Harper's Young People, November 18, 1879 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt In this dreadful crisis, Walter pressed as hard as he could against the rocky crag, having but one hand at liberty to defend himself against the furious attack of the bird. It was quite impossible for him to get at his axe, and the force with which he was assaulted caused him nearly to let go his hold. He tried to seize the vulture's throat and strangle it; but the bird was too active, and made all such attempts perfectly useless. He could scarcely hope to continue such a dangerous struggle much longer. He was becoming faint from terror, and his left hand was fast growing benumbed with grasping the rock. He had almost resigned himself to his fate, and expected the next moment to be dashed to pieces on the field of ice beneath. Suddenly, however, he recollected his pocket-knife, and a new ray of hope dawned. Giving up the attempt to clutch at the furious bird, he drew the knife out of his pocket, and opened it with his teeth, and aiming two or three blows at the creature's breast, he found at last that he had been successful in reaching some mortal part. The fluttering of the wings ceased, and the dying bird stained the virgin snow with its blood on the ice-field below. Walter was saved; there was no other enemy now to fear; his life was no longer in danger; but his energies were taxed to the utmost, and it was well for him that the terrible contest had lasted no longer. Pale, trembling in every limb, and spattered with the vulture's blood as well as that which trickled from the many wounds he had received, the valiant young cragsman sank helplessly to the ground, where he lay for some minutes, paralyzed with the terrible exertion he had gone through. At length, however, he so far recovered himself as to be able to continue his fatiguing and dangerous journey, and soon succeeded in reaching the spot where he had left his jacket, shoes, and alpenstock. Having gained a place of safety, he poured forth his thanks to God for delivering him from such great danger, and began to bind up his wounds, which for the first time were now paining him. When this was accomplished in a rough and ready sort of way, he had a peep at the trophies in his bag, whose capture had been attended with such adventurous danger, and with the aid of his alpenstock succeeded in getting the dead body of the old bird, which he found had been struck right to the heart. But his knife he could not recover, so concluded that he must have dropped it after the deadly encounter. "That doesn't matter much," said he to himself, as he looked at the size of the bird. "It is a good exchange; and if I give the stranger the old bird with the young ones, I dare say he will give me another knife. What a splendid creature! Fully four feet long, and the wings at least three yards across. How father will open his eyes when he sees the dead Lämmergeier—and the Scotch gentleman too!" Tying the legs of the bird together with cord which he had fortunately brought, he slung it across his shoulder to balance the weight of the bag, and then started on his journey across the glacier, the foot of which he soon reached, and was then within hailing distance of the hotel where the stranger was residing. It was a good thing that he had not been kept longer away, for the sun was beginning to set by the time he reached the valley, and only the highest peaks were lit up by its departing glory. Tired and hungry, Walter was thankful to find himself once more at the door of the inn, where there was the same crowd of travellers, guides, horses, and mules he had seen in the morning. His appearance had attracted general attention as he descended the last hill leading to the hotel. "Why, I declare it's Watty Hirzel!" exclaimed one of the guides. "He was here this morning, and I declare he's got a young eagle hanging across his shoulder." "Say an old vulture, Mohrle, and you'll be nearer the mark," replied the lad in a cheerful tone and with sparkling eyes; for he felt so proud of the triumph he had achieved that all fatigue seemed to be forgotten. "An old vulture, Mohrle, and a splendid fellow into the bargain! I've got the young ones in my bag here." "You're a pretty fellow!" said another guide, with a sneer. "I suppose you mean to tell us that you've killed the old bird and carried off the young ones?" "Yes, that is just what I mean to tell you," replied the boy, smiling, and paying no attention to the sneer of the other....
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