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ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER.
I Have never known, nor seen any person who did know, why Portland, the metropolis of Oregon, was founded on the Willamette River. I am unaware why the accent is on the penult, and not on the ultimate of Willamette. These thoughts perplexed me more than a well man would have suffered them, all the way from the Callapooya Mountains to Portland. I had been laid up in the backwoods of Oregon, in a district known as the Long-Tom Country — (and certainly a longer or more tedious Tom never existed since the days of him additionally hight Aquinas),— by a violent attack of pneumonia, which came near terminating my earthly with my Oregon pilgrimage. I had been saved by the indefatigable nursing of the friend I travelled with, — by wet compresses, and the impossibility of sending for any doctor in the region. I had lived to pay San Francisco hotel prices for squatter-cabin accommodations in the rural residence of an Oregon landholder, whose tender mercies I fell into from my saddle when the disease had reached its height, and who explained his unusual charges on the ground that his wife had felt for me like a mother. In the Long-Tom Country maternal tenderness is a highly estimated virtue. It cost my comrade and myself sixty dollars, besides the reasonable charge for five days' board and attendance to a man who ate nothing and was not waited on, with the same amount against his well companion. We had suffered enough extortion before that to exhaust all our native grumblery. So we paid the bill, and entered on our notebooks the following
Mem. "In stopping with anybody in the Long-Tom Country, make a special contract for maternal tenderness, as it will invariably be included in the bill."
I had ridden on a straw bed in the wagon of the man whose wife cultivated the maternal virtues, until I was once more able to go along by myself, — paying, you may be sure, maternal-virtue fare for my carriage. During the period that I jolted on the straw, I diversified the intervals between pulmonary spasms with a sick glance at the pages of Bulwer's "Devereux" and Lever's u Day's Ride." The nature of these works did not fail to attract the attention of my driver. It aroused in him serious concern for my spiritual welfare. He addressed me with gentle firmness : —
"D'ye think it's exackly the way for an immortal creatur' to be spendin' his time, to read them novels?"
"Why is it particularly out of the way for an immortal creature?"
"Because his higher enterests don't give him no time for sich follies."
"How can an immortal creature be pressed for time?"
"Wal, you'll find out some day. G'lang, Jennie."
I thought I had left this excellent man in a metaphysical bog. But he had not discharged his duty, so he scrambled out and took new ground.
u Now say, — d' you think it's exackly a Christian way of spendin' time, yourself?"
"I know a worse way."
"In the house of a Long-Tom settler who charges five dollars a day extra because his wife feels like a mother."
He did not continue the conversation. I myself did not close it in anger, but solely to avoid an extra charge, which in the light of experience seemed imminent, for concern about my spiritual welfare. On the maternal-tenderness scale of prices, an indulgence in this luxury would have cleaned me out before I effected junction with my drawers of exchange, and I was discourteous as a matter of economy.
We had enjoyed, from the summit of a hill twenty miles south of Salem, one of the most magnificent views in all earthly scenery. Within a single sweep of vision were seven snow-peaks, — the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helen's,—with the dim suggestion of an eighth colossal mass, which might be Rainier. All these rose along an arc of not quite half the horizon, measured between ten and eighteen thousand feet in height, were nearly conical, and absolutely covered with snow from base to pinnacle. The Three Sisters, a triplet of sharp, close-set needles, and the grand masses of Hood and Jefferson, showed mountainesque and earthly; it was at least possible to imagine them of us, and anchored to the ground we trod on. Not so with the others. They were beautiful, yet awful ghosts, — spirits of dead mountains buried in oldworld cataclysms, returning to make, on the brilliant azure of noonday, blots of still more brilliant white. I cannot express their vague, yet vast and intense splendor by any other word than incandescence. It was as if the sky had suddenly grown white-hot in patches. When we first looked, we thought St. Helen's an illusion, — an aurora, or a purer kind of cloud. Presently we detected the luminous chromatic border, — a band of refracted light with a predominant orange tint, which outlines the higher snowpeaks seen at long range, — traced it down, and grasped the entire conception of the mighty cone. No man of enthusiasm, who reflects what this whole sight must have been, will wonder that my friend and I clasped each other's hands before it, and thanked God we had lived to this day.
We had followed down the beautiful valley of the Willamette to Portland, finding everywhere glimpses of autumnal scenery as delicious as the hills and meadows of the Housatonic. Putting up in Portland at the Dennison House, we found the comforts of civilization for the first time since leaving Sisson's, and a great many kind friends warmly interested in furthering our enterprise. I have said that I do not know why Portland was built on the Willamette. The point of the promontory between the Willamette and the Columbia seems the proper place for the chief commercial city of the State; and Portland is a dozen miles south of this, up the tributary stream. But Portland does very well as it is,— growing rapidly in business importance, and destined, when the proper railway communications are established, to be a sort of Glasgow to the London of San Francisco. When we were there, there was crying need of a telegraph to the latter place. That need has now been supplied, and the construction of the no less desirable railroad must follow speedily. The country between Shasta Peak and Salem is at present virtually without an outlet to market. No richer fruit and grain region exists on the Pacific slope of the Continent. No one who has not travelled through it can imagine the exhaustless fertility which will be stimulated, and the results which will be brought forth, when a continuous line of railroad unites Sacramento, or even Tehama, with the metropolis of Oregon.
Among the friends who welcomed us to Portland were Messrs. Ainsworth and Thompson, of the Oregon Steamship Company. By their courtesy we were afforded a trip up the Columbia River, in the pleasantest quarters and under the most favorable circumstances.
We left Portland the evening before their steamer sailed, taking a boat belonging to a different line, that we might pass a night at Fort Vancouver, and board the Company's boat when it touched at that place the next morning. We recognized our return from rudimentary society to civilized surroundings and a cultivated interest in art and literature, when the captain of the little steamer Vancouver refused to let either of us buy a ticket, because he had seen my companion on the upper deck at work with his sketch-book, and me by his side engaged with my journal.
The banks of the Willamette below Portland are low, and cut up by small tributaries or communicating lagoons, which divide them into islands. The largest of these, measuring its longest border, has an extent of twenty miles, and is called Sauveur's. Another, called " Nigger Tom's," was famous as the seigniory of a blind African nobleman so named, living in great affluence of salmon and whiskey with three or four devoted Indian wives, who had with equal fer