You can feel no pity for the murderer, the thief, the prostitute. Such people may aptly be termed the wild beasts of society, and, like wild beasts, should be hunted down and killed, in order to secure the peace and comfort of the rest. Well, the law has been doing this for many ages, and yet the wild beasts still exist and prey upon their neighbours. And such will still continue to be the case until Christianity, following the example of her blessed Founder, goes forth into the wilderness of life on her errand of mercy, not to condemn, but to seek and to save that which is lost.
The conventional rules of society have formed a hedge about you, which renders any flagrant breach of morality very difficult,—in some cases almost impossible. From infancy the dread commandments have been sounding in your ears,—"Thou shalt not kill! Thou shalt not steal! Thou shalt not commit adultery!"—and the awful mandate has been strengthened by the admonitions of pious parents and good ministers, all anxious for your eternal welfare. You may well be honest; for all your wants have been supplied, and you have yet to learn that where no temptation exists, virtue itself becomes a negative quality. You do not covet the goods which others possess. You have never looked down, with confusion of face and heartfelt bitterness, on the dirty rags that scarcely suffice to conceal the emaciation of your wasted limbs. You have never felt hunger gnawing at your vitals, or shuddered at the cries of famishing children, sobbing around your knees for bread. You have dainties to satiety every day, and know nothing of the agonies of sacrificing your virtue for the sake of a meal. If you are cold, you have a good fire to warm you, a comfortable mansion to protect you from the inclemency of the weather, and garments suitable to every season of the year. How can you be expected to sympathize with the ragged, houseless children of want and infamy!
You cannot bear to have these sad realities presented to your notice. It shocks your nerves. You cannot bring yourself to admit that these outcasts of society are composed of the same clay; and you blame the authors who have dared to run a tilt against your prejudices, and have not only attested the unwelcome fact, but have pointed out the causes which lead to the hopeless degradation and depravity of these miserable fellow-creatures. You cannot read the works of these humane men, because they bid you to step with them into these dirty abodes of guilt and wretchedness, and see what crime really is, and all the horrors that ignorance and poverty, and a want of self-respect, never fail to bring about. You cannot enter into these abodes of your neglected and starving brothers and sisters—these forlorn scions of a common stock—and view their cold hearths and unfurnished tables, their beds of straw and tattered garments, without defilement—or witness their days of unremitting toil, and nights of unrest; and worse, far worse, to behold the evil passions and crimes which spring from a state of ignorance, producing a moral darkness that can be felt.
You are insulted and offended at being seen in such bad company; and cannot for a moment, imagine that a change in your relative positions might have rendered you no wiser or better than them. But, let me ask you candidly, has not the terrible scene produced some effect? Can you forget its existence,—its shocking reality? The lesson it teaches may be distasteful, but you cannot shake off a knowledge of its melancholy facts. The voice of conscience speaks audibly to your heart; that still small voice—that awful record of himself that God has placed in every breast (and woe be to you, or any one, when it ceases to be heard!)—tells you that you cannot, without violating the divine mandate, "love thy neighbour as thyself," leave these miserable creatures to languish and die, without making one effort to aid in rescuing them from their melancholy fate.
"But what can I do?" I hear you indignantly exclaim.
Much; oh, how much! You have wealth, a small part of which cannot be better bestowed than in educating these poor creatures; in teaching them to recognise those divine laws which they have broken; in leading them step by step into those paths of piety and peace they have never known. Ignorance has been the most powerful agent in corrupting these perishing criminals. Give them healthful employment, the means of emigrating to countries where labour is amply remunerated, and will secure for them comfort, independence, and self-respect. In Canada, these victims of over-population prove beneficial members of society, while with you they are regarded as a blight and a curse.
Numbers of this class are yearly cast upon these shores, yet the crimes which are commonly committed by their instrumentality in Britain, very rarely occur with us. We could not sleep with unfastened doors and windows near populous towns, if the change in their condition did not bring about a greater moral change in the character of these poor emigrants.
They readily gain employment; their toils are amply remunerated; and they cease to commit crime to procure a precarious existence. In the very worst of these people some good exists. A few seeds remain of divine planting, which, if fostered and judiciously trained, might yet bear fruit for heaven.
The authors, whose works you call disgusting and immoral, point out this, and afford you the most pathetic illustrations of its truth. You need not fear contamination from the vices which they portray. Their depravity is of too black a hue to have the least attraction, even to beings only removed a few degrees from the same guilt. Vice may have her admirers when she glitters in gold and scarlet; but when exposed in filth and nakedness, her most reckless devotees shrink back from her in disgust and horror. Vice, without her mask, is a spectacle too appalling for humanity; it exhibits the hideousness, and breathes of the corruption of hell.
If these reprobated works of fiction can startle the rich into a painful consciousness of the wants and agonies of the poor, and make them, in spite of all the conventional laws of society, acknowledge their kindred humanity, who shall say that their books have been written in vain?
For my own part, I look upon these authors as heaven-inspired teachers, who have been commissioned by the great Father of souls to proclaim to the world the wrongs and sufferings of millions of his creatures; to plead their cause with unflinching integrity, and, with almost superhuman eloquence, demand for them the justice which the world has so long denied. These men are the benefactors of their species, to whom the whole human race owe a vast debt of gratitude.
Since the publication of Oliver Twist, and many other works of the same class, inquiries have been made by thinking and benevolent individuals into the condition of the destitute poor in great cities and manufacturing districts. These works brought to light deeds of darkness, and scenes of oppression and cruelty, scarcely to be credited in modern times and in Christian communities. The attention of the public was directed towards this miserable class of beings, and its best sympathies enlisted in their behalf. It was called upon to assist in the liberation of these white slaves, chained to the oar for life in the galleys of wealth, and to recognize them as men and brethren.
Then sprang up the ragged schools,—the institutions for reclaiming the youthful vagrants of London, and teaching the idle and profligate the sublime morality of sobriety and industry.
Persons who were unable to contribute money to these truly noble objects of charity, were ready to assist in the capacity of Sunday-school teachers, and add their mite in the great work of moral reform. In over-peopled countries like England and France, the evils arising out of extreme poverty could not be easily remedied; yet the help thus afforded by the rich, contributed greatly in ameliorating the distress of thousands of the poorer classes. To the same source we may trace the mitigation of many severe laws. The punishment of death is no longer enforced, but in cases of great depravity. Mercy has stepped in, and wiped the blood from the sword of justice.
Hood's "Song of the Shirt" produced an almost electric effect upon the public mind. It was a bold, truthful appeal to the best feelings of humanity, and it found a response in every feeling heart. It laid bare the distress of a most deserving and oppressed portion of the female operatives of London; and the good it did is at this moment in active operation. Witness the hundreds of work-women landed within the last twelve months on these shores, who immediately found liberal employment.
God's blessing upon thee, Thomas Hood! The effect produced by that work of divine charity of thine, will be felt long after thou and thy heart-searching appeal have vanished into the oblivion of the past. But what matters it to thee if the song is forgotten by coming generations? It performed its mission of mercy on earth, and has opened for thee the gates of heaven.
Such a work of fiction as "The Caxtons" refreshes and invigorates the mind by its perusal; and virtue becomes beautiful for its own sake. You love the gentle humanity of the single-hearted philosopher, the charming simplicity of his loving helpmate, and scarcely know which to admire the most—Catherine in her conjugal or maternal character—the noble but mistaken pride of the fine old veteran Roland, the real hero of the tale—or the excellent young man, his nephew, who reclaims the fallen son, and is not too perfect to be unnatural. As many fine moral lessons can be learned from this novel, as from most works written expressly for the instruction and improvement of mankind; and they lose nothing by the beautiful and attractive garb in which they are presented to the reader.
Our blessed Lord himself did not disdain the usc of allegory, which is truth conveyed to the hearer under a symbolical form. His admirable parables, each of which told a little history, were the most popular methods that could be adopted to instruct the lower classes, who, chiefly uneducated, require the illustration of a subject in order to understand it.
Aesop, in his inimitable fables, pourtrayed through his animals the various passions and vices of men, admirably adapting them to the characters he meant to satirize, and the abuses he endeavoured through this medium to reform. These beautiful fictions have done much to throw disgrace upon roguery, selfishness, cruelty, avarice and injustice, and to exalt patience, fidelity, mercy, and generosity, even among Christians who were blessed with a higher moral code than that enjoyed by the wise pagan; and they will continue to be read and admired as long as the art of printing exists to render them immortal.
Every good work of fiction is a step towards the mental improvement of mankind, and to every such writer, we say God speed!
"Hark! heard ye not a sound?" "Aye, 'tis the sullen roar Of billows breaking on the shore." "Hush!—'tis beneath the ground, That hollow rending shock, Makes the tall mountains rock,— The solid earth doth like a drunkard reel; Pale nature holds her breath, Her tribes are mute as death. In silent dread the coming doom they feel."
