« AnteriorContinuar »
than with any hope that I should be heard; fore, behind, and on all sides around me. I shouted loudly and fiercely: my answer Their long gaunt jaws and channeled snouts -the echoes of my own voice, the shriek projected forward so as almost to touch of the osprey, and the maniac laugh of the my body; and their eyes, usually leaden, white-headed eagle.
seemed now to glare. I ceased to shout, threw my gun to the Impelled by this new danger, I sprang earth, and tottered down beside it. I have to my feet, when, recognizing the upright been in a gloomy prison, in the hands of a form of man, the reptiles scuttled off, and vengeful guerilla banditti, with carbines plunging hurriedly into the lake, hid their cocked to blow out my brains. No one hideous bodies under the water. will call that a pleasant situation—nor was The incident in some measure revived it so to me. I have been lost upon the me. I saw that I was not alone : there wide prairie—the land-sea-without bush, was company even in the crocodiles. I break, or star to guide me—that was worse. gradually became more myself; and began There you look around ; you see nothing; to reflect with some degree of coolness on you hear nothing ; you are alone with God, the circumstances that surrounded me. and you tremble in his presence ; your My eyes wandered over the islet; every senses swim ; your brain reels; you are inch of it came under my glance; every afraid of yourself; you are afraid of your object upon it was scrutinized—the moulted own mind. Deserted by everything else, feathers of wild-fowl, the pieces of mud, you dread lest it, too, may forsake you. the fresh-water mussels (unios) strewed There is horror in this—it is very horrible upon its beach-all were examined. Still it is hard to bear; but I have borne it all, the barren answer—no means of escape. and would bear it again twenty times over The islet was but the head of a sand-bar, rather than endure once more the first hour formed by the eddy-perhaps gathered I spent on that lonely islet in that lonely together within the year. It was bare of lake. Your prison may be dark and silent, herbage, with the exception of a few tufts but you feel that you are not utterly alone; of grass. There was neither tree nor bush beings like yourself are near, though they upon it—not a stick. A raft indeed ! be your jailers. Lost on the prairie, you There was not wood enough to make a are alone ; but you are free. In the islet, raft that would have floated a frog. The I felt that I was alone ; that I was not free; idea of a raft was but briefly entertained; in the islet, I experienced the feelings of such a thought had certainly crossed my the prairie and the prison combined. mind, but a single glance round the islet
I lay in a state of stupor-almost un- dispelled it before it had taken shape. conscious; how long I know not, but many I paced my prison from end to end ; hours I am certain : I knew this by the sun from side to side I walked it over. I tried -it was going down when I awoke, if I the water's depth ; on all sides I sounded may so term the recovery of my stricken it, wading recklessly in ; everywhere it senses. I was aroused by a strange deepened rapidly as I advanced. Three circumstance; I was surrounded by dark lengths of myself from the islet's edge, and objects of hideous shape and hue-reptiles I was up to the neck. The huge reptiles they were. They had been before my swam around, snorting and blowing; they eyes for some time, but I had not seen were bolder in this element. could not them. I had only a sort of dreamy con have waded safely ashore, even had the sciousness of their presence; but I heard water been shallow. To swim it-nothem at length: my ear was in better tune, even though I swam like a duck, they and the strange noises they uttered reached would have closed upon and quartered me my intellect. It sounded like the blowing before I could have made a dozen strokes. of great bellows, with now and then a Horrified by their demonstrations, I hurried note harsher and louder, like the roaring back upon dry ground, and paced the islet of a bull. This startled me, and I looked with dripping garments. up and bent my eyes upon the objects : I continued walking until night, which they were forms of the crocodilidæ, the gathered around me dark and dismal. giant lizards—they were alligators. With night came new voices—the hideous
Huge ones they were, many of them; voices of the nocturnal swamp; the quaand many were they in number--a hundred qua of the night-heron, the screech of the at least were crawling over the islet, be- swamp-owl, the cry of the bittern, the
el-l-uk of the great water-toad, the tinkling certainty of my peril kept me awake. of the bell-frog, and the chirp of the Once again before morning I was comsavanna-cricket-all fell upon my ear. pelled to battle with the hideous reptiles, Sounds still harsher and more hideous were and chase them away with a shot from heard around me—the plashing of the my gun. alligator, and the roaring of his voice; Morning came at length, but with it no these reminded me that I must not go to change in my perilous position. The light sleep. To sleep! I durst not have slept only showed me my island prison, but for a single instant. Even when I lay for revealed no way of escape from it. Ina few minutes motionless, the dark reptiles deed, the change could not be called for the came crawling round me—so close that I better, for the fervid rays of an almost could have put forth my hand and touched vertical sun burned down upon me until them.
