Behemoth: A Legend...
(NYC: J. & H. J. Langley, 1839)
B E H E M O T H:
THE MOUND - BUILDERS.
N E W - Y O R K:
J. &. H. G. L A N G L E Y.
B O S T O N:
WEEKS, JORDAN & CO.
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THE author solicits the attention of his countrymen to the following work. He ventures to do so for reasons which seem to him a sufficient justification of his present labors. His main design was to make those gigantic relics, which are found scattered throughout this country, subservient to the purposes of imagination. He has, therefore, dared to evoke this Mighty Creature from the earth and striven to endow it with life and motion. Simultaneous and co-eval with this the great race that preceded the red men as the possessors of our continent, have been called into being. With whatever success the author may have accomplished this portion of his task, the venerable race which struggled and endured in
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these fair fields, ere they became our home and dwelling place, must be allowed to awaken our feelings and share our generous regards. In describing the Mound-builders no effort has been made to paint their costume, their modes of life or their system of government. They are presented to the reader almost exclusively under a single aspect, and under the influence of a single emotion. It matters not to us whether they dwelt under a monarchical or popular form of polity; whether king or council ruled their realms; nor, in fine, what was their exact outward condition. It is enough for us to know, and enough for our humanity to inquire, that they existed, toiled, felt and suffered; that to them fell, in these pleasant regions, their portion of the common heritage of our race, and that around those ancient hearth-stones, washed to light on the banks of the far western rivers, once gossiped and enjoyed life, a nation that has utterly faded away. We are moved deeply in looking upon their mortuary remains -- those disinterred and stately skeletons -- for we know that they once
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were men, and moved among men with hearts full of human impulses, and heads warm with mortal schemes and fancies. Of this, History could make us no surer. Over the earth where they repose, purple flowers spring up, and with the brilliancy of their hues, and the sweetness of their breath, give a splendor and fragrance to the air. This touches him as deeply, the author must confess, and seems to his untravelled eyes as beautiful as any thing he can read of Athens, of cloudless Italy, or the sunny France. Humanity and nature are all with which the heart wishes to deal, and we have them here in their naked outlines and grandeur. There is enough here for author and reader if they be of strong minds and true hearts. A green forest or a swelling mound is to them as glorious as a Grecian temple; and they are so simple as to be well nigh as much affected by the sight of a proud old oak in decay near at home, as by the story of a baronial castle tottering to its fall three thousand miles off.
The author is aware of the difficulty and magnitude of his undertaking. He knows as well as
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any one can know, the obstacles to vanquish and remove; and he also knows the obstacles that will not be vanquished nor removed. Notwithstanding all this he feels assured, if he has contended in any degree successfully with the greatness and majesty of the subject, he will have accomplished some slight service for the literature of his country, and something, he ventures to hope, for his own good name.
New-York, January, 1839.
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UPON the summit of a mountain which beetled in the remote west over the dwellings and defences of a race long since vanished, stood, at the close of a midsummer's day, a gigantic shape whose vastness darkened the whole vale beneath. The sunset purpled the mountain-top, and crimsoned with its deep, gorgeous tints the broad occident; and as the huge figure leaned against it, it seemed like a mighty image cut from the solid peak itself, and framed against the sky. Below in a thousand groups were gathered, in their wonted evening worship, that strange people who have left upon our hills and prairies so many monuments of their power, and who yet, by some mighty accident, have taken the trumpet out of the hand of Fame, and closed for ever, as regards their historical and domestic character, the
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busy lips of tradition. Still we can gather vaguely, that the Mound-builders accomplished a career in the West, corresponding, though less magnificent and imposing, with that which the Greeks and Romans accomplished in what is styled by courtesy the Old World. The hour has been when our own West was thronged with empires.
Over that Archipelago of nations the Dead Sea of Time has swept obliviously, and subsiding, hath left their graves only the greener for a new people in the present age to build their homes thereon. But at the time whereof we write, living thousands and ten thousands of these ancient denizens were paying their homage to their deity, and as they turned their eyes in unison, to bid their customary solemn adieu to the departing sun, they beheld the huge shape of which we have spoken. The first feeling which arose in their bosoms as they looked upon the vision was, that this was some monstrous prodigy exhibited by the powers of the air or the powers of darkness to astonish and awe them. But as they gazed they soon learned that it had a fixed and symmetrical form, and possessed the faculty of life.
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When they discovered that the huge apparition was animate indeed, a new terror sprang up in their soul. They gathered about their mounds, their places of worship, and on the plain, in various and fearful groups.
In one spot were collected a company of priests and sages, the learned and prophetic of the race, who with intent eyes watched the mighty spectre; and to gain a clearer conception of its proportions, scanned its broad and far-cast shadow and marked the altitude of the sun. Each one searched his thoughts for some knowledge applicable to the sudden and vast appearance.
Not far from this group was drawn together a score of women, who still retained their devotional posture and aspect, but yet casting side-long and timid glances towards each other's countenances as if hoping to discover there, an interpretation of the spectacle. Children clung to their garments and looking up piteously, seemed to ask "if that was not the God whom they were taught to fear and worship?" Each moment the awe increased and spread; from lip to lip the story ran across the plain and through the walled villages until the
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spectre embraced in its fearful dominion a circuit of many leagues.
Each moment conjecture grew more rife and question more anxious and frequent.
In the opinion of many of the wisest -- for even from their souls superstitious misgivings were not wholly banished -- the apparition which crowned the mountain was the Deity of the nation, who had chosen to assume this form as the most expressive of infinite power and terrific majesty.
Other nobler spirits, and who drew their knowledge rather from the intellect than the feelings, believed it was the reappearance of a great brute which, by its singular strength, in an age long past and dimly remembered, had wasted the fields of their fathers and made desolate their ancient dwellings.
A tradition still lingered among them, that of that giant race, which had been swept from the earth by some fearful catastrophe, one still lived and might, from a remote and obscure lair, once more come forth, to shake the hills with his trampling, and with the shadow of his coming darken the households of nations.
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In the more thoughtful minds of these theorists the vivid and traditionary descriptions of the mighty herd of brutes which had once tyrannized over the earth, had left an impression deep, abiding and darkly colored. The memories of their progenitors had handed them down as a Titanic tribe of beings who, in their day, excited a terror which kindled human fear, and with it, the best growth of fear, human ingenuity. They remembered that in that distant age, as the history ran, a new and majestic race of heroes, moulded of Nature's noblest clay, had sprung into life to battle with and finally vanquish these brute oppressors of their country.
Day faded fast. Its last streaks died away in the West and yet the solemn shape stood there in its vast, unmoving stillness. And still the people retained their postures of wonder and fear, while in hushed voices they spoke of the occupant of the mountain. Gray, cold twilight at length cast its mantle upon the vision, and they scattered in anxious parties towards their homes. But with them they bore the image of the huge visitant. They could not shake it from them.
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A general and deep awe had fallen on the multitude, and even when they sought their slumbers that giant shape passed before their sealed lids in a thousand forms, assuming as many attitudes of assault and defence; for from the first, by a strange instinct, they had looked upon it as their foe. To watch its movements, for it could be yet seen, in the clear distinctness of its immense stature, calm, majestic, silent; to sound the alarm; if need be to meet it face to face, should it descend from its pinnacle, the chieftains of the Mound-builders thought fit to station armed sentries at various corners of the streets and high-ways of their towns and cities, on the walls of their fortresses, and as a more commanding position, on the summit of their mounds and in the square, stone observatories which crowned a portion of them.
The relics of the fortresses and observatories that night manned by the sentinels of that peculiar people, still stand and moulder on the soil of the far west. They are constructed on principles of military science now lost or inexplicable. (1)
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But, whatever the code of tactics on which they were fashioned, we cannot but admire, in the midst of our conjectures, their peculiar symmetry, their number and their duration. Parallel with the foundations of Rome these walls went up, far back in the calendar of time, and time-defying, they seem destined to pass down, as far from the present into a misty and pregnant future, as the actual history of a populous and mighty race. Like the lost decades of Livy, some passages are wanting to their completeness, but in what stands we may read the power, the strength, the decay, and the downfall of our own American ancients. They were men of war and those ramparts first built against a human enemy were now occupied to keep at bay a new and untried foe. From time to time, along the line of guardsmen went the watchword; the sentries of different posts occasionally whispering to each other that the apparition was still visible on the mountain. Not a few, overwearied with their fears, slumbered.
The middle watch of the night had come. The air was dark and still. Not a breath nor voice broke the universal quiet: when, clear and sharp, there fell upon the ears of the sleeping populace, a sound like the crash of sudden thunder.
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The earth shook as if trodden by heavy footsteps, and through the air came a noise like the rushing of some mighty bulk in violence and haste. Ponderous hoofs trampled the earth and drew nigh. It was he -- the traditionary brute -- Behemoth -- and before his irresistible force fell whatever strove to gainsay his advance. The whole region trembled as when a vast body of waters bursts its way and rolls over the earth, ocean-like, wave shouting to wave, and all crowding onward with thunderous tumult. In vain was the solid breast-work; the piled wall was in vain; in vain the armed and watchful sentry. Like some stupendous engine of war, he bore down on them, rendering human strength a mockery and human defences worse than useless, for as wall, bastion and tower fell, they redoubled death and ruin on their builders. With a speed of which no common celerity can give us a conception he swept through the towns and villages, the tilled fields and pleasure gardens of the Mound-builders -- desolating and desolate -- none daring to stand before his feet thus dreadfully advanced.
The trepidation of the day grew an hundred-fold; from the dark, dim light which the stars forced through the drifting and solid clouds, they could but guess vaguely at his bulk, yet out of their fears and the darkness they wrought an awful image of vastness and strength.
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Night banded with the monster, and terror walked in their train.
The morning dawned, and its light fell upon the face of an early wakened and fear stricken people. On every countenance was graven the clear and visible imprint of terror; but the expression was by no means that of ordinary alarm, such as is engendered by siege, or battle or death; nor did it stamp the countenance with the characters of a daily and familiar fear.
A dread which changed the whole aspect, such as distorts the features and takes from them their old, household look, was upon all. In the consternation and imbecility of the moment messengers were speeded forth and hurried to and fro through the many villages of the Mound-builders bearing tidings to which as answer, they received -- the same tidings in return! The visitation had been universal; in each one of their five thousand villages were left like marks of brute ravage and strength! (2)
Behemoth had been with them all; and his large footsteps were traced wide over the plain until they broke off abruptly at its extreme bounds, and wheeled heavily into the mountains. When their dismay had subsided from its first flood-tide, they began to compare observations and consult with each other. The memories of most were
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bewildered in endeavoring to recall the occurrences of the past night; but from what with their confused faculties, they could grasp, they were well assured that the whole circuit of desolation had been accomplished within the passage of a single hour. And now the time was come for them to look forth and measure that desolation -- to what side shall they first turn? Everywhere is some monument of that irresistible power. In one brief hour he has overthrown what Time, with his centuries, could not touch. There at the track of his first foot-prints is a crushed wall -- driven through by some powerful, and to them as yet unknown, weapon of strength, which has left its dints upon the shattered fragments. Massive portions of it have fallen to powder beneath his weight. Across the path which he seems to have chosen out to stalk in rude triumph, through the very heart of their dwellings, lies a dead guardsman whom his might must have first dashed to the earth by some other unconjectured instrument of power, and then trampled upon, for at every pore the blood issues in torrents. Against a dwelling -- pinned to its wall -- is the corpse of a second sentinel which seems to have been hurled with
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scorn by the brute invader into its present abiding-place. On the threshold of her own home lies a mother with her child closely clinging to her neck, its little lips pressed to its parent's -- both smitten into death by a single blow.
Look forth from this narrow scene and read the map of a broader ruin -- the traces of a more fearful mastery! Yon mound, consecrated by the entombed dust of a generation of sages and heroes is embowelled, and its holy ashes laid open to the vulgar air and the strumpet wind. And yon gardens, once the resort of blooming beauty and gentle childhood -- its walls strew the ground and its flowers, broken and withered, are sunken by the massy weight which has spoiled them, deep into the earth. And lo! that trodden and miry field, shut in by the standing fragments of two oblong walls -- yesterday morn it was a fair greensward where strength wrestled kindly with strength and age looked on approvingly. In another quarter behold a tall tower of stone is cast down before the same incomprehensible might! The enclosure which surrounded and guarded it is battered to the earth, and about it is collected at this morning hour not a few of the chiefs of the Mound-builders, deeply lamenting the
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overthrow of so scientific and regular a muniment. Sad words pass from each to each and they look despondingly into each other's faces, and find no hope, but rather a triumphant despair. From among the group which hung thus powerless and complaining over the shattered battlement boldly stood forth Bokulla, the most fearless and energetic chieftain of the nation.
Bokulla was a man of singular and prompt courage, of great earnestness of purpose and energy of character; yet modest and unobtrusive.
In every enterprise he kept himself aloof until the resources of all his co-laborers were exhausted, and then when all eyes were turned towards him as the last star of hope, he sprang with alacrity to the front, prepared to match the emergency with some new and vigorous suggestion. Bokulla was a philosopher no less than a soldier; not artificially framed by filling his mind with learned apothegms and pithy instances, but with a philosophy which was the growth of a meditative spirit that looked into all things and gathered wisdom from most. He possessed, nevertheless, a thoroughly martial and energetic mind, and found in every path of life, some accessory valuable to strengthen and adorn that character. Unlike,
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however, the majority of professed militants, he rarely exhibited the gay buoyancy which is so generally considered in them, an essential. On the contrary, even in the maddest onset and in the high flush of triumph his brow was saddened, ofttimes with a passing cloud of gloom; the mark which distinguishes too often those who are born to be the leaders and benefactors of their race.
The mind of Bokulla partook of another peculiarity in common with many men of masterly genius. Whenever defeated or foiled in any attempt, his heart would be plunged for a moment in the deepest and most torturing despair -- but only for the moment -- and then reassuming its lofty strength like an eagle unchained or slipped from its darkened cage, his soul would spring into the clear, broad sunshine of its former condition.
Such was Bokulla, and when those grouped around him had each offered his several remark, and they had mutually mourned over the present desolation, he stood forth from their midst and said, "Men! the day is spent with repining, and the night comes, and with it, perchance, our dread Enemy. Let us rebuild the wall and show at least that we can oppose our old strength to
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his inroads. He has but the instinct of a brute, we have the reason of men. Let him not, he cried, "let him not find us, for our soul's sake, let him not find us greater cravens than yesternight!"
With these words and with the consent of the chieftains who stood about him, he ordered the rebuilding of the rampart, and the erection of an inner one to flank it. Before the passages which had been previously left free of egress and ingress, he directed the construction of short and solid walls which should suffice to arrest access if made in full front, leaving however side-passages between the extremities of the main and those of the newly erected ramparts. Under the authoritative and cheering voice of Bokulla, the building-tool and the trenching-iron ply busily. Parties of laborers hurry from quarter to quarter of the work, and something like a manly and worthy spirit seems again to fire their bosoms and lighten their toil. While some gather together the broken portions of earth and remould them to their purpose, others bring from the distance new supplies, and still others quarry and shape the stone to crown their summits. Under his quick and commanding
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eye the tower of observation goes up and its defences are restored.
