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Our Camp at the Geysers. The "Big Tea-kettle." Hvers. Icelandic Hay. Skyer. Cutting Sods for Strokhr. A Big Dose. "Ah-r-r-r, Ah-r-r-r!" A Jump for Dear Life. The Grand Heave up. Strokhr very Sick all Night. We watch with him. A Storm. Waiting for "G.G." "Bumm-m-m, Bumm-m-m" A Hot Shower. The Great Geyser in all his Grandeur.
GETTING out of the basin, and going down the mound, we came, at a distance of about fifty or sixty yards from the Great Geyser, to the little grassy spot where tourists usually have encamped. More than a dozen small, partially-filled trenches showed where their tents had been pitched. We called to Halgrim to drive up the pack-ponies: which he did with some trouble; for they heard the ominous grumblings from beneath the plateau, and kept snorting and halting as the guide urged them up. Under their hoof-falls the ground resounded hollow and cavernous. They were afraid. Perhaps it was hardly safe to drive them over it.
Throwing off the pack-boxes and saddles, we had Weymouth and Halgrim (at the latter's suggestion) take all the horses back to the shepherd's house to see whether he would pasture them while we were at the geysers. We also directed them to borrow a spade, buy milk and whatever other clean-looking eatables the people might have and be willing to part with. There was an old spade, broken and bent up, lying near the mouth of the Strokhr. With this, while they were gone, we cleared out one of the tent-trenches, and pitched our own tent on the site of some other party's labors, the Prince Napoleon, for aught we knew to the contrary.
It was now about seven o'clock. We had taken nothing save a dry lunch since morning, at five o'clock. "No fuel here," Wash remarked rather dubiously. Raed laughed.
"Wash has forgotten the grand culinary advantages which the geysers offer to their visitors," said he.
"You aren't posted, Wash!" cried Kit. "Don't you see it? Hot water is the great staple here!"
"Let's have coffee instanter!" exclaimed Raed. "All we have to do is to let our coffee-pot down into Strokhr or the Great Geyser: it will boil there in a jiffy."
"There's quite a steam rising up there at the foot of the lava-bluff," Kit said, pointing to it. "I'll go reconnoitre. Perhaps we may find the water boiling in a less dangerous place than the Strokhr. It would take all our guys to lower our coffee-pot down into that."
He went off, and a moment later called to us. Raed and I went up to where he was standing on the brink of a large hole, twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter, filled to the very brim with steaming water.
"Here's a big boiler for us," Kit observed.
"Is it hot enough to boil things?" I asked.
"Try it with your finger," said Kit.
Stooping, I thrust in my fore-finger, and had it uncomfortably scalded, though I jerked it out instantly.
"This is the place to do our cooking," remarked Raed.
"There's another pool quite like this just beyond," said Kit, pointing a little farther along the foot of me crag. "They seem to be huge bowls in the solid rock. Can't be less than twenty feet deep; but you can see the bottom, for all that. Don't you see that old tin kettle lying on the bottom down there? Somebody lost it in there. If we had a hook, we might fish it out. And, out in the middle there, don't you see a dark spot on the bottom? I think that is the month of a tube, like the Great-Geyser tube, running down nobody knows how far. These pools are the basins to the tubes."
"Looks like that!" Raed exclaimed. "These pools were geysers once."
"I think so," said Kit.
"Are not these large still pools of hot and warm water what the Icelanders call laugs?" said I.
"Well, not so hot as this," said Raed. "I think that they call a fountain a laug when it is warm and just right to bathe in; but, when they are scalding hot like this, they term them hvers. In the same way, when a fountain spouts up hot water, it is a geyser; but, when it merely sends up clouds of steam, it is a reykir; and a mud pool like that down by the Little Geyser, that is a nαma. I think that is what I have heard. We will ask Halgrim about it."
Kit had gone down after the coffee-pot and the coffee. Wash came back with him. They dipped in some of the boiling water, and took turns holding it down in the pool till it boiled, or scalded, and steeped.
Raed and I started to go back to the pack-boxes to get the bread and sugar ready, when we espied Halgrim, Weymouth, and two other persons, coming. The latter were carrying great bundles of something, the exact character of which was not at first apparent. Halgrim had a tin pail of milk, and a spade: Weymouth had a smaller dish of cream, and a package wrapped in cloth.
