« PreviousContinue »
here something to eat first; then I'll eat.' Certainly.' And they were going to take him away from me, to some stable. • Never mind about that,' said I. •Just bring your oats and empty them down here anywhere; he's used to eating off the ground.' The oats were not slow coming; and Colonel Davis and I and our horses had breakfast together, with the ladies looking on. I tell you, it was beautiful!”
It is eleven miles from Sharpsburg to Harper's Ferry. After striking the Potomac, we continued on down its left bank, with the canal between us and the river on one side, and Maryland Heights, rising even more and more rugged and abrupt, on the other; until, as we approached the bridge at the Ferry, we looked up through the stormy dusk at mountain crags rising precipitous several hundred feet above our heads. Crossing the new iron bridge, near the ruins of the old one destroyed by the Rebels, Captain Speaker landed me near the end of it on the Virginia side.
“Where is the hotel ?” I asked, looking round with some dismay at the dismal prospect.
“ That is it, the only hotel at Harper's Ferry now,” — showing me a new, unpainted, four-story wooden building, which looked more like soldiers' barracks than a hotel. There was not a window-blind or shutter to be seen. The main entrance from the street was through a bar-room where merry men were clicking glasses, and sucking dark-colored stuff through straws. And this was a “first-class hotel kept on the European plan.” I mention it as one of the results of war, - as an illustration of the mushroom style of building which springs up in the track of desolation, to fill temporarily the place of the old that has been swept away and of the better growth to come.
One thing, however, consoled me. The hotel stood on the. banks of the Potomac, and I thought if I could get a room overlooking the river and commanding a view of the crags opposite, all would be well ; for often the mere sight of a mountain and a stream proves a solace for saddest things.
After supper a “room” was shown me, which turned out to be a mere bin to stow guests in. There was no paper on
the walls, no carpet on the rough board floor, and not so much as a nail to hang a hat on. The bed was furnished with sheets which came down just below a man's knees, and a mattress which had the appearance of being stuffed with shingles. Finding it impossible, by dint of shouting and pounding, (for there was no bell,) or even by visiting the office, to bring a servant to my assistance, I went on a marauding expedition through the unoccupied rooms, and carried off a chair, a dressing-table, and another bed entire. This I placed on my mattress, hoping thereby to improve the feeling of it, — a fruitless experiment, however: it was only adding a few more shingles. Luckily I had a shawl with me. Never, — let me caution thee, O fellow-traveller, — never set out on a long journey without a good stout shawl. Such an appendage answers many purposes : a garment on a raw and gusty day, a blanket by night, a cushion for the seat, a pillow for the head,
- to these and many like comfortable uses it is speedily applied by its grateful possessor. Mine helped to soften the asperities of my bed that night, and the next day served as a windowcurtain.
Yet no devices availed to render the Shenandoah House a place favorable to sleep. On the river-side, close by the door, ran the track of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. How often during the night the trains passed I cannot now compute; each approaching and departing with clatter and clang, and shouts of men and bell-ringing and sudden glares of light, and the voice of the steam-whistle projecting its shrill shriek into the ear of horrified night, and setting the giarat mountains to tossing and retossing the echo like a ball.
The next morning I was up at dawn refreshing my eyesight with the natural beauties of the place. It was hard to believe that those beauties had been lying latent around me during all the long, wcarisome night. But so it is ever; we see so little of God's great plan! The dull life we live, close and dark and narrow as it seems, is surrounded by invisible realities, waiting only for the rays of a spiritual dawn to light them up into grandeur and glory.
AROUND HARPER'S FERRY.
Ar Harper's Ferry the Potomac and Shenandoah unite their waters and flow through an enormous gap in the Blue Ridge. The angle of land thus formed is a sort of promontory; around the base of which, just where the rivers meet, the curious little old town is built. Higher up the promontory lie Bolivar Heights. On the north, just across the Potomac from the Ferry, rise Maryland Heights; while on the east, across the Shenandoah, are Loudon Heights, an equally precipitous and lofty crag. With sublime rocky fronts these two mountains stand gazing at each other across the river which has evi. dently forced its way through them here. Just where the streams are united the once happily wedded mountains are divorced. No doubt there was once a stupendous cataract here, pouring its shining sheet towards the morning sun, from a vast inland sea; for the tourist still finds, far up the steep face of the mountains, dimples which in past ages ceaselessly whirling water-eddies made. In some of these scooped places sand and smooth-worn pebbles still remain. But the mountain-wall has long since been sundered, and the inland sea drained off; the river forcing a way not only for itself but for the turnpike, railroad, and canal, fore-ordained in the beginning to appear in the ripeness of time and follow the river's course.