But, while Bokulla and his aids build up the strong wall to guard the living -- is there no duty and service due to the dead? There is; and under other guidance the manly forms, which were laid in the recent encounter, are stretched for their last repose.
Devoted hands compose their discolored limbs and bathe them with embalming drugs, while their kindred, those nearest and dearest in life, collect -- to accompany them in this their last journey, whatever can consecrate or dignify their sepulcher. (3)Those who have fallen fell in the defence of the nation, and are therefore worthy of the nation's honors. Let them be buried then as becomes heroes of the Mound-builders -- bearing away with them into the Unknown Land tokens of merit and badges of high desert. Their bodies are swathed in fine raiment -- at their right hand are placed the weapons of war, grasping which they fell; at their sides are arrayed mirrors of glass or metal (according to their rank) in which they were wont to look for the reflection of their own martial features when set for the stern service of war. At their heads are disposed the
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helms which covered them in the day of battle, and on their now pulseless breasts lie polished pieces of copper in the form of the cross. (4)
Can it be possible that those antique warriors were Christian men? That, among them, they thus cherished trophies of the Crucifixion, and upheld the ark of that reverend creed? Or at least some stray fragments of the holy structure obscurely delivered over to them by paternal or patriarchal hands? I know not, but this is the language which their discovered relics speak to us of the present generation.
Slowly from each dead hero's dwelling winds forth the solemn procession with its weeping troop and its religious mourners. Gathering at a central spot they unite into one body, and thus collected, take their way towards the funeral mounds. Attendants send forth from marble instruments, shaped like crescents and highly polished, a slow and mournful music. (5) Beside the bier of each fallen soldier walks his wife and children, while at its head marches solemnly the priest who, in life was his spiritual father.
Winding through the villages -- over the meadows -- and along the stream-side, they reach the bank right opposite the mounds in which the dead
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are to find their final slumber. Descending into the limpid and shallow stream the bearers gently dip each corpse beneath the waters -- thus purifying it by a natural sort of baptism from every earthly grossness, and then they resume their way -- all following with bared ankles through the placid rivulet. At length they reach the sacred mound. At its side, toward the East, the earth is removed, and, turning their faces to the sun, while the marble breathes forth a higher strain, the bearers of the dead enter the hollowed mound.
As they enter, the throng chant together a simple ballad, reciting the virtues and the valor of the departed, and, at its close recommending them to the Giver of life and the God of the seasons. The bier bearers place the mortal remains of the heroes whom they have borne within the cavity, upon the earth with their faces upwards, their feet pointing to the North-east (perhaps the home of their progenitors) and their heads toward the more genial South-west.
Thus were the common soldiers, among those who had fallen buried: but one of that number -- he who had been captain of the guard, and a man of note among the people, received separate and more especial rites.
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His remains were borne apart to a distinct mound and there -- when they were laid out with the honors of a chief who had lost his life in battle, martial music breathing from the instruments, and the whole multitude joining in a chant commemorative (like those recited over the common soldier) of his valor and character -- they proceeded to burn his body and gather his ashes into their separate tomb. They then closed the mouths of all the mounds, and when the priests had offered a prayer for the peaceful repose of their dust, the multitude turned toward their homes.
All was hushed and silent save the gentle tread of the homeward tending people. The mourning relatives of the dead had lulled into a temporary calm their troublous feelings, and wept with composure. The spirit of peace was over all. Suddenly a shrill voice was heard to cry, "He comes!" "He comes!" It proceeded from a child, who, unobserved, had climbed to the upper window of one of the stone observatories. The multitude were arrested by the voice, and turning to the quarter from which it issued, saw the finger of the alarmist pointing to a body of woods which lay a short distance West from the path which they
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were taking to their homes. As at the bidding of a god the whole multitude with one accord swerved round and gazed toward the forest, and there they beheld -- Behemoth. Fixed in an attitude of astonishment and dread, they stood gazing and still gazing upon the spectacle -- a boundless and motionless gallery of faces. It was near the sunset. Overhead in its level light, a gray bald eagle, just flown from its neighboring eyrie, hung poised in wonder, as if turned to stone by the novel sight of so vast a creature. In its motionless suspension it seemed as if sculptured from the air while its wings were gilded, like some remains of the old statuaries, by the golden touch of the sun.
Visible above the woods, moving heavily through the sea of green leaves, like leviathan in the deep, appeared the dark and prodigious form of the Mastodon: an awful ridge rolling like a billow, along the tops of the pine and cedar which grew beneath him. The boundless bulk moved through the trembling verdure, like an island which, in some convulsion of nature, shifts itself along the surface of the sea. The forest shook as he advanced, while its scared and barbarous denizens, the prairie wolf, the gopher and the panther,
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skulked silently away. As yet his whole mighty frame was not visible. Even amid the trepidation and fear of the Mound-builders a curiosity sprang up to behold the sum of his vast proportions: to see at once before them and near at hand the actual dimensions of that shape whose shadowy outlines had, when first seen, wrought in them effects so boundless and disastrous.
Occasionally as the Mastodon glided along, a green tree-top wavered for a moment in the wind, leaned forward into the air -- and fell to the earth as if pushed from its hold by the chance-exerted strength of the great brute. Again, they heard a crash, and a giant oak which had just now lorded it over its fellows was snapped from its stem and cast far forth over the tops of the forest. His very breath stirred the leaves till they trembled, and every step of his march denoted, by some natural appearance, the possession of monstrous and fearful power.
After stalking through a large tract of woodland without allowing any greater portion of his bulk to become apparent, he wheeled through the forest and descending into a wooded valley disappeared, each step reverberating along the earth with a deep and hollow sound.
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It was a long time ere the Mound-builders resumed their old, homeward progress, and when they did it was with alarmed and cheerless spirits. The awe of the great shadow was upon them. Now more than ever they felt the folly of gainsaying or attempting to withstand a Power which shrouded itself in a form so vast and inaccessible.
From that day forth a gloom settled upon the minds of the Mound-builders -- deep, rayless and full of fearful omens; for though personal energy may rescue individuals from that desperate condition, it is a hopeless and a dreadful thing when nations become the victims of despair. All the mighty wheels of life are stopped; all the channels through which the soul of the people once coursed are now closed, and, in most cases, closed for ever. The arteries through which the life-blood once gushed are deadened, and the warm current is arrested as if the winter had descended upon it in its very spring-tide. The Mound-builders were now fallen into that sad estate. Neither the spirit-stirring voice of Bokulla; nor the trump of war; nor the memory of their fathers' fields of their fathers' valor, could awaken them to a sense of what was due to their manhood or their duty.
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The Mastodon seemed resolved to preserve the spell by an almost perpetual presence. Day after day in the same gray twilight did Behemoth cast his shadow from the summit of some near elevation; and midnight after midnight, at the same cold and sullen hour, did he descend and force his huge bulk through the villages of the Mound-builders: breaking their walls in pieces, rending their dwellings, disclosing their mounds and despoiling their pleasure gardens from end to end. He had become the spectral visitant of the nation; -- the monstrous and inexorable tyrant who, apparently gliding from the land of shadows, presented himself eternally to them, the destroyer of their race. He seemed, in these terrible incursions, to be fired with a mighty revenge for some unforgiven injury inflicted on his dead and extinct tribe by the human family. In the calm and solemn quiet of night, when fretted labor sought repose and anxious thought craved slumber, he burst down from the mountains like thunder and bade them -- "Sleep no more!"
The internal and external influence of an harassment like this could not be otherwise than large and disastrous, First came the dire change in the mind itself:
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when this terrible shadow glided among its quiet emotions, its familiar habits, and its household and national thoughts. All objects that had hitherto occupied a place in the mind of the people now assumed a new color and complexion as this portent fell upon them, in the same manner as every thing in nature catches a portion of the gloom of twilight when it suddenly approaches. No angle of the wide realm of the Mound-builders escaped from the darkness of fear, and every where the fountains of social life became stagnant and ceased to issue in healthy currents, like streams that are silent and still when light has departed from their surface.
The voice of joy died away into a timid and feeble smiling; proud and stately ambition fell humbled to the earth, and love and beauty trembled and fled before the gloomy shadow of the general adversary. Men shunned each other as if from a consciousness of their abasement, and skulked away from the face of day, unwilling that the heavens should look in upon their desolation and shame.
Some abandoned their homes and took refuge in cliffs and inaccessible preferring poverty and exposure to wind and tempest and hostile weather, rather than encounter with a foe so dreadful and triumphant. precipices;
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The great mass however lingered in their customary dwellings: but so thoroughly was every motive to action numbed and paralyzed, they neglected to repair the roof that had fallen, the beam that had decayed, or the foundation that had yielded to the summer's rain, and innumerable buildings throughout the whole realm tumbled into ruin, and many that stood on the borders of rivers, undermined by the motion of their currents, tottered and fell into the stream, while their terror-stricken inmates, in many cases, perished without a struggle.
The ordinary occupations and duties of life were performed with feeble hands and vague thoughts, or entirely deserted.
This mighty and puissant nation, whose strength was that of a giant and whose glory rivalled the sun, was stricken by terror into a feeble and child-like old age. All its proportions were diminished; its heart was shrunk, and it dragged on a slothful and decrepit existence amid the cold and monumental ruins of what had once been its beautiful domain and its house of honor and joy.
That salient and almost motiveless energy which drives a nation on through toils, battles and discomfitures, to prosperity and triumph: that hazardous and all venturous daring which pushes doubt aside, and which, while it questions nothing strives at every thing, was utterly departed.
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From the silence and quiet of his studied retirement, Bokulla beheld the shadow as it slowly and fearfully crossed the national mind; from the first he saw the change which was coming over it, and knew that human wisdom was too weak to arrest or avert it, unless the great first cause could be removed. And yet, while others yielded thus submissively to a meek despair, he, keeping himself invisible to the general eye, tasked his bold and liberal mind for some remedy for the evil. In the calm and dead quiet of his private chamber he sat from day to day brooding over plans and enterprises whereby to rescue the nation.
Bokulla entertained a deep founded confidence in the human character. Himself equipped with an indomitable will and faculties stout and resolute as iron, he was assured that by similar qualities the nation was to be redeemed from thraldom.
Amidst a thousand changes of nature man had endured: mountains had been cleft asunder; seas had leaped upon continents and marched triumphantly over every barrier and obstacle; great orbs had been extinguished, like tapers of an evening, in the skies; yet man stood steadfast amid the shock and the mutation. Along the bleak coasts of inhospitable time he had voyaged in a secure and upright vessel;
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on this ridge of earth he still stood while the visible universe passed through changes of season, through increase or diminution of splendors, and through worlds created or worlds destroyed.
Was man, who thus out-lasted seas, and stars, and mountains, to be crushed at last by mere brutal enginery and corporal strength?
Reflections like these wrought the mind of Bokulla to a condition of fearless and manly daring, and he brought his whole soul to the labor of discovering or contriving the means of triumph or resistance. It may well be supposed that tower as his thought might, it strove in vain to over-top the stature or master the bulk of the Mastodon: what were fosses, and bastions and battlements to him that moved like a mountain against opposition.
No wall could shut him out: seas might interpose in vain to cut off his fearful pursuit of a fugitive people. Resting or in motion that terrible and far-reaching strength would overtake them and accomplish its purposes of desolation and ruin.
With this stupendous and inevitable image the whole might of Bokulla's soul wrestled for a long time. An untiring invention that kept steadily on the wing started suggestion on suggestion, but all unequal to the mighty necessity of the occasion.
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He gathered facts on which to build the fabric of opposition huge enough to counter-vail a superhuman force, but they tottered and fell to the earth before the ideal presence of Behemoth. He surveyed mountains and in imagination linked them together with wide arches and empyreal bridges; and compassed the people round about with rock built circumvallations and ramparts of insurmountable altitude and strength. But it would have required ages to complete the defences suggested by a swift imagination which would have been equal to their object; and others which great labor might have more readily erected, would have been swept away in a single night by the barbaric invader.
When this conclusion forced itself upon him, Bokulla felt, for a moment, the pangs of a hopeless and overwhelming despair. A midnight darkness came over his mind, and it was for a time as if the sun and the heavens were obliterated from his view, and as if he were doomed to travel henceforth a gloomy turnpike where all was sorrow, and wailing, and terror without end. But the light gradually broke in upon his soul, and his palsied faculties began to awaken and cast off the slumber and the delusion.
28 B E H E M O T H.
His reflections, it is true, had taught him that his countrymen could act in defence against their vast oppressor with but frail chance of success. He was satisfied that a weight and bulk as monstrous as that of Behemoth would burst their way by their mere impetuous motion through any barrier or redoubt they might erect. There was another thought, however, worthy of all consideration -- could not the Mound-builders, a naturally adventurous and valiant people, act on the offensive? Abandoning passive and barbarous suffering, was not battle to be waged and waged with hope against the despoiler? This question Bokulla had put anxiously to himself, and he watched with an eager eye for some favorable phase of the national feeling ere he addressed it to the country.
From one crisis of fear to another the Mound-builders passed rapidly, and as the shades of night thicken one upon the other, each aspect of their condition was gloomier than the former. At length as darkness deepened and strengthened itself, light began to dawn in the opposite quarter. Hardened by custom, and familiar in a measure with the object of their dread, they now ventured to lift their pale, white countenances and gaze with some steadiness of vision upon the foe.
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Naturally of a noble character and constitution, the Mound-builders needed only that the original elements of their temper should be stirred by some powerful conviction to excite them to action. (6) A new spirit, or rather the ghost of the old and exiled one, had returned to the nation, and they now saw before them, unless they resumed their manhood and generously exerted strength and council, ages of desolation and fear for themselves and their children. Were they men and should no hazard be dared, no toil nor peril encountered to break the massive despotism that held them to the earth? Were they the possessors of a land of sublime and wonderful aspects, the dwellers amid interminable woods and lakes of living water, and were no glorious nor resolute energies matured by these, capable to cope with that which was mighty and awful?
At this fortunate stage of feeling Bokulla appeared. He clothed the thoughts of the people in an eloquence of his own. He first painted the portrait of their past condition in life-like and startling colors.
30 B E H E M O T H.
He told them that from the apparent size and solidity of the Mastodon, and the uniform analogy of nature he might endure for centuries, yea, even beyond the duration of mankind itself, unless his endless desolation could be arrested. If they suffered now under his irresistible sway they might suffer for a thousand years to come. That vast frame, he feared, decay could not touch. And in a stature so tremendous must reside an energy and stubbornness of purpose, endurable and unchanging.
