Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

It was at this library that during three successive afternoons I enjoyed that calm and pure delight which books afford. But on the fourth I found access denied, and that the librarian had fled from the yellow fever, which spread consternation through the city.

Of the fever I may say that it momentarily became more destructive. Sorrow sat on every brow, and nothing was to be seen but coffins carried through the streets unattended by mourners. Indeed it was not a time to practise modes of sorrow, or adjust the funeral rites; but the multitude thought only of escaping from the pestilence that wasted at noon-day, and walked in darkness.

This was a period to reflect on the vanity of human life, and the mutability of human affairs. Philadelphia, which in the spring was a scene of mirth and riot, was in the summer converted to a sepulchre for the inhabitants. The courts of law were shut, and no subtile lawyer could obtain a client; the door of the tavern was closed, and the drunkard was without strength to list the bowl the stage;

my inquiring of him at Hamburgh in 1872, how I should “ find it, having long sought for it in vain in England ; he sent it me out of his own library, telling me it was so scarce, that neither prayers nor price could purchase it :

Besides, there are many of the most valuable Latin authors, " and a great number of modern mathematicians, with all the « three editions of Newton, Dr. Wallis, Halley, &c.

" JAMES LOGAN."

to his lips : no theatre invited the idle to behold the mimic monarch strut his hour upon the dice lay neglected on the gaming-table, nor

did the dancing-room re-echo with the steps of • the dancer: man was now humbled ! Death was

whetting his arrows, and the graves were open. All jollity was fled. The hospital-cart moved slowly on where the chariot before had rolled its rapid wheels ; and the coffin-makers were either nailing up the coffins of the dead, or giving dreadful note of preparation by framing others for the dying, where lately the mind at ease had poured forth its tranquillity in songs; where the loud laugh had reverberated, and where the animating sound of music had stolen on the ear.-In this scene of consternation, the negroes were the only people who could be prevailed on to assist the dying, and inter those who were no more. Their motive was obvious; they plundered the dead of their effects, and adorned themselves in the spoils of the camp of the King of Terrors, It was remarked to me by a lady of Philadelphia, that the negroes were never so well clad as after the yellow fever.

I had been a week at Philadelpbia, without hearing any tidings of my friend the Doctor, when walking one evening past the Franklin'sHead, I recognised him conversing with a stranger in the front room. The physician had arrived only that evening. He had staid six days at Trenton, leading a pleasant, convalescent life;

from whence he had written me a letter, which I found afterwards at the post office. We were rejoiced to meet each other, and the better to exchange minds, I accompanied the Doctor into Arch-street, where taking possession of the porch of an abandoned dwelling, we sat conversing till a late hour. The most gloomy imagination cannot conceive a scene more dismal than the street before us : every house was deserted by those who had strength to seek a less baneful atmosphere; unless where parental fondness prevailed over self-love. Nothing was heard but either the groans of the dying, the lamentations of the survivors, the hammers of the coffinmakers, or the howling of the domestic animals, which those who fled from the pestilence had left behind, in the precipitancy of their flight. A poor cat came to the porch where I was sitting with the Doctor, and demonstrated her joy by the caresses of fondness. An old negro-woman was passing at the same moment with some pepper-pot* on her head. With this we fed the cat that was nearly reduced to a skeleton; and prompted by a desire to know the sentiments of the old negro-woman, we asked her the news. God help us, cried the poor creature, very bad news. Buckra die in heaps. By and bye nobody live to buy pepper-pot, and old black wo. man die too.

* Tripe seasoned with pepper.

I would adduce this as a proof, that calamities usually move us as they regard our interest. The negro-woman lamented the ravages of the fever, because it prevented the sale of her pepper-pot.

Finding all business suspended at Philadelphia, and the atmosphere becoming hourly more noi. some, we judged it prudent to leave the city without delay; and finding a vessel at the wharfs ready to sail for Charleston, in South Carolina, we agreed for the passage, and put our luggage on board.

Having taken leave of Monsieur Pecquet, whose excellent dinners had enhanced him in the opinion of the Doctor, we on the 22d of September, 1798, went on board, and bade adieu to Philadelphia, which was become a Golgotha.

The vessel having hauled out into the stream, we weighed with a fair wind, and shaped our course down the serpentine, but beautiful river of the Delaware. Our cabin was elegant, and the fare delicious. I observed the Doctor's

eyes brighten at the first dinner we made on board, who expressed to me a hope that we night be a month on the passage, as he wished to eat out the money the captain had charged him.

The first night the man at the helm fell asleep, and the tide hove the vessel into a corn-field, opposite Wilmington; so that when we went upon deck in the morning, we found our situation quite pastoral. We floated again with the flood-tide, and at noon let go our anchor before Newcastle.

It took us two days to clear the Capes. The banks of the Delaware had been extolled to me as the most beautiful in the world ; but I thought them inferior to those of the Thames.

We were now at sea, bounding on the waves of the Atlantic. Of our passengers the most agreeable was an old French gentleman from St. Domingo. Monsieur Larligue, to the most perfect good breeding joined great knowledge of mankind, and at the age of sixty had lost none of his natural gaiety. It was impossible to be dejected in the company of such a man. If

any person sung on board, he would immediately begin capering; and when the rest were silent, he never failed to sing himself.

Nothing very remarkable happened in our passage, unless it be worthy of record that one morning the captain suffered his fears to get the better of his reason, and mistook a Virginia:2 sloop for a French privateer ; and another day the mate having caught a dolphin, Mr. Larligue exclaimed, Il faut qu'il soit ragouti.

After a passage of five days we'came to an anchor in Rebellion Roads, from which we could plainly discern the spires and houses of Charleston; and the following day we stood towards Fort Jobnson, which no vessels are suffered to pass without being examined.

Here the Port Physician came on board, with orders for us to perform quarantine a fortnight, to

« AnteriorContinuar »