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which, in these lofty regions, blew with a violence unknown in the tracts below, exhibited an awful spectacle.
2. At length my attention was attracted by the trunk which lay across the gulf, and which I had converted into a bridge. I perceived that it had already somewhat swerved from its original position, that every blast broke or loosened some of the fibers by which its roots were connected with the opposite bank, and that, if the storm did not speedily abate, there was imminent danger of its being torn from the rock and precipitated into the chasm. Thus my retreat would be cut off, and the evils from which I was endeavoring to rescue another, would be experienced by myself.
3. I believed my destiny to hang upon the expedition with which I should recross this gulf. The moments that were spent in these deliberations were critical, and I shuddered to observe that the trunk was held in its place by one or two fibers which were already stretched almost to breaking. To pass along the trunk, rendered slippery by the wet and unsteadfast by the wind was eminently dangerous. To maintain my hold in passing, in defiance of the whirlwind, required the most vigorous exertions. For this end, it was necessary to discommode myself of my cloak.
4. Just as I had disposed of this encumbrance, and had risen from my seat, my attention was again called to the opposite steep, by the most unwelcome object that at this time could possibly present itself. Something was perceived moving among the bushes and rocks, which, for a time, I hoped was no more than a raccoon or opossum, but which presently appeared to be a panther. His gray coat, extended claws, fiery eyes, and a cry which he at that moment uttered, and which, by its resemblance to the human voice, is peculiarly terrific, denoted him to be the most ferocious and untamable of that detested race.
5. The in'dustry of our hunters has nearly banished animals of prey from these precincts. The fastnesses of Norwalk, however, could not but afford refuge to some of them. Of late I had met them so rarely, that my fears were seldom alive, and I trod, without caution, the ruggèdèst and most solitary haunts. Still, however, I had seldom been unfurnished in my rambles with the means of defense.
6. The unfrequency with which I had lately encountered this foe, and the encumbrance of provision, made me neglect, on this
occasion, to bring with me my usual arms.
7. My past experience enabled me to estimate the full extent of my danger. He sat on the brow of the steep, eyeing the bridge, and apparently deliberating whether he should cross it. It was probable that he had scented my footsteps thus far, and should he pass over, his vigilance could scarcely fail of detecting my asy'lum.
8. Should he retain his present station, my danger was scarcely lessened. To pass over in the face of a famished tiger was only to rush upon my fate. The falling of the trunk, which had lately been so anxiously deprecated, was now, with no less solicitude, desired. Every new gust I hoped would tear asunder its remaining bands, and, by cutting off all communication between the opposite steeps, place me in security. My hopes, however, were destined to be frustrated. The fibers of the prostrate tree were obstinately tenacious of their hold, and presently the animal scrambled down the rock and proceeded to cross it.
9. Of all kinds of death, that which now menaced me was the most abhorred. To die by disease, or by the hand of a fellowcreature, was lenient in comparison with being rent to pieces by the fangs of this savage. To perish in this obscure retreat, by means so impervious to the anxious curiosity of my friends, to lose my portion of existence by so untoward and ignoble a destiny, was insupportable. I bitterly deplored my rashnèss in coming hither unprovided for an encounter like this.
10. The evil of my present circumstances consisted chiefly in suspense. My death was unavoidable, but my imagination had leisure to torment itself by anticipations. One foot of the savage was slowly and cautiously moved after the other. He struck his claws so deeply into the bark that they were with difficulty withdrawn. At length he leaped upon the ground. We were now separated by an interval of scarcely eight feet. To leave the spot where I crouched was impossible. Behind and beside me the cliff rose perpendicularly, and before me was
this grim and terrific visage. I shrunk still closer to the ground and closed my eyes.
11. From this pause of horror I was aroused by the noise occasioned by a second spring of the animal. He leaped into the pit in which I had so deeply regretted that I had not taken refuge, and disappeared. My rescue was so sudden, and so much beyond my belief or my hope, that I doubted for a moment whether my senses did not deceive me. This opportunity of escape was not to be neglected. I left my place and scrambled over the trunk with a precipitation which had liked to have proved fatal. The tree groaned and shook under me, the wind blew with unexampled violence, and I had scarcely reached the opposite steep when the roots were severed from the rock, and the whole fell thundering to the bottom of the chasm.
12. My trepidations were not speedily quieted. I looked back with wonder on my hair-breadth escape, and on that singular concurrence of events which had placed me in so short a period in absolute security. Had the trunk fallen a moment earlier, I should have been imprisoned on the hill or thrown headlong. Had its fall been delayed another moment, I should have been pursued; for the beast now issued from his den, and testified his surprise and disappointment by tokens, the sight of which made my blood run cold.
