The Cauterskill Falls - "The Dutch Dominie Of The Catskills"
The Cauterskill Falls.-View of them in
Wimer.-Column and Pillars of Ice. -The Falls in 1865.-Excursion to
Blackhead.-To South Peak.-Cole's Last Visit to the Mountains.-His
Death.-His Residence.-The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills.-Its
Author.-Its Hero and Leading Characters.The Spectral Looking-glass.-Mirage.-Fata
Morgana.-Mirage at Sea.Fawn's Leap and Dog Hole.-Mountains in Autumn
and Winter.-Indian Summer. -Scottish Scenery.-The Falls in
Winter.-Water Scenery of the Mountains.
THE CAUTERSKILL FALLS.
These falls are two miles from the Catskill
Mountain House, by foot-paths through the woods, or by a boat to the
foot of the Southern Lake, of which the Cauterskill Creek is the
outlet; and thence through the woods, or two and a half miles by a
pleasant mountain road, over which, during the summer, an omnibus
runs twice a day. The falls are near the Laurel House, kept by Mr.
Schutt, a popular summer resort for visitors and boarders. The creek
there passes over two precipices, the first one hundred and eighty
feet high, and the second, a few rods below, is ninety feet. The deep
gorge into which the water falls, and the wild ravine through which
it flows below the falls, are very grand and imposing. At the upper
falls the rock projects eighty feet, so that one can safely pass
behind the sheet of falling water. There is also a wild, rude
mountain path, along the stream and above it for three-fourths of a
mile, to the road which passes through the Cauterskill Clove. These
remarks have been made as explanatory of the following sketch, by
THE FALLS OF CAUTERSKILL IN WINTER
"Winter, hoary, stern, and strong,
Sits the mountain crags among:
On his bleak and horrid throne,
Drift on drift the snow is piled,
Into forms grotesque and wild;
Ice-ribbed precipices shed
Cold light round his grizzly head.
Clouds athwart his brows are bound,
Ever whirling round and round.
"March, 1843.-We have often heard that the
Falls of Cauterskill present an interesting spectacle in winter; and,
February 27, a party of ladies invited Mrs. C--- and myself to join
in this tour, in search of the wintry picturesque. Cloaks, moccasins,
and mittens were in great demand, and we were soon glancing over the
creaking snow, the sleigh-bells ringing in harmony with our spirits,
which were light and gay.
"A snow-storm near the mountains, which
proved transitory, added to our enjoyment; for, by partially veiling
the heights above us, it gave them a vast, visionary, and spectral
appearance. The sun broke forth in mild splendor just as we came in
view of the Mountain House, on the bleak crags, a few hundred feet
above us. Leaving the house to the left, we crossed the lesser of the
two lakes. From its level breast, now covered with snow, the
mountains rose in desolate grandeur, their steep sides bristling with
bare trees, or clad in sturdy evergreens. Here and there was to be
seen a silvery birch, so pale and wan that one might readily imagine
that it drew its aliment from the snow around its roots. The Clove
Valley, the lofty range of the High Peak and Round Top, which rise
beyond, as seen from the road between the house and the falls, are,
in summer, grand objects; but winter had given them a sterner
character. The mountains seemed more precipitous, and the forms that
inclosed their sides more clearly defined. The projecting mounds, the
rocky terraces, the shaggy clefts, down which the courses of the
torrents could be traced by the gleaming ice, were exposed in the
leafless forests and clear air of winter, while along the grizzly
peaks the snow was driving rapidly. There is beauty, there is
sublimity in the wintry aspect of the mountains, but their beauty is
touched with melancholy, and their sublimity has a dreary tone.
"Before speaking of the Falls as arrayed
in wintry garb, I will give a hasty sketch of their appearance in summer.
"There is a deep gorge in the midst of the
loftiest Catskills, which is terminated at its upper end by a mighty
wall of rock. As the spectator approaches from below, he sees its
crag craggy and impending front rising to the height of three hundred
feet. This huge rampart is semicircular. From the centre of the more
distant or middle part of the semicircle, like a gush of living light
from heaven, the cataract leaps, and foaming into feathery spray,
descends into a rocky basin one hundred and eighty feet below. Thence
the water flows through a wild rocky pass of several rods, and falls
over another rock ninety feet high; and then, struggling and foaming
through the shattered fragments of the mountains, and shadowed by
fantastic trees, it plunges into the gloomy depths of the valley
below. The stream is small, except when swollen by summer freshets,
or by the rains and melted snows of spring and autumn; yet a thing of
life and motion, it is sufficient at all-times to give expression to
the scene, which is one of savage and silent grandeur. But its
semicircular cavern, or gallery, is perhaps the most remarkable
feature of the scene. This has been formed in the wall of rock by the
gradual crumbling away of a narrow stratum of soft shell that lies
beneath gray rocks of the hardest texture. The upper rock projects
some eighty feet, and forms a stupendous canopy, over which the
cataract shoots. Underneath it, if the ground was level, thousands of
men might stand. A narrow path, about twenty feet above the basin of
the waterfall, leads through the depth of this arched gallery, which
is about, five hundred feet long.
