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meal is over, and another coach is ready. In it we go on
once more, lighted by a bright moon, until midnight; when
we stop to change the coach again, and remain for half an
hour or so in a miserable room, with a blurred lithograph
of Washington over the smoky fireplace, and a mighty jug
of cold water on the table : to which refreshment the moody
passengers do so apply themselves that they would seem to
be, one and all, keen patients of Dr. Sangrado. Among
them is a very little boy, who chews tobacco like a very big
one ; and a droning gentleman, who talks arithmetically and
statistically on all subjects, from poetry downwards ; and
who always speaks in the same key, with exactly the same
emphasis, and with very grave deliberation. He came outside
just now, and told me how that the uncle of a certain young
lady who had been spirited away and married by a certain
captain, lived in these parts; and how this uncle was so
valiant and ferocious that he shouldn't wonder if he were to
follow the said captain to England, " and shoot him down in
the street wherever he found him ; " in the feasibility of which
strong measure I, being for the moment rather prone to
contradiction, from feeling half asleep and very tired, declined
to acquiesce : assuring him that if the uncle did resort to
it, or gratified any other little whim of the like nature, he
would find himself one morning prematurely throttled at the


Old Bailey : and that he would do well to make his will
before he went, as he would certainly want it before he had
been in Britain very long.

On we go, all night, and by-and-by the day begins to
break, and presently the first cheerful rays of the warm sun
come slanting on us brightly. It sheds its light upon a
miserable waste of sodden grass, and dull trees, and squalid
huts, whose aspect is forlorn and grievous in the last degree.
A very desert in the wood, whose growth of green is dank
and noxious like that upon the top of standing water : where
poisonous fungus grows in the rare footprint on the oozy
ground, and sprouts like witches' coral, from the crevices in
the cabin wall and floor ; it is a hideous thing to lie upon the
very threshold of a city. But it was purchased years ago,
and as the owner cannot be discovered, the State has been
unable to reclaim it. So there it remains, in the midst of
cultivation and improvement, like ground accursed, and made
obscene and rank by some great crime.

We reached Columbus shortly before seven o'clock, and
stayed there, to refresh, that day and night : having excellent
apartments in a very large unfinished hotel called the Neill
House, which were richly fitted with the polished wood of
the black walnut, and opened on a handsome portico and
stone verandah, like rooms in some Italian mansion. The
town is clean and pretty, and of course is "going to be"
much larger. It is the seat of the State legislature of Ohio,
and lays claim, in consequence, to some consideration and
importance. . .

There being no stage-coach next day, upon the road we
wished to take, I hired' " an extra," at a reasonable charge,
to carry us to Tiffin ; a small town from whence there is a
railroad to Sandusky. This extra was an ordinary four-horse
stage-coach, such as I have described, changing horses and
drivers, as the stage-coach would, but was exclusively our
own for the journey. To ensure our having horses at the
proper stations, and being incommoded by no strangers, the


proprietors sent an agent on the box, who was to accompany
us the whole way through; and thus attended, and bearing
with us, besides, a hamper full of savoury cold meats, and
fruit, and wine ; we started off again in high spirits, at half-
past six o'clock next morning, very much delighted to be by
ourselves, and disposed to enjoy even the roughest journey.

It was well for us, that we were in this humour, for the
road we went over that day, was certainly enough to have
shaken tempers that were not resolutely at Set Fair, down
to some inches below Stormy. At one time we were all flung
together in a heap at the bottom of the coach, and at another
we were crushing our heads against the roof. Now, one side
was down deep in the mire, and we were holding on to the
.other. Now, the coach was lying on the tails of the two
wheelers; and now it was rearing up in the air, in a frantic
state, with all four horses standing on the top of an insur-
mountable eminence, looking coolly back at it, as though
they would say " Unharness us. It can't be done." The
drivers on these roads, who certainly get over the ground in
a manner which is quite miraculous, so twist and turn the
team about in forcing a passage, corkscrew fashion, through
the bogs and swamps, that it was quite a common circum-
stance on looking out of the window, to see the coachman
with the ends of a pair of reins in his hands, apparently
driving nothing, or playing at horses, and the leaders staring
at one unexpectedly from the back of the coach, as if they
had some idea of getting up behind. A great portion of the
way was over what is called a corduroy road, which is made
by throwing trunks of trees into a marsh, and leaving them
to settle there. The very slightest of the jolts with which
the ponderous carriage fell from log to log, was enough, it
seemed, to have dislocated all the bones in the human body.
It would be impossible to experience a similar set of sensa-
tions, in any other circumstances, unless perhaps in attempting
to go up to the top of St. Paul's in an omnibus. Never,
never once, that day, was the coach in any position, attitude,


