Page images

My three months' sojourn in Washington, though a considerable loss to me financially, was in all other respects most enjoyable. I met more interesting people there than in any other part of America, and became on terms of intimacy, and even of friendship, with many of them. There was a very good circulating library of general literature to which I subscribed for a quarter, and was thus enabled to read many of the gems of American literature which I had not before met with. Among these I read a good many of the works of Frank Stockton, perhaps the most thoroughly original of modern story-writers. “Rudder Grange” and “The Adventures of Mrs. Leck and Mrs. Aleshine” are among the best known; but I found here quite a small book, called “Every Man his own Letter-Writer," which professes to supply a long-felt want in giving forms of letters adapted to all the varied conditions of our modern civilization. The result is that these conditions are found to be so complex that to merely state them from " so-and-so” to “so-and-so" takes up much more space than the letter itself, and is made so humorously involved that I was, and am still, quite unable to read them for laughter. One day a small, active-looking man was pointed out to me as this very clever writer, and though I did not speak to him, it is a pleasure to recall his appearance when I read any of his delightfully fantastic works. For many reasons I left Washington with very great regret.




I HAD two lecture engagements at Cincinnati, and had also an invitation to visit Mr. W. H. Edwards, the lepidopterist, whose book induced Bates and myself to go to Para, and who resided at Coalburg, in West Virginia. I was also very anxious to see a new cavern which had been discovered about ten years before, and which was said to be far superior to the Mammoth Cave in the variety and beauty of its stalagmitic formations, though not so extensive. I therefore took a rather circuitous route in order to carry out this programme.

Leaving Washington April 6 at 3 p.m., I reached Harper's Ferry about 5.30, through a fairly cultivated country, a few fields green with young wheat and a few damp meadows with grass, but otherwise very wintry looking. Changing to a branch line up the Shenandoah Valley, I passed through a picturesque country like the less mountainous parts of Wales, but mostly uncultivated, and reached Luray station about 9 p.m. There was a rather rough hotel here, where I had supper and bed, and the next morning after breakfast a waggon took myself and a few other visitors to the cavern about a mile away, for seeing which we paid a dollar each, and it was very well worth it. We walked through the best parts (which are lit up with electric lights) for about two hours, through a variety of passages, galleries, and halls, some reaching a hundred feet high, some having streams or pools of water, and some chasms of unknown depth, like most caves in the limestone. But everywhere

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

there are stalactites of the most varied forms, and often of the most wonderful beauty. Usually they form pillars like some strange architecture, sometimes they hang down like gigantic icicles, and one of these is over sixty feet long, the dripping apex being only a few inches from the floor. In some places the stalactites resemble cascades, in others organs, and several are like statues, and have received appropriate names. Many of them are most curiously ribbed; others, again, have branches growing out of them at right angles a few inches long-a most puzzling phenomenon. There is a Moorish tent, in which fine white drapery hangs in front of a cave, a ballroom beautifully ornamented with snowwhite stalactitic curtains, etc. Some of these, when struck, give out musical notes, and a tune can be played on them. A photograph of the Moorish tent and the curious pillars near it is here reproduced. The curtain is like alabaster, and when a lamp is held behind it, the effect is most beautiful. In many places there are stalagmitic floors, beneath which is clay filled with bones of bats, etc., and at one spot human bones are embedded in the floor under a chasm opening above. The print of an Indian mocassin is also shown petrified by the stalagmite. Rats and mice are found with very large eyes; and there are some blind insects and centipedes, as in the Mammoth Cave. Several miles of caverns and passages have already been explored, but other wonders may still be hidden in its deeper recesses. The only caves in the world which appear, from the descriptions, to surpass those of Luray are the Jenolan caves in New South Wales. The latter have all the curious and elegant forms of stalactites found at Luray, and in addition others of beautiful colours, such as salmon, pink, blue, yellow, and various tints of green, a peculiarity, so far as I am aware, found nowhere else.

Returning to the station, I went on to Waynesboro Junction, where I dined, and had to wait two or three hours for the train on at 5 p.m. I took a walk on a wooded hill close by, but the only flower I could find was the little Epigæa repens, the only indication of spring. The appearance of the woods was no more advanced than with us in February ; yet it was

« EelmineJätka »