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down to the lower landing, where the boat was to stop for more plunder. They soon reached this landing, took on the balance of the plunder, and, just as they were about to cast off the hawser for the final departure, the captain proposed to Prentiss to go on down the river with him. Of course he was entirely unprepared for the trip, and, as the lawyers express it, he demurred. Others of the cabin passengers joined in the entreaty.
“But," said Prentiss," I can't go ; I've got no clothes with me."
“Oh, that makes no difference,” they replied; “ we'll supply you with victuals, and clothes to boot."
After vehement coaxing he consented, and thus became par excellence the only genuine cabin passenger; all the others of that goodly company were deck-hands and had to work their passage. In this new róle he proved himself, as we shall see, equal to the emergency.
Eddies are the terror of “ broad-horns” in our great river. The current, which is as winding as a huge anaconda in motion, plunges headlong, here and there, against the banks, and reels and whirls into miniature maelstroms; these suck the unwary into them, and float them around and around for hours, if not days, -ever in motion, yet never progressing. An amusing illustration of this is told in a story of the olden times. One dark night a flat-boat was floating serenely down the river, it passed a house where the lights were brightly burning and “there was a sound of revelry by night;" the boat passed on into darkness, and, in about a half-hour, again emerged into the light of another house engaged in revelry; this did not strike the captain as at all singular, but when finally, at every half-hour or so, he saw house after house in a blaze of festivity he mentally ejaculated, “Well, I'll be — if ever I saw such a country for frolicking in all my born days! It seems to me as though the whole people is on a bust.” As the morning dawned, however, the illusion was dissolved; the poor fellow found that he had been revolving all night in the eddy, and thus the one house had been multiplied into a multitude.
In an eddy similar to this the boat of our emigrants unfortunately became involved. Hour after hour they toiled and struggled with stout hearts and strong arms; every man was ordered to the oars, and there was “heave-o-ing" and shouting; for a while this was all in vain ; affiirs began to grow serious; between the wrenching of the oars and the wrenching of the current the old hulk began to creak. I said every man was at the oar, but there was one exception, and that was the cabin passenger. He sat upon the deck and laughed at the antics of the crew, he joked at the captain, he jeered the deck-hands. Half angry, half laughing, the captain implored him, “For God's sake, Prentiss, give us a lift, will you ?” “No, capting,” replied Prentiss, with mock solemnity, “I can't do it, sir; I'm reserving myself for an emergency.” And so he continued in the passive voice. At length, after a heavy struggle, the boat weathered the eddy and floated on her way into the current.
It is usual that the last battle between winter and spring in our Southern clime takes place about the middle of March, and the weather then grows, as we Southerners think, intensely cold. Such a change in the weather took place not many hours after the boat's escape from the eddy; she was tied up at the bank and the crew were hovering over the fire when suddenly arose the appalling cry of “Fire! fire! the boat's afire!" Instantly every one, in consternation, sprang to his feet; every one made a rush for the water-buckets except Prentiss. He saw the danger, and before the crowd, in their scranıble, had even reached the buckets, he had tumbled over into the water and, using his hat as a dipper, began to pitch water into the flame; it was all done so quickly that the fire was gotten under, and even extinguished, ere the others returned. Of course every one was tremulous with excitement and delight; every one complimented Prentiss upon his presence of mind. The captain and the mate were particularly enthusiastic, for the burning that boat and the appurtenances thereunto belonging would have been to them what the destruction of the ark would have been to Noah.
Puffing and blowing from his extra exertion, draggled and wet, and ruefully looking at his now crumpled stove-pipe hat, the only reply which Prentiss made shows that he was as ready with his wit as he had been ready in the crisis. “ Capting, that's what I call saving myself for an emergency.”
No other stirring incident marred the dull monotony of the trip. The broad-horn followed the course of the mighty stream in its meanderings till it reached the first of its many mouths, Lafourche; floating down this, they reached the little Acadian village Thibodeaux. Here they landed, and, unloading the ark, they took the overland route down the margin of the Bayou Terrebonne to the new home of the emigrant, appropriately named “Hope Farm,” for the fruition was to be in the future.