"It is a singular, a wonderful scene,
whether viewed from above, where the stream leaps into the tremendous
gulf scooped into the very heart of the huge mountain, or as seen
from below the second fall; the impending crags, the shadowy depth of
the cavern, across which darts the cataract, broken into fleecy forms
and tossed and swayed hither and thither by the wayward wind; the
sound of the water, now falling upon the ear in a loud roar, and now
in fitful lower tones ; the lonely voice, the solitary song of the valley.
"To visit the scene in winter, is a
privilege permitted to but few; and to visit it this winter, when the
spectacle is more than usually magnificent, and, as the hunters say,
'more complete than has been known for thirty years,.' is, indeed,
worthy of a long pilgrimage. What a contrast to its appearance in
summer! No leafy woods, no blossoms glittering in the sun, rejoice
upon the steeps around.
"' Hoary Winter
O'er forests wide has laid his hand,
And they are bare-
They move and moan, a spectral band
Struck by despair.'"
There are overhanging rocks and the dark-browed
cavern, but where the span-led cataract fell stands a gigantic tower
of ice, reaching from the basin of the waterfall to the very summit
of the crags. From the jutting rocks that form the canopy of which I
have spoken, hang festoons of glittering icicles. Not a drop of
water, not a gush of spray is to be seen. No sound of many waters
strikes the ear, not even as of a gurgling rivulet or trickling rill.
Allis silent and motionless as death; and did not the curious eye
perceive, through two window-like spaces of clear ice, the falling
water, one might believe that all was bound in icy fetters. But there
falls the cataract, not bound but shielded, as a thing too delicate
for the frosts of winter to blow upon.
"It falls, too, as in summer, broken into
myriads of diamonds, which group themselves, as they descend, into
wedge-like forms, like wild-fowls when traversing the blue air. This
tower, or perforated column of ice, one hundred and eighty feet high,
rests on a field of snow-covered ice, spread over the basin and rocky
platform, that in some places is broken into miniature glaciers. Near
the foot it is more than thirty feet in diameter, but is somewhat
narrower above. It is in general of a milk-white color, and curiously
embossed with rich and fantastic ornaments. About its dome are
numerous dome-like forms, supported by groups of icicles. In other
parts may be seen falling strands of flowers, each flower ruffled by
the breeze. These were of the most transparent ice. This curious
frostwork reminded me of the tracery and icicle-like ornament
frequent in Saracenic architecture, and I have no doubt that nature
suggested such ornament to the architect as the most fitting for
halls wherever flowing fountains cooled the sultry air. Here and
there, suspended from the projecting rocks that form the eaves of the
great gallery, are groups and ranks of icicles of every variety of
size and number. Some of them are twenty or thirty feet in length.
Sparkling in the sunlight, they form a magnificent fringe.
"The scene is striking from many points of
view, but one seemed superior to the rest. Near by, and overhead,
hung a broad festoon of icicles. A little further on, another cluster
of great size, grouped with the columns all in full sunlight,
contrasting finely with the sombre cavern behind. The icicles in this
group appear to have been broken off midway some time ago, and from
their truncated ends numerous smaller icicles depend. They look like
gorgeous chandeliers, or the richest pendants of a Gothic cathedral,
wrought in crystal.
"Beyond the icicles and the column is seen
a cluster of lesser columns and icicles, and columns of pure cerulean
color, and then come the broken rocks and woods. The icy spears, the
majestic tower, the impending rocks above, the wild valley below,
with its contorted trees, the lofty mountains towering in the
distance, compose a wild and wondrous scene, where the Ice King
'Builds in the starlight clear and cold,
A palace of ice where the torrent falls
With turret, and arch, and fretwork fair,
And pillars blue as the summer air.'
We left the place with lingering steps and real
regret, for in all probability we were never to see these wintry
glories again. The Royal Architect builds but unstable structures,
which, like worldly virtues, quickly vanish in the full light and
"It may be asked, by the curious, how the
gigantic cylinder of ice is formed round the waterfall. The question
is easily answered. The spray first freezes in a circle round the
foot of the fall, and as long as the frosts continue this circular
wall keeps rising, until it reaches the summit of the cataract -- as
is the case this winter -- though ordinarily the column rises only
part of the way up. Even when imperfectly formed, it must be strange
to see the water shoot into a hollow tube of ice, fifty or one
hundred feet high; and I have no doubt it would amply repay one for
the fatigue and exposure to which he might be subjected in his visit."
The author, or rather the compiler, of this
work, visited the Cauterskill Falls late in the winter of 1865, and
found a hollow cone of ice reaching to the top of the falls, with
here and there, near the base, a few openings as air-holes or
ventilators; while the whole of the stream below, with the lower
falls, was also encased in ice. The icicles from above, and the
columns of ice below, formed by the water slowly dripping from the
lofty precipices on either side of the falls, were also on a scale of
gigantic grandeur, and more than royal magnificence and splendor; the
ice, with the light which then shone upon it, having a rich, mellow,
alabaster lustre, and a golden or amber tint and radiance. Late in
February, or early in March, is the time to see, to the best
advantage, the winter glories of the mountains and the falls.
