תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

ment in the island ; it often raised a smile which I found much difficulty in coaxing from a loud laugh ; but when he turned round to me, with the heads and tails of half a dozen slippery eels protruding themselves from beneath his hat, and twining over his broad glowing face teeming with perspiration, I acknowledge that my laughter knew no bounds; and but for the good-humour that beamed in his expanded Hanoverian countenance, I should have likened it to that of the Gorgon. However, he took it all in good part, and pushing them up every now and then, set forward at a pace such as few pedestrians I ever met could long keep up with ; and I should soon have been left behind, but that suddenly calling his attention to a lump of basalt that lay by the road-side, he inquired if I considered it valuable. Having gained a few minutes' rest in descanting upon the qualities of the specimen, which weighed about ten or twelve pounds, the simple-hearted man stated his desire to carry it with him the remaining four miles of our journey, in which, as may be supposed, I readily encouraged him, for, acting as a drag upon the powers of the German, it enabled me to keep pace with him to Funchal, which we reached late in the day. I need hardly state, that the story of the stone became a tender point to the naturalist for some time after.

This gentleman was sent out to Madeira by subscriptions collected among some people of fortune in England, on condition of his sending them home collections of seeds and plants. This trust he has faithfully fulfilled ; and it now behoves our botanic and horticultural societies to keep in employ a person who, whatever may be his botanical abilities, must be allowed to be a most indefatigable collector, and whose services both here, in the Canaries, and Cape de Verde isles, would be of the greatest value to our out-door, as well as our exotic Flora.* Dr. L. has since left Madeira for the Azores and the Brazils.

The steepness of the roads precludes the possibility of wheelcarriages being used, so that the horses are the principal means of conveyance, and they are excellent. There are several public stables throughout the town, and as soon as it is known that a party want horses, they are beset on all hands. Each horse has

* See Appendix B.

[merged small][ocr errors]

its attendant burriqueiro or horse boy, who, as soon as you have taken your seat, inquires your destination—lays hold on the horse's tail-goads his flanks with a short pike, which he carries in his right hand-shouts a Portuguese curse, and starts him off at a most dashing pace, up roads that one of our English horses could pot face ; indeed so steep are they, that steps are sometimes cut for the animals to place their feet in. These boys are most indefatigable, holding on up hill and down dale for the length of a day. For ladies, or invalids unable to ride, palanquins, carried by men, are used.

The serenity of the climate always permitting out-door exercise even to invalids, the most frequent source of amusement consists in country excursions, pic-nics, and pleasure parties, to which the many delightful walks and rides in the neighbourhood of the capital, and amidst the most delicious scenery, always fresh and novel to the English eye, ever invite. The weak and debilitated may stroll leisurely along the coast, or be carried in their palanquins among the gorgeous and brilliant vegetation that surrounds the town and its shady suburbs, where Summer reigns eternally. Others, with more bodily health and vigour, form cavalcades to visit the lovely Palheiro, with its groves of giant camellias, or ascend to the walnut, vinhatico, and chestnut forests that rise around and above the mount church, or the bold precipitous crags of the Cabo Giram- the regions where the freshness and elasticity of Spring rests all the year round. A few more daring and adventurous spirits, better able to endure the cold of a Winter climate, or having neither the fear of fogs and mists, nor the advice of Dr. Renton before their eyes, ride to the ice-house, or climb into the wild, solitary, and magnificent Serra, and the mountain tops, where the heaths and arbutus spring from the fissures of the naked igneous rocks, and alpine grandeur gives a gloomy and impressive, nay, sublime character to the scenery.

One of the most delightful spots in the island is the Jardim da Serra, or garden of the desert, the beautiful country residence of Mr. Veitch, our late consul-general here; and as I intended visiting the Coural, I took advantage of his kind offer of a bed at this mountain villa on the night before my descent. We left Funchal in the evening, and shortly arrived at one of the most beautiful districts on the south side of the island—the valley of the Cama de Lobos, the richest vine country in the island. The soil is a rich, dark loam, kept up by small retaining walls ; the

70

CONDITION OF THE PEASANTRY.

nes are all thing through the fin having passed

vale itself looks like the dried-up bed of a great torrent, as the sides are almost perpendicular; the bottom is studded with cottages peeping from out groves of bananas, with their long light-green plumes and feathery foliage, waving in the evening breeze. Before us lay the Cabo Giram, one of the highest headlands in the island, rising beyond the valley, with the fringe of pines that crowns its towering summit gilded by the setting sun, and mirrored in the wave beneath. Having passed the valley, we commenced ascending through the finest district in the island; here the vines are all trained on trellises that stretch over the road, and the houses become more frequent. We passed numerous groups of the peasantry who, having disposed of their fruit or wine at Funchal, were returning home, laden with preserved fish of the most wretched description, and salted gulls, which latter are caught on the rocks called Salvages, and pickled and packed in barrels for inland consumption. But in general the poorer people eat no meat, their principal food being porridge made of the meal of the Indian corn, with fruit and vegetables; and yet we see what a stout, healthy, hardy race they are, capable of enduring the greatest fatigue. The land is held by the tenant for one half of the produce, be it more or less ; on this they live, seemingly both contented and happy.

