POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
A CHAPTER OF AMERICAN EXPLORATION.
Those adventurous gentlemen who derive exhilaration from peril, and extract febrifuge for the high pressure of a too exuberant constitution from the difficulties of the Alps, cannot find such peaks as the Aiguille Verte and the Matterhorn, with their friable and precipitous cliffs, among the Rocky Mountains. The geological processes have been gentler in evolving the latter than the former, and in the proper season summits not less elevated nor less splendid or comprehensive than that of the Matterhorn, upon which so many lives have been defiantly wasted, may be attained without any great degree of danger or fatigue. All but the apex may often be reached in the saddle. The bergschrund with its fragile lip of ice, the crevasse with its treacherous bridges, and the avalanche which an ill-timed footstep starts with overwhelming havoc, do not threaten the explorer of the Western mountains; and ordinarily he passes from height to height—from the base with its wreaths of evergreens to the zone where vegetation is limited to the gnarled dwarf-pine, from the foot-hills to the basin of the crisp alpine lake far above the life-limits—without once having to scale a cliff, supposing, of course, that he has chosen the best path. The trail may be narrow at times, with nothing between it and a gulf, and it may be pitched at an angle that compels the use of "all-fours;" but with patience and discretion the ultimate peak is conquered without rope-ladder or ice-axe, and the vastness of the world below, gray and cold at some hours, and at others lighted with a splendor which words cannot transcribe, is revealed to the adventurer as satisfaction for his toil.
But, though what may be called the pure mountain-peaks do not entail the same perils and difficulties as the members of the Alpine Club discover in Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany, the volcanic cones and canon-walls of the West have an unstable verticality which, when it is not absolutely insurmountable, is more difficult than the top of the Matterhorn itself; and though the various expeditions under Wheeler, Powell, King and Hayden have not had Aiguilles Vertes to oppose them, they have been confronted by obstacles which could only be overcome by as much courage as certain of the clubmen have required in their most celebrated exploits. Indeed, nothing in the journals of the Alpine Club compares in the interest of the narrative or the peril of the undertaking with Major Powell's exploration of the canons of the Colorado, which, though its history has become familiar to many readers through the official report, gathers significance in contrast with all other Western expeditions, and stands out as an achievement of extraordinary daring.
The Colorado is formed by the junction of the Grand and Green Rivers. The Grand has its source in the Rocky Mountains five or six miles west of Long's Peak, and the Green heads in the Wind River Mountains near Fremont's Peak. Uniting in the Colorado, they end as turbid floods in the Gulf of California, a goal which they reach through gorges set deep in the bosom of the earth and bordered by a region where the mutations of Nature are in visible process. In all the world there is no other river like this. The phenomenal in form predominates: the water has grooved a channel for itself over a mile below the surrounding country, which is a desert uninhabited and uninhabitable, terraced with long series of cliffs or mesa-fronts, verdureless, voiceless and unbeautiful. It is a land of soft, crumbling soil and parched rock, dyed with strange colors and broken into fantastic shapes. Nature is titanic and mad: the sane and alleviating beauty of fertility is displaced by an arid and inanimate desolateness, which glows with alien splendor in evanescent conditions of the atmosphere, but which in those moments when the sun casts a fatuous light upon it is more oppressive in its influence upon the observer than when the blaze of high noon exposes all of its unyielding harshness. To the feeling of desolation which comes over one in such a region as this a quickened sense and apprehension of the supernatural are added, and we seem to be invaders of a border-land between the solid earth and phantasy. Nature is distraught; and so much has man subordinated and possessed her elsewhere that here, where existence is defeated by the absolute impossibility of sustenance, a poignant feeling of her imperfection steals over us and weighs upon the mind.
Perhaps no portion of the earth's surface is more irremediably sterile, none more hopelessly lost to human occupation, and yet, an eminent geologist has said, it is the wreck of a region once rich and beautiful, changed and impoverished by the deepening of its draining streams—the most striking and suggestive example of over-drainage of which we have any knowledge. Though valueless to the agriculturist, dreaded and shunned by the emigrant, the miner and the trapper, the Colorado plateau is a paradise to the geologist, for nowhere else are the secrets of the earth's structure so fully revealed as here. Winding through it is the profound chasm within which the river flows from three thousand to six thousand feet below the general level for five hundred miles in unimaginable solitude and gloom, and the perpendicular crags and precipices which imprison the stream exhibit with, unusual clearness the zoological and physical history of the land.
It was this chasm, with its cliffs of unparalleled magnitude and its turbulent waters, that Major Powell explored, and no chapter of Western adventure is more interesting than his experiences. His starting-point was Green River City, Wyoming Territory, which is now reached from the East by the Union Pacific Railway. On the second morning out from Omaha the passengers find themselves whirling through sandy yellowish gullies, and, having completed their toilettes amid the flying dust, they emerge at about eight o'clock in a basin of gigantic and abnormal forms, upon which lie bands of dull gold, pink, orange and vermilion. In some instances the massive sandstones have curious architectural resemblances, as if they had been designed and scaled on a draughting-board, but they have been so oddly worked upon by the elements, by the attrition of their own disintegrated particles and the intangible carving of water, that while one block stands out as a castle embattled on a lofty precipice, another looms up in the quivering air with a quaint likeness to something neither human nor divine. This is where the Overland traveller makes his first acquaintance with those erosions which are a characterizing element of Western scenery. A broad stream flows easily through the valley, and acquires a vivid emerald hue from the shales in its bed, whence its name is derived. Under one of the highest buttes a small town of newish wooden buildings is scattered, and this is ambitiously designated Green River City, which, if for nothing else, is memorable to the tourist for the excellence of the breakfast which the tavern-keeper serves.
But it was from here, on May 28, 1869, that Major Powell started down the canon on that expedition from which the few miners, stock-raisers and tradespeople who saw his departure never expected to see him return alive. His party consisted of nine men—J.C. Sumner and William H. Dunn, both of whom had been trappers and guides in the Rocky Mountains; Captain Powell, a veteran of the civil war; Lieutenant Bradley, also of the army; O. G. Howland, formerly a printer and country editor, who had become a hunter; Seneca Howland; Frank Goodman; Andrew Hall, a Scotch boy; and "Billy" Hawkins, the cook, who had been a soldier, a teamster and a trapper. These were carefully selected for their reputed courage and powers of endurance. The boats in which they travelled were four in number, and were built upon a model which, as far as possible, combined strength to resist the rocks with lightness for portages and protection against the over-wash of the waves. They were divided into three compartments, oak being the material used in three and pine in the fourth. The three larger ones were each twenty-one feet long: the other was sixteen feet long, and was constructed for speed in rowing. Sufficient food was taken to last ten months, with plenty of ammunition and tools for building cabins and repairing the boats, besides various scientific instruments.
Thus equipped and in single file, the expedition left Green River City behind and pulled into the shadows of the phenomenal rocks in the early morning of that May day of 1869. During the first few days they had no serious mishap: they lost an oar, broke a barometer-tube and occasionally struck a bar. All around them abounded examples of that natural architecture which is seen from the passing train at the "City"—weird statuary, caverns, pinnacles and cliffs, dyed gray and buff, red and brown, blue and black—all drawn in horizontal strata like the lines of a painter's brush. Mooring the boats and ascending the cliffs after making camp, they saw the sun go down over a vast landscape of glittering rock. The shadows fell in the valleys and gulches, and at this hour the lights became higher and the depths deeper. The Uintah Mountains stretched out in the south, thrusting their peaks into the sky and shining as if ensheathed with silver. The distant pine forests had the bluish impenetrability of a clear night-sky, and pink clouds floated in motionless suspense until, with a final burst of splendor, the light expired.
At the end of sixty-two miles they reached the mouth of Flaming Gorge, near which some hunters and Indians are settled. Flaming Gorge is a canon bounded by perpendicular bluffs, banded with red and yellow to a height of fifteen hundred feet, and the water flowing through it is a positive malachite in color, crossed and edged with bars of glistening white sand. It leads into Red Canon, and in 1869 it was the gateway to a region which was almost wholly unknown. An old Indian endeavored to deter Major Powell from his purpose. He held his hands above his head, with his arms vertical, and, looking between them to the sky, said, "Rocks h-e-a-p, h-e-a-p high; the water go h-oo-woogh; water-pony (boat) heap buck. Water catch 'em, no see 'em squaw any more, no see 'em Injin any more, no see 'em pappoose any more." The prophecy was not encouraging, and with some anxiety the explorers left the last vestige of civilization behind them. Below the gorge they ran through Horseshoe Canon, which describes an elongated letter U in the mountains, and several portages became necessary. The cliffs increased a thousand feet in height, and in many places the water completely filled the channel between them; but occasionally the canon opened into a little park, from the grassy carpet of which sprang crimson flowers on the stems of pear-shaped cactus-plants, patches of blue and yellow blossoms, and a fragrant Spiraea.
