Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

ble relics was after this wise. My professional abode is located in one of the edifices of the ancient time, which have sturdily resisted the inroads of innovation, and stand among the gaudy brick structures of our own age, as monumental emblems of the simple virtues of our ancestors. Alas! how many comfortless changes bave luxury and ostentatious wealth wrought even on the household arrangements of our fathers. They were not giants : therefore they did not raise their roofs to the clouds, and elevate their rooms to the height of the stature of man four times told. They were not blind; and therefore they did not enclose their homes with immeasurable sheets of glass, fixed in huge windows, pouring the whole flood of day light upon their eyes. They did not pride themselves on girlish graces; and therefore they did not hang round their apartments with fearful mirrors ample enough to reflect the stern visages of an army. They loved the cheerful hearth: and delighted to see its merry blaze go roaring up the chimney, and therefore they did not shut up that honest creature, fire, in iron prisons, and compel him to look out through grates and bars.-But we wander away from the straight pathway of our narrative-A still recess in the edifice whereof mention has above been made, was, in former days, the cubiculum of my much honored friend, Nicholas Quitam, whose addition was written Esquire, now gathered to his fathers ;—peace be to his memory! The little opening devised for the admission of the pleasant sun-beams had been darkened by the fabrics of those cunning weavers, the Spiders, who were co-tenants with him of a residence, where no horrible broom or outrageous brush was suffered to disturb the immemorial dust, or interrupt their labors. Right gratefully did they repay the kind protection of the departed luminary of the law, by hanging around his walls, the folds of their rich drapery, and seizing the vagabond flies, who came bustling and buzzing into his territories, like conceited and addled headed coxcombs. Many thoughts crossed my mind as I entered the still retreat on the noon of a summer day. Even as was that twilight gloom, so do men make themselves a dim abode, by darkening the windows of the soul, causing themselves thereby to stumble in the obscurity. As the patriarchal laborers spread out their nets among the dust of years, so does error weave his threads around the most venerable institutions. Much more should I have mused with my usual sobriety, had not my attention becn led captive by an antique article of furniture gravely holding its place in a corner. It was constructed with the profus

[ocr errors]

ion of carving and chisselling and of the massive proportions, characterising the good old times when utility and beauty were joined in lawful wedlock, and lived as man and and wife together, though now long since divorced. There was much contrivance and advantage, letting alone the fluting of the strong and sturdy posts; for the builder bad made it, “ a triple debt to pay” as one of our poets almost says; vidilicet; as table, chest, and chair. And herein, if it were not an interruption too tedious for endurance, I could lament with a mournful lamentation, the disuse of those stout structures of noble oak which sustained the weary frames of our ancestors. Such were those which stood in the feudal balls, to receive the mailed persons of the guests who came from the wars of the Holy Land, and told of the bold bearing of England's Lion Hearted Richard, and Palestine's noble Saladin. Those had a manly and solid character, and when they went into the presence of the state

dames and bright eyed damsels, then were they decked in gorgeous apparel, and the coverings of cushions were daintily enbroidered with roses and quaint figures of flowers by the needles of our great-great-grandmothers and their handmaidens. It may be, howsoever, that I speak from the overflowing bitterness of a prejudiced heart: for from that day, the dolefulest mine eyes have seen, when Allice, my beloved wife, did destroy the venerated seat, which had been the ornament and glory of my paternal fireside (may Heaven, in its mercy, forgive her therefore-! cannot)—and did place instead thereof, a half starved upstart of a frame of pine sticks and Indian reeds, daintily daybed with paint after the similitode of shells with their mouths gaping wide open and terrible to behold; from that woful period, I have detested these vile falltraps with great indignation and hatred. For when I placed myself down on the sickly and consumptive chair with keen vexation, I straightway descended upon certain brazen vehicles, called handirons, and thence perigrinated onward, till I arrived among the hot embers and scalding ashes, much to the detriment of my then present peace and dignity and afterwards of my ease : as certain pestilent neighbors were made swift witnesses and competent testifiers of my misfortune and calamity : and with abominable memory, do take unfit occasions to stir up my grief for the loss of my old favorite, and keep alight the embers of sorrow by reminding me of the deplorable destruction of my esteemed friend. And when I have instructed the professors of Arts to furnish me with a seat whereon I may safely recline my tired limbs, and have calculated with painful diligence, the length and the breadth, the height and the depth, the angles and the curves thereof, they have erected machines with wheels and irons in similitude like to the sithe armed chariots of the Babylonian cavalry, and so garnished the same with heads of gorgons, and claws of dragons, and eagles and tigers, and so spread out plants and unknown vegetables, looking poisonous and deadly, that no prudent man could adventure to put his life in peril by approachiog where so many fearful forms yawned for his destruction.

