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jurious to him. He was sent down the river to New-Orleans, and his wife was not allowed to accompany him. The reasons were sufficient, but the separation at a time when he was nearly as anxious about her health as she about his was a dreadful trial. I heard of it, and wrote him a long letter to amuse him, desiring him not to exert himself to answer it. After a while, however, he did so, and I shall never part with that letter. He spoke briefly of himself and his affairs, but I saw the whole state of his mind in the little he did say. He found himself in no respect better; in many much worse. He often felt that he was going down the dark valley, and longed intensely for the voices of his home to cheer him on his way. But, still, his happiest conviction was the uppermost. He knew that all things were ordered well, and he had no cares. He wrote more copiously of other things of his voyage down the great river, of the state of mind and manners amid the influences of slavery, which had converted his judgment and his sympathies to the abolition cause; and of the generous kindness of his people, the full extent of which he might never have known but for his present sickness. This letter left me little hope of his recovery; yet even here the spirit of cheerfulness, predominant through the whole, was irresistible, and it left me less anxious for them than before.
After this I wandered about for some months, out of reach of any of the P.'s connexions, and could only procure general accounts of his being better. Just before I sailed I received from Mr. P. a letter full of good news, as calmly cheerful in its tone as any written in the depths of his adversity. He had ascended the river with the first warmth of spring; was so much better as to be allowed to preach once on the Sunday, and to be about to undertake it twice; and was now writing beside the cradle of his newborn daughter, whose mother sent me word that they were all well and happy.
The power of a faith like theirs goes forth in various directions to work many wonders. It not only fortifies the minds of sufferers, but modifies the circumstances themselves from which they suffer, bracing the nerves in sickness, and equalizing the emotions in sorrow; it practically asserts the supremacy of the real over the apparent, and the high over the low; and, among other kindly operations, refreshes the spirit of the stranger with a revelation of true kindred in a foreign land: for this faith is the fundamental quality in the brotherhood of the race.
THE NATURAL BRIDGE.
"Come on, sir; here's the place: stand still. How fearful
THE shrewd Yankee driver of the "extra exclusive return stage," which contained four out of six of our travelling-party in Virginia, was jocose about the approach to the Natural Bridge. Mr. L. and I were on horseback, and the driver of the stage called after us when we were 66 going ahead," to warn us that we should get over the bridge without knowing it if we went first. We, of course, determined to avoid looking so foolish as we should do if we passed the Natural Bridge the little spot deemed important enough to be put in capital letters in maps of the American Union-without knowing it. Heads were popped out of the stage window to shout the warning after us; and the jokes really seemed so extremely insulting, that we were disposed to push on, and get our sight of Jefferson's great wonder before our fellow-travellers came up. For five miles we kept out of sight of the stage; but at this point there was a parting of the roads, and we could see no possible means of learning which we were to follow. We were obliged to wait in the shade till the distant driver's whip pointed out the right-hand road to us. We were now not far from the object of our expectations. We agreed that we felt very quiet about it; that we were conscious of little of the veneration which the very idea of Niagara inspires. The intensity of force, combined with repose, is the charm of Niagara. No form of rock, however grand in itself or however beautifully surrounded, can produce anything like the same impression. Experience proved that we were right.
At a mile from the bridge the road turns off through a wood. While the stage rolled and jolted along the extremely VOL. II.-G
bad road, Mr. L. and I went prying about the whole area of the wood, poking our horses' noses into every thicket and between any two pieces of rock, that we might be sure not to miss our object, the driver smiling after us whenever he could spare attention from his own not very easy task of getting his charge along. With all my attention I could see no precipice, and was concluding to follow the road without more vagaries, when Mr. L., who was a little in advance, waved his whip as he stood beside his horse, and said, "Here is the bridge!" I then perceived that we were nearly over it, the piled rocks on either hand forming a barrier which prevents a careless eye from perceiving the ravine which it spans. I turned to the side of the road, and rose in my stirrup to look over; but I found it would not do. I went on to the inn, deposited my horse, and returned on foot to the bridge.
With all my efforts I could not look down steadily into what seemed the bottomless abyss of foliage and shadow. From every point of the bridge I tried, and all in vain. I was heated and extremely hungry, and much vexed at my own weakness. The only way was to go down and look up; though where the bottom could be was past my imagining, the view from the top seeming to be of foliage below foliage for ever.