As often as a rapid was approached Major Powell stood on the deck of the leading boat to examine it, and if he could see a clear passage between the rocks he gave orders to go ahead, but if the channel was barricaded he signalled the other boats to pull ashore, and landing himself he walked along the edge of the canon for further examination. If still no channel could be found, the boats were lowered to the head of the falls and let down by ropes secured to the stem and stern, or when this was impracticable both the cargoes and the boats were carried by the men beyond the point of difficulty. When it was decided to run the rapids the greatest danger was encountered in the first wave at the foot of the falls, which gathered higher and higher until it broke. If the boat struck it the instant after it broke she cut through it, and the men had all they could do to keep themselves from being washed overboard. If in going over the falls she was caught by some side-current and borne against the wave "broadside on," she was capsized—an accident that happened more than once, without fatal results, however, as the compartments served as buoys and the men clung to her and were dragged through the waves until quieter water was reached. Where these rapids occur the channel is usually narrowed by rocks which have tumbled from the cliffs or have been washed in by lateral streams; but immediately above them a bay of smooth water may usually be discovered where a landing can be made with ease.
In such a bay Major Powell landed one day, and, seeing one of the rear boats making for the shore after he had given his signal, he supposed the others would follow her example, and walked along the side of the canon-wall to look for the fall of which a loud roar gave some premonition. But a treacherous eddy carried the boat manned by the two Howlands and Goodman into the current, and a moment later she disappeared over the unseen falls. The first fall was not great—not more than ten or twelve feet—but below the river sweeps down forty or fifty feet through a channel filled with spiked rocks which break it into whirlpools and frothy crests. Major Powell scrambled around a crag just in time to see the boat strike one of these rocks, and, rebounding from the shock, careen and fill the open compartment with water. The oars were dashed out of the hands of two of the crew as she swung around and was carried down the stream with great velocity, and immediately after she struck another rock amidships, which broke her in two and threw the men into the water. The larger part of the wreck floated buoyantly, and seizing it the men supported themselves by it until a few hundred feet farther down they came to a second fall, filled with huge boulders, upon which the wreck was dashed to pieces, and the men and the fragments were again carried out of Major Powell's sight. He struggled along the scant foothold afforded by the canon-wall, and coming suddenly to a bend saw one of the men in a whirlpool below a large rock, to which he was clinging with all possible tenacity. It was Goodman, and a little farther on was Howland tossed upon a small island, with his brother stranded upon a rock some distance below. Howland struck out for Goodman with a pole, by means of which he relieved him from his precarious position, and very soon the wrecked crew stood together, bruised, shaken and scared, but not disabled. A swift, dangerous river was on each side of them and a fall below them. It was now a problem how to release them from this imprisonment. Sumner volunteered, and in one of the other boats started out from above the island, and with skilful paddling landed upon it. Together with the three shipwrecked men he then pushed up stream until all stood up to their necks in water, when one of them braced himself against a rock and held the boat while the three others jumped into her: the man on the rock followed, and all four then pulled vigorously for the shore, which they reached in safety. Many years before an adventurous trapper and his party had been wrecked here and several lives had been lost. Major Powell named the spot Disaster Falls.
The cliffs are so high that the twilight is perpetual, and the sky seems like a flat roof pressed across them. As the worn men stretched themselves out in their blankets they saw a bright star that appeared to rest on the very verge of the eastern cliff, and then to float from its resting-place on the rock over the canon. At first it was like a jewel set on the brink of the cliff, and as it moved out from the rock they wondered that it did not fall. It did seem to descend in a gentle curve, and the other stars were apparently in the canon, as if the sky was spread over the gulf, resting on either wall and swayed down by its own weight.
Sixteen days after leaving Green River City the explorers reached the end of the Canon of Lodore, which is nearly twenty-four miles long. The walls were never less than two thousand feet high except near the foot. They are very irregular, standing in perpendicular or overhanging cliffs here, terraced there, or receding in steep slopes broken by many side-gulches. The highest point of the wall is twenty-seven hundred feet, but the peaks a little distance off are a thousand feet higher. Yellow pines, nut pines, firs and cedars stand in dense forests on the Uintah Mountains, and clinging to moving rocks they have come down the walls to the water's edge between Flaming Gorge and Echo Park. The red sandstones are lichened over, delicate mosses grow in the moist places and ferns festoon the walls.
A few days later they were upset again, losing oars, guns and barometers, and on July 18th they had only enough provisions left for two months, though they had supplied themselves with quantities which, barring accidents, should have lasted ten months. On July 19th the Grand Canon of the Colorado became visible, and from an eminence they could follow its course for miles and catch glimpses of the river. The Green, down which they had come so far, bears in from the north-west through a narrow, winding gorge. The Grand comes in from the north-east through a channel which from the explorer's point of view seems bottomless. Away to the west are lines of cliffs and ledges of rock, with grotesque forms intervening. In the east a chain of eruptive mountains is visible, the slopes covered with pines, the summits coated with snow and the gulches flanked by great crags. Wherever the men looked there were rocks, deep gorges in which the rivers were lost under cliffs, towers and pinnacles, thousands of strangely-carved forms, and mountains blending with the clouds. They passed the junction of the Grand and Green, and on July 21st they were on the Colorado itself. The walls are nearly vertical, and the river is broad and swift, but free from rocks and falls. From the edge of the water to the brink of the cliffs is nearly two thousand feet, and the cliffs are reflected on the quiet surface until it seems to the travellers that there is a vast abyss below them. But the tranquillity is not lasting: a little way below this space of majestic calm it was necessary to make three portages in succession, the distance being less than three-quarters of a mile, with a fall of seventy-five feet. In the evening Major Powell sat upon a rock by the edge of the river to look at the water and listen to its roar. Heavy shadows settled in the canon as the sun passed behind the cliffs, and no glint of light remained on the crags above, but the waves were crested with a white that seemed luminous. A great fall broke at the foot of a block of limestone fifty feet high, and rolled back in immense billows. Over the sunken rocks the flood was heaped up into mounds and even cones. The tumult was extraordinary. At a point where the rocks were very near the surface the water was thrown up ten or fifteen feet, and fell back in gentle curves as in a fountain.
On August 3d the party traversed a canon of diversified features. The walls were still vertical in places, especially near the bends, and the river sweeping round the capes had undermined the cliffs. Sometimes the rocks overarched: again curious narrow glens were found. The men explored the glens, in one of which they discovered a natural stairway several hundred feet high leading to a spring which burst out from an overhanging cliff among aspens and willows, while along the edges of the brooklet there were oaks and other rich vegetation. There were also many side-canons with walls nearer to each other above than below, giving them the character of grottoes; and there were carved walls, arches, alcoves and monuments, to all of which the collective name of Glen Canon was given.
One morning the surveyors came to a point where the river filled the entire channel and the walls were sheer to the water's edge. They saw a fall below, and in order to inspect it they pulled up against one of the cliffs, in which was a little shelf or crevice a few feet above their heads. One man stood on the deck of the boat while another climbed over his shoulders into this insecure foothold, along which they passed until it became a shelf which was broken by a chasm some yards farther on. They then returned to the boat and pulled across the stream for some logs which had lodged on the opposite shore, and with which it was intended to bridge the gulf. It was no easy work hauling the wood along the fissure, but with care and patience they accomplished it, and reached a point in the cliffs from which the falls could be seen. It seemed practicable to lower the boats over the stormy waters by holding them with ropes from the cliffs; and this was done successfully, the incident illustrating how laborious their progress sometimes became.
The scenery was of unending interest. The rocks were of many colors—white, gray, pink and purple, with saffron tints. At an elbow of the river the water has excavated a semicircular chamber which would hold fifty thousand people, and farther on the cliffs are of softly-tinted marble lustrously polished by the waves. At one place Major Powell walked for more than a mile on a marble pavement fretted with strange devices and embossed with a thousand different patterns. Through a cleft in the wall the sun shone on this floor, which gleamed with iridescent beauty. Exploring the cleft, Major Powell found a succession of pools one above another, and each cold and clear, though the water of the river was a dull red. Then a bend in the canon disclosed a massive abutment that seemed to be set with a million brilliant gems as they approached it, and every one wondered. As they came closer to it they saw many springs bursting from the rock high overhead, and the spray in the sunshine forms the gems which glitter in the walls, at the base of which is a profusion of mosses, ferns and flowers. To the place above where the three portages were necessary the name of Cataract Canon was given; and they were now well into the Grand Canon itself. The walls were more than a mile in height, and, as Major Powell says, a vertical altitude like this is not easily pictured. "Stand on the south steps of the Treasury Building in Washington and look down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Park, and measure this distance overhead, and imagine cliffs to extend to that altitude, and you will understand what I mean," the explorer has written; "or stand at Canal street in New York and look up Broadway to Grace Church, and you have about the distance; or stand at the Lake street bridge in Chicago and look down to the Central Depot, and you have it again." A thousand feet of the distance is through granite crags, above which are slopes and perpendicular cliffs to the summit. The gorge is black and narrow below, red and gray and flaring above.