"It's all right about the ponies," cried our sailor companion. "Old fellow here offered to take 'em all a week for five dollars, fifty-cent dollars. Dog-cheap, I said. And we've got him and his cub of a boy to bring us up some hay to lay on nights."
"Hay!" Raed exclaimed. "I should call that stuff brushwood."
"Well, so should I," replied Weymouth; "but he calls it hay. It is what he feeds his cows on, anyway, in the winter, and horses too. I thought it would do to lay on, better than the bare rock: it's pretty springy stuff. We got those big bundles for another fifty-cent dollar."
The old Icelander and his son kept close to Halgrim, and, at a word from him, laid down the bundles. Not a twig of it was finer than a pipe-stem. They both had fur caps, loose cloth frocks, or jackets, and trousers of sheep-skin. They were plainly honest, kindly folks, who took a friendly interest in us; and though it was impossible to talk with them, yet they asked Halgrim a hundred questions about the "young gentlemen who had tome clean from down on the other side of the world."
Their faces were broad and good-humored. "Better specimens of humanity than one would expect to meet in a region so desolate and outlandish," I heard Raed saying to Kit.
We had Halgrim give the old shepherd five rix-dollars, and ask him to send out four quarts of milk to us each day while we remained at the geysers. At first, he quite refused to take what seemed to him so large a sum (two dollars and fifty cents) for so small a service; but on Halgrim explaining to him, that, in the great and rich land from which we came, "two dollars fifty" was esteemed very lightly, he took it: and, with many backward glances, the two went off to their humble byre.
"That's what I call a rather good thing," Kit said.
"Why, to find a man with a conscience about taking a big price when it comes in his way," Kit replied. "I declare, fellows, this poor old shepherd makes me blush when I think of our people, the most of them."
Four pack-boxes laid side by side on a patch of level turf, and covered with one of our rubber blankets, made our table. The biscuits, the sugar, the meat, the coffee, the milk, and the cream were set on; to which Weymouth added his package, casting a sly glance around where we were seated on our saddles.
What have you there?" demanded Kit.
"Skyer," was the answer.
"Skyer! Well, what's that?"
"Oh! it's a cheesy sort of stuff. They had nothing else to sell, besides their milk: so I bought some. It looks decently clean," unfolding the cloth, and disclosing a yellowish mass of what turned out to be curd, which takes the place of pressed cheese with the Icelander.
Cream in our coffee was something of a luxury; milk to drink was another; and biscuit and skyer was a novelty; if not a luxury. We supped in all the barbarous profusion of a camp of savages; and it was not till after nine that the feast concluded.
The wind had begun to blow in chilly gusts. Dark, wild clouds flew swiftly over from the north-east. The crags of the Langarfjal sighed dismally to the fitful blasts. We tightened the guy-ropes, and, carrying in the pack-boxes, piled them in a tier along the windward side of the tent. The hay was then spread out on the ground. It made a bed fully two feet thick all over the interior of the tent, and, with the rubber blankets spread over it, promised a very tolerable couch for tourists.
This done, I proposed to turn in. We had not got more than three hours' sleep the preceding night; and what with riding over lava-fields, fording rivers, and climbing about the Lφgberg and the Tintron, the reader can readily imagine how tired we might be. But no: nothing would induce Kit to go to sleep till he had seen Strokhr heave up.
"But, Kit," Raed argued, "we are so tired! and we can just as well make it spout to-morrow."
No: world might come to an end before to-morrow. Iceland might blow up; or, at least, this geyser region might. Shouldn't be surprised if it blew up any minute. 'Twas a queer sort of a place, to make the best of it, not to be relied on. He hadn't come all the way from Boston to run any risks of not seeing the Strokhr spout.
"But, if the world comes to an end before morning, it won't make any great odds whether you see Strokhr or not," I ventured to suggest.
Yes, it would. Why not? The fun of seeing it would be all the same to-night if the world did collapse by morning. He wasn't going to be so foolish as to lose the present chance by taking a snooze of six or eight hours. Something might happen. Human affairs were very uncertain. He meant to see Strokhr forthwith.
This, and a lot more of similar nonsense, delivered in the gravest possible manner.
