It is a grievous spectacle! If it is all the same to you, we might go on to the Canary Isles instead."
"Certainly. It will not the least interfere with our route."
"I know it will not, my dear Lord. In the Canary Islands, you see, there are three groups to study, besides the Peak of Teneriffe, which I always wished to visit. This is an opportunity, and I should like to avail myself of it, and make the ascent of the famous mountain while I am waiting for a ship to take me back to Europe."
"As you please, my dear Paganel," said Lord Glenarvan, though he could not help smiling; and no wonder, for these islands are scarcely 250 miles from Madeira, a trifling distance for such a quick sailer as the DUNCAN.
Next day, about 2 P. M., John Mangles and Paganel were walking on the poop. The Frenchman was assailing his companion with all sorts of questions about Chili, when all at once the captain interrupted him, and pointing toward the southern horizon, said:
"Yes, my dear Captain."
"Be so good as to look in this direction. Don't you see anything?"
"You're not looking in the right place. It is not on the horizon, but above it in the clouds."
"In the clouds? I might well not see."
"There, there, by the upper end of the bowsprit."
"I see nothing."
"Then you don't want to see. Anyway, though we are forty miles off, yet I tell you the Peak of Teneriffe is quite visible yonder above the horizon."
But whether Paganel could not or would not see it then, two hours later he was forced to yield to ocular evidence or own himself blind.
"You do see it at last, then," said John Mangles.
"Yes, yes, distinctly," replied Paganel, adding in a disdainful tone, "and that's what they call the Peak of Teneriffe!"
"That's the Peak."
"It doesn't look much of a height."
"It is 11,000 feet, though, above the level of the sea."
"That is not equal to Mont Blanc."
"Likely enough, but when you come to ascend it, probably you'll think it high enough."
"Oh, ascend it! ascend it, my dear captain! What would be the good after Humboldt and Bonplan? That Humboldt was a great genius. He made the ascent of this mountain, and has given a description of it which leaves nothing unsaid. He tells us that it comprises five different zones--the zone of the vines, the zone of the laurels, the zone of the pines, the zone of the Alpine heaths, and, lastly, the zone of sterility. He set his foot on the very summit, and found that there was not even room enough to sit down. The view from the summit was very extensive, stretching over an area equal to Spain. Then he went right down into the volcano, and examined the extinct crater. What could I do, I should like you to tell me, after that great man?"
"Well, certainly, there isn't much left to glean. That is vexing, too, for you would find it dull work waiting for a vessel in the Peak of Teneriffe."
"But, I say, Mangles, my dear fellow, are there no ports in the Cape Verde Islands that we might touch at?"
"Oh, yes, nothing would be easier than putting you off at Villa Praya."
"And then I should have one advantage, which is by no means inconsiderable--I should find fellow-countrymen at Senegal, and that is not far away from those islands. I am quite aware that the group is said to be devoid of much interest, and wild, and unhealthy; but everything is curious in the eyes of a geographer. Seeing is a science. There are people who do not know how to use their eyes, and who travel about with as much intelligence as a shell-fish. But that's not in my line, I assure you."
"Please yourself, Monsieur Paganel. I have no doubt geographical science will be a gainer by your sojourn in the Cape Verde Islands. We must go in there anyhow for coal, so your disembarkation will not occasion the least delay."
The captain gave immediate orders for the yacht to continue her route, steering to the west of the Canary group, and leaving Teneriffe on her larboard. She made rapid progress, and passed the Tropic of Cancer on the second of September at 5 A.