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WINTER IN THE AZORES.
A steep ascent and reached a dreary plain
Dispirited when all at once, behold!
Beneath our feet, a little lowly vale,
A lowly vale, and yet uplifted high
Among the mountains; even as if the spot
Had been by eldest time
So placed to be shut out from all the world.
Visit to the Caldeira at Fayal.-Appearance of the mountain. -First view of the Caldeira. - Field flowers.-Scarcity of wood.-Opal.-Deficiency of water; its causes, and the remedy. - Island of Ascension.
FAYAL, MAY 14. As the morning was promising and the mountain clear of clouds, we
started with a party, some on foot and some on asses, to see the Caldeira, which is one of the natural beauties of Fayal.
Speaking generally of the island, it is a low cone, with a lozenge-shaped base; and in the top of this cone, which is nearly in the centre of the island, the Caldeira is sunk. It is frequently covered with a cap of clouds, which, although they may shut out the view from the summit, and obscure the depths of the crater, yet fully compensate for these hindrances to impatient travellers, by the floating shadows which they throw upon the mountains, by the strength of colouring which they borrow from the morning and the setting sun, and by the varied delicacy with which these colours are reflected from their surfaces upon the hill-side. To-day, however, the mountain had doffed his cap, and from the shore to the summit was enriched by the yellow light of a hot morning sun.
After passing the scattered houses on the outskirts of the town, the road lay along the valley of the Flemings, through which sometimes a river runs, whose rocky bottom was now quite dry. Having crossed this, we began the gradual and easy ascent of the mountain, at first through fields, and then over heath and grass, inter
ASCENT TO THE CALDEIRA.
spersed with a few wild flowers; among which, a bright-belled heath, of deep scarlet, was scattered among the herbage, that resembled in colour the fruit of the wild strawberry, and was entirely different from the common heath so abundant in these islands; the quiet unobtrusive blossoms of which seldom attract the eye. Now and then a woman or a girl tripped past us on her way down the mountain, carrying on her head a heavy load of wood; a few scattered cows and heifers stopped grazing and stared round, or started off with their tails awry, when we walked so close as to disturb them; and as we neared the topmost edge of the crater, a group of idle wood-cutters, with their figures clearly cut out against the sky, lay and stood about, surrounded by their wives and children, who squatted on the ground, and tried in vain to silence a yelping Azorean cur, which ran forwards to bark and bite, as naturally as if he had been at the cottager's own door.
As is usual in ascending all mountainous ground, we passed one ridge after another, wishing and thinking each was the last, (for the dull succession of hill upon hill, clothed only with rough grass, was without variety,) when,
SUDDEN VIEW OF THE CALDEIRA.
without a moment's warning, we suddenly stopped on the precipitous edge of the crater. Hitherto there had been unvaried sunshine, and no tree or other object to cast a shadow; but now we suddenly saw beneath our feet an enormous valley, deeply sunk in the earth, the huge fissures, with which its almost perpendicular sides were cleft, being in deep shade, and the projecting ridges in bright light. At the bottom was a gloomy lake, over which one white sea-gull floated the only living thing in that solitary place. The eye can gaze long, and without fatigue, and with much delight, on all things that are beautiful; but the first glance (like the first rapid perusal of a letter from one we love at a distance) seems to fill the mind at once, and make it a temporary master of the delight. We gaze longer afterwards, that we may remember it more surely; but the first glance is the intensely pleasurable one.
Having taken this first look at the glorious scene that had rewarded our toilsome ascent, the next fell on the contents of a goodly basket, stored by no sparing hand, which had been spread at our feet; and, sitting on the soft grass, in sunshine moderated by mountain breezes, as