The fact is, Kit never gets tired. I never saw just such a boy. Whether he sleeps or not doesn't seem to make any great difference with him. I suspect he has got what my grandfather used to call an "iron constitution;" something of that sort. So, now, while the rest of us were quite tired enough to go to sleep, he was all impatience to see Strokhr perform.
"But there will have to be lots of sods cut," said Wash.
"I'll cut 'em;" and, seizing the spade Halgrim had brought, he set off.
Strokhr was about a hundred yards from our tent. Weymouth secured the old spade, and started after him. Of course, we would not go to bed, and have Strokhr heave up without seeing it. Throwing off our weariness, the rest of us followed; and soon we were all busy as "Paddies," cutting and carrying turf, and piling it up in a great semicircular heap all around one side of the mouth. Strokhr growled some, as if he knew from past experience what was coming; and, on looking down the pipe,
I saw that the water had risen several feet since six o'clock. Halgrim told us that the peasants said that it had been known to go up of its own accord; though no tourists have seen such a phenomenon. We worked for half an hour, I apprehend, cutting up the fine, green turf into sods, and carrying them along, till the heap was two or three feet high, and extended nearly half around the mouth of the tube.
"There's enough," Wash pronounced.
Raed and Halgrim thought there was enough: so did I, for that matter; though, being pretty tired, I didn't much like the labor of tugging it.
"No, no!" shouted Kit, staggering up with his arms full, "not half enough!"
"They do never put more in at once time," mildly remonstrated Halgrim.
"No, Kit. Here's enough in all conscience!" cried Wash.
"I tell you there's not half what I mean to give the old chap. If three sods make him a little sick, three hundred will make him a good deal sicker. It's just as it is with an emetic: one boll of lobelia will make a fellow squeamish; but a whole cupful is what makes the tears come. I mean to give him a dose that will make him remember the 'young yachters' to his dying-day."
"But we may choke him up entirely," Raed observed.
"Nonsense! He's got awful muscles to his stomach. Let's make him sicker than ever be was in all his life. 'sick as a horse.' He'll spew all the higher for it. Come on!"
Thus exhorted, we all fell to work again; and, for
twenty or thirty minutes, nothing was heard save the necking and grating of the spades, and occasional uneasy growls from the subterranean boilers.
"There!" assented Kit at last, when the heap of clods was near four feet high, and piled all about the mouth. "Can't be much less than two tons of it. We've skinned two or three square rods of ground, at any rate. Doubtful if there was ever a bigger dose administered at one time. All ready now! Push 'em over!"
We all pushed at the tottering heaps. Over they went, and plunged slap-dash, slap-dash, into the steaming tube.
"Leg it now!" Weymouth shouted, running off with the spades.
Halgrim was walking off. We followed him for a distance of thirty or forty yards, and stood momentarily expecting to see it spout up. A minute passed.
"Does it go up quick, Halgrim, right off, soon?" Raed demanded.
"Yas, sirs; right soon!"
But it did not immediately. Another minute passed We could hear it growling in deep bass, but not very loudly. Kit began to edge up. An overpowering curiosity to look in and see what was going on drew us all cautiously forward. Kit was already peering furtively into the shaft. The water, discolored and inky from the black turf, was whoppinq over and over, splashing against the sides of the churn with an ominous hollow sound. Suddenly there came a louder growl, a rumble, and a tremendous splashing. A vast escape of steam, smelling strongly of sulphur, flew up.
"It's coming!" yelled Wash.
"Ah-r-r-r, ah-r-r-r!" Halgrim shouted.
We ran precipitately off some twenty yards, and turned to see that nothing bad come of it.
"False alarm!" said Kit.
We began to walk back. Another rumble and loud hissing made us pause. It subsided, however, and we went up to the mouth again: we were growing bolder. Halgrim evidently didn't know much about it.
"I'll not run again till I see it start," Wash muttered. "Time enough to get out the way then, I imagine."
A threatening roar not to be mistaken drowned the latter part of this sentence: a swirling, sudsey, rushing noise accompanied it. Before we could even dodge, up went the steamy, roaring, black jet past our very faces! To say that we jumped and scampered would but faintly express the incontinent haste with which we vamosed In an instant we were a dozen feet away; yet, hurried as was our departure, the falling torrent besplashed us. We heard it descending. Several of the hot, steamy sods struck down in front of us as we sprang off. One of them hit Raed, smearing him with mud. Where the spatters hit our hands and faces, they felt pretty hot; but they did not scald through our clothes. Our sudden retreat tickled Weymouth very much. He fairly doubled up with laughter, mingling his lusty haw-haws with the rush and plunge of the churn. Halgrim, on the contrary, saw no joke at all in this circumstance, and stood regarding us with a very grave and concerned face. That is the difference between a Yankee and an Icelander.
