CHAPTER II. MADEIRA, TENERIFFE, AND CAPE DE VERDE ISLANDS.
It soon became evident that the time we had selected for landing was the fashionable bathing hour. In fact, it required some skill on our part to keep the boat clear of the crowds of people of both sexes and all ages, who were taking their morning dip. It was most absurd to see entire families, from the bald-headed and spectacled grandfather to the baby who could scarcely walk, all disporting themselves in the water together, many of them supported by the very inelegant-looking bladders I have mentioned. There was a little delay in mounting our horses, under the shade of the fig-trees; but when we were once off, a party of eleven, the cavalcade became quite formidable. As we clattered up the paved streets, between vineyard and garden walls, 'curiosity opened her lattice,' on more than one occasion, to ascertain the cause of the unwonted commotion. The views on our way, as we sometimes climbed a steep ascent or descended a deep ravine, were very varied, but always beautiful. About half-way up we stopped to rest under a delightful trellis of vines, by the side of a rushing mountain stream, bordered with ferns; then, leaving the vineyards and gardens behind us, we passed through forests of shady Spanish chestnut trees, beneath which stretched the luxurious greensward.
At ten o'clock we quitted this grateful shade, and arrived at the neck of the pass, facing the Gran Corral, where we had to make our choice of ascending a conical hill, on our left, or the Torrinhas Peak, on our right. The latter was chosen, as promising the better view, although it was rather farther off, so we were accordingly seized upon by some of the crowd of peasants who surrounded us, and who at once proceeded to push and pull us up a steep slippery grass slope, interspersed with large boulders. The view from the top, looking down a sheer precipice of some 1,500 feet in depth into the valley below, was lovely. Quite at the bottom, amid the numerous ravines and small spurs of rocks by which the valley is intersected, we could distinguish some small patches of cultivated ground. Above our heads towered the jagged crests of the highest peaks, Pico Ruivo and others, which we had already seen from the yacht, when we first sighted the island.
A pleasant walk over some grassy slopes, and two more hard scrambles, took us to the summit of the Torrinhas Peak; but the charming and extensive view towards Camara de Lobos, and the bay and town of Funchal, was an ample reward for all our trouble. It did not take us long to get back to the welcome shade of the chestnut trees, for we were all ravenously hungry, it being now eleven o'clock. But, alas! breakfast had not arrived: so we had no resource but to mount our horses again and ride down to meet it. Mr. Miles, of the hotel, had not kept his word; he had promised that our provisions should be sent up to us by nine o'clock, and it was midday before we met the men carrying the hampers on their heads. There was now nothing for it but to organise a picnic on the terrace of Mr. Veitch's deserted villa, beneath the shade of camellia, fuchsia, myrtle, magnolia, and pepper-trees, from whence we could also enjoy the fine view of the fertile valley beneath us and the blue sea sparkling beyond.
Wednesday, July 19th. - We were so tired after our exertions of yesterday, that it was nine o'clock before we all mustered for our morning swim, which I think we enjoyed the more from the fact of our having previously been prevented by the sharks, or rather by the rumour of sharks.
We were engaged to lunch at Mr. and Mrs. Blandy's, but I was so weary that I did not go ashore until about six o'clock in the evening, and then I went first to the English cemetery, which is very prettily laid out and well kept. The various paths are shaded by pepper-trees, entwined with bougainvillaea, while in many places the railings are completely covered by long trailing masses of stephanotis in full bloom. Some of the inscriptions on the tombs are extremely touching, and it is sad to see, as is almost always the case in places much resorted to by invalids, how large a proportion of those who lie buried here have been cut off in the very flower of their youth. Indeed, the residents at Madeira complain that it is a melancholy drawback to the charms of this beautiful island, that the friendship frequently formed between them and people who come hither in search of health, is in so many cases brought to an early and sad termination. Having seen and admired Mrs. Foljambe's charming garden by daylight, we returned on board to receive some friends. Unfortunately they were not very good sailors, and, out of our party of twenty, one lady had to go ashore at once, and another before dinner was over.
They all admired the yacht very much, particularly the various cozy corners in the deck-house. It was a lovely night; and after the departure of our guests, at about ten o'clock, we steamed out of the bay, where we found a nice light breeze, which enabled us to sail.
Thursday, July 20th. - All to-day has been taken up in arranging our photographs, journals, &c. &c., and in preparing for our visit to Teneriffe. About twelve o'clock the wind fell light and we tried fishing, but without success, though several bonitos or flying-fish were seen. It was very hot, and it seemed quite a relief when, at eight o'clock in the evening, we began steaming, thus creating a breeze for ourselves.