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Lexington, fourteen miles distant, by stage, and from Lynchburg, by canal boat, thirty-six miles. "It is on the ascent of a hill," says Jefferson, "which seems to have been cloven through its length by some great convulsion. The fissure just at the bridge is, by some admeasurements, 270 feet deep, by others only 205. It is about forty-five wide at the bottom and ninety feet at the top; its breadth at the middle is about sixty feet, but more at the ends, and the thickness of the mass at the summit of the arch is about forty feet. A part of this thickness is constituted by a coat of earth which gives growth to many large trees. The residue, with the hill on both sides, is one solid rock of limestone.
2. "Though the sides of this bridge," continues Jefferson, are provided in some parts with a parapet of fixed rocks, yet few men have resolution to walk to them and look over into the abyss. You involuntarily fall on your hands and feet, creep to them and peep over." Notwithstanding this, tradition relates that Miss Randolph, a young Virginia belle, once showed that she could perform the feat of walking or rather bounding to the edge without losing her head. A party of young ladies and gentlemen were standing aloof from this dizzy brink, when one of the gallants, pointing to the broken stump of a huge cedar on the jagged abutment, separated by an intervening cleft from the main structure, remarked that probably no one could be found so daring as to venture to stand upright on that stump.
3. Hardly had the words been uttered when, with a mocking laugh, Miss Randolph brushed by him, her silken scarf fluttering in the air, and at one bound reached and stood erect on the dizzy pinnacle. Her companions grew pale with dismay at seeing her, so inevitable did death appear. For an instant she stood there, riding-whip in hand, her eyes sparkling with mischievous triumph, and then, with a single bound, she regained her former position, and asked if any gentleman could do as much. They all showed their good sense by declining to make the attempt.
4. Several venturesome persons have tried to reach the sum
mit of the great arch by climbing the rocky sides. This has never yet been done, but a considerable distance has been attained by bold climbers, who have recorded their prowess by cutting their names on the surface at the highest point reached by them. High up among these, it is said, may be found the name of George Washington, who, while yet a youth, made the hazardous attempt. And there is a story of a lad who climbed so high that though he could hear the voices he could not hear the words of his companions below. With his knife he made niches in the rock for his feet, but at last the blade was used up and he knew of no way of either ascending or descending in safety. While in this predicament the report of his situation brought neighbors and members of his own family to his relief, and at last a rope with a noose was lowered to him, and with a last convulsive effort the half-swooning boy succeeded in securing it under his arms, so that he was safely drawn up on to the bridge out of harm's way.
5. In the year 1818, Mr. James Piper, then a student of Washington College, is said to have reached a point which, to his companions far beneath, seemed directly under the great arch. He was far above the names cut on the stone-fully fifty feet above that of Washington—and, standing upon a ledge which appeared to his fellow-students but a few inches in width, he shouted aloud, waving one hand in triumph while with the other he clung to the face of the precipice. They shouted back to him, begging him to descend, but he only replied by laughter. They then saw him continue the ascent, clinging to every object at hand, until he reached a cleft almost directly beneath the cedar stump which we have mentioned as the scene of Miss Randolph's daring adventure. His ambition, however, was not satisfied yet.
6. He had not ascended the rock to inscribe his name upon it, but with the design of immortalizing himself by mounting from the bottom to the top of the Natural Bridge. He accordingly continued, working his way up through clefts in the huge mass of rock. These were just sufficient, in many places, to permit the passage of his body. Huge roots from
the trees above, protruding through splits in the mass, intertwined and half obstructed the openings. Without venturing to look into the hideous gulf beneath him, the young man fought his way on, piercing by main force the dark clefts, crawling along narrow ledges, springing from abutment to abutment, until finally he stopped at an elevation of one hundred and seventy feet from the earth below.
7. Here he was seen to look upward, but he did not move. His heart had failed him. Instead of designing any farther ascent, his only ambition now was, plainly, to descend in safety, if possible, from his frightful perch. To look beneath would have been certain death. The first glance would have made him dizzy. Under these circumstances he acted with nerve and presence of mind. He slowly and cautiously took off first one shoe and then the other, next drew off his coat, and these he threw from him into the gulf beneath, without daring to look in the direction in which they fell. Then clinging close to the face of the precipice, and balancing his body carefully as he placed each.foot down and raised it up, he tottered along inch by inch, hanging between life and death, until he reached a friendly cleft.