my skin blistered. I was already speckled At intervals, I sprang to my feet, shouted, by the bites of a thousand swamp-flies and swept my gun around, and chased them musquitoes, that all night long had preyed back to the water, into which they betook upon me. There was not a cloud in the themselves with a sullen plunge, but with heavens to shade me; and the sunbeams little semblance of fear. At each fresh smote the surface of the dead bayou with demonstration on my part they showed less a double intensity. Toward evening, I alarm, until I could no longer drive them began to hunger; no wonder at that: I had either with shouts or threatening gestures. not eaten since leaving the village settleThey only retreated a few feet, forming inent. To assuage thirst, I drank the an irregular circle round me. Thus hem- water of the lake, turbid and slimy as it med in, I became frightened in turn. I was. I drank it in large quantities, for it loaded my gun and fired; I killed none. was hot, and only moistened my palate They are impervious to a bullet, except in without quenching the craving of my apthe eye, or under the forearm. It was too petite. Of water there was enough ; I had dark to aim at these parts ; and my shots more to fear from want of food. glanced harmlessly from the pyramidal What could I eat? The ibis. But how scales of their bodies. The loud report, to cook it? There was nothing wherehowever, and the blaze frightened them, with to make a fire-not a stick. No matand they fed, to return again after a long ter for that. Cooking is a modern inveninterval. I was asleep when they returned; tion, a luxury for pampered palates. I I had gone to sleep in spite of my efforts divested the ibis of its brilliant plumage, to keep awake. I was startled by the and ate it raw. I spoiled my specimen, touch of something cold; and half-stified but at the time there was little thought of by a strong musky odor that filled the air. that: there was not much of the naturalist I threw out my arms; my fingers rested left in me. I anathematized the hour I upon an object slippery and clammy: it had ever imbibed such a taste; I wished was one of these monsters—one of gigantic Audubon, and Buffon, and Cuvier, up to size. He had crawled close alongside me, their necks in a swamp. The ibis did not and was preparing to make his attack; as weigh above three pounds, bones and all. I saw that he was bent in the form of a It served me for a second meal, a breakbow, and I knew that these creatures as- fast; but at this déjeûner sans fourchette sume that attitude when about to strike I picked the bones. their victim. I was just in time to spring What next? starve?
No-not yet. aside, and avoid the stroke of his powerful In the battles I had had with the alligators tail, that the next moment swept the ground during the second night, one of them had where I had lain. Again I fired, and he received a shot that proved mortal. The with the rest once more retreated to the hideous carcass of the reptile lay dead upon lake.
the beach. I need not starve; I could eat All thoughts of going to sleep were at that. Such were my reflections. I must an end.
Not that I felt wakeful; on the hunger, though, before I could bring myself contrary, wearied with my day's exertion to touch the musky morsel. Two more --for I had had a long pull under a hot days' fasting conquered my squeamishness. tropical sun-I could have lain down upon I drew out my knife, cut a stake from the the earth, in the mud, anywhere, and slept alligator's tail, and ate it—not the one I in an instant. Nothing but the dread | had first killed, but a second; the other
was now putrid, rapidly decomposing under
MOUNT VESUVIUS. the hot sun: its odour filled the islet.
The stench had grown intolerable. E were now about to see nature in a There was not a breath of air stirring, new and awful form, by witnessing otherwise I might have shunned it by the beginning of an eruption at Vesuvius. keeping to windward. The whole atmos- Before quitting Naples, we heard reports phere of the islet, as well as a large circle that an approaching tumult in the mountain around it, was impregnated with the fearful was anticipated. Volleys of smoke aseffluvium. I could bear it no longer. cended, from time to time, from the crater, With the aid of my gun, I pushed the half- or lay curled in clouds on the summit. decomposed carcass into the lake ; perhaps The wells at Naples were becoming dry, the current might carry
overflowing ; I had the gratification to see it float off. loud noises, too, were heard on the mountThis circumstance led me into a train of ain, and it was rumored that fire had been reflections. Why did the body of the seen by night. alligator float? It was swollen-inflated Upon reaching the house of Salvator, at with gasses. Ha!
Resina, the principal Vesuvius guide, he An idea shot suddenly through my mind, told us that the mountain was in action ; one of those brilliant ideas—the children that a new crater had been opened the of necessity. I thought of the floating night before, and was sending forth flames alligator, of its intestines—what if I in- and stones. We speedily mounted our flated them? Yes, yes! buoys and blad- donkeys—poor miserable little creatures, ders, floats and life-preservers ! that was which had already been up the mountain the thought. I would open the alligators, twice during the preceding twenty-fourmake a buoy of their intestines, and that hours—and started, full of expectation. would bear me from the islet!
