Page images

Niagara, renowned all over the world for its majesty, its magnitude and its power, and described by travellers as the sublimest object on earth. The ocean is often more varied in its grandeur, the giant mountains of the Andes and Ilimalaya more imposing in their solitude, but no single spectacle is at once so striking and wonderful as the descent of the sea-like flood, the overplus of four extensive American lakes. From Lake Erie to Lake Ontario the river Niagara has a course of about thirty-three miles ; and at the fall the width of the river is three-quarters of a mile. The fall itself is divided into two unequal portions by the intervention of a small patch of rock, called Goat Island, which presents a facade 1000 feet in breadth ; thus in a strict sense there are two falls; the one on the British side of the river, called from its shape, the Horse shoe Fall, is about 2100 feet broad, and 149 feet 9 inches high. The other, or American Fall, is 1140 feet broad and 864 feet high. The British, or Horse-shoe Fall, is superior in grandeur to the other : the water passing over with such rapidity that it forms a curved sheet which strikes the stream below at the distance of fifty feet from the base, and some travellers have ventured between the descending flood and the rock itself. The quantity of water rolling over these falls is estimated at 670,250 tons per minute.

Captain Basil Hall compares the sound of its waters to the ceaseless, rumbling, deep monotonous sounds of a vast mill. Dr. Read says, “It is not like thunder, nor like the sea, nor like anything he had anywhere else heard. There is no roar, no rattle, nothing sharp or angry in its tones; it is deep, awful, One.” A visit to the falls, Mr. A. N. Gould, thus describes—“My attention had been kept ! alive, and I was all awake to the sound of the cataract; but though within a few miles, I heard nothing. A cloud hanging steadily over the forest, was pointed out to me as the spray clouds'; at length we drove up to Forsyth's Hotel, and the mighty Niagara came in full view. My first impression was that of disappointment, * * * * but while I mused, I began to take in the grandeur of the

scene. The fact is, that the first view of Niagara is a bad one : and the eye, in this situation, can comprehend but a small part of the wonderful scene; you look down upon the cataract, instead of up to it; the confined channel, and the depth of it, prevent the astounding roar which was anticipated, and at the same time, the eye wanders midway between the water and the cloud formed by the spray, which it sees not. After a quarter of an hour's gaze, I felt a kind of fascination-a desire to find myself gliding into eternity in the centre of the grand fall, over which the bright green water appears to glide like oil, without the least commotion. I approached nearly to the edge of the * Table Rock,' and looked down into the abyss. A lady from Devonshire had just returned from the spot. I was informed she had approached its very edge, and sat with her feet over the edge,-an awful and dangerous proceeding. Having viewed the spot, and made myself acquainted with some of its localities, I returned to the hotel, which is admirably situate for the view ; from my chamber window I looked directly upon it, and the first night I could find but little sleep from the noise. Every view I took increased my admiration ; and I began to think that the other falls I had seen were, in comparison, like runs from kettle spouts on hot plates. I remained in this interesting neighbourhood for five days, and saw the fall from almost every point of view. From its extent and the angular line it forms, the eye cannot embrace it all at once : and, probably, from this cause it is that no drawing has ever yet done justice to it. The grandest view, in my opinion, is at the bottom, and close to it on the British side, where it is awful to look up through the spray at the immense body as it comes pouring over, deafening you with its roar ; the lighter spray, at a considerable distance, hangs poised in the air like an eternal cloud. The next best view is on the American side, to reach which you cross in a crazy ferry boat : the passage is safe enough but the current is strongly agitated. Its depth, as near to the falls as can be approached, is from 180 to 200 feet. The water, as it passes over the rock, where it is not whip

ped into foam, is a most beautiful sea-green, and it is the same at the bottom of the falls. The foam, which floats away in large bodies, feels and looks like salt water after a storm : it has a strong fishy smell. The river, at the ferry, is 1170 feet wide. There is a great quantity of fisk, particularly sturgeon and bass, as well as eels; the latter

crept up against the rock under the falls, as if desirous 1 of finding some mode of surinounting the heights. Some

of the visitors go under the falls, an undertaking more curious than pleasant. It is described as like being under a heavy shower-bath, with a tremendous whirlwind drising your breath from you, and causing a peculiarly unpleasant sensation at the chest; the footing over the débris being slippery, the darkness barely visible, and the

roar almost deafening. In the passage you kick against Heels, many of them unwilling to move, even when touched:

they appear to be endeavouring to work their way up the streams.