Down these gloomy depths the expedition constantly glided, ever listening and ever peering ahead, for the canon is winding and they could not see more than a few hundred yards in advance. The view changed every minute as some new crag or pinnacle or glen or peak became visible; but the men were fully engaged listening for rapids and looking for rocks. Navigation was exceedingly difficult, and it was often necessary to hold the boats from ledges in the cliffs as the falls were passed. The river was very deep and the canon very narrow. The waters boiled and rushed in treacherous currents, which sometimes whirled the boats into the stream or hurried them against the walls. The oars were useless, and each crew labored for its own preservation as its frail vessel was spun round like a top or borne with the speed of a locomotive this way and that.
While they were thus uncontrollable the boats entered a rapid, and one of them was driven in shore, but as there was no foothold for a portage the men pushed into the stream again. The next minute a reflex wave filled the open compartment and water-logged her: breaker after breaker rolled over her, and one capsized her. The men were thrown out, but they managed to cling to her, and as they were swept down the other boats rescued them.
Heavy clouds rolled in the canon, filling it with gloom. Sometimes they hung above from wall to wall and formed a roof: then a gust of wind from a side-canon made a rift in them and the blue heavens were revealed, or they dispersed in patches which settled on the crags, while puffs of vapor issued out of the smaller gulches, and occasionally formed bars across the canon, one above another, each opening a different vista. When they discharged their rains little rills first trickled down the cliff, and these soon became brooks: the brooks grew into creeks and tumbled down through innumerable cascades, which added their music to the roar of the river. As soon as the rain ceased rills, brooks, creeks and cascades disappeared, their birth and death being equally sudden.
Desolate and inaccessible as the canon is, many ruins of buildings are found perched upon ledges in the stupendous cliffs. In some instances the mouths of caves have been walled in, and the evidences all point to a race for ever dreading and fortifying itself against an invader. Why did these people chose their embattlements so far away from all tillable land and sources of subsistence? Major Powell suggests this solution of the problem: For a century or two after the settlement of Mexico many expeditions were sent into the country now comprised in Arizona and New Mexico for the purpose of bringing the town-building people under the dominion of the Spanish government. Many of their villages were destroyed, and the inhabitants fled to regions at that time unexplored; and there are traditions among the existing Pueblos that the canons were these lands. The Spanish conquerors had a monstrous greed for gold and a lust for saving souls. "Treasure they must have—if not on earth why, then, in heaven—and when they failed to find heathen temples bedecked with silver they propitiated Heaven by seizing the heathen themselves. There is yet extant a copy of a record made by a heathen artist to express his conception of the demands of the conquerors. In one part of the picture we have a lake, and near by stands a priest pouring water on the head of a native. On the other side a poor Indian has a cord around his throat. Lines run from these two groups to a central figure, a man with a beard and full Spanish panoply. The interpretation of the picture-writing is this: 'Be baptized as this saved heathen, or be hanged as this damned heathen.' Doubtless some of the people preferred a third alternative, and rather than be baptized or hanged they chose to be imprisoned within these canon-walls."
The rains and the accidents in the rapids had seriously reduced the commissary by this time, and the provisions left were more or less injured. The bacon was uneatable, and had to be thrown away: the flour was musty, and the saleratus was lost overboard. On August 17th the party had only enough food remaining for ten days' use, and though they hoped that the worst places had been passed, the barometers were broken, and they did not know what descent they had yet to make. The canvas which they had brought with them for covering from Green River City was rotten, there was not one blanket apiece for the men, and more than half the party were hatless. Despite their hopes that the greatest obstacles had been overcome, however, on the morning of August 27th they reached a place which appeared more perilous than any they had so far passed. They landed on one side of the river, and clambered over the granite pinnacles for a mile or two without seeing any way by which they could lower the boats. Then they crossed to the other side and walked along the top of a crag. In his eagerness to reach a point where he could see the roaring fall below, Major Powell went too far, and was caught at a point where he could neither advance nor retreat: the river was four hundred feet below, and he was suspended in front of the cliff with one foot on a small projecting rock and one hand fixed in a little crevice. He called for help, and the men passed him a line, but he could not let go of the rock long enough to seize it. While he felt his hold becoming weaker and expected momentarily to drop into the canon, the men went to the boats and obtained three of the largest oars. The blade of one of them was pushed into the crevice of a rock beyond him in such a manner that it bound him across the body to the wall, and another oar was fixed so that he could stand upon it and walk out of the difficulty. He breathed again, but had felt that cold air which seems to fan one when death is near.
Another hour was spent in examining the river, but a good view of it could not be obtained, and they once more went to the opposite side. After some hard work among the cliffs they discovered that the lateral streams had washed a large number of boulders into the river, forming a dam over which the water made a broken fall of about twenty feet, below which was a rapid beset by huge rocks for two or three hundred yards. This was bordered on one side by a series of sharp projections of the canon-walls, and beyond it was a second fall, ending in another and no less threatening rapid. At the bottom of the latter an immense slab of granite projected fully halfway across the river, and upon the inclined plane which it formed the water rolled with all the momentum gained in the falls and rapids above, and then swept over to the left. The men viewed the prospect with dismay, but Major Powell had an insatiable desire to complete the exploration. He decided that it was possible to let the boats down over the first fall, then to run near the right cliff to a point just above the second fall, where they could pull into a little chute, and from the foot of that across the stream to avoid the great rock below. The men shook their heads, and after supper—a sorry supper of unleavened flour and water, coffee and rancid bacon, eaten on the rocks—the elder Howland endeavored to dissuade the leader from his purpose, and, failing to do so, told him that he with his brother and Dunn would go no farther. That night Major Powell did not sleep at all, but paced to and fro, now measuring the remaining provisions, then contemplating the rushing falls and rapids. Might not Howland be right? Would it be wise to venture into that maelstrom which was white during the darkest hours of the night? At one time he almost concluded to leave the river and to strike out across the table-lands for the Mormon settlements. But this trip had been the object of his life for many years, looked forward to and dreamed of, and to leave the exploration unfinished when he was so near the end, to acknowledge defeat, was more than he could reconcile himself to.
In the morning his brother, Captain Powell, Sumner, Bradley, Hall and Hawkins promised to remain with him, but the Howlands and Dunn were fixed in their determination to go no farther. The provisions were divided, and one of the boats was left with the deserters, who were also provided with three guns: Howland was also entrusted with duplicate copies of the records and with some mementos the voyagers desired to have sent to friends and relatives should they not be heard of again. It was a solemn parting. The Howlands and Dunn entreated the others not to go on, telling them that it was obvious madness; but the decision had been made, and the two boats pushed out into the stream.
They glided rapidly along the foot of the wall, grazing one large rock, and then they pulled into the falls and plunged over them. The open compartment of the major's boat was filled when she struck the first wave below, but she cut through the upheaval, and by vigorous strokes was drawn away from the dangerous rock farther down. They were scarcely a minute in running through the rapids, and found that what had seemed almost hopeless from above was really less difficult than many other points on the river. The Rowlands and their companion were now out of sight, and guns were fired to indicate to them that the passage had been safely made and to induce them to follow; but no answer came, and after waiting two hours the descent of the river was resumed.
