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of another Precipice. This was lefs fteep, but much deeper than the former. Our Guide placed himself on his Breech, and, with his Torch held up in both Hands, flid down with a frightful Rapidity: We followed him, and I hoped we were now at the Bottom. Alas! what an Imagination! We had Leisure here to breathe again, and there was fomething in the perfect Stillness of the Place that appeared awful, and yet pleafing: It was a frightful Confideration to think how far we were out of the Reach of Day; but our Torches and Flambeaus burnt well, and all about us was fufficiently enlightened: The Air was not at all clofe or difagreeable as if confined, but warm and pleasant; and fo, perfectly out of the Reach of all Interruption, we had Opportunities of examining very favourably all about us.
The Rocks at the Sides of the Cavern in which we now ftood, were in general of a Kind of Porphyry, with a great deal of Purple in it; a Stone very frequent in thefe Iflands, and which would certainly be very beautiful if cut: The rough and prominent Edges in feveral Parts of thefe, were at once terrible and beautiful. The Roof was out of the Reach of the Eye, at least the Light of the Flambeaux did not reach it with Strength fufficient to give us any diftinct View of it. The Floor or Pavement was of a Stone quite different from the Sides, a rough and foft grey Flag-ftone, like thofe of fome Parts of Yorkshire, which they ufe in Building; and in this there were lodged a vaft Number of petrified Shells, cornua ammonis, & conchae anominae, which stood up above the Level, and made it very difagreeable to the Feet.
From this Place our Conductor led us to the Brink of another Precipice, not deep, but horribly fteep. He in a Moment flung himself down this, and then turned a Ladder, which hung down on
one Side, and thrusting it up within the Reach of our Feet, held the Bottom fteady while we defcended by it: I cannot remember any Thing equal to the Terror I conceived at letting myself down with my Breast to the Rock, and hanging by my Hands above, to get my Feet to the top Round of this Ladder. From hence I defcended with less Pain : But it was a terrible Profpect, from the Left Hand to fee Precipices and opening Caverns ready to fwallow any one up, who fhould have the leaft Slip with the Foot. From the Plain on which we found ourfelves after this laft Defcent, we were conducted along narrow and low Paffages, and fometimes through broader, but all the Way upon the Defcent to a confiderable Distance.
Here I was in Hopes we were at the End of our Expedition; but no fuch Matter: Our Guide, who had been once before down, crept with trembling Feet before us, and warned us of a Precipice more terrible than any of the former: This was no way to be defcended but by Means of a Ladder, that was brought on Purpose by our Guides, and unfortunately it was not quite fo long as it fhould have been. We had great Difficulty to let the Fellow down by a Rope, and when he had fixed the Ladder, we had the fame Difficulty as before to get to the firft Round. From the Bottom of this Cavern, which was not Rock like the reft, but Earth, and fomewhat moift, proceeded to another Declivity too deep for our Ladder, but not fo fteep as to have abfolute Neceffity for it. We were reduced to fix our Cord once again here, and one by one to flide down the Rock on our Backs, with firm Hold to the Rope. The Ridge of the Rock on which we made our Way in this Defcent, terminated on the Right Hand very abruptly, and we could diftinguish Water in the Depth below.
When we had got to the Bottom of this last Defcent, the Danger was over, but we were not yet at the End of our Expedition; we had yet a long and uncomfortable Way; we crept fometimes on all Fours, fometimes we flid on our Backs, and in other Places we were obliged to crawl on our Bellies over very ragged Rocks, where there was not three Feet Height in the Paffages. All this was continued thro' a gradual Defcent. We at length arrived at a vast Bed of Rock, which threw itself in such a Manner before us, as it seemed to ftop all farther Paffage; but our Guide promised better Things. He left us in the Care of one of his Fellows, and taking the reft with him round the jetting Rock, defired us to wait his Return a few Minutes. He took that Opportunity to enlighten the Grotto, at the very Entrance of which we now were; they had tied Flambeaux many Parts of the Rock that ftood out beyond the reft, and had fixed several on the Floor: These were all blazing when he led us in.
