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a new excitement, as he inhaled the fresh morning breeze, which lent life and vigor to every nerve.
“ A prairie is most beautiful in the spring time of year, for then it is a garden, formed and cultivated by nature's hand, where spring the clustering flowers which bloom in rich luxuriance, and shed their fragrance on the desert air. But when winter binds land and stream in icy fetters, then a prairie is a spectacle grand and sublime, and will well repay for the privations of western travelling. I was compelled, however, to ride against the wind, which whistled around and blew. directly in my face. So violent was the storm, that I was almost blinded by the thick flakes that were dashed directly in my eyes. Had I acted with prudence, I should have discontinued my journey, and made myself comfortable for the remainder of the day, at the log hut where I dined --- but I determined, in spite of wind and weather, to reach Peoria by night. Whilst progressing quietly on my way, gray twilight extended her evening shades on earth. Still I drove on, ansious to reach my point of destination. Not a single star peeped out from the heavens to shed its light on a benighted traveller. The storm increased in violence, and the cold winds whistled a wintry tune. I now found I had strayed from the road, and here was I on a broad prairie, without mark or mound, and had lost the track, which was, ere now, covered by the falling snow.
“Unfortunately, I had left my compass behind, and now I was on a broad sea without a chart or compass, and without one stray light in the heavens, whereby to direct my course. The mariner, when tossed upon the billows of the stormy ocean, has at least the satisfaction of knowing where he is, for the needle will always point to the pole, and his chart will tell him of the dangers in his path ; but the weary traveller, who has lost his way on a prairie, is on a boundless sea, where he cannot even tell the direction he is pursuing; for oft times he will travel hour after hour and still remain at nearly the same point from which he started. Had even one accommodating star beamed in the heavens, I should not have been the least disconcerted, for then I could have some object whereby to guide my steps. But all the elements combined against me, and I assure you my feelings were by no means comfortable. Memory ran over the sad history of the numerous travellers who had been overtaken by night, and been buried in the falling snow: many who had started in the morning full of gay hopes and buoyant anticipations, who, ere another sun had risen, bad found a cold and solitary grave-arrested in their course by the chill and icy hand of death. Alas, thought I, how true it is
“For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
“Insensibly I felt a strong inclination to sleep. I had always heard that this was a dangerous symptom, and if I yielded to its influence, my life would certainly be lost. I endeavored to shake off the drowsy feeling. Never before did I exert myself more to keep awake. I halloed—I shouted—I beat my breast to preserve animation, and tried every method to prevent my yielding to the drowsy influence. My noble horse was almost exhausted, and I myself began to despair of reaching a place of shelter—when suddenly a ray of light beamed upon the snow, and cast a shadow around me. Encouraged by the favorable token, I urged on. My jaded steed also seemed to know that he was approaching a place of shelter, for he quickened his pace, and shortly afterwards I discovered at a distance, a small log-hut, from the window of which beamed a broad blaze of light. Soon was I at the door, and warmly welcomed by the kind owner, who shook the snow from my garments, and gave me a seat before a blazing fire.
“Oh how delightful was the sense of security from the wintry blast, as I listened to the tales of the inmates, many of whom had, like me, been overtaken by the storm, and now were relating the events of their journey. I have passed many delightful evenings, in the course of a short but eventful life--I have been at the festive board, where the wine-cup was pushed merrily around, and song and laughter, and merriment abounded--I have mingled in the society of the gay-I have been
“Where youth and pleasure meet,
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet,”
“But never have I passed a more happy evening, than in the small and narrow cabin of that Illinois farmer."
