Notwithstanding, I wandered with pleasure on this subterranean shore, and was regaling myself with the interesting contemplation of all these various wonderful objects, in this land of darkness and shadow of death, when, all at once, something like music at a distance sounded in mine ears.
I instantly stopped, full of astonishment, and eagerly asked my guide what this might mean? He answered, "Only have patience, and you shall soon see."
But as we advanced, the sounds of harmony seemed to die away; the noise became weaker and weaker; and at length it seemed to sink into a gentle hissing or hum, like distant drops of falling rain.
And how great was my amazement when, ere long, I actually saw and felt a violent shower of rain falling from the rock, as from a thick cloud, whose drops, which now fell on our candles, had caused that same melancholy sound which I had heard at a distance.
This was what is here called a mizzling rain, which fell from the ceiling or roof of the cavern, through the veins of the rock.
We did not dare to approach too near with our candles, as they might easily have been extinguished by the falling drops; and so we perhaps have been forced to seek our way back in vain.
We continued our march therefore along the side of the water, and often saw on the sides large apertures in the rock, which seemed to be new or subordinate caverns, all which we passed without looking into. At length my guide prepared me for one of the finest sights we had yet seen, which we should now soon behold.
And we had hardly gone on a few paces, when we entered what might easily have been taken for a majestic temple, with lofty arches, supported by beautiful pillars, formed by the plastic hand of some ingenious artist.
This subterranean temple, in the structure of which no human hand had borne a part, appeared to me at that moment to surpass all the most stupendous buildings in the world, in point of regularity, magnificence, and beauty.
Full of admiration and reverence, here, even in the inmost recesses of nature, I saw the majesty of the Creator displayed; and before I quitted this temple, here, in this solemn silence and holy gloom, I thought it would be a becoming act of true religion to adore, as I cordially did, the God of nature.
We now drew near the end of our journey. Our faithful companion, the water, guided us through the remainder of the cavern, where the rock is arched for the last time, and then sinks till it touches the water, which here forms a semicircle, and thus the cavern closes, so that no mortal can go one step farther.
My guide here again jumped into the water, swam a little way under the rock, and then came back quite wet, to show me that it was impossible to go any further, unless this rock could be blown up with powder, and a second cavern opened. I now thought all we had to do was to return the nearest way; but there were new difficulties still to encounter, and new scenes to behold still more beautiful than any I had yet seen.
My guide now turned and went back towards the left, where I followed him through a large opening in the rock.
And here he first asked me if I could determine to creep a considerable distance through the rock, where it nearly touched the ground. Having consented to do so, he told me I had only to follow him, warning me at the same time to take great care of my candle.
Thus we crept on our hands and feet, on the wet and muddy ground, through the opening in the rock, which was often scarcely large enough for us to get through with our bodies.
When at length we had got through this troublesome passage, I saw in the cavern a steep hill, which was so high that it seemed to lose itself as in a cloud, in the summit of the rock.
This hill was so wet and slippery, that as soon as I attempted to ascend, I fell down. My guide, however, took hold of my hand and told me I had only resolutely to follow him.
We now ascended such an amazing height, and there were such precipices on each side, that it makes me giddy even now when I think of it.
When we at length had gained the summit, where the hill seemed to lose itself in the rock, my guide placed me where I could stand firm, and told me to stay there quietly. In the meantime he himself went down the hill with his candle, and left me alone.
I lost sight of him for some moments, but at length I perceived, not him, indeed, but his candle, quite in the bottom, from whence it seemed to shine like a bright and twinkling star.
After I had enjoyed this indescribably beautiful sight for some time, my guide came back, and carried me safely down the hill again on his shoulders. And as I now stood below, he went up and let his candle shine again through an opening of the rock, while I covered mine with my hand; and it was now as if on a dark night a bright star shone down upon me, a sight which, in point of beauty, far surpassed all that I had ever seen.
Our journey was now ended, and we returned, not without trouble and difficulty, through the narrow passage. We again entered the temple we had a short time before left; again heard the pattering of the rain, which sounded as rain when we were near it, but which at a distance seemed a sonorous, dull, and melancholy hum; and now again we returned across the quiet streams through the capacious entrance of the cavern to the little door, where we had before taken our leave of daylight, which, after so long a darkness, we now again hailed with joy.
Before my guide opened the door, he told me I should now have a view of a sight that would surpass all the foregoing. I found that he was in the right, for when he had only half opened the door, it really seemed as if I was looking into Elysium.