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But nevertheless I say again that that wooden rail is the one point from whence Niagara may be best seen aright.
Close to the cataract, exactly at the spot from whence in former days the Table Rock used to project from the land over the boiling caldron below, there is now a shaft down which you will descend to the level of the river, and pass between the rock and the torrent. This Table Rock broke away from the cliff and fell, as up the whole course of the river the seceding rocks have split and fallen from time to time through countless years, and will continue to do till the bed of the upper lake is reached. You will descend this shaft, taking to yourself or not taking to yourself a suit of oil-clothes as you may think best. I have gone with and without the suit, and again recommend that they be left behind. I am inclined to think that the ordinary payment should be made for their use, as otherwise it will appear to those whose trade it is to prepare them that you are injuring them in their vested rights.
Some three years since I visited Niagara on my way back to England from Bermuda, and in a volume of travels which I then published I endeavoured to explain the impression made upon me by this passage between the rock and the waterfall. An author should not quote himself; but as I feel myself bound, in writing a chapter specially about Niagara, to give some account of this strange position, I will venture to repeat my own words.
In the spot to which I allude the visitor stands on a broad safe path, made of shingles, between the rock over which the water rushes and the rushing water. He will go in so far that the spray rising back from the bed of the torrent does not incommode him. With this exception, the further he can go in the better; but circumstances will clearly show him the spot to which he should advance. Unless the water be driven in by a very strong wind, five yards make the difference between a comparatively dry coat and an absolute wet one. And then let him stand with his back to the entrance, thus hiding the last glimmer of the expiring day. So standing he will look up among the falling waters, or down into the deep misty pit, from which they reascend in almost as palpable a bulk. The rock will be at his right hand, high and hard, and dark and straight, like the wall of some huge cavern, such as children enter in their dreams. For the first five minutes he will be looking but at the waters of a cataract, -at the waters, indeed, of such a cataract as we know no other, and at their interior curves which elsewhere we can not see. But by-and-by all this
will change. He will no longer be on a shingly path beneath a waterfall; but that feeling of a cavern wall will grow upon him, of a cavern deep, below roaring seas, in which the waves are there, though they do not enter in upon him; or rather not the waves, but the very bowels of the ocean. He will feel as though the floods surrounded him, coming and going with their wild sounds, and he will hardly recognize that though among them he is not in them. And they, as they fall with a continual roar, not hurting the ear, but musical withal, will seem to move as the vast ocean waters may perhaps move in their internal currents. He will lose the sense of one continued descent, and think that they are passing round him in their appointed courses. The broken spray that rises from the depth below, rises so strongly, so palpably, so rapidly, that the motion in every direction will seem equal. And, as he looks on, strange colours will show themselves through the mist; thé shades of grey will become green or blue, with ever and anon a flash of white; and then, when some gust of wind blows in with greater violence, the sea-girt cavern will become all dark and black. Oh, my friend, let there be no one there to speak to thee then; no, not even a brother. As you stand there speak only to the waters.
Two miles below the falls the river is crossed by a suspension bridge of marvellous construction. It affords two thoroughfares, one above the other. The lower road is for carriages and horses, and the upper one bears a railway belonging to the Great Western Canada line. The view from hence both up and down the river is very beautiful, for the bridge is built immediately over the first of a series of rapids. One mile below the bridge these rapids end in a broad basin called the whirlpool, and, issuing out of this, the current turns to the right through a narrow channel overhung by cliffs and trees, and then makes its way down to Lake Ontario with comparative tranquillity.
But I will beg you to take notice of those rapids from the bridge and to ask yourself what chance of life would remain to any ship, craft, or boat required by destiny to undergo navigation beneath the bridge and down into that whirlpool. Heretofore all men would have said that no chance of life could remain to so ill-starred a bark. The navigation, however, has been effected. But men used to the river still say that the chances would be fifty to one against any vessel which should attempt to repeat the experiment. The story of that wondrous voyage was as follows. A small
steamer called the Maid of the Mist was built upon the river, between the falls and the rapids, and was used for taking ad. venturous tourists up amidst the spray, as near to the cataract as was possible. The Maid of the Mist plied in this way for a year or two, and was, I believe, much patronized during the season. But in the early part of last summer an evil time had
Either the Maid got into debt, or her owner had embarked in other and less profitable speculations. At any rate he became subject to the law, and tidings reached him that the Sheriff would seize the Maid. On most occasions the Sheriff is bound to keep such intentions secret, seeing that property is moveable, and that an insolvent debtor will not always await the officers of justice. But with the poor Maid there was no need of such secresy. There was but a mile or so of water on which she could ply, and she was forbidden by the nature of her properties to make any way upon land. The Sheriff's prey therefore was easy and the poor Maid was doomed.
