Such is the make-up of the world in which we live, such the vagaries of the forces which surround us. But those enumerated are not the whole. Can we say, with a stamp of the foot upon the solid earth, “Here at least I have something I can trust; let the winds blow and the rains descend, let the summer scorch and the winter chill, the good earth still stands firm beneath me, and of it at least I am sure?”
Who says so speaks hastily and heedlessly, for the earth can show itself as unstable as the air, and our solid footing become as insecure as the deck of a ship laboring in a storm at sea. The powers of the atmosphere, great as they are and mighty for destruction as they may become, are at times surpassed by those which abide within the earth, deep laid in the so-called everlasting rocks, slumbering often through generations, but at any time likely to awaken in wrath, to lift the earth into quaking billows like those of the sea, or pour forth torrents of liquid fire that flow in glowing and burning rivers over leagues of ruined land. Such is the earth with which we have to deal, such the ruthless powers of nature that spread around us and lurk beneath us, such the terrific forces which only bide their time to break forth and sweep too-confident man from the earth’s smiling face.
The subterranean powers here spoken of, those we had denominated earth’s demons of destruction, are the volcano and the earthquake, the great moulding forces of the earth, tearing down to rebuild, rending to reconstitute, and in this elemental work often bringing ruin to man’s boasted fanes and palaces.
No one who has ever seen a volcano or “burning mountain” casting forth steam, huge red-hot stones, smoke, cinders and lava, can possibly forget the grandeur of the spectacle. At night it is doubly terrible, when the darkness shows the red-hot lava rolling in glowing streams down the mountain’s side. At times, indeed, the volcano is quiet, and only a little smoke curls from its top. Even this may cease, and the once burning summit may be covered over with trees and grass, like any other hill. But deep down in the earth the gases and pent-up steam, are ever preparing to force their way upward through the mountain, and to carry with them dissolved rocks, and the stones which block their passage. Sometimes, while all is calm and beautiful on the mountains, suddenly deep-sounding noises are heard, the ground shakes, and a vast torrent tears its way through the bowels of the volcano, and is flung hundreds of feet high in the air, and, falling again to the earth, destroys every living thing for miles around.