or kind of motion to which we are accustomed in coaches.
Never did it make the smallest approach to one's experience
of the proceedings of any sort of vehicle that goes on wheels.

Still, it was a fine day, and the temperature was delicious,
and though we had left Summer behind us in the west, and
were fast leaving Spring, we were moving towards Niagara
and home. We alighted in a pleasant wood towards the
middle of the day, dined on a fallen tree, and leaving our
best fragments with a cottager, and our worst with the pigs
(who swarm in this part of the country like grains of sand
on the sea-shore, to the great comfort of our commissariat
in Canada), we went forward again, gaily.

As night came on, the track grew narrower and narrower,
until at last it so lost itself among the trees, that the driver
seemed to find his way by instinct. We had the comfort of
knowing, at least, that there was no danger of his falling
asleep, for every now and then a wheel would strike against
an unseen stump with such a jerk, that he was fain to hold
on pretty tight and pretty quick, to keep himself upon the
box. Nor was there any reason to dread the least danger
from furious driving, inasmuch as over that broken ground
the horses had enough to do to walk ; as to shying, there was
no room for that; and a herd of wild elephants could not
have run away in such a wood, with such a coach at their
heels. So we stumbled along, quite satisfied.

These stumps of trees are a curious feature in American
travelling. The varying illusions they present to the unaccus-
tomed eye as it grows dark, are quite astonishing in their
number and reality. Now, there is a Grecian urn erected in
the centre of a lonely field ; now there is a woman weeping
at a tomb; now a very commonplace old gentleman in a
white waistcoat, with a thumb thrust into each arm-hole of
his coat ; now a student poring on a book ; now a crouching
negro ; now, a horse, a dog, a cannon, an armed man ; a
hunch-back throwing off his cloak and stepping forth into the
light. They were often as entertaining to me as so many


glasses in a magic lantern, and never took their shapes at my
bidding, but seemed to force themselves upon me, whether I
would or no ; and strange to say, I sometimes recognised in
them counterparts of figures once familiar to me in pictures
attached to childish books, forgotten long ago.

It soon became too dark, however, even for this amusement,
and the trees were so close together that their dry branches
rattled against the coach on either side, and obliged us all
to keep our heads within. It lightened too, for three whole
hours ; each flash being very bright, and blue, and long ; and
as the vivid streaks came darting in among the crowded
branches, and the thunder rolled gloomily above the tree tops,
one could scarcely help thinking that there were better neigh-
bourhoods at such a time than thick woods afforded.

At length, between ten and eleven o'clock at night, a few
feeble lights appeared in the distance, and Upper Sandusky,
an Indian village, where we were to stay till morning, lay
before us.

They were gone to bed at the log Inn, which was the only
house of entertainment in the place, but soon answered to
our knocking, and got some tea for us in a sort of kitchen
or common room, tapestried with old newspapers, pasted
against the wall. The bed-chamber to which my wife and I
were shown, was a large, low, ghostly room ; with a quantity
of withered branches on the hearth, and two doors without
any fastening, opposite to each other, both opening on the
black night and wild country, and so contrived, that one of
them always blew the other open : a novelty in domestic
architecture, which I do not remember to have seen before,
and which I was somewhat disconcerted to have forced on my
attention after getting into bed, as I had a considerable sum
in gold for our travelling expenses, in my dressing-case. Some
of the luggage, however, piled against the panels, soon settled
this difficulty, and my sleep would not have been very much
affected that night, I believe, though it had failed to do so.

