NEGRO SLAVES IN NEW YORK.I can myself almost remember negro slaves in New York State, as my grandfather and great-grandfather (at West Hills, Suffolk County, New York) ownd a number. The hard labor of the farm was mostly done by them, and on the floor of the big kitchen, toward sundown, would be squatting a circle of twelve or fourteen pickaninnies, eating their supper of pudding (Indian corn mush) and milk. A friend of my grandfather, named Wortman, of Oyster Bay, died in 1810, leaving ten slaves. Jeanette Treadwell, the last of them, died suddenly in Flushing last Summer (1884,) at the age of ninety-four years. I remember old Mose, one of the liberated West Hills slaves, well. He was very genial, correct, manly, and cute, and a great friend of my childhood.
CANADA NIGHTS.Late in August.Three wondrous nights. Effects of moon, clouds, stars, and night-sheen, never surpassd. I am out every night, enjoying all. The sunset begins it. (I have said already how long evening lingers here.) The moon, an hour high just after eight, is past her half, and looks somehow more like a human face up there than ever before. As it grows later, we have such gorgeous and broad cloud-effects, with Lunas tawny halos, silver edgingsgreat fleeces, depths of blue-black in patches, and occasionally long, low bars hanging silently a while, and then gray bulging masses rolling along stately, sometimes in long procession. The moon travels in Scorpion to-night, and dims all the stars of that constellation except fiery Antares, who keeps on shining just to the big ones side.
COUNTRY DAYS AND NIGHTS.Sept. 30, 82, 4.30 A. M.I am down in Camden County, New Jersey, at the farm-house of the Staffordshave been looking a long while at the comethave in my time seen longer-taild ones, but never one so pronouncd in cometary character, and so spectral-fierceso like some great, pale, living monster of the air or sea. The atmosphere and sky, an hour or so before sunrise, so cool, still, translucent, give the whole apparition to great advantage. It is low in the east. The head shows about as big as an ordinary good-sized sauceris a perfectly round and defined diskthe tail some sixty or seventy feetnot a stripe, but quite broad, and gradually expanding. Impressd with the silent, inexplicably emotional sight, I linger and look till all begins to weaken in the break of day.
October 2.The third day of mellow, delicious, sunshiny weather. I am writing this in the recesses of the old woods, my seat on a big pine log, my back against a tree. Am down here a few days for a change, to bask in the Autumn sun, to idle lusciously and simply, and to eat hearty meals, especially my breakfast. Warm mid-daysthe other hours of the twenty-four delightfully fresh and mildcool evenings, and early mornings perfect. The scent of the woods, and the peculiar aroma of a great yet unreapd maize-field near bythe white butterflies in every direction by daythe golden-rod, the wild asters, and sunflowersthe song of the katydid all night.
Every day in Coopers Woods, enjoying simple existence and the passing hourstaking short walksexercising arms and chest with the saplings, or my voice with army songs or recitations. A perfect week for weather; seven continuous days bright and dry and cool and sunny. The nights splendid, with full moonabout 10 the grandest of star-shows up in the east and south, Jupiter, Saturn, Capella, Aldebaran, and great Orion. Am feeling pretty wellam outdoors most of the time, absorbing the days and nights all I can.
