178 THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
mother named it the House of Diamonds. The ground was level, covered with a white and very fine sand. I broke off a bit of the nearest crystal, and, tasting it, found it to be of pure salt.
As we advanced into the grotto, remarkable figures showed on every side ; columns reached from the bottom to the top of the vault; here and there undulating masses like lace shawls ; others appeared like large open cupboards, benches, church ornaments, grotesque figures of men and animals ; some like polished crystals or diamonds, others like blocks of alabaster.
We viewed with delighted curiosity this strange sight, and loud exclamations succeeded astonishment. Many schemes were formed for converting this magnificent grotto into a new home; for though there was no need for our immediate removal there, it would be an invaluable storehouse, and make a snug retreat for the next rainy season.
Partly by the use of gunpowder and partly by hewing, we succeeded in a few weeks' time in making doors and windows in the front wall. In these we fixed the window-frames and doorways we had brought from the ship, and inside we divided the cavern by wooden partitions into