Imágenes de páginas

as well as others, and, he knew as well as any a corner of the cottage, and with a look of one, at what time the cows should be sought seeming supplication, laid himself down. The for in the woods, and brought in for milking. instinct of the brute taught him that there was This was one of his principal vocations, and he danger abroad, and his master partook so much very seldom failed to have them at the door, of the same feeling that the order was not retogether with the pigs, in due season. At this peated. By this time the thick, dark clouds had time, however, his hour had not arrived, but like completely overcast the earth, and shrouded his master, he had seen the indications of the the face of nature in a mantle of gloom, broapproaching storm, and was even then hasten- ken only by occasional flashes of lightning, ing homeward.

fierce gusts of wind swept howling by the cotOn hearing her husband's voice, Mrs. Han- tage--and in a few moments the hurricane in ford came to the door of the hut, and saw in all its fury burst upon them, in a deluge of the distance the fast approaching storm. Far rain-uprooting trees, and whirling their rifted as the eye could reach the lofty peaks and branches aloft into the very clouds. The cotridges of the Alleghanies were clad in the dense tage in which the family were gathered was mist as in a shroud, and with the rapidity of saved from instant destruction only through the winds the dark clouds were stretching the shelter afforded by a thick forest, lying a away over the valley. Though all was yet few rods east, which broke the force of wind; ealm in their low retreat—the sound of the but the old oak over their heads swayed and rushing storm was distinctly heard, as it came bowed so low before the storm as to excite an pouring like a flood over the high summits, and apprehension that it would yield and crush through the gorges, and down the rough moun- them in its fall.—Darkness came on, but with tain sides, in the direction of their dwelling. it came no cessation of the elemental strife. These indications were too well understood to

The eloquent storm, pouring its wild voices be neglected, but storms from the mountains On the night, grand, sublime, and terrible, were not unusual occurrences, and, therefore,

And the electric blazon of the clouds, created no serious apprehension. The skiff

And the vibrations of the affrighted earth, which Hanford used on the river, was drawn

As peak and vale answered the thunder-shock, upon the bank, to be out of the reach of the produced a combination of appalling grandeur, freshet that was expected as a matter of course, and contrasted strangely with the quiet scene at every rain ; the horses were put under the within the cottage. From infancy to mature hovel, and such other precautions taken as age, Jared Hanford and his excellent wife had were necessary.

Meanwhile, large fields of been taught to regard regular family worship fleecy scud, like winged pioneers, were passing as one of the paramount duties of life; and amid over in whirling eddies high above the cottage, all their vicissitudes and privations, they had and the sides of the distant mountains became never neglected to acknowledge, morning and obscured in the gathering mists. The groaning evening, their dependence upon their Creator; of the forest, as the winds whirled through the to pour out before Him, the grateful emotions close branches and foliage, grew more and of their hearts for any blessing conferred, and more loud and near, resembling, to the unprac- to ask with humility, through the name of the ticed ear, the roar of a vast and ceaseless water-Mediator, a continuation of his blessings here, fall; and already, though scarce a leaf was and wisdom to prepare for a glorious immorstirred by the wind in their immediate vicin- tality hereafter. The usual hour of their deity, Hanford and his wife could see afar the votions had arrived, a chapter in the Holy lofty monarchs of the forest bowing and sway. Scripture had been read by the wife, and now ing their proud heads to the resistless blast. | the deep, earnest, and manly voice of the husOur mountaineer gazed upon the fierce gather- band mingled in solemn prayer with the coning tumult of the elements with a contracted fused tumult of the elements. Though all brow, and the face of his wife became pallid without was at war. all within was at peace, with apprehension. They saw plainly that and although the hearts of the husband and no ordinary storm was approaching, and they wife may have beat quicker than usual at the awaited the onslaught with fear. At this imminence of the danger that surrounded them crisis, the truant dog came panting home, and as they knelt with little Annie between them, crouched exhausted at the feet of his master; at the family altar, yet their devotional exerand, when ordered to perform his accustomed cise was not the result of impulse or immediate duty, instead of obeying, he slunk away into fear; it was the customary outpouring of a

sense of religious duty, the daily appeal of that in anticipation of his neighbour's distress, and little family, for divine interposition and pro- now came to offer his best efforts in their sertection.