A succession of falls and rapids still had to be overcome, and in the afternoon the explorers were once more threatened with defeat. A little stream entered the canon from the left, and immediately below the river broke over two falls, beyond which it rose in high waves and subsided in whirlpools. The boats hugged the left wall for some distance, but when the men saw that they could not descend on this side they pulled up stream several hundred yards and crossed to the other. Here there was a bed of basalt about one hundred feet high, which, disembarking, they followed, pulling the boats after them by ropes. The major, as usual, went ahead, and discovered that it would be impossible to lower the boats from the cliff; but the men had already brought one of them to the brink of the falls and had secured her by a bight around a crag. The other boat, in which Bradley had remained, was shooting in and out from the cliffs with great violence, now straining the line by which she was held, and now whirling against the rock as if she would dash herself to pieces. An effort was made to pass another rope to Bradley, but he was so preoccupied that he did not notice it, and the others saw him take a knife out of its sheath and step forward to cut the line. He had decided that it was better to go over the falls with her than to wait for her to be completely wrecked against the rocks. He did not show the least alarm, and as he leaned over to cut the rope the boat sheered into the stream, the stern-post broke and he was adrift. With perfect composure he seized the large scull-oar, placed it in the stern rowlock and pulled with all his strength, which was considerable, to turn the bow down stream. After the third stroke she passed over the falls and was invisible for several seconds, when she reappeared upon a great wave, dancing high over its crest, then sinking between two vast walls of water. The men on the cliff held their breath as they watched. Again she disappeared, and this time was out of sight so long that poor Bradley's fate seemed settled; but in a moment more something was noticed emerging from the water farther down the stream: it was the boat, with Bradley standing on deck and twirling his hat to show that he was safe. He was spinning round in a whirlpool, however, and Sumner and Powell were sent along the cliff to see if they could help him, while the major and the others embarked in the remaining boat and passed over the fall. After reaching the brink they do not remember what happened to them, except that their boat was upset and that Bradley pulled them out of the water. Powell and Sumner joined them by climbing along the cliff, and, having put the boats in order, they once more started down the stream.
On the next day, August 29th, three months and five days after leaving Green River City, they reached the foot of the Grand Canon of the Colorado, the passage of which had been of continuous peril and toil, and on the 30th they ended their exploration at a ranch, from which the way was easy to Salt Lake City. "Now the danger is over," writes Major Powell in his diary; "now the toil has ceased; now the gloom has disappeared; now the firmament is bounded only by the horizon; and what a vast expanse of constellations can be seen! The river rolls by us in silent majesty; the quiet of the camp is sweet; our joy is almost ecstasy. We sit till long after midnight talking of the Grand Canon, talking of home, but chiefly talking of the three men who left us. Are they wandering in those depths, unable to find a way out? are they searching over the desert-lands above for water? or are they nearing the settlements?"
It was about a year afterward that their fate became known. Major Powell was continuing his explorations, and having passed through Pa-ru-nu-weap (or Roaring Water) Canon, he spent some time among the Indians in the region beyond, from whom he learned that three white men had been killed the year before. They had come upon the Indian village starving and exhausted with fatigue, saying that they had descended the Grand Canon. They were fed and started on the way to the settlements, but they had not gone far when an Indian arrived from the east side of the Colorado and told of some miners who had killed a squaw in a drunken brawl. He incited the tribe to follow and attack the three whites, who no doubt were the murderers. Their story of coming down the Grand Canon was impossible—no men had ever done that—and it was a falsehood designed to cover their guilt. Excited by a desire for revenge, a party stole after them, surrounded them in ambush and filled them with arrows. This was the tragic end of Dunn and the Rowland brothers.
Little need be added. The unflinching courage, the quiet persistence and the inexhaustible zeal of Major Powell enabled him to achieve a geographical exploit which had been deemed wholly impracticable, and which in adventurousness puts most of the feats of the Alpine Club in the shade. But the narrative may derive a further interest from one other fact concerning this intrepid explorer, whom we have seen standing at the bow of his boats and guiding them over tempestuous falls, rapids and whirlpools, soaring among the crags of almost perpendicular canon-walls and suspended by his fingers from the rocks four hundred feet above the level of the river: Major Powell is a one-armed man!
WILLIAM H. RIDEING.
ADAM AND EVE.
For an instant every one seemed paralyzed and transfixed in the position into which upon Jonathan's entrance they had started. Then a sudden rush was made toward the door, which several of the strongest blocked up, while Adam called vainly on them to stand aside and give the chance of more air. Joan flew for water, and Jerrem dashed it over Jonathan.
There was a minute of anxious watching, and then slowly over Jonathan's pallid face the signs of returning animation began to creep.
"Now, stand back—stand back from him, do!" said Adam, fearing the effect of so many faces crowding near would only serve to further daze his scared senses.—"What is it, Jonathan? what is it, lad?" he asked, kneeling down by him.
Jonathan tried to rise, and Adam motioned for Barnabas Tadd to come and assist in getting him on his feet.
"Now, sit down there," said Adam, "and put your lips to this, and then tell us what's up."
Jonathan cowered down as he threw a hasty glance round, the meaning of which was answered by a general "You knaws all of us, Jonathan, don't ee?"
"Iss," said Jonathan, breaking into a feeble laugh, "but somehows I'd a rinned till I'd got 'em all, as I fancied, to my heels, close by."
"And where are they, then?" said Adam, seizing the opportunity of getting at the most important fact.
"Comin' 'long t' roadway, man by man, and straddled on to their horses' backs. They'm to take 'ee all, dead or livin', sarch by night or day. Some o' 'em is come all the ways fra Plymouth, vowin' and swearin' they'll have blid for blid, and that if they can't pitch 'pon he who fired to kill their man every sawl aboard the Lottery shall swing gallows-high for un."
A volley of oaths ran through the room, Joan threw up her arms in despair, Eve groaned aloud.
Suddenly there was a movement as if some one was breaking from a detaining hand. 'Twas Jerrem, who, pushing forward, cried out, "Then I'll give myself up to wance: nobody sha'n't suffer 'cos o' me. I did it, and I wasn't afeared to do it, neither, and no more I ain't afeared to answer for it now."
The buzz which negatived this offer bespoke the appreciation of Jerrem's magnanimity.
Adam alone had taken no part in it: turning, he said sternly, "Do we risk our lives together, then, to skulk off when danger offers and leave one to suffer for all? Let's have no more of such idle talk. While things promised to run smooth you was welcome to the boast of havin' fired first shot, but now every man aboard fired it; and let he who says he didn't stand out and say it now."
"Fair spoke and good sense," said the men.
"Then off with you, each to the place he thinks safest.—Jerrem and you, father, must stay here. I shall go to the mill, and, Jonathan, for the night you'd best come along with me."
With little visible excitement and but few words the men began to depart, all of them more or less stupefied by the influence of drink, which, combined with this unexpected dash to their hopes and overthrow of their boastings, seemed to rob them of all their energy. They were ready to do whatever they were asked, go wherever they were told, listen to all that was said, but anything beyond this was then impossible. They had no more power of deciding, proposing, arranging for themselves, than if they had been a flock of sheep warned that a ravenous wolf was near.
The one necessary action which seemed to have laid hold upon them was that they must all solemnly shake hands; and this in many cases they did over and over again, repeating each time, with a warning nod of the head, "Well, mate, 'tis a bad job o' it, this," until some of the more collected felt it necessary to interfere and urge their immediate departure: then one by one they stole away, leaving the house in possession of its usual occupants.
Adam had already been up stairs to get Uncle Zebedee—now utterly incapable of any thought for himself—safely placed in a secret closet which was hollowed in the wall behind the bed. Turning to Jerrem as he came down, he said, "You can manage to stow yourself away; only mind, do it at once, so that the house is got quiet before they've time to get here."
"All right," said Jerrem doggedly, while Joan slid back the seat of the settle, turned down a flap in the wall, and discovered the hole in which Jerrem was to lie concealed. "There! there ain't another hidin'-place like that in all Polperro," she said. "They may send a whole reg'ment o' sodgers afore a man among 'em 'ull pitch on 'ee there, Jerrem."
"And that's the reason why I don't want to have it," said Jerrem. "I don't see why I'm to have the pick and choice, and why Adam's to go off to where they've only got to search and find."
"Well, but 'tis as he says," urged Joan. "They may ha' got you in their eye already. Come, 'tis all settled now," she continued persuasively; "so get 'longs in with 'ee, like a dear."
Jerrem gave a look round. Eve was busy clearing the table, Adam was putting some tobacco into his pouch. He hesitated, then he made a step forward, then he drew back again, until at last, with visible effort, he said, "Come, give us yer hand, Adam." With no affectation of cordiality Adam held out his hand. "Whatever comes, you've spoke up fair for me, and acted better than most would ha' done, seem' that I've let my tongue run a bit too fast 'bout you o' late."
"Oh, don't think I've done any more for you than I should ha' done for either one o' the others," said Adam, not willing to accept a feather's weight of Jerrem's gratitude. "However," he added, trying to force himself into a greater show of graciousness, "here's wishin' all may go well with you, as with all of us!"
Not over-pleased with this cold reception of his advances, Jerrem turned hastily round to Joan. "Here, let's have a kiss, Joan," he said.
"Iss, twenty, my dear, so long as you'll only be quick 'bout it."
"There! nonsense now!" exclaimed Joan, warned by an expression in Adam's face: "there's no call for no leave-takin' with Eve: her'll be here so well as you."
The words, well-intentioned as they were, served as fuel to Adam's jealous fire, and for a moment he felt that it was impossible to go away and leave Jerrem behind; but the next instant the very knowledge of that passing weakness was only urging him to greater self-command, although the effort it cost him gave a hardness to his voice and a coldness to his manner. One tender word, and his resolve would be gone—one soft emotion, and to go would be impossible.
