« FöregåendeFortsätt »
A WISH FOR MY FRIEND.
BRight as heaven's starry brow;-
LETTERS FROM THE OLD DOMINION.
Staunton, Va., May 8, 1837.
As we employed Saturday last in accomplishing one great object of our visit to this place, that of visiting Weyer's Cave, which is in its neighborhood, and as the stage arrangements prevent our leaving here for the Natural Bridge before to-morrow, I am able to devote a few hours of to-day, my dear M*, to the fulfilment of the perhaps ill-advised promise of my last epistle. Indeed, I have almost repented of having made it: but as I have commenced, I suppose I must continue; and though to others I might owe an apology for the attempt, I feel secure in my reliance on your long tried friendship, for a good share of indulgence to these meagre descriptions and dull narrations of barren incidents.
Immediately on my arrival here, I found the value of that bond, by which a connection with one Alma Mater, so naturally unites her foster children. What you have seen and known of the pleasure exhibited by students, when in vacation they have chanced to meet at a distance from Yale, with their classmates and their college friends, will account to you for the gratification I felt, in meeting at this place with one who is not only a quondam Yalensian but a fellow Calliopean. Although it had been some years since he had left Yale, the affection retained for his college and especially for his society, secured to me a hearty welcome: and in asking and answering questions of the present and the past, at Yale, we spent many minutes with mutual interest and pleasure.
You will remember that in my last letter I expressed my intention of paying an early morning visit to Table Rock. Fortunately I awoke a few minutes before the rising of the sun; and, (as Milton describes him,) as he,
I reached the desired spot. It is this rock, on which tradition says that Jefferson stood some forty years ago and viewed, with delight, the wild beauty of the scene. The slab appeared to be about eight feet square, and from two feet and a half to three feet in thickness, resting on a pedestal of perhaps four feet in diameter, and inclined to the horizon at an angle of about twenty-five degrees. If this is really the spot from which Jefferson took his impressions of the scenery, there must have been great changes in the view since that time. From here one could hardly obtain a glimpse of the Potomac, though it may have been otherwise before the erection of houses and bridges, and the growth of the trees had intercepted the view. When Jefferson saw it, too, man had probably done little towards violating the sanctity of the place—a place which should have been ever left inviolably sacred to nature alone. You have probably heard of the U. S. works at Harper's Ferry, for the manufacture of fire arms. On the Potomac are the manufactories of the common muskets used by our militia: on the Shenandoah, about a mile and a half from the ferry, are manufactured the patent rifles. The latter works we visited and witnessed the process of making the rifles in all its minutiae. The completion of a single gun requires nearly three hundred operations, which by a division of labor, are performed by nearly as many hands. We were told that about twenty thousand rifles are made here in a year, at an expense of from ten to fifteen dollars each. Though all the operations were highly interesting, I was especially struck with the ingenious contrivances for procuring exactness in the size of the several parts of the gun; as they are all so accurately fitted to the same model that if any part of one gun should be lost or destroyed, its place could be supplied by the like part of any other from the same manufactory. As we knew of no other objects of particular interest at the ferry, we left there on Wednesday asternoon for Winchester, thirty-two miles distant, by rail road. Leaving that city at four P. M. on the ensuing morning, after a rather fatiguing ride of nearly one hundred miles by the stage coach, we arrived at this WOL. II. 41
pleasant little town on Friday afternoon last, nothing loth to enjoy the repose and comfort offered us at Mr. McClung's excellent hotel. The valley of the Shenandoah, through which our route lay, is one samed for its beauty and fertility. It derives its name from the river which flows through it, and is walled in on the one side by the Blue Ridge and on the other by the Alleghanies. The roads, though now in a better state than they have been for months, confirmed with us their previous reputation for roughness and difficulty: but the badness of the road was a hundred-fold compensated by the beauty and magnificence of the mountain scenery which was continually brought to view. Being desirous of having the whole day before us, for exploring the Cave and its vicinity, our conveyance was ordered at an early hour on Saturday morning. The Cave is about seventeen miles from Staunton, and after a pleasant ride of three hours and a half, we arrived at the house of the guide, in its neighborhood. Having breakfasted there, we started with him for the Cave, which is nearly half a mile from his house. We passed the entrance of Madison's Cave, which is in the same mountain, a couple of hundred yards this side of Weyer's, but is now little visited, as it is far inferior in beauty and extent to its successful rival. These caves, as well as one or two others lately opened and partially explored, are entered from the eastern side of a rather steep mountain, running parallel to the Blue Ridge and within two miles of it. The Cave was discovered some time since by a hunter whose name it still bears, in a chase after a ground hog, which not only had succeeded in escaping from him, but had carried off the traps that Weyer had set for his capture. The entrance and Ante-Chamber of this wonderful cavern do not promise you on their first appearance much gratification from your subterraneous journey. Being heated by the exercise of ascending the hill, we were obliged to wait for some time at the door of the Cave, before venturing into its cool depths, which retain throughout summer and winter the usual temperature of the earth, about fifty-six degrees. In the Ante-Chamber, which is about ten feet in height, though soon contracting to a passage of four feet square, the guide placed into each of our hands a shaded candle, and bade us follow him. As our eyes had not yet become accustomed to the change from the bright day light without, to the feeble glimmering of our candles within, our apprehension may be supposed to have been not inconsiderable, as we now groped our way, and now slipped along the muddy path which led us into this place of unknown wonders. We were not obliged to continue very long our stooping position, as we soon reached the first room of the cavern, to which had been given the name of the Dragon's Room, from a fancied resemblance of an uncouth mass of stalagmite to that fabulous animal. From this we pursued a long but narrow passage of about sixty feet in length till we came to a flight of stairs that led us down about thir