Going a safe distance, we turned to see the display. I recollect that my first feeling was one of astonishment as to its height. It loomed up amazingly. There seemed to be scores of separate individual jets shot up so rapidly as to all be in the air at once. Some of these went far higher than others; and, all shooting up and falling at once, they were looped and intwined on a vast and intricate scale, making altogether an immense column, which at the base could not have been much less than fifty feet in diameter, gradually tapering to the head. A rapid, coughing noise accompanied the jets. The roar and rumble from the earth continued. There was also a continuous hiss, like that of the escape-pipe of a large steam-engine. The splashings of the falling water were heavy and ponderous: the earth trembled perceptibly beneath them. The vast amount of steam which would naturally fly off from so mighty a column of boiling water in a chilly air adds greatly to the effect. The whole scene to the leeward is filled with white rolling clouds, against which the water jets show black as ink. The ground was deluged for twenty yards from the mouth of the tube. Anon a stray jet would fall far out toward us. We afterwards found some of the sods fully seventy feet from the mouth. The most of them, how- ever, fell directly down, and were swept back into the pipe by the receding flood, with loud gurglings.
It was a grand spectacle, far grander than this simple hackneyed assertion will give the reader any idea of. It was grander, too, than we had expected from Strokhr. Taken with the wild, dark clouds, the shadow) crags of the Langarfjal, and the gloom of the evening, for it was now past eleven o'clock, it made a scene which will never fade from my memory. We all quite forgot our weariness in the sombre grandeur of the sight.
The fountain continued to play for six or seven minutes, I judge; though we had none of us thought to time it by the watch. It then subsided quite on a sudden, with a few straggling jets and a loud sucking noise, as if the pipe were empty. Nothing was then to be heard save the gargle of the returning waters pouring back down the tube; for the rock about the mouth is sufficiently saucer-shaped to train a great part of the water back.
"Well, he's done for to-night, I take it," Raed said, drawing a long breath. "It's a great thing, this Strokhr! worth coming to see. Wonder if the Great Geyser can beat him."
"Wish the great one would take a notion to go up now, so we could sort of compare the two performances," said Wash.
"We might manage to have 'em both go off at once," Kit thought, "by cutting a lot of sods, and piling them ready about the Strokhr's mouth. Then, as soon as the Great Geyser showed symptoms of an irruption, we could pitch in the sods, and so have them both going at once."
"Not a bad plan, Kit!" Raed exclaimed.
"We'll do it," said Wash.
"I don't see why we cannot," Kit remarked.
I thought the only difficulty would arise from the fact that we none of us knew the geyser's symptoms. Raed replied, that, if we remained to witness a second irruption, we might, by observing the signs which preceded the first, be able to manage it.
We had turned to go back to our tent, when a deep growl from the exhausted Strokhr made us turn. "Sick again!" laughed Kit: "hasn't got over it yet!
Another deep rumble began, followed by a prodigious gurgling, seething, and hissing, as a great gush of steam puffed up.
"Will he heave up again, Halgrim?" I asked.
"Yas, sirs: many more times. Heave up worse than at first time."
"Is that so?" exclaimed Kit. "Then it will be all the easier managing to make 'em both heave at once."
A moment later, the same threatening roar made the plateau tremble afresh; and up went the inky flood a second time, blacker and more fearful than before. I have no doubt that some of the jets this time leaped full seventy feet in the air. Seventy feet, too, of perpendicular elevation, is a great height, greater than I had realized when reading of the geysers during our voyage to Reykjavik. Relative to the heights to which these fountains play, I may remark, that, two days after, we made a rough measurement of the height of the Strokhr jets; using our tent-pole and fish-lines to form a triangle, along the hypotheneuse of which we sighted to the head of the Strokhr column, according to one of the most readily-effected trigonometrical methods. The height of the jets was thus computed at sixty-three feet and sever inches. But we were all agreed that the irruption on the night of our arrival, when we had in so many sods, was considerably the highest: Raed estimated it to be ten feet higher.
