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Providence to think of crossing over with sueh a sea rising, and with the wind almost dead against you," cried the distracted widow.
"As to that, there's always danger afloat," answered Paul, "be it fair or foul; and Providence takes care of us afloat as well as ever he does on land. Good-by, mother. Here, Alee, let go that rope. Now, then, to your oars. She's off, boys! Helm aport now."
"Port it is," growled the steersman, who evidently had no fancy for the voyage, and had all this time been crying out against the unpropitious aspect of the weather.
The boatmen who were on the steps and along the beach, assured the widow that there was no real danger; and so having bid her son an affectionate farewell, and uttering many a devout prayer for his speedy return next week, she went back into her cottage, low and depressed in her spirits, and sat watching the boat from her window as it did battle with each crested surge and rode proudly on its course. Need we say that she watched it with a mother's eye, until a projecting cliff shut it wholly out of sight. The storm, however, continued as before, and the mother had but one resource left, to commit her beloved son and the frail boat in which he crossed the waters of the lake to the merciful goodness of that Providence, who is "the God of the fatherless and the widow."
Meanwhile the little vessel was battling with the angry waves in a place where there was a narrow passage, some fifty yards broad, between two dangerous shelving sand-banks, well known to the master of the Katharine and his crew. The sand-banks themselves, as it happened, lay partly under the lee of one of the little islands which stud the coast near Lachta; and the current was bearing strong upon the bank upon the leeward. At this moment the Katharine shipped a large quantity of water; as ill luck would have it, the tiller broke, and before the boat's head could be righted, she had drifted upon the edge of the bar of sand, and there she stuck fast. The little bark would have been overwhelmed by the breakers but for the shelter afforded by the corner of the island and the shifting of the wind a point or two round to the north; indeed, she was fast filling with water, in spite of the efforts of the passengers to keep her afloat by bailing. To add to the general confusion aboard, it now turned out that several of the passengers who had been drinking at the village inn before starting from Lachta were fairly intoxicated, and the rest were sinking down bewildered into the apathy of despair; so that only Stephen and two of the boatmen had their wits about them. But though they strove with all their might, they were unable to move the boat off from the sandbank. At this moment, when the waves were breaking over the little Katharine, and had already swept off into deep water one or two hapless passengers, who had lost all heart and courage, a sail was seen approaching.
It was a rather large vessel, with a gallant crew of some twenty men, who had been inspect
ing a portion of the coast. They had seen the perilous position of old Paul and his boat, and had borne down to their assistance, for in spite of the terrible raging of the winds and waves, the captain would not see the poor fellows swept away and drowned without making an effort at least to save them.
The vessel neared the sand-bank; but how may she approach close enough to rescue the unhappy fellows! A boat is lowered from the vessel, and four as gallant Russian tars as ever plowed the fresh waters of Ladoga or the Baltic have rowed up to the spot; but the strength of two of the crew, added to the exertions of Stephen and the boatmen of the Katharine, are not sufficient to move the vessel from the firm grasp with which the sand held her keel. They were, therefore, beginning to relax their efforts, when a second boat, with a crew of six stout-hearted fellows, neared the bank, and by vigorous efforts reached the spot in time to reinforce their comrades. Without the loss of a moment, one of the crew, a fine tall muscular Russian, some six feet five inches high, stripped off his outer garments, leaped into the sea, and after swimming a few sharp strokes, gained a footing on the sand. This was heavy work indeed, as the sand was not hard and firm, but mixed with mud and slime; but the giant strength of the new arrival turned the scale, and after a few short and sharp heaves the Katharine moved once more. In a second she was afloat again and taken in tow by the other boat.
And where all this time was Stephen? Worn out with fatigue and cold, for he had been immersed some two hours in the chilly waves, and standing in deep water and nearly exhausted by their violence—he had lost his footing on the slippery bank, and having got in a moment beyond his depth, was vainly attempting to keep his head above water by swimming in his drenched and dripping clothes, the weight of which in a few seconds more would have carried him down.