Blackhead, spoken of below, is a high, steep,
thickly wooded, and almost overhanging mountain-peak, on the eastern
side of the range, some five or six miles north of the Mountain
House. Its base can be reached by way of the valley through which
flows the stream, near the foot of the eastern slope of the mountains.
EXCURSION TO BLACKHEAD.
"An excursion to Blackhead, or the Dome
Mountain, as Cole loved to call it, one of the finest portions of the
Catskills, must always continue to be, both to the writer and the
painter, one of the luminous points of the past. Our ride in the
morning, over the finely-broken intervening country, through the
fresh air, sweetly scented with millions of flowers in the fields and
along the roadside, the likeness of which we see in many of Cole's
rich pictures, was one of those rides the very memory of which is
beautiful and fragrant. At noon, thirsty and panting on the moss
beneath the black fir-trees of the summit, we gazed, and listened,
and grew cool and rested. Then followed the descent, the plunge down
the wooded steeps, and the laughable mishaps from slips upon the
slant, wet rocks, and trips among the roots, vines, and brushwood;
all concluding with a pensive return homeward in the dark, loaded
with blooming boughs, gathered while yet the golden rays of the sun
were upon their crimson and snowy clusters."
EXCURSION TO SOUTH PEAK.
This mountain, more commonly called High Peak,
and Round Top, already spoken of, are near each other, some five
miles south-west of the Mountain House, in the range of lofty heights
which form the southern wall of the Cauterskill Clove, extending far
to the west beyond it, and crossed by the deep mountain gorge or
ravine known as Stony Clove, on the almost perpendicular sides of
which dark-green shrubs and trees thickly grow, as if suspended there
by magnetism, or by some miraculous power; and through which flows a
rapid, mountain stream, in which, each year, trout by hundreds and
thousands are caught. Pine Orchard, where the Mountain House stands,
is three thousand feet above tide-water; Round Top is three thousand
seven hundred and eighteen feet high; and High Peak three thousand
eight hundred and four -- or eighty six feet higher than Round Top.
The biographer of Cole speaks of High Peak as perhaps the finest for
views in the whole range of the Catskills. Cole made his excursion
there in two days, with a party of twelve, the larger part of whom
were ladies. He thus describes the manner in which the night was
spent upon the summit of the mountain :
"Evening now closed around us. The red
flame shot up its long tongue with a loud crackling, when the gummy
foliage of the evergreen fir was sportively thrown upon the fire, and
the smoke rolled away in luminous billows over the tree-tops, waving
to and fro in the fresh nightbreeze, and shining in the pale, green
light. The heavens, even, in their starry blue, seemed awfully dark,
immeasurably deep. The trees near us stood out in strong relief from
the broad gloom of the great mountain forest, and our house of
boughs, all glowing with a flood of light, except in its dark
recesses, presented a scene of singular beauty. Within, reclining
forms were dimly seen; while in front, figures in grotesque costumes
of shawl and blanket, both sitting and standing, caught the vivid
brightness on their faces and vestments. Every light was clear, every
shadow mingled with the darkness of the surrounding woods, giving a
unity of effect that does not exist by day. Every form thus united
with the great shadow of the wilderness became, with trees and grass,
part of the mountain top.
"Then came the hours of repose. One by one
we sank down upon the fragrant branches of fir, the ladies in the
more retired part, the gentlemen on the outer edge of the bough-tent
-- one in a shawl or cloak, another in his blanket, and I in my brown
monk's-dress. The weary sleepers breathed heavily ; the breeze at one
time softly whispering overhead, at another rushing through the forest-tops
with a fitful, melancholy roar; now afar off like the seasurf, and
now making the branches swing about in the dim light of our declining
fire. Solemn, awful midnight! A thousand fancies came thronging on my
mind. When the gray dawn broke in mildly, a solitary robin, on the
mountain-side below us, was warbling his morning hymn. I shall never
forget the quiet sorrow with which, in the course of the forenoon, we
bade farewell to South Peak, and slowly took our way down the mountain."
Cascade At Plattekill Clove
Cole's last visit to the mountains, arrayed as
they were in the colors of October, occupied two days. He went to the
top of the huge precipice on the side of South Peak, a point visible
from his house, at a distance of some twenty miles, and commanding a
wonderful prospect. From this dizzy crag he took a long and silent
look up and down the beloved "Valley of the Hudson," which
for near a quarter of a century had been the chosen and
ever-cherished home of his heart's affection and delight, so that he
could, with the poet, truly say,
"Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart, untraveled, fondly turns to thee"
He had gazed upon this valley from other points
unnumbered times, alone, and with such companions as Bryant, Durand,
Ver Bryck, and Huntington. It had filled his heart for years. This
was his last look. A few hundred feet below, by a rivulet, expanding
into a small glassy pool, bordered with moss, and roofed with the gay
foliage of the month, he took his final mountain repast.
