List Of Contents | Contents of Their Pilgrimage, by Charles Dudley Warner
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darts away down the current, fleeing from the wrath of the waters, and
pursued by the angry roar.

Surely it is an island of magic, unsubstantial, liable to go adrift and
plunge into the canon.  Even in the forest path, where the great tree
trunks assure one of stability and long immunity, this feeling cannot be
shaken off.  Our party descended the winding staircase in the tower, and
walked on the shelf under the mighty ledge to the entrance of the Cave of
the Winds.  The curtain of water covering this entrance was blown back
and forth by the wind, now leaving the platform dry and now deluging it.
A woman in the pathway was beckoning frantically and calling to a man who
stood on the platform, entirely unconscious of danger, looking up to the
green curtain and down into the boiling mist.  It was Mrs. Stubbs; but
she was shouting against Niagara, and her husband mistook her pantomime
for gestures of wonder and admiration.  Some moments passed, and then the
curtain swung in, and tons of water drenched the Englishman, and for an
instant hid him from sight.  Then, as the curtain swung back, he was seen
clinging to the handrail, sputtering and astonished at such treatment.
He came up the bank dripping, and declaring that it was extraordinary,
most extraordinary, but he wouldn't have missed it for the world.  From
this platform one looks down the narrow, slippery stairs that are lost in
the boiling mist, and wonders at the daring that built these steps down
into that hell, and carried the frail walk of planks over the bowlders
outside the fall.  A party in oil-skins, making their way there, looked
like lost men and women in a Dante Inferno.  The turbulent waters dashed
all about them; the mist occasionally wrapped them from sight; they clung
to the rails, they tried to speak to each other; their gestures seemed
motions of despair.  Could that be Eurydice whom the rough guide was
tenderly dragging out of the hell of waters, up the stony path, that
singular figure in oil-skin trousers, who disclosed a pretty face inside
her hood as she emerged?  One might venture into the infernal regions to
rescue such a woman; but why take her there?  The group of adventurers
stopped a moment on the platform, with the opening into the misty cavern
for a background, and the artist said that the picture was, beyond all
power of the pencil, strange and fantastic.  There is nothing, after all,
that the human race will not dare for a new sensation.

The walk around Goat Island is probably unsurpassed in the world for
wonder and beauty.  The Americans have every reason to be satisfied with
their share of the fall; they get nowhere one single grand view like that
from the Canada side, but infinitely the deepest impression of majesty
and power is obtained on Goat Island.  There the spectator is in the
midst of the war of nature.  From the point over the Horseshoe Fall our
friends, speaking not much, but more and more deeply moved, strolled
along in the lovely forest, in a rural solemnity, in a local calm, almost
a seclusion, except for the ever-present shuddering roar in the air.  On
the shore above the Horseshoe they first comprehended the breadth, the
great sweep, of the rapids.  The white crests of the waves in the west
were coming out from under a black, lowering sky; all the foreground was
in bright sunlight, dancing, sparkling, leaping, hurrying on, converging
to the angle where the water becomes a deep emerald at the break and
plunge.  The rapids above are a series of shelves, bristling with jutting
rocks and lodged trunks of trees, and the wildness of the scene is
intensified by the ragged fringe of evergreens on the opposite shore.

Over the whole island the mist, rising from the caldron, drifts in spray
when the wind is rable; but on this day the forest was bright and
cheerful, and as the strollers went farther away from the Great Fall; the
beauty of the scene began to steal away its terror.  The roar was still
dominant, but far off and softened, and did not crush the ear.  The
triple islands, the Three Sisters, in their picturesque wildness appeared
like playful freaks of nature in a momentary relaxation of the savage
mood.  Here is the finest view of the river; to one standing on the
outermost island the great flood seems tumbling out of the sky.  They
continued along the bank of the river.  The shallow stream races by
headlong, but close to the edge are numerous eddies, and places where one
might step in and not be swept away.  At length they reached the point
where the river divides, and the water stands for an instant almost
still, hesitating whether to take the Canadian or American plunge.  Out a
little way from the shore the waves leap and tumble, and the two currents
are like race-horses parted on two ways to the goal.  Just at this point
the water swirls and lingers; having lost all its fierceness and haste,
and spreads itself out placidly, dimpling in the sun.  It may be a
treacherous pause, this water may be as cruel as that which rages below
and exults in catching a boat or a man and bounding with the victim over
the cataract; but the calm was very grateful to the stunned and buffeted
visitors; upon their jarred nerves it was like the peace of God.

