Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

THE GREAT CATARACT.

143

hollow voice came upon the wind with varying loudness; at one moment, loudly heard as if close at hand, and the next, dying away like the magic strains of an Æolian harp.

I reached a part of the road from which the shelving banks of the river, covered by the pines with many scathed tops among them, descended abruptly. And here a scene burst upon me more like what one may venture to conceive of what shall afterwards be revealed to the blessed in Paradise, than any other the most imposing of Nature's works, which I had delighted in visiting.

A mile of the broad river was broken into angry and foaming rapids, whose waves increased in size, crested with foam as they approached Goat Island, covered with wood, and dividing the channel of the united overflowings of Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Erie. Between the high bank where I stood and the island, was the sweep of the horse-shoe fall, over which, from their great depth, the waters seemed to roll with majestic slowness into a cauldron below, from which rose the ever-varying column of steam beautifully tinted with rainbows. Dimly seen through the vapour, was the straight fall on the American side. Its broad white sheet contrasted with the dark precipices of Goat Island, preventing the union of the two cataracts. The bend of the British fall did not permit me to see its entire breadth, and as the vapour cloud obscured the bottom of the American fall, and increased

144

THE GREAT CATARACT.

its apparent size, much was left to the imagination, and consequently a higher conception was formed of the grandeur of the falls from this point of view, than from any other.

But why need I stop to describe a scene which has already so often occupied the pen and pencil of authors and artists? I pass on in thankfulness that it has been my good fortune to have feasted my eyes upon its glories.

Inviting me to enter, on opposite sides of the road were two hotels with pillars, large windows, and white paint, like staring racing-stands. Nothing could be so ill-suited to the scene as these abominations; but if the traveller turns his back upon them, and looks towards the falls and up the river, the scene is still so wild, that it seems as if it were yet only tenanted with the Indians and red deer. I took a room at Lundy's Lane, below the falls, in a quiet country inn, on the field where a desperate night-battle was fought last war, the roar of the artillery mingling with the thunders of Niagara.

In the evening I crossed the fields, leaping fences and scrambling through marshes and underwoods, to see the falls from below. I saw the snow-white water issuing from the cloud of vapour, which for ever hides the bottom of the sheet of this cataract. I stood on the table-rock overhanging a part of the horseshoe, and descending to the lower ledge, placed myself beside the water plunging into the great cauldron, and

THE GREAT CATARACT.

145

in going under the fall was drenched with the condensed vapour, and assailed with violent gusts of wind, whilst slimy water-snakes and eels wound themselves round the slippery rocks, dimly seen by the green light shining through the thick and resistless sheet of thundering water.

That night, before I lay down, I listened long to the voice of the cataract, and could see in the clear moonlight its cloud ascending slowly and gracefully over the trees. Next morning I rose early, and again hurried to the river, and crossing the ferry in a small boat, wildly tossed about in the troubled waters, I ascended, on the American side, a wooden stair, and saw the ladder from which a strange character, called Jack Patch, used to leap into the river, there two hundred feet deep. I crossed the rapids above the American Fall, to Iris, or Goat Island, by a wooden bridge, a triumph of art over nature. It was thrown

across the angry torrent in the following manner: -A beam of wood was fixed horizontally in the bank at one end; from the extremity of the other a strong cradle of wood, filled with stones, was let down into the rocky bed of the rapids, to act as a pier; into this, the first pier, another log was fixed; then a second pier was added, and a third, till the bridge was laid. I wandered among the shades of Goat Island, read in an album containing thousands of names of visiters, that of one who stated his residence to be the world, and his destination the grave; walked to the extremity

[blocks in formation]

146

THE GREAT CATARACT.

of the bridge, lay on the Terapin rocks, and

looked over

"To where Niagara, in deafening sweep,

Girdled with rainbows, thunders down the steep !”

and at a late hour returned to take my ease at my inn. And here, by way of episode, I may give a narrative of the last days of a strange being, whose fate has given an additional interest to the falls this year. My tale was in part derived from a respectable resident at Niagara, and was confirmed by the testimony of the ferryman, who was witness to many of the melancholy details which follow.

CHAPTER VII.

The last Days of Francis Abbott. - His arrival at Niagara. Enraptured with the Falls.-Resides in Goat Island.-Builds a Cottage. His eccentric Habits.

[ocr errors]

Suspends himself over

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the Cataract. - His Firmness. His Principles. He commits suicide. His Life and Travels. Examination of his Cottage. Reflections.-Progressive Changes in the Rock of the Falls. Water Rockets.-An interesting Walk.-Sporting.-Canadian Rifleman.-Queenstown Heights.-Extensive View. General Brocke. Mr. W. H. Merritt.-The Welland Canal.-Embark on Lake Ontario.-Arrive at York, the Capital of Upper Canada. Its Rise. The Lieutenant Governor. The University.-Colonel Givings. Ride to the Credit Creek.-Clearing Land.-Emigrants.-American Innkeepers. An Indian Village.-Change of Habits in Indians. -Their Appearance. - Distribution of Presents. -Birds of Prey. Consequence of allowing Methodist Preachers among the Indians.—Chief Yellow Head.-Ride up Young Street.— German Settlers. - An old Highland Woman. Sail to Kingston.-Its Appearance.-Attend a Ploughing-match and Show of Cattle. Ride to Kingston Mills. - The Rideau Canal.. Á Funeral. The Lake of the Thousand Isles. Farm House.-The St. Lawrence.-Brockville.-Prescott.— The Cascades. Sail up the Ottawa. - Philemon Wright of Hull.-Story of a Beaver.-Arrive at Bytown.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

On the 18th June 1829, the anniversary of the ever-memorable battle of Waterloo, a tall and handsome young man, habited in a long sadcoloured cloak or gown, passed through the vil

« AnteriorContinuar »