Next, addressing them from the summit of a mound, around which many of the people were grouped in their old worship (some faint image of which they had kept up through all their terror) he appealed to them by the sacred and inviolate ashes that rested underneath his feet. If old warriors and generous champions, never dishonored, could awaken from the slumbers of death and breathe again the pure air of that glorious clime, what voice of denunciation or anger would they utter!
"Are these men, that creep along the earth, like the pale shadows of autumn,
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Mound-builders and children of our loins? What hath affrighted them? Look to the mountains, and lo! an inferior creature, one of the servants and hirelings of man, hath the mastery. Arouse! arouse! our sons! Place in our old, death-withered hands the swords we once wielded -- crown us with our familiar helms and we will wage the battle for you. Victory to the builders of the mounds! victory to the lords and masters of the earth! should be our cry of onset and triumph!"
The national pulse beat true again, and Bokulla hastened from village to village, quickening and firing it. Every where the hour of renovation seemed to have come. Every where ascending their high places he appealed to them by memories to which they could not but hearken. Every where an immense populace gathered about him and listened to his words as if they were the inspired language of hope. And when their souls were fired, as it were, under the fervent heat of his eloquence, he skilfully moulded them to his own plan and purpose. He recounted
32 B E H E M O T H.
to them the mode, the time and course he thought fit for them to adopt in seeking battle with Behemoth.
After consultation with their chieftains, the levy expected and demanded of each was soon settled.
They were to venture forth with an army (easily collected in that populous nation) of one hundred thousand strong. Bokulla was to be the leader-in-chief. Approved men were to be his counsel and aids. The day of setting forth on the great campaign was fixed; not far distant. In the mean time, all diligence and labor were to be employed in disciplining, equipping, and inspiriting the troops: in burnishing and framing the necessary armor, and in constructing certain new engines of war, which Bokulla had invented, and which might be of use in the encounter with the terrible foe.
Every village now presented a picture of busy preparation and warlike bustle. The forges, whose fires had smouldered in long disuse, were again rekindled, and their anvils rang with the noise of a thousand hammers rivalling each other in the skill with which they moulded the metals into heroic shapes. While one wrought out with
B E H E M O T H. 33
ready dexterity the breast-plate, with its large, circular bosses of silver, another, with equal, but less costly felicity, framed the brazen hatchet, and the steel arrow-head. In every workshop there were employed artizans in sufficient number to not only begin with the rude ore and shape it into form, but also to carry it through every stage of labor -- tipping it with silver -- burnishing -- ornamenting -- completing them, -- affixing leathern handles to the bosses by which to grasp and hold the shield, and arranging them in due order for inspection by the appointed officers. (7)
An another and higher class of laboratories they were employed in framing and fashioning weapons for chieftains and warriors of note; swords of tempered steel and scabbards of silver, capped with points of other and less penetrable material: and helmets of copper and shields, with ornamental and heraldic devices. Some busied themselves in furnishing large shields of brass, which they polished with care until they glittered again -- while still farther on, they wrought out large bows of steel, from which to speed the barbed arrows prepared by their fellow-workmen. Farther up, near the mountain-side, there lay a range of shops in which a thousand operatives
34 B E H E M O T H.
constructed military wagons and other vehicles for the expedition; for they knew not how far it might extend, nor through what variety of hill and dale.
To the right of these were gathered artizans under the immediate superintendence of the commander-in-chief, who labored at certain vast and new engines of battle, more especially contrived for conflict with the vast Brute. These were large and ponderous wooden structures, something like the towers used in Roman war-fare, but, as the strength and stature of the foe required, of far greater height and stiffness.
They were to be planted on heavy wheels and of great circumference -- placed far apart, so as to furnish for the whole edifice a broad and immoveable base. On the outer side, they were armed with every sort of sharp-edged weapon, cutlass, falchion, and spearhead, so as to be, if possible, unassailable by Behemoth. Internally, they were furnished with great store of vast bows and poisoned shafts, with which, if such thing might be, to pierce him in some vulnerable point, or at least to gall him sorely and drive him at a distance.
B E H E M O T H. 35
Besides these there were suspended, in copious abundance, divers ingenious implements, each contrived for some emergency of battle, to strike, to ward, to wound, and to destroy. Others were building, taller and stronger, at the summits of which were suspended great masses of metal and ponderous hammers, tons in weight, with which to wage a dreadful battery against the mighty foe. By some internal machinery, it was so contrived that these solid weights of metal could be swung to and fro with fearful swiftness and violence, by the application of a small and apparently inadequate power. Another structure, like these, was prepared, from which to cast, by means of capacious instruments, large quantities of molten metals, kept in fusion by mighty furnaces, to be hurled upon the enemy from afar, and to descend upon him in sulphurous and deadly showers, like those which fell on Sodom and Gomorrah of old.
Day and night, night even to its middle watches, were devoted to the construction and fabrication of engines and implements like these: for their minds were now so anchored on this great enterprise,
36 B E H E M O T H.
that all other ties were cast loose, and in this alone they embarked every thought and purpose. The hours hitherto given to repose and sleep, were now made vassals to the new adventure.
It was a magnificent spectacle to see a whole nation thus gathered under the dark wing of the midnight, working out battle for their dread adversary. Athwart the solid darkness which pressed upon their dwellings, the gleams of swarthy labor shot long and frequent. Far through the hills echoed the clangor of armorers, and the sharp sounds of multitudinous toil, laboring, each in its kind, toward the redemption of a people. Grouped thus about their forges, and hurrying from one task to another with rapid and quiet tread, they might have seemed to the eye of imagination, looking down from the neighboring heights, to be employed in infernal labor, and vexing the noon of night with unearthly and Satanic cares.
But over the wide scene there rested a blessing, for the smile of Heaven always shines upon the oppressed who nobly yearn and vigorously strive to break their chains.
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The long and bright hours of day, too, were crowded with their peculiar duties. The gardens and the enclosed plains, again restored to their old symmetry and beauty, were now filled with a soldiery which, under the eye of dexterous leaders, were drilled, deployed, marshalled, and schooled into new manoeuvres, before this unknown in the wars of the Mound-builders, and adapted to the character of their unwonted antagonist. They were taught to wheel with novel evolutions, to retreat in less orderly but more evasive movements and marches than of old, and to attack with a wariness and caution hitherto unpractised in their encounters with mortal enemies. Over all the eye of Bokulla glanced, giving system to the orders of the chieftains, and confidence to the obedience of their legions. Apparently performing duty nowhere, he fulfilled it every where, with a calm and masterly skill, which, while it was unobserved by the careless, was an object of admiration to the higher order of men, who were made the immediate channels of his influence, and who were therefore brought more directly under the spell.
38 B E H E M O T H.
"Upon my soul," cried the taller of two officers, who stood near the trunk of a withered cedar, which overshadowed a wide and deep sunken well, looking upon one of these novel parades, "upon my soul, Bokulla hath the power and the knowledge of a God. Out of these men, but yesterday dumb and torpid with fear, he has struck the spirit of life, and that with the same ease as my sword-blade strikes from this dull stone at my foot, sparks of fire."
"Who can withstand those giant machines which tower yonder, like mountains, above our dwellings?" cried his companion. "The Spirit of Evil himself, if embodied in the frame of the Brute, must fall before those whirlwind hammers of brass and tempests of molten copper!"
While he spoke, one of the vast oaken structures had been wheeled out, and its ponderous enginery set in motion, and brought to bear upon a crag that projected from the mountain near which it rested. To and fro they swung with fearful force and velocity, at each blow shattering vast masses from the rock, and bringing them headlong down the mountain.
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At the same time, not far distant, tons of crude ore were cast into the furnaces, affixed to the other towers, and hurled forth upon the prairie in clouds of fire, which, as they fell upon the earth, scathed and withered every thing before them.
Although the multitude entertained hearts of favor and hope towards the project of meeting Behemoth in battle, there were a few who doubted its wisdom and foreboded a gloomy result.
"The dinging of those anvils," said an aged man who sat at the sunset in the front of his dwelling, to his spouse (no less stricken in years), who leaned out at the window, "the dinging of yon anvils is to my ears a mere death-dirge. Wherefore are the youth of our land to be led forth on this vain pilgrimage? They are fore-doomed by the hooting of the owl, which has been ceaseless in our woods since first it was planned. The dismal bat and the brown vulture flap their wings over our bright day-marshallings in expectancy of a banquet."
"And as for the chieftain, Bokulla," continued his wife, prolonging the dolorous strain of conversation,
40 B E H E M O T H.
"his defeat, if not death, is already doomed in Heaven. The star which fell but yesternight luridly athwart his dwelling, foretold that sequel too well. And his spouse, stumbled she not essaying but this morning to cross its threshold and greet the home-return of Bokulla from the distant villages?"
"This army, five score thousand in numbers," reiterated the old man, "will be but as the snow in the whirlwind before the breath of Behemoth. They have forgotten, senseless men! the story of our fathers. They recollect not how in ancient days the fellow of this vast Brute (perchance this living one himself) was met by our hunters in the mountain gorge: that his roar was like thunder near at hand, and his tread like the invasion of waters! that they shrunk before him into the hollows of the rocks as the white cloud scatters before the sun!" (8)
"I pray Heaven the wife of Bokulla be not widowed," echoed his spouse. "The chieftain is a bold man, and submits but poorly to the lording of any, be it man or brute."
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"I fear this spirit pricks him on too far in this enterprise; I have warned him secretly," concluded the old mound-builder, in a deep and solemn tone of voice; "I have warned him, but he scorns my warning. He will not be stayed in his purpose. I will warn him yet once more, for he dreams not that he goes out to war with one who is a giant in instinct as well as in strength!"
The eventful morning of going forth against the Mastodon came: it was a morning bright with beautiful auspices. The sky overhead glittered with its fresh and airy splendors: no cloud dimmed the world of indescribable blue which hung calm and motionless like heaven itself on high. Occasionally against its clear canvass a passing troop of wild-fowl painted their forms, and vanished; or, a tree-top here and there stood out, pencilled upon it, with its branches and foliage all distinct. The sun rode just over the horizon, and through the innumerable villages of the Mound-builders the martial trumpet sounded the spirit-stirring alarm.
42 B E H E M O T H.
At the call, one hundred thousand right-good men of battle seized their arms and marched through the territory of their brethren in solid array.
First at the head of the van, drawn in a two-wheeled chariot of wood, studded with iron and ornamented with an eagle at each of its four points, front and rear, and drawn by a single powerful and jet-black bison, came Bokulla himself. He stood erect in the vehicle, while his burnished armor and towering helm flung their splendor far and wide; in his hand he held no rein but guided the noble beast by his mere intonations of voice.
Behind Bokulla followed a company of men-at-arms, each bearing a long and stalwart club, armed at its heavier extremity with a four-edged sword or falchion, to the point of which was affixed a spear-like weapon stiff and keen. Of these there were one hundred, each cased in a mail of elk-skin, which, while it was flexible and yielded to every gesture of the body, was yet a sufficient defence against any ordinary assault. These were expected, beside guarding and sustaining Bokulla, to close with Behemoth,
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and taking advantage of the unwieldy motion of his frame, to wound his legs or otherwise annoy and disable him. Behind these followed an equal phalanx of spear-men, whose allotted duty it was with a longer weapon to probe the Brute at a distance, and draw his attention from any quarter to which it might appear directed with too much vigor and chance of danger. In the rear of the company of spear-men marched a strong body of common soldiers, bearing the customary Mound-builders' instruments of war, namely, vast steel bows six feet or more in length, and quivers filled with correspondent shafts tipped with poisons, and on their left arms bearing the usual shield of copper with bosses of silver. In the rear of these heavily rolled on two of those newly-invented machines, which rose like pyramids above the array. These were drawn by scores of yoked bisons, and driven forward by private soldiers who walked at their sides. The earth shook under their lumbering weight. Their bowels were filled with captains and privates who had charge, each in his station, of their implements of death. Following these,
44 B E H E M O T H.
in order, marched a numerous squadron, sustaining over their sinewy shoulders heavy axes of steel with edges sharp as death, and handles of immoveable oak. Drawn by a thousand beasts of burthen, behind these, came innumerable provision and baggage wagons, provided for the emergency of a protracted search for the enemy, and long delay in vanquishing and destroying him. These were accompanied with troops and officers. Behind these walked countless varieties of battle: soldiers, the very conception of whose armor and weapons is lost in the oblivious and mouldering past. Rearmost came six other towers bearing their immense hammers and fiery furnaces, with ten thousand troops to guard, to guide them; to select even roads for their progress, and last to wield their vast forces in the hour of conflict.
Over the whole floated a hundred bright and emblematic pennons, while the sonorous metal kept time to their waving folds as the morning wind dallied them to and fro. It was a glorious thing to see ten times ten thousand thus equipped and embattled going forth on that gay morning, to the war.
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Wherever their course lay it was thronged with the multitude pushing to gain a sight of Bokulla and his compeers, the solid soldiery and the stupendous structures. Every window was filled, every elevation seized on, every housetop covered by spectators straining their vision to gather in every appointment and device, banner and sword, bison, chieftain and all. Ah! well might their eyes ache to look upon that numerous chivalry! Well might they hang with lingering gaze upon the fair cheeks of that youthful array! Well might their hearts keep time with the onward steps of that glorious host! Happy is it for mortals that they can enjoy the pageant of the present, and have no power to prefigure in it the funeral procession and the mournful company into which the future may change it!
As the foot of the last soldier left the territory of the Mound-builders, the drums and trumpets sounded a farewell, and the army, taking the right bank of a rapid stream which ran due West, pursued its march. The ground over which their course lay was a smooth and pleasant greensward, the verdure of which was still wet with the dews of the night.
46 B E H E M O T H.
Occasionally it rose into a gentle elevation which, for the first few miles, brought the advancing army once again in sight of the expectant gazers who still kept their posts upon housetop, tower and mound. At length from one of these eminences they descended into a valley which bore them altogether from the view of the most favorably-stationed looker-out. And yet, even when their banners and tall structures had passed wholly from the sight, gushes of music, fainter and fainter at each note, reached their ears, and reverberated from the neighboring cliffs and hill-sides.
Onward they passed through the long vale which stretched before them, choosing out the clearest paths, and still keeping their march toward the occident. In selecting this route they were guided by large tracks which appeared at remote strides in the earth, and by frequent signs of devastation -- fallen trees and crushed underwood.
Once they came to a river of great width, on the near margin of which, at the water's edge, appeared two large foot-prints,
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while on the opposite bank were discovered indentations equally vast but impressed deeper in the soil, as if the monstrous Beast had reared on his hindermost feet and with supernatural strength and agility thrown himself across the intervening breadth of waters. As there were no bridges near at hand they were forced to compass the river by a circuitous route to regain the tracks which had been espied on the other bank.
