« AnteriorContinuar »
VILLAGE AND HOTEL AT NIAGARA. 251 groups, which, as I formerly stated, stretches beyond the Niagara River far into Canada. As seen here, it is a clayey region, on which the system of thoroughdrainage is destined hereafter to produce most beneficial results.
I reached the Falls of Niagara, on the American side, at a quarter past ten, in time to hear service well performed in a new, nicely-finished, though small Episcopal church. This village of Niagara consists chiefly of hotels and churches; and the running of a morning and evening train to Buffalo is considered indispensable to the success of at least one of these sets of establishments.
At dinner at the Cataract Hotel, we had a large party of about a hundred and twenty, though not half as many as the room was fitted to accommodate. This universal dining in public, in the United States, of all sexes and ages, is one source of the forward boldness of so many of the young people. And although the mingling of all classes at these tables teaches the use of silver forks to persons who would never meet with such things at home, yet it roughens the general tone of speech and manners of all, and makes those who really know better fall into customs they would at home be the first to reprove.
I may remark, however, that perhaps too much is said by travellers of the solecisms of guests at the American tables. I doubt very much if a similarly indiscriminate assemblage of persons of all classes at an English table would, on the whole, behave so well. Besides, the custom in the American hotels of loading the table at breakfast and dinner with a countless number of small dishes, not half of which are furnished with knives and forks, or spoons to lift their contents, leaves the majority of the guests no other resource, than either to be helped with their own, or probably to deny themselves
what the dishes contain altogether, and leave them to less scrupulous neighbours.
What amused me most at this hotel was the excellent discipline maintained by their chef among the eighteen black waiters who attended the table. In carrying out the first course, they all started at a signal, and marched en militaire in double file, each bearing his dish, and presently returned in the same order with the second course, opening into Indian file as they reached the head of the table; and when each had reached his station, depositing the whole at the same instant on a signal from the head-waiter, who was also dark-coloured. The peculiar proud swagger with which all this was done, the air of the men as they strutted along, and the evident “Isn't that well done?” which each of them looked as he lifted his cover, were most amusing to me, who had not yet had much opportunity of studying the peculiarities of the free coloured people in the northern States. My own sympathies have always followed this unhappy race of people, whether in slavery or in freedom, and I have usually found them civil and obliging. They are often, however, very conceited; and can be very saucy, as white servants in English hotels not unfrequently are. But they are in general very quiet and civil, and have a peculiar knack at waiting. Of absolute rudeness among this class of people, the only instance I met with was in the Irving Hotel in New York, where black servants are employed, and where, on the occasion of my visit, one peculiarly black and impertinent sheep had certainly found a place among the flock.
In the afternoon, I went down to the Falls. I crossed over to the Canadian side, and spent several hours on the banks which overlook them. I afterwards walked to the suspension bridge a couple of miles below, which is itself a nervous thing to walk along, and from which SECTION OF THE ROCKS.
the view of the Falls, and of the ravine, is striking and
clay marls, chiefly Medina sandstone.
red, This section is now well known, as well as the influence of the Niagara shale, in hastening the working back of the Great Falls. It illustrates, however, what I have had occasion to say in reference to the soils and geology of western New York. The numerous layers of red clay marl, among the red rocks of the underlying Medina sandstone, are in conformity with the economically important observation, in reference to the agricultural value of this group of rocks, to which I adverted in the preceding chapter—that the poorer Medina sandrock of the eastern counties of New York becomes more mixed with clay towards the west. Hence the rich soils to which it gives rise below the mouth of the Niagara River, and along the south-western borders of Lake Ontario, where it forms the surface of the country.
Above the Niagara limestone, rest the Onondaga salt rocks and their debris; and though these are spread over the surface of the country in the neighbourhood of the village of Niagara, they are not seen in the section of the ravine as it appears from the bridge, nor on the immediate banks of the river.
I attempt no description of the Falls. The first peep I had of them showed me how very little all I had read of them had impressed me with anything like a definite idea of the peculiar features of this great descent of water, or of what I was entitled to expect when I came to look upon it. I infer, from this, that they cannot be
THE FALLS OF NIAGARA.
adequately and graphically described-or, at least, that I should fail were I to attempt to do so. I have seen many water-falls in many countries, and I venture only to remark, in regard to this one, that I think it is a piece of great presumption in the common class of tourists to talk as one usually hears them do, of their having been disappointed—as if some great showman had got up the thing for their amusement, and had not put gunpowder enough into the crackers sufficiently to astonish their weak minds.
On the Canadian side of the Falls, a high bluff of red, probably drifted clay, rests above the Niagara limestone, forming an upland above the narrow fringe which separates it from the waters of the river above the Falls. Below the falls, this bluff retires to a considerable distance from the river, and the carriage-road to the suspension bridge runs along the surface of the nearly naked rock. When walking leisurely here, two things agree in forcing the same thought upon the imagination. Where it is completely uncovered, the whole upper surface of the limestone rock, on which we travel, exhibits evidence of the wearing action of the water. It has the same hollowed and irregular appearance as the surface above the falls, over which the water is now pouring. Over this, therefore, the river must formerly have run, before it ate out the deep ravine below. And, again, the retiring of the bluffs shows that it then, as we should suppose, had occupied a wider bed, and, as it now does above the Falls, had undermined the cliffs of clay, and bent its course now more to the one side, and now more to the other, as circumstances might direct. One reflects on such things, and in his closet makes cool calculations of the lapse of time necessary to accomplish all this. But the greatness of the lapse is felt when we see before us the protracted effect, and the still living and acting cause. The foam of the cataract becomes, to the imagination,
WATER FLOWING OVER THE FALLS. 255 the hoary hair of thousands of years, and its perpetual rainbow a halo round the head of the sleepless spirit which has seen these changes and survived them all.
The quantity of water which falls over these rocks has been variously estimated. The most trustworthy, perhaps, is that of Mr Barrett, already quoted, which was deduced from three different observations, made at Black Rock during the high water of 1838 and 1839. This estimate makes it amount to nineteen and a half million cubic feet per minute. It varies very much, however, with the height of the water and the direction of the wind. When a strong wind blows from the west, the water at the east end of Lake Erie will rise several feet in a few hours; and so much more water is driven down the Niagara River at such times that the river in the ravine below the Falls, though so rapid, “frequently rises 15 or 20 feet during a westerly wind.” A wind from the east produces a contrary effect, lowering the water at the east end of Lake Erie, and lessening the quantity of water which passes over the Falls.
September 17.—The forenoon of this day I spent chiefly on Goat Island, wandering about the Falls on the American side. There is nothing to be seen from this side which can compare with the quiet and graceful beauty of the American Fall, as seen from the Canadian side. The perfection with which the folds of that broad, living, spotless stream are draped together cannot be imagined ; and though there are many beauties among which days are too little to spend on Goat Island, the quieter spots were to me the most attractive. In truth, the reason why the disappointed people talk of the thing growing upon them is, that they must become so familiarised with the noise and roar as to be able to abstract these altogether from the scene, before their eyes and hearts can come into independent contact with its true attractions. This abstraction, to the