"Ah, God have mercy!—hark! those dismal cries— Man knows his danger now, And veils in dust his brow. Beneath, the yawning earth—above, the lurid skies! Mortal, behold the toil and boast of years In one brief moment to oblivion hurled. So shall it be, when this vain guilty world Of woe, and sad necessity and tears, Sinks at the awful mandate of its Lord, As erst it rose to being at his word."
"Alas! poor maniac; For thee no hope can dawn—no tender tie Wake in thy blighted heart a thrill of joy; The immortal mind is levelled with the dust, Ere the tenacious chords of life give way!" S.M.
Our next visit was to the Lunatic Asylum. The building is of white brick,—a material not very common in Canada, but used largely in Toronto, where stone has to be brought from a considerable distance, there being no quarries in the neighbourhood. Brick has not the substantial, august appearance that stone gives to a large building, and it is more liable to injury from the severe frosts of winter in this climate, The asylum is a spacious edifice, surrounded by extensive grounds for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. These are principally worked by the male patients, who are in a state of convalescence, while it affords them ample room for air and exercise.
A large gang of these unfortunates were taking their daily promenade, when our cab stopped at the entrance gate. They gazed upon us with an eager air of childish curiosity, as we alighted from our conveyance, and entered the building.
We were received very politely by one of the gentlemen belonging to the establishment, who proceeded to show us over the place.
Ascending a broad flight of steps, as clean as it was possible for human hands to make them, we came to a long wide gallery, separated at either end by large folding-doors, the upper part of which were of glass; those to the right opening into the ward set apart for male patients, who were so far harmless that they were allowed the free use of their limbs, and could be spoken to without any danger to the visitors. The female lunatics inhabited the ward to the left, and to these we first directed our attention.
The long hall into which their work-rooms and sleeping apartments opened was lofty, well lighted, well aired, and exquisitely clean; so were the persons of the women, who were walking to and fro, laughing and chatting very sociably together. Others were sewing and quilting in rooms set apart for that purpose. There was no appearance of wretchedness or misery in this ward; nothing that associated with it the terrible idea of madness I had been wont to entertain—for these poor creatures looked healthy and cheerful, nay, almost happy, as if they had given the world and all its cares the go-by. There was one thin, eccentric looking woman in middle life, who came forward to receive us with an air of great dignity; she gave us her hand in a most condescending manner, and smiled most graciously when the gentleman who was with us inquired after her majesty's health. She fancies herself Victoria, and in order to humour her conceit, she is allowed to wear a cap of many colours, with tinsel ornaments. This person, who is from the lowest class, certainly enjoys her imaginary dignity in a much greater degree than any crowned monarch, and is perhaps far prouder of her fool's cap than our gracious sovereign is of her imperial diadem.
The madwomen round her appeared to consider her assumption of royalty as a very good joke, for the homage they rendered her was quizzical in the extreme.
There are times when these people seem to have a vague consciousness of their situation; when gleams of sense break in upon them, and whisper the awful truth to their minds. Such moments must form the drops of bitterness in the poisoned cup of life, which a mysterious Providence has presented to their lips. While I was looking sadly from face to face, as these benighted creatures flitted round me, a tall stout woman exclaimed in a loud voice—
"That's Mrs. M—-, of Belleville! God bless her! Many a good quarter dollar I've got from her;" and, running up to me, she flung her arms about my neck, and kissed me most vehemently.
I did not at first recognise her; and, though I submitted with a good grace to the mad hug she gave me, I am afraid that I trembled not a little in her grasp. She was the wife of a cooper, who lived opposite to us during the first two years we resided in Belleville; and I used to buy from her all the milk I needed for the children.
She was always a strange eccentric creature when sane—if, indeed, she ever had enjoyed the right use of her senses; and, in spite of the joy she manifested at the unexpected sight of me, I remember her once threatening to break my head with an old hoop, when I endeavoured to save her little girl from a frightful flagellation from the same instrument.
I had stepped across the street to her husband's workshop, to order a new meat barrel. I found him putting a barrel together, assisted by a fine little girl of ten years of age, who embraced the staves with her thin supple arms, while the father slipped one of the hoops over them in order to secure them in their place. It was a pretty picture; the smiling rosy face of the girl looking down upon her father, as he stooped over the barrel adjusting the hoop, his white curling hair falling over her slender arms. Just then the door was flung open, and Mrs. —- rushed in like a fury.
"Katrine, where are you?"
"Here, mother," said the child, very quietly.
How dar'd you to leave the cradle widout my lave?"
"Father called me," and the child turned pale, and began to tremble. "I came for a moment to help him."
"You little wretch!" cried the unjust woman, seizing the child by the arm. "I'll teach you to mind him more nor you mind me. Take that, and that."
Here followed an awful oath, and such a blow upon the bare neck of the unhappy child, that she left her hold of the barrel, and fairly shrieked with pain.
"Let the girl alone, Mary; it was my fault," said the husband.
"Yes, it always is your fault! but she shall pay for it;" and, taking up a broken hoop, she began to beat the child furiously.
My woman's heart could stand it no longer. I ran forward, and threw my arms round the child.
"Get out wid you!" she cried; "what business is it of yours? I'll break your head if you are not off out of this."
"I'm not afraid of you, Mrs. —-; but I would not see you use a dog in that manner, much less a child, who has done nothing to deserve such treatment."
"Curse you all!" said the human fiend, flinging down her ugly weapon, and scowling upon us with her gloomy eyes. "I wish you were all in —-."
A place far too warm for this hot season of the year, I thought, as I walked sorrowfully home. Bad as I then considered her, I have now no doubt that it was the incipient workings of her direful malady, which certainly comes nearest to any idea we can form of demoniacal possession. She is at present an incurable but harmless maniac; and, in spite of the instance of cruelty that I have just related towards her little girl, now, during the dark period of her mind's eclipse, gleams of maternal love struggled like glimpses of sunshine through a stormy cloud, and she inquired of me earnestly, pathetically, nay, even tenderly, for her children. Alas, poor maniac! How could I tell her that the girl she had chastised so undeservedly had died in early womanhood, and her son, a fine young man of twenty, had committed suicide, and flung himself off the bridge into the Moira river only a few months before. Her insanity saved her from the knowledge of events, which might have distracted a firmer brain. She seemed hardly satisfied with my evasive answers, and looked doubtingly and cunningly at me, as if some demon had whispered to her the awful truth.
It was singular that this woman should recognise me after so many years. Altered as my appearance was by time and sickness, my dearest friends would hardly have known me,—yet she knew me at a single glance. What was still more extraordinary, she remembered my daughter, now a wife and mother, whom she had not seen since she was a little girl.
What a wonderful faculty is memory!—the most mysterious and inexplicable in the great riddle of life; that plastic tablet on which the Almighty registers with unerring fidelity the records of being, making it the depository of all our words, thoughts, and deeds—this faithful witness against us for good or evil; at the great assize that hereafter must determine our eternal fate, when conscience, at his dread command, shall open up this book of life! "Keep thy heart, my son, for out of it are the issues of life." Be sure that memory guards well that secret treasure. All that the heart ever felt, the mind ever thought, the restless spirit ever willed, is there.
Another woman—wild, dark, and fierce-looking, with her hands in mufflers—flitted after us from room to room, her black, flashing eyes fixed intently on my daughter. "Yes, it is my own Mary! but she won't speak to me."
The gentleman in attendance begged us to take no notice of this person, as she was apt to be very violent.
Another stout, fair-haired matron, with good features and a very pleasant face, insisted on shaking hands with us all round. Judging from her round, sonsy, rosy face, you never could have imagined her to have been mad. When we spoke in admiration of the extreme neatness and cleanness of the large sleeping apartment, she said very quietly—
"Ah, you would not wonder at that could you see all the water-witches at night cleaning it." Then she turned to me, and whispered very confidentially in my ear, "Are you mad? You see these people; they are all mad—as mad as March hares. Don't come here if you can help it. It's all very well at first, and it looks very clean and comfortable; but when the doors are once shut, you can't get out—no, not if you ask it upon your knees." She then retreated, nodding significantly.
Leaving this ward, we visited the one which contained the male lunatics. They appeared far more gloomy and reserved than the women we had left. One young man, who used to travel the country with jewellery, and who had often been at our house, recognised us in a moment; but he did not come forward like Mrs. —- to greet us, but ran into a corner, and, turning to the wall, covered his face with his hands until we had passed on. Here was at least a consciousness of his unfortunate situation, that was very painful to witness. A gentlemanly man in the prime of life, who had once practised the law in Toronto, and was a person of some consequence, still retained the dress and manners belonging to his class. He had gone to the same school with my son-in-law, and he greeted him in the most hearty and affectionate manner, throwing his arm about his shoulder, and talking of his affairs in the most confidential manner. His mental aberration was only displayed in a few harmless remarks, such as telling us that this large house was his, that it had been built with his money, and that it was very hard he was kept a prisoner in his own dwelling; that he was worth millions; and that people were trying to cheat him of all his money, but that if once he could get out, he would punish them all. He then directed my son-in-law to bring up some law books that he named, on the morrow, and he would give him a dozen suits against the parties from whom he had received so many injuries.
