercourses who can give us
intelligible directions as to how we are to reach the open Gulf. The
question that is plainly marked on our countenances is, Which way shall
we go -- ahead or back?
Remembering the instructions of the bridgekeeper, we
continue on the course we have been traveling, and in less than twenty
minutes we shoot around a sharp curve and come into view of the house.
The Aurora has, besides the A.C.A. and L.G.C.C. flags at the fore, a
small silk national flag flying on a staff aft. The voice of a man
"Johnny, Johnny, three cheers for the stars and stripes,"
is heard, and on looking over the tall grass I see a man and a small
boy waving their hats as they give the "three cheers" called for.
"Welcome, gents; welcome to the home of John
Campbell, the Scotch-American."
And catching the Aurora's painter he hauls her up to the
footboard, and I receive a hearty hand shake from the patriotic
Scotchman. In a few words I tell him the story of the cruise, and ask
for the information as to the route to the Gulf.
"I don't know anything about it down here, but if
you will come up to the house I will try and find out for you."
Here was a predicament; this man does not know the way.
Can it be possible that we have been misinformed by the man at the
bridge? But no, this is John Campbell, the man to whom he directed us,
and who is said to be thoroughly familiar with the labyrinth of watery
thoroughfares through this prairie region; and yet this man says he
"don't know down here, but if we will go up to the house he will try
and find out." Is it possible that we must return over the lonesome
course we have come? While my mind has been filled with these thoughts
we have been walking through the dry sand toward the house. Seated on
the broad veranda in the warm sunshine, no object is visible save the
white sails of a schooner far off on the blue waters of the Gulf and
the low white lighthouse on St. Joseph's Island to the southeast.
"The Campbells Are Coming."
Our host had left us, saying "he would summon his
family," and presently I heard his deep-toned voice singing "The
Campbells are coming, heigho, heigho," and he appeared heading a
procession of four children, with a tall, buxom woman bringing up the
rear. The latter he introduced as Mrs. Campbell and the eldest of the
children as Johnny, the heir to the vast estate of John Campbell, Sr.,
consisting of seven acres of sand hill, which annually produced
sufficient sweet potatoes to feed the family and two pigs and keep the
one yoke of cattle through the winter. Verily, it must be a productive
seven acres. Seated before a small stand, we were served with a glass
of fine Scotch whisky, smelling strongly of the bog, while Johnny
passed a tray of very good fruit cake.
In response to my suggestion to Mr. Campbell that he now
tell us what he had learned of the course we were to steer in order to
reach the coast, he proceeded to draw a series of very crooked lines on
the sand-covered floor:
"Now, here you are: this is a bayou going to the
left; you'll no tak that. Here is another going to the right; you'll no
tak that. Now here is one so narrow you'll be little like to see it,
but you must; if you don't you'll find yourselves at dark about twenty
miles from the mouth of the bayou. Push through this little cutoff for
a matter of a mile, and you'll come out into Bayou Campbell with the
current setting to the right as you go out. Now follow that until you
come to a forks where there is a small pine tree; take the left-hand
bayou and it will lead you to the white sandy shores of the Gulf."
Good; perfectly clear. We must now be off, as the sun is
sinking low in the west. John Campbell and his entire family escort us
to the landing, and as we push off give three hearty cheers for the
stars and stripes and the gentlemen from New York. Following his
instructions to the letter, we bring the pine tree into view and trim
off to the left, and in another half hour shoot out from between the
grass lined banks of the bayou on to the swelling, mirrorlike surface
of the Gulf of Mexico, at sundown of New Year's Day, 1883. Stopping at
the mouth of the bayou only long enough to make a cup of coffee and fry
a piece of bacon, we push on under paddle, making a run of two miles,
when we land on a white sand beach and pitch the tent beneath some tall
pines whose roots are bared by the waters of the Gulf, while all about
there is a luxuriant growth of palmetto ferns. Although Barnacle seems
to be relishing his supper, he is not in a communicative mood. My
spirits are not depressed by this, however, as often a whole day and
night will pass with scarcely a word passing his lips. But this is a
night that ought to be celebrated with more than ordinary cheerfulness.
I venture to question my silent companion as to the cause of his
Barnacle Hears a Bull.
