Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/67

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43
UNSOLVED MYSTERIES.

animals, and faces, painted in black, white, and red—doubtless these also are hieroglyphs. They are ranged inside the quaint stone houses, of which about a hundred remain, at one end of the isle; and are built in lines, with the doors towards the sea. The inside measurement of these houses is about 40 feet by 13, and the walls are upwards of 5 feet thick; they are built of flat stones laid in layers. At about 6 feet from the ground, the slabs are so laid as to overlap one another, till they gradually close; and the small opening at the top is roofed with long thin slabs.

Till a Rawlinson arises to read the hieroglyphs of Rapa Nui, its mysteries must remain unsolved; and the cold proud faces, with the sightless eyeballs, will continue to gaze heavenward, and the great stone images, whether gods or heroes, must lie in fallen grandeur in this their sea-girt shrine, with none to tell us what unknown race devoted the labour of their lives to sculpturing the rocks on this lonely isle.

Unfortunately the Seignelay has no artist among her officers, so no one has any sketches which can give me any general idea of the isle, and though I have seen a few photographs of individual figures, I cannot from them obtain any impression of the whole effect. I confess I wish I had had the chance of doing a few panoramic and bird's-eye views of the whole scene. Though perhaps not artistic, I am quite convinced that by no other means can a traveller so fully enable friends at home to realise the scenes on which his own eyes have feasted.

The only other corner of the earth, in which I can hear of anything akin to these mysterious rock-sculptures, is the far-distant volcanic isle of Java. If you sail almost halfway round the world, heading straight for the west, you come to that wonderful isle, with its terrible volcanoes and amazing wealth of vegetation. Nowhere else are there so many distinct volcanoes in so small a space. No less than thirty-eight separate cones cluster round the great central range of mountains, from 5000 to 13,000 feet in height. Some are active fire-craters, and throw out molten lava; others are water-craters, containing milk-white lakes or sulphureous geysers: in short, volcanic action is there in every form of sublime terror,