Page images
PDF
EPUB

III. 'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near Lokéren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear ; At Boom a great yellow star came out to see ; At Düffeld 'twas morning as plain as could be ; And from Mecheln church steeple we heard the half-chime; So Joris broke silence with, “ Yet there is time !”

IV.
At Aerschot up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past ;
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray ;-

And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye's black intelligence — ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance !
And the thick, heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.

VI. By Hasselt, Dirck groaned ; and cried Joris, “Stay spur! Your Roos galloped bravely; the fault's not in her; We'll remember at Aix” — for one heard the quick wheeze Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees, And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank, As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.

VII.

So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;

The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And“ Gallop,” gasped Joris, “ for Aix is in sight !”

VIII.

“How they'll greet us!” - and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone ;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.

IX.

Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet name, my horse without peer ;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.

X.

And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.

VII. - THE SLIDE OF ALPNACA.

[This account of the Slide of Alpnarb originally appeared in the German language, and a translation was given in Brewster's Journal, a scientific periodical published in Edinburgh. Mount Pilatus is a mountain near Lucerne, in Switzerland, which, according to an old tradition, firmly believed by the common people, derived its name from Pilate, the governor of Judea, who, having been banished to Gaul by the Emperor liberius, wandered about among the mountains, a prey to remorse, until he put an end to bis unhappy life by throwing himself into a lake on the top of the peak to which his name was afterwards attached. This belief has been confirmed by the dark mantle of clouds in which the summit is commonly wrapped.

The slide has long since disappeared; the demand for the timber brought down not proving sufficient to meet the expenses attending upon it.]

For many centuries the rugged flanks and deep gorges of Mount Pilatus were covered with impenetrable forests. Lofty precipices encircled them on all sides. Even the daring hunters were scarcely able to reach them; and the inhabitants of the valley had never conceived the idea of disturbing them with the axe.

These immense forests were, therefore, permitted to grow and to perish without being of the least utility to man, till a foreigner, conducted into their wild recesses in the pursuit of the chamois, was struck with wonder at the sight, and directed the attention of several Swiss gentlemen to the extent and superiority of the timber. The most intelligent and skilful individuals, however, considered it quite impracticable to avail themselves of such inaccessible stores.

It was not till November, 1816, that M.* Rupp and hree Swiss gentlemen, entertaining more sanguine hopes, drew up a plan of a slide, founded on trigonometrical measurements. Haring purchased a certain extent of the forests from the commune of Alpnach for six thousand crowns, they began the constructior. of the slide, and completed it in the spring of 1818. The slida of Alpnach is formed entirely of about twenty-five thousand large pine trees, deprived of their bark, and united together in a very ingenious manner, without the aid of iron. It occupied about one hundred and sixty workmen during eighteen months, and cost nearly one hundred thousand francs, or about twenty

• M. is the abbreviation for Monsieur, corresponding to Mr. for Mister.

thousand dollars. It is about three leagues, or forty-four thousand English feet long, and terminates in the Lake of Lucerne. It has the form of a trough, about six feet broad, and from three to six feet deep. Its bottom is formed of three trees, the middle one of which has a groove cut out in the direction of its length, for receiving small rills of water, which are conducted into it from various places, for the purpose of diminishing the friction. The whole of the slide is sustained by about two thousand supports; and in many places it is attached, in a very ingenious manner, to the rugged precipices of granite.

The direction of the slide is sometimes straight, and sometimes zig-zag, with an inclination of from ten to fifteen degrees. It is often carried along the sides of hills and the flanks of precipitous rocks, and sometimes passes over their summits. Occasionally it goes under ground, and at other times it is conducted over the deep gorges by scaffoldings one hundred and twenty feet in height. The boldness which characterizes this work, the sagacity displayed in all its arrangements, and the skill of the engineer, have excited the wonder of every person who has seen it. Before any step could be taken in its erection, it was necessary to cut down several thousand trees to obtain a passage through the impenetrable thickets; and as the workmen advanced, men were posted at certain distances, in order to point out the road for their return, and to discover, in the gorges, the places where the piles of wood had been established.

M. Rupp was himself obliged, more than once, to be suspended by cords, in order to descend precipices many hundred feet high; and in the first months of the undertaking, he was attacked with a violent fever, which deprived him of the power of superintending his workmen. Nothing, however, could diminish his invincible perseverance. He was carried every day to the mountain in a barrow, to direct the labors of the workmen, which was absolutely necessary, as he had scarcely two good carpenters among them all; the rest having been hired by accident, without any knowledge which such an undertaking required. M. Rupp had also to contend against the prejudices of the peasantry. He was supposed to have communion with the devil. He was charged with heresy, and every obstacle was thrown in the way of an enterprise which they regarded as absurd and impracticable. All these difficulties, however, were surmounted, and he had at last the satisfaction of observing the trees descend from the mountain with the rapidity of lightning. The larger pines, which were about a hundred feet long, and ten inches thick at their smaller extremity, ran through the space of three leagues, or nearly nine miles, in two minutes and a half, and during their descent they appeared to be only a few feet in length.

The arrangements for this part of the operation were extremely simple. From the lower end of the slide to the upper end, where the trees were introduced, workmen were posted at regular distances, and as soon as every thing was ready, the workman at the lower end of the slide cried out to the one above him, “Let go.” The cry was repeated from one to another, and reached the top in three minutes. The workman at the top of the slide then cried out to the one below him, “It comes," and the tree was launched down the slide, preceded by the cry, which was repeated from post to post. As soon as the tree had reached the bottom, and plunged into the lake, the cry was repeated as before, and a new tree launched in a similar

By these means a tree descended every five or six minutes, provided no accident happened to the slide, which sometimes took place, but which was instantly repaired when it did.

In order to show the enormous force which the trees acquired from the great velocity of their descent, M. Rupp made arrangements for causing some of the trees to spring from the alide. They penetrated by their thickest extremities no less than from eighteen to twenty-four feet in the earth, and one of the trees having by accident struck against the other, it instantly cleft it through its whole length, as if it had been struck by lightning. After the trees had descended the slide, they were collected into rafts upon the lake, and conducted to Lucerne. From thence they descended the Reuss, then the

manner.

« PreviousContinue »