Looking at me with an expression of astonishment on
his dark features, he says, in an excited manner:
"Why, where have your ears been since we came
ashore -- don't you hear him? Hark! don't you hear him bellow?"
"Hear him! bellowing! who's bellowing?"
"Why, where in the name of heaven have your eyes been
since we came ashore? The first thing I saw on landing were the tracks
of a bull in the sand, and of course he is half wild. If there is any
one thing that I am more afraid of than another it is a bull. Don't you
hear him bellow now? He'll be on us tonight as sure as we are here, but
I'll give him a noisy reception when he comes."
Now, had there been an alligator crawling about in the
vicinity of the camp I might have been alarmed, but fear for my safety
from the attack of a bull was far from my mind; and I rolled into my
blankets, prepared for a comfortable night's rest, while the bright
light from St. Joseph's Island, two miles distant to the south, shone
in my face.
"The Campbells are coming, heigho! heigho!" Hello, I have
been dreaming of John Campbell and his clan, but I am broad awake now;
and there is Barnacle, his blankets thrown aside and he resting on his
elbow, while he grasps in his right hand the heavy navy revolver that
is always his companion by night, and near him lies the heavy oaken oar.
"What's the matter, Barnacle?"
"Matter! Don't you hear that devil of a bull roar ?"
"Yes, I do hear him now; but what of it? He won't molest
us if we don't disturb him."
I never knew Barnacle to exhibit fear before tonight; he
has always manifested the utmost courage hitherto, but the
demonstrations of this bull, who is probably seeking for some other
bovine, seems to fill him with terror. While we are debating whether it
would be safe to go out and attack him, with the hope of driving him
off, his bellowing gradually dies away in the distance and we are left
THE OUTSIDE GULF PASSAGE.
The morning of the 2nd of January dawned bright and clear,
with a gentle breeze blowing from off the rippling surface of the Gulf,
while the waters washed musically along the glistening sands. Several
small schooners were heading in toward the mouth of Pearl River, on
their way to New Orleans via Lake Pontchartrain. Beyond these, almost
hull down, I could see an ocean steamer, evidently heading for the
passes of the Mississippi, en route to the great Southern port. At the
conclusion of our breakfast we find that our stock of water is getting
very low, and for fear of being overtaken by an offshore gale and blown
to sea, deem it best to lay in a full supply, if it can be found. I
have often heard of the possibility of procuring fresh water, along the
Atlantic coast, by digging in the sand a few feet back from the shore,
and proceeded to try the experiment here on the Gulf. After having dug
a hole four feet deep, a hundred feet back from the mark of high water,
a stream flows into my well, but in clearing and tasting it I found it
too brackish for use. This want of water necessitates a landing at the
nearest port. The village of Pass Christian lies on the high shore
twelve miles to the east in a direct line of our location, and for this
we decide to make as soon as possible. Before the gentle south wind we
spread the sails and speed merrily on for about two miles, when it died
out and left the surface of the Gulf almost like glass. A delightful
contrast is this balmy atmosphere to that when, a few short weeks ago,
we were battling with the ice and covered with the flying sand on the
Ohio and Mississippi rivers. As I look in shore I see the village of
Bay St. Louis, lying just inside the deep bay. So warm is the sun that
I strip to my shirt and a pair of thin trousers, while my feet are
without covering save the sheltering of the hatches which shade them
from the rays of the sun. The heat has an enervating effect on us who
have come from higher latitudes, and we paddle toward the shore so
quietly that the bows of the canoes scarcely grate in the send which is
ploughed up in little mounds on either side the stems. Here we made
camp, pitching the tent on a thick carpet of pine needles, while all
about us were the magnificent live oak trees and the rich dark green
magnolias. Insect life was present on all sides; the frisky grasshopper
made his long leaps as he was disturbed in his nest among the needles,
and beautiful butterflies flitted to and fro. As the morning had been
well advanced before the launch was made and the distance traveled in
rather an indolent manner, the sun had reached the zenith long before
we reached shore.
The Lullaby of the Frogs.
Leaving Barnacle to build his fire, I took the
water jugs and went to a house close by, where I found a little girl
most curious to know "where the little boats came from." My report of
the extended trip was entirely beyond her comprehension, a knowledge of
geography having been denied this child of fifteen summers. She said:
"I have been to Ship Island and to New Orleans.