After attaining the utter extremity of the vale, through which the stream in question poured its tide, they pursued their chosen way into a thick wood, the path of the Mastodon through which seemed to have been created by sweeping before him, with a flexible power, whatever obstructed his progress. On every side of the huge gap into which the army now entered, lay prostrate trees of greatest magnitude; oak, pine and sycamore. Some, apparently, had been cast on high, and, descending into the neighboring forest, left their roots naked in the air, unnaturally inverted and exposed. And yet, save in the immediate path of the Desolator,
48 B E H E M O T H.
nature smiled unalarmed and innocent, in its primeval and virgin beauty. Here and there, shone out in the forest bright green patches, rising often into gentle slopes, or softening away into vales as gentle. Frequently the upland was crowned with groups of small trees, and the vales were tesselated with sweet wild-flowers. Then they crossed babbling brooks and rivulets, which ran across their march with a melodious murmur, eloquent with reproaches on the warlike task they were at present pursuing. Again, a large stream, which had gathered volume from the neighboring mountains, came rushing down declivities, and seemed to shout them on to battle.
At times, in the course of this variegated march, they fell upon open spaces where, for a small circuit, no tree was to be seen; rich meadows, the chosen pastures of the wild beings of the prairies, pranked with red and white clover, and fragrant as the rose, in their unmown freshness.
Sometimes they passed through sudden and narrow defiles, overhung by frowning cliffs and clothed with a dank verdure which seemed to be the growth of a century.
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One gorge, in particular, of this kind, they encountered whose beetling rocks in their dark and regular grandeur, looked as if they might have been wrought out by the hands of the old Cyclops or "Pelasgians strange." They seemed to be the solemn halls of a great race which had its seat of empire there (beyond even the age of the Mound-builders) and chambered in its tabernacles of ever-lasting stone. But Nature alone built these halls for herself, and through them toward the West she walks at the twilight and morning hour in pomp and majesty. I see her, her skirts purpled with evening, and flowing forth in the fresh breezes of that untainted clime, now pacing those mighty avenues and recalling, in their awful stillness, the nations which slumber at her feet. Her face brightens like a sun, as she meditates over the empires which have faded from earth into the dust beneath her; she thinks and kindles in knowing and remembering that while man is mortal and perisheth, she is eternal and thrones with God.
The glittering and long-extended host of the Mound-builders marched on through this cliff-walled passage,
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and passed next from all glimpse of the sun into dense and almost impervious woods; impervious but for the way hewn out by the mighty Pioneer in whose tracks they continued to tread. Gloom, with its midnight wings, sate on high and brooded over the boundless thicket.
The very leaves seemed dipped in a deeper hue of green, and the grass was thick and matted underneath, as if in that desolate region it clung closer to the earth. Above stood in their ancient stillness (apparently unbroken for ages) the tall, sombre trees, while about their trunks venerable ivies and mosses clung desperately, and mounted far up toward their topmost branches. Athwart the solid darkness no wing, save that of a melancholy owl or bat, clove and furnished to the tenebrous realm the sign of life or motion. On the earth no living thing was to be seen, unless amid the dank grass an occasional toad or serpent, sitting or coiled on the cold stone. And yet, though life seemed extinct, or exhibited itself only in reptile and hateful forms, the Mound-builders, as they marched on through the gloomy quiet, in pursuit of their mighty prey,
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saw, in the dimly discovered foot-marks which they still followed, a token of vast and inexplicable power which deepened the darkness about them and infused a portion of its weird influence into their souls. And yet with purpose unshaken, they advanced. Again the blessed sunshine greeted them, and the low mist rolled heavily from their minds -- and again their purpose stood out to their inward eye clear and determinate.
Emerging from the awful woods they came to a broad prairie across which the large foot-steps were deeply visible. On every side, as far as the eye could reach, the ample plain was desert and unoccupied. The innumerable herds of bison which had once been its tenantry had now, before the terror of Behemoth, fled away, and the wild wolf, which once lurked amid the rank grass, skulked from a Power which seemed to overshadow the earth. Still there was a province of animated nature into which the alarm scarcely ascended: for on high, as in the quiet and fearless hours of earlier times, the brown vulture and the bald eagle flew, silently sailing on, or sending through the air their shrill notes of ecstacy and rapture.
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The boundlessness of those mighty meadows was in itself calculated to strike an awe through the bosom of the advancing army; before it they lay -- the Map of the Infinite: a vast table on which, as on the tables of stone the fingers of an omnipotent had written Majesty, Power and Eternity. Contemplations like these were sufficient in themselves to fill the mind of the armed host with feelings of awe and humility, but when, over the immense prairie, they saw evidences that something had passed which for the moment rivalled Deity; more palpable in its manifestations, nearer in its visible strength, and less merciful in its might; when the tracks about them and the desert solitude which Behemoth had created became thus clearly apparent, they shrunk within themselves and doubted the wisdom of their present enterprise.
This feeling however reigned but for a moment. More manly and martial thoughts soon took their place, and they pressed on in the path pointed out with alacrity and courage. The verge of the plain, which they had now reached,
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bordered on a long and high ridge of mountains, which stretched from the margin of the prairie far West. Upon these summits they now advanced. Arrayed in broad and solid columns the army moved on over the mighty causeway, their trumpets filling the air with novel music; while the echo of their martial steps, sounding through the wilderness, affrighted Silence from his ancient throne. Against the clear sky their bright banners flaunted, and high up into the heaven aspired the warlike tower flashing death from every point. The gleam of ten thousand swords streamed from those broad heights far into the depths of air -- above, around, below -- lighting the solitude like "a new-risen sun."
The pride of war now truly kindled their breasts -- fear skulked aside from their heroic way, and Death, could he have come forth a personal being, on those clear summits, as their pulses freshened in treading them, would have been no phantom.
Through the ranks a soldierly joy prevailed, and with the rousing drum their spirits beat high.
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They had reached the extreme limit of the mountain ridge, and were preparing to descend into the plain which broadened at its foot, when, afar off, they espied, slowly heaving itself to and fro in the ocean, which sparkled in the mid-day sun beyond the plain, a vast body which soon shaped itself to their vision into the form of Behemoth.
The army halted and stood gazing. The giant beast seemed to be sporting with the ocean. For a moment he plunged into it, and swimming out a league with his head and lithe proboscis reared above the waters, spouted forth a sea of bright, blue fluid toward the sky, ascending to the very cloud, which, returning, brightened into innumerable rainbows, large and small, and spanned the ocean. Again he cast his huge bulk along the main, and lay "floating many a rood" in the soft middle sun, basking in its ray and presenting in the grandeur and vastness of his repose, a monumental image of Eternal Quiet. Bronze nor marble have ever been wrought into sculpture as grand and sublime as the motionless shape of that mighty Brute resting on the sea.
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Even at the remote distance from which they viewed him they could catch at times through the ocean-spray, the sparkle of his small and burning eye. Once, it seemed for a moment steadily fixed upon their host as it stood out conspicuously on the height, and, abandoning his gambols, Behemoth urged his bulky frame toward the land. Breasting the mighty surges which his own motion created, he sought the shore, and as he came up majestically from the water, a chasm ensued as if the Pacific shrunk from its limits. With a gurgling tumult the subsiding waves rushed into the broad hollow, and continued to eddy about its vortex.
Meantime Behemoth stood upon the earth, and rearing on his hindmost feet his foremost were lifted high in the air, and with a roar loud and fearful (like the gathering of an earthquake with its powers of desolation in the bowels of the earth) he brought them to the plain with a weight and energy which made it tremble to its utmost verge. He moved on; making straight toward the army of the Mound-builders. To the eyes of the astonished host, as he shouted with his fearful voice,
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he seemed like a dread thunder cloud which gathers tone and volume as it rolls on assaulting with its hollow peals the very walls of Heaven. Bokulla was undismayed and calm. He saw that the hour for action had arrived, and marshalling his troops in proper order, he led them down a winding and gentle slope which descended to the plain. A short time sufficed and they reached the level ground. Disposing themselves in the preconcerted order, they awaited the on-coming of Behemoth. The towers were planted firm on the earth; the pioneers put forth and the instrumental sounds began. As an additional thought a battalion of troops was placed on a level ledge of rocks, on the side of the mountain, and in advance of the main army, to gall him as he passed.
On his part there was no delay: with strides, like those of gods, he stalked forward. And still he seemed, to the Mound-builders, to grow with his advance. His bulk dilated, until it came between them and heaven, and filled the whole circuit of the sky. The firmament seemed to rest upon his wide shoulders as a mantle. As he neared upon their view, they saw more of his structure and properties.
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His face was like a vast countenance cut in stone, hewn from the hard granite of the mountain-side, with features large as those of the Egyptian sphinx. Before him he bore -- terrible instruments of power! a mighty and lithe trunk, which, with swift skill, he coiled and darted through the air, like a monstrous serpent, instinct with poison and death. Guarding the trunk were two far extending tusks, which curved and flashed in the sun like scimitars. Over his huger proportions fear cast its shadow, and they saw them as through a cloud darkly. He moved forward, nevertheless, a vast machine of war, containing in himself all the muniments and defences of a well-appointed host. To the cool and courageous sagacity of the leader he seemed to join the strength and force of an embattled soldiery: to sharp and ready weapons of offence he added the defence of a huge and impenetrable frame. Through his small and flaming orbs, his soul shot forth in flashes dark and desperate. His neck was ridged with a short and stiff mane, which lent an additional terror to his bulk.
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On he came. He neared the host of the Mound-builders. His fearful trunk was uplifted, and his tusks glanced in the broad beam of day over the heads of the army. Not a sword left its scabbard. Not an arrow was pointed. The brazen hammers and vessels of molten copper, which had alone been raised, fell back to their places, powerless and ineffective. The palsy of fear was upon the whole host. The near and unexpected vastness of Behemoth awed their souls. Bokulla alone retained his self-possession, and shouted to the affrighted squadrons: "Onward! Mound-builders -- cheer up, and onward! the battle may yet be with us!" It was in vain. The vast proboscis descended, and crushed with its descent a whole phalanx. A second sweep, and the mighty wooden towers, with their hammers of brass, their molten copper, and their indwelling defenders, were hurled on high, and rushing to the earth, strewed the plain with their wreck.
Ten thousand perished under his feet as he trampled onward. Ten thousand fell stricken to the earth by the mere icy bolt of fear. The legion, stationed on the level ledge, were swept from their post, as the whirlwind sweeps the dust from the autumn leaf.
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Twice ten thousand and more fled up the mountain; across the prairies; and some, in their extreme of trepidation, sought shelter in the sea. With infinite ruin the main host lay scattered upon the prairie, shield, sword, bow, wagon, wagoner, spearsman, and pioneer. Over the plain, maddened by terror, the bisons, with their vehicles, following in clattering haste, galloped, they knew not whither. Of a body of about fifteen thousand men, Bokulla, collected as ever, took command, and marshalling them through a narrow defile, led them up the mountain, from which the whole army had a few hours before descended in pomp and glory. Guiding them along the ridge by new and well chosen paths, he hurried them forward. In the mean time Behemoth had perfected his work upon the squadrons which were left. When the task of death and ruin was completed, he stood in the middle of the wreck, and, gazing about, seemed to seek for some portion of the host on whom desolation was yet to be wrought. With sagacious instinct he soon discovered the path which the missing legions had taken. Instantly abandoning the plain, he pressed toward the gap through which the retreating troops had fled.
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Rushing through the defile, he was soon standing on the steps of Bokulla and his flying troops. Through each narrow pass of rocks the chieftain skilfully guided them, taking advantage of every object that might be an obstacle to the monstrous frame of their pursuer. Sometimes they mounted a sudden ascent, sometimes hastened through a narrow vale, or around a clump of mighty sycamores and cotton-woods. Nevertheless Behemoth pressed on. Behind them, terrible as the voice of death, they heard his resounding roar, and turned pale with affright. They had reached the crown of a hill, and were compassing a tall rock, which stood in their way, to descend, when they heard heavy, trampling steps behind them, and looking back, they beheld the ponderous bulk of the Mastodon urging rapidly up the ascent. Trepidation fastened on the ranks. Their knees smote together, and many, in the weakness of sudden fear, fell quaking to the earth. Some, in their alarm, cast themselves headlong from the height; some escaped into the neighboring woods, and two or three, bereft of sense by terror, fled into the very jaws of the huge beast himself.
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A small band only kept on their way with Bokulla.
Surging up the steep, and down the opposite descent, Behemoth pushed forward, trampling to the earth those who stood rooted in his path -- statues of despair -- and was soon at the rear of the small flying troop.
He was at the very heels of the pale fugitives; and Bokulla, placing a trumpet at his lips, blew a long, loud, and what, in the hour of battle and under other auspices, would have been an inspiriting blast, and endeavored to arouse in them sufficient spirit and strength to bear them to the shelter of a gigantic crag which stood in their path. Past this the velocity and impetus of the brute would inevitably force him, and they might rest for a moment while he rushed down and reascended (if re-ascend he should) the declivity. The attempt was successless: the trumpet-blast, vainly blown, was borne far away into the forests, and, echoing from cliff to cliff, seemed only to awaken the idle air.
From Bokulla, one by one, his followers fell off, and perished by Behemoth, or crept into the grass and underwood to die a more lingering death.
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At length the chieftain was alone before his mighty pursuer. And yet he "bated not a jot of heart or hope, but still bore up and steered right onward." With the emergency his courage, resolution, and fore-thought rose.
He kept his way steadily, and the bison which drew him nobly seconded his purpose, and exhibited, as if inspired by the greatness of the occasion, the power of reason in comprehending, and a giant's strength in carrying out, the most expedient means for the rescue of his master's person. He seemed to apprehend every direction of Bokulla's at a thought. "To the right -- between yon stout oaks! To the left -- onward -- Bokulla is at your mercy!" shouted the rider, and they swept along like the prophet and his chariot of fire. -- The night had gradually come on. Palpable twilight now overspread the scene, and, in a moment, the moon glided to her station in the zenith.
The woods through which Bokulla passed were now filled with shadows, which crossing and blending with each other,
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would have confused mere human skill in selecting a path; but the bison dexterously steered on. With cumbrous but swift steps Behemoth still pursued, over hills, vales, mountains.
At length Bokulla reached that very summit where first the gigantic Phantom had appeared and where the impress of his steps was yet clearly left. He had just commenced his descent toward the villages of the Mound-builders, (thousands of whom looked toward his chariot as he sounded another peal on his trumpet) and Behemoth stood behind him. The mighty brute, from some unconjecturable motive, paused. He saw the chariot of Bokulla rapidly verging toward its home. He abandoned the pursuit, but yet yielded not his purpose of destroying the last of the army of the Mound-builders; for, loosening from its base a massy rock, which hung threatening over the village, he lifted it with his tusks and pushing it forward, urged it with tremendous force directly in the career of the chieftain. Thundering it followed him. It neared his chariot.
