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Then lave their back with sprinkling dews in
vain, And stem the stream to meet the promised rain; The crow with clamorous cries the shower
demands, And single stalks along the desert sands.
95.-A RAIN OF LOCUSTS.
breeze whirl-ed de spair
After travelling some ten miles, I began to fall in with some locusts. At first they came on gradually, and in small quantities, speckling the earth here and there, and voraciously devouring the herbage. They were not altogether pleasant, as they are weak on the wing, and quite at the mercy of the wind, which uncivilly dashed many a one into my face with a force that made my cheeks tingle. By degrees they grew thicker and more frequent. My progress was now most unpleasant, for they flew into my face every instant. Flung against me and my horse by the breeze, they clung to us with the tightness of desperation, till we were literally speckled with locusts. Each moment the clouds of them became denser, till at length -I am guilty of no exaggeration in saying—they were as thick in the air as the flakes of snow during a heavy fall of it. They covered the grass and
the road, so that at every step my horse crushed dozens; they were whirled into my eyes and those of my poor nag, until at last the latter refused to face them, and turned back in spite of whip and spur.
They crawled about my face and neck, got down my shirt-collar and up my sleeves—in a word, they drove me to despair as completely as they drove my horse to stubbornness, and I was obliged to ride back a mile or two, and claim shelter from them at a house I had passed on my way, fully convinced that a shower of locusts is more unbearable than hail, rain, snow, and sleet combined.
I found the poor farmer in despair at the dreadful visitation which had come upon him and well he might be so. To-day he had standing crops, a garden, and wide pasture-lands in full verdure; the next day the earth was as bare all round as a macadamised road.
I afterwards saw millions of these insects driven by the wind into the sea at Algoa Bay, and washed on shore in such heaps, that the prisoners and coolies in the town were busily employed for a day or two in burying the bodies, to prevent the evil consequences that would arise from the putrefaction of so many close to the town.
No description of these little plagues, or of the destruction they cause, can well be exaggerated. Fortunately their visitations are not frequent, as I can only remember three during my five years' residence in South Africa. Huge fires are sometimes lighted round corn-lands and gardens to prevent their approach, and this is an effectual preventive when they can steer their own course; but when carried away by such a wind as I have described, they can only go where it drives them, and all the bonfires in the world would be useless to stay their progress. The farmer, thus eaten out of house and home (most literally), has nothing to do but to move his stock forthwith to some other spot which has escaped them-happy if he can find a route free from their devastations, so that his herds and flocks may not perish by the way.
“ The Cape and the Kafirs."
96.—THE SPRING JOURNEY.
Oh! green was the corn, as I rode on my way,
The thrush from his holly, the lark from his
cloud, Their chorus of rapture sung jovial and loud; From the soft vernal sky to the soft grassy
ground, There was beauty above me, beneath, and around,
The mild southern breeze brought a shower from
the hill, And yet, though it left me all dripping and chill, I felt a new pleasure, as onward I sped To gaze where the rainbow gleamed broad overhead.
97.—THE GARRISON OF THE VILLAGE.
AN HISTORICAL ANECDOTE.
During the Thirty Years' War, the Spanish general Gonsalvo de Cordova, being in the Palatinate, thought it was his duty to take the fortified village of Ogersheim. At his approach all the inhabitants fled to Mannheim. Not a soul stayed within the enclosure of the ramparts except a poor shepherd, named Fritz, with his sick wife and newborn son.
Let any one imagine the misery of this poor man when he saw such terrible enemies arrive, and could not save himself from their cruelty as his fellow-citizens had done. But he was cunning and brave, and he thought of a stratagem by which he hoped to escape the peril which threatened him,
After having embraced his wife and his child, he went out to put his project in execution; and amongst the baggage left behind by those who had run away, he easily found what he was looking for—that is to say, a complete soldier's dress. He put on his head an enormous helmet, surmounted by a high feather; on his feet large boots, to which were attached long spurs; a large sword and a pair of pistols at his belt, and a very fine officer's cloak over his shoulders.
Thus dressed, he went on to the ramparts, at the foot of which was a herald, who summoned the village to surrender.
Friend,” replied the valiant shepherd, “tell, I pray you, your general, that I have not the least intention of obeying his request; but that if I could make up my mind to do so, it would only be on these conditions : 1st, That the garrison should leave this fortress with the honours of war; 2d, That the lives and property of the inhabitants should be respected; 3d, That they should preserve the free exercise of their religion.
The herald replied that the Spaniards could not submit to such arrangements, that the population of Ogersheim was not in a state to defend itself, and that the best thing it could do was to surrender immediately.
“My friend,” answered the shepherd calmly, “ do not be so hasty. Tell your general, if you please, that the desire of avoiding bloodshed may determine me to open the gates of this stronghold to him ; but that if he does not accept the conditions I have laid before you, he will only enter