The second "heave-up" lasted five minutes and a quarter by the watch, as Wash reported; at the end of which time the fountain ceased after a few gruff sobs and a long-drawn growl. The ground all about the mouth, and far down the slope, was left steaming profusely.
We went to bed immediately on our hay and blankets, and in half an hour were drowsing off, when a third ramble and roar roused us up.
"It's Strokhr, sicker than ever! Raed muttered. "Hark! what a splash and hissing!"
It was impossible to resist the fascination of getting up to see it again. Tired as we were, we could not yet lie there contented while a "eave-up" was going on. Once up, we watched till it subsided; and so another half-hour was gone before we were fairly abed again. By the time we were well asleep, a fourth rumble and roar awoke us. In short, I doubt if any of us, save Halgrim, slept two hours that night: for the irruptions continued, at intervals of half an hour up to an hour, till after five o'clock in the morning; and, on looking into the funnel at a little after six, I saw that the water was still turbid, and swashed uneasily about, showing that the dose still produced unpleasant effects. Two tons of sods made a more than ordinary severe emetic, even for a Strokhr's stomach. Kit said there were nine irruptions in all during the evening and night. Altogether, we had all we waned of Strokhr it was quite a relief to have him stop.
About half-past six, it began to rain violently The wind blew hard, and howled down from the dark gorges of the Langarfjal in fierce, wild gusts, making our canvas swell and flap. The gusts of rain, burled violently against the tent, sent the spray through in a perfect mist. To remedy this defect, which promised us a drenching ere the storm was over, Kit and I took the "rubbers" from off the hay, and, putting on our greatcoats, ran out and threw them over the top of the tent, making them fast with bits of fish-line through the eyelets. This stopped the spray, warding off the rain. India-rubber and its twin-brother gutta-percha save us many a wet back first and last.
"How about breakfast?" says Wash.
"I move you we have a soup," suggested Kit. "We've macaroni, meat, and biscuit. What more could you want?"
"Soup it is, then," said Raed. "We can flavor it with cheese, and skyer to boot. Unpack the tin kettle, Halgrim, and get out the fixings."
"But who will be martyr enough to sit out there in the rain to hold the kettle in the pool while the soup cooks?" I queried. Whoever has that job is sure of a ducking. There's the coffee-pot too: somebody's got to hold that in."
"Well, it may as well be me as any one," said Weymouth with a sigh of resignation.
"And I the coffee-pot will hold," offered Halgrim, with a rueful glance out past the flap of the tent.
Of course the rest of us offered no objection to this proffer: we were quite willing.
The ingredients for the soup were thrown into the kettle. Salt and pepper were added; and Weymouth, with one of our great-coats buttoned about him, and his hat pulled down, was started out with it, having instructions to first fill the kettle half fall of the boiling water, and then hold it well down in the pool till it had boiled fifteen minutes. The coffee-pot was then charged, and Halgrim sent out on a similar errand.
'Twas a curious way to get breakfast. For half an hour we could see them crouching patiently on the edge of the hver like two big bull-frogs beside a puddle, the rain pouring down like a shower-bath. And it wasn't a warm rain, either: it seemed very much like one of our late October rains at home, when we see ice the next morning.
On coming in, both Weymouth and Halgrim were chilled and shivering; and we in the tent had to knock our toes to keep them from aching. But the hot soup and steaming coffee warmed us up wonderfully. The soup itself was so excellent, that Kit magnanimously offered to hold in another kettleful for dinner.
It rained till after five o'clock in the afternoon. We kept as snug as possible; slept a part of the time Wash and Kit finished up a sketch they had made of Strokhr, to adorn my narrative (which, as I am well aware, is sadly in need of adornment).
The storm cleared off with a smart, chilling wind from the north-east. It was cold, biting cold. We hung up our overcoats inside the tent, and shook up the hay, making as cosey a nest as possible; into which, otter supper, we all crawled, and lay talking, joking, and snoozing, waiting, waiting, waiting for old G. G. (Great Geyser), as Kit had abbreviated him, to favor us with a performance. But as yet we hadn't heard a word, not even so much as a whisper, out of his mouth Strokhr growled and tossed all day; but G. G. steamed as noiselessly as a laug. The old shepherd had told Halgrim that he had, if he remembered correctly, seen the water shooting up two days before we came. Possibly, too, it had gone up the night before we came. Halgrim also informed us that there was always a good deal of disturbance and subterranean commotion prior to an irruption. Clearly we had no great reason to look for a performance right off Raed thought, too, that so much cold rain-water falling into the basin and running down the tube might delay it. So we gradually went off to sleep, and, having once got fairly at it, slept soundly till after two o'clock, morning, when a noise altogether different from Strokhr's growls aroused me on a sudden. Raed was awake, and up on his elbow, listening.