Eve, on her part, with all her love reawakened, her fears excited and her imagination sharpened, was wrought up to a pitch of emotion which each moment grew more and more beyond her control. In her efforts to keep calm she busied herself in clearing the table and moving to and fro the chairs, all the time keenly alive to the fact that Joan was hovering about Adam, suggesting comforts, supplying resources and pouring out a torrent of wordy hopes and fears. Surely Adam would ask—Joan would think to give them—one moment to themselves? If not she would demand it, but before she could speak, boom on her heart came Adam's "Good-bye, Joan, good-bye." What can she do now? How bear this terrible parting? In her efforts to control the desire to give vent to her agony her powers of endurance utterly gave way. A rushing sound as of many waters came gurgling in her ears, dulling the voice of some one who spoke from far off.
"What are they saying?" In vain she tried to catch the words, to speak, to move: then, gathering up all her strength, with a piercing cry she tried to break the spell. The room reeled, the ground beneath her gave way, a hundred voices shrieked good-bye, and with their clamor ringing in her ears Eve's spirit went down into silence and darkness. Another minute, and she was again alive to all her misery: Joan was kneeling beside her, the tears streaming from her eyes.
"What is it? Where's Adam?" exclaimed Eve, starting up.
"Gone," said Joan: "he said 'twas better to, 'fore you comed to yourself agen."
"Gone! and never said a word?" she cried. "Gone! Oh, Joan, how could he? how could he?"
"What would 'ee have un do, then?" said Joan sharply. "Bide dallyin' here to be took by the hounds o' sodgers that's marchin' 'pon us all? That's fine love, I will say." But suddenly a noise outside made them both start and stand listening with beating hearts until all again was still and quiet: then Joan's quick-roused anger failed her, and, repenting her sharp speech, she threw her arms round Eve's neck, crying, "Awh, Eve, don't 'ee lets you and me set 'bout quarrellin', my dear, for if sorrow ain't a-drawin' nigh my name's not Joan Hocken. I never before felt the same way as I do to-night. My spirits is gived way: my heart seems to have falled flat down and died within me, and, be doing what I may, there keeps soundin' in my ears a nickety-knock like the tappin' on a coffin-lid."
Since the night on which Jonathan's arrival had plunged the party assembled at Zebedee Pascal's into such dismay a week had passed by—seven days and nights of terror and confusion.
The determined manner in which the government authorities traced out each clew and tracked every scent struck terror into the stoutest hearts, and men who had never before shrunk from danger in any open form now feared to show their faces, dared not sleep in their own houses, nor, except by stealth, visit their own families. At dead of night, as well as in the blaze of day, stealthy descents would be made upon the place, the houses surrounded and strict search made. One hour the streets would be deserted, the next every corner bristled with rude soldiery, flinging insults and imprecations on the feeble old men and defenceless women, who, panic-stricken, stood about vainly endeavoring to seem at their ease and keep up a show of indifference.
One of the first acts had been to seize the Lottery, and orders had been issued to arrest all or any of her crew, wherever they might be found; but as yet no trace of them had been discovered. Jerrem and Uncle Zebedee still lay concealed within the house, and Adam at the mill, crouched beneath corn-bins, lay covered by sacks and grain, while the tramp of the soldiers sounded in his ears or the ring of their voices set his stout heart quaking with fear of discovery. To men whose lives had been spent out of doors, with the free air of heaven and the fresh salt breeze of the sea constantly sweeping over them, toil and hardship were pastimes compared to this inactivity; and it was little to be wondered at that for one and all the single solace left seemed drink. Drink deadened their restlessness, benumbed their energies, made them forget their dangers, sleep through their durance. So that even Adam could not always hold out against a solace which helped to shorten the frightful monotony of those weary days, dragged out for the most time in solitude and darkness. With no occupation, no resources, no companion, ever dwelling on self and viewing each action, past and present, by the light of an exaggerated (often a distorted) vision, Adam grew irritable, morose, suspicious.
Why hadn't Joan come? Surely there couldn't be anything to keep Eve away? And if so, might they not send a letter, a message or some token to show him that he was still in their thoughts? In vain did Mrs. Tucker urge the necessity of a caution hitherto unknown: in vain did she repeat the stories brought of footsteps dogged, and houses watched so that their inmates dare not run the smallest risk for fear of its leading to detection. Adam turned a deaf ear to all she said, sinking at last down to the conclusion that he could endure such suspense no longer, and, come what might, must the next day steal back home and satisfy himself how things were going on. The only concession to her better judgment which Mrs. Tucker could gain was his promise to wait until she had been in to Polperro to reconnoitre; for though, from having seen a party of soldiers pass that morning, they knew some of the troop had left, it was impossible to say how many remained behind nor whether they had received fresh strength from the opposite direction.
"I sha'n't give no more o' they than I sees the wisdom of," reflected Mrs. Tucker as, primed with questions to ask Joan and messages to give to Eve, she securely fastened the doors preparatory to her departure. "If I was to tell up such talk to Eve her'd be piping off here next minit or else sendin' back a pack o' silly speeches that 'ud make Adam mazed to go to she. 'Tis wonderful how took up he is with a maid he knows so little of. But there! 'tis the same with all the men, I b'lieve—tickle their eye and good-bye to their judgment." And giving the outer gate a shake to assure herself that it could not be opened without a preparatory warning to those within, Mrs. Tucker turned away and out into the road.
A natural tendency to be engrossed by personal interests, together with a life of narrowed circumstances, had somewhat blunted the acuteness of Mrs. Tucker's impressionable sensibilities, yet she could not but be struck at the change these last two weeks had wrought in the aspect of the place. The houses, wont to stand open so that friendly greetings might be exchanged, were now closed and shut; the blinds of most of the windows were drawn down; the streets, usually thronged with idlers, were all but deserted; the few shops empty of wares and of customers. Calling to her recollection the frequent prophetic warnings she had indulged in about these evil days to come, Mrs. Tucker's heart smote her. Surely Providence had never taken her at her word and really brought a judgment on the place? If so, seeing her own kith and kin would be amongst the most to suffer, it had read a very wrong meaning in her words; for it stood to reason when folks talked serious-like they didn't always stop to measure what they said, and if a text or two o' Scripture sounded seemly, 'twas fitted in to help their speech out with, not to be pulled abroad to seek the downright meanin' o' each word.
Subdued and oppressed by these and like reflections, Mrs. Tucker reached Uncle Zebedee's house, inside which the change wrought was in keeping with the external sadness. Both girls looked harassed and careworn—Joan, now that there was no further occasion for that display of spirit and bravado which before the soldiers she had successfully contrived to maintain, utterly broken down and apathetically dejected; Eve, unable to enter into all the difficulties or sympathize in the universal danger, ill at ease with herself and irritable with all around her. In her anxiety to hear about Adam—what message he had sent and whether she could not go to see him—she had barely patience to listen to Mrs. Tucker's roundabout details and lugubrious lamentations, and, choosing a very inopportune moment, she broke out with, "What message has Adam sent, Mrs. Tucker? He's sent a message to me, I'm sure: I know he must have."
"Awh, well, if you knaws, you don't want to be told, then," snorted Mrs. Tucker, ill pleased at having her demands upon sympathy put to such sudden flight. "Though don't you think, Eve, that Adam hasn't got somethin' else to think of than sendin' love-messages and nonsense o' that sort? He's a good deal too much took up 'bout the trouble we'm all in for that.—He hoped you was all well, and keepin' yer spirits up, Joan."
"Poor sawl!" sighed Joan: "I 'spects he finds that's more than he can do."
"Ah, you may well say that," replied Mrs. Tucker, casting a troubled look toward her daughter's altered face. "Adam's doin' purtty much the same as you be, Joan—frettin' his insides out."
"He's fretting, then?" gasped Eve, managing to get the words past the great lump which seemed to choke her further utterance.
"Frettin'," repeated Mrs. Tucker with severity. "But there! why should I?" she added, as if blaming her sense of injury. "I keeps forgettin' that, compared with Joan, Eve, you'm nothin' but a stranger, as you may say; and, though I dare say I sha'n't get your thanks for saying it, still Adam could tell 'ee so well as me that fresh faces is all very well in fair weather, but in times of trouble they counts for very little aside o' they who's bin brought up from the same cradle, you may say."
Eve's swelling heart could bear no more. This sense of being set aside and looked on as a stranger was a gall which of late she had been frequently called upon to endure, but to have it hinted at that Adam could share in this feeling toward her—oh, it was too much, and rising hastily she turned to run up stairs.
