網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

here and there, a late pale brier rose. The orchards were cheerful with their apple-cropping. There was scarcely one which had not its ladder against a laden tree, its array of baskets and troughs beneath, and its company of children picking up the fruit from the grass. What a contrast to the scenery we were about to enter upon!

Of the earlier part of this trip our visit to Lake Winnipiseogee and the Red Mountain) I gave an account in my former work,* little supposing that I should ever return to the subject. My narrative must now be taken up from the point where I then dropped it.

From the summit of Red Mountain I had seen what kind of scenery we were to pass through on our road to Conway, It was first mountain and wild little valleys, and then dark pine scenery ; barrens, with some autumnal copses, and intervals of lake and stream. Lake Ossippee looked like what I fancy the wildest parts of Norway to be ; a dark blue expanse, slightly ruffled, with pine fringing all its ledges, and promontories, bristling with pines, jutting into it ; no dwellings, and no sign of life but a pair of wildfowl, bobbing and ducking, and a hawk perched on the tiptop of a scraggy blighted tree.

In the steamboat on Lake Winnipiseogee there was a party whom we at once concluded to be bride, bridegroom, and bridemaid. They were very young, and the state of the case might not have occurred to us but for the obvious pride of the youth in having a lady to take care of. Our conjectures were confirmed by the peculiar tone in which he spoke of “ my wife” to the people of the inn in giving orders. It had a droll mixture of pride and awkwardness ; of novelty with an attempt to make the words appear quite familiar. For some days we were perpetually meeting this party, and this afternoon they introduced themselves to me, on the ground of their having expected to see me at Portsmouth on my way to the White Mountains. I imagine they would have been too busy with their wedding arrangements to have cared much about me if I had gone. I was glad we fell in with them, as it added an interest to the trip. We looked at the scenery with their eyes, and pleased ourselves with imagining what a paradise these landscapes must appear to the

young people ; what a sacred region it will be to them

• Society in America, vol. i., p. 220-225.

when they look back upon it in their old age, and tell the youth of those days what the White Mountains were when they towered in the midst of a wilderness.

We all took up our quarters at the inn at Conway; and the next morning we met again at breakfast, and improved our acquaintance by sympathizing looks about the badness of everything on the table. Eggs were a happy resource, for the bread was not eatable. We did not start till ten, our party having bespoken a private conveyance, and the horses having to be sent for to a distance of eight miles. So the wedding-party had the companionship of our luggage instead of ourselves in the stage ; and we four stepped merrily into our little open carriage, while the skirts of the morning mist were drawing off from the hilltops, and the valley was glowing in a brilliant autumn sunshine. This was to be the grand day of the journey ; the day when we were to pass the Notch ; and we were resolved to have it to ourselves, if we could procure a private conveyance from stage to stage.

We struck across the valley, which is intersected by the Saco river. Never did valley look more delicious ; shut in all round by mountains, green as emerald, flat as water, and chumped and fringed with trees tinted with the softest autumnal hues. Every reach of the Saco was thus belted and shaded. We stopped at Pendexter's, the pretty house well known to tourists; having watered the horses, we went on another stage, no less beautiful, and then entered upon the wilderness. For seven miles we did not see a single dwelling; and a head now and then popped out of the stage window, showing that our friends " the weddingers" were making sure of our being near, as if the wilderness of the scene made them relish the idea of society.

The mountains had opened and closed in every direction all the morning ; they now completely shut us in, and looked tremendous enough, being exceedingly steep and abrupt, bare, and white where they had been seamed with slides, and in other parts dark with stunted firs. At the end of seven miles of this wilderness we arrived at the elder Crawford's, a lone house invested with the grateful recollections of a multitude of travellers. The Crawfords, who live twelve miles apart, lead a remarkable life, but one which seems to agree well with mind and body. They are hale, lively men, of uncommon simplicity of manners, dearly loving company, but able to make themselves happy in solitude. Their year is passed in alternations of throngs of guests with entire loneliness.* During the long dreary season of thaw no one comes in sight ; or, if a chance visiter should approach, it is in a somewhat questionable shape, being no other than a hungry bear, the last of his clan. During two months, August and September, while the solitaries are trying to get some sort of harvest out of the impracticable soil, while bringing their grain from a distance, a flock of summer tourists take wing through the region. Then the Crawfords lay down beds in every corner of their dwellings, and spread their longest tables, and bustle from morning till night, the hosts acting as guides to every accessible point in the neighbourhood, and the women of the family cooking and waiting from sunrise till midnight. After the 1st of October comes a pause, dead silence again for three months, till the snow is frozen hard, and trains of loaded sleighs appear in the passes. Traders from many distant points come down with their goods, while the roads are in a state which enables one horse to draw the load of five. This is a season of great jollity ; and the houses are gay with roaring fires, hot provisions, good liquor, loud songs, and romantic travellers' tales ; tales of pranking wild beasts, bold sleigh-drivers, and hardy woodsmen.

