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after he has finished the third bottle. You will be pleased then just to take things as they occur. Were I obliged to be strictly methodical, I should have no pleasure in writing you these letters; and then, if my position is just, you could have no pleasure in reading them.
Our guards have procured us beds, though not in the town of Taurominum, but in Giardini, a village at the foot of the mountain on which it stands. The people are extremely attentive, and have procured us an excellent supper and good wine, which now waits but shall wait no longer. Adieu. To-morrow we intend to climb Mount Ætna on this (its east) side, if we find it practicable. Ever yours.
Catania, May 24.
I AM already almost two days in arrears. Yesterday we were so much fatigued with the abominable roads of Mount Ætna, that I was not able to wield a pen; and to-day, I assure you, has
by no means been a day of rest ; however, I must not delay any longer, otherwise I shall never be able to make up my lee-way. I am afraid
will suffer more from the fatigues of the journey than I at first apprehended.
We left Giardini at five o'clock. About half a mile farther the first region of Mount Ætna begins, and here they have set up the statue of a saint, for having prevented the lava from running up the mountain of Taurominum, and destroying the adjacent country; which the people think it certainly must have done, had it not been for this kind interposition ; but he very wisely, as well as humanely, conducted it down a low valley to the sea.
We left the Catania road on the left, and began to ascend the mountain, in order to visit the celebrated tree, known by the name of Il Castagno de Cento Cavalli (the chesnut tree of a hundred horse); which for some centuries past has been looked upon as one of the greatest wonders of Ætna. We had likewise proposed, if possible, to gain the summit of the mountain by this side, and to descend by the side of Catania; but we were soon convinced of the impossibility of this, and obliged, with a good deal of reluctance, to relinquish this part of our scheme.
As we advanced in the first region of Ætna, we observed that there had been eruptions of fire all over this country at a great distance from the summit, or principal crater of the mountain. On our road to the village of Piedmonte, I took notice of several very considerable craters; and stones of a large size scattered all around that had been discharged from them. These stones are precisely such as are thrown out of the crater of Mount Vesuvius; and indeed, the lava too seems to be of the same nature, though rather more porous.
The distance from Giardini to Piedmonte is only ten miles, but as the road is exceedingly rough and difficult, we took near four hours to travel it. The barometer, which at Giardini (on the sea-side) stood at 29 inches 10 lines, had now fallen to 27 : 3. Fahrenheit's thermometer (made by Mr. Adams in London) 73 degrees. We found the people extremely curious and inquisitive to know our errand, which when we told, many of them offered to accompany us.
Of these we chose two; and after drinking our tea, which was matter of great speculation to the inhabitants, who had never
before seen a breakfast of this kind, we began to climb the mountain.
We were directed for five or six miles of our road by an aqueduct, which the Prince of Palagonia has made at a great expense, to supply Piedmonte with water. After we left the aqueduct, the ascent became a good deal more rapid, till we arrived at the beginning of the second region, called by the natives la Regione Sylvoso, or the woody region ; because it is composed of one vast forest, that extends all around the mountain. Part of this was destroyed by a very singular event, not later than the year 1755.During an eruption of the volcano, an immense torrent of boiling water issued, as is imagined, from the great crater of the mountain, and in an instant poured down to its base, overwhelming and ruining every thing it met with in its course. Our conductors showed us the traces of the torrent, which are still very visible ; but are now beginning to recover verdure and vegetation, which for some time appeared to have been lost. The track it has left seems to be about a mile and a half broad ; and in some places still
The common opinion, I find, is, that this water was raised by the power of suction, through some communication betwixt the volcano and the sea; the absurdity of which is too glaring to need a refutation. The power of Suction alone, even supposing a perfect vacuum, could never raise water to more than thirty-three or thirty-four feet, which is equal to the weight of a column of air the whole height of the atmosphere. But this circumstance, I should imagine, might be easily enough accounted for; either by a stream of lava falling suddenly into one of the valleys of snow, that occupy the higher regions of the mountain, and melting it down ; or what I think is still more probable, that the melted snow, finding vast caverns and reservoirs in the mountain, where it is lodged for some time, till the excessive heat of the lava below burst the sides of these caverns, produces this phenomenon, which has been matter of great speculation to the Sicilian philosophers, and has employed the pens of several of them. The same thing happened in an eruption of Vesuvius last century, and in an instant swept away about 500 people, who were marching in procession at the foot of the mountain to implore the mediation of St. Januarius.