"Oh! Steenie, Steenie," cried the old boatman, Paul, with a loud voice of agony, which would make itself heard even above the roaring of the angry winds and waves, "can none of you save my poor Stephen, the bravest lad that ever trod a deck I He's gone now, and but for his help this day my boat would have been lost."
"He's not lost yet!" cried the tall seaman; and, plunging into the waves, he caught him by the hair of his head, just as he was sinking a third time; the next wave would have carried him fairly down, and his life would have been gone past recall.
It was not the work of a moment for the strong, tall stranger to swim with the lad toward the boat, which was hovering near; and, in another second, the gallant crew had lifted him in over the gunwale, and laid him at the bottom of the boat. As soon as he showed signs of life, and began to open his eyes, a flask of brandy was applied to his mouth, and he soon revived. The tall man, too, got in, and leaving two of his crew to help old Paul to tow the Katharine ashore, he gave the signal to his men, and they pulled off with all their might in the direction of Lachta. Though the waves were still running high, yet, fortunately, the wind was astern; so the sharp, quick strokes of the crew soon brought the boat to the landing-place from which, a few hours before, poor Stephen had departed in such high spirits, and with such confidence in Paul's seamanship, and the ability of the Katharine to make the passage.
As soon as the boat came to the sheltered nook where the steps of the landing-place led up from the sea, Stephen was put ashore, and, partly led partly carried, he reached the cottage of his mother. At the sight of her son, the poor widow burst into a flood of tears, and began to give way to an agony of joy and grief. A warm bath was soon prepared for her son; and, after the application of some gentle restoratives, poor Stephen was able to sit up and to thank his kind preserver, the tall stranger, who, with two of his men behind him, just now lifted up the latch of the cottage-door, and had entered the room.
"Gracious Heaven," cried the grateful mother, "why, sir, you are in wet clothes, too! Sit down, sir, by the fire, and take of my humble fare, while I go and find some of my Stcenie's clothes for you to put on, and I dry those dripping garments."
The tall stranger sat down; and as the widow left the room, gave his two followers a hint not to make known to the boy or his mother who he was. In a few minutes the stranger had retired, and assumed a plain old dress belonging to the young man whose life he had saved, and was engaged in eating some hot bacon, which the widow had just laid upon the tabic before him, with many protestations of her eternal gratitude to the saviour of her son.
"May the King of heaven, who never turns a deaf ear to the widow's prayer, mercifully reward you for saving my Stcenie's life. It is not many a sailor, or merchant cither, that would have done as you have done to-day. Heaven speed you; and may you never forget that the poor widow of Lachta is praying for you night and morning, that the Almighty may increase your store, whenever you are sailing over the stormy sea, or the lakes of Onega and Ladoga."
The tall stranger was about to rise and depart, when suddenly the door opened, and a naval officer entered, with a crowd of attendants. It was the captain and mate of the bark which Stcenie and Paul had seen in the ofling, and which had sent her boats to the rescue of the Katharine.
"My noble master, may it please your majesty," he said, falling on one knee, " the Royal Peter has come safe, and she has towed the Katharine too into the little port of Lachta."
The poor widow fell down upon her knees in astonishment, and faltered forth her apologies for not recognizing his majesty, and for having treated him with such disrespect.
"Nay, nay, my good woman," said the Czar, smiling, "how could you know the Emperor thus disguised in mud and dirt. But you will know him henceforth. I shall keep your son's clothes
in remembrance of this day; and when your boy 'Steenie' wakes up from the sound sleep into which he has fallen, tell him that he will always find a true friend in Peter Alexiowitch."
Our readers, when they learn that the above story is founded upon a plain historic fact—as they will find upon reading for themselves the Life of Peter the Great—will be grieved to hear that the noble conduct of the emperor on this occasion cost him his life. He had for a long time suffered under a chronic internal disease, which none of his court physicians could effectually combat; and in the month of November, 1724, in which our story is raid, he went, contrary to the advice of his physicians, to inspect the works on Lake Lagoda: his exposure to the wet and cold in rescuing the poor ferryman and his crew, on tlus stormy November day, affected him so seriously that ho never recovered afterward. The emperor went home to his palace at St. Petersburg without loss of time, but his malady increased, in spite of all the remedies which the medical skill of Russia could furnish; and gradually he sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings toward the close of the following January.
