Chapter 12 (continued)
EXTRACT FROM COOPER'S "PIONEERS,"
Volume I., Pages 105-109
"I have travelled the woods for
fifty-three years," said Leather-Stocking, "and have made
them my home for more than forty: and I can say that I have met but
one place that was more to my liking; and that was only to eyesight,
and not for hunting or fishing."
"And where was that?" asked Edwards.
"Where! why, up on the Catskills. I used
often to go up into the mountains after wolves' skins and bears; once
they brought me to get them a stuffed painter; and so I often went.
There's a place in them hills that I used to climb to when I wanted
to see the carryings on of the world, that would well pay any man for
a barked shin or a torn moccasin. You know the Catskills, lad, for
you must have seen them on your left, as you followed the river up
from York, looking as blue as a piece of clear sky, and holding the
clouds on their tops, as the smoke curls over the head of an Indian
chief at a council fire. Well, there's the High-peak and the
Round-top, which lay back, like a father and mother among their
children, seeing they are far above all the other hills. But the
place I mean is next to the river, where one of the ridges juts out a
little from the rest, and where the rocks fall for the best part of a
thousand feet so much up and down that a man standing on their edges
is fool enough to think he can jump from top to bottom."
"What see you when you get there ? "
"Creation ! " said Natty, dropping
the end of his rod into the water, and sweeping one hand around him
in a circle, " all creation, lad. I was on that hill when
Vaughan burnt Sopus, in the last war; and I seen the vessels come out
of the Highlands as plainly as I can see that lime-scow rowing into
the Susquehanna, though one was twenty times further from me than the
other. The river was in sight for seventy miles under my feet,
looking like a curled shaving, though it was eight long miles to its
banks. I saw the hills in the Hampshire grants, the high lands of the
river, and all that God had done or man could do, as far as the eye
could reach, - you know that the Indians named me for my sight, lad,
- and, from the flat on the top of that mountain, I have often found
the place where Albany stands; and, as for Sopus, the day the royal
troops burned the town the smoke seemed so nigh that I thought I
could hear the screeches of the women."
"It must have been worth the toil to meet
with such a glorious view."
"If being the best part of a mile in the
air, and having men's farms and houses at your feet, with rivers
looking like ribands, and mountains bigger than the 'Vision' seeming
to be haystacks of green grass under you, gives any satisfaction to a
man, I can recommend the spot. When I first came into the woods to
live, I used to have weak spells, and I felt lonesome ; and then I
would go to the Catskills and spend a few days on that hill, to look
at the ways of man; but it's now many a year since I felt any such
longings, and I'm getting too old for these rugged rocks. But there's
a place, a short two miles back of that very hill, that in late times
I relished better than the mountains; for it was more kivered by the
trees, and more nateral."
"And where was that ? " inquired
Edwards, whose curiosity was strongly excited by the simple
description of the hunter.
"Why, there's a fall in the hills, where
the water of two little ponds that lie near each other breaks out of
their bounds, and runs over the rocks into the valley. The stream is,
may be, such a one as would turn a mill, if so useless a thing was
wanted in the wilderness. But the hand that made that 'Leap' never
made a mill. There the water comes crooking and winding among the
rocks, first so slow that a trout could swim in it, and then starting
and running just like any creater that wanted to make a fair spring,
till it gets to where the mountain divides like the cleft hoof of a
deer, leaving a deep hollow for the brook to tumble into. The first
pitch is nigh two hundred feet, and the water looks like flakes of
driven snow afore it touches the bottom; and there the stream gathers
itself together again for a new start, and maybe flutters over fifty
feet of flat rock, before it falls for another hundred, when it jumps
about from shelf to shelf, first turning thisa-way and then turning
that-a-way, striving to get out of the hollow, till it finally comes
to the plain."
"I have never heard of this spot
before," exclaimed Edwards; "it is not mentioned in the books."
"I never read a book in my life,"
said Leather-Stocking; "and how should a man who has lived in
towns and schools know anything about the wonders of the woods ? No,
no, lad ; there has that little stream of water been playing among
them hills since He made the world, and not a dozen white men have
ever laid eyes upon it. The rock sweeps like mason-work, in a
half-round, on both sides of the fall, and shelves over the bottom
for fifty feet ; so that when I've been sitting at the foot of the
first pitch, and my hounds have run into the caverns behind the sheet
of water, they've looked no bigger than so many rabbits. To my
judgment, lad, it's the best piece of work that I've met with in the
woods; and none know how often the hand of God is seen in a
wilderness but them that rove it for a man's life."
"What becomes of the water? in which
direction does it run ? is it a tributary of the Delaware?"
"Anan ! " said Natty.
"Does the water run into the Delaware?"
"No, no: it's a drop for the old Hudson;
and a merry time it has till it gets down off the mountain. I've sat
on the shelving rock many a long hour, boy, and watched the bubbles
as they shot by me, and thought how long it would be before that very
water which seemed made for the wilderness would be under the bottom
of a vessel, and tossing in the salt sea. It is a spot to make a man
solemnize. You can see right down into the valley that lies to the
east of the High-peak, where, in the fall of the year, thousands of
acres of woods are before your eyes in the deep hollow and along the
side of the mountain, painted like ten thousand rainbows by no hand
of man, though not without the ordering of God's providence."
"Why, you are eloquent, Leather-
Stocking," exclaimed the youth.