Page images
PDF
EPUB

Roman punch at a third. If people will drink, they must do it secretly. They must retreat to the barroom, or inhale their sherry cobbler behind the folding-door. This is so much the case, that it is a fact that some men have died of delirium tremens who were not suspected of inebriety till betrayed by this horrid disease, which swept them into the drunkard's eternity. The climate is of itself so exciting, that it is said one-third the quantity of liquor will carry away a man's head and feet that would be required to produce that effect in England. The example of the clergy does them honour, and has had a powerful effect. In the house of no clergyman, of whatever denomination, did I see liquor, but, I grieve to say, in some of them I heard, with shame, how the habits of our Scottish clergy, their guests, had impeded their influence, and shocked the abstemious people. Our clergy are all temperate men, but in the United States their pious clergymen are total abstainers for example's sake.

[graphic]

CHAPTER XXIX.

NIAGARA.

FROM Buffalo to Niagara, the way is not altogether pleasant. The uncultured suburbs and imperfect roads of a city hastening in its growth, the ugly shanties of workmen labouring there, the trees stript of their branches, the houses for cattle without paint or any pretension to neatness, and those for men with glaring, drink-inviting signs, and the ground guttered by recent rains, while the river's bank, in some parts, looked like the slimy edge of a tide-water canal-such is the uninviting aspect of the first few miles of the road. It was therefore pleasing to let the eye take refuge in the deep blue, cloudless sky, effulgent in the subdued sunbeams of the balmy Indian summer. Not a cloud remained to indicate the torrent of rain which had been emptied on the earth during the night. When, lo! while we were yet several miles from our destination, a pillar of cloud appeared, white, but massy, containing an immense quantity of vapour, condensed by the coolness of the surrounding air. It

was not hung in the heavens a lonely cloud, revealing not whence it had been exhaled. It ascended from mother earth, like the cloud from the altar of incense of old in the unshaded sky of the wilderness —and probably this cloud, so dense, so white, so lofty, has ascended from the altar of nature in the Indian wild for centuries before that incense sought the sky in the desert of Arabia, as it has continued to ascend three thousand years since the altar and the camp of Israel have been removed. This pillar of vapour, from the foam of Niagara, still, huge, and solemn, in the quiet air, filled the mind—meet incense from an altar so grand and so enduring. One wanted to be alone to gaze on it, and hear the accompanying boom of the mighty torrent, and feel the earth tremble around it. At length we neared the scene of this huge coil of waters, where the cloud, instead of increasing in importance, seemed to diminish. Attention was diverted. There seemed a gap between it and the surface of the foam, and the forest trees appeared to mingle in its formation. I could never recover the impression produced by my first view of the pillar of cloud. Every one professes disappointment on the first view of the Falls. I must confess my exceeding dulness, which had excited some mirth amongst my fellow-travellers. We had unexpectedly caught a glimpse of the Genesee Falls the day before, whe a brilliant sun painted a rich and perfect rainbow which hung over the boiling volumes of the floo

below, like “ love watching madness with unaltered mien.” In a few moments the cars stopped at Rochester, and, while we hastened back to seek the border of the Genesee, I expressed my wonder that we had already reached Niagara! It was but the hallucination of the moment, but made food for fun, and proved at least that I should be easily contented with my cataract. Yet, in comparison with any common Falls, those of the Genesee are magnificent.

I was not disappointed with Niagara. And, like all the grand and noble in nature, it bears inspection. Its grandeur magnifies under contemplation, and the mind finds secret recesses of admiration, or solemn sympathies unfold to apprehend the mighty scene, and the heart's pulses learn to beat in unison with the diapason of its muffled thunders. Leisurely observation, therefore, does not exhaust, but rather enhances the interest—and weeks instead of days might glide by, while the spirit would still freshly mingle with the spell of its Fall.

We took a guide from the only hotel left open at that late season of the year, and found him useful as related to the safety of our steps, but otherwise rather an impediment than assistant; speciallyand it is the only time I was really incommoded by the much-discussed tobacco-consuming customs of the country-specially by the man's continual eating of tobacco, and obliging us to skip about and shift our places to avoid its disgusting consequences,

while we wished to view the immense cascade in repose. We found this well-fed but not well-informed person afterwards at the hotel dinner amongst the travellers.

When people on the spot are expected to describe the Falls, you generally find them gliding off from the grand theme to something that concerns man. Here such an one fell in and was carried over the precipice into the gulf below—there another was rescued—by such means the American flag was planted on that shelf of gravel in the midst of the rapid. And, above all, they are most apt to tell you here was a battle between the Indians and the settlers, and there between the Americans and the British. They will disturb your contemplation on the verge of that fearful gulf called the Devil's Hole, to bring forth a human jaw bleached by ninety winters. It once had belonged to an English soldier, who, with a hundred of his comrades, were by a body of Seneca Indians slain or cast down that precipice to perish. Battle, murder, or sudden death seem the subjects you cannot escape from in this vicinity, so prolific in contests between the civilised and the Savage.

“There the deer drank, and the light gale flew o'er
The twinkling maize field rustling on the shore;
And while that spot, so wild, and lone, and fair,
A look of glad and innocent beauty wore,
And peace was on the earth and in the air,
The warrior lit the pile, and bound his captive there.”
BRYANT.

A land, rich now in well-cultured fields and natural

« PreviousContinue »