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pess, and which were chased away only for a brief space, by the hurricane blasts that rushed furiously through the glen, threatening to sweep them like withered leaves, from the brow of the precipice.
" Hitherto the path, though steep and rugged, was plainly enough indicated, and showed traces of having been used both by riders and foot passengers. But suddenly, as Antonio with the mule bad reaehed a projecting eminence, around the peak of which the path made a sharp turn, he stopt short, with his usual exclamation, addressed to his patron saint. It appeared to Arthur that the mule shared the terrors of the guide ; for it started back, put forward its fore feet separate from each other, and seemed, by the attitude which it assumed, to intimate a determination to resist every proposal to advance, at the same time expressing horror and fear at the prospect which lay before it.
“ Arthur pressed forward, not only from curiosity, but that he might if possible bear the brunt of any danger before his father came up to share it. In less time than we have taken to tell the story, the young man stood beside Antonio and the mule, upon a platform of rock on which the road seemed absolutely to terminate, and from the further side of which a precipice sunk sheer down, to what depth the mist did not permit him to discern, but certairly to more than three hundred feet.
“ The blank expression which overcast the visages of the travellers, and traces of which might be discerned in the physiognomy of their beast of burden, announced alarm and mortification at this unexpected, and, as it seemd, insurmountable obstable. Nor did the looks of the father, who presently after came up to the same spot, convey either bope or comfort. He stood with the others gazing on the misty gulf beneath them, and looking all around, but in vain, for some continuation of the path, which certainly had never been originally designed to terminate in this manner. As they stood uncertain what to do next, the son in vain attempting to discover some mode of passing onward, and the father about 10 propose that they should return by the road which had brought them hither, a loud howl of the wind, more wild than they had yet heard, swept down the valley. All being aware of the danger of being hurled from the precarious station which they occupied, snatched at bushes and rocks by which to secure themselves, and even the poor mule seemed to steady itself, in order to withstand the approaching hurricane. The gust came with such unexpected fury that it appeared to the travellers to shake the very rock on which they stood, and would have swept them from its surface like so many dry leaves, lead it not been for the precaution which they had taken to secure themselves. But as the wind rushed down the glen, it completely removed for the space of three or four minutes the veil of mist which former gusts had only served to agitate or discompose, and showed them the nature and cause of the interruption which they had met with so unexpectedly.
" The rapid but correct eye of Arthur was then able to ascertain that the path, after leaving 'the platform of rock on which they stood, had originally passed upwards in the same direction along a steep bank
of earth, which had then formed the upper covering of a stratum of precipituous rocks. But it had chanced, in some of the convulsions of nature which take place in those wild regions, where she works upon a scale so formidable, that the earth had made a slip, or almost a precipitous descent, from the rock, and been hurled downwards with the path, which was traced along the top, and with bushes, trees, or whatever grew upon it, into the channel of the stream ; for such they could now discern the water beneath them to be, and not a lake, or an arm of a lake, as they had hitherto supposed.
“ The immediate cause of this phenomenon might probably have been an earthquake, not unfrequent in that country. The bank of earth, now a confused mass of ruins inverted in its fall, showed some trees growing in a horizontal position, and others, which, having pitched on their heads in their descent, were at once inverted and shattered to pieces, and lay a sport to the streams of the river which they had heretofore covered with gloomy shadow. The gaunt precipice which remained behind, like the skeleton of some huge monster divested of its flesh, formed the wall of a fearful abyss, resembling the face of a newly wrought quarry, more dismal of aspect from the rawness of its recent formation, and from its being as yet uncovered with any of the vegetation with which nature speedily mantles over the bare surface even of her sternest crags and precipices.”
In this strait, the young man volunteers to press forward over the naked precipice, to obtain relief, or discover traces of their
“ No, Arthur,' replied his father, in a determined voice; 'no, my son-I have survived much, but I will not survive thee.'
“ 'I fear not for the issue, father, if you permit me to go alone ; but I cannot-dare not undertake a task so perilous, if you persist in attempting to share it, with no better aid than mine. While I endeavoured to make a new advance, I should be ever looking back to see how you
should attain the station which I was about to leave-and bethink you, dearest father, that if I fall, I fall an unregarded thing, of as little moment as the rock of tree which bas toppled headlong down before me. But you—should your foot slip, or your hand fail, bethink you what and how much must needs fall with you!'