My Boston friend climbed up to bed, somewhere in the


roof, where another guest was already snoring hugely. But
being bitten beyond his power of endurance, he turned out
again, and fled for shelter to the coach, which was airing
itself in front of the house. This was not a very politic step,
as it turned out; for the pigs scenting him, and looking
upon the coach as a kind of pie with some manner of meat
inside, grunted round it so hideously, that he was afraid to
come out again, and lay there shivering, till morning. Nor
was it possible to warm him, when he did come out, by means
of a glass of brandy : for in Indian villages, the legislature,
with a very good and wise intention, forbids the sale of spirits
by tavern keepers. The precaution, however, is quite ineffi-
cacious, for the Indians never fail to procure liquor of a
worse kind, at a dearer price, from travelling pedlars.

It is a settlement of the Wyandot Indians who inhabit
this place. Among the company at breakfast was a mild old
gentleman, who had been for many years employed by the
United States Government in conducting negotiations with
the Indians, and who had just concluded a treaty with these
people by which they bound themselves, in consideration of
a certain annual sum, to remove next year to some land
provided for them, west of the Mississippi, and a little way.
beyond St. Louis. He gave me a moving account of their
strong attachment to the familiar scenes of their infancy,
and in particular to the burial-places of their kindred; and
of their great reluctance to leave them. He had witnessed
many such removals, and always with pain, though he knew
that they departed for their own good. The question whether
this tribe should go or stay, had been discussed among them
a day or two before, in a hut erected for the purpose, the logs
of which still lay upon the ground before the inn. When
the speaking was done, the ayes and noes were ranged on
opposite sides, and every male adult voted in his turn. The
moment the result was known, the minority (a large one)
cheerfully yielded to the rest, and withdrew all kind of


We met some of these poor Indians afterwards, riding on
shaggy ponies. They were so like the meaner sort of gipsies,
that if I could have seen any of them in England, I should
have concluded, as a matter of course, that they belonged to
that wandering and restless people.

Leaving this town directly after breakfast, we pushed
forward again, over a rather worse road than yesterday, if
possible, and arrived about noon at Tiffin, where we parted
with the extra. At two o'clock we took the railroad; the
travelling on which was very slow, its construction being
indifferent, and the ground wet and marshy; and arrived at
Sandusky in time to dine that evening. We put up at a
comfortable little hotel on the brink of Lake Erie, lay there
that night, and had no choice but to wait there next day,
until a steamboat bound for Buffalo appeared. ' The town,
which was sluggish and uninteresting enough, was something
like the back of an English watering-place, out of the season.

Our host, who was very attentive and anxious to make us
comfortable, was a handsome middle-aged man, who had come
to this town from New England, in which part of the country
he was "raised. 11 When I say that he constantly walked in
and out of the room with his hat on ; and stopped to converse
in the same free-and-easy state; and lay down on our sofa^
and pulled his newspaper out of his pocket, and read it at
his ease ; I merely mention these traits as characteristic of the
country : not at all as being matter of complaint, or as having
been disagreeable to me. I should undoubtedly be offended
by such proceedings at home, because there they are not the
custom, and where they are not, they would be irn pertinencies ;
but in America, the only desire of a good-natured fellow of
this kind, is to treat his guests hospitably and well; and I
had no more right, and I can truly say no more disposition,
to measure his conduct by our English rule and standard,
than I had to quarrel with him for not being of the exact
stature which would qualify him for admission into the
Queen's grenadier guards. As little inclination had I to find


fault with a funny old lady who was an upper domestic in
this establishment, and who, when she came to wait upon us
at any meal, sat herself down comfortably in the most con-
venient chair, and producing a large pin to pick her teeth
with, remained performing that ceremony, and steadfastly
regarding us meanwhile with much gravity and composure
(now and then pressing us to eat a little more), until it was
time to clear away. It was enough for us, that whatever we
wished done was done with great civility and readiness, and
a desire to oblige, not only here, but everywhere else; and
that all our wants were, in general, zealously anticipated.

