The Master of the World HTML version

Chapter 3. The Great Eyrie
The next day at dawn, Elias Smith and I left Morganton by a road which, winding along
the left bank of the Catawba River, led to the village of Pleasant Garden. The guides
accompanied us, Harry Horn, a man of thirty, and James Bruck, aged twenty-five. They
were both natives of the region, and in constant demand among the tourists who climbed
the peaks of the Blueridge and Cumberland Mountains.
A light wagon with two good horses was provided to carry us to the foot of the range. It
contained provisions for two or three days, beyond which our trip surely would not be
protracted. Mr. Smith had shown himself a generous provider both in meats and in
liquors. As to water the mountain springs would furnish it in abundance, increased by the
heavy rains, frequent in that region during springtime.
It is needless to add that the Mayor of Morganton in his role of hunter, had brought along
his gun and his dog, Nisko, who gamboled joyously about the wagon. Nisko, however,
was to remain behind at the farm at Wildon, when we attempted our ascent. He could not
possibly follow us to the Great Eyrie with its cliffs to scale and its crevasses to cross.
The day was beautiful, the fresh air in that climate is still cool of an April morning. A few
fleecy clouds sped rapidly overhead, driven by a light breeze which swept across the long
plains, from the distant Atlantic. The sun peeping forth at intervals, illumined all the fresh
young verdure of the countryside.
An entire world animated the woods through which we passed. From before our equipage
fled squirrels, field-mice, parroquets of brilliant colors and deafening loquacity.
Opossums passed in hurried leaps, bearing their young in their pouches. Myriads of birds
were scattered amid the foliage of banyans, palms, and masses of rhododendrons, so
luxuriant that their thickets were impenetrable.
We arrived that evening at Pleasant Garden, where we were comfortably located for the
night with the mayor of the town, a particular friend of Mr. Smith. Pleasant Garden
proved little more than a village; but its mayor gave us a warm and generous reception,
and we supped pleasantly in his charming home, which stood beneath the shades of some
giant beech-trees.
Naturally the conversation turned upon our attempt to explore the interior of the Great
Eyrie. "You are right," said our host, "until we all know what is hidden within there, our
people will remain uneasy."
"Has nothing new occurred," I asked, "since the last appearance of flames above the
Great Eyrie?"
"Nothing, Mr. Strock. From Pleasant Garden we can see the entire crest of the mountain.
Not a suspicious noise has come down to us. Not a spark has risen. If a legion of devils is