For some time our path lay between walls I did not lose a moment's time; built of blocks of lava, strewn with volcanic full of energy : hope had given me new stones. In about three-quarters of an hour life. My gun was loaded-a huge croco- we reached a wide current of lava, that of dile that swam near the shore, received the 1810; it was like a frozen Styx. The shot in his eye. I dragged him on the scene was one of wild desolation; not a beach ; with my knife I laid open his trace of vegetation was seen. Black, dark, entrails. Few they were, but enough for and barren, was the surface of the earth ; my purpose. A plume-quill from the wing in some places the lava, arrested in its of the ibis served me for a blow-pipe. course, resembled petrified waves, while I saw the bladder-skin expand, until I was in others it formed a hard compact sursurrounded by objects like great sausages. face: our guide pointed out to us the These were tied together, and fastened to streams of lava of 1819, 1822, and 1833. my body, and then, with a plunge, I entered On a hill formed of volcanic products, the waters of the lake, and floated down raised like a ridge high above the currents ward. I had tied on my life-preservers in of lava that have swept past it on either such a way that I sat in the water in an side, stands the hermitage. One solitary upright position, holding my gun with both friar had pitched his tent in this wilderhands. This I intended to have used as a ness, and had lived here nearly twenty club in case I should be attacked by the years, never quitting the spot, even during alligators ; but I had chosen the hot hour the most awful eruptions of the mountain. of noon, when these creatures lie in a half-Here we halted for twenty minutes, to torpid state, and to my joy I was not rest our poor little steeds. The lava, molested. Half an hour's drifting with which we had before crossed in comparathe current carried me to the end of the tively regular streams, was now piled lake, and I found myself at the debouchure about in huge blocks, among which we of the bayou. Here, to my great delight, picked our way with difficulty. We soon I saw my boat in the swamp, where it had arrived at the foot of the cone; and here been caught and held fast by the sedges. we were obliged to leave our donkeys, and A few minutes more, and I had swung commit ourselves to the mercy of twelve myself over the gunwale, and was sculling portantini, or bearers. The soil is 80 with eager strokes down the smooth loose, and the ascent so steep, that no waters of the bayou.
animal, except man, can find a footing.
I do not remember ever in my life to ceeded by volumes of dense black smoke. have been so entirely overcome with ter- Red-hot stones and masses of rock were ror, as in the scene which followed. The hurled hundreds of feet into the air; some ladies of our party were placed in small falling back into the crater, while others, arm-chairs, fastened upon long poles, which dashed into a thousand pieces, were scatthe men supported on their shoulders. Im- tered around. After standing on this pinagine what it was to be thus lifted up by nacle for some time, the guide led the way twelve men, who sank knee-deep in the to the very edge of the crater. I felt that ashes at every step, and whose footing I had seen enough, and begged to be left was so uncertain and irregular, that I was behind, being indeed too cowardly to renone minute thrown to one side of the ture on. The rest of the party, however, chair, and the next flung violently forward, had sufficient courage and curiosity to exand then as suddenly jerked back again. plore further. I asked our guide if there All the time the men screamed as Neapol- was really any danger; he looked at me itans only can scream. The portantini earnestly, and simply said, “Signorina who were carrying one of my friends fell gentilissima, ho sei piccolini in casa !"down all at once, and this was the signal (“Gentle lady, I have six little children at for my bearers to rush past them, yelling home !") Could any words have conveyed with delight. So wild and uncivilized a stronger assurance than this touching a set of beings you never saw, and the appeal? It gave me courage, and I pronoise they made was something quite un- ceeded with the others. earthly. I completely lost my presence And now we stood beside the crater ; of mind, and in piteous tones besought the and as each volley of smoke and flame men to let me get down and walk; but subsided, we peeped into the abyss. Then instead of heeding my entreaties, they came a hollow fearful sound, the earth beonly raced on the more desperately. neath us trembled, the smoke and flame
When I reached the summit, after hav- again ascended; stones were shot up into ing endured this terror for three-quarters the air high above our heads. Suddenly of an hour, I sat down and buried my face the wind changed, and our position was by in my hands, unable to speak. After a no means an enviable one; the smoke and Jittle while, when I raised my eyes and sulphureous vapor were blown toward us, looked around, what words can picture and red-hot stones fell in showers around. the scene that presented itself! We were Every one was now terrified; we fled like standing on the edge of the large basin, in a herd of startled deer, and scrambling up the center of which were the craters in the hill as fast as the loose and slippery action. When all our party were as- soil would permit, only turned to look back sembled we followed our guide, and pro- when we had reached the top.
We were ceeded toward them, scrambling over rocks now content with a more distant view, and of hot lava, and stepping across deep lingered long near the crater, reluctant to chasms, from which rose a hot sulphure- leave a spot which we were so unlikely ous exhalation. I can never forget the ever to visit again. feelings of that moment.