Such was the end of Peter I. of Russia, deservedly named "the Great;" though he was the strangest compound of contradictions, perhaps, that the world has ever seen. In him the most ludicrous undertakings were mingled with the grandest political schemes. Benevolence and humanity were as conspicuous in his character as a total disregard of human life. He was at once kind-hearted and severe, even to the extent of ferocity. Without education himself, he promoted arts, sciences, and literature. "He gave a polish," says Voltaire, " to his people, and yet he was himself a savage: he taught them the art of war, of which, however, he was ignorant himself: from the sight of a small boat on the river Moskwa he created a powerful fleet, and made himself an expert and active shipwright, sailor, pilot, and commander: he changed the manners, customs, and laws of the Russians, and lives in their memory, not merely as the founder of their empire, but as the father of his country."
Yes; the memory of Peter to this day is dear among all classes of Russians, from the noblest of the Boyards down to the meanest serf. But if among the towns and villages of his vast empire there be one in which his name is cherished with especial honor, it is that little fishing-town of Lachta; and in proof of our assertion we may add, that the cottage in which Stcenie and his mother lived and died, is still familiarly known to every traveler in those parts as Peter's House.
MOUNTAIN STORMS—TRAGEDY ON THE SENTIS.
THE storms experienced in mountainous countries have often a terrific grandeur seldom witnessed by the inhabitants of lowland plains. The flash of the lightning is more vivid, and the report of the thunder more tremendous, owing to closer proximity to the centre of disturbance in consequence of elevation. The repercussion of sound also, from the adjoining highlands, causes it to reverberate from rock to rock and crag to crag, while a thousand echoes repeat the intonation in distant glens: and hence the peal has a longer roll than on levels where there is a comparatively free passage through the atmosphere. Generally the danger from lightning increases to men at high points, though such an ascent may be gained as to placo the individual in a perfectly harmless region, above the focus of explosion, calmness, and bright sunshine being aloft and around, while clouds are in wild agitation, and the elemental strife rages beneath. But travelers at considerable elevations have frequently observed striking indications of electric action in their immediate neighborhood, and found themselves unawares in the very bosom of a thundercloud. Professor Forbes relates an instance which came under his own observation in the Alps. He was on the track to the chalets of Breuil, at the height of 9000 feet, the atmosphere being turbid, and some hail falling, when a curious sound was noticed, which seemed to proceed from the alpine pole with which he was walking. He asked the guide next him what he thought it was, and as the members of that fraternity have an answer ready for any emergency, the reply was coolly given, that the rustling of the pole no doubt proceeded from a worm eating the wood in the interior. But, holding up his hand, the fingers yielded the same fizzing sound. There could be but one explanation—that of the party being so near a thunder-cloud as to be highly electrified by induction; and on closely observing circumstances, it was soon perceived that all the angular stones were hissing around like points near a powerful electrical machine. Prudence dictated the lowering of an umbrella, hoisted against the hail shower, whose gay brass point might become the paratonncrrc of the travelers. Scarcely had this been done, when a clap of thunder, unaccompanied by lightning, justified the precaution. Instances are not wanting of thunder-clouds having been traversed with impunity while the fell lightning was in process of elaboration. In August, 1778, the Abbe Richard was in this position on the small mountain called Boyer, between Chalons and Tournus. Before he entered the cloud, the thunder rolled as it is wont to do. When he was enveloped in it, he heard only single claps, with intervals of silence, without roll or reverberation. After he passed above the cloud, the thunder rolled below him as before, and the lightning flashed. The sister of M. Arago witnessed similar phenomena between the village of Estagel and Limoux; and the officers of engineers engaged in the trigonometrical survey repeatedly experienced the same occurrences on the Pyrenees. Still the risk of damage must obviously be augmented as the cause of danger is approached; and hence the fear instinctively engendered by the proximity of a thunder-cloud is founded upon intelligible principles. It is well known that objects raised above the surface in a storm, whether good or bad conductors, as church
steeples, houses, trees, especially solitary ones, and the masts of ships, are peculiarly liable, by exposure and elevation, to the stroke of lightning. A melancholy example occurred in the year 1832, on the top of the Sentis in Switzerland.