"Is that G. G.?" said I.
"I think so," he replied. "Heavier than Strokhr's voice; comes from up back of us too."
It sounded very much as I should suppose a fifty-pound cannon would, if fired half a mile down in the ground, a dull bum-m-m-m-m! followed by a slight jar of the earth. These reports succeeded each other at intervals of from one to three minutes.
We lay there listening to them for twenty minutes or half an hour.
"That's G. G. fast enough," said I. "We ought to wake Kit: he never'll forgive us if we don't."
"That's so. Kit!! Kit!"
At the sound of his name, that indefatigable young worthy started nervously up, broad awake the first thing.
"G. G.!" said I significantly.
"Is it, though?"
"Listen!" says Raed.
In a few moments the geyser let off another of his minute-guns.
"Yes, sir! That's him, sure!" Kit exclaimed, getting up to look out. "Sounds a good way down, though, doesn't it?"
Raed said that it now sounded twice as near and heavy as when he had first waked.
Kit went out to reconnoitre. On parting the flap of the tent, the cold air rushed into our warm nest. The wind was blowing sharp and hard from the north-east. It was cloudy too: straggling, dark fogs were driving by, not very high up. The morning light broke in but faintly through the cloud-banks that lay along the east and north-east. As we were peeping out, a heavier, louder gun from the geyser-boiler broke alarmingly on our ears; and Kit came back to report that the water was within two feet of the top of the tube, and that it kept heaving and slopping up into the basin.
"It bubbles as smartly as did our 'poison spring' at Katandin," he added. a Steam-bubbles, I think, steam and gas; for I smell sulphur just as we did at the Strokhr."
The rest were rousing up. Either this last boom, or else our talking, had waked them. We all turned out, and climbed up into the basin to see what took place down the funnel when the explosions occurred. And in this instance we had our curiosity immediately gratified. Scarcely had we approached the funnel when another heavier report boomed from below, and the water bulged up to the height of three or four feet above the mouth, and came dashing out into the basin. We scampered off to the rim, which we mounted in great haste, just as the water was gurgling back.
"We had better keep away," was Raed's comment. "It would be no joke to get caught here in the basin when a big jet comes up."
"Nor yet where we are, here on the rim," Wash remarked; "for I read that the hot water pours over the edge and down the sides of the mound in a perfect cataract."
We waited to hear one more report, which sent another steaming wave of water out to the rim; and then retired to where our tent stood, about a hundred and fifty feet from the foot of the mound. Just as we reached it, a loud explosion made the ground tremble like a drum; and we caught sight of a vast column-head of water over the rim of the basin, and heard it splashing down the farther side of the mound.. The steam flew over our heads in great clouds, for the wind was just right to drive it toward our tent; and blew so sharply, that it was all one could do to keep his footing in the teeth of it. We got as much in the lee of the canvas as we could, and stood waiting the display. Nor had we long to wait. At the next explosion, a great shadowy, misty pillar sprang up with a tremendous seething noise, far up into the sky it seemed. The next instant we were blinded by the sulphurous steam and spray. The strong gale swept the boiling column, and drove all the vapor, and scattered drops down upon us. Halgrim and Weymouth instantly dived back into the tent; but the rest of us, not wishing to lose the sight, ran off to the right along the slope below the mound. But, by so doing, we only got ourselves into greater trouble; for the enormous column, falling back into the basin, overflowed it, and came roaring and dashing down the side of the mound, and was upon us in an instant, foaming like the Oxeara. We had to scamper, and leap from rock to rock; and had our boots well scalded, as well as some uncomfortably hot feet. It ran a perfect deluge all adown the south side of the mound. Beyond the geyser, to the north-east, there is a hollow, or ravine. To that we betook ourselves, and, following it up to the windward of the jet, halted to watch it. The column was no higher than Strokhr, but immensely heavier. The volume of water is far greater. Strokhr consists of scores of rapid squirts from the two-foot pipe at the point where the sods choke it, down some thirty feet: Great Geyser, on the contrary, is one massive jet, ten feet in diameter, and rising at a single spring from fifty to seventy feet above the top of the mound. The height of the mound, too (forty feet), adds greatly to the imposing aspect of the column.