Did you come from anywhere near New Orleans?"
In the well-kept grounds I saw many beautiful roses in
full bloom, and in all parts of the grounds were orange trees loaded
with bright golden fruit. Spending a portion of the afternoon in letter
writing, and bringing my log up to date, the evening stole upon us
almost unawares. No need of a huge fire now, large enough to warm all
outdoors, but a small one, built immediately in front of the tent,
served to dry the moist atmosphere that came from off the Gulf, while
we lay in the yielding bed of pine needles, I, at least, allowing my
thoughts to fly to my far distant home, at the gateway of the snow-clad
and ice-bound Adirondacks, while the chirp of crickets about me and the
musical "peep, peep" of the frogs' swamp back of the camp served as a
soothing lullaby, and I dropped off to sleep with the light from Cat
Island, eight miles distant to the southward, shining like a bright
white star on the horizon.
With the dawn came a strong breeze from the east, which
transformed the silver surface of the Gulf of the day before to one of
a heaving, troubled appearance, and the waters washed upon the sands at
our feet with a swash so strong that the singing of the birds and
insects was drowned. Out beyond Cat Island a large square-rigged vessel
lay at anchor, her hull visible only when she was borne on the crest of
some great sea. Barnacle does not care to make a start, fearing that
the wind will increase to such a degree as to make it dangerous for us
to reach the shore, should we find it necessary; but I am anxious to
push on, and, with a good supply of water on board, we launch and head
to the east. The shallow water is rolled up into short, choppy seas
that send their spray over our decks, and now and then one a trifle
more savage than the rest reaches far enough aft to wet the captain,
but this is of small account, as the water is delightfully warm. We
battled against the wind and seas for ten miles, passing Pass
Christian, with its line of long piers running out to the Gulf through
the shallow waters. At the end of each pier there was a bath-house, and
the space beneath, from the surface of the water to the hard sand
bottom, was inclosed with slats to protect the bathers from attack by
the man-eating sharks that abound in these waters. Gradually the wind
lulls, and the vicious seas that are rolling through the shallow water
subside to mere rollers, making it possible for us to land and rest our
weary arms. On a bright green sward, beneath a broad-reaching live oak
tree, we make our camp, where within fifty feet the little breakers
chase one another along the sandy beach. To the southeast can be made
out Ship Island, distant twelve miles, where ride at anchor several
foreign vessels, which are being loaded with pine timber cut from the
semitropical forests of the Gulf coast and lightered to them in rafts.
Lost in the Fog.
During the evening the rain comes gently down,
pattering on the canvas roof, and before we have fallen off to sleep
the wind rises from the northeast, and but for the protection of the
forest of trees back of us we would have had the tent blown from over
our heads. Out on the Gulf we can hear the dashing waves as they roll
over one another, their foam crests illuminated with phosphorescent
bands and star-like flashes. When we wake up in the morning the rain
has ceased and a heavy, driving fog envelops us, while all about is
dark, dreary and disagreeable. I hear the deep note of a conch shell
far off to the south in the thick fog. A moment more and it is answered
by one from the shore, a short distance to the west of us. Nearer the
answering horn comes, and we can see the form of a woman walking along
the bank blowing the shell she has in her hand. Her husband and son are
in that fishing boat from whence comes the deep notes of the conch.
They are lost in the fog and are without a compass. Stopping to chat
with us (blowing the horn at intervals):
"Oh, the fishermen often get lost in the fog at this
season of the year, but they generally get safe to the shore, if a wind
off the land doesn't rise and blow them off to sea. Sometimes that
happens; and then, if they haven't got enough water and provisions on
board, they suffer some, but generally manage to get to the mainland or
make one of the islands. Sometimes they are gone several days before we
hear from them, and several boats have never been heard from. I have
been up all night watching for my man and boy, and only half an hour
ago heard their horn."
Leaving us, she stepped quickly along the beach some yards
to the east, where there is a suitable landing for a boat. Other people
now come, anxiety for the safety of husbands, brothers or lovers
plainly marked on their countenances. They all know of the offshore
gale last night. Slowly the boat approaches the shore, and as she
emerges from the fog inquiries are made of her crew for some word of
the absent ones. All they can learn is that the various boats were in
the vicinity of Ship Island, and as they saw nothing of them afterward,
believe they are safely moored and will come in when the fog lifts.
