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LESSON LXXIX. THE OEYSIBS.
"We had been twelve or thirteen hours on horseback, ■when at last we descried, straight in front, a low, steep, brown, rugged hill, standing entirely detached from the range at the foot of which we had been riding; and in a few minutes more, wheeling round its outer end, we found ourselves in the presence of the steaming Geysirs.
I do not know that I can give you a better notion of the appearance of the place, than by saying that it looked as if—for about a quarter of a mile—the ground had been honeycombed by disease into numerous sores and orifices; not a blade of grass grew on its hot, inflamed surface, which consisted of unwholesome, looking red livid clay, or crumpled shreds and shards of slough, like incrustations. Naturally enough, our first impulse on dismounting was to scamper off at once to the great Geysir. As it lay at the farthest end of the congeries of hot springs, in order to reach it we had to run the gauntlet of all the pools of boiling water and scalding quagmires of soft clay that intervened, and consequently arrived on the spot with our ankles nicely poulticed. But the occasion justified our eagerness. A smooth siliceous basin, seventy-two feet in diameter and four feet deep, with a hole at the bottom, as in a washing basin on board a steamer, stood before us, brimful of ■water just upon the simmer, while up into the air above our heads rose a great column of vapour, looking as if it was going to turn into the fisherman's genie. The ground about the brim was composed of layers of incrusted silica, like the outside of an oyster, sloping gently down on all sides from the edge of the basin. Having satisfied our curiosity with this cursory inspection of what we had come so far to see, hunger compelled us
to look about with great anxiety for the cook, and you may fancy our delight at seeing that functionary in the very act of dishing up dinner on a neighbouring hillock. Sent forward at an early hour under the chaperonage ol a guide, he had arrived about two hours before us, and seizing with a general's eye the key of the position, at once turned an idle bubbling little Geysir into a camp kettle, dug a bake-house in the hot soft clay, and improvising a kitchen-range at a neighbouring vent, made himself completely master of the situation. It was about one o'clock in the morning when we sat down to dinner, and as light as day. Suddenly, it seemed as if, beneath our feet, a quantity of subterraneous cannon were going off; the earth shook, and starting to our feet we set off at full speed towards the great basin. By the time we reached its brim, however, the noise had ceased, and all we could see was a slight movement in the centre, as if an angel had passed by and troubled the water. Irritated at this false alarm, we determined to revenge ourselves by going and tormenting the Strokr. Strokr—or the chum—you must know, is an unfortunate Geysir, with so little command over his temper or his stomach, that you can get a rise out of him whenever you like. All that is necessary is to collect a quantity of sods, and throw them down his funnel. As he has no basin to protect himself from these liberties, you can approach to the very edge of the pipe, about five feet in diameter, and look down at the boiling water which is perpetually seething at the bottom. In a few minutes the dose of turf you have just administered begins to disagree with him; he works himself up into an awful passion; tormented by the qualms of incipient sickness, he groans, and hisses, and boils up, and spits at you with malicious vehemence, until at last, with a roar of mingled pain and rage, he throws up into the air a column of water forty feet high, which carries with it all the sods that have been chucked in, and scatters them scalded and half-digested at your feet. So irritated has the poor thing's stomach become by the discipline it has undergone, that even long after all foreign matters have been thrown off, it goes on retching and sputtering, till at last nature is exhausted, when, sobbing and sighing to itself, it sinks back into the bottom of its den.
Put into the highest spirits by the success of this performance, we turned away to examine the remaining springs. I do not know, however, that any of the rest are worthy of particular mention, They all resemble in character the two I have described, the only difference being that they are infinitely smaller, and of much less power and importance. One other remarkable formation in the neighbourhood must not pass unnoticed. Imagine a large irregular opening in the surface of the soft white clay, filled to the very brim with scalding water, perfectly still, and of as bright a blue as that of the grotto Azzuro at Capri, through whose transparent depths you can see down into the mouth of a vast subaqueous cavern, which runs in a horizontal direction beneath your feet. Its walls and varied cavities really looked as if they were built of the purest lapis lazuli, and so thin seemed the crust that roofed it in, we almost fancied it might break through, and tumble us all into the fearful beautiful bath.
We had now been keeping watch for three days over the Geysir, in languid expectation of an eruption. On the morning of the fourth day a cry from the guides made us start to our feot, and with one common
impulse rush towards the basin. The usual subterranean, thunders had already commenced. A violent agitation was disturbing the centre of the pool. Suddenly a dome of water lifted itself up to the height of eight or ten feet, then burst, and fell; immediately after which a shining liquid column, or rather a sheaf of columns, wreathed in robes of vapour, sprung into the air, and in a succession of jerking leaps, each higher than the last, flung their silver crests against the sky. For a few minutes the fountain held its own, then all at once appeared to lose its ascending energy. The unstable waters faltered—drooped—fell, "like a broken purpose," back upon themselves, and were immediately sucked down into the recess of their pipe.
The spectacle was certainly magnificent; but no description can give any idea- of its most striking features. The enormous wealth of water, its vitality, its hidden power—the illimitable breadth of sunlit vapour, rolling out in exhaustless profusion—all combined to make one feel the stupendous energy of nature's slightest movements.
With regard to the internal machinery by which these waterworks are set in motion, I will only say that the most received theory seems to be that which supposes the existence of a chamber in the heated earth, almost, but not quite, filled with water, and communicating with the upper air by means of a pipe, whose lower orifice, instead of being in the roof, is at the side of the cavern, and below the surface of the subterranean pond. The water, kept by the surrounding furnaces at boiling point, generates, of course, a continuous supply of steam, for which some vent must be obtained; as it cannot escape by the runnel—the lower mouth of which is under water,—it squeezes itself up within the arching roof, until at last, compressed beyond all endurance, it strains against the rock, and pushing down the intervening waters with its broad strong back, forces them below the level of the funnel, and dispersing part, and driving part before it, rushes forth in triumph to the upper air. The fountains, therefore, that we see mounting to the sky during an eruption, are nothing but the superincumbent mass of waters in the pipe, driven up in confusion before the steam at the moment it obtains its liberation.— Lord Bufferin's "Letters from High Latitudes."
LESSON LXXX.—LUTHER AT THE DIET OF WORMS.
After being crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 28th January, 1521, Charles V. had proceeded to Worms, where he assembled his first Diet of the sovereigns and states of Germany. It was the great object of the papal leaders to have Luther condemned unheard; and they succeeded so far as to induce the Emperor to issue an edict for the destruction of the reformer's books-, but the Estates refused to publish it, unless Luther had first an opportunity of confronting his accusers under a safeconduct, and answering before the Diet the charges preferred against him. Nothing could be more congenial to the temper of Luther. It was exactly what he most desired, to confess the truth before the assembled powers of Germany. He made up his mind at once to obey the summons, and wrote bravely to Spalatin (the Emperor's secretary), "I will be carried thither sick, if I cannot go sound. . . . Expect everything from me but flight or retractation."
Nothing can well be grander than this passage in the