This region was then settled by the Acadian French, the victims of a cold blooded atrocity enacted by the British government after the capture of Canada in 1763. A whole people were then ruthlessly driven from their homes in that Northern clime and transplanted to the almost tropical climate of Louisiana. In spite of their misfortunes, however, their cheerfulness triumphed over adversity. The heads of the families opened up the country fronting on the bayous, and as the scions grew up around the parent stem, these latter would parcel out the farms in strips from the front, so many arpent front, running back to the swamp. Luckily for the exiles, the soil was the richest alluvium that the sun ever shone upon, all that they had to do “was to tickle the earth and it would laugh" with plenty. It was the land of the sweet cane and the orange. The people were primitive and had but little education, their orbit was circumscribed to the limits of their household,—“the world forgetting, and by the world forgot.” I have seen an ordinary steamboat" poster" (bill), with the usual wood-cut picture of the boat, carefully hung up to adorn the walls of a cottage, and, doubtless, as highly prized by the owners thereof as a work of art would be by others. Happy Acadians ! your homes in Canada were, as they are in Louisiana, sequestered ; there in a harsher, here in a softer, more poetic sense.
Among this unique people Prentiss lingered for a few days and made his observations. They presented a new phase of society to him, and probably the like of it will never be seen again. The railroad has penetrated the wilderness of swamp, bayou, lake, and lagoon. The simple Acadians have become absorbed in the great American progress, but their kindness, simplicity, and gayety still glints out whenever they are met.
The boarding of Prentiss at the “Hope Farm” was of the clap-boarding order,—it was exteriorly and interiorly rough; one room was for bed and board and parlor. There is a dim tradition that the boys had to be awakened so that the cook might get the table-cloth; this led to an investigation, and it was discovered that the “sheet" by night was the “table-cloth” by day! I can't say whether or not the disgust was cured by the fun of the thing, but doubt it.
After lingering for a few days in this novel social atmosphere, Prentiss took leave of “Hope Farm,” and, going up the Lafourche to the Mississippi River, he went down to New Orleans. As he landed there and saw the multitude of ships, he naturally remembered the place of his childhood,-Portland. After landing and refreshing himself, he went in search of some vessels from that place; but his search was vain : there was not a single ship of any kind hailing from that port, and Prentiss was grievously disappointed.
His first impressions of New Orleans took the hue from his sombre reflections; he was a lone stranger in the land of strangers, and there is no solitude deeper than that of being alone in a wilderness of humanity. He only remained here a few days, and once more bent his journey to his new home, but this time in a steamboat.
Refreshed by his little trip, as soon as he reached home he resumed his studies with his accustomed ardor. He had now but three months left in which to complete his preparation. Knowing, as we do, his wonderful power of concentration, we presume he condensed his studies of the previous years into those three months.
About the 13th of June, 1829, he started to the pretty little village of Monticello, that lies about one hundred miles east of Natchez, on the banks of Pearl River. Candidates for license to practise law had to be examined at that era before the judges of the Supreme Court while in session. That court was now in session. The examination was no child's play, and we have heard of old practitioners, veterans at the bar from other States, being cast and rejected. In two days Prentiss reached the village, and at the same time there flocked in several other candidates, whose names we give. There was his old chum, S. S. Boyd (like the twin stars, Castor and Pollux, their destined orbit always seemed the same); Preston W. Farrar, afterwards State senator from Wilkinson County, who subsequently moved to New Orleans, became a member of the Louisiana Legislature and a prominent member of the New Orleans bar; William C. Harris, who afterward became district attorney, but soon retired from practice and settled on a plantation ; Major Gibson, who afterward moved to Warren County, Mississippi ; Cyrus W. Buckner, a brother of Chancellor Robert H. Buckner; and a Mr. Bunning, who settled in East Mississippi.
Chancellor Buckner was appointed examiner by the court, and a more thorough one could not have been selected; he was a Rhadamanthus in exactitude, and woe be to him who fell into his hands unprepared. I was told, by one who was present, that the candidates passed creditable examinations. deeply interested in three of the young men, and described the scene to me as follows:
"Boyd sat with his legs crossed, perfectly self-possessed. When a question was asked he would glance his eye up at the querist and answer briefly, distinctly, and right to the point. Prentiss answered correctly, but amplified and philosophied as he answered. W.C. Harris made no pretension, but went straight to the mark. Boyd, critically speaking, stood the best examination."
The whole class passed, and were duly sworn in as attorneysand counsellors-at-law of the State of Mississippi.
The reader by comparing dates will perceive that Prentiss was yet, in the eye of the law at least, an infant,—he was not yet twenty-one years of age; but we shall soon see that he was in truth what “Mr. Vincent Crummles” calls “an infant phenomenon."
He returned to Natchez, and by letter to his elder brother announced the glad tidings of his safe passage over the breakers; he writes :
"I am now a lawyer, but how I shall succeed is a doubtful question. The prospect, I confess, is rather dull, eren here the profession being very much crowded ; however, if I can make out to get a start I have no doubt I shall ultimately succeed.”