We were taking an early dinner at this house, on the day
after our arrival, which was Sunday, when a steamboat came
in sight, and presently touched at the wharf. As she proved
to be on her way to Buffalo, we hurried on board with all
speed, and soon left Sandusky far behind us.

She was a large vessel of five hundred tons, and handsomely
fitted up, though with high-pressure engines; which always
conveyed that kind of feeling to me, which I should be likely
to experience, I think, if I had lodgings on the first-floor
of a powder-mill. She was laden with flour, some casks of
which commodity were stored upon the deck. The captain
coming up to have a little conversation, arid to introduce a
friend, seated himself astride of one of these barrels, like a
Bacchus of private life ; and pulling a great clasp-knife out
of his pocket, began to " whittle " it as he talked, by paring
thin slices off the edges. And he whittled with such industry
and hearty good will, that but for his being called away very
soon, it must have disappeared bodily, and left nothing in its
place but grist and shavings.

After calling at one or two flat places, with low dams
stretching out into the lake, whereon were stumpy lighthouses,
like windmills without sails, the whole looking like a Dutch
vignette, we came at midnight to Cleveland, where we lay
all night, and until nine o'clock next morning.

I entertained quite a curiosity in reference to this place,


from having seen at Sandusky a specimen of its literature in
the shape of a newspaper, which was very strong indeed upon
the subject of Lord Ashburton's recent arrival at Washington,
to adjust the points in dispute between the United States
Government and Great Britain : informing its readers that as
America had " whipped " England in her infancy, and whipped
her again in her youth, so it was clearly necessary that she
must whip her once again in her maturity ; and pledging its
credit to all True Americans, that if Mr. Webster did his
duty in the approaching negotiations, and sent the English
Lord home again in double quick time, they should, within
two years, sing " Yankee Doodle in Hyde Park, and Hail
Columbia in the scarlet courts of Westminster ! " I found it
a pretty town, and had the satisfaction of beholding the
outside of the office of the journal from which I have just
quoted. I did not enjoy the delight of seeing the wit who
indited the paragraph in question, but I have no doubt he
is a prodigious man in his way, and held in high repute by
a select circle.

There was a gentleman on board, to whom, as I uninten-
tionally learned through the thin partition which divided our
state-room from the cabin in which he and his wife conversed
together, I was unwittingly the occasion of very great uneasi-
ness. I don't know why or wherefore, but I appeared to run
in his mind perpetually, and to dissatisfy him very much.
First of all I heard him say : and the most ludicrous part of
the business was, that he said it in my very ear, and could
not have communicated more directly with me, if he had
leaned upon my shoulder, and whispered me : " Boz is on
board still, my dear." After a considerable pause, he added,
complainingly, " Boz keeps himself very close ; " which was
true enough, for I was not very well, and was lying down,
with a book. I thought he had done with me after this,
but I was deceived ; for a long interval having elapsed,
during which I imagine him to have been turning restlessly
from side to side, and trying to go to sleep ; he broke out


again, with " I suppose that Boz will be writing a book
by-and-by, and putting all our names in it ! " at which
imaginary consequence of being on board a boat with Boz,
he groaned, and became silent.

We called at the town of Erie, at eight o'clock that night,
and lay there an hour. Between five and six next morning,
we arrived at Buffalo, where we breakfasted ; and being too
near the Great Falls to wait patiently anywhere else, we set
off by the train, the same morning at nine o'clock, to

It was a miserable day; chilly and raw; a damp mist
falling ; and the trees in that northern region quite bare and
wintry. Whenever the train halted, I listened for the roar ;
and was constantly straining my eyes in the direction where
I knew the Falls must be, from seeing the river rolling on
towards them ; every moment expecting to behold the spray.
Within a few minutes of our stopping, not before, I saw
two great white clouds rising up slowly and majestically
from the depths of the earth. That was all. At length we
alighted : and then for the first time, I heard the mighty
rush of water, and felt the ground tremble underneath my

The bank is very steep, and was slippery with rain, and
half-melted ice. I hardly know how I got down, but I was
soon at the bottom, and climbing, with two English officers
who were crossing and had joined me, over some broken
rocks, deafened by the noise, half-blinded by the spray, and
wet to the skin. We were at the foot of the American Fall.
I could see an immense torrent of water tearing headlong
down from some great height, but had no idea of shape, or
situation, or anything but vague immensity.