"Now, there's no call to fly off in no tantrums, Eve," said Mrs. Tucker; "so just sit down now and listen to what else I've got to say."
But Eve's outraged love could hide itself no longer: to answer Joan's mother with anything like temper was impossible, and, knowing this, her only refuge was in flight. "I don't want to hear any more you may have to say, Mrs. Tucker;" and though Eve managed to keep under the sharpness of her voice, she could not control the indignant expression of her face, which Mrs. Tucker fully appreciating, she speeded her departure by the inspiriting prediction that if Eve didn't sup sorrow by the spoonful before her hair was gray her name wasn't Ann Tucker.
"Awh, don't 'ee say that," said Joan. "You'm over-crabbit with her, mother, and her only wantin' to hear some word that Adam had sent to her ownself."
"But, mercy 'pon us! her must give me time to fetch my breath," exclaimed Mrs. Tucker indignantly, "and I foaced to fly off as I did for fear that Adam should forestall me and go doin' somethin' foolish!"
"He ain't wantin' to come home?" said Joan hurriedly.
"Iss, but he is, though. And when us see they sodgers go past I thought no other than he'd a set off then and there. As I said to un, ''Tis true you knows o' they that's gone, but how can 'ee tell how many's left behind?'"
Joan shook her head. "They'm all off," she said: "every man of 'em's gone; but, for all that, Adam mustn't come anighst us or show his face in the place. 'Tis held everywhere that this move is nothin' but a decoy to get the men out o' hidin', and that done, back they'll all come and drop down on 'em."
"Well, then, I'd best go back to wanst," cried Mrs. Tucker, starting up, "and try and put a stop to his comin', tho' whether he'll pay any heed to what I say is more than I'll answer for."
"Tell un," said Joan, "that for all our sakes he mustn't come, and say that I've had word that Jonathan's lurkin' nigh about here some place, so I reckon there's somethin' up; and what it is he shall know so soon as I can send word to un. Say that ought to tell un 'tisn't safe to stir, 'cos he knows that Jonathan would sooner have gone to he than to either wan here."
"Well, I'll tell un all you tells me to," said Mrs. Tucker with a somewhat hopeless expression; "but you knaw what Adam is, Joan, when he fixes his mind on anythin'; and I've had the works o' the warld to keep un from comin' already: he takes such fancies about 'ee all as you never did. I declare if I didn't knaw that p'r'aps he's a had more liquor than he's used to take o' times I should ha' fancied un light-headed like."
"And so he'll be if you gives much sperrit to un, mother," said Joan anxiously: "'tis sure to stir his temper up. But there!" she added despondingly, "what can anybody do? 'Tis all they ha' got to fly to. There's Jerrem at it fro' mornin' to night; and as for uncle, dear sawl! he's as happy as a clam at high watter."
"Iss, I reckon," said Mrs. Tucker: "it don't never matter much what goes wrong, so long as uncle gets his fill o' drink. I've said scores o' times uncle's joy 'ud never run dry so long as liquor lasted."
"Awh, well," said Joan, "I don't knaw what us should ha' done if there'd ha' bin no drink to give 'em: they'd ha' bin more than Eve and me could manage, I can tell 'ee. Nobody but our ownselves, mother, will ever knaw what us two maidens have had to go through."
"You've often had my thoughts with 'ee, Joan," said Mrs. Tucker, her eyes dimmed by a rush of motherly sympathy for all the girls must have suffered; "and you can tell Eve (for her'll take it better from you than from me) that Adam's allays a-thinkin' of her, and begged and prayed that she wudn't forget un."
"No fear o' that," said Joan, anxious that her mother should depart; "and mind now you say, no matter what time 'tis, directly I'se seen Jonathan and knaws 'tis safe for we somebody shall bring un word to come back, for Eve and me's longin' to have a sight of un."
Charged with these messages, Mrs. Tucker hastened back to the mill, where all had gone well since her departure, and where she found Adam more tractable and reasonable than she had had reason to anticipate. He listened to all Joan's messages, agreed with her suspicions and seemed contented to abide by her decision. The plain, unvarnished statement which Mrs. Tucker gave of the misery and gloom spread over the place affected him visibly, and her account of the two girls, and the alteration she had seen in them, did not tend to dispel his emotion.
"As for Joan," she said, letting a tear escape and trickle down her cheek, "'tis heart-breakin' to look at her. Her's terrible wrapped up in you, Adam, is Joan—more than, as her mother, I cares for her to awn to, seein' how you'm situated with Eve."
"Oh, Eve never made no difference 'twixt us two," said Adam. Then, after a pause, he asked, "Didn't Eve give you no word to give to me?"
"Well, no," said Mrs. Tucker: then, with the determination to deal fairly, she added quickly, "but her was full o' questions about 'ee, and that 'fore I'd time to draw breath inside the place." Adam was silent, and Mrs. Tucker, considering the necessity for further explanation removed by the compromise she had made, continued: "You see, what with Jerrem and uncle, and the drink that goes on, they two poor maidens is kept pretty much on the go; and Eve, never bein' used to no such ways, seems terrible harried by it all."
"Harried?" repeated Adam, with ill-suppressed bitterness, "and well she may be; still, I should ha' thought she might have managed to send, if 'twas no more than a word, back to me."
Under the plea that, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, Jonathan might still possibly put in an appearance, Adam lingered in his aunt's cheerful-looking kitchen until after the clock had struck eleven: then he very reluctantly got up, and, bidding Mrs. Tucker and Sammy good-night, betook himself to the mill-house, in which, with regard to his greater safety, a bed had been made up for him.
Adam felt that, court it as he might, sleep was very far from his eyes, and that, compared to his own society and the torment of thought which harassed and racked him each time he found himself alone, even Sammy Tucker's company was a boon to be grateful for. There were times during these hours of dreary loneliness when Adam's whole nature seemed submerged by the billows of love—cruel waves, which would toss him hither and thither, making sport of his hapless condition, to strand him at length on the quicksands of fear, where a thousand terrible alarms would seize him and fill him with dread as to how these disasters might end. What would become of him? how would it fare with Eve and himself? where could they go? what could they do?—questions ever swallowed up by the constantly-recurring, all-important bewilderment as to what could possibly have brought about this dire disaster.
On this night Adam's thoughts were more than usually engrossed by Eve: her form seemed constantly before him, distracting him with images as tempting and unsatisfying as is the desert spring with which desire mocks the thirst of the fainting traveller. At length that relaxation of strength which in sterner natures takes the place of tears subdued Adam, a softened feeling crept over him, and, shifting his position so that he might rest his arms against the corn-bin near, a deep-drawn sigh escaped him.
Adam started at the sound, and without moving turned his head and looked rapidly about him. Nothing was to be seen: with the exception of the small radius round the lantern all was darkness and gloom.
"Hist!" was repeated, and this time there was no more doubt but that the sound came from some one close by.
A clammy sweat stood on Adam's forehead, his tongue felt dry and so powerless that it needed an effort to force it to move. "Who's there?" he said.
Adam caught up the lantern, and, turning it in the direction whence the voice came, found to his relief that the rays fell upon Jonathan's face. "Odds rot it, lad!" he exclaimed, "but you've gived me a turn! How the deuce did you get in here? and why didn't ye come inside to the house over there?"
"I've a bin scrooged down 'tween these 'ere sacks for ever so long," said Jonathan, trying to stretch out his cramped limbs: "I reckon I've had a bit o' a nap too, for the time ha'n't a took long in goin', and when I fust come 'twasn't altogether dark."
"'Tis close on the stroke o' twelve now," said Adam. "But come, what news, eh? Have ye got hold o' anything yet? Are they devils off for good? Is that what you've come to tell me?"
"Iss, they's off this time, I fancy," said Jonathan; "but 'twasn't that broffed me, though I should ha' comed to tell 'ee o' that too."
"No? What is it then?" demanded Adam impatiently, turning the light so that he could get a better command of Jonathan's face.
"'Twas 'cos o' this," said Jonathan, his voice dropping to a whisper, so that, though the words were trembling on his lips, his agitation and excitement almost prevented their utterance: "I've found it out—all of it—who blowed the gaff 'pon us."
Adam started forward: his face all but touched Jonathan's, and an expression of terrible eagerness came into his eyes.
"'Twas she!" hissed Jonathan—"she—her from London—Eve;" but before the name was well uttered Adam had thrown himself upon him and was grasping at his throat as if to throttle him, while a volley of imprecations poured from his mouth, denouncing the base lie which Jonathan had dared to utter. A moment more, and this fit of impotent rage over, he flung him violently off, and stood for a moment trying to bring back his senses; but the succession of circumstances had been too much for him: his head swam round, his knees shook under him, and he had to grasp hold of a beam near to steady himself.
