Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/348

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A LADY'S CRUISE.

have been made from a split bread-fruit; also nuts greatly resembling those of the cocoa and areca palms. The custard-apple is found there, and the dracæna and yucca, and many another tropical leaf and fruit. Would that they grew there now!

Picture to yourself a time when the bleak Northumbrian coast was a forest like one of these, and the coals, of which we now so gladly heap up blazing fires, were all beautiful ferns and palms, waving in the warm sunlight! Truly it is hard to realise. Even the dragon-flies and lizards of those antediluvian forests are preserved, and spiders and scorpions. As to the chalk and lias and limestone, they give us sponges and corals and zoophytes enough to build up any number of coral-reefs; and there are great turban echini with heavy spines, like those we find here, and star-fish innumerable, and teeth and vertebræ of sharks and ray.

So that there really was a time when Old England must have been as fascinating as any South Sea isle. What she may have been in the days of the mammoth and megatherium, and all the gruesome race, restored for our edification at the Crystal Palace, is quite another matter; the very idea is suggestive of nightmare!

Wednesday, 12th Dec.

This has been a grey stormy day, with heavy showers, but as Dr Michelli had promised to escort me up the valley to the foot of the mighty crags, I could not lose so good an opportunity; and indeed such solemn mountain scenes only borrow fresh grandeur from the gloom, so that I almost prefer a stormy leaden sky for such an expedition; besides, it is no small gain to have a veiled sun, as its full rays, when refracted by the black trap dikes, make the ascent somewhat of a toil.

The friendly gendarme again lent me his horse to ride to the head of the harbour, where the Doctor had other steeds ready for the mountain. Unfortunately he himself was unwell, and so was obliged to commit me to the care of the externe-politique, who fulfilled his trust admirably, though I confess that it gave me something of an eerie feeling to find myself at a height of 2000 feet