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Another turn and Bokulla is crushed: but the Mound-builders shout in one voice "To the right, Bokulla! to the right!" and turning his chariot in that direction, he escapes the descending ruin, though enveloped in the dust of its track. Emerging quickly from the cloud, and avoiding the rocky mass, which rushed past him with terrible fury, Bokulla now reached the bottom of the mountain, and was surrounded instantly by innumerable Mound-builders, each with a fearful question on his lips, and the dread of a yet more fearful answer written in his countenance. Bokulla, alone and in flight, was a reply to all their thoughts could imagine or dread of what was terrible. Gazing upon him for a while in motionless silence, they at length burst the stupor which made them dumb, and each one asked for husband, brother, son, -- who had gone forth but a few days since, full of life and vigor, against Behemoth. "Death -- defeat -- and flight!" were all that escaped from Bokulla, and, breaking his way through the multitude, he sought his own home. Gathering about the house of the chieftain, men, women and children, in large crowds,
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they cried out through the live-long night, while their tears fell for their relatives who had ventured to the battle, and asked wherefore they came not back?
The next day, about noon, there rushed into the village, covered with foam and quaking with fear, troops of bison, followed by the frame-work on which the towers and machines of war had been raised, and clattering through the streets with their enormous and lumbering wheels till they reached their stalls -- they fell dead. To some of them a handful of men clung tenaciously, though pale and terror-stricken, and to the rear of one hung by his feet, which were entangled in the leathern strap that had bound the frame together, a lifeless body, the skull of which was broken by rude and hasty contact with the earth, while the tufts of hair which remained, were matted with grass, thorns and mire, gathered as it was drawn swiftly along through the different varieties of verdure, marsh, and brambles. The next day after that, at about night-fall, there came down the mountains which Bokulla had descended under circumstances of so much peril,
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a lean and tattered company, marshalled forward by the ghost-like figure of a chieftain, with a broken helm, husky voice, and swordless scabbard. They were a portion of the army which had gone forth with Bokulla, and had been reduced to their present pale and ragged condition partly by fear and partly by the want of food for the two days during which they had wandered in search of home. Many a wife and mother shed tears of mingled gratitude and pity as she looked upon the shattered wreck of her son or husband, thus cast up from the waves of war. Two or three days after this, and day by day, for some week or two, came into the villages of the Mound-builders, single fugitives, or in pairs, when they had coupled themselves together, that in this sorrowful fellowship, they might aid each other in bearing up against terror, hunger and death.
And even after a month had rolled round, and tears had been shed and rites performed for the absentees, two or three strayed home lunatic; poor idiots, whose brains had been crazed by the triple assault of fear, famine, and the dread of instant death under the hoofs of the enemy.
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From the account that could be gathered from their own wandering and confused wits, they had fled every inch of the way from the battle-ground under the terrible apprehension that Behemoth was at their heels. Through brake and through briar they had hastened; they had scrambled over rocks and waded wide ponds: they had climbed trees and rested a little, and then swinging themselves from the branches, had run miles over hot and streamless prairies, until they had reached their native villages, sad, witless idiots!
The catastrophe now stood out before the Mound-builders, drawn in bold, strong and fearful strokes; painted in colors borrowed from the midnight, and dashed upon the canvass (it almost seemed) by the hand of destiny itself. The malignant planet which had so long lowered in the atmosphere, had now burst, and poured from its womb all that was dreadful, pernicious and enduring. The earth was now to them a cold, comfortless prison, into which they were plunged by an inexorable power, and where they were doomed to drag through their allotted portion of life, under the eye of an eternal and terrible foe; joyless,
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hopeless and prostrate. The multitude gave themselves to a quiet and passionless despair. Bokulla was silent or invisible.
Great occasions beget great men, but what is singular and rarely noted, they have also a tendency to nurse into life a swarm of petty spirits, which take the opportunity, uninvited, to push themselves into prominent posts. Thus the same emergency which elicited the resources of Bokulla's large and fruitful mind, also drew out the vagaries and absurdities of a puny intellect, Kluckhatch by name. On account of his dwarfish size and an unlucky curvature in the legs, this valorous gentleman had been rejected from the military companies. Nevertheless he kept a drum on his own account, with which he was wont to regale a rabble crowd of urchins and maidens; making a monthly tour through the villages and refreshing them with the dulcet sounds. He also wore in this itinerant and volunteer soldiery of his a small sword; a bright pyramidal blade of steel with a handle of elk's horn, the tip of which was surmounted with a clasp or circlet of silver and ornamented with the device of an owl hooting.
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The person of Kluckhatch was, as I have hinted, pigmean rather than otherwise. He had a low forehead with prominent cheek bones, and a broad full-moon face with large eyes, in which idiocy and self-conceit predominated, though they were occasionally enlivened with an expression of mirth and good-fellowship, and sometimes even brightened with a humorous conception. On the crown of his head, to complete his garniture, Kluckhatch bore a cap of conical figure, with a flattened circular summit, ending at the apex with a round button of copper. Attached to the sides of the cap were two large ear-flaps of deer-skin, or that of some other indigenous animal, made to cover ears as large.
"I believe," said this self-constituted champion, when every plan suggested and acted upon had proved fruitless, "I believe," said he, "I must take this huge blusterer in hand. I look for a mound of the largest size at least for my memory if I lay him at length, and a patent of nobility for my family. Kluckhatch is no fool -- is he?" asked the vainglorious militant, turning with cocked eye to a shock-headed youth who stood gaping at his elbow.
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The boy replied with a similar squint, and Kluckhatch ran on, detailing at length, like a crafty plotter, the whole course of strategy he intended to put in practice against Behemoth, naming the time when, and the place where, he expected to achieve his capture at least, if not his death.
In accordance with this carefully matured plot, one bright and cold autumn morning Kluckhatch sallied forth accoutred to a point with dagger, hat and sword-belt, to which was attached special ministrant in the anticipated capture, his little drum, with the melodious sounds of which he expected to quell and mollify the mighty rage of Behemoth. Over his right shoulder he bore a light ladder of pine of great length, with which he intended to mount to Behemoth's neck and inflict the fatal wound with his trenchant blade.
Thus armed and accoutred Kluckhatch set forth. Fortunately on the morning which he chose for his adventure, the Mastodon was not far off but pastured in a broad open meadow within sight of the Mound-builders' villages. When Kluckhatch first beheld him opening and closing his mighty jaws as he cropped the tall verdure,
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his soul trembled within him and vibrated to and fro, like a mariner's needle, between the determination to retreat and that to advance. At length however it settled down true to its purpose. He marched forward beating a reveille on his dwarfish drum, while he whistled faintly as an accompaniment. He was now within stone's throw of the monster. He had lowered the ladder from his shoulder, that he might be better prepared to scale the sides of the Beast. Behemoth ceased from the labor of feeding; a moment his eye twinkled on the puissant Kluckhatch, and the next, unrolling his trunk, he coiled it about the slender body of the adventurer, and lifting him gently from the earth, as gently tossed him some score of yards into a neighboring pond, which was about five feet deep, and mantled with a covering of stagnant water. Into this Kluckhatch descended and fell amid a noisy company of large green bull-frogs who were holding a meeting for general consultation and the expression of opinion. Amid the blustering assembly the valiant little hero fell. For a time, as he hung balanced in the air, it was doubtful which portion of his person would first penetrate the water.
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The levity of his head and the weight of his splay-feet, at length brought the latter first to the pool, and dividing the stagnant surface, they sank through and reached a bottom of mud; still they sank and continued to settle down deeper and deeper. Kluckhatch knew not where his descent would stop, nor where in the end he might arrive. His feet at last found support just as his chin reached the waters' edge, and, looking up, the first object which fell upon his vision was a household of venerable and contemplative crows who, seated on a dry tree at the edge of the pool, seemed to be philosophizing over his mishaps, in their most doleful discords. One, an old rake, with only an eye left in his head, appeared to Kluckhatch, as he leered knowingly upon him, to be a desperate quiz. When, after many vain efforts, he had brought his scattered senses into something like order, reaching forth one hand he grasped his drum, which floated at a distance on the pool, and held it up tremblingly, while with the other he drew from his belt a drum-stick which survived his fall.
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Stretching out the hand that held the stick, he struck up a faint tattoo on the parchment, with the double purpose of driving off those accursed and hard-hearted crows, and also to draw help from the nearest village. To the instrumental sounds thus elicited he added a humble vocal effort. Here was a scene for a painter: Kluckhatch, the drum, and the crows, all in unison, running down the scale from lofty bass to shrill treble.
The hero soon tired of his toilsome essays at the two kinds of music under his charge, and putting forth all his strength in a desperate venture, he succeeded, scrambling, floundering, and paddling, in reaching the shore endued in a coat-of-mail, composed of black slime and green ooze, with long locks of eel-grass dangling at his heels, as trophies of his exploit. Satisfied with this valorous attempt at the capture of the "huge blusterer," Kluckhatch skulked home. Some two months more had passed when a new enterprise was set on foot by a desperate band, under the control of two or three daring and reckless leaders. Their daring, however, was not the fruit of experience, for they had not been out with the army against the fearful enemy.
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The Mastodon, with that attachment to particular scenes and localities, which even the brute cherishes to a certain degree in common with man, had been observed to exhibit a fondness for one spot, which seemed to be dearer to his mighty spirit than all others. It was a wide plain, in whose centre grew a few tall elm trees, where Behemoth, through the oppressive hours of noon, was wont to rest. Beside their roots bubbled a cool rivulet, in which he sometimes cast his limber trunk and sported with its waters. This was the spot where the last of his brute brethren had fallen. Here his gigantic frame fell, and here it reposed. The earth about Behemoth was the dust of his mighty bones, and every green thing which sprang from the mould drew its nourishment from the great Dead.
The desperate crew, to which we have alluded, or rather one of their chiefs, conceived a plan, based on the Mastodon's frequent resort to this locality, which might eventuate in his destruction. The chief, with whom it originated, suggested that five or six bands or bodies of men should commence mining the earth at a considerable depth, from so many distinct quarters,
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making the ground where Behemoth was accustomed to repose, the common centre of their operations. They should delve thus far below the surface until they had reached the spot in question, that the earth might be sufficiently solid to bear up the weight of the prodigious Brute, as he crossed it to and fro: but that, when they had attained the appointed centre subterraneously, they should then so far diminish the body of earth as to leave a mere shell through which his bulk must needs bear the Mastodon and bring him to the bottom of the pit, thus prepared for him, with rapid and deadly haste. The latter part of the mining, as they approached the centre, was to be conducted by means of broad spades attached to long handles, while the miner stood back in the subterranean halls secure from the sudden downfalling of the heavy bulk.
The day came to put in trial this desperate invention for the overthrow of the heroic enemy. A company of about five hundred men, under five leaders, went forth to their allotted labor. Day after day they toiled under the earth. Cautiously in the morning they sallied out to their duty, and at night stole back as cautiously to their slumbers.
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They had finished the whole plan in detail as mapped out by its projector; they had hollowed the earth with their far withdrawn instruments of labor, until the weight of the Mastodon rested at noon, casting its shadow far east, upheld but by a thin shelf of earth. They toiled on. With his quick intelligent ear he heard the click of their many mattocks, and giving a bold and agile spring -- wonderful for so ponderous a frame -- he pressed his feet strongly upon the mould; it yielded and fell in with dire ruin, and Behemoth landed beyond its fatal circle on the bright greensward, and bellowed forth a fearful roar of triumph and scorn.
The subterranean toilers, when they heard the thunderous voice of Behemoth, clear and sonorous on high, knew that he had escaped; while not a few of their number, whose fool-hardiness had carried them too near the falling mass, perished under it. The remainder, abandoning all things, fled, dismayed, toil-worn and discomfited, toward their native villages.
[ 77 ]
IT was two hours before sunrise. Through the wide realm of the populous West not a soul was stirring, save a single human figure, which might have been seen threading its way through the streets of one of the great cities of the Mound-builders. This solitary object moved at a slow, measured pace, as if its progress was actually retarded by the weight of the thoughts with which it was engaged. The eyes gleamed as if they beheld afar off some enterprise of magnitude and obstinacy sufficient to call up the whole soul of the man, and the lines of the countenance worked, and he hands were clenched as if he was already employed in the struggle. If one could have looked into his bosom, he might have seen all his faculties mustering to the encounter; and among other passions aroused and assembling there, he might have noted discomfiture and mortification thrusting in their hated visages, and lending a keener stimulus and quicker motion to the current of his thoughts.
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If thepower of thus inspecting that breast were given to him, he might have also discovered an heroic resolution, almost epic in its proportions and strength, towering up from amid the ruins of many cast-down and desolated projects, and assuming to contend with unconquerable might.
The solitary figure was that of Bokulla, who was thus venturing forth, self-exiled and alone, to discover in the broad wilderness toward the sea, whatever means of triumph he might, over a power that had hitherto proved itself more than a match for human strength or cunning. A great spirit had taken possession of the chieftain, and the shame of an inglorious defeat aided to kindle the energy of his passions. Over that defeat he had already pondered long and anxiously. He confessed to himself that he had formed but a vague opinion of the hugeness and strength of Behemoth when he had proposed the battle. But he dwelt in the midst of a terrified and perishing people: As a man, he was touched by the sufferings and alarms of his nation. Danger and death were before them, and no gate of safety or mercy opened. He saw this people not only in the present time, but through a long futurity, scourged and suffering: the old tottering into a hasty grave, pursued by a hideous phantom that increased its terrors; the young growing up with images and thoughts of fear,
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interwoven with their tender and plastic elements of being.
Was there no one man in this whole nation who would go forth, in the spirit of martyrdom and self-sacrifice, and seek, even in the desert itself, the knowledge that would bring strength and safety in its wings? It was he that was now passing away from his country for a while, and launching himself in the boundless wilderness of the West. Championed by doubt and solitude, he was plunging into a region which stretched, he knew not whither, and to a fate, perchance, his heart dared not whisper to itself. What fruit might spring from this hardy enterprise, it was vain to conjecture; but he was determined to gather some knowledge of the habits and some information as to the lodgment of this terrible scourge of his people. With rapid and firm step, he therefore proceeded on his way. By secret paths, and through dark woods, he advanced, and mid-day brought him to a spot which overlooked the whole of the wide territory of the Mound-builders.
He stood upon a cliff which pushed out boldly from the wooded region that lay behind it, and hung, like the platform of a castle, over a valley and river that wound round its base. It was covered in patches with verdure and earth from which a few stately trees threw up their branches, and underneath these Bokulla now stood.