In the balcony, at the far end of the gallery, we found a group of men walking to and fro for the sake of air, or lounging listlessly on benches, gazing, with vacant eyes, upon the fine prospect of wood and water dressed in the gorgeous hues of an autumnal sunset. One very intelligent-looking man, with a magnificent head, was busy writing upon a dirty piece of paper with a pencil, his table furnished by his knee, and his desk the cover of his closed but well worn Bible. He rose as we drew near him, and bowing politely, gave us a couple of poems which he drew from his waistcoat pocket.
"These were written some time ago," he said; "One of them is much better than the other. There are some fine lines in that ode to Niagara—I composed them on the spot."
On my observing the signature of Delta affixed to these productions, he smiled, and said, with much complacency, "My name is David Moir." This, upon inquiry, we found was really the case, and the mad poet considered that the coincidence gave him a right to enjoy the world-wide fame of his celebrated namesake. The poems which he gave us, and which are still in my possession, contain some lines of great merit; but they are strangely unconnected, and very defective in rhyme and keeping. He watched our countenances intently while reading them, continually stepping in, and pointing out to us his favourite passages. We were going to return them, but he bade us keep them. "He had hundreds of copies of them," he said, "in his head." He then took us on one side, and intreated us in the most pathetic manner to use our influence to get him out of that place. "He was," he said, "a good classic scholar, and had been private tutor in several families of high respectability, and he could shew us testimonials as to character and ability. It is hard to keep me here idling," he continued, "when my poor little boys want me so badly at home; poor fellows! and they have no mother to supply my place." He sighed heavily, and drew his hand across his brow, and looked sadly and dreamily into the blue distance of Ontario. The madman's thoughts were far away with his young sons, or, perhaps, had ranged back to the rugged heathery hills of his own glorious mountain land!
There were two boys among these men who, in spite of their lunacy, had an eye to business, and begged pathetically for coppers, though of what use they could be to them in that place I cannot imagine. I saw no girls under twelve years of age. There were several boys who appeared scarcely in their teens.
Mounting another flight of snowy stairs, we came to the wards above those we had just inspected. These were occupied by patients that were not in a state to allow visitors a nearer inspection than observing them through the glass doors. By standing upon a short flight of broad steps that led down to their ward, we were able to do this with perfect security. The hands of all these women were secured in mufflers; some were dancing, others running to and fro at full speed, clapping their hands, and laughing and shouting with the most boisterous merriment. How dreadful is the laugh of madness! how sorrowful the expressions of their diabolical mirth! tears and lamentations would have been less shocking, for it would have seemed more natural.
Among these raving maniacs I recognised the singular face of Grace Marks—no longer sad and despairing, but lighted up with the fire of insanity, and glowing with a hideous and fiend-like merriment. On perceiving that strangers were observing her, she fled shrieking away like a phantom into one of the side rooms. It appears that even in the wildest bursts of her terrible malady, she is continually haunted by a memory of the past. Unhappy girl! when will the long horror of her punishment and remorse be over? When will she sit at the feet of Jesus, clothed with the unsullied garments of his righteousness, the stain of blood washed from her hand, and her soul redeemed, and pardoned, and in her right mind? It is fearful to look at her, and contemplate her fate in connexion with her crime. What a striking illustration does it afford of that awful text, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord!"
There was one woman in this ward, with raven hair and eyes, and a sallow, unhealthy complexion, whom the sight of us transported into a paroxysm of ungovernable rage. She rushed to the door, and doubled her fists at us, and began cursing and swearing at a furious rate, and then she laughed—such a laugh as one might fancy Satan uttered when he recounted, in full conclave, his triumph over the credulity of our first mother. Presently she grew outrageous, and had to be thrown to the ground, and secured by two keepers; but to silence her was beyond their art. She lay kicking and foaming, and uttering words too dreadful for human ears to listen to; and Grace Marks came out from her hiding-place, and performed a thousand mad gambols round her: and we turned from the piteous scene,—and I, for one, fervently thanked God for my sanity, and inwardly repeated those exquisite lines of the peasant bard of my native county:
"Oh, Thou, who bidd'st the vernal juices rise, Thou on whose blast autumnal foliage flies; Let peace ne'er leave me, nor my heart grow cold, Whilst life and sanity are mine to hold."
We cast but a cursory glance on the men who occupied the opposite ward. We had seen enough of madness, and the shrieks from the outrageous patients above, whom strangers have seldom nerve enough to visit, quickened our steps as we hurried from the place.
We looked into the large ball-room before we descended the stairs, where these poor creatures are allowed at stated times to meet for pleasure and amusement. But such a spectacle would be to me more revolting than the scene I had just witnessed; the delirium of their frightful disease would be less shocking in my eyes than the madness of their mirth. The struggling gleams of sense and memory in these unhappy people reminded me a beautiful passage in "Tupper's Proverbial Philosophy":
"On all things created remaineth the half-effaced signature of God; Somewhat of fair and good, though blotted by the finger of corruption."
What a sublime truth! How beautifully and forcibly expressed! With what a mournful dignity it invests our fallen nature! Sin has marred the Divine image in which we were made, but the soul in its intense longing after God and good bears, in its sorrowful servitude to evil, the impress of the hand that formed it happy and free. Yes, even in the most abject and fallen, some slight trace of good remains—some spark of the Divine essence that still lingers amid the darkness and corruption of guilt, to rekindle the dying embers, and restore them once more to life and liberty. The madman raving in his chains still remembers his God, to bless or blaspheme his name. We are astonished at his ecstatic dream of happiness, or shocked beyond measure at the blackness of his despair. His superhuman strength fills us with wonder; and, even in the extinction of reason, we acknowledge the eternal presence of God, and perceive flashes of his Spirit breaking through the dark material cloud that shades, but cannot wholly annihilate the light of the soul, the immortality within.
The poor, senseless idiot, who appears to moral eyes a mere living machine, a body without a soul, sitting among the grass, and playing with the flowers and pebbles in the vacancy of his mind, is still a wonderful illustration of the wisdom and power of God. We behold a human being inferior in instinct and intelligence of the meanest orders of animal life, dependent upon the common charities of his kind for subsistence, yet conscious of the friend who pities his helplessness, and of the hand that administers to his wants. The Spirit of his Maker shall yet breathe upon the dull chaos of his stagnant brain, and open the eyes of this blind of soul into the light of his own eternal day! What a lesson to the pride of man—to the vain dwellers in houses of clay!
Returning from the asylum, we stopped to examine Trinity College, which is on the opposite side of the road. The architect, K. Tully, Esq., has shown considerable taste and genius in the design of this edifice, which, like the asylum, is built of white brick, the corners, doors, and windows faced with cut stone. It stands back from the road in a fine park-like lawn, surrounded by stately trees of nature's own planting. When the college is completed, it will be one of the finest public buildings in the province, and form one of the noblest ornaments to this part of the city.
"The wind at my casement scream'd shrilly and loud, And the pale moon look'd in from her mantle of cloud; Old ocean was tossing in terrible might, And the black rolling billows were crested with light. Like a shadowy dream on my senses that hour, Stole the beautiful vision of grandeur and power; And the sorrows of life that brought tears to mine eye, Were forgot in the glories of ocean and sky.
"'Oh nature!' I cried, 'in thy beautiful face All the wisdom and love of thy Maker I trace; Thy aspect divine checks my tears as they start, And fond hopes long banish'd flow back to my heart!' Thus musing, I wander'd alone to the shore, To gaze on the waters, and list to their roar, When I saw a poor lost one bend over the steep Of the tall beetling cliff that juts out o'er the deep.
"The wind wav'd her garments, and April's rash showers Hung like gems in her dark locks, enwreath'd with wild flowers; Her bosom was bared to the cold midnight storm, That unsparingly beat on her thin fragile form; Her black eyes flash'd sternly whence reason had fled, And she glanc'd on my sight like some ghost of the dead, As she sang a loud strain to the hoarse dashing surge, That rang on my ears like the plaint of a dirge.
