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THE CAPTURED FLAGS.
the water much more so than Funchal ; and in the centre is a good square, La Plaza de la Constitucion. In this is the famous statue of the Virgin, our Lady of the Candelaria, of good execution, and of fine Carara marble. It is commemorative of the conversion of four kings of the Guanches in 1392, who are placed as supporters of the pedestal, each with a thigh-bone in his hand—why, I could not learn. They, however, enjoy but one nose amongst them; the three missing are to be found in the collection of curiosities of some of our midshipmen, who, it is not to be expected, could let such an opportunity pass of signalizing themselves for taste, sense, and decorum.
The houses of this Spanish colony are large, well built, and in the Moorish style of the mother country, having courts in the centre, surrounded by galleries. In many of those are handsome fountains, playing to a great height, which render them cool and refreshing. We went to visit the church, where are exhibited THE FLAGS said to have been taken in Nelson's attack. We were all anxiety to get a sight of them
but no-our cicerone would have his own way, parading us through the altars, one by one, explaining to us the merits of each in a most showman-like manner. At last he brought us to the spot where hung the remains of those emblems, fast falling into decay, and waving mournfully in the light breeze that flows down from the belfry, under which they are
placed. One is an ensign, the other a union-jack. I do confess I never found it so difficult a matter to keep my “hands from picking and stealing,” as when I saw that flag on which the sun never sets, hung up as a trophy in a foreign land. Upon inquiry, however, we found (and it somewhat cooled our zeal) that they were not taken from us on that night, but were merely picked up on the shore where our boats went to pieces.
The batteries here are still very strong, and the surf tremendous, often preventing boats from landing for days together ; yet this does not stop the business-like appearance along the beach, for the barrels of wine are rolled down the steep pebbly shore, and one of the hardy natives, pushing it before him, plunges into the boiling surf and floats it to the vessel, often several hundred yards off.
November 8th. I set out into the hills. About the town are some fine gardens of potatoes—a late importation—just now coming into blossom, and promising well. Near the quay there is a handsome public walk, in which grow some splendid plants. The datura fastuosa, with its beautiful semidouble flowers of a purpleish colour, attains to a great size, and also the pointinia pulcherrima, or Spanish carnation, one of the most splendid shrubs that adorn this island. The stramonium flourishes along the roadside in great luxuriance, but thicker, more shrubby, of a glaucus colour, and the leaves more succulent, than the species grown in Spain and Madeira. As I pro
ceeded into the hills, I observed the euphorbium canariensis growing to an immense size; it looks like so many great candelabra, and this similitude is increased from the quantity of juice exuding, which crusts over the stalks and rocks beneath, with a yellowish wax-like paste. Some idea
be formed of the virulence of the poison of this plant from the following circumstance. I made incisions in some of the plants, in order to allow the milky juice to exude, and laid the point of the penknife I had used for an instant on the tip of my tongue : almost immediately I felt an intense heat, dryness, and burning sensation in the fauces, back of the throat, and gullet, and suffered so much from weakness, that I was scarcely able to crawl back to the town. On examination, there was no redness or inflammation to be seen, and the symptoms gradually subsided in the course of three or four hours, leaving, however, a huskiness which lasted several days.
Huge plants of the cacalia grow in great abundance through the fissures in the basaltic rocks. Owing to the great drought, the large leaves of the cacti have a shrivelled-up appearance: upon this the cochineal is much propagated here ; and, besides the several close plantations near the town, it has lately been transplanted to the cacti growing on the hills, by pinning one or two of the little animals in a bag of thin muslin, and sticking them on the thorns of the plant. They were originally im
ported here from South America, and promise well; they are gathered every second year, a certain number being lēft on each plant to continue the stock. It is asserted in the island that it would be more cultivated, but that the fruit of the cactus (the prickly pear) is a favourite article of food with the natives, and it falls off before coming to maturity on those on which the cochineal is reared. The palma christi, or castor-oil plant, is also very common here, and the oil is manufactured in the island.
The basalt in the neighbourhood of the town contains felspar and masses of hornblende. There is no limestone to be found in the island, but that useful article is imported from another of the group, Fortaventura. This grey stone contains mica and felspar, but no quartz, and perhaps it was such as this that gave travellers the idea that there is granite to be found throughout the Archipelago of the Canaries. In the hills, when excavations occur in the harder rocks, they will be found filled with a conglomerate of small, fine-rolled pumice-stone, and quantities of this will also be found in the valleys and ravines. It appears like the effect of an eruption, subsequent to that in which the harder rocks were formed, and which, in all probability, covered the whole country, but, on the occurrence of great rains or winds, this pumice was swept down into the valleys, and filled up the caverns.
On the east the coast is excessively rugged; the swell rolls in with the greatest violence, even on the calmest day, and the water has formed immense caverns, by wearing away the tufa from the harder basalt. Many of them are a considerable way under the surface, and the approaching wave, meeting the slower reflux water, dashes against it, and rises in a column, often thirty or forty feet high, falling down in spray on the rocks at either side, a magnificent natural jet d'eau. The rock near the water's edge is singular. Here the basalt is not columnar, nor in regular strata, but appears, while yet fluid, to have formed eddies and whirlpools, which, with a wave-like appearance, became consolidated, and retained that form on the surface.
Neither meseinbryanthemum, nor any of the plants from which barilla is obtained, were yet up; but large bags of the lichen, collected from the rocks, which is used as orchil, are daily exposed for sale on the mole. As the tide ebbs, numbers of the poorer inhabitants collect upon the coast to catch cuttle-fish—the sepia octopus—which are here in the greatest abundance. Their mode of fishing is to tie one of the animals upon the end of a stick, and push it under the rocks, and in the crevices and pools left by the retiring tide. If one is inside, it instantly makes its appearance, attached to that on the stick, and is caught with the hand. At night the rocks along the shore are illuminated by fishermen, looking for these sepiæ ; and when