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Casting his eye abroad he beheld a scene which the boldest fancy of our time can scarcely conceive, accustomed as we are to think of the prairies as tenantless and houseless deserts, and the whole broad West as a wild, unpeopled region never disturbed unless by bands of straggling Indian hunters, or a mad herd of buffalo sweeping like a tornado over their bosom. From his lofty stand, the self-exiled chieftain looked down upon a country as broad as Europe -- spread out in the most glorious variety of hill, and vale, and meadow, with a thousand streams intersecting the whole, sometimes mingling with each other, occasionally ploughing their way through a genial valley, or cutting deep into the heart of a mountain whose slope was covered with forests. A numerous population lined their banks, or hovered on their eminences, whose dwellings and national edifices reared themselves in the air and darkened the land with their number. Over those vast, verdant deeps, the prairies, were scattered like islands, countless cities in whose suburbs tall towers of granite and marble sprang to the sky and resembled the masts of ships of war just putting out from the shore.
In another direction a mighty bastion of earth, with its round green summit, heaved itself into view like the back of some huge sea monster;
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and the long grass of the prairies, swept by occasional winds, rolled to and fro and furnished the ocean-like surges on which all these objects rode triumphant.
Upon this scene Bokulla gazed long and earnestly while many dark thoughts and sad emotions followed each other like the clouds of summer through his mind and darkened his countenance as they passed. Beneath him he saw an hundred cities devoted to ruin: tower, and temple, and dwelling crumbling to the earth, and no hand lifted to arrest their fall. A wide populace was wasting away from a robust and manly vigor into a pale and shadow-like decrepitude. Day by day the august majesty of a prosperous and ambitious nation dwindled into a shrunken and counterfeit image of itself. To them there was now no alternation of sunshine or shadow: seasons passed without their fruits: the golden summer no longer smiled in their midst, and generous autumn departed without a blessing and unheeded.
To these miserable and suffering realms Bokulla now bade farewell. His present enterprise might be without fruit, or fraught with disastrous and fatal results to himself: yet in the strength of Nature he would once more presume to cope with the dreaded enemy, for he still believed that man must be triumphant in the end over this bestial domination.
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To man the earth was given as his kingdom, and all tribes and classes of creatures were made his subjects and vassals. In this faith he turned away from a scene which suggested so many fearful topics of thought, and bent his course toward the West, guided by such knowledge as he already enjoyed, and such marks as occurred to his observation, determined to avoid the face of man and to be familiar only with solitude and danger until some new means of triumph were clearly discovered. In pursuance of this resolve he pushed forward with speed and energy; plucking by the way wild berries and other natural fruits as food, and drinking of the cool shaded rivulet, his only beverage: for, from the first moment that he had conceived the thought of this venturous self-exile, he vowed to cast himself on Nature and to be received and sustained by her as her worthy child, or to perish as an alien and outcast on her bosom. He had therefore come forth unprovided with food, and trusting entirely to her bounty for a supply.
Hand in hand thus with liberal Nature, Bokulla pressed onward until night-fall, when he halted, and, sheltering himself safely within the hollow of a rock, he gathered himself for repose.
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Thus for many days did this solitary pilgrim journey on, seeking no other couch but the over-hanging cliff or the sheltering bank, and finding no other canopy but the broad, open sky and the green roof of the branching tree. A constant grandeur of soul sustained him in the midst of many pressing hardships, and a noble purpose bore him forward as the winds propel the eagle that trusts to their strength. Guided by apparent tracks and obvious landmarks, about the middle of the afternoon of the second day he reached a solemn wood, into the heart of which he made his way.
He was something wearied with travel, and seeing the remains of a large old oak thrusting themselves up from the tangled and chequered shade, he seated himself upon them. The wild underwood and smaller foliage were twisted into a thousand fantastic shapes, which wreathed themselves round, and the prodigal forest-flowers had scattered their colors here and there so profusely over the seat which the self-exile had chosen, as to furnish somewhat the appearance of a rich and cushioned throne.
What wonder if the resemblance struck the excited imagination of Bokulla, and his eye glanced about the forest as if in search of attendants that should hedge this seat of honor round.
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"Am I alone here!" half-muttered the chieftain. "Is all this pleasant realm of air, and this verdurous spot of earth void and barren! No, no; I am not in an unpopulous solitude even here. Airy citizens throng about me in this remote and unfrequented wood. Busy hopes, immortal desires, passions, longings, and aspirations that lengthen like shadows the nearer we approach the sunset of life. Mighty and tumultuous wishes and emotions gather around me in this pathless and woodland region, and tell me I am not, that I cannot be, alone.
Shadowy creatures! which sway us beyond all corporal powers and instruments -- ye swarm now in these shaded walks -- and foremost Ambition and Fame, glorious twins! stand forth and tower in cloudy stature, grasping at impossible objects and plucking at the heavens themselves! Immortal powers and faculties! in these retired and natural chambers, I know you as the internal and silent agencies which are to guide and sustain me through this hardy and venturous pilgrimage."
In this wood he found a suitable shelter and stretched himself for sleep. Notwithstanding the great cares with which he was oppressed, the mind of the chieftain was visited by pleasant dreams;
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and he was borne far back from the gloomy and troubled present, into an old and cheerful time, where every thing wore a countenance of joy, and a golden atmosphere floated about all. He wandered along the banks of mighty streams, watching the careless flight of birds, or the idle motions of their currents, on which many vessels of gallant trim, with every sail set, were hastening toward the sea. Around him a thousand familiar sounds made the common music of day; trumpets were sounded in the distance; citizens were hurrying forth or home on errands of business, or pleasure, or tender sorrow; and all was human and delightful. The chieftain himself seemed to have the heart of youth, and to ramble onward amid these pleasant scenes of life as if no morrow was coming, as if the sun that was now in mid-heaven would never set.
Near the close of the night, this pageant passed away, and the slumbers of the champion were interrupted by a loud sound, like that of a storm gathering in the distance, and which drew nearer by, increasing every moment. Presently it seemed to cross the western quarter of the wood with a clashing and tumultuous noise, resembling that of a great cataract, and then it passed far to the north-west,
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and died away after a long time like rattling thunder, among the distant peaks of the mountains.
Nothing could be more alarming to the imagination than this midnight tumult, and Bokulla felt that his situation was like that of the wretched mariner, whose bark is dashed on the rocks of some inhospitable shore, where night and the raging winds press on him behind, and darkness and the wild beast prepare to fasten on his weather-beaten body as he strikes the land.
But no sound that Bokulla had ever known could represent the character of that which all night long had rebellowed, and thundered, and died away. The stormy shouts of a warlike assault, the furious outcry of popular rage, the howling of winter winds, all commixed, would be an imperfect image of its depth, and strength, and varying loudness. In the morning, disturbed and perplexed, he girded himself again to his task, and shaped his course toward that region of the forest by which the indescribable tumult had swept. An hour's swift travel brought him to a large wooded slope, which presented to his view, in the uncertain light of a sun obscured by the gray mist of morning, an astonishing spectacle.
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A thousand vast old trees, each large enough for the main column of a temple, were dashed against the upland and lay there, leaning half-way down, as if they had contested against overthrow, like mighty ships, blown over in the harbor of some great city, when the north has burst upon them and commanded that they should veil their pennons and high-aspiring standards.
From obvious footmarks he easily discovered the course which the strength that caused this desolation had taken, and pursuing the indications thus furnished, he was soon out upon an open plain. The region that now spread before him was a wide and trackless waste, barren, void of vegetation, and apparently deserted of nature. Such herbage as lingered about its borders, was small, scanty, and withered, and crept gloomily along the dusty banks of dried-up brooks and rivulets. Over this arid desert, as Bokulla slowly plodded, he discovered the same large foot-prints as he had followed all along, crossing and re-crossing each other, sometimes diverging and again keeping straight on, in a manner so irregular and wandering, as to bewilder him, and set any attempt to pursue them entirely at nought.
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In some places the earth was ploughed up and rent with seams recently made, and in others it was scattered far and wide, in irregular and broken heaps. The whole wilderness presented an appearance as if it had been recently trampled by some angry and barbaric puissance, that had swept it from end to end, like a storm.
What now rendered his situation still more perplexing, was a circumstance which would seem at first a source of self-gratulation and comfort, after the fearful sounds of the preceding night. A dead silence hung all around him, which was, if possible, more dreary and depressing than the unearthly noises of midnight. A soundless and voiceless quiet filled the air, the sky, and brooded over the inanimate sea of sand slumbering at his feet.
Through this confused and desolate region the chieftain resolved to make his way to the summit of some one of the mountains that dominated this arid plain at its farthest extremity, and from thence, as from a citadel, look abroad and make such discoveries as he might.
Bokulla at length reached the summit of a high mountain, and looking forth towards the East, he beheld a mighty region of hill and valley,
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whose immensity astonished and overwhelmed him. In one direction an hundred peaks towered one above the other, until the farthest was lost, it seemed, on the very threshold of the sky. In another, torrents dashed through numerous declivities, tearing down mountains, it almost seemed, in their rage, and threatening to wash away the very foundations of the earth, as they leaped over rocks, and crags, and rugged precipices. Huge passes and defiles that ploughed their way through the bosoms of solid mountains, and led down as it were to the central fires, were visible in other quarters, and exhibited more or less of their dreary turnpikes as the sun-light fell upon one or the other. As Bokulla looked forth he descried a dark object moving slowly along a distant peak. Sometimes it paused, and then again advanced; at length it plunged down the mountain-side into a deep and dark valley, but still some portion of it was apparent; and at intervals, as it crossed a seam or gap that intersected the valley, the whole figure came into view. Thus it wound through the immense region, almost the whole time conspicuous to the eye of the gazer, who, however,
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was unable to discover its character, so remote was the distance at which it moved. At length it emerged from the many defiles and declivities, among which it had passed, and came out upon the open plain.
As a numerous fleet of war ships, all their canvass spread, double some one of the Atlantic capes, and come within the ken of the anxious watcher on shore, so did this vast object steer round the mountain-base and stand before the eye of Bokulla. Like a huge fog that has settled in autumn upon the ground, and creeps along until it has mastered the earth with its broad dimensions, so did the stature and bulk of the Mastodon tower and enlarge as it drew nigh. Among those mighty peaks, and along that immeasurable plain, he seemed to move the suitable and sole inhabitant. Rocks piled on rocks, and rivers, the parents of oceans, calling unto rivers as large, and dreadful summits that hung over the earth and threatened to crush it, were not its massy plains and platforms broad enough to uphold mountains an hundred fold vaster, this was the proper birth-place and dwelling of the mightiest creature of the earth.
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Amid these great elements of nature, Bokulla beheld the motions of the Mastodon as he trode the earth in gigantic sway; and thought swelled upon tumultuous thought, like waves that break over each other in the middle ocean, at each step of that unparalleled and majestic progress. What wonder, if at that moment he deemed the great creature before him unassailable and immortal? Behemoth passed onward, and for the first time in many hours was lost to the gaze of the chieftain, as he entered a dark gap in a great mountain range far to the East. Intent on the daring and venturous purpose which had drawn him forth into the wilderness, he descended from his lofty station and shaped his course to the barriers within which the unconquered Brute had passed. With incredible labor he toiled over a thousand obstacles; clambering high mountains, plodding through gloomy valleys, and compassing, by contrivance sometimes, sometimes by sheer strength, broad streams, he found himself at length, as the night approached, fixed on a lofty ridge, whence his eye fell upon a spacious amphitheatre of meadow, completely shut in by rocks and mountains, save at a single narrow cut or opening.
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In the centre of this he beheld Behemoth couchant (his head turned toward the chieftain himself) like a sublime image of stone in the middle of a silent lake. Bokulla exhibited no symptoms of terror or trepidation, and the beast lay motionless and quiet. Great emotions filled the breast of the chieftain as he looked upon the Mastodon reposing in this fortified solitude. He closely scrutinized the whole circle of mountains, and took an accurate survey of the gate which led out into the open country beyond. Among other circumstances, he observed large hollows, here and there, in different quarters of the plain, as if worn there by the constant habitation of Behemoth; and also, that as the wind sighed through the branches of trees that stood in its centre and along its border, the Mastodon moved up and down the amphitheatre with a slow and gentle motion as if soothed by the sound.
While he was thus engaged, night descended upon the scene; and the dark hours were to be passed by Bokulla alone in that far off wilderness, and within reach of the mighty and terrible foe.
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As well as he might he addressed himself to sleep; but it was almost in vain, for it seemed as if the fearful strength beneath was slumbering at his side, and as if its tall, cold shadow fell upon him and froze the very blood in his veins. Armed beings of an inconceivable and super-human stature passed and re-passed before his mind; and the vision of a conflict mightier than any that his mortal eyes had ever witnessed, in which huge trumpets brayed and enormous shields clashed against each other, swept along. Then it changed, and it seemed as if the mountains rocked to and fro and pent winds strove to topple down peaks and pinnacles, while in their midst one mighty Figure, neither of man nor of angel, stood chained, and, in a deep and fearful voice, cried to the heavens for succor. Perplexed by images and visions like these, Bokulla wakened before the dawn and turned his steps, with scarce any guide or landmark, toward his own home.
And now an appalling fate was before the champion, for he was without food in the very centre of the desert.
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The liberal fare upon which he had at first subsisted was gone long ago, and the scanty supply which nature had lately furnished from hedges and meadows, had entirely ceased. Barrenness, barrenness, barrenness, spread all around. After toil and exertion of body and mind, almost beyond mortal strength, he seemed likely to perish in the wastes with the great project that his soul had conceived unknown to living man. Interminable and gloomy disasters lowered over his country if he should perish in the wilderness. He struggled onward with anguish and hunger at his heart.
At last, one day, when his strength was fast ebbing, he espied a bird rising sluggishly from a marshy thicket, and bearing in its pounces a quarry which Bokulla could not distinctly ascertain. He knew, however, that it must be some esculent, and doubted not that it had been seized by the hawk, which bore it in its clutches, as a valuable prey. The bird had no sooner risen on the wing, than the chieftain ran forward and shouted with all his might, at the same time stretching out both his hands, with the hope of frightening the hawk, and causing her to drop her booty. She was, however, a strong and courageous plunderer,
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and fixing her talons still deeper into the sides of her burden, which Bokulla had now discovered, by a feather that had fallen, to be a plump and well-fed wood partridge, she soared up into the sky: the weight of her booty seeming to be such as to prevent her from attaining a lofty flight. The chieftain was too nearly famished to relinquish at once this chance of food. He accordingly cast his weather-stained and mouldering cloak from his shoulders, and rushed forth, keeping the fugitive barely in sight. The hawk which had attained her topmost pitch, now flew level with the earth, and with a steady and not too rapid wing. Regardless of every other object, the pursuer pushed on, with his face ever and anon turned up to the sky, through brake and pool, over rocks and rugged places, although, at times, in peril of his life. Gaunt famine had spread her wings, and on them, as it were, sustained, he swept along like a wind. His heart rose and fell with every variation in the motions of the bird, which bore in its clutch the precious quarry. In this way the hawk flew on for the first day, Bokulla keeping even with her flight, and watching it with an anxiety that every moment increased.
