For ever, vive, my dear Public, and, until we meet again (which, whether we ever do, will depend upon how we are pleased with each other), vale.
At last the golden orientall gate
Of greatest heaven gan to open fayre,
And Phoebus fresh as brydegrome to his mate,
Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre,
And hurld his glistening beams through gloomy ayre.
SPENSER’S faery QUEENE.
It was a lovely morning in the autumn of the year of grace 18—. The beams of the sun had not yet fallen upon the light veil of mist that hovered over the tranquil bosom of the river Severn, and rose and gathered itself into folds, as if preparing for departure at the approach of an enemy it were in vain to resist. With a murmur, so soft it was almost imperceptible, glided the stream, blue as the heaven it mirrored, between banks now green and gently shelving away, crowned with a growth of oak, hickory, pine, hemlock and savin, now rising into irregular masses of grey rocks, overgrown with moss, with here and there a stunted bush struggling out of a fissure, and seeming to derive a starved existence from the rock itself; and now, in strong contrast, presenting almost perpendicular elevations of barren sand. Occasionally the sharp cry of a king-fisher, from a withered bough near the margin, or the fluttering of the wings of a wild duck, skimming over the surface, might be heard, but besides these there were no sounds, and they served only to make the silence deeper. It is at this hour, and upon an island in the river that our story commences.
The island itself is of an irregular shape and very small, being hardly an acre in extent, and its shore covered with pebbles and boulders of granite. Near the centre, and fronting the east, stands an unpainted wood cabin of the humblest appearance, the shape and size of which is an oblong of some thirty by fifteen feet. One rude door furnishes the only means of entrance, and light is admitted through two small windows, one on the east and the other on the west side. Straggling patches of grass, a few neglected currant-bushes behind the hut, and a tall holly-hock or two by the door are all the signs of vegetation that meet the eye.