State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Strange Tale of 1888- Part Three

The Seal Broken continued from October 22nd and 25th . . .


THE RIVER STYX.
Here we noticed that we were following the stream from the falls. Going on four hundred yards forward and many feet downward, we were again arrested by a body of water, which extended entirely across the cavern into the blackness beyond, we tried the depth of this gulf with our poles but it was apparently bottomless. A large rock was tied on the end of the rope and lowered, but it rolled down the slope sides and found no resting-place for more than sixty feet. "Drat the luck; I wish I had my boat," said Tupps, showing the disappointment he felt the water was warm, and had a brackish, sulphurous taste. After standing for some time undecided how to proceed, Braddenham remarked, "Well, boys, I reckon we'll have to swim it." This proposition was not relished by at least one of the party for he could not swim a stroke. Braddenham at once undressed, and breaking off a piece of the pole, tied it to his back, the end rising about two feet above his head. To the end of this pole be attached a lantern, and then without a moment of hesitation let himself down into the water. He was a good swimmer, and in few minutes only the light from the lantern could be seen dancing across the darkness. After going about fifty yards it was seen that he had stopped, and now he was returning, but in a zigzag course. As soon as he reached the shore he said: "It's all right; I reckon you can walk across." This appeared absurd, but he explained that in swimming a ledge of rock had been struck, and this he found extended back to where we were standing. Braddenham then started again, this time walking on the rock below the water carefully feeling with his pole. After a while we heard the words "All right" come from out the Stygian blackness and saw his light returning. The journey had been successfully accomplished by him, and we all prepared to cross over, we had been paying out the twine as we proceeded, and now it was discovered that the end of it had been reached. Tupps then went back to the falls to break it at that point, as this portion of the route was straight, and it was not probable we would lose our way on the return. When he came back we all started across, with Braddenham in front. The ledge was entirely under water, but in no place more than one foot below the surface. The face of the rock was smooth and from twelve to eighteen inches in width. We proceeded cautiously along the crooked pathway, feeling with our poles before making a step. Tupps had no pole, and soon we heard a load splash as his bulky form fell into the water. "Take my gun," was his first exclamation, as his head appeared on the surface and he was seen clinging to the lock. Lane relieved him of the weapon, which was found to be dry, and he climbed up again. Without further mishap we reached the shore, and, as well as we were able to judge, found that the gulf was about six hundred yards in length. Its width we were unable to determine. Here we put on our shoes, which had been removed, and fastening the end of the string to a rock, proceeded on our journey. 

THE FIRE CHAMBER.
Our course was now upward, and walking was difficult. The ground was wet and muddy, anti the passage was almost choked up in some places by earth and fallen rocks. But we were stimulated by the thought that we were climbing towards daylight, and walked or crawled along as fast as possible. At length our feet struck solid ground again, and we hail suddenly entered another large chamber, this apartment was octagonal in shape, and nearly two hundred yards from side to side. The floor was hard and dry, and the roof could not be seen by the light from our lanterns. Near the place at which we had entered in there was a large pile of lightwood and a considerable quantity of a substance which we found to be pitch. In the centre of the room stood a high altar of atone with steps leading up to it nearly fifty small alters were found encircling the apartment. "Let's make a fire," said Lane, and the suggestion was carried into execution. Gathering arms full of light-wood, and rolling a large mass of pitch to the altar in the centre, we piled up the fuel and applied a match. Soon the flames were leaping high towards the roof, and Tupps, who had climbed upon the altar, was enveloped in a cloud of steam ascending from his wet clothing. "Look!" said Tupps, holding up a human skull. We did look and the whole scene was weird and impressive. The flames were shouting high in the air and strange objects were revealed by the lurid glare. The walls of the cavern and the roof were momentarily brought to view and then suddenly disappeared. Fantastic pictures were thrown upon the background of dark beats, and uncouth forms of men and beasts stood out from the rocky walls. Above us in a blaze of light was the huge form of Tupps, holding in his hands the evidence of man's mortality. On examination was seen that the top of the altar was concave, and raking away the ashes we found many calcined human bones. 

CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH'S ROMANCE.
"While walking around the altar one of the party struck his foot against an object winch had been lying within the shadow of the steps, and it rolled out into the light with a metallic sound, it was found to be a copper box, about six by four inches and one inch deep. At each end there were places through which a belt might pass, and thus strap it to the waist. Opening this box we found some letters scratched on the inside of the lid, and by the firelight read the words: "Captain John Smith; his Cartouch." The contents of the box were then examined. First we found a small brass-bound pocket-compass, and next a parcel wrapped with black silk. Removing this covering a small piece of parchment was seen, and in this a long tress of dark-brown hair. On the parchment these words were written: " 
Dorothea Harlow; Virtuous, Adorable, but Unstable; who affected to regard ye Estimacion of her Ardent Admirer, but disdained ye True Love of ye Souldier for ye foppish fancy of a Titled Ryvall, and sent her Disconsolated True Knighte to perish in this Heatherne Land by ye hande of Salvages." 
At the bottom of the box we found another writing. The ink was faded and the paper much mutilated. Holding it up to the light we finally deciphered most of the writing, which ran as follows: 

 A LETTER FROM CAPTAIN SMITH.
"Most Illvstriovs, And Most Noble :- 
Forasmvch as a Trve and Faithfvll accompte of all my Adventvres In this Heatherne Covntrie haith come vndar ye reach of my owne rovgh Pen, I praie Yovr Grace to give dve Dilligence to ye same, and not sette downe against me yt aught is written in ill conceit or Vain Glory. Concerning divers Tryalla and Adventvres in these Parts there were manie to Witness, bvt of my Perille and safe Deliverance from ye crvell Death at ye hands of Powhatan and his salvages there is none to beare Wittnesse save ye Salvages themselves and Pokahuntas who did save my life, and she from Modestie doth not discovrse of the matter. My present Adventvre in ye Cave of Salvage Priestess, and ye many extremities of my sitvacion in Perills of Wind and Water and of Fire have all been Trvly sette downe, but leaste diverse persons shovld make Impvtacion yt such Relation is wanting Proofs, and a knowledge of Crvelties by ye Indians shovld be prevencion from settleinge by many others in these forraine lands, I praie Yovr Grace will daigne to vse a Critticks Art In making  pvblick such parts of ye present Writings as will preserve ye Repvtacion of Actor and Relator, and promote ye Glory of god. In ye present weaknesse * * * * [here several sentences are illegible.] * * * bvt with all Energie and Care to compass ye projekt. 
Your Grace, his Most Faithfull and Devoted Servant. JOHN SMITH." 7 th. January 1607. 
After reading this letter our desire to explore every portion of the cavern was greatly increased, but this was impracticable at the time, as we found more than a dozen passages leading in different directions. A large quantity of fuel was piled upon the altar, and the ruddy glow beat back the dark shadows toward the wall. 


TO BE CONTINUED . . .


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