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IN the year 18--, we found ourselves travelling on horseback, "low down on the Mississippi." The weather was intensely hot, and as we threaded our way through the forests and swamps, through which the river flows, a silent and stifled atmosphere prevailed, such as required little wisdom to predict as the forerunner of a storm.

The insects of the woods were more than usually troublesome and venomous. The locust would occasionally make its shrill sounds as on a merry day, then suddenly stop, give a disquiet chirp or two, and relapse into silence. The venomous mosquito, revelled in the dampness of the air, and suspending its clamor of distant trumpets, seemed only intent to bite. The crows scolded like unquiet housewives, high in the air, while higher still the buzzard wheeled in graceful but narrowed circles.

The dried twigs in our path bent, instead of snapping, as the weight of our horses' hoofs pressed upon them, while the animal would put forward his ears, as if expecting soon to be very much alarmed; and lastly, to make all those signs certain, the rheumatic limbs of an old Indian guide, who accompanied us, suddenly grew lame, for he went limping upon his delicately formed feet, and occasionally looking aloft with suspicious eyes, he proclaimed, that there would be "storm too much!"

A storm in the forest is no trifling affair; the tree under which you shelter yourself may draw the lightning upon your head, or its ponderous limbs, pressed upon by the winds, drag the heavy trunk to the earth, crushing you with itself in its fall; or some dead branch that has for years protruded from among the green foliage, may on the very occasion of your presence, fall to the ground and destroy you.

The rain too, which in the forest finds difficulty in soaking into the earth, will in a few hours fill up the ravines and water-courses, wash away the trail you may be following, or destroy the road over which you journey.

All these things we were from experience aware of, and as we were some distance from our journey's end, and also from any "settlement," we pressed forward to a "clearing," which was in our path, as a temporary stopping-place, until the coming storm should have passed away.

Our resting-place for the night was on the banks of the Mississippi; it consisted of a rude cabin in the centre of a small garden-spot and field, and had once been the residence of a squatter - but now deserted for causes unknown to us. The cabin was most pleasantly situated, and commanded a fine view of the river both up and down its channel.

We reached this rude dwelling just as the sun was setting, and his disappearance behind the lowlands of the Mississippi, was indeed glorious. Refracted by the humidity of the atmosphere into a vast globe of fire, it seemed to be kindling up the Cypress trees that stretched out before us, into a light blaze, while the gathering clouds extended the conflagration far north and south, and carried it upwards into the heavens. Indeed, so glorious for a moment was the sight, that we almost fancied that another Phaeton was driving the chariot of the Sun, and that in its ungoverned course, its wheels were fired; and the illusion was quite complete, when we heard the distant thunder echoing from those brilliant clouds, and saw the lightning, like silver arrows, flash across the crimson heavens.

A moment more, and the sun was extinguished in the waters - all light disappeared, and the sudden darkness that follows sunset as you approach the tropics, was upon us.

With the delightful consciousness of having already escaped the storm, we gathered round a pleasant blaze formed of dried twigs, kindled by flashing powder in the pan of an old-fashioned gun. In the meantime, the thunder grew more and more distinct, the lightning flashed more brightly, and an occasional gust of wind, accompanied by sleet, would penetrate between the logs that composed our shelter.

An old wood-chopper, who made one of our party, feeling unusually comfortable, grew loquacious; and he detailed with great effect the woeful scenes he had been in at different times of his life, the most awful of which had been preceded, he said, by just such signs of weather as were then exhibiting themselves.

Among other adventures, he had been wrecked while acting as a "hand" on a flat-boat navigating the Mississippi. . .

He said he had come all the way from Pittsburgh, at the head of the Ohio, to within two or three hundred miles of Orleans, without meeting with any other serious accident, than that of getting out of whiskey twice.

But one night the captain of the flat-boat said that the weather was "crafty," a thing he thought himself, as it was most too quiet to last long.

After detailing several other particulars, he finished his story of being wrecked, as follows: "The quiet weather I spoke of, was followed by a sudden change; the river grew as rough as an alligator's back; thar was the tallest kind of a noise overhead, and the fire flew about up thar, like fur in a cat-fight.

We'll put in shore,' said the captain; and we tried to do it, that's sartain; but the way in which we always walked off from a tree, whar we might have tied up, was a caution to steamboats.

Keep the current,' said the captain, 'and let us sweat it out.' We went on this way some time, when I told the captain - said I, Captain, I have never been in these diggins afore, but if I haven't seen the same landscape three times, then I can't speak the truth.

At this the captain looked hard, and swore that we were in an eddy, and doing nothing but whirling round.

