Page images
PDF

THE PEASANT OF THE ALPS. 213

goat.” Here he drew the back of his hand across his eyes. “My father was lost in one of the deep fissures of a glacier, when I was but a boy. The accident did not deter me from pursuing the same occupation. I was very successful in the chase, and supported my family comfortably, though often at the price of excessive fatigue and danger. At twenty, I married a neighbor's daughter, whose modesty and good nature won my heart. We were blessed with several children, and passed our lives happily, till we were bereft of our eldest son, a promising youth, who, led by the love of military glory, enlisted as a soldier in the emperor's service, and was killed by a random shot at a siege. “My poor wife never held up her head afterwards, but gradually sunk into a declining state of health, which ended her life. My second boy, the father of these children, married a virtuous young woman, who was as affectionate to me, as if she had been my own. After my wife's death, they insisted on our living together; I once more had a prospect of being happy. “But alas, Sir!” continued the old man, “the pleasures of this life are liable to many interruptions. My. son had accompanied me to the chase from a youth; ardently fond of the pursuit, he was the boldest hunter of our village. He was accustomed to set out in the night, for the sake of reaching the most elevated pastures, where the goats feed, before they got there. After surveying the place with a glass, to enable him to discern his prey at a distance, if he was so fortunate as to perceive any, he would climb from crag to crag, till he got above it, then fix his carabine, and so successful was his aim, that he seldom missed. Having killed the chamois, he would throw it across his shoulders, and often, thus loaded, would he pass over the most frightful precipices, to feast us with the flesh. Every new enterprise rendered him more adventurous. With no other supply of food than a bit of cheese, and a piece of dry oaten bread, which he carried in a bag, would he often pursue the herds of chamois, to heights, that by most men would be thought inaccessible. “When two or three of these animals are feeding together, the difficulty of getting near them is increased ; for one of the flock takes his station as sentinel, on the top of some high rock, and gives notice, by a hissing noise, to his companions, of the approach of the hunter; then they bound with excessive swiftness among the glaciers, through the snows, and over the most dreadful precipices. “My poor son, regardless of danger, would follow wherever they led. Often did he pursue them over the deep snows, without considering the horrid chasms they conceal, and entangle himself amongst the most dangerous paths, and spring from rock to rock, without knowing how he was to return. He was as insensible to fatigue as to danger. How many miserable nights of expectation have his dear wife and I passed together, when his eagerness in the chase has detained him in one of these alarming enterprises. “When no longer able to pursue his game, from the obscurity of the night, he used to place himself at the

THE PEASANT OF THE ALPS. 215

foot of a rock, sometimes on the bare points of shattered fragments, without the smallest shelter. There, all alone, without fire, without light, with no other refreshment than the contents of his bag, he waited till morning, resting his weary head on a stone, and in broken slumbers, dreamed of the dangers he had encountered the preceding day. “Awakened by the freshness of the morning air, his limbs benumbed with cold, he would cheer himself with a drop of brandy, a necessary with which the hunters always provide themselves, and then renew the pursuit with fresh energy. Thus would he follow the bounding chamois, from day to day, till sometimes, we almost lost the hope of ever seeing him return. “One fatal day confirmed the truth of our fears; he missed his step on the brink of a precipice, and was found at the bottom, dashed to pieces. From that moment, I have looked upon these children as my own. They lost their mother in a fever, about two years ago, and have now no other protector but myself. I am too feeble to work, but I have a few cows, that assist to support us. The children sometimes collect crystals amongst the broken fragments of the rocks, which bring a little-money. “Our wants are few, and easily supplied. Janette, the eldest girl, who prepared our supper, manages our household affairs, and takes care of the dairy. She is affectionate and dutiful to me, and kind to the little ones. The eldest boy resembles his father, and will, I fear, have the same passion for the chase. He is now absent with a party of our neighbors, who are gone in quest of the marmot, a little animal that lies in a torpid state during the winter season, in holes that it has scooped out in the sides of the mountains.

“I have been conducted, by a kind Providence, through a long life, checkered by many disastrous events. There is now only one thing I have to desire, which is, to be permitted to see the elder ones grown up, sufficiently to be able to take care of their brothers and sisters. I shall then lay down my head in peace.”

The old man's story being concluded, they retired to rest; and in the morning, after recompensing the hospitality he had received, the traveller renewed his journey.

[graphic]

IDUTIES OF PUPILS. - THE LARK. 217

DUTIES OF PUPILS.

THE duties of pupils consist in docility and obedience, respect for their preceptors, zeal for study, and a thirst after the sciences, joined to an abhorrence of vice and irregularity, together with a fervent and sincere desire of pleasing God, and referring all their actions to him.

The exactness and severity of our teachers may displease sometimes, at an age, when we are not capable of judging of the obligations we owe them; but when years have ripened our understanding and judgment, we discern that their admonitions, reprimands, and a severe exactness in restraining the passions of an imprudent and inconsiderate age, are the things which should make us esteem and love them.

THE LARK AND HER YOUNG ONES.

AN old lark, who had a nest of young ones in a field of wheat, which was almost ripe, was not a little afraid the reapers would set to work, before her lovely brood were fledged enough to be able to remove from the place. One morning, therefore, before she took her flight, to seek for something to feed them with, “My dear little creatures,” said she, “be sure that in my absence you take the strictest notice of every word you hear, and do not fail to tell me of it, as soon as I come home again.”

Some time after she was gone, in came the owner of the field and his son. “Well, George,” said he, “I think this wheat is ripe enough to cut down; so tomorrow, mind ye, I would have you go as soon as you can see, and desire our friends and neighbors to come and help us, and tell them

« PreviousContinue »