When we were seated in the little ferry-boat, and were
crossing the swollen river immediately before both cataracts,
I began to feel what it was : but I was in a manner stunned,
and unable to comprehend the vastness of the scene. It
was not until I came on Table Rock, and looked Great


Heaven, on what a fall of bright-green water ! that it came
upon me in its full might and majesty.

Then, when I felt how near to my Creator I was standing,
the first effect, and the enduring one instant and lasting
of the tremendous spectacle, was Peace. Peace of Mind,
tranquillity, calm recollections of the Dead, great thoughts
of Eternal Rest and Happiness : nothing of gloom or terror.
Niagara was at once stamped upon my heart, an Image of
Beauty; to remain there, changeless and indelible, until its
pulses cease to beat, for ever.

Oh, how the strife and trouble of daily life receded from
my view, and lessened in the distance, during the ten memor-
able days we passed on that Enchanted Ground ! What
voices spoke from out the thundering water; what faces,
faded from the earth, looked out upon me from its gleaming-
depths ; what Heavenly promise glistened in those angels 1
tears, the drops of many hues, that showered around, and
twined themselves about the gorgeous arches which the
changing rainbows made !

I never stirred in all that time from the Canadian side,
whither I had gone at first. I never crossed the river again ;
for I knew there were people on the other shore, and in
such a place it is natural to shun strange company. To
wander to and fro all day, and see the cataracts from all
points of view; to stand upon the edge of the great Horse-
Shoe Fall, marking the hurried water gathering strength as
it approached the verge, yet seeming, too, to pause before it
shot into the gulf below ; to gaze from the river's level up
at the torrent as it came streaming down ; to climb the
neighbouring heights and watch it through the trees, and
see the wreathing water in the rapids hurrying on to take
its fearful plunge; to linger in the shadow of the solemn
rocks three miles below ; watching the river as, stirred by
no visible cause, it heaved and eddied and awoke the echoes,
being troubled yet, far down beneath the surface, by its giant
leap ; to have Niagara before me, lighted by the sun and by


the moon, red in the day's decline, and grey as evening slowly
fell upon it; to look upon it every day, and wake up in the
night and hear its ceaseless voice : this was enough.

I think in every quiet season now, still do those waters
roll and leap, and roar and tumble, all day long; still are
the rainbows spanning them, a hundred feet below. Still,
when the sun is on them, do they shine and glow like molten
gold. Still, when the day is gloomy, do they fall like snow,
or seem to crumble away like the front of a great chalk cliff,
or roll down the rock like dense white smoke. But always
does the mighty stream appear to die as it comes down, and
always from its unfathomable grave arises that tremendous
ghost of spray and mist which is never laid: which has
haunted this place with the same dread solemnity since
Darkness brooded on the deep, and that first flood before
the Deluge Light came rushing on Creation at the word
of God.



I WISH to abstain from instituting any comparison, or draw-
ing any parallel whatever, between the social features of the
United States and those of the British Possessions in Canada.
For this reason, I shall confine myself to a very brief account
of our journeyings in the latter territory.

But before I leave Niagara, I must advert to one disgusting
circumstance which can hardly have escaped the observation
of any decent traveller who has visited the Falls.

On Table Rock, there is a cottage belonging to a Guide,
where little relics of the place are sold, and where visitors
register their names in a book kept for the purpose. On the
wall of the room in which a great many of these volumes are
preserved, the following request is posted : " Visitors will
please not copy nor extract the remarks and poetical effusions
from the registers and albums kept here. 11

But for this intimation, I should have let them lie upon
the tables on which they were strewn with careful negligence,
like books in a drawing-room : being quite satisfied with the
stupendous silliness of certain stanzas with an anti-climax
at the end of each, which were framed and hung up on the

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 20 of 43)