« PredošláPokračovať »
have physical firmness enough to sustain the dizzy elevation. Four, or sometimes six, majestic horses, in all the pomp of flowery decoration, and magnificent caparison, draw the cart with befitting dignity; while its inseparable attendants, a band of morris-dancers, in grotesque livery, exhibit the last fading remnant of the remarkable dance, derived perhaps from the Morisco of Spain, which was formerly so important a passage of the May festivities. Ever and anon, during its mighty progress through the village, the rush-cart stops before a gentleman's house ; the windows are thrown open, the family appear to welcome it, the children run out to receive it, and the servants are not kept quite aloof: the horses shake their plumed heads, and jingle a merry peal on the bells with which they are plentifully garnished; the motley
exercise their dancing feet" with infinite alacrity and some skill; the rustic musicians pour forth their liveliest strains; the elevated heroes of the pageant, i.e. those on the top of the rush-cart, wave ribands and handkerchiefs in token of joyful participation; and young and old, rich and poor, rejoice in the exuberant gaiety of the hour.
“Then let us goe, while we are in our prime,
Zemia. September, 1838.
A DAY AT THE FALLS.
Tue Falls, as all the world knows, or, at least, ought to know, is that mighty cataract which the untravelled used to name the Falls of Niagara. But let it not be imagined that this wonder of the world has obtained the abbreviated appellative from any scarcity of waterfalls on the American continent, since in the neighbourhood to which I am referring (neighbourhoods being somewhat extensive in America), that is, within some five or six hundred miles of us, we had several other very respectable waterfalls indeed; such, for instance, as the Genessee Falls, the Passaic Falls, the Chandiere Falls, and the Falls of Montmorency, the last of which is produced by a very respectable-sized river rushing headlong over the edge of a precipice into a gulf below, from an elevation nearly equal to that of the cross on the top of our far-famed St. Paul's. Were I to take the trouble I could introduce the Falls of the Mississippi, Missouri, Colerado, and I know not how many others, that would put to shame all that our own little island of Great Britain can boast; and yet it must be observed that not one of all these lays claim to being the Falls. Norway, too, has some obscure runnels trickling down rocky mountains, one or two thousand feet in height; while both Switzerland and Italy possess some as pretty cascades as need to be; and then old Father Nilus has rejoiced in his waterfalls time out of memory; yet even these latter are not the Falls, but simply the “ Falls of the Nile.” It seems quite unnecessary to pursue the matter further, in order to establish for my favourite cataract a legal title to the name placed at the head of this paper; for it must be conceded, by all persons not absolutely blinded by their own prejudices, that taking into consideration the height, and the breadth, and the vast volume of water, all other waterfalls sink into comparative insignificance.
This superiority is fully established by the tacit consent of the inhabitants of North America, as well as by wandering wights from various other parts of the world ; for where one mile is travelled to gaze at any other waterfall, fifty are toiled through on visits to the Falls.
It was in a sultry July, some twelve or fourteen years ago, that I wished to spend a day or two at Lockport, and afterwards pay a visit to The Falls before I returned to my home on the shores of Lake Erie. Lockport was then in its infancy, like many more young towns along the line of the Great Western Canal, for the route of this stupendous undertaking (then near its completion) passed through vast regions of uninhabited wilderness. It is this canal, 362 miles in length, which unites the waters of the Great Lakes with those of the Atlantic. A new village is one of the last places a stranger would think of spending a day or two in, unless business of an important nature called him thither; for the “ houses of entertainment” are commonly uncomfortable, half-finished places, and mostly tenanted by persons as little cultivated as the surrounding forests. But Lockport had already acquired a name beyond all the other new villages along the route of the aforesaid canal, from its being built upon an abrupt ascent of rocky ground, which ascent had to be overcome by a double tier of five or six deep locks, in immediate succession, the whole of them cut out of the hard and solid rock. Nor was this all, for the excavation had to be continued for two or three miles through the same body of stone, to a depth of from fifteen to forty feet, altogether forming an undertaking hardly equalled in modern Europe.