"What for do 'ee sarve me like that, then?" muttered Jonathan. "I ain't a-tellin' 'ee no more than I've a-heerd, and what's the truth. Her name's all over the place," he went on, forgetful of the recent outburst and warming with his narration. "Her's a reg'lar bad wan; her's a-carr'ed on with a sodger-chap so well as with Jerrem; her's a—"
"By the living Lord, if you speak another word I'll be your death!" exclaimed Adam.
"Wa-al, and so you may," exclaimed Jonathan doggedly, "if so be you'll lave me bide 'til I'se seed the end o' she. Why, what do 'ee mane, then?" he cried, a sudden suspicion throwing a light on Adam's storm of indignation. "Her bain't nawthin' to you—her's Jerrem's maid: her bain't your maid? Why," he added, finding that Adam didn't speak, "'twas through the letter I carr'ed from he that her'd got it to blab about. I wishes my hand had bin struck off"—and he dashed it violently against the wooden bin—"afore I'd touched his letter or his money."
"What letter?" gasped Adam.
"Wa-al, I knaws you said I warn't to take neither wan; but Jerrem he coaxes and persuades, and says you ain't to knaw nawthin' about it, and 'tain't nawthin' in it, only 'cos he'd a got a letter fra' she to Guernsey, and this was t' answer; and then I knawed, 'cos I seed em, that they was sweetheartin' and that, and—"
"Did you give her that letter?" said Adam; and the sound of his voice was so strange that Jonathan shrank back and cowered close to the wall.
"Iss, I did," he faltered: "leastwise, I gived un to Joan, but t'other wan had the radin' in it."
There was a pause, during which Adam stood stunned, feeling that everything was crumbling and giving way beneath him—that he had no longer anything to live for, anything to hope, anything to fear. As, one after another, each former bare suggestion of artifice now passed before him clothed in the raiment of certain deceit, he made a desperate clutch at the most improbable, in the wild hope that one falsehood at least might afford him some ray of light, however feeble, to dispel the horrors of this terrible darkness.
"And after she'd got the letter," he said, "what—what about the rest?"
"Why 'twas this way," cried Jonathan, his eyes rekindling in his eagerness to tell the story: "somebody dropped a bit of paper into the rendevoos winder, with writin' 'pon it to say when and where they'd find the Lottery to. Who 'twas did it none knaws for sartain, but the talk's got abroad 'twas a sergeant there, 'cos he'd a bin braggin' aforehand that he'd got a watch-sale and that o' her'n'."
"Her'n?" echoed Adam.
"Iss, o' Eve's. And he's allays a-showin' of it off, he is; and when they axes un questions he doan't answer, but he dangles the sale afront of 'em and says, 'What d'ee think?' he says; and now he makes his brag that he shall hab the maid yet, while her man's a-dancin' gallus-high a top o' Tyburn tree."
The blood rushed up into Adam's face, so that each vein stood a separate cord of swollen, bursting rage.
"They wasn't a-manin' you, ye knaw," said Jonathan: "'twar Jerrem. Her's played un false, I reckon. Awh!" and he gave a fiendish chuckle, "but us'll pay her out for't, woan't us, eh? Awnly you give to me the ticklin' o' her ozel-pipe;" and he made a movement of his bony fingers that conveyed such a hideous embodiment of his meaning that Adam, overcome by horror, threw up his arms with a terrible cry to heaven, and falling prone he let the bitterness of death pass over the love that had so late lain warm at his heart; while Jonathan crouched down, trembling and awestricken by the sight of emotion which, though he could not comprehend nor account for, stirred in him the sympathetic uneasiness of a dumb animal. Afraid to move or speak, he remained watching Adam's bent figure until his shallow brain, incapable of any sustained concentration of thought, wandered off to other interests, from which he was recalled by a noise, and looking up he saw that Adam had raised himself and was wiping his face with his handkerchief. Did he feel so hot, then? No, it must be that he felt cold, for he shivered and his teeth seemed to chatter as he told Jonathan to stoop down by the side there and hand him up a jar and a glass that he would find; and this got, Adam poured out some of its contents, and after tossing it off told Jonathan to take the jar and help himself, for, as nothing could be done until daylight, they might as well lie down and try and get some sleep. Jonathan's relish for spirit once excited, he made himself tolerably free of the permission, and before long had helped himself to such purpose that, stretched in a heavy sleep, unless some one roused him he was not likely to awake for some hours to come.
Then Adam got up and with cautious movements stole down the ladder, undid the small hatch-door which opened out on the mill-stream, fastened it after him, and leaping across stood for a few moments asking himself what he had come out to do. He didn't know, for as yet, in the tumult of jealousy and revenge, there was no outlet, no gap, by which he might drain off any portion of that passionate fire which was rapidly destroying and consuming all his softer feelings. The story which Jonathan had brought of the betrayal to the sergeant, the fellow's boastings and his possession of the seal Adam treated as an idle tale, its possibility vanquished by his conviction that Eve could have had no share in it. It was the letter from Jerrem which was the damnatory proof in Adam's eyes—the proof by which he judged and condemned her; for had not he himself seen and wondered at Jerrem's anxiety to go to Guernsey, his elation at finding a letter waiting him, his display of wishing to be seen secretly reading it, and now his ultimate betrayal of them by sending an answer to it?
As for Jerrem—oh he would deal with him as with a dog, and quickly send him to that fate he so richly deserved. It was not against Jerrem that the depths of his bitterness welled over: as the strength of his love, so ran his hate; and this all turned to one direction, and that direction pointed toward Eve.
He must see her, stand face to face with her, smite her with reproaches, heap upon her curses, show her how he could trample on her love and fling her back her perjured vows. And then? This done, what was there left? From Jerrem he could free himself. A word, a blow, and all would be over: but how with her? True, he could kill the visible Eve with his own hands, but the Eve who lived in his love, would she not live there still? Ay; and though he flung that body which could court the gaze of other eyes than his full fathoms deep, the fair image which dwelt before him would remain present to his vision. So that, do what he would, Eve would live, must live. Live! Crushing down on that thought came the terrible consequences which might come of Jonathan's tale being told—a tale so colored with all their bitterest prejudices that it was certain to be greedily listened to; and in the storm of angry passion it would rouse everything else would be swallowed up by resentment against Eve's baseness; and the fire once kindled, what would come of it?
The picture which Adam's heated imagination conjured up turned him hot and cold; an agony of fear crept over him; his heart sickened and grew faint within him, and the hands which but a few minutes before had longed to be steeped in her blood now trembled and shook with nervous dread lest a finger of harm should be laid upon her.
These and a hundred visions more or less wild coursed through Adam's brain as his feet took their swift way toward Polperro—not keeping along the open road, but taking a path which, only known to the inhabitants, would bring him down almost in front of his own house.
The night was dark, the sky lowering and cloudy. Not a sound was to be heard, not a soul had he seen, and already Adam was discussing with himself how best, without making an alarm, he should awaken Joan and obtain admittance. Usually bars and bolts were unknown, doors were left unfastened, windows often open; but now all would be securely shut, and he would have to rely on the possibility of his signal being heard by some one who might chance to be on the watch.
Suddenly a noise fell upon his ear. Surely he heard the sound of footsteps and the hum of voices. It could never be that the surprise they deemed a possibility had turned out a certainty. Adam crouched down, and under the shadow of the wall glided silently along until he came opposite the corner where the house stood. It was as he feared. There was no further doubt. The shutters were flung back, the door was half open, and round it, easing their tired limbs as best they might, stood crowded together a dozen men, the portion of a party who had evidently spread themselves about the place.
Fortunately for Adam, the steps which led up to the wooden orrel or balcony—at that time a common adornment to the Polperro houses—afforded him a tolerably safe retreat, and, screened here, he remained a silent watcher, hearing only a confused murmur and seeing nothing save an occasional movement as one and the other changed posts and passed in and out of the opposite door. At length a general parley seemed to take place: the men fell into rank and at a slow pace moved off down the street in the direction of the quay. Adam looked cautiously out. The door was now closed. Dare he open it? Might he not find that a sentinel had been left behind? How about the other door? The chances against it were as bad. The only possible way of ingress was by a shutter in the wall which overlooked the brook and communicated with the hiding-place in which his father lay secreted. This shutter had been little used since the days of press-gangs. It was painted in so exact an imitation of the slated house-wall as to defy detection, and to mark the spot to the initiated eye a root of house-leek projected out below and served to further screen the opening from view. The contrivance of this shutter-entrance was well known to Adam, and the mode of reaching it familiar to him: therefore if he could but elude observation he was certain of success.
