« ZurückWeiter »
prior to the word “go,” reached the true base of the Siskiyou Mountains, and began our final climb out of the Golden State. The road was very uneven, rocky, cut up by rivulets from the higher ridges, and in most places only a rude dug-way, with a rocky wall on one side, and a butment of thickly wooded débris steeply descending to a black, brawling torrent on the other. But we did not trouble ourselves with the road. The wild beauty of the forest absorbed us on either hand; and we were astonished at the rapid transition which the leaves suddenly took on, from the dry, burnt look, characteristic of the end of the California dry season, to autumnal splendors of red and yellow, hardly rivaled by the numberless varieties of tint in our own October woods. Just as the sun sank out of sight, we reached a lofty commanding ridge, stopped to rest, turned around and saw Shasta looming grandly up out of the valley twilight, his icy forehead all one mass of gold and ruby fire. It was one of the grandest mountain sights I ever looked on: such a purple hush over the vast level below us; such colossal broad shadows on the giant's foot; such a wonderful flame on that noble, solitary head, which, but for the unbroken outlines leading up to it out of the twilight, might have been only some loftier cloud catching good-night sun-glimpses at half-way up the firmament. Good-night from Shasta! Alas, not only to the sun, but to us! We felt a real pang, as we confessed to ourselves that we were now looking upon this noblest and serenest, if not loftiest of all the mountains in our travel, for the last time in years, – perhaps the last forever. We gazed wistfully till ad
monished by the deepening twilight; then, as Shasta became a shadow on the horizon, plunged silently into the dense woods again, climbed to the Siskiyou summit, and, descending through almost jetty darkness, were in Oregon.
ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER,
I HAVE never known, nor seen any person who did know, why Portland, the metropolis of Oregon, was founded on the Willamette River. I am unaware why the accent is on the penult, and not on the ultimate of Willamette. These thoughts perplexed me more than a well man would have suffered them, all the way from the Callapooya Mountains to Portland. I had been laid up in the backwoods of Oregon, in a district known as the Long-Tom Country—(and certainly a longer or more tedious Tom never existed since the days of him additionally hight Aquinas),— by a violent attack of pneumonia, which came near terminating my earthly with my Oregon pilgrimage. I had been saved by the indefatigable nursing of the friend I travelled with, – by wet compresses, and the impossibility of sending for any doctor in the region. I had lived to pay San Francisco hotel prices for squatter-cabin accommodations in the rural residence of an Oregon landholder, whose tender mercies I fell into from my saddle when the disease had reached its height, and who explained his unusual charges on the ground that his wife had felt for me like a mother. In the Long-Tom Country maternal tenderness is a highly estimated virtue. It cost my comrade and myself sixty dollars, besides the reasonable charge for five days' board and attendance to a man who ate nothing and was not waited on, with the same amount against his well companion. We had suffered enough extortion before that to exhaust all our native grumblery. So we paid the bill, and entered on our notebooks the following Mem. “In stopping with anybody in the Long-Tom Country, make a special contract for maternal tenderness, as it will invariably be included in the bill.” I had ridden on a straw bed in the wagon of the man whose wife cultivated the maternal virtues, until I was once more able to go along by myself – paying, you may be sure, maternal-virtue fare for my carriage. During the period that I jolted on the straw, I diversified the intervals between pulmonary spasms with a sick glance at the pages of Bulwer's “Devereux” and Lever's “Day's Ride.” The nature of these works did not fail to attract the attention of my driver. It aroused in him serious concern for my spiritual welfare. He addressed me with gentle firmness : “D'ye think it's exackly the way for an immortal creatur’ to be spendin' his time, to read them novels?” “Why is it particularly out of the way for an immortal creature ?” “Because his higher enterests don't give him no time for sich follies.” “How can an immortal creature be pressed for time 2" “Wal, you'll find out some day. G'lang, Jennie.” I thought I had left this excellent man in a metaphysical bog. But he had not discharged his duty, so he scrambled out and took new ground. “Now say, - d'you think it's exackly a Christian way of spendin' time, yourself?”
“I know a worse way.”
* Eh 2 What's that ?”
“In the house of a Long-Tom settler who charges five dollars a day extra because his wife feels like a mother.”
He did not continue the conversation. I myself did not close it in anger, but solely to avoid an extra charge, which in the light of experience seemed imminent, for concern about my spiritual welfare. On the maternal-tenderness scale of prices, an indulgence in this luxury would have cleaned me out before I effected junction with my drawers of exchange, and I was discourteous as a matter of economy.
We had enjoyed, from the summit of a hill twenty miles south of Salem, one of the most magnificent views in all earthly scenery. Within a single sweep of vision were seven snow-peaks,—the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helen's, with the dim suggestion of an eighth colossal mass, which might be Rainier. All these rose along an arc of not quite half the horizon, measured between ten and eighteen thousand feet in height, were nearly conical, and absolutely covered with snow from base to pinnacle. The Three Sisters, a triplet of sharp, close-set needles, and the grand masses of Hood and Jefferson, showed mountainesque and earthly; it was at least possible to imagine them of us, and anchored to the ground we trod on. Not so with the others. They were beautiful, yet awful ghosts, – spirits of dead mountains buried in oldworld cataclysms, returning to make, on the brilliant azure of noonday, blots of still more brilliant white. I cannot express their vague, yet vast and intense . splendor by any other word than incandescence. It