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I now supposed that the most brilliant part of this scene - its golden period had passed; and that the silver period of Tuesday would soon be succeeded by the usual iron reign of winter; especially as there fell several inches of snow during the night. But the cold restored the ice upon the trees to more than its original transparency, and the sun rose on Wednesday morning upon a cloudless sky, and a wind scattered the snow from the branches, and all the phenomena opened upon us with more than their Sabbath-day glories.
"'Tis Winter's jubilee this day
His stores their countless treasures yield.
In ceaseless blaze from tree and field.
A shower of gems is strewed around
As the sun approached the meridian, one had only to receive his rays at a certain angle, refracted through the crystal covering of a tree, in order to witness gems more splendid than art ever prepared. Four fifths of them were diamonds but the sapphires were numerous; the topaz and the beryl not unfrequent; and occasionally the chrysolite and the hyacinth shone with intense brilliancy. There was wind also on that day; and as the branches waved to and fro, these various gems appeared, and vanished, and re-appeared, in endless variety, chaining the eye to the spot, until the overpowered optic nerve shrank from its office. But the rich vision did not cease through all that cloudless day. Nor did it terminate when the sun went down; for then the full-orbed moon arose, and gave another most bewitching aspect to the scene.
During the day, the light had often been painfully intense; but the softness of moonlight permitted the eye to gaze and
gaze untired, and yet the splendor seemed hardly less than during the day. Most of the bright points were of a mild topaz yellow, and when seen against the heavens, they could hardly be distinguished from the stars; or when seen in the forest, especially as one passed rapidly along, it seemed as if countless fire-flies were moving among the branches. Yet occasionally I saw other colors of the spectrum, especially the blue. Through that livelong night did these indescribable glories meet the eye of the observer.
On Thursday, another cloudless morning and clear-shining sun brought back the glories of Wednesday. Nay, to my eye, this last day of the spectacle seemed the most splendid of all; and one could hardly realize that he was not transplanted to some celestial region. A second glorious evening set in. But ere morning the clouds overspread the sky; and the powerful rain of Friday and Friday night left the trees without a vestige of ice, and consequently ended the enchanting phenomenon, to be seen again we know not when. In some places trees have been injured by the weight of the ice; and this feature is noticed and complained of by men. But taste and piety might well be contented to see the vegetable world decimated, if necessary to so enchanting an exhibition.
A Forest on Fire: Story of a Backwoodsman.
J. J. AUDUBON.
"WE were sound asleep one night, in a cabin about a hundred miles from this, when, about two hours before day, the snorting of horses and lowing of the cattle which I had ranging in the woods, suddenly awakened us. I took yon rifle, and went to the door to see what beast had caused the hubbub, when I was struck by the glare of light reflected on
all the trees before me, as far as I could see through the woods. My horses were leaping about, snorting loudly, and the cattle ran among them with their tails raised straight over their backs. On going to the back of the house, I plainly heard the crackling made by the burning brushwood, and saw the flames coming towards us in a far-extended line. I ran to the house, told my wife to dress herself and the child as quickly as possible, and take the little money we had, while I managed to catch and saddle two of the best horses. All this was done in a very short time, for I thought that every moment was precious to us.
"We then mounted, and made off from the fire. My wife, who is an excellent rider, rode close to me; my daughter, who was then a small child, I took in one arm. I looked back and saw that the frightful blaze was close upon us, and had already laid hold of the house. By good luck, there was a horn attached to my hunting clothes; and I blew it, to bring after us, if possible, the remainder of my live stock, as well as the dogs. The cattle followed for a while; but, before an hour had elapsed, they all ran, as if mad, through the woods, and that was the last of them. My dogs, too, although at all other times extremely tractable, ran after the deer that in bodies sprang before us, as if fully aware of the death that was so rapidly approaching.
“We heard blasts from the horns of our neighbors, as we proceeded, and knew that they were in the same predicament. Intent on striving to the utmost to preserve our lives, I thought of a large lake, some miles off, which might possibly check the flames; and, urging my wife to whip up her horse, we set off at full speed, making the best way we could over the fallen trees and the brush heaps, which lay like so many articles placed on purpose to keep up the terrific fires that advanced with a broad front upon us.
"By this time we could feel the heat; and we were afraid that our horses would drop every instant. A singular kind of breeze was passing over our heads, and the glare of the
atmosphere shone over the daylight. I was sensible of a slight faintness, and my wife looked pale. The heat had produced such a flush in the child's face, that, when she turned toward either of us, our grief and perplexity were greatly increased. Ten miles, you know, are soon gone over on swift horses; but, notwithstanding this, when we reached the borders of the lake, covered with sweat and quite exhausted, our hearts failed us. The heat of the smoke was insufferable; and sheets of blazing fire flew over us in a manner beyond belief. We reached the shore, however, coasted the lake for a while, and got round to the lee side. There we gave up our horses, which we never saw again. Down among the rushes we plunged by the edge of the water, and laid ourselves flat, to wait the chance of escaping from being burned or devoured. The water refreshed us, and we enjoyed the coolness.
"On went the fire, rushing and crashing through the woods. Such a sight may we never again behold! The heavens themselves, I thought, were frightened; for all above us was a red glare, mixed with clouds and smoke, rolling and sweeping away. Our bodies were cool enough, but our heads were scorching, and the child, who now seemed to understand the matter, cried so as nearly to break our hearts.
"The day passed on, and we became hungry. Many wild beasts came plunging into the water beside us, and others swam across to our side, and stood still. Although faint and weary, I managed to shoot a porcupine, and we all tasted its flesh. The night passed I cannot tell you how. Smouldering fires covered the ground, and the trees stood like pillars of fire, or fell across each other. The stifling and sickening smoke still rushed over us, and the burnt cinders and ashes fell thick about us. How we got through that night I really cannot tell, for about some of it I remember nothing."
Here the farmer paused and took breath. The recital of his adventure seemed to have exhausted him. His wife
proposed that we should have a bowl of milk, and the daughter having handed it to us, we each took a draught.
"Now," said he, "I will proceed. Toward morning, although the heat did not abate, the smoke became less, and blasts of fresh air sometimes made their way to us. When morning came, all was calm; but a dismal smoke still filled the air, and the smell seemed worse than ever. We were now cool enough, and shivered as if in an ague fit; so I removed from the water, and went up to a burning log, where we warmed ourselves. What was to become of us we did not know. My wife hugged the child to her breast, and wept bitterly; but God had preserved us through the worst of the danger, and the flames had gone past; so I thought it would be both ungrateful to him, and unmanly, to despair Hunger once more pressed upon us; but this was soon remedied. Several deer were still standing in the water, up to the head, and I shot one of them. Some of its flesh was soon roasted; and, after eating it, we felt wonderfully strengthened.
"By this time, the blaze of the fire was beyond our sight, although the ground was still burning in many places, and it was dangerous to go among the burnt trees. After resting awhile, and trimming ourselves, we prepared to commence our march. Taking up the child, I led the way over the hot ground and rocks; and, after two weary days and nights, during which we shifted in the best manner we could, we at last reached the hard woods, which had been free from the fire. Soon after, we came to a house, where we were kindly treated for a while. Since then, sir, I have worked hard and constantly as a lumberer; but, thanks to God, we are safe, sound, and happy!"