Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/63

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

that in some places the penetrating heat is painful to the naked foot. Nevertheless, the people have no fear of accidents; on the contrary, wherever they find a group of hot springs they build their huts, and, like the New Zealanders, they love to lounge on the steaming grass or hot stones. In every village a circular space is set apart as the marum, or place for holding council or feasting, and in these districts a warm spot is selected, where, after sundown, the men may combine the pleasures of a vapour-bath with the enjoyment of their bowl of kava, while discussing the affairs of the tribe.

The springs are in great favour as baths. They are of all temperatures—from the tepid water in which the natives play luxuriously for hours, to the boiling springs in which they place their food and leave it to cook itself. Some of these natural boilers lie so close to the shore, that the fishers who haunt the reefs, armed with long four-pronged spears, have only to throw their prize into the rock-caldron the moment they have secured it. No fear of tainted fish for them! Nor need they search far for drinking water. Probably the nearest spring is quite cold and excellent. Some of the springs are highly medicated, and many resort to the healing waters, some of which are especially efficacious for the cure of ulcerous sores.

Beyond the strangely fertile crust, covering the region of horror, lies an unveiled tract of cinders and black volcanic ash, forming a wide barren valley from which rises the principal cone. This valley is intersected by a multitude of fissures from which issue scalding sulphureous fumes. Here and there beds of the purest sulphur have been deposited, and trading vessels occasionally carry hence a cargo of this pale primrose-coloured mineral, to be turned to good domestic uses. Pools of boiling mud alternate with springs of cold water clear as crystal; and in fissures lying but a few feet apart the same strange diversity exists. One sends forth a blast of scalding steam, while in the next a dripping spring yields its slow but continuous supply of ice-cold water, falling drop by drop.

The cone, which is called Asoor by the Tannese, is about 300 feet in height. It is a gradual ascent, but fatiguing, owing to the