Thus the town, as you perceive, is situated in the midst of scenery which should make it a favorite place of summer resort. The cliffs are picturesquely tufted, and tasselled, and draped with foliage, boughs of trees, and festoons of wild vines, through which here and there upshoot the perpendicular col.
umns of some bold crag, softened into beauty by the manycolored lichens that stud its sides. I count an evening walk under Loudon Heights, with the broad, sprawling river hoarsely babbling over its rocky bed on one side, and the still precipices soaring to heaven on the other, - and the narrow stony road cut round their base lying before me, untrodden at that hour by any human foot save my own, -I count that lonely walk amid the cool, dewy scents stealing out of the undergrowth, and the colors of the evening sky gilding the cliffs, as one of the pleasantest of my life. What is there, as you look up at those soaring summits and the low clouds sailing silently over them, that fills the heart so full ?
The morning after my arrival I climbed Maryland Heights by the winding military road which owes its existence to the war. I have seen nothing since the view from Mount Washington to be compared with the panorama which unrolled itself around me as I ascended. Pictures of two States were there, indescribably tinted in the early morning light, — beautiful Maryland, still more beautiful Virginia, with the green Potomac valley marking the boundary between. On the Maryland side were the little valleys of the Monocacy and the Antietam. Opposite lay the valley of the Shenandoah, dotted with trees, its green fields spotted with the darker green of groves, a vast tract stretching away into a realm of hazy light, belted with sun and mist, and bounded by faint outlines of mountains so soft they seemed built of ether but a little more condensed than the blue of the sky.
Yet it was war and not beauty which led man to these heights. The timber which once covered them was cut away when the forts were constructed, in order to afford free range for the guns; and a thick undergrowth now takes its place. There are strong works on the summit, the sight of which kindles anew one's indignation at the imbecility which surrendered them, with Harper's Ferry and a small army, at a time when such an act was sufficient to prolong the war perhaps for years.
It is a steep mile and more by the road from the Ferry to the top of the cliffs : a mile which richly repays the travel. Yet one need not go so far nor climb so high to see the beauties of the place. Whichever way you turn, river, or rock, or wild woods charm the eye. The Potomac comes down from its verdant bowers gurgling among its innumerable rocky islets. On one side is the canal, on the other the race which feeds the government works, each tumbling its yeasty superflux over waste-weir walls into the river. With the noise of those snowy cascades sweetly blends the note of the boatman's bugle approaching the locks. The eye ranges from the river to the crags a thousand feet above, and all along the mountain side, gracefully adorned with sparse timber, feathery boughs and trees loaded down with vines, and is never weary of the picture. At evening, you sit watching the sunset colors fade, until the softened gray and dusky-brown tints of the cliffs deepen into darkness, and the moon comes out and silvers them.
But while the region presents such features of beauty and grandeur, the town is the reverse of agreeable. It is said to have been a pleasant and picturesque place formerly. The streets were well graded, and the hill-sides above were graced with terraces and trees. But war has changed all. Freshets tear down the centre of the streets, and the dreary hill-sides present only ragged growths of weeds. The town itself lies half in ruins. The government works were duly destroyed by the Rebels ; of the extensive buildings which comprised the armory, rolling-mills, foundry, and machine-shops, you see but little more than the burnt-out, empty shells. Of the bridge across the Shenandoah only the ruined piers are left; still less remains of the old bridge over the Potomac. And all about the town are rubbish, and filth, and stench.
Almost alone of the government buildings, John Brown's “ Engine-house” has escaped destruction. It has come out of the ordeal of war terribly bruised and battered, it is true, its windows blackened and patched like the eyes of a pugilist; but there it still stands, with its brown brick walls and little wooden belfry, like a monument which no Rebel hands were