The plan once decided on, he began putting it into execution, and although it seemed half a lifetime to him, but very few minutes had elapsed before he had crossed the road, ran waist-high into the brook, scaled the wall and scrambled down almost on top of old Zebedee, who, stupefied by continual drink, sleep and this constant confinement, took the surprise in a wonderfully calm manner.
"Hist, father! 'tis only me—Adam."
"A' right! a' right!" stammered Zebedee, too dazed to take in the whole matter at once. "What is it, lad, eh? They darned galoots ha'n't a tracked 'ee, have 'em? By the hooky! but they'm givin' 't us hot and strong this time, Adam: they was trampin' 'bout inside here a minit agone, tryin' to keep our sperrits up by a-rattlin' the bilboes in our ears. Why, however did 'ee dodge 'em, eh? What's the manin' o' it all?"
"I thought they was gone," said Adam, "so I came down to see how you were all getting on here."
"Iss, iss, sure. Wa-al, all right, I s'pose, but I ha'n't a bin let outside much: Joan won't have it, ye knaw. Poor Joan!" he sighed, "her's terrible moody-hearted 'bout 't all; and so's Eve too. I never see'd maids take on as they'm doin'; but there! I reckon 'twill soon be put a end to now."
"How so?" said Adam.
"Wa-al, you mustn't knaw, down below, more than you'm tawld," said the old man with a significant wink and a jerk of his head, "but Jerrem he let me into it this ebenin' when he rinned up to see me for a bit. Seems one o' they sodger-chaps is carr'in' on with Eve, and Jerrem's settin' her on to rig un up so that her'll get un not to see what 'tain't maned for un to look at."
"Well?" said Adam.
"Iss," said Zebedee, "but will it be well? That's what I keeps axin' of un. He's cock sure, sartain, that they can manage it all. He's sick, he says, o' all this skulkin', and he's blamed if he'll go on standin' it, neither."
"Oh!" hissed Adam, "he's sick of it, is he?" and in the effort he made to subdue his voice the veins in his face rose up to be purple cords. "He'd nothing to do with bringing it on us all? it's no fault of his that the place is turned into a hell and we hunted down like a pack o' dogs?"
"Awh, well, I dawn't knaw nuffin 'bout that," said old Zebedee, huffily. "How so be if 'tis so, when he's got clane off 'twill be all right agen."
"All right?" thundered Adam—"how all right? Right that he should get off and we be left here?—that he shouldn't swing, but we must stay to suffer?"
"Awh, come, come, come!" said the old man with the testy impatience of one ready to argue, but incapable of reasoning. "'Tain't no talk o' swingin', now: that was a bit o' brag on the boy's part: he's so eager to save his neck as you or me either. Awnly Jonathan's bin here and tawld up summat that makes un want to be off to wance, for he says, what us all knaws, without he's minded to it you can't slip a knot round Jonathan's clapper; and 'tain't that Jerrem's afeared o' his tongue, awnly for the keepin' up o' pace and quietness he fancies 'twould be better for un to make hisself scarce for a bit."
Adam's whole body quivered as a spasm of rage ran through him; and Zebedee, noting the trembling movement of his hands, conveyed his impression of the cause by bestowing a glance, accompanied with a pantomimic bend of his elbow, in the direction of a certain stone bottle which stood in the corner.
"Did Jonathan tell you what word 'twas he'd brought?" Adam managed to say.
"Noa: I never cast eyes on un. He warn't here 'bove a foo minits 'fore he slipped away, none of 'em knaws where or how. He was warned not to go anighst you," he added after a moment's pause; "so I reckon you knaws no more of un than us does."
"And Eve and Joan? were they let into the secret?" asked Adam; and the sound of his harsh voice grated even on Zebedee's dulled ears.
"Iss, I reckon," he said, half turning, "'cos Eve's got to do the trick: her's to bamfoozle the sodger.—Odds rot it, lad!" he cried, startled at the expression which leaped into Adam's haggard face, "what's come to 'ee that you must turn round 'pon us like that? Is it the maid you's got a spite agen? Lors! but 'tis a poor stomach you's got to'rds her if you'm angered by such a bit o' philanderin' as I've tawld 'ee of. What d'ee mane, then?" he added, his temper rising at such unwarrantable inconsistency. "I've knawed as honest women as ever her is that's a done that, and more too, for to get their men safe off and out o' way—iss, and wasn't thought none the wus of, neither. You'm growed mighty fancikul all to wance 'bout what us is to do and what us dussn't think o'. I'm sick o' such talk. 'Taint nawthin' else fra' mornin' to night but Adam this and Adam that. I'm darned if 'tis to be wondered at if the maid plays 'ee false: by gosh! I'd do the trick, if I was she, 'fore I'd put up with such fantads from you or either man like 'ee. So there!"
Adam did not answer, and old Zebedee, interpreting the silence into an admission of the force of his arguments, forbore to press the advantage and generously started a fresh topic. "They's a tawld 'ee, I reckon, 'bout the bill they's a posted up, right afore the winder, by the Three Pilchards," he said. "Iss," he added, not waiting for an answer, "the king's pardon and wan hunderd pound to be who'll discover to 'em the man who 'twas fired the fatal shot. Wan hunderd pound!" he sneered. "That's a fat lot, surely; and as for t' king's pardon, why 'twudn't lave un braithin'-time to spend it in—not if he war left here, 'twudn't. No fear! Us ain't so bad off yet that either wan in Polperro 'ud stink their fingers wi' blid-money. Lord save un! sich a man 'ud fetch up the divil hisself to see un pitched head foremost down to bottom o' say, which 'ud be the end I'd vote for un, and see it was carr'd out too—iss, tho' his bones bore my own flesh and blid 'pon 'em, I wud;" and in his anger the old man's rugged face grew distorted with emotion.
But Adam neither spoke nor made comment on his words. His eyes were fixed on mid-air, his nostrils worked, his mouth quivered. Within him a legion of devils seemed to have broken loose, and, sensible of the mastery they were gaining over him, he leaped up and with the wild despair of one who catches at a straw to save him from destruction, it came upon him to rush down and look once more into the face of her whom he had found so fair and proved so false.
"What is it you'm goin' to do, then?" said Zebedee, seeing that Adam had stooped down and was raising the panel by which exit was effected.
"Goin' to see if the coast's clear," said Adam.
"Better bide where you be," urged Zebedee. "Joan or they's sure to rin up so soon as 'tis all safe."
But Adam paid no heed: muttering something about knowing what he was about, he slipped up the partition and crept under, cautiously ascertained that the outer room was empty, and then, crossing the passage, stole down the stairs.
The door which led into the room was shut, but through a convenient chink Adam could take a survey of those within. Already his better self had begun to struggle in his ear, already the whisper which desire was prompting asked what if Eve stood there alone and—But no, his glance had taken in the whole: quick as the lightning's flash the details of that scene were given to Adam's gaze—Eve, bent forward, standing beside the door, over whose hatch a stranger's face was thrust, while Joan, close to the spot where Jerrem still lay hid, clasped her two hands as if to stay the breath which longed to cry, "He's free!"... The blow dealt, the firebrand flung, each evil passion quickened into life, filled with jealousy and mad revenge, Adam turned swiftly round and backward sped his way.
"They'm marched off, ain't 'em?" said old Zebedee as, Adam having given the signal, he drew the panel of the door aside. "I've a bin listenin' to their trampin' past.—Why, what's the time, lad, eh?—must be close on break o' day, ain't it?"
"Just about," said Adam, pushing back the shutter so that he might look out and see that no one stood near enough to overlook his descent.
"Why, you bain't goin' agen, be 'ee?" said Zebedee in amazement. "Why, what for be 'ee hikin' off like this, then—eh, lad?—Lord save us, he's gone!" he exclaimed as Adam, swinging himself by a dexterous twist on to the first ledge, let the shutter close behind him. "Wa-al, I'm blamed if this ain't a rum start! Summat gone wrong with un now. I'll wager he's a bin tiched up in the bunt somehows, for a guinea; and if so be, 'tis with wan o' they. They'm all sixes and sebens down below; so I'll lave 'em bide a bit, and hab a tot o' liquor and lie down for a spell. Lord send 'em to knaw the vally o' pace and quietness! But 'tis wan and all the same—
Friends and faws, To battle they gaws; And what they all fights about Nawbody knaws."
It was broad daylight when Joan, having once before failed to make her uncle hear, gave such a vigorous rap that, starting up, the old man cried, "Ay, ay, mate!" and with all speed unfastened the door.
Joan crept in and some conversation ensued, in the midst of which, as the recollection of the events just past occurred to his mind, Zebedee asked, "What was up with Adam?"
"With Adam?" echoed Joan.
"Iss: what made un start off like he did?"
Joan looked for a minute, then she lifted the stone bottle and shook its contents. "Why, whatever be 'ee tellin' up?" she said.