This mountain is the highest point of the canton of Appenzell. Though not directly belonging to the grand range of the Alps, it rises to the height of 8200 feet above the sea, overlooks the valley of the Upper Rhine on the east, and the lake of Constance on the north. On its summit, M. Buchwalder, a Swiss engineer, along with an assistant, passed the night of July 4, having raised a tent and established a signal for geodesical purposes. It rained abundantly toward evening, and the cold and wind became such that they prevented sleeping all night. At four o'clock in the morning the mountain was covered with clouds, and some passed over their heads; the wind also was very violent. At six o'clock the rain began again, and the thunder resounded in the distance. Soon the most impetuous gale announced a tempest. Hail fell in such abundance that, in a few moments, it covered the Sentis with a frozen stratum of some thickness. After these preliminaries, the storm appeared calmer; but it was a silence, a repose, during which nature was preparing a terrible crisis. At a quarter past eight o'clock the thunder growled again, and, its noise approaching nearer and nearer, was heard without interruption till ten. The engineer then went out to examine the sky, and to measure the depth of the snow at a few paces from the tent. Scarcely had he accomplished this, when the lightning burst forth with fury, and obliged him to take refuge in the tent, together with the assistant, who brought out some food to take his repast. Both lay down side by side on a plank. A thick cloud, dark as night, then enveloped the Sentis; the rain and hail fell in torrents; the wind blew with fury; and the near and confused lightnings seemed like a conflagration. They were in the very centre of the storm; and the lightning showed the scene in all its grandeur or in all its horror. The assistant could not free himself from a sensation of fear, and he asked if they were not running some danger. Mention was made, in order to remove his fears, that, at the time when MM. Biot and Arago were making geodesical experiments in Spain, the lightning had fallen on their tent, but had only passed over the roof without touching them. The inquiry, however, brought to the mind of M. Buchwalder the idea of danger, and he fully understood it.
"At this moment," he relates, " a globe of fire appeared at the feet of my companion, and I felt my right leg struck with a violent commotion, which was an electric shock. He uttered a doleful cry: 'Ah!' I turned round to him. I saw on his face tho effect of the lightning-stroke. The left side was covered with brown or reddish spots. His hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, were frizzled and burned; his lips and nostrils were of a brownish violet: his chest seemed still to heave at intervals; but soon the sound of respiration ceased. I felt all the horrors of my situation; but I forgot my suffering, in order to seek succor for a man whom I saw dying. I called him, but he did not reply. His right eye was open and bright; it seemed to me as though a ray of intelligence beamed from it, and I hoped; but the left eye remained closed, and on raising the eyelid, I saw that it was dull. I supposed, however, that there was still sight remaining on the right side, for I endeavored to close the eye on that side; an attempt which I repeated three times. It opened again of itself, and seemed animated. I put my hand on his heart; it no longer beat. I pricked his limbs, body, and lips with a compass; all was immovable: it was death, and I could not believe it. Bodily pain at last drew me from this painful contemplation. My left leg was paralyzed; and I felt a shuddering, an extraordinary movement. I felt, besides, a general trembling and oppression and disordered beatings of the heart. The most sinister reflections took possession of me. Was I going to perish like my unfortunate companion? I thought so from my suffering; however, reason told me that the danger was passed. I gained with the greatest difficulty the village of Alt St. Johann. The instruments had been struck in like manner."