"We were half way to the land and steering for the light
here when the gale struck us, and managed to beat about until it went
down as suddenly as it came up, and then the fog shut down," said her
By ten o'clock, the fog not having lifted, we packed up
and launched. Barnacle, who is to be the navigator, sets a boat's
compass on the floor beneath his eye, and we lay a course for the end
of the long pier that stretches a mile out into the water in front of
Mississippi City. After having paddled some time, I begin to have my
doubts as to the correctness of the course we are steering, and this
feeling of doubt increases when I notice that Barnacle seems to be
constantly changing his course. We should be running parallel with the
shore to strike the pier and ought now to be close to it, as it was but
three miles from our starting point.
Going It Blind.
"Barnacle, do you think that compass of yours is
thoroughly reliable?" I ask.
"Well, it ought to be; I know of no reason why it should
not. But the canoe moves so much quicker than the card does that I find
it hard work to keep on the course. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I am quite satisfied that we are not on the right
course, or we would have been up with the pier before now. Hark! there
goes a train on the railroad;"
and I turned my canoe bow to the sound of the locomotive's
whistle. We had been steering away from the land, and in a short time
would have been within the strength of the current, which might have
drifted us so far to the southward of the chain of islands that with an
offshore gale it would have been next to impossible to make the
mainland or one of the islands.
"Well, I guess we had better make our way in
toward the land and feel our way by the bottom, and not trust to this
compass," said Barnacle.
Having paddled about half an hour, we found the water
shoaling fast, and as there are no bars hereabouts, we knew it must be
near the land. All at once a dark object looms up out of the fog, and I
make out what appears to be a man on stilts walking on the water, but
on nearer approach it proves to be a man standing on the deck of a
small catboat while he works a pair of long-handled oyster-tongs.
Silently we dip the paddles, making no noise that would attract
attention until we are within a boat's length of the oysterman, when he
looks up and wants to know if we "have come across the Western Ocean in
these cockle shells."
"Have some oysters?" and another man emerges from the
bottom of the boat and opens for us some of those great fat bivalves
for which this portion of the coast is celebrated.
"You'd better keep within soundings," said he,
"for the wind is likely to come off the land and blow hard, and if you
were far out you might have a hard pull of it to get back."
With the after deck of each canoe piled high with oysters,
we are off into the gloom, cautiously watching the bottom that we may
not again lose our course and go seaward. Edging a little closer in
shore with each dip of the paddle, we come in sight of the
skeleton-like piers of Mississippi City. A mile beyond the town the fog
lifts for a moment and we make out a grove of trees.
There we pitch the tent and determine to wait until the
fog lifts. Night shuts down at an early hour, and shortly after we turn
in, while the frogs in the low lands keep up a serenade and a train of
cars goes thundering along in close proximity to our camp. For three
days we remained fogbound. On the afternoon of January 6 the fog
cleared up, and we launched and pushed for Biloxi, one of the prominent
seaside resorts of the South. With but a few short stretches, the
entire coast between Pass Christian and Biloxi is built up with the
neat summer residences of New Orleans and Mobile business men, each
having in front of it a long pier, with boat and bath houses.
A Flurry of Snow.
Having paddled about four miles, the wind suddenly
shifted and came out from the south, while the sun in the splendor of
its setting gilded the edges of a bank of dark, ominous looking clouds
that seemed at once to hang over the horizon and to roll up rapidly
with the increase of the wind, foretelling the advent of a storm. But a
harbor of refuge was at hand, and as the light shone brilliantly from
the tall white tower of the lighthouse at the western end of Biloxi the
bows of the canoes ploughed into the white sands of the beach beneath
its rays. In the comfortable quarters of the lightkeeper we found
hospitality, but the duration of the storm was short, and as we pitched
the tent on the pure sands, the myriads of stars shot their rays from
the vault above and were reflected from the now tranquil waters of the
Gulf. At Biloxi we remained three days, very pleasantly entertained by
Mr. P.J. Montross and Major W.T. Walthall. Mr. R.B. Clemmens showed us
much kind attention and cared for the canoes.