"The preacher might moralize here," said King.  "Here is the parting of
the ways for the young man; here is a moment of calm in which he can
decide which course he will take.  See, with my hand I can turn the water
to Canada or to America! So momentous is the easy decision of the

"Yes," said the artist, "your figure is perfect.  Whichever side the
young man takes, he goes to destruction."

"Or," continued King, appealing to Miss Lamont against this illogical
construction, "this is the maiden at the crucial instant of choosing
between two impetuous suitors."

"You mean she will be sorry, whichever she chooses?"

"You two practical people would spoil any illustration in the world.  You
would divest the impressive drop of water on the mountain summit, which
might go to the Atlantic or to the Pacific, of all moral character by
saying that it makes no difference which ocean it falls into."

The relief from the dread of Niagara felt at this point of peace was only
temporary.  The dread returned when the party approached again the
turmoil of the American Fall, and fell again under the influence of the
merciless haste of the flood.  And there every islet, every rock, every
point, has its legend of terror; here a boat lodged with a man in it, and
after a day and night of vain attempts to rescue him, thousands of people
saw him take the frightful leap, throwing up his arms as he went over;
here a young woman slipped, and was instantly whirled away out of life;
and from that point more than one dazed or frantic visitor had taken the
suicidal leap.  Death was so near here and so easy!

One seems in less personal peril on the Canadian side, and has more the
feeling of a spectator and less that of a participant in the wild uproar.
"Perhaps there is more sense of force, but the majesty of the scene is
relieved by a hundred shifting effects of light and color.  In the
afternoon, under a broken sky, the rapids above the Horseshoe reminded
one of the seashore on a very stormy day.  Impeded by the rocks, the
flood hesitated and even ran back, as if reluctant to take the final
plunge!  The sienna color of the water on the table contrasted sharply
with the emerald at the break of the fall.  A rainbow springing out of
the centre of the caldron arched clear over the American cataract, and
was one moment bright and the next dimly seen through the mist, which
boiled up out of the foam of waters and swayed in the wind.  Through this
veil darted adventurous birds, flashing their wings in the prismatic
colors, and circling about as if fascinated by the awful rush and
thunder.  With the shifting wind and the passing clouds the scene was in
perpetual change; now the American Fall was creamy white, and the mist
below dark, and again the heavy mass was gray and sullen, and the mist
like silver spray.  Perhaps nowhere else in the world is the force of
nature so overpowering to the mind, and as the eye wanders from the chaos
of the fall to the far horizon, where the vast rivers of rapids are
poured out of the sky, one feels that this force is inexhaustible and

If our travelers expected to escape the impression they were under by
driving down to the rapids and whirlpool below, they were mistaken.
Nowhere is the river so terrible as where it rushes, as if maddened by
its narrow bondage, through the canon.  Flung down the precipice and
forced into this contracted space, it fumes and tosses and rages with
vindictive fury, driving on in a passion that has almost a human quality
in it.  Restrained by the walls of stone from being destructive, it seems
to rave at its own impotence, and when it reaches the whirlpool it is
like a hungry animal, returning and licking the shore for the prey it has
missed.  But it has not always wanted a prey.  Now and again it has a
wreck or a dead body to toss and fling about.  Although it does not need
the human element of disaster to make this canon grewsome, the keepers of
the show places make the most of the late Captain Webb.  So vivid were
their narratives that our sympathetic party felt his presence
continually, saw the strong swimmer tossed like a chip, saw him throw up
his hands, saw the agony in his face at the spot where he was last seen.
There are several places where he disappeared, each vouched for by
credible witnesses, so that the horror of the scene is multiplied for the
tourist.  The late afternoon had turned gray and cold, and dashes of rain
fell as our party descended to the whirlpool.  As they looked over the
heaped-up and foaming waters in this eddy they almost expected to see
Captain Webb or the suicide of the night before circling round in the
maelstrom.  They came up out of the gorge silent, and drove back to the
hotel full of nervous apprehension.

King found no telegram from Irene, and the place seemed to him
intolerable.  The artist was quite ready to go on in the morning; indeed,

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