Soon after this, at his beautiful home in
Catskill, he died, at the age of forty-seven years. Calm and strong
in Christian faith and hope, be closed his eyes on earth, to open the
spirit's eye on brighter, fairer worlds above.
His residence, still occupied by his family,
and his studio, with "The Cross and the World," his last
unfinished painting in it, are a short distance beyond the beautiful
cemetery which crowns the hill above the village of Cats. kill. In
full view in front is the whole eastern slope of the mountains,
around are beautiful plants and flowers, fruit and shade trees, and
in the rear a lofty range of primeval forest trees, covering lovely,
sloping grounds, for the fourth of a mile or more, down to the banks
of the Hudson.
THE DUTCH DOMINIE OF THE CATSKILLS.
A Romance, partly historical, with the title
above, was published in New York in 1861. Its author was the Rev. Dr.
Murdoch, a native of Scotland, and educated there, though he preached
for some time in Canada. He was pastor of the Reformed Dutch Church,
in the village of Catskill, from 1842 until 1851, when his house and
its contents, including his library, were burned, and the church in
which he preached. He died a few years since, at Elmira, New York,
where he was, from the time of his leaving Catskill, a pastor in the
Presbyterian Church. He was a man of talents, of a vigorous, active,
cultivated mind, and a lively imagination, with sprightly social
qualities, and a pleasant vein of wit and humor.
The hero of the Doctor's romance was Dominie
Schuneman, who during a part of the last century was the pastor of
the Dutch churches in Leeds and Coxsackie, including Catskill and the
region around -- a man of power in his day. His son, Hon. Martin G.
Schuneman, a giant in size, a man of great force and energy of
character, was member of Congress from this District in 1806 and
1807, and his children are still living in Leeds. The Abeels, of
whose captivity among the Indians in early times an account is given
in this work, with Frederick Saxe, the famous bear-hunter, who was a
worthy and useful elder in the Dutch church in Kiskatom, Cornelius
Wynkoop, in the same parish, and others, have also a prominent place
in the Doctor's book.
The work in question, though somewhat
disconnected and incoherent in its different parts, and not always
observing the unities of time and place, has still passages and
chapters of much vividness and power, especially in its descriptions
of natural scenery and the action and movements of the elements, in
connection with storms and other phenomena among the mountains. Dr.
Murdoch also compiled the pamphlet entitled" The Catskill
Mountains, as described by Irving, Cooper, Bryant, and others,"
which has been circulated for several years in this region, and
extracts from which will be found in this work.
We here first quote from Dr. Murdoch's book his
description of what he calls
"THE SPECTRAL LOOKING-GLASS."
By this he means what is called Mi-rage which
Webster defines as "an optical delusion, arising from an unequal
refraction in the lower strata of the atmosphere, causing remote
objects to be seen double, as if reflected in a mirror, or to appear
as if suspended in the air. It is frequently seen in sandy deserts,
presenting the appearance of water. The Fata Morgana and Looming are
species of mirage."
Fata Morgana is a phenomenon which occurs at
Reggio, in Italy, on the Straits of Messina, where, by atmospheric
refraction, multiplied images of the objects on the shore around are
seen in the air, over the surface of the sea. Looming is a magnifying
and bringing near to one, in appearance, large and distant objects.
The writer once saw this in a striking manner among the White
Mountains, in New Hampshire, before a storm. In passing out of the
harbor of Portland, Maine, too, in a steamboat, of a misty morning,
many years since, the more than three hundred islands in the bay were
seen by him, inverted in the air, the lowest point of the image
touching the highest part of the island below. When sailing on the
Mediterranean Sea, also, he once saw distinctly the image of a large
ship high up in the clouds. In these cases, the moist air or mist
acts as a mirror, so that at times persons see their own images
reflected back to them, greatly enlarged, as in the case described below.
Dr. Murdoch, in a note on what follows, thus
writes: "The Fata Morgana, seen so remarkably on the Straits of
Messina, has been observed on the Catskills to perfection. The
vision, as described in the text, was seen from the balcony of the
Mountain House in 1845. We now come to the extract from "The
Dutch Dominie of the Catskills ":
"At this point of their conference a
movement was observed among the different groups, as if some object
of interest had arisen. The wind rose from the north, lifting up the
black cloud that had hung like a heavy sheet behind them, and was
rolling it up like a scroll, so that the sun was coming out in a
clear sky west of the mountain. On the flat rock were all the persons
known to us, standing together on the verge of the cliff. When their
attention was properly fixed, Teunis saw, for the first time, what he
had heard the old hunters tell of, the Geest Wolk Waren -- the Spirit
of the Mist -- seen only at rare times in these regions. There were
huge masses of vapor passing in different strata, some of which were
denser than others. That which was nearest to them was thin and
transparent, reflecting all the objects which stood between it -and
the light thrown upon it from the clearer sky behind. It was indeed a
moving mirror that slowly passed, as a panorama is unrolled before a
company of spectators. There was, however, this difference between
nature and art: the faces and forms of the persons looking on were
the figures in the picture before them, taken instantly, and held up
to them. Every one saw himself distinctly, and his nearest neighbor,
only less vividly drawn. The whole was more like an artist's dream
than a reality. It seemed as if they could have walked out and
touched the picture, till a moment's reflection made them sensible
that the whole was but a shadow. Teunis gazed first at his own
outline, then on the tall, straight form of the Indian, who stood
immovable. Behind the front group he saw those who had lain down on
the laurel bed, and beside them several starting up in evident alarm.
