« ÎnapoiContinuă »
ments of his mind, after he had been caught, and the process of the training of society was commenced upon him. In a forest full of Indians and wild animals, Wild Bill was an object of very little higher interest than a tamed bear or panther. Of course no documents remain to show how he was impressed by the new views which society presented to his mind. I have even been unable to ascertain whether any efforts were made to place him at school, or under the influence of any other instruction or training, than that of the new circumstances in which he was placed.
Although his story may not claim parallel interest with the eloquent history of mind in the case of Caspar Hauser, it may, nevertheless, fearlessly present one claim to attraction—it is literally a matter of fact, without the slightest admixture of coloring of any sort-and within the knowledge of citizens of the highest standing in Mississippi and Louisiana. Judge BUTLER, of the latter state, is capable of furnishing many more details than have been enabled to obtai Although I have heard the oral statements of many persons who have seen the subject of the narrative, I am indebted mainly for the facts it contains-with which the statements referred to uniformly agree-to one of the first planters in the parish of Rapides, in Louisiana. He became a temporary resident at Woodville, a considerable village in the interior of Mississippi, in 1811. Here he first saw the boy called Wild Bill, who then resided with a Mr. Benjamin Rollins. He had at that time made so much progress in learning to converse, that he was quite intelligible. It is believed that he had then been taken about eighteen months or two years.
He was secured in the Mississippi swamp, not far from the present site of Pinckneyville. The circumstances that led to his being taken, were these: Some settlers, who had recently settled in that vicinity, saw on the margins of the swamps the prints of the naked foot of a boy. This led them to closer observation; which soon discovered to them a naked boy, walking with the gait and in the manner of a hunting animal, on the shore of one of the lakes that abound in that region. His object was to catch frogs, a species of hunting at which he seemed very expert. When he had caught them, he devoured them raw. The discoverer attempted to approach him: but so soon as the wild lad saw him, he fled with the usual terror of an untamed creature at the sight of a man, towards a lake, into which he plunged,-diving and swimming with the ease of an amphibious animal. These occurrences naturally excited much interest among the settlers; and they collected in a body to make an united effort to take him. After hunting for him for some time, they at length discovered him under a Persimon tree, eating the fruit. As soon as he observed his pursuers, he fled as before, doubling the bush like a fox, and making again for the water. Excusing themselves by their motive, the hunters adopted their usual expedient for catching animals. They put their dogs on the trail of the strange game. They soon tired him down, and brought him to bay. Though no metaphysicians to form mental theorems out of the case of their new conquest, they discovered that the two-legged, unfeathered creature, had the natural animal instinct of fight-for he made battle upon dogs and men
with the full amount of courage and ferocity that might be expected to result from his age and physical strength. But although he fought like any other animal, he was compelled to yield to numbers, and was fairly caught and bound. He was then, it is supposed, not far from nine years old-naked, and perfectly speechless. His form was slender, but well proportioned, and capable of extreme agility. His eyes were brilliant; his hair sandy, and his complexion florid; a circumstance which may be accounted for, from his having lived almost entirely in the deep shades of the forest. Woodville was the nearest considerable settlement, and thither he was carried, for the experiment of domestication.
Eighteen months, or two years after his capture-the period, as I have said, when my informant first saw him, he had still a look perfectly indicative of his name. He was yet wild, although he could now make himself understood. It was more difficult to overcome his appetite for raw flesh, than to learn him to speak. The love of the excitement of alcohol, seems to be another common appetite of the man of nature; for he soon manifested an unconquerable longing for spirits in any form,especially when rendered very sweet,-upon which he became intoxicated whenever he had an opportunity. Whether he discovered the usual development of the other animal propensities, my informant does not know; but he always remained a wild animal in the fierceness of his temper. When playing with lads of his age, the moment his passions were roused in any way, his first movement was to strike them with whatever instrument was nearest at hand. After his partial domestication, they attempted to put him at work; but he showed a truly savage disrelish for labor. He was sure immediately to run away; generally making for the town, where his amusement was to mount on horseback whenever he was allowed the opportunity. Riding was his passion; and he would mount every horse in a livery stable in succession, merely for the pleasure of riding them to water. In other respects he was quick and intelligent. His appearance was rather agreeable, and in his favor.
The training which he received was either unfavorable to a good moral development, or it had been originally denied him by nature; for he became quarrelsome, addicted to drunkenness, and not at all a lover of the truth. Consequently, a great deal of doubt and uncertainty must rest upon his history of his early recollections; though they were so often repeated, and so nearly in the same form, as to have gained credence with the people among whom he lived. He stated that he had a dim remembrance of coming down the Mississippi with his father's family in a flat boat, that the boat landed—that his father killed his mother-and that he fled in terror, into the swamps, expecting that his father would kill him also; and that from that time he had subsisted on frogs, animals, and berries, living, in warm weather, among the cane, and in cold weather in a hollow tree.