"And he who had left her to madness and shame, Who had robb'd her of honour, and blasted her fame— Did he think in that hour of the heart he had riven, The vows he had broken, the anguish he'd given?— And where was the infant whose birth gave the blow To the peace of his mother, and madden'd her woe? A thought rush'd across me—I ask'd for her child,— With a wild laugh of triumph the maniac replied—
"'Where the dark tide runs strongest, the cliff rises steep, Where the wild waters eddy, I've rock'd him to sleep: His sleep is so sound that the rush of the stream, When the winds are abroad, cannot waken his dream. And see you that rock, with its surf-beaten side, There the blood of my false love runs red with the tide; The sea-mew screams shrilly, the white breakers rave— In the foam of the billow I'll dance o'er his grave!'
"'Mid the roar of the tempest, the wind's hollow moan, There rose on my chill'd ear a faint dying groan; The billows raged on, the moon smiled on the flood, But vacant the spot where the maniac had stood. I turn'd from the scene—on my spirit there fell A question that sadden'd my heart like a knell; I look'd up to heav'n, but I breath'd not a word, For the answer was given—'Trust thou in the Lord!'"
Provincial Agricultural Show
"A happy scene of rural mirth, Drawn from the teeming lap of earth, In which a nation's promise lies. Honour to him who wins a prize!— A trophy won by honest toil, Far nobler than the victor's spoil." S.M.
Toronto was all bustle and excitement, preparing for the Provincial Agricultural Show; no other subject was thought of or talked about. The ladies, too, taking advantage of the great influx of strangers to the city, were to hold a bazaar for the benefit of St. George's Church; the sum which they hoped to realise by the sale of their fancy wares to be appropriated to paying off the remaining debt contracted for the said saint, in erecting this handsome edifice dedicated to his name—let us hope not to his service. Yet the idea of erecting a temple for the worship of God, and calling it the church of a saint of very doubtful sanctity, is one of those laughable absurdities that we would gladly see banished in this enlightened age. Truly, there are many things in which our wisdom does not exceed the wisdom of our forefathers. The weather during the two first days of the exhibition was very unpropitious; a succession of drenching thunder showers, succeeded by warm bursts of sunshine, promising better things, and giving rise to hopes in the expectant visitants to the show, which were as often doomed to be disappointed by returns of blackness, storm, and pouring rain.
I was very anxious to hear the opening address, and I must confess that I was among those who felt this annihilation of hope very severely; and, being an invalid, I dared not venture upon the grounds before Wednesday morning, when this most interesting part of the performance was over. Wednesday, however, was as beautiful a September day as the most sanguine of the agricultural exhibitors could desire, and the fine space allotted for the display of the various objects of industry was crowded to overflowing.
It was a glorious scene for those who had the interest of the colony at heart. Every district of the Upper Province had contributed its portion of labour, talent, and ingenuity, to furnish forth the show. The products of the soil, the anvil, and the loom, met the eye at every turn. The genius of the mechanic was displayed in the effective articles of machinery, invented to assist the toils and shorten the labour of human hands, and were many and excellent in their kind. Improvements in old implements, and others entirely new, were shown or put into active operation by the inventors,—those real benefactors to the human race, to whom the exploits of conquerors, however startling and brilliant, are very inferior in every sense.
Mechanical genius, which ought to be regarded as the first and greatest effort of human intellect, is only now beginning to be recognised as such. The statesman, warrior, poet, painter, orator, and man of letters, all have their niche in the temple of fame—all have had their worshippers and admirers; but who among them has celebrated in song and tale the grand creative power which can make inanimate metals move, and act, and almost live, in the wondrous machinery of the present day! It is the mind that conceived, the hand that reduced to practical usefulness these miraculous instruments, with all their complicated works moving in harmony, and performing their appointed office, that comes nearest to the sublime Intelligence that framed the universe, and gave life and motion to that astonishing piece of mechanism, the human form.
In watching the movements of the steam-engine, one can hardly divest one's self of the idea that it possesses life and consciousness. True, the metal is but a dead agent, but the spirit of the originator still lives in it, and sways it to the gigantic will that first gave it motion and power. And, oh, what wonders has it not achieved! what obstacles has it not overcome! how has it brought near things that were far off, and crumbled into dust difficulties which, at first sight, appeared insurmountable. Honour to the clear-sighted, deep-thinking child of springs and wheels, at whose head stands the great Founder of the world, the grandest humanity that ever trode the earth! Rejoice, and shout for joy, ye sons of the rule and line! for was he not one of you? Did he not condescend to bow that God-like form over the carpenter's bench, and handle the plane and saw? Yours should be termed the Divine craft, and those who follow it truly noble. Your great Master was above the little things of earth; he knew the true dignity of man—that virtue conferred the same majesty upon its possessor in the workshop or the palace—that the soul's title to rank as a son of God required neither high birth, nor the adventitious claims of wealth—that the simple name of a good man was a more abiding honour, even in this world, than that of kings or emperors.
Oh! ye sons of labour, seek to attain this true dignity inherent in your nature, and cease to envy the possessors of those ephemeral honours that perish with the perishing things of this world. The time is coming—is now even at the doors—when education shall give you a truer standing in society, and good men throughout the whole world shall recognise each other as brothers.
"An' o'er the earth gude sense an' worth Shall bear the gree an' a' that."
Carried away from my subject by an impetuous current of thought, I must step back to the show from which I derived a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure. The space in which it was exhibited contained, I am told, about sixteen acres. The rear of this, where the animals were shown, was a large grove covered with tall spreading trees, beneath the shade of which, reposing or standing in the most picturesque attitudes, were to be seen the finest breeds of cattle, horses, and sheep, in the province. This inclosure was surrounded by a high boarded fence, against which pens were erected for the accommodation of plethoric-looking pigs, fat sleepy lambs, and wild mischievous goats; while noble horses were led to and fro by their owners or their servants, snorting and curveting in all the conscious pride of strength and beauty. These handsome, proud-looking creatures, might be considered the aristocracy of the animal department; yet, in spite of their prancing hoofs, arched necks, and glances of fire, they had to labour in their vocation as well as the poorest pig that grunted and panted in its close pen. There was a donkey there—a solitary ass—the first of his kind I ever beheld in the province. Unused to such a stir and bustle, he lifted up his voice, and made the grove ring with his discordant notes. The horses bounded and reared, and glanced down upon him in such mad disdain, that they could scarcely be controlled by their keepers. I can imagine the astonishment they must have felt on hearing the first bray of an ass; they could not have appeared more startled at a lion's roar. Whoever exhibited Mr. Braham was a brave man. A gentleman, who settled in the neighbourhood of Peterboro twenty years ago, brought out a donkey with him to Canada, and until the day of his death he went by no other name than the undignified one of Donkey.
I cannot help thinking, that the donkey would be a very useful creature in the colony. Though rather an untractable democrat, insisting on having things his own way, he is a hardy, patient fellow, and easily kept; and though very obstinate, is by no means insensible to kind treatment, or incapable of attachment; and then, as an exterminator of Canadian thistles, he would prove an invaluable reformer by removing these agricultural pests out of the way. Often have I gazed upon the Canadian thistle—that prolific, sturdy democrat of the soil, that rudely jostles aside its more delicate and valued neighbours, elbowing them from their places with its wide-spreading and armed foliage—and asked myself for what purpose it grew and flourished so abundantly? Surely, it must have some useful qualities; some good must lie hidden under its hardy structure and coat of mail, independently of its exercising those valuable qualities in man—patience and industry—which must be called into active operation in order to root it out, and hinder it from destroying the fruits of his labour. The time, perhaps, may arrive when its thick milky juices and oily roots may be found to yield nutricious food, or afford a soothing narcotic to alleviate the restless tossings of pain. I firmly believe that nothing has been made in vain; that every animate and inanimate substance has its use, although we may be ignorant of it; that the most perfect and beautiful harmony reigns over the visible world; that although we may foolishly despise those animals, plants, and insects, that we consider noxious, because their real utility has never been tested by experience, they are absolutely necessary as links in the great chain of Providence, and appointed to fulfil a special purpose and end.
"What shall we do for firewood when all the forests are burned?" was a very natural question asked us the other day by a young friend, who, with very scanty means, contemplated with a sort of horror the increased demand for fuel, and its increasing price.
Tupper has an admirable answer for all such queries:—
"Yet man, heedless of a God, counteth up vain reckonings, Fearing to be jostled and starved out by the too prolific increase of his kind, And asketh, in unbelieving dread, for how few years to come Will the black cellars of the world yield unto him fuel for his winter. Might not the wide waste sea be bent into narrower bounds? Might not the arm of diligence make the tangled wilderness a garden? And for aught thou can'st tell, there may be a thousand methods Of comforting thy limbs in warmth, though thou kindle not a spark. Fear not, son of man, for thyself, nor thy seed—with a multitude is plenty: God's blessing giveth increase, and with it larger than enough."
