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The World As I Have Found It / Sequel to Incidents in the Life of a Blind Girl By Mary L. Day Characters: 7597

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"With the fingers of the blind

We are groping here to find

What the hieroglyphics mean

Of the unseen in the seen.

What the thought which underlies

Nature's masking and disguise,

What it is that hides beneath

Blight and bloom, and birth and death."

We left St. Louis with its noble depot and stupendous bridge, and reaching Iron Mountain we seemed to have emerged from dense darkness into dazzling light. Going to the clean, elegant hotel, our faces, covered with St. Louis soot, were in such grim contrast with our sunny surroundings, that we had to go through an elaborate course of ablution before we could feel ourselves presentable. Iron Mountain is a monster mass of iron, one of the largest and purest of the kind in the world. In 1836 it was bought for the insignificant sum of six hundred dollars, and now its worth is incalculable.

Being unwilling to brave mud and small towns, we made no stops until we reached Little Rock, Arkansas, where, at the untimely hour of three o'clock in the morning, we went to the Central House, the only hotel which had survived their recent fires, and which we found so crowded that even the doors were closed against us.

Our party of five went out in quest of shelter, the night pervaded by "the blackness of darkness," and the rain pouring in torrents. One of the gentlemen was a member of the Legislature, and quite an invalid. Growing faint from exhaustion, he fell into a mud hole, and was fairly immersed in its slimy depths. After a long search we finally found a poor refuge and an execrable bed, but in the morning were favored in securing comfortable private accommodations.

While at Little Rock we visited all the State institutions, and among them that for the blind. After ten days of business success, we went to all the towns on the Arkansas River, and were charmed with its scenery, for while the classical meander, it winds in graceful beauty through forests which, although too low and ragged to please the eye, clothe a country otherwise picturesque in character. A strange peculiarity of the Arkansas River is that of the emerald green color which deeply tinges its crystal clearness, a fact which I found no one able to explain satisfactorily.

Fort Smith is nominally at the head of river navigation, but is really accessible by steamer only during a very small portion of the year, when the water is at an unusually high stage. It is beautifully located, and has a main street known as "The Avenue," which is between two and three hundred feet in width. This avenue is a great business centre, and at almost all times a scene of animated interest, while at its head stand prominently a cathedral and a convent.

The swift passing panorama of the avenue is ofttimes varied by a picturesque group of Chocktaws or Cherokees, with grotesque costume, this place being their principal rendezvous. Just at the edge of the town is a National Cemetery of great natural beauty, with but little of the stiff regularity which usually characterizes such places.

We found a great lack of educational advantages throughout the entire State of Arkansas, there being no public schools, and the private ones few in number and poor in character; but it has never been my good fortune to meet kinder hearts than were encountered among the masses.

At Arkadelphia we had a regular Arkansas deluge, and the first class hotel of this flourishing town of two thousand souls would indeed have been a poor ark for Father Noah and his family. Its walls were lathed but not plastered, and from our apartment we had an extended view of the entire floor.

Our furniture consisted of two wooden chairs, a box turned upside down for a toilet-stand, a rickety bedstead, with unmusical creak, a tumble-down lounge, and disma

l, but genuine tallow dip. In these quarters we spent four days, during which time the rain poured with unremitting constancy.

In the parlor of the same edifice was an elegant piano, and magnificently dressed ladies, and our constant amazement was, how, in this strange country, extremes could so amicably meet.

I found in Arkadelphia two blind gentlemen, who were prosperous merchants; and to me, this spoke volumes for a community who would so generously sustain the afflicted rather than allow them the condescension of beggary.

We next visited Hope, a town of three thousand inhabitants, yet having numbered but three years of existence; and while these people are considered so slow in progression, this fact indicated a considerable degree of Yankee go-a-head activity. This town is one of the important cotton markets of the State, which branch of trade imparts an additional business activity.

We turned toward Hot Springs, the Baden of America, and when within twenty miles of this wonderful place we encountered a throng of that class of human pests known as "hotel runners," thick as bees, and more stingingly annoying, for they especially abounded in low jests and ribald stories which grate so harshly upon sensitive ears. It would certainly be an act of philanthropy, both to the hotels and their patrons, to take some measure for the suppression of this nuisance.

The approach to Hot Springs, and the first glimpse of the stream, smoking as if its bed rested upon some subterranean fire, are in themselves awe-inspiring. The valley is narrowed to the limits of three hundred feet, and the road winds gracefully around the base of the mountain, upon whose top the cold spring furnishes a better beverage than iced champagne; while close by its side bubbles the boiling spring, in which eggs can be cooked to perfection; and with a little seasoning of salt and pepper, the most luscious soup can be improvized, while the boiling water au naturale can be drunk in copious, life-giving draughts.

The hotels are ranged upon either side of the road, and have all the necessary bathing appointments. Among the many novelties to a stranger was the process of dressing chicken, which was their staple article of food. The hot stream was the only necessary cauldron for the scalding process, while the feathers were thrown into the swift current, and rapidly carried away by the natural sewerage, a decidedly labor-saving process, and somewhat characteristic of the locality and its native cooks.

The various forms of treatment consist of hot, cold, vapor and mud baths, and have been so often described that a repetition would be monotonous; their efficacy being almost unfailing, except in cases of pulmonary disease, in which they would soon prove fatal. One who has ever enjoyed these baths will always long for the luxury years after leaving them behind.

We reluctantly left this valley, teeming with rich quarries of valuable stone and various ores, luscious fruits, and the trifling drawbacks of rattlesnakes, centipedes and tarantulas, and went to Texaskana, which is located at the junction of the three States of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, hence its name.

It is a great railroad centre, and it is very curious to visit the depot amid the rushing thousands who daily pass through this place on their way to Texas. It is a wildly romantic place, built upon a clearing of forty acres without any decided plan, streets running at random very much like the old cowpaths of Manhattan, and houses grouped in picturesque confusion. Finding the main hotel crowded, the proprietor manifested an unheard-of disinterestedness in a two hours search to find us suitable accommodations elsewhere, an act of magnanimity worthy of especial note and remembrance.

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