It is extremely unfortunate that so few details remain of the domestication and character of Wild Bill; though it is hoped that this imperfect account may call forth the persons with whom he lived and died, ampler and more satisfactory information respecting him. It is believed that he died when at the age of eighteen or nineteen; that is, near the
year 1818; after a domestication of about nine years. Alas! the uneducated and untrained Man of the Woods is but a kind of forked, straddling animal, very little superior to what we call the lower animals, and in many respects, far below them. And, viewing the mass, even in the highest state of freedom and civilization,-seeing them so readily and wilfully the victims of their ignorance, their prejudices, and, more than all, their own supposed knowledge and illumination,-seeing, too, how easily and universally they become the stupid instruments of unprincipled and ambitious demagogues, one is almost driven to adopt the painful and humiliating axiom of Dean Swift, that man is not a reasonable animal, but only capable, under certain circumstances, of becoming such. M.
'DON'T BE ALARMED!'
A TRANSCRIPT FROM THE DIARY OF A CHOLERA SUBJECT.'
I AM one of an unfortunate class of beings-a class subject, in times of danger or alarm, to great nervous excitement. Whether this predisposition be constitutional, or the effect of some accidental cause, I know not; but I do know that I have suffered in consequence, and continue to suffer, more real misery, than that of any positive physical disease. And, to aggravate my affliction, I find no sympathy or commiseration with those around me. Oh,' say they, 'you are easily alarmed-do as we do keep quiet, and take no thought of yourself, and depend upon it, you will not die till your time comes.'
Such is the only kind of advice and consolation I receive at the present time, when the cholera is stalking through the city, and casting its baleful shadow over all classes of the comm y,—the rich as well as the poor, the temperate and the intemperate,-those who diet and live low, not less than those who fare sumptuously every day. Suffer me to give a brief account of myself during the prevalence of the disease, with an outline of my previous life. The reader shall then judge whether the evils I have suffered be real or imaginary, and whether I am not entitled to something from my friends beyond that expression of unconcern which pierces the bosom with a poinard's sharpness. 'Save me from my friends,' is a Spanish proverb, to which I can most heartily respond.
A sedentary life made me what is fashionably called a dyspeptic. For years I was tormented with all the inward horrors that mind can conceive, or body endure. Food I loathed,-exercise I abhorred,— and, in a short time, existence itself became a burden. It was at this period the famous method of human kneading came into practice. May the reader never need the process! I acccordingly placed myself under the directions of the founder of that system-and, after paying the usual initiation fee, was admitted to the sublime mysteries of the ancient Indian treatment of shampooing, revised and adapted to civilized life. Day after day I labored through a pummelling of the bowels and pit of the abdomen, till 'I was damned like an ill-roasted egg all on one side.' I got the better of my disease under the operation. The blood coursed more freely through my veins. My appetite and digestion improved, and I believe I was in a fair way of effecting a total cure, when
my friends, to whom I mentioned the subject, loaded me with reproach and ridicule for so visionary an experiment. O, he is mad!' said they ; 'he is troubled about his digestive organs lest they should fail to perform their functions. Poor fellow! if he goes on at this rate, there will be nothing left of him ;-he can hardly cast a shadow now!' And then they would shake their heads and look ominous, though occasionally I could detect in their countenances a lurking smile, as if they thought: It is all a farce; the man is well enough, but his imagination kills him.'
These perpetual attacks of inhuman ridicule the unfeeling jeer-the feigned compassion, were more than I could endure. I began to entertain my own fears whether the course I was pursuing might not terminate in some fatal catastrophe, which the flattering state of my health served only to conceal that it might render the more certain. Surely,' thought I, as I was one day contemplating my renovated appearance in the glass,my system cannot long stand this. It was never formed for that of a well man. Nature did not intend me for one of those born to eat up the corn.' No! my appetite is too ravenous-my body too corpulent-(I could span it with my two thumbs and fingers)-my digestion too regular-my sleep too sound. It is plain I am becoming altogether too healthful.' I soon came to the conclusion to abandon the doctor and his shampooing. If my friends had not set me to ruminating on the practice, I might have followed it up to this day. I dare say I should have been the gainer by it; for the exercise was of service to the mind, if not to the body. But they insisted that I was destroying myself; and once set to cogitating, I thought I was living too fast.
Fortunately as I then thought, the new doctrine of prolonging life by starvation had just been broached. I frequented the lectures of the great leader of the sect. I was chained in admiration-captivated-enchanted. It would have been a scene for a Hogarth to paint the cadaverous physiognomies, the lean, Cassius-like looks-the lantern jawsthe hungry aspects-the famished, shrivelled-up bodies of the audience that listened to him. I became a convert to the theory, and enrolled myself among the most rigid of its disciples. I hearkened with profound attention to every precept of my master, and endeavored faithfully to put them in practice. I bade a long farewell to all animal food. Sirloins of beef, reeking with unctuous odors of gravies and spices,-turkeys, and ducks, and geese,-in short, all feathered tribes-fish of the sea, and reptiles of the earth, had no temptations for me. Hail!' said I, 'thou pure, unadulterated substitute-Graham bread! No secret poison lurks under thy rough exterior! No fell destroyer of health and beauty,-no sleep-disturbing, and troubled, dream-compelling food, art thou! Peace, tranquillity, innocence, and health, are thy gifts. Blessed be the inventor of thy farinaceous compound! Happy, thrice happy they, who live according to the principles of the Science of human life!'
Under this new regimen, I soon exhibited in my person a practical illustration of its promised effects. The little flesh husbanded together under my former preceptor, fell gradually away, and the bones and muscles shone through my transparent skin. I was a rival to the Living Skeleton. My friends gave me the title of the Walking Anatomy.