Here we concluded to dine, and at quite a fashionable hour—4, P.M. The guide arranged the plates, knives and forks, wine-glasses, etc., on a huge table of rock, and announced,—“Dinner is ready!” We filled our plates with the excellent viands prepared at the Cave House, and seating ourselves on the rocks or nitre earth, partook of our repast with the gusto of gourmands, and quaffing, ever and anon, wines which would have done credit to the Astor or Tremont House. “There may be,” remarked our corpulent friend B., “a great deal of romance in this way of eating—with your plate on your lap, and seated on a rock or a lump of nitre earth—but for my part I would rather dispense with the poetry of the thing and eat a good dinner, whether above or below ground, from off a bona-fide table, and seated in a good substantial chair. The proprietor ought to have at all the watering places, (and they are numerous,) tables, chairs, and the necessary table furniture, that visitors might partake of their collations in some degree of comfort.” The guide who, by the way, is a very intelligent and facetious fellow, was much amused at the suggestion of our friend, and remarked that “the owner of the Cave, Doct. Croghan, lived near Louisville, and that the only way to get such ‘fixings’ at the watering places, was to write to him on the subject.” “Then,” said B., “for the sake of those who may follow after us, I will take it upon myself to write.”
From this point you have a view of the Main Avenue on our left, pursuing its general course, and exhibiting the same solemn grandeur as from the commencement,—and directly before us the way to the Humble Chute and the Cataract. The Humble Chute is the entrance to the Solitary Chambers; before entering which, we must crawl on our hands and knees some fifteen or twenty feet under a low arch. It is appropriately named; as is the Solitary Chambers which we have now entered. You feel here,—to use an expression of one of our party,—“out of the world.” Without dwelling on the intervening objects—although they are numerous and not without interest,—we will enter at once the Fairy Grotto of the Solitary Cave. It is in truth a fairy grotto; a countless number of Stalactites are seen extending, at irregular distances, from the roof to the floor, of various sizes and of the most fantastic shapes—some quite straight, some crooked, some large and hollow—forming irregularly fluted columns; and some solid near the ceiling, and divided lower down, into a great number of small branches like the roots of trees; exhibiting the appearance of a coral grove. Hanging our lamps to the incrustations on the columns, the grove of Stalactites became faintly lighted up, disclosing a scene of extraordinary wildness and beauty. “This is nothing to what you’ll see on the other side of the rivers,” cries our guide, smiling at our enthusiastic admiration. With all its present beauty, this grotto is far from being what it was, before it was despoiled and robbed some eight or nine years ago, by a set of vandals, who, through sheer wantonness, broke many of the stalactites, leaving them strewn on the floor—a disgustful memorial of their vulgar propensities and barbarian-like conduct.