« PreviousContinue »
him from one valley to another, till at last he retreated to a high craggy region.
His pursuers were not the men to be vleterred by obstacles. They scaled the rugged height, still following on his track; whichever way he turned some slight mark betrayed his path. Late in the afternoon they caught sight of his branching horns in a deep rent in the mountain, whose sides were nearly perpendicular, while the opposite end terminated on the brink of a great precipice—thus preventing all chance of escape.
When they entered the gorge he rose from his lair, about three hundred yards in advance, and started forward among fallen rocks. They followed rapidly, and gained upon him fast. Having reached within one hundred paces of the end of the ravine, he stood hesitating, and looked back, seeming inclined to double and make a rush to pass them. From this circumstance the Cossacks knew that some other animals were in the pass; and as tigers are often found here they did not fire, but gradually approached. The stag went slowly on, evidently in fear. Having passed some large blocks, two huge bears sprang out into the ravine close behind him.
The stag suddenly bounded into the air to a pinnacle of rock, standing detached from the precipice, and leaving a chasm thirty feet wide. One of the bears, springing after him, rushed over the cliff, falling more than four hundred feet, and thus ended his career. The other stood on the brink of the chasm, growling, and in a fearful rage at his disappointment. The hunters advanced, and when they came within twenty paces he stood up and gave a savage growl of defiance. But this was his last-a leaden messenger sent him rolling after his companion.
The maral stood gazing at the hunters without showing any sign of fear, while they admired his beautiful form and noble horns. To the honor of the Cossacks be it told, he was left in peace, great as was the temptation to these ill-paid men. Within a few paces were the coveted horns, equal in value to the annual pay of five of their body. The fellows were, however, as good as they were brave.
Aster noting some peculiar marks on the animal's body, by which to recognise him again, they departed. Retracing their steps was a most difficult and dangerous task, which they had not felt during the excitement of the chase. The following day they sought the bears at the bottom of the precipice, when, to their great delight, they discovered that the maral had re-leaped the chasm on to a ledge below the brink, and had escaped. When the Cossacks joined their companions at the picket, the whole of the circumstances were related. A correct description of the maral was given; and, greatly to the credit of these men, he long remained king of his native wilds. Atkinson's Siberia.
A CHINESE LANDSCAPE.
WHILE I am still on a little eminence, from which I have been viewing man, let me turn to other and not less beautiful works of nature. Behind me lies a large and fertile valley,—the same through which I had passed during the night,-intersected in all directions with navigable canals, and teeming with an industrious and happy people. As it was now the bonnie month of May,” the rice crop had been some time in the ground, and the valley was consequently covered with dense masses of the loveliest green. Water-wheels were observed in all directions, some worked by men, and other and larger ones by bullocks, and all pouring streams of water upon the rice crops, from the various canals which intersect the valley.
At the foot of the hills, near where I stood, were numerous small tea-farms, formed on the slopes; while groups of junipers, and sombre-looking pines, marked the last resting-places of the wealthy. The ancient tombs of the Ming dynasty are also common here, but they are generally in a ruinous condition; and had it not been for the huge blocks of granite, cut into the forms of men and other animals, of which they are composed, there would have been long ago no marks to point out the last resting-places of these ancient rulers of China. So much for human greatness !
Higher up on the hill-sides, the ground was cultivated, and ready to receive the summer crops of sweet potatoes and Indian corn. Beyond that again were barren mountains, covered with long grass and brushwood, which the industry of the Chinese is never likely to bring under cultivation. Both below and above, on the roadsides, in the hedges, and on every spot not under cultivation, wild flowers were blooming in the greatest profusion. But look a little higher up, to that gorgeously painted hill-side, and see those masses of yellow and white flowers. Among these, and scattered over the hill-sides, are azaleas, having flowers of many different hues, and all very beautiful.
It is still early morning; the sun is just appearing on the tops of the eastern mountains; the globules of heavy dew sparkle on the grass and flowers ; the lark and other sweet songsters of the feathered race are pouring out of their little mouths sweet and melodious songs. I looked with delight on the beautiful scene spread out before me, and thought within myself, if nature is so beautiful now, what must it have been before the fall, when man was holy ?
A DAY IN THE JUNGLES OF CEYLON. With the first glimmering of dawn, the bats and nocturnal birds retire to their accustomed haunts, in which to hide them from “day's garish eye;" the jackal and the leopard steal back from their nightly chase; the elephants return timidly into the shade of the forest, from the water-pools in which they had been luxuriating during the darkness; and the deep-toned bark of the elk resounds through the glens as he retires into the security of the forest. Day breaks, and its earliest blush shows the mists tumbling in turbulent heaps through the deep valleys.
