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tions which in imagination I had gathered round the scene, its appalling terrors, its soul-subduing beauty, power, and height, and velocity, and immensity, were all diminished in effect, or wholly lost.
I was quite silent--my very soul sank within me. On seeing my disappointment (written, I suppose, most legibly in my countenance,) my companion began to comfort me, by telling me of all those who had been disappointed on the first view of Niagara, and had confessed it. I did confess; but I was not to be comforted. We held on our way to the Clifton Hotel, at the foot of the hill; most desolate it looked with its summer verandas and open balconies cumbered up with snow, and hung round with icicles-its forlorn empty rooms, broken windows, and dusty dinnertables. The poor people who kept the house in winter had gathered themselves for warmth and comfort into a little kitchen, and, when we made our appearance, stared at us with a blank amazement, which showed what a rare thing was the sight of a visitor at this season. While the horses were cared for, I went up into the highest balcony, to command a better view of the cataract; a little Yankee boy, with a shrewd sharp face, and twinkling black eyes, acting as my gentleman-usher. As I stood gazing on the scene, which seemed to enlarge upon my vision, the little fellow stuck his hands into his pockets, and looking up in my face, said,
"You be from the old country, I reckon?"
"Out over there, beyond the sea?"
"And did you come all that way across the sea for these here Falls ?"
"My!" Then after a long pause, and eyeing me with a most comical expression of impudence and fun, he added, "Now do you know what them ere birds are, out yonder?"
pointing to a number of gulls which were hovering and sporting amid the spray, rising, and sinking, and wheeling around, appearing to delight in playing on the verge of this "hell of waters," and almost dipping their wings into the foam. My eyes were, in truth, fixed on these fair, fearless creatures, and they had suggested already twenty fanciful similitudes, when I was roused by his question,
"Those birds?" said I, "Why, what are they?" Why, them's EAGLES !"
Eagles?" it was impossible to help laughing.
"Yes," said the urchin, sturdily; "and I guess you have none of them in the old country ?"
"Not many eagles, my boy; but plenty of gulls!" and I gave him a pretty considerable pinch by the ear.*
Ay!" said he, laughing; "well, now you be dreadful smart-smarter than many folks that come here!"
We now prepared to walk to the Crescent Fall, and I bound some crampons to my feet, like those they use among the Alps, without which I could not for a moment have kept my footing on the frozen surface of the snow. we approached the Table Rock, the whole scene assumed a wild and wonderful magnificence; down came the dark green waters, hurrying with them over the edge of the precipice enormous blocks of ice brought down from Lake Erie. On each side of the Falls, from the ledges and overhanging cliffs, were suspended huge icicles, some twenty, some thirty feet in length, thicker than the body of a man, and in colour of a paly green, like the glaciers of the Alps; and all the crags below, which projected from the boiling, eddying waters, were encrusted, and in a manner built round with ice, which had formed into immense crystals, like basaltic columns, such as I have seen in the pictures of Staffa and the Giant's Causeway; and every tree, and leaf, and branch, fringing the rocks and ravines, was wrought in ice. On them, and on the wooden buildings erected near the Table Rock, the spray from the cataract had accumulated, and formed * Eagles are very commonly seen about the Falls.-W. B.
into the most beautiful crystals and tracery-work; they looked like houses of glass, welded and moulded into regular and ornamental shapes, and hung round with a rich fringe of icy points. Wherever we stood we were on unsafe ground, for the snow, when heaped up, as now, to the height of three or four feet, frequently slipped in masses from the bare rock, and on its surface the spray, for ever falling, was converted into a sheet of ice, smooth, compact, and glassy, on which I could not have stood a moment without my crampons. It was very fearful, and yet I could not tear myself away, but remained on the Table Rock, even on the very edge of it, till a kind of dreamy fascination came over me; the continuous thunder, and might, and movement of the lapsing waters, held all my vital spirits bound up as by a spell. Then, as at last I turned away, the descending sun broke out, and an iris appeared below the American Fall, one extremity resting on a snow-mound; and then it hung motionless in the midst of restless terrors, its beautiful but rather pale hues contrasting with the deathlike, colourless objects around; it reminded me of the faint ethereal smile of a dying martyr. It was near midnight when we mounted our sleigh to return to the town of Niagara, and, as I remember, I did not utter a word during the whole fourteen miles. The air was still, though keen; the snow lay around; the whole earth seemed to slumber in a ghastly calm repose, but the heavens were wide awake. Then the aurora borealis was holding her revels, and dancing, and flashing, and varying through all shapes and all hues-pale amber, rose tint, blood red—and the stars shone out with a fitful, restless brilliance, and every now and then a meteor would shoot athwart the skies, or fall to earth, and all around me was wild and strange, and exciting--more like a fever-dream than a reality.