"Just observe the form of that jet too!" Raed exclaimed, still shaking one of his hot feet. "Beautiful, isn't it, as well as grand? Looks like an immense tree, a drooping elm, all white with frost."
"What a mass of water!" said Kit. "That astonishes me most of any thing. It looks just as I have fancied it might otherwise; but I never dreamed there would be so vast a quantity of water ejected at each puff. Why, there are more than a hundred hogsheads at every heave!"
"It don't stand so steady in the air as Strokhr," Wash observed. "It seems to dance like a candle. The height of the column is increased and decreased each moment with every jet. Strokhr, now, is a bundle of little jets."
"Yes; but there's more water thrown here in one minute than in Strokhr's whole display," Kit remarked.
"What a power there is somewhere at the bottom of that tube," exclaimed Raed, "to hurl up that ten-foot jet with such ease and rapidity!"
"The same power that spouts the lava out of Hecla, Vesuvius, and Ζtna," replied Wash; "that drives our locomotives across the continent, and the steamers across the Atlantic, the expansive power of steam, set in motion by fire-heat; in a word, the power of heat which comes from the pressure of gravitation."
"But this volcanic heat is from the earth's olden fires;" Kit remarked: "so, at least, geologists tell us."
"Those geologists who believe the earth was once a blazing star of liquid fire, you mean;" corrected Wash. "But they are wrong. The earth was no such a star, according to the best living authorities."
"Among whom, I presume, you mean to include yourself," added Raed maliciously.
"Well," replied the unabashed Wash, "my theory, that the earth is the growth of meteors, suggested itself to me with great force and clearness that morning we were on Mount Katandin. It was based on as careful a computation as scientists usually make while figuring on cosmical masses and distances. It came to my mind so forcibly, that I believe it. It seems just as if it must be truth: I know it must be. And I don't know why I haven't a right to entertain it, and argue for it fairly. Provided I can sustain it by fair arguments, I don't see why the fact that I am not an old gray-head ought to subject me to ridicule. I don't ask any advantage in argument on account of my youth: therefore I fail to see why I ought to be twitted of being a boy."
This was all said with a candor and self-assertion that would have astonished opposition had there been any.
Kit exclaimed, "Wash, you are either a great genius, or a very small donkey: I can't just tell which yet. But keep on. Stick to your theory till you prove it: it will be easier telling then. I don't like to take sides or give an opinion till I hear more about it."
"I don't ask any one to take sides till they are fairly convinced," replied the philosopher. "I haven't had time to work out the theory yet; but I keep it well in mind. Some time, ere many years, I mean to make an effort to let others see this question as I see it."
"In other words, we may look for a treatise on the growth of the earth?" Raed added in great glee.
"Yes," said Wash, quite regardless of the satire; "when I have got a few more respectable years over my head. And when you have read it, Mr. Raedway (if you do me the honor), you will treat the subject with less levity than you do this morning."
"I have no doubt of it, Wash," concluded Raed. "I'm not laughing at it now, only to draw you out a little."
The irruption of the Great Geyser continued about ten minutes. All the water in a tube seventy-five feet in depth and ten feet in diameter is thrown out. Probably, too (as would seem from the extent of the discharge), the tube connects, by ducts at the bottom, with other reservoirs of boiling water, which are drawn upon as the irruption progresses. While the fountain played, the great basin was white with glittering spray wd foam; and down its sides the hot flood poured in a vast boiling cataract. The heavy, dull explosions continue during the entire discharge: they are nothing less than the sudden expansions of steam at the bottom of the pipe. During the last minute, the jets slacken and become less frequent, till, with a quick flip, all the water is spouted up, when immediately there is heard the plunge and gurgle of the returning waters; for, at the close of an irruption, the basin is left full. The fall and splashings of the jets are far heavier and more ponderous than those of Strokhr. As soon as the basin was sufficiently drained, we entered it, and looked into the tube. It was already half full again, and the water rapidly rising.