Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

at eight o'clock in the morning, die in their youth ; those who die at five o'clock in the evening, die in a state of decrepitude.

Supposing one of the most robust of these Hypanians as old, according to the ideas of his nation, as time itself, he would have begun to exist at break of day, and through the strength of his constitution would have been enabled to support an active life during the great number of seconds contained in ten or twelve hours. During so long a succession of instants, by his own experience and by his reflections on all he had seen, he must have acquired great wisdom; he looks upon his fellows who have died at noon as creatures happily delivered from the great number of infirmities to which old age is subject. He may have to relate to his grandsons an astonishing tradition of facts anterior to all the memories of the nation. The young swarm, composed of beings who have lived but an hour, approach the aged patriarch with respect, and listen with admiration to his instructive discourse. Everything he relates to them appears a prodigy to this generation, whose Jife has been so short. A day appears to them the entire duration of time, and the dawn of day would be called, in their chronology, the great era of their creation.

Suppose now that the venerable insect, a short time before his death, about the hour of sunset, assembles all his descendants, his friends and acquaintances, to give them, with his dying breath, his last advice. They gather from all parts under the vast shelter of a mushroom, and the dying sage addresses them in the following manner :

“Friends and compatriots, I feel that the longest life must have an end. The term of mine has arrived, and I do not regret my fate, since my great age has become a burden to me, and there is nothing new under the sun for me. The revolutions and calamities that have desolated my country, the great number of particular accidents to which we are all subject, the infirmities that afflict our species, and the misfortunes that have happened in my own family, all that I have seen in the course of a long life, has only too well taught me this great truth, that happiness, placed in things which do not depend on ourselves, can never be certain and lasting. An entire generation has perished by a violent wind; a multitude of our imprudent youth has been swept into the water by a brisk and unexpected breeze. What terrible floods a sudden rain has caused ! Our firmest shelters even are not proof against a hail-storm. A dark cloud causes the most courageous hearts to tremble.

“I lived in the early ages, and conversed with insects of larger growth, of stronger constitutions, and I may say of greater wisdom than any of the present generation. I conjure you to give credit to my last words, when I assure you that the sun which now appears beyond the water, and which seems not far from the earth, I have seen in times past fixed in the middle of the heavens, its rays darting directly upon us. The earth was much lighter in past ages, the air was much warmer, and our ancestors were more sober and more virtuous.

“ Although my senses are enfeebled, my memory is not ; I can assure you that this glorious luminary moves. I havo seen it rising over the summit of that mountain, and I began my life about the time that it commenced its immense career. It has, during several centuries, advanced in the heavens with an astonishing heat and brilliancy, of which you can have no idea, and which assuredly you could not have supported; but now, by its decline and the sensiblo diminution of its vigour, I foresee that all nature must shortly terminate, and that this world will be buried in darkness in less than a hundred minutes.

“ Alas ! my friends, how I flattered myself at one time with the deceitful hope of always living on this earth! How magnificent were the cells I had hollowed out for myself! What confidence did I put in the firmness of my limbs, and in the elasticity of their joints, and in tho strength of my wings! But I have lived long enough for nature and for glory, and none of those I leave behind me will have that same satisfaction in the century of darkness and decay that I see about to begin.”

EXERCISE.-20. COMPOSITION. 1. Recount in your own words the experiences of the aged insect. 2. Supposing that a very old man were speaking, like the insect, to boys of all he had seen and heard in his past life, what would he probably say?

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

em-i-nence (L. e, from; mineo, to project], a hill, rising ground. ho-ri-zon [Gk. hõrīžo, to bound], the limit of vision, the circle which bounds the view where the earth and sky seem to meet. pic-tu-resque (L. pictura, a painting, from pingo, to paint], naturally beautiful. PUSHING through the jungle, we ascended the eminence. A brilliant picture opened before us. The storm had suddenly lulled, and the tropical sun shone down upon the

[ocr errors]

* Captain MAYNE REID, the son of a minister of the Irish Presbyterian Church, was born in Ireland in 1818. He held a commission in the American army, and greatly distinguished himself in the war between Mexico and the United States, in 1845. His novels, which are written in a vigorous and graphic style, consist chiefly of the description of daring feats in romantic adventures in Mexico and different parts of America, The above extract is taken from the "Rife Rangers," one of the best of his numerous works.

