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this question, and must admit that I felt a little crest-fallen when I came to compare the respective performances. Therefore I could only answer, in rather a casual way,
“Well, Zöega, to tell you the truth, ours don't get quite so sick as this, owing, no doubt, to the superior salubrity of our climate. You might throw sods into them all day, and they wouldn't make such a fuss about it as the Strokhr makes about a mere handful. Their digestion, you see, is a great deal stronger.”
“Oh, but wait, sir, till you see the Great Geyser; that's much better than the Strokhr.”
“Doubtless it is very fine, Zöega. Still I can't help but think our California Geysers are in a superior condition of health. It is true they smoke a good deal, but I don't think they impair their digestion by such stimulating food as the Geysers of Iceland. Judging by the eruptions of the Strokhr, I should say he feeds exclusively on fire and water, which would ruin the best stomach in the world.”
Zöega looked troubled. He evidently did not comprehend my figurative style of speech. So the conversation dropped.
The column of water ejected from the Strokhr, unlike that of the Great Geyser, is tall and slender, and of almost inky blackness. In the case of the Great Geyser no artificial means interrupt its operations; in that of the Strokhr the pressure of foreign substances produces results not natural to it.
After the two eruptions which I have attempted to describe, the waters of the Strokhr again subsided into sobs and convulsive throes. Some half an hour now elapsed before any thing more took place. Then there was another series of growls, and a terrible swashing about down in the churn, as if all the demons under earth were trying to drown one another, and up shot the murky flood for the third time. Thus it continued at intervals more and more remote, till a late hour in the night, making desperate efforts to disgorge the sods that were swept back after every ejection, and to rid itself of the foul water that remained. These attempts gradually grew fainter and fainter, subsiding at last into mere grumblings. I looked into the orifice the next morning, and was surprised to find the water yet discolored. It was evident, from the uneasy manner in which it surged about, that the dose still produced unpleasant effects.
Having finished my sketch, I returned to the tent, in front of which Zöega had meantime spread a cloth, with some bread and cheese on it, and such other scraps of provisions as we had. A little boy from the neighboring sheep-ranch brought us down some milk and cream, and I thought if we only had a cup of tea now to warm us up after the chilly wind our supper would be luxurious.
“Just in time, sir," said Zöega; “I'll make the tea in a minute.”
“Where's your fire.”
“Oh, we don't need fire here—the hot water is always ready. There's the big boiler up yonder!”
I looked where Zöega pointed, and saw, about a hundred yards off, a boiling caldron. This was our grand tea-kettle. Upon a nearer inspection, I found that it consisted of two great holes in the rocks, close together, the larger of which was about thirty feet in circumference, and of great depth. The water was as clear as crystal. It was easy to trace the white stratum of rocks, of which the sides were formed, down to the neck of the great shaft through which the water was ejected. Flakes of steam floated off from the surface of the crystal pool, which was generally placid. Only at occasional intervals did it show any symptoms of internal commotion. By dipping my finger down a little way I found that it was boiling hot. Five minutes immersion would be sufficient to skin and boil an entire man.
Nature has bountifully put these boilers here for the use of travelers. Not a stick or twig of wood grows within a circuit of many miles, and without fuel of course it would be impossible to cook food. Here a leg of mutton submerged in a pot can be beautifully boiled; plumpuddings cooked; eggs, fish, or any thing you please, done to a nicety. All this I knew before, but I had no idea that the water was pure enough for drinking purposes. Such, however, is the fact. No better water ever came out of the earth-in a boiled condition. · To make a pot of tea, you simply put your tea in your pot, hold on to the handle, dip the whole concern down into the water, keep it there a while to draw, and your tea is made.
I found it excellent, and did not, as I apprehended, discover any unpleasant flavor in the water. It may be slightly impregnated with sulphur, though that gives it rather a wholesome smack. To me, however, it tasted very much like any other hot water.
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When I returned to the tent, and sat down to my frugal repast, and ate my bread and cheese, and quaffed the fragrant tea, Zöega sitting near by respectfully assisting me, something of the old California feeling came over me, and I enjoyed life once more after years of travel through the deserts of civilization in Europe. What a
glorious thing it is to be a natural barbarian! This was luxury! this was joy! this was Paradise upon earth! Ah me! where is the country that can equal California ? Brightest of the bright lands of sunshine; richest, rarest, loveliest of earth's beauties ! like Phædra to the mistress of his soul, I love you by day and by night, behave in the company of others as if I were absent; want you; dream of you ; think of you; wish for you; delight in you—in short, I am wholly yours, body and soul! If ever I leave you again on a wild-goose chase through Europe, may the Elector of Hesse-Cassel appoint me his prime minister, or the Duke of Baden his principal but
Very little indication of the time was apparent in the sky. The sun still shone brightly, although it was nearly ten o'clock. I did not feel much inclined to sleep, with so many objects of interest around. Apart from that, there was something in this everlasting light that disturbed my nervous system. It becomes really terrible in the course of a few days. The whole order of nature seems reversed. Night has disappeared altogether. Nothing but day remains—dreary, monotonous, perpetual day. You crave the relief of darkness; your spirits, at first exuberant, go down, and still down, till they are below zero; the novelty wears away, and the very light becomes gloomy.
People must sleep, nevertheless. With me it was a duty I owed to an overtaxed body. Our tent was rather small for two, and Zöega asked permission to sleep with an acquaintance who lived in a cabin about two miles distant. This I readily granted. It was something of a novelty to be left in charge of two such distinguished characters as the Great Geyser and the Strokhr. Possibly they might favor me with some extraordinary freaks of humor, such as no other traveler had yet enjoyed. So, bidding Zöega a kindly farewell for the present, I closed the front of the tent, and tried to persuade myself that it was night.