vice. Hanford started for his skiff, and fortuThe family had scarcely risen from their at- nate it was that his attention had been called titude of prayer, when they heard, mingling to that direction, the water was already foodwith the howl of the storm, the sound of a ing up about the cottage, and nearly kneehuman voice. A loud and prolonged hallo, deep at the spot where the boat had been left, from some person near at hand, was clearly a few moments more and it would, doubtless, distinguished, and although there was nothing have been broken from its mooring, and carpeculiar in the voice itself, yet the sound at ried away by the swift-flowing current. It was that particular moment was startling. Han- plain, too, that the prediction of his neighbor ford and his wife paused an instant to listen, was likely to prove a truth, for the rain was and again the hallo was heard. Their first still pouring down, and Hanford well knew impression was that it came from some tra- that if the storm had been as severe in the veller, lost and benighted in the storm, seeking mountains as it was in their vicinity, the rise a shelter, and the first impulse was to receive, must continue for several hours after the rain and make him welcome. Hanford opened the was over. It was necessary, therefore, to take door of his hut and answered the hallo, while instant measures for the safety of his family, his wife brought the candle to the closed win- and such of his limited household effects as dow as a beacon to guide the steps of the could be taken care of. The first movement stranger. The rain still poured down in tor- was to “pole” the boat across a hollow, now rents, and by the occasional flashes of lightning filled with water, which ran like a river, to our friend saw that the whole earth seemed to the spot where the lad had been waiting, and have been converted into a lake; the waters bring him to the house. Hanford next went were on every hand.

to the hovel and detached the halters from the " Halloa! Hanford !" was now distinctly heads of the two horses, in order that they heard from a prominence about fifty yards might be free to take care of themselves in east of the house.

case the flood should drive them from their “Hallo," again shouted Hanford, “Who are shelter, while his wife got the clothing toge

ther, and tied it up in bundles, ready for a “A neighbour," was the reply, and then start. followed the enquiry, “Where's your boat ?" About nine o'clock, the force of the hurri

“All handy,” answered Hanford, “I drew cane had passed away to the westward, and her up before the storm-she is here by the the deep-toned thunder was heard only in the ash tree."

distance, or in prolonged reverberations, as its “ Make haste and get her then--the Cone heavy sound came back in rumbling echoes maugh's over the banks, and your house 'll be from the successive mountain peaks; but the flooded before you can say Jack Robinson." rain continued to fall from the dense masses of

“But Joe, lad, what brings you here ?" in- clouds above, and the whole earth was shrouded quired Hanford, as he recognized the voice of in the very · blackness of darkness;" so that a neighbor's son, “the storm's enough to not an object could be discerned at the disdrown such a stripling as you, without wait tance of a single yard. This fixed and impeneing for the Conemaugh to run over.”

trable solidity of darkness was, if possible, • Why, I come down to lend you a hand. more fearful than had been the storm itself, in Your land's so low, father said he was afraid its worst fury; for now the waters were gatheryou'd be washed away 'fore mornin', and as he ing around them, and the thought of being had to stay home and take care of our folks, I driven from shelter in a poor, frail skiff, on come to help you if you want it; I can't git such a night, and thus left to the mercy of the no furder though, without you bring the boat; winds and the flood, was truly terrible. “My it's too dark to swim this current."

poor children,” exclaimed Mrs. Hanford, claspThis act of disinterested kindness, though ing them closely to her heart,—"God must be not uncommon among the pioneers of the west, your protection !" was touching to the heart of our cottager. The All, at length, were gathered in the hut, lad was not over sixteen years of age, yet he waiting with deep anxiety the result of the had risked his life, wading through the forest food. There was no upper story to the builda distance of half a mile on that terrific night | ing to which the family could retire in case the

you ?!