CENTRAL PARK NOTES.American Society from a Park Policemans Point of View.Am in New York City, upper partvisit Central Park almost every day (and have for the last three weeks) off and on, taking observations or short rambles, and sometimes riding around. I talk quite a good deal with one of the Park policemen, C.C., up toward the Ninetieth street entrance. One day in particular I got him a-going, and it proved deeply interesting to me. Our talk floated into sociology and politics. I was curious to find how these things appeard on their surfaces to my friend, for he plainly possessd sharp wits and good nature, and had been seeing, for years, broad streaks of humanity somewhat out of my latitude. I found that as he took such appearances the inward caste-spirit of European aristocracy pervaded rich America, with cynicism and artificiality at the fore. Of the bulk of official persons, Executives, Congressmen, Legislators, Aldermen, Department heads, etc., etc., or the candidates for those positions, nineteen in twenty, in the policemans judgment, were just players in a game. Liberty, Equality, Union, and all the grand words of the Republic, were, in their mouths, but lures, decoys, chiseld likenesses of dead wood, to catch the masses. Of fine afternoons, along the broad tracks of the Park, for many years, had swept by my friend, as he stood on guard, the carriages, etc., of American Gentility, not by dozens and scores, but by hundreds and thousands. Lucky brokers, capitalists, contractors, grocery-men, successful political strikers, rich butchers, dry goods folk, &c. And on a large proportion of these vehicles, on panels or horse-trappings, were conspicuously borne heraldic family crests. (Can this really be true?) In wish and willingness (and if that were so, what matter about the reality?) titles of nobility, with a court and spheres fit for the capitalists, the highly educated, and the carriage-riding classesto fence them off from the common peoplewere the hearts desire of the good societyof our great citiesaye, of North and South.
PLATE, GLASS NOTES.St. Louis, Missouri, November, 79.What do you think I find manufacturd out hereand of a kind the clearest and largest, best, and the most finishd and luxurious in the worldand with ample demand for it too? Plate glass! One would suppose that was the last dainty outcome of an old, almost effete-growing civilization; and yet here it is, a few miles from St. Louis, on a charming little river, in the wilds of the West, near the Mississippi. I went down that way to-day by the Iron Mountain Railroadwas switchd off on a side-track four miles through woods and ravines, to Swash Creek, so-calld, and there found Crystal City, and immense Glass Works, built (and evidently built to stay) right in the pleasant rolling forest. Spent most of the day, and examind the inexhaustible and peculiar sand the glass is made ofthe original whity-gray stuff in the bankssaw the melting in the pots (a wondrous process, a real poem)saw the delicate preparation the clay material undergoes for these great pots (it has to be kneaded finally by human feet, no machinery answering, and I watchd the picturesque bare-legged Africans treading it)saw the molten stuff (a great mass of a glowing pale yellow color) taken out of the furnaces (I shall never forget that Pot, shape, color, concomitants, more beautiful than any antique statue,) passd into the adjoining casting-room, lifted by powerful machinery, pourd out on its bed (all glowing, a newer, vaster study for colorists, indescribable, a pale red-tinged yellow, of tarry consistence, all lambent,) rolld by a heavy roller into rough plate glass, I should say ten feet by fourteen, then rapidly shovd into the annealing oven, which stood ready for it. The polishing and grinding rooms afterwardthe great glass slabs, hundreds of them, on their flat beds, and the see-saw music of the steam machinery constantly at work polishing themthe myriads of human figures (the works employd 400 men) moving about, with swart arms and necks, and no superfluous clothingthe vast, rude halls, with immense play of shifting shade, and slow-moving currents of smoke and steam, and shafts of light, sometimes sun, striking in from above with effects that would have filld Michel Angelo with rapture.
Coming back to St. Louis this evening, at sundown, and for over an hour afterward, we followd the Mississippi, close by its western bank, giving me an ampler view of the river, and with effects a little different from any yet. In the eastern sky hung the planet Mars, just up, and of a very clear and vivid yellow. It was a soothing and pensive hourthe spread of the river off there in the half-lightthe glints of the down-bound steamboats plodding alongand that yellow orb (apparently twice as large and significant as usual) above the Illinois shore. (All along, these nights, nothing can exceed the calm, fierce, golden, glistening domination of Mars over all the stars in the sky.)
As we came nearer St. Louis, the night having well set in, I saw some (to me) novel effects in the zinc smelting establishments, the tall chimneys belching flames at the top, while inside through the openings at the facades of the great tanks burst forth (in regular position) hundreds of fierce tufts of a peculiar blue (or green) flame, of a purity and intensity, like electric lightsilluminating not only the great buildings themselves, but far and near outside, like hues of the aurora borealis, only more vivid. (So thatremembering the Pot from the crystal furnacemy jaunt seemd to give me new revelations in the color line.)