But, alas ! how we digress as we grow old now that this tearful reminiscence has departed, I will depose with great brevity concerning the affairs, which are to follow herein afterward. The iaterior of the portly article, according to the common course of nature, was filled with papers, tied with that eternal red tape, or ligament, well suited to the records of the Law. An inquisitive vermin of a Rat, had gnawed his way through the solid plank, and after perusing the gigantic files, from the kind greeting that went forth in the case of Abdulyguz vs Agruttullimox, to the return iadorsed on the writ Zimmillioken vs Zapstoffer, had expressed bis contempt for the beautiful fictions and grave formalities of judicial proceedings, by rending the whole in piteous fragments, and there. from had formed a nest, or lair, whence had issued out whole generations of young juris-consults bred among the mysteries of pleading, to pursue the pilfering subtleties of their profession, and frolic round their merry republic, in defiance of that vigilant sheriff, the Cat: saving and excepting, however, some unlucky deliaquent who had paid the penalty of his little wit to justice. Undiscouraged by the horrible mutilation, I plunged among the ruins, and after drawing forth bundle after bundle, labelled with the disheartening words, “ Writs" - Executions” “ Briefs” &c. all omioous of long stories of insults received, wrongs suffered, injuries unredressed, and sufferings heaped on certain worthy wretches, in the peace of the Commonwealth, I arrived at at a thick volume whose substantial envelopes had defended, even as an armor, against the attacks of depredators, and containing the thoughts on matters and things generally and specially of my departed friend.

One remark more deserves express mention; to wit; that these have been transcribed by more expert hands than mine own; inasmuch as my own chirography is wholly illegible, even to myself, who am best acquainted therewith ; whereby, and by reason thereof, it has come to pass that the venerable rust has been worn away, and divers long passages which lead to nothing have been added and interpolated.

Thus much I have considered it fit to say. He who will not be convinced, but still doubts, may touch with his own finger the revered relick wherein these meditations were set in order and preserved, which I have established at my own fireside, notwithstanding the remonstrances of my beloved wife and dutiful daughters : and have sent into banishment the brazen þandirons and gilded whipsticks which were located thereat, and I do invite all who may be scrupulous to be seated thereon, that every difficulty may be removed which obstructs their full credence to the narrative before expressed.

L.

THE CAVERN OF NIAGARA.
“ Lo! where it comes like an eternity,
As if to sweep down all things in its track,

Charming the eye with dread.”. TWERTY two miles below Lake Erie, and fourteen above Onta. rio, the waters rolling from the inland seas suddenly drop from the brow of a lofty precipice stretching across the Niagara River. There is situated that matchless cataract, unrivalled among the stupendous creations of nature, with nothing to equal its wild grandeur. Since the first planting of North America, the falls have attracted the curiosity and received the visits of countless multitudes; they have commanded the admiration and awakened the enthusiasm of the traveller, from the time of the good old French priest, who declared the height was six hundred feet, down to the days of the sweet little belle, who stands upon the rock overhanging the mingled mass of foam and rainbows, and expresses her astonishment in the energetic affirmation, “ la! it is pretty.”

The visitants of the wonderful scene, have entirely forgotten the sage truism, that what is impossible, cannot be done ; and, there. fore, have wearied themselves in attempts to form pictures of objects beyond description. They have indulged in extravagant and fanciful exaggerations, to convey to their readers some idea of that surpassing magnificence and majestic power, which press so heavily on the mind of the spectator. Hence results the disappointment almost invariably felt by him who views the foaming torrent for the first time. He is told that the thunder of its commotion is beard at the distance of fifty miles; that the wild birds are drawn within its influence from their airy height; that the earth quivers from the shock of that tumbling world of waters; and that a column of spray rises to the clouds. As he approaches, he listens for the appalling roar; and when the first murmur of the voice of many waters does not come on his ear till he has arrived to less than half a mile; when he stands upshaken on the mighty rock above the gulf, and sees the blue bird and the wren fluttering over the falling sheet, as if proud of the rapid wings which carry them so easily away from danger, he feels the full amount of the deception practised on his credulity. The effect of the stupendous height is diminished by the great width of the torrent, and bis eye, in measuring the descent of one hundred and seventy feet, reduces the space to forty or fifty. But his first impressions are corrected as he lingers about the spot, and before he tears himself away, he becomes persuaded, that the earth does not possess another scene so poble, so majestic, and so stupendous.

Doubts have been frequently expressed, and, (although thousands annually perform a pilgrimage to the cataract,) still continue to exist, whether it be possible to go beneath the mighty sheet poured down from the brow of the rock. Reserving for a future occasion the right to present an outline of the general appearance of Niagara, we propose to furnish our readers with a brief de scription of the objects which meet the view of those who venture to explore the gloomy caverns beneath the eternal flood.

The first preparation to be made is, the exchange of our common dress for a suit of canvass, the only attire fit for those who approach the palace of the spirit of the foods. Descending the precipice, on the northern bank, by a spiral staircase, inclosed in a wooden tower, we arrive on the margin of the gulf, where the waters boil and whirl in fury, after their leap from the height above. Turning to the right, we proceed along the shore, strewed with enormous masses and broken fragments of rock. The upper strata of the cliff project above, and the water, springing from their crev. ices, falls in large drops upon the passer. The ruins around, once parts of the mighty wall, which time bas detached from their hold, or accident tumbled below, show him how insecure is his position. A few years since, a portion of the table rock, a favorite point whence to view the scene, was precipitated down with great noise. The possibility of the disruption of another block from the crumbling mass furnishes no pleasant subject of contemplation for him who treads beneath the overhanging roof. After proceeding about fifty rods, a sudden turn round a jutting angle brings us to the mouth of the cavern, and involves us in the rolling cloud of vapor

« PreviousContinue »