During the night of the 8th of January the wind shifted
and brought a "norther" down to us, which howled and moaned dismally
about the many gables of the hotel. With the daylight came the sight of
the first snow that many of the inhabitants had seen for years. It was
amusing to watch the young darkies as they capered about it in their
bare feet, now and then rubbing them and exclaiming, "It burns." A
bright sun, although accompanied by a cold wind, soon melted the fleecy
coat, and ere our breakfast was over it had entirely disappeared. At
noon of the 10th of January we made sail and sped merrily eastward
before a fresh westerly breeze which carried us eighteen miles to
Graviline Bayou before four o'clock. It had been our intention to run
two or three miles up this bayou in order to enjoy the shooting and
fishing, to say nothing of the delicious oysters that the bayou is
celebrated for; but owing to the low water, we found it so difficult to
follow the channel that the attempt was abandoned and we squared away
for a tree-covered point about two miles distant.
The water is very shallow for a quarter of a mile from the
shore, and the sand is kept in solution so that it is impossible to see
the bottom, and we were constantly grounding, and many times were
forced to jump overboard to lighter into deeper water. After much hard
work we came abreast of the point, but found that the low beach ran out
for a quarter of a mile. Nevertheless here we must make our camp, as
night is settling down upon us. Hauling the craft well up on the sand
and securely anchoring them, we carry to the shore such articles as are
necessary for our comfort. Not wishing to unjoint the spars and stow
them under the decks, they, too, are toted ashore, together with the
paddles. The site chosen for our camp is on a heavily-wooded low bank
thickly grown with tall grass and bunches of the fan palm. The
temperature is so mild, and there is such an abundance of wood at hand
we do not pitch the tent, but making a bed in the soft sand, lie with
our feet to the fire.
IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT THE GREATEST PERIL OF CANOEING
IS FIRE ON DRY LAND.
IN the night a crackling sound disturbs me, and my eyes
are greeted with a sight that for an instant is appalling. All about me
is one mass of crackling, roaring, hissing flames, leaping from one
bunch of dry grass and palmetto to another, while they dart high into
the air from the broad branches of the old tree against which our
paddles and sails are leaning. Now thoroughly enveloped by fire, I
spring from my blankets, crying,
"Fire! fire! Barnacle, wake up, the camp is on fire!" and
dashing into the flames, seize the sails and paddles and throw them, a
mass of flames, on to the sand, and then spring for the mess chests,
which follow the sails and paddles. Barnacle is now on hand, and we
heap the wet sand on the flames, and soon there is left only a smoking
heap of pine sticks and cotton duck. We next direct our attention to
preventing the spread of the fire further into the timber, and what
with beating with sticks and throwing wet sand, we have it under
control in a few minutes.
"Well, Barnacle, this is the result of your
propensity for building big campfires. You burned up an island on the
Ohio River, and now what do you think of this?"
"Think of it? Why, I think the camp has been on fire,
but it wasn't my fault; it is all owing to a shift of the wind that
blew the flames from the fire into the dry grass and fan palms, and
they communicated it to that old tree. I tell you, Doctor, it was a
lucky thing those blessed canoes were not at the foot of that old tree,
or we would have been compelled to abandon the cruise here near the
mouth of the Pascagoula River."
It is two o'clock and the night pitch dark. No time now to
make an inventory of the damages. So, filling the pipes and renewing
the campfire, we sit about it and have a soothing smoke, and then turn
in for a nap preparatory to the fatigues of a day in which we must
repair damages. A bright morning greets us after a night of excitement,
and we examine into the results of our fiery experience. With a sad
heart I take up the remnants of the Aurora's snow-white,
beautifully-setting sail, and unfurling it, find that only a half of it
remains, and at least one-half of that will need to be cut away in
order that it may be properly patched. The spars are not so badly
damaged as to be beyond use, the sail having been wrapped so closely
about them that they have been protected until the layers of cloth
first burned through. There lay the paddles, one-half of each burned so
thin that on lifting them they drop to pieces.
An Inventory of Losses.
That trusty paddle that had been my main dependence
for so many weeks, over so many hundreds of weary miles, half of it lay
before me a little heap of charred coals, while the remaining portion
is useless without the other.
"Doctor," says Barnacle, "I would rather have had
all my clothes, together with my entire outfit, destroyed, than to have
lost that sail and paddle. I am worse off than you, as my spars are
burned past use. I may be able to splice them, but it will be a
difficult job, even if I can find material to do it with."