Others were rushing forward with curious and hasty looks of wonder at
the strange sight and around the place where hemlock branches had
been woven into tents, some of the Indians were stooping, like Arabs
when an alarm has been given caused by the mirage, when it has lifted
the forms of an enemy above the level of their sandy plains. Scarcely
one of those present had seen the wonder before, and those who had
heard of it were more inclined to regard it as a vision of a
frightened imagination than a fact.
"Even the educated Englishman, Clifford,
though affecting through philosophy, a superiority to those around
him, could not help showing an intense eagerness to see all to the
close. He had read of such things among the Alpine heights, and could
explain them, but his whole soul was for the moment absorbed in the
sense of sight. Indeed, all were more eager to see than to speak,
except one man, a Scotch Highlander, who, knowing of these sights in
his own country, was anxious to tell of the famous speerman of Ben
Cruachan, who saw, in the mists of the hills, the warning to Lochiel.
"The whole assemblage were awakened to the
intensest eagerness. All were under an undefined feeling of
superstition, as if what they saw was like the writing on the wall
which the profane king saw, ominous of his own doom. The sheet-cloud
went slowly by, figure after figure melting into thin air. It was
affecting to hear each one tell, afterwards, how he felt an internal
shivering as he saw his own body dissolving, before his eyes, into nothing.
"Soon the whole east was covered with the
same black cloud as before, while the thin, white vapor, which had
served as a reflector, was wheeled round to the south and settled
against the sides of the hill, which rises bluffly, a few hundred
feet higher than Flat Rock. There again it became a new mirror, but
far different from what it was before. Each one, instead of himself,
saw his nearest neighbor to the right of him. Fear and superstition
gave place to curiosity, and then to frolic and fun. One, who had
been the most cowardly of the crew, gave a caper in the air, which
threw others into the same absurd attitudes, until an hundred more
were seen dancing around and hallooing like madmen. Solemnly and
silently the figures in the cloud mocked the fools outside."
THE FAWN'S LEAP, OR DOG HOLE.
This singularly wild and romantic gorge and
Whirlpool, among the rocks, is a little above the lower bridge in the
Cauterskill Clove, where there is a beautiful cascade, with a lofty,
massive wall of rock overhanging it. A rude, narrow bridge, by which
wood is brought over the stream from the mountains above, crosses it
just below the Dog Hole, or Dog Pool, as Dr. Murdoch calls it. He
thus speaks of it:
"t lies in a narrow ravine, below the
rocks where the Cauterskill comes down and falls over the shelf into
a basin, an hundred feet lower down. The whole is surrounded and
overhung by trees and shrubs common to the region, and forms an
amphitheatre of wildness and beauty seldom surpassed. It is not so
capacious as the falls near Pine Orchard, but has points of interest
which surpass even that famous spot.
"'Do you see how that stream leaps down
among the rocks? Did you ever see a lighter foot than that is,
trusting to the air so confidently ?'
"' No, never ; and yet I have seen airy
creatures who seemed more the creations of fancy than of reality.
"'But how beautifully the whole stream
loses itself in the haze which covers it with a veil thinner than the
"'And there, again, see how it trips away
down yonder, coming out of its misty curtains, fresh and fair, like a
child running to its mother's arms.'
"'The stream we are watching is dealt
kindly by, for it is let down, step by step, in a far, roundabout
way. You saw the two ponds where we were yesterday. They form the
fountain head. About two miles below, the waters take a far higher
leap than they do here. The further down it goes, the fall is less
and less, till it becomes as smooth as your cheek, and as quiet as
your old nurse's voice, when she found you asleep in your cradle.'
"'The Dominie says that his young folks go
off like the Cauterskill up here, and end like the quiet Catskill, in
their old age, joining the great river rolling into the sea."'
HIGH PEAK-THE MOUNTAINS IN AUTUMN AND IN WINTER.
"' Let us walk, and please not to turn
around till I tell you, for I want to point to what I think is worth
seeing.' When they had advanced about half a mile above the fall,
Elsie said, 'Now turn and look.'
"The sight was so overwhelming that
Margaret was for a few moments in speechless rapture. High Peak, that
majestic pyramid, stood out in bold relief against the southern sky,
surrounded by numerous summits, great and small, among which he rose,
like a king attended by his suite, who looked up to his crown with
awe and delight. The October sun had spread a mysterious haze over
the whole scene, which expanded rather than bid its greatness.
"'What do you see there?' said the
mountain damsel, proud of her own region.