The sun bursts upwards with a speed beyond that which marks his progress in the cloudy atmosphere of Europe, and the whole horizon glows with ruddy lustre :
“Not as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light.” At no other moment does the verdure of the mountain woods appear so vivid; each spray dripping with copious dew, and a pendent brilliant twinkling at every leaf; the grassy glade is hoar with the condensed damps of night, and the threads of the gossamer sparkle like strings of opal in the sunbeams.
The earliest bird upon the wing is the crow, which leaves its perch almost with the first peep of dawn, cawing and flapping his
wings in the sky. The parroquets follow in vast companies, chattering and screaming in exuberant excitement. Next the cranes and waders, which fly inland to their breeding-places at sunset, rise from the branches on which they had passed the night, waving their wings to disencumber them of the dew; and, stretching their awkward legs behind, they soar away in the direction of the rivers and the far sea-shore.
The songster that first pours forth his salutation to the morning, is the dial-bird, and the yellow oriole, whose mellow, flutelike voice is heard far through the stillness of the dawn. The jungle cock, unseen in the dense cover, shouts his reveille, not with the shrill clarion of his European type, but in a rich melodious call, that ascends from the depth of the valley. As light increases, the grass-warbler and magnah add their notes; and the bronze-winged pigeons make the woods murmur with their plaintive cry, which resembles the distant lowing of cattle. The swifts and swallows sally forth as soon as there is sufficient warmth to tempt the minor insects abroad; the bulbul lights on the forest trees, and the little gem-like sunbirds (the hummingbirds of the East) quiver on their fulgent wings above the opening flowers.
At length the fervid morn approaches; the sun mounts high, and all animated nature begins to yield to the oppression of his beams. The green enamelled dragon-flies still flash above every pool in pursuit of their tiny prey; but almost every other winged insect instinctively seeks the shade of the foilage. The bawks and falcons now sweep through the sky, to mark the smaller birds which may be abroad in search of seeds and larvæ. The squirrels dart from bough to bough, uttering their shrill, quick cry; and the cicada, on the stem of the palm-tree, raises the deafening sound whose tone and volubility have won for him the expressive title of the "knife-grinder.”
It is during the first five hours of daylight that nature seems literally to teem with life and motion; the air melodious with the voice of birds, the woods resounding with the simmering hum of insects, and the earth replete with every form of living nature. But as the sun ascends to the meridian, the scene is singularly changed, and nothing is more striking than the almost painful stillness that succeeds the vivacity of the eariy morning. Every animal disappears, escaping under the thick cover of the woods; the birds retire into the shade; the butterflies, if they flutter for a moment in the blazing sun, hurry back into the damp shelter of the trees as though their filmy bodies had been parched by the brief exposure; and at last silence reigns so profound that the ticking of a watch is sensibly heard, and even the pulsations of the heart become audible. The buffalo now steals to the tanks and watercourses, concealing all but his gloomy head and shining horns in the mud and sedges; the elephant fans himself languidly with leaves, to drive away the flies that perplex him; and the deer cower in groups under the over-arching jungle. Rustling from under the dry leaves, the bright green lizard springs up the rough stems of the trees, and pauses between each dart to look inquiringly around. The woodpecker makes the forest re-echo with the restless blows of his beak on the decaying bark, and the tortoise drops awkwardly into the still water, which reflects the bright plumage of the kingfisher, as he keeps his lonely watch above it.
So long as the sun is about the meridian, every living creature seems to fly his beams, and linger in the closest shade. Man himself, as if baffled in all devices to escape the exhausting glare, suspends his toil; and the traveller, abroad since dawn, reposes till the midday heat has passed. The cattle pant in their stifling sheds, and the dogs lie prone upon the ground, their legs extended far in front and behind, as if to bring the utmost portion of their body into contact with the cool earth. As day declines, nature recovers from the languor and exhaus
the insects again flutter across the open glades, the birds venture once more upon the wing, and the larger animals saunter from under cover, and move away in the direction of the ponds and pastures. The traveller recommences his suspended journey, and the husbandman, impatient to employ the last hours of fading night, hastens to resume the interrupted labors of the morning. The birds which had made distant excursions to their feeding. grounds, are now seen returning to their homes; the crows assemble round some pond, to dabble in the water and re-adjust their plumes before retiring for the night; the parroquets settle with deafening uproar on the crowns of the palm-trees near their nests; and the pelicans and sea-birds, with weary wing, retrace