There is a house near by, and while Barnacle is preparing
breakfast I take the water-jugs and go to it, with the hope of finding
a piece of timber from which we might whittle substitutes for the
burned paddles and spars. We can cut up the tent and convert that into
sails. On leaving Biloxi, Maj. Walthall had handed me a note of
introduction to an old friend of his, saying:
"I don't know just where Mr. Lewis lives, but it
is about two miles to the eastward of Bayou Graviline. Should you be in
his neighborhood, he would be pleased to receive a call from you."
Two miles east of Bayou Graviline is just about where we
are now. It was with some hesitation that I approached the great,
substantial homelike plantation house before me, as in my present
costume I looked more like a tramp than the skipper of the natty little
Aurora. On reaching the gate at the end of the broad walk to the front
of the house I saw over the door in a semicircle of large letters of
evergreen the one word "Welcome." Passing to the rear of the house I
met a tall gentleman with long, white hair and snowy beard, who was
none other than Mr. Lewis himself. He kindly listened to my tale of
woe, and promised to assist me in any way in his power.
On returning to the camp, after having vainly searched for
material with which to make repairs, I found that Barnacle had
breakfast ready. The "Colonel" had told me of a sawmill, distant about
three miles, on the banks of the Pascagoula River. He thought we might
be able to find what we wanted there. So I started Barnacle off with
the unburned half of my paddle as a sample of what we needed in the way
of timber. On looking through my dunnage I came across a piece of
cotton cloth, which, by piecing, I could get enough out of to patch my
sail, and a cotton cloth awning that was stowed away in the bow of the
Aurora would answer for repairs to the Comfort's sail; so on the score
of sails we were all right. I spent most of the day cutting and fitting
the new pieces for the sail. As I sat beneath the wide-spreading
branches of an oak, with my sewing on my knee, I received a visit from
an old colored aunty, who was much amused at seeing me stitching, and
made the remark that "de Yankees can do mos' anything when de time
comes 'long." After asking various questions, she finally came to the
subject of her errand:
"Massa, duz ye got a little bacca for dis chile?
I dun use de lass I had. My ole man dun gone to de stoah to fetch some,
but he dun stay so long. I libs jess ober heah in de little cabin, and
I'll pay ye back when d'ole man fetch some."
That Leaf Tobacco.
'Tis true I have some tobacco, but the supply is so
very limited I do not care to part with even a small portion of it. It
is of a fine brand, and I may not be able to replenish my stock this
side of Pensacola. Oh, a happy thought strikes me; and going to the
canoe, I search out the paper containing the roll of knock-down
drag-out leaf that our Kentucky friend had given us, and handing the
roll to the aged crone, I save my choice brand and get rid of two
nuisances in one act. It is now so near midday that I begin to feel the
want of dinner, and scraping away the bed of coals, I dig a hole in the
hot sand and fill it with fine, large sweet potatoes, and then cover
them with the sand. I then open a couple of dozen fine oysters, and
rolling them in crushed cracker, drop them into the frying-pan, which
contains just enough butter. In a few moments I have before me a dinner
fit for a king. While the birds sweetly carol in the branches above me,
I recline against a tree and enjoy my pipe and coffee. The day passes
quickly, so busy am I on my sail repairs, and night is on me before I
am prepared for it. Barnacle puts in an appearance with a piece of
timber for the paddles, which has been riven out of a cypress log.
Three days of sunshine, alternating with thunderstorms, are spent in
getting ready for sea, but when all is finished a heavy fog sets in and
precludes the possibility of making a safe run to the East Pascagoula
lighthouse, distant about four miles. Our whereabouts has now become
known to the few negroes living in the vicinity, and we frequently
receive visits from them. On Sunday evening a party of four girls and
two boys called and spent most of the delightfully warm evening,
entertaining us with their quaint speeches and plantation melodies. The
following morning I caught a glimpse of my tobacco-begging visitor of a
few days ago as she made her way toward the camp, and surmising that
she might be on the same errand as before, I was prepared, and met her
"Good morning, aunty; have you got any tobacco?"
"Why, bress yer soul, honey, I was jes gwine ter ask yer
that same question."
© 2000 Craig O'Donnell
May not be reproduced without my permission.