13. He saw me, and hastened to the verge of the chasm. He squatted on his hind-legs, and assumed the attitude of one preparing to leap. My consternation was excited afresh by these appearances. It seemed, at first, as if the rift was too wide for any power of muscles to carry him in safety over; but I knew the unparalleled agility of this animal, and that his experience had made him a better judge of the practicability of this exploit than I was.
14. Still, there was hope that he would relinquish this design as desperate. This hope was quickly at an end. He sprung, and his fore-legs touched the verge of the rock on which I stood. In spite of ve'hement exertions, however, the surface was too smooth and too hard to allow him to make good his hold. He fell, and a piercing cry, uttered below, showed that nothing had obstructed his descent to the bottom.
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN, the first American who chose literature as a profession, was born in Philadelphia on the 17th of January, 1771, and died the 22d of February, 1810. He was a gentle, unobtrusive enthusiast, who, though he
resided principally in cities, passed a large portion of his life as a recluse. He lived in an ideal, and had little sympathy with the actual world. He had more genius than talent, and more imagination than fancy. His works, which were rapidly written, are incomplete, and deficient in method. Though he disregarded rules, and cared little for criticism, his style was clear and nervous, with little ornament, free of affectations, and indicated a singular sincerity and depth of feeling. "Wieland, or the Transformed," the first of a series of brilliant novels by which Brown gained his enduring reputation, was published in 1798. It is in all respects a remarkable book. Its plot, characters, and style are original and peculiar. The novel from which the above extract was taken is entitled, "Edgar Huntley, the Memoirs of a Somnambulist." The scene is located near the forks of the Delaware, in Pennsylvania. Clithero, the sleep-walker, has become insane, and has fled into one of the wild mountain fastnesses of Norwalk. Edgar Huntley, when endeavoring to discover his retreat, meets with the adventure described above. This description is written with a freedom, minuteness, and truthfulness to nature, that render it fearfully interesting and effective.
73. COUNT FATHOM'S ADVENTURE.
ATHOM departed from the village that same afternoon
benighted in the midst of a forest, far from the habitations of men. The darkness of the night, the silence and solitude of the place, the indistinct images of the trees that appeared on every side stretching their extravagant arms athwart the gloom, conspired with the dejection of spirits occasioned by his loss to disturb his fancy, and raise strange phantoms in his imagination. Although he was not naturally superstitious, his mind began to be invaded with an awful horror, that gradually prevailed over all the consolations of reason and philosophy; nor was his heart free from the terrors of assassination.
2. In order to dissipate these disagreeable reveries, he had recourse to the conversation of his guide, by whom he was entertained with the history of divers travelers who had been robbed and murdered by ruffians (ruf'yănz), whose retreat was in the recesses of that very wood. In the midst of this communication, which did not at all tend to the elevation of our hero's spirits, the conductor made an excuse for dropping behind, while our traveler jogged on in expectation of being joined again by him in a few minutes. He was, however, disappointed in that hope: the sound of the horse's feet by degrees grew more and more faint, and at last altogether died away.
3. Alarmed at this circumstance, Fathom halted in the road, and listened with the most fearful attention; but his sense of hearing was saluted with naught but the dismal sighings of the trees, that seemed to foretell an approaching storm. Accordingly, the heavens contracted a more dreary aspect, the lightning began to gleam, the thunder to roll, and the tempest, raising its voice to a tremendous roar, descended in a torrent of rain.
4. In this emergency, the fortitude of our hero was almost quite overcome. So many concurring circumstances of danger and distress might have appalled the most undaunted breast; what impression then must they have made upon the mind of Ferdinand, who was by no means a man to set fear at defiance! Indeed, he had well-nigh lost the use of his reflection, and was actually invaded to the skin, before he could recollect himself so far as to quit the road, and seek for shelter among the thickets that surrounded him.
5. Having rōde some furlongs into the forest, he took his station under a tuft of tall trees, that screened him from the storm, and in that situation called a council with himself, to deliberate upon his next excursion. He persuaded himself that his guide had deserted him for the present, in order to give intelligence of a traveler to some gang of robbers with whom he was connected; and that he must of necessity fall a prey to those banditti, unless he should have the good fortune to elude their search, and disentangle himself from the mazes of the wood.
6. Harrowed with these apprehensions, he resolved to commit himself to the mercy of the hurricane, as of two evils the least, and penetrate straight forward through some devious opening, until he should be delivered from the forest. For this purpose he turned his horse's head in a line quite contrary to the direction of the high road which he had left, on the supposition that the robbers would pursue that tract in quest of him, and that they would never dream of his deserting the highway to traverse an unknown forest amidst the darkness of such a boisterous night.
7. After he had continued in this progress through a succession of groves, and bogs, and thorns, and brakes, by which not only his clothes, but also his skin suffered in a grievous while every nerve quivered with eagerness and dismay, he at length reached an open plain, and pursuing his course, in full hope of arriving at some village where his life would be safe, he