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of blue or brown cloth, and covered with a large umbrella of faded cotton; seat him sideways on a sober ass, and let his slovenly legs dangle from beneath his cloak and show a wrinkled pair of lack-lustre boots, and loose, strapless woollen trousers. Let his cloak blow open and discover its scarlet lining with his faded cotton jacket, soiled shirt, red oily neck and abundant whiskers. He must have a cushion to sit on, a piece of carpet, gay or faded, with a fringe, or bare, to hang down behind him; and beneath the cushion and carpet a heavy pannel, reaching from the neck of the animal to within a foot of its tail, must be tightly strapped round his Jackass's back. Behind him, and in absolute contrast with his dull greasy sensuality, put his active ass-driver; brisk, energetic, and alert, with bare feet, blue carapuça, short jacket and white linen trousers, who goads and bangs the ass, swears at him long strings of mouth-filling oaths, threatens, encourages, and chatters to his donkey and his rider with untiring gaiety, from the beginning to the end of his journey; and who, when that is over and his scanty fare is paid, springs lightly on his animal's back, and dangling his naked feet as he sits sideways merrily returns to his home.
Such a stolid person as this, with his light-hearted driver, passed us between Capellas and the Seven Cities; and many such before and since have we seen and passed in St. Michael's.
The villages through which we rode had their usual supply of healthy, squabbling children, dressed for the most part in a single white shirt or sometimes sitting even naked in the sun. They were engaged in their usual habits of eating, hallooing, squalling, and earnestly stoning pigs, poultry, and one another, or squatting about at make-believe games. They looked in good condition, handsome, and happy, as if the vegetable diet of stewed cabbages, beans, and Indian corn bread was not unfitted, in a climate like this, for raising fine children upon. Their fathers and mothers in common with the other poor of the island live almost entirely on vegetable food, and are, as a rule, well made and athletic. They scarcely ever eat meat except on feast-days and great rejoicings, and I never heard it made a matter of grievance that they could not procure it.
Having once more got free of houses and children, the inland road led up a steep ascent of several miles. As we approached the mountains
SUDDEN VIEW OF THE SEVEN CITIES.
the path ran through lanes of pumice, the banks of which rose on each side to a height of twenty or thirty feet and completely shut out the view of everything but a strip of ultra-marine sky, and a few hundred feet of road. Emerging from these sunken lanes, so peculiar to the Island of St. Michael's, we came to the green hills which border the village and the valley of the Seven Cities, where, as far as the eye can reach, nothing could be seen but the fresh green bushes which clothe the mountains. Cattle were grazing far from one another on the hills, and birds occasionally flew across the path; but no man, or other moving thing caught the eye in these green solitudes; and the birds that were in the bushes kept their usual noon-tide silence.
From these dull evergreen mountains, stretching before us without apparent end, we speedily had an unexpected change. Suddenly the mountain track up which we were climbing ended on the edge of a vast precipice, hitherto entirely concealed, and at a moment's transition disclosed a wide and deeply sunk valley with a scattered village and a blue lake. The hills which hemmed them in were bold and
shaped, rounded and serrated.
precipitous, tentOthers swept in
soft and gentle lines into a little plain where the small village was nestled by the water-side. The lake was of the deepest blue, and so calm that a sea-bird skimming over its surface seemed two, so perfect was its image in the water. The clouds aloft were floating in this very deep lake, and the inverted tops of the hills on every side were perfectly reflected in its bosom. A few women on the shore seemed rooted there, so steady were their reflections in the water; and the cattle standing in the shallows, stood like cattle in a picture.
The lake, although in some respects nearly circular, is as irregular in its shape as a map of England and Wales, to which, from some points, it bears a slight resemblance. Where the village has been built the shore is flat; but the opposite mountains rise from the water without a shore of any kind. The sides of the valley are also as irregularly formed as the lake. It was evidently at one time the crater of a vast volcano, of which the highest hills encircling it may have been the walls. But within this outer boundary are smaller hills and craters which break up the regular curve of the steepest side of the valley, disturb the formal basin-shape which
we commonly associate with a crater, and, heaped together as they are on the side nearest the village, appear like a pile of independent hills unconnected with the boundary walls. The sides slope gradually from this part of the valley into the level ground where the village stands. It is a small collection of cottages without a church or a wine-shop, or a store of any kind, and at the time I entered it was enveloped in clouds of wood-smoke, which rose from the fires used in the process of bleaching cloth. This and clothes-washing are the chief occupations of the villagers. One of the bleaching places was a singular spot. A circular piece of ground near the cottage, six or seven yards across, was surrounded by a wattled fence of evergreens eight or ten feet high. Inside the fence a wall and ledge of rough stone, by way of fire-place, supported a row of bulging pots, with legs and without legs, of all ages and sizes, of iron and of clay, behind which a fire was kept up by throwing in from time to time as it flagged, branches of green wood. The pots were filled with lye, which, when boiling hot, was ready for use. Opposite the fire-place and within the fence, a circular wicker-work frame, filled with the cloth