Nowhere are storms exhibited with such violence, or are they so frequent, as within the tropics in the wet season. They diminish in intensity and number, as a general law, with the increase of latitude, and chiefly occur in the summer months. But on passing from the shores of the Atlantic into the interior of the continent, a modification is found as to frequency, analogous to that of rain, except in mountainous countries. Thus, in the westqrn districts of Europe there is an average of about 20 storms in the year; at Moscow, 17; at Kasan, 9; and at Irkutsk about 8. M. Arago estimates the annual average of storms at the places mentioned as follows: Caleutta, 60; Rio Janeiro, 50; Guadaloupe, 37; Buenos Ayres, 20; Smyrna, 19; Berlin, 18; Strasburg, 17; Toulouse, 15; Utrecht, 15; Paris, 13; Athens, 11; Petersburg, 9; London, 8; Pekin, 5; Cairo, 3. When falling on the surface of the earth, lightning follows the best conductors, attaching itself principally to metals, though it may prefer a body which is not so good a conductor, if the latter conducts it more directly to the ground. Damp substances are preferred after metals—the reason why men and animals are struck, stunned, or killed, the dread element apparently proving fatal by the shock given to the nervous system. Kacmtz speaks of these melancholy events as not very common. He mentions that at Gottingen, in the space of a century, three persons only have been killed by lightning, and but two at Halle. But though the number of victims is very limited, if only a single locality or town is examined, it is frequently otherwise in the case of an entire country. In the United States, twenty-four persons have been struck in the course of a year, of whom seventeen were killed; and as many as twenty persons have perished in France in the same pe
BUT scanty favor has this ill-favored, unhappylooking quadruped met with hitherto in the eyes of zoologists; and, as a general rule, it will be found that the older the work on natural history in which he is mentioned, the more abundant are the hard epithets lavished upon his devoted head. His personal appearance is certainly any thing but prepossessing; but if his countenance is gloomy and malignant in captivity, we doubt whether it is more lowering than the physiognomy of many an F.Z.S. would speedily become if he were transported from his snug fireside— which, after all, is an ice-house compared to the torrid regions of Africa, whence cometh the hapless hysjna—to a crippled and narrow den, facing the north, and situate in a damp and foggy corner; or condemned to dine upon a leg-of-mutton bone, instead—as the hyena has been known to do in his native land—of discussing a repast of three courses, consisting of a young ass, a goat, and a fox, at one sitting. It is a well-known fact, that no animal has a greater aversion to close confinement than the hyena; little wonder is it, then, that under these circumstances he should seldom or ever appear to advantage; but, on the contrary, generally testify an impatient, irritable spirit, particularly when, to amuse the " gazing crowd," he is kept in suspense regarding the one creature comfort which he thoroughly enjoys, viz., his dinner. The hysterical laughter of the poor beast, which gives such intense satisfaction to the spectators who usually cluster about the dens at feeding-time, has to our cars a very pitiful sound. It has certainly a strange resemblance to, and, when heard at a distance, is a very close imitation of, the laughter of the human species; but it is any thing rather than an appreciation of a joke which calls forth the shrill and unearthly sounds uttered ky the hyama on these festive occasions. It is when agitated and irate that he thus lifts up his voice; and those who have watched him, with upraised bristles and exposed fangs, angrily and rapidly pacing up and down his cage, eying with malignant glances his keeper, who holds the tantalizing morsel of raw flesh which is his allotted portion suspended at the top of his iron staff far out of reach, will readily believe that these discordant peals have in them much more of rage and baffled desire than of joyous merriment or gleeful satisfaction.
As for the ancients, they not only believed that the hyama could laugh, but that it could speak. "These hideous brutes," says Pliny in his " Historia Naturalis," "are wont to repair to the shepherds' huts and imitate the human voice, and even learn some person's name, who, when he answers to the call and comes out, is immediately torn to pieces." Even Aristotle, who may be looked upon as the father of naturalists, and who ought to have known better, has fallen into the popular error of his day; and, besides other apocryphal charges, has advanced the monstrous proposition, that the neck of the hyama consisted of but one jointless bone—an assertion which, it is almost needless to add, is to the full as groundless as that this peculiar bone proved of great efficacy in magical invocation; which belief is to this day current among the superstitious Arabs, who, when they slay one of these animals, carefully bury the head, lest it should operate as an avenging charm or spell.