Surely it is folly for any one to despair of the future, while the providence of God superintends the affairs of the universe. Is it not sinful to doubt the power of that Being, who fed a vast multitude from a few loaves and small fishes? Is His arm shortened, that he can no longer produce those articles that are indispensable and necessary for the health and comfort of the creatures dependent upon his bounty? What millions have been fed by the introduction of the potato plant—that wild, half-poisonous native of the Chilian mountains! When first exhibited as a curiousity by Sir Walter Raleigh, who could have imagined the astonishing results,—not only in feeding the multitudes that for several ages in Ireland it has fed, but that the very blight upon it, by stopping an easy mode of obtaining food, should be the instrument in the hands of the great Father to induce these impoverished, starving children of an unhappy country, to remove to lands where honest toil would be amply remunerated, and produce greater blessings for them than the precarious support afforded by an esculent root? We have faith, unbounded faith, in the benevolent care of the Universal Father,—faith in the fertility of the earth, and her capabilities of supporting to the end of time her numerous offspring.
The over-population of old settled countries may appear to a casual thinker a dreadful calamity; and yet it is but the natural means employed by Providence to force the poorer classes, by the strong law of necessity, to emigrate and spread themselves over the earth, in order to bring into cultivation and usefulness its waste places. When the world can no longer maintain its inhabitants, it will be struck out of being by the fiat of Him who called it into existence.
Nothing has contributed more to the rapid advance of the province than the institution of the Agricultural Society, and from it we are already reaping the most beneficial results. It has stirred up a spirit of emulation in a large class of people, who were very supine in their method of cultivating their lands; who, instead of improving them, and making them produce not only the largest quantity of grain, but that of the best quality, were quite contented if they reaped enough from their slovenly farming to supply the wants of their family, of a very inferior sort.
Now, we behold a laudable struggle among the tillers of the soil, as to which shall send the best specimens of good husbandry to contend for the prizes at the provincial shows, where very large sums of money are expended in providing handsome premiums for the victors. All the leading men in the province are members of this truly honourable institution; and many of them send horses, and the growth of their gardens, to add to the general bustle and excitement of the scene. The summer before last, my husband took the second prize for wheat at the provincial show, and I must frankly own that I felt as proud of it as if it had been the same sum bestowed upon a prize poem.
There was an immense display of farm produce on the present occasion at Toronto, all excellent in their kind. The Agricultural Hall, a large, temporary building of boards, was completely filled with the fruits of the earth and the products of the dairy—
"A glorious sight, if glory dwells below, Where heaven's munificence makes all the show."
The most delicious butter and tempting cheese, quite equal, perhaps, to the renowned British in every thing but the name, were displayed in the greatest abundance.
A Mr. Hiram Ranney, from the Brock district, contributed a monster cheese, weighing 7 cwt., not made of "double skimmed sky-blue," but of milk of the richest quality, which, from its size and appearance, might have feasted all the rats and mice in the province for the next twelve months. It was large enough to have made the good old deity of heathen times—her godship of the earth—an agricultural throne; while from the floral hall, close at hand, a crown could have been woven, on the shortest notice, of the choicest buds from her own inexhaustible treasury.
A great quantity of fine flax and hemp particularly attracted my attention. Both grow admirably in this country, and at no very distant period will form staple articles for home manufacture and foreign export.
The vast improvement in home-manufactured cloth, blankets, flannels, shawls, carpeting, and counterpanes, was very apparent over the same articles in former years. In a short time Canada need not be beholden to any foreign country for articles of comfort and convenience. In these things her real wealth and strength are shown; and we may well augur from what she has already achieved in this line, how much more she can do—and do well—with credit and profit to herself.
The sheep in Canada are not subject to the diseases which carry off so many yearly in Britain; and though these animals have to be housed during the winter, they are a very profitable stock. The Canadian grass-fed mutton is not so large as it is in England, and in flavour and texture more nearly resembles the Scotch. It has more of a young flavour, and, to my thinking, affords a more wholesome, profitable article of consumption. Beef is very inferior to the British; but since the attention of the people has been more intently directed to their agricultural interests, there is a decided improvement in this respect, and the condition of all the meat sent to market now-a-days is ten per cent better than the lean, hard animals we used to purchase for winter provisions, when we first came to the province.
At that time they had a race of pigs, tall and gaunt, with fierce, bristling manes, that wandered about the roads and woods, seeking what they could devour, like famished wolves. You might have pronounced them, without any great stretch of imagination, descended from the same stock into which the attendant fiends that possessed the poor maniacs of Galilee had been cast so many ages ago. I knew a gentleman who was attacked in the bush by a sow of this ferocious breed, who fairly treed him in the woods of Douro, and kept him on his uncomfortable perch during several hours, until his swinish enemy's patience was exhausted, and she had to give up her supper of human flesh for the more natural products of the forest, acorns and beech-mast.
Talking of pigs and sheep recals to my mind an amusing anecdote, told to me by a resident of one of our back townships, which illustrates, even in a cruel act of retaliation, the dry humour which so strongly characterizes the lower class of emigrants from the emerald isle. I will give it in my young friend's own words:—
"In one of our back townships there lived an old Dutchman, who was of such a vindictive temper that none of his neighbours could remain at peace with him. He made the owners of the next farm so miserable that they were obliged to sell out, and leave the place. The farm passed through many hands, and at last became vacant, for no one could stay on it more than a few months; they were so worried and annoyed by this spiteful old man, who, upon the slightest occasion, threw down their fences and injured their cattle. In short, the poor people began to suspect that he was the devil himself, sent among them as a punishment for their sins.
"At last an Irish emigrant lately out was offered the place very cheap, and, to the astonishment of all, bought it, in spite of the bad karacter, for the future residence of himself and family.
"He had not been long on the new place when one of his sheep, which had got through a hole in the Dutchman's fence, came hobbling home with one of its legs stuck through the other. Now, you must know that this man, who was so active in punishing the trespasses of his neighbours' cattle and stock, was not at all particular in keeping his own at home. There happened to be an old sow of his, who was very fond of Pat's potaties, and a constant throuble to him, just then in the field when the sheep came home. Pat took the old sow (not very tenderly, I'm afraid) by the ear, and drawing out his jack-knife, very deliberately slit her mouth on either side as far as he could. By and by, the old Dutchman came puffing and blowing along; and seeing Pat sitting upon his door-step, enjoying the evening air, and comfortably smoking his pipe, he asked him if he had seen anything of his sow?
"'Well, neighbour,' said Pat, putting on one of his gravest faces, 'one of the strangest things happened a short while ago that I ever saw. A sheep of mine came home with its leg slit and the other put through it, and your old sow was so amused with the odd sight that she split her jaws with laughing.'"
This turned the tables upon the spiteful old man, and completely cured him of all his ill-natured tricks. He is now one of the best neighbours in the township.
This was but a poor reparation to the poor sheep and the old sow. Their sufferings appear to have been regarded by both parties as a very minor consideration.
The hall set apart for the display of fancy work and the fine arts appeared to be the great centre of attraction, for it was almost impossible to force your way through the dense crowd, or catch a glimpse of the pictures exhibited by native artists. The show of these was highly creditable indeed. Eight pictures, illustrative of Indian scenery, character, and customs, by Mr. Paul Kane, would have done honour to any exhibition. For correctness of design, beauty of colouring, and a faithful representation of the peculiar scenery of this continent, they could scarcely be surpassed.
I stood for a long time intently examining these interesting pictures, when a tall fellow, in the grey homespun of the country, who, I suppose, thought that I had my share of enjoyment in that department, very coolly took me by the shoulders, pulled me back into the crowd, and possessed himself of my vacant place. This man should have formed a class with the two large tame bears exhibited on the ground appropriated to the poultry; but I rather think that Bruin and his brother would have been ashamed of having him added to their fraternity; seeing that their conduct was quite unexceptionable, and they could have a set a good example to numbers of the human bipeds, who pushed and elbowed from side to side anything that obstructed their path, while a little common courtesy would have secured to themselves and others a far better opportunity of examining everything carefully. The greatest nuisance in this respect was a multitude of small children, who were completely hidden in the press, and whose feet, hands, and head, dealt blows, against which it was impossible to protect yourself, as you felt severely without being able to ward off their home-thrusts. It is plain that they could not see at all, but were determined that every one should sensibly feel their disappointment. It was impossible to stop for a moment to examine this most interesting portion of the Exhibition; and one was really glad to force a passage out of the press into the free air.
Large placards were pasted about in the most conspicuous places, warning visitors to the grounds to look out for pickpockets! Every one was on the alert to discover these gentry—expecting them, I suppose, to be classed like the animal and vegetable productions of the soil; and the vicinity of a knowing-looking, long-bearded pedlar, who was selling Yankee notions at the top of his voice, and always surrounded by a great mob, was considered the most likely locality for these invisible personages, who, I firmly believe, existed alone in the fancy of the authors of the aforesaid placards.
