« PreviousContinue »
panions, who were hurriedly seeking a passage up the steep. They had heard, from those on the prairie above, that the high grass had caught fire by accident, and that with such velocity had it spread, that several of the wagons, and among them that of the commissioners, had been consumed. This wagon contained, in addition to a large number of cartridges, all the trunks and valuables of the mess to which I was attached, making me doubly anxious to gain the scene of action, and learn the worst. It afterwards proved that the explosion of the cartridges in the wagon was what we had mistaken for the report of our six-pounder.
With redoubled exertions we now pushed forward towards the camp; but before we could reach the base of the high and rugged bluff, the flames were dashing down its sides with frightful rapidity, leaping and flashing across the gullies and around the hideous cliffs, and roaring in the deep, yawning chasms with the wild and appalling noise of a tornado. As the flames would strike the dry tops of the cedars, reports resembling those of the musket would be heard ; and in such quick succession did these reports follow each other, that I can compare them to nothing save the irregular discharge of infantry - a strange accompaniment to the wild roar of the devouring element.
The wind was blowing fresh from the west when the prairie was first ignited, carrying the flames, with a speed absolutely astounding, over the very ground on which we had travelled during the day. The wind lulled as the sun went down behind the mountains in the west ; and now the fire began to spread slowly in that direction. The difficult passage by which we had descended was cut off by the fire, and night found our party still in the valley, unable to discover any other road to the table-land above. Our situation was a dangerous one, too; for had the wind sprung up and veered into the east, we should have found much difficulty in escaping, — with such velocity did the flames extend.
EXERCISES IN ARTICULATION.
y:- yawn, yell, ye, year, yield, yes, you, yearly, youth,
Same Subject, concluded.
GEORGE W. RENDALL.
Ir the scene had been grand previously to the going down of the sun, its magnificence was increased tenfold as night in vain attempted to throw her dark mantle over the earth. The light from acres and acres, I might say miles and miles, of inflammable and blazing cedars, illuminated earth and sky with a radiance even more lustrous and dazzling than that of the noonday sun. Ever and anon, as some one of our comrades would approach the brow of the high bluff above us, he appeared not like an inhabitant of this earth. A lurid and most unnatural glow, reflected upon his countenance from the valley of burning cedars, seemed to render still more haggard and toilsome his burned and blackened features.
I was fortunate enough, about nine o'clock, to meet one of our men, who directed me to a passage up the steep ascent. He had just left the bluff above, and gave me piteous recital of our situation. He was endeavoring to find water after several hours of unceasing toil, and I left him, with slight hopes that his search would be rewarded. By this time I was alone, not one of the companions who had started with me from the river being in sight or hearing : one by one they had dropped off, each searching for some path by which he might climb to the table-land above.
The first person I met, after reaching the prairie, was Mr. Falconer, standing with the blackened remnant of a blanket in his hand, and watching lest the fire should break out in the western side of the camp; for in that direction the exer
tions of the men, aided by a strong westerly wind, had prevented the devouring element from spreading. Mr. Falconer directed me to the spot where our mess was quartered. I found them sitting upon such articles as had been saved from the wagon, their gloomy countenances rendered more desponding by the reflection from the now distant fire. I was too much worn down by fatigue and deep anxiety to make many inquiries as to the extent of our loss; but hungry, and almost choked with thirst, I threw myself upon the blackened ground, and sought forgetfulness in sleep.
It was hours, however, before sleep visited my eyelids. From the spot on which I was lying, a broad sheet of flame could still be seen, miles and miles in width, the heavens in that direction so brilliantly lit up that they resembled a sea of molten gold. In the west, a wall of impenetrable blackness appeared to be thrown up, as the spectator suddenly turned from viewing the conflagration in the opposite direction. The subdued yet deep roar of the element could still be plainly heard, as it sped on, as with the wings of lightning, across the prairies; while in the valley far below, the flames were flashing and leaping among the dry cedars, and shooting and circling about in manner closely resembling a magnificent pyrotechnic display; the general combination forming a scene of grandeur and sublimity which the pen shrinks from describing, and to which the power of words is wholly unequal.
Daylight, the next morning, disclosed a melancholy scene of desolation and destruction. North, south, and east, as far as the eye could reach, the rough and broken country was blackened by the fire; and the removal of the earth's shaggy covering of cedars and tall grass but laid bare, in painful distinctness, the awful chasms and rents in the steep hill-side before us, as well as the valley spreading far and wide below. Afar off, in the distance, a dense, black smoke was seen rising, denoting that the course of the devastating element was still onward. Two of our wagons only had been entirely
destroyed, but nearly all had suffered. A part of the baggage in the commissioners' wagon had been saved by the extraordinary exertions of some of the men; and just as they had relinquished the work, the explosion of cartridges, which had first alarmed the party in the valley, scattered the burning fragments of the
every direction. My friend Falconer was so disfigured that I hardly knew him. His hair and eyebrows were scorched completely off, his face was a perfect blister, his clothes burned from his back, and, without a hat, he seemed as though some insurance-office had met with a heavy loss. Object of pity, however, as he appeared to be, I still could not help smiling at the sad and woe-begone figure he presented. Among the few trunks saved I fortunately found mine, containing nearly all my money, clothing, watch, and other valuables. The loss of a carpet-bag, which contained my boots and the rough articles I wore upon the road, was all I had to regret in the way of private property. • Not so with the mess to which I was attached. The remnant of coffee we still had left was burned entirely too much; our pots, pans and kettles, knives and forks, were converted into old iron; every thing was gone; we had nothing to eat, however, except half rations of miserably poor beef, and the necessity of falling back upon first principles - or, in other words, eating with our fingers — annoyed us but little.
The wagon of the commissioners contained, besides our private baggage, a quantity of jewelry, blankets, cartridges, rifles, muskets, &c. These were all destroyed. The other wagon which was consumed was loaded with goods, and from this nothing was saved. At one time, the ammunition wagon, containing a large quantity of powder, was on fire, and only saved by the daring exertions of some of our men.
It may appear singular to some of my readers, that so much damage could be caused by the burning of grass alone; for on the spot where the wagons were drawn up there was nothing else; but it should be remembered that this grass was very high, had been killed by the dry weather, and fashed up and spread almost with the rapidity of a train of powder, on being ignited. It is very easy, when a fire upon the prairies is seen coming towards a party, to escape its dangers by kindling the grass immediately about, and taking possession of the newly burned ground before the distant flames come up ; but in this instance the fire commenced on the windward side, and with a frightful rapidity flashed directly along our line
The only wonder at the time was, how any. thing had been saved from the furious element that roared and crackled around.
Z: --- azure, leisure, seisure, measure, pleasure, treasure.
It was a fine autumnal morning, just a week after we had sailed from Lough Swilly, to cruise off the north of Ireland, when a sail was reported on the lee-beam. We bore up instantly, but no one could make out what the chase was, nor which way she was standing; at least, no two of the knowing ones could be found to agree upon these matters. These various opinions, however, presently settled into one, or nearly so; for there were still some of the high-spyers who had honestly confessed they were puzzled. The general opinion was, that it must be a brig with very white sails aloft, while those below were quite dark, as if the royals were made of cotton, and the courses of tarpawling a strange anomaly in seamanship, it is true, but still the best theory we could form to explain appearances.