Several years prior to the period alluded to, a stage-coach route had been opened through this section of the State of New York, which, after leaving the (then) young town of Rochester (now a flourishing city), runs parallel with the southern shore of Lake Ontario, terminating at Lewiston, a frontier village, immediately opposite to the village of Queenston in Canada, and seven miles below the Falls. This route is called the Ridge Road, in consequence of its being
- located” upon a bank or ridge of pebbles and gravel, evidently thrown up by the waters of the lake at some early period, though at present there is a belt of firm ground, varying in breadth from two to seven miles, between the Ridge Road and the lake shore. When the public works were in full operation at the place which has been named Lockport, an indifferent road was cut through the woods (about five miles), intersecting the Ridge Road, and a “ branch conveyance” was established for the convenience of persons wishing to visit Lockport. The vehicle put upon this “ branch" was neither more nor less than a common two-horse waggon; but, indeed, it would have been impossible for anything of a slighter nature to have withstood the jolts and jerks occasioned by the numerous stumps, roots, and mud holes. Late one afternoon I quitted the more regular conveyance which was proceeding to Lewiston, and having got a small portmanteau and carpet-bag transferred from the stage to the waggon, which was waiting by the road-side until the former came up (there being no dwelling-house within two miles of the place), I ventured to take a seat alongside the driver, though, had it been earlier in the day, and had I been acquainted with the road, I should have much preferred leaving the waggon to proceed at its snail-like pace, while I walked forward to the end of my journey. Next morning I sallied forth from my quarters, which bore the some
what pompous name of the Clinton Hotel, in company with two strangers (Americans), to see whatever was to be seen. Like myself, my companions were strangers in the place, and had come, as they assured me, for the express purpose of seeing this, in their opinion, the greatest work that ever heads conceived, or hands achieved. It was not a little amusing to listen to their exclamations of surprise, and their frequent appeals to me as to whether I did not consider the “ Jocks” and “deep cut” as far surpassing everything of the sort in the whole civilised world. I vouchsafed to them my high opinion of the work in question; but I expressed a doubt whether the Great Western Canal was a work of equal magnitude with the great wall of China; for the hazarding of which I found that I lost ground in their good opinion. I mention this rather for the purpose of showing that there is some truth in the remark of a recent writer, who says, that if you bestow praise upon ninety-nine men or matters connected with America, and withhold it from the remaining one, all you have said or done goes for nothing, and you are censured as a prejudiced old countryman.”
On our return to the hotel a small party was on the point of setting out for the Falls, the distance being eighteen miles by a route recently opened through the woods; when, just as I was entering the door, I encountered one of the travellers with my portmanteau under his arm. I requested him to be so good as to leave it with me until I visited the Falls which I expected to do in a day or two, as it contained something which I should positively stand in need of; whereupon the gentleman was so obliging as to deposit it in the passage; and, by way of apology,“guessed that he was considerable near making a small mistake.” He then forthwith took his seat in the waggon, and I imagined that I had seen my last of him. After the waggon had started a thought struck me that I had better step up to my room (or rather to the room where I had lodged, since I could scarcely call it mine, as it contained six beds, five of which had been occupied), and examine if my bag were safe. Lucky it was that I did so, for no bag was there! I was not long in hunting up the landlord, and informing him that I strongly suspected my bag had gone off by the waggon, and I, therefore, insisted that he should go, or send some one, in pursuit. He would have entered upon a drawling parley, but, seeing that I was resolute, he said he would go if I would accompany him. I was about to set off at full speed, but he advised me “ to be in no particular hurry; for,” said he, “ the road is in so bad a condition, that if we hurry we shall overtake the waggon while it is within sight of the village ; and as Squire Robins lives in the last house in the street, and is a little too particular in meddling in affairs of this sort, I guess it would be as well to let the folks have time to reach the woods beyond the clearings.” There seemed no particular end to be gained by opposing his opinion, since I had no desire to give either “Squire Robins” or myself any unnecessary trouble in the matter, provided I regained my property; so we jogged on leisurely until we got into the woods, when my companion hailed the driver, who instantly drew up and awaited our arrival. The landlord took upon himself the office of spokesman ; but, before he entered upon the business, he very deliberately drew from his pocket a jack knife, picked up a piece of a chip of wood that happened to be at hand, seated himself on the stump of a tree by the side of the road, and commenced what the Americans call " whittling."
Before I proceed it may be necessary to explain that in all this there was nothing remarkable, for it was precisely what nine Yankees out of ten would have done had they been in mine host's situation. I had previously seen something of " whittling," and since that period much more; and the only plausible pretext I can adduce for it is this-that the mechanical employment of the hands, while cutting a small bit of a stick in pieces, calls for the use of the eyes at the same time; so that should the party with whom you are engaged in conversation have the better side of the argument, it is not expected while you are whittling that you should be under the (sometimes) disagreeable necessity of looking your opponent in the face. Some persons have hinted that this plan has been adopted in order to have a knife in readiness, should the argument get into a snarl. This, however, I do not generally believe, since, among the scores of regular whilllers that I have persovally known, I recollect but two instances where knives were used forcibly to illustrate the matter in dispute. But to return to the case in point, and no longer detain the waggon and its cargo.
"Mr.," said the landlord, addressing the driver (without naming him), “ if so be as any of the passengers in that there concern of your'n has got a travelling-bag which he is not downright certified in the matter of its being his legal property, this here stranger would have no objection to take a look at it, seeing as how that his’n is not just conveniently at hand in my boarding-house."
