But what a wonderful place it is! What are those great green things standing up in the sky, all over purple ribs and bars, with their tops hid in the clouds?
Those are mountains; the bones of some old world, whose poor bare sides Madam How is trying to cover with rich green grass.
And how far off are they?
How I should like to walk up to the top of that one which looks quite close.
You will find it a long walk up there; three miles, I dare say, over black bogs and banks of rock, and up corries and cliffs which you could not climb. There are plenty of cows on that mountain: and yet they look so small, you could not see them, nor I either, without a glass. That long white streak, zigzagging down the mountain side, is a roaring cataract of foam five hundred feet high, full now with last night’s rain; but by this afternoon it will have dwindled to a little thread; and to-morrow, when you get up, if no more rain has come down, it will be gone. Madam How works here among the mountains swiftly and hugely, and sometimes terribly enough; as you shall see when you have had your breakfast, and come down to the bridge with me.
But what a beautiful place it is! Flowers and woods and a lawn; and what is that great smooth patch in the lawn just under the window?
Is it an empty flower-bed?
Ah, thereby hangs a strange tale. We will go and look at it after breakfast, and then you shall see with your own eyes one of the wonders which I have been telling you of.
And what is that shining between the trees?
Is it a lake?
Not a lake, though there are plenty round here; that is salt water, not fresh. Look away to the right, and you see it through the opening of the woods again and again: and now look above the woods. You see a faint blue line, and gray and purple lumps like clouds, which rest upon it far away. That, child, is the great Atlantic Ocean, and those are islands in the far west. The water which washes the bottom of the lawn was but a few months ago pouring out of the Gulf of Mexico, between the Bahamas and Florida, and swept away here as the great ocean river of warm water which we call the Gulf Stream, bringing with it out of the open ocean the shoals of mackerel, and the porpoises and whales which feed upon them. Some fine afternoon we will run down the bay and catch strange fishes, such as you never saw before, and very likely see a living whale.
What? such a whale as they get whalebone from, and which eats sea-moths?
No, they live far north, in the Arctic circle; these are grampuses, and bottle-noses, which feed on fish; not so big as the right whales, but quite big enough to astonish you, if one comes up and blows close to the boat. Get yourself dressed and come down, and then we will go out; we shall have plenty to see and talk of at every step.
Now, you have finished your breakfast at last, so come along, and we shall see what we shall see. First run out across the gravel, and scramble up that bank of lawn, and you will see what you fancied was an empty flower-bed.