The elder Crawford has a pet album, in which he almost insists that his guests shall write. We found in it some of the choicest nonsense and “ brag” that can be found in the whole library of albums. We dined well on mutton, eggs, and whortleberries with milk. Tea was prepared at dinner as regularly as bread throughout this excursion. While the rest of the party were finishing their arrangements for departure, I found a seat on a stone, on a rising ground opposite, whence I could look some way up and down the pass, and wonder at leisure at the intrepidity which could choose such an abode.

We proceeded in an open wagon, the road winding amid tall trees, and the sunshine already beginning to retreat up the mountain sides. We soon entered the secluded valley where stands the dwelling of the Willeys, the unfortunate family who were all swept away in one night by a slide from the mountain in the rear of the house.* No one lives in that valley now, and this is not to be wondered at, so desolate is its aspect. The platform on which the unharmed housu stands is the only quiet green spot in the pass. The slides have stripped the mountains of their wood, and they stand tempest-beaten, seamed, and furrowed; while beneath lies the wreck of what was brought down by the great slide of 1826, a heap of rock and soil, bristling with pine-trunks and upturned roots, half hidden by a rank new vegetation, which will in time turn all the chaos into beauty.

* The region must, however, be less desolate than it was. The land in the neighbourhood had been worth only twenty-five cents per acre, and was now worth six times as much.

A dark pine hill at the end of this pass is the signal of the traveller's approach to the Notch. We walked up a long ascent, the road overhanging a ravine, where rocks were capriciously tumbled together, brought down, doubtless, by a winter-torrent. At present, instead of a torrent, there were two sparkling waterfalls leaping down the mountain. The Notch is, at the narrowest part, only twenty-two feet wide. The weather was so still that we were scarcely aware of the perpetual wind, which is one characteristic of the pass. There the wind is always north or south ; and it ordinarily blows so strong as to impair the traveller's pleasure in exploring the scene. It merely breathed cool upon us as we entered the tremendous gateway formed by a lofty perpendicular rock on the right hand and a steep mountain on the left. When we were through and had rejoined our wagon, my attention was directed to the Profile, an object which explains itself in being named. The sharp rock certainly resembles a human face; but what then? There is neither wonder nor beauty in it. I turned from it to see the infant Saco bubble forth from its spring among stones and bushes, under the shelter of the perpendicular rock, and in a semicircular recess of the greenest sward. Trees sprang from sharp projections, and wrenched themselves out of crevices, giving the last air of caprice to the scene:

We were just in time for the latest yellow light. Twilight stole on, and we grew silent. The stars appeared early to us on our shadowy way, and birds flitted by to their homes. A light still lingered on the mountain strear, when Sirius was tremblingly reflected in it. When the lights of Ethan Crawford's dwelling were seen twinkling in the distance, we were deep in the mutual recitation of poetry. As we drove up to the open door, Mr. D. said, quietly, as he looked up

* Society in America, vol. i., p. 227.

[ocr errors]

I rose very

into the heavens, “ Shall we get out, or spend the evening as we are ?" We got out, and then followed supper, fiddle,

?" and dancing, as I have elsewhere related.*

We proposed to ascend Mount Washington the next morning if the weather should allow. It is a difficult and laborious ascent for all travellers, and few ladies venture upon the enterprise ; but the American lady of our party was fully disposed to try her strength with me. early, and, seeing that the mountain peak looked sharp and clear, never doubted that I ought to prepare myself for the expedition. On coming down, however, I was told that there was rather too much wind, and some expectation of rain. By noon, sure enough, while we were upon Mount Deception (so called from its real being so much greater than its apparent height), we saw that there was a tempest of wind and snow about the mountain top. This peak is the highest in the Union. It rises 6634 feet above the level of the sea, 4000 feet of this height being clothed with wood, and the rest being called the bald part of the mountain. We spent our day delightfully in loitering about Mount Deception, in tracking the stream of the valley through its meadows and its thickets of alders, and in watching the course and explosion of storms upon the mountains. Some gay folks from Boston were at Crawford's, and they were not a little shocked at seeing us pack ourselves and our luggage into a wagon in the afternoon, for a drive of eighteen miles to Littleton. We should be upset ; we should break down; we should be drowned in a deluge; they should pick us up on the morrow. We were a little doubtful ourselves about the prudence of the enterprise; but a trip to Franconia Defile was in prospect for the next day, and we wished that our last sight of the White Mountains should be when they had the evening sun upon them. Our expedition was wholly successful; we had neither storm, breakage, nor overturn, and it was not sunset when we reached and walked up the long hill which was to afford us the last view of the chain. Often did we stand and look back upon the solemn tinted mountains to the north, and upon the variegated range behind, sunny in places, as if angels were walking there and shedding light from their presence.

We passed the town of Bethlehem, consisting, as far as

* Society in America, vol. i., p. 227. VOL. II.-L

« 上一頁繼續 »