[ocr errors]

water should reach the ground floor, nor to “Get aboard, Joe,” said Mr. Hanford, as he stow away any articles which their little boat went to a corner of the cottage to get a pair would be unable to carry; such things, there- of oars. Joe did as directed, but no sooner had fore, as could not be taken away, were hung he done so, than it was discovered that the upon pegs against the walls, and the party was hide-rope, by which the boat had been fastened, reduced to the alternative of trusting to the had, by some means, been cast loose; the boat skiff at any moment when the flood should swung round, and being struck by the current, reach the apartment. The two children had was wafted rapidly away. The shout of the been soothed to sleep by the solicitous care of youth, and the sudden shriek from Mrs. Hanthe mother; but these were the only ones who ford, brought the husband to the door, only in ventured to seek repose. The brave youth time to see a faint glimpse of the fast receding who had volunteered to share their dangers, boat, bearing with it all that was dear to him had thrown off his saturated coat, and placed on earth. It was not a moment for reflection, himself near the fire to dry his remaining gar- --he sprang into the flood, and swam with the ments. Ever and anon, the husband would same current that bore them away. But they approaeh the door, in the vain hope of finding were already lost in the gloom far beyond the a cessation of the rise; but the flood was still reach of his sight,-he heard their voices howswelling, and each examination showed its ever, and swam with almost superhuman effort nearer and rapid approach. About midnight, to overtake them. The course on which the the rain ceased falling, but the wind continued current carried them was not towards, but dito blow with much force, and the darkness rectly from the river; the flood having reached continued. Another examination revealed the such a height as to form numerous new chanlong-expected and dreaded event—the water nels or outlets in various directions, one of them was at the sill of the cottage, and came trick- had taken the skiff on its bosom, and bore it in ling across the floor! To depart or to delay, the direction of the very spot which they wished seemed alike fruitful of danger; destruction to reach. Hanford was therefore in hopes that seemed lying on either hand; but a dawn of they would succeed in effecting a landing; but light passed across the sky, indicative of a when he had reached the place he heard breaking up of the clouds ;--and in that single their voices far beyond, and being himself ray, each heart seemed to have imbibed a new nearly exhausted, was fain to give up the purexistence. They felt, for the moment, that the suit and seek for personal safety while it was Being to whom their prayers had been offered yet within his reach. He accordingly made up, had not been wholly deaf to their suppli- for the shore, which he reached; then shoutcations; they had hope. Again they looked ing to announce his safety, he was answered toward the heavens; again the light of the by the lad, who told him, in confiding terms, moon, which had risen, forced its way faintly to make himself easy, for he would take good through the floating masses of heavy vapor care of the boat and its company. which overhung them; the storm was evi- “That's a nice lad," murmured Hanford, as dently giving way, and with light to guide he heard the youth soothing the fears of those them, they cared not for the flood or the winds. in his charge. "A nice lad; an'ef I'd a girl of The spot which they desired to reach was not the size for him, he'd be the one 'ud make her more than a hundred yards from the cottage, a good husband, -God give him strength for and preparations were at once made to depart. this turn, and land 'em all safely.”—In this The skiff was already at the door, under the mood he sat down upon stone ledge to relea of the house, and Hanford and the lad pro- cover his own strength, and be ready to start ceeded to deposit on board such movables as in pursuit, as soon as light, sufficient to enable had been selected, while Mrs. Hanford pre- him to distinguish between land and water, pared her children and herself for their voy- should appear. He listened with intense anxage. The rush of the current against the rear iety to the voices of the party, as they grew of the frail building also told plainly that fainter and fainter in the distance, until at last longer delay would be perilous, and as the light the cheering “hallo” of the lad was lost in the continued to increase, no time was lost. In sound of the rushing waters, and he remained a few minutes, the mother, with her children, alone, in the vast solitude of night in the wilwere placed beside their chattels, in the boat. derness. “They're gone!" said Hanford, musThe load was a heavy one for so small a bark, ingly, “they're gone, and that boy hasn't so yet the freight was not completed.

