Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 256


So few States in this country—and so few countries, if it comes to that—are without a lover's leap that the very name has come to be a by-word. In most of these places the disappointed ones seem to have gone to elaborate and unusual pains to commit suicide, neglecting many easy and equally appropriate methods. But while in some cases the legend has been made to fit the place, there is no doubt that in many instances the story antedated the arrival of the white men. The best known lovers' leaps are those on the upper Mississippi, on the French Broad, Jump Mountain, in Virginia, Jenny Jump Mountain, New Jersey, Mackinac, Michigan, Monument Mountain, Massachusetts, on the Wissahickon, near Philadelphia, Muscatine, Iowa, and Lefferts Height. There are many other declivities,—also, that are scenes of leaps and adventures, such as the Fawn's Leap, in Kaaterskill Clove; Rogers's Rock, on Lake George; the rocks in Long Narrows, on the Juniata, where the ghost of Captain Jack, "the wild hunter" of colonial days, still ranges; Campbell's Ledge, Pittston, Pennsylvania, where its name-giver jumped off to escape Indians; and Peabody's leap, of thirty feet, on Lake Champlain, where Tim Peabody, a scout, escaped after killing a number of savages.

At Jump Mountain, near Lexington, Virginia, an Indian couple sprang off because there were insuperable bars to their marriage.

At the rock on the Wissahickon a girl sought death because her lover was untrue to her.

At Muscatine the cause of a maid's demise and that of her lover was the severity of her father, who forbade the match because there was no war in which the young man could prove his courage.

At Lefferts Height a girl stopped her recreant lover as he was on his way to see her rival, and urging his horse to the edge of the bluff she leaped with him into the air.

Monument Mountain, a picturesque height in the Berkshires, is faced on its western side by a tall precipice, from which a girl flung herself because the laws of her tribe forbade her marriage with a cousin to whom she had plighted troth. She was buried where her body was found, and each Indian as he passed the spot laid a stone on her grave—thus, in time, forming a monument.

"Purgatory," the chasm at Newport, Rhode Island, through which the sea booms loudly after a storm, was a scene of self-sacrifice to a hopeless love on the part of an Indian pair in a later century, though there is an older tradition of the seizure of a guilty squaw, by no less a person than the devil himself, who flung her from the cliff and dragged her soul away as it left her body. His hoof-marks were formerly visible on the rocks.

At Hot Springs, North Carolina, two conspicuous cliffs are pointed out on the right bank of the French Broad River: Paint Rock—where the aborigines used to get ochre to smear their faces, and which they decorated with hieroglyphics—and Lover's Leap. It is claimed that the latter is the first in this country known to bear this sentimental and tragically suggestive title. There are two traditions concerning it, one being that an Indian girl was discovered at its top by hostiles who drove her into the gulf below, the other relating to the wish of an Indian to marry a girl of a tribe with which his own had been immemorially at war. The match was opposed on both sides, so, instead of doing as most Indians and some white men would do nowadays—marry the girl and let reconciliation come in time,—he scaled the rock in her company and leaped with her into the stream. They awoke as man and wife in the happy hunting-ground.