“Thou art right, my child,' said the father, ' I still have that which binds me to life, even though I were to lose in thee all that is dear to me.-Our Lady and our Lady's Knight bless thee and prosper thee, my child! Thy foot is young, thy hand is strong-thou hast not climbed Plynlimmon in vain. Be bold, but be wary-remember there is a man who, failing thee, has but one act of duty to bind him to the earth, and, that discharged, he will soon follow thee.'
“ The young man accordingly prepared for his journey, and, stripping himself of his cumbrous cloak, showed his well-proportioned limbs in a jerkin of grey cloth, wbich sat close to his person. The father's resolution gave way when his sou turned round to bid him farewell. He recalled his permission, and in a peremptory tone forbade him to
proceed. But without listening to the prohibition, Arthur had commenced his perilous adventure. Descending from the platform on which he stood, by the bonghs of an old ash-tree, which thrust itself out of the cleft of a rock, the youth was enabled to gain, though at great risk, a narrow ledge, the very brink of the precipice, by creeping along which he hoped to pass on till he made himself heard or seen from the habitation, of whose existence the guide bad informed him. His situation, as he pursued this bold purpose, appeared só precarious, that even the hired attendant hardly dared to draw breath as he gazed on him. The ledge which supported him seemed to grow so narrow as he passed along it, as to become altogei her invisible, while sometimes with his face to the precipice, sometimes looking forward, sometimes glancing his eyes upward, but never venturing to cast a look below, lest his brain should grow giddy at a sight so appalling, he wound his way onward. To his father and the attendant, who beheld bis progress, it was less that of a man advancing in the ordinary manner, and resting by aught connected with the firm earth, than that of an insect crawling along the face of a perpendicular wall, of whose progressive movement we are indeed sensible, but cannot perceive the means of its support. And bitterly, most bitterly, did the miserable parent pow lament, that he had not persisted in his purpose to encounter the baffling and even perilous measure of retracing his steps to the habitation of the preceding night. He should then, at least have partaken the fate of the son of his love.
“ Meanwhile, the young man's spirits were strongly braced for the performance of his perilous task. He laid a powerful restraint on his imagination, which in general was sufficiently active, and refused to listen, even for an instant, to any of the horrible insinuations by which fancy augments actual danger. He endeavoured manfully to reduce all around him to the scale of right reason, as the best support of true courage. This ledge of rock,' he urged to himself, is but narrow, yet it has breadth enough to support me; these clifts and crevices in the surface are small and distant, but the one affords as secure a resting place to my feet, the other as available a grasp to my hands, as if I stood on a platform of a cụbit broad, and rested my arm on a balustrade of marble. My safety, therefore depends on myself. If I move with decision, step firmly, and hold fast, what signifies how near I am to the mouth of an abyss ?
“Thus estimating the extent of his danger by the measure of sound sense and reality, and supported by some degree of practice in such exercise, the brave youth went forward on his awful journey, step by step, winning his way with a caution, and fortitude, and presence of mind, which alone could have saved him from instant destruction. At length he gained a point where a projecting rock formed the angle of the precipice, so far as it had been visible to him from the platform. This, therefore, was the critical point of his undertaking ; but it was also the most perilous part of it. The rock projected more than six feet forward over the torrent, which he heard raging at the depth of a bundred yards beneath, with a noise like subterranean thunder. He examined the spot with the utmost care, and was led by the existence
of shrubs, grass, and even stunted trees, to believe that this rock marked the farthest extent of the slip or slide of earth, and that, could he but round the angle of which it was the termination, he might hope to attain the continuation of the path which had been so strangely interrupted by this convulsion of nature. But the craig jutted out so much as to afford no possibility of passing either under or around it; and as it rose several feet above the position which Arthur had attained, it was no easy matter to climb over it. This was, however, the course which he chose, as the only mode of surmounting what he hoped might prove the last obstacle to his voyage of discovery. A projecting tree afforded him the means of raising and swinging himself up to the top of the craig. But he had scarcely planted himself on it, had scarcely a moment to congratulate himself, on seeing, amid a wild chaos of cliffs and wood, the gloomy ruins of Geierstein, with smoke arising, and indicating something like a human habitation beside them, when, to his extreme terror, he felt the buge cliff on which he stood, tremble, stoop slowly forward, and gradually sink from his position. Projecting as it was, and shaken as its equilibrium had been by the recent earthquake, it lay now so insecurely poised, that its balance was entirely destroyed, even by the addition of the young man's weight.