much as a shingle to steer with, and the flood's

full of drift, and there's eddies and shcals—if other, pointing to the vast sheet of water he should strike a shoal now, and capsize ! - sweeping before them, urged that to proceed the skiff 's but an egg-shell at the best, and wi' further before daylight would be an act of four living, human souls aboard! and its so madness, that would perhaps cost the lives of dark too! God grant the stream take them some, or it might be, all of them, and that too, not to the Pine-gulch-they are all lost if it without the possibility of lending any assisdoes !"

tance to their friends. “If evil is to come to The Pine-gulch, so called, was a deep ravine them this night,” said he, “it has come ere or chasm, about two miles south-west of Han- now, and it is out of our way to help it. Wait ford's hut, extended through the hills a dis- 'till we can see our footing, and then, with tance of half a mile, and bore the appearance God's blessing, we'll find 'em safe.” This of having been formed by a violent convulsion was agreed to; but as the clouds broke away, of the earth at some former period. The depth and the light of the moon flitted at intervals of the chasm, at its upper, or eastern end, was through to the earth, their prospect seemed about fifty feet, which gradually lessened as more and more hopeless and dreary. As far the surface of the earth declined westward. as the sight could discover, all below them was Its width varied from twenty to seventy-five a vast lake, studded here and there with islands feet, and its rocky sides were studded with small formed by the hilly nature of the country, and pines and shrubbery, which found sustenance freighted with drifting logs and trees. Numin the small portions of earth that were carried bers of wild deer and other animals, driven by by the rains and lodged in the numerous cre- the flood from their accustomed haunts, were vices and fissures. Into this chasm the waters seeking safety on the high grounds; there of the flood were at that moment pouring, was scarce a hillock above water that had not forming a cataract second only to that of the more or less of these transient tenants, and as Niagara, and the current which bore the little the day dawned, they were seen moving in all skiff with its precious freight was riding swiftly directions, some over the land, and others towards it. Fortunate was it for all parties swimming for their lives through the rapid they knew not the danger which threatened and whirling eddies. them. The youth, on whose energy all seemed The prospect of our friends was most cheerto depend, was powerless; blinded by the dark- less. The route they wished to pursue in search ness and without even a setting-pole, he could of the boat was cut off, and rendered utterly not change the direction of his little vessel an impassable, so that a circuit of several miles inch from the course which the stream pursued, on foot seemed inevitable, during which it was and all relied on the hope that chance might uite probable might pass the object of throw them within reach of some jutting pro- their search, and be still left in uncertainty as montory or even the branch of an overhanging to their fate. No other alternative appeared, tree, to which they might cling and effect a and they set forth, not, however, until they landing. To have known their danger would had discovered that the cottage of Hanford had therefore have been but the signal of despair. become a part of the general wreck; the spot

Hanford had remained at the spot where we it had occupied a few hours before, was vacant left him, about half an hour, in a state of fe- when the day dawned, and the old oak stood verish anxiety, watching the gradual breaking alone, spreading his wide branches above the of the clouds, and the slow approach of light, waste of waters. when he was aroused by another call from the The sun was high in the heavens; the wind direction of the woods. His two neighbors, had subsided to a perfect calm, and save a few after the danger to their own families and ha- misty remnants hanging still about the loftiest bitations had passed, had come forth to his peaks of the Alleghanies, not a cloud was visi. assistance, and never was the voice of man ble, when the three mountaineers, wearied, more welcome. Their call was answered with wet, and almost exhausted with apprehension, a hearty hallo, and in a few moments the three arrived near the head of the “ Pine-gulch,” on were together. Hanford related in few the eastern side. Not a spot of ground above words the events of the night, and alarm for water had escaped their scrutiny, during their the safety of the party in the boat became tedious journey of some ten miles; sometimes general. The father of the youth, in the wading, sometimes swimming, and sometimes intensity of his fears, proposed to depart im- clambering over rocks and precipices; but as mediately in search of the lost ones; but the yet not a trace of the lost party had they dis

