« AnteriorContinuar »
darts than runs, and a whirl down an abyss of a hundred and sixty feet perpendicular depth—are consequences that may easily happen; and the thought of them is, in general, sufficient to keep visiters on the bridge. Yet use doth breed a habit in a man. I do not think I possess any philosophic contempt of raging billows: and I have, especially, very poor and unhappy brains for looking down precipices. Yet there was something in the glory of Niagara that chased away my fears—it may be, swallowed them up in the all-engrossing passion of delight; something in the sublime position of those naked rocks, too, which, when once reached, substituted for trembling apprehension a nobler feeling —a feeling as of enthronement, and rule, and power over the majestic torrent. One day, while sitting upon one of these grim thrones, speculating, after the true motley-manner, upon the ever-falling flood, in which fancy saw represented the river of human life, with the cataract of death, over which it was eternally falling, and wondering what difference it made to the drop pitching down the steep, whether rocks had vexed, or smoother channels lulled it into security, on the way; my attention was attracted to a stranger, whom I had previously noticed on the bridge, and who, besides myself, was the only living creature at that moment to be seen on, or near, the fall. He stood grasping the rail of the bridge, pale, agitated, and eyeing myself, as I soon found, with a look that I interpreted into a call for assistance— a call which terror, sickness, or some unknown cause, I supposed, prevented his making by word of mouth. I left my rock, which was only rendered temporarily accessible, in consequence of a huge log having lodged against it, as well as against another nearer the bridge, forming a stepping-tree that the first swell of the flood must wash away, and hurried to the stranger's assistance, without, however, having any very clear idea what ailed him. As I stepped upon the bridge, he seized me by the hand, and with the servent ejaculation, “Heaven be praised!” hurried me up to his side, pretty much with the air of one who, in mortal affright himself, has just snatched another out of imminent danger. “Heaven be praised!” he cried; “I was frightened for you; or, rather, I—I–” Here he became confused, as if awaking from a dream—“I was frightened for myself!”
All this was very mysterious and incomprehensible to me; which my countenance showing, the gentleman—for indeed he was a man both of good appearance and manners —exclaimed, “I beg your pardon: I believe I have been acting like a fool, and talking like one. But the appearance of a human being sitting on that rock, unmanned me: I thought it was myself, and—and—. In short, sir, I scarce know what I am saying. You seem amazed at my trepidation. Yet I can tell you of an adventure on that rock, which will excuse my weakness. Yes—that is, if you will but walk with me to some secure place—to the island; for, I freely admit, my thoughts are here too much disordered.”
My curiosity being raised, and somewhat of an interest excited in the stranger, whose years, for he was in the prime of life, his tall and robust frame, and manly countenance, seemed inconsistent with the weakness of fear, I readily attended him to the island. His agitation decreased, as we approached it; and, by and by, when we had plunged amid its sweet bowers, walking towards its upper borders, whither he begged me to accompany him, it vanished so entirely, that he was able like myself, to note and admire the number
less beauties, which make almost an elysium of this fairy island. Was there ever, indeed, a spot so lovely as Goat Island? Couched on the breast of the fall, surrounded by the mighty floods, that go rushing by with the velocity, and ten times the power and fury, of the wind—a very hurricane of waters; lashed, beaten, worried, perpetually devoured by them; it lies amid the roar and convulsion, its little islets around it, green, lovely, and peaceful, an Eden on the face of chaos. Hid in its groves of beech and maple, of larch and hemlock, oak, linden and tuliptree; in its peeping glades, embowered with vines and ivies, and towering sumachs that cluster rich and red as Persian roses all around; the raspberry hanging from the bush, the strawberry and the bluebell glimmering together on the ground; the bee and the butterfly, the grasshopper and the humming-bird pursuing their pretty tasks all around; the sparrow and the mocking bird singing aloft; the dove cooing, the woodpecker tapping, in the shade; you might here dream away an anchoritish existence, scarce conscious of the proximity of the cataract, whose voice comes to your ear, a softened murmur, that seems only the hum of other birds and insects a little further off. A step brings you to its borders, and here you look over a wall of torrent to the world, from which you are yet sundered far enough to satisfy even the complaining Timon. Here you may muse and moralize over “man, that quintessence of dust,” and yet indulge the yearning to be near him of which no misanthrope can wholly divest himself; here, in your island, your.
you may rail at the monster, without being exasperated by, or entirely banished from, his presence. -
Following my new friend through the lovely walks of the island, and still keeping on its western borders, we reached a charming nook, where a cluster of several rocky and wooded islets was separated from Goat Island only by a narrow channel, through which, however, the current flowed with great tumult and violence. The trunk of a spruce tree, half submerged by the flood, in which it shook with perpetual tremor, offered a passage to the nearer islet to such as were inclined to avail themselves of it. But that