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At night-fall the bird alit in the upper branches of a dry sycamore, which stood by the side of a pool filled with its sere dead leaves, and with two or three withered and hard-featured lizards for its inhabitants.
The chieftain lay down at a distance and pretended to sleep. When he supposed the bird had fallen into its slumbers, he crept cautiously toward the tree with a stout stick in his hand, hoping to strike her dead from the perch.
He had stolen thus within a few feet of her rest, and raising his weapon to hurl it at the head of the hawk, he saw her bright eyes staring through the dark; in a moment she flapped her wings and passed wholly out of sight.
All that night Bokulla was stretched on the earth in the most dreadful torture of mind and body. In the dreary darkness which had settled over all things, he could not tell whether the frighted bird had flown from his view for ever or not. With the first streak of morning he sprang to his feet, and at the same time, startled by his abrupt movement, the hawk again took wing from a neighboring tree, where she had passed the night, and put forth steadily on her journey.
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Bokulla followed, with the hope that some lucky chance would place her booty in his possession. And so it well-nigh happened, for, as he still pursued the bird, on the afternoon of this second day, a sudden gust of wind fell from the sky, and sweeping down upon the hawk, bore her to within arm's length of the eager chieftain. He immediately stretched forth the cudgel, which he still carried, to strike her to the ground; but as he raised his arm, the wind shifting its course, swept her again high into the air.
The country which he had now reached presented the most wild and sublime aspect. On every side of him he saw stupendous peaks, springing up into the sky, covered from crown to base with dazzling sheets of snow, which looked like mighty tents pitched in the desert.
Between these a heady river roared and brawled, like a noisy and vaunting herald summoning to the fight. Along its banks Bokulla speeded. The hawk alighting on a stone which reared its bald head in the middle of the stream, drank of its waters. The chieftain, first imitating her example and quaffing of the stream,
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taking advantage of two or three straggling trees that stood on its margin, stole along and hurled a stone at the bird, which, from his feebleness, fell far short of its mark, and splashed into the stream with a dull, sullen sound. Again springing on the wing, she steered her course between the peaks of the mountains, and kept steadily onward.
In this way the chase continued until the darkness set in, when the hawk fell abruptly into a thicket of reeds, and finding a covert, settled to rest for the night. When the day dawned Bokulla found himself at the foot of a rocky ascent, sheer through the centre of which a rapid current cut its way, breaking midway up into a magnificent fall, which dashed with impetuous violence from the height into a granite basin beneath. A little below the point where the waters thus fell, they expanded into a quiet lake, over which the rays of the newly-risen orb flickered, forming here and there, over its smooth expanse, friths of sunlight, which ran in from the centre of the lake to the edge of the green shore.
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As the sun attained a higher station in the heavens, radiant bows began to gather over the river, and it rushed joyously on its course through these bright arches of its own creation. Bokulla plunged into the reed-brake in the hope of seizing the unwary hawk asleep on her perch, but he had no sooner taken the first step into the covert than she started up, and shaped her flight over the rugged ascent before them. The journey up the steep was too toilsome for the chieftain, and he feared that he must abandon the pursuit. Fortunately, as he was forming this desperate resolve, he discovered a wild steed, of deep jet-black color, browsing on the grass by the river's side. Cautiously approaching him, Bokulla, springing forward, seized his long, flowing mane, and with an agility characteristic of his better days, he vaulted upon his back and turned his head up the ascent.
Wildly he urged him forward, and he rushed up the rocky steep with a force and vigor similar to that with which the cascade dashed in an opposite direction. His ears and crest were erect, his tail streamed in the wind, and every muscle was strained to its utmost power.
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His cap had fallen from the chieftain's head, his cloak was gone, and he sate on the back of the steed, his hair floating abroad, his eyes straining eagerly forward -- presenting the image of some goblin horseman of the desert. Every tread of the courser on the hard rock rang through the wilderness, and Bokulla shouted him madly forward. The hawk overhead, still retaining in her talons her contested quarry, kept in the advance, screaming with delight and apparently stirred by the excitement of the pursuit.
In this way the gallant bird flew on, and the mettlesome courser pursued, up the declivity and down the opposite side. Onward they flew over the plain -- the hawk steering on in an almost unvarying line toward the south-east. Over hills -- through forests -- and along stream-sides the wild chase continued until the afternoon of the third day, when, just as he had emerged from a long tract of woods, and had turned his eye toward the sky, to recover sight of the hawk, she gave a wild scream, a sudden wheel into the clouds, and disappeared for ever. (1)
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To his utter astonishment, the moment that the hawk vanished a populous city burst upon his gaze directly before him, and ere he could discern further, the wild steed dashed down a travelled way and was entering its streets. The circuitous pursuit, which had changed its direction many times, had brought him unexpectedly to almost the very spot from which he had set out on his pilgrimage. If the astonishment of Bokulla was great at this miraculous termination of his journey, that of the inhabitants, among whom he was thus thrown, was no less; and as the coal-black steed galloped through their streets they beheld the rider, his features gaunt and unearthly, and his hair streaming wildly to the wind, with amazement mingled with terror. Some fled from his path and sought refuge in their dwellings, while others rushed out to gaze upon him as he scampered, wild and spectre-like, along the distance; and others gathered together, and in subdued voices, conjectured or canvassed the character of the sudden apparition. Many wild guesses and shrewd suggestions were ventured.
"This is a fiend of the prairie," said one. "He that rambles up and down the big meadow, blowing his horn, and who calls the wolves and goblins together when a carcass is thrown out or a traveller perishes in crossing them."
"It is a lunatic escaped from his friends," said a second, "who has been out seeking his wits in the mountains."
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"You are wide of the mark, my good sirs," said a sharp eyed little man, glaring about and looking up at the windows as if afraid of being overheard; and the group pressed more closely about him as if expecting a communication of great weight and shrewdness -- "a whole bow-shot wide of the mark: -- it is the keeper of Behemoth!"
At this they all turned pale and lifted up their eyes in astonishment, and admitted that nothing could be nearer the truth.
By this time Bokulla had reached his own door, and throwing himself from his steed of the desert prepared to enter in; but ere he could effect this object, several stout citizens pressed before him and arrested his steps.
"Wherefore is this?" said the foremost. "Will you rush into a house of mourning in this guise? Know you not that this is the mansion of Bokulla, the champion -- and that his widow is in sack-cloth and tears within? Begone elsewhere, madman!"
This remonstrance was seconded by another, and a third, until it swelled so high that the crowd would have seized him and wreaked some injury upon his person, had he not succeeded in obtaining a moment's pause; and standing on an elevation, he shouted out, "Peace, Mound-builders! -- it is Bokulla before you!"
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At this declaration many began to recognise in the shrunken features and toil-worn frame before them, their great champion and chieftain, and a shout was raised, "life and health to Bokulla, the father of his country!" "Pleasant dew fall upon him!" "Long may he tread the green earth under his feet!" and many national invocations and blessings.
The rumor now spread rapidly abroad, and the cry was taken up wherever it reached and renewed with hearty good-will, for all were rejoiced at the return of their great leader, whom some had considered lost for ever; and who all admitted was the only one that could contend, with any chance of success, against their barbaric foe. Even the little group of gossips that had construed him into a fiend, a lunatic, and the keeper of Behemoth, but a moment before, now rushed eagerly forward and were among the first to welcome him back, the sharp eyed little man invoking a special blessing on his pleasant countenance, which looked, he said, "like that of a saving angel." Escaping from these numerous tokens of admiration and regard, Bokulla withdrew into his dwelling, and the crowd, after lingering about for many hours to glean such information as they might of his absence,
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and to catch a view of his person, at length dispersed, each, he knew not why, with a lighter heart, and more joyous look, than had fallen to his lot for many long and weary months.
From the dwelling of Bokulla let us turn our steps for a while toward the suburbs of the city, and enter the sick chamber of Kluckhatch, the blusterer. The adventure of that valiant pretender against Behemoth had been accompanied with serious, and, from the aspect they at present assumed, perhaps fatal consequences. The alarm of spirits which he had suffered, together with the dreary submersion in the pool, had thrown the adventurer into a violent ague. Day by day the malady became more tyrannical, and the mind of Kluckhatch more fretful and restless.
His soul seemed like the sun to expand as it approached its final eclipse, and nature, who, at his birth, had exhibited the art and skill of a bottle-conjurer in crowding so puissant a spirit into so narrow a body, now seemed at a loss to drive the obstinate tenant from its residence. The little man clung more desperately to life the more forcible the attempt made to wrest it from him. The pale Ague assailed him with its whole band of forces; throttling him by the throat,
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as it were, it essayed by rough and uncorteous usage to shake the vital spirit from him, but it adhered closer and closer, and the attempt of nature to cast off the pigmy militant, resembled that of a horse, in whose flank on a mid-summer's day a burr has chanced to fix itself: he feels annoyed and irritated -- he whisks the hairy brush to and fro -- he runs -- he gallops -- he rears -- he plunges, but all in vain, the barbarous annoyance clings to him with the more zeal, until, at some quiet moment, it drops gently from its hold and disturbs him no more. Thus stood the account between Nature and Kluckhatch.
In his bed he lay, trembling like an earthquake or an ocean, under the coverlid. After a while the ague relaxed and the fever came on, and then he sat up in his couch and grasping a wooden sword, which had been made to amuse his sick and distempered fancy, he made airy thrusts and lounges, and called out as if he were plunging it deep in invisible ribs, or hacking at the head of some monstrous chimera. Then again he would appear to seize the end of some palpable object, and drawing it along would measure and cut off pieces of a yard in length at a time. It was evident, from the whole tenor of his strange action,
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that the Mastodon was in his phantasy; and this was amply confirmed by his breaking out, after the fever had partially subsided, into the following wild invective, into which his soul seems to have thrown its whole collected powers:
"This huge bully: this fleshly continent: this vagabond traveller: this beast mountain: this tornado in leather: this bristly goblin:" ("Pray be calm, Kluckhatch," whispered the shock-headed youth, who stood at his bed-side terrified and quaking): "this huge moving show: this two-horned wonder: this tempest of bull's beef: this land leviathan: fiend: wood-elf: this devil's ambassador: this territory of calves' hide stretched on a mountain: this untanned libel on leather-dressers: this unhung homicide:" ("Uncle Kluckhatch," again interrupted his attendant, "Uncle Kluckhatch, wherefore do you rail after this fashion? you but madden your fever"): "this Empire of bones and sinew: this monstrous Government on legs: this Tyrant with a tail: this rake-helly: this night-brawler: this measureless disgust: this lusty thresher with his endless flail: this magnified ox:
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this walking abomination: this enormous Discord sounding in bass: this huge, tuneless trombone" --
The sick dwarf fell back on his pillow exhausted, his lips still moving as if laden with other bitter epithets of denunciation. His hour now rapidly drew nigh. His strength gradually ebbed away, and at length the conviction that he must die forced its way into the heavy brain of Kluckhatch. In a few words he made his humble and of course lean will. "I leave," said he to his gaping companion -- "I leave to you my fame, my virtues, and my drum!" He then gave directions for his burial, which, if obeyed, would make it a spectacle rare and unexampled: and, rising once more in his bed, he said he wished to expire in a sitting attitude.
The last sinking wave of life was dying upon the shore. His simple attendant had taken in his hand, to survey its fashion and properties, the testamentary bequest of his departing friend. -- "Strike up! strike up once more!" exclaimed Kluckhatch, as his eye kindled with the gleam of death, and as the first sounds rolled from the drum, under the obedient hand of its new possessor, the spirit of the pretender, mingling with them, left the earth.
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The second morning after his death, at an early hour, the funeral procession set out from the domicile of Kluckhatch for the tomb of his fore-fathers: a snug family-vault just beyond the skirts of the town. Under the direction of the shock-headed youth, who enacted the master of ceremonies, the solemn cavalcade was drawn up and proceeded in the following order:
First, led on by the legatee himself, in front of whose person hung suspended the testamentary drum, hobbled slowly along a sorry and cadaverous jade, which had been the pack-saddle of Kluckhatch in his strolling tours. One eye of the sad creature was wholly closed and useless, but the other, as if to make amends, was a sea-green orb of twice the ordinary dimension, and with its ample circle of white blazed like the moon crossing the milky-way in the sky. His lank, hollow body bore clear evidence of the neglected meadows and scant mangers of the Mound-builders; for he had been on fast (broken by occasional spare morsels) for more than a month, and glided along in the procession like a spectre. Behind this monkish-looking beast followed a low wagon or four-wheeled cart, drawn by a pair of venerable and spiritless bisons,
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in which sate the blusterer himself, erect, and in the costume of every-day life, his strange red coat, shining, like a meteor, conspicuous from afar, while his conical cap nodded gaily to the one side or the other, as the wind swayed it. The strange whipster held the reins firmly between his skeleton fingers and exhibited on his countenance a broad, ghastly grin, which, at the first view, startled the beholders, but after they had recovered from the shock, caused them to burst into a hearty laugh. On each side of the vehicle, thus strangely driven, marched, in serious order, six sturdy men, each bearing a huge rustic pipe or whistle, wrought of reed, on which they blew soft and melancholy music. Behind the wagon, the favorite dog of Kluckhatch, crest-fallen and whining, was led in a string. In the rear of this faithful mourner followed the friends and admirers of the deceased, and after these scrambled a promiscuous rout of his town's-people, of every variety, age, sex and hue.
Creation itself, both overhead and on the earth, was something in unison with the grotesque obsequies. The sky resembled the bottom of a rich sea suddenly disclosed. In one quarter a vast cloud, like a whale, floundered and tumbled over the azure depths.
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In another, the clouds lay piled in heaps of shining silver; here they assumed the form of a shattered wreck, fleecy vapors standing out as mast or bowsprit, with evanescent bars for rigging, and there a black and jagged mass of them stretched along like a reef of dangerous and stubborn rocks.
Lower down, a small, dismantled fragment, mottled with white sunlit scales, represented a mackerel at full length, opening his mouth and biting at the tail of a cloudy grampus, that stood rampant just over head. In the mid-air, drawn thither by the strangely exposed remains of Kluckhatch, a sable-coated troop of ravens kept the procession company, occasionally demanding, in coarse, rude clamors, their reversionary right in the deceased. Now and then a timid bird put forth his head from the trees and bushes at the road-side, and twittering for a moment, and seeming to smile at the defunct rider, hopped back into its cool hiding place.
In a little while they reached the place of burial; a small, suburban vault, the passage to which, through a wooden door, led down to a score of cells or apartments, all of which, save one, were occupied. Over the entrance to the vault stood the weather-bleached skeleton of a robustious ancestor of Kluckhatch,
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balancing on one of his short, stout legs, flourishing the other as if in the act of going through a pirouette -- and holding in his out-stretched right hand the effigies of an owl, the favorite family-bird and device.