covered. The particular current that bore the from this place, by like means they were enaskiff away was carefully and easily traced, by bled to ascend directly beneath the spot whern the drift-wood that followed its course, and to the little group were perched, almost to them. their dismay, they discovered that it led di- | This was done, yet until they had reached with rectly toward the “Gulch.”' This they had | in some twelve or fifteen feet, they had not followed, and when they had almost reached been seen by the party above. There Hanford the beetling brink, and heard the roar of the saw all his precious ones, alive, and so far safe, falling cataract, with yet no sign or trace of and his neighbor saw the athletic form of his their friends—hope forsook them, and the brave boy, all lingering, as it were, upon the conviction that they had been borne over the verge of death, and yet, not only living, but precipice, forced itself, with agonizing effect, within the reach of rescue. To describe the upon their minds. Hanford, half frantic, outburst of joy from the stranded party, on raved and wept, yet his longing eyes, drowned discovering the approach of the deliverers, is as they were with tears, roved restlessly in impossible. Mrs. Hanford wept tears of thankevery direction to which hope pointed with a fulness. Young Joe laughed like a maniac, possibility of finding the dear objects of his and little Annie joined her mother, while the heart. Suddenly he paused, and with a babe, “ Bobby,“ shrieked and clapped his hands glare, gazed intently upon a small tuft of earth with glee. which hung above the precipice, in the very The lost were found, but they were not yet midst of the torrent. His penetrating look delivered from danger. This task was yet to had discerned a moving object there, and he be accomplished. The skiff had been carried gazed in trembling fear for a further revela- over the fall, and was seen half way down the tion of new-born hope. It moved again-it crag, where it was caught in its descent, and was a human figure, and with a half-suffocated so securely jammed among the rocks that the shriek, pointing at the same instant to the whole force of the torrent was not sufficient spot, he exclaimed, There there they are to displace it. The only plan of relief, therethere."

fore, that presented itself, was to bring the They were indeed there. The form that he family down from their critical position, into had seen was that of the youth, who had raised the gulch, and again place them on terra firma, himself upon the stump of an old pine tree, by clambering up the steep. where Hanford which had hung for half a century over the and his friends had descended.

This was abyss, and, with a rock or two, formed a nu- finally accomplished, after great labor, and the cleus, around which a little mound of earth building of two or three rude bridges; and had gathered. The youth was looking about | Jared Hanford once more clasped in safety to intently, apparently seeking some mode of his heart, the beloved sharers of his rugged escape from their perilous position. To at- life. In that moment of pure joy, all else, save tempt to reach them by crossing the stream the felicity of re-union, was forgotten; their above the fall. would bave been an act involv- losses were unthought of, and the memory of ing almost certain death ; for no man could past privations and dangers were absorbed in stem the current, and a single false movement an overpowering sense of thankfulness to the or miscalculation of the swimmer, would send protecting hand, that had brought them again him headlong down the cataract. The party together. shouted loudly to attract their attention, but The brave-hearted Joe proceeded to relate,

in vain ; the incessant roar of the falling sheet in terms far more circumstantially than my of water drowned their voices; and it was long readers would like to peruse, the chances of

before they could determine what course to their perilous voyage. As soon as he found pursue. At length, Hanford suggested that, that they were fairly adrift and at the mercy as they could not reach them from above, they of the flood, he proceeded to prepare for that must endeavor to do so from below; accor- which appeared to him the only danger to be dingly, by moving further down, and approach- apprehended, viz., " an upset.” He saw the ing the edge of the gulch, they discovered that mother and children grouped together in as a footing might be obtained, so as to reach small a compass as could be possibly acquired, within a few feet of the spot, without danger. and then gave directions to Mrs. Hanford, in The rough, rocky precipice, and shrubbery case they s'ould go over, to hold fast to Bobby afford

means of descending to a part of with one hand and the boat with the other, the chasm which the flood did not reach, and while he “sounded bottom,” and took care of

« AnteriorContinuar »