There was a very fine display of the improved and foreign breeds of poultry; and a set of idle Irish loungers, of the lower class, were amusing themselves by inserting the bowls of their pipes into the pens that contained these noble fowls, and giving them the benefit of a good smoking. The intoxicating effects of the fumes of the tobacco upon the poor creatures appeared to afford their tormentors the greatest entertainment. The stately Cochin-China cocks shook their plumed heads, and turned up their beaks with unmistakeable signs of annoyance and disgust; and two fine fowls that were lying dead outside the pens, were probably killed by this novel sport.
I was greatly struck by the appearance of Okah Tubee, the celebrated Indian doctor, who was certainly the most conspicuous-looking person in the show, and on a less public occasion would have drawn a large number of spectators on his own hook.
Okah Tubee is a broad, stout, powerfully built man, with a large fat face, set off to the least possible advantage by round rings of braided hair, tied with blue ribbons, and with large gold ear-rings in his ears. Now, it certainly is true that a man has a perfect right to dress his hair in this fashion, or in any fashion he pleases; but a more absurd appearance than the blue ribbons gave to his broad, brown, beardless face, it is impossible to imagine. The solemn dignity, too, with which he carried off this tomfoolery was not the least laughable part of it. I wonder which of his wives—for I was told he had several—braided all these small rings of hair, and confined them with the blue love-knots; but it is more than probable that the grave Indian performed his own toilet. His blue surtout beaver hat accorded ill with his Indian leggings and moccassins. I must think that the big man's dress was in shocking bad taste, and decided failure. I missed the sight of him carrying a flag in the procession, and mounted on horseback; if his riding-dress matched his walking costume, it must have been rich.
Leaving the show-ground, we next directed our steps to the Ladies' Bazaar, that was held in the government buildings, and here we found a number of well-dressed, elegant women, sitting like Mathew at the receipt of custom; it is to be hoped that their labours of love received an ample recompense, and that the sale of their pretty toys completely discharged the debt that had been incurred for their favourite saint. Nor was the glory of old England likely to be forgotten amid such a display of national flags as adorned the spacious apartment.
The Banner Of England.
"The banner of old England flows Triumphant in the breeze— A sign of terror to our foes, The meteor of the seas A thousand heroes bore it In battle fields of old; All nations quail'd before it, Defended by the bold.
"Brave Edward and his gallant sons Beneath its shadow bled; And lion-hearted Britons That flag to glory led. The sword of kings defended, When hostile foes drew near; The sheet whose colours bended— Memorials proud and dear!
"The hist'ry of a nation Is blazon'd on its page, A brief and bright relation Sent down from age to age. O'er Gallia's hosts victorious, It turn'd their pride of yore; Its fame on earth is glorious, Renown'd from shore to shore.
"The soldier's heart has bounded When o'er the tide of war; Where death's brief cry resounded, It flash'd a blazing star. Or floating over leaguer'd wall, It met his lifted eye; Like war-horse to the trumpet's call, He rush'd to victory!
"No son of Britain e'er will see A foreign band advance, To seize the standard of the free, That dared the might of France. Bright banner of our native land, Bold hearts are knit to thee; A hardy, brave, determined band, Thy champions yet shall be!"
"Come and worship at a shrine, Rear'd by hands eternal, Where the flashing waters shine, And the turf is ever vernal, And nature's everlasting voice For ever cries—rejoice, rejoice!" S.M.
The night had been one of pouring rain, and the day dawned through a thick veil of misty clouds, on the morning of which we were to start from Toronto to visit the Falls of Niagara.
"It is always so," I thought, as I tried to peer through the dense mist that floated round the spire of St. George's church, in order to read what promise there might lurk behind its gray folds of a fine day. "What we most wish for is, for some wise purpose inscrutable to our narrow vision, generally withheld. But it may clear up after all. At all events, we must bide the chance and make the experiment."
By seven o'clock we were on board the "Chief Justice," one of the steamers that daily ply between Toronto and Queenstone. A letter that I got, in passing the post-office, from the dear children at home, diverted my thoughts for a long while from the dull sky and the drizzling rain; and when it had been read and re-read, and pondered over for some time, and God inwardly thanked for the affection that breathed in every line, and the good news it contained, the unpromising mist had all cleared away, and the sun was casting bright silvery gleams across the broad bosom of the beautiful Ontario.
We did not meet with a solitary adventure on our very pleasant voyage; the deep blue autumnal sky, and the gently-undulating waters, forming the chief attraction, and giving rise to pleasant trains of thought, till the spirit blended and harmonized with the grand and simple elements that composed the scene.
There were no passengers in the ladies' cabin, and we never left the deck of the steamer until she came to her wharf at Queenstone.
The lake for some miles before you reach the entrance of the Niagara river assumes a yellowish-green tint, quite different from the ordinary deep blue of its waters. This is probably owing to the vast quantity of soil washed down by the rapids from the high lands above.
The captain told us that after a storm, such as we had experienced on the preceding night, this appearance, though it always existed, was more apparent. You catch a distant glance of the Falls from this part of the lake; but it is only in the shape of a light silvery cloud hovering on the edge of the horizon. We listened in vain for any sound to give us an indication of their near vicinity. The voice of nature was mute. The roar of the great cataract was not distinguishable at that distance.
The entrance to the Niagara river is very interesting. You pass between the two strong stone forts, raised for the protection of their respective countries; and a hostile vessel would stand but a small chance of keeping clear from danger in passing either Cerberus. It is devoutly to be hoped that all such difficulties will be avoided, by the opposite shores remaining firm friends and allies.
The town of Niagara is a quaint, old-fashioned looking place, and belongs more to the past than the present of Canada; for it has not made much progress since it ceased to be the capital of the Upper Province, in spite of its very advantageous and beautiful locality.
As you approach Queenstone, the river is much contracted in its dimensions, and its banks assume a bold and lofty appearance, till they frown down upon the waters in stern and solemn grandeur, and impart a wild, romantic character to the scene, not often found in the Upper Province.
I never beheld any water that resembled the deep green of the Niagara. This may be owing, perhaps, to the immense depth of the river, the colour of the rocks over which it flows, or it may be reflected from the beautiful trees and shrubs that clothe its precipitous banks; but it must strike every person who first gazes upon it as very remarkable; You cannot look down into it, for it is not pellucid but opaque in its appearance, and runs with a smooth surface more resembling oil than water.
The waters of the St. Lawrence are a pale sea-green, and so transparently clear that you see through them to a great depth. At sunrise and sunset they take all the hues of the opal. The Ottawa is a deep blue. The Otonabee looks black, from the dark limestone bed over which it foams and rushes. Our own Moira is of a silvery or leaden hue, but the waters of the Niagara are a bright deep green; and did any painter venture to transfer their singular colour to his canvas, it would be considered extravagant and impossible.
The new Suspension Bridge at Queenstone is a beautiful object from the water. The river here is six hundred feet in width; the space between the two stone towers that support the bridge on either shore is eight hundred and fifty feet; the height above the water, two hundred feet. The towers are not built on the top of the bank, but a platform for each has been quarried out of the steep sides of the precipice, about thirty feet below the edge of the cliffs. The road that leads up from the Queenstone ferry has been formed by the same process. It is a perilous ascent, and hangs almost over the river, nor is there any sufficient barrier to prevent a skittish horse from plunging from the giddy height into the deep, swift stream below. I should not like to travel this romantic road of a dark October night, even on foot. The Queenstone cab-drivers rattle up and down this fearful path without paying the least regard to the nerves of their passengers. At the entrance to the bridge, a space is quarried out of the bank to allow heavy teams to turn on to the bridge, which is done with the greatest ease and safety.
Several heavy loaded teams were crossing from the other side, and it was curious to watch the horses, when they felt the vibratory motion, draw back close to the vehicles, and take high, short steps, as if they apprehended some unknown danger. It is surprising how well they behave on this trying occasion, for a horse, though a very brave animal, is one of the most nervous ones in creation.
These beautiful, airy-looking structures, are a great triumph of mechanical art over a barrier which had long been considered as insurmountable, except by water. The ready mode of communication which by their means has been established between the opposite shores, must prove of incalculable advantage to this part of the colony.
It is to be hoped that similar bridges will soon span the many rapid rivers in Canada. A sudden spring thaw gives such volume and power to most of the streams, that few bridges constructed on the old plan are long able to resist the impetuosity of the current, but are constantly liable to be carried away, occasioning great damage in their vicinity.
The Suspension Bridge, by being raised above the possible action of the water, is liable to none of the casualties that operate against the old bridge, whose piers and arches, though formed of solid masonry, are not proof against the powerful battering-rams formed by huge blocks of ice and heavy logs of wood, aided by the violent opposing force of the current.
The light and graceful proportions of the Suspension Bridge add a great charm to the beauty of this charming landscape. It is well worth paying a visit to Niagara, if it possessed no object of greater interest in its neighbourhood than these wonderful structures.