8. Here pausing for a moment to brace his nerves, tinued his way in the same cautious manner, followed by the eyes of his pale and terrified friends, when, all at once sinking from view in a cleft, he re-appeared there no more. A cry arose from beneath; he was lost, it seemed-must have fallen into one of the huge fissures and been dashed to pieces. His friends gave him up, and anguish had succeeded to their long suspense, when, suddenly, from behind a clump of evergreens extending like a screen across the narrow opening between two towering rocks, appeared the young student, safe, sound and smiling after his perilous feat, during which he had stood face to face with the most terrible of deaths.
SELECT ETYMOLOGIES.-Belle: F.; fr. L. bel'lus, beautiful. . . . Cedar : L. ce'drus; Gr. kěd'ros. . . Dismay: Sp. desmayo, a fainting fit. . . Parapet: a wali breast high; It. parapetto; fr. para, a defence, and petto the breast. Prowess: F. prouesse; fr. L. prod-es'se, to be of use. . . . Scarf: F. escharpe, a beggar's scrip or bag, a scarf.
CII. MISCELLANEOUS EXTRACTS.
1. ALL SORTS OF MINDS.-There is a strong disposition in men of opposite minds to despise each other. A grave man cannot conceive what is the use of wit in society; a person who takes a strong common-sense view of the subject is for pushing out by the head and shoulders an ingenious theorist who catches at the slightest and faintest analogies; and another man, who scents the ridiculous from afar, will hold no commerce with him who tests exquisitely the fine feeling of the heart and is alive to nothing else; whereas talent is talent and mind is mind in all its branches.
2. Wit gives to life one of its best flavors; common sense leads to immediate action and gives society its daily motion, large and comprehensive views its annual rotation, ridicule chastises folly and impudence and keeps men in their proper sphere, subtlety seizes hold of the fine threads of truth, analogy darts away in the most sublime discoveries, feeling paints all the exquisite passions of man's soul, and rewards him by a thousand inward visitations for the sorrows that come from without. God made it all. It is all good. We must despise no sort of talents; they all have their separate duties and uses; all the happiness of man for their object; they all improve, exalt and gladden life.-Sydney Smith.
3. A FITTING REBUKE.-" Having in my youth notions of severe piety," says a celebrated Persian writer, "I used to rise in the night to watch, pray and read the Koran. One night as I was engaged in these exercises my father, a man of practical virtue, awoke while I was reading. 'Behold,' said I to him, 'thy other children are lost in irreligious slumber while I alone wake to praise God.' 'Son of my soul,' he answered, ‘it is better to sleep than to wake to remark the faults of thy brethren.'
4. ANIMAL AND VEGETABLE LIFE.-There is nothing short of revelation that more beautifully or satisfactorily proves the existence of an almighty Mind than the fewness and simplicity of the ultimate elements of animal and vegetable life. Thus,
there are but four elementary principles essentially necessary, and but six generally employed, to form every variety of organic life: nitrogen, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen are the bases, to which sulphur and phosphorus may be considered supplementary. With these, infinitely varied in their atomic proportions, are built up not only the whole animal kingdom, but also every variety of the vegetable world, from wheat, the "staff of life," to the poison of the deadly upas tree. It is also worthy of remark that these four elemental principles are those also of which both air and water are composed, so that air and water may be considered in truth and fact as being the original elements of organic life.-Dr. Toulman.
5. MATERIALISM.-Mention has been made of the word materialism." I hold a maxim on this matter which, personally, I have felt of exceeding consequence. It is time the truth had gone forth, to be held as a maxim for evermore, that in proportion to the depth of one's faith is the absence of uneasiness because of the difference of opinion. Materialism never arises from knowledge; it is, on the other hand, a certification of deficiency on the part of the mind cherishing it. It consists, not in the exposition of any positive knowledge, but in the dogmatic assertion that beyond the line of such knowledge there lies nothing more.
6. To deal with materialism, then, what is our course? Never to deny or undervalue truth distinctly laid down, but to deny that what is known is a limit; to deny that the system pretending to be everything is (whatever its special value) the everything it pretends; not to imagine that man ought not to study the laws of nature, but to show him that beyond these, toward the region of sunset, there are powers which made and sustain even the whole of nature's fabric-an august Being, even the Father of our spirits-with whom, though the seasons change and those stupendous orbs rest not in their courses, there is never variableness or shadow of turning.-Professor Nichol.
7. LIFE. Of all miracles, the most wonderful is that of life-the common, daily life which we carry with us and which