"'My head is dizzy. Let me alone till I
get over my bewilderment, and be able to comprehend what is before
me. Oh ! what a stage is there for superior beings to descend upon
and see the actions of puny mortals. Elsie, have you ever known any
one to ascend that height ?'
"'Oh, yes ; I have been up there myself
more than once. But it helps to humble one. I never feel myself so
small as when I stand on that eminence and think what a mote I am.
And yet I have. felt my soul expanding above it all when I knew that
I was an immortal creature, redeemed by the Son of God.'
"'That is like mounting from the foot of
Jacob's Ladder to the top of it at a bound. When I was in the city of
Rome they took me into the great church there called St. Peter's, and
do you know that when one beside me said he felt himself so small
that he could sink, I said, presumptuous thing that I was, 'My heart
swells so that I fill all this house.' You must have felt up there as
I did in Rome.
"'Four times a year, Miss Clinton, do I
come up to this place and look up; in June, when everything is in the
greenest lustre; in August, when all is so rich and full; in October,
when those various colors are painted by the hand of Nature; and
again in winter.
"'Now I find out the cause of my
confusion, Elsie; that wondrous variety of colors. This is what is
called the Fall, and Indian Summer, when the foliage changes It is a
new thing to my English eyes.'
"'And have you no Fall, no Indian Summer,
in England?' said the amazed girl. 'No Fall! No Indian Summer! What,
then, have you ?'
"' England is always green, like your
June, Elsie; but what would they give for one glimpse of that
mountain, clad in trees to the very crown, and every one of these
trees in different colors, from the richest purple to the brightest
yellow, and the whole robe intermingled with pale and deep green. But
tell me what shrub is that covering all the ground so darkly red ?'
"'We call that the laurel, which is spread
all over the mountains as you see it beneath our feet. But look, here
is my favorite flower at this time of year -- the sumach. Let me put
it in your hair for a feather -- and tell me if ever the Queen of
England had one so rich ? "
"'Oh, what deep and pure scarlet! Never,
never would they believe rne, were I to tell of it just as I see it
in your hands. When do you call the mountain in its grandest array ?
I cannot imagine anything beyond what I am looking at just now. I
have seen Mont Blanc, but there was nothing on it save the awful
whiteness, which blinds and awes the spirit.'
"'Miss Clinton, to my mind the sublimest
scene of these heights is to be seen in the white winter. The
loneliness pleases me so that I then have a reverence for High Peak
that I never feel at any other season. All then is so still that I
can hear my heart beating. It is only at rare times that its real
grandeur appears. One day, a few years ago, in January, I was here.
There had been a thaw and a heavy rain for a whole day, which beat
upon the snow without melting it, making it so hard that one could
walk upon it without sinking. Towards midnight the wind came around
suddenly to the north-west, and blew one of the coldest blasts I ever
knew. The rain froze as it fell, so that not a tree, a twig, nor a
leaf but bung in icicles, clear as crystal. I came here when the sun
was at the highest, and of all the sights that mortal eye ever
beheld, it seems to me still that one surpassed them all. The
mountain was one lump of glass, with not one dark spot on the whole.
The trees all hung in crystals. The hard snow was frozen, and
glittering to the very mountain's top. It was one vast diamond.
perfectly reflecting the different colors of the rainbow. I looked,
but my eyes so filled with tears that I turned away, for I was
ashamed to be seen weeping at what no one seemed to care for but myself.'"
SCOTTISH AND AMERICAN SCENERY COMPARED.
"'How would that valley down there compare
with the scenery of Scotland ? You have been up here, of course, in
the daytime, and can judge.'
"' Oh, aye, sir; I have been up here
hunting with the lads, and, to be honest, I think that the size of
the country takes away from the feeling of pleasure I used to have
when I looked down from a Scottish mountain.'
"'But does not that make the sublimity all
the more, if there be a sufficient variety of hill and dale, wood and
water interspersed ? And then, surely the forest, rising up as this
does, to the very mountain tops, must be more beautiful at all times
of the year than the bare furze on the Scottish mountains.'
"'Heather, sir; heather is the word. There
is music in the very sound of it, and, as to the sight, I have seen
nothing here that can compare with the bloom of the heather.'
"'Keeping out of view the associations of
the Scottish scenery, where, to your mind, lies the difference
between it and what we see around us ?'
"'I think, sir, that the chief difference
between what we see here, and that of Scottish mountains and glens,
lies in the fact that you can take in all Ben Lomond and the loch
below, with the islands down to Dumbarton, and on to Tintock-top, at
a glance, and it's all grand; but here, man, everything is on such a
grand scale, I cannot comprehend it. My head gets so dizzy that I
feel as if my thoughts had turned into bumble-bees. Do you not feel
something like it yourself, sir?'
"'I confess that my head is turned, after
all that I have seen and heard this day; but, from what you say,
there must be a fine uncultivated field for the future poet, in the
very greatness and mistiness which meet in the faroff horizon, where
the other mountain tops just peer through the clouds, and with that
noble river, too, running through the centre, where the forests are
ever living and moving.'