The village of Queenstone is built at the foot of the hill, and is a very pretty romantic-looking place. Numerous springs wind like silvery threads along the face of the steep bank above; and wherever the waters find a flat ledge in their downward course, water-cresses of the finest quality grow in abundance, the sparkling water gurgling among their juicy leaves, and washing them to emerald brightness. Large portions of the cliff are literally covered with them. It was no small matter of surprise to me when told that the inhabitants made no use of this delicious plant, but laugh at the eagerness with which strangers seek it out.
The Queenstone Heights, to the east of the village, are a lofty ridge of land rising three hundred feet above the level of the country below. They are quite as precipitous as the banks of the river. The railroad winds along the face of this magnificent bank. Gigantic trees tower far above your head, and a beautiful fertile country lies extended at your feet. There, between its rugged banks, winds the glorious river; and, beyond forest and plain, glitters the Ontario against the horizon, like a mimic ocean, blending its blue waters with the azure ocean of heaven. Truly it is a magnificent scene, and associated with the most interesting historical events connected with the province.
Brock's monument, which you pass on the road, is a melancholy looking ruin, but by no means a picturesque one, resembling some tall chimney that has been left standing after the house to which it belonged had been burnt down.
Some time ago subscriptions were set on foot to collect money to rebuild this monument; but the rock on which it stands is, after all, a more enduring monument to the memory of the hero than any perishable structure raised to commemorate the desperate struggle that terminated on this spot. As long as the heights of Queenstone remain, and the river pours its swift current to mingle with the Ontario, the name of General Brock will be associated with the scene. The noblest tablet on which the deeds of a great man can be engraved, is on the heart of his grateful country.
Were a new monument erected on this spot to-morrow, it is more than probable that it would share the fate of its predecessor, and some patriotic American would consider it an act of duty to the great Republic to dash it out of creation.
From Queenstone we took a carriage on to Niagara, a distance of about eight miles, over good roads, and through a pleasant, smiling tract of country. This part of the province might justly be termed the garden of Canada, and partakes more of the soft and rich character of English scenery.
The ground rises and falls in gentle slopes; the fine meadows, entirely free from the odious black stumps, are adorned with groups of noble chestnut and black walnut trees; and the peach and apple orchards in full bearing, clustering around the neat homesteads, give to them an appearance of wealth and comfort, which cannot exist for many years to come in more remote districts.
The air on these high table-lands is very pure and elastic; and I could not help wishing for some good fairy to remove my little cottage into one of the fair enclosures we passed continually by the roadside, and place it beneath the shade of some of the beautiful trees that adorned every field.
Here, for the first time in Canada, I observed hedges of the Canadian thorn—a great improvement on the old snake fence of rough split timber which prevails all through the colony. What a difference it would make in the aspect of the country if these green hedgerows were in general use! It would take from the savage barrenness given to it by these crooked wooden lines, that cross and recross the country in all directions: no object can be less picturesque or more unpleasing to the eye. A new clearing reminds one of a large turnip field, divided by hurdles into different compartments for the feeding of sheep and cattle. Often, for miles on a stretch, there is scarcely a tree or bush to relieve the blank monotony of these ugly, uncouth partitions of land, beyond charred stumps and rank weeds, and the uniform belt of forest at the back of the new fields.
The Canadian cuts down, but rarely plants trees, which circumstance accounts for the blank look of desolation that pervades all new settlements. A few young maples and rock elms, planted along the roadsides, would, at a very small expense of labour, in a very few years remedy this ugly feature in the Canadian landscape, and afford a grateful shade to the weary traveller from the scorching heat of the summer sun.
In old countries, where landed property often remains for ages in the same family, the present occupant plants and improves for future generations, hoping that his son's sons may enjoy the fruit of his labours. But in a new country like this, where property is constantly changing owners, no one seems to think it worth their while to take any trouble to add to the beauty of a place for the benefit of strangers.
Most of our second growth of trees have been planted by the beautiful hand of nature, who, in laying out her cunning work, generally does it in the most advantageous manner; and chance or accident has suffered the trees to remain on the spot from whence they sprung.
Trees that grow in open spaces after the forest has been cleared away, are as graceful and umbrageous as those planted in parks at home. The forest trees seldom possess any great beauty of outline; they run all to top, and throw out few lateral branches. There is not a tree in the woods that could afford the least shelter during a smart shower of rain. They are so closely packed together in these dense forests, that a very small amount of foliage, for the size and length of the trunk, is to be found on any individual tree. One wood is the exact picture of another; the uniformity dreary in the extreme. There are no green vistas to be seen; no grassy glades beneath the bosky oaks, on which the deer browse, and the gigantic shadows sleep in the sunbeams. A stern array of rugged trunks, a tangled maze of scrubby underbrush, carpetted winter and summer with a thick layer of withered buff leaves, form the general features of a Canadian forest.
A few flowers force their heads through this thick covering of leaves, and make glad with their beauty the desolate wilderness; but those who look for an Arcadia of fruits and flowers in the Backwoods of Canada cannot fail of disappointment. Some localities, it is true, are more favoured than others, especially those sandy tracts of table-land that are called plains in this country; the trees are more scattered, and the ground receives the benefit of light and sunshine.
Flowers—those precious gifts of God—do not delight in darkness and shade, and this is one great reason why they are so scarce in the woods. I saw more beautiful blossoms waving above the Niagara river, from every crevice in its rocky banks, than I over beheld during my long residence in the bush. These lovely children of light seem peculiarly to rejoice in their near vicinity to water, the open space allowed to the wide rivers affording them the air and sunshine denied to them in the close atmosphere of the dense woods.
The first sight we caught of the Falls of Niagara was from the top of the hill that leads directly into the village. I had been intently examining the rare shrubs and beautiful flowers that grew in an exquisite garden surrounding a very fine mansion on my right hand, perfectly astonished at their luxuriance, and the emerald greenness of the turf at that season, which had been one of unprecedented drought, when, on raising my head, the great cataract burst on my sight without any intervening screen, producing an overwhelming sensation in my mind which amounted to pain in its intensity.
Yes, the great object of my journey—one of the fondest anticipations of my life—was at length accomplished; and for a moment the blood recoiled back to my heart, and a tremulous thrill ran through my whole frame. I was so bewildered—so taken by surprise—that every feeling was absorbed in the one consciousness, that the sublime vision was before me; that I had at last seen Niagara; that it was now mine forever, stereotyped upon my heart by the unerring hand of nature; producing an impression which nothing but madness or idiotcy could efface!
It was some seconds before I could collect my thoughts, or concentrate my attention sufficiently to identify one of its gigantic features. The eye crowds all into the one glance, and the eager mind is too much dazzled and intoxicated for minor details. Astonishment and admiration are succeeded by curious examination and enjoyment; but it is impossible to realize this at first. The tumultuous rush of feeling, the excitement occasioned by the grand spectacle, must subside before you can draw a free breath, and have time for thought.
The American Fall was directly opposite, resembling a vast rolling cylinder of light flashing through clouds of silvery mist, and casting from it long rays of indescribable brightness. I never could realize in this perfect image of a living and perpetual motion, a fall of waters; it always had to my eyes this majestic, solemn, rotatory movement, when seen from the bank above. The Horse-shoe Fall is further on to the right, and you only get a side view of it from this point.
The Falls are seen to the least possible advantage from the brow of the steep bank. In looking down upon them, you can form no adequate idea of their volume, height, and grandeur; yet that first glance can never be effaced. You feel a thrilling, triumphant joy, whilst contemplating this master-piece of nature—this sublime idea of the Eternal—this wonderful symbol of the power and strength of the divine Architect of the universe.
It is as if the great heart of nature were laid bare before you, and you saw and heard all its gigantic throbbings, and watched the current of its stupendous life flowing perpetually forward.
I cannot imagine how any one could be disappointed in this august scene; and the singular indifference manifested by others;—it is either a miserable affectation of singularity, or a lamentable want of sensibility to the grand and beautiful. The human being who could stand unmoved before the great cataract, and feel no quickening of the pulse, no silent adoration of the heart towards the Creator of this wondrous scene, would remain as indifferent and as uninspired before the throne of God!
Throwing out of the question the romantic locality,—the rugged wooded banks, the vast blocks of stone scattered at the edge of the torrent, the magic colour of the waters, the overhanging crags, the wild flowers waving from the steep, the glorious hues of the ever-changing rainbow that spans the river, and that soft cloud of silvery brightness for ever flowing upward into the clear air, like the prayer of faith ascending from earth to heaven,—the enormous magnitude of the waters alone, their curbless power, and eternal motion, are sufficient to give rise to feelings of astonishment and admiration such as never were experienced before.
Not the least of these sensations is created by the deep roar of the falling torrent, that shakes the solid rocks beneath your feet, and is repeated by the thousand hidden echoes among those stern craggy heights.
