Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/226

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216
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

could not have been walked over with hare feet, hut the felt shoes effectually prevented slipping. We reached the cave and entered it, first by a wooden way carried over the bowlders, and then along a narrow ledge to the point eaten deepest into the shale. When the wind is from the south, the falling water, I am told, can be seen tranquilly from this spot; but, when we were there, a blinding hurricane of spray was whirled against us. On the evening of the same day, I went behind the water on the Canada side, which, I confess, struck me, after the experience of the morning, as an imposture.

To complete my knowledge it was necessary to see the fall from the river below it, and long negotiations were necessary to secure the means of doing so. The only boat fit for the undertaking had been laid up for the winter; but this difficulty, through the kind intervention of Mr. Townsend, was overcome. The main one was, to secure oarsmen sufficiently strong and skilful to urge the boat where I wished it to be taken. The son of the owner of the boat, a finely-built young fellow, but only twenty, and therefore not sufficiently hardened, was willing to go; and up the river I was informed there lived another man who could do any thing with the boat which strength and daring could accomplish. He came. His figure and expression of face certainly indicated extraordinary firmness and power. On Tuesday, the 5th of November, we started, each of us being clad in oil-cloth. The elder oarsman at once assumed a tone of authority over his companion, and struck immediately in among the breakers below the American Fall. He hugged the cross freshets instead of striking out into the smoother water. I asked him why he did so, and he replied that they were directed outward not downward. At times, the struggle to prevent the bow of the boat from being turned by them was very severe.

The spray was in general blinding, but at times it disappeared, and yielded noble views of the fall. The edge of the cataract is crimped by indentations which exalt its beauty. Here and there, a little below the highest ledge, a secondary one jets out; the water strikes it, and bursts from it in huge, protuberant masses of foam and spray. We passed Goat Island, came to the Horseshoe, and worked for a time along the base of it, the bowlders over which Conroy and myself had scrambled a few days previously lying between us and the base. A rock was before us, concealed and revealed at intervals, as the waves passed over it. Our leader tried to get above this rock, first on the outside of it. The water, however, here was in violent motion. The men struggled fiercely, the elder one ringing out an incessant peal of command and exhortation to the younger. As we were just clearing the rock, the bow came obliquely to the surge; the boat was turned suddenly round, and shot with astonishing rapidity down the river. The men returned to the charge, now trying to get up between the