網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

lively voices, and thronged with busy faces. Now they were closed, above and below, dark, and without tokens of being inhabited. From the upper windows of some, a gleam sometimes fell upon the pavement I was traversing, and showed that their tenants were not fled, but were secluded or disabled. The evening had now advanced, and it behooved me to procure accommodation at some of the inns. These were easily distinguished by their signs; but many were without inhabitants. At length I lighted upon one, the hall of which was open and the windows lifted. After knocking for some time, a young girl appeared, with many marks of distress. In answer to my question, she answered that both her parents were sick, and that they could receive no one. I inquired in vain for any other tavern at which strangers might be accommodated. She knew of none such; and left me, on some one's calling to her from above, in the midst of my embarrassment. After a moment's pause, I returned, discomfited and perplexed, to the street. I proceeded, in a considerable degree, at random. At length I reached a spacious building in Fourth Street, which the sign-post showed me to be an inn. I knocked loudly and often at the door. At length a female opened the window of the second story, and, in a tone of peevishness, demanded what I wanted. I told her that I wanted lodging. “Go, hunt for it somewhere else,” said she “you'll find none here.” I began to expostulate; but she shut the window with quickness, and left me to my own reflections. I began now to feel some regret at the journey I had taken. Never, in the depth of caverns or forests, was I equally conscious of loneliness. I was surrounded by the habitations of men; but I was destitute of associate or friend. I had money; but a horseshelter or a morsel of food could not be purchased. I came for the purpose of relieving others, but stood in the utmost need myself. Even in health my condition was helpless and forlorn; but what would become of me should this fatal malady be contracted 2 To hope that an asylum would be afforded to a sick man which was denied to one in health was unreasonable. The first impulse which flowed from these reflections was to hasten back to Malverton; which, with sufficient diligence, I might hope to regain before the morning light. I could not, methought, return upon my steps with too much speed. I was prompted to run as if the pest was rushing upon me, and could be eluded only by the most precipitate flight.

The publication of Arthur Merryn was succeeded not long after by that of Edgar Huntly; or, The Adventures of a Sleep- Walker. The scene is laid in the interior of Pennsylvania; and in one of the chapters, Edgar Huntly, the hero of the story, is represented in a wild mountain-fastness, on the brink of a ravine, from which the only avenue lies over the body of a tree thrown across the chasm. The following is a description of his

PERILOUS EN COUNTER WITH A PANTHER.

As soon as I had effected my dangerous passage, I screened myself behind a cliff, and gave myself up to reflection. While occupied with these reflections, my eyes were fixed upon the opposite steeps. The tops of the trees, waving to and fro in the wildest commotion, and their trunks occasionally bending to the blast, which, in these lofty regions, blew with a violence unknown in the tracts below, exhibited an awful spectacle. 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 swerved somewhat from its original position; that every blast broke or loosened some of the fibres 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. 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 fibres, 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 and of the volume which I carried in the pocket of my coat. Just as I had disposed of these encumbrances, 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 occur. Something was perceived moving among the bushes and rocks, which, for a time, I hoped was nothing 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. The industry 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 ruggedest and most solitary haunts. Still, however, I had seldom been unfurnished in my rambles with the means of defence. 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. The beast that was now before me, when stimulated by hunger, was accustomed to assail whatever could provide him with a banquet of blood. He would set upon the man and the deer with equal and irresistible ferocity. His sagacity was equal to his strength, and he seemed able to discover when his antagonist was armed and prepared for defence. 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 asylum. 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 fibres of the prostrate tree were obstinately tenacious of their hold, and presently the animal scrambled down the rock and proceeded to cross it. 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 propitious and 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 rashness in coming hither unprovided for an encounter like this. 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 ter

rible visage. I shrunk still closer to the ground, and closed my eyes. "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 like 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. My trepidations were not speedily quieted. I looked back with wonder on my hairbreadth 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. 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. 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 vehement 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.

In 1800, Brown published the second part of Arthur Merryn, and in 1801, Clara Howard. This year he returned to his native city, and established his residence in his brother's family. In 1803, he undertook the conduct of a periodical, entitled The Literary Magazine and American Register, of which five volumes were published. During his residence in New York, he had formed an attachment to Miss Elizabeth Linn, daughter of the Rev. William Linn, D.D., of that city, and in November, 1804, they were married.

With the additional responsibilities of his new station, he pursued his literary labors with increased diligence. He projected the plan of an Annual Iregister, the first volume of which was published in 1806, and was continued till 1809, with great ability. At this time also he contributed many articles of a political and literary character to the “Portfolio.” But his constitution, never robust, now began to give way under his sedentary habits and intense application. His friends insisted upon his giving up his literary labors for a time and taking a journey. He did so, but went only to New York, and returned still more feeble. His disorder—pulmonary consumption—made rapid advances; and on the 22d of February, 1810, he expired calmly and without a struggle.

Mr. Brown's character was one of great amiability and moral excellence, and his manners were distinguished by a gentleness and unaffected simplicity. His great colloquial powers made him a most agreeable companion; and his unwearied application is attested by the large amount of his works, the whole number of which, including his editorial labors, must be equal to twenty-four volumes,— a vast amount to be produced in the brief compass of a little more than ten years."

[ocr errors]

This excellent man and true poet was one of the Smiths of Burlington, New Jersey, and was the grandson of the historian of that State. He passed a life of singular seclusion on his paternal estate near the city of Burlington, in the practice of all the virtues that purify and ennoble the character. Affluent, unambitious, fond of general reading and of the pursuits of a country life, and shrinking from intercourse with strangers, he devoted himself to the duties of his private station; was the counsellor and benefactor of the poor around him ; and, to the few friends who enjoyed his intimacy, one of the most charming of companions. His verses were the careless effusions of a man of genius, indifferent to fame, a shrewd observer of life and manners, of keen satiric wit, of tender sensibility, of earnest and humble piety. A volume of his poetry was published after his death, which occurred in 1835. It is of various and unequal merit, and has never been widely circulated. From this volume the following pieces are selected. We know of no Scripture paraphrase that surpasses the stanzas on the 8th chapter of Matthew. Their chaste and classical beauties, their pure morality and religious feeling, claim for them a place in every collection of American poetry.

! “We are unwilling to part, with any thing like a tone of disparagement lingering on our lips, with the amiable author to whom our rising literature is under such large and various obligations; who first opened a view into the boundless fields of fiction which subsequent adventurers have successfully explored; who has furnished so much for our instruction in the several departments of history and criticism, and has rendered still more effectual service by kindling in the bosom of the youthful scholar the same generous love of letters which glowed in his own; whose writings, in fine, have uniformly inculcated the pure and elevated morality exemplified in his life. The only thing we can regret is that a life so useful should have been so short, if, indeed, that can be considered short which has done so much towards attaining life's great end.”—Biographical and Critical Miscellanies, by William H. Prescott.

« 上一頁繼續 »