Long before mine host had concluded this remarkably civil speech, I had taken the liberty of using my eyes and hands; for having got a glimpse of the missing article under the middle seat of the waggon, I quickly dragged it from its hiding-place. Although I had little doubt but that the fellow I had caught walking off with my portmanteau was the purloiner of the bag too, yet, as I was not likely to procure any proof of the fact, since the whole party, for anything I knew, might be leagued against me, I judged it the most prudent course to march off with my recovered property in peace.
The subsequent day found me on my way to the Falls, in the identical conveyance the landlord and I had pursued, in quest of my missing bag. We were in all seven passengers, besides the driver; the party consisting of four ladies and two gentlemen, besides myself. One gentleman and two of the ladies were from Massachusetts—not far from Bostonthe other gentleman and the remaining two ladies were from the eastern part of Maryland. I learned from their conversation that they had first met at Balston, or Saratoga, I forget which, and had agreed to join company while they made the extreme part of " the grand tour,” the Falls constituting the farthest object within the limits of its circuit. I discovered from their conversation that they did not suspect me of being an Englishman.
After we had met the previous evening at Lockport, and, from the general conversation, I had learned that we were likely to be fellowtravellers, they had seen fit to dub me “ Colonel, a liberality the Americans are peculiarly remarkable for. Of course I duly appreciated the compliment, and felt the more fattered when I discovered that they had created me their own superior, for one of them was addressed
Major," and the other as “ Captain.” Now captain is the extreme fag-end of voluntary titles in America, for it is customary to address every subordinate militia and volunteer officer, whether commissioned or
non-commissioned, by this title; but when that rank actually belongs to him, republican modesty seldom fails to dub him either major or colonel. In the present instance I soon found that the captain was one of those amphibious characters that are in the habit of making three years' “ trading-trips” to the various harbours and islands of the great Pacific Ocean, returning home with “ an assorted cargo” of whale blubber, seal skins, raw hides, and sundry delicate “notions” procured from the savages of the South Sea Islands; and generally winding up the adventure, when near home, by an encounter with that purely American monstrosity, the sea-serpent. Of this class of persons was my fellow-traveller, the Captain ; who, from having been a sailor before the mast, had, by industry and perseverance, become part-owner of a trading-vessel-the other owners entrusting him with the command of the craft. One of the females was his wife-a long-waisted, lean, primitive personage, of something over fifty. The other was their adopted niece-a tall, sallow-complexioned girl of about twenty-two. This lady was addressed as Miss Olivia Y. (the Yankees have an odd way of sticking some solitary letter of the alphabet after their “given" names), but during our short acquaintance I neither learned the Captain's nor Olivia Y.'s surname. The Major belonged—or, more probably, some time had belonged--to the militia of his own State ; but as to his actual grade there was ample room for hazarding a conjecture. He might be a little turned of forty-his person lank, sallow, and debilitated; and, judging from appearances, he seemed to be in the search of health rather than pleasure. The two females of his party were his cousins (for so he addressed them); Miss Pym, a married lady of twenty-five (they affect to consider Mrs. as somewhat indelicate, and therefore seldom use it), and her sister, Miss Prudence L. Baldwin, a spinster, and evidently the other's senior by at least ten years. Mrs. Pym was as handsome a little woman as I have seen in the States, but her maiden sister was quite the reverse; for, to make use of an Americanism, “ she was as rugged and homely as the bark on an old hickory tree.” Though in person so dissimilar, they perfectly coincided in sentiment, for they both were strongly prejudiced in favour of their own country and people.
Nothing remarkable occurred on our route through the woods to the Falls. The jolting of the rude vehicle discomposed the silks and satins of the ladies, and caused the old mariner to utter an occasional oath; but his oaths were of that Yankee bastard blasphemy that it would have puzzled all our London police magistrates to decide whether or not they came within the pale of proscription. As we approached the hotel on the American side of the river, kept by no less a personage than MajorGeneral Whitnay, the rumbling sound of the cataract every minute became more audible. The ladies were not in ecstacies, however, although they apparently considered it becoming to make certain queer remarks and exclamations. The pretty Mrs. Pym simpered, and said that she never in all her life heard so charming a rumbling; her sister vowed that it beat corn-shelling hollow; while Miss Olivia Y. declared that it strongly reminded her of the elegant sounds produced by the cotton factories of Lowell in her native State. Nor was it altogether lost upon the Captain ; for he “snored that it was a tarnation deal slicker than the noise produced by the breaking of the lengthy surges of the Pacific upon the rocky shores of California.”
We presently emerged from the solitude of the woods into the full