Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

VISIT

TO THE COUNTRY OF THE SAVAGES.

I took my departure for the country of the Savages in a packet boat, which was to convey me from New-York to Albany by Hudson's river. The

passengers were numerous and agreeable, consisting of several women and some American Officers. A fresh breeze conducted us gently towards our destination. Towards the evening of the first day, we assembled upon deck, to partake of a collation of fruit and milk. The women seated themselves upon the benches, and the men were stationed at their feet. The con. versation was not long kept up. I have always remarked that when nature exhibits a sublime or beautiful prospect, the spectators involuntarily become silent. Suddenly one of the company exclaimed: “ Near that place Major André was executed." My ideas instantly took another turn. A very pretty American lady was intreated to sing the ballad, which describes the story of that unfortunate young man. She yielded to our solicitation; her voice evidently betrayed her timidity, but it was exceedingly replete with sweet and tender sensibility.

The sun now set, and we were in the midst of lofty mountains. Here and there huts were seen, suspended over the abysses, but they soon disappeared among the clouds of mingled white and rosy hue, which, horizontally fitted past these dwellings.

When the summits of the rocks and firs were discovered above these clouds, one might have fancied them to be islands floating in the air. The majestic river, the tides of which run North and Sonth, lay outstretched before us in a strait line, inclosed between two exactly parallel banks. Suddenly it took a turn: to the West, winding its golden waves around a mountain which overlooked the river with all its plants, and had the appearance of a large bouquet, tied at its base with azure riband. We preserved a profound silence ; for my own part, I hardly ventured to breathe. Nothing interrupted the plaintive song of the fair passenger, except the sound (of which we were hardly sensible) made by the vessel, as it glided before a,

light breeze through the water. Sometimes the voice acquired an additional swell when we steered near the bank, and in two or three places it was repeated by a slight echo. The ancients would have imagined that the soul of André, attracted by this impressive melody, felt a pleasure in murmuring its last notes among the mountains. The idea of this brave and unfortunate man, who was a lover and a poet, who died for his country in the flower of his age, regretted by his fellow citizens and honoured by the tears of Washington, spread over this romantic scene a softer tint, The American officers and I had tears in par eyes--I from the effect of the delicious state of mind into which I was plunged-They no doubt from the recollection of their country's past troubles, which doubled the calmness of the present moment, They could not, without a sort of ecstacy, contemplate a district, lately covered with battalions in glittering arms, and resounding with the noise of war, now buried in profound tranquility, lighted by the last fires of day, decorated with all the pomp of nature, animated by the soft whistle of Virginian night, ingales, and the cooing of wild pigeons ; while the simple inhabitants were seated on the point of a rock, at some distance from their cottages, and quietly observed our vessel as it passed along the river beneath them.

The tour, which I made on this occasion, was in fact only a prelude to a journey of much greater importance, the plan of which I communicated, on my return, to M. de Malesherbes, who was to have laid it before govern. ment. I intended nothing less than to decide, by a land investigation, the great question of a passage from the South sea into the Atlantic by the North. It is known that, in spite of the efforts made by Captain Cook, and subsequent navigators, this point has always remained doubtful. lo 1786 a merchantman pretended to leave en. tered an interior sea of North America at 48 lat. N. and those on board asserted that all, which had been considered as continental coast to the North of California, was a long chain of islands extremely close to each other. On the other hand, a traveller from Hudson's Bay saw the sea at 72° lat. N. at the mouth of the river

Cuivre. It is said that a frigate arrived last summer, which had been sent by the British Admiralty to ascertain the truth or fallacy of the discovery made by the merchantman above mentioned, and that this frigate confirms the truth of Cook's reports. Be this as may, I will just state what was my plan.

If government had favoured the project, I should have embarked for New York. There I should have had two immense covered waggons made, to be drawn by four yoke of oxen. I should have also procured six small horses, such as those which I used on my first expedition. I should have taken with me three European servants, and three savages of the Five-Nations: Reasons operate to prevent the mention of some particulars of the plan which it was my intention to follow; the whole forms a small volume in

my possession, which would not be useless to those who explore unknown regions. Suffice it to say that I would have renounced all ideas of tra, versing the deserts of America, if it would have cost the simple inhabitants a single tear. I should have wished that among

the

the savages,

« AnteriorContinua »