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The weather was pleasant, and I thought it not warmer than usual at that season. My horse was jogging along quietly, and my thoughts were, for once at least in the course of my life, entirely engaged in commercial speculations.
I had forded Highland Creek, and was on the eve of entering a tract of bottom land, or valley, that lay between it and Canoe Creek, when suddenly I remarked a great difference in the aspect of the heavens. A hazy thickness overspread the country, and I for some time expected an earthquake; but my horse exhibited no propensity to stop and prepare for such an occurrence. I had nearly arrived at the verge of the valley, when I thought fit to stop near a brook, and dismounted to quench the thirst that had come upon me.
I was leaning on my knees, with my lips about to touch the water, when, from my proximity to the earth, I heard a distant murmuring sound of an extraordinary nature. I drank, however, and as I rose on my feet, looked toward the southwest, when I observed a yellowish oval spot, the appearance of which was quite new to me.
Little time was left me for consideration, as the next moment a smart breeze began to agitate the taller trees. It increased to an unexpected height, and already the smaller branches and twigs were seen falling in a slanting direction toward the ground. Two minutes had scarcely elapsed, when the whole forest before me was in fearful motion. Here and there, where one tree pressed against another, a creaking noise was produced, similar to that occasioned by the violent gusts which sometimes sweep over the country.
Turning instinctively toward the direction from which the wind blew, I saw, to my great astonishment, that the noblest trees of the forest bent their lofty heads for a while, and, unable to stand against the blast, were falling to pieces. So rapid was the progress of the storm, that before I could think of taking measures to insure my safety, the hurricane was passing opposite the place where I stood.
The tops of the trees were seen moving in the strangest manner, in the central current of the tempest, which carried along with it a mingled mass of twigs and foliage that completely obscured the view. Some of the largest trees were seen bending and writhing under the gale; others suddenly snapped across, and many, after a momentary resistance, fell uprooted to the earth.
The mass of branches, twigs, foliage, and dust that moved through the air was whirled onwards like a cloud of feathers, and, on passing, disclosed a wide space filled with fallen trees, naked stumps, and heaps of shapeless ruin which marked the path of the tempest.
This space was about a fourth of a mile in breadth, and to my imagination resembled the dried-up bed of the Mississippi, with its thousands of planters and sawyers strewed in the sand and inclined in various degrees. The horrible noise resembled the great cataract of Niagara, and, as it howled along in the track of the desolating tempest, produced a feeling in my mind which it is impossible to describe.
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON.
THE SOLITARY REAPER.
Behold her, single in the field,
No nightingale did ever chant
Such thrilling voice was never heard
Will no one tell me what she sings?
Or is it some more humble lay,
Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang
1 plaintiff old form of plaintive.