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The Pirates of Barataria

It has already been said that the whole Gulf coast of Louisiana is sea-marsh. It is an immense, wet, level expanse, covered everywhere, shoulder high, with marsh-grasses, and indented by extensive bays that receive the rivers and larger bayous. For some sixty miles on either side of the Mississippi’s month, it breaks into a grotesquely contorted shoreline and into bright archipelagoes of hundreds of small, reedy islands, with narrow and obscure channels writhing hither and thither between them. These mysterious passages, hidden from the eye that over-glances the seemingly unbroken sunny leagues of surrounding distance, are threaded only by the far-seen white or red lateen-sail of the oyster-gatherer, or by the pirogue of the hunter stealing upon the myriads of wild fowl that in winter haunt these vast green wastes. To such are known the courses that enable them to avoid the frequent culs-de-sac of the devious shore, and that lead to the bayous, which open the way to the inhabited interior. They lead through miles of clear, brown, silent waters, between low banks fringed with dwarf oaks, across pale green distances of “quaking prairie,” in whose shallow, winding coolées the smooth, dark, shining needles of the round rush stand twelve feet high to overpeer the bulrushes, and at length, under the solemn shades of cypress swamps, to the near neighborhood of the Mississippi, from whose flood the process of delta-growth has cut the bayou off. Across the mouths of the frequent bays that indent this marshy coast-line stretch long, slender keys of dazzling, storm-heaped sand – sometimes of cultivable soil. About sixty miles south from the bank of...

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