The lightning just at this time was very accommodating, and showed us a big tree in the river that had stuck fast, and was bowing up and down, ready to receive us, and we found ourselves rushing straight on to it.

The owner of the bacon and other 'plunder,' with which the boat was loaded, was on board, - and when he saw the 'sawyer,' he eyed it as hard as a small thief would a constable; says he, 'Captain, if that ar fellow at the sweep (oar) (fellow meant me)' said he 'Captain, if that ar fellow at the sweep don't bear on harder and keep us off that tree, I am a busted-up pork merchant.' I did bear on it as well as I could, but the current was too strong, and we went on the 'sawyer' all standing. The boat broke up like a dried leaf; pork and plunder scattered, and I swam, half dead, to the shore.

I lost in the whole operation just two shirts, eighteen dollars in wages, and half a box of Kaintucky tobacker, besides two game cocks.

I tell you what, stranger, a storm on that ar Mississipp ain't to be sneezed at.

The wood-chopper's story, when concluded, would have occasioned a general laugh, had there not been outside our cabin at this moment a portentous silence, which alarmed us all.

The storm we thought had been upon us in all its fury, but we now felt that more was to come; in the midst of this expectation a stream of fire rushed from the horizon upwards; where high over head could be seen its zigzag course, then rushed downwards, apparently almost at our very feet, - a few hundred yards from us a tall oak dropped some of its gigantic limbs, and flashed into a light blaze. The rain, however powerful previously, now descended in one continued sheet. The roof of our shelter seemed to gather water rather than to protect us from it; little rivulets dashed across the floor, and then widening into streams, we were soon literally afloat. The descending floods sounded about us like the roll-call of a muffled drum, the noise almost deafening us, then dying off in the distance, as the sweeping gusts of wind drove the clouds before them. The burning forest meanwhile hissed and cracked, and rolled up great columns of steam.

The turbid water of the Mississippi in all this war of the elements, rushed on, save where it touched its banks, with a smooth but mysterious looking surface that resembled in the glare of the lightning, a mirror of bronze, and to heighten this almost unearthly effect, the forest trees that lined its most distant shores, rose up like mountains of impenetrable darkness, against clouds burning with fire.

The thunder cracked and echoed through the heavens, and the half starved wolf, nearly dead with fear, mingled his cries of distress with the noises without, startling us with the momentary conviction, that we heard the voices of men in the agony of death.

Hours passed away and the elements spent their fury; and although the rain continued falling in torrents, it was finally unaccompanied with lightning. So sudden, indeed, were the extremes, that with your eyes dilating with the glare of the heavens, you were, a moment after, surrounded by the most perfect darkness.

Confused, bewildered, and soaking wet; we followed the stoical example of our Indian guide, and settling down in a crouching attitude, waited most impatiently for the light of the morning.

The rain continued to descend in gusts, and the same deep darkness was upon us; my companions soon fell asleep as soundly as if they were at home; the long drawn respirations added to my misery. Wound up to the highest pitch of impatience, I was about starting to my feet to utter some angry complaint, when the Indian, whom I thought in a profound slumber, touched me upon the arm, and with a peculiar sound, signified that I must be silent and listen.


This I did do, but I heard nothing save the continued clattering of the rain, and after a while I said so. For some time the Indian made no reply, although I was conscious that he was intensely interested in the prevailing dull sounds without.

Suddenly he sprang upon his feet and groped his way to the door. The intrusive noise awoke the woodchopper, who instantly seizing his rifle, sang out:

Halloo, what's the matter, you red varmint, snorting in a man's face like a scared buffalo bull, what's the matter?

River too near," was the slow reply of the Indian.

He's right, so help me - ," shouted the woodchopper, "the banks of the Mississippi ar caving in," and then with a spring he leaped through the door and bid us follow.

His advice was quickly obeyed. The Indian was the last to leave the cabin, and as he stepped from its threshold, the weighty unhewn logs that composed it, crumbled, along with the rich soil, into the swift-running current of the mysterious river.

This narrow escape made our fortunes somewhat bearable, and we waited with some little patience for day.

At the proper time the sun rose gloriously bright, as if its smiling face had never been obscured by a cloud.

The little birds of the woods sung merrily, there was the freshness and beauty of a new creation on every thing; and the landscape of the previous night was indeed altered. The long jutting point where stood the squatter's hut and "clearing," had disappeared - house, garden-spot, fields, and fences, were obliterated; the water washed banks were lined only with the unbroken forest.

The stranger, while looking, would never have dreamed that the axe and the plough had been in the vicinity.

The caving banks had swept away all signs of humanity, and left every thing about us in wild and primitive solitude.

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