[ocr errors]

flowery surface of the earth, bathing its verdure in a flood of yellow light.

It was several hours before sunset, but the bright orb had commenced descending towards the snowy cone of Orizava, and his rays had assumed that golden red which characterizes the ante-twilight of the tropics. The shortlived storm had swept the heavens, and the blue roof of the world was without a cloud. The dark masses had rolled away over the south-eastern horizon, and were now spending their fury upon the dye-wood forests of Honduras and Tambasco.

At our feet lay the prairie spread before us like a green carpet, and bounded upon the farther side by a dark line of forest trees. Several clumps of timber grew like islands on the plain, adding to the picturesque character of the landscape.

Near the centre of the prairie stood a small rancho, (1) surrounded by a high picket fence; and at some distance from the enclosure thousands of cattle were browsing upon the grassy level, their spotted flanks and long, upright horns showing their descent from the famous race of Spanish bulls.

Some of them, straggling from the herd, rambled through the clumps of timber, or lay stretched out under the shade of some isolated palm-tree. Ox-bells were tinkling their cheerful but monotonous music. Hundreds of horses and mules mingled with the herd, and we could distinguish a couple of leather clad vaqueros,(2) galloping from point to point on their swift mustangs.(3)

These, as we appeared upon the ridge, dashed out after a wild bull that had just escaped from the corral.(4)

All five-the vaqueros, the mustangs, and the bull—swept over the prairie like wind, the bull bellowing with rage and terror ; while the vaqueros were yelling in his rear,

and

(1) The “rancho" is the settlement of the small farmer. It is con: structed of large bamboo canes, laced together by cords of the “pita" aloe. The roof is a frame-work of bamboos or light poles thatched with palm leaves. (2) Cattle-herds : the small farmers are chiefly employed in feeding and tending cattle. (3) Wild horses that have been caught on the prairies and broken in. (1) An enclosure for cattle.

whirling their long lazoes.ll) Their straight black hair floating in the wind—their swarthy Arab-like faces—their high Spanish hats—their red leather calzoneros(2) buttoned up the sides—their huge, jingling spurs--and the ornamental trappings of their deep saddles : all these combined with the perfect manége of their dashing steed, and the wild excitement of the chase in which they were engaged, rendered them objects of picturesque interest; and we halted a moment to witness the result.

The bull came rushing past within fifty paces of where we stood, snorting with rage, and tossing his horns high in the air-his pursuers close upon him. At this moment one of the vaqueros launched his lazo, which, floating gracefully out, settled down over one horn. Seeing this, the vaquero did not turn his horse, but sat facing the bull, and permitted the rope to run out. It was soon carried taut; and scarcely checking the animal, it slipped along the smooth horn and spun out into the air. The cast was a failure. The second vaquero now flung his lazo with more suc

The heavy loop, skilfully projected, shot out like an arrow, and embraced both horns in its curving noose. With the quickness of thought the vaquero wheeled his horse, buried his spurs deep into his flanks, and, pressing his thighs to the saddle, galloped off in an opposite direction. The bull dashed on as before. In a moment the lariat(3) was stretched. The sudden jerk caused the thong to vibrate like a bowstring, and the bull lay motionless on the grass. The shock almost dragged the mustang upon his flanks.

The bull lay for some time where he had fallen ; then, making an effort, he sprang up, and looked around him with a bewildered air." He was not yet conquered. His eye, flashing with rage, rolled around until it fell upon the rope leading from his horns to the saddle ; and, suddenly lowering his head, with a furious roar he rushed upon the vaquero.

cess.

(1) The lazo, or lasso, is a thick rope made of tough hide and having a running noose at one end of it. (2) Wide trousers open down the outside seams, and fastened by a row of bell buttons, which are generally made of silver. (3) The lazo.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »