Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 2

    — Away with me —

The clouds grow thicker — there — now lean on me —

Place your foot here — here, take this staff, and cling

A moment to that shrub — now, give me your hand.

 . . . . .

The chalet will be gain’d within an hour.


After surveying the desolate scene as accurately as the stormy state of the atmosphere would permit, the younger of the travellers observed, “In any other country, I should say the tempest begins to abate; but what to expect in this land of desolation, it were rash to decide. If the apostate spirit of Pilate be actually on the blast, these lingering and more distant howls seem to intimate that he is returning to his place of punishment. The pathway has sunk with the ground on which it was traced — I can see part of it lying down in the abyss, marking, as with a streak of day, yonder mass of earth and stone. But I think it possible, with your permission, my father, that I could still scramble forward along the edge of the precipice till I come in sight of the habitation which the lad tells us of. If there be actually such a one, there must be an access to it somewhere; and if I cannot find the path out, I can at least make a signal to those who dwell near the Vulture’s Nest yonder, and obtain some friendly guidance.”

I cannot consent to your incurring such a risk,” said his father; “let the lad go forward, if he can and will. He is mountain bred, and I will reward him richly.”

But Antonio declined the proposal absolutely and decidedly I am mountain bred,” he said, “but I am no chamois-hunter and I have no wings to transport me from cliff to cliff, like a raven — gold is not worth life.”

“And God forbid,” said Seignor Philipson, “that I should tempt thee to weigh them against each other! — Go on, then, my son, — I follow thee.”

“Under your favor, dearest sir, no,” replied the young man; “it is enough to endanger the life of one — and mine, far the most worthless, should, by all the rules of wisdom as well as nature, be put first in hazard.”

“No, Arthur,” replied his father in a determined voice “no, my son. I have survived much, but I will not survive thee.”

“I fear not for the issue, father, if you permit me to go alone; but I cannot — dare not, undertake a task so perilous, it you persist in attempting to share it with no better aid than mine. While I endeavored to make a new advance, I should be ever looking back to see how you might attain the station which I was about to leave — And bethink you, dearest father, that if I fall, I fall an unregarded thing, of as little moment as the stone or tree which has toppled headlong down before me. But you — should your foot slip, or your hand fail, bethink you what and how much must needs fall with you!”

Thou art right, my child,” said the father. “I still have that which binds me to life, even though I were to lose in thee all that is dear to me. — Our Lady and Our Lady’s Knight bless thee and prosper thee, fly child! Thy foot is young, thy hand is strong — thou hast not climbed Plynlimmon in vain. Be bold, but be wary — remember there is a man who, failing thee, has but one act of duty to bind him to the earth, and, that discharged, will soon follow thee:”

The young man accordingly prepared for his journey, and, stripping himself of his cumbrous cloak, showed his well-proportioned limbs in a jerkin of gray cloth, which sat close to his person. The father’s resolution gave way when his son turned round to bid him farewell. He recalled his permission, an din a peremptory tone forbade him to proceed. Put, without listening to the prohibition, Arthur had commenced his perilous adventure. Descending from the platform on which he stood, by the boughs of an old ash tree, which thrust itself out of the cleft of a rock, the youth was enabled to gain, though at great risk, a narrow ledge, the very brink of the precipice, by creeping along which he hoped to pass on till he made himself heard or seen from the habitation, of whose existence the guide had informed him. His situation, as he pursued this bold purpose, appeared so precarious, that even the hired attendant hardly dared to draw breath as he gazed on him. The ledge which supported him seemed to grow so narrow as he passed along it, as to become altogether invisible, while, sometimes with his face to the precipice, sometimes. looking forward, sometimes glancing his eyes upward, but never venturing to cast a look below, lest his brain should grow giddy at a sight so appalling, he wound his way forward. To his father and the attendant, who beheld his progress, it was less that of a man advancing in the ordinary manner, and resting by aught connected with the firm earth, than that of an insect crawling along the face of a perpendicular wall, of whose progressive movement we are indeed sen Bible, but cannot perceive the means of its support. And bitterly, most bitterly, did the miserable parent now lamented that he had not persisted in his purpose to encounter the baffling and even perilous measure of retracing his steps to the habitation of the preceding night. He should then, at least, have partaken the fate of the son of his love.

Meanwhile, the young man’s spirits were strongly braced for the performance of his perilous task. He laid a powerful restraint on his imagination, which in general was sufficiently active, and refused to listen, even for an instant, to any of the horrible insinuations by which fancy augments actual danger. He endeavored manfully to reduce all around him to the scale of right reason, as the best support of true courage. “This ledge of rock,” he urged to himself, “is but narrow, yet it has breadth enough to support me; these cliffs and crevices in the surface are small and distant, but the one affords as secure a resting-place to my feet, the other as available a grasp to my hands, as if I stood on a platform of a cubit broad, and rested my arm on a balustrade of marble. My safety, therefore, depends on myself. If I move with decision, step firmly, and hold fast, what signifies how near I am to the mouth of an abyss?”

Thus estimating the extent of his danger by the measure of sound sense and reality, and supported by some degree of practice in such exercise, the brave youth went forward on his awful journey, step by step, winning his way with a caution, and fortitude, and presence of mind, which alone could have saved him from instant destruction. At length he gained a point where a projecting rock formed the angle of the precipice, so far as it had been visible to him from the platform. This, therefore, was the critical point of his undertaking; but it was also the most perilous part of it. The rock projected more than six feet forward over the torrent, which he heard raging at the depth of a hundred yards beneath, with a noise like subterranean thunder. He examined the spot with the utmost (are, and was led by the existence of shrubs, grass, and even stunted trees, to believe that this rock marked the farthest extent of the slip or slide of earth, and that, could he but turn round the angle of which it was the termination, he might hope to attain the continuation of the path which had been so strangely interrupted by this convulsion of nature. But the crag jutted out so much as to afford no possibility of passing either under or around it; and as it rose several feet above the position which Arthur had attained, it was no easy matter to climb over it This was, however, the course which he chose, as the only mode of surmounting what lie hoped might prove the last obstacle to his voyage of discovery. A projecting tree afforded him the means of raising and swinging himself up to the top of the crag. But he had scarcely planted himself on it, had scarcely a moment to congratulate himself, on seeing, amid a wild chaos of cliffs and wood, the gloomy ruins of Geierstein, with smoke arising, and indicating something like a human habitation be side them, when, to his extreme terror, he felt the huge cliff on which he stood tremble, stoop slowly forward, and gradually sink from its position. Projecting as it was, and shaken as its equilibrium had been by the most recent earthquake, it lay now so insecurely poised, that its balance was entirely destroyed, even by the addition of the young man’s weight.

Aroused by the imminence of the danger, Arthur, by an instinctive attempt at self-preservation, drew cautiously back from the falling crag into the tree by which he had ascended, and turned his head back as if spell-bound, to watch the descent of the fatal rock from which he had just retreated. It tottered for two or three seconds, as if uncertain which way to fall; and had it taken a sidelong direction, must have dashed the adventurer from his place of refuge, or borne both the tree and him down headlong into the river. After a moment of horrible uncertainty, the power of gravitation determined a direct and forward descent. Down went the huge fragment, which must have weighed at least twenty tons, rending and splintenng in its precipitate course the trees and bushes which it encountered, and settling at length in the channel of the torrent with a din equal to the discharge of a hundred pieces of artillery. The sound was re-echoed from bank to bank, from precipice to precipice, with emulative thunders; nor was the tumult silent till it rose into the region of eternal snows, which, equally insensible to terrestrial sounds, and unfavorable to animal life, heard the roar in their majestic solitude, but suffered it to die away without a responsive voice.

What, in the meanwhile, were the thoughts of the distracted father, who saw the ponderous rock descend, but could not mark whether his only son had borne it company in its dreadful fall! His first impulse was to rush forward along the face of the precipice, which he had seen Arthur so lately traverse; and when the lad Antonio withheld him, by throwing his arms around him, he turned on the guide with the fury of a bear which had been robbed of her cubs.

“Unhand me, base peasant,” he exclaimed, “or thou diest on the spot!”

“Alas!” said the poor boy, dropping or his knees before him, “I, too, have a father!”

The appeal went to the heart of the traveler, who instantly let the lad go, and holding up his hands and lifting his eyes towards heaven, said in accents of the deepest agony, mingled with devout resignation, ”Fiat voluntas tua! — he was my last, and loveliest, and best beloved, and most worthy of my love; aud yonder,” he added, “yonder over the glen soar the birds of prey, who are to feast on his young blood. — But I will see him once more,” exclaimed the miserable parent, as the huge carrion vulture floated past him on the thick air, — “I will see my Arthur once more, ere the wolf and the eagle mangle him — I will see all of him that earth still holds. Detain me not — but abide here, and watch me as I advance. If I fail, as is most likely, I charge you to take the sealed papers, which you will find in the valise, and carry them to the person to whom they are addressed, with the least possible delay. There is money enough in the purse to bury me with my poor boy, and to cause masses be said for our souls, and yet leave you a rich recompense for your journey.

The honest Swiss lad, obtuse in his understanding, but kind and faithful in his disposition, blubbered as his employer spoke, and, afraid to offer farther remonstrance or opposition, saw his temporary master prepare himself to traverse the same fatal precipice, over the verge of which his ill-fated son had seemed to pass to the fate which, with all the wildness of a parent’s anguish, his father was hastening to share.

Suddenly there was heard from beyond the fatal angle from which the mass of stone had been displaced by Arthur’s rash ascent, the loud hoarse sound of one of those huge horns, made out of the spoils of the urus, or wild bull, of Switzerland, which in ancient times announced the terrors of the charge of these mountaineers, and, indeed, served them in war instead of all musical instruments.

“Hold, sir, hold!” exclaimed the Grison; “yonder in a signal from Geierstein. Some one will presently come to our assistance, and show us the safer way to seek for your son — And look you — at yon green bush that is glimmering through the mist, Saint Antonio preserve me, as I see a white cloth displayed there — it is just beyond the point where the rock fell.”

The father endeavored to fix his eyes on the spot, but they filled so fast with tears, that they could not discern the object which the guide pointed out. — “It is all in vain,” he said, dashing the tears from his eyes — “I shall never see more of him than his lifeless remains!”

“You will — you will see him in life!” said the Grison

“Saint Antonio wills it so — See, the white cloth waves again!”

“Some remnant of his garments,” said the despairing father, — “some wretched memorial of his fate. — No, my eyes see it not — I have beheld the fall of my house - would that the vultures of these crags had rather torn them from their sockets!”

“Yet look again,” said the Swiss; “the cloth hangs not loose upon a bough — I can see that it is raised on the end of a staff, and is distinctly waved to and fro. Your son makes a signal that he is safe.”

“And if it be so,” said the traveller, clasping his hands together, “blessed be the eyes that see it, and the tongue that tells it! If we find my son, and find him alive, this day shall be a lucky one for thee too.”

“Nay,” answered the lad, “I only ask that you will abide still, and act by counsel, and I will hold myself quit for my services. Only it is not creditable to an honest lad to have people lose themselves by their own willfulness; for the blame, after all, is sure to fall upon the guide, as if he could prevent old Pontius from shaking the mist from his brow, or banks of earth from slipping down into the valley at a time, or young harebrained gallants from walking upon precipices as narrow as the edge of a knife, or madmen, whose gray hairs might make them wiser, from drawing daggers like bravoes in Lombardy.”

Thus the guide ran on, and in that vein he might have long continued, for Seignor Philipson heard him not. Each throb of his pulse, each thought of his heart, was directed towards the object which he lad referred to as a signal of his son’s safety. He became at length satisfied that the signal was actually waved by a human hand; and, as eager in the glow of reviving hope, as he had of late been under the influence of desperate grief, he again prepared for the attempt of advancing towards his son, and assisting him, if possible, in regaining a place of safety. Put the entreaties and reiterated assurances of his guide induced him to pause.

“Are you fit,” he said, “to go on the crag? Can you repeat your Credo and Ave without missing or misplacing a word!? for without that, our old men say your neck, had you a score of them, would be in danger. — Is your eye clear and your feet firm? — I trow the one streams like a fountain, and the other shakes like the aspen which overhangs it! Rest here till those arrive who are far more able to give your son help than either you or I are. I judge by the fashion of his blowing, that yonder is the horn of the Goodman of Geierstein, Arnold Biederman. He hath seen your son’s danger, and is even now providing for his safety and ours. There are cases in which the aid of one stranger, well acquainted with the country, is worth that of three brothers, who know not the crags.”

“But if yonder horn really sounded a signal,” said the traveller, “how chanced it that my son replied not?”

“And if he did so, as is most likely he did,” rejoined the Grison, “how should we have heard him? The bugle of Uri itself sounded amid these horrible dins of water and tempest like the reed of a shepherd boy; and how think you we should hear the holloa of a man?”

“Yet, methinks,” said Seignor Philipson, “I do hear something amid this roar of elements which is like a human voice — but it is not Arthur’s.”

“I wot well, no,” answered the Grison; “that is a woman’s voice. The maidens will converse with each other in that manner, from cliff to cliff, through storm and tempest, were there a mile between.”

“Now, heaven be praised for this providential relief!” said Seignor Philipson; “I trust we shall yet see this dreadful day safely ended. I will holloa in answer.”

He attempted to do so, but, inexperienced in the art of making himself heard in such a country, he pitched his voice in the same key with that of the roar of wave and wind; so that, even at twenty yards from the place where he was speaking, it must have been totally indistinguishable from that of the elemental war around them. The lad smiled at his patron’s ineffectual attempts, and then raised his voice himself in a high, wild, and prolonged scream, which while produced with apparently much less effort than that of the Englishman, was nevertheless a distinct sound, separated from others by the key to which it was pitched, and was probably audible to a very considerable distance. It was presently answered by distant cries ot the same nature, which gradually approached the platform bringing renovated hope to the anxious traveller.

If the distress of the father rendered his condition an object of deep compassion, that of the son, at the same moment, was sufficiently perilous. We have already stated, that Arthur Philipson had commenced his precarious journey along the Precipice, with all the coolness, resolution, and unshaken determination of mind, which was most essential to a task where all must depend upon firmness of nerve. But the formidable accident which checked his onward progress, was of a character so dreadful, as made him feel all the bitterness of a death, instant, horrible, and, as it seemed, inevitable. The solid rock had trembled and rent beneath his footsteps, and although, by an effort rather mechanical than voluntary, he had withdrawn himself from the instant ruin attending its descent, he felt as if the better part of him, his firmness of mind and strength of body, had been rent away with the descending rock, as it fell thundering, with clouds of dust and smoke, into the torrents and whirlpools of the vexed gulf beneath. In fact, the seaman swept from the deck of a wrecked vessel, drenched in the waves, and battered against the rocks on the shore, does not differ more from the same mariner, when, at the commencement of the gale, he stood upon the deck of his favorite ship, proud of her strength and his own dexterity, than Arthur when commencing his journey, from the same Arthur, while clinging to the decayed trunk of an old tree, from which, suspended between heaven and earth, he saw the fall of the crag which he had so nearly accompanied. The effects of his terror, indeed, were physical as well as moral, for a thousand colors played before his eyes; he was attacked by a sick dizziness, and deprived at once of the obedience of those limbs which had hitherto served him so admirably; his arms and hands, as if no longer at his own command, now clung to the branches of the tree, with a cramp-like tenacity over which he seemed to possess no power, and now trembled in a state of such complete nervous relaxation, as led him to fear that they were becoming unable to support him longer in his position.

An incident, in itself trifling, added to the distress occasioned by this alienation of his powers. All living things in the neighborhood had, as might be supposed, been startled by the tremendous fall to which his progress had given occasion. Flights of owls, bats, and other birds of darkness, compelled to betake themselves to the air, had lost no time in returning into their bowers of ivy, or the harbor afforded them by the rifts and holes of the neighboring rocks. One of this ill-omened light chanced to be a lammer-geier, or Alpine vulture, a bird arger and more voracious than the eagle himself, and which Arthur had not been accustomed to see, or at least to look upon closely. With the instinct of most birds of prey, it is the custom of this creature, when gorged with food, to assume some station of inaccessible security, and there remain stationary and motionless for days together, till the work of digestion has been accomplished, and activity returns with the pressure of appetite. Disturbed from such a state of repose, one of these terrific birds had risen from the ravine to which the species gives its name, and having circled unwillingly round, with a ghastly scream and a flapping wing, it had sunk down upon the pinnacle of a crag, not four yards from the tree in which Arthur held his precarious station. Although still in some degree stupified by torpor, it seemed encouraged by the motionless state of the young man to suppose him dead, or dying, and sat there and gazed at him, without displaying any of that apprehension which the fiercest animals usually entertain from the vicinity of man.

As Arthur, endeavoring to shake off the incapacitating effects of his panic fear, raised his eyes to look gradually and cautiously around, he encountered those of the voracious and obscene bird, whose head and neck denuded of feathers, her eyes surrounded by an iris of an orange tawny color, and a position more horizontal than erect, distinguished her as much from the noble carriage and graceful proportions of the eagle, as those of the lion place him in the ranks of creation above the gaunt, ravenous, grisly, yet dastard wolf.

As if arrested by a charm, the eyes of young Philipson remained bent on this ill-omened and ill-favored bird, without his having the power to remove them. The apprehension of dangers ideal, as well as real, weighed upon his weakened mind, disabled as it was by the circumstances of his situation. The near approach of a creature, not more loathsome to the human race, than averse to come within their reach, seemed as ominous as it was unusual. Why did it gaze on him with such glaring earnestness, projecting its disgusting form, as if presently to alight upon his person? The foul bird, was she the demon of the place to which her name referred; and did she come to exult, that an intruder on her haunts seemed involved amid their perils, with little hope or chance of deliverance? Or was it a native vulture of the rocks, whose sagacity foresaw that the rash traveller was soon destined to become its victim? Could the creature, whose senses are said to be so acute, argue from circumstances the stranger’s approaching death, and wait like a raven or hooded crow by a dying sheep, for the earliest opportunity to commence her ravenous banquet? Was he doomed to feel its beak and talons before his heart’s blood should cease to beat? Had he already lost the dignity of humanity, the awe which the being formed in the image of his Maker inspires into all inferior creatures?

Apprehensions so painful served more than all that reason could suggest; to renew in some degree the elasticity of the young man’s mind. By waving his handkerchief, using, however, the greatest precaution in his movements, he succeeded in scaring the vulture from his vicinity. It rose from its resting-place, screaming harshly and dolefully, and sailed on its expanded pinions to seek a place of more undisturbed repose, while the adventurous traveller felt a sensible pleasure at being relieved of its disgusting presence.

With more collected ideas, the young man, who could obtain, from his position, a partial view of the platform he had left, endeavored to testify his safety to his father, by displaying, as high as he could, the banner by which he had chased off the vulture. Like them, too, he heard, but at a less distance, the burst of the great Swiss horn, which seemed to announce some near succor. He replied by shouting and waving his flag, to direct assistance to the spot where it was so much required; and, recalling his faculties, which had almost deserted him, he labored mentally to recover hope, and with hope the means and motive for exertion.

A faithful Catholic, he eagerly recommended himself in prayer to Our Lady of Binsiedlen, and, making vows of propitiation, besought her intercession, that he might be delivered from his dreadful condition. “Or, gracious Lady!” he concluded his orison, “if it is my doom to lose my life like a hunted fox amidst this savage wilderness of tottering crags, restore at least my natural sense of patience and courage, and let not one who has lived like a man, though a sinful one, meet death like a timid hare!”

Having devoutly recommended himself to that Protectress, of whom the legends of the Catholic Church form a picture so amiable, Arthur, though every nerve still shook with his late agitation, and his heart throbbed with a violence that threatened to suffocate him, turned his thoughts and observation to the means of effecting his escape. But, as he looked around him, he became more and more sensible how much he was enervated by the bodily injuries and the mental agony which he had sustained during his late peril. He could not, by any effort of which be was capable, fix his giddy and bewildered eyes on the scene around him; — they seemed to reel till the landscape danced along with them, and a motley chaos of thickets and tall cliffs, which interposed between him and the ruinous Castle of Geierstein, mixed and whirled round in such confusion, that nothing, save the consciousness that such an idea was the suggestion of partial insanity, prevented him from throwing himself from the tree, as if to join the wild dance to which his disturbed brain had given motion.

“Heaven be my protection!” said the unfortunate young man, closing his eyes, in hopes, by abstracting himself from the terrors of his situation, to compose his too active imagination, my senses are abandoning me!”

He became still more convinced that this was the case, when a female voice, in a high-pitched but eminently musical accent, was heard at no great distance, as if calling to him He opened his eyes once more, raised his head, and looked towards the place from whence the sounds seemed to come, though far from being certain that they existed saving in his own disordered imagination. The vision which appeared had almost confirmed him in the opinion that his mind was unsettled, and his senses in no state to serve him accurately.

Upon the very summit of a pyramidical rock that rose out of the depth of the valley, was seen a female figure, so obscured by mist, that only the outline could be traced. The form, reflected against the sky, appeared rather the undefined lineaments of a spirit than of a mortal maiden; for her person seemed as light, and scarcely more opaque, than the thin cloud that surrounded her pedestal. Arthur’s first belief was, that the Virgin had heard his vows, and had descended in person to his rescue; and he was about to recite his Ave Maria, when the voice again called to him with the singular shrill modulation of the mountain halloo, by which the natives of the Alps can hold conference with each other from one mountain ridge to another, across ravines of great depth and width.

While he debated how to address this unexpected apparition, it disappeared from the point which it at first occupied, and presently after became again visible, perched on the cliff out of which projected the tree in which Arthur had taken refuge. Her personal appearance, as well as her dress, made it then apparent that she was a maiden of those mountains, familiar with their dangerous paths. He saw that a beautiful young woman stood before him, who regarded him with a mixture of pity and wonder.

“Stranger,” she at length said, “who are you, and whence come you?”

“I am a stranger, maiden, as you justly term me,” answered the young man, raising himself as well as he could. “I left Lucerne this morning, with my father and a guide. I parted with them not three furlongs from hence. May it please you, gentle maiden, to warn them of my safety, for I know my father will be in despair upon my account?”

“Willingly,” said the maiden; “but I think my uncle, or some one of my kinsmen, must have already found them, and will prove faithful guides. Can I not aid you?. — are you wounded? — are you hurt? We were alarmed by the fall of a rock — ay, and yonder it lies, a mass of no ordinary size.”

As the Swiss maiden spoke thus, she approached so close to the verge of the precipice, and looked with such indifference to the gulf, that the sympathy which connects the actor and spectator upon such occasions brought back the sickness and vertigo from which Arthur had just recovered, and he sunk back into his former more recumbent posture with something like a faint groan.

“You are then ill? said the maiden, who observed him turn pale — ” Where and what is the harm you have received?”

“None, gentle maiden, saving some bruises of little import; but my head turns, and my heart grows sick, when I see you so near the verge of the cliff.”

“Is that all?” replied the Swiss maiden. — “Know, stranger, that I do not stand on my uncle’s hearth with more security than I have stood upon precipices, compared to which this is a child’s leap. You, too, stranger, if, as I judge from the traces, you have come along the edge of the precipice which the earth-slide hath laid bare, ought to be far beyond such weakness, since surely you must be well entitled to call yourself a crags-man.”

“I might have called myself so half-an-hour since,” answered Arthur; “but I think I shall hardly venture to assume the name in future.”

“Be not downcast,” said his kind adviser, “for a passing qualm, which will at times cloud the spirit and dazzle the eye-sight of the bravest and most experienced. Raise yourself upon the trunk of the tree, and advance closer to the rock out of which it grows. Observe the place well. It is easy for you, when you have attained the lower part of the projecting stein, to gain by one bold step the solid rock upon which I stand, after which there is no danger or difficulty worthy of mention to a young man, whose limbs are whole, and whose courage is active.”

“My limbs are indeed sound,” replied the youth; “but I am ashamed to think how much my courage is broken. I will not disgrace the interest you have taken in an unhappy wanderer, by listening longer to the dastardly suggestions of a feeling which till to-day has been a stranger to my bosom.”

The maiden looked on him anxiously, and with much interest, as, raising himself cautiously, and moving along the trunk of the tree, which lay nearly horizontal from the rock, and seemed to bend as he changed his posture, the youth at length stood upright, within what, on level ground, had been but an extended stride to the cliff on which the Swiss maiden stood. But instead of being a step to be taken on the level and firm earth, it was one which must cross a dark abyss, at the bottom of which a torrent surged and boiled with incredible fury. Arthur’s knees knocked against each other, his feet became of lead, and seemed no longer at his command; and he experienced, in a stronger degree than ever, that unnerving influence, which those who have been overwhelmed by it in a situation of like peril never can forget, and which others, happily strangers to its power, may have difficulty even in comprehending.

The young woman discerned his emotion, and foresaw its probable consequences. As the only mode in her power to restore his confidence, she sprung lightly from the rock to the stem of the tree, on which she alighted with the ease and security of a bird, and in the same instant back to the cliff; and extending her hand to the stranger, “My arm,” she said, “is but a slight balustrade; yet do but step forward with resolution, and you will find it as secure as the battlement of Berne.” But shame now overcame terror so much, that Arthur, declining assistance which he could not have accepted without feeling lowered in his own eyes, took heart of grace, and successfully achieved the formidable step which placed him upon the same cliff with his kind assistant.

To seize her hand and raise it to his lips, in affectionate token of gratitude and respect, was naturally the youth’s first action; nor was it possible for the maiden to have prevented him from doing so, without assuming a degree of prudery foreign to her character, and occasioning a ceremonious debate upon a matter of no great consequence, where the scene of action was a rock scarce five feet long by three in width, and which looked down upon a torrent roaring some hundred feet below.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00