For what reason, or whether for any, the little, queer skeleton occupied this position, it would be now difficult to decide. Perhaps in his life-time he had been a hard, weather-beaten hunter, who preferred to be left thus in the free, naked air, and under the open sky, which during life he had enjoyed without stint or circumscription. Passing underneath the figure of this portentous guardian and through the passage, they bore the mortal remains of the last of the Kluckhatch's, and placed them in their upright posture in the only cell which remained untenanted. The moment it was known that the corpse was deposited in its final place of rest, the twelve stout whistlers let off four successive volleys of their peculiar music; the dog came forward and howled, and the shock-headed youth stood at the entrance of the vault sobbing and weeping, while the beast, whose halter he held in his hand, silently devoured the drum-head, and looked inside for further viands. A few moments more and the door was closed for ever between the world and Kluckhatch. --
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The unexpected departure of Bokulla from their midst had been a source of fruitful and anxious speculation to the Mound-builders.
They were conscious of his absence, as if the great orb itself had left the skies and deprived the earth of its light and influence. His presence diffused amongst them the only cheerful ray that enlightened their gloomy condition; and although his recent enterprise had proved disastrous, they were satisfied that the great chieftain would promptly grasp the first favoring circumstance and energetically use it against the fearful foe.
Of the causes of his absence none were advised, nor as to the direction his steps had taken. Some dreaded lest he had gone forth to perish by his own hand in the wilderness; and by these scouts had been dismissed in every quarter to bring back the fugitive warrior, or his body, for honorable sepulcher if he had perished. The agitation and fear, excited by the causeless and unexplained absence of Bokulla, were only less than those occasioned by the terrible presence of the Mastodon. His return, therefore, was welcomed with every demonstration of rejoicing. Lights were displayed as glad signals, from every tower;
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processions and cavalcades were formed to make triumphal marches through the realm, and bodies of citizens constantly gathered under the window of the chieftain to express their delight at his return. During a whole week this universal festivity was sustained, and it seemed as if the flower of national hope once more blossomed in their midst. Merry games were celebrated in their gardens: religious worship again assumed its robe, and walked forth with serene and placid features in the traces of its early duty.
What gave additional animation to this unwonted scene was, that Behemoth, during its continuance, ceased to sadden or alarm them with his presence; it may have been that the dazzling splendor of the illumination, and the loud sound of innumerable instruments all playing together, kept him back.
About two weeks after the return of the self-exiled chieftain, and at the close of their joyous celebrations, he appeared before the Mound-builders, and declared "that his strange and unexplained absence had not been without its uses. Nature," he said, "had put forth her mighty hand and generously furnished the means of deliverance.
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Liberty was now before them, but it must be attained through many perils and through toil, sanctified, perchance, with blood. Like the swimmer that nears the shore, they must now buffet the wave of hostile fortune with their sternest strength. It might be that once more the firm and smiling continent of joy, of honor, and peace, could be reached. If so, heaven should be praised with a deep sense of gratitude, and the realm should ring through all its borders with sounds of glorious triumph!"
He then stated that he had discovered in his wanderings a mighty meadow where Behemoth was wont to pasture; and that if they would choose a delegation to visit it in company with himself, he would endeavor to point them to a sure and safe method of subduing the enemy.
At this suggestion the populace shouted loudly and echoed the name of Bokulla with the most eager and fervent expressions of admiration. They readily appointed three eminent citizens to accompany him. The next morning they set out, and having in due course of time reached the locality, they selected an elevation which commanded the whole prospect at once.
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All admitted, as they looked upon the high walls that girt the broad and spacious meadow, and on the single narrow opening which led from the enclosure, that nature had furnished an extraordinary aid toward the capture of the invincible brute. Far around on both sides from the central position which they occupied, the stupendous upright battlement of mountains stretched -- a peak here and there shooting up an immense tower, and a crag occasionally thrusting itself forth from the general mass of perpendicular rocks like the quaint head of a beast, or the rugged and ugly features of a human being, as the fancy chose to give it shape and likeness. The whole hedged in a meadow covered with a fertile growth of tall, rich verdure -- dotted by a few scattered trees -- and intersected by a stream of considerable breadth and depth, which flowed through its centre, and formed an outlet in a narrow passage underneath the mountains. The natural opening leading from this broad enclosure, was about five hundred feet wide, and walled on either side by gigantic fragments of stone, from whose huge posterns it seemed as if in an earlier age of the world an immense gate may have swung and shut in captives of mighty size and fearful guilt.
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Nothing could be conceived a more secure and dreadful prison than these vast walls of rock: and no solitude could be more dreary than one thus fortified as it were by nature, and made sublimely desolate by barriers and enclosures like these.
All felt, thus gazing, the grandeur of the thought presented to their mind by Bokulla, and they turned and looked upon the countenance of the chieftain as if they expected to discover there features more than human. Bokulla stood silent. He wished the great plan to sink deep in their minds, while they were on the very spot where it had its birth, and where it was to achieve (if fortune permitted) its eventful success.
"The thought is mighty and worthy of Bokulla!" at length, exclaimed one of his companions, a man of a generous and ardent heart; "Here we triumph or the story of our life closes in endless defeat, and our fate makes us and ours perpetual bondmen."
"Who is it," interposed a second of less sanguine temper, "who is it that dare visit the panther in his den? or grasp the thunder from its cloud on the mountain top? --
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It were as safe to climb into the eagle's nest as disturb this monstrous creature in his lair!"
"Terrible as the North when it lightens and is full of storms -- inexorable as death, will be the encounter!" cried a supporter of the second speaker -- "I would sooner plunge headlong from a tower, than venture within this guarded enclosure!"
"What say you, my friends!" cried Bokulla, springing to his feet, "what say you to an embassy to the brute on bended knee? I doubt not if we came as humble worshippers and suppliants, and consented to choose him as our national idol, he would abate something of his fierceness!"
"Now heaven and all good planets forbid!" cried his companions, with one accord.
"Nothing better and nothing nobler, then, may be tried, than the great suggestion of Bokulla!" said the first speaker. "Here let us wrestle with fate and die, then, if die we must, in this broad and open arena, where the heavens themselves, and the inexorable stars, shall be witnesses of our struggle!"
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Taking up their position on an elevated rock, shaded by trees which overlooked the whole scene, they consulted as to the most proper and speedy method of accomplishing their purpose.
After a consultation of several hours, during which the sun had fallen far in the west, and after weighing anxiously every circumstance that could have bearing or influence on the event, they determined in their open council-chamber, amid the solemn silence of the wilderness, that an attempt must be made to imprison Behemoth in the vast, natural dungeon at their feet, by building a stout wall across its present opening.
And furthermore, that it would be matter of after thought to decide, if successful in the first, by what means his death was to be wrought. Their resolves had scarcely taken this shape, when a heavy shadow fell suddenly in their midst, as if a thick cloud had covered the sun, and looking forth for its source, they beheld Behemoth walking silently and ponderously along the ridge of the opposite mountains. (2) They arrested their deliberations, and rising in a body, watched the progress and actions of the Brute.
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In a short time he descended from the summit, and attaining its foot by a sloping and broad path, in a moment presented himself at the gap, which conducted into the mountainous amphitheatre. Stalking through, he advanced to its far extremity, and stretching himself on the bank of the stream, and in the cool shadow of the mountains, he prepared for repose.
His companions had already learned from Bokulla, that the Mastodon was in the habit of paying long periodical visits to this place, and of feeding, for considerable periods of time, on its abundant and savory verdure. Nothing could have been more opportune to their consultation than the arrival of Behemoth. His sudden coming was an argument for activity and despatch.
The fifth day from this, the Mound-builders arrived in considerable numbers, in a wood near the amphitheatre, bringing with them in wagons the tools and implements required in the proposed labor. They immediately set about the task, and commenced hewing large blocks of stone and dragging them to the mouth of the gap, but not so near as to obstruct it.
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The whole body of workmen that had come from the Mound-builders' villages had labored at this task for a week, and they found that in that time sufficient stone had been hewn to build the wall from base to summit. Each block was more than twelve feet square, and through its centre was drilled a hole of some six inches diameter, in which to insert bars of metal, to bind them more firmly together.
As soon as they were prepared to commence the erection of the wall, which was the most critical part of their labors, four or five separate bands of musicians were stationed at the farther end of the enclosure, and near to Behemoth: for they knew, from Bokulla's report, that the Mastodon, mighty and terrible as he was, could be soothed by the influence of music, adroitly managed.
The moment the work of heaving the vast square blocks one upon the other began, the musicians, at a given signal, commenced playing, and during the progress of the labor, ran through all the variety of gentle tunes: so that the wall, like that of Amphion, sprang up under the spell of music.
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So cunningly did the different bands master their instruments, that, at three different times, when the Mastodon had turned his step toward the gap at which the Mound-builders labored, they lured him back and held him spell-bound and motionless.
The blocks were hoisted to their places by cranes, and the utmost silence was observed in every movement; not even a voice was lifted to command, but every direction was given with the pointed finger. No one moved from his station during the hours of toil, but each stood on his post and executed his portion of the task like a part of the machinery. And yet there was no lack of spirit; every one labored as if for his own individual redemption, and one who beheld them plying amid the massive fragments of granite, silent and busy, might have thought that they were some rebellious crew of beings brought into the wilderness by a genius or necromancer, and there compelled, speechless and uncomplaining, to do his bidding. (3)
They labored in this way for more than a month, and at the end of that time, Bokulla proclaimed from its summit that the wall was completed.
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At the announcement, the whole host of artizans and laborers, and innumerable women and children, who had come from the villages, sent up a shout that rent the air. Behemoth heard it, and, listening only for a moment, browsed on among the tall grass as if regardless of its source and its object. In a few days, however, after the music had ceased its gentle influence, and the supply of pasturage began to be less luxuriant, the Mastodon made progress toward the old outlet, with the determination of seeking food elsewhere.
He, of course, sought an outlet in vain, and found himself standing at the base of an immense rampart, which shot sheer up two hundred and fifty feet in air. He surveyed the structure, and soon discovered that it was no trifling barrier, but a mighty pile of rocks, that showed themselves almost as massive and firm as the mountains which they bound together. At first Behemoth thought although it would be idle to attempt to shake the whole mass at once, that yet the separate parts might be removed block by block. With this purpose he endeavored to force his white tusks between them, but it was in vain;
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they were knit too firmly together to be sundered. At length the great Brute was maddened by these fruitless efforts, and retreating several hundred rods, he rushed against the wall with tremendous strength and fury.
The Mound-builders, who overlooked the structure, trembled for its safety, but it stood stiff, and the shock caused Behemoth to recoil discomfited, while the earth shook with the weight and violence of the motion. Over and over again these assaults were repeated, always with the same result. Wearied with the attempt, the Mastodon desisted, and returned to feed upon the diminished pasturage, which he had before deserted. He had soon browsed on it to its very roots, and began to feed on the commoner grass and weeds, scarcely palatable. In a day these had all vanished, and he turned to the trees which were here and there scattered over the meadow. These he devoured, foliage, limb, and trunk. -- In a few days they were wholly exhausted, and the enclosed plain was reduced to a desert -- pastureless, herbless, and treeless.
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The impatience and wrath of Behemoth now knew no bounds. He saw no possible mode of escape from this dreary and foodless waste. Around and around the firm Colosseum which enclosed him, he rushed maddened, bellowing, and foaming.
At times, in his fury, he pushed up the almost perpendicular sides of the mountains and recoiled, bringing with him shattered fragments of rock and large masses of earth, with fearful force and swiftness. Around and around he again galloped and trampled, shaking the very mountains with his ponderous motions, and filling their whole circuit with his terrible howlings and cries. The Mound-builders, who stood upon the wall, and on different parts of the mountains, shrunk back affrighted and awe-stricken before the deadly glare of his eye, and the fearful and agonizing sound of his voice.
Day by day he became more furious, and his roar assumed a more touching and dreadful sharpness. All sustenance was gone from the plain. The whole space within his reach furnished nothing but rocks and earth, for he had already drunk the stream dry to its channel.
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The mighty Brute was perishing of hunger in the centre of his prison. His strength was now too far wasted to admit of those violent and gigantic efforts which he had at first made to escape from the famine-stricken enclosure, and he now stalked up and down its barren plain, uttering awful and heart-rending cries. Some of the Mound-builders who heard them, and who saw the agonies and sufferings of Behemoth, although he had been their most cruel enemy, could not refrain from tears. So universal is humanity in its scope, that it can feel for every thing that has life.
Howling and stalking, like a shadow momently diminishing, he walked to and fro in this way for many days. Hunger hourly extended its mastery through his immense frame. At about mid-day in the third week of his imprisonment, he cast his eye upon the cavernous and now dusty opening through which the river that watered the plain had been accustomed to find its way. It was broad and open and of considerable height. Into this Behemoth now turned his steps. Its mouth was larger than the inner passage, for time and tempest had worn away the rocks which once guarded it.
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As he advanced it diminished, and ere his whole bulk had entered the channel, it became so narrow and confined that he was forced to sink on his knees, in order to make further progress. This labor soon proved vexatious and toilsome, and the Mastodon, willing to force a way where one was not to be found, or to perish in the endeavor, raised himself slowly toward an upright position.
The remnant of his strength proved to be fearful, for, as his broad shoulders pressed upon the rocks above him, the incumbent mountain trembled, and when he had attained his full stature by a last powerful effort, the impending rocks rolled back and forth, and fell with a resounding crash and in great fragments to the earth. The whole cone of the mountain had been loosened from its base, and leaning for a moment, like a lurid cloud, in mid-air, fell into the plain with terrible ruin, bearing down a whole forest of trees and the earth in which they had taken root.
Fortunately for Behemoth -- unfortunately for the object of the Mound-builders -- the rocks which immediately over-hung Behemoth, though rent in several places, did not give way, but so interlocked and pressed against each other as to form a solid arch over his head and leave him unharmed amid the ruins. Passage through the channel was, however,
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Passage through the channel was, however, wholly arrested by the large masses of earth that had fallen into it, and Behemoth finding it vain to attempt to pass farther onward, withdrew.
The fatal time drew nearer and nearer. Hundreds and thousands of the Mound-builders gathered from every quarter of the Empire to look upon the last hour of the mighty Creature which lay extended, in his whole vast length, in the plain. A catastrophe and show like that was not to be foregone, for it might never (and so they prayed) come again. Death and the Mastodon held a fearful encounter in the arena below. Nations looked down from the wall and the mountains on the strange and terrible spectacle.
To and fro the whole famished bulk moved with the convulsions, and spasms, and devouring agonies of hunger. At times the Brute raised his large countenance toward heaven, and howled forth a cry which, it seemed, might bring down the gods to his succor.
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On the fortieth day Behemoth died and left his huge bones extended on the plain like the wreck of some mighty ship stranded there by a Deluge, to moulder century after century, to be scattered through a continent by a later convulsion, and, finally, to become the wonder of the Present Time.