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“I know a worse way.”
“Eh 2 What's that ?”
“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 fervor embraced the doctrine of Mormonism and the profession of day's washing to keep their liege in luxury due his rank. The land along the shore of the river was usually well timbered, and in the level openings looked as fertile as might be expected of an alluvial first bottom frequently overflowed. At its junction with the Columbia the Willamette is about three quarters of a mile in width, and the Columbia may be half a mile wider, though at first sight the difference seems more than that from the tributary's entering the main river at an acute angle, and giving a diagonal view to the opposite shore. Before we passed into the Columbia, we had from the upper deck a magnificent glimpse to the eastward of Hood's spotless snow-cone rosied with the reflection of the dying sunset. Short and hurried as it was, this view of Mount Hood was unsurpassed for beauty by any which we got in its close vicinity and afterward, though nearness added rugged grandeur to the sight.
Six miles' sail between low and uninteresting shores brought us from the mouth of the Willamette to Fort Vancouver, on the Washington Territory side of the river. Here we debarked for the night, making our way in an ambulance sent for us from the post, a distance of two minutes' ride, to the quarters of General Alvord, the commandant. Under his hospitable roof we experienced, for the first time in several months and many hundred miles, the delicious sensation of a family dinner, with a refined lady at the head of the table and well-bred children about the sides. A very interesting guest of General Alvord's was Major Lugenbeel, who had spent his life in the topographical service of the United States, and combined the culture of a student with an amount of information concerning the wildest portions of our Continent which I have never seen surpassed nor heard communicated in style more fascinating. He had lately come from the John Day, Boisé, and Snake River Mines, where the Government was surveying routes of emigration, and pronounced the wealth of the region exhaustless. After a pleasant evening and a good night's rest, we took the Oregon Company's steamer, “Wilson G. Hunt,” and proceeded up the river, leaving Fort Wancouver about seven A. M. To our surprise, the “Hunt.” proved an old acquaintance. She will be remembered by most people who during the last twelve years have been familiar with the steamers hailing from New York Bay. Though originally built for river service such as now employs her, she came around from the Hudson to the Columbia by way of Cape Horn. By lessening her top-hamper and getting new stanchions for her perilous voyage, she performed it without accident. Such a vivid souvenir of the Hudson reminded me of an assertion I had often heard, that the Columbia resembles it. There is some ground for the comparison. Each of the rivers breaks through a noble mountain-system in its passage to the sea, and the walls of its avenue are correspondingly grand. In point of variety the banks of the Hudson far surpass those of the Columbia, – trap, sandstone, granite, limestone, and slate succeeding each other with a rapidity which presents ever new outlines to the eye of the tourist. The scenery of the Columbia, between Fort Vancouver and the Dalles, is a sublime monotone. Its banks are basaltic crags or mist-wrapt domes, averaging below the cataract from twelve to