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And falling fast from gradual slope to slope,
I stood, now, exactly opposite to the torrent: Nature seemed to have expended her whole art in rendering this spot perfect. A wild amphitheatre of rugged mountains nearly precluded the light of day from reaching the bottom of the gulf; they were studded with shrubs and birch, the tints of which were warm and variegated; the summits of them were wrapped in clouds, and their rugged base formed the bed of the river and sides of the abyss, which are finely tinted with blue and gray. The rocks through which the water rolls are four hundred and seventy feet above the bottom of the fall, and the fall itself is nearly two hundred feet by measurement. These rocks form an immense caldron, nearly circular, except the aperture through which the waters run after their descent; and the depth of it is unknown, no line being able to fathom it. Into this the river precipitates itself with a tremendous roar, which seems almost to shake even the
ponderous rocks' on which we stood, and the water, as if angry at being so horribly disturbed, foamed, and raged, and beat in furious violence in this vortex; the trunks of large and ancient oaks were to be seen tossed about as toys, and as baubles, in the hands of the giant. The ledge on which we stood hung over this boiling caldron about seventy or eighty feet above its source, and the fall about half a stone's throw from me. The guide said, that, if I was not afraid of being let down by ropes, I might have a still finer view of it. As I had never experienced the satisfaction of being suspended by hemp, I readily agreed, and instantly dispatched him for the cords. In the mean time I endeavoured to take a sketch of it, but I found the spray fell so thick about, and made my paper so wet, that all my efforts were ineffectual. After some waiting, the guide returned with a parcel of ropes, and a stake, which he 'fixed in the earth, close to the brink of this awful crater. At the sight of such preparations I began rather to repent, knowing I could not rely upon my head; but, at length, the ropes were fixed about my body, and I prepared for my terrible descent.. I told the man to let me remain a tolerable length of time down, that I might make every observation I thought proper. I was obliged to be at his mercy, in this respect, as all the shouting in the world would be in vain, on account of the roaring of the cataract. At length I sat down on the brink, and shoved myself off, at the mercy of the man and his ropes : in a moment my vision became veiled, as in a shroud of perpetual night; my bewildered faculties flew in wild uproar to the confines of that wilderness where the light of reason is not hailed by the distracted captive; where all is darkness, horror, and death. I suppose I was very nearly becoming distracted, my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth, and animation no longer invigorated my frame; but I hung suspended over the horrible vortex, dangling amidst angry foam, like a lifeless log. I recollect the sensations, when I felt no longer any thing but air under my feet, to be the most dreadful I ever experienced: I felt as if hurled into a bottomless abyss, but the total departure of
my senses soon forbade me the use of either my feelings or sight. How long he kept me in this situation I know not, but I recollect waking, as from a dream, and finding myself lying on my back, by the road side; and the man hanging over me in dire dismayy thinking that I was dead. I immediately jumped up, much to our mutual satisfaction, and enquired how long he had kept me down? he answered, about a quarter of an hour, thinking I was enjoying the scene; but, when he drew me up, was astonished; and almost petrified with fear, at my appearance, and brought me upon the grass, where I, happily, soon recovered. My guide informed me, that there was another very beautiful fall, a little higher up, on the same river: we proceeded thither. I found it most exquisitely beautiful, but without any trees; yet with one great additional and useful ornament, a very old bridge, thrown across the chasm in the rocks, over the fall. It is at an immense height above the surface of the water below, and fills the mind with the most awful sensations, when you stand on it, and look down on the water-fall, which
is very lofty, but should be seen before the other, on account of its inferiority. Of this fall I took a view while sitting upon an old tree, which hung directly over the water, and from which I had a delightful prospect, both above and below, particularly down into a craggy and woody glen, through which ran a beautifully meandring brook. It growing late, I now returned with my guide to the hut. In my next I shall send you the account of my benighted scene, when : making for Fort Augustus. Adieu.
LETTER FROM A YOUNG GENTLEMAN IN
HIGH LIFE. The following letter, sent me by a young gentleman, I thought might interest some of my readers, and have, therefore, not scrupled to give it a place among my essays.