ePub 版

that no blade of grass could find root there, yet fine young forest trees spring up and flourish. The cedar assumes a conical shape, tapering gracefully to a needlelike point, as if it had been clipped into form by the hand of man.

Simple as they seem, these cedar clumps remain impressed on the travellers' mind, as one feature of the Hudson's beauty, one reason of its fame. After passing a fairy scene of rock and woodland, we come suddenly upon West Point. Another time we will return to spend a day among the cadets in their own quarters.

Our steamer goes merrily down the river, her whole frame, from end to end, vibrates with the strain upon her. A railway runs along the river bank, under rocky heights, and now our boat is put on her mettle, and races with the engine on shore. I will back our “Drew" against the landsman's “ Vanderbilt.” Our water-palace is teeming with guests. You need but look round on every side for studies of American character in manhood, womanhood, and childhood. “This reminds me of my old home on the Derwent,” said a voice at my elbow, and turning round I recognised an American acquaintance from Germantown. He had lived 25 years in America, and never expected to see again his old world home, but the sight of wooded slope and mansion had stirred old memories, and moved him to open his heart to a Britisher. Guess this yer whips your British rivers” was the observation of a Yankee of stalwart build. He was pointing out the spots of interest on the banks, when he was carried off by a call “to liquor" at the bar. He and his companion dived deep into politics with an irascible Southerner, and whoever lost the argument, stood the drink-bill. So vehement did our disputants grow, that there seemed prospect of a quarrel, but their ire was again and again cooled at the bar. The Southerner went, I know not whither, but his two companions I saw again, in policeman's habit in Broadway.

Looking up, we sight the batteries at West Point, and over an inlet stands a splintered rock much persecuted by the round shot of cadet artillerymen. Some of these in after life have come in for siege in its grim reality. Knocking out Fort Sumpter's eyes and drawing the teeth of Castle Pinckney, one thinks they often turned in memory to their early practice. The snow-fortress at Brienne was not a more effective training-school in war to Napoleon, than West Point's sand batteries to Grant and Lee.

Now the silent Moodna joins swift-flowing Hudson, and the Appalachian mountain-chain which run north into Canada, are seen here in all their glory. A waterfall leaps down from its secret springs 500 feet above, and under the Storm-king nestles a little colony of cabins, whose inhabitants must needs look to the river for highway; other pass or outlet there seems none. Mingling with a group on deck, I watch intently, for a first glimpse of Sunnyside ; close at hand is Idlewilde glowing with festooned balcony and porch, fit home for a genius, like that of the late Mr. Willis. Set back from the river is Newburgh the scene of Washington's romance. This old manor house of the Phillips' family might pass for an Elizabethan grange, with its shingle roof, yet its walls of rubble stone are such as a Norman might have built. A couple of mounted shipguns, and an old relic or two mark this spot as one of the many halting places of Washington.

Then come the Palisades. Like mighty ramparts rise the river-rocks, now baying back in bastions of splintered reft; now lone and isolated as a feudal castle by the ocean ; now dressing themselves in shapes of fancy, which rock spirits or mountain gnomes might have fashioned. Rowan and cedar cast anchor there, moored in the rifted rock,” fringing the grey peaks with green. But the characteristic of the Palisades is their wall-like sharpness; as if Titan hands had hewn for the Hudson a passage through this barrier of trap-rock strata. Perched aloft on a cliff reclines a tourist looking down on us with perfect " sang-froid;" while below is moored a pleasure boat, and its fair company, in white dresses, and with unbonneted heads, are sunning themselves on the bank, the overhanging cliff being to them as “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Sing Sing, the prison is behind, before, lie the wharfs of busy Empire City, and our day on the Hudson comes to a pleasant ending.

WEST POINT. Leaving New York and its bustle behind I came one fine morning into the Highlands of the Hudson. The steamer lands two solitary pilgrims at the jetty, under West Point, and proceeds on her upward journey again. The two strangers become first companions, and then friends for the day, a day spent among military memories at West Point, and among literary memories at Sunnyside.

When the boat pushes off up-stream and leaves us, we begin our ascent through a rocky pass, hung with trailing creepers, and seamed with waterfalls, which like silver veils hang down shining and sparkling from secret springs aloft. The grey rocks do service in advertising the well known deeds of Saratoga, and Banker's Hill. Our friends the West Pointers evidently think with the Egyptians, that stone records are desirable; it will take a few centuries of storm to wear out the written history of these rocks.


Bugles are calling to muster and mount as we gain a spacious quadrangle on the plain. All around run solid, castellated buildings; and in the centre of the square are gathered the little band of America's military hope. From all parts of their brave fatherland come these cadets. As I see them answering to the roll-call, each attired in light grey uniform, with black Zouave cap, I think that I have never seen finer forms, or more eager intelligent faces, than these soldierly youths display. They are the pride and care of the nation, clothed, fed and taught by Government.

While they are arranging in the square, we follow a courteous officer, who shows us as it were in a nutshell of time, the “ lions" of West Point. This is a specimen of the rooms, each of which is occupied by two cadets; we may peep inside and see its camp-like furniture, iron bed and table, and carpetless floor. The young men who are in, quail beneath the eye of my guide, and this in cident makes us think of the penalty which attended shirkers in our college days. That solid building is the Academic, and this one the Trophy Hall. In the first goes on a part of that educational course which tasks the ability and energy of each cadet to the utmost, but which when completed gives its possessors a high stand before the world. In the other, are gathering those spoils of War which America like older nations must now and again reap on battle-field and quarter-deck, though we trust that such accumulations may be slow, while the greater triumphs of peace may grow apace. We will not linger here; a troop of saddle-horses have been led up from below by the grooms, and now each grey uniform leaps into a rough Mexican saddle as the bugle sounds the mount. Bidding us adieu, our officer friend commits us into the care of a soldier for guidance round the outworks




The plateau in front of us has been carefully levelled, and all obstructing boulders removed, save a small rock in the centre, from which floats the commandant's flag. In a grove of trees stands the place of summer encampment, where, lodged in canvas tents, these young warriors gain some initiation into bivouac life. Gay as soldiers life” we often say, and our friends here are no exception, for during summer months, sisters, mothers and friends come up to the camp, and then dancingparties and merry doings are for a little time permitted to relieve a life of study, drill and engineering practice.

Turning aside from equestrian evolutions on the plain, we enter an elm-grove, where, ranged round are trophies of captured cannon. English field-pieces of 100 years ago figure here in a "little way,” then come heaps of Mexican guns; each one bears upon it the name of the battle in which it was taken. The tell-tale face of one informs you that it was cast at Southampton, and belonged in its early days to Republica Mexicana. Another, bears upon it the crest of Mexico, “an eagle with a snake in its mouth." We fancy that there is more of the snake than the eagle in the character of its people to-day. Here are old Spanish mortars stamped as king's property, Ferdinand rex Hispaniola.

We in Europe knew little of Santa Anna's republic, until Maximilian led thither the eagles of France; yet long before that time American armies had camped in the city of Mexico, after fighting their way through blood. These brass guns tell us stories of Monterey, of Vera Cruz, of Molins del Rey, of Angostura and Buena Vista, and of other battle land-marks wbich were won before the star-spangled banner floated in peace from the walls of the table-land city. We hope to see it there permanently, ere long, and under its ægis a nation of semi-barbarians taking a new lease of civilised life.


« 上一頁繼續 »