I had lately
At length we prepared to descend the seen nature in her most grand and lovely mountain. I had dismissed my chair, deforms, and remembered with delight the termined to trust alone to my feet. Supsublime beauty of Switzerland; but here ported by a friend, and one of the guides, I beheld her under a new aspect-awful, I advanced down the precipitous descent, terrific, and overwhelming — working in slowly and cautiously at first; but gaining the secret places of the earth with a power courage as we proceeded, I soon ran of destructive and mysterious energy, and briskly on, and in four minutes reached revealing itself to man in fearful and des- the foot of the cone which it had cost us olating might. I gazed, and thought of so much time, toil, and suffering to ascend. Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Remounting our donkeys, we soon joined We stopped on a high point of lava, and those of our party who had not ventured looked into the mighty caldron beneath us. on the ascent, and as we drove back to Loud subterranean noises were heard from Naples, related to them our adventures. time to time—the mountain seemed shaken But how vain were all our endeavors to to its center; then columns of bright clear give utterance to the thoughts and feelings flame spouted forth from the crater, suc- which this day's excursion had awakened!
THE CAPTURED SLAVER.
and having all the advantage of a high state of discipline among her crew, gains upon
Her Britannic Majesty's brig the structed for fast sailing. The officers, "S—"captured, and carried triumphant- with their long glasses bent upon the one ly into port, a Spanish slaver, called the object before them, are all anxiety to make “Camoens," having on board five hundred out her true character; while the “young and seventy-three poor creatures who had gentlemen” and the crew are animated by been torn away from home and kindred in the keen desire to make another seizure ; Africa, and, after suffering untold horrors, not forgetting that, while suffering humanity and passing through the hands of the bar is relieved by their success, there is prizebarous wretches who feed and grow rich money as well as honor to be gained by upon the misery and murder of their fellow- the capture of a slaver. The expectations creatures, had been crowded, one layer which had been raised so high are suddenly above another, into the narrow hold of the dashed; for it is observed that the schooner “ Camoens,” to endure the aggravated has suddenly desisted from the attempt to wretchedness of a passage to the Cuban escape, and, hoisting Portuguese colors, is coast, there to be consigned to wasting, now waiting for the brig to come up. Had interminable, and hopeless slavery. They she been a slaver, it is argued, she would were found in an indescribable condition of not, while at such a distance, have given filth and suffering, when, happily, the up the effort to get away from her formi"S" brig-of-war crossed the path of dable pursuer. “She is no slaver," is the the floating slaughter-house, and she was almost unanimous conclusion on board the compelled to yield up her stolen, living “S—;" “ for such a proceeding is ircargo to the protection of the British flag. reconcilable with the idea of her being one The sun has not long risen from behind of that class. There is possibly a mutiny the eastern wave, when the officer of the among the crew, which may account for watch gives notice that a strange sail to her strange movements.” The brig urges windward has just hove in sight. Little on her course, glad to be spared the long of her can be observed at first; but the chase she must have had if the schooner glasses of numerous gazers are anxiously had persisted in the effort to escape ; but directed toward her as she comes dashing when the pursuers approach near enough on before the wind in the direction of the to distinguish by their glasses her rusty brig-of-war, evidently not keeping so good and filthy sides, and the absence of a longa look-out as is maintained on board the boat and stern-boat, they begin to think "SM" After a little while a further that, after all, they have been mistaken. report is made by the officer of the watch, A little nearer, and all doubt of the real that the stranger has “gone about," thus character of the schooner is dissipated : indicating that she has discovered the brig, there are the indubitable indications—the and that her crew are not anxious for slave-coppers, and the captive Africans a closer acquaintance. This suspicious themselves. Conjecture is at an end. movement on the part of the chase, now She is unquestionably a slaver, with her not more than five or six miles distant, is wretched cargo on board; but the crew of sufficient to arouse the officers and crew the"S— "scarcely believe the testimony of the brig to the utmost vigilance and of their own senses, even while they coneffort; and all sail is crowded in pursuit, gratulate themselves on having made so Rone doubting that they will bring the easy a capture, the cause of which has yet schooner within range of their guns before to be explained. the approach of night affords opportunity The brig having run up sufficiently near, for escape. If she were honest, she would the mainyard of the schooner is backed ; have nothing to fear from a British vessel one of the boats, with an officer, is sent to of war: she must, therefore, be either a board her; and, unopposed, he is shortly slaver, or one of the piratical craft by no seen treading her quarter-deck. With an means unknown in those seas; and in excess of humility, the ship's papers and either case it is the duty of the “S register are produced at the demand of the if possible, to overhaul her. The excite- British officer; and none would imagine, ment rises high as the chase is prolonged; on witnessing the servile, cringing demeanbut the brig, well-equipped, well-manned, or of the slaver's captain and crew, that