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The mystery was at length cleared up, and that
in a manner which at first was really startling.
I was sitting alone on the edge of the crater,
sketching the sulphury precipices previously
mentioned, as the most picturesque object then
offered by the volcano. The utter silence of a
calm hot noon prevailed; save my comrade (out
of sight somewhere) there was not a soul on the
mountain, and the usual sea-breeze had either
not set in or not reached to that height. The
only sound which broke, or rather intensified,
the silence was the occasional pant from the
mountain followed by its harmless jet of stones,
to which custom had rendered us so indifferent as
that we never raised our heads from our paper.
Suddenly a wild and wailing sound as of tortured
spirits filled the whole air around and above
me, dying gradually away through the
atmosphere. The effect on the nerves in the midst
of this total solitude may be fairly deemed the
reverse of agreeable. I rose hastily, and went
in search of my friend, whom I met returning
towards me, equally surprised, and I may honestly
say equally alarmed, with myself. Various
conjectures, all equally unsatisfactory, were
propounded, when again the wild yell filled the air,
and died out as before. It undoubtedly
proceeded from the sky, but in the vicinity of the
central orifice, and we accordingly set ourselves
to watch steadily the phenomena of eruption.
Our pains were soon rewarded. The regular
process was an explosion which, from its sound,
appeared to originate not more than twenty or
thirty feet below the volcano's mouth,
accompanied by a slight concussion of the ground, and
followed in a few seconds by the jet of stones
and ashes. It now appeared that occasionally,
instead of the usual shower, a huge smoke-globe,
filling the whole gaping mouth, was vomited
forth, and hurled upward to a far greater height
than the stones attained. This globe appeared
in violent agitation, which I can describe only
by saying that every particle of smoke seemed
anxious to hide itself in the centre of the mass.
In a few seconds the struggle resulted in the
disruption of the globe, which then assumed the
form of a ring, such as may often be seen in the
smoke of a discharged cannon, or can be produced
in cigar-smoke by skilful artists, and floated
gradually away, the edges still retaining their
self-rotatory motion. The formation and
disappearance of the ring were accompanied by the
impressive wail which had so startled us; and
further investigation convinced us that to these
smoke-globes were due the phenomena of
plate-spinning described above, although when close to
the crater, as we now were, it was difficult to
trace the thin line of smoke representing the stick.

The last of our experiences is worth recording,
as it gave us as close an insight into Vulcan's
forge as is ever granted to mortals. It was a
fine afternoon, and the mountain was gay with
visitors. One, an American, I had previously
met at the table d'hôte of the Hôtel des
Bergues in Geneva. At that time he had
begun conversation by informing me that,
from my appearance, he had supposed me to be
American, but that my pronunciation of the
Ennglish language soon showed him that I was
English. Naturally I said, "Just as your
pronunciation showed me that you were American."
"Well now!" with an air of simple wonderment,
"haow was that?" He then went on to
ask if our stores in London were as handsome
as the stores in Paris? I confessed with some
humility that our shops scarcely equalled in
brilliancy those of the Boulevards and the Rue
de Rivoli. Ah, well! so he had heard. In
that case he shouldn't think much of them: the
Paris stores were noway to be compared to the
stores in New York. In fact, everything in
Europe (he had landed at Le Havre a fortnight
ago) seemed worn out; he had been
disappointed with everything he had seen, and
expected he should be disappointed in everything
he did see. I looked sheepishly for support
towards Mont Blanc, which was fast fading
from rose-tint to ghostly grey, and endeavoured
feebly to cover my (and Europe's) defeat by a
metaphysical cobweb, as to whether he thought
it possible for a man "to expect to be
disappointed." On recognising here in the south the
stern critic of European institutions, I did not
venture to bring forward Vesuvius as a
champion for the old hemisphere, for the mountain
was on that day as lazy as Neapolitans are said
to be, and as Romans really are. Not a particle
of lava was in motion, and the breathings of the
monster were like the tranquil puffs of a
meditative smoker. So remarkable, in fact, was the
quiet, that an ascent of the central mount was
voted practicable, and was attempted by most of
our party. The American went silently on in
search of disappointment; an enthusiastic
Englishman was convinced he should find "fun" up
there; the inevitable English girl was there
where is she not? If we had had but a French
painter to shame us all, by saving the "jeune
miss" from some fearful peril, the cast would
have been complete. The mount, though steep,
was easy of access, being entirely coated with soft
black ashes, quite as hot as was agreeable, but
offering a firm foothold, so that in a few minutes
we reached the summit. The scene was curious
rather than terrific. A narrow ridge of soft ash
encompassed a basin, or rather saucerfor it
was apparently very shallowthe bottom of
which was concealed from us by a mass of small
pebbles glowing and shimmering with intense
heat, blazing with rays brilliant as diamonds and
carbuncles. The effect was truly gorgeous; such,
at least, seemed to me the proper epithet. The
Englishman pronounced it "Jolly." "Hallo!
what's that? why, it's a shoe! Here, you chap
Bastony!" and, catching hold of his guide's
stick, he tried to fish out a mysterious object
which lay about ten feet distant, very close to
the fire. The stick was too short, "a step
would make it longer," said the Roman mother,
and he was about to take that step, when the
guide, with earnest gesticulations, pointed out
the startling fact that the whole jewelled floor
was in constant motion:—not merely an illusion
caused by the hot air, but a veritable dancing of