“ Aroused by the imminence of the danger, Arthur, by an instinctive attempt at self-preservation, drew cautiously back from the falling craig, into the tree by which he had ascended, and turned his head back as if spell-bound, to watch the descent of the fatal rock from which he had just retreated. It tottered for two or three seconds, as if uncertain which way to fall; and had it taken a sidelong direction, must have dashed the adventurer from his place of refuge, or borne both the tree and him headlong down into the river. After a moment of horrible uncertainty, the power of gravitation determined a direct and forward descent. Down went the huge fragment, which must have weighed at least twenty tons, rending and splitting in its precipitate course the trees and bushes which it encountered, and settling at length in the channel of the torrent, with a din equal to the discharge of a hundred pieces of artillery. The sound was re-echoed from bank to bank, from precipice to precipice, with emulative thunders; nor was the tumult silent till it rose into the region of eternal snows, which, equally insensible to terrestrial sounds, and unfavourable to animal life, heard the roar in their majestic solitude, but suffered it to die away without a responsive voice.
“What, in the meanwhile, were the thoughts of the distracted father, who saw the pondrous rock descend, but could not mark whether his only son had borne it company in its dreadful fall !"-Vol. i. pp. 28-31.
" If the distress of the father rendered his condition an object of deep compassion, that of the son, at the same moment, was sufficiently perilous. We have already stated, that Arthur Philipson had commenced his precarious journey along the precipice, with all the coolness, resolution, and unshaken determination of mind, which was most essential to a task where all must depends upon firmness of nerve. But the formidable accident which checked his onward progress, was of a character so dreadful, as made him feel all the bitterness of a death, instant,
horrible, and, as it seemed, inevitable. The solid rock had trembled and rent beneath his footsteps, and although, by an effort rather mechanical than voluntary, he had withdrawn himself from the instant ruin attending its descent, he felt as if the better part of him, his firmness of mind and strength of body, bad been rent away with the descending rock, as it fell thundering with clouds of dust and smoke, into the torrents and whirlpools of the vexed gulf beneath. In fact, the seaman swept from the deck of a wrecked vessel, drenched in the waves, and battered against the rocks on the shore, does not differ more from the same mariner, when, at the commencement of the gale, he stood upon the deck of his favourite ship, proud of her strength and his own dexterity, than Arthur, when commencing his journey, from the same Arthur, while clinging to the decayed trunk of an old tree, from which, suspended between heaven and earth, he saw the fall of the crag which he had so nearly accompanied. The effects of his terror, indeed, were physical as well as moral; for a thousand colours played before his eyes; he was attacked by a sick dizziness, and deprived at once of the obedience of those limbe which had hitherto served him so admirably; bis arms and hands, as if no longer at his own command, now clung to the branches of the tree, with a cramp-like tenacity over which he seemed to possess no power, and now trembling in a state of such complete nervous relaxation, as led him to fear that they were becoming unable to support him longer in his position.
“ An incident, in itself trifling, added to the distress occasioned by this alienation of his powers. All living things in the neighbourhood, had, as might be supposed, been startled by the tremendous fall to which his progress had given occasion. "Flights of owls, bats, and other birds of darkness, compelled to betake themselves to the air, had lost no time in returning into their bowers of ivy, or the harbour afforded them by the rifts and holes of the neighbouring rocks. One of this ill-omened flight chanced to to be a lammergeier, or Alpine vulture, a bird larger and more voracious than the eagle himself and which Arthur had not been accustomed to see, or at least to look upon closely. With the instinct of most birds of prey, it is the custom of this creature, when gorged with food, to assume some station of inaccessible security, and there remain stationary and motionless for days together, till the work of digestion has been accomplished, and activity returns with the pressure of appetite. Disturbed from such a state of repose, one of these terrific birds had risen from the ravine to which the species gives its name, and havmg circled unwillingly round with a ghastly scream and a flagging wing, it had sunk down upon the pinnacle of a craig, not four yards from the tree in which Arthur held his precarious station. Although still in some degree stupified by torpor, it seemed encouraged by the motionless state of the young man to suppose him dead, or dying, and sat there and gazed at him, without displaying any of that apprehension which the fiercest animals usually entertain from the vicinity of man.
“ As Arthur, endeavouring to shake off the incapacitating effects of his panic fear, raised his eyes to look gradually and cautiously around, he encountered those of the voracious and obscene bird, whese head and