To a lover of natural history, the spot did not yield a single point of interest; the geologist alone would find subject of study in the basaltic mass.
When we reached the southern point of the island I pro- posed that we should disembark. My companions readily assented, young Letourneur jocosely observing that if the little island was destined to vanish, it was quite right that it should first be visited by human beings. The boat was accordingly brought alongside, and we set foot upon the reef, and began to ascend the gradual slope that leads to its highest elevation.
The walking was not very rough, and as Andre could get along tolerably well without the assistance of an arm, he led the way, his father and I following close behind. A quarter of an hour sufficed to bring us to the loftiest point in the islet, when we seated ourselves on the basaltic prism that crowned its summit.
Andre took a sketch-book from his pocket, and proceeded to make a drawing of the reef. Scarcely had he completed the outline when his father exclaimed:
"Why, Andre, you have drawn a ham!"
"Something uncommonly like it, I confess," replied Andre. "I think we had better ask Captain Curtis to let us call our island Ham Rock."
"Good," said I; "though sailors will need to keep it at a respectful distance, for they will scarcely find that their teeth are strong enough to tackle it."
M. Letourneur was quite correct; the outline of the reef as it stood clearly defined against the deep green water resembled nothing so much as a fine York ham, of which the little creek, where the Chancellor had been stranded, corresponded to the hollow place above the knuckle. The tide at this time was low, and the ship now lay heeled over very much to the starboard side, the few points of rock that emerged in the extreme south of the reef plainly marking the narrow passage through which she had been forced before she finally ran aground.
As soon as Andre had finished his sketch we descended by a slope as gradual as that by which we had come up, and made our way toward the west. We had not gone very far when a beautiful grotto, perfect as an architectural struc- ture, arrested our attention. M. Letourneur and Andre, who have visited the Hebrides, pronounced it to be a Fingal's cave in miniature; a Gothic chapel that might form a fit vestibule for the cathedral cave of Staffa. The basaltic rocks had cooled down into the same regular concentric prisms; there was the same dark canopied roof with its in- terstices filled up with its yellow lutings; the same precision of outline in the prismatic angles, sharp as though chiseled by a sculptor's hand; the same sonorous vibration of the air across the basaltic rocks, of which the Gaelic poets have feigned that the harps of the Fingal minstrelsy were made. But whereas at Staffa the floor of the cave is always covered with a sheet of water, here the grotto was beyond the reach of all but the highest waves, while the prismatic shafts them- selves formed quite a solid pavement.
After remaining nearly an hour in our newly-discovered grotto we returned to the Chancellor, and communicated the result of our explorations to Curtis, who entered the island upon his chart, by the name Andre Letourneur had pro- posed.
Since its discovery we have not permitted a day to pass without spending some time in our Ham Rock grotto. Curtis has taken an opportunity of visiting it, but he is too preoccupied with other matters to have much interest to spare for the wonders of nature. Falsten, too, came once and examined the character of the rocks, knocking and chipping them about with all the mercilessness of a geologist. Mr. Kear would not trouble himself to leave the ship; and although I asked his wife to join us in one of our excursions she declined, upon the plea that the fatigue, as well as the inconvenience of embarking in the boat, would be more than she could bear.
Miss Herbey, only to thankful to escape even for an hour from her capricious mistress, eagerly accepted M.