There are two varieties of this animal. The spotted kind is peculiar to the Cape of Good Hope and the southern division of Africa, where it is vulgarly known by the name of the tiger-wolf. It is an object of great fear and abhorrence in this region, though it rarely moves abroad during the day, but passes the hours of light and heat in slothful slumber, concealed in a hole or den of its own excavation, or else hidden from all prying eyes within the depths of some densely-covered bush. Till very lately bands of hyaenas were in the habit of paying nightly visits to the streets of Cape Town, where they were tolerated as very useful in carrying away the animal refuse and offal; but, partly from better regulations now existing in the town, and partly from the number of these animals having decreased in the same ratio as the population has increased, this no longer occurs.
Sparrman, who is good authority, speaks of the hyama as a cruel, mischievous, and formidable animal, living by depredation and rapine, daring and rapacious in its attacks upon the farmer's flocks and herds; and, in truth, the numbers, the nocturnal habits, and the mingled courage and obstinacy of these animals, render them in this respect even more destructive than the lion itself. The courage of the hyena, moreover, is equal to its voracity; man himself he seldom ventures to attack, save and except when driven to desperation and in self-defense, and then it will turn furiously even upon this all-powerful assailant, but it wages fierce war against much larger quadru
peds than itself. It fears neither the kingly lion, the wily panther, nor the fierce ounce, whom, either by stealthy attacks, or by the combined power of numbers, it seldom fails to conquer.
Mr. Bruce, the persevering and entertaining Abyssinian traveler, says, "I do not think that there is any one who has hitherto written of this animal who ever saw the thousandth part of them I have. They were a plague in Abyssinia in every situation, both in the city and in the field, and, I think, surpassed the sheep in number. Gondar was full of them from the time it turned dark to the break of day, seeking the different pieces of slaughtered carcasses which this cruel and unclean people expose in the streets without burial, and who firmly believe that these animals are Falasha from the neighboring mountains, transformed by magic, and come down to cat hu! man flesh in the dark for safety. One night in Maitsha, being very intent on observation, 1 heard something pass behind me toward the bed, but upon looking round could perceive nothing. Having finished what I was then about, I went out of my tent, intending directly to return, which I immediately did, when I perceived large blue eyes glaring at me in the dark. I called upon my servant with a light, and there was the hyama standing nigh the head of the bed, with two or three large bunches of candles in his mouth. To have fired, I was in danger of breaking my quadrant or other furniture, and he seemed, by keeping the candles steadily in his mouth, to wish for no other prey at that time. As his mouth was full, and he had no claws to tear with, I was not afraid of him, but with a pike struck him as near the heart as I could judge. It was not till then he showed any sign of fierceness; but upon feeling his wound, he let drop the candles and endeavored to run up the shaft of the spear to arrive at me, so that, in self-defense, I was obliged to draw a pistol from my girdle and shoot him, and nearly at the same time my servant cleft his skull with a battlc-ax. In a word, the hyena was the plague of our lives, the terror of our night-walks, the destruction of our mules and asses, which above all others arc his favorite food."
Though ready and willing to grapple with a living prey, the hyena is content to subsist principally on the putrescent remains of such animals as have been killed and only half devoured by the higher order of the eamivora; and though not gregarious on any social principle, these animals assemble in troops and follow in the wake of the Caffre and Hottentot armies of the present epoch, and gorge on the dead bodies of the slain, and too often it is to be feared ransack the hasty, ill-made graves that mark these battle-fields. It is said, too, that like other and nobler animals, the hyena which has tasted human flesh is but too prone to retain a dangerous liking for this fell banquet. Steedman speaks of this in his "Wanderings and Adventures in the interior of Southern Africa," and alleges that the hyena will pass through the herds of calves, &c., which are always secured close around the Hottentot huts, and, stealing into the interior, "take the children from under