A dislocation of the rocks, which occurred in 1915, caused by the cutting away of the foundation by the erosive action of the water, has increased the difficulty of entering the chasm under the fall. In 1828 a similar rupture took place, and obstructed the passage still more. In spite of the real hazard so produced several visitors of late years have made the attempt, and none with more success than Miss Martineau, who describes the undertaking in her work on America. She says, “ A hurricane blows up from the cauldron; a deluge drives at you from all parts; and the noise of both wind and waters, reverberated from the cavern, is inconceivable. Our path was sometimes a wet ledge of rock, first broad enough to allos one person at a time to creep along; in other places ve walked over heaps of fragments both slippery and unstable. If all had been dry and quiet, I might have thought this path above the boiling basin dangerous, and have trembled to pass it; but amidst the hubbub of gusts and floods, it appeared so firm a footing that I had no fear of slipping into the cauldron. For the moment I perceived we were actually behind the cataract, and not in a mere

cloud of spray, the enjoyment was intense. I not only saw the watery curtain before me like tempest-driven snow, but, by momentary glances, could see the crystal roof of this most wonderful of Nature's palaces. The precise point where the flood quitted the rock, was marked by a gush of silvery light, which of course was brighter where the waters were shooting forward, than below where they fell perpendicularly.”

Several fatal accidents have happened at these falls. A tradition tells of an Indian, who, getting unwittingly within reach of the rapids, and finding escape impossible, sat singing in his canoe till it glided over the fall, bearing him, in a single moment, and without a single pain to eternity. Chateaubriand almost lost his life here, through his horse getting frightened by a snake, and was saved only by the animal suddenly perceiving the new danger, and springing by a pirouette ten feet away from the abyss. The cutting away of the rock is so rapid that the fall recedes at the rate of about fifty feet in forty years, so that for the falls to recede to Lake Erie, a distance of twenty-five miles, will require a period of 35,000 years, when the lake will be drained of its contents, and the country (if preserving its present features) will be submerged and partly destroyed by the inundation.


ONE morning Horace was seated before his writing-desk in his uncle's library, with his head leaning on his hands in an attitude of deep thought; then rising, he pushed aside the desk and walked about the room with slow steps. His uncle who was present, asked him, What was the matter?

“I am in perplexity about an essay that must be written during the holidays," said Horace, “the subject is ‘Generosity.' When it was given out I thought it was so easy that it would not give me an hour's trouble ; I had floating ideas in my mind about Cæsar and Alcibiades, and

“ Has

thought I could write a fine thing on the subject, but I do not find it quite so easy as I imagined.”

your master given you any rules for your composition ?" asked his uncle.

“ Only that it must not exceed two pages, for he likes us to be brief, and that we must give an example of generosity from a well-known author. As to anything else he has left us quite at liberty, the example may be taken from any book in any language.”

“I like this kind of task very much," said his uncle, “it exercises your memory and accustoms you to reflect on what you have read, and I am of your master's opinion too about its being short ; it is always best to say what you have to say in as few words as possible. But what perplexes you Horace.”

“Why uncle, it is not quite such an easy matter to define generosity as I thought, it is difficult to discover what is true generosity. many apparently generous things have been done from wrong motives : a lore of popularity, a wish to be admired, or even some worse motive, and that you know is only selfishness in another shape after all. If we are to exclude ambition and the love of applause as motives, I am afraid I must give up my two Heroes Cæsar and Alcibiades after all.”

Very probably,” replied his uncle, “generous is a word often misapplied; if a man gives largely to any good object from a wish to stand well in the opinion of the public, he is not generous, he is only selfish. When rich people give magnificent entertainments and invite their friends to enjoy them, it is often not from generosity bat from ostentation; and when a wealthy person gives a costly present, it is often neither from affection nor generosity but simply from vanity."

But, uncle, if we invite others to share our pleasures, is there not a kind of generosity in this ?"

No, my dear Horace, not unless we do it in the way spoken of in St. Luke's Gospel : When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, por thy rich neighbours, lest they

« PreviousContinue »