Thus narrates our traveller his somewhat perilous trip, and the wintry scene he witnessed. While we congratulate him upon his fortunate escape, and allow him to rest, our attention is next engaged on quite a different topic, by another traveller, Mr. Daniel S. Curtiss, who, after stating in his “ Western Portraiture” that he never had seen the thunder-storm exhibit so much terrific grandeur—so much of the Mighty One’s oratory—as while traversing one of the vast prairies of the West, proceeds to give the following glowing account of the one he beheld :
“Once in the summer of '48,” relates he, “I had set out on foot to travel westward over one of those green, undulating prairies, between Rock River and the Mineral District, in the afternoon. I had been stepping on some hour or two, over the light swells and gentle slopes, when the storm came buzzing and bellowing portentously after me; directly I turned to look at the approaching storm, when soon an indescribably grand conflict or agitation of the elements was presented, where lightning, thunders, rain and wind, seemed to be contending for the mastery, in their startling displays. Thunder-bursts beld
you flashes of lightning would make you start and shrink-gusts of wind whirled you into the high grass--rain-torrents drenched you to the skin; yet, suffering and dreading all, you felt no power or will to escape-there was no retreat-no refuge the jarring sounds vibrated on every hand-torrents and blaze poured around in every direction; the muscles, together with volition, seemed paralyzed—two sensations alone took possession of you—awe, and admiration—which, anon, as you
looked aloft into the dread concave, were resolved into a feeling of heart-homage for Him who holdeth the storms in His hand. The herds which grazed upon these luxuriant meadows, ran in confused fright down the vales to the groves; the crane and wild bird flew screaming with fear to the forests for shelter. All was one boundless scene of rushing dread. The expanded prairie, carpeted in deep green, below; above, the dark blue clouds, with their pendant folds, were ranged along, one after another (like the lower edges of curtains in the theatre's dome), as you gazed towards the east, the nearest being darkest, then an interval of hesitating light falling between, then another cloud-sheet was swinging, and so on, in a series of some halfa-dozen, till at the farther end of the arched way greater light appeared,
much as if you looked for miles through a vast tunnel, with occasional openings for light from above. While I was gazing, absorbed, upon this already gorgeous spectacle, the fury of the storm had abated, the black, upper clouds, were mostly dispersed, and as a brighter sky poured its flood of light into this magnificent, ample theatre, its splendor and beauty were heightened beyond all description, and presented a panorama to the rapt beholder, which unmistakeably proclaimed, that only by the Almighty could it have been thrown out before the world; and presently the Author's signature was dashed across it, in the bright bow which clasped the whole.”
Thus far our traveller, who, one year afterwards, on an evening in the autumn of 1849, had the opportunity of witnessing, in almost a rapture of amaze and delight, the waving prairies on fire, for many miles around :
“I was driving,” he relates, “in a buggy, from Platteville to Mineral Point, and reached Belmonte mound just at the coming in of twilight. The evening was one of those bland, mellow seasons, usual in the time of Indian summer; and on reaching the centre mound, which lay rolled up and shrouded in smoke, handsome as an apple-dumpling all steaming from the kettle, as I felt strongly tempted to know and see farther, I drove nearly to its summit, to take a leisure survey of the vast, flame-lighted, and enchanting panorama, flung out so profusely by artist nature; the moon and stars peered but dimly through the hazy air, adding mystic force to the scenes in the passing twilight.
“Soon the fires began to kindle wider and rise higher from the long grass; the gentle breeze increased to stronger currents, and soon fanned the small, flickering blaze, into fierce torrent-flames, which curled up and leaped along in resistless splendor; and like quickly raising the dark curtain from the luminous stage, the scenes before me were suddenly changed, as if by the magician's wand, into one boundless amphitheatre, blazing from earth to heaven, and sweeping the horizon round-columns of lurid flames sportively mounting up to the zenith, and dark clouds of crimson smoke curling away and aloft till they nearly obscured stars and moon, while the rushing, crashing sounds, like roaring cataracts mingled with distant thunders, were almost deafening; danger, death, glared all around; it screamed for victims, yet, notwithstanding the imminent peril of prairie-fires, one is loth, irresolute, almost unable to withdraw, or seek refuge.
“1 now thought of the spot on the banks of the bright Kankakee, where some years ago two young persons--beautiful, betrothed lovers, perished in the prairie flames, their crisped forms being found near that of their horse, next day, by a hunter. It is a rich, beautiful prairie—the river murmured along to leeward of them, but the flames outstripped their fleet charger, upon which both were riding, before he could reach the stream. Why did they not have the presence of mind to set a "back fire,' and take refuge on the burned space ?
“But I am back to the mound: will the remorseless flames leap along the high grass that has grown luxuriantly upon the sides, to the very pinnacle of this cone? Surely the wind is this way, and my horse is already restive-aye, but I've a match in my pocket, and it is easily lighted. Persons travelling in prairie regions should bear this in mind. But see that ocean of flame, I must look still again, even my little match has sent a lively current dancing from the leeward slope, and I am admonished to follow it; but in presence of such scenes, at such an hour, the sensitive mind feels its frailty, and instinctively awards the homage due to the majesty of his Creator, from the creature.
“Next morning I again visited this mound, rode over the charred grass-stubble to its top, the scene of so much terrific brilliance but a few hours before! Now all that was changed, the green-brown carpet was displaced by the black spread—the ravaging flames had consumed everything, black destruction sickened the heart in sadness—the keenest, darkest emblem of desolation that can be imagined; even the livid, confused glimmer, still almost trembled around the eyes, from last night's flames-such as gleaming lights leave upon the optic nerve; now it was painful to contemplate for a moment, the same expanse which a few hours ago, it required an effort to withdraw from its enchanting, but fearful sublimity-like the giddy fascination of the serpent which holds its victim in thrall till destruction overwhelms beyond escape-is the charm of such spectacles. It was as if the destroying angel flew abroad, crying in terror-tones, breathing tempests of fire and smoke from his nostrils, that should awe and paralyze; I may not