In any country in the world but America such would have been the case, but an American would steam down Phlegethon to save his property from the Sheriff'; he would steam down Phlegethon or get some one else to do it for him. Whether or no in this case the captain of the boat was the proprietor, or whether as I was told, he was paid for the job, I do not know; but he determined to run the rapids, and he procured two others to accompany him in the risk. He got up his steam, and took the Maid up amidst the spray according to his custom. Then suddenly turning on his course, he with one of his companions fixed himself at the wheel, while the other remained at his engine. I wish I could look into the mind of that man and understand what his thoughts were at that moment; what were his thoughts and what his beliefs. As to one of the men I was told that he was carried down, not knowing what he was about to do, but I am inclined to believe that all the three were joined together in the attempt.
I was told by a man who saw the boat pass under the bridge, that she made one long leap down as she came thither, that her funnel was at once knocked flat on the deck by the force of the blow, that the waters covered her from stem to stern, and that then she rose again and skimmed into the whirlpool a mile below. When there she rode with comparative ease upon the waters, and took the sharp turn round into the river below without a struggle. The feat was done, and the Maid was rescued from the Sheriff. It is said that she was sold below at the mouth of the river, and carried from thence over Lake Ontario and down the St. Lawrence to Quebec.
NORTH AND WEST.
From Niagara we determined to proceed north-west; as far to the north-west as we could go with any reasonable hope of finding American citizens in a state of political civilization, and perhaps guided also in some measure by our hopes as to hotel accommodation. Looking to these two matters we resolved to get across to the Mississippi, and to go up that river as far as the town of St. Paul and the falls of St. Anthony, which are some twelve miles above the town; then to descend the river as far as the States of Iowa on the west, and Illinois on the east; and to return eastwards through Chicago and the large cities on the southern shores of Lake Erie, from whence we would go across to Albany, the capital of New York State, and down the Hudson to New York, the capital of the Western world. For such a journey, in which scenery was one great object, we were rather late, as we did not leave Niagara till the 10th of October; but though the winters are extremely cold through all this portion of the American continent—15, 20, and even 25 degrees below zero being an ordinary state of the atmosphere in latitudes equal to those of Florence, Nice, and Turin — nevertheless the autumns are mild, the noonday being always warm, and the colours of the foliage are then in all their glory. I was also very anxious to ascertain, if it might be in my power to do so, with what spirit or true feeling as to the matter, the work of recruiting for the now enormous army of the States was going on in those remote regions. That men should be on fire in Boston and New York, in Philadelphia, and along the borders of secession, I could understand. I could understand also that they should be on fire throughout the cotton, sugar, and rice plantations of the South. But I could hardly understand that this political fervour should have communicated itself to the far-off farmers who had thinly spread themselves over the enormous wheat-growing districts of the North-West. St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, is 900 miles directly north of St. Louis, the most northern point to which slavery extends in the Western States of the Union, and the farming lands of Minnesota stretch away again for some hundreds of miles north and west of St. Paul. Could it be that those scanty and far-off pioneers of agriculture, those frontier farmers who are nearly one half German and nearly the other half Irish, would desert their clearings and ruin their chances of progress in the world for distant wars of which the causes must, as I thought, be to them unintelligible? I had been told that distance had but lent enchantment to the view, and that the war was even more popular in the remote and newly-settled States than in those which have been longer known as great political bodies. So I resolved that I would go and see.
It may be as well to explain here that that great political Union hitherto called the United States of America may be more properly divided into three than into two distinct interests. In England we have long heard of North and South as pitted against each other, and we have always understood that the southern politicians or democrats have prevailed over the northern politicians or republicans, because they were assisted in their views by northern men of mark who have held southern principles :- -that is, by northern men who have been willing to obtain political power by joining themselves to the southern party. That as far as I can understand has been the general idea in England, and in a broad way it has been true. But as years have advanced, and as the States have extended themselves westward, a third large party has been formed, which sometimes rejoices to call itself The Great West; and though at the present time the West and the North are joined together against the South, the interests of the North and the West are not, I think, more closely interwoven than are those of the West and South; and when the final settlement of this question shall be made, there will doubtless be great difficulty in satisfying the different aspirations and feelings of two great free soil populations. The North, I think, will ultimately perceive that it will gain much by the secession of the South; but it will be very difficult to make the West believe that secession will suit its views.
I will attempt in a rough way to divide the States, as they seem to divide themselves, into these three parties. As to the majority of them there is no difficulty in locating them; but this cannot be done with absolute certainty as to some few that lie on the borders.
New England consists of six States, of which all of course belong to the North. They are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut; the six States which should be most dear to England, and in which the political success of the United States as a nation is to my eyes the most apparent. But even in them there was till quite of late a strong section so opposed to the republican party as to give a material aid to the South. This, I think, was particularly so in New