"'You are very eloquent on what you have
never seen yet, but even your description does not come half way up
to it; and as you say yourself, it will require some poet like Allan
Ramsay to sing about it.'"
THE CAUTERSKILL FALLS IN WINTER.
"His knowledge of the route soon brought
him to the Cauterskill Falls, the place of rendezvous. The solitude,
to minds like theirs, under the most painful suspense, was as much as
they could bear. The ever-running water be low, and the constant fall
from above, affecting the two senses, hearing and sight, with the
same monotonous din, and the same succession of airy spirits coming
constantly through the narrow passage, and then leaping over into the
cloud formed by their predecessors, produced a strange loneliness in
their watching. And yet, as no man feels himself alone if a child be
playing near him, so these men, when they saw that playful stream
tripping down to the brink and then stepping off with ease, felt that
they had communion with the spirit of the region.
"'This is more than I bargained for,' said
Bertram. 'I expected to see a wild country along the shores of the
river, but not this precious gem of the mountains.'
"'First impressions are always the most
effective; but I have been here when I felt the influence of the
scene far more than at present.'
"'Still, Captain, you cannot help admiring
the grandeur of the whole amphitheatre as your eye ranges around in
search of some single object on which to rest, till you fix it on
that water spirit which leaps from the shelving platform into the
capacious halls beneath. Indeed, when I look again, I can imagine so
many winged spirits, sent forth from on high, meeting again below, as
in airy sport, first in that dark, mysterious gulf, from which they
recoil, as a place of punishment, to rise where the sunbeams shine
upon them, forming the whole into a glorious crown, fit for the heads
"'I will tell you what I once saw here. It
was winter; the snow all crusted over so that it would bear man or
beast. After a hard run, we had taken a fox, near the foot of the
hill there. By the advice of Frederick Saxe, the bear-hunter, we went
down to see the falls frozen. We came up from the deep ravine below,
and suddenly saw what we were quite at a loss to understand, as we
stood speechless before it. It was a high tower, reaching from the
bottom to the top of that lofty rock jutting out there, pure white,
intermingled with glittering crystals. The stillness of the grave was
around us. Some one whispered in my ear, 'The year is dead, and that
is its monument raised by the Frost King.' Imagine, just now, that
not a sound is reaching your ear -- all that din stopped, and the
murmuring altogether lulled, so that you could hear the beating of
"'You don't mean to say that the stream
was all gone'"
"'No,' continued the other; 'the water ran
as before up there, but was neither seen nor heard after it left the
ledge at the top of the falls. Suppose, now, that from the place
where we are sitting over to the other side of that
"amphitheatre," as you call it, a round, thick tower of
glass was built, hollow in the centre, rising up and up till it came
to that shelf from which the water now runs, where would the drops go ?'
"'Why, through the glass tower, of course.
But what has that to do with your description?'
"'Everything; for there would be no
murmuring sound of water as there is now; nor thundering roar, such
as I have heard after a heavy storm, when that stream, now so small
and tame, sprang like an angry beast, till it cleared the whole
platform and fell into the lower basin yonder, two hundred and twenty feet.'
"'Yes, Captain, but your enthusiasm has
made you forget your glass tower, which, as you describe it, must
have been a large bottle, bottomless, taking in the whole stream at
the neck and letting it run down its sides, so that it passed through below.'
"'Just so, and better than I could
describe it. It was full eighty feet in diameter at the base, and one
hundred and eighty feet high, pure as snow, till it rose to the neck,
when it became clear as rock crystal, with the whole stream entering
and passing through it, so as to be plainly seen.'
"' Certainly, that was a wonderful object,
and equal to any of the peaks of frost I have ever seen or heard of.
Does it rise so every winter ?'
"'No, sir. Old Fred said that he had
hunted among the mountains forty years, and had seen it complete only
once before. A half-bottle may frequently be seen, like what comes
after a drunken frolic; but the perfect, full-blown vessel, out of
nature's glass-house, comes but once in a lifetime.'
"'I hope you had something warm to drink,
Captain for cold water, from a bottle of frost, may be good in a hot
summer day, but in winter it is quite another thing.'
"'We had plenty of the hot stuff, sir; and
it was dearly paid for, too, with broken heads and bones nearly
cracked. A little more, and I would not have been here to tell the
tale. After we had freely drunk of Santa Cruz rum, our brains began
to swim, and some of us did not know whether we were on our heads or
our heels. I was ready for anything; either to scale the tower from
below, or to slide down from above. Through recklessness I began to
climb. The rough sides of the gigantic thing allowed me a footing, so
that I reached one of the turrets, twenty feet from the ground, where
I stood looking around me. All round, under the rocks, were huge
pillars of ice, formed by the water which had flowed through the
seams. It seemed a crystal theatre of display, and I have often
wished that lights of a sufficient size and number could have been
introduced, so as to show the effect of illumination in such a place.'
"'You must read, when you can,' said
Bertram, 'the account of the Empress of Russia's Palace of Ice, where
the thing you wish for was tried with full success. Then turn to the
Arabian Nights, and you will see the power of Aladdin's lamp.'
