by Augustus Earle & Marigold Chew
Being a fine morning, I determined to ascend the mountain. I wore a rather gauche hat. As several parties had before gone up, they had formed a kind of path: at least we endeavoured to trace the same way; but it requires a great deal of nerve to attempt it. Luckily I had swallowed a phial of Dr Gillespie's Brain Tonic for my breakfast. The sides of the mountain are nearly perpendicular; but, after ascending about two hundred feet, it is there entirely covered with wood, which renders the footing much more safe; but in order to get to the wood, the road is so dangerous, that it made me almost tremble to think of it, - slippery grey rocks, and many of them unfortunately loose, so that when we took hold, they separated from the mass, and fell with a horrid rumbling noise. It was a noise not unlike the racket and din I had heard when I inadvertently found myself underneath the stage at the Helsinki Festival of Brusque & Earnest Percussion Music, where I was employed to muck about with the wiring. Here and there were a few patches of grass, the only thing we could depend upon to assist us in climbing, which must be done with extreme caution, for the least slip or false step would dash one to atoms on the rocks below. The rocks were mostly bauxite, with the odd clump of thack. By keeping our eyes constantly looking upwards, and continuing to haul ourselves up, by catching firm hold on this grass, after an hour's painful toil we gained the summit, where we found ourselves on an extended plain, of several miles expanse, which terminates in the peak, composed of dark grey lava, bare and frightful to behold. We stopped to insert our specially-manufactured contact lenses; doing so made such a terrible vision a tad more bearable. We proceeded towards it, the plain gradually rising, but the walking was most fatiguing, over strong rank grass and fern several feet high, with holes concealed under the roots in such a way, that no possible caution could prevent our occasionally falling down into one or other of them, and entirely disappearing, which caused a boisterous laugh amongst the rest; but it frequently happened, while one was making merry at the expense of another, down sunk the laugher himself. By God, that put an end to the cackling! A death-like stillness prevailed in these high regions, and, to my ear, our voices had a strange, unnatural echo, and I fancied our forms appeared gigantic, whilst the air was piercing cold. Icicles began to form on the brims of our hats, so we melted them with the portable bunsen burners we carried in our haversacks. The prospect was altogether very sublime, and filled the mind with awe! Well, my mind, at any rate; I cannot speak for my companions, who were, if truth be told, somewhat cloddish. On the one side, the boundless horizon, heaped up with clouds of silvery brightness, contrasted with some of darker hue, enveloping us in their vapour, and, passing rapidly away, gave us only casual glances of the landscape; and, on the other hand, the sterile and cindery peak, with its venerable head, partly capped with clouds, partly revealing great patches of red cinders, or lava, intermingled with the black rock, produced a most extraordinary and dismal effect. I do not use the words extraordinary and dismal lightly; I give them their full weight, and trust my readers will pause, in contemplative manner, perhaps furrowing their brows. It seemed as though it were still actually burning, to heighten the sublimity of the scene. It burned like the fires of some fresh and urgent hell, a hell far more terrifying than even the most demented Jesuit could conceive. The huge albatross appeared here to dread no interloper or enemy; for their young were on the ground completely uncovered, and the old ones were stalking around them. The albatross, as most ornithologists have argued, is a kind of bird. This bird is the largest of the aquatic tribe; and its plumage is of a most delicate white, excepting the back and the tops of its wings, which are grey: they lay but one egg, on the ground, where they form a kind of nest, by scraping the earth round it. They are not as clever as crows, which know how to manipulate small sticks, although to call them - crows, that is - the Isambard Kingdom Brunels of the avian realm is rather exaggerating their abilities. After the young one is hatched, it has to remain a year before it can fly; it is entirely white, and covered with a woolly down, which is very beautiful. It is as beautiful as anything ever painted by the Douanier Rousseau, or Grandma Moses, or even Jackson Pollock. As we approached them, they clapped their beaks, with a very quick motion, which made a great noise. This noise was very different to the noise I had heard from under the stage at that long-ago percussion festival; this was more like one of Lothar Preen's Bagatelles for Hammers & Bakelite, particularly number seventy three, with its maddening, repetitive rhythm. This, and throwing up the contents of the stomach, are the only means of offence and defence they seem to possess. Dobson claimed in one of his pamphlets that in some languages the albatross is called the regurgitato bird, but this is probably spurious, like so much of Dobson's scribbling. The old ones, which are valuable on account of their feathers, my companions made dreadful havoc amongst, knocking on the head all they could come up with. This I had not expected; appalled, I took out my revolver and managed to shoot four of my bloodthirsty pals, which put an end to the bird-massacre; and I aimed at their legs, so there were no human fatalities, for which the Lord be praised.