The moon rose in most imposing brilliancy as we entered the mountains through which the narrow bridle-path now led, amidst the most romantic scenery; and as we traversed the deep ravines, the dark shadows of the impending cliffs above were occasionally relieved by full streams of silver light thrown across the gloaming. Perhaps in no place is the witchery of moonlight scenery so much enhanced as in the forest and on the mountain. The hushed repose of nature among those proud battlements of the land, calms, while it elevates the mind. Below us rested the ocean, placid and serene, without a wave to ripple its silver bosom ; and the very surf, usually so high along this bold and rocky shore, had scarcely power to sing its own lullaby ; while in the valleys the crickets kept up a most incessant chirping among the tall reeds. I love the cricket; it reminds one of the days of home and childhood, when we sat by our own fireside to listen to the tale of wonder, and watched the little insect as it peeped forth at us from the hob.

During the day it was rather cold, and there was much wind at Funchal; but we found none of it whatever on the hills, where

[merged small][ocr errors]

it was much warmer. It is not an uncommon occurrence, in the lower parts of the island, to have some wind at the heat of the day, dying away towards evening. It is said to arise from this cause :-in those ravines which intersect the higher and internal parts of the island, the morning sun, acting on the confined atmosphere which settles in those gorges, greatly heats the air, and necessarily rarifies it, forming a tendency to vacuum; then the wind from the sea rushes towards the centre of the island, to fill up the spaces where this draught is created, until an equilibrium is established—this creates the day breeze. At the elevation of the Jardim it was piercingly cold during the night.

Next morning I had a better opportunity of examining the beauties of this garden of the desert. It is, indeed, a lovely spot; so wild, so calm, and so perfectly shut out from the rest of the world ; the hills, on either side, forming an amphitheatre, with but a single outlet, where you get a glimpse of the sea. The immediate sides of the vale are clothed with groves of magnificent chestnuts, their autumnal liveries well contrasting with the fresher tinting of the leafy evergreens; in the bottom, which is watered by a gentle rivulet, the vine grows even at this elevation, and the numerous class of cucurbitæ—the melons, gourds, and pumpkins—form graceful festoons, as they wreathe from branch to branch of the young chestnut and orange trees—their golden blossoms and enormous fruit, hanging by a single stem, so light and graceful, look as if suspended in mid-air. Numerous plants of balm scent the air, and the fuschia and hydrangia grow to a size almost incredible. Small white cottages, neatly thatched with rye-straw, with the villagers seated before them grinding the quern for their morning meal, give life and animation to this fairy scene.

Mr. Veitch, to whom much credit is due for his endeavours to introduce the tea-plant, showed us his plantation here. It is situated on a sunny terrace behind the house; the plants were then looking exceedingly healthy, and in the most luxuriant state of vegetation, the greater number being in blossom; they were then twelve years old. The original plants are small, and principally kept for seed, which is now ripening on them, and they are also laid down in layers for the next year. The first generation that was procured from these was in a still more flourishing condition, proving the advantages of acclimatization, and the value that might be made of Madeira for introducing plants into

[ocr errors][merged small]

Europe. Here we find both the green, black, and gunpowder ; the leaves are gathered in May, when fresh and tender, but must be kept a year before using. We partook of some of it for our breakfast, and, though hardly strong enough, it was of a fine flavour, and had not that coppery taste perceived at times on the tea at home. Mr. Veitch is in the habit of mixing with it the flower of the olea fragrans, which adds considerably to its quality. The fresh leaf has little or no taste, and so much of the flavour is the effect of the drying process, that it must be some time ere we can arrive at the perfection of the Chinese in tea manufacturing, while they are so anxious to prevent our receiving information concerning it.

Emerging from the valley of the Jardim, and proceeding through the village, a troop of guides soon collected, who each-disputed for the honour of conducting the Signor Inglese to the Coural. I was led to the top of the hill surmounting the Jardim ; the guide assumed a mysterious air, and holding my horse by the bridle—lo! the Coural opened to view—so suddenly, indeed, that I started back in horror at finding myself on the very brink of a precipice upwards of 1300 feet in depth. This immense abyss stretches across the island, far as the eye can reach. It is a series of valleys inclosed on all sides by enormous perpendicular precipices, some of which are the principal heights of Madeira, as Pico Grande, the Torrinhas, and the Pico Ruivo, 6237 feet in elevation,—the bottom and sides being a forest of the noblest trees. The height of the surrounding mountains—the roaring torrents which dash through the hills—the azure sky, and the wild sublimity of the spot, have justly procured for it the title of the Switzerland of Madeira. From the place where I stood, the white cottages that sprinkle the bottom looked like so many egg-shells; and the stream that swept through the valley, and the rivulets upon the mountain sides, appeared so many veins of molten silver, as the sun glistened on their changing surfaces. I know not how long I might have remained fixed in admiration of this scene, had not my guides, each supplicating for a pistarine, reminded me that I had still farther to go. These I dismissed, and trusting to the guidance of my burriqueiro for the rest of my journey, commenced the descent.

A narrow path leads off to the left along the edge of the Coural, over dry barren tufa, where a few stunted brooms show

« הקודםהמשך »