teen feet into “Solomon's Temple.” In this room, which is one of the most beautiful in the Cave, we were filled with admiration at the brilliancy of the incrustations and stalactites, which in some parts sparkled beautifully in the reflection of the light of our candles. Opposite to us on entering, we observed an elevated recess, which has been appropriately called “Solomon's Throne,” a seat not unworthy of that grandest of monarchs. A large white stalactite in the eastern part of the room, has received the name of Solomon's Pillar; and an opening in the limestone has been called Solomon's Meat House. On the right of the steps is a very remarkable mass, that closely resembles the appearance of a body of water frozen during its descent from a precipice, and which is named “the Falls of Niagara.” From this room, by a flight of steps opposite to that which we had descended, we ascended to an entry of fisty feet in length, that conducted us to Barney’s Hall, so named from a pillar which has been honored with the title of the gallant Commodore. On the left of this room are two recesses, one of which, the Armory, we did not enter, and the other contains a reservoir of water that has dropped from the roof, and trickled down the sides of the Cave. We had thence to creep through a low and narrow aperture into a passage of more comfortable height communicating with the Banister Room, a kind of gallery in which the stalactites resemble banisters. From this we descended nearly forty feet into the Tan Yard, which contains many objects of interest. The depressions in the floor bear some resemblance to tan vats, and the stalactites which hang from the roof of the cavern are by no means unlike the hides of some large cattle. The next apartment to this is the Drum Room... Our guide here took his stand near what appeared to be a perpendicular wall of rock, and with his heel performed the part of a bass drummer to great advantage. The deep, mellow tones reverberating through the cavern, produced a grand effect. That which seemed a wall is only a thin partition of stalactite reaching from the ceiling to the floor. From here, having first ascended and then descended a few feet, we passed into the renowned Ball Room. This room is one hundred feet in length, thirty six feet wide and about twenty five feet in height. The chief interest of the room is due to its size and the levelness of its floor, which enables parties of visitors in the summer to enjoy a subterranean dance. An additional convenience for this amusement is found in the Ladies' Dressing Room, which though small answers very well for its purpose. By a long and contracted entry, called the Narrow Passage, we were led to Jacob's Ladder, a series of indentations in the rock, said to be natural, and about twelve feet in height. Descending the ladder, we sound Jacob's Tea Table and his Ice House !! and by another descent of the same distance, entered the Dungeon. From this, creeping through an aperture no larger than that at the entrance of the Cave, we arrived at the Senate Chamber. Here a large table of thin rock, extending over half the room, about ten feet from the floor, forms the Gallery. The next room, which has probably derived its name merely from its proximity to the last, is Congress Hall. This room, though large, cannot compare with the apartment we next entered, called Washington's Hall. This magnificent room is two hundred and fifty feet in length, though not more than twenty in width. Our guide left us as we entered it, and desired us to wait till he returned. He then walked leisurely to its farthest extremity, so as to give us some idea of its length, in aid of which the dim twinkling of his candle in the distance materially contributed. According to custom, as I supposed, he then struck up some patriotic tune, which he continued to sing till we were heartily tired of waiting, and had become very impatient for his return. Near the center of the room there stands a calcareous mass, which at some distance may be readily imagined to be a statue of the Father of his country; though a nearer view, whilst passing it, destroys all its effect. We passed through some other rooms of little interest into the Church, the loftiest apartment that we had entered. Its length is more than half that of Washington's Hall, its breadth from ten to fifteen feet, and its height fifty feet. Its name is probably derived from a dark cavity in the roof of the Cave, which from so much of its form as was visible might best be compared to the interior of a steeple. Its effect was very grand, for our lights failed to illuminate the sides of the steeple, except for a short distance; and imagination had full scope for an indefinite extension of the dark recess. In this room there is also a Gallery, somewhat similar to that in the Senate Chamber; and behind it, visible from below, hang some large stalactites, very closely resembling the pipes of an organ. As these formations are for the most part hollow, and of every variety of size, a little care in the selection of the pipes on which to strike, enables the guide to produce a pleasing and harmonical succession of musical sounds. Indeed, in the hands of an ingenious and skillful musician, we believe that this natural organ might prove a most delightful instrument. We then entered a room where was one of the most elegant formations that we had seen. It resembled a collection of folds of drapery, between which our guide interposed his candle, and then exhibited to us their translucency. Passing the Giant's Causeway, we came into the Wilderness, thickly strewed with broken pillars, whose origin it seems disficult to determine. At a considerable height from this room, we observed on a ledge of rocks a number of very remarkable stalagmites, of which one group is called Bonaparte with his body-guard, crossing the Alps. This room, or rather passage, which though narrow is nearly one hundred feet in height, conducts into Jefferson's Hall, the last apartment of the Cave. Near its entrance is a most magnificent stalactitic mass, apparently solid,