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Where all this while was Mark Steuart, the sailor? Halfway up the cliffs. But his eye had got dim, and his head dizzy, and his heart sick; and he who had so often reefed the topgallant sail, when at midnight the coming of the gale was heard afar, covered his face with his hands, and dared look no longer on the swimming heights.
"And who will take care of my poor, bedridden mother?" thought Hannah, whose soul, through the exhaustion of so many passions, could no more retain in its grasp that hope which it had clutched in despair.
A voice whispered, "God!" She looked around expecting to see an angel; but nothing moved except a rotten branch that, under its own weight, broke off from the crumbling rock. Her eye, by some secret sympathy of her soul, watched it fall; and it seemed to stop, not far off, on a small platform.
Her child was bound within her bosom,—she remembered not how or when, but it was safe; and scarcely daring to open her eyes as she slid down the shelving rocks, and found herself on a small piece of firm, rootbound soil, with the tops of bushes appearing below.
With fingers suddenly strengthened into the power of iron, she swung herself down by brier and broom and heather and dwarf-birch. There, a loosened stone leapt over a ledge; and no sound was heard, so profound was its fall. There, the shingle rattled down the screes, and she hesitated not to follow.
bounded against the huge stone that stopped them, but she felt no pain. Her body was as callous as the cliff.
As steep as the wall of a house was now the side of the precipice. But it was matted with ivy centuries old, long ago dead and without a single green leaf, but with thousands of arm-thick stems, petrified into the rock and covering it as with a trellis. She bound her baby to her neck, and with hands and feet clung to that fearful ladder.
Turning her head and looking down, lo! the whole population of the parish, so great was the multitude on their knees! And, hush! the voice of psalms! a hymn breathing the spirit of one united prayer! Sad and solemn was the strain, but nothing dirge-like breathing not death, but deliverance! An unseen hand seemed fastening her fingers to the ribs of ivy; and, in sudden inspiration, believing that her life was to be saved, she became almost as fearless as if she had been changed into a winged creature.
Again her feet touched stones and earth; the psalm was hushed; but a tremulous, sobbing voice was close beside her, and lo! a she-goat, with two little kids at her feet. "Wild heights," thought she, "do these creatures climb; but the dam will lead down her kids by the easiest paths, for oh, even in the brute creatures, what is the holy power of a mother's love!" and, turning round her head, she kissed her sleeping baby, and for the first time she wept.
Overhead frowned the front of the precipice, never before touched by human hand or foot. No one had ever dreamed of scaling it; and the golden eagles knew that well in their instinct, as, before they built their eyrie, they had brushed it with their wings. But all the rest of this part of the mountain side, though scarred and seamed and chasmed, was yet accessible; and more than one person had reached the bottom of the Glead's Cliff.
Many were now attempting it; and ere the cautious mother had followed her dumb guides a hundred yards, the head of one man appeared, and then the head of another; and she knew that God had delivered her and her child, in safety, into the care of their fellow-creatures.
Not a word was spoken -eyes said enough. She hushed her friends with her hands, and, with uplifted eyes, pointed to the guides sent to her by Heaven.
Small green plats where those creatures nibble the wild flowers became now more frequent; trodden lines, almost as easy as sheep-paths, showed that the dam had not led her young into danger. And now the brushwood dwindled away into straggling shrubs; and the party stood on a little eminence above the stream and forming a part of the strath.
There had been trouble and agitation, much sobbing and many tears, among the multitude, while the mother was scaling the cliffs: sublime was the shout
that echoed afar the moment she reached the eyrie; then had succeeded a silence deep as death; in a little while arose the hymning prayer, succeeded by mute supplication; the wildness of thankful joy next had sway; and now that her salvation was sure, the great crowd rustled like a storm-swept wood.
And for whose sake was all this alternation of agony? A poor, humble creature, unknown to many, even by name; one who had but few friends, nor wished for more; contented to work all day - here, there, anywhere that she might be able to support her aged mother and her little child, and who on Sabbath took her seat in an obscure pew, set apart for paupers, in the kirk.
Away up among the crags and forests of the Sierra, but below the snow-range at that season, there lay all day in the sunshine a very tranquil little lake. All around the lake were the steep sides of mountains, and at no point was there any visible outlet.
Streams of various sizes ran into it, and one of