To-day I am suffering, as might be expected, with pain and stiffness, unable to walk across the room; but the pain will pass and on the whole, I am glad I have made this excursion. The Falls did not make on my mind the impression I had anticipated, perhaps for that reason, even because
I had anticipated it. Under different circumstances it might have been otherwise; but "it was sung to me in my cradle," as the Germans say,* that I should live to be disappointed— even in the Falls of Niagara.
(Extracted from his " Men and Manners in America, in 1833.")
ABOUT twelve o'clock, I found myself in Forsyth's hotel, a large and not uncomfortable house, about half-a-mile distant from the Great Horse-Shoe Fall. It stands upon a high level of table-land, and from the upper balcony the Falls are distinctly visible. To a stranger visiting Niagara for the first time, I do not know that this circumstance is very desirable, and I confess that in my own case, the view carried with it something of disappointment.
The truth is, that from Forsyth's you see the upper portion of the Fall; but at least one half of the descent, the boiling caldron below, and the impenetrable mass of vapour with which it is sublimely and mysteriously encanopied, you do not see. No sooner had I reached the hotel, than the morning, which had been lowering with dark and threatening clouds, set in with an absolute tempest of wind and rain. It was impossible to rest, however, before gazing on the great wonder which I had travelled so far to behold; so, throwing on my cloak, I sallied forth, bidding defiance to the elements. The banks which descend to the bed of the river are very steep, and so slippery, that I encountered more than one tumble in my progress. But this was nothing; and most amply was I repaid for all the troubles of my journey, when in a few minutes I found myself standing on the very brink of this tremendous yet most beautiful cataract.
* "So was nur's in der wiege gesungen," is a common phrase to express something to which we are seemingly predestined.
The spot from which I first beheld it was the Table Rock, and of the effect produced by the overwhelming sublimity of the spectacle, it is not possible to embody in words any adequate description. The spectator at first feels as if stricken by catalepsy. His blood ceases to flow, or rather is sent back in overpowering pressure on the heart. He gasps "like a drowning man," to catch a mouthful of breath. "All elements of soul and sense," are absorbed in the magnitude and glory of one single object. The past and future are obliterated, and he stands mute and powerless, in the presence of that scene of awful splendour on which his gaze is riveted. In attempting to convey to those who have never visited the Falls, any notion of the impression which they produce, I believe it is impossible to escape the charge of exaggeration. The penalty is one which I am prepared to pay. But the objects presented by Niagara are undoubtedly among those which exercise a permanent influence on the imagination of the spectator. The day-the hour-the minute-when his eye first rested on the Great Horse-Shoe Fall, is an epoch in the life of any man. He gazes on a scene of splendour and sublimity far greater than the unaided fancy of poet or painter ever pictured. He has received an impression which time cannot diminish, and death only can efface.
The results of that single moment will extend through a lifetime, enlarge the sphere of thought, and influence the whole tissue of his moral being.
I remained on the Table Rock till drenched to the skin, and still lingered in the hope that some flash of the lightning-which had become very vivid-might disclose the secrets of the cloudy and mysterious caldron, into which the eye vainly endeavoured to penetrate. But But I was disappointed. Far overhead the fearful revelry of the elements still continued; but the lightning seemed to shun all approach to an object of sublimity equal to its own.
My window in the hotel commanded a view of the Falls, and their deep and hollow roar was at all times distinctly