Returning from the Fairy Grotto, we entered the Main Cave at the Cataract, and continued our walk to the Chief City or Temple, which is thus described by Lee, in his “Notes on the Mammoth Cave:”
“The Temple is an immense vault covering an area of two acres, and covered by a single dome of solid rock, one hundred and twenty feet high. It excels in size the Cave of Staffa; and rivals the celebrated vault in the Grotto of Antiparos, which is said to be the largest in the world. In passing through from one end to the other, the dome appears to follow like the sky in passing from place to place on the earth. In the middle of the dome there is a large mound of rocks rising on one side nearly to the top, very steep and forming what is called the Mountain. When first I ascended this mound from the cave below, I was struck with a feeling of awe more deep and intense, than any thing that I had ever before experienced. I could only observe the narrow circle which was illuminated immediately around me; above and beyond was apparently an unlimited space, in which the ear could catch not the slightest sound, nor the eye find an object to rest upon. It was filled with silence and darkness; and yet I knew that I was beneath the earth, and that this space, however large it might be, was actually bounded by solid walls. My curiosity was rather excited than gratified. In order that I might see the whole in one connected view, I built fires in many places with the pieces of cane which I found scattered among the rocks. Then taking my stand on the Mountain, a scene was presented of surprising magnificence. On the opposite side the strata of gray limestone, breaking up by steps from the bottom, could scarcely be discerned in the distance by the glimmering light. Above was the lofty dome, closed at the top by a smooth oval slab, beautifully defined in the outline, from which the walls sloped away on the right and left into thick darkness. Every one has heard of the dome of the Mosque of St. Sophia, of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s; they are never spoken of but in terms of admiration, as the chief works of architecture, and among the noblest and most stupendous examples of what man can do when aided by science; and yet when compared with the dome of this Temple, they sink into comparative insignificance. Such is the surpassing grandeur of Nature’s works.”
[Illustration: CHIEF CITY OR TEMPLE. On Stone by T. Campbell Bauer & Teschemacher’s Lith.]
To us, the Temple seemed to merit the glowing description above given, but what would Lee think, on being told, that since the discovery of the rivers and the world of beauties beyond them, not one person in fifty visits the Temple or the Fairy Grotto; they are now looked upon as tame and uninteresting. The hour being now late, we concluded to proceed no further, but to return to the hotel, where we arrived at 11, P.M.