It is impossible for language to convey any adequate idea of the grandeur of the Falls, when seen from below, either from the deck of the "Maid of the Mist,"—the small steamer that approaches within a few yards of the descending sheet of the Horse-shoe Falls—or from the ferry boat that plies continually between the opposite shores. From the frail little boat, dancing like a feather upon the green swelling surges, you perhaps form the best notion of the vastness and magnitude of the descending waters, and of your own helplessness and insignificance. They flow down upon your vision like moving mountains of light; and the shadowy outline of black mysterious-looking rocks, dimly seen through clouds of driving mist, adds a wild sublimity to the scene. While the boat struggles over the curling billows, at times lifted up by the ground-swells from below, the feeling of danger and insecurity is lost in the whirl of waters that surround you. The mind expands with the scene, and you rejoice in the terrific power that threatens to annihilate you and your fairy bark. A visible presence of the majesty of God is before you, and, sheltered by His protecting hand, you behold the glorious spectacle and live.
The dark forests of pine that form the background to the Falls, when seen from above, are entirely lost from the surface of the river, and the descending floods seem to pour down upon you from the skies.
The day had turned out as beautiful as heart could wish; and though I felt very much fatigued with the journey, I determined to set all aches and pains at defiance whilst I remained on this enchanted ground.
We had just time enough to spare before dinner to walk to the table rock, following the road along the brow of the steep bank. On the way we called in at the Curiosity Shop, kept by an old grey-haired man, who had made for himself a snug little California by turning all he touched into gold; his stock-in-trade consisting of geological specimens from the vicinity of the Falls—pebbles, plants, stuffed birds, beasts, and sticks cut from the timber that grows along the rocky banks, and twisted into every imaginable shape. The heads of these canes were dexterously carved to imitate snakes, snapping turtles, eagles' heads, and Indian faces. Here, the fantastic ends of the roots of shrubs from which they were made were cut into a grotesque triumvirate of legs and feet; here a black snake, spotted and coloured to represent the horrid reptile, made you fancy its ugly coils already twisting in abhorrent folds about your hands and arms. There was no end to the old man's imaginative freaks in this department, his wares bearing a proportionate price to the dignity of the location from which they were derived.
A vast amount of Indian toys, and articles of dress, made the museum quite gay with their tawdry ornaments of beads and feathers. It is a pleasant lounging place, and the old man forms one of its chief attractions.
Proceeding on to the table rock, we passed many beautiful gardens, all bearing the same rich tint of verdure, and glowing with fruit and flowers. The showers of spray, rising from the vast natural fountain in their neighbourhood, fill the air with cool and refreshing moisture, which waters these lovely gardens, as the mists did of yore that went up from the face of the earth to water the garden of Eden.
The Horse-shoe Fall is much lower than its twin cataract on the American side; but what it loses in height, it makes up in power and volume, and the amount of water that is constantly discharged over it. As we approached the table rock, a rainbow of splendid dyes spanned the river; rising from out the driving mist from the American Fall, until it melted into the leaping snowy foam of the great Canadian cataract. There is a strange blending, in this scene, of beauty and softness with the magnificent and the sublime: a deep sonorous music in the thundering of the mighty floods, as if the spirits of earth and air united in one solemn choral chant of praise to the Creator; the rocks vibrate to the living harmony, and the shores around seem hurrying forward, as if impelled by the force of the descending torrent of sound. Yet, within a few yards of all this whirlpool of conflicting elements, the river glides onward as peacefully and gently as if it had not received into its mysterious depths this ever-falling avalanche of foaming waters.
Here you enjoy a splendid view of the Rapids. Raising your eyes from the green, glassy edge of the Falls, you see the mad hubbub of boiling waves rushing with headlong fury down the watery steep, to take their final plunge into the mist-covered abyss below. On, on they come—that white-crested phalanx of waves pouring and crowding upon each other in frantic chase!
"Things of life, and light, and motion, Spirits of the unfathom'd ocean, Hurrying on with curbless force, Like some rash unbridled horse; High in air their white crests flinging, And madly to destruction springing."
These boiling breakers seem to shout and revel in a wild ecstasy of freedom and power; and you feel inclined to echo their shout, and rejoice with them. Yet it is curious to mark how they slacken their mad speed when they reach the ledge of the fall, and melt into the icy smoothness of its polished brow, as if conscious of the superior force that is destined to annihilate their identity, and dash them into mist and spray. In like manner the waves of life are hurried into the abyss of death, and absorbed in the vast ocean of eternity.
Niagara would be shorn of half its wonders divested of these glorious Rapids, which form one of the grandest features in the magnificent scene.
We returned to our inn, the Clifton House, just in time to save our dinner: having taken breakfast in Toronto at half-past six, we were quite ready to obey the noisy summons of the bell, and follow our sable guide into the eating room.
The Clifton House is a large, handsome building, directly fronting the Falls. It is fitted up in a very superior style, and contains ample accommodations for a great number of visitors. It had been very full during the summer months, but a great many persons had left during the preceding week, which I considered a very fortunate circumstance for those who, like myself, came to see instead of to be seen.
The charges for a Canadian hotel are high; but of course you are expected to pay something extra at a place of such general resort, and for the grand view of the Falls, which can be enjoyed at any moment by stepping into the handsome balcony into which the saloon opens, and which runs the whole length of the side and front of the house. The former commands a full view of the American, the latter of the Horse-shoe Fall; and the high French windows of this elegantly furnished apartment give you the opportunity of enjoying both.
You pay four dollars a-day for your board and bed; this does not include wine, and every little extra is an additional charge. Children and servants are rated at half-price, and a baby is charged a dollar a-day. This item in the family programme is something new in the bill of charges at an hotel in this country; for these small gentry, though they give a great deal of trouble to their lawful owners, are always entertained gratis at inns and on board steamboats.
The room in which dinner was served could have accommodated with ease treble the number of guests. A large party, chiefly Americans, sat down to table. The dishes are not served on the table; a bill of fare is laid by every plate, and you call for what you please.
This arrangement, which saves a deal of trouble, seemed very distasteful to a gentleman near us, to whom the sight of good cheer must have been almost as pleasant as eating it, for he muttered half aloud—"that he hated these new-fangled ways; that he liked to see what he was going to eat; that he did not choose to be put off with kickshaws; that he did not understand the French names for dishes. He was not French, and he thought that they might be written in plain English."
I was very much of the same opinion, and found myself nearly in the same predicament with the grumbler at my left hand; but I did not betray my ignorance by venturing a remark. This brought forcibly to my mind a story that had recently been told me by a dear primitive old lady, a daughter of one of the first Dutch settlers in the Upper Province, over which I had laughed very heartily at the time; and now it served as an illustration of my own case.
"You know, my dear," said old Mrs. C—-, "that I went lately to New York to visit a nephew of mine, whom I had not seen from a boy. Well, he has grown a very great man since those days, and is now one of the wealthiest merchants in the city. I never had been inside such a grandly furnished house before. We know nothing of the great world in Canada, or how the rich people live in such a place as New York. Ours are all bread and butter doings when compared with their grand fixings. I saw and heard a great many things, such as I never dreamed of before, and which for the life of me I could not understand; but I never let on.
"One morning, at luncheon, my nephew says to me, 'Aunty C—-, you have never tasted our New York cider; I will order up some on purpose to see how you like it.'
"The servant brought up several long-necked bottles on a real silver tray, and placed them on the table. 'Good Lord!' thinks I, 'these are queer looking cider bottles. P'raps it's champagne, and he wants to get up a laugh against me before all these strange people.' I had never seen or tasted champagne in all my life, though there's lots of it sold in Canada, and our head folks give champagne breakfasts, and champagne dinners; but I had heard how it acted, and how, when you drew the corks from the bottles, they went pop—pop. So I just listened a bit, and held my tongue; and the first bounce it gave, I cried out, 'Mr. R—-, you may call that cider in New York, but we call it champagne in Canada!'
"'Do you get champagne in Canada, Aunty?' says he, stopping and looking me straight in the face.
"'Oh, don't we?' says I; 'and it's a great deal better than your New York cider.'
"He looked mortified, I tell you, and the company all laughed; and I drank off my glass of champagne as bold as you please, as if I had been used to it all my life. When you are away from home, and find yourself ignorant of a thing or two, never let others into the secret. Watch and wait, and you'll find it out by and by."
Not having been used to French dishes during my long sojourn in Canada, I was glad to take the old lady's advice, and make use of my eyes and ears before I ordered my own supplies.
It would have done Mrs. Stowe's heart good to have seen the fine corps of well-dressed negro waiters who served the tables, most of whom were runaway slaves from the States. The perfect ease and dexterity with which they supplied the guests, without making a single mistake out of such a variety of dishes, was well worthy of notice.