The most uncomfortable Part of the Expedition had been that we had laft of all suffered, left only with one Guide, enlightened only by one Flambeau, in a narrow Paffage, and with a Rock before us; but from this the Change was beyond Defcription amazing. He led us into the Grotto, the Opening of which is behind the prominent Rock: The Light of eight Flambeaux in full Blaze was at first too much for the Eyes; the Splendor of the whole Place almost intolerable. We found ourselves in a Cavern the most amazing, and at the fame Time the most beautiful that could be conceived.
The Grotto is a vaft Vault, the Roof arched and irregular, the Pavement in fome Places very even, and in others rough enough; the Sides, which in fome Places form Sweeps of Circles, are in fome of the naked Rock, but in others they are covered with an infinite Variety of Incruftations. The Height of VOL. III.
the Roof is about eighty Feet, the Length of the Grotto about three Hundred, and its Breadth nearly as much: The greatest Depth is towards the Middle, but not exactly in the Center. We were now between nine hundred and a thousand Feet from the Surface of the Ground where we came in; nor is this the Depth of the Defcent; our Guides told us, that the Paffages continued between feven and eight hundred Feet deeper; but this we took their Words for, as we fuppofe they had taken that of fome others; for it is not probable that any Body went farther than this Place.
I know not where to begin defcribing it; among fuch Variety of Splendor what can deferve firft Notice? The Dropftones hanging like Icicles from the Roof of Caverns in the Mincs, and in the Eolian Hills, the Incruftations of different Kinds on their Sides, and Maffes of fine Spar at the Bottom; those who have not feen the Grotto of Antiparos may think beautiful But it is here they are found in a Perfection that makes every Thing elsewhere appear contemptible. The Matter which forms thefe Incruftations in other Places is often very clear and bright. but it is пр where fo pure as in this; it is here perfect bright Crystal, and the Surface of the Cavern, Roof, Floor, and Sides, are covered with it. You. will think this alone muft have been fine; but the Form into which it was thrown exceeds the Materials. And think what must be the Splendor of an Arch thus covered, and thus illuminated! The Light of the Flambeaux was reflected from above, from below, and from all Sides; and as it was thrown back from Angle to Angle among the Ornaments of the Roof and Sides, gave all the Colours of the Rainbow.
It was long that the Eye was loft in fuch a complicated Blaze of Splendor, before I could direct it to any particular Object; at length I began to view
the Roof, hung with pendant Gems as it appeared: In thefe Caverns there is always an ouzing of Water from the Roof, or there are Vapours afcending from below, which in the Hollows are condenfed into a Water; either the one or the other of them contains at all Times the Particles of this cryftalline Matter. The Quantity of Water is fmall, and its Course flow; it hangs and trickles in Drops from the Top, or it runs in the fame flow Stream along the Side: In either Cafe it leaves behind it that cryftalline Matter which it had contained, and fpreads a little Glazing on either Wall, or forms the Rudiment of a ftony Icicle from the Roof: Every following Drop extends the Icicle, or enlarges the Glazing; and, in Length of Time, covers the Wall, and forms a thousand inverted Pyramids from the Roof. Nor is this all what Drops fall from the Top ftill contain a little of the cryftalline Matter, though it had left the greater Part above, and this Remainder feparates from it there. By this Means is formed the plain Glazing of the Floor, where the Drops fall fafter; where they fucceed one another more flowly there are formed Congeries of this pure ftony Matter, of various Forms and Shapes, and in an infinite Variety. This is the general Syftem of the Incruftations and Ornaments of Grottoes; and this of Antiparos, as one of the largest and deepeft in the World, contains them in the greatest Perfection.
We entered among a Grove of cryftal Trees; the Floor was in general of a fimooth and gloffy Spar, fo M. called it, but I call it Cryftal, of which it has all the Appearances. We walked on this bright Pavement in a Kind of ferpentine Meander, among Shrubs and taller Maffes of this Cryftal, rifing from the common Pavement with large and thick Stones, and fpreading out into Heads and Tufts of Branches. Some of these were eight or ten Feet high, the Generality between two and five Feet. They were all D 2