The way to the glen is through a field opposite the inn, and down a steep, rough, rocky path, which leads under the bridge and a few yards beyond it. I think the finest view of all is from this path, just before reaching the bridge. The irregular arch of rock, spanning a chasm of 160 feet in height, and from sixty to ninety in width, is exquisitely tinted with every shade of gray and brown; while trees encroach from the sides and overhang from the top, between which and the arch there is an additional depth of fifty-six feet. It was now early in July; the trees were in their brightest and thickest foliage; and the tall beeches under the arch contrasted their verdure with the gray rock, and received the gilding of the sunshine as it slanted into the ravine, glittering in the drip from the arch, and in the splashing and tumbling waters of Cedar Creek, which ran by our feet. Swallows were flying about under the arch. What others of their tribe can boast of such a home?
We crossed and recrossed the creek on stepping-stones, searching out every spot to which any tradition belonged.
Under the arch, thirty feet from the water, the lower part of the letters G. W. may be seen carved in the rock. When Washington was a young man, he climbed up hither, to leave this record of his visit. There are other inscriptions of the same kind, and above them a board, on which are painted the names of two persons, who have thought it worth while thus to immortalize their feat of climbing highest. But their glory was but transient after all. They have been outstripped by a traveller whose achievement will probably never be rivalled, for he would not have accomplished it if he could by any means have declined the task. Never was a wonderful deed more involuntarily performed. There is no disparagement to the gentleman in saying this: it is only absolving him from the charge of foolhardiness.
This young man, named Blacklock, accompanied by two friends, visited the Natural Bridge, and, being seized with the ambition appropriate to the place, of writing his name highest, climbed the rock opposite to the part selected by Washington, and carved his initials. Others had perhaps seen what Mr. Blacklock overlooked, that it was a place easy to ascend, but from which it is impossible to come down. He was forty feet or more from the path; his footing was precarious; he was weary with holding on while carving his name, and his head began to swim when he saw the impossibility of getting down again. He called to his companions that his only chance was to climb up upon the bridge with out hesitation or delay. They saw this, and with anguish agreed between themselves that the chance was a very bare one. They cheered him, and advised him to look neither up nor down. On he went, slanting upward from under the arch, creeping round a projection on which no foothold is visible from below, and then disappearing in a recess filled up with foliage. Long and long they waited, watching for motion, and listening for crashing among the trees. He must have been now 150 feet above them. At length their eyes were so strained that they could see no more, and they had almost lost all hope. There was little doubt that he had fallen while behind the trees, where his body would never be found. They went up to try the chance of looking for him from above. They found him lying insensible on the bridge. He could just remember reaching the top, when he immediately fainted. One would like to know whether
the accident left him a coward in respect of climbing, or whether it strengthened his confidence in his nerves.
The guide showed us a small cedar, which projected from a shelf of the rock about two hundred feet above our heads, and along whose stem a young lady climbed several feet, so as to court destruction in a very vain and foolish manner. If the support had failed, as might reasonably have been expected, her immortality of reputation would not have been of an enviable kind.
We remained in the ravine till we were all exhausted with hunger, but we had to wait for dinner still another hour after arriving at the inn. By way of passing the time, one gentleman of our party fainted, and had to be laid along on the floor; which circumstance, I fancy, rather accelerated the announcement of our meal. The moment it was over I hastened to the bridge, and was pleased to find that, being no longer fatigued and hungry, I could look into the abyss with perfect ease. I lay down on the rocks, and studied the aspect of the ravine in its afternoon lights and shadows from five different points of view. While thus engaged I was called to see a handsome copper-headed snake, but it had gained its hole before I could reach the spot. We ladies so much preferred the view of the bridge from the glen to the view of the glen from the bridge, that we went down for another hour before departing. It looked most beautiful. The sunshine was slowly withdrawing from under the arch, and leaving us in the shadows of evening, while all was glowing like noon in the region to which we looked up from our lowly seats, the stepping-stones in the midst of the gushing creek.
The Natural Bridge is nearly in the centre of Virginia, and about half way between Fincastle and Lexington, which are about thirty-seven miles apart. The main central road of Virginia runs over the bridge, so that no excuse is left for travellers who neglect to visit this work, framed by the strong hand of Nature,
vexed, not by the tumults of chaos, but by the screams of caverned birds, the battles of snakes with their prey, and the chafing of waters against opposing rocks.