"'Well, sir, I stood on the turret,
admiring my own daring as much as the wonders around me, when Jim
Crapser, that imp of Satan, cried out, "Three cheers for
Gabe." They were never given ; one was enough. It seemed as if
that single cheer would never stop. Crack! crack ! crack! went the
pillars all around, falling in pieces as big as a cannon, and others
like the trunk of a tree. As to the small lumps, they were like a
shower of grape-shot, mixed with forty-pounders. It sounded and
seemed more like the last day than any battle I have been in. More
terrified beings I have never seen in actual danger, with no way of
retreat. As for myself, I was in the safest place, in the centre,
looking at the shower. But to this day I feel the shaking of that
mass beneath me. If the three cheers had been given the whole tower
would have fallen, and I would have been crushed beneath the fragments.'
"'That would indeed have been a tale worth
telling for ever after. Buried by an avalanche, and swept away by the
stream when the spring floods came.'
"'We left in double-quick time for a look
at the ice-tower from above. It reflected the different colors of the
rainbow, and was, indeed, a frozen rainbow. Butthe half of the
wonders of this spot has not been told you. Come here in summer, and
after a fall of rain, if you look up from below, you will see an
entire rainbow -- a complete circle and though you may laugh, I will
tell it: I have seen my face as distinctly in the centre, as I have
ever seen it in a looking-glass. I have stood hours looking up into
that wonderful glass, where I would sometimes see a single face, then
one other; and as the sun shone out differently through the clouds,
there would be faces all around the circle, constantly changing their
position, like a mystic wheel revolving, till the head grew so dizzy
that I have believed them to be faces looking down upon me from the
upper world -- though they were not always of the most pleasant kind.'
"'While you were telling me of those
cheerings which shook icicles on you in showers, I was reminded of
how Dante, the Italian poet, describes hell: where 'Naked spirits lay
down, or huddled sat, trying to throw from them the flakes of fire
which came like snow. The devils called out to other devils,
thrusting the soul back into the boiling pitch.' And looking up,
Dante saw them, walking on a mount of ice, their teeth chattering,
and eyes locked up with frozen tears."
Thus much for Dr. Murdoch and his romance, in
which some may perchance think that he romances in good earnest,
drawing a long bow on his Scotch fiddle. As to this I will only say,
that with regard to the falling of avalanches, and other large masses
of ice and snow, when the heat of the sun and the air has made them
very tender and frail, or has well-nigh detached them from the base
on which they rested, or the mountain side on which they hung, it is
known that the concussion of the air caused by loud tones of a single
human voice, or of many voices at a time, may cause them to fall with
wide-spread and desolating force and fury. As bearing on this point,
my friend and fellow-student in theology, Rev. Dr. Perkins, who has
for many years been a missionary among the Nestorians in Northern
Persia, thus speaks of that region:
"For nine years we have had a mission
station on the heights of Koordistan, just at the base of its
loftiest mountain, which is fourteen thousand feet above the level of
the sea, and second in height to Mount Ararat alone, in that part of
Asia. Cultivated men and women cheerfully forego the comforts of the
mild plains of Persia, for the self-denials and hardships of a
residence among those interior mountains. There is one young married
couple, in a deep gorge of those central mountains, where the lofty
encircling ranges limit the rising and the setting of the sun to ten
o'clock A.M., and two P.M., much of the year; where the towering
cones of solid rock, like peering Gothic spires, cast their pointed
shadows from the moonbeams on the sky, as on a canvas-nay, rear their
tops against that canopy, which seems to rest on them, as on pillars;
and where, in winter, the terrific roar of avalanches, above and
around, is one of the most common sounds that salute the car. Often
has the missionary scaled those mountains, and threaded their deepest
gorges, to search out the sheep of those long-forgotten folds, and
point them to the Good Shepherd. Sometimes he has crept along the
steep and lofty cliff, towering threateningly above him, where
whispers, at particular seasons of the year, must be his only means
of communication, lest the sound of the human voice, by an echo,
bring upon him an overwhelming avalanche, ever ready, at such
seasons, to quit its bed at the summons of the lightest jar."
Dr. Murdoch's book has in it numerous Dutch
phrases and expressions; a language with which he was not very
familiar. Having loaned my copy of his book to a friend, who has a
good knowledge of Dutch, he returned it with the following lines,
among others, on a blank leaf at the end of the work:
Oh, Doctor Murdoch I sin ye're dead,
I ken there is nae mickle need
To criticize you, or to rede
But were ye here, I'd say, indeed,
To see the water-scenery of the mountains, in
all its richly-varied fulness, grandeur, and beauty, one should pass
through the Cloves and visit the falls after a long and severe
rain-storm, when the streams are wildly swollen and raging; when
every ravine is filled with a fiercelyrushing cascade, and from every
fissure in the rocks the water is gushing out, while over their tops,
and from each cliff, copious streams are flowing; and the